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.

Valen-Teens Tea and My 4th Version of Butterick 6093

Butterick 6093 Redo..trois…quatre!

valenteen-tea-ii2017’s sewing projects got off to a rocky start, but I threw myself into planning for Valen-Teens Tea with the DFW Costumer’s Guild. We would be hosting a special guest: Laura, the creator and president of Shear Madness!

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Check out the Shear Madness Blog here.
And the Facebook community here.

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Photo courtesy of Barb Chancey

The event started off as informal and small, but soon grew to quite a full party! We met up at the Secret Garden Tea Room in the Montgomery Street Antique Mall in Fort Worth for an early lunch and, of course, tea:

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After tea, we browsed the antique mall for a little while and then went for a nice stroll in the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens next door.

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The event’s theme was 1910s, so Becky wore a thrifted Edwardian outfit she put together from the wonderland that is Goodwill, including her favorite lavender skirt, a pin-tucked floral blouse, and a vintage wool coat she got for a steal– $15! To top it off, she wore a rosey straw hat with a floral spray left over from my Edwardian Hat Hack.

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Becky’s outfit Breakdown:

Pink straw hat – $3.49, Goodwill
Floral Pin-tuck blouse – $4.49, Goodwill
Lavender formal skirt – $7.49, Goodwill
Vintage wool coat – $14.95, Goodwill
Total: $30.42
(Her stockings and shoes were from her daily wear clothes. Always check your own closet! you never know what will work perfectly for a costume!)

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Becky, 1915 style!

For my outfit, I dug Butterick 6093 out of the bottom of my pattern drawer. I’d made it a few years ago and had been less than impressed with the fit. However, I liked the general look and it goes together really fast, so I decided to give it another try.

Previous versions:

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Version 1, July 2015: “Straight” Size 12 made from cotton and a sari. It was a tad small.

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Version 2, August 2015: 1st attempt at a multi-sized dress made from a cotton sheet and a dupatta that Laura sent me. Made for my sister who was the same size I was at the time. It turned out a little too large.

So, I had Goldilock’s problem: the first dress was too small, the second dress was too big…I needed to find one that was just right!

Without the breaking and entering charges, of course.

I decided to make a wearable mockup first. That way, if I ran out of time to make the final dress, I would at least have a version that would work. A wearable mockup is a trial garment that is finished like a regular garment, but isn’t necessarily what you want the final garment to look like. It’s simplified and often made out of an inexpensive/not-so-important fabric. For mine, I had picked up some rolled up remnants of purple mystery fabric at Walmart years ago that had these nifty thick white and purple threads that made pin-tuck-like stripes in the fabric. I had never unrolled it to see what it was like. Turns out it’s cotton organdy! I almost saved it for a different project, but I had bought it with Edwardian specifically in mind, so I now-or-nevered it into a simple version of Butterick 6093:

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It’s sheer and unlined, so I used French seams for everything except the armscyes and waist seam.

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Of course, that means that I had to sew every seam twice, but it makes a really nice, neat finish on the inside of sheer fabrics.

Since I’m an entirely different size than I was in 2015, I decided to start Butterick 6093 from scratch. I had tried a new measurement method for my 1868 Monet outfit earlier in January, and while that outfit didn’t go as well as I’d hoped, the sizing method was actually really helpful: Instead of choosing on flat size, like 16, and then doing a whole bunch of alterations sizing it up and down in various places via mockups, you take a few extra body measurements and choose each pattern piece individually.

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My 1868 dress of failure.

Original photo by Festive Attyre
(one of the few pictures of this dress)

I got the idea from my Fashions of the Gilded Age by Francis Grimble. In the book, you have to take a lot of incremental measurements of your body in order to scale up the pattern pieces. In the case of Butterick 6093, instead of just measuring all the way around my bust or full bust, I broke it down into two separate measurements: 1) full front bust from side seam to side seam and 2) back from side seam to side seam at bust level. Then I laid out the tissue and measured the pattern pieces themselves instead of relying on Butterick’s suggested measurements.

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Minka “helped.”

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By using this method, I ended up with a size 14 back and a size 20 front! Sounds a bit crazy, right? But it works! Truly Victorian, the popular Victorian pattern brand, uses a similar method to select your pattern pieces. The method suits Butterick 6093 well because there are no darts or curved back seams to worry about.

I really love the purple organdy dress, but when I tried it on…

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Scientifically accurate rendering.

1910s dresses, like Regency dresses, can be problematic on certain body types. Indeed, the ice cream cone look was totally in from 1910-1913, but that isn’t a look I strive to recreate! The combo of the crisp fabric and the way I had gathered it made for a super-full front that would make a great Lumpy Space Princess cosplay, but not the most flattering tea gown.

Oh. My. Glob.

