Pale green slub silk ball gown

June 14th, 2013

Heather dress 001 Medium Web view Medium Web viewHeather dress 011 Medium Web view


My friend brought me a length of silk that had been given to her, and although it is not technically correct for Regency fabric (they did not appear to have silk with slubs in it) for her purposes it was fine…..all she wanted was a dress acceptable for English Country Dance.  So we went ahead!  I adapted the cross-over bodice dress from Sensibility, so that it had a placket at the front instead of being totally open, and we were both pleased with the result :)

Heather dress 007 Medium Web view

Heather dress 010  Heather dress 012

Note the flaps which pin across the bust, and the ties that fasten at the side, inside the dress, both of which stabilize the bodice. This is the same pattern that the red dress was made from, and it is very adaptable to various body types, especially good for those with larger bust sizes.  It can also be made to have a back fastening if desired, with a different skirt.

Turbans and caps

January 29th, 2011

I have made three versions of headwear to go with three of the ballgowns I have made.  The designs were based on the beautiful drawings in Cunnington’s book English Women’s Clothing in the Nineteenth Century.  The first one I have already worn to a ball, and it certainly made the solution to the ‘hair’ problem very simple!

The first was to go with the royal blue and white gown.  I used the pattern for the crown from the ladies Regency day cap, with a narrow white headband and made a padded twisted band from both fabrics, trimmed with the rose ribbon which decorates the dress.  I didn’t have a large enough piece of blue, or of white, so made a patchwork crown.  A drawstring travels in the headband to make adjustable fit, and the rosette that I wore formerly in my hair decorates the bow of white fabric which finishes the twisted band.   Four ringlet locks of hair from a wig are attached at the back for a hint of authenticity.

blue-and-white-turban-back.jpg  blue-and-white-turban-oth-s.jpg

blue-and-white-turban-front.jpg  blue-and-white-turban-side.jpg

Second was the turban to match the purple tartan gown.  I chose to use a piece of tan/gold silk which matched the beige in the tartan, as it falls more elegantly than the stiffer taffeta would.  It is lined with cotton which is smaller than the silk, so that the silk can stand up above the cotton.  Again I made a padded twisted band from the taffeta, decorated this time with purple piping as on the dress.  At the back is a matching silk bow tied with a gold cord and tassels and a small white ostrich feather.

gold-and-tartan-turban-fron.jpg  gold-and-tartan-turban-deco.jpg

gold-and-tartan-turban-side.jpg  gold-and-tartan-turban-othe.jpg

The most recent one is to go with the ivory silk gown.  I made a cap, using again the crown of the Regency day cap, added a band, and lined the crown with cotton.  The silk seemed a bit full, and so I put gathering across the crown in several places, decorated with strands of tiny pearl-coloured beads.  I had seen a cap gathered in a similar fashion in Cunnington.  The headband was decorated with twisted gold and white cords twisted with a strand of  pearl-like beads.  At one side of the cap is a rosette of silk above a silk tie with a few matching feathers as a cockade.

 ivory-silk-cap-2.jpg  turbans-and-caps-004.jpg

 ivory-silk-cap-3.jpg  silk-cap-front.jpg

 These caps are delightfully light to wear, and will be fine for dancing!

Habit ‘Shirt’

January 23rd, 2011

Here is the Victorian version of a chemisette, the habit shirt.  This was worn with dresses which have a lower neckline, or a partially open front as seen in the last half of the 19th century.  And something with this name would have been worn even earlier, although with the early riding habits a full shirt with sleeves was pobably more common, depending on the style of the habit.

This one is made from Verona lawn, a cotton fabric so fine it feels like silk.  The buttons are pearl finish, and lace edges the collar.  The lace matches that on the removable undersleeves which I wear with my 1860 tartan taffeta dress.

 habit shirt

Victorian Undersleeves

January 23rd, 2011

These undersleeves are made from Verona lawn, a very fine cotton that feels like silk.  I decorated the cuffs with some trapunto and French knot embroidery, and the buttonholes are made by hand.  The undersleeves are worn with my 1860 tartan taffeta dress.   I added lace which matches that on the habit shirt.  The sleeves are 16 inches long overall, and button into the dress sleeve lining.


undersleeve with dress


January 23rd, 2011

Here are a couple of the chemisettes I have made.  One has a simple gathered ruffle, the other has a basic ruff, and one has a hemmed ruffle.  All finishes were popular in the first half of the 19th century.  They were worn to fill in the neck of the dresses worn in the daytime, thus extending the wear of the low-necked dresses, as it was not decent, at least in the upper classes, to expose any skin in the daytime.  At night it was different!!  You see many illustrations of ruffs in particular, some of them having almost Elizabethan proportions.

First, here is one made of cotton batiste, with a selvedge edge ruffle.  There is a drawstring through the narrow facing that covers the seam between the body and the ruffle, making it moderately adjustable.  It is open down the front, and another drawstring anchors the hem to prevent it riding up.

Batiste, selvedge ruffle  selvedge edge ruffle close up

Second, here is one with a single layer pleated ruff, also made from cotton batiste, using the selvedge edge on the ruff.   Drawstrings in both cases are made from twisted crochet cotton.  This one has a placket in front so the drawstring ties at the side at the hem.

 chemisette with ruff  close up of ruff

The third version is made from cotton muslin, and has a narrowly hemmed ruffle.  There is fine lace on each edge of the opening, and it is fastened with a drawstring at the neck and two hooks and eyes.

