Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Sheer white regency dress

For the Jane Austen Birthday celebration held by the local JASNA group in December of last year, I wanted a whole new outfit.  In my last post I covered the creation of new stays, but I also wanted a new dress. 

I had this amazing sheer white sari that I thought would make a wonderful dress. It is cotton and has lovely blue and yellow embroidery.  It was also very very stiff.  I washed it 3 times and found it to still be very stiff. 

Since the fabric was completely sheer I needed to either line the whole dress or wear a bodiced petticoat under it.  Since the fabric is so stiff, I was worried about how the stiff outer fabric would play with a lining.  I decided to whip up a quick bodiced petticoat.  The bodiced petticoat is made of polished cotton and edged in a embroidered cotton lace. The skirt is pleated across the back to add fullness and sewn flat across the front.  I left the fullness that should have been taken in by darts in the front of the bodice.  Drawstrings are sewn into the side seams of the bodice which gathers up the front when tied to close the bodice petticoat.  This gives the petticoat some size adjustability and adds a bit of fluff to the front dresses without being very full. The top of the bodice is currently pined closed, but I might switch the closure out to hook and eye at some point.

The inspiration was several of the portraits of Napoleon's relatives.  The white dresses had long sleeves and were worn with puffy upper sleeves.  In some cases it is unclear if the puffy sleeves are part of white under dress but in other cases it is clear that the puffy sleeves are on the over dress, like in this portrait of Maria-Paulina Bonaparte.   There are also some surviving long sleeve dresses that show simple long sleeves so I decided to make simple long sleeves on the under dress. I pinned a number of these images to my Regency pinterest board. I wanted this dress to be simple and and long sleeved and then I could make puffy sleeved over dresses.  The sheer fabric for the dress turned out to be really horrible to work with.  Not only was it stiff, but since it was such an open weave, it frayed if you looked at it.  I had to top stitch all the seams to stabilize it.  The image below shows the side back of the bodice with all the top stitching to stabilize the fabric. 
 The bodice front was gathered into cotton bias tape to cover the raw edges. Then gold trim was sewn over the top of the bias tape.

The skirt was made to utilize the fancy part of the sari.  The sari also contained a nice white border that I cut off and applied to the bottom of the skirt.  Since my inspiration came from the dresses worn by relatives of Napoleon, I also added gold fringe to the hem of the skirt as seen in some of the portraits. 
The skirt is fairly flat across the front of the dress with only a little gathering.  The skirt is pleated across the back.  The dress closes in the back using drawstrings.  I got this idea from a surviving dress and am rather pleased with the results. On me the dress closes in the back and requires some gathering, unfortunately my dress form cannot have the bust lifted by the stays and the dress does not fit the dress dummy.

 Here are a couple of full length pics.  Overall I am fairly happy with this dress, it is very versatile and gives me lots of options to dress it up.  I am sad that I have not yet had time to make the fun overdress due to how much of pain this white dress was to make.  I am hopeful I will make the very cool overdress in 2015.

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