Monday, October 29, 2012

Sewing for Halloween: Regency Dress

I had it in my mind that I would be a zombie or vampire Jane Austen for Halloween this year, which basically meant I would make a Regency-inspired dress in patchwork Halloween colors (black, red, gray, etc.). (By the way, this is my new dress form, which arrived Saturday morning! Ain't it pretty? I thought about naming it Sheila.... I've always liked that name. She sounds fun.)

I turned this Butterick pattern #6630:

...into this (worn for Halloween-themed contra dancing):

Dress: Made my me | Flats: Fluevog Amie (Integrity family) via Amazon

Not quite a zombie or even a vampire since I didn't want to scare any of the kids at the dance too much. :-) The angle of the photo doesn't do justice to the shape of the dress (OR MY NECK, UGH, THANKS TALL HUSBAND), but it shows the fit. I actually consider this dress a muslin, or a practice run to help me fine-tune the way the garment fits. I made it with quilting-weight 100% cotton fabrics. I bought yards and yards of two different and much nicer fabrics (one satin and one brocade) for when I'm ready to take this dress to cosplay level. Haha!

Even though I used no interfacing, did away with lining the skirt, and skipped the eyelet-and-lace closure on the back (all due to time constraints), this project still took many hours because it has so many parts. I also had to edit the pattern quite a bit: I had to shorten the skirt to fit my petite frame as well as hike up the neckline of the bodice by a couple of inches for modesty (either the model in the pattern photo is smaller than an A cup or they photoshopped out most of her cleavage). I was particularly unsure about how the bodice would turn out, but it doesn't look too bad.

In fact, there was a LOT of uncertainty about this project from the beginning because (*cough cough ahem*) I accidentally bought the wrong size pattern. Given my measurements, I should have bought the 12-14-16 envelope; instead I got the 6-8-10 envelope. Oops. Still, after measuring the paper patterns for the size 10 and taking into account the seam allowances, I figured it would probably be a little snug but it would fit, especially if I wore my bustier corset (looks like this). Final verdict? It survived dancing (including lifting my arm and turning under it) without ripping any seams. I'm very happy about that!

Here's the back. I know there's a gap in the middle back there, but it actually closes completely when I wear it. For some reason, despite the fact that the adjustable dress form is set to my measurements, the dress doesn't fit around it very well. Maybe I've got my own measurements wrong? Or more likely it's because the dress form is covered in a nappy fabric so that the cotton doesn't slide over it very well.

My two favorite parts of this dress are 1) the puffy sleeves, which were surprisingly fun to make (but not so easy to sew to the bodice) and 2) the red stripes. The latter was actually a result of one of the other constraints I had on this project -- the lack of fabric yardage. The two nice fabrics that I bought were 60" in width (as required by the pattern instructions), but because I was using quilting cotton for my muslin, I only had 44"-width fabrics since most quilting cotton fabrics don't come in the wider sizes. I didn't buy any new fabric for this muslin (except for the black sleeves) and used what was already in my stash. It was lucky that I had the red fabric handy. It added a couple of extra steps to make a patchwork skirt, but I think it looks more striking this way, and more Halloween-y, as if washes of blood were flowing down my back. MUWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Here's a bonus pic of me wearing the costume two Saturdays ago for a Halloween party, before I made and attached the puff sleeves (I actually had to put the dress together in order to wear it sleeveless, then use my seam ripper to separate the bodice from the skirt to finish it a couple of days afterwards). I'm threatening to bite my "doctor" husband (who has something in his mouth), in case you can't figure out what's going on in the photo. :-)

xo, Gladys


  1. This dress is INCREDIBLE! Nice job, Gladys!

  2. thank you!! i learned a lot on this project, and it's neat to look at the dress on the dress form. when i make the REAL dress, i'll be sure to allow myself enough time.

  3. also, making a simpler dress seems a lot easier to tackle now... :-)


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