February 13, 2014

Millinery Flowers as Trim on Regency Ball Gowns

The Drunk Tailor and I decided on a whim (spurred by a wonderful Southwest sale) to head up to Massachusetts for the Dolley Madison Ball hosted by the Commonwealth Vintage Dancers.  I used to live in the Boston area but hadn't been back in over three years, so it was a wonderful opportunity to visit friends and play in Regency clothes in on fell swoop!

I had grand plans to make a net ball dress, but the silk organdy I was using was so infuriating that I couldn't bring myself to finish.  Instead, I re-purposed by well-worn Laure Bro white voile gown.  I decided to actually use some of the hundreds of paper millinery flowers I have taking up space in my house, and went to the fashion plates to gather some inspiration:

Journal des Dames et des Modes, 1813

Ackermann's Repository of the Arts, Ball Dress, October 1816

Journal des Dames et des Modes, Ball Dress, 1808.

Journal des Dames et des Modes, 1808

Journal des Dames et des Modes, Ball Dress, 1809

Journal des Dames et des Modes, Ball Dress, 1821.

La Belle Assemblee, Court Dress, 1819.

La Belle Assemblee, Ball Dress, June 1811.

The Lady's Magazine, Ball Dress, November 1825.

Journal des Dames et des Modes, Ball Dress, 1804.
They are all lovely gowns, but in particular I loved this last one and that was the one that gave me the most inspiration. Unfortunately I didn't bring enough flowers with me to do the arrangement of the flowers up the center front of the gown.  That was poor planning on my part, having just packed a bunch of flowers and leaves without really seeing how many I would need to do this arrangement.  I also used paper lilies instead of my roses, but overall I was very pleased with the effect!

These are the lilies and paper leaves I used, both of which are available in my Etsy shop

Each festoon was 1 cluster of five lilies, with three leaves on either side.  I used a few extras to accent the ribbon tie (inspired by Quinn's post on adding some variety to where we tie the ribbons on our Regency gowns!) and to stick in my hair.  We joked that I was the Regency Frieda Kahlo all night, but I think the overall look was pretty lovely, if I say so myself!  I feel like I capture the look of the fashion plates, and I think the flowers in the hair is what really put the look over the top!

As you can see, I accessorized with one of my Collet Necklaces, just like so many of the ladies in the fashion plates!

And a silly dancing fashion-plate pose, of course!
Action shot!
We had a really marvelous time.  The music was wonderful, I was really impressed with the quality of the costumes, the setting in a historic hall was perfect, and everyone was very friendly even though I messed up the steps in every single dance.  You know it has been a good time when they play the last dance and you think "What?!  Already?  But we just got here, didn't we?!"  I'm ready to go back again, and if you are in the New England area you should really make an effort to attend one these functions.


  1. Oh how delightful is your flower accented dress! You look just like the last image! How fun and the flowers are beautiful! I think the flowers and sash really made the dress look very festive!


  2. Oh, lovely! Simple, but so effective! Considering how popular flower-bedecked ballgowns were, and how easy they are to put together, it's surprising you don't see them more often these days. Did you find the flowers weighed your skirts down, or was their still good movement to them? That point has always puzzled me especially on the ones with the floaty voile over gowns.

    1. Hi Victoria! They didn't, and I was really surprised. I figured it would be problematic, but if anything I think it made the skirts better for dancing because the added weight gave the hem some "swing" which looked really nice when I twirled around!

  3. Great post Taylor! Thanks for all the pretty fashion plates with examples too.

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  5. Dear Taylor,
    So gorgeous - I LOVE your dress! All of those pretty tucks and flowers! You look like you've just stepped out of one of those fashion plates!
    Keep inspiring us,
    Anneliese :)

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