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Regency / Napoleonic Court Gown and Train at Costume College 2017

I received my photos from the official Costume College photographer Andrew Schmidt  so I can show you my complete Regency/Napoleonic court gown and train ensemble!*

* A note about terminology: Technically, English Regency court gowns were a really odd silhouette where you had the high waist but very wide shape, and French gowns of the Napoleonic period had the more columnar shape, so my whole outfit is French style. However, for simplicity in some of my past posts I have been using the term “Regency” because I can wear my gown without the formal court train.IMG_3396-(ZF-3567-92908-1-002)IMG_3397-(ZF-3567-92908-1-003)

I love this view of the back. Thanks Mr. Schmidt for making sure the circle was laid out nicely!IMG_3399-(ZF-3567-92908-1-001)

I have made a number of posts about the construction process of the dress and train and you can find them under the Napoleonic tag on my blog, but I will summarize a few main points here.

For the dress I used the Butterick B6074 pattern, with some modifications (described in previous posts). The dress is made out of a mint green chiffon with white cotton voile lining, and the fancy layer on top is a heavily embellished net with embroidery and several types of sequins, beads, and faux pearls. I had a few questions about whether I used a sari. It is not a sari, but a bridal lace from Fabric Wholesale Direct. Here is a close-up of the fabric before I cut it out:img_0802

For the court train I used the Butterick B4890 Josephine pattern, but I modified it to have straps instead of a bodice back. The train is made with silk velvet, lined with a linen/cotton blend, and edged in a gold-tone netting lace. The front underbust strap is closed with a vintage brooch that I found on eBay.IMG_2362

My pearl necklace and earrings were made by Gloria of In The Long Run Designs, whose Etsy shop is full of beautiful historical jewelry!

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Photo by In The Long Run Designs

My regency diadem was made by me using brass lamp banding and faux pearls. (I posted about a party where I made some other diadems here).IMG_2927

This whole outfit was really heavy and became quite uncomfortable to wear by the end of the evening! I’m glad it was worn for only a few hours at the Friday Night Social. The dress is heavily beaded and sequined, and the train is quite heavy too, and unlike a Victorian outfit where I can have a corset and hoops to help support the weight, everything was supported by my shoulders.

Here’s a quick twirling video here where you can see the dress sparkle!

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So, what’s the final tally of what everything cost? This was my “splurge” project for the year so it cost more than my usual outfits, but I think this one was worth it!

Dress:

  • 3 yards beaded lace (from Fabric Wholesale Direct): $149.85
  • 3 yards mint chiffon (from FWD): $7.47
  • 3 yards white cotton voile (from FWD): $11.97
  • Thread and fishing line (from stash)

Total = $0 (All the fabric for this dress was a gift from Fabric Wholesale Direct in exchange for a tutorial you can see on their website. Thanks FWD!)

Court train:
  • 6 yards silk velvet (from Amazon, affiliate link): $113.84 (I used 5 yards)
  • 5 yards linen/cotton lining (from Renaissance Fabrics): $32.50 + tax and shipping = $43.59
  • 10 yards lace (from Aliexpress): $34.94 (I only use half, and sold the remainder)
  • Pattern (from eBay): $7.59
  • Brooch (from eBay): $3.84 (yay no one else bid on it)
  • Button cover kit (leftover from another project): $0
  • Button loops (braided from random string I found in my house): $0

Train total = $203.80

Ouch, that’s a bit of a splurge, but it’s not terrible considering I have a lot of huge scraps of silk velvet left over, and can probably make a 1920s dress with some careful cutting, so I can get two dresses out of that price!

Tiara: The cost of this is a little tricky to calculate, because a lot of the supplies I bought in bulk, used to make other tiaras, and shared with friends. I think if you shop right and share with friends you can make one for $30 depending on how fancy you get with beads, pearls, or gemstones. A big part of the cost is buying the brass online and paying for shipping.

  • Brass banding: Etsy or lamp supply stores
  • Faux pearls and head pins: eBay or Michael’s
  • Metal hair combs: Amazon or beauty supply shops

My shoes were Pemberly Regency slippers from American Duchess (affiliate link) that I previously owned. I am also wearing short stays and a corded petticoat (not period correct, but needed to support the weight of the dress).

