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Posts Tagged ‘girls costumes’

What a peaceful Regency setting!

My daughter at the previous festival in 2014.

A few months ago I went to the Jane Austen Festival in Canberra with my daughter, and I was eager to make her a new dress to wear. So, in addition to letting down a number of her other gowns, I set myself the task of drafting a pattern for her.

I have wanted to learn the art of draping for awhile too, where material is held onto the body (or dressmakers form) and cut, smoothed and pinned to fit. Generally speaking, the process most of us use is to pin our pattern piece to the material, which is cut and sewn and then finally fitted. However, many experienced dressmakers tell me that draping is a really good way to get an effective fit for a garment.

For this gown I did not have heaps of time to learn (and have the necessary trial and error achievements) for draping, so I thought I could try and drape using paper. Effectively I would be laying paper on the body and cutting around it to form the pattern pieces to use.

Construction Steps

Step One: I started with thinking about the type of gown I want to make; that is, thinking about its particular features. I wanted a gown with:

  • long skirts, but slightly flared,
  • a bodice with some gathers around the bottom of the bust,
  • no waistband,
  • short puffy sleeves over a longer under-sleeve,
  • button fastenings at the centre back.

I found it is also important to think about where the seams will be, which then tells you how many pieces your garment will have, and which of those pieces will be cut on the fold, etc…

Step Two: I held up a piece of paper against my daughter, starting with the back. I made a back bodice piece first, then the front bodice piece, and then a side bodice piece. I cut the paper roughly to size (its always important not to accidentally cut hair or clothes!!) and then neatened it up later.

The back bodice piece

The back bodice piece being cut out on the body.

As I cut the pattern pieces, I made them as I wanted them to look when finished, that is, I made them without seam allowances. This meant that the pieces needed to meet each other along the seamlines, and the centre front on-the-fold-line should be on the centre front line of the body. Likewise, the centre back area needed a bit extra for the overlap to place buttons and buttonholes (which I added to the pattern notations later).

The back bodice piece finished. The shoulder seam is set far back, as was the fashion during Regency.

The back bodice piece finished. The shoulder seam is set far back, as was the fashion during Regency.

I think it is actually more difficult to draft/drape with paper, as it is much hard to pin and hold in place. However, it felt a lot less scary than cutting into fabric while holding it on the body. I did throw out a few sheets of paper, as I inevitably made mistakes with my cutting lines!

Step Three: I wrote notations on my pattern pieces to stop me getting confused later. Things such as: notches to show which panel is joined to which; the centre front and back; grainlines; place-on-fold marks. You can see below that I made a reminder for myself to allow more at the centre back for the button placket that I intended to make.

These are the pattern pieces with the notations added. Once adjustments are made, the pattern pieces can be altered.

These are the pattern pieces with the notations added. Once fitting adjustments were made, the pattern pieces can be altered (which they were). It is also a good idea to name the pieces, which I haven’t done here.

When marking grainlines, it is a general rule that the grainline runs parallel to the centre front/back line (and perpendicular to the waistline).

Step Four: I began to cut out the bodice pieces. Just in case I had made a mistake, I allowed bigger seam allowances on all the side seams of the bodice and the centre back seams. This allowed me to have “room to move” to make some fitting adjustments later.

Step Five: The skirt pieces I cut out with reference to a pattern of an extant girl’s dress I have made before. My skirts were in three pieces (1 centre front piece cut on the fold, 2 back pieces cut on the selvedge) and were slightly flared (which I like because the child can run around a little easier). I merely had to measure how long I needed them to be, that is, from the Regency waistline to the floor. The gathers of the skirt were all pulled to the centre back.

Step Six: The sleeve pieces were a bit more tricky. For the oversleeve, I flat-patterned the sleeve based on some other sleeves I had made, and then I just adjusted it to fit on the dress. You can use the extant pattern link above as a starting point, or use a tutorial for patterning puffed sleeves. I made it quite puffy, mainly because it is easier to make it smaller but impossible to make it larger if you have cut it too small!

The undersleeve was a very basic symmetrical shape, which I have sketched below.

The undersleeve was a symmetrical piece (even though it doesn't appear so from my hurried sketch).

The undersleeve is a symmetrical piece (even though it doesn’t appear so from my hurried sketch).