Chemisette, muslin


January 19th, 2011

Here is a fine linen shift patterned after one in the Boston Museum of Fine Art.  The original owner lived from 1795 into the latter half of 1800.  This style is more typical for the early 1800’s.  

Shift full front

shift underarm gusset  shift top front

I adapted Sense and Sensibility’s shift pattern to include the typical triangular inserts in the skirt, and added the narrow ruffle at the sleeve, a typical decoration at this time.  The neckline is wide enough to tuck it in under the widest ballgown neckline.  The drawstring is made from twisted crochet cotton.


January 19th, 2011

This garment is based on the Folkwear Empire dress pattern, I simply made the straps even more narrow, left off the sleeves, used the minimal amount of fabric in the bodice, closed up the back and had the drawstring tie at the front.  This way I can do it up tightly and really don’t need a corset.  However, anyone with more than B cups would need the corset.  Boning can be added if necessary (but does not replace the need for the corset for those more well endowed).   Jean Hunnisett gives instructions for doing this in her book Period Costumes for Stage and Screen (1800-), and so does Jenny Clancy of Sensibility patterns, although I believe this is a modern adaptation and not strictly period correct.

slip  slip back

 slip bodice

There are two drawstrings, one at the neckline which can adjust for the dress opening, and one at the waist, using stronger tape, for shaping.  The neckline drawstring holds the garment close over the shoulders and prevents it from showing in the dress neckline.  Of course the skirt could be wider, and have cording in it to help the skirt stand out for the fashions after 1814 or so.  You could also add short sleeves so that you can protect delicate fabrics from sweat and body oils.  It would function like a shift, reducing the number of layers for dancers who wish to stay cool! …….and can be made from a washable fabric.

 Here is a pink acetate slip that I made in much the same way, adding cording (various diameters of string and rope) to the hem to help the skirt of my purple Empire dress dress stand out a bit.  Corded petticoats could be stiff almost all the way up for the most extreme shapes, as in the 1820’s and 30’s (and in much earlier times as well).  I like this colour, because the straps are not so obvious if they creep out a bit at the neckline.  However, the drawstrings keep them in place, especially if the bodice fits a bit snugly, as in my white slip above.


Striped silk spencer

January 19th, 2011

I picked up this remnant of silk with the idea of making a spencer out of it, and it is quite successfull.  I worked from the Period Impressions pattern, choosing to add reveres and a retangular collar, along with the peplum at the back.  I added a matching reticule, and the whole thing looks good with my new ivory silk dress.  The buttons and buckle are metallic silver coloured.  I was pleased to find a silk gentleman’s jacket, dated to the Empire period, in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s database, which had a very similar stripe, only in browns and beige.  I am glad I am on the right track here!

striped silk spencer  striped silk spencer, back view

striped reticule 

The reticule has the same tassel as on the strings and a matching silver coloured button.

1815 ivory silk twill

January 10th, 2011

This is my favourite dress at the moment!  I love the feel of the silk and it is so light-weight that you feel as if you are floating, especially with the swirl of the skirt with its flounce.  I had been saving the fabric for something special, so when another fashion show came up, I made it my goal to make this.  The pattern is my favourite draw back dress from Folkwear, the Empire gown.  I added a small ruffle at the neckline at front, used the shorter puffy sleeves, and added sleeve extensions similar to those on my bib-front Past Patterns dress.  There is a very narrow waistband under the lace, it helps to stabilize the join between two sets of gathers, especially with a lightweight fabric.

Ivory silk twill   ivory silk twill back

There is fine lace at the waist and on the sleeves, and the ruffle at the bottom has piping in the edge which gives it a lovely bounce.  The buttons are hand made and there is a drawstring at neck and waist.  The one at the neckline is anchored at the front side corners of the opening, and draws both to the front and the back.  This allows for individual adjustments.  I find I can leave the dress buttoned up except for the waist and pull it over my head……making it possible to put it on without help.

ivory silk twill short sleeve    ivory silk twill long sleeve   

The short sleeve is on the left, and on the right is the wrist opening of the long undersleeves which have tape binding the top which is basted securely to the inside of the short sleeve cuff for the long sleeved version.

ivory silk twill buttons     ivory silk twill bodice front

I’ll be wearing this with the long sleeves and the striped silk spencer for day wear, and with short sleeves and the turban (to come!) for evening balls.

1800 navy stripe

January 10th, 2011

This dress is the same pattern as the green stripe, and is made from a Reproduction Fabrics fabric.  It is all cotton, with a lovely feel and a slightly knobby stripe in beige, very period correct! 

navy stripe 1800 1800-navy-stripe-cotton-3.jpg

The second picture shows the front open, with the two lining flaps pinned closed over the bust, and the drawstrings.  I made the top drawstring of natural crochet cotton twisted to a cord, while the waistline one is of black cotton, to blend in better to the fabric colour.  Once tucked in it does not show, and the neckline one will blend in with the neckcloth colour.

navy stripe back and texture

Here you can see the small back again, and a better view of the fabric with it’s knobby stripe.  These dresses are very comfortable to wear.