For the past two months I have been working on a commission costume for a friend. She is attending a “Battle of Waterloo Ball” in London to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the famous defeat of Napoleon by the English, and she needed a Regency outfit.
She decided that she wouldn’t bother about a chemise, so we jumped straight into making the stays. I drafted the pattern for the stays myself, using her measurements and following a similar method that I used to draft my own.
The stays are made from two layers of white cotton drill, with the boning sandwiched in between. For the centre busk I used two clear 30cm rulers and the boning is plastic imitation “whalebone” boning. The lacing is cotton cord and I used some thin cotton tape for the front drawstring around the top of the bust. The eyelets are hand sewn using a buttonhole or blanket stitch.
She was particularly concerned about her large-ish bust presenting a problem, so I used a double row of boning underneath and to the side of the bust area. The “cups” of the corset do extend a bit higher than normal to compensate for the lack of chemise. Traditionally, the corset holds the bust underneath while the chemise contains the bust from above. In this case, I used the bodiced petticoat to contain the top part of the bust.
For the petticoat, we used the Regency Wardrobe Pattern by La Mode Bagatelle. I used the “DD” sizing for the bodice part but in hindsight I probably didn’t need to, as I needed to do a fair bit of adjusting because it turned out so big.
The petticoat is made from white cotton broadcloth, with cotton tape around the top edge to draw it in over the bust. The buttons are just plain modern plastic ones. The bottom of the petticoat is hemmed with some wide bias binding, which forms a casing for some large cording. This helps the petticoat stand out from the legs and prevents the gown from clinging.
I drafted the pattern for the ballgown myself, using a lot of similar features that I used in my own purple Regency ballgown. However, I used the sleeve pattern from La Mode Bagatelle (View C – short sleeve). My friend gained a lot of inspiration for how she wanted her gown from one she saw at Edelweiss Patterns.
The ballgown is made from purple dupioni silk and lined with acetate bemsilk lining. The piping around the waist and sleeves is made from cotton cord and cream satin bias binding. The buttons are self-covered and there is a ribbon drawstring around the lining of the neckline.
The sleeves are “smocked” by sewing thread in a 1cm diamond and then pulling and knotting the threads tight. This is repeated in a honeycombed pattern across the sleeve. This creates little “puffs” on the other side of the material (which I used as the “right” side), and my friend then sewed little pearl beads to. The hemline was embellished later with some cream lace drawn up in scallops and some “flowers” made from the same lace.
In the pictures below, the dress takes on a luminescent glow from the morning sun, but the colour is actually darker purple than this.
We used the La Mode Bagatelle pattern for the spencer, using View H (minus the sleeve caps and with the addition of the peplum).
The spencer is made from a beautiful cream silk that my friend had in her “fabric stash”, but not dupioni as it has no slubs. The piping is made from cotton cord and gold bias binding. The buttons are a gold plastic button with a military design; a larger size for the front and two smaller ones for the cuff.
Instead of boning the collar (which is instructed in the pattern), I used two layers of very stiff, woven, sew-in interfacing which has worked really well.
In the pictures below, the spencer is shown over the bodiced petticoat.
I am very pleased with this little project, as I don’t normally do pattern or gown drafting for other people. And my friend is also very pleased and is looking forward to her trip overseas in a few months!
My Regency Journey: Making a Ball Gown – my own purple ballgown
Making a Regency Spencer – my own spencer
Sources and Relevant Links
A Pink Silk Regency Ballgown – by Edelweiss Patterns
“Smocking” instructions – on Pinterest