I am pleased to finally have a bit of time to be able to write up my review of this gown, which I completed in December 2018 for the local JASNA chapter’s annual Jane Austen birthday tea. Unfortunately that day I had been sewing right up until I had to leave and so I was unable to do my hair and accessories for a complete effect. Technically, I had worn the dress even before that, for a Frankenstein Tea at my local library, but the dress was even less finished then, it was safety pinned closed!
The Ball at Brookside Museum in Ballston Spa, NY was originally intended to be an 1830s ball based on an old advertisement they had found, but eventually the museum changed it to a 19th century ball. I attended the ball with my friend Caitlin (in the dark green dress below), who blogs about her own historic costuming adventures at Fancy Miscellany. Right now she is recreating a beautiful bustle-era gown from a photo from the local history archives as part of a local arts grant. In between us is Samantha, also a historic costumer, who you can find on instagram.
There was much dancing, which was terribly exciting as I’d just attended my first contra dance lesson earlier in the season. To quote Jane Austen, “There were more Dancers than the Room could conveniently hold, which is enough to constitute a good Ball at any time.”
Unfortunately, as you can see from the above photo, my dress and stays have an unfortunate fit for dancing. For some reason it is very strained when I try to lift my arms higher than shoulder height. I’ve had this problem with other garments, but usually modern ones. You can also see my chemise sleeve poking out the bottom of my gown sleeve!
Pattern: Sense & Sensibility Patterns Regency Gown
Time Frame: September 2018-December 2018 (with some touch ups for March 2019)
Fabric: 100% cotton, lining is JoAnn’s 100% cotton Premium Muslin
Notions: Covered button kit, thread
Cost: It was not terribly expensive as the fabrics were plain cotton and I only needed to buy covered buttons. I will try to go back and find my receipts.
- The fabric was a few inches shy of the recommended width. This only was a problem with the back skirt pieces, so I simply didn’t gather them as much.
- I had to re-do the back gathering because it was pulling oddly, creating a sort of u-shaped drape that looked weird and bumped out (see below). In retrospect it isn’t as terrible as I remember it, but I still think I improved it by forcing the gathers as tightly in to the CB as possible. I suspect it comes from the drafting of an upward curve towards CB at the top edge of the skirt pieces, instead of it being on the bottom. Edited 2022: This was actually the wrong thing to do. That U-shaped drape is totally accurate to the drafting/silhouette of the time.
- I had to remove 2.5″ from the CB of the bodice, which makes sense as I had also removed width in the CB for the stays pattern. I don’t think I needed to do this on their pelisse pattern though.
- I lowered the front neckline 1.5″ (she does specify she drafted a more modest neckline that while not necessarily historically inaccurate, is not fashionable for the period).
- The fabric I purchased had many errors in the weave and one part was even frankenserged together! That’s what I get for buying the cheap stuff! Luckily I was able to work around it. Even though I bought slightly more yardage than recommended to account for shrinkage, (and despite the mistakes in the fabric) there would not have been enough for long sleeves, so buy quite a bit extra if that is your plan.
- I really struggled with assembling my printed at home copy – a lot of things were off. I think if I were to make this again I would re-purchase it as a hard copy. My other patterns from this company are hard copy and have been fine, so I can’t say if this is a fluke of the printer or not.
- I struggled to find research on what kind of buttons would have been appropriate. Eventually I found that covered buttons were not common (on dresses) in 1810 yet, but not totally inaccurate either. Drawstrings and hooks and eyes were still the more popular closures.
- There were no markings for where to put the buttonholes, so I used my Reader’s Digest Guide to Sewing, which advised me as to the appropriate width, which I then made smaller because it looked odd.
- Except for the buttonholes, the finishing is all by hand, while the insides are machine sewn. I also opted to serge my inside edges so this can go in the washing machine.
- I opted for the full lining, but I think in future I will make a regency petticoat with straps so I can afford make it out of something a little more slippery. My stockings stick madly to the lining of this one, making walking a bit awkward. Edited 2022: A separate petticoat, instead of a built-in lining also makes ironing MUCH easier.
APPENDIX I: HAIR AND ACCESSORIES
My decision to attend the ball was very last minute, and after my previous attempt at historic hair (heartbreaker ringlets with a bun which did not work well at all! Deflated ringlets was the result and my hair was really too short to hold a good bun) I decided to try something different. So I did wet pincurls and slathered them in hairspray.
The result was the opposite of last time. Really voluminous, unruly curls! But it was exactly what I needed to support a head wrap.
Accessories are as follows: modern scarf for head wrap, rhinestone feather pin, dyed ostrich feather, lots of hair pins, a necklace I made, my self-made chemise and short stays (also from S&S patterns), kid gloves that buttoned at the wrist, white tights from Target and Jessica Simpson “ballet” flats. I was amazed that Target even sold white tights in adult sizes, especially with Halloween nowhere on the horizon. I’ve tried cotton stockings but they stick terribly to my skirts, so for a ball non-HA nylon panty hose were the way to go! I don’t have any HA shoes yet, but I adore these flats. They’re fairly inexpensive and extremely comfortable.