Sense and Sensibility Ladies’ 1780 portrait dress

24 Jan
  • Pattern picture
  • Fabric/trims/notions used
Light floaty cotton voile for main garment; polyester chiffon for the sash; a bit of elastic for the waist
  • Piccie of finished garment

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  • Inspiration (for the garment)
The above pattern picture. I love the fresh simplicity of it.
  • Useful info
There is no length measurements or lengthen/shorten lines. This seems to be normal for Sense and Sensibility patterns, and as someone sadly short-waisted, it drives me nuts.
However, just to drive me more nuts, I didn’t adjust the back-neck-waist at all, and yet, this dress is short in the back. It is long in the front too. How confusing. My suggestion is because there is little-to-no shaping from below the bust down, cut both front and back with plenty of length to spare. Then cut the waist length after checking it on the person. Alternatively, you could do a muslin with just the bodice, the skirt is so simple it doesn’t need one unless you really want to get a specific effect of fullness or lack of fullness.
(This dress was my muslin! I am into Wearable Muslins 🙂
The extra gathering at the front in this style is not necessary. Only a small amount – at most 5cm total at the front would be enough. So the effect is overly bouffy. More so than the picture suggests. However, it is rather nice, in a non-modern, non-showing the figure off kinda way. Comfy.
The “racer-back” style is really funky! And very comfortable too.
I simply put elastic into the waistband. Much easier and comfortable. If I made this dress again I would probably trial elastic in the neck too. I didn’t with this dress and it was quite hard to get the right amount of  gather around the neck. Elastic would be a LOT easier.
As you can see, I am not a Purist. I am sure those ladies in 1780s would have used elastic if they’d had it ;-P
Ok, only relevant to people in hot climates. The sash is HOT!!! And the voile was so light I needed a voile underskirt too. Thus this dress turned out as a wear around the home without sash and underskirt kinda dress. Or, with sash and underskirt, a Special Occasion where I will be in cold airconditioning most of the time kinda dress.
Previous posts:
  • Cost
Pattern: $15.95, postage $10
Fabric: 3m voile @ $8pm = $24
Elastic and thread from stash.
Underskirt cut from an op-shop find – $3
Total: $52.95. Heh, if I get my mental arithmetic wrong one day, feel free to correct me! (I will say here and now I am slightly dyslexic and it shows up most when working with numbers. Using a calculator instead of my own brain won’t fix that.)
  • Last word

This was a trial of a possible wedding dress. Well it did its job. I don’t like it!!! ARGH!!! I like the dress, ok, fine. Actually apart from the short back and long front bodice, it is really lovely to wear. So long as I am in airconditioning.

However, it is … froufrou. The skirt in particular. Wide and soft and floaty. And that is only in cotton voile. The thought of it in a slithery silk just … no. No no no.

I am seriously considering just getting married in a sack. I’ve discussed this with my fiancé and he said so long as I was legally covered up so didn’t get arrested and carted off mid-ceremony, he really doesn’t care what I wear.

Good thing we’ve not set a serious date yet. Could be a good few years yet before I work out what I want to wear.

Wedding dresses aside, this is a really nice dress!

4 Responses to “Sense and Sensibility Ladies’ 1780 portrait dress”

  1. Josie Brady January 24, 2012 at 4:06 pm #

    It is nice to see this dress at last. It is really very pretty, but agree it is a bit full, and not suited to a hot climate. Price of the pattern with postage was quite a lot, particularly when the pattern had fitting problems.


    • Tropical Threads January 25, 2012 at 9:02 pm #

      Hi Josie,

      Apart from needing the underskirt, the fabric design and hand are perfect for the pattern. It all comes together into a very nice dress.

      As for it being so hot, I would cheerfully say I will wear it when I visit you in Tasmania, but I think that would cause the opposite problem ;-P

      As for postage, yes! The much cheaper alternative is the e-patterns, but they have to be stickytaped together, which is trying to my patience. (Notice I don’t include the option of just not buying the pattern?!)


  2. Jennie January 25, 2012 at 6:31 pm #

    Hi there! I think you did a fabulous job of taking 1780s style and modernising it. And thanks for the feedback re: lengthen/shorten lines. I am short-waisted myself, and I do have those on most of my patterns with natural waistlines, but this was one I didn’t add those to. The reason is that the dress is meant to go over a Georgian corset, which creates a “cone” shape down to the hipline. The dress back is higher to accommodate a “bum roll” (which pouffs out the skirt at the hipline and in back), but the front is meant to be elongated to give the illusion of a conical waistline. That works perfectly over a period corset, but not over modern undergarments. So I’m now going to add lengthen/shorten lines for those who want to wear this as a modern garment without all the underpinnings. 😉 You can also make it out of a thin pima cotton or lightweight rayon if you want to wear it in a hot climate without all the layers. I think yours is adorable, all the same. Thanks for sharing the photos! (PS – Feel free to drop me a line through my Contact Form on the site, and I’ll send you a free copy of the ePattern with the lengthen/shorten lines!)


    • Tropical Threads January 25, 2012 at 8:59 pm #

      Hi Jennie,

      Welcome to my blog and thanks for the explanation! That actually makes perfect sense when explained that way. I am really stoked you are going to add the lengthen/shorten lines! May I also suggest you add to the measurements the back waist length the pattern was drafted for, so it is easier for the person to work out how much to take up or add?

      I also have sewn your 1940’s Swing Era Dress and was very frustrated by the back-waist length. Actually, I will just point you to the relevant blog post:
      (Uh, like I said, I was VERY frustrated!)
      (But it all worked out ok eventually:

      And indeed I’ve finally found the most DIVINE fabric for the full dress, and it is on my sewing list for this year 🙂

      By the way I’ve made your Edwardian Apron too, twice! I used its petite option and it fitted beautifully. Sadly, this was before I started blogging so can’t conveniently point you to a post on it 😦

      As for the fabric I used with the portrait dress, yes, the fabrics you describe would be lovely. I didn’t intend to use an underskirt, it was only when I finished the dress I realised the fabric was so see-through. Oops!

      Frustrations aside, I really love your patterns! I’ve made many beautiful clothes from them. Thankyou!



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