Saturday, July 22, 2017

My Little Sister's Regency Dress

She asked me for a regency dress. My little sister read an adaption of Pride and Prejudice, after my family watched the movie together, and she told me she would love it if I made a regency dress for her sometime. So, I filed that bit of information away as a future birthday or Christmas present idea. 

Black Friday rolled around and I found myself at Joann's, buying fabric for making Christmas presents, when a pink on pink cotton calico caught my eye and I remembered my little sister's request. 3 yards of that calico came home with me. Christmas morning, my little sister unwrapped her regency dress.

I made this dress using a pattern my grandma used to make a pioneer dress for me, back when I was my sister's age, McCall's M4547 . The fit of this pattern is controlled by drawstrings at the waist and neckline - period correct for the regency era, and perfect for a growing girl. To make the pattern work for a regency dress, rather than a "pioneer dress" I had to make a few minor alterations.  I shortened the bodice a couple inches, so that the waistline hit right under the bust instead of at the natural waist, changed the dimensions of the skirt panels so that the back of the skirt would be more densely gathered than the front, and lengthened the skirt to ankle length rather than mid-calf length. For a little extra growing room, I also added a couple of tucks near the bottom of the skirt. 

Upon opening her dress, my sister immediately ran to change into it for Christmas dinner (so, of course, I wore my regency dress to that afternoon as well), but the dress really got worn a few months later, when my sister needed to dress up as a famous person from history for her homeschool co-op.
I happened to be in Peru when that occasion came around, so my sister had to figure out her costume on her own. She decided to write a paper about, and dress up as, Dolley Madison, the First Lady who saved important papers from the White House when it was burnt during the War of 1812. Thus, my little sister's regency dress was perfect for her costume.

Now, no proper woman in 1812 would be seen without a proper head covering, so my sister needed a regency bonnet of some sort. She did some research and decided to make herself a turban-type hat to complete her costume, using supplies she found in my sewing room; tulle, ribbon, a feather, and some faux grass and leaves. 

She did such a good job making herself this hat that I'm half-afraid I will have lost my job as her primary costumer when I return home in November!

Honestly, I think the best part of having a little sister is getting to share my interests with her: reading, history, sewing, and making costumes. 

What would I do without this girl? 

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Story of the Regency Gown

Once upon a time, there was a girl named Alyssa who loved historical clothing and Jane Austen's books. So, of course, she decided to make a regency outfit for herself. She started this outfit rather out of order by making the outermost garment, a green velvet spencer jacket, first. Of course, Alyssa knew that she should have made the foundation layers, the corset, chemise, and petticoats, of her regency outfit first. Thus, after finishing the spencer jacket, she made a regency wrap corset, followed by a bodiced petticoat. Once those items were done, she was ready to make the dress. So, she found the perfect nearly shear, striped white cotton for  only $1.50 a yard at Wal-Mart, sized up a regency drop-front gown pattern from Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion I, and started sewing. By hand. Yes, she did have a perfectly useful sewing machine, but she decided to sew this dress by hand, to make it as historically accurate as possible.

As the weeks went by Alyssa kept hand sewing (though she got distracted with other sewing projects occasionally), and eventually a dress began to take shape, until finally one day, months after she began sewing, it was nearly finished! There was only one thing left to do: add two buttons, one to each shoulder, to hold up the front bib section of the dress.

Alyssa selected two white linen-covered buttons from her vast button stash for this particular task. She tried on her dress, figured out exactly where the buttons needed to be, then sewed the buttons in place.

Thus, that day Alyssa finished her regency dress, modeled it for her family, rejoiced that it was finally finished, then proceeded to hang it up in her closet until she had an occasion to wear it.

That occasion came a couple of months later, in the form of her younger sister’s birthday tea party. Alyssa donned on her regency chemise, corset, petticoat, and gown for an afternoon of serving cake, ice cream, hot chocolate, and fruit to a group of young girls dressed up in fashions from the 1770’s through the 1910’s. The birthday tea came off beautifully! Once it was over and all the young ladies had gone home, Alyssa realized she still needed to get some pictures taken of her regency gown. So, with the birthday girl acting as a photographer for the evening, the beauty of the white gown against the deep greens of the plum tree in the front yard was captured on camera.

Once these pictures were taken, Alyssa fully intended to write about the making of her dress, but alas, her attention was instead diverted to another sewing project.

Well, now, 11 months after the pictures were taken, at least 14 months after the dress was completed, and a full year and a half after the dress was begun, Alyssa is in Montenegro, separated from her sewing machine by the Atlantic ocean. So now, finally, not being distracted by other sewing projects, she has found the time to write about the making of this regency dress. Which she not only wore for her sister’s birthday tea, but for Christmas dinner as well. That however, is another story.