There was a Regency Assembly on April 18–a dinner dance–and I’ve been preparing for it the past few weeks. I always want to make a NEW gown for every event, but often there just isn’t enough time. And besides, I don’t strictly need more gowns. I have a full Regency wardrobe now. But there are still many things I want to make and I’ll get around to them eventually. What I need are a couple new pairs of stays for the era, but no one’s going to see those. I guess at heart I’m a show-off.
So instead of making a whole new gown for this dinner dance, I decided to make an evening bodice. I’d been seeing lots of them on Pinterest lately, and it sparked my creativity. I could make one and have a whole new look for the event, if not a whole new gown.
Initially I thought that evening bodices were only worn in the true Regency (when the Prince was Regent for his mentally ill father), but a good look through earlier fashion plates and portraits shows that they were actually popular throughout the late 1790s up until the Regency started (what we call the Extended Regency, or the Late Georgian period). They were simpler in cut, and often sleeveless, where the later versions often had puffy sleeves and more ornamentation. Many were styled like sleeveless spencers and worn for day, but there were some styled in fashion plates for evening wear.
I had a look through my stash for something evening-appropriate and found some lovely wheat gold dupioni. Gold seems to be a favorite of mine for balls; I have a gold-spotted gown and many gold accessories and trimmings for other evening gowns.
I also found a jacquard ribbon with what looks to be a wheat sheaf motif woven in metallic gold against a black background; perfect for a waistband to accent the bodice.
After making a few adjustments to my sleeveless spencer pattern–which is really just based on my basic gown bodice pattern–to remove some excess room at the waist so it wouldn’t bag out and narrowing the neckline so it sits closer to my neck, I got to work. I have made a lot of bodice and sleeve patterns that all fit together, so I can mix and match components to come up with just the style I want. I pulled out my sleeve pattern packet and chose the scalloped shirred sleeve style. I’d say it’s about a 1809-15 style sleeve.
The bodice went together very easily. It’s lined in one layer of white linen, except the sleeves which are self lined. The waistband is just one strip of the silk, folded over, with the ribbon stitched to the outer half. It’s completely machine sewn, except for the final finishing on the waistband attachment. Two hooks and bars form the overlapping front closure.
After trying it on over my stays, I discovered that it STILL bagged at the waist. It didn’t snug in at the waist the way I had hoped.
So, how to fix it without pulling it apart?
Drawstring to the rescue! I threaded a narrow twill tape through cuts made in the interior waistband. The cuts are bound in a buttonhole stitch to preserve the fabric. The drawstring opening on the overlapping half had to be offset a bit.
It works like a charm!
Even though it’s terribly late, this could serve as an item for the Historical Sew Monthly Stashbusting Challenge–but it’s machine sewn, and I don’t like to cheat so much for the challenges. So, it won’t be logged for the challenge. Looks like my 1920s evening frock, which I planned for the Blue Challenge and could have finished for the Stashbusting Challenge is on hold indefinitely. I want to make it still, but honestly, I have nowhere to wear that period, and lots of places to wear Regency.
I paired my new evening bodice with my sheer spotted mull gown, where the short shirred sleeves looked really interesting over the gown’s 3/4 length shirred straight sleeves. Gold-framed black-and-white cameos pinned to the top of the evening bodice’s sleeve shirring made a nice accent and tied in to the black and gold waistband trim. My amber faceted-glass-bead necklace, bracelets, and earrings worked perfectly for the dinner dance. No good photo of that complete ensemble yet.
For the event I decided to wear my hair “a la Greque”–a neoclassical hairstyle with a mass of curls cascading from the crown, worn either with bandeaus or a tiara/comb of some sort. Think of Kate Winslet’s hairstyles throughout Sense and Sensibility (1995). I found a very nice and inexpensive bridal hairpiece on Amazon that went very nicely with the ensemble: gold-colored leaves and curlicues accented with pearls in a coronet style. Just popped it onto my head in front of the curls and pinned it in place. It got tangled in my hair, but it stayed put.
The dinner dance was held at Teel House, a historic inn and tavern in Norwich, Connecticut, circa 1789, which a member of the Jane Austen Society of New York purchased and is fixing up as a place for members of the public to rent for events, such as balls or getaway weekends. It’s a not-for-profit enterprise and has the support of the Norwich Historical Society. The idea is that Jane Austen, Regency, or Federal-era themed events will be held there. It’s still in the process of being fixed up and fitted with period-appropriate furniture, so there’s no website yet where more information can be found. However, The Friends of Teel House have a Facebook page (click the highlighted text). This Assembly at Norwich, as it was officially called, was held as a fundraiser. I’m so happy to support this effort in any way that I can. It’s important to preserve history, and also, this is just one more venue for me to play dress-up in! 😉