New bonnet

A while back, someone on the Jane Austen forum I’m a (not very active) member of asked if people wanted to join in an order for straw bonnets. A friend of mine already had one which was lovely, so I decided to join in. And then someone else suggested to have a bonnet-decorating meetup when they came in. Which was a great idea, and I had a really lovely afternoon looking for trims, sewing on ribbons and placing flowers. It was also great to get to know everyone, and join up with people with the same weird hobby.

So after that day, I had a half-finished bonnet! I managed to do most of the outside trimming that day, and finished off the lining at home. That’s also why I only have pictures of the second part. The straw base for the bonnet is the Eliza from Austentation. The pleated trim I bought as is. I was actually planning to pleat ribbon for the trim, so when I saw this one I figured I’d save myself some time.

To line the bonnet I first needed a pattern. I pinned some paper in the hat to get the shape of the brim. By drawing a pencil line I got the outline for the brim pattern.

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Because I wanted the lining to be gathered I divided half of the pattern into strips and cut them out. Re-spacing them to make it about 2x as wide gave me the final pattern. I didn’t quite get the curve right in the end, but I’d cut enough fabric for it not to matter. After gathering both the inner and outer edge I re-cut it to shape.

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The brim lining was made with 4 pieces to line the edges and a circle for the crown. The whole lining was stitched in place around the brim and at a couple of points where the brim meets the crown. The crown was left loose.

Finally, the edge was finished with bias tape. It’s all stitched by hand, which was a bit of a pain as it meant sewing through 2 layers of straw plus 5 layers of cotton. It is pretty though.

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The finished bonnet! It has pleated trim around the base of the brim and over the crown. The flowers are plastic and bought as is. The bow hides the base of the flowers and was made with ribbon. The decorative bias tape around the brim finishes the lining and was bought as is.

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The decoration is all on one side, leaving the other side simple.

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These show the lining, gathered around the brim.

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Some different perspectives of the flowers and bow.

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And I couldn’t resist putting it on my bear. Doesn’t she look fabulous in it?

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1820’s Ballgown

A couple of months ago I was at a fabric market and stumbled on a lovely light-blue fabric with silver ribbon embroidery on the sides. I totally wasn’t planning on anything where it would work, but it was too pretty to leave! Also, it was pretty cheap, being a poly-satin, but the color was so nice that it didn’t actually look too cheap. As a good price is always a good incentive to buy stuff you don’t have plans for, I got it.

The color, drape and border really spoke regency to me, especially the latter regency where emphasis on the hem was getting more pronounced. Say early 1820’s. This was also a nice new challenge, as my previous regency projects were a bit earlier, with the waistline directly below the bust. In the 1820’s, the waistline started dropping and I suspected that would actually be more flattering on me. I don’t really have a lot of bust, so regency dresses make me very tube-like. Of course, that was the idea at the time, but a little more waist emphasis can be more flattering to a modern eye.

I still had a couple of other things to finish up first, but I did start thinking and playing with designs.

 

This is the design I came up with:

I wanted to use the ribbon part for the hem and the sleeves, but also let it return in the bodice a bit. To not make it too overpowering, I decided to just use it in the center-front. The little stripes on the bodice were inspired by this dress (natmus.dk), and are stuffed fabric tubes. I also decided to make a ‘waistband’ as in this example to lower start of the skirt a bit more, and to make the back bodice gathered as in this example.

Brunrød silkekjole, 1816

I did nearly all of the work on the dress in one weekend. I started with lengthening my bodice pattern for the regency dresses a bit, and after that was cutting the fabric!

The lay out for the center bodice part. I cut off the sides of the pattern and cut those from the plain fabric. The pieces will be sewn together and the seams hidden by the fabric tubes.

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All the bodice pieces cut out. I flatlined the bodice in white cotton, because the blue fabric was very slippery.

