Learn how to make a DIY Jane Austen costume. This regency dress works for Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and Emma.
My daughter had to do a biography project in school this year. She got to pick someone from history, research, write a little bio, and then act out the person for the presentation. She chose the author, Jane Austen, and I decided to make her a regency inspired dress that she could wear for the presentation.
I was secretly so proud that she picked Jane Austen, an author I love, and so making a dress seemed a good way to encourage interest in Jane Austen’s books. A couple of years ago I made a DIY Einstein costume for my son for his biography project.
DIY Jane Austen Costume
I wasn’t going for historical accuracy when I was designing and sewing this dress. I was aiming for a dress that would look similar enough that it would be seen as Jane Austen, but it would also work as a dress that could wear to church for the next year.
Regency Style dress
Regency style dresses have an empire waist and a long skirt. There are often small puff sleeves, square or curved neckline, and details on the bodice and skirt hem.
Here’s a bunch of cream and white dresses that you can see that are historically accurate from the regency time period. I took this inspiration, but made it work for this project.
Dress Sewing Pattern
I use the Seraphina dress sewing pattern by Violette Field Threads. I’ve used this dress pattern before and it’s easy and straight forward. It had almost all the details I wanted, but I did do some pattern alterations.
You don’t have to use this dress sewing pattern when making a DIY Jane Austen dress, but you will want a maxi dress sewing pattern with a higher waist that uses woven fabric. That is the best place to start and then you can add or remove details as needed.
I chose the maxi length with the ruffle around the hem. I wanted to added a detail near the hem without adding lace or trim. It makes the skirt have enough room for walking and running while adding some interest. I love the look of the large ruffle around the hem.
I left the waist where is was which is in between an empire waist and a natural waist. It’s a great in between spot so that the skirt still looks really long. I interfaced the front and back bodice for strength and a stiff look that you would see on a regency dress.
I changed the front neckline to a curve instead of a v-neck. Since this was for a child I didn’t make it too low.
I used the basic long sleeve pattern piece and cut it into a short sleeve. I slashed and spread across the sleeve to make it a gathered sleeve. When I sewed it onto the bodice I gathered the top edge and then sewed a shirring line around the sleeve hem to give it a nice puffed look.
I added two rows of lace around the bodice to add some details and give it interest. It also helps the dress look more like an empire waist without actually creating an empire waist.
I left the back neckline as a v-neck because I didn’t want to mess with the zipper insertion. It’s not accurate at all, but it still looks good.
I had this beautiful blue and green floral fabric in my stash. I was going to use it for a dress for me, but it was just too perfect for this sewing project. It’s a cotton woven fabric, but it has a beautiful drape and smooth hand.
I got it from either Thrifty Notion or Destashify (I can’t remember), but that is why I don’t know the exact content of the fabric. My guess would be that it’s a cotton and rayon blend. The fabric moves so beautifully.
When looking for fabric, look for a woven fabric with a smooth hand and beautiful drape but with some structure. I think a cotton, linen, or rayon blend would be the best option.
Accessories and Hair
For her hair I pulled most of it up into a bun, and then I curled everything else into ringlets so that it framed her face and fell down her back.
She wore a mint choker that she loves and looks like a modern version of some of the necklaces they used to wear.
Then she wore basic flats for shoes since that looks the most like the shoes they wore and that is what we had in our house.
Do you love to sew? Check out these sewing projects:
If you make something using this sewing project, I’d love to see! Please share it on social media with the hashtag #heatherhandmade and tag me!
I believe small sewing moments can create great joy. Find your own “right” way to sew. -Heather