Making a Floral Regency Dress, Part Two

I might have forgotten about this project. Again. I finished making it at the beginning of August and still haven’t finished writing about it, how awful is that?

Today i’m fixing that! This is the second post about making my Floral Regency Dress, part one is posted here and shows how I made the bodice. I also have a post about making the bonnet that goes with this, which is posted here.

The first step in making the skirt was cutting it out. I decided to use my usual four piece skirt method, which involves rectangular front and back panels and two side panels. The side panels are made from a rectangle that is cut horizontally to make two gored pieces which add volume to the hem but keep the skirt relatively narrow at the waist.

That process has never given me any trouble before. But this time I messed up because I forgot something very important: for this to work you have to be using a fabric that is the same on both sides.

Would have been great if I remembered this before cutting the fabric!

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To fix it I placed the pieces together with the right sides facing each other. Then I trimmed away a lot of the length and width so they were mirror images of each other instead of being identical.

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Much better! Just not the size i’d wanted them to be.

I should also mention that due to limited amounts of material these panels were cut on a different grain than the front and back panel. Which isn’t ideal but luckily isn’t too noticeable once everything is sewn together.

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I cut out the front panel and pinned everything onto my dress form so I could see the shape. The skirt is definitely too wide for Regency Era fashion, but I liked it so I left it that way.

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Then I made a bit of bias tape and marked a slit down the center of the back panel.

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That got slashed open, then I whip stitched bias tape on to cover the raw edges. This creates a nicely finished opening  which makes the dress easy to get on and off.

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And then all the pieces got sewn together with french seams. After this was done I trimmed the top edge and rounded out the hem so the skirt will have a nice little train.

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Then the skirt got hemmed. I left one and a half inches for the hem. The first half inch got tucked inward and basted down then the hem was turned under by an inch and whip stitched in place.

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I gathered the top of the skirt down. I realize now that I really should have removed volume from the front, but at this point it was a little too late. It’s most densely gathered at the front and back, the sides are left completely smooth.

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Here it is pinned onto the dress form. Aside from the misplaced volume I was happy with it.

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So I pinned it onto the bodice, then sewed it on with a one inch seam allowance.

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I made some more bias tape out of scraps.

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And used that to cover the raw edges.

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Speaking of bias tape, I cut out a bunch of four inch long one inch wide bias cut strips. These will be used as ties for the back of the bodice.

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I ironed the raw edges towards the center then ironed them in half so no raw edges were visible. To make sure they stay this way I whip stitched around the edges of each one.

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Then the little ties got sewn between the lining layer and the top layer of the bodice. When they were attached I stitched the back of the bodice lining shut.

Then I made a sash from a long strip of cotton sateen and sewed that around the bottom of the bodice.

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And that’s it! The dress is finished!

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I did take some worn photos of this, but i’m not happy with them. I worked hard on the dress and bonnet but seriously slacked off on the undergarments. My chemise was too short and gaped horribly at the back. The petticoat was too long and not the right shape. The fichu is just a piece of lace because I forgot to make one and was in a rush to get this photographed. I think the sloppiness of those things really effect the way the dress looks when it’s all put together.

I think when summer comes around i’ll make some major changes to this and hopefully end up with a dress (and ensemble!) that i’m happier with. In addition to the changes mentioned above i’m going to hem the dress and remove a good 20″+ of volume from the skirt.

It’s not perfect but I think with a few fixes I can get this project to a point where i’m happy with it. At least I actually finished this project, which is more than I can say for my previous two Regency fashion attempts (they both ended up in my scrap bin…)

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Thanks for reading!

 

Making a Floral Regency Dress, Part One

It’s been almost two weeks since my last post, which is pretty awful. I had a month where I was feeling very uninspired and didn’t get very much done. Then my family was traveling and I ended up going almost two weeks without sewing, for me that’s kind of crazy since I usually sew everyday.

But i’m back in the swing of things now! I have a few new projects already started, and plans for several more. I’m feeling really enthusiastic about all of them so I think this next month will be a lot more productive. And the more productive I am, the more blog posts I write, so I should be getting back to my twice a week schedule soon.

As much as I want to post about the things i’m actively working on, I should probably start by blogging about the dress I finished almost a month ago.

I’ve already written about making the bonnet that goes with this dress, that post can be read here. But today i’ll be talking about the process of making the actual dress.

This dress was inspired by a set of curtains. Yes, this is another curtain dress. When I was in Ikea I saw this set which reminded me of Chintz print dresses from the early 1800s.