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The back panel was made wider in the center-back to allow for the gathering. I made the lining slightly shorter than the outer fabric so it wouldn’t show. The pink stripe on the lining is the original width of the bodice.

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A picture which shows the bodice pieces sewn together. To make the fabric tubes I used fiber fill and rolled it into strings, wrapping it in fabric strips and hand-sewing them closed, then hand-sewing them onto the bodice. I believe the original versions of these were made with carded wool stuffing, but I happend to have fiber-fill laying around. It worked okay, but I had to be careful to make the tubes even. I also didn’t cut the strips on the bias, which probably would’ve made them a bit less wobbely as well.

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What it looked like with half of the fabric tubes sewn on! The waistband is still just pinned at the center-front so I could stuff the tubes in the seam.

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I didn’t take much pictures after this, but construction was fairly straight forward. The sleeves were the typical regency-sleeve pattern, only extended at the bottom to be a couple of cm. longer than the original pattern. The back bodice was gathered onto the waistband, the top raw edge of the bodice folded over and hand-stitched to the lining. I attached 2 cotton cords to the shoulder seams to run through the folded-over outer fabric towards the back. These will be the draw-strings to close the back. The skirt was basically 2 rectangles, the back a 2m wide one gathered to the side & back panels, with a slit in the middle.

Finished photos!

 

And because I couldn’t resist, one with an old version of Pride & Prejudice

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Historical accuracy – Regency

The term ‘historical accuracy’ is often found in historical costuming. It’s that elusive ‘getting it exactly right’ in making historical clothing. Making something which a contemporary wouldn’t be able to distinguish from their own wardrobe, even on close inspection.

Of course, there’s a lot of different levels of historical accuracy, and often the ultimate goal is not to get it right at all costs. Money, skill and time can all effect how far you wish to go, and there’s nothing wrong with just wanting to make a pretty dress! I’ve personally never tried to make anything 100% accurate, but I do always like to know when I’m deviating from history.

But it can be difficult to find out what’s ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ when you’re just starting out. There are a lot of different aspects to it, and a lot of information in different places. So I thought I’d try to give an overview of  what to pay attention to, and how it applies to dresses from ca. 1805-1820. A little disclaimer: all of the info below is from my own experience of looking at and reading about historical clothing. If there’s any ‘mistakes’ or nuances I’m missing I’d love to know!

Fabrics

The fabrics of existent dresses are most often silk or cotton. Wool and (fine-woven) linen are also seen. Although cotton and silk are seen more often, it is good to remember that the fancy dresses are also the ones most likely to survive and be preserved. It’s very probable that ‘back in the day’, cotton and especially wool was more common than museum collections might suggest. Anything which has a synthetic fiber, viscose, rayon or polyester, is not historically correct, as these weren’t invented yet. For silks and cottons, look for thinner fabrics. Very thin white cotton was often used. Heavier draped fabrics aren’t seen much. Silks are usually either satin or taffeta, but again, rather thin. Crepe silk was also used, very thin and and almost sheer. The examples of crepe I’ve seen aren’t shiny, and have a different look than modern chiffon. Dupion silk is very modern, the ‘slubs’ in the fabric weren’t appreciated. If you have a very smooth dupion you might get away with it. Silk velvet is also seen sometimes, though a bit too heavy for evening wear.

‘Back in the day’ the term ‘muslin’ was used for the very fine cotton. Be aware that modern ‘muslin’ doesn’t refer to the same fabric, it’s a lot heavier. Terminology can change over time (to make it easy on us…). A similar thing holds for the term taffeta, which is often used to refer to poly taffeta. The historical variant is always pure silk. Also, be aware that ‘velvet’ and ‘satin’ refer to the way in which a fabric is made, not the fiber content. Historically, these would’ve mostly been silk or sometimes wool. Velvet nowadays is usually cotton, polyester, or a silk/polyester mix. The last one is usually referred to as silk velvet, so be aware that it’s usually not 100% silk!

