Regency-fying a Dress

July 20, 2012

I’m not sure if a regency dress counts as ‘Retro’ but wanted to get as many opinions as possible. I’m going ot Jane Austen Festival, Bath this year. And last week I thought I’d put off making the dress long enough. The date had been rushing towards me and I haven’t event thought about the dress.

I didn’t get far had my usual problems with regency fashion (its really not designed for me). I did have a little rant and got some suggestions about alterations. But after undoing and re-sewing seams by hand and having the stupid material fraying a lot. I decided to put it to one side till I calmed down.

Then last night I had a brainwave…Instead of shoehorning myself into a pattern that didn’t fit from the start, I thought start with a modern pattern that fits and try to make it regency-ish. Used a basic pattern I’d made from a non stretch top I found comfortable.





More Pictures can be found on my blog (photos taken with me wearing my corset underneath)

Now the question I have is to make my current ‘design’ more regency looking (I want an impression rather than absolute historical accuracy)
– how much higher should I make the back than the front?
– did all dresses have those circular seams? do they serve purpose or are just decorative?
– Is my neckline too high?

And last of all am I close to looking regency?

  1. Looks right to me. When I think of Regency I think of high waistline under the bust, long flowing skirts, and square necklines. You can do any shape and height neckline, but I always think square neckline with cap sleeves. I think the “circular seams” you are talking about are princess seams. They can be on the back or the front of the garment, and shape the garment to the body. They are easy to do. Just cut the pattern piece where you want the seam, and add in the seam allowance on the resulting pattern pieces where you cut. I recommend you copy your pattern onto another sheet of paper if you are planning on experimenting with new seams. Good luck!

    1. Thanks. I will probably make a paper mock up of the bodice to play around with the princess seams. Paper (well if I re-use the fre paper that comes through the door) if free where as fabric costs. So I try to make most of my mistakes on the paper.
      I wonder if I can use it to make a ‘slimming’ affect.

  2. Hmm, this won’t post? Is it too long? I’m going to try breaking it in half:

    You’re well on the way there!

    The curved seams only ever go on the back in Regency gowns, but they do pretty much always go on the back. They don’t actually have to be very curved – they provide modest shaping, but mostly are a holdover from the shaping necessary when the waist was lower. Betty’s right, you can just draft them in without any shaping. Another thing that will help the look is to drop the shoulder seam onto the back, rather than the top of the shoulder. It should be just over the shoulder by the neck (say dropped about an inch from where it is now) and much lower at the armscye (say dropped two to three inches).

    The skirt looks good. The way you’ve concentrated the volume at the center back is excellent. If you’re using purely rectangular panels, keep in mind that you will probably need to bring the skirt up a little bit at the front – there’s less of you to go over in the front than the sides or the back, and if you don’t compensate, it will tend to be a little poochy over the tummy. It’s your choice whether you want to bring the waist up in the back or not. Personally I always think it looks better, but it makes the skirt draping a little trickier (be sure to keep the skirt grain horizontal to the floor!).

  3. The neckline looks good. For a day dress, a white neckerchief would be a good in-fill and helps you look the part.

    This style of dress should always open down the center back. The simplest ones have drawstrings at the neck and waist, which can help with fitting, and no other closure – they are worn over a very simple slip (your mockup could be the slip!). Otherwise you can do hooks and eyes down the back, or covered buttons.

    What are your sleeve plans? There are several options.

    It is WOEFULLY un-updated, but my website (Jessamyn’s Regency Costume Companion) may help you fill your eye with the right look.

    1. I’ve had a go at drawstrings before…erm shall we say it made me look several sizes bigger. :0
      I was thinking on putting buttons down the front so it looks a bit military (and as if they are just decoration rather than practical) and then have a fake centre back seam? Just for practicality of not having someone to do up my buttons at the back.
      Not sure on the sleeve front. I’ve tried puffed sleeves on other things and the make me look too top heavy. I noticed earlier in regency the sleeves weren’t so ‘puffy’. Looking through my patterns for an appropriate sleeve at the moment.

  4. Buttons down the front were not really used on this style of dress – only on pelisse-dresses, which look more like coats – but of course that’s your choice, since you’re just aiming for “ish.” I understand the pain-at-not-having-anyone-to-button-you-in problem. Been there, many times!

    Bib-front gowns solve this problem, but they’re much more complicated to construct.

    There are plenty of Regency sleeves with a smooth cap, or just a few pleats. It definitely doesn’t have to be a puff.

    1. I did consider a bib front but as you say the construction looked a little complicated.
      My thoughts are its for one day, I’ll probably never wear it again as I’m not a re-enactor (probably ‘adjust’ it to look modern afterwards if I want to wear it again). So I just need it to look regency enough to to be ‘costume-y’ but I’m not looking at re=enactor level accuracy. Although I will probably be sewing 99% of it by hand.
      I have a sleve from and 80’s blouse pattern I was thinking of using. (http://stitchintimeandspace.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/style-2769-my-new-fave-pattern.html and shortening the sleeve)

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