Pride and Prejudice is one of Kit’s favourite books. So when we happened upon a beautiful pattern for a 1790s dress and open pelisse from Thimbles and Acorns, she insisted that I buy it and make her an elegant Regency outfit.
The pattern is designed to be as authentic as possible, so the bodices of both dress and pelisse are cut in several pieces with diagonal seams. The dress is made up of a solid underdress with a sheer overdress to give the effect of Greek drapery. I felt that this was a bit ambitious for my first attempt, so decided to omit the overdress and make what Georgette Heyer would have referred to as a ‘simple, round gown’ from a white spotted fabric which felt quite Regency, somehow. I enjoyed piecing together the complicated little bodice and seeing it take shape, and once the dress was finished I was impressed how the pattern designer had achieved a real Regency shape with a tightly fitted bodice and the skirt smooth at the front but fuller at the back.
This shot of the bodice back demonstrates the complicated construction: pattern pieces cut with the straight grain running in different directions. I used poppers to fasten the dress – not entirely authentic of course, but surely better than Velcro for this vintage garment! I hemmed the cuffs of the sleeves, and the skirt hem, by hand. As it says in the pattern, ‘it’s all in the detail’. A sash of blue ribbon breaks up the plain whiteness of the gown.
For the pelisse, by contrast with the simplicity of the fabric I chose for the white gown, I was lucky
enough to find a pale blue fabric with a design of embroidery and broderie anglaise. The challenge with this was to cut out the fabric so that the design matched perfectly from the centre back across the skirt and bodice and down the sleeves and collar pieces. This was really my first attempt at matching such a complicated design and I’m delighted with the results which you can see on the shot of the pelisse back.
The bodice and skirt of the pelisse are lined with royal blue satin which matches the ribbon which Kit now wears in her hair. The satin was very difficult to work with. It slipped constantly and frayed all the time. It was difficult even to cut out the pattern pieces accurately, and sewing the tiny seams in the bodice lining was very tricky. At the time I decided I would never work with satin again, but it does look so sumptuous that I suspect I won’t be able to resist trying again.
The pattern called for the pelisse to be fastened with buttons and buttonholes. I wimped out of doing the buttonholes,however, and resorted to little poppers hidden behind the buttons. I had never made machine buttonholes, and my fear was that I would ruin my beautiful creation completely if I tried. So again, it’s not entirely authentic, but it looks great.
Kit is delighted with her romantic Regency outfit. She has completed her ensemble with a delicate string of pearls with a Wedgwood-style cameo pendant – from Doll Jewelry Boutique – which matches the blue of her pelisse perfectly. She carries a gauzy reticule – actually the gift bag in which the pearl necklace was supplied. She wears white patent shoes to match her gown… and just like a true Regency lady, she… shhhh, don’t tell anyone… she’s not wearing any panties! She says they spoil the hang of the gown.
This was such a rewarding pattern to work with. It was very demanding and there were moments when I wanted to slash and burn the satin lining and start again with some well-behaved stripy poplin. But I persevered and I believe the end result was worth the effort.
Kit, of course, is in heaven. For it is a truth universally acknowledged, that a young lady who dreams of meeting Mr Darcy, must be in want of a fine gown and pelisse. And now she’s asking me for a Regency bonnet to go with them!