Jessamyn's Regency Costume Companion: Historical Work

A Midsummer Night's Dream.

In addition to creating a bridesmaid's gown that suited a Midsummer Night's Dream theme, I had to be sure it would fit and flatter Jacqueline, who would be seven months pregnant at the wedding. I suggested a gown loosely based on 15th-century styles. The materials used were all "changeable" or "shot" - that is, the threads in opposite directions are different colors. This causes the color to change in the light and as the wearer shifts the folds and angles of the gown; both colors are flattering to Jacqueline. The bodice and sleeves are silk duppioni, the underskirt is taffeta, and the overskirt and sleeve puffs are Indian cotton organdie, all trimmed with silver brocade ribbon. The lacing in back, with a broad placket behind, allows some size adjustment for a changing body.

The quality of the fabrics can be seen best in the mannequin shots. Click on the thumbnails for full-size images. Price: from $500

The dress is just so utterly beautiful!
Everyone gave me positively tons of compliments.
I just can't tell you how happy I was
and what an amazing job you did.
- Jacqueline

Gothic Fantasy.

WENDY KNEW just what she wanted for her wedding dress - she had torn a clipping of an 18th-century-inspired gown out of Victoria magazine years before. It turned out I had saved exactly the same clipping! Since the original photo didn't really show much of the front of the gown, I sent Wendy pictures of genuine 18th-century stomachers to get ideas. She chose a faux-silk satin for the body of the gown to save costs (there is a lot of yardage here), but sprung for a lush combination of silk brocade, braid, and a faux lacing for the bodice front. All the edges of the gown are trimmed with piping, and self-fabric ruffles, and gathered lace. Self-fabric roses hold back the overskirt fronts, and bows accent the elbows of the three-quarter sleeves.

Wendy clearly loves drama and knows how to do a gown like this justice! Price: $750 as shown; $900 in silk

My wedding pictures are my most treasured possessions...
I still can't get over what an incredible job you did.
I am so grateful for the hard work you put into making
my gown perfect for me. It is absolutely exquisite.
- Wendy

Pride and Prejudice.

A PROM DRESS based on Regency designs. Leah had a particular shade of mauve in mind, and we wound up selecting this glazed cotton drapery fabric with a woven-in dot (which is invisible in this poor photo). I was a bit concerned about the weight of the fabric, but it came out well and has, unsurprisingly, a lovely drape. Leah filled out the bodice better than my under-endowed mannequin!

Price: from $250 in lighter cottons, $325 in silk

I absolutely love it, thank you sooo much!
I was having fun just prancing around the house in it.
I can't wait to wear it to the prom.
- Leah

Gone With the Wind.

IF YOU'VE SEEN Gone With the Wind, you may recognize this as a pared-down version of the gown Scarlett O'Hara wears to the barbecue. I was asked to create it for a woman who'd been invited to a Gone With the Wind-themed New Year's party. It features a full net petticoat instead of hoops so it would be easier to wear (and drive in!) and is fuller on a real person than on my mannequin, who has no legs to hold out the skirts. It is boned to help hold its shape, and it laces up the back. The decorative waistband and ribbon trim are both green velvet, although they look almost black here. The fabric is a lovely, soft, lightweight, almost sheer cotton voile printed with sprigs of violets, lined throughout with a rustly white satin.

Click on the thumbnails for larger images. Price: about $450

I want to thank you for your wonderful workmanship!
The dress is outstanding to say the least. You did a great job.
- Pamela

Breakfast at Tiffany's.

JUST FOR FUN, Here I am as Audrey Hepburn for Halloween. I made the dress from a genuine 1960s pattern, which definitely helped give it the right look. It's black cotton velvet (so it can be laundered, always a good thing in a costume), and a very flattering, classic shape that makes this a perfect "little black dress."

Because it's so closely fitted, this gown would require a full-length muslin mockup. It would be fabulous in red Chinese brocade, too!Price: from $300

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