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The more I’ve worked on this project the more modern I think this fabric looks. It definitely has a different color palette than chintz dresses had a couple hundred years ago, and the pattern is a little more abstract. I still really like the fabric, but i’m not sure if it was the best choice for a historical project.

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After I bought the curtains I began searching for inspiration online. Almost a year ago I pinned a few photos of this dress, which I decided to use as my main reference point for this project. I also used this blog post for more reference images, since it has many detailed photos of the back of regency bodices.

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Then I got to draping the pattern. This was quite tricky to drape since I wanted a low neckline, but not too low. And I wanted a tightly gathered bust, but not so tightly gathered that it looked bulky. It was difficult to balance those things but after a lot of fiddling I had something I was happy with!

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When it was removed from the dress form it looked like this. I ironed it, then copied it onto paper and added seam allowances.

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And here is the paper pattern.

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After making a mock up I decided I was happy with the pattern. So I cut each piece out twice, once from the curtain fabric, and again from a white linen which will be used as lining.

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Then the front side of the bodice was gathered down by hand.

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When the gathering was finished the back panel and strap got sewn on.

I did a quick little fit test here before moving on.

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Then the raw edge around the armhole got turned over and sewn down.

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Here you can see the peculiar patterning on the back. This was very common on regency dresses and I actually really like how it looks. The only thing I don’t like is drafting sleeves that fit into those funny arm holes…

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I went ahead and sewed together my lining. Then it was gathered and had the edges around the armholes turned over.

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Now it was time for the dreaded sleeves. But for once this went surprisingly well! I drafted a pattern with a few measurements and a lot of guess work and didn’t have to make any alterations! The mock up fit perfectly. So that was awesome.

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The sleeves got cut out and darts were sewn in.

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Then the bottom edge was turned under.

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And the back seam was done up with french seams.

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The sleeves got sewn on by hand with little whip stitches.

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Now it was time for lining. I pinned the lining to the neckline of the bodice with the right sides facing each other, then stitched a half inch away from the edge. When it was turned the right way out the neckline had a finished edge. Then I topstitched around the neckline by hand, to keep the lining in place.

The lining at the back, bottom, and around the armholes was left open. Eventually the lining around the armholes was whip stitched down, so it covers the top edge of the sleeves, which was left raw. The back and bottom edges can’t be sewn down until the back closures and skirt are attached, so that will be done later on.

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Here it is with the lining sewn in!

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And here it is on my dress form. As I said, I don’t love this print for a historical costume, but I am pretty pleased with how this bodice turned out. Two of my recent (as in within the last year) big project failures have been Regency era pieces, so i’m happy to finally have one go as planned!

And as a bonus, it’s really comfortable compared to most of my historical dresses.

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Thanks for reading – I think I will have a fabric haul up on Friday!

Making a Cotton Sateen Regency Bonnet

Usually I post about making a dress, then post about making matching accessories. But today I felt like blogging about making this bonnet, so i’m doing things a little backwards.

I’ve recently finished a regency themed dress made from a red and white floral fabric. I showed a little preview of it in my last progress report, and a blog post about the process will be up in the coming weeks. The dress has a bright print but is very simple in design, which makes it an excellent candidate for accessories. I decided to pair it with a bonnet made from cotton sateen and a pair of white shoes. This post will be about making the bonnet and decorating the shoes.

I’m not very familiar with bonnets from the early 1800s so I did a bit of research. It seems cotton caps were more common than bonnets, but I didn’t think those would be very flattering on me or look nice with the dress. After a lot of searching I found reference images that I liked. The first is on the bottom left of this print and the second is shown here. My plan was to combine the brim from the second image with the cap/banding of the first image.

Here is my sketch illustrating that plan…I draw really badly sometimes.

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The brim and back of the bonnet are made from interfacing with wire in the edges. The outside will be covered with red cotton sateen and the interior will be white. I also chose to make the cap portion flexible and made entirely from fabric, with no base.

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And I have some fake flowers and pearls which I wanted to use as decoration.

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With a bit of a plan in mind it was time to get to work!

I never really know where to start when it comes to bonnets, so I tried to drape the brim shape on a wig head. That process looked a bit like this…

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When it was removed from the form it looked like this!

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I made it a little bit larger to account for the fact that my wig head is smaller than my head.

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And I had a pattern! It looked about right when I held it up to my head, so I used the pattern as a guide and cut out the interfacing. This is heavy duty felt weight interfacing, which i’ve used for headpieces in the past. I should have used buckram, but I still haven’t ordered any.