Left is dupion silk. With a lot of texture, which wasn’t used. Middle is silk taffeta, with a smooth surface and crisp texture. Right is silk satin, shiny, with a drapey texture. Taffeta and satin are correct, taffeta being the more common choice.

Fabric

Fabrics in those days were often narrower than modern fabrics, which can have effects for how for instance skirt panels were cut. This also means they could use the selvage sides of narrower fabrics more often than we can. It’s nearly impossible to find historical-width fabrics nowadays though, so don’t feel bad for not using them.

If you are going for a non-historical fabric (silk is expensive…), you can always try to find something which has the look/feel of the real thing. My white/red regency dress is made of a cotton/polyester mix, but it looks and drapes quite similar to satin. It won’t pass close inspection, but it’s a lot better than my first regency dress, which was made of floral upholstery fabric. Really lovely, but way too heavy and roughly woven for the time period.

Left: wrong fabric (upholstery cotton), too heavy and too roughly woven (never mind the floral, also not completely right).  Right: still wrong fabric (cotton/poly mix), but in looks way closer to something historical (satin), so you have to look closely to see it.

 

Fabrics could be plain, patterned or embroidered. You get stripes, checkers and dot patterns, stripes being the most common. Flowers are also often seen, but you have to be careful with modern flower patterns! Generally, flower patterns were a left-over from the 18th century so you see them most often in the early regency. Anytime after 1810 it’d be old fashioned. A very fashionable lady wouldn’t have a printed flower fabric, but a rural lady re-using old fabric might. Flowers in those times were also often stylized, and the more modern ‘English rose’ type of flowers didn’t exist yet.

On the left, a very modern flower. Not regency at all. In the middle and on the right flowered prints from actual dresses.

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Color-wise, nearly everything goes. Be aware though, that very bright colors usually need chemical dyes which weren’t invented yet. Bright emerald green or hot pink/purple didn’t exist. White/ivory/beige/blush were very popular, but definitely not exclusive!

Shades of white:

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Some decidedly non-white examples:

Colors

Full lace dresses also existed, though due to the fragility of the fabric not a lot have lasted. This is usually silk blonde-lace.

Lace

Cut

The next thing to look at is cut. With this I mean the shape of the pattern pieces. Regency bodices had a very specific cut to the back of the bodices. The shoulder seam was to the back of the natural shoulder, and the center-back panel was very narrow in the middle.

This picture clearly shows the seam lines. The diamond-shaped back panel, the side panels extending towards the back and the front panel extending towards the back. The sleeves are also set very far to the back.

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For the skirts a relatively simple pattern was used. Generally speaking, there were either 2 rectangles (one for the front, one wider one for the back, gathered mid-back), or a combination of rectangles (front/back) and triangles (sides). The further along in the regency, the more common the rectangle/triangle shape became. This gives more of a flared skirt. Skirts were always gathered at the back to the bodice. Sometimes they were gathered all the way round, sometimes from the sides to the back, sometimes only in the very center of the back.

Two examples from (http://www.19thus.com/WomensClothing/) show the shapes. As you can see, sometimes multiple panels were used (could be due to smaller fabric width), and the triangles often cut together with the rectangles.

Pattern

Sleeves were either short (halfway upper arm-ish) or long (to the hand or even a bit longer). I’ve never seen elbow-length sleeves. Short sleeves were sometimes fitted in the early Regency, but became more universally puffed later on, even though many versions existed. Long sleeves are either fitted all the way, with a little gathering at the top and fitted at the bottom, a puffed sleeve with a longer fitted one attached or little puffs all the way down. Longer sleeves were more common for day-wear and short for evening-wear, but it was mixed up as well. Dresses always had sleeves! Sometimes a sleeveless over-dress was worn, but these wouldn’t be worn on their own. Shoulders never showed.