Step Seven: For the neckline, I sewed bias binding to the raw neckline edge (right sides together) and then folded it to the inside, leaving none of the binding visible. It was machine sewn down to make a casing. I threaded a piece of cotton tape through the casing and then pulled in the neckline to fit. Rather than having to tie it up at the back, I sewed the tape to the casing at the centre back to secure it.

Step Eight: The last parts to do were the hem, the dorset buttons and buttonholes.

The dorset buttons and buttonholes. You can see the centre back gathers on the skirt, as well as the piping around the bottom edge of the puffed sleeve. The bias binding is also visible around the inside of the front neckline.

The dorset buttons and buttonholes completed. You can see the centre back gathers on the skirt, as well as the piping around the bottom edge of the puffed sleeve. The bias binding is also visible around the inside of the front neckline.

Here are some pictures of the finished dress worn during the Festival promenade on the Sunday morning.

The front view

The front view

girls regency dress back

The back view (with some dorset buttons popped off, which were replaced later).

I found this process to be a good way to practise draping and drafting. I hope it encourages you to try it too!

Related Posts

How to make a Basic Regency Girl’s Dress

Dress-ups for a Girl

Dress-ups for a Baby

Sources and Relevant Links

Draping on a Dressform – by Craftsy

Draping on a stand for beginners (a snippet of a longer course) – Youtube tutorial

How to draft a puffed sleeve – at Sewing Mamas forum

How to make Dorset Buttons – by Potter Wright & Webb

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Image from Oregon Regency Society

A Danish girl’s dress from the Regency era. Garment from the National Museum of Denmark. Image from the Oregon Regency Society.

Since my oldest daughter has become interested in folk music and dancing, I have been focused on sewing her some period clothes that she can wear for dancing events.

Girls dresses during the Regency era were remarkably simple in structure and make an ideal quick sewing project! I found a picture of a basic girl’s dress when I was searching online, and there was even a pattern to go with it. The links for all the relevant webpages are provided below.

This dress is fairly standard for the era and the pattern can be fairly easily adapted for different sized children. Once the garment is made, it is even pretty easy to adjust as your child grows, which was surely as desirable to the contemporary families as it is to families today.

The Pattern

The pattern for this dress has been provided online as an image file and can be saved to your own computer. It will need to be scaled up to full size and drawn out on some dressmaking paper. Make sure you allow extra for seam allowances.

Some measurements to take:

  • Waist measurement: remember that this should be measured at the high Regency waistline.
  • Waist to floor: this measurement will be the length of the skirts.
  • You could also take additional measurements around the chest, over the shoulder, and around the arms if desired. I didn’t, but I made sure I added extra in the seams when cutting out so that adjustments could be made once the bodice was fitted.

Enlarging the pattern:

This particular pattern would probably fit a six-year-old girl, so it is possible that you may have to enlarge the bodice to adapt it for an older child, as I had to do.

In order to do this, I made a mock up of the bodice and made several changes to the pattern. I extended the shoulder straps, I added a bit extra width in the centre front (after comparing the pattern to the “waist” measurements I had taken), and I extended the centre back to make it wider as well. I also found it useful to allow extra for the seams under the arms.

Then all it takes is a quick fitting to get all the seams right. At the fitting stage, you may find the armholes and/or neckline also need trimming.

Construction Steps

Step One: Sew the side seams of the bodice together, followed by the shoulder seams. The pattern includes a very narrow piece as a side-back panel, but I omitted this piece.

The front fitting

The front fitting: The neckline gapes, which will be fixed once there is a drawstring around the neckline. There is no need for bust shaping for a young girl. The arm scythes are too tight under the arm so they were trimmed back slightly. (I fitted on a sleeve here but I re-cut it later to make it bigger.)

The back fitting

The back fitting: The bottom area gaped so I put in some side-back darts. I allowed extra material on the centre back seam as this extra material is drawn up with a drawstring and allows for easy adjustment as the child grows. The extra in the side seams was trimmed back.

Step Two: The pattern for the skirt is slightly flared or gored, however I cut mine in the early Regency style – in large rectangles. The front skirt (cut on the fold) measured 22 cm wide and 120 cm long. (I allowed an extra 20 cms at the bottom as a deep hem that could be let down as my child grows taller.) The back skirt (cut two) was 45 cm wide and 120 cm long. (Unlike the pattern, my version has a centre back seam.)

