2 posts tagged bonnets
Recently I finished a regency cotton dress and a matching straw bonnet for the Dances of Vice Spring Ball. Here is the finished product!
(Image by Steven Rosen Photography)
(Image courtesy of Angela!)
(Image courtesy of Rashanda!)
(Image of Candice and I courtesy of Sarah!)
It was a lot of fun making this dress! Particularly because it was about half hand-sewn, which meant I could multitask with other activities like watching BBC costume dramas. :)
For the bonnet, I found a wonderful plain straw form in a sort of poke bonnet style from Austentation.com (who have amazing customer service) and was able to trim it myself with some fabric-and-wire violets and a green hand-dyed ribbon from my favorite trim store in the world, MJ Trim. I also used a matching ribbon as the waist tie for the dress. I put a bit of box-pleated ribbon around the inside of the brim, as well. For next time, I’d like to also create a lining for the bonnet — it’s just too easy to catch your hair on the straw without one!
Here’s a closeup of the waist tie ribbon. It’s got some sort of cool tie-dye effect!
For the dress, I started with Sense and Sensibility’s Regency Gown pattern, augmented with their Regency Neckline supplement. I opted to combine a few styles and create a high-necked, drawstring neckline, with gathering below the bust.
(Note: the period bustline is too high for my dress form in these pictures! Fortunately it doesn’t look that way on an actual human… especially if you wear stays).
I did experience some problems with the Regency Gown pattern — namely, that the pieces didn’t seem to be trued up 100%, particularly for the bodice pieces, neckline, and armscye. Not sure what was up exactly.
After making a mock-up, I decided that I wanted to move the sleeves toward the center back of the dress to look more like the extant period gowns that I had been looking at… so I ended up re-working the armscye. I also added two extra back panels to the back of my dress and gauged it by hand to gather up all the fabric. This created a look that I thought would be reminiscent of early Regency gowns, with a slight train.
The gown is simply closed at the back with two delicate thread ties (I used crochet thread which I hand-sewed to the bodice). Since it’s worn over a chemise, it’s not a problem to have a closure this way.
I didn’t use the construction techniques included with the pattern. Instead, I tried to look at extant gowns and follow what I saw.
I ended up not lining the gown (I’m wearing it with a chemise), for the gauzy effect you often see in period portraits. I decided to compromise between hand-sewing and machine sewing, given the time crunch I was in, and created a sort of “pseudo-flat-felled” seam by sewing the seam on a machine first, and then cutting, turning and whipstitching the enclosed seam allowances by hand. I also gathered the various pieces (sleeves, front bodice, neckline, back skirt panels) by hand and in some cases used gauging techniques to attach the gathers, allowing for a more three-dimensional looking garment (rather than the flat gathers that are created using a sewing machine). I left the armscye and waist seams raw on the inside, because that’s what many extant Regency gowns seem to do.
Here are my hand-whipped seams, note the machine sewing on one side:
Finally, the gown was finished — excellent! There was one final issue to be addressed, which was that it was blindingly white. I often think about the fact that due to bleach and other chemicals, modern fabrics can achieve an extreme white color that wasn’t possible during the actual period. So I tea-dyed my dress briefly using Orange Pekoe tea — it worked great, changing the color slightly but still presenting a (slightly less modern) white appearance. Problem solved!
I had fun with this project, and I would definitely make something from this era again — maybe a coat! Next time I’d like to start with a pattern from Janet Arnold.
The only thing about this period that I find difficult is Regency hairstyles don’t suit me terribly well! I missed my Bettie Paige bangs when they were pushed to the side under the bonnet. In fact, having a varied choice of hairstyles is one of the many things I appreciate about our modern, eclectic age. Perhaps I’ll just wear the gown with my ridiculous modern hair. Viva la modernité!