Girl's empire outfit
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My daughter’s Empire outfit

My daughter hasn’t had much chance to time travel, so I decided to bring her along and made her a Regency or Empire outfit. Here in Finland we usually talk about Empire style but I know that the Anglican world rather refers to the period as Regency. The outfit I made consists of a gown, a linen cap, drawers and slippers.

The girl’s Empire gown

Girl's Regency dress by Sense and Sensibility patterns. Front view.

I spend a long time looking for a perfect fabric for the gown. Finally, I found this lovely rose print cotton lawn at Minerva Crafts. It is just perfect, not too sheer and has just a little bit of crispness for this dress. It also feels very luxurious. (If you are interested in Minerva crafts fabrics, do consider supporting this blog by clicking through the affiliate link below!)

I used Girl’s Regency dress pdf pattern by Sense and Sensibility patterns. It is an Empire gown with optional long sleeves. It has sizes ranging from 1 year to 14 years.

Making an Empire outfit: Girl's Regency Dress by Sense and Sensibility patterns, side view.

I made the size 10 for my short 9-year-old. It was a little too long and a little too wide at the back but I wanted to leave some room for growth. Thus, I only folded the extra width under, so that I could increase the size later if I so wished. I shortened the hem by making three rows of horizontal pintucks.

The gown was very easy to sew. The only minor problem I had was that the period pattern pieces seem to be “backwards” so that the princess seams are only at the back. I know it is period correct but I surely was confusing to me. I accidentally chopped the front lining piece in half before I noticed my mistake!

The instructions are good but they missed a clear mention of the seam allowance. I had to read between the lines to figure out that it was 3/8″ (1 cm). However, I ended up sewing the gown with 5/8″ (15 mm) which worked nicely since the gown was a little too big for S.

Making an Empire outfit: Girl's Regency dress by Sense and Sensibility patterns, back view.

Again I tapped into my huge stash of vintage mother-of-pearl buttons and chose the three largest ones to work as the closure. To add something special I finished by adding a lace trim to the neckline. I gathered the lace slightly and then stitched it by hand.

S curtsying.

Both I and S are loving the end result. S regrets that she can’t really wear it every day! Apparently, she has become more fashion conscious lately and thinks that the fashions from the period 200 years ago would draw too many stares!

The Empire bonnet (a free pattern)

I wanted to make a bonnet for S. I did some research and saw a multitude of different cap styles from the period. However, I did not find a perfect pattern, so I made my own. It fits a child with a head circumference of 52 cm or 20,5″.

S's Empire bonnet. This free pattern is my own design based on numerous regency styles I found online.

You can download the pattern through the shop.

The pattern is divided into 4 sheets of paper and it should look like this after you have pieced it together:

Child's Empire bonnet pattern.

I used some grey linen scraps I found at Ompelino to make my trial garment that ended up being so good that I decided not to make another one.

Here are the instructions how to make the bonnet:

Making a Regency/Empire bonnet for a child

The bonnet is made out of light or medium weight woven fabric such as linen, cotton or silk. Print out the pdf file making sure that the scale is 100 %. (There is a 10 cm x 10 cm (4″ by 4″) square for you to check the scale.) Pieces A to C are cut on the fold. The pattern included 15 mm or 5/8″ seam allowances. There is no need to add any seam allowances to the bias binding piece (D) or the tie pieces (E).

Making an Empire outfit: Another view of the Girl's Empire bonnet I designed.

First, fold the ties in half (the right sides in), close one narrow end and sew the long sides together. Turn the tube the right side out. It helps if you sew the end of some wool yarn inside the short seam and leave the yarn inside the tube as you are sewing the long sides. You can turn the tube around easily by pulling from the yarn.

Turn one of the long edges of the ruffle piece twice and make about 7 mm (1/4″) wide hem ether by stitching by hand or with your sewing machine. Gather the other long edge of the ruffle piece to fit the bonnet front piece. Sew the gathered ruffle on the bonnet front. Finish the seam with hand felling: Narrow the ruffle side seam allowance to about 5 mm. Turn the other seam allowance over the narrow seam allowance and tuck the edge under. Slip stitch the turned seam allowance to the ruffle piece using tiny stitches that don’t show on the right side.

