Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Sheer Striped Drawstring Gown

My first new costuming project of 2017 was definitely made with my growing baby bump in mind. I had planned to wear it to the annual RSV Twelfth Night dinner, which had to be postponed because of a big snowstorm the first weekend of January. The dinner was rescheduled for the following Saturday (this past weekend), but unfortunately Brian the Engineer and I were unable to attend because of a funeral that same day.

Nevertheless, I did finish my new gown in time to wear it for a snowy photo shoot in the backyard two days after the aforementioned storm. (Those pics will come later.) It was actually a very quick make, largely because I had used the same pattern before for my Dove Gray Drawstring Dress. I made the whole thing, start-to-finish, in five days - including a new bodiced petticoat!

One thing I did differently on this dress was adding more volume to the skirt, particularly at the back. This was fairly easy to do because the Dove Gray dress was made from an old fitted sheet, and I was constrained on that project by the amount of fabric contained in the sheet, and also by a hole I had to cut around. This time I had 6+ yards of 57" wide fabric, which was also much more lightweight and therefore easier to gather.

My fabric is a sheer striped cotton, purchased last February at JoAnn Fabrics. Credit for this fabulous find goes to Samantha, who pointed out on Facebook that it would be perfect for a Regency dress. I went out the very next day and bought what was left on the bolt at my local store. It was sold in the Shirting section, which I check now every time I'm there. So far they have yet to re-stock it. If I ever do find it again, I'm definitely buying more! It's a dream to work with, doesn't stretch, and doesn't fray badly like many sheer fabrics. This helped the construction go very quickly.

I cut the front bodice and skirt as one, just as before:

The only difference is that I cut the skirt wider at the sides, rather than just extending the bodice side back seam down to the hem. This left me with the selvedges at the side seams, (I cut the back skirt piece from the full width of the fabric, as well - this way I did not need to finish the seam allowances on the inside) and gave me more width to gather into the back waist seam. I also modified the neckline from my original pattern, making it 3" lower at the center front:

As before, I had laid my pattern piece 4" from the fold at center front.
Because I was lowering the neckline significantly, I made sure to follow the bottom edge of the fullest part of the bodice front out to the fold with pencil (enhanced in the photo with MS Paint) to ensure appropriate coverage. This pencil line is where I stitched the bias casing for the drawstring.

Instead of using pre-packaged bias tape that would have been too stiff and opaque (not to mention half polyester), I cut my own from a bolt of sheer white cotton voile. I have roughly 20 yards of this stuff, and plan to one day make at least one Regency gown from it. So far I have used it for the neck and sleeve ruffles on my Striped Silk Gown, and I'm sure in the future I will be making caps and chemisettes from it, as well. For now, I cut several strips of bias from an 18" section that I ripped across the straight-of-grain. I ended up with way more bias strips than I needed, but I'm sure they'll come in handy again someday. 

When I got down to the last full strip before the fold, I stopped cutting and left the large triangle at the end to make myself a fichu someday.

Assembly was pretty straightforward. First I added the bias channel for the drawstring at the front waist line, with an opening at center front. Next I attached the back bodice piece to the front, and attached the back skirt piece to the front. Then I flat-felled the side back and shoulder seams of the bodice after trimming them down to 1/4" on one side and under 1/2" on the other.

This was taken after the dress was completed, so you can see the sleeves are attached and the neckline is finished.
I am much happier with these flat-felled seams than I was with the ones on my first sheer dress.  I didn't trim those seam allowances nearly as much:

So many things I would do differently if I could make that dress again...  But we learn and we grow!

Once the bodice seam allowances were finished, I gathered the skirt back - all 72 inches of it - down to five inches! Love the sheer, lightweight fabric for this.

I added a drawstring casing to the neckline edge with more of my bias strips.

I used 1/4" cotton twill tape for both drawstrings.

For the sleeves, I used the same pattern (La Mode Bagatelle) as I did for the sleeves of my Dove Gray Dress, but cut them at the elbow-length line. I used more bias strips to bind the seam allowances inside the armscye, after trimming them down to 1/4".

After I hemmed the skirt, I added some tucks by hand. First I was planning to do three, but I ended up with the right skirt length after only two.

And here is the finished product:

You can see my new bodiced petticoat clearly through the bodice, particularly at the back:

It's the same pattern as my yellow one, but I made it larger in the bodice to accommodate my pregnancy-enhanced bust, and on this one I gathered the skirt into the waistband instead of pleating it. The gathering also goes all around the skirt to accommodate a growing belly, although it's still much more gathered at the back.

See? Enhanced.

These photos were taken by Brian the Engineer in the library of our new house. One of the criteria I had while we were house-hunting was a suitable backdrop for photos of my costuming endeavors, particularly indoors. I think we accomplished this. :)

It wasn't until I was writing this post that I remembered my original inspiration for this gown, which was one of the dresses Elizabeth wears in the 1995 Pride and Prejudice.  Looking at some photos I had saved in an "Inspiration" folder, I would say my memory did a pretty good job of designing my version, even though I'd forgotten that that was what I was going for!

It's a very comfortable dress, and the bodiced petticoat offers more support than my maternity bras, so that's a plus. I'll have to come up with a front-opening one eventually, for nursing. Must do some research...


  1. This is gorgeous and extremely flattering! It's one of my favorite things I've seen you make. The fabric is lovely--I love who when you get just the right fabric it works so well--it this case the gathers are perfect for the fabric!


    1. Thanks! I do feel quite pretty in this dress. :)