(it’s on my list, i’ll get to it someday…)

The interfacing sat weirdly on my head, it looked much different and way larger than the newsprint layer. So I cut several inches off each side. I don’t regret doing this, but I wish I hadn’t cut off so much. My bonnet ended up being a little bit too small and sits farther back on my head than I would like.

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Using my sketch as a guide I drafted a back panel which will cup my neck and attach to the brim. This also got cut out of interfacing.

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Then I whip stitched wire to each edge. This allows the bonnet to be shaped.

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To cover up the wire and texture of the interfacing I sewed flannel over the top side of each piece. I did a really awful job of this, but that’s okay, no one will see it.

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The top layer of the back piece are bands of cotton sateen. I made these bands by sewing three inch wide strips of cotton sateen into tubes, then turning them right side out and ironing them.

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The bands got sewn on but I left the top and bottom edge open. The lining got tucked into the open edges and sewn down. Eyelet lace will eventually be sewn under the bottom band, and the top band will hide the raw edge of the lace used for the cap. So  these were left open for the time being.

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This is the interior.

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I decided on the wider eyelet lace since it matched the color of the dress better (the other was a little too yellow) it was pinned underneath the bottom band.

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And all sewn down! It looks a little ripply right now, but when it’s bent more tension is put on the bands and they look smooth.

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I skipped a few steps here, oops The brim was covered with flannel and cotton sateen. Then I cut out a piece of poplin to the same size as the brim with a half inch seam allowance across the bottom edge. I didn’t like how the poplin looked on its own, so I covered it with a gathered layer of silk organza. Then the bottom edge was tucked underneath and pinned to hide the raw edge. Here you can see it pinned in place.

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I whip stitched around the top edge and the sides to secure the layers in place, but I left the bottom edge open.

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I made a little bit of bias tape (I had maybe an inch leftover when this was done!) out of some lace. I sewed this around the top and side edges to finish them nicely.

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Now the two pieces were mostly done and could be sewn together. Here they are pinned in place. I sewed them together with thread that was doubled up. I was sewing through two layers of stiffened felt so I used a big needles and pliers to help guide it.

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And when that was done I cut out the cap. I took a few measurements and then guessed what the shape and size should be. Not the most professional method but it worked!

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The bottom edge was gathered slightly then tucked between the top band and the layer of lining. I sewed it in place with small whip stitches.

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Then the top  layers was gathered slightly towards the center and pinned between the brim and the brim lining.

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Here is a shot of how it looked inside.

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And after everything had been sewn down! After all that work it was finally starting to look like a bonnet.

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I made up some ties from strips of cotton sateen. These got sewn just inside the interior of the bonnet. And then it was time for decorating!

The roses I planned on using for decorating were a bright orangey red which didn’t really match. So I used a watercolor brush and some copic inks to darken the edges to a deeper shade.The one in the middle/slightly towards the left is unpainted so you can see the difference.

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I glued those on along with the pearly strands of white flowers, and it was done!

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I think this bonnet is very pretty, and i’m happy with the shape and construction. But I made it too small, so I don’t love how it sits on my head. I also need to add another tie, or combs to the back because it is really unflattering on my jaw when it is tied tightly, but it tends to shift and fall when it’s tied loosely.

I attempted to take photos of this worn but the lighting went to crap and I didn’t end up with usable images. But I did get a bit of video footage of me wearing it (I was filming it for a costume spotlight) and that can be watched here!

Now onto the shoes. I actually plan on making a pair of Regency slippers from leather and velvet in the near future, since I want them to match a dress i’ll be starting soon. But I didn’t make these shoes, I bought them from amazon, you can see the listing here.

They aren’t very comfortable or well made, but for $18 I wasn’t expecting a lot. I bought them because I really liked the pointed toe, and found the silhouette to be quite similar to shoes from the early 1800s.

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Funnily enough the model of these shoes is “Angie – 18” which is my name and current age, which is kind of a weird coincidence!

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I made some bias tape from cotton sateen. It was folded in half and glued down around the foot opening with the creased edge being visible. I used E6000 to secure it and a few dozen binder clips to keep it in place while the glue dried. The raw edge was trimmed with pinking shears and dipped in fray check to prevent it from unraveling in the future.

Then I made cute little bows for the front.

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Here they are with the bows attached! I glued on some of the pearl/white fake flowers as well. I’m really happy with how these look.

I just wish I had used a little more precision with the glue gun! There is some visible glue which i’m not very proud of. I might try and fix that in the future, but even if I don’t it’s not a big deal. I doubt anyone will be getting that close to my feet, or even see these underneath my dress!

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And that’s it for the accessories! I’ll talk about the dress that goes with them soon.

Thanks for reading!