So in total, this ensemble will cost you about $400 of materials (not including accessories), but represented a little more than $200 out of pocket, with enough leftovers to make a second dress, so not too bad! I try to keep most gowns $100 or less, so this was my “big project” for the year.

I am very happy with how this court outfit turned out, especially how the mint and rose color combination worked together, and how the accessories completed the look. It’s also always nice too when a dress looks good from the back as well!IMG_3399-(ZF-3567-92908-1-001)

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Regency/Napoleonic Court Train (Part 2) 98% Done!

My Regency/Napoleonic court train is nearly done! (I am just missing a proper brooch closure for the front; right now the straps are pinned into place).IMG_2285

I apologize for the weird lighting. I recently changed some of the lighting in my house to LED bulbs, which is great for my energy bill but not for the color of my pictures.

Don’t you just loooove the way silk velvet drapes?IMG_2276

Here is a shot with my court dress previously described here.IMG_2301

A reminder of what the gown alone looks like:b

I hope to get proper photos of the whole ensemble at Costume College.IMG_2307

Here is another mmm silk photo since I love the back so much.IMG_2278

I used Butterick B4890 to get the teardrop shape, but did not use the bodice portion of the pattern. I opted for the shoulder and underbust straps I saw in extant examples of court trains. I also decided to have a more “modest” length train since I will be using this at Costume College and it will be easier to navigate the crowds.

I can’t wait to wear this!IMG_2297

I still have to make a matching regency diadem and I have a pearl jewelry set on the way. Once that’s taken care of I can finally start on my gala gown!

 

(I will do my usual final tally of project costs once the whole ensemble is actually complete, but it is nearly there).

Regency/Napoleonic Court Train (Part 1)

The blog has been a little quiet lately since my last post on Regency diadems because I’ve been having some issues with my wrists and haven’t done much sewing except for things I can make completely by machine, like curtains. However, I have received all my materials for my court train, to go with my beaded court dress.

I have 6 yards of silk velvet, which depending on the light and the direction of the nap appears either a deep rose color or a silvery-pink. (I tried getting swatches of cotton velvet, but they were the wrong texture and stiffness and were obviously meant for upholstery). I didn’t realize before starting my search how hard it is to find a nice rose-colored velvet that isn’t either baby pink or hot pink! I would have been happy with a synthetic velvet if it was the right color, but ended up having to go over budget and buy silk. Of all the places I looked, you’ll never guess that the final winner was Amazon!IMG_1454

After a few tries at swatches of lining I settled on a linen-cotton blend from Renaissance Fabrics. The dusty pink color is good match to the underside of the silk velvet, and lighter than the deep rose but close to the silvery-pink. (Left to right: underside of the silk, the velvet, and the lining).IMG_1452

The lace I ordered online was a brighter gold than the stock photo (and what I was able to photograph below), but still rather pretty. However, I think bronze would be a better match to my dress, so I’m going to have to tone down the lace. I have a friend who has sponge-painted acrylic craft paint onto lace before, so I will be doing some experiments! I hope it works; after the purchase of the silk velvet I’d rather not spend any more money on this project buying new lace and crossing my fingers that it is the right color!IMG_1455

Mmm so buttery soft!IMG_1451

Regency Diadems

The Napoleonic era is filled with gorgeous golden diadems, studded with coral, pearls, gemstones, or lovely cameos. What court outfit is complete without a tiara?

This garnet diadem was sold on Ruby Lane.Screen Shot 2017-03-10 at 7.28.31 PM.pngThis coral diadem made from gilded brass from A. Brandt is very elegant.Screen Shot 2017-03-10 at 7.23.31 PMScreen Shot 2017-03-10 at 7.23.51 PM

Here is a beautiful cameo tiara sold by Sotheby’s that inspired me to want my own.Regency2

This parure (matching set) that belonged to Caroline Bonaparte is stunning!Regency

Last month, I hosted a group of friends and we decided to try our hand at making our own, using this great tutorial from the Mistress of Disguise, for a Regency Tiara Making Day! Behold, crafting chaos.IMG_1157.JPG

