Happy new year! Let’s cast our minds back to October and my much preferred holiday, Halloween. My friends and I planned to have a quiet morning tea* wearing costumes, which naturally I wanted to make myself. I was quite pleased with the end result, so prepare for lots of pictures!
I considered a few options: the classic Morticia, a black cat (the makeup would have been fun!), even Frank-N-Furter from Rocky Horror! But finally settled on a costume I’d wanted to make ever since I started sewing: a Pride & Prejudice inspired Regency gown. After all, who doesn’t want to be Lizzy Bennet?
I believe it is from the period itself, as it only comes in one size. As I wasn’t too far off the measurements I just multiplied them by a factor of 1.29, which was the ratio between the given waist measurement and my desired finished waist measurement of the garment.** As I wasn’t making a muslin, I added 1″/2.5cm seam allowances for fitting. I was as surprised as anyone when it worked out fine!
The fabric was easy: sheets, lots of sheets. Some from our linen cupboard (destined to be rags) and some from the op shop. They’re slightly different in colour and drape but…meh. It’s a costume. I’m glad I went down this path as the dress was very fabric hungry. I think I used 3 queen sheets!
I had a few hiccups along the way, mostly user error. I lined the bodice and found myself frustrated when the gathered necklines (shell + lining) wouldn’t sew together! The gathers just unraveled themselves after sewing. I’m sure this is a time that calls for an ungathered lining for stability, but I sewed the flat necklines together then fixed the gathers to a ribbon inserted in the seam allowance instead.
I also changed out the sleeve pattern for this one from the same website, as it was going to be nearly as big as the bodice! I had to shorten this sleeve a bit but it worked out ok. I didn’t have much room to move, as the back armhole cuts in deeply to the shoulder (historically accurate, apparently) and the sleeve didn’t accommodate for that. Next time I’d probably change the back bodice to a modern scooped armscye or add fabric to the back sleeve.
Something I absolutely didn’t realise before sewing was that the skirt had a train! I’m kinda flabbergasted at myself for not noticing when drafting the skirt, but anyway. It was very elegant but also extremely impractical, and was filthy at the end of the day. No traipsing through the fields to Netherfield for me!
This mean that my skirt lining (which isn’t exactly period accurate, but I wasn’t sewing stays and shifts) was its own pattern so it didn’t form a train too. It was a basic A-line skirt, both pieces formed by placing the front skirt pattern 3″ away from the fabric fold. Any a-line skirt pattern would do, and length is easier to add than take away. In fact, I had to take 15cm from the skirt pattern and lining once cut and sewn together!
To finish it off, I added rouleau loops to the waistband for ribbon ties (inserted in the seams themselves), and made a bonnet from an op shopped straw hat (which I’ll write a full post on another time. EDIT: blog post now up!). I wore it with a shawl and gloves of mine, an op-shopped fan and borrowed jewellery. I chose my gold-rimmed glasses as they seemed more authentic than my plastic tortoiseshell ones!
I’m really pleased with how the dress turned out, though next time I probably would just use a commercial pattern to make it easy on myself, and not, you know, finding a surprise train in the skirt! And really, the calculations, drafting and fitting involved was a lot more involved than I could describe in this post. A 60s babydoll pattern would be a perfect place to start and would involve a lot less fitting.
Did you dress up for Halloween? Or have a dream costume you’d like to make/wear? I’m already planning next year’s…
Finally, I’ll leave you with pictures, partly because I love this costume, and partly because I hate it when people describe an elaborate outfit they made and have a few distantly shot fashion pictures that totally obscure the details.
*I’m blessed to have friends who accommodate my very narrow hours of operation.
**I multiplied some areas by a factor of 1.26 as that was the ratio between the given armhole depth and the armhole depth on a well-fitting bodice of mine.