Van Dyke Regency gown, blue

This was the mock-up of an extant gown I planned to replicate by hand (and later did). A mock-up is a tester used to check the fit. I happened to have many yards of silk dupioni laying around and decided to use it for my mock-up and to sew it by hand as well. Well, it came out nice enough that this is a bonus gown not really fit to be called a mock-up. 🙂

The original, which is the green one on the right, is in the Greene Collection at the Genesee Country Village & Museum. Known information is that the skirt has three panels with slight gathering on the front and pleating in the back. The sleeves and bodice top each have two tucks. The wonderful pointed cap sleeves have what would have been white silk ribbon bows. The sleeves are long enough that they would have to be pushed up on the arms to use the hands. I’m not sure what’s going on on the bottom, if that’s trim or discoloration, but I made tucks, and closed this gown with buttons. Buttons weren’t common, but I used them anyway. The VanDyke points around the neckline have been used a lot on old quilts. It’s the same technique, and it’s lovely. I’ve matched these details in this blue silk mock-up/replica. It was a lot of fun to wear!

More photos are in this Facebook album.

Sari regency gown

Once again I had to miss the Oregon Regency Society/Washington Regency Society annual retreat, but once again I have gowns there instead. 🙂 I took over this gown when Nora was drowning. It happens to us all from time to time, especially when an unexpected move happens, as it did for her as well as for me. I received this with a couple pieces on the bodice seamed, but otherwise in pieces, mostly one big uncut piece.

In regency circles vintage silk saris are very popular. Ladies in the regency era loved them too. Unlike then, regency saris are fairly affordable now thanks to, according to an Indian friend of mine, a strong cultural desire to stay with current fashions in India. Vintage saris are no longer fashionable there, but are still very beautiful and so sold to people in other countries.

Saris require some creativity. Since the quantity of fabric is limited generally to no more than six yards, sometimes less, and the decorations on it can be done in numerous ways, making the most of any beading, embroidery, etc., can be tricky. It’s just not the same as buying six yards of another fabric and embellishing it afterward. It’s also tricker to make sari gowns for us ladies over 5’6″ or so due to the width. But it can be done.

This sari had an end that was eggplant with embroidery and beading that became the bodice, and part of an edge the sleeves. The other narrow end had a narrower decorating strip. To preserve that strip, I made the skirt a cross-over skirt. No sense in cutting that pretty piece off. Originally I had added bias strips of gold silk dupioni to the bottom to make it a little longer, and used the same silk to bind the neckline. But the silk was too stiff in the end and took away the swingy flowiness of the skirt. So off it came, a tricky feat when dealing with the sheer silk chiffon of the sari, and I rebound the neckline with a strip I had left of the olive. The sash is just a remnant of the dupioni pinned on.

More photos are in this Facebook album.

2013 Regency Retreat: Tara’s princess ball gown

Once again I had to miss the Oregon Regency Society/Washington Regency Society annual retreat, and once again I have gowns there instead. 🙂 This ball gown was surprise for Tara. I was asked to make another white dress, but the fabric given had gold on one side, and so I asked about a ball gown. No one had thought about a gown for the ball! So I decided to make one. This trained gown is split up the front and, like all regency gowns, will have a petticoat under it. Since she has a nice one now, that will take the place of another layer added to this dress.

In addition to using the shimmery side out (gownsfor the very wealthy in the era would sometimes have real silver or real gold thread woven into the fabric, so “cloth of gold” literally means a fabric made of very thin strands of gold that can bend!), I added some gold trim and purple jewels from my stash. Purple is Tara’s favorite color. In lower light this gown, especially the trim and jewels, sparkle like crazy.

More photos are in this gown’s Facebook album.


Yellow-dot Regency Gown

Text from 2012:

On a Thursday afternoon (what is it with Thursdays?), I met with Oregon Regency Society leadership member Nora, who is also a friend of mine, to finish some things she was working on for the annual retreat. One thing she wanted to take the next day, but hadn’t started, was a dress made from this fabric. So after dinner, I set about cutting into the fabric to make a gown for her, and was given free reign. I love that. After about 4 hours, between a donut-run and fitting another gown on her that she was making and reminiscing about New Kids on the Block and other bands we loved as kids and teens and still do, I’d gotten as far as the hem. The period-correct seams are all French seams. I’m very good at French seams even on curved seams and armcythes. Fortunately for me, I’m good at picking out seams if I need to reset sleeves, as I had to do for this gown. Yes, I make mistakes. 🙂 I also correct them. Then I tried it on Nora over her period-correct underpinnings. She nearly cried and said, “You made my dream come true.” This is the best sort of compliment not only because I love when people love what I make, but because I love seeing people I care about so happy. Since she had to work early in the morning before leaving for the retreat, I finished the hem at home, three tucks an inch wide with about an inch between each, and a narrower hem at the bottom. Originally I was going to “hide” the hem in the bottom tuck, but upon looking at it ironed but not yet sewn, it took away from the airy look, and so I made it a narrow hem, which “framed” the tucks.


