Monday, 7 March 2016

Regency Gown for a Historical Picnic!

When the lovely Ellen (sharpscissors on Instagram, who just happened to be the sender of my awesome chronically vintage secret Santa last Christmas) Announced she was organising a Picnic in Sydney for all lovers of Historical Fashion, I just new I had to attend! At first I was really hoping to make an elaborate 17th century ensemble, complete with stays, chemise, petticoat and dress. However, time got away from me, and I knew I wasn't going to be able to pull that off. My Plan B was to make a regency gown using Butterick 6074 (Plan C was to go in something 40's or 50's from my wardrobe)

I had bought a blue and cream print doona cover from an op shop some time ago, and unpicked it to use one side on the test version of my next multi-size graded PDF home journal pattern (which I still haven't finished) I had the other side sitting about, and even though I don't know if you see many Regency era clothes in floral print, I just thought it would work.

After a quick look, I did find quite a lot of similar looking prints used in films based in the regency era, specifically Jane Austen related movies, so I was happy with my choice, even if my print is a bit larger and less subtle.

So I got to work and began cutting out. I knew I wasn't going to have enough of this fabric to use the skirt pieces from the pattern, so I had to get a little creative with my cutting. I just used some cheap white cotton poplin for the bodice lining, and cut the bodice and sleeve pieces from one of the shorter sides of the piece of floral fabric. With the remaining length, I cut it to the length I needed (45") then with the remaining rectangle of fabric (which was about 12 " wide) that I cut off the bottom, I shortened it to a 45" length (keeping that little scrap for later) then with my 45" x 12" rectangle, I folded it diagonally and cut it so I was left with 2 triangles. I then sewed the 2 triangles together with the smallest points at the top (leaving a few inches open for the back opening, and trimming the bottom edges) and sewed the big skirt rectangle to either side of my triangular pieces, giving me a skirt with a sort of gusset thing happening at the back. I figured this was the best was to give myself more width at the hemline for ease of walking and sitting.

Here is a rough diagram of my cutting layout for anyone else trying to cut a regency gown out of a sheet/quilt cover. It also includes my bonnet pieces

My cutting diagram

Construction of the bodice wasn't anything special, I just followed the pattern instructions. It was however the first time I have ever used prick stitching, which was used to create the drawstring channel along the neckline. For the drawstring, I used more of the vintage blue binding that I used on the , which I machine sewed closed. This will be the only bit of machine stitching that is outwardly visible, but I just couldn't bring my self to hand sew it all. Perhaps I will fix that at a later date.

Neckline detail/bodice and pattern
Once I had the skirt attached to the bodice (but no sleeves) I took a quick selfie in the spare bedroom.

At this point, it just kinda looks like a
But I soldiered on with the project anyway, attaching the cute puffy sleeves and adding binding to the hemline.

Yay Sleeves! With binding on the sleeve
cuffs and hemline

When all that was left to on my dress was a huge mountain of hand sewing, My thoughts turned to headwear. I had a bit of a look around online at different bonnets, caps, coifs, etc. While I really liked the look of some of the straw hat conversions I came across, I really just wanted to use supplies from my stash, and I did not have a straw hat I was willing to cut up, nor enough of a contrasting fabric to line it with. So I had a look at sewing patterns for bonnets and coifs and such, and thought, that with enough ingenuity, I would be able to use the few scraps I had to sew a cloth bonnet, with trimming in the matching blue bias, and possibly some lace from a recent op-shop purchase.

I began work on my bonnet, by cutting out a roughly 12" circle from the square of fabric left from my skirt, 2 strips approximately 4" by 20" and 1 brim piece from the scraps from the side I cut my bodice and sleeve pieces from. I then needed to cut another brim piece out of some white cotton poplin, which, while it doesn't match, it is the same as the dress lining, and as it will be the underside of the brim, I don't feel it will detract too much from the look of the bonnet.

To start off, I cut 2 layers of interfacing for the brim section, and while not period accurate, ironed one on to each of the brim pieces to give them both body. I then gathered a piece of lace, that was roughly 3 time the length of my brim, to it's outer length, and pinned it facing in, between the 2 layers with right sides together. all these layers were then sewn, the seam allowance clipped and turned right side out. As the gathered lace made the seam quite bulky, pressing wasn't going to make it sit flat, and I couldn't top stitch with my machine if I wanted to look at least mostly historically accurate, so I used more prick stitching (like what I was used on the dress neckline) to make the seam sit as flat and neat as possible.

Prick stitching the bonnet brim

Once this was done (and the brim was looking pretty cute) I pinned the 2 rectangles, right sides together, either side of the bonnet, along the unfinished edge, and stitched into place. The seam allowance was clipped along the curve, and the 2 band pieces turned right sides out and the seam pressed flat

I used some more of the blue bias and stitched it closed to make 2 ties. Each of these ties were then sewn into each of the short ends of the bonnet band, using a ladder stitch to turn in the ends of the bands and finish them off neatly.

All that was left to do after that, was to attach the circular crown piece. To allow a bit of wearing ease, I cut a slit about 3 inches long in from one edge, then rounded the corners and the end of the slit, and sewed some more of the blue bias binding to conceal the raw edge, as this section would be at the base of the bonnet and not sewn into the band. The rest of the circular piece was then gathered and I used the machine to sew one side of the bonnet band to the gathered crown, then hand stitched then other down, concealing the stitches.

The slit in the back, neatly edged with bias binding

The inside, before hand sewing
inside layer of the band into place

The Completed outfit with Bonnet
And a few close ups of the bonnet:

So all I have to do now is see if I have any contact lenses anywhere (as my glasses are a bit too modern) then I just need to decide how to style my hair and what to wear on my feet.

Oh, and I also have to get to Sydney. Not sure yet if I will take the train or drive.

Anyone else planning on attending the Historical Picnic this weekend?



  1. That picnic sounds like so much fun and your outfit is just perfect for it. You're sure to have a fantastic time.

    Katie @ Katie Writes Stuff

    1. Thanks Katie, I'm pleased with how the dress turned out, and I had a lovely time at the picnic in it :)