Hem the short edges of the front+ruffle piece.

Sew gathering stitches to the front and back edges of the bonnet back between the circles. Pull the gathering threads until the back neck edge is 28 cm (11″) long.

Press 1 cm of the bias binding strip to the wrong side. Sew the unfolded edge of the bias binding on the wrong side of the gathered edge, the right side of the bias binding against the wrong side of the bonnet back. Neaten the seam allowance and turn the bias binding to the right side. Slip stitch the bias binding on the bonnet from the right side.

Gather the front edge of the bonnet back to fit the front piece of the bonnet. Sew the bonnet back to the bonnet front and make a felled seam finish hiding the gathered bonnet back edge under the smooth front piece seam allowance.

Sew the ties to the positions marked with the stars. Enjoy your finished bonnet!

Empire outfit: The finished bonnet!

Tip: You can decorate your bonnet with embroidery, ribbons or lace!

Ottobre design 1/2013 23. Malvina Bloomers

S was quite knowledgeable in regency fashions since she came to me and told me in clear terms that she was not going to wear those period drawers with open crotch! (Even though I never even suggested that!) However, she asked for something to wear underneath the gown so I made her a pair of linen bloomers using Ottobre design 1/2013 pattern number 23. Malvina.

Making and Empire ouftit: Ottobre 1/2013 23. Malvina bloomers.

Malvina is a charming pattern for vintage-inspired bloomers. It has elasticated waist and lace decorated, gathered leg openings.

This pattern comes in sizes 104 to 146 cm. I had little scraps of linen left from my Victorian chemise project and those were just big enough for me to cut this pair of bloomers out of it.

This time I ditched any pretence of historical sewing altogether and used my serger to finish the seams. I made the size 134 cm and it fitted very nicely.

Regency/Empire inspired slippers

Regency/Empire inspired slippers.

S’s scuffed trainers weren’t really suited for Regency/Empire period dressing. Today, I started researching period footwear and found this Met picture of Regency slippers. I had already made a pair of slippers for S using the Ballet Flats pattern of Living DIY Style. Now I modified the pattern to add that scalloped edge and the lacing.

I used leather and instead of lining the material, I just bound the edge with green bias binding. To make sewing it on easier, I first glued it on and then secured it with stitching.

Then I punched the holes for the laces and used some green kumihimo cord as shoelaces. I also added a strip of leather to cover the seam at the heel to prevent S from getting any blisters from the hard edges. For S to be able to wear these outdoors, I added a rubber sole that I glued on.

I just finished glueing the sole before we had to head outside to take the pictures as there was a slight break in the rain. That’s why the sole glueing is not so neat. I have to tidy up the edges later.

Putting it all together

An Empire outfit is not complete with a proper hairstyle. S had a haircut last week and she lost about 8 inches of her thick hair. However, there was still plenty left to make a proper period hairstyle.

Finishing the Empire outfit: Making an Empire hairstyle for my daughter.

In the previous night, S washed her hair and I wrapped it in rag curls. Today, S’s hair basically dressed itself! The rag curls created those beautiful ringlets and I only had to make a high ponytail to create the mass of curls at the back of her head. I just pinned a few strands against her scalp in case the hair relaxed a bit. Then, to add some interest, I made two little braids to go from the front to the curly updo and finished by emphasizing the front curls with a curling wand.

A new Empire outfit requires a twirl! Even when it's raining!

Let’s hope that we will have sunny weather on the historical picnic that we are going to attend together on Saturday next week. However, right now I’m still waiting to get fabric for my own gown! I have finished all my underthings but then decided that the fabric I had bought for the actual gown wasn’t going to work. A few days ago, I ordered a new fabric and I really hope it’s going to arrive soon as we are already past the expected delivery date.

Thank you for visiting my blog. I hope you enjoyed reading about my Empire outfit sewing project. Do subscribe to get notified on my future posts and happy sewing!


I am a mother of two. I sew, knit and create and blog about it.


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