Over the springtime and summertime I engaged in hand-sewing a Regency-style drawstring day dress in a cotton.
The project was a sort of giant, fully sewn toile, a grand mockup, for I was less interested in having the perfect dress for events than I was in understanding what it might feel like to construct a day dress by hand. What stitches might have been used during the period, and how would the sewing process feel in the hands? What would the results look like? How would they wear?
I am indeed pleased with the results, a plain, untrimmed day dress in a inexpensive cotton print, which still manages to project some grace in its cut and in the texture the stitching imparts to the seams.
If you look at the Sense and Sensibility site, the Dress Diaries Livejournal site, visit the Regency portion of Katherine's Dress Site or do a simple search, you will find lots of information and numbers of dress diaries covering making this dress, so I will not reprise that here.
Photo: dress front
Instead, in the following posts I will lead a tour of the dress, discussing its construction and what I learned during the stitching process.
As always, click on the images to see a -- much -- larger view.
Photo: dress back
First, a grateful nod to my inspiration: the 18th century wardrobe handsewn by brocade goddess for her master's degree and museum exhibition, which was heavily documented on her blog, Rockin' the Rococco, and which I reviewed last fall.
I used several sources during the project, and uncovered additional details...some of which blew my ideas away...later. In all the research I tried to stick to formally published secondary resources or primary resources. Here is a resource list.
- Costume Close-Up: Clothing Construction and Pattern, 1750-1790. Baumgarten, Linda and John Watson. Williamsburg, VA: The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 1999.
- Costume in Detail: 1730-1930. New edition. Bradfield, Nancy. Barming, England: Eric Dobby Publishing, 1968.
- English Women's Clothing in the Nineteenth Century. Cunningham, C. Willett. New York: Dover Publications, 1990. Reprint of 1937 edition.
- Everyday Dress of Rural America, 1783-1800: With Instructions and Patterns. Wright, Meredith. New York: Dover Publications, 1990.
- Lady's Guide to Plain Sewing, The. Kannik, Kathleen. Springfield, OH: Kannik's Korner, 1993.
- Lady's Stratagem, The: A Repository of 1820s Directions for the Toilet, Mantua-Making, Stay-Making, Millinery, and Etiquette. Grimble, Frances, trans. San Francisco, CA: Lavolta Press, 2009.
- Nineteenth-Century Costume in Detail. Johnston, Lucy. London: V&A Publishing, 2009.
- Period Costume for Stage and Screen: Patterns for Women's Dress, 1800-1909. Hunnisett, Jean. Studio City, CA: Players Press, Inc., 1991.
- Workwoman's Guide, The. By a Lady. Second edition. 1840. Accessed on Google Books.
I say "primary-ish" because I have no access currently to actual period garments. I drew instead on photographs and notation of garments for sale from well-known dealers, and comments from well-known costuming experts online.
- Ebay: Women's Vintage Clothing, Pre-1901. Examination of photographs of garments for sale. Sellers followed: "Time-Travelers", "Fiddybee".
- Vintage Textile: High-Style Vintage Clothing and 18th Century Costume. (Well-known dealer.)
- Your Wardrobe Unlock'd. Ask the Experts Column. (Response by Jenny Chancey, owner of Sense and Sensibility Patterns.)
- Sense and Sensibility Patterns forum. Comments of costume experts such as Suzi Clarke, Frances Grimble, and "Acacia".