Playing Catch-Up: The Jane Austen Dress

25 May

Hello all!

I’ve finally persuaded myself it’s time to put hand to keyboard and write this post, as much as the idea makes me feel ill…this is my third attempt, because even my laptop seems to want to stop me from getting it done!

The last time we were talking Regency fashions, I left you with an image of the bodice of the dress in a rather fetching shade of high-shine purple. Fear not: the finished dress is a white-on-blue model, with not a mention of purple in sight. I used white cotton lawn for the outer layer and sleeves, and blue-grey cotton (formerly a bedsheet) for the underskirt and underbodice. I sadly didn’t have enough bedsheet to stretch to undersleeves, but I don’t mind this, because then the dress will be much lighter and cooler in the warm weather.

I was planning on doing a kind of photo-documentary of the dressmaking process, but my camera wouldn’t refrain from dying. Instead, I have a few snatched photos from here and there, which I hope will give the general idea of the process.

Now that we’ve set the context, let us begin 🙂

I began be assembling the bodice the same way that the day-glo mock-up was made. This time, I cut out one bodice in white, and one in blue, and then stitched them together along the seams. After this, I ran a gathering stitch along the top and bottom of the bodice, as directed in Arnold’s instructions, set in the sleeves, and then began work on the skirt.

The skirt. Ohhhhhhhhhh the skirt. I thought that this would be the easy part. But apparently the bedsheet had other ideas. Being ever so slightly too narrow, parts of the blue underskirt had to be pieced together, giving it the appearance of a cross between a patchwork quilt and a practice at sewing straight lines. Thankfully, the white skirt hides the bedsheet disaster, so all is fine 🙂

Then began the gathering process: getting 75 inches of skirt down to 33 inches to fit the bodice. This requires A LOT of pins.

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ONETHOUSANDMILLIONPINS.

This is the point where my ‘holier than thou’ decision to sew the entire dress by hand began to irritate me.

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It took 45 minutes to get from the right hand side of the bodice to my thumb. Then I wished I’d used a sewing machine.

However, the feeling of knowing that I’d accomplished all this sewing without a machine was a good one. A really good one 🙂

All that remained after this was to sew blue ribbon round this wrists and hen the bottom of the skirts, and the dress was finished! I must thank my new mannequin, Maisie, for assisting in the hemming process.

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The dress on Maisie, waiting to be hemmed. (Please excuse the surrounding mess!)

So now all that remains for me to do is show you the finished piece with me in it! Apologies for my gormless face – my brother was yelling ‘directions’ for how I should stand, and I was about a hair away from falling over laughing…

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It’s very difficult to get poker straight, bobbed hair into a Jane Austen updo. But it IS possible. And please excuse the gaping back closure…it has now been fixed.

I hope that I’ve now done my sewing duty, and that this post has been somewhat diverting 🙂

I shall be back soon, with some exciting 17th century news…

The One With the Amazing Woman Talents

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