Regency Dress for the Modern Occasion
What to wear to the Ball? This age old question has tormented women for centuries. If you’ve ever been invited to an event requiring period costuming the question becomes all that much more difficult.
When period dress is encouraged for the occasion, it is often, by no means demanded. It is more important to come to the party than to spend all evening worrying about what to wear. When attending a function that includes dancing, comfort would suggest full skirted dresses (or a skirt and blouse) and flat soled shoes. A step up from that would be a formal or semi-formal evening wear. Now would be a perfect time to pull out that bridesmaids dress or prom gown you’ve been storing.
The basic components of a Regency gown are a floorlength (or slightly shorter) dress with raised waistline, and short (puffed) or elbow-length (striaght) sleeves. Accessories include gloves (elbow or opera length) shawls, fans, and any headpiece you might want to add. Headbands, turbans, feathers, flowers and ribbons were traditionally used. Jewelry of the time included pearls, coral, precious and semi-precious stones.
In order to obtain a period appropriate gown, you can purchase a Regency type dress, have a gown made for you or make one yourself. Fortunately, with Jane Austen’s popularity at an all time high, Regency styled dresses have come back into style. Check your local Wedding Gown supplier (like David’s Bridal), Department Store (J.C. Penney, Harrods, etc.) or thrift store for an acceptable update. There are also many seamstresses available on-line.
Many seamstresses own Regency Gown patterns already. For those that don’t, a few lists are posted at Austentation: Sewing History (These patterns are available in most fabric departments in the United States- Jo-Anns, Wal-Mart, Hancocks, etc.) and Online Resources.
Fabrics suitable for gowns range anywhere from cotton prints and stripes to silk or satin. Truly authentic gowns are fastened with buttons (preferably covered), not zippers as suggested in most commercial patterns. Try a corset or boned Chemise for that extra bit of “uplift”. These can be bought or made – there are many such patterns available on the lists provided.
The most important part is to come and have a good time.
Written for JASNA-CT. Their first Assembly Ball is scheduled for March 9, 2002, in Chester, Connecticut. Visit their site, www.jasnact.org, for further details.
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