And the Winner is…

1800-1812 bib-front muslin dress, by Patterns of Time

1800-1812 bib-front muslin dress, by Patterns of Time

Contestant #2 – Patterns of Time # PI464: Regency bib-front gown 1800-1812.

I haven’t made a garment completely by hand since my first attempt at sewing when I was 9. I saw a photograph of a summer top in one of my mother’s fashion magazines. I like it and it looked pretty straightforward (daughter of an engineer, you know) so I “borrowed” some red and white broad-striped fabric from mom’s small pile of leftovers, cut out the pieces, sewed them together by hand. and it actually fit. Well, more or less. But I could get it on and get it off and wear it in public.

The first time mom saw it she asked the obvious – “Where did you get that?”

I showed her the magazine and explained how I got from picture to finished garment.

“Let me see it.”

I took it off and handed it to her. She had a funny look on her face – I thought I was in big trouble. She turned it inside out, examined the seams and construction, looked at the magazine picture, looked at me and said, “I guess it’s time you learned how to use the sewing machine.”

And the next day I found myself perched in front of  the temperamental beast that was her solid metal White sewing machine. It jiggled when it ran and sounded as if a train was bearing down on you. But I loved the patterns – just like jigsaw puzzles! –  and the freedom of making whatever you wanted to wear. And I’ve made clothing, for myself and others,  ever since. But all by machine.

So this desire to hand-sew an entire garment has a slight tang of good memories for me. And I’d like to retain the happiness associated with that first experience.  Which is why I chose the second pattern: less fiddly, better lines, easier to fit (fingers crossed), and reasonable to execute. In addition, after all that ranting and raving about “the little white dress” banality of the herd, I’ve decided that’s exactly what I’m going to make. The classic fabric, the classic pattern, a classic dress.

So much for rebellion.

It was the fabric that jogged my thinking. I took one look and thought “that’s it!” A white woven stripe that is just sheer enough without being transparent (more about that in a later post). Here it is:

Sheer stripe2After all, white isn’t really all that bad. And who said it must be plain? This is giving me bad ideas. I’m gonna regret ever seeing this…

1806 dress with puff decorations

1806 dress with puff decorations (back view)


7 thoughts on “And the Winner is…

  1. Oh, my. Goodness! I see what you mean. I am looking at the image more closely, and seeing all the eyelets and those amazing raised circles. Are you going to recreate all that? And where did you find the historical dress initially? Or is it not really historical . . . . just curious. CHC

    • Oh, I see. One of your later posts explains that you can’t make the white dress because the fabric you wanted was gone. So you will make a different dress . . . . feel free to scratch or edit my prior comment if you like. And burn this! (as a romantic heroine might say back then)

    • It is a historic piece. I am banging my head against the wall, trying to remember where this image came from. It didn’t have any info, but I’ve seen more images of it recently. I’ve been meaning to track them down and get specific information – this provides a great motive to do so.

    • Isn’t it just too much? I love it, too. Here’s the kicker – it’s not ball fringe!! (That would have been waaaay too easy.)

      Each of those “bumps” are areas where an piece of matching fabric was appliqued onto the outer layer of the dress…one at a time, all the way around, for as many poufs as desired. Then, working from the inside, a little slit is made underneath (but not through) each of the appliques pieces. Gently, working through the slit, each piece is stuffed (I believe it would have most likely have been clean wool to keep the dress from getting too heavy) until it’s the rounded shape desired, then the little slit is hand-sewn closed. And then on to the the next, and the next…it must have cost a pretty penny (shilling?) to have made.

      I’ve done it on a much smaller scale, and it takes forever to get each of the circles to look equally rounded. Having said that, I still look at that dress and think “Hey, I could do that.” Which is just the kind of thinking that gets me in over my head. And I’d probably look like one large cumulus puff-ball being swarmed by little cloudlets.

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