Monday, April 24, 2017

That Time I Wore a $4 Bed Sheet to a Regency Ball

A few weeks ago, we were leaving a friend's house and I mentioned how full our weekend of April 21-23 was looking. Then, she remarked, Oh, well, I was going to invite you to a Jane Austen Regency Ball that weekend.

Um, what??? YES PLEASE! 

Actually, it was quite providential that while Saturday and Sunday were filled with prior commitments, Friday night-the evening of the dance-was open. It was meant to be. But of course, there was just one glaring question at hand: What was I going to wear? My only formal dress though it is not floor-length, is lovely--but it's not "breastfeeding friendly." And since my little guy still nurses quite a big, and he would be accompanying us that evening, I knew that I needed a dress with easy nursing-access. Of course, I could wear a non-formal dress that was Regency-era-ish,but I didn't have one of those, either.

So, a few days before the event, I hunted through 3 different thrift stores. Nothing like procrastination, right?? No formal dresses that I found met my criteria. I couldn't find any dresses that looked like they could pass as "Regency-era-ish," either. On Wednesday evening, in a final attempt to find SOMETHING to wear, we took a trip to a thrift store that I had already visited. 

I rummaged around and found, to my delight, a short, white high-waist dress that would be perfect as an overlay over a long skirt! tummy area and hips were a little too big for the dress-too many Whoppers Robin Eggs, perhaps? ; ) I figured I could probably add fabric to the white dress to make it larger, and I sped over to the skirt section. Nothing useful there! But, in the bedding section, I spied a lovely bed sheet that was similar in color to one of my husband's ties. Perfect!

You can't really tell in the picture, but the sheet is a minty green color.

The next day, I began my work. 

The white dress. 
I wound up deciding not to open up the white dress, but that I'd instead use the bodice of this dress as a guide to making a new dress entirely out of the bed sheet. Go big or go home! With no pattern in hand, I began pinning, cutting, and throwing together different pieces of scrap fabric to figure out approximately what size and shapes to cut out of the bed sheet.
I used scrap fabric from an old, holey skirt to make a "pattern" of sorts.
It worked fairly well, though I still made all the pieces too big and
had to keep ripping out, trimming it down, and re-sewing things together. 

I felt a little bit like Dr. Frankenstein as he intensely stitched together bits and pieces to make his creature! Since I couldn't get to a store on Thursday, I simply had to make do with what I had around the apartment. So, the buttons on the back of the dress are bright red, because that's what I had on hand, and I didn't want to take the time to figure out how to make fabric-covered buttons.

Bright red buttons. 
My baby may have only napped an hour, but at least he napped, which gave me some time to focus solely on this project. Aside from this little time, my day was spent taking care of him and trying to sew on the machine while simultaneously keeping him from chewing on any cords or other things he was not supposed to eat. It was quite an adventure, but it was a lot of fun, and it reminded me of just how much I love creating with fabric. I'm not a professional or perfectionist, but I just really love fitting things together to make something exciting!

This is real life. My little guy eating/playing with cucumbers and hummus
while I frantically cut and sew a dress together the day before the event.
On Friday, I cinched in the armholes a little bit to make them seem more like capped sleeves, and the dress was finished! I didn't want to take the time to iron the dress because I needed to work on other projects, even though I should have ironed it. In fact, as we drove to the dance on Friday evening, I kept regretting the fact that I didn't iron the dress, because I know it would have looked better if I had at least pressed the seams flat. But, as we parked the car and walked into the church hall of St. Benedict's parish in Shawnee, Oklahoma, I decided that I wasn't going to worry about it. So what if I didn't iron the dress? I was wearing a BED SHEET to a Regency Ball, and I was going to own it with every fiber of my being.

We danced, we talked, we munched on food, and I enjoyed myself thoroughly. It was a really fun event, the first dance hosted by a small Jane Austen club at a local college. I loved that the event was a fun, family-friendly event, with a very inexpensive ticket price ($3 a person or $7 a family) and a coloring area for little kids. And, there were even some women who held their babies while dancing! The decorations were simple and lovely, and we had a fun time.

There was music for slow dancing and waltzing, music we could swing dance to, some Disney songs that the little kids especially enjoyed, and we were all led in the Virginia Reel a couple of times! The club members also performed a short Regency-era dance that they had learned, which was very pretty nifty. I think it would have been neat to learn more big group dances, though the Virginia Reel was challenging enough for all those in attendance that it was probably all we could have handled.

It was a great evening, and even though the baby inevitably got mad each time we danced the Virginia Reel (my husband and I would trade off holding him during that particular dance, as we weren't sure if he'd be happy playing by himself for the entirety of the song), I think he had fun, too. My bed sheet dress managed to hold together the whole evening, which I think is a success, since it was very loosely and poorly stitched together (because I had to keep ripping it apart while making it). All in all, it was a great way to celebrate during the Octave of Easter!


  1. Wow, I'm so impressed! I would never have attempted that, but it came out so well!
    It is frustrating that you can't nurse a baby in a dress. I stick to wearing skirts and shirts when I need more formal attire because of that. I hope I can still fit in my dresses once my breastfeeding, make that years...are over. :-)

  2. Replies
    1. Thank you so much! It was so much fun to put together :)

  3. Way to go!! Man, I just love your ingenuity! This sounds like such a fun little event, I would have definitely been up for going to something like this--actually, I can just imagine my whole family wanting to attend and having a blast dancing! Your dress looks very regency inspired and I'm glad you guys got a photo of the two of you at the event!