Last year we had a lovely time at out first Regency ball, part of the annual Jane Austen celebration in Bath (see post on that here). This year the dates were changed a bit, which meant that the Ball was on the first Saturday of the festival, and there was a market earlier on in the day too. So, two birds with one stone – we could go and trade to earn our living in the day, and in the evening we could go and have a good dance at the ball!
The usual dilemma ocurred – What to wear? I had my old evening gown, but it would be nice to make something new. As I had only 5 days to prepare regency dresses for sale, I decided to get the stock items sorted first and to work on my own frock if I had some time spare.
I already knew what I would be using as an inspiration – this gown from the Met museum
I already had some lovely gold semi-transparent silk in my stash, so all I needed to get was lace, decoration and the silk satin for the base of the dress. I didnt really like the pearl trim on the original, so decided on an alternative, but all of the components were ready and waiting, just in case I managed to make time for it!
In the end I finished all the stock dresses on Friday moring – and we were to leave Friday night. I had about 8 hours. Well, you know that I do like challenges….
One thing has to be said – working on the stock meant that whilst handstitching other frocks I had time to think about the gold gown construction even before I started to work on it. I must admit, it did take me some time – mostly because I simply couldn’t see how it closed! Yes, you can see the sheer overgown ties in front, but what about the satin gown? You can zoom in quite a lot on the Met site so you can see clearly that there are no rows of buttons or ties at the back under the sheer, nothing at the side or front, no button closures, no bib closure, no tie closures… A mystery!
I started zooming in to maximum and checking every detail – and finally I found it! On the back, right of centre-back, you can just about see something on the satin layer that could be called a button and a loop, at the neck egde.
I new that must be it – After thinking a little more, and analysing the cut I arrived at a very simple pattern idea – basically a sack with fitted neckline. I tried the idea on a mock-up first, making the top part of the gown in calic; it worked. I actually didn’t even need the button, the thing just slips ovehead and a simple tie does the rest.
So on the day I cut the gown in silk satin, sewed it, hemmed it, lined the bodice, etc – in other words it was ready for the overgown and the sleeves.
That was the easy part…. the overgown was next – and whereas it is basically a loose robe, it took the most time due to all the finishing – cutting precise facings in flimsy sheer fabric is not my idea of fun! But the facings were cut, sewn, handstitched and metallic lace attached – then they were just awaiting the posh trim I wanted to use in place of the pearls.
Sleeves were next – and they were the most time-consuming…
Cutting up the base and the satin layer first –
Then preparing the space for the gathering and placing the gathers in suitable places so that that they formed ‘pulling-outs’ – just as in Tudor sleeves.
Once the gathers were positioned, I was able to add the overlay with the cut out holes and the gold metallic trim
I was getting excited by this stage… All that now remained was getting the sleeves together, lining them, sewing into the armbands and then into the armhole, (both the satin and the sheer layers of the dress).
And it was almost ready – just a little belt to add, made from the sheer (I tried to attach it to pregathered sheer underneath like in the original, but after speding an hour I decided I didnt like it – so outside it went. Only the posh trim remained, and that could be done before the ball next day.
We packed up, drove to Bath (3 hours), checked into the hotel and collapsed…
Next day saw us setting up the stall at the market in the Guildhall – and we had 4 jolly hours of trading there…
After the market we packed up the remaining goods, drove back to the hotel and collapsed (again). But we had a ball to go to! I was so tired, that honestly, if it hadnt been for the fact that there was food on offer I probably wouldnt have gone… But we knew Searcy’s would deliver a great meal (we were not disappointed as it turned out), so after a power nap I got my act together and sorted out the braid on the dress:-). Then it was time to get dressed…
And so, off to the ball we went – armed with a big camera too! We had an amazing time, despite being so tired (I danced every other dance to conserve my energy), and the meal was superb… pictures below!
The gold dress first – I am rather happy with it – the design worked surprisingly well 🙂 Will probably sell it at some point, as I simply cannot go to the ball next year in the same frock, can I ? 🙂
I admit that we did leave ‘just’ before the ball ended – I was falling asleep! As it turned out, combining a working day with an evening of fun doesnt really work for me 😦
Still, we had a good night’s rest, a good brekkie and were on our way home soon. Once back home we decided to take the opportunity to photograph the remaining dresses – they are now available in the shop – click on the links to see the listing 🙂 I look tired but the gowns looked well, and that is enough for the shop 🙂
We even made a short video about how to put on a regency brassiere: – enjoy!
Many thanks to PItcheresque Imagery for the photos!