Little Dorrit



Claudia Vogt


Outline the story …

Having spent so much of this past year in lockdown my thoughts turned to "Little Dorrit". With themes of imprisonment, financial hardship and even quarantine it felt like a natural fit for this years theme.

Having grown up in the Marshalsea debtor's prison, when suddenly her family's fortunes change Amy Dorrit struggles to adjust to their new found wealth. She can never be free of the shadow of the Marshalsea and she feels more restricted in her new position as a lady of leisure than she ever did as an inmate.

It was this conflict that I hoped to portray with this costume. I choose a scalloped rouleaux trim for the hem decoration to represent the rising and falling of the Dorrit family's fortunes. The chemisette is embroidered with scrolling pound signs interspersed with hand cuffs. Each corner has a large openwork keyhole and the whole motif is bordered with chain stitch. The rouleaux and piped bands on the sleeves are to represent the shackles Little Dorrit cannot escape.

I chose to play with scale to try and make myself appear smaller than I am. The skirt trim comes up higher than usual and the wide ruffle of the pelerine creates a shortening effect.

I wanted a transformation gown to better fit my own needs and as I felt Little Dorrit wouldn't have indulged in wanton extravagance even with so much wealth. The detachable under sleeves and pelerine mean that there are two looks in one: day and evening.

Outline the construction…

The making of this costume was a formative experience for me. Although I trained and worked professionally as a costume maker my disability now stops me from working in the way I would like and I have had to learn to adapt.

Whereas I would previously have draped my own pattern for a project like this, my disability meant that wasn't possible and I reluctantly had to work from a paper pattern. I was able to draft some of the smaller items, chemisette/pelerine, and adapt the bodice pieces of the pattern but I had to make that compromise to be able to keep on creating.

The undergarments for this project were all sewn by hand from my bed. I chose this gentle approach as I wanted to find a way that I could still take on big costume projects despite my limitations. I created a sew-a-long with the hashtag #RelaxedRegency to share my progress and encourage others to work at their own pace.

The dress I made in the style of a theatrical costume in line with my training although the rouleaux trim was all sewn by hand. This gave me more time to hand embroider the chemisette. Embroidery has never been my strength but I wanted to push myself to improve and I knew the correct texture to the collar would really make a difference.

I also drafted and made my very first bonnet. I used synthetic millinery straw and trimmed it with scrap fabric from the dress.




  1. Avatar Kristen K on March 11, 2021 at 11:19 pm

    All the subtle details are amazing. Without looking close, you just see a beautiful regency dress—but the embroidery and the references are so beautiful. I love that it is multi use and while not knowing how tall you are, I think you do look mini in it!
    Wonderful all around!!

    • Avatar Retro Claude on March 13, 2021 at 10:17 am

      Thank you so much 😊

  2. Avatar Rebecca on March 12, 2021 at 1:12 am

    I am such a fan of your work! Your Little Dorrit project is beautiful, and you look adorable wearing it, but more important (i think) than the gorgeous costume-building you’ve done here is the community building you’ve done with disabled creators and your Relaxed Regency sew-along. I posted recently on instagram about how much I wish my mother had had people like you around when she was a a young sewist with RA and leg injuries from a car accident– people finding ways to stand up against ableism even when they need to sit.
    What you do means a lot. Good luck from Icarus!

    • Avatar Retro Claude on March 13, 2021 at 10:18 am

      Thank you so much for your kind words. I too wish I had someone to encourage me when I was at the beginning of this rocky road. It means the world to me to know that people take courage from seeing me and my work online and makes it all worthwhile. Good luck to you too!

  3. Avatar Samanthalovestosew on March 12, 2021 at 10:02 am

    Such a beautiful costume in every way – gorgeous colour, fabulous sleeves … and the rouleaux trim! The embroidery on the chemisette is such a fun and clever touch. I loved Little Dorrit and thought it was a really original choice for the competition. Will very much look forward to seeing more of the costume on your YouTube channel. I’m always thrilled when I see you’ve posted a new video.

    • Avatar Retro Claude on March 13, 2021 at 10:19 am

      Thanks a lot! There will eventually be more videos on Little Dorrit but it was such an enormous project it is taking me ages to work my way through it!

  4. Avatar Maeri Certo on March 12, 2021 at 9:23 pm

    Phenomenal job! You look straight out of a fashion plate, and I totally see the dichotomy of wealth and restraint you were aiming for. Well done!

  5. Avatar Amanda on March 13, 2021 at 1:01 am

    This is so lovely! The trim details really look fantastic!

  6. Avatar Lindsey on March 13, 2021 at 2:03 am

    There are so many details in this that stand out to me, I see all the hard work you put into making this! The back view especially takes my breath away!

  7. Avatar Jackie Jacobs on March 13, 2021 at 2:58 am

    You have created a complete and totally amazing look with the attention to detail and the convertibility of the garment. Great job.

  8. Avatar Carly Van Groeningen on March 13, 2021 at 10:03 am

    Beautiful work, every detail is so lovingly executed.

  9. Avatar Sarah Bent on March 14, 2021 at 4:47 pm

    A stunning representation of a loved character. You have done beautiful work and inspired many of us to expand into the regency period, which I know for myself I may never have gotten into it myself.

  10. Avatar Carol Hughey on March 15, 2021 at 5:13 am

    This is really a lovely costume. I appreciate the way you have woven in meaning.

  11. Avatar Elowen on March 15, 2021 at 9:40 am

    Oh it’s so lovely! Just so pretty!!! Well done indeed!!!

  12. Avatar Katie Hernandez on March 19, 2021 at 2:56 am


  13. Avatar Bronwen on March 19, 2021 at 7:09 pm

    Beautiful job! I love all the details with meaning.

  14. Avatar Kikkii von Fustian on March 21, 2021 at 8:33 pm

    This is such a beautiful ensemble <3 I looove the purple fabric, and the thoughts behind the rouleaux trims are really cool.

  15. Avatar Jennifer Bowman on March 29, 2021 at 4:59 am

    Oh, this is stunning! The care and devotion to details is just exceptional. I feel like you stepped out of the book from just leaving the finest dress shop in London!

  16. Avatar Sue (sue-mcfluzen) Assenmacher on March 29, 2021 at 5:57 am

    Absolutely gorgeous, I love this.

  17. Avatar Lizzie Blake on April 1, 2021 at 9:06 pm

    I love your beautiful interpretation of Little Dorrit (and yes, so time appropriate with 2020). Sewing with a disability can be so difficult some days, but you turned out a beautiful end result!

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