1824 Christmas Dress

1824 Dress modelled by Addy
1824 Dress modelled by Addy (Pre-Mattel)

Josefina's Pretty Clothes pattern collection

After the disappointing size issue of the last dress, and being determined to make Addy a dress that would fit her, I decided that for this outfit I was going to use an original Pleasant Company pattern. This is the Christmas Dress from “Josefina’s Pretty Clothes”, which I downloaded from AG playthings (along with the other five collections). With a date of 1824 it’s a little late for Regency, but it has the raised waistline and puffed sleeves that I wanted. In fact, my main concern was distortion, given that I was using a PDF scan of a photocopy of a pattern, but as far as I can tell the distortion (if any) is minimal). I left out the long sleeves and the neck ruffle, and added a lining to the bodice.

The fabric I used was a pretty white-on-lilac cotton that I got from Hobbysew a few weeks ago. Although the print resembles the white-on-yellow print I used for the Bib-Front Dress, the base fabric is much thicker and has a lot of sizing in it.

For the lining I chose a purple cotton voile which is a bit dark — pink would have been better but I didn’t have any pink at the time. Of course I found some a couple of days after the bodice lining was finished. Typical. I’m glad that the purple doesn’t show too much through the lilac, but I’ll definitely use pink for this fabric in future.

As usual, all seams were sewn with 100-wt silk thread and overcasting was with single strand cotton floss.

Bodice fitting
I tried the bodice and the bodice lining on Addy to check the fit before going any further. I was very pleased to see that the shoulders were flat at the neckline and the bodice circumference was good with a 3/8″ overlap for closures. The darts didn’t add much, to be honest, but leaving them out would add a half-inch to the bodice circumference at the bottom so I’ll have to work out how to modify the pattern.

I wasn’t happy with the side back attachment. The seam is curved (which makes sense for human backs but not for dolls) and try as I might I was not able to get the pieces lined up so that the armscye was smooth. (Yes, I did pin through the seam lines and intersections but it still didn’t work.). Given that the overall fit was good I simply trimmed off the excess. Bias edges are very forgiving of that kind of fudging, luckily. I also resewed the bottom of the seam to eliminate the fold you can see.

The sleeves were supposed to be long but I didn’t want long sleeves so I cut a 5½” x 1¼” strip and bound the bottom of the puffs instead. The thick fabric made stitching the gathers down a little difficult — there were some small gaps when I checked the seams so I ended up stitching each set of gathers twice, once from each side.
Inside bodice
No lining was included in the instructions but I wanted one to cover all the raw edges. I added 2 mm to the armscye but ended up cutting most of it off, which amused me.

Finally, I added a white ribbon above the waist seam to echo the skirt edge (see below) and to raise the apparent waistline a little higher (it’s on the low end the Regency range). I managed to add a bodice closure this time, using some small clear plastic snap fasteners — they aren’t very strong but this dress isn’t going to be subjected to a lot of handling and there won’t be much stress on the stitches.

Hem treatment
Skirt construction went very well for the most part, but when I checked the pattern instructions (long after cutting out the material) I found that they had only allowed a quarter-inch for the hem — presumably the intention was for the maker to overlock/serge the edge and then turn it up. If the fabric had been thinner I would have tried a 1/8″double-turned hem (I’ve done it before, on the cuffs of the English Gown V2) but this fabric is too thick. I really didn’t want an overcast + single turned hem as it would have been too visible, and turning twice would have made the hemline too high. Instead I used another technique I’ve used before (mainly with lace) and covered the raw edge with trim. Because this trim was going to be all on the outside, rather than peeping out from underneath, there was an additional step — when I got to the final 1/2″ of the side and centre back seams I cut the seam allowance (very carefully!) down to the stitching line and sewed the final part of the seam with wrong sides together, so that the raw edges were on the outside. I turned up the 1/4″ hem to the outside, basted it and then stitched white satin ribbon over the raw edge. I wasn’t able to enclose the ribbon ends in the seams, of course, so they had to be doubled over and stitched down, making it a little thick at the centre back. The hem is slightly curved so I made sure that the ribbon was pinned down frequently enough that I could ease in the excess without any visible puckers.

Because of the thickness of the fabric I opted for a separate petticoat, which I made from the same purple voile as the bodice lining. I made the skirt front flat, added knife pleats at the sides and gathers at the back. The ties are 6mm cotton twill. It ended up a little short, but then the hem is relatively high so it fits well.

1824 Dress front view
1824 Dress side view
1824 Dress back view
I am really happy with the way the bodice turned out, especially the shoulders. The sleeves don’t puff as much as some of the other dresses but I think that’s a combination of the thicker, stiffer fabric and my mediocre gathering skills. The hem is a little high but that was the fashion in 1824 so I can’t complain. I love the way the white ribbon looks — I may add a bow over the centre back and maybe also centre front, but that’s a decision for another day (and after I practise making bows over a two-tine fork). The colour is fantastic on Addy and I can see more purple clothes in her future (also crimson and bottle green).

Lessons Learned:
1. Read the instructions before cutting the fabric!
2. Curved side back seams are not good for doll clothes.
3. Thick fabric + gathers is not a good combination.

Notes for future versions:
1. Change the curved back/side back seam to a straight seam.
2. Add another half-inch to the hemline to allow a 1/2″ or 3/8″ hem, and an additional half-inch if I want the dress to be longer.
3. Add half an inch or so to the puffed sleeve length.
4. Extend the area over which the gathers are sewn on both the upper and lower edges of the sleeve — you only need an inch on the upper and a half-inch on the lower edge to be flat.