1820 Regency gown

1820 Regency Dress modelled by Samantha
1820 Regency Dress modelled by Samantha (2014 Be Forever)

Simplicity 8714 by Keepers Dolly Duds
For this outfit I used Simplicity pattern 8714 — it’s a Keepers Dolly Duds design but unfortunately it has none of the identifying information that KDD carries in their PDF patterns, nor does it have the additional historical information that most PDF patterns include. No reference year is given on this pattern but judging from the waist height and skirt length I’m opting for 1820.

I chose to make view B (the green dress) but I left out the sleeve detail and made it as a standard puff sleeve. I also added a lining to the skirt.

Most of this gown was made before my hand issue, so all I had to do was add the snap fasteners, which didn’t hurt too much.

I chose a tiny blue on white print I’ve had for ages — I only had 15″ but luckily it was enough. The lining was white voile. I used navy ribbon in two widths (3 and 9 mm) for the trim instead of pleated lace. The pattern indicated that neckline lace should be added between the bodice and lining but that’s very tricky with an inside corner so I left it out.

I know from making previous commercial doll patterns that they tend to be on the large side, so I sewed up the bodice lining first and tried it on Samantha. It fitted the shoulder well but was a little wide around the waist so I took the side seams in … and then realised that I’d forgotten the dart on the back bodice. Oh well, it still fits.

I added the narrow navy ribbon to the bodice front, arranged in a V pattern that met at the seamline. Unfortunately that neat little detail was covered up by the later waist ribbon — I’ll have to plan better next time.
1820 regency gown inside bodice
Bearing in mind my previous issues with bodice linings not matching the bodice under the sleeve, I checked that the bodice and lining matched exactly all around the armscye (they did) and then took the precaution of tacking the lining to the bodice at the side seam just under the armscye so that I couldn’t pull it down when sewing the lining over the skirt seam. This worked quite well but I’d forgotten to stay stitch the lining and I wasn’t confident of clipping the curves so I ended up overcasting anyway.
1820 regency gown inside skirt
The skirt was reasonably easy. I made quarter-inch pleats instead of gathers which matched the bodice waist almost exactly and required only the smallest of adjustments (but see below for draping issues). I had a small panic attack when I realised that after stitching the skirt and lining to the waistband I couldn’t stitch the placket closed. I ended up unstitching half an inch at each end of the waist seam, turning the lining and skirt fabric under, then whip-stitching them closed. (Yes, I know I could have left them loose but it would have meant trying to do a double-turned 1/8″ seam finish and I just wasn’t up to it.)

I used clear plastic snaps for the closure. They aren’t very strong but they work.

1820 regency gown front
1820 regency gown side
1820 regency gown back
The bodice fits well and the sleeves puff out very nicely. The ribbon makes you think that the waistline is close to breast-high, whereas in fact it’s barely above the natural waist. As you can see, there is a draping issue at the side front — the pattern said to match the side seams, but when I was doing the pleats the side seam ended up about half an inch to the rear. If I make this again I’ll space the back pleats out more and make sure that the side seams match (I’ll also remember that the back bodice is supposed to have darts in it).

I wasn’t very happy with the centre back closure because it’s a centre back skirt seam with a quarter-inch bodice overlap, so the open part of the skirt has to take on a V-shaped overlap which, in my experience, is never very successful. If I were to make this again I’d use half-inch seams and add 1/4″ to the proper right bodice so that the overlap would be smoother.

I’m also not a fan of the way it dips at the back (yes, she was wearing a bustle pad). I think that if the dress is supposed to be ankle high then it should be the same height all around; on the other hand, if the skirt has a train it should be close to floor length.

A decent pattern, but it highlights the limitations of commercial patterns in comparison with those available in PDF form. I wouldn’t like to be trying to make this without prior experience in doll dressmaking.

