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.