Regency May 22/23 update

Sleeves are now sewn onto the dress, and all that’s left is the bottom hem and applying sleeve trim. I’m following the sleeve trim option that bunches the sleeve a little with three cords or ribbons tacked at the bottom sleeve gathering at three points and again at three points higher on the sleeve. I’ll be using a green organza ribbon instead of the recommended thin cords, and the three points on the upper sleeve where the ribbons terminate will be finished off with rosettes instead of buttons.

I can’t decide yet between ivory organza rosettes or deep rose-pink satin rosettes. I don’t tend to like the over-wrought, heavily-beribboned and bedecked embellishment styles of the later Regency. I prefer the simplicity and classicism of the earlier styles, so I’m leaning towards the ivory rosettes which won’t stand out as much as the others.

At the bottom of the sleeve, I’ll be applying a folded sage-green satin ribbon over the gathering threads and over the termination points of the three organza ribbons, and placing a single rosette in the middle where the folds change direction. I’ve created this trim myself, and it’s fairly simplistic but effective.

Also completed this weekend, an approximation of a straw Regency bonnet. I had a stiff straw hat with a raffia ribbon and flower trim around the brim that I’ve owned for years and never worn. The brim isn’t too wide, maybe about 5 inches, and the crown isn’t very high or rounded. Tilted back on the head, it’s a pretty good approximation of the correct shape for a Regency bonnet. I clipped off the back of the brim in a wide fan shape, applied a lavender bias binding over the brim edge all around with fabric/craft glue, then tacked a sage green grosgrain ribbon around the crown, crossing the ends in the back and drawing them over the back tips of the brim where I trimmed away the wedge, and tacking the ends at those points. It took about 10 minutes to figure out how to accomplish all this, and about 10 minutes to complete it all. Voila! Regency bonnet—or close enough, anyway. Will I ever wear it? Maybe. That’s not the point though, is it? 🙂

Regency May 17 update

Last night I only got around to sewing the sleeve sides together and pressing the seam open in preparation for attaching them to the bodice. That’s when I noticed that I had previously missed the fact that the pattern instructions have the sleeves attaching to the bodice without being closed at the underarm seam first. Instead, the pattern has the sleeves being sewn around the armhole, and then sewn under the arm in a line that continues down the bodice sideseam, closing that seam. But I closed this seam earlier in the process when I decided to leave the sleeves til last thing. I just assumed the instructions skipped the “sew bodice front to bodice back at side seams” step. Oh well. This might be period, but I think it’s a bit weird. There’s no reason not to use a modern sleeve-attachment technique, and since that’s the only option left, that’s what I’m going to do.

Regency May 15/16 update

Got A LOT done this weekend. I removed the back and front gatherings in the bodice and restitched them, then pulled them up to the measurements I thought would work. Then I sewed the skirt pieces together, nicely French-seamed just like the bodice and gathered across the back pieces to about 10 inches to match the back bodice gathering. (The fabric I chose has such a nice drape even though it’s a medium-weight quilting cotton. I can’t WAIT to finish and get this thing on for some pictures. [emits girlish squeal!])

When I went to join the bodice to the skirt pieces, I encountered a bit of a problem—AGAIN! The back bodice gathering worked perfectly at about 10 inches across, but the front bodice gathering was TOO TIGHT! I really don’t know if I did something wrong or if the pattern is wrong, or what, because the front and side skirt pieces aren’t supposed to be gathered at all. But the pattern piece for the front bodice indicates that it should be gathered to about 4 – 4 1/2 inches across the full front waistline (size L). And I gathered it to just about 7 1/2 inches, so really I don’t know what’s going on. I think the pattern and instructions are just WRONG! Did anyone else have these issues? In the reviews I’ve read no one has mentioned anything like this.

So I pulled out the front gathering stitches AGAIN, and resewed them, and pulled them up to match the front and side skirt pieces, about 13 inches. Next time I will wait to pull up the bodice gathering stitches until the skirt pieces are sewn together so I can accurately compare them and get things right the first time.

I completed sewing the bodice to the skirt pieces, and proceeded with the waistline drawstring channel, machine-sewing one edge to the waistline seam, turning up the free edge and hand-sewing it to the bodice to eliminate any visible stitches. No problems there.

Then I moved on to the sleeves, which I had started on previously by making the gathering stitches. Now I pulled them up to match the 14-inch-long pieces of seam binding I had cut, per the instructions, gathering them about 5-6 inches across the lower gathering stitches. Stitched the binding in place, turned it under on the fold line (about 3/4 of an inch from the lower edge), and handstitched it in place just under the upper of the two lower gathering sections.

All that remains construction-wise is to sew the sleeve edges together, pull up the top edge gathering, attach the sleeves to the bodice, and hem the skirt.

Then all I’ll have to do is add some ribbon trim. I’m thinking of using a sagey-green satin or grosgrain ribbon to hide the still-visible gathering stitches on the sleeves, and then they’ll be pulled up at three points as described in the instructions, kind of bunched, with more ribbon, anchored to the upper part of the sleeve, and finished off with some ribbon rosettes. While sage green isn’t a color in the fabric, there is a goldy-tan that in some lights looks sort of olive or sage, so it’ll be a nice accent color. A 1 1/2 inch wide sage green grosgrain ribbon at the waistline will tie in the front, leaving long tails to float down the skirt, and I think I’ll tack thread loops or skinny fabric carriers at the side of the gown at the waistline to hold the ribbon in place.

Regency May 6 update

UGGH!

