Sunday, August 6, 2017

White Dotted Swiss Regency Gown

Another event, another gown.  I've loved dotted Swiss since I was a kid.  I found some lovely sheer cotton dotted Swiss lawn with elongated dots on Ebay so I decided it was time for a summer gown.  I decided that I wanted to make this fashion plate into more of a day gown.  The picture itself looks like a ball gown but I figured that eliminating the train and wearing it with a nice chemisette would work.

I think it's the sleeve that I'm particularly drawn to.  There's just something about the ruching on the sheer fabric that I love.  I analyzed the fashion plate to determine the bodice and sleeve styling and I decided that I would make this an apron front gown simply so I could dress myself.  I just can't manage gowns that button or tie in back and I'm at a loss when there is no one at home to help me.  Looking at the picture above, however, it looks like the gown in the illustration was probably one that buttoned in the back.

I had never made an apron front gown before but I stumbled upon this set of costume tutorial pictures on Flickr which made the construction quite clear.

I settled on using the Elegant Lady's Closet pattern by Sense and Sensibility because I had already muslined it and I thought I could make it work.

I decided that I would use the back bodice pieces, the skirt pieces and the front lining pieces to make the bodice and I'd draft my own bib front and alter the short sleeve pattern.

Here's what the bodice is like on the pattern.


I tried this gown on to see how much I'd need to adjust the lining pieces.  I made them 1 inch higher so they'd cover my stays and I made the shoulder strap 1/4 inch wider.  I also extended the front edge by 2 inches.

I cut all of the bodice back pieces and the new bodice front (old lining) pieces out of the dotted Swiss and some white muslin for lining.  I treated the two layers as one and sewed the back seams in small French seams.  I basted the front pieces together and stitched them to the back at the sides and shoulders using French seams.

I decided the openings in the skirt would be at the side seams.  I cut out the skirt pieces, extending the back skirt piece 2 inches at the side seam for the under lap.  I looked at some extants in Costume in Detail and Patterns of Fashion to figure out how long to make the split and I determined 12 inches was appropriate so I stitched the side seams in the skirt and left an opening of 12.5 inches.  I used French seams.  I turned under the edges of the opening and stitched them with running stitch.  The back of the skirt was gathered and stitched to the bodice with the side edges extending past the side seams.

You can see how the front will overlap.

I tried it on to check for fit.  I intended at this point to eliminate some layers.  The front pieces will over lap each other and I didn't want 4 layers of fabric.  The bottom layer would be the muslin lining only and the top layer would be the dotted Swiss only.  I marked where the excess layers would be cut away.  I also determined that I needed to add some little pleats under the bust to make it fit better.

Then I pinned the front skirt in place and adjusted the gathers so that the edges of the front skirt would end at the bodice side seams, overlapping the back skirt pieces a couple of inches.
The extra layers were cut away with the cut edge being turned under and secured with running stitch. The gown was tried on the dress form

To draft the front bib pieces, I used the wrap front pattern piece to get the correct curve for the bottom edge of the piece.  I cut a large piece of Swedish tracing paper, pinned 4 small pleats in it and pinned it to the dress form.

I used a marker to draw the shape I wanted.  Here you can see how it compares to the original pattern piece.

I checked the fit of the new pattern piece.

I cut two pieces out of dotted Swiss and lining, stitched them right sides together and turned them right side out after trimming the seam allowance to a scant 1/8 inch.  Then I stitched the pleats in.  I pinned them to the gown to check the position and then stitched them together.

I cut a band 2.5 inches wide and the length of the top of the front skirt plus one inch.  I folded in the ends 1/2" and folded it in half lengthwise.  I placed the raw edges against the top of the skirt right side then placed the bib top right side down and sewed the layers together.  The band and the skirt extended beyond the bib top by about 2 inches.  I folded the band and the seam allowances up toward the bodice, grading the layers.  I stitched half inch wide cotton tape over the seam allowances to finish them and did the same to the back bodice.  I also stitched 1/4" tape to the edges of the back skirt and to the edges of the front skirt.  Then I made thread loops at the back bodice seams.  You can see how this works at the Flickr stream I linked above.

