Over the years ECD has gone in and out of fashion but is currently experiencing a return to favor with avid dance clubs found across the nation for those who enjoy both the dance and period re-enactment.
The dances are done by couples generally in a line or circle formation. Depending upon the club and dancer experience, the caller announces the steps as the dance progresses, interweaving couples through the line or circle. The dances are done to English Country Dance music which includes the classical, baroque, and Celtic/folk styles of the period.
No ECD dance requires anything more intimate than a handshake or handclasp. In keeping with the spirit of ECD, a chivalrous attitude and genteel social grace are key components of any ball.
These are active dances, so we recommend modest, secure clothing and supportive, flexible, low-heeled shoes. (Many girls choose to wear a ball room slipper, true dance shoe, or Sketcher-type shoe.)
For local clubs and activites we can recommend, please scroll below. For costume details, please go to our ECD Costume section on this page.
Local ECD and Regency Period Clubs and Activities
Our favorite ECD club
Set to Music
Set to Music Dance Club meets regularly for dance instruction on Thursday evenings (except for extended holiday break)
Classes start at 7pm in the McMinnville Ballroom, McMinnville, Oregon.
It is a drop in class, pay as you go, or pay monthly.
The club holds regular balls, one about every 2 months, in the McMinnville Ballroom, or at various locations in our area. The balls are for all levels of dancers and are called.
The style of dance is predominately ECD, with some folk
Regency dress is always appropriate, although the balls can be of various themes.
Charges generally are $5 per person per class instruction, approximately $10 to $15 per person for balls, generally $35 for family.
Costumes admired but not required at balls. (Sunday best only please if you are not wearing a costume).
Laura Hatch is an experienced ECD instructor and Christian homeschool graduate. The classes and balls become a good social outlet as well as historical re-enactment.
ECD Regency Period Costume Ideas
The quickest and cheapest way to create an ECD costume is to visit a thriftstore and raid your closet.
A simple ladies ECD costume can be made out of a modern empire dress which has long or short (puff) sleeves. Add a complimenting ribbon sash at the empire waist, tied behind or in front, a string of long beads, and a shawl scarf. Complete the outfit with low-heeled shoes and long white gloves.
For gentlemen, find a pair of baseball pants with long white stockings, or simply use modern, normal length, tan or black docker-type pants. Add to this black men's shoes, or knee high boots, a pirate-type white cotton shirt and cover that up with a square vest that comes to the waist or just below. Add a long white scarf that you tie up as an ascot. (See instructions below). You can finish the look out with a coat with tails, if you can find one, or use a man's car-length coat.
But once you've joined the fun and gotten hooked on ECD, you'll likely want to upgrade your wardrobe by sewing more authentic costumes...and we've got help for that too...see our costuming sections below.
Sew Your Own Historical Ladies ECD Costume
We recommend Simplicity Pattern 4055 We found ours at JoAnn's Fabrics. The pattern goes in and out of stock, but is usually in stock in the fall for Halloween. We also recommend some alterations for sewing ease and simplicity, especially for your first sewn costume.
Sewing tips on Simplicity Pattern 4055:
We recommend lining the bodice. To do so, simply cut 2 of every bodice piece from your dress material, 1 for the dress and 1 for the lining. (Unless you have weightier material, you will want 2 layers on the bodice for Bodice A).
We also recommend adding more length to the bodice by adding an inch or two at the bodice bottom edges when you cut out your bodice pattern pieces.
This will set the bodice/skirt seam lower for comfort, especially for the more developed figure. (The pattern's authentic Regency gown bodice-skirt seam runs directly mid-line across the bust which can be uncomfortable for some ladies.) This also drops the back bodice seam, but it makes little difference to the dress back.
Sew the bodice dress pieces together and then the bodice lining pieces together. (Note, when fitting together, the 2 curved back bodice side pieces will overhang slightly at the top neck-side edge....keep the bottom edges even, and pin and ease the curved back bodice pieces together with lots of pins to keep it flat to sew). Then place completed bodice lining and completed bodice dress (no sleeves yet, those come later) right sides together, and sew at the neckline and down back midseams (where you will have overlap for buttons/buttonholes), turn and press. Run your gather sticthes under each breast. Gather at breasts. Now fit this sleeveless bodice as one unit to the person BEFORE sewing the sleeves or skirt onto the bodice. You may need to make adjustments by taking in side seams, enlargening armholes, or adjusting the buttonlap midseam edges as needed. The skirt is "forgiving" as you can simply increase or decrease the back gatherings or adjust the skirt side seams.