Lessons Learned:
1. Check the pattern for darts before making adjustments
2. If you’re eliminating a dart, make a note of how it affects nearby seams.
3. As a general rule, side seams of skirt and bodice should match
4. Tacking the bodice lining to bodice under the sleeve prevents it slipping down (yay!).
5. Adding a lining to a skirt can affect construction order
6. Trains do not suit ankle-length gowns.

Notes for future versions:
1. Alter the pattern at centre back — add 1/4″ to the proper right bodice and both centre back skirt seams.
2. Shorten the bodice by 1/4″.
3. Pin the side seams of skirt and bodice together before making pleats.
4. Either make the hem even or lengthen the skirt.

1940s panel dress

1940s panel dress modelled by Gabriela 2
1940s panel dress modelled by Gabriela 2

1940s Panel Dress pattern
For this outfit I used 1940s Panel Dress by Fashioned By Rebecca. I wasn’t particularly keen on the lace trims so I drafted a collar piece instead.

The dress is made in a purple spotted quilting cotton from Moda (I think it came from a quilt kit I cannibalised). The lining is an Australian Aboriginal design in purple from M&S textiles — the base fabric is much lighter and smoother than quilting cotton, almost a lawn. The collar and sleeve bands are an off-white cotton voile. I used ribbon for the waist ties instead of the dress fabric (because I loathe trying to turn long tubes). I added one decorative button to the centre front instead of two small buttons. For the fastening I intended to do buttons but I’ve had hand issues recently so I used a Velcro strip instead. The petticoat is in cotton homespun with a broderie anglaise flounce.

As this is a 20th century outfit, most of it was sewn on machine. The pattern was easy to follow — I was particularly grateful that each seam was labelled so that it was easy to match the right pieces together. On the other hand, the designer used a generous quarter-inch seam allowance which was difficult for me to achieve because my quarter-inch foot is designed for a quilter’s scant seam allowance. The back panels were 1/8″ over the width of the yoke pieces (which I managed to fudge) and the front panels were more than 3/8″ over which was unfudgeable.
Bodice rescue
As it happened, I had cut the pieces out rather late one night and wasn’t concentrating enough, so I accidentally cut two front yoke pieces rather than one on the fold. I decided to make a small pleated insert to make up the deficit. I cut it quite wide and long so that I could trim it to the exact dimensions required, which was lucky as the gap between the two pieces turned out to be close to 1″ — I guess I should be grateful that the two errors more or less compensated for each other.

I re-traced the pattern pieces, taking off 1/16″ from every seam edge so that the next version of the dress would be better. Then, in a fit of absent mindedness, I tore up the original pieces … and promptly realised that I hadn’t cut out the lining yet. I used the new pieces but I had to add that 1/16″ all around by eye. I also drafted a new front yoke piece to match the dimensions of the dress for this version only.
Panel dress skirt flare
Panel dress inside view
Panel dress seam finishes
The pieces all fitted together pretty well but because of the seam issue and, in particular because the lining and the dress were not cut from the same pattern pieces, I decided it was too much of a risk to stitch the lining to the dress around the hem in the way the pattern stated. You can just see in the flared photo that the skirt fabric has a larger circumference than the lining so it was a good call. Instead I finished all the seams by overcasting and did double-turned hems instead — 1/4″ for the dress and 3/8″ for the lining. The dress is consequently 1/4″ shorter than intended. Similarly I overcast the sleeve seams separately rather than trying to turn the lining over the allowance (or binding them as the pattern suggested).
Bodice close-up
The collar piece I had drafted and cut out is technically too small around the neck but it allows more of the pleated insert to be seen. I chose to use white voile (because it was still on the cutting table), and some very stiff interfacing I had used in another project recently. Unfortunately both choices were poor. The voile was too sheer and I would have been better off with a lawn or a poplin, even if it had to be polyester cotton rather than 100% cotton. At the same time the interfacing was too stiff and the collar doesn’t sit right. It was too small to understitch by machine and I didn’t fancy trying to hand-stitch through the very stiff interfacing, so the collar edge isn’t quite as neat as it could be, but it’s not bad. If I really wanted the rolled edge look I think I’d have to turn the outer curve seam allowances independently and stitch the pieces together by hand, or alternatively, stitch and understitch the main curve only before stitching the ends. I might try one or the other on the next version.