We bought materials from a variety of places, including Michael’s,  Joann’s, and eBay for beads and wire; Hobby Lobby or Amazon for brass sheets and metal combs; and Whittemore-Durgin, Etsy, and Ebay for our brass lamp banding. It’s hard to say how much it cost to make each one, since some things were bought in bulk and we did a lot of sharing. Here are our tiaras!IMG_1159

There was some trial and error, and things we learned during the process:

  • Soldering looks better but hot glue is much faster than soldering, especially when you have a group.
  • High-temp hot glue is required; the mini glue guns used for crafting don’t stick as well.
  • Big tin snips instead of small jewelry snips are better for cutting through the brass banding. (Regular scissors can cut through the brass sheets).
  • If you have tarnish on your brass, use Simichrome polish.
  • Wiring metal combs to the diadem is more sturdy than gluing metal or plastic combs.

Here are my “practice tiaras.” They are not perfectly straight and there are some little issues I’d like to work on (such as the thickness of the brass, the overall proportions, and remembering to push the head pins down before the glue set!) but they were really fun to make and I want to make more! I’d like a thinner, more delicate pearl one, and a pink coral one to go with my court gown.IMG_1258IMG_1261IMG_1266IMG_1264

Beaded Regency Court Dress (Part 3)

I’m still working on the rest of the court ensemble but at least my dress is complete! B.JPG

I didn’t have all my accessories yet at the time so I wore a pearl tiara I had instead of a Regency diadem and did a quick updo. (My next post will be about Regency diadems; I got together with a group of friends for a tiara-making day).D.JPG

You can read Parts 1 and 2 for more information, but to summarize a few details, my dress is made up of one layer of beaded and sequined mesh, an interlining of seam foam chiffon, and a lining of cotton voile. It is made from Butterick B6074 View B, with some modifications:

  • I combined some pattern pieces to minimize seams in the beaded fabric.
  • I skipped the gathered overlay on the bodice which is recommended for solid fabrics.
  • I raised the back neckline about 1 inch.
  • I extended the bottom front bodice about 1 inch since I was not trying to achieve the tiny bodice/pushup bra look.

Note: Butterick B6074 runs large! It has a lot of ease built in for the modern wearer. I recommend going down 2 sizes.

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For undergarments I am wearing a shift, short stays, a corded petticoat and a ruffled petticoat. I normally would not wear a corded petticoat with Regency but this dress is heavy.

I have decided to go with a rose velvet for the train, and I have been spending far too much time searching for pink velvets, getting swatches, and looking for trim. However, I think we have a winner. IMG_1185.JPG

I still need to order the rest of the fabric and find the trim, but I’ve purchased lining and have the pattern ready. I’m mulling over whether I should use my leftover beads and sequins to decorate the trim, but that may be madness speaking.

By the way, in case you think my life is glamorous, here’s a peek at real life (bad posture, clutter, and photobombing) vs. the cropped version of a selected few pictures for the blog!img_1155

UPDATE:

I wrote a tutorial for this dress, which Fabric Wholesale Direct spiffed and made into this post on their website! 

All the fabric I used for this project is from Fabric Wholesale Direct. Thank you!

Beaded Regency Court Dress (Part 2)

The dress is nearly done!img_1061

I’m excited that this is nearly complete, with just a few minor things to do. It’s taken a little longer than I thought! Sewing is about learning from your mistakes, and I’ve been doing some learning.

Lesson 1: It’ll stretch more than you think

I accounted for a bit of the stretch of the mesh fabric when cutting out the skirt, but underestimated how much more it would stretch afterwards. I was afraid I was being too careful and the skirt would be a little too short, but after I attached it to the bodice and let it hang for a bit, the heavy beads dragged the skirt down to a length that would have required stripper heels instead of dainty Regency slippers to manage.

Due to the scalloped border I couldn’t hem the fabric at the bottom of the skirt, so as much as it pained me to undo all the hand-stitching I removed the skirt, cut off some excess at the top, removed even more beads, and reattached it.

Lesson 2: What looks good on the dress form doesn’t always look good on you

Redoing the skirt gave me the chance to also redistribute the gathering. Originally I had made the front flat to avoid the dreaded pregnant Regency look, and focused most of the fabric on the sides and back. However, once I put the dress on I realized the extra beading on the sides made me look a little wide and boxy. Here are some quick shots with my phone showing before (left) and after (right) without petticoats.