Unlike the instructions, we recommend sewing both bodice front and lining as one unit onto the skirt rather than matching right sides of bodice and skirt, sewing the seam, then whip stitching the bodice lining over that inside skirt-bodice seam. If you do it as instructed in the Simplicty pattern, it is very difficult to keep the bodice and lining from rumpling in front as you move. It is also easier to match your bodice and lining bust gathers when they are treated as one. You can finish the raw edges from this bodice-lining skirt seam with seam tape or leave them unfinished (it really doesn't show because of the way the back skirt placket overlaps
Also check your arm hole allowance when fitting the bodice. For the short puff sleeve, we found the arm holes a little tight for "bustier" types, which we corrected with a slightly larger seam allowance when in-setting the sleeves. We also found the sleeve bands a snug. You'll want to measure your bicep and check it against the pattern sleeve band. You can then choose to either take a smaller sewing seam allowance for the sleeve bands or recut the sleeve band a larger. Either way does not throw off the sleeve as you can simply adjust the gathers in the puff sleeve A to accommodate. You may also wish to add lace or cut the Bodice A pattern a little higher, by an inch or two, if the finished dress will hit too low at the neckline.(It's always best to hold the paper pattern pieces to the body before cutting or sewing to alert you to any adjustment needs.)
Skirt A fits more narrowly,so those with wider hips may wish to add an inch to the Skirt A width during pattern cutting. Any adjustments fitting the skirt to the bodice can be made up with fewer or more gathers at the skirt back or adjusting the side seams a bit...more gathers simply create a more marked Regency look, fewer a more modern empire waist look. Unless you are using very lightweight or silky fabric, a modern half slip will work fine under either Skirt A or Skirt B as the single-layer main skirt to the dress. This saves the sewing time of that liner!
We also simplified (or made better sense, at least to us) the sewing the back placket onto the back skirt. Mark your midpoint on the back skirt top edge according to the pattern (or by measuring halfway). Take the skirt placket and fold in half. Measure that half-placket length, down the skirt midline from this skirt/bodice edge top midpoint. Note where placket (folded in half) ends. Mark that spot. Cut skirt back from top edge to your marked spot. Finish one long edge of your placket. Open skirt slit and pull straight. Right sides together, pin raw placket edge across opened slit using full length of placket. Now with pinned placket on top, sew placket to skirt with a graduated seam starting at 5/8 inch at left skirt top edge narrowing to almost the edge of material by the marked spot, then graduating back out to 5/8 inch again to the right skirt top edge...the whole sewing pattern will resemble a "V." Turn and press placket to inside of skirt.
For more in depth adjustments and information, go to the Sense and Sensibility website. The lady who designed the dress for the Simplicity pattern sells her own more "authentic" pattern on her website but gives sewing and alteration instructions for both pattern types. There are lot of suggestions, alterations, tips and helps on her site (with instructional photos)
Our Costuming Experiences and Suggested Alterations
Simplicity Pattern 4055 "A" Dress
We did our first simple dresses out of inexpensive "quilters cotton" from JoAnn's fabrics for a very nice look. The whole dress cost about $20.
The light blue and peach dresses at left use:
Bodice A raised one inch higher (at cutting) and self-lined (cut 2 of the bodice pieces and turn and sew as a lined bodice)
Skirt A as the main skirt (without the overlay B), which gives a more modern waist line.
Sleeve A, single fabric, unlined as we did not use overlay B.
With these alterations, you get a garment that is quick and easy to sew.
The addition of ribbon and neckline lace and long gloves to the peach dress creates a distinct Regency appearance.
Simplicity Pattern 4055 "A Skirt, A Bodice, B Sleeve" Dress
The Dark Blue dress at right is made out of a sateen fabric.
We used pattern Bodice A, Skirt A (again as the main skirt without overlay B) for a more modern empire look, and long Sleeve B.
