Sunday, March 24, 2013

HSF Stripes Challenge - Regency Ballgown

When I left off with this project, I had two bodices for my two dresses, and the blue one had sleeves.  Now I have two completed dresses, even to the hand-sewn buttonholes!  It's amazing how much I got done in a day - and I do mean a 24-hour day.  I didn't sleep Friday night.  :p  I finished my ensemble for the ball at 8:00 Saturday morning, went to work from 10:00-4:30, ran home for a quick dinner and catnap, left for Lansing, MI at 5:45 and arrived at the ball at 7:02, after a quick change in my car.  But more on the ball later.  First, the dress(es)!

The skirts are just pinned in place to get a feel for length.

First I finished the bodice of the sheer gown by adding the sleeves.  I bound these with the bias strips mentioned in my previous post.  I stitched the bias to the right side of the sleeve edge by machine, with a 1/4" seam allowance.  (This is the same method I used to bind the neckline edge.)

I pressed the bias out over the seam allowance:

Then folded the edge over twice, pinning it to the underside of the sleeve:

And slipstitched by hand along the fold.

To get the correct sleeve shape, I laid out the front and back petal pieces over my sleeve pattern (Simplicity 4055) with a slight overlap:

And trimmed away the corners, following the sleeve curve as a rough guide.

I carefully matched up the fronts and backs and made sure the back overlapped the fronts:

Then I stitched a double line of gathers and drew them up to approximately the same fullness as the blue sleeves:

Aren't they adorable?  
I pinned them to the arm openings of the bodice and stitched between the rows of gathers by machine.  (I didn't take pictures of this part.)  Then I removed the gathering stitches, trimmed the seam allowance down to 1/4", and bound the arm opening with bias.  This time, instead of folding the bias strips over the seam allowance, I folded both bias and seam allowance to the inside at the seam.  I then folded the bias to the inside and backstitched the fold down by hand.

On to the skirt!  Those of you who read my indecisive post on my ballgown will know that I was having issues with this skirt.  In the end I decided that to forgo length and make the sheer skirt the same fullness as the blue dress.  To that end, I cut/ripped more rectangles of the solid white voile, and pieced them together using insertion lace in place of traditional seams.  I had found this excellent tutorial on lace insertion, and used it to create five lines of lace joining four solid white rectangles to the white striped skirt.  I then added three rows of a different lace in between each pair of joining lace rows.  If I'd had time I would have cut the fabric beneath these rows and stitched them open, as well.  Perhaps I will still do that someday.

Here are photos of my lace insertion:

I joined the solid rectangles to the striped fabric at the selvage edge:

To mark the layout for the lace stripes, I cut a tiny snip at the middle of the top of each rectangle, and pulled one thread down the length:

Sometimes the threads broke, but once I had smoothed the gathers out I could still see the line well enough to sew the lace over the top on the straight of grain.

Once the skirt was ready I gathered it up at the sides and back and pinned it to the bodice.

I was glad the fabric was so light and sheer, since I had to gather a huge amount into a tiny space.  I wanted the back to be as full as possible.  I had used the selvage edges of the solid white fabric as the center back of the skirt, and since I had about four inches of the insertion lace left over, I stitched it to the top of the right side of the skirt back to use as a makeshift placket.

I kept the gathering stitches in this time, as I decided that I liked the look of them below the waist seam, and I thought they could help keep the structure of the skirt.  I pulled the threads to the inside and tied them off before trimming the excess, and then bound the waist seam with the last of my bias strips to contain all the raw edges.

I sewed three buttons to the right side back and made three corresponding thread loops to the left side:

I had wanted to make the sheer skirt longer with a row of puffs and several rows of tucks, ending with the eyelet trim for the hem, but there was no time.  I sewed on the eyelet, but I can always remove it and add the tucks and puffs in between later on.  But for now, the sheer dress was done!

The day dress went rather quicker, as all I needed to do was gather up the skirt and attach it to the bodice, add a placket, fold the bodice lining to the inside and slipstitch it over the waist seam to contain all the raw edges, and add buttons and buttonholes.

Somehow I ended up using two different thread colors for the buttonholes...  It was 7:00 in the morning by this point, so it's a wonder I have buttonholes at all!  :p

I learned that although my dress form can be adjusted to the same bust and waist measurements as me, it does not have the same underbust measurement, and my day dress would not close all the way:

It fits me perfectly, though!  :)

At long last, here are the two dresses as I wore them to the ball - layered on top of one another:

(I pressed it better than this before I wore it.)  
To see the dresses on me, stay tuned for my next post about the ball!  :)

The Challenge:  #6 - Stripes
Fabric:  3 yds light blue cotton, 2 yds white cotton voile, 1 yd white striped cotton voile, approximately 1/4 yard off-white quilting cotton
Pattern:  Revised Simplicity 4055  
Year: roughly 1810-1820
Notions:  3 yds 4" scalloped eyelet edging, 4 1/4 yards insertion lace, 10 yds scalloped lace, 3 white shank buttons, 3 blue buttons
How historically accurate is it?  I modified the pattern to make the shoulder seams more historically placed, and did most of the finishing stitching by hand.  The construction was all done by machine, though, including the lace insertion.  So maybe 85%.  
Hours to complete:  About 600.  :p  Ok, not really, but it sure felt like it!  Probably 80-100.  
First worn:  March 23 for a Regency Ball
Total cost:  Everything came from my stash, so not a dime!  


  1. Oh, that is adorable! Can't wait to see how it looks on an actual person. :) I was glad to find your blog on the Historical Fortnight page. I'm going to make one of the Simplicity 4055 dresses sometime in the future and am kind of leery of making it - it being my first Regency dress. It's good to know there's someone who can give me tips if it comes to that. ;)


    1. It's a good pattern, and I'm very happy with it. :) I should note that I did not use the skirt pattern pieces, but gathered up a big rectangle for each skirt instead. The blue one was actually just a long cut of the full width of the fabric, which turned out to be perfect for my waist seam to the floor! I didn't even hem it, as the selvage edge is fine and didn't pucker when I washed the fabric. I do recommend making a mock-up of the bodice first, though.

  2. Nice shoes! And your dress turned out nicely as well. Though the style is similar to mine, I think the effect is quite original for each of the dresses. :) Glad to see you had such a lovely time at the ball!


    1. Thank you! Those shoes do seem to be quite popular. :p