You can see more photos, including her reaction, in this Facebook album.

Regency bonnet and spencer

July 29, 2012 was the 5th annual Oregon Regency Society picnic at Pittock Mansion in Portland, Oregon. New bonnet and spencer worn over her white regency duds already posted. The spencer is made of white cotton sateen that I dyed pink and made a bit large for growing room. Double-breasted and closes in front with four buttons. The bonnet has a straw brim. Under/in front of this, cotton sateen was pleated in one direction on top and the opposite direction on the bottom. On the top, it wraps around to the other wise. White gimp trim covers the stitch lines. White cotton sateen pleated on at the brim and gathered at the back both covers the outside and lines the inside. Decorating the bonnet is a white, double-faced pink ribbon on which five genuine ostrich feathers in pink and white were strategically placed asymmetrically without appearing to be “thought about too hard” (though in reality I sat there trying to decide whether or not I should add just one more feather until my husband convinced me, rightly, that it would give too much symmetry – oh, how much thought goes into making something look thoughtless!), and finished with a large, very high quality silk peony. I am extremely picky about the quality of fake flowers. I don’t like them to *look* fake, and most do. I think that something looking fake, even if it is, just ruins the look of the finished item. So I am pleased with the flower. My outfit for this picnic matched, including bonnet, though I did not get to finish the lining of my own spencer as I decided to meet up with friends the following morning for dressing, and so had to get up earlier than planned. Had I gone right to the picnic I could have finished, but the allure of girl-time in the morning was too great, and so I borrowed a beautiful shawl. I so rarely make anything for myself, so this was a treat!

More pictures are in this Facebook album.

Brown and pink print regency dress

Original text from 2011 with photos from 2011 and 2012:

This regency dress was made a couple sizes too big. This little munchkin has already grown a inch since I made her her Christmas nightie for this year. Right now the waist is as her natural waist, but it’ll go up as she grows into it. Seven button close the back and the waist ribbon wasn’t tacked on, so slid up a bit. It’s lined in a tan and cream floral print cotton. I’ll post pictures os the inside soon. The inside is as neat as the outside! I did not make the collared piece she’s wearing. That is a long-sleeved onesie she already had. However neckline fillers were common in the regency era, so this is a period-correct look. As you can see, it started to rain! November 27, 2011

The photos in sun were taken in Missouri on April 6, 2012. The following day it rained. I forgot her waist ribbon, but the dress is still sweet without it, and she looks so in place in a grassy meadow.

More photos are in the Facebook album for this dress.

Mia Bella

This dress is made from a cotton with embroidered pattern and teensy stripes. It’s semi-sheer, and ties at the neckline and waist, as was common in the regency era. It was made using tiny French seams and has a 5″-deep hem. Underneath is a cotton chemise and bodiced petticoat. Together the chemise and petticoat look like a white jumper set! The chemise ties in the front and the neckline can be heightened or lowered depending on how tight it’s tied, and the bodiced petticoat ties at the neck and waist. The hairpiece is made using a silk carnation and leaf on a feather pad with a peachy pink pearl sewn to the middle of the flower. These photos were taken at the Portland Art Museum on  the last day for Titian’s “La Bella.”  Note: I can not legally sell children’s items with ribbons longer than 6″ thanks to the CSPIA, so any children’s things sold to others will have elastic in the casing and 6″-long ribbons sewn to the ends. Unfortunately this does mean any sold chemises won’t be adjustable. Since this was made for my own child, I can make it how I wish. The ribbons are sewn in the center so they can’t pull out.

More photos of this little dress are at my Facebook album for it.

Dolley Madison reproduction gown

In early 2011, I was asked to make a reproduction of First Lady Dolley Madison’s favorite gown for Dr. Lynn Uzell, the official reenactress portraying Dolley Madison at Dolley’s former home in Montpelier, Vermont.  This would one one of my first entirely-hand-sewn gowns, and the first to be on television.  It was featured in the fifth and sixth episodes of the third season of the Emmy-award-winning series A Taste of History.

This gown has a somewhat interesting history to it.  It was one of Dolley’s favorites, but why?  Later in her life, when she was very poor (one of her former slaves lent her money, such was the degree of her impoverishment), and most of her belongings were sold, this one of of the very few things she kept.

When the original White House was to be burned in 1814 in an act of arson, Dolley ordered the drapes in the Oval Drawing Room to be saved, as well a the portrait of George Washington that so many of us know so well.  Historians now believe that her beloved gown was made from those drapes.

Photo from PBS.


More photo of my version are in my Facebook album dedicated to this gown.

I used garment-weight silk velvet (the information about the drapery-weight wasn’t widely available when I made this gown, which went on vacation with me to Missouri so I could continue to work.

Based on photos I had at the time, I replicated the same color scheme lining, as well as thread.