Now I had to get to work on the sleeves.  I used the short sleeve in the pattern, lengthened it by about 3 inches, and made it about 10 inches wider.  I drew a circle in what I determined to be the center of the sleeve with two ruching lines.  I machine gathered these lines on a muslin and it seamed like it would work if I added another 4 inches or so to the width of the sleeve.  You can see where I redrew the circle over the added 4 inches. 

The sleeves were cut out of the dotted Swiss and the marks were traced onto the fabric with water soluble marker.

I ran gathering stitches at the bottom of the sleeve and the top using the machine.  Then I cut a bias strip about 2.5 inches wide by the size of my bicep plus ease.  I folded it in half lengthwise and gathered the base of the sleeve to the raw edges of the binding.  The binding was pressed down and will be turned to the wrong side of the sleeve later.

For the ruching, first I gathered the circle.  I gathered one forth of the circle at a time, drawing that section up to about 1 inch and making a locking stitch.  

Then I gathered on the ruching lines, drawing the gathers up until the sleeves measured the size of my arm plus wearing ease.

I was worried about the ruching stitches breaking so I pinned 1/4 inch cotton tape to the wrong side of the stitches, running it across the circle:

This was stitched on from the front using spaced back stitches.  Then the round puff was positioned and a couple of stitches were taken in the middle of it, securing it to the tape.

Once the ruching was completed, the sleeve seam was sewn and the binding was turned to the inside and stitched in place.   One problem now is that the ruching changed the over all shape of the sleeve.  There was way too much fabric in the front part of the sleeve at the shoulder so I pinned one sleeve to the dress form and drew new gathering lines for the front then transferred those lines to the other sleeve.  Then I stitched the sleeves into the gown and cut away the excess fabric.

Here is the finished sleeve:

Hemmed the gown and it was DONE!

Here is the final fitting over my chemisette.

In retrospect, if I ever do a similar sleeve again, I will cut a sleeve the finished shape out of a sheer foundation fabric like organdy or netting and stitch the outer sleeve to it.  That will help get the proper finished shape.  I was so concerned with keeping the sheerness of the fabric that this didn't occur to me at the time.

Here is the finished gown as worn at Riversdale House Museum.

1814 Regency Bonnet

Since I was planning a new summer muslin gown, I decided that I needed a summery bonnet to go along with it.

I found this fashion plate:

I like the fact that 5 of these are on a straw base.  Straw hats have always been a sign of summer and I wanted a straw bonnet base.  I settled on the one at the center right as it looked easy to duplicate, being basically ruffles on the straw base.

It couldn't find a straw base this shape so I decided to make one out of thrift store straw hats.  This is where you have to analyze both the shape of the bonnet you want and the shape of the hats you have available.  This hat has a tall crown--taller than most modern hats have.  I've been fortunate enough to find some hats with rolled brims, that when unrolled, can extend the crown upon reblocking.

I decided on this one:

When the brim is turned down it looked like this:

I figured I could block some of the fullness out and get a good size crown out of this shape.
First I soaked it in the sink.
Then I figured out how tall I wanted the crown and cut the remaining part of the hat off, leaving about an extra half to three quarters of an inch.

I have a 3 pound coffee can that works great for blocking this shape.  I put the hat on the can and wrapped it tightly with some old bias tape and strips of old sheets--basically anything that the air can permeate.

Once dry, I checked the shape, sprayed some heavy spray starch inside and out and let it dry.

Next I needed a brim.  I found another hat that had a brim I could shape to my liking.

I turned the brim down to check the shape.

I knew that I'd need to shrink out some of the fullness of the brim to get the right shape so I tried this hat on and pinched it in the back to get the amount of fullness I wanted.

I measured this to be 6 inches of brim I needed to remove.  I cut the brim off of the crown, saving the crown for future use as the foundation for a turban.

The fashion plate shows the bonnet brim as being narrower in the back.  First I ripped out the stitching on the edge row of straw which was a double thickness. Then I cut three inches off of each side and reduced the thickness.

I overlapped the  two pieces in the back and machine stitched that seam.  I restitched the edging and cut off a piece which I stitched over the back seam.

Then I put the brim down over the crown, overlapping about a half inch stabbing a few pins to keep it in place.

