Thursday, July 11, 2013

Regency Muslin Dress

As I continue to play catch-up on blogging about my recent sewing projects, let's take a look at my Regency muslin dress:

(Yes, that's my blue late 1830s ballgown hanging in the back again. Anyone else have issues with costume storage?)


I made this dress back in February/March to wear to a Jane Austen ball, but never got around to posting about it. As I mentioned in my planning post, I based my dress on the 1798-1804 Morning Dress in Patterns of Fashion 2. When I scaled up the pattern, I found that the original dress was made for a tiny person, so I had to add quite a lot to every piece of the bodice to get it to fit me. 

Here you can see my pattern pieces with the tiny original pattern pieces on top (note that my pieces have seam allowance added, the original pieces do not):

You can see I had to enlarge the pieces quite a bit!

My fabric is a spotted muslin from Britex Fabrics. The bodice is lined with the same medium-weight linen I used for my Regency shift

I knew from the beginning that I would sew my dress completely by hand. My feeling was that the lightness and delicacy of the original muslin dresses could not be captured with machine sewing. Besides, I wanted to learn about the construction of garments from this period, and the particular way the seams are sewn would have been impossible by machine. I gleaned as much as I could from my costume books, and relied heavily on the various sewing techniques shared by Katherine at The Fashionable Past. In the end, it didn't take as long as I thought it would, it was very pleasant sewing, and the results were just as I hoped. I think I'll stick with hand-sewing for all my future Regency projects. 

I wore the dress over my shift and stays, along with a bodiced petticoat that I don't have photos of yet. I also wore my Pemberley shoes, a matching vintage taffeta ribbon as a sash, and some coordinating costume jewelry. 

Here it is in action:

Photo courtesy of Kim Yasuda (you can see more of her pictures from the evening here)

The dress was comfortable and easy to wear, though getting into it was not as simple as I had hoped. Pinning the bib in place was a real challenge, especially trying to keep the pins from showing on the outside. There was an aesthetic issue with the bib as well: the thin, sheer fabric, while very delicate and pretty, allowed every wrinkle and seam from my underpinnings to show through in the tight bust area. Was this just part of the look in the period, or should I re-make the bib in some way to give it more opacity? I am thinking some fullness and gathers would help a little. 

Also, the dress needs to be shortened before I try dancing in it again. It just grazes the floor when I move, which is very pretty, but not very convenient on a modern dance floor. At the ball, while I was being escorted off the floor after a dance, someone following too close behind me trod on my hem and pulled most of those tight gathers out of the back of my skirt! Luckily a kind stranger was able to pin me back together in the dressing room, but I learned my lesson. I think hacking off an inch or so will prevent that problem from occurring again.


  1. What a beautiful delicate looking dress. I've been trying ot use a pattern form patterns of fashion but it clearly wasn't made for someone my size.

  2. Very pretty! I love the fabric.

    It's true that dresses for dancing do need to be about an inch or two off of the floor and without trains, despite how lovely a train/longer skirt looks. Practicality does win in the end! I'm glad someone was able to help get you back out on the dance floor, though!


  3. So beautiful.
    Your not much bigger than that pattern.