Because of the peculiarities of my figure (mainly the shape and size of my ribs and chest), the version on the left looked better on the mannequin, but not particularly well on me. Normally, to reduce bulk at the waistline I would have cut tapered panels, but could not do that with the beaded fabric. I also wanted it to be fuller than the lining underneath. Since the beaded layer is essentially a gathered rectangle there’s a bit more bulk around the empire waist than I would like, but the new version with redistributed fabric is still a little more flattering on me than looking like a sugary green rectangle.

Although most of the examples of Napoleonic dresses I’ve seen have a flat, columnar front, I did find this extant dress worn by Empress Josephine that is gathered all around.regency1

Lesson 3: Working with sheer, beaded fabrics will double your sewing time.

This bag represents only a portion of what I had to carefully unpicked from the seams,  darts, and placket panel. There are plenty more that ended up on the floor or hiding in the corners of my house. My next dress will definitely be made of solid fabric!img_1032

To minimize snagging on the mesh, instead of hooks and eyes I made covered buttons and loops for the back closure, and added a placket. (Yes, I had to remove all the beading on the fabric used to make these buttons too).img_1018

I think smaller buttons might have been a better choice, but that size of button-covering kit was what I had on hand, and I do like having them large enough to have a different pattern on each.

Lesson 4: If you hoard it long enough it will come in handy

Years ago, when I started sewing, I bought a spool of “invisible thread.” It was actually beige nylon and not as invisible as clear fishing line, so I never knew what to do with it until I obtained beige netting fabric! (I’m not kidding when I say I think I’ve had the spool for nearly 15 years).

The beaded motifs are staggered in a way that I had to cut through a few of them to make the center back seam, and the beige nylon thread came in rather handy for putting the two sides together. (I hand-sewed two rows of stitching for extra security).IMG_1043.JPG

I would  have loved to do a slight train on the dress, but the fabric I had was not wide enough. I will have to make up for it with the velvet court train for the rest of this ensemble!

I still need to bind the raw edges inside, do a little bit of final fit adjustments, snip loose threads, etc. to clean the dress up before I wear it to take photos.

My to-do list:

  • Buy materials for the court train: I’m looking for a rose cotton or silk velvet
  • Make matching shoe clips for my American Duchess Pemberly slippers (affiliate link)
  • Make a Regency diadem; I already have the materials ready!
  • Make a reticule out of leftover pieces of the beading. (I have no more of the green chiffon except some small scraps, so I may make the base fabric match the velvet train).

Read part 1 here.

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Beaded Regency Court Dress (Part 1)

My current project is a beaded Regency court dress using Butterick B6074 as a starting point. Here is a sneak peek of the bodice; I took this picture before closures were added.img_0973

The dress consists of 3 layers: a sheer netting with beads, sequins, and faux pearls; a seafoam green chiffon interlining, and a cotton voile lining. I don’t know if the seafoam green is historically correct. Most of the extant Napoleonic court gowns I’ve seen are white or ivory, with most of the color in the embroidery and the sumptuous court trains.  However, I love that particular shade, and the way it looks against the bronze sequins in the netting. (The fabric is from Fabric Wholesale Direct and has gold embroidery, with round and cylindrical seed beads, round and leaf-shaped sequins, and round and oval faux pearls).img_0802

I did find this portrait of the Empress Marie Louise in what appears to be a light blue gown.lefevre_maria_luigia

Because the fabric I’m using for the outer layer of the gown is sheer and beaded I am trying to minimize seams. It keeps me from cutting through too many motifs, and saves me some time since I have to remove all the beads and sequins from each seam to reduce bulk. I altered the pattern by combining the two should strap pieces into one (eliminating the shoulder seam), and redrafting the back bodice and side bodice pieces to be one. The placement of the seams are no longer quite correct, but it did make sewing easier. I also raised the back because it is very low cut and my stays would have shown.IMG_0887.JPG

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Because of all the beading, and because the foot pedal of my sewing machine is having electrical problems, this gown is mostly hand-sewn. Thus, it is taking a while, especially since I am super paranoid every time I have to cut into this precious fabric!img_0998