#9 Black & White

I love English Country Dance. Despite some of the other dancers (who are very moody) and despite my multiple health issues, I have been going to weekly dances for 11 months now and I love how the right dance can make me feel like a Lady.

The reason why I wanted to start sewing Regency clothes last year was for my first Ball. This dress is my upgraded version of a “dream” gown (last year’s was pink and nice, but didn’t have the movement and cut I prefer).

This year I attended two costumed Balls for which I “needed” my first white Regency gown. I know that at some point I’ll find a dress that will be my dream, and that I’ll have the skills to sew it, but for now I wanted to make a pretty dress that would make me feel elegant and effervescent.

I prefer the look of “early” Regency gowns; Empire-waist gowns that are from the period before the “official” Regency. I like the fuller, longer skirt. I enjoy the puff sleeve that isn’t too puffed, and a simple, less decorated look. I also wanted a V-neck.

Me and Rosalee Backs

The Challenge: #9 Black & White

Fabric: Cotton Swiss Dot

Pattern: Some pattern pieces from Sense & Sensibility’s Elegant Lady’s Closet, serious modifications

Year: 1790-1805

Notions: Thread, ribbons (for ties)

How historically accurate is it? Very Good: Cotton semi-sheer fabric, all hand-sewn, and I have seen period illustrations of very similar gowns

Hours to complete: 30+

First worn: Late March and early May to two Regency Balls

Total cost: Approx. $30 for fabric, $1 for ribbon (thread from stash)

I found this fabric months ago and purchased it without knowing what exactly I would make with it. I knew I wanted a Ball gown, but I didn’t know what style.

I ended up using the sleeves, back, and crossover front (highly modified) from the Elegant Lady’s Closet pattern, with a rectangle skirt. I love the rectangle skirt because I can do an even hem all the way around (I don’t often have help for fitting).

I loved the sleeves. They looked too big, until I put on the dress. If I had used a narrower skirt they still may have been a bit big looking, but they fit with the skirt I chose (all 150 inches of it!).

I ended up using ribbons to tie in the back, which I like, though I still waffle over if I aught to have made a front-opening gown based on the front of the Danish wedding dress.

The false crossover front I made didn’t quite fit me as I’d like, but I don’t want to “fix” it until I finally (some day) finish my stays.

I really like this dress. On it feels large, but in photos I think it suits me. I do hope to trim it up in future. Maybe ribbons at the hem and a ruffle at the neckline? If I could embroider, then I would white work it.

I wore this with my finished bodiced petticoat (with 100 inches of skirt), to which I added some lace at the top to dress up the visible bit. I wish I had a photo of this part, because I think it looks nice, but then again I’m glad no one got a “good” photo of my rack.

At the first ball I used a wide pink ribbon (I ended up not liking the width, and I chose the wrong shade) and the pink coral necklace and earrings that my sister had made for me.

At the second ball I wore a thin purple ribbon (which isn’t perfect, but which I liked a lot better) and my wedding tiara (which made me feel like a visiting princess!).

Gown twirl Gown 3 ladies discolored Gown in motion


The Purple Toe

I want to post more, I promise.

I’ve been busy. Not as busy as March, but still busy.

Though I haven’t gotten to sew as much as I’d like lately, I’ve been doing some more reading. Which is great.

I’m 3/4 through Among the Janeites, which is my Jane Austen Book Club’s read for June, and I just read a mention to someone I know (small world); I also started re-reading Austenland today, which is our May read. We plan to have a movie-night to re-watch the film and discuss the differences. Even after only the first few pages I’m reminded how much I preferred the novel (though I did enjoy the movie).

Ain’t that always the way.

Really, though, I shouldn’t be reading. Not until May, when my current sewing project and writing  project are done, but a girl needs something to procrastinate with.

So reading is a procrastination station right now, as is planning the next sewing project and writing project, as is focusing on the next Ball.

I mentioned that I attended the Binghamton Ball last month, and I hope to write more about it, but I’m already thinking about the Rochester “Jane Austen” Ball in a couple of weeks.

I’m thinking about whether I should make some fixes to my gown or just wear it as is, and I’m thinking of hair styles and ribbons (like my Regency style icon, Jane Bennet).

I also got together with some of my book club girls tonight to practice some of the dances for the upcoming Ball. We are really excited to have another opportunity to dress up, to dance, and to meet other passionate people.

