Hand-making a Regency-Inspired Dress from a Thrifted Sheet #ZeroWasteSewing

Two-weeks ago, I rewatched the 1995 movie Sense and Sensibility. As always, I loved it. But I was particularly struck this time by how much I loved all the pastel colors that women wore back then. I find it so relaxing to look at pastels, so I began thinking that it might be nice to wear them.

Sister act: Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet in the 1995 film of Sense and Sensibility.

Credit:Photograph: Everett Collection /Copyright:Everett Collection / Rex Feature

I also noticed more that every woman in the movie had a specific style that really was an extension of her personality. I didn’t notice a single dress that looked like it could be worn by another character in the movie.

During the Regency period, before department stores were everywhere, dresses were designed specifically for each woman with her specific tastes in fashion involved. Sure, there was a general style of the time (the empire waist, for example), but dressmakers could make most everything else about the dress specific to the lady commissioning it.

Modern day clothing is mostly dictated by the colors and styles that are chosen by the big design houses (Saint Laurent, Ballenciaga, Burburry, etc.). Then, those designs and colors are further narrowed by the celebrities who can afford to purchase them. Once they, the elite, have chosen which designs and colors they want to wear and share through their massive social media following, the styles trickle down to the low-quality fast fashion stores like Zara, H&M, ASOS, Target, etc. for cheap copies that the average consumer will end up wearing.

To me, that system is unbearable. I’ve always dreamed of making my own clothes in any style or color that I could imagine. To be stuck wearing whatever was available (before I had learned to sew) left me constantly unsatisfied with my clothing and appearance. For the entire time I’ve been sewing, I’ve used this skill to make long comfortable skirts that I would never be able to find at a traditional department store or fast fashion outlet. But, my end goal has really always been to be able to sew even more than that…to be able to sew anything that I dreamt up anytime that I wanted to 🙂

 

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And so, 2 weeks ago when I was thrift shopping and found an ivory-colored sheet with pale pink flowers on it, I knew it was too pretty a pattern to just be a sheet…it needed to be a dress. It is a beautifully thick combed cotton material, and cost a mere $1.99 🙂

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I made the bodice pattern from seam ripping a poor-quality thrifted dress that had ideal dart placement for me. The dress was cute, but had a polyester lining that I wasn’t willing to deal with, and was also very short. That being said, it was made by J.Crew so it has better structure than a lot of fast fashion clothing does.

I spent an episode or two of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries doing said seam ripping, then I traced the bodice pieces onto some scrap newspapers. I also removed the zipper to use it for my new dress. Doing this gave me quite a lot of unexpected confidence around zippers…I now felt ready to finally try inserting one myself.

I cut all of the bodice pieces out of the sheet, making sure that I was consistent with the grain of the fabric. For the sleeves, I made the top wider so I could make very casual puffed sleeves. I did the basting and gathering by hand for the sleeves, and I must say, I’ll never gather another way again! 😀 It was so much easier to control the fabric.

After ironing all of the pieces and pinning the darts in, I also cut lining pieces for the bodice from a plain ivory thrifted sheet. Even though I did make a simple chemise as well, I wanted a little extra thickness so I wouldn’t feel the need to wear a bra in this dress.

Lastly, I cut the circle skirt from the sheet in two parts and attached them to the bodice. I plan to add a pale green ruffle to the bottom of the dress with other thrifted bed linens. 🙂 Also, I plan to make some quilted dress guards (armpit pads) with some scrap linen so that I won’t have to wash the whole dress after wearing it.

 

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All in all, I’m thrilled to have completed this project successfully because it means that I’m finally going to be able to make full-length dresses anytime I find the right fabric! I plan to replicate this dress with different types of sleeves, skirts, and fabrics many times.  🙂

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