Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Next steps, project ball gown!

So what have I learnt about regency fashion? Actually, rather a lot in a short period of time. First of all, they didn't have knickers!

These are regency "drawers", basically two tubes of fabric held together at the waist with a bit of string. Sod that! You can be too accurate: I shall be wearing knickers, and avoiding any risk of cold breezes up the bum!

Regency women were lucky not to have their body shape contorted by waist pinching corsets, such as the early Georgians and later the Victorians wore:

Victorian corsets change the shape of the body using whale bone, metal clasps and lacing to bind the body.
Regency short stays leave the rest of the body free, and elevate the breasts.

Having limited time and not being massively committed to period accuracy, I shall substitute... a push up bra!! Similar effect, much less effort!

Next up is the chemise; in layman's terms, a full length slip. Its job was threefold; first, to provide opacity, so that you couldn't see through the thin muslin dresses.

Second, to protect these exquisite dresses from sweat and body odour. The chemises can be laundered more frequently than the the delicate dresses, as they are made of sturdier fabric.

This picture is from the fabulous blog Before the Automobile.
The third function was to cover the nipples so that the bosoms, pushed up as they are by the stays, don't shoot out of the dress and flash everyone during dancing etc.

I'm going to make a full length chemise with a see through lace dress over the top.

This is a modern recreation for sale in an etsy shop here for  just over £200.

These two pictures are my inspiration dresses, both very low cut, and short sleeved. Long sleeves were for day wear apparently! Poor freezing Regency Ladies; many women unsurprisingly got pneumonia wearing such thin gowns.
Period dress from 1809 owned by Empress Josephine.

The dresses both feature a solid colour underneath with delicate white-work lace on top. So this is the aim; now I just have to draft an approximation of the designs! I think I might have my dress the other way around - a white under-layer and a coloured lace on top.

Really beginning to enjoy this now...


  1. Ha ha! I like the underwear, or lack thereof!!! Don't blame you for skipping that. Although it makes you wonder how they managed at, ahem, certain times of the month... Looking forward to seeing the dress. The lace overlay sounds fab!

    1. That's a really good point. Glad I live now rather than then.

  2. Sounds amazing. It will make my attempt to customise a charity shop find look pitiful. Oh well, let's hope that the lighting is subdued so that nobody can really see my botched attempt at dressmaking!

    1. I can't wait to see your dress Rachel, bet it will be fan. Perhaps you'll get the sewing bug too.

  3. Wow, Regency underwear really wasn't for the shy and retiring, was it! I really like the look of your inspiration dresses; good luck with the drafting!

    1. ha ha! The drawers were considered very risqué even at the time.