Tuesday, January 17, 2017

title pic The Hand Sewn Silk Regency Ball Gown

Posted by Edelweiss Patterns on November 17, 2013

 Since the moment I found out I was going to England, my first thought was, “The Regency ball gown I make is going to have to be the most detailed costume I have ever made!”  I knew that this would be one rare opportunity when there was a legitimate reason to really go “all-out” on a costume, and I also knew that some ladies sew for months on end to make their ball gowns their best outfit of the entire year.  I had seen photos of the gowns at the Grand Ball that were just dripping with seed pearls, tiny ribbon flowers, and ornate embroidery.  There were brightly colored silks and regal velvets, flowing batiste gowns and frothy lace overlays.  Some were fashioned from yards of silk tulle, and hand embroidered with every trim imaginable.  So since I didn’t want to be underdressed for the occasion (goodness, no!), I set right to work in designing a gown that would ultimately take eight months (on and off) of hand sewing to complete.  And yes, I sewed every single stitch, seam, and flower by hand!  This dress did not come within ten feet of my sewing machine, and all interior seams were finished by hand stitching as well, whether French seams or overcasting.

I knew I wanted something really elaborate, so I took my inspiration from fashion plates and dresses such as these that range from circa 1818-1822.  I decided that I would make puffy sleeves with lots of detail, trimmed with gathered English netting lace trim at the sleeve hem.  The bodice would be puffed and smocked in the same way that the sleeve was, and the skirt would be overlaid with ivory lace to the mid-calf.  From below there the silk underskirt would be trimmed with dozens of ribbon roses, and swags of gathered satin ribbon.  A wide, peach ribbon would tie directly under the empire waist line, and there would be gold and pearl accents throughout.  Over all, I wanted the feel of the gown to be sumptuously elegant, yet with a sweetness to it to distinguish it from anything that “Caroline Bingley” would have worn.  Meticulous embellishments and creme de la creme materials?  Yes!  Garish colors and gaudy trims?  No. :)

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Once I had my materials chosen and ready to go, I began by drafting the sleeve pattern piece which I knew I wanted to ornament with puffy “smocking” of sorts that was really just hand-stitched circular gathers laid out in a honeycomb pattern.  In between each triangular “smocked” portion I sewed an ivory pearl to add some sparkle and interest to the design.

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Once this initial embellishment was done, I could then French seam the sleeve side seam and sew the sleeve binding on.

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After months of using up my spare time in the evenings to hand sew this garment, the pieces were all finally in one piece and all that remained was to trim it.  Using yards of ivory satin ribbon that was gathered by hand to resemble a double-ruffle, I created a swag that mirrored the lower curve of the lace overlay.  In even intervals in between each curve, I stitched one of the hand-sewn ribbon flowers, sincerely hoping that the flowers would stay in place while I was dancing!

Once all the ribbons and roses were attached to the lower edge of the garment, I proceded to trim the bodice of the dress – because I just couldn’t wear a “plain” dress to the ball!  :)

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So the neckline was spruced up by a panel of English netting lace at the neck front, ribbon flowers were added to the shoulders, and peach ribbon cockades at the back shoulder seam…  At this point the gown began to look like an elaborate wedding cake!

After hemming the dress with tiny hand stitches, I then applied a lovely delicate peach Venise style lace trim.  I had not intended to use this trim for the gown, but I already had it in my “stash” of trims and it matched perfectly.

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Notice the two rows of peach pearls stitched down the side back seams!

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When at last the gown was completed, I laid it carefully on my sewing table so that it could remain wrinkle-free and stress-free until the last possible minute when I would pack it.  I had a special compartment in my suitcase where it was stored with other soft items, and I carried it on the plane with me when I flew off to the UK because there was just no way I was going to let this gown out of my sight!  After all, I had put literally hundreds of hours into sewing it, so the last thing I was going to do was risk losing it.

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At last the evening arrived when I was finally going to wear this dainty creation!  In my hotel room in Bath, I could hardly believe that I was truly going to the grand Regency ball at the very Assembly Rooms that Jane Austen wrote of in her novels.  Gold slippers and a Swarovski crystal tiara topped off the ensemble, and of course no Regency outfit would be complete without long, ivory gloves.