Top row left-right: A fitted sleeve, a puff sleeve with lower sleeve, the little puffs all the way down (not very common, but very typical for the period), a wide sleeve at the top becoming narrow near the bottom – this is later Regency and would become more popular in the 1820’s and 1830’s, and a straight sleeve with wider top.

Bottom row left – right: The classical puffed sleeve, a straight short sleeve and example of a sleeveless over-dress.

Sleeves 2

Waistlines were high, right underneath the bust. Around 1820, the waistline starts to lower a bit, but is still well above the natural waistline. Necklines are generally low, but there’s a lot of variation here. Remember that square low necklines were also sometimes filled in with a chemisette. This is the common way to get coverage, full dresses with a neckline right underneath the chin are very rare. Very low necklines did happen often, although it might depend a bit on class and country (high-born French ladies being more risque than say, lower-class English).

Some portraits showing the point for the neckline to sit. The top-row ladies all wear chemisettes in different types to cover up (yes, they’re often transparant, covering up is relative..). The bottom row are some of the lower necklines I could find. Notice though, how even the ladies in the top row have very low necklines on their dresses. Just above the mid-bust point was very common. Remember, in these days ankles were considered decidedly more sexy than cleavage.

Necklines

The portrait on the bottom right and top middle also show the bust-shape really well. The chest was pushed up by stays, and separated. The fashionable shape wasn’t pushed up and pushed together, as modern push-up bras tend to do.

Finishings

The sewing-machine was invented in the 1850’s, so all dresses during the Regency were sewn by hand. This means a fully historically correct dress is sewn entirely by hand. Many people also ‘cheat’ for the inside (invisible) seams, but hand-sew the visible parts, such as on the hem. If you want to be totally correct, also keep in mind the ‘natural fibers’ for sewing thread and don’t use polyester threads.

Generally, bodices were lined (most often in cotton), skirts were usually unlined. As far as I could find out from pictures, bodice linings were often constructed separately and put in raw-edges facing each other. The lining was then stitched in place along the main seams. The outer-fabric bodice edges were turned over inside and stitched to the lining to keep them in place. (So no stitching the lining to the bodice neckline right sides together and then turning them inside-out). (If anyone has more info on construction techniques I’d love to know)

A picture showing the lining of a dress and the stitches keeping it in place. You can see the sleeves were attached after the bodice lining.

Dresses closed in a myriad of ways, but some methods were more common than other. By far the most common method was using drawstrings in the neckline and waistline to close in the back. Gowns closing in the front used a combination of drawstrings and pins to close. Buttons down the back existed, but were pretty rare. (Fabric covered buttons are most common). Hooks and eyes were probably also used, and occasionally lacing is seen. Be aware that metal eyelets didn’t exist yet, the eyelets would always be hand-sewn.

At the top two examples of laces tying shut. On the right an example of a front closing dress, the lining closing with lacing the rest with tapes and pins. At the bottom three less common examples. Lacing, buttons and hooks and eyes.

Closures

Trim on regency dresses is relatively rare. Ribbon was often used, put around the waistline, but I suspect also used separately from the dress. You see it more often in portraits than in existing dresses. Embroidery is one the most common decoration methods. A lot of trims are also made of the same fabric as the dress. Piping is sometimes used in sleeve decorations, but not really seen anywhere else.  Lace is sometimes used as edging around the neckline and/or sleeves. Later in the regency, fabric ‘tubes’ are also used to create designs. Generally speaking, later in the regency the emphasis on the hemline grows stronger and with it grows the amount of trim on the hem. Always be aware of modern ready-made trims, most of them are not very fitting. If in doubt, look for images of dresses and see if you find anything similar.

At the top 3 examples where all trim is embroidered on. A the bottom from let to right: self-made trim, lace, and fabric tubes.