Hint: Allowing extra for a deep hem will mean that the garment can be let down as your child grows. Allow more than double (even up to triple) the waist measurement for the width of the skirts, especially if you are not using gored skirt panels. This will mean that the child will still be able to walk and run!

Sew the side seams of the skirt together. Sew the centre back seam, allowing an opening of 15-20 cms at the top. I sewed a topstitch around this opening.

The back opening of the skirt

The back opening of the skirt

You can also hem the skirt at this point, using your measurement from the waist to the floor. Because my skirts were rectangular, it was quite easy to take up a deep hem and then hide the hemline with some rows of decorative ribbon.

The hem of the skirt

The hem of the skirt

Step Three: The back panels of the skirt are then gathered and can be attached to the bodice. Remember that the back area of the dress will be further gathered up by the back drawstrings later.

Step Four: The sleeve seams are sewn and I pleated (rather than gathered) the head of the sleeve to make it fit the armhole. The bottom edge of the sleeves are then hemmed. These particular sleeves are not supposed to be gathered around the bottom edge, but I decided to do a small box pleat to draw them in a bit.

Step Five: The neckline of the bodice can be finished with a strip of bias binding, which acts as a casing for a drawstring. I also sewed a strip of bias binding around the waist seam as well (rather than turning the seam itself into a casing, as the pattern suggests). I also used some more decorative ribbon to disguise the stitching lines of the casings.

The bias binding is sewn to the neckline of the bodice. It will be turned under and sewn down to create a casing for a drawstring.

The bias binding is sewn to the neckline of the bodice. It will be turned under and sewn down to create a casing for a drawstring.

Step Six: Insert cotton tape through both of the casings to form two drawstring ties at the centre back.

The drawstrings have been inserted.

The drawstrings have been inserted.

The dress is now complete!

Front view

Front view

Back view

Back view

This little daughter is keen to go dancing in her new dress. Hopefully it’s her cup of tea!

Related Posts

Dress Ups for a Girl

Dress Ups for a Baby

Sources and Relevant Links

Costumes for a Regency Child – by The Oregon Regency Society (image source)

Free Online Pattern for a Regency Girls Dress and a Regency Boys Skeleton Suit – from Regency Society of America forum

National Museum of Denmark – the dress pictured is from this collection, however I have been unable to find the page for this particular dress.

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Simplicity pattern #9713

Simplicity pattern #9713

My daughter made her sewing debut last year, aged 7, by sewing her first garment – a basic A-line skirt. She enjoyed the experience so much that she soon wanted to try something else and, seeing that she also really enjoys bush-dancing, we decided it would be good for her to make a costume for dancing.

We used the Simplicity pattern #9713, Dress View C, which is a simplistic reproduction of an eighteenth century style gown. I have not reproduced any instructions here, as they are included in the pattern and are easy to understand.

Front detail

Front detail

This dress has a fitted bodice with a stomacher-like decorative front panel, elbow-length fitted sleeves with large, full cuffs, and a long skirt with polanaise-like sections pleated and gathered on each side. It has a centre back zip and is trimmed with lace and ribbon.

My daughter made the skirt easily enough by herself but, as some of the other parts were more fiddly, it ended up being more of a joint project!

As this is an adult pattern, I did have to make quite a bit of adjustments to the bodice to fit an 8-year-old girl. The only substantial change I made to the pattern was to replace the semi-circular cuffs in the pattern with ones that were more eighteenth century in design – a scalloped and gathered cuff.

The dress has a very deep hem (of 10 inches) so that the length can be altered as she grows taller. I kept the bodice seam allowances quite large (about 1 inch) so that I can adjust the bodice later if it is needed.

Front view

Front view

Back view

Back view

She is really rapt with her new dress and is counting down to the next dancing evening we can attend together. She even went so far as to wear the outfit around the house for half of the weekend!

I find making kids dress-ups really enjoyable. They are my cup of tea!

Related Posts

Dress-ups for a Baby

Sources and Relevant Links

Simplicity Pattern #9713 – for sale on What-I-Found (or search on ebay or etsy for places to buy this pattern)

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