Regency stays

Regency was the first period I tried when starting historical costuming, mainly because there were a lot of events and it is relatively simple. It’s not really my favorite period, but I do enjoy spending time with friends at Regency events.

I have a number of Regency dresses which I like, but I’ve been wanting to replace my undergarments for a little while now. I have short stays, but I’ve become very used to wearing full corsets under costumes and in retrospect the short stays also don’t give me the best shape.

I’ve been putting off making long stays because I don’t really need them, but with all the free weekends I figured now was a good time. I got the regency stays pattern from Redthreaded, having heard good things about them.

I made a mock-up, and mainly added room in the hips, which was expected as the pattern is a bit straighter than me. I also raised the bust gussets by about 1cm.

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Cutting time!

 

I followed slightly different steps for the construction, as the pattern calls for constructing it as a single layer (even if using more) with internal boning channels and I wanted a clean finish inside as you see in originals. I couldn’t really figure out how originals were constructed, so I used the method of constructing the pieces front to back, ‘welding’ the seams inbetween the layers. Basically, when attaching panel 1 to 2, you have the layers of panel 1 on each other. Then, you put the right side fabric of 2 to the right side of 1, the wrong side of 2 to the wrong side of 1 and stitch through all layers, and then turn panel 2 back to hide the allowance.

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The main panels constructed

 

The gussets were a bit challenging, as I wanted to sandwich them inbetween the layers. After cutting the slash, I ironed both sides inward, put the gussed inbetween and based the layers in place. Then I topstitched right around the gusset, the basting keeping the underlayers in place. It’s not perfect, but for a first time trying this out I’m pretty happy with it.

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Gusset with only the basting in place

 

I was planning to make these fairly simple, but then I noticed basically all existent Regency long stays have cording, so I wanted to have some too. I used the method described by the Laced Angel here. Basically, I stitched all lines first, and then inserted cording with afterwards with a darning needle. It definitely took some fiddling and pliers, but the cording does add that Regency touch!

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The eyelets are hand sewn, and aside from the cording there are a couple of bones still. Most are 7mm wide 1mm thick synthethic whalebone, but around the center back and on the back/side seam I used 6mm wide 1.5mm thick ones as those places take most strain. There is also a wooden busk in the front to keep that line straight and help separate the bust cups.

 

During the final fitting, the bust turned out to still be a little too high, so I cut about 1cm off the top before stitching on the binding with drawstring. It also turned out the bone between side and back seam was digging in a bit (my fault for not boning my mock-up…), so I shortened that in the channel which fixed it.

Fitting: the bustline is too high, and the bone on the seam in the side/back was digging in whenever I let my arm down.

 

All in all, I’m very happy with how this turned out! It feels more comfortable than my old ones, and also gives me a better silhouette. Regency is all about the ‘lift and separate’ look, and while my old ones did the lift, the separate wasn’t much there.

I can also put them on by myself, despite the back lacing. The trick is very long lacing, wriggling in with the lacing in front, tightening it a bit, turning it around on the body, and tightening one final time. It doesn’t look very elegant, but it works. I’ve wrapped the rest of the lacing cord around my waist, as tying off properly is the only thing I can’t get done on my own. It works fine for putting them on for fittings though!

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The only problem now is that my old dresses don’t fit quite right on my new stays. I’ll look into re-making them if I can, but this is also a good excuse to make new ones! The advantage of regency dresses is that they are fairly quick to make, so I might have some new projects to show fairly soon…

1895 Ball gown – Bodice

The ball I was making my 1895 gown for was supposed to be today. Instead, it’ll happen next year. But the dress is finished, so to celebrate the occasion, instead here’s my post about making it!

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The bodice of this dress was difficult mostly because for a long time, I didn’t know exactly how to trim it. I knew I wanted extravagant trim, but not exactly what. I had an antique beaded collar-like piece which seemed perfect first, but had rather wide shoulder pieces which didn’t fully fit the 1895 style. So when I started off, I decided to just do the base bodice first.