Trimming

 

 

 

Inspiration – Trimmed Regency outerwear

I’ve begun working on a new regency spencer, red to go with the red/white dress. I want this one to be a bit more fancy than my blue spencer, ideally with some surface decoration. So I went looking for inspiration images, and stumbled on a couple of spencers & pelisses which seem to have the same type of trim. I can’t be sure, but I suspect the trim is made with small tubes of fabric, which are then stitched on as a braid. This has the advantage of resulting in perfectly matched colors. There also seems a bit of a trend of flower/leaf patterns. I haven’t found a lot of examples, but enough to make me belief this was done more often. All of these are from ca. 1820.

So far, my plan has been to use soutache braid to decorate my spencer, but if I can’t find properly matching red braid I might try the fabric tube idea.

For this post, some pretty pictures!

The Met museum has 2 nearly identical spencers with a gorgeous trim design. This is the design I also plan to use for my red spencer.

Close-ups show the lay-out very well.

 

Another spencer in the Met which seems to use this technique has a more geometrical pattern.

A close-up shows the same fabric tubes. I especially love the sleeve treatment, and will try to copy it for my own jacket.

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Another one playing with lines, from the DAR Museum.

Eggplant-purple velvet and purple silk twill spencer, about 1818, from the DAR Museum, Washington DC. From the (John and Abigail) Adams family, possibly worn by a granddaughter.:

More wiggely lines, although a bit tricky to see with all the black, from the Germanischen Nationalmuseums.

This one is getting back into the floral theme. From the Chertsey Museum.

 

Spencers are most common, but I also found this pelisse is from the Museum of London. A lovely blue with a leaf/floral pattern, combined with embroidery.

But to really do it justice there’s the close-ups:

 

Inspiration – Regency bodices

Time for another inspiration post! In the past, I made a visual guide to regency sleeves which are more/different than the ‘short puffed’ style most commonly recreated. For necklines, the most commonly recreated are probably the plain square and round neckline, followed by an overlapping v shape. This seems right, as most originals also follow this paradigm, but there’s a lot of room in terms of decoration and details to make a dress more unique! Living in an age where clothes have decidedly less detailing than in previous era’s, we tend to gravitate towards putting on too little trim. If you’ve ever seen existent dresses from this era, you’ll notice that even though the silhouette and design are simpler than say Victorian, there’s still a great attention to detail. Of course, while the general shape is often determined by the pattern used, most pattern companies leave out options for trimming because there’s just too many. So you need to come up with your own details, which can be difficult. For me, looking at images ‘from that time’ always helps a lot, so I hope people can get a little inspired by this to create something ‘different’. All images are from the ‘Journal des Dames et des Modes’, between 1805 and 1810. I might do another one of these for 1810-1815 if people are interested. Source for the images is the online archive of the Bunka Gakuen Library.

Loads of variety, from trims, to collars, to ribbons, flowers, pleating, scarfs and even fur!

 

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.

Simple Regency petticoat (+pattern)

My first project of the year is done, and it wasn’t even planned! I started work on the red/white regency dress (an update will follow soon), and while I was working I noticed the fabric was a bit sheer. No problem of course, that’s perfectly period, but it does require a petticoat beneath the dress.

Well, unless you’re portraying a very fancy French lady, in which case you might go for this look:

Louis Léopold Boilly, Incroyable et Merveilleuse in Paris, 1797

 

But that wasn’t exactly my plan, as I believe it was reserved for the very fashionable, and mainly worn in France. (Also, in the image above the man is trying to pay the lady as he supposes she’s a prostitute because of her clothes, she’s making the cross to ward him off).

I also had some fun looking at the caricatures of sheer dresses at the time. It definitely wasn’t for everyone.

 

Anyway, a petticoat it was! I’d originally bought cotton to line the dress, but afterwards found that generally, only the bodice of Regency dresses are lined and not the skirts. So there was plenty of fabric left to make a petticoat. Generally speaking, there’s two types of petticoats, namely those with bodice and those without. The petticoats without bodice usually do have straps, to keep the skirt up at the empire waistline.