When sewing sleeve B, note that the seam that runs the length of the sleeve (down the arm) is off set to the back of the arm and does not line up with the underarm/side seam of the bodice like modern shirts/dresses do.
Sleeve B does work with Bodice A, but you will have to "fiddle" with it to make it crown right at the shoulder point since the Sleeve B notches won't match up with Bodice A notches (as Sleeve B is actually made for Bodice B).
Sleeve B is also a very snug sleeve, especially in the elbow area. We ended up using a size larger for the sleeve taking up the armhole difference with the gathers. The gold "v" in the bodice front is actually a decorative fabric sewn onto the Bodice applique style.
The Simplicty Pattern 4055"B" Dress
The green and blue dresses left use Simplicity 4055 Bodice B with Sleeves B (this time cut at 3/4 length for variety to avoid the tight sleeve issue) with Skirt B as a full skirt (without the optional lining Skirt A)
We adjusted this dress so that it has a button hole closure at the center back rather than the "B" pattern's gathered ties (to be more secure for dancing.
We did this by adding a little extra to the center Bodice "B" back seam (about 1 inch) when we cut the pattern piece to allow for a button hole overlap. (Look at how Bodice A pattern does this for an example. Bodice A pattern does have button holes and overlap in the pattern).
Instead of a closure tie at the neckline for this dress, we used very small (about 1/8 inch) soft elastic to close the neckline. If you try to leave out the neckline tie (because you choose to secure the back closing with buttons instead) the neckline will fall widely onto the shoulders in a big scoop--it needs that gathering to bring it to its intended neckline position. Be sure to sew any lace on BEFORE you gather and sew in that neck elastic.
The "B" skirt has a stronger regency cut than modern empire waist gowns, rising highly in the back and cut very full.
Modified Simplicity 4055 for a Josephine Gown Effect
Josephine, empress to Napoleon, wore a modification of the Regency gown which became known as the "Josephine Gown."
It is characterized by a split front with silky underskirt and fluted fabric at the neckline and cuffs.
We made our own version of the Josephine gown by adapting Simplicity 4055 as follows:
Bodice "A" in gold brocade with a lining of cream polyester. We styled the back closing after Bodice "B" for lacing up in a more historic fashion.
Sleeve "B" in cream polyester chiffon, with a fluted cuff from purchased cream polyester notion.
Skirt "A" in a cream polyester chiffon as an underskirt
Skirt "B" in gold brocade for an overlay, which we split open at the midline for an open front effect
Georgian/Colonial McCall's Pattern 5414
Since ECD was also known in the Georgian Period (1714 to 1811) ECD costuming can reproduce the Georgian era in costume.
Here we've done a late Georgian/Colonial style dress (1714-1811). This dress was sewn for the George Washington Birthnight Ball, February 22, 2008. We used McCall's Costume Pattern 5414, which was really not too difficult to do (just time-consuming adding all the lace and trim).
The fitting of the bodice is key to this dress. Be sure to check the waistline at the pattern stage (hold bodice pattern to body to check if actual waistline and pattern natural waistline match--the natural waistline is generally just above the belly button). Lengthen or shorten as necessary on the paper pattern at the area marked for it. It is very important this bodice is appropriate to the natural waistline. Once that is fitted, everything else falls into place nicely.
The back zipper seam and bodice side seams are a great place to make any adjustments as well. Either take a smaller or larger allowance, or even graduated allowance to make a completely fitted look.
We did cut the center bodice panel 2 inches higher than the pattern for a more modest neckline.
We did sew the bodice/lining assembly onto the skirt using a "sandwich" technique--ie we pressed inward (towards wrong side) both of the bottom edges of the completed bodice dress and the bodice lining assembly (seperately) to a 5/8 inch seam allowance.
We then sandwiched the skirt inbetween the bodice dress and bodice lining layers. (Lots of pins and sewing slowly!) This really helped to keep that waist seam flat for a controlled fitted look. We also used iron-on facing for the stiffner on the bodice.
Final addition is a hoop skirt purchased from a store on eBay, or go to a bridal store.
Many of the gentlemen also come to balls in Regency style costume.
The gentlemen are wearing Butterick Men's Costume Pattern B3702 for the shirt and vest (purchased ruffle added at the cuffs).
