Inspiration – Regency back’s

One of the most characteristic things about regency dresses is the patterning of the back. Specifically, a very narrow back panel at the bottom, sleeves set far back and shoulder seams behind the shoulder. Some dresses were closed in the front (bib-closures), others at the back with either strings, hooks or buttons. The methods seem to differ a lot per dress though, as I found when I was looking for methods of making the back-closure for my dotted dress. I eventually settled for hooks and eyes, but it’s interesting to see how many ways there were, and how rare the ‘normal’ buttoned version was! So for this post, some inspiration images of the backs of regency dresses.

The picture below shows a typical regency-back, with the seamlines outlined in red. This is a front-closure dress. In the following pictures, there’s many variations, but this is close to the ‘standard’ cutting pattern.






Some more dresses with front-closures:



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I’ve found most back-closures of existent dresses seem to be a gathered back tied with strings. I don’t know if this was also the most common method (I suspect it was, but mainly in the earlier period of the regency, because gathered bodices went out of style later on). Some dresses also show a combination of string at the top and hooks and eyes at the bottom. It’s obvious that this closure works best when the back bodice is gathered, because otherwise a gap might be obvious. (as it is, a slight gap wouldn’t be a problem due to the stays, shift and petticoat worn underneath.





A very clear example of the string and eyelets method.












It seems that especially in later periods, buttons also became more popular. Another form of back-closure I’ve seen is lacing, although this seems a bit rare. Here are some more examples of backs. Suffice to say that the ‘simple’ version of buttons along the back was rare!



I can’t exactly say how this was closed. Maybe eyelets? There doesn’t seem to be a string in any case, and no buttons.


A very interesting example, also with the pleating in the back. The buttons with strings method is really pretty!


Another buttons and ribbon method. I must say I really like this one!

Opnamedatum: 2013-03-20

One of the few examples of a laced back. Also with very interesting seam-lines in the back!


The image is a bit small, but I wanted to include it anyway because of the wonderfully low neckline, and what I suspect to be another laced closing.


This is the only dress I’ve every seen with an open back. I’ve no clue how it closed, but wanted to include it anyway for it’s uniqueness.


Buttons! Very obviously a dress of the latter regency, with the large back panel and the lower waistline.


Another later dress. I suspect that there are buttons beneath the vertical strip of fabric in the middle, but it could also be hooks and eyes.




Traditional costume – Northern-Limburg

A couple of weeks ago I was in a lace museum, where they also had an exhibition on the traditional costume of the north of Limburg. It’s a costume which is generally under-represented in the literature. Recently, one local collector wrote a book about this costume, saving his knowledge gathered over the years.

The costume of the north of Limburg dissapeared from daily life in the beginning of the 20th century. It’s most characteristic part is, without doubt, the headwear. The rest of the costume mostly followed current fashions, but there are a couple characteristics worth mentioning.

The headwear worn by ladies is called a ‘toer’. The toer consists of a lace cap and a wreath of silk flowers. The lace cap is worn on the head over a black under-cap, so the lace can be seen properly even on light hair. Some photos of traditional caps:


Lace under-cap


Detail of the pleating in the front


On top of this cap, the flowers are worn. These silk flowers are mounted on a wide ‘headband’, and has ruffled lace at the bottom. It has two large ‘ribbon’ like pieces hanging down.



Complete toer.


Complete tour. Detail of the lace undercap and the tule and silk flowers on top.


From the back. Here you can also see the lace ribbons hanging down.


For mourning, a different cap was worn as lace was not allowed. For this reason, the under-cap was made of fabric and the flowers replaced by black crepe-like fabric.



Under-cap for mourning. No lace


Detail of the pleating.


Complete mourning toer


These headpieces were made by the ‘toer’ maker. This was (usually) a woman who would make and clean the toer. This consisted making the cap, ruffling and starching the lace and making the flower band. The ruffling and starching was done with metal bars, shown in the photos below.



Tools of the tour-maker


A ‘plooiplankje’, or pleating board for the making of the under-cap


This lady would also clean the toer, because it needed to be completely taken apart to do this. Ladies would wear their toer daily, and it would cost as much as at leas a month’s wages at the time. A new toer was worn on sundays. Once it had been washed, it was usually worn during the week. These pieces were very valuable, and were often passed on from mother to daugther.

