Tag Archives: Janet Arnold

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

The Great Jane Austen Wardrobe Project: It Begins.

6 May

Today has been most productive 🙂

Ever since handing in my dissertation, I’ve had itchy fingers, and been dying to start sewing.

So this afternoon, I whacked out Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion Book 1: 1660-1860, a whole load of squared paper, measuring tape, pencil and some tango music, and got scaling.

I chose the 1806-1809 morning negligee as my first project, rather than the bib-front gown I was planning on, mainly because the idea of all those strings and pins and whatnot confused me too much. I also discovered by happy coincidence that the original wearer of the dress (Arnold’s patterns are all drawn from extant garments, so the measurements in the book are those of the wearer), was roughly the same height and size as I am.Image

Epic, epic win 🙂

This saved me no end of bother, because I didn’t need to do any alteration to the pattern to make it fit, which must be pretty unusual! I then made a muslin (mock-up) of the bodice section to make sure that my freehand pattern scaling was OK. I had a bit of a panic attack when the bodice appeared to sit far too high…then remembered that I had to wear my stays every time I fit a dress. Panic averted, I can confidently start hacking into my ‘real’ fabric tomorrow. Alot of this new-found confidence came courtesy of a fantastic blog, ‘Tea in a Teacup’, I found today when Googling the pattern: http://teainateacup.wordpress.com/2012/02/08/my-regency-journey-making-an-embroidered-morning-negligee/

This blog is a great resource for the new Regency costumer, with its detailed guides, well-written explanations, and wonderful photos. I need to learn how to take better photos…Image

Today has been a good day.

Until the next time,

The One With the Amazing Woman Talents.