Story of a dress: my blue ballgown

You’ve seen it already in pictures, I wore it to the ball in Holland. This dress was one which caused me multiple headaches and unnecessary worry. I don’t know why I was so obsessed about it, wanting it to be perfect, and of course wanting something to be perfect puts the pressure on. I had grand ideas and plans, I was going to make an embroidered silk gown that would stunn everyone to silence when they saw it. I realised after a couple of attempts that I have no skills whatsoever when it comes to embroidery! Maybe it’s not a question of skill, just lack of practice, but point was that there was no way the dress was going to turn out as I had envisioned it in my head. So, change of plan. I needed to be a bit more realistic! 😛

I will say straight away that this dress was far from perfect. But I am relatively pleased with it and quite like it, even if it wasn’t exactly what I had been dreaming of.

I decided a while back that I wanted to make a dress with details. Details has been something I’ve been rather sparse with on my previous dresses. One reason being that it takes a lot of time to do much detail, but the main reason I think is that once I get to the stage in an outfit when it is time to add details I often find it nicer without them. Maybe it is because I’m Swedish and we have a deep-rooted liking for clean and not too fussy designs. But I had decided I wanted a little more detail at least.

After numerous late nights tossing and turning in my bed, with ideas (or rather lack of them) spinning around my head I finally decided on what I wanted. A lot of time spent looking at dresses in books and online (I have never much used it before but can I just say for this; thank goodness for Pintrest!) helped me reach that point too.

So what had I decided on? Well my main sources of inspiration were these three beautiful portraits.

On the far left is Hortense de Beauharnais (daughter of Empress Joséphine Bonaparte) middel picture is Caroline Murat and far right is Baronesse Mathieu de Favier.
I love all of these dresses, I like the dark, rich looking velvet and the texture of it. Silks and velvets are such delicious materials!

So I bought a few meters of a dark navy blue velvet and made myself a dress. As usual I used my trusted Sense & Sensibility Pattern, making slight alterations such as making a V neckline and moving the opening from the back to the side under the arm. I made tiny little gathers at the back in order to reduce the bulk which can easily form with such a heave fabric (BTW, you don’t often see velvet dresses in many of the film adaptations of this era but they did exist and were even quite popular, especially in the winter months).
I then decorated it, after much debating with myself, with pearls. I have not seen many examples of Regency dresses decorated with pearls, but I’ve seen a few examples and that was enough to convince me that it would be alright for me to do that. So I bought a whole stack of packages with little wax covered plastic pearls (alas my funds did not allow me to use real ones! 😛 ) and tried a multitude of different arrangements before deciding on this way.

Quite a few of the dresses you see in portraits and fashion plates from this era have little (or sometimes not so little) ruffs of various kinds around the neckline and I wanted to try to add something like that. But I have a strong personal dislike of using synthetic fabrics and materials and I struggled finding something that would look good without being too modern or to plasticy. In the end I settled on using the two pieces I had left of the Nottingham lace I bought on a visit to Nottingham a few years back. I like that lace because it has such nice details and is so delicate without being synthetic, something which is not easy to find around here. So maybe I need to pay another visit to Nottingham now that I’ve run out…
The effect wasn’t quite like in the portraits but still I was relatively happy with the added detail the lace provided. And to my delight I found it would stand up without any aid whatsoever.

So that is my newest Regency dress. A few months old now granted but only used once so far. I rather liked the fact that it is so much heavier than my other dresses for this era. Maybe won’t be so nice in summertime but for a ball in February it certainly felt more appropriate.

I just want to include this picture taken at the ball. At the event there was a very talented photographer from Paris who, for a fee, took photos of the guests who wanted and turned them into these beautiful portraits! It is such a lovely memory to have from the event and I am only looking for a suitable frame for my picture now and somewhere to put it. 🙂

All our snow is finally melted and everything is turning a lovely shade of green, maybe I can get my sister to do another photo shoot with me in the next coming week or so, I have another garment I want to show you. 🙂

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4 Responses to Story of a dress: my blue ballgown

  1. The sister says:

    Haha, I can see my photo-taking-skills are wanted 😉

  2. Priscilla .W says:

    Lovely dress, illustrations, and photograph!!

  3. I love this dress! It looks so great on you, and I love the fact that it’s not what I usually see in film/tv adaptations or at dances. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen velvet or pearls, and now I would love to try my hand with both!

  4. Jennifer says:

    I love your new dress. The details are lovely and add interest without making the dress look “over-trimmed.” Very elegant.

    The portrait is beautiful, too.

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