One Pattern, 120 Years: Adapting Butterick 6093 for Regency, Teens, and 1930s

Butterick Patterns has a set of patterns called the Retro line. The Retro patterns skirt (ha ha!) the line between costume and everyday wear: it caters to those looking to revive vintage styles in their daily wardrobe, also known as “historybounding.” Most are 1950s patterns, but they did shock and confuse the non-costuming crowd a few years ago by sliding a few 1910s patterns into the mix, including Butterick 6093, a pattern based on day fashions from 1912.

Now, folks had strong reactions to this pattern when it came out, mostly because the styling of the model was neither modern nor historical, but an odd mishmash. However, it quickly won folks over. I love Butterick 6093! It is a great simple pattern. I’ve already wrote a ton about it, so I’ll spare repeating myself again here, but if you want to read more about the pattern, you can check out my numerous blog posts about it.

I am all about versitility…and sloth. Once I have a pattern down pat, I want to use it over and over instead of having to start over again with another pattern. I made several 1910s versions of Butterick 6093, why not see where else I could take it?

So I rolled the calendar back 100 years from 1910 to 1810(ish) and made a Regency dress!

1910s and Regency fashion have a lot in common on the most basic level: high waistlines and columnar skirts. They have vastly different construction methods, though! Butterick 6093 isn’t historically accurate to Regency or 1910s construction (uh, invisible zipper, anyone?), but when I was invited to a luxurious Regency Valentine’s tea by Laura of Decor to Adore, I decided to see if I could make a Regency dress out of this pattern.

To turn Butterick 6093 into a more Regency-esque shape, I had to alter a few things, mainly the skirt.
1. I used the under-skirt panel from Butterick 6093 for the front, adding length so that it reached the floor instead of my ankles.
2. I left off the overskirt and wrap front pieces.
3. Then, for the back, instead of cutting the fitted skirt back, I added ~24 inches of width and pleated it to the back.
4. I cut a wedge shape out of the back bodice waistline to mimic the high Regency bodice backs popular at the time (plus I’m short-waisted anyway, so it fit much better)
5. Then I trimmed the sleeves with pinked self-fabric trim.

Otherwise, I followed the normal pattern instructions, including the invisible side zipper!

Is it Historically Accurate™? Not in the least! But does it make a flattering, passable dress for a fun day out with friends? Yes!

Becky is wearing a similarly styled dress, but from a more accurate pattern: the cross-bodice dress from the Sense and Sensibility Elegant Lady’s Closet pattern set.

Ah, the winsome pre-Covid days when we all gathered in other folks’ houses for dinner parties!

Just a month later, Lockdown began.

Stuck at home, I should have been in the midst of a creative bonanza! Here I had all the free time in the world– but I had no energy. It was too stressful, watching from windows and wondering what was going to happen. The depression was real. I slugged away in bed most days. But I did have one more idea for Butterick 6093…

I was going to be stuck at home, why not make a house dress? Browsing Pinterest, I stumbled upon some 1930s catalogues and old Lane Bryant ads for house dresses in cute cotton and rayon prints. I had some daisy print cotton I’d bought at Walmart ages ago because it screamed 1930s at me. Now, locked in the house and needing a project, it seemed like the perfect solution to the creative slump.

As you can see, there were plenty of wrap and faux-wrap style house dresses with wide collars to choose from! They looked so much like Butterick 6093, I knew I had to make one last transformation out of it.

To make Butterick 6093 more 1930s-esque:
1. I shortened the skirt and added a kickpleat at the bottom for ease of movement.
2. I lengthened the waist a few inches to put it more at the natural level.

I opted to leave off the faux-wrap skirt pieces, but as you can see in the original ads, you could add one or both and still maintain a 1930s look.

That’s pretty much it!

Sounds simple, right? Well, it is, but in reality, I started this project in Spring of 2020 and I only finished it last week…NEARLY A WHOLE YEAR LATER. I jokingly started calling it my “Depression Dress” because it was from the Depression Era and I was depressed so…ha ha! Dark humor.

I just wasn’t feeling it. I struggled with picking trim for the dress– overwhelmed by possibilities– then stalled out at the hem and zipper completely.

I hung it on my door a while, waiting in its half-finished state.

