"Resign yourself, Catherine! Shops must be visited! Money must be spent! Do you think you could bear it?" - Northanger Abbey

Friday, July 20, 2012

Regency Dress - working the wrong way

Now you may or may not have seen my little rant earlier. Thanks for all your help and suggestions. I *did* give them a go and well between undoing the seams and re-sewing them and all the fraying my 'mock up' just ended up a mess. So I stepped away from it for a while to just calm down.
Then last night just before bed I had an idea (I get my best ideas then for some reason). My problem was I was trying to take patterns that didn't fit and trying to force them to fit. Maybe I should try getting a modern pattern that fitted and then adjusting the shape to look regency-ish. I had in my head an idea after seeing aylwens post about pelisses and jenni's two piece regency dress of what I wanted. Front closure, simple neckline. And what sprang to mind was a little while ago for a pattern review challenge I'd made a pattern from one of my most comfy non stretchknit tops!

So I cut it out extending the front rather than cutting on the fold and raising the neckline slightly....then trimmed the length.

Cut out a strip of fabric so I could see what it looked like with a skirt section. 
Now question is to make it more regency do I need to
......make the back higher?
....and those circular seam things?
(I see them in images are the just decorative or do they have a purpose?)
From the back

I tried it on over my foundation garments. My mock up would look nice as a dress on its own. I might keep it as my petticoat rather than using it for lining. Is my neckline right or should the back neckline be lower?

Edit: Here is my design and 'mood board'


  1. The answer is yes: all Regency dresses had those "circular" back bodice seams. They're now called princess seams. It gave the bodice back a close, smooth fit with no wrinkling and was a direct descendent of 18th century gown construction.

    1. Thanks. I'll have to try and change it on the final garment.

  2. First off, I think it's looking very good! It's definitely giving me the Regency vibe.

    - Back vs. front height: Are you talking about the waistline placement here? If so, it can either be level all the way around, or it can curve upwards a bit at the center back. What you have now looks really good!

    - Circular seams: I'm not sure which seams you mean. . . Are you talking about the curved seams that join the bodice back to the bodice side back? If so, I think they are partially for fitting, and partially decorative. I've used them on all the Regency dresses I've made so far, except for the underdress part of that Regency 2-piece - the original of that did not have the curved side back seam, so I omitted it too, and was able to still get it to fit like a glove. But as that part of the dress was never made to be seen when worn, and I haven't seen any Regency dresses that don't have that seam in the back (unless they have a gathered back instead), I'd say that having those seams were the norm, and your best bet for looking Regency would therefore be to include them. :)

    - Neckline height: Front or back? Actually, the answer is the same for either of these: It depends on the look you're going for! There are Regency dresses I've seen that cover up right up to the neck, and others that have a VERY low scoop. I think it also depends on if you're aiming for a day or evening look. A day look tends to cover up more, while an evening look generally allows one to reveal a bit more. (And if you're trying to get a dress that can do both duties, you can always fill in that neckline with a chemisette, or even a simple fichu).

    I think you're doing a great job so far! And I hope this helps. . . If you have any other questions, I'd be happy to try and help! I've got a lot of free time on my hands right now as I'm on a bit of a summer vacation. ;)

    1. back v front - Yes talking about waistline placement. Thanks. I was struggling to find authentic images that showed front and back of the same dress to compare.

      circular seams - yes talking about those elements. Is it easy enough to adjust to allow for them?

      neckline hight - both front and back. I'm going for a day look. As its for a costumed promenade and maybe a dance workshop.

      Thanks. :)

    2. Circular seams - sure is! If you have a dress form, put the bodice mock-up right on that (or if you don't have one, lay it flat), and just draw them right in where they look right. Then, you can just cut along the marked line, and use the mock-up to transfer the lines to your pattern piece. And then, don't forget to go back and add seam allowances to your new seam! Oh, and I would mark the grain on both back pieces as well.

      This book (Costume In Detail, by Nancy Bradfield) is AWESOME reference for this sort of thing. It's not photos, but rather, line drawings, showing front and back view, and usually a few other views as well, along with tons of construction details. And everything in chronological order, so you can see the styles slowly shift as you page through the book. It wasn't one of the first books I bought when I started costuming (no pretty color photos after all, LOL!) but it is the book I use more often than any other, by a long shot! :)