I was talking with one of them this afternoon, my cohort in organizing the book club cum Regency social club, and we both said how happy we are now that we’re doing all of this–from reading, to writing, to dancing, to sewing, to movie watching, to bonnet trimming, to tea parties and proposed historical food dinners, to everything that draws and invigorates our passion and creativity.

Even when it means lost sleep (like right now), or pain (like the purple toe nail I’m sporting after a mishap at the Binghamton Ball), I am so happy to be following this path with these wonderful women.

Challenge #7: Tops and Toes

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, and I plan to rectify that with some posts about what I’ve been doing in between being sick. Today, however, is the deadline for Historical Sew Fortnightly Challenge #7: Tops and Toes.

I had thoughts of doing something creative and historically correct for this challenge, but in the end I needed to go practical. First, I need a bonnet for summer events. Or rather, I need one if I want to move towards historical accuracy. Second, I need to have some easy goals for some of these challenges so I can avoid burnout.

So, I decided to chose a straw bonnet I liked and trim it up for this challenge. Someday I hope to make a hat or two, but this time I purchased the bonnet. I wanted to trim it simply to match whatever dresses I might make for summer events, and I know I’ll probably re-trim it in the future.

I chose to go with a simple black and white striped ribbon that could be dressed up with colored flowers and decorations. And for now it is dressed up with a purple mum (which matches my tattoo) and a floret made with ribbons and a button. I had planned to make a fabulous cockade, and even spent time working on a couple, but the ribbons I chose do not fold well. I may yet steal my friend’s ribbons and add the cockade before this summer.

For now the bonnet is done. I hope to wear it this Easter weekend.

Bonnet Left Side Bonnet Back Bonnet Right Side with Button Bonnet Right Side Bonnet Right Side Standing

The Challenge: #7 Tops and Toes

Fabric: None

Pattern: None

Year: 1790-1830

Notions: Straw bonnet, thread, ribbons, button, flower clip

How historically accurate is it? Good Enough

Hours to complete: 5ish

First worn: Not yet

Total cost: $36: $28 for straw bonnet, $6 for ribbon, $2 for flower clip (thread and button from stash)

One thing I haven’t mentioned is that I planned a Bonnet Trimming Party for my Jane Austen Book Club in conjunction with this Challenge. We got together on Sunday afternoon at Joann Fabrics and all trimmed our bonnets. None of us finished them that afternoon, but we made progress and had fun.

Even my 5 year old son got in on the action. In fact, he tried to steal my bonnet! In the end I was able to convince him to decorate a toy hat, but he only agreed if he could have ribbons and flowers for his too. I think he and I will wear our bonnets this Easter.

Challenge #5: Bodice

I really wish I could get more creative with my submissions for the challenges, but the fact is that I need all the basics.

For the Bodice challenge I had to make a bodiced petticoat/underdress. I am going to a ball in a couple of weeks and I will need something to wear under it and while I do have another bodice petticoat that one is too ugly to be worn under something sheer.

I looked for extant examples to base my design off of, and that’s what I did. I also used the short stays pattern from Sense and Sensibility as a guide.

Of course, after I cut the fabric I found a Regency bodice that I thought would make a better basis for patterning the top, but once the fabric is cut you can’t un-cut it.

Next time.


The Challenge: #5 Bodice

Fabric: Cotton

Pattern: Self drafted

Year: 1790-1830

Notions: Cotton thread, ribbon 

How historically accurate is it? Goodly

Hours to complete: Will probably be about 30 (I’ve completed the bodice and I’ve sewn the skirt, but I haven’t attached them yet; tomorrow)

First worn: Not yet

Total cost: $12.50: $12 for fabric, $.25 for thread, $.25 for ribbon


Bodiced Petticoat FrontBodiced Petticoat Back

Book Club Books

I’m at home with a sick child today, so I’ve been sending e-mails and trying to get some personal things done. Mostly I’m chilling. I needed a day off myself.

I decided today would be when I would try to narrow down the book choices for my Jane Austen book club’s next few meetings. Next month we’re reading another historical novel, but after that we have nothing planned.

When I started this group less than a year ago I figured we’d start with the 6 novels and then figure it out from there.

Before we could even get started I had a busy body trying to tell me to give each book several meetings “because they’re so rich” and to invite (most likely paid) lecturers to discuss the novels. Pretty much I said I’d already advertised the first six meetings for the novels, and we’d see about the rest.

