Sunday, September 7, 2008

Sara's New Project - Regency Gown

Well, you may be wondering what in the world I'm doing when I haven't even come close to finishing my husband's Civil War Outfit or my Civil War Outfit but, yes, I am starting a new project already. However, I'm only doing this because I have an event (my sister's birthday party actually) where I wanted to wear a Regency dress (I figured it would be more maneuverable in small spaces than an 1860s gown).

A little while back, Jennifer suggested that instead of making a completely new dress, that I should just adjust the one I wore to Jane Austen 2008 and where that one again. It would save me time and it would help improve my skills in making adjustments.

I thought that was a great idea. The only problem was that I needed more fabric to add two panels to the back of the gown to give it more fullness. I've seen that fabric a lot at my local fabric store so I didn't think it would really be an issue.

Yesterday, I started gently ripping apart the dress: detaching the bodice from the skirt and taking out the side seams. Then, I went to the fabric store, with a swatch and the SKU # in hand. But low-and-behold, they don't carry it any more. They have the exact same print just in a darker blue. But, of course, that won't do. The manager said she would look into it and see if she could find it for me but that she wouldn't get back to me until Monday.

Instead of being defeated, I decided I would make that new gown after all, but with the suggestions Jennifer gave in my Guinea Pig Review. I am using the same pattern to get the general pattern pieces and sizes, but after that, it's my imagination and some handy pictures I took of a Regency gown in England.

I spent a good amount of time looking at the pictures I had and visualizing exactly what new pattern pieces I would need to make from scratch and how I should go about the construction of the garment. In a sense, I threw out the instructions that came with the pattern and came up with my own.

After figuring out most of how I should do it, I went to the drawing board and traced out my patterns onto banner (or butcher) paper with the adjustments I thought I would need.

I extended the back panel so that it could be gathered to get the fullness I wanted. I also decided that I would need to cut this piece on the fold instead of as two separate pieces. I'm doing this because I am not having a back opening on the dress. Instead I will have a side/front opening that will be concealed. I got this idea from the pictures I had. Before I saw that dress, I had never seen a dress with that type of opening and I knew that I would want to make a dress like that someday.

After that, I traced and adjusted the bodice pieces, making the back piece be on the fold as well and the front piece be two pieces instead. I also extended the bodice front pieces a lot in order to allow for gathering that I wanted to do as well as to add a modesty-type panel on one side.

Then I created a skirt placket panel piece based on Jennifer's instructions in her Modern Sewing Techniques for Historical Sewing Construction eBook. From it I was able to figure out exactly what size I need the pattern piece to be as well as how to attach it to my skirt opening.

Next, I cut out all my pattern pieces in muslin for my mock-up. Then it was the arduous task of putting everything together. I started with the bodice and I had to take it apart quite a few times before I got it just as I wanted.

One good tip I learned from looking at one of Jennifer's mock-ups is to leave your seam allowances on the outside of your garment. Do not sew a seam and then turn your garment right side out. This will allow you to take in seams easier because you can grab the seam, pin it, and sew it to the right place.

Then I moved on to the skirt, including adding the skirt placket which turned out very nice and definitely gave it a good finishing touch. I made gathering stitches in the back so I could gather it easily.

I then attached the bodice to the skirt and tried it all on together. It looks very nice so far and I am pretty pleased with the outcome. These pictures may not look that great to you but, remember, they are just of a mock-up and not the finished garment.

I did not bother with the sleeves on the mock-up as I have already made those sleeves and know they fit just fine.

I also made sure to wear the undergarments I will be wearing with this dress during all of my fittings to make sure everything fit well. (I had to make a few adjustments to my undergarments as they weren't quite fitting right and I made sure to finish those adjustments last night and this morning before I tried on my dress.)

Now that I've finished the mock-up, I feel pretty confident about moving on to the actual dress.

There are a few adjustments that I am going to make still but I am not going to bother with them on the mock-up as they are pretty straight-forward (like making the back of my bodice a little shorter - which has been marked on the mock-up with erasable fabric pen).

Well, I have less than 2 weeks to get this done. I'm hopefully by next Sunday all the major construction at least will be finished, if not the whole thing.

I'll keep you posted and definitely show you the finished product.

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