2 cotton Regency dresses

After making new stays, I figured I’d take the opportunity to also make some additions to my Regency wardrobe. I wanted to add one white cotton dress, as they are quite versatile. Wearing them with a spencer makes them suitable for day wear, but they can also work for evening. Additionally, I wanted a printed cotton day dress, something for more practical wear.

Both dresses were made with the same pattern, which I adapted from my previous Regency dresses. I particularly wanted to try out bib-style dresses, so dresses where the center front panel is only attached to the skirt, and ties in place. The main advantage of this style is that it closes in the front, so is easy to get in and out of.

These pictures by the Hungarican Chick show the system really well:

 

For the white cotton dress, this was my main inspiration:

c.1808-1809 Gilbert Stuart - Mary Harrison Eliot

ab. 1808-1809 Gilbert Stuart – Mary Harrison Eliot
(Harvard Art Museums)

I really love the decoration on the bodice and sleeve of this dress. A lot of white cotton regency dresses have intricate white-work embroidery as decoration, but I wanted this to be a simple project so I chose to do it with lace instead. I don’t know for sure if the portrait is embroidered or has lace, but the straight borders do suggest lace to me. The portrait also seems to show a bib-dress, if you look closely there is the suggestion of the front panel being laid on top of the shoulder strap. For the skirt I went fairly simple, but I did add some tucks near the bottom for extra decoration.

The lace I bought from cottonlace, and is very pretty! The right picture are the tucks in progress

 

For my day-dress, I looked at existent examples and settled on this one:

1808-12 White cotton day dress printed with red and blue floral rondels overall. The dress with scoop neck and high waist. A panel from the waistband flaps up over the bust, ties at the waist are pulled to the tightly pleated back. The short sleeves with sewn in fitted undersleeve with ruffled wrist. Silverman/Rodgers Collection, KSUM 1983.1.28

KSU MuseumFollow
Cotton day dress, ca. 1808-1812

 

It is made of printed cotton, and has a tuck at the hem and sleeve ruffles. The bodice is decorated with a simple pleated strip to add a little interest. I liked how this dress is very simple, but has a couple of small decorative touches. Plus, this also looks to be a bib-front dress. I think this original dress has one-piece sleeves, but I decided to go for a separately finished short puff sleeve and longer sleeve, whipped together. This way, I have the option to remove the lower sleeve easily for hot days.

The Merry Dressmaker: Kent State Museum of Fashion: A Pictorial Tease II

Picture courtesy of the Merry Dressmaker

 

 

And the finished dresses!

The white dress, with evening gloves and tiara.

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The lace on the bodice and sleeves adds a subtle bit of interest.

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And the white-blue gown, worn with the long sleeves, my chemisette and bonnet (in some pictures, as I also wanted to show the pleated strip on the bodice.

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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…

The fancy spencer

Today 200 years ago Jane Austen passed away. I originally thought of doing a post with pretty pictures of black and mourning dresses from around that period, but then I remembered I hadn’t written the blog for this red spencer yet. It’s a jacket which is inspired by one ca. 1820, so I’d say 1817 is reasonable enough as a date. As it’s also  nicer to see finished sewing then pretty pictures (no matter how much I like those), I decided it was a good moment to finally write this post. So, in honor of Jane:

This project has been a while in the making. I originally got the fabric a little over 3 years ago. When I planned to make a white-red regency dress, I also wanted to make a red spencer jacket to go with it, in the same red fabric of the dress details. That particular dress didn’t actually get made until last year, and once I knew exactly how much fabric I had left I started on the spencer. Now, nearly 1,5 year later, it’s done!

My previous spencer was dark blue wool, and quite simple. For this one, I therefore wanted something rather more fancy, and I really loved the decoration of this one from the MET. It has a sister with the same decoration, and the close-up pictures allowed me to clearly see the patterns.

My first order of business was to decide on how to recreate the decoration. I quickly decided I wanted soutache braid, as that would save me the trouble of making all that self-fabric cord. So I went looking for a suitable matching red soutache.

This took a while… I eventually found a beading store with many types of soutache though, and although the match wasn’t absolutely perfect, it was close enough to not matter.

Before starting the braiding though, I did a bit of a practise run drawing the little cord through the soutache to create the curves. I quickly ran into a problem: by drawing the soutache over the cord with my fingers, it frayed terribly. I couldn’t really see a way around this as the pattern was super curvy and I wanted the soutache to lay flat. So I decided to not use it after all (anyone ideas on what to do with 9m of red soutache?).

So: next plan. Making the cord myself after all… This took some fiddling to find the best method. My fabric is rather sturdy and not very thin, but I did want thin cords. So I didn’t put a cord inside. (I also didn’t really know how to do that at the time, but have since seen the method shown by Walking Through History which also creates lovely results. Much quicker than my way, but with a cord inside so a little thicker). Not using a cord meant stitching fabric strips into tubes by hand. I experimented a bit with different widths, and eventually settled on the thinnest still workable; 1cm wide. I also tried cutting them on the straight of grain first (much more fabric efficient), but the tube didn’t curve as nicely as when I cut them on the bias, so bias it was.