Regular modern men's dockers and black shoes complete the outfit.
This Butterick pattern also has colonial style knickers included in the pattern kit, however baseball pants or regular modern dockers can be substituted for those gentlemen who prefer.
Here's how to make an elegant man's Regency style
topcoat with tails from a modern mens suit
Find a Used Mens Modern Suit or Tuxedo
Choose a modern mens suit that fits well across the shoulders and chest (an old suit in which the pants are too short is an excellent choice as you will be cutting the suit up).
Long full jacket sleeves are best, but modern jacket sleeve length is acceptable, and even a little short is okay as Regency men sometimes wore their shirt sleeves long and full with full cuffs extending beyond their jacket.
Choose a coat that will adapt well to being cut off (ie the pockets are either removable or do not mess up the jacket's bottom edge once you cut the coat.)
Old tuxedo coats are especially good, but any man's suit coat will do. Suit coats with a full lining work the best, but those with partial lining or unlined can be used as well.
Preparing the Top Coat
Have your gentleman put the coat on, and mark it to the preferred hip line length plus several inches longer. The final jacket length after re-hemming will be at the hip bone, or slightly above the hip, or slightly below the hip depending upon the gentleman's preference...just be sure you give yourself hemming length.
Cut the coat jacket to this hip plus hem length. Save any lower buttons that are removed with this cutting for later detailing.
Preparing the Tails
Now take the suit pants. Cut the legs off the suit pants at about mid thigh. You should have a length of about 14 to 20 inches from the bottom hem of the pant leg to the mid-thigh cut depending upon your preference for tail length. Sew each pant leg "shut" at its bottom hem edge. Now you have 2 tails to attach to the back of your jacket. (See photo left)
Attaching the Tails to the Fully Lined Jacket
Press up, to the inside, about 1 inch of lining and 1 inch of the suit material to form a "sandwich" for the tails.
Place the pant "tails" inbetween the lining and suit material using the back of the jacket vent as the center line if you have one, or the midline of the coat.
Sew the "sandwiched" tails into the coat. Continue sewing this in turned lining and suit material on the balance of the coat bottom to finish the bottom hem. (See photo left)
Top Coat and Tails: The Finished Product
Finished tails (back view) right
Note this coat is a little longer and the "heads" of the
tails are sewn together for about 4 inches from
the coat top-tail seam, and then flow loosely.
Finished Ensemble (front view) left
tuxedo/tails (remade from modern mens suit )
waist-length square mens vest (purchased at thrift store)
white business shirt with collar turned up (purchased at thriftstore)
muslin ascot (white linen strip, about 4in wide by 36in long, hemmed)
modern men's black docker style pants
modern men's black dress shoes with composite sole (for good dancing traction)
Jacket/Tail Assembly Method For the Un-lined or Partially Lined Suit Coat
With right sides together, match the unfnished ends of the tails to the unfinished edge of the jacket--your tails will lie "upside down" on top of the back of the jacket (the tails will drop down into the correct position when you press the jacket hem up).
Pin the unfinished edge of each of the pant-leg tails to the unfinished edge of the jacket using the back vent as center line. Pin one tail onto the right back flap, and one tail to the left back flap. The tails will extend (depending upon the pant width) from the back vent edge to the underarm-side jacket seam or slightly beyond.
Sew tails to jacket with a 5/8" seam. Finish this raw edge with seam binding. Press 1 1/2 to 2 inches to the inside (towards lined side) of the jacket for hem. Hand stitch seam binding edge to the lining of the jacket (so your hem won't show on the outside of jacket).
Re-press lapels for a wider lapel look. Add additional button hole if necessary. Optional: use removed buttons to add a "double breasted" look to front of jacket. Optional: to cover the stitching where you attached the tails to the jacket at the back, make a placket from leftover pant leg material, the length of the tail back seam, and sew that onto the back of the jacket. Use 2 buttons to decorate this back placket.
Completing the Outfit
Wear this topcoat/tails with regular modern men's dockers and black shoes and regular men's white dress shirt. Turn up collar of dress shirt, and add ascot-type tie. Adding a matching vest, or white vest, is also another nice option. (Regency men wore vests that were often longer than their short topcoat and "peeked" below).