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From the moment we stepped into the horse-drawn carriage to be taken to the ball (because one doesn’t arrive at a ball by car, for heaven’s sake!), it truly felt as if we had stepped into a Jane Austen Netherfield Ball, with a hint of “Cinderella” thrown in for good measure.  There we were in our long gloves, tiaras, and ball gowns, sitting in an old fashioned carriage that was parading through the historic streets of Bath.  Everywhere we went I heard little girls squealing, “Mommy, look!”  As much as it was a little girl’s dream evening, it was very much for real and very much for grown adults who were still sufficiently sentimental enough to believe that an evening like this was not to be relegated to storybooks.

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The ball went off without a hitch, and the dress was perfectly wonderful to dance in.   I had been concerned that the flowers might get pulled out of shape, but everything was marvelous and the gown was quite easy to move about in.

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This was the event I had thought of all those long evenings of hand sewing a seam, or of intricately making dozens of flowers!  And I was glad that I had put so much work into it.  Lots of folks commented on my dress, and a couple of people said I had the nicest dress in the room.  I’m not sure about that, but I think it was in the top two or three as far as detail goes. :) (Most the other ball gowns were much simpler and less trimmed.)

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From seven pm until midnight we danced and danced and danced, having so much fun that I wanted to stay and never leave.  We skipped through the same English country dances that Lydia did in Pride & Prejudice, dined in the same room where Miss Elliot attended a concert in the 1995 version of Persuasion, and enjoyed our ball in the same room that Jane Austen’s heroine did in Northanger Abbey.  It was glorious! (Here is a video that contains dancing from that evening in the middle of the video, and there’s a much longer video clip of the dress in action on the Edelweiss Facebook page.)

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The food was sumptuous, the live string orchestra was fabulous, and the whole atmosphere was more elegant than any wedding I’ve ever attended.  And I danced every dance except one!  Oh, it was such fun.  The long hours of sewing definitely paid off in this spectacular evening!  When midnight came and it was time to go, I reluctantly bid “farewell” to the most beautiful occasion I’d ever been to…  (My videos here  and here have some dancing from the evening.)

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My gown now lays in my sewing room, carefully stored for years to come.  But my ball gown days are far from over!  Having been invited to a Victorian Masquerade ball at the start of the holiday season, I will soon be going to another grand and glorious occasion right here in my own state!  But this time, I won’t have to sew my gown from scratch – I’ll be wearing the red velvet ball gown that I stitched last year for Christmas.  And speaking of which, I’d better go put some last minute touches on it!

Happy, happy sewing,

Katrina

title pic “Maria’s Wedding Dress” – As Seen Up Close!

Posted by Edelweiss Patterns on November 10, 2013

Hello, Ladies!

If you all were following the auction for Maria’s Wedding Dress which I wrote about in detail several weeks back, you were undoubtedly waiting to see what this classic movie wedding gown would sell for.  I was eagerly anticipating the results of this auction as well, but I was to get a big surprise when I recently received an email from a reader who got access to take pictures of the actual gown before it went up for auction!  You can imagine my shock when I opened up my inbox to see half a dozen images of Maria’s Wedding Dress up close that had never been published on the auction website before!  My initial reaction was, “How in the world did you get ahold of these pictures?” :)  I am so very thankful to have seen these images, and that this reader was kind enough to let me post the pictures on the blog here!  (Thank you, Henry!)  There are a couple of photos that I’m saving to use as guidelines for when I create a pattern inspired by Maria’s Wedding Dress next year, but I will show some of them here for you all to enjoy.

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Oh yes, and the final price that Maria’s Wedding Dress sold for was $23,040, probably due to the waterstain on the front of the skirt.  Julien’s Auctions had estimated that the gown would sell for somewhere between $30,000 to $50,000, and I was a little surprised myself that it didn’t bring more money!  Whatever the case, it’s still a gorgeous gown and I hope the new owners will take impeccable care of it.

