Thursday, April 4, 2013

Making gowns in the style of 1813 to celebrate 200 years of Pride and Prejudice

I have been living in 1813 for the past few months making gowns for a client who will wear them at the Jane Austen Festival in Canberra where we will celebrate the 200 anniversary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice.

My client had bought the four delicious silk sarees for her gowns. Shawl and saree gowns were all the rage in the early 19th century and there are many examples to enjoy in the fashion journals of the time.

The beautiful gown to the left is a fine example of a shawl gown, using the patterns woven into the shawl as the major feature of the dress

My brief was to keep things simple, use the saree fabric as the main decoration but ensure an 1813 fashionable silhouette. 

So what are the elements of an 1813 gown?
The skirt shape has lost its flowing classical lines and become more conical, an A-line shape at the front. This has been happening over the last few years, especially in France.  The classical style hasn't disappeared completely, you will still see gowns made along these lines, but if your a modern follower of fashion you are probably sporting an A-line front to your skirt. The back is still using gathers and is quite full, but the length is the same as the front.

A very short bodice, bodice length has been getting higher and your 'waistline' sits just under your bust line. V-necks are very fashionable, especially for full dress (evening gowns), sitting right on the edge of your shoulders. Coloured bodices and white skirts are also popular.

Puffed, short sleeves with long sleeve extensions are very fashionable. The romantic styles of the Tudors and the Renaissance are influencing your sleeve styling.

Colour has become fashionable again, thankfully!

Your gown is short, particularly a French gown, its above your ankles showing off your lovely slippers and those pretty clocks on your silk stockings.

Visit my 1813 Pinterest board to see the styles and variations during the years 1810- 1814.

So, with all this in mind, how did I create my four gowns? My pattern making was informed by Period Costume for Stage & Screen: Patterns for Women's Dress, 1800-1909 by Jean Hunnisett and Janette Haslam (Jun 1991). This is a fabulous resource as they outline the stylistic fashion changes during the Regency/Directoire/Empire periods.

NB: All these gowns are a size 12, draped on my size 8 dress dummy, so they are not hanging as well as they will on Gabriel.

Day gown
A beautiful gold and floral saree with a lovely white embroidered border.

I cut the 4 skirt panels to ensure that the saree border travelled around the bottom of the skirt. The front skirt has the A-line of 1813, the back, seen in the mirror is a gathered into the back bodice.

The bodice has darts and a drawn string neckline.

Gravity is exerting its toll on the sleeves at the moment.  They will be puff out when on the wearer, sitting midway up her bicep, so they will puff out nicely.

I used the saree border for my binding on sleeves and neck and under the bodice to break up the gold.

Dinner gown

I adore the peach and gold tones in this silk saree.

A fitted bodice with a square neckline and puffed sleeves.

I cut the front panel from the patterned end of the saree. I then matched the saree border in the three other skirt pieces and it all joins 'seamlessly', trust me, lol!

This gown has all the elements as above of A-line skirt, short puffed sleeves, saree border used as binding .

 Full dress (evening gown)
Jade and emerald green with beautiful embroidery ensured that this saree became full dress. Gabriel is a is a vocal performer, so this gown will be worn during one of her performances.

I used a different skirt style for this gown as I wanted to use all the embroidered part of the saree on the front panel. Instead of three A-Line front and side skirt pieces, this 1810 style has darts that create it instead. Its not as pronounced, but I wasn't going to cut into this beautiful embroidery!

The bodice has a ruffled insert, the neck still has a draw string to tighten across the bust line, but the v neckline will remain. The back neckline has a low V line as well.

The sleeves use a Renaissance style to create interest.

Full dress (evening gown)
Stitched together by my assistant, her first full Regency gown, she's done a lovely job and is currently making matching reticules.

Hmm, a tad low at the back, might need a lace fichu!

Fresh water pearls on bodice and sleeves

Bad photos, the saree silk is so sheer you can see through to the underlining!

Phoebe has set herself up an Etsy shop as well, go and check it out.

I'm The Tailor's Apprentice and I have created The Miss Page Vintage Pattern Collection. 1940s WWII dress making patterns for the 21st century woman. Patterns created by me from my extant 1940s gowns. All my patterns are available on Etsy and my website where you'll find out more about me as well. This year I am publishing an 1820s gown wardrobe pattern.


  1. very very impressive. I love Jane Austen and all of these dresses, especially the dinner gown!

    1. Thank you! This is what has been keeping me so busy and unable to focus on your interview opportunity! Next Tuesday though we will natter for ages and I'm so looking forward to it.

  2. Again... gorgeous Lorna!
    Love the evening elegant and classy and i'm sure complimentary to any shapes or sizes.


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