Victoria here, bringing you the delightful story of Jess Russell, who opted for historical accuracy to the extent that she fashioned her own regency gown, sometimes working by candlelight, to know what a regency dressmaker would have experienced.

I met Jess at the Beau Monde’s 2015 Regency Writers Conference and Soiree, where she appeared (above) in her lovely creation.  All of us were wowed in the best 21st century tradition!
Jess is the author of the best-selling novel The Dressmaker’s  Duke.  To Read more about Jess and her novel, click here.

Jess agreed to tell the story of her novel and her gown for this blog.  She writes:

In The Dressmaker’s Duke, my Heroine, Olivia Weston, is (surprise) a dressmaker. To help launch the book I decided to create a Regency gown from scratch, just as Olivia would have done.

Imagine sewing everything by hand, in poor light, without even a dress form. And then, after working your fingers to the bone creating this stunning gown, you can’t even get your rich client to pay up. Well, my poor heroine goes through such a trial. The good news is her money troubles throw her smack up against my monkish, but oh-so-sexy Duke.

So, I thought it only fitting that as Olivia’s creator, I should have to step into her slippers.

Below is the finished gown~

And now me modeling~

Things I learned making this gown~
1.       Hand sewing a simple straight seam takes about 7 x’s longer than using a machine.
2.      Use a thimble if you can master it. Your fingertips will thank you. (I ended up using the finger
         tip of an old leather glove.)
3.      Approximately 29 hours spent sewing.
4.      Approximately the same number of threaded needles used.
5.      Back stitch! If you have to cut the fabric and have used a back stitch you won’t lose all your
6.      Run your thread through bees wax. This helps the thread from snarling.
7.      It is EXTREMELY hard to rip out when sewing lace. All the threads look alike.
8.     It is surprisingly hard to sew in a straight line.
9.      My best running stitch was 14 stitches per inch.
10.   I now have arthritis in my pinkie finger.
11.    Good lighting is paramount! Not easy when you are trying to sew by candlelight. Seamstresses 
         must have had very tired eyes.

Things I learned wearing this gown at the Beau Monde Soiree~
1.       It is surprisingly comfortable.
2.      These light gowns must have been lovely in the summer, but brutal in winter in a chilly castle.
3.      You have to be aware of the blasted train at all times! I would think it’s much like driving; 
        you have to watch out for not only you, but the other drivers as well. (I can’t imagine 
        negotiating a crowded ball room. No wonder there was always a maid installed in the “ladies 
        retiring room” to m
end ripped hems.)
4.      Country dances are exhausting but great FUN!
5.      You cannot do a darned thing when wearing gloves. And taking them on and off can be a 
        painstaking task.

At the Beau Monde Soiree, L to R: Ann, Sir Reggie, Jess

I made the over-dress out of an old bed canopy. Re-purposing this piece of lace inspired my blog called “Trash to Treasure.” Each month I transform a thrift store find into something new and exciting! You can find me at://

For a sneak peak here is my Mid-century evening coat re-made into a 19th century Redingote!

The Dressmaker’s Duke was a double finalist in the National Readers Choice Awards for Best First Book and Best Historical and is available at Amazon, iTunes, and BandN.

Thanks so much for having me share my love of sewing! Jess Russell

Victoria again. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences, Jess.  And just to remind readers of this blog and not incidentally myself (!) — all us us who thinks this might be easy — Jess adds:

I have been sewing since I was very young. So when I embarked on my first novel the phrase “write what you know” came to mind. Well, I know sewing. Here is my wedding gown. The pattern I made out of newspaper and the rest I made up as I went along.

Jess in her bridal gown

Again, all I  can say is wow!!  Even if I were an experienced stitcher, I could not begin to imagine creating such a fabulous dress!!  Brava, Jess.


  1. Beautiful dresses. I made one of mine partially by hand but carpal tunnel ensued along with operation and I can't do that anymore. never could do anything as beautiful as either dress no matter the method used.A multitalented lady for sure.

  2. Thanks so much! Yes, I have some arthritis and it certainly flared up when I was sewing this gown. Things just took a lot longer back then. We forget with all our modern conveniences. As much as I curse my sewing machine, I now appreciate all the time it saves me.

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