Since the hat was going to be decorated, I went ahead and machine stitched the two pieces together.

Once again, I sprayed it heavily with starch and steam it.  The top of the crown wasn't completely flat so I sprayed that, turned the bonnet upside down and weighted it down over night to dry.

Here is my finished form.

I analyzed the fashion print and it looks like there is a large ruffle, stitched in the center with one or two more ruffles at the top.  I chose to do two large ruffles stitched in the center just because it seemed quicker.

I determined that the largest one should be 5.5 - 6 inches wide--wide enough to cover a little of the brim and to end about a half inch from the top.  I cut one width of 57" silk taffeta 6.5" wide and another 5.5" wide then I pinked the edges.  I seamed the short ends together on each piece and ran a gathering stitch down the center after marking the piece in 4ths.  I also place pins in the bonnet crown at the quarter points so as to evenly distribute the gathers.

I pulled the gathers on the larger piece and put it on the bonnet tightening the gathers all the way. Once the gathers were evenly distributed, I stabbed some pins in to keep it in place.  

Then I did the same to the narrower piece.

I used doubled silk thread and a large spaced back stitch to secure the ruffles to the bonned, stitching right over the gathering stitches.

I decided to use a lighter yellow ribbon in my stash as trim since the original fashion plate is monochromatic.  I only had 1.5 inch and 2 inch wide yellow ribbon so I folded some 1.5 inch in half and pressed it then placed it over the stitching, securing it in the back.

I was stuck with what to do next.  I experimented with flowers and I didn't like the look of having them stick up in the front like the fashion plate.  I still needed something to cover the stitches in the back.  I ended up using the remainder of the 1.5" ribbon as ties which I sewed to the bonnet right at the seam between the brim and crown.  I ended up making a rosette out of the 2 inch wide ribbon using the shell stitch with 6 petals.   

I can stick some plume under the rosette if I want to fancy it up, but I like it like this for day wear.

Here is what it looks like in action:

Repurposing thrift store hats is fun.  It's amazing how many styles you can duplicate!


I've always wanted to be able to make those lovely face-framing curls seen in Regency fashion plates and portraits but my stick straight hair just doesn't like to do that.  I have used a half inch barrel curling iron with some heavy duty products but the curls are lifeless by mid way through the day.

Enter cheap hair pieces from Amazon!

I bought a cheap pack of clip in extensions and a messy curly bun.  I'm fortunate in that most dark auburn hairpieces are pretty close to my hair color.

The hair extensions are quite long.  You get 8 pieces:  one with 4 clips, 2 with three clips, a double and several singles.  I decided to use the one with 4 clips and one of the triple ones.  I pinned them to my ironing board so they wouldn't move.  The 4 clip extension was trimmed to about 14 inches in length and the triple clip one was trimmed to about 10 - 12 inches long.  I divided the 4 clip one into 4 equal parts and used end papers (in this case toilet paper squares) to curl each section around a plain old sponger curler.  I divided the triple clip one into 3 sections and did the same.

I put a pot of water on the stove and brought it to a boil then I turned off the burner.  The  curled extensions were placed in my metal colander and I poured the hot water over them, making sure they were soaked through.  I let them cool, placed them on a towel and carefully removed the curlers, allowing the extensions to fully dry.  Because some of the curls tangled a little when removing the rollers, I wrapped each one (one at a time) around a 3/4 inch dowel and sprayed it with hairspray, holding it until dry, then slipping the dowel out.  That's all you need for face framing curls!

I also curled a couple of the single extensions, leaving them full length, to use for 18th century hairstyles.

Here are my Regency curls:

To do my hairstyle, I twisted my hair into a tight bun and secured it with 4 or 5 bobby pins.

Then I clipped the 4 curl extension fairly far back, knowing those curls would fall to the side.

Then I clipped the 3 curl clip closer to the front.

Then I added the bun.  It has two combs and I just stretched it out and stuck the combs on each side of the bun.

I like how the bun fills out my Regency cap and the other curls frame my face.

I think these would also work well with a scarf wrapped around leaving the curls on top to show.  I may go ahead and do some more to hang in the back for that kind of treatment.

Here they are with the finished outfit