Then, last week I finally decided to just finish the dang thing! When I grabbed it off its lonesome hook, I discovered it was even more complete than I remembered: really, all it needed was the zipper and the pocket! I waffled a bit on the pocket: without it, the dress was much more flattering, but the crochet pocket is an antique from my grandma, and what more perfect place to use it than on the exact type of dress it was originally made for? (You can see a similar little crochet pocket in one of the ads above)

And thus, nearly a year later, I finally completed my Butterick 6093 1930s house dress!

The yellow glass buttons were a last-minute addition. I found them in the bargain bead bin at Walmart, of all places! They came in a $1 pack mixed in with other random pressed-glass buttons, clearly all made from antique molds.

Butterick 6093 is now, tragically, out of print, so it can only be purchased second hand. If you don’t already own a copy, it is worth investing in! As you can see, it is quite versatile!

This pattern experiment was also a great example of how fabric choice and accessories really affect the final outcome of a pattern. My philosophy is that if you don’t have a perfectly accurate pattern, having an period-plausable fabric and accessories can help make up for it. It also works vice versa: an accurate pattern and fit can transform a less-than-ideal fabric into something more historical looking. Each of these three Butterick 6093 dresses are almost identical in style and are all made of cotton with a side zip (ahistorical for every era but the 1930s dress version, of course!), but the different fabrics enhance the illusion of their representative eras.

Review of the Historical Fashion Flip-Up Book “Fashion Through the Ages: From Overcoats to Petticoats”

Subuculas, Stays, and Slips!

I like going to Half-Price Books. They have all sorts of out of print and hard to find books, plus a great antique/collectible section! Their Fashion selection, however, is sometimes seriously lacking. I spent one day frantically trying to find the Fashion section after they apparently moved it. I was looking for a copy of The Tudor Tailor, so I asked the front desk after searching through the Art section, the Craft section, the History section, and even the Collectibles section (where books like Fashion in Detail had appeared before) to no avail. Turns out they had no clue where to put fashion books, historical or otherwise, so they stuck them in the “Salf-Help” category! They had very few historical fashion books of any type, but just before I gave up hope, I found this book:

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“Fashion Through the Ages: From Overcoats to Petticoats”
by Margaret Knight with awesome illustrations by Kim Dalziel

Inside, there were stylish illustrations of historical fashions from ancient Rome to the 1960s, all with nifty flip-up clothing layers! At $5, I had to have it!

Inside, there are there are 28 thick cardstock pages that detail fashions for men, women, and male and female children in chronolgical order from earliest to latest fashion, starting with the Roman Empire (27 BC to 467 AD), then the Middle Ages (500-1500), the Fifteenth Century/Early Renaissance, Sixteenth Century/High Renaissance, Seventeenth Century, Eighteenth Century, Nineteenth Century, 1901-1920, the 1920s, the 1930s, the 1940s-50s (combined), and the 1960s.

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Besides the illustrations, each category included a generously-sized foldout describing the changes in fashion and society during the era. Along the edges of the pages are additional fashion tidbits, like hairstyles, hats, and other information not included on the main feature of the book: the flip-up clothing layers.

Each figure has at least one fancy flip up/open/down piece that reveals information about the layer. For example, the “1635” man’s doublet/coat folds open to reveal his shirt beneath and a brief description of it:

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And the “1750s” woman has a layer for her gown and a separate one for her petticoats which both lift to reveal her shift, stays, and panniers underneath:

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The adults clothing has more details than the children’s clothing, but the children’s clothing flip-ups do contain bits of information about popular children’s clothing colors and fabrics.

That’s the basic description of the book. Now, for the review!

This such a cool idea! I love the illustrations and the discovery with each turn of the page and lift of a flap. Children and adults alike are curious about the “weird” clothing our ancestors used to wear and this book is a fun way to explore the basics without feeling like an intruder (how many times have you as a reenactor, cosplayer, costumer, or vintage-lover faced that awkward question or unwelcome groping hand?). The basics are all contained in this book, so it acts as a jumping off point for multiple eras without the intimidating immensity of a fashion encyclopedia.

