Regency-era fashions were influenced by Josephine Bonaparte, a fashion icon of her day, the Greek marbles acquired by Lord Elgin when he was ambassador to the Ottoman court and the Egyptian art brought back to Europe by Napoleon's soldiers. Women wore fashions based on a Greek silhouette and made in light fabrics that draped well. According to Pauline Weston Thomas, from Fashion-Era.com, gowns had a very low neckline, an Empire waist and short puffy sleeves, and they were embellished with ribbon, lace and woven trim with Greek and Egyptian designs.
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Things you need
- Dress-making pattern
- Pastel embroidered or subtly striped cotton fabric for day wear
- Silk, lightweight wool or velvet for evening wear
- Lace, ribbon and embroidered trim with Greek or Egyptian motifs
- Velvet or wool for a jacket
Select a dressmaking pattern with an Empire waist, low-cut bodice and short puffy sleeves. The skirt should be long and narrow. Make the dress with lightweight cotton for day wear, or silk for evening wear. Trim the sleeves, neckline and hem with lace or ruffles. Trim the Empire waist with ribbon that ties in the front.
Use pastel fabrics for day wear, with small stripes. White was a sign of social status, kept for evening wear. In the winter, daytime dresses were made of heavier fabric such as linen and lightweight wool, with silk for evening wear. Full-length slips made of warmer fabric like flannel gave additional warmth.
Make a Spencer jacket to wear over the dress. The Spencer jacket was a tight short-waisted jacket with long sleeves that buttoned in the front. It was made of heavier fabric, wool or velvet, for warmth. Choose a form-fitting jacket pattern with long sleeves. Shorten the jacket to just above the waist, and cut the neckline to the same level as the dress you are making. The jacket often had military touches. Add epaulettes, or decorative shoulders pieces, for a military flavour.
Add a short train in the back of the dress for evening wear and make a shawl of matching or contrasting fabric. Shawls were embellished with Greek and Egyptian motifs. Look for trim with a Greek key pattern, for instance, or Egyptian lotus flowers, scarabs, hieroglyphics or palm fronds.
Tips and warnings
- Search through illustrations of Regency fashions online or in books on fashion history. Think Jane Austen. Watch costume dramas like "Pride and Prejudice" to see how women dressed in the Regency-era.
- Add accessories to your Regency dress, such as a drawstring purse made of velvet, a Greek hairstyle and delicate jewellery with Greek or Egyptian symbols.
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