But when I put it on my dress form, it looked fab!

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I mean, it helps that my dress form is shaped like an ideal size 10 with the added bonus of having one of my old bras stuffed onto it like a giant Barbie voodoo doll that sulks in the corner of my sewing room:

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I expect things to look awesome the dress form, but if she’s very-near-to-literally having my exact bustline, why isn’t it a muffin-topped mess on her? It turns out that it’s got everything to do with my short waist.

My dress form is standardized to meet industry standards. That means she has an “average” torso length which happens to be about 2″ longer than mine! So the purple dress looked great on her because the very fitted skirt was the right length for her. On me, however, the top is about 1.5″ too tall causing the skirt to extend past where it should be, pushing the excess bodice length up and over the top, creating the unflattering droopy ice cream cone shape (Why do I end up describing all my sewing projects as desserts?!).
If you look at my previous versions, you will see a similar thing happening even at the smaller sizes.
I removed an inch off the top of the skirt pattern pieces for my final version.

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Image includes complimentary glob of cat hair for your viewing pleasure.

It was like the magic cure! No more ice cream cone!

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Of course, the final version doesn’t fit very well on my dress form, but that’s because it fits ME, not HER.

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Take that, Gertie!

The fabric I used for the final version is an amazing cotton shirting with woven swiss dots. Just like my failed 1868 dress, it is one of the last fabrics I purchased at Hancock’s before they went under. This time, however, I don’t feel like I wasted it! It was a dream to sew with. I used it “inside out” so the fuzzy side of the dots faced out. The cream fabric is a filmy cotton curtain I found at Goodwill that has a drawn threadwork look:

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Unlike the swiss dot, the curtain fabric was NOT a dream to sew with, so I didn’t make the long undersleeves I planned, but I did use it to make a contrasting rever! Thanks to my great experience with Butterick 3648, I am in love with revers! To turn 6093’s lapel into a rever, I simply taped it onto the bodice pattern piece on one side so when I cut it out, I ended up with this:

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I’ve grown to admire Butterick 6093’s versatile styling options. Even if you don’t want to do fancy stuff like make revers, it comes with a curved lapel that can be used alone or in a pair, a squared collar, and skirt panels that can be used alone or overlapped, or you can leave all those extra bits off, like I did for my purple dress! It also has two sleeve options, though I haven’t tried the long sleeves with the cuffs yet.

Pattern options include:

  • 3 skirt options: 1 drape, 2 drapes, none
  • 6 collar options: single lapel, double lapels, square collar, square collar+1 lapel, square collar +2 lapels, no collar
  • 2 sleeve options: short sleeves, long sleeves

There are over 30 combos you can make from the basic pieces alone!

And that number doesn’t even include things like changing the wrap direction of the bodice, adding extra embellishments, using more than one fabric, etc.

In fact–as a testament to the versatility of the pattern–we realized that three of us had used Butterick 6093 to make our tea dresses, but our dresses were all very different!

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While I opted for the asymmetrical collar and a double-draped skirt in light cotton, Jane used a textured wool blend and completely omitted the collar, and Laura chose the square collar and a printed cotton.

Instead of gathering the bottom of the bodice, I made two large box pleats. It’s definitely unusual, but it worked! I also box pleated the back in the same manner.

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I added a kick pleat in the back– the same solution Jane had come up with.

The dress is one piece and closes at the side seam with an invisible zipper. It’s not Historically Accurate, but it’s discreet.

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For those concerned with HA, the zipper can easily be swapped out for hooks and eyes.

Overall, I would say that this pattern is a good one if you are willing to figure out the sizing. It’s flattering on nearly all body types and is a quick dress to make. I made it in about 10-12 hours (most of that time was spent ironing, TBH).

To accessorize my dress, I wore the hat I made in my Edwardian Hat Hack, my sister’s little white purse (which goes to nearly every event!), an antique necklace, some thrifted shoes, and a very serendipitous vintage coat I found the day before.

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Photo courtesy of Mistress of Disguise

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My attempt at an autochrome.

Outfit Breakdown

4 yards of green cotton – $16, Hancock’s Fabric
1 cotton curtain – $1.49, Goodwill
1 invisible zipper – $3.50, Walmart
1 spool of thread – $1.95, Walmart
Shoes – $7.99, Goodwill
1960s coat – $18.95, Goodwill

Total – $49.88

Underneath, I’m wearing my beloved Rago 821. The way it fits me very closely mimics a Teens corset, but it’s stretchy and cheap! I got it for about $30 off Amazon. I highly recommend it for 1910s and later!

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My updated, more technical review of Butterick 6093 is posted on the Sewing Pattern Review website here.

Megan’s photos of the tea can be found on Flickr here.

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And my photos can be seen here.