The rest of the clothing during the last period the toer was worn, was mostly black. A black skirt, black blouse and for outer wear a ‘pelerine’ was worn. This was a typical cape of the time, about hip-length and with a small collar. These were made of different materials, but often wool or silk, and beautifully decorated with methods such as lace, soutache or embroidery.

Another typical part of the costume from Limburg were the red/brown shawls. These were worn in the period before the costume became completely black, around the middle of the 19th century. They were cashmir shawls, originally made popular in the early 19th century by the French empress (and wife of Napoleon) Josephine. The story is that Josephine spend so much on clothing, that her husband forbid her to buy any more shawls. Instead, she used them as bed-spreads and made pillow-cushions out of them, as these were not clothing. Josephine was a trend-setter, and many women followed her example with these shawls. In Limburg, they became incorporated into the traditional wear and therefore stayed in fashion quite a bit longer than in modern fashion circles. The smaller shawls were worn as shawls, but when a girl married, a very large one was pleated around the shoulders with pins to form a cape and this would be her ‘bruidsdoek’, or ‘weddingshawl’.



Wedding shawl. It was pinned in place this way (being a rectangle in shape originally)


Wedding shawl. It was pinned in place this way (being a rectangle in shape originally)


I haven’t been sewing so much lately, too much other stuff to do, and life gets in the way sometimes. Loads of ideas though, and although I’m not very quick, I’m already planning new projects. So for now, an overview of what I want to do, in various states of reality.

Working on:

Blue dotted Regency dress. This is actually almost done. I only need to hem it. The only thing holding me back is that I have to check the fabric at the top of the skirt, as it might have come apart a little as its so fragile. In that case, I sort of need to re-attach the skirt first before I hem it, and that’s a pain to do, so I’m procastinating.

Irish dance dress. This one is actually coming along nicely, with the bodice, bodice lining, skirt and sleeves all being done, but none of it actually being attached to each-other. I need to assemble it, and figure out what I want with the decorative parts.


Have fabric and pattern for:

Black velvet 1860’s evening bodice. I actually have this cut out in the velvet, just have to cut the lining and assemble it. (and then, trimming!)

Red regency spencer. I’ve actually been planning this for a while, and I have the perfect fabric for it, as well as a pattern I’m starting from. I want to wear it with a red/white regency dress though, so I might want to make that first…

Red/White regency dress. The one which matches the spencer above. I have a pattern I’m starting from, and I have fabric, but its not perfect and I want to search for an alternative first. I’ll probably get that done soon, and then I can either start with the new fabric, or with the one I already have.

Red Edwardian cloak. I’ve been wanting to make a red cloak for ages, and I have beautiful red wool to actually do it. I’m basing my pattern on online and seen examples, so I’ll just need to make a mock-up for it.


Have pattern for:

Edwardian underwear. I figure that when starting on this era with the cloak, I might as well do it well and also build an outfit. So starting with the basics. I’m planning on making a chemise, drawers, corset cover and corset. Now I just need the fabric!

1860’s crinoline. I have one already, but after wearing it one day it starts to fall apart… The downside of using cheap materials and duck-tape. So I decided to do it properly, because I know it will keep me from wearing my black 1860’s dress otherwise. The pattern is bought and due to arrive soon, so I can start buying supplies.



Edwardian blouse & skirt. I don’t have a pattern or fabric for these yet, figured I’d start with the underwear. I’ve beautiful antique lace for the blouse though, and that’s what partly inspired the idea. I’m thinking a white/off-white blouse, and I really want to make a black/red tartan skirt to go with it, and maybe a vest…?


After that:

Okay, so I want to do way too much, so this list is something I’m not starting on for a while. But still.

I love 18th century clothing, especially chintz dresses and jackets. So I want to make one, a jacket and petticoat first, and then maybe an anglaise. And of course I’d need stays first, so that would be the first step.

