Regency Dress Photos
When a local culinary society decided to have a dinner at the Old Sturbridge Village tavern, which is an 1830s recreation village, I decided this was the perfect time to create my Regency dress. After all, the period was correct, and I could simply be a visitor from England coming to the colonies for some reason!
Regency Period and Jane Austen
For my model dress, I used the Metropolitan Museum of Art dress shown to the left, which dates from around 1810. I wanted the dress in the back / left of the two. So I began by searching on the web and eBay until I found someone who was skilled at making a basic Regency dress shell. She uses the standard Simplicity pattern and used a base fabric of muslin, which is period correct. I contacted her, sent her the photos, and got her working. The entire dress is "two layers" - the base layer of muslin and a top sheer layer. There is in fact a third lining layer on the skirt.
My only real complaint with what I got is that the bust is not really fitted. It looks large / rectangular on the top. Someday when i get time I am going to have someone fix that for me, but for now it had to do.
Because I always start late, I only got the dress in my hands on Thursday for a Sunday dinner. Then the fun began.
I had searched for hours and hours on the web until I found the perfect ribbon to use as the belting. Unfortunately at "full width" it was just too wide looking. So I ran over to my friend Debi's house, and she helped me to sew the belt in half lengthwise. Then I had to press it to get it flat with the seam in the back, and hand stitch it beneath the bust. I adore the way the belt looks across the front, with the jacquard texture, and I also really love how the wide ribbons trail down the back. I am so, so happy I found that ribbon :) Part one done.
For the bottom I really wanted to applique on lace shapes, but I now had only two days left to the event - and Saturday was the Boston Wine Expo which I had to cover. So I went with a more simple lace stripe, which went on easily with a machine. All that remained was the lace applique down the front.
Debi had convinced me that I couldn't just glue them into place with fabric glue - that I had to actually stitch them on, "every third hole". These are vintage lace doilies that I found on the web, and they actually are monogramed with my initials - ES for Elizabeth Shea!! So I did want to treat them with care. I put on my DVDs of Persuasion and Pride & Prejudice, and sat for hours through the night on Fri and Sat, hand stitching each little applique into its place. I finished up with my task on 2am of the day of the dinner.
For jewelry, pearls are period correct. I got a pair of pearl-and-amethyst (my birthstone) earrings and bracelet from the local jewelry store. I had the pearl necklace already - a present from my grandmother. I bought a ring on the internet that is an actual 1830s regency era ring, with garnets.
My hair updo was ironically done by someone had never seen any of the movies nor read the books. In fact I had printed out photos for her and left them on my printer! So I was stuck trying to describe the look to her. She did a rather good job! Everybody at the dinner complemented me on my dress and hair.
Please let me know if you have any questions at all about the dress or construction! The dress looks a little "shiny" in the photo because of the flash, but actually it was more of a matte alabaster look, which is what I was aiming for. For close up images of the components of the dress, follow the link at the bottom to the "how to" page.
I had recently cut off my hair to donate to cancer, so it was only shoulder length when I went to this dinner. It is impressive how "full" the hair can look in an updo. if you have shoulder length hair, the Regency look is perfect for you! Of course, it can be done with longer hair too - they just loop a braid or two around the back.
Making your Own Regency Dress
Regency Clothing - long, white, simple
Regency Period Information