Wednesday, April 3, 2019

New Regency Ballgown

I made this ballgown for the Locust Grove Ball in February. 

Photo credit Historic Locust Grove 

This was mostly based on this example, sketched out in Costume in Detail 

I actually fished the fabric out of my stash (yay, destashing!). This was a cotton sari I had bought from Regency Revisited eons ago, and totally forgotten about! I really need to go through my fabric tubs more, you find the greatest things!

Costume in Detail pages 103-104

The first part of this project involved my amazing fiance helping me make a duct tape dress form. I didn't actually take pictures of this, because I honestly was too afraid it wouldn't work out. In the end, it *mostly* did, and it has been invaluable! Also the whole affair was pretty fun, though I don't know what anyone walking by our dining room windows thought! (Fun fact we live next to a funeral home...) 

We fit the duct-tape form with my regency stays on, so I could drape on the right bustline. I stuffed the inside with pollyfill and plastic trash bags. Having this made a HUGE difference! I was able to drape a mock-up over the perfect bustline (though I have no photos for the same reason). 

When I tried on the mock-up, there did seem to be some distortion around the armsceye. However I was able to solve it pretty easily by just slashing it and redrawing the curve. 

A lot of this project was just taking the time to set the the gathers how I wanted them. It was time consuming, but it was a fun and satisfying process.  I gathered the front and back onto a piece of tape right under the bustline to provide stability. 

I cannot TELL you how much I agonized over the direction the peacocks were going here. Ultimately I decided it was fine, but Brian was pretty entertained to hear my muttering that the 'the damn turkeys are going the wrong way!"

Once the bodice was done, I just had to place the skirt, which was pretty easy.

I tried to keep the front smooth, but keep pleats on the back and sides. The original  had them mostly towards the back, but I like to add some on the sides as well so everything flows well over my hips. 

After I had pinned everything in place, I topstitched it. I was able to mostly hide the stitching, but there is also a line of stitching showing on the sketch in CID, do don't worry too much about. Topstitching is totally period. 


You can kind of see the stitching for the drawstring channel under the bust, but from the sketch in CID it looks like it is like that on the original. 

I ran into some issues because the ribbon I used for the drawstring was not long enough, and ended up popping back into the channel as I put the dress on. I was able to fish it out, but I really should have known  better. 

I finished this dress about an hour before I left for the ball, so I pretty much realized there would be some issues putting it on the first time and went in prepared. Luckily my friend Tom Tumbusch was there to help me get dressed, and he is AWESOME.

One other thing I realized far too late in this process was that I should have traced a line showing where my stays sit on the dressform. As it was I may have made the dip in the back a *little* too low. Luckily  Tom was able to help tuck everything down and pin it in place. I think I can alter it pretty easily before I wear it again, but I also need to just trace the darn stay lines on this thing.

Making a duct tape bodice over your stays is great, BUT
  • You will still need to do a mock-up!
  • Draw a line showing where your stays are on the the dressform.
  • Longer drawstrings are better than not long enough! 

With the ladies of the Indiana Historical Costuming Society. This was a really fun night.
Photo credit Historic Locust Grove.


  1. Nice one.. Creative sew.. This fabric is very smooth and idea is brilliant.

    1. I just saw this- thank you so much for your kind words!

  2. Je suis en France et je voudrais participer