1812 Project of a Different Sort—Dressing Up
Though I haven’t been able to sew much lately, I’ve been thinking about my 1812 Quilt (and the fact that I really need to get started on it) quite a bit. I finally have all the fabrics I think I’m going to use, a plan, and after a bit of tea-dying, my medallion is a bit closer to the color I’d hoped to have.
And, since Halloween just passed and we didn’t really celebrate or dress up, I’ve had costumes on my mind. Since the organizers are encouraging you to come in regency garb, I’ve been looking into patterns and general fashion plates for Regency fashion.
Part of me wants to drape my own, perhaps a bib-front gown, but I have neither the time nor the dress form to do so. In lieu of that, one of the most popular patterns, and certainly one of the more period-correct is the Sense and Sensibility Regency Gown pattern, which also has various supplements and picture-based instructions are available online in addition to the ones that come with the pattern.
For those of us on a budget, however, the same pattern has been licensed to Simplicity as pattern 4055. There are a few differences, and the supplements aren’t available, but it’s available in stores—generally at a discounted price (although if you don’t have a store near you that always runs sales on Simplicity, you may find that Sense and Sensibility is cheaper!). In fact, if you’re reading this as I’m publishing it, from November 6–12, 2011, JoAnn Fabrics has a Simplicity 5 for $5 sale meaning you can purchase the pattern for $1. I bought my copy a while back at another of their 5 for $5 sales—they seem to do them at least quarterly.
Whatever you do, stay away from the Butterick pattern that claims to be Regency. It’s not very accurate, and won’t even come close to working unless you’re an A cup, from what I hear (and from how the pattern is obviously designed). McCall’s doesn’t seem to have anything remotely Regency, either.
Simply having the gown is a start, but to get the regency look, you really need the proper underthings to give you the right silhouette. A modern bra just doesn’t hold your assets in the right position for a regency gown, especially if you are well-endowed.
The Oregon Regency Society just posted a great explanation of how proper stays give you the right regency look and points out that it’s not only the stays, but also the chemise that work together to keep everything in its proper place.
This is one area where the big pattern companies have nothing. You may be able to modify Simplicity 9769’s chemise to have a drawstring neckline, but when it comes to stays, you’re out of luck.
Sense and Sensibility has an underthings pattern comprising patterns for short stays, a chemise and two chemisettes. Short stays don’t work well for those of us who are D-cup or larger, however. I ordered the Regency Corset Pattern by Mantua Maker, which is recommended by numerous bloggers and Sense and Sensibility. Mantua Maker also has regency gown and chemise patterns, if you don’t want to go with the other options. I haven’t yet decided if I’ll order a chemise pattern or wing it—chemises aren’t that difficult, really, just some rectangles, gussets and a drawstring.
I haven’t gotten this far. On one hand, I’d love to do a white gown, which would be more of a ball gown, then a spencer to go over it. I have enough teal/brown homespun check leftover from the lone star quilt to make a spencer, I think. But, I’ll likely just make a day dress out of printed cotton, perhaps out of one of the fabrics I’m using in the quilt. I have plenty of linen and ramie in my stash to make stays, chemise, and a petticoat.
I wish I had enough of the homespun to make this dress, but alas…
For those of you with men who want to dress up (or willing to bend to your demands that he do so), I think it’s much more difficult to find an all-in-one pattern. If you know of one, please comment, but since Carl won’t go as far as dressing up to support me, I haven’t looked into it much.
I’m not being paid to write this by any of the companies mentioned (although I’d love to review any other regency pattern sometime next year, if they’d like), I’m just telling you what I’m personally using.
3 Responses to “1812 Project of a Different Sort—Dressing Up”
9:33 am | 11/03/11
Great post and thank you for the link to our blog! I just want to reiterate how important the correct underpinnings are to how your Regency gown ultimately looks. My daughter and I made the Simplicity Regency patterns for NYS 1812 Day but did not make the stays. We were very pleased with the pattern and it looked great on her young slim build but I really needed the stays to put things back up where they used to be. Will be making the Sense and Sensibility underpinnings before I make my next gown!
Regarding the beautiful white gown with handmade Ayrshire embroidery an – easy tradeoff would be to make undersleeves and a chemisette from a repurposed or damaged antique remnant or doily or other such bit of handworking to be found on ebay or in antique shops.
10:46 am | 11/03/11
Lynette, that’s a great point about repurposing a remnant. In fact on a larger scale, one of the c. 1810 gowns in Fashion: A History from the 18th to the 20th Century (Published by KCI. Mine has a different cover, but I think they have the same content) makes me wonder if it was refashioned from something else. It’s a white gown with red embroidered detailing down the center front and around the hemline, but in one of the photos, you can see that the embellished fabric is actually in strips sewn on to the rest of the gown, complete with a mitered seam at the bottom. (see image I added to the bottom of my post)
I wonder if the dressmaker hired out the embroidery and didn’t want to ship the whole dress, or perhaps if it was a reuse from something else. Quite interesting.
11:44 am | 11/03/11
Vintage clothing CSI – Love it!
There certainly is something going on with that trim.