Regency is not my favorite era to reenact. It's a style that looks better on tall, full figured ladies, or cute little girls. But since the reenacting opportunities available to me are from that era, I have to sew and wear Regency. I reenact in a rustic atmosphere which renders fancy dress completely impractical, and besides that, both my persona and my real-life situation do not translate into wealth. The only formal costumed dances held locally are my own, so while I suppose I should make some effort to dress up, it's certainly not required! All in all, I can't wear fancy dress and I prefer plain anyway. So my Regency dresses are always pretty plain. This new dress of mine is forest green linen from fabrics-store.com, and the buttons are Celtic knot buttons from fabric.com.
How I'm going to Customize my Regency Dress
- I always raise the back and front neckline of Simplicity 4055. I also lengthen the waist. I know the waist is supposed to be tiny and sit high, but it needs to hit a certain point above and below the bust to be comfortable and practical, not to mention modest.
- I'll add a waistband. If you're small, this helps the dress to sit correctly.
- I'll make half-length sleeves. I just despise wearing those teeny little puffed sleeves; they're so impractical. Even in the warmer weather I prefer longer sleeves, if only to keep the bugs off. And when you do use the puffed sleeve pattern, adding underarm gussets can make movement so much easier.
- Apron-front. I don't have a servant, and I'm getting tired of dislocating my arm every time I have to button my Regency dress up the back. It's seriously hard! An apron-front may be seem more complicated, but I think it's worth the extra brain power.
- I'm lazy, so I usually don't care enough about the inside of my garments to finish every seam. But linen ravels and I want the dress to last, so I'll be finishing the seams on this one.
Keira Knightley's dark green linen drawstring dress from the 2005 P&P.
Front-closing Regency Gowns
Regency dresses are massively popular in the costuming world, so there are lots of great tutorials and photos all over the web. The links below are of drop-front dresses that close with ties, which are more adjustable and practical if you expect your body size to change, or if you ever loan out your dresses to friends of a different size.
A Frolic through Time
Tea in a Teacup
My Apron Front
I decided to go a different route since those two criteria don't apply to me. I chose a center-front dog-leg closure underneath my apron front, and mostly worked off the pictures from the Sense and Sensibility version. I haven't done enough research to vouch for dog-leg closures on Regency dresses at historically accurate; they seem to be much more popular in the Civil War era. From what I've seen Regency apron dresses tend to tie closed. I used hooks-and-eyes instead.
My feeble attempt at detail on the sleeves.
And what is a dog-leg closure? It's an L-shaped closure that goes down the front of a garment and then along the waistband. Here's a tutorial from Historical Sewing: 18 Simple Steps for a dog-leg closure. I confess 18 steps were too many for me.
It needs a hem and then it's done!