Saturday, April 2, 2016

Regency Midwinter Ball 2016

For this year's ball, the lovely Tara of Regency Encounters asked if Nicole and I would be willing to volunteer in the card room. For every ball, card tables have been set up for those needing or wanting a break from dancing (or, like us, people who don't dance) and we have so enjoyed the experience at previous balls, so of course we said yes! I immediately began planning a new outfit, having worn the sari gown I made last year at two other balls.

Nicole and I.
Photo by Janine Rose Photography

I bought this IKEA curtain set in 2012 with the express intent to make a regency gown out of it, after seeing some lovely examples made up in the same material (notably, Quinn's lovely recreation of a gown patterned in Patterns of Fashion 1; the other dress was an image on Facebook that I'm too scared to try and find four years later!). I had initially intended to make it with the Folkwear pattern, or possibly the PoF pattern, and even got so far as to start tracing out the skirt pieces from Folkwear onto the fabric with pink chalk, when I had a moment of "ahhhh!! NOT READY!" and decided not to do it. I am so glad I waited.

I had been wanting to make Laughing Moon's Regency gown pattern #126 for several months, but didn't have an idea of what I wanted the gown to look like, or even what fabric to start it in, so I declined to make something I wasn't wholly inspired to do. As soon as we had decided to volunteer, I knew exactly what I wanted -- this sheer white gown, and I wanted to start ASAP so that I could do things I don't normally have time to do, like making accessories and decorating the gown. In the end my gown needed no decorations, as the fabric has woven stripes and dots that do an admirable job of that already, but I had lots of accessories to work on!

I made the gown in most of a weekend. I made a mock-up on a Friday night directly after work. The pattern fit me perfectly, no alterations needed. Full steam ahead! I even spent the weekend being social, seeing movies and celebrating the lunar new year. By Sunday evening, the only things I had left to do were some ties on the inner bib (not actually necessary, as my bib overlaps enough to pin it), hemming, and possibly finishing a seam on the bib part (I did not finish it, and it was not noticeable whatsoever). 

The gown on Sunday night. Holy sheer, Batman!

Y'all. You need this pattern if you enjoy working with such, and especially Regency era gowns. It is so well drafted, each piece fits together perfectly, and the pleating diagram for the skirt is beautiful. I realized, after spending the time to pleat, and was over halfway through stitching it, that I had pleated it backwards (that is, it looks fine on the wrong side, but the right side should have an inverted box pleat, and it does not), and decided that I didn't care enough to re-do it. It's so lovely, and absolutely perfect. I had a bit of extra fabric at the sides, but that came more from using two full panels for the skirt, thanks to the necessity of layout economy needed when working with curtains, and not accounting for that when I cut the front/side panels. I really wanted a train, so I included that in my measurements. Handily, the fabric's stripes and dots are all at 1" intervals, which made measuring and cutting very easy.

Guido helped me lay out the fabric.

I made a little sleeveless Spencer jacket, using Katherine's tutorial as a guide. I made a few mistakes, namely not cutting down my seam allowances even though I hand-stitched most of it, so there's a few little bumps at the seams where I stitched too close to the edge to turn the full amount in. Next time I will know better, and there WILL be a next time, because this type of garment is just so cute! I extended the center fronts a bit, but they meet edge-to-edge with hooks and eyes comfortably.

I also needed a petticoat, since my dress is quite sheer. I tried it on with the chemise underneath, and could totally see my modern underwear through the skirt. Eep! It's very simple, a three-yard length of fabric and some strips for the waist band and straps, hemmed a bit along one edge. I could have cut panels at the right length and had very similar results, so in the interest of it being an undergarment, I just sewed it up along the torn edges at the center back. I used the same pleating diagram as the gown to pleat it to the band. It was absolutely lovely to wear under my dress.

I also attempted to make a new Spencer jacket, since it IS winter, but I was having trouble deciphering what the instructions meant about the pleats, so I gave up and re-wore the blue velvet Spencer instead.

Lastly, I made a muff cover for the base I made 2 years ago out of a scrap of black velvet and some bright pink ribbon, using Katherine's wonderful tutorial (base and cover). So adorable!

The very last thing I needed for the ball was hair! I get a lot of volume when I rag-curl my hair, so I made sure to shower in the early part of the day so that my hair was clean and ragged well before it was time to get ready. My hair is so thin and fine that it normally dries in about an hour, some of the ends were already dry even as I started rolling, and they'd only been out of the towel for 10 minutes! Ragging takes a bit longer to dry, and some of them, especially at the back where there was more hair wrapped up, were still damp when I took them out. I had always intended to wrap a turban, so this time I tried something a little different, and used this tutorial by Jen of Festive Attyre, and it turned out AMAZING. I was so impressed with how awesome my hair looked!

And of course, the last little bits to complete the outfit were the pineapple reticule, and some long gloves. Then, Nicole and I had a wonderful evening teaching others how to play whist, drinking tea and syllabub, and generally enjoying the atmosphere and camaraderie of a whole bunch of people. It was so lovely, and I can hardly wait for the next one!

The end of a wonderful night.

Road to Costume College 2018

Gosh, where did the first half of the year go? (I know where, winter was unusually long and dark and cold, and it's effect lasted longer...