I used TV493 – 1896 Plain Bodice as a base. It’s not a ballgown bodice, but the goal was to get the basic shape and as usual for me with TV patterns, it fit almost perfectly out of the envelope.

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First bodice fitting, pretty good!

 

The bodice is made of 3 layers, silk organza, silk dupioni and white cotton. I sewed all layers together and then treated them as one.

After the base was sewn and the bottom finished with binding tape, it was time to decide on the neckline. My original piece of trim was definitely too wide for the shoulder, but I got another one, and this one was more promising.

Left the original plan. Super pretty, but too wide for the shoulder. To the right the new plan: it fits better, but needs something more.

 

The new beaded piece was also in a bit of a shabby state, as the threads had faded from black to light brown, something you see more often with old black dyes. I decided to re-dye the piece to make it look better. I tested first on another old faded piece, and when the threads didn’t disintegrate, I moved on to the trim piece. It’s still not 100% black, but the brown is a lot darker and less noticeable.

Before & after dye. The little round thing was my dye test.

 

Aside from the beaded piece, I knew I wanted something more. In the end, I found this fashion plate which has a somewhat similarly shaped front piece. I took inspiration from that and created organza ‘poofs’ running from the beaded piece unto the shoulder line. I also found black antique lace in my stash, and used that to both fill in the neckline and create extra interest around the sleeves and back neckline.

The rough  inspiration for the bodice

 

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Trying out stuff. The only piece I ended up leaving out is the little extra beaded piece CF at the top.

 

Finally,  I added velvet trim. The skirt has velvet trim as main accent, and I wanted to create a bit of cohesion. I added it along the bottom, and then decided to also put it on the back seams.

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The sleeves were created after most of the trim was put on, especially the organza poofs and lace run into the sleeve seam, so had to be done first. I used the TV495 – 1890’s Sleeves pattern as I wanted different sleeves as came with the bodice. I ended up using view 5, but without the ruffle to get short ballgown sleeves. The sleeves have a fitted inner layer, and an outer layer of the organza + dupioni. To make them poof, they have a structure between those two layers. As the inner layer is fitted, it’s not possible to wear separate sleeve supports. So instead, I consulted Janet Arnold and found a ‘sleeve interlining of black stiffened cotton’ in the pattern for the 1894-5 London Museum dress. Via the Foundations Revealed live-calls, I’d already heard Luca talk about these, and I made mine of tarlatan after his suggestion.

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Comparing sleeve shapes from TV & Janet Arnold

 

This layer of tarlatan is pleated and attached at the top of the sleeve. It stands out sharply, and holds up the outer sleeve perfectly! I just have to be careful not to squish the bodice. Of course, it would also loose shape when wet, but given my dress is silk I planned on avoiding that anyway.

 

The sleeves were stitched in by hand, as I was handling a good nr. of layers. Silk organza and silk dupioni in ruffles, pleated tarlatan ( so 3 layers at times), cotton inner sleeve and the silk organza, silk dupioni and cotton of the bodice. I also made sure to attach the sleeves pretty high on the shoulder, as is typical of this era.

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The very last thing to do was to add boning, and closures. The dress closes center front, underneath the beaded trim. I debated putting in a center back closure, but eventually decided this’d be nicer for getting in/out by myself. There’s hooks and eyes center front, and the beaded piece is only stitched down on one side. When the center front is closed, the beading can be closed on the other side as well with hooks and eyes. This does mean the beading is handled on closing the bodice, so to give it a bit more stability I backed it to another layer of black silk organza. The lace filling up the neckline is attached to the organza on both sides, so it closes with the beading.

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Backing the beaded piece with organza

How the bodice closes:

 

Because I didn’t want to directly put the dress in my closet again, I wore it for pictures across the street last week. I’m already looking forward to wearing it again next year!

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I also took it for a twirl!

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