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I love how well these pictures show the details of the piping and darts and silk slubs in the fabric.  In the film the bodice crosses over at the neckline, so either this gown is displayed on a mannequin that’s too big in the shoulder area, or it has been altered since the film was made. 

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Have a wonderful day!

Happy sewing,

Katrina

title pic The Jane Austen Festival 2013

Posted by Edelweiss Patterns on October 27, 2013

The Jane Austen Festival’s Costumed Promenade in Bath, England 2013

It was the loveliest of September Saturdays!  The weather was forecast to be grey and rainy, but instead the 600 plus costumed participants were greeted by warm sun shining down on the cobblestone streets and Georgian Bath buildings.  In a crowded section of the Royal Crescent, one massive group of historically clad Jane Austen fans mingled with Regency “officers” in full military apparel, while waiting for the town crier to announce the official start of the 2013 Jane Austen Festival’s promenade.  If it hadn’t been for the iphones and cameras which were flashing through the crowd at an alarming rate, you might have thought it was a cast of extras from a Jane Austen adaption!

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Then the parade was officially underway, and the whole lot of us wound our way slowly through the city streets, where hundreds of local onlookers were lined up with cameras to photograph their town being overtaken by “Austenites”!

For this event I wore the same “Georgiana Darcy” gown which was made of point d’espirit netting lace from the Regency drawsting gown pattern at www.sensibility.com, and which I also wore to “Rosings Park” and to the interior of “Pemberly“.  This time, however, I added a double-faced gold satin ribbon sash, and my brown ruched bonnet from the Elizabeth Bennet outfit.

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The parade lasted for around an hour, and we ended in this lovely, sunken in garden which we accessed by descending some ancient stone stairs…

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It was a lovely time to chat with costumers and other Regency enthusiasts!

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And of course we had to get a group shot of the entire Sense & Sensibility Costume Tour group!

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Here I am with Jennie Chancey, the pattern designer from www.sensibility.com, who has been one of my greatest sewing inspirations over the years and who led this tour to England.  I am so very thankful for her friendship and encouragement since I first began drafting patterns years ago.

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After that I met up with Aurora whose wonderful blog is quite famous in Regency circles, and together we went to the historic Pump Room restaurant for lunch.  Aurora and I had been emailing for months before the event, so it was so exciting to finally meet her in person!  We had so much fun chatting about how we got into costuming, the Jane Austen Festival activities, and much more.

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On the far left is Aurora, and in between us are two of the other group participants from the S&S costume tour. :)

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Here’s one of the gorgeous chandeliers inside the Pump Room!

 And I was so excited for this next shot!  If you have ever watched Persuasion, you will certainly recognize this very spot from the film!  This is the fountain from which folks in Jane Austen’s day would “take the waters” – a tradition of drinking sour-tasting mineral water which supposedly had medicinal qualities.  I wasn’t brave enough to actually drink any, which was probably a wise choice as some friends who did try it didn’t feel particularly well afterwards. 😉

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From there several of us headed back to the Bath Abbey hotel for a little rest, while I hurriedly typed up a blog post (this one here, in fact) in my hotel room.  My friend Anita from the group kindly snapped this shot of me while I was typing away on my laptop.  If Jane Austen had a laptop she would have looked something like this.  :)

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No, I don’t usually wear costumes when I’m on the computer. Ha ha!

Then we dashed off to the dance practice in anticipation of the grand costumed ball that evening.  The caller was much too quiet for us to hear her in a room that large, and the general sense in the room was one of chaos. :)  But nonetheless we did get the gist of what we were supposed to be doing, and it helped quite a lot in feeling prepared for such an important event that evening.

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It’s hard to get clear pictures while dancing, but I’m very thankful to Anita for taking some and sending them along to me!

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After a wonderful afternoon of twirling away, it was time to head back to the hotel to prepare for the monumental events of that evening.  Getting ready for the ball was so marvelously fun, but I will wait until next time to share more photos of my ball gown and the steps that went into making it. 

Hope you all enjoyed this “trip” to Bath!

Happy sewing,

Katrina