New Project: A regency dress

So, as promised, I started a new project and am going to document it 🙂

As I am watching all of Jane Austen’s movies, one after the other and all adaptions, with some friends and I’m back at home where I´ve got my sewing machine and my  fabric stash and space and so on, it is to be a regency gown with all the historical undergarments and made as historically correct as possible 🙂

To get an impression of what I am talking about:

Found via DeviantArt

Found via DeviantArt

Of cause I started with the undergarments, as you always first need to get the proper body shape, which they give you, before you can draw the pattern for the actual dress. So I started out with the ‚bra‘ – in the regency era a sort of small leftover bit of the old rococo stays, but neither as stiff nor as long down. There were three different styles of stays, as they were still called: short ones, quite close to a bra, semi long ones, also covering the ribcage and long ones, going down to the hips. Look up this page, they have a good explanation of those three kinds. The great difference in regency stays from earlier ones is, that they were boned only very lightly or just corded and not tight or made to reduce the waistcircumference at all.

So why not wear modern underwear, if there seems to be so little difference? Please don’t! The big difference is in the shaping of the breasts. Modern bras give it a roundish shape, and are rather low on the body, compared to the historical ones, which push them up and hold them aloft the empire line. Look it up here 🙂

I decided to do a semi length corded stay with regular gussets (not those set in cups). I started out drawing a pattern with four pieces each side, to accommodate the slight difference of circumference between the empire- and the actual waist line. However, when I realised, that there where anyway only straight lines that were to be sewn together, I decided to cut them all in one piece. The same happened with the gussets: There were two straight ones separated by a straight bit of fabric/ pattern; so I cut this bit of and taped it in between the two gussets, having now only one to set in 😀

stay pattern

As fabrics I used a cotton twill, that I had actually bought thinking of making a 1878 outfit and using this for the corset, but I had bought enough to use it for this one too. As it is close to coutil, the fabric used for later corsets, I thought it might be a good one to start on. As I wanted to use cording, I anyway had to make two layers; as an outer layer I used an old linen from my grandma – fine, soft to the tuch, but strong and not see-through-y. I think I did more cording than was necesary, but I learned how to do it only recently and really think it is a great technique for such things, so I didn’t mind putting it in. Here you go with some pictures:


Ouside and inside of the cording – you see how the inner layer stays straight and keeps the patterns, while the outer layer accomodates the cords.


One half is finished

One thing you shoud do before you start cording (I realised that, when I had finished one half already: Just sew along the outside line of the pattern on the inner layer; that way you will have it visible on oth sides of the fabric and can even feel it slightly through the outer layer, for example to determine how far you have to sew down the cording 🙂

The pattern outlined

The stay is going to be closed in the front by , so I left some space in between the cords for making the holes. To finish the edge, I cut the inner layer exactly at the edge, folded the outer layer around, made the red marked seam, cut the outer layer, folded it under and sewe alongfront

The top edge I did similiar ; first I cut the inner layer and the cords exactly along the pattern line, cut the outer layer with 2cm of seam allowance, folded it under and stiched it down.

top edge

The finished top edge (yes, the gusset is still missing and yes, it does need some ironing):

top edge finished

Now for the last picture to bring you up to date of my work so far: I changed the bottom line a little bit and made those flaps a little narrower, so that in between there will be a little space which will make it so much easier to finish the edge:


I haven´t yet decided on how to finish this edge; either just the same as the top or a little more difficult but looking much better: to sew on a separate bit of the fabric of the outer layer, as if I was going to make a lining, turn it over so that the seam allowances are in between the fabrics and then fold this bit under and stitch it like the top edge finish. The cool thing about that would be, that I could put in a piping along the edge in a nice colour, giving much more style to the whole stay 🙂


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