Since I intended to wear the ball gown to a ball, I knew it needed to be shorter than my day dress. Regency ball gowns showed the ankles, because the dancing was lively and involved dipping and bouncing. A floor length gown would have been stepped on! I looked about online and found two fashion plates in particular that I liked (then saved them to my computer without any source information... sorry! I wasn't blogging then). Each one has the very high waist of the early Regency, with a sheer overskirt that looks great in motion. The puffed short sleeves are further decorated.
(Each of these fashion plates is old enough to be in the public domain, but I don't know where they came from originally or who digitized them. I found the first on Vintage Victorian's Period Fashions Reference Library, and the name of the file when I saved it says the dress is from 1812. The second was found on Jane Austen's World's informative post about the Regency fashion for net overdresses.)
PATTERN & FABRIC
The pattern from the dress started as the pattern I'd already drafted for my short stays. To make the white day dress, I simply added more coverage for the bosom and somehow drafted sleeves. I say "somehow" because it was a while ago and I don't remember how I did it, but I suspect muslin was involved. To make this dress, I slashed and spread the sleeve cap to make it fuller, and altered the bodice to be back-closing. It closes with two hooks and eyes in the belt area, and snaps above that.
I got the fabric from Fabrics For Less, which was then on NE Sandy Blvd (but has since moved to 12115 SE Powell Blvd), Portland OR. Being on a budget, I was pleased to find their name an accurate description of their wares! The cotton sheeting I bought for the dress was $3/yard and the chiffon no more than $5/yard. For the bodice, I cut each pattern piece once in cotton and once in chiffon, layered them together, and worked them as one piece (this is called flat-lining). For the skirt, I simply made two layers so I could get the flutter of chiffon over opaque cotton.
I accented the bodice with a shaped swag of white brocade lined with pink satin, and used pink piping around the armscyes. Both effects are really quite pleasing!
When I made this in 2015, it fit just right. Since then I have gained some weight (though I can't figure out where?!), and now the snaps at the back want to burst open when I move abruptly. At the wedding where I last wore this, I danced the Macarena and every snap popped open before the end! Heeeey, Macarena! It's a good thing the hooks and eyes at the waistband held, or the whole dress would have slid to the floor!
Amusingly, after the dance, a middle aged gentleman said to me: "Only in Portland could Thurston Howell the Third dance the Macarena with Lizzie Bennet from Pride and Prejudice!" I curtseyed, and he bowed, and I got a friend to re-snap my gown!
Quilting, dressmaking, and history plied with the needle...
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