The back closure is a 6″ strip of 3/8″ low-profile Velcro which is a bit anachronistic, I know, but I just bought 15 yards via etsy and wanted to try it out. The loop side was easy to baste with glue but the hook side is more plastic-feeling and the glue didn’t set at all. I may have to pin or tack in place in future. I may also add purely decorative buttons at some stage.

Half-circle petticoat on Gabriela
Half-circle petticoat back view
About halfway through construction I decided that the skirt needed a petticoat in order to make the panels flare out. I drafted a pattern for a half-circle skirt where the circumference was slightly less than the skirt hem, the waist was large enough to fit Samantha 2 (PC late 1990s version) and the length was 5″, which is roughly the distance from waist to knee. I sewed a half-inch seam and turned the allowances in for a clean finish. I overcast the raw bottom edge by machine and then added a flounce of pre-gathered broderie anglaise edging — I had exactly (and I mean exactly) the same length as the skirt edge. There wasn’t enough for a seam, so I overcast the raw ends of the broderie and joined it with my very poor attempt at a faggotting stitch. The bound edge of the broderie gives the skirt a little stiffness so it flares well. The waist band was cut to Samantha’s size, with a one-inch overlap, and the curved waistline of the skirt was clipped and eased to fit. I added low-profile Velcro strips (note: it was easy to trim the width down from 3/8″ to 1/4″ and it was easy to sew through by machine). Naturally I then decided to use Gabriela 2 as my model instead of Samantha and the waistband is a little too large for her, so it’s pinned in place at the back.

The petticoat is a little long, which I should have expected when I added the flounce, and it’s also a bit larger in circumference than the dress for the same reason. I really like the half-circle look, though, and I think I’ll make it again in a better fabric. I might use cording or millinery wire at the hem instead of broderie for a smoother look.

1940s Panel dress front
1940s Panel dress side
1940s Panel dress back

Although the yoke is a little large on Gabriela I really love the look of this dress — it’s a very flattering design and the waist ties make it adjustable for different body sizes. I’ll definitely be making more doll dresses from this pattern now that I’ve worked out most of the kinks. The pattern is well written and has plenty of illustrations to help with construction (and, as I mentioned earlier, the skirt panel seams are all labelled to minimise confusion).
Panel dress seam finishes
I tried it on Samantha and as you can see the bodice is slightly less loose at the sides. The skirt flares a little without the petticoat but I definitely prefer the fuller look with the petticoat support.

Lessons Learned:
1. Small differences in seam allowance can add up to a significant shortage or overhang.
2. Don’t cut fabric when you’re tired.
3. Voile is too light and too loose for collars and cuffs — use a lawn or poplin if you can find it.
4. Doll collars need a lightweight interfacing, not the ultra-stiff kind used for machine appliqué.

Notes for future versions:
1. Re-trace the pattern, reducing each seam allowance on the panels by roughly 1/16″ (already done).
2. Layer the fabric and lining so that all panels are cut from the same pieces at the same time.
3. Either use the suggested lace trim or re-draft the collar.

Quick Note

I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned it before here, but I have a medical condition (auto-immune polyenthesitis) that makes me exceptionally prone to repetitive strain injury.** I was sewing through some rather thick fabric a couple of weeks ago and strained the first carpo-metacarpal joint in my left hand which affects my pinch grip. Since it’s very painful at present to hold any fabric (or books or magazines or forks or anything small) I haven’t been very productive. I have a couple of projects that I’m trying to complete by machine but it’s not easy. On past experience it’s going to be two to three months before I can get back to regular hand sewing but I will try to do as much as I can by machine in the meantime.

**On checking previous entries I find that I’ve mentioned the issues but not the actual condition.