The Regency Wardrobe - making - the Ballgown

This post is mostly working pictures in the hope that it's interesting to see and because it helps in understanding what types of paper and processes I used to construct the dress.



Really I began just with this:


I started by folding and pinning the basic bodice shape around the mannequin, using this red Duni paper tablecloth 





I used card to stiften certain areas such as over the shoulders



 Then I began experimenting with the decoration


 I'd researched military medal shapes before I started (as I detail more in this post: ) and had decided to concentrate on the grandest going. I was applying therefore the shapes of the beautiful garter star, the Civil Knight Grand Cross Star of The Order of the Bath and the cross of the The Royal Guelphic Order. Aligning their halved outline forms meant I could use them around the border of the train.




 The back of a star







There is always waste though of course I try and recyle by reusing what I can, meaning I have boxes and boxes of off cuts of paper waiting for a future use. I like to work relaxedly, dropping off cuts and pins and cut off ends of thread on the floor as I go while I'm working then I have a big sweep up at the end of each day, which is equally satisfying.


I work using masking tape and pins to hold things in place and try them out as I go.




I was inspired both by the shape and colour of this fabulous liquid looking cloak...



(images and text are from Dressed to Kill: British Naval Uniform, Masculinity and Contemporary Fashions, 1748 - 1857 by Amy Miller)


And this fabulous ballgown of the period which (I believe) is held in a museum collection in Russia. I have been aiming for influences from all over the globe as regards the drawing room pieces and the chalked floor areas beneath them becase of the spread of military events at the time). That said there are various images of it online one crediting it to: Regency England 1811-1820 another to Empire France 1799-1814. It is described as a gold embroidered silk moire ceremonial dress, and in is said by more than one source to have been owned by the Dowager Tsarina Maria Fyodorovna, who according wikipedia was: "...known before her marriage as Princess Dagmar of Denmark...(she) was a Danish princess and Empress of Russia as spouse of Emperor Alexander III (reigned 1881–1894). She was the second daughter and fourth child of King Christian IX of Denmark and Louise of Hesse-Kassel; her siblings included Queen Alexandra of the United Kingdom, King Frederick VIII of Denmark and King George I of Greece. Her eldest son became the last Russian monarch, Emperor Nicholas II of Russia. She lived for ten years after he and his family were killed".





Therefore the shape of the dress and the sleeves plus red colour of my gown though I chose red also to signify the blood of battle for the symbolism of the dress is not straightwforward. For more on this please see:









When it came to decorating the front of the dress I knew I wanted a wedding cake shaped (ie. tiered) fountain of the period. So I asked The Regency Town House curator Nick Tyson if he could direct me toward an image of one. He said of course it must be the impressive Victoria Fountain in the Old Steine Brighton. This fountain of course is thought to be Victorian (hence it's name) but in fact it was begun in 1823. Please see:

With help from the RTH volunteers I reproduced in using paper quilling.






And after several months of work she was done and stood for a moment with a naval Admiral during the professional photoshoot where I took took a few quick behind the scenes shots of my own.





 Details of the finished train





Three land based style Regency era canons with embroidered plumes of smoke represent the actuality of the raging of war on the back of the dress


Beautiful military buttons representing land and sea are sewn down the side of the skirt. They were made by The Regency Town House volunteer Gilly Burton using coiled quilling paper as a base, card, paint and varnish.




I embroidered 4 sets of three teeth along the mid line of the end of the train to represent another gruesome truth about The Battle of Waterloo in particular. That is, that dead soldier's mouths were robbed of their teeth such that they might be wired together as dentures for the wealthy at home. To read more about this please see:




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