A bustle dress. I already have a Truly Victorian pattern for an 1880’s jacket, which I’d love to make. And the same goes for a bustle pattern and an underskirt pattern. (all bought second-hand, so I took the chance of cheaper patterns while it lasted!). So bustle, petticoat, under-skirt, (over-skirt), jacket would be new projects. This would need to be done properly though, so I’m waiting with this until I finish some of the previous list!

Inspiration – Wish list

I think every seamstress knows the feeling of wanting to make a hundred things, often at the same time. I personally have a couple of historical and other pieces of which I always think ‘I want to make that’. Time, money and skill are all finite though, so a lot of these will probably stay dreams. Dreaming is fun though, and you never know. I can only give the inspirational example of Cathy Hay, who decided to just go ahead and re-create the (nearly) impossible by tackling a reproduction of an Edwardian dress completely covered in feather embroidery (follow her blog here: ). As I have way to many favorites, in this post I’ll focus on bustle fashions.

So, completely disregarding how difficult it might be to get it right in material and cut, here’s my 1870-1880’s wish-list:

Actual dresses:


House of Worth. I’d let out the feather pattern, but other than that I adore this dress.


I especially like the top of this dress. The bottom I’d change, especially the color. Green or dark blue?


I love black/white, and the brocade is beautiful.


House of Worth. This is an unusual fabric for the period, but I really like it.


I haven’t been able to find a bigger picture of this dress, but look at all those little pearls!


Fashion plates:








Goodies and lace

I recently found a couple of wonderful shops in the town where I live, and picked up a couple of lovely things. In addition, I also recently went to a lace-museum and an accompanying 2nd hand sale where I found more goodies. So for this post, lovely things!

In the first antique shop I entered I found a lace cap which is worn traditionally by women in Volendam, and called a ‘hul’. It’s part of the most classic of Dutch folk costumes. The lady running the shop didn’t know what it was (called it a farmers cap), but I’m pretty sure its from Volendam. Given my love for traditional costume, I just had to add it to my collection.


Most recent (and iconic) version of the Volendam costume. (photo from the 1950’s, but due to it getting extinct it hasn’t changed anymore since then)


1926. This is an older version of the costume. You can see that the caps are smaller (less pointy) and the ‘wings’ are slightly different.


This is mine. I think it's a bit older than the 50's one, judging from the photo's above.

This is mine. I think it’s a bit older than the 50’s one, judging from the photo’s above.


The shop also sold a lot of old lace, and I couldn’t resist. So I picked the prettiest. I haven’t checked how much is on the spool, but it looks like plenty.




The second shop I entered had these lovely vintage gloves. Gloves are usually too big on my as I have small hands, but these fit me!



The lace museum I visited was really lovely. They had a lot of old mechanic lace machines which were also demonstrated by the guides. The cotton-machines were bought second-hand in the 1920’s, and they still run! The museum-shop also sold the lace made on their machines, and I couldn’t resist buying some of it. So it’s not antique lace, but it was made with antique mechanical machines, so completely historically correct!


Nylon lace machine. The number of needles and threads on this thing is astonishing.


Cotton lace machine at work (hence the blurry spools).


The lace I bought, made on a machine as in the photo above:


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Next to the museum, there was a small 2nd hand market selling things to do with sewing, embroidery, knitting, lace making etc. I found these two spools of lace. Not the best or prettiest I’ve ever seen, but they cost me a whole of 2,00 euros each. I can think of something to do with it for that price! Maybe I’ll make a skirt with a double row of lace at the hem… Anyway, there’s plenty of it!

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They also had a lot of old sewing magazines. Most were from the 90’s, 80’s and late ’70s, but I found three from the early 60’s! They cost 25 cents per magazine… (the prices at this market were almost ridiculously low, it was very busy!) They have a lot of great images, and some patterns are included. Only in one size though, so there’s 2 patterns in there which might fit me. They’re both great though, so I’ll definitely have to try them! Some of my favourite pages:

The covers! I like how weird the first one is. I don't think many fashion magazines today would have their models pose with a banana that way...

The covers! I like how weird the first one is. I don’t think many fashion magazines today would have their models pose with a banana that way…


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The right dress has a pattern

The right dress has a pattern


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This one also has a pattern.

This one also has a pattern.