Saturday, August 19, 2017

A Regency Beaded Evening Dress, c1805


After making a beaded Regency day dress last year, I knew I wanted another one. I had wanted one like this or this for quite some time. When we had our study day at the Museum of Fashion in Bath, we were able to see this dress in person and close up, so I knew that I'd be making a version of it sooner rather than later.

DSC_3052 DSC_3078

My dress is made of silky Swiss voile from Farmhouse Fabrics, beaded with number 8 Delica opaque luster seed beads from Fire Mountain Gems, and the bodice is lined with lightweight linen from Burnley and Trowbridge. My earrings are moonstone earrings from Dames a la Mode.

coco2017122 coco2017113

I wanted to make a fixed turban for the dress, but my attempts didn't work out. I think the fabric I was using was the wrong weight--it would look good wrapped on my head, then when I took it off, deflate. So instead, I used a triangular fichu, tied that on my head, and wrapped a long hemmed piece of voile around that and pinned it into place.


I used about 26,000 beads on the dress. They're sewn on with a back stitch reaching from bead to bead. The beads at the back waist on the bodice are reinforced. I sewed them again after the dress was done so they'd have a little protection from the waist tie.

I used graph paper to create a grid and then drew the dots on the dress with a mechanical pencil.


The beads are quite large, based on the original. Mine are actually a little smaller than the original dress's beads, if my memory is correct. The dress weighs nearly 2 and a half pounds. I needed to use a few more pins than usual because of the weight of the dress, and before I wear it again, I'm going to add more loops for the waist ties. The original dress didn't have ties or loops. It may have just been pinned originally, or it may have been altered.

The beads were comfortable to wear. I was a little worried about how the underarms would feel rubbing against the bodice, but I didn't even notice them. Sitting down was slightly odd--it felt like I was sitting on ball bearings and that I might slide off the chair, even though there really was no danger of that.


I was very curious about how the dress was going to drape. I thought that the train might just flop to the ground. I was very pleased that it draped nicely. I'm wearing it over my normal just above the ankle length strapped petticoat.


I used a ten inch hoop on the bodice, and a larger one for the skirt. Thankfully, the beads didn't get in the way of hooping the dress. I sewed most of the beads on the skirt using a curved needle (not shown here--of course my best hooped picture has a straight needle!), which meant I didn't need to guide the needle under the hoop and could have a handful of beads in my left hand.

2017-08-15_04-40-50 2017-08-15_04-39-45

After working on the dress off an on for about six months (more off than on--I wish I had paid more attention to time!) I washed it carefully in the sink and laid it flat to dry. To iron it, I put it beads down on top of a fluffy towel.


And I adore the way the light hits the dress in this picture. This picture, and the close ups above are by my friend, Llyra Lee, who's becoming a better photographer every day!

A beaded Regency evening dress, inspired by one in the Fashion Museum in Bath from Katherine on Vimeo.

And the dress in motion! Please excuse the Votes for Women temporary tattoo sticking out of the back. It's leftover from my dress from the previous day.