So as I was trying on the bodice one last time before pulling out the back gathering stitches, the knot I’d placed to tie off the front gathering stitches popped, releasing those gathers. Sigh. Not a huge deal, really, but frustrating. And perfectly illustrative of the problem I’ve been mulling about (see May 4 update)—so maybe it was a good thing? I’m going to go with that. This time after I resew those gathering stitches I’m going to staystitch them in place like a good girl!

Regency May 4 update

It’s been way too long since I worked on the gown, but I’ve been stewing over a potential fit/dressing issue. I went ahead and added the triangular panel to the center back of the bodice and regathered the back waistline to a total of 8 inches. I believe the pattern instructions for my size (although I should be making one size larger) indicate that the back should be gathered to a total of 4 inches. So it’s twice what it should be. I threaded the drawstring through the neckline channel and drew it up. The bodice is ready to be attached to the skirt and sleeves, but thinking about the problem of getting dressed without an assistant, while wearing a slightly restricting pair of stays, without leaving a back opening on the gown has made me also think I need to do a little engineering to create more ease in the back to allow for hassle-free dressing and to eliminate the potential stress on the gown.

The solution I’ve come up with will do the trick, I’m pretty sure. It requires removing the gathering from the back bodice and restitching the lines so I can draw them up again, but this time to about 10 inches across—matching it up with the also lightly-gathered back skirt pattern pieces. So I need to sew the skirt pieces together and get to work on that before proceeding with the rest of the bodice. After matching the lightly-gathered bodice back to the lightly-gathered skirt back pieces, I can continue as the instructions outline by sewing the skirt to the bodice and creating the waistline channel out of seam binding. This strategy will give more ease to the gown at the back waistline, while still allowing a nice snug fit once it’s on and creating a pretty gathered effect.

I’m not sure what the pattern company was thinking when it designed the pattern to be gathered so tightly across the back for both the authentic and the modernized garment versions. For the authentic version with the slit up the back, it would work just fine, but even with elastic in the neckline and waist, with the front and back waist already gathered to their final measurement, there wouldn’t be any “give” to allow for dressing. The elastic would stretch sufficiently, but the garment certainly wouldn’t. Perhaps I’m missing the point, since I’m working with pattern pieces that are technically one size smaller than I should be using. If I was using the correct pattern size, maybe that wouldn’t be a problem because there would be enough ease already, and the elastic would really only serve to snug the waistline of the dress to the waistline of the wearer. But still, considering the gathering adjustments I’ve made—lengthening the gathering measurements in the front and back—I would think that there would be more ease in the garment, even so.

If I make this pattern again, I will definitely alter the back pieces for a size XL, since I am kinda broad through the upper back.

Regency April 1 update

So after sewing the bodice pieces together, I added the gathering stitches to the bodice front waistline and drew them up as noted on the pattern, to 6 1/8 inches. Without the proper undergarment, I went ahead and tried it on just to make sure the fit would be close to correct, but unfortunately it seems it’ll be a tad small and certainly difficult to get in and out of without the back opening once the back gathers are drawn up.

So I loosened the front gathers so they measure 7 1/2 inches across, and instead of drawing up both sides of the center back gathers to just 2 inches across (total of 4 inches), I’m going to draw them up only to 3 inches on each side (total of 6 inches). That’ll give some ease for dressing, and with the waistline drawstring, I’ll still be able to get the close fit under the bust.

I’m contemplating adding a triangular panel to the center back to allow even more ease at the waist, while keeping the back neckline relatively un-bulky. A triangular piece about 3 inches across at the bottom and 1 1/2 inches across at the top, with 1/2 inch side seam allowances. That would give an extra 2 inches at the waistline, and only a 1/2 inch at the neckline. It would look like this:

But first I’m going to draw up the back bodice gathers as noted above, and try everything on over the corset to see how it works. If the panel is necessary, I’ll go ahead and add it, and it’ll look fine since that area will be gathered. Fingers crossed it works without the added panel. If I add the panel, I can probably go ahead and draw up the gathers to the 2 inches per side noted on the pattern. Panel or no, the neck and waistline ties will still be visible on the outside of the gown via eyelets or button holes at the center back of the bodice neckline and waist.

Although the fitting and fixing part can be such a hassle, this is one of the most fun parts of recreating a historical garment or costume, at least to me—the figuring-things-out part, the engineering-solutions part. The analytical side of my Virgo brain just loves this stuff! (But only as it applies to fun hobbies like costuming and home improvement, not to serious stuff like math :-P).

Meanwhile, I went ahead and ordered the Sense & Sensibility undergarments pattern for the short stays, and purchased some Swiss dot cotton to make into a bodiced petticoat. Those will both come later, perhaps before starting my next Regency gown, which I expect will be in a light-weight material that requires a lining for opacity.

I have a problem with planning more projects than I can actually handle at any one time, but it’s the way I roll. As long as they eventually get done, I don’t see a big problem. And usually, if I wait until the perfect time to purchase patterns and materials for a specific project, it seems that the perfect fabric just doesn’t exist. So I figure it’s better to buy the fabric for a project I know I’ll get to someday when I find something that’s absolutely perfect rather than risk not being able to find it when I’m ready to actually work on it. That’s my rationalization, and I’m sticking to it.

Regency March update

A few days ago (late March), I finally got my rear in gear and started sewing. It’s going together really easily so far (fingers crossed this continues!). I’m using a variation on the authentic pattern directions. Instead of leaving the center back completely open and tying with drawstrings, I’ve sewed the center back closed and after finishing the neckline, I will hand-sew two eyelets at the top of the center back and two at the bottom of the center back through which to pull the drawstrings. (Although I am thinking about making the neckline drawstring tie in the front instead, while retaining the back-tying waist drawstring. We’ll just see how things go.)

I’ve used French Seams throughout, except on the curved side-back seams, to give a nice interior finish.