A bodiced petticoat:

And one with straps:

I opted for the straps option, mostly because it was easiest. I made up the petticoat very quickly, and without any decoration, as it’s mostly so I can wear my dress when finished. It’s basically just a skirt pattern with some bias tape finishing the top, a slit in the side and 2 straps. I don’t know how accurate this construction is, but it works!

The front:

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Side:

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And back:

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The closure:

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As it’s so simple, I drew out the pattern I used for this. I made it to scale, if you click on it you should get the full scale version. 100 pixels is 10 cm. Some notes: My ’empire-waist circumference’ (under-bust measure) is about 75 cm, so the back panel ‘gathered to fit’ in this case means gathered to 75-55=20 cm. If you have a different circumference, you might want to scale up the width in both pattern pieces. The 110 cm in height is also for me, I’d strongly suggest measuring yourself for the height. Measure from your empire waist to where you want your petticoat to hang. I also put in 110 cm both for the front and back panel, but I suggest cutting the back slightly higher than the front, as you’ll be attatching the straight back side seam to a tilted front side seam which will be longer. I did this, and just cut off the exces after attaching the panels. For the straps, the length is also based on me, and I suspect will be different for everyone. Just put the petticoat on you, pin the straps to the back at the side of the panel and check the length in the front. The same goes for the position of the straps in the front. This depends on your empire waist circumference and cup-size probably. And, just in case, always fit over your stays! This way you can also check the placement of the straps to make sure they won’t show with a gown with a wide neckline. Finally, there’s no seam allowance in this pattern. I used the selvedge as hem and bias binding at the top, so I didn’t need an allowance at either. If you’re hemming the top and/or bottom, don’t forget to add this. Same goes for the side-seams. I measured the pattern after sewing, so no allowance included. Good luck!

Petticoat pattern

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

Regency cross-over front closing gowns

Since I’ve been looking into the making of my red/white dress again (yes, it’s going to happen someday!), I’ve been researching the construction methods a bit more. Specifically, I’m looking at front-closing gowns with a v-shaped neckline. I believe there’s different names out there, such as cross-over gown, wrap front gown, apron gown, bib front gown and drop-front gown. All of these names are used somewhat interchangeably for gowns which close in the front, although they all have their own characteristics as well.

The dress which started my search has a deep v-shaped neckline and slit on the left hand side (ca. 1810 – 1820)

To start with, some terminology and what I believe they commonly refer to.

The term ‘bib front gown’ is used most, and is usually used to refer to those dresses where the front of the bodice is attached to the front of the skirt, but not to the side pieces. It has slits on either side, and is shut by pinning the bodice front onto the lining front (which is attached to the side bodice pieces), and tying strings around the body. These dresses could have both a straight square or a v shape neckline, although the former seems to be much more common. One great diagram (by the Hungarican Chick) of a bib dress is below. In this case, pictures are always much clearer to me than trying to describe it! (She has more great articles, including on stays, so if you’re interested, go check out her blog!)

I believe the apron-front and drop-front gown are just alternative terms for the bib front.

The cross-over, or wrap front dress is slightly different in that the front bodice panels are attached to the side bodice panels, but not to each-other. This always gives the v shaped neckline. The skirt has a slit on one side (the side which crosses over) and is attached to the bodice front, or it has slits on 2 sides and is loose from the bodice and closes with ties. The first picture in this post is an example of a cross-over front dress (with one slit in the skirt).

The problem with these gowns is that when you start looking for extant examples, you find many different variations in bodice styles, where the skirt is attached and how the skirts close. I recently asked about these cross-over/bib front dresses in a Facebook group on Regency sewing, and got a lot of different input from people on how they believed dresses were worn. There seem to be a lot of variations, and the discussion inspired me to try to give an overview of what the possibilities might be! This post is by no means meant as a complete study of how dresses were made, but just as an overview of the variations I’ve seen and how they seem to close. For now, I’ll focus on the front closing v-shaped neckline dresses ca. 1805 to 1815.

