Regency Ruffles Part 1

Due to the perils of internet shopping (I had to send back my faux leather seam binding for a different color), Snow White is still on hold for a bit, so I got to start something new. Believe it or not, I haven’t had a new Regency dress since my grey one last August! I have the fabric for quite a few stashed around the house, and it was definitely time to put some to use!

The dress is based on this fashion plate, which I have been coveting since the moment I saw it for it’s over-the-top ruffliness. I don’t wear many ruffles in my everyday life, but in the Regency I cannot resist them. The floofier the better.

I’ll definitely have to add that wonderful matching eyelet lace  cap and ruff set to my wardrobe sometime soon as well!

I picked up the fabric for this dress at the Jane Austen festival in July. It’s a green cotton with a dainty white striped pattern. I’m hand-sewing the entire dress, partly to practice techniques, and partly because I just felt like it.

The bodice pattern is my basic Regency bodice that I’ve been adjusting and altering and playing with since I started doing this, but with the neckline brought up nice and high. I love a high necked Regency gown largely because it’s unexpected for a lot of people. We see lots of films set in the period with low-necked gowns filled in with a fichu or chemisette, while high-necked gowns are usually put on old or frumpy characters. I like being able to show people that a high-necked gown is just as much a pretty garment for fashionable young women as for spinsters.

No need to pattern the skirt: I just use measurements. The back is just a long piece the width of the fabric, and the skirt length plus seam and hem allowance. The front is as wide as the fabric at the bottom and as wide as my seam-to-seam measurement at the top. I usually curve the waistline up a bit at the edges, which helps the skirt bell out. The center of the skirt and the edges should be the same length as the skirt back.

The skirt seams are sewn with mantua-maker’s seams, an ingenious device that has mostly fallen out of modern sewing. You simply put the fabric pieces right side to right side as normal, then, treating the two edges as one, fold the whole thing up twice as though you are making a narrow hem. Then sew the seam with a nice small whip stitch, making sure you go through both layers of fabric and the edge of the fold. It lets you sew a fully finished seams with a single row of stitches.


The bodice is also constructed in a way that cuts out extra rows of stitching as much as possible. I first learned about this technique at a workshop given by Burnley & Trowbridge in Williamsburg, which you can read more about here.

The back/side back fabric and lining is all put together with a single seam. The stack goes fabric side back right side to fabric back right side, back lining wrong side against that, then side back lining right side against back lining right side. The side back fabric and lining should be wrong-side out on either side of the stack. You then sew the seam as normal and open the side backs out and press.


The fronts are then attached by treating the front fabric and lining as one piece and sewing it to the side back fabric only. You then press the seam allowance toward the back and finish the seam by pulling the lining over the seam and folding under the seam allowance so that you can slip stitch it to the seam.

With the major bodice construction done, I got some help draping a yoke to hold the  bodice ruffles.

You can see in this close-up that the ruffles are attached to a separate yoke, so that they don’t get bumpy and weird as they go over the tops of the sleeves.

The ladies of the Locust Grove first-person interpreter corps often get together for sewing, and a few of us were sewing together on Sunday, so my friend Amy was able to give me a hand.

The y0ke is made of three pieces, one in the front and two in the back, with a seam at the shoulder, which will be mostly concealed by ruffles.

That’s where I am for now. Since I’m hand sewing, the process is a bit slower than usual, but hopefully the detail in the finished product will be worth it!

I’ll be back next week with more progress on this dress, and as soon as I can finish Snow White, I will!