The illustrations are well-balanced with the double-sided flaps containing the detailed text portion so it’s neither too child-like nor too text-heavy. The colors are well-thought-out and suit the general mood of the chosen eras (lighter colors for Rococo, earthy colors for the Middle Ages, and, of course, bright primary colors for the 1960s).

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There are a few places where I was disappointed, however. The sections, especially for the earlier fashions, are very broad– some covering 500 years or more! I admit that I am not a scholar of the nuances of these earlier eras, so I am not as disgruntled as, say, an expert in the 1340s would be. For example, the Tudor era (1485-1558) is almost entirely skipped, save for Elizabeth I’s reign.

I can excuse some generalizations because this is designed as a children’s book meant to present the very basics of fashion history in an entertaining and quick manner. In a world when most folks know Medieval fashion only from the Lord of the Rings movies, learning even the most basic real Medieval fashion concepts can be confusing to a beginner. The layers and undergarments, which is the main purpose of this book’s illustrations, are all pretty well-covered (ha ha!) despite the broad time swathes. For the most part, petticoats, garters, stockings, stays, and shifts are introduced in the eras they should be.

There was one era, though, which I thought was done a huge disservice: the 19th Century.

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Since this is a book about layers and showcasing the mysterious underwear worn beneath them, it would seem natural to include the many different types of undergarments in the 19th century. It was, after all, probably the most exciting, underwear-centric time in history! There were the short Regency stays and slips, the long stays and crazy-huge sleeve-puffers of the 1830s, the steel-busked corsets and hoop skirts in the 1850s and 1860s, the advent of the bustle in the 1870s and its construction ingenuity in the 1880s!

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Were they centaurs? They must have been centaurs.

Yet, the book dedicates only one section to the entire century and only illustrates the 1810s at the very beginning and the 1850s in the middle– with no children’s outfits to boot! So many shapes that I was bewildered by as a curious child (and even as an adult) are skipped over. The bustle is relegated to a few notes in the top right corner. I would not be as disappointed if the 20th Century decades weren’t given their own sections and illustrations despite the relatively uneventful underwear and layers involved. The 20th Century pages have fewer flaps, and there is little change to the undergarments after the 1920s. The most exciting bit is probably the corset and bullet bra on the 1940s/50s woman:

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The copy of the book I bought was preowned, but despite that, many of the flaps in the later eras had never been touched even though the flaps of the earlier styles, particularly the Roman, Medieval, and Victorian eras, were more “worn in” from use. Whatever person(s) had the book before me was clearly less interested by the modern era! The underpinnings of the 1400s were far more mysterious than the 1940s, at least in this case. In a few decades, perhaps the 20th Century sections will seem more exciting since they will be more distant from the now.

With that said, this book is all about layers and undergarments, so you are literally undressing the illustrations layer by layer down to their skivvies. Some folks might not be particularly comfortable with this, especially since the Middle Ages allows you to see under the lady’s chemise to see her stockings and she’s nude (of course) underneath:

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The illustration is not heavily detailed, but she does have curves denoting her breasts, a little belly button, and the tiniest V where are thighs meet her trunk. Being nude under her shift is historically accurate, but you can easily paste down her shift to make her more modest if you are concerned about it. The children’s layers are not as detailed, so they don’t go down that far and neither do most of the men’s outfits, though the 1960s keeps the playing field even:

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The fashions are Euro/Anglocentric (the author worked for the Victoria and Albert Museum), some of the terms are out of date (the book was written in 1998), the corset/stays/bodies information retains a slightly sensationalized tone, and the 1590s woman is wearing inaccurate pantaloons, but at that point, I’m letting my current knowledge outpace the level this book is intended for.

According to Amazon, this book is for ages 5-7 years, but I believe that’s way too young for this book: not because of the revealing nature of it (the whole point of the book is to reveal the hidden parts of fashion), but because this book has a lot of text and details that a younger child might not appreciate. However, for a 7-14 year old, this book would be a really fun, informative introduction to the world of historical fashion! I would have loved a book like this as a tween and I still appreciate it even though I no longer need it. For $5 or even $15, this book would make a great gift to a budding historical fashionista. The quality of the book itself is very high (great paper, wonderful layout, etc.) and it will answer many questions, prompt new questions, and encourage further research.

Overall rating:

Great fun for a fashion history newbie!