Regency attire on a budget: The finished dress!

If you’ve been following the blog, you know I’ve been prepping for a Regency ball, but on a Catherine Morland budget. I thought I’d share the final result, but you can stay tuned for more posts about future outfits, accessories, etc.

To refresh your memory, here’s the dress I started with. (Acquired at Ross.)

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I removed the sequins and added a blue ribbon around the middle. (And I’ll probably add blue ribbon to the sleeves at some point too.) The dress Jane Bennet wears in the 2005 “Pride and Prejudice” film was my inspiration for alterations and improvements.

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As you can see, unless I wanted to be scandalous and have bare shoulders, I needed sleeves as well. I used a pattern I had drafted back in 2011 (because when I was in college I majored in Journalism but unofficially minored in miscellaneous crafts). I HIGHLY suggest drafting your own sleeve pattern. It comes in handy and helps you understand clothing construction better.

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I went to JoAnn’s to match the fabric as much as I could. The white from the store was noticeably whiter (like bleached fabric white), so I washed it and dipped scraps of it in tea until I got something less neon, and something more muted. I ended up with fabric that looked too dark to my eye, but was less atrocious than the fluorescent color. The above photo is a draft. I pinned it in place to make sure it would work and gauge the gathering I was going to be able to do (my philosophy is that more fabric means more room for pleats and covering up mistakes).

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Here’s me posing right after I finished attaching the final version of the sleeves. So proud. So tired.

The two photos above are how it looked when I was all dolled up for the ball. I accessorized with a necklace I inherited from a relative, white gloves, a fan, a shawl (not pictured) and a beaded headband.

My dress (and sleeves) lasted the night! I was most proud of that. I’ve done a lot of cons and dances where costumes have been perfect for all of five minutes before falling apart. I had a lot of compliments on my dress and proudly told folks I bought it at Ross.

A vast majority of the ladies sported Regency dresses, in some fantastic colors and patterns, but I still felt like I blended in slightly with my modern frock. I really liked that the fabric was flowy and stretchy because I needed the flexibility to dance.

Future plans: Maybe add ribbon to the sleeve edges, buttons up the back for effect and a subtle lace border along the neckline. I may do none of these things though.

Verdict: I did what I set out to do; I went to a ball in a great dress. In the future I may make my own legit Regency dress from scratch, but this serves me well for now.

Let me know if you have any questions! It’s a real treat to attend a ball and feel like your favorite Jane Austen heroine, and I think you should feel good about it whether your living on an Emma Woodhouse budget or living the Catherine Morland life.

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