Transfering the pattern, fraying soutache, and comparison of fabric tubes. The top right image shows the same tubes as the bottom row. First is 2cm wide straight of grain; that gave wiggly curves. Second 2cm wide on the bias. Loads better, but still a bit squiggly. The third is 1cm wide on the bias, which is what I went for

 

And then came the sewing of fabric tubes. I kept a little bag with cord and thread and took it on the train with me every once in a while, and spent a fair number of evenings on the couch sewing.

Strings of cord starting to appear

 

I estimate I do about 10cm in 20 minutes, as it’s quite fiddly work. I also measured I’d need about 3,75 meters of cord for one side of the spencer. That’s about 7,5 meters of tube. At 30cm per hour. Suffice to say, this took a while. I had half of the cord done by summer last year and started to sew that part on.

 

It got taken on a couple of holidays. Below in sunny Portugal last summer, almost half way with the first side.

 

The first side was done briefly after that holiday. Slightly blurry picture because it was dark, but with the shadows it shows the relief nicely.

 

The other side took a bit longer as it took a backseat to the bustle dresses I worked on between September and May. But, eventually, it got done!

 

Once I finished the trimming, I put together the spencer quite quickly. I’d already cut all the pieces before, which really helped. I also had an photoshoot coming up where I was going to wear my red-white dress, and figured it’d be the perfect first outing for the spencer as well. Some more hasty sewing ensued, and eventually I got it done before the event!

The sleeves were the trickiest part to finish. I’d already started on their decoration as well and all the parts were cut out, but I did that over a year ago, so it took a little figuring out. My main inspiration was this spencer, also from the MET.

 

I started experimenting by twisting strips of fabric around another strip.

Experimenting to determine strip length needed. Looks very pretty no? 😉

 

I ended up using wider strips than the example and just 4 per sleeve. The strip around the arm is narrower and plain, the other strips I piped first.

Two fabric strips, piped on both sides and then turned inside out to show the right side.

 

I then twisted the piped strips around the plain one to get the twisted effect.

Sewing the twisted strips on.

 

I’m quite happy with the result, even though its a bit simpler than in the inspiration picture, and I’m happy I didn’t just do a simple plain sleeve. With how decorated the front is, it needs the slightly more fancy sleeves.

Pinning to the sleeve before setting it in.

Done!

 

I finally added a little collar. I’d originally cut this quite a bit larger but because the neckline is not all that high and I didn’t want to hide too much of the cord I narrowed it a bit.

Photoshop is good for determining shape. I wasn’t sure I even wanted a collar, but after drawing one on my picture I decided to make one after all.

Close up. Luckily the collar doesn’t hide the trim too much.

 

The spencer closes center front with hooks and eyes. The bottom is finished with a plain fabric strip, the end of the sleeves with a double row of piping.

Double piping around the sleeves.

 

I don’t yet have all the pictures from the photoshoot, so a little teaser of me wearing the spencer, seen from the back! I really love how the red-white looks with the dress, spencer and bonnet.

Picture by Martijn van Huffelen

 

 

Inspiration – Regency in White, Red and Green

It’s Jane Austen day today, she was born 240 years ago today. So in honor of her, a Regency-themed inspiration post. And because Christmas Holidays are nearly here, some lovely winter and christmas colors. Dresses from 1800 to 1820 in red, white and green, three of my favourite colors.

Let’s start off with the all-time Regency favorite, white. Some portraits of lovely ladies in white.

Riesener Henri-François, 1836. Portrait of two young women, said to be the Baroness Pichon and Mme de Fourcroy. The Princely Collections, Vaduz–Vienna

 

1810 Comtesse Daru – David

 

 

Portrait of Madame Genas-Duhomme Menjaud Alexander (1773-1832) 1802

 

Henri-François Riesener (1767-1828) – Alix de Montmorency, Duchesse de Talleyrand

 

Francois Pascal Simon Baron Gerard

 

Red is another popular color, used for everything from day to evening to outerwear.

Junge Dame mit Zeichengerät by Carl Christian Vogel von Vogelstein, 1816 Germany, Galerie Neue Meister (Dresden)

 

The Athenaeum – Portrait of the Elisabeth, Amalie and Maximiliane of Bavaria (Joseph Karl Stieler – )

 

Portrait of Princess V. S. Dolgorukaya, Henri Francois Riesener

 

Wife of General Dejea by Robert Lefevre, c. 1805

 

Anna z Zamoyskich Sapieżyna, http://muzeum-zamojskie.pl/

 

Green isn’t found as much in this period. It seems most common for outerwear, followed by daywear. For eveningwear it starts to be more common nearing the 1820’s.

Maria Antonia Kohary Princess Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha

 

Comtes de Tournon, née Geneviève de Seytres Caumont by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres

 

Pierre-Louis-Henri Grevedon (French artist, 1776-1860) Portrait of a young lady

 

1800 circa – Portrait of a lady in a green dress decorated with a cameo

 

Countess of Dyhrn with her child

 

Ida Brun by J.L. Lund 1811