I had a basic vision for the group I wanted to create for me and my friends, and while I’ve always been open to ideas my first priority was to make this fun.

Busy body never showed up, and I’ve since been complimented for not having our group be like her vision.

I know people have a lot of ideas about what they will or won’t discuss at a Jane Austen book club. Some groups stick strictly to her writings, while others include books about the author. Some groups read modern retellings and sequels, while others focus on historical novels or historically focused non-fiction.

I’m “in charge”, but I also go with the flow. Reading only JA’s writings might get boring for this group, so we include other things (though one of our online members claims to ONLY read JA’s novels, the rest of us find that sort of sad).Reading only historical novels can be tiring, and I want everyone to feel like they can keep up with the group and have fun reading along with us. One of my people does not want to read modern retellings so I have left those off the roster completely.

In the past few months we’ve read Longbourn and What Matters in Jane Austen, and we’re about to read The Age of Innocence. I’m trying to alternate “lite” books with longer/heavier material. It’s a balance.

Mostly I try to choose things I want to read, or that others want to be able to discuss. The point of any book club, I feel, is to encourage us to read more and to get out and chat about books with others.

Up next I’ve suggested Among the Janeites, a Georgette Heyer Regency romance, and a return to our original purpose–reading one of Jane Austen’s other works. I’ve also been getting suggestions from my people.

It’s exciting to have a venue to read interesting books with interesting women. I’m really glad I started this group, and I’m happy to have these women in my life.

Regency Shift Update


It’s still not pretty, and it’s certainly not perfect, but it has all of it’s seams (rolled, blind hem, flat-felled side-seams, bias tape-finished neck and arm holes).

What I didn’t mention yesterday is that I purchased linen a while ago with the intention to sew a shift with it, but then I chickened out. I was afraid I’d mess it up.

Then I realized the linen wasn’t the right weight. A good excuse.

So now I finally made a shift out of cheap cotton. It feels like a bed sheet, so it should be cozy. I’d actually be tempted to sleep in it if we weren’t heading into negative temperatures tonight.

I made this with the same fabric and ribbon as my Regency drawers, so I have a matching set of undies.

This shift is far from perfect. There are many issues with the hand-sewing, and I made it too narrow. If I were to make another sleeveless shift I would made the straps thinner, make the angle wider, and cut it right the first time so it wouldn’t have a gore on one side (I hate that it is “unbalanced”).

I may even take the bias tape off the armholes and add sleeves to make this a day/winter shift, and make up a nicer shift to go under my ball gown.

Some day. But for now it is done.

Regency Shift FrontRegency Shift Back with Gore

Challenge #4: Under It All

Well, I set out to do my short stays for this challenge. I didn’t give myself the proper time and realized that I wasn’t going to get there, so I switched sewing my shift. And I didn’t get there either.

I’m blaming February. That month is too short.

Anyhow, I have done a lot of work on the shift and it is “wearable”, so I’m posting. I will actually finish all of the sewing sometime tomorrow. I hope.


The Challenge: #4 Under It All

Fabric: Cotton? From Sew Green, once again.

Pattern: None; I have the Sense and Sensibility pattern, and have read the instructions, but I decided to draft a pattern based on this blog post

Year: 1808

Notions: Cotton thread, bias tape, grosgrain ribbon (same as my drawers)

How historically accurate is it? Very

Hours to complete: Neverending, even the drafting was a bear

First worn: Just a trial when it still needed finishing

Total cost: $3.50; $1.50 for fabric remnant at Sew Green, $.50 for thread at Sew Green, $1 for bias tape at Sew Green, $.50 for grosgrain ribbon


I decided since I will mostly be dressing in ball gowns that I needed a sleeveless shift. I chose to draft a pattern since it actually seemed more accurate and economical.

Unfortunately even though I spent a lot of time working out the measurements and double checking, I cut wrong and had to add a gore to the back.

So this has actually been cut out and waiting to be sewn since before I made my drawers, but I was afraid it wasn’t even going to fit and so I put it off.

The good news is: It fits! The bad news is: Just barely.

This is not the loose garment it is meant to be, but I think it will suit my needs. It also will not be falling off of me, so there’s that.

I’ll post more photos soon, just to publicize my shame. (I am very grateful this is not a “visible” garment.) Until then, I will leave you with a sneak peak.

Regency Shift neckline