Regency Indecency

May 12th, 2011

I am attending a neoclassical picnic later this month, and have decided to finally make that Regency-era dress I’ve been putting off for more than a decade. My mother bought me a copy of the Folkwear Empire Dress pattern, along with a length of sheer fabric printed with blue stripes and tiny blue flowers in the late 1990s. At the time, I was working for the George Read II House & Garden, an historic house build in the early 19th century, and had plans to sew an appropriate wardrobe.

So tonight, I grabbed some cheap muslin and cut out the Folkwear bodice. I’d already decided to use the skirt from Janet Arnold instead of making the gored skirt included in the pattern (I’ve never seen a gored Regency skirt…not that I know much about this period). Alas, after hastily stitching the bodice together and gathering it over my corset lace because I was too lazy to hunt for a proper drawstring, I discovered that I also hate the top of this dress. Please don’t misunderstand; it’s a lovely pattern and I adore Folkwear, but it just isn’t what I’m looking for this time.

Here’s what I’m trying to match:

Young Woman in White
Young Woman in White, circa 1798, oil on canvas,
attributed to the circle of Jacques-Louis David.

Well, perhaps not exactly. I’m not sure I’m brave enough to attend a picnic at a public garden with quite such a visible bust line. But I love the sleeves, the neck, the skirt, the hairdo, the shawl. I think I’ll add a straw hat too.

As for the pattern, I think Janet Arnold is going to be my best friend in this case. So I’m off to con my copy of Patterns of Fashion I. The big question that remains of course is whether she is wearing a bust-bodice or a bodiced petticoat (I am leaning towards the latter based on the volume of her skirts) and IS IT BONED??

P.S. I am saving the original blue striped and flowered material for an 1850s wrapper — it’s far too fussy to be properly Neoclassical — and I’ve pulled out a nice white-on-white striped sheer cotton that’s almost fine enough to be mull.