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

 

 

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Red/White regency dress

My red/white regency dress is done! The planning took ages (other projects took precedence), but the sewing was actually rather quick! I really love how it turned out.

My original inspiration and plan

And the details of the bodice construction

I didn’t take a lot of images of the skirt construction, as it’s basically two rectangles (front & back) and a sort-of-triangle (side). I didn’t use a pattern, but I did take inspiration from the patterns in the book Regency Women’s Dress: Techniques and Patterns 1800-1830, by  Cassidy Percoco. 

The finished dress on my dress form.

 

And a detail of the bodice:

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The bodice closes with a bunch of ties. I tried to photograph how it’s done, so these are the steps.

This is what it looks like without anything attached. (Over only a shift, as my stays don’t fit my dress form very well)

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The first 2 ties are attached to the center back of the lining and tied in front. These are just to stabalize everything.

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Next up is the bodice lining. This is closed with a pin to the right hand side (as viewer). It’s hidden under the dress here, one of the following picture shows the pin.

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The left (viewer perspective) bodice part isn’t attached to the skirt, but has a small modesty placket and a tie at the tip. This is closed through a loop in the right-side lining, as shown in the next image.

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This image shows the pin which closes the lining at the side. Underneath there’s a little loop (which is very hard to see, sorry). This loop is used to close the side of the bodice which isn’t attached to the skirt. This has a tie which goes through the loop and is secured in place.

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The other bodice part is attached to the skirt and has a long tie at the end. This wraps around the entire dress, through the loops in the back. This tie is hidden in the end by the red bow.

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The tie is pinned to the dress at the split, the remaining tie can be hidden within the split.

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The whole thing lying flat, showing all the ties.

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The hem facing is made similarly to bias tape (just not cut on the bias), and longer for the front than the back part. I machine sewed it in place on the right side of the dress, and hand-stitched it in place at the back. Most of the dress is machine-sewn, but I didn’t want any of it showing, so most finishes were done by hand.

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I also managed to take some pictures of myself wearing the dress, as it does fit me better than my dress form.

 

And some details of the top:

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Regency dress – Red & White bodice

As I mentioned in my regency petticoat post, I’ve finally started work on the red/white dress! I first blogged about this dress back in March 2014, so nearly 2 years afterwards, it’s actually happening!

This was the plan:

And the method for putting on the dress will be like this image from my post on v-neckline front closing gowns:

Regency dresses - Cross-over Slit

The only thing left to decide for construction was how to create the little ‘modesty placket’ in the center front, filling up the v neckline. I’ve seen this on a lot of paintings, but couldn’t find any actual dresses which had it.

My original inspiration has it:

And so do these inspiration paintings:

In the end, I had 2 theories. The first is that it’s the bodiced petticoat peeping through. The only problem I have with that theory is that the paintings show the same lace on the placket as on the dress. And I don’t think it very likely that petticoats would have lace matched to the gown. The second theory is that it’s constructed to the dress somehow. It seems most likely to me that in this case, it’s an extra bodice piece connected to the sides of the dress which goes underneath the overlapping pieces.

In the end, I chose to make it in this second way. Basically, I made 4 front pieces. 2 For the outer layer which create the v-shape, and 2 which form the ‘lining’, and have a piece of fashion fabric which peeps out underneath. If this is unclear, there’s pictures of how I did it later in the post! (If anyone has information on how plausible this method is I’d love to know!)

So, on to making the bodice!

I started with adapting the bodice pattern I used for my blue dress, which was again an adaptadion of the Sense & Sensibility’s Elegant Ladies Closet pattern. This actually happened pretty quickly, as I had saved my mock-up. Although the blue dress has a back closure and a gathered front, I made the mock up for the lining with a fitted front and a front closure to make fitting easier. This meant I only had to change the shape of the front panels.

I cut out the pattern pieces, and the lining. For the front lining, this was basically a long strip of which I checked the length later.

I constructed the lining and the outer layer separately, and then put them together and hand-sewed them together. These are the little stitches visible on the side and back panels of the bodice. Next up was finishing the neckline, which I did by turning over the outer fabric. I whip-stitched this down on the back. For the neckline, I again used the little stitches. Because of the construction, there’s no lining directly under the outer fabric for the v-shape.

For the front lining, I cut an extra piece of ‘outer’ fabric for the center, the part which would show. I attatched this to the lining piece, again by hand.

The bodice without sleeves:

Before making any of the closures, I first wanted to attach the sleeves because they can change the fit quite a bit. I cut out the sleeve pattern from both the cotton and the outer fabric and flat-lined them together.

Next up were the little red wings on top of the sleeve. I drafted a pattern based on the sleeve pattern and checked how it looked in cotton. It seemed to work fine, so I cut 4 pieces from my red fabric. I hemmed the pieces by hand, which was quite fiddly because of the strong curve, but I think it turned out all right.

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I then gathered the top of the wings and pinned them to the sleeves.

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Last step were the sleeve bands, which I decided to decorate with piping. I’d never made this before, but I like how it turned out. I made the piping, and attached the sleeve bands.

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The very last step was to attach the sleeves, and the bodice is done!

Well, nearly, because there’s no closures yet. I want to try to attach the skirt first to make sure the fit is good.

Some pictures! A slight note, that my dress-form is quite a bit ’rounder’ at the top than I am when wearing stays. So the bodice fits more smoothly on me.

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The bodice witht the front ‘flaps’ turned back looks like this:

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On the left side (on the picture, right side on me) the large strip is attached.

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Normally, a lining like this would close in the center, but that would show. So I made a ‘long’ right (left on picture) flap and a short left (right on picture) one. It now attaches to the side. In the picture it closes with a pin, this will probably become a hook and eye closure.

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A detail of the stitching on the bodice back which attatches the lining:

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And of the top of the bodice at the back, where it’s whip-stitched to the lining.

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And the sleeve:

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And a detail, showing the stitches from the lining.

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A bit of a weird perspective, but this shows the shape of the wings.

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And a close-up of the piping and sleeve band!

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Next up will be the skirt and closures.

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

Inspiration – Red cloaks

I love red cloaks. It probably has something to do with the whole red-riding hood vibe, but I also really like the color and feel of deep red wool. This weekend, I found a beautiful natural red wool. I already had some plans of making a red cloak one day, so I couldn’t let the opportunity pass. It might take a little time to get around to making it due to other projects, but the first step is there!

When I first thought of making a red cloak, I had the long, 18th century type in mind. I still love this style, but I recently found some examples of gorgeous Edwardian cloaks and fell in love with the style, so I think that will be the new plan. For this post, some inspiration of historical red cloaks.

 

18th century

 

1800-1820 Manchester City Galleries

 

Edwardian

 

c.1898–99, Metmuseum I love the cut of this cloak.

 

1890s Metmuseum. The braiding on this cloak is one of the reason I’m leaning towards this period. I’d be a lot of work, but it’s so pretty!