 

To start, I’ve tried to create some images of the 3 different types of gowns I want to focus on. From now on, I’ll name them ‘bib-front’ gown, ‘cross-over side-slit’ and ‘cross-over drop-front’ gown. Some schematics of the front and back view for these dresses, which I’ve colored for clarity. Blue is background, pinkish is skin (sorry for the nakedness, of course you’d be wearing a shift and stays beneath, but all the white would be confusing 😉 ), yellow would be the outer fabric of the dress and white the lining or inside of the outer fabric.

The bib-front gown (as also seen in the previous images):

Regency dresses - Bib front

 

The cross-over gown side-slit:

Regency dresses - Cross-over Slit

 

The cross-over gown with drop front:

Regency dresses - Cross-over Apron front

 

These schematics show how the bodice and skirt are connected together to form both the v-neck shape and to have the closure in the front. The front-closure is particularly handy if you want to get into your gown by yourself. (I, for instance, am not able to close my blue dotted dress by myself, my arms won’t go that far back with the sleeves set so far in the back. I always need help to close the thing).

The question now, of course, is how you make sure the bodice stays crossed-over and the skirt stays up?

This was the question which inspired quite a lively discussion on the Facebook post I mentioned before. It seems clear that there’s some ties involved, and maybe some pinning. But where do the ties go? How are they attached? And is that enough, or do you still need pins somewhere? I’m afraid we didn’t reach a simple answer to this question, but there were a couple of good theories I’ll try to describe here.

The easiest to answer is probably the bib-front gown, as this is the one most commonly re-created today. It closes with a combination of ties and pins. Specifically, there are 2 ties to each side of the skirt. These wrap around the gown to the back, (often through little loops where the back bodice connects with the skirt), and then close underneath the skirt panel. The bodice front stays up with either pins or buttons to the corners of the panel connected to the skirt.

Or, in a picture:

In this case blue and red are the left and right string. Green are the loops in the back keeping the strings in place. Pink are the spots the pins or buttons would connect to keep the bodice in place.

Regency dresses - Bib front strings

 

I believe this is the common way to wear a bib-front gown, I’ve never seen other versions. It becomes a bit more tricky with the cross-over models. In these cases, several options seem to exist.

To start with the cross-over side-slit dress. For the position of the strings, I looked at the images of the interior of the dress I started this post with. They show several strings.

Untitled-1

Untitled-1b

I’ve highlighted the strings I could find in red. Now my question was, what ties to what? Because I cound 1 loop and 4 strings. That’s 5 things, which doesn’t seem to add up. There’s a tie at the center-back lining, there’s a loop and a tie in both bodice panels, and there’s a tie on the edge of the skirt. The ties to the bodice are all plain, so appear to be tied invisibly somewhere. The tie on the skirt is a type of trim though, and looking at pictures of the back of the dress you can see it passing along the back.

The general consensus after my blog bost was that the ties in the back would be tied in the front to stabalize the dress. The ties to the front panels would be tied to eachother (possible because they’re not at the very tip of the bodice). The tie to the skirt probably starts somewhere on the side panel. It then wraps around the back and would be pinned in place somewhere at the side panel where it started.

In a picture. The red and pink ties are attached to the inside of the bodice and tie to eachother. The purple and blue tie are sewn to the inside back panel and tie to eachother in the front. The green tie starts at the side of the dress and goes around to be pinned shut where the tie started. I haven’t been able to figure out if it is just pinned in place, or if there’s a slit or tie somewhere. The images of the existant dress don’t show this.

Regency dresses - Cross-over Slit

Another option I wondered about would be to tie the left-front tie to the right-back tie and the other way around. That would look something like this, the blue and purple ties again attaching in the back, the pink and red in the front lining. (the location is a bit awkward for clarification, they’d probably be tied in roughly the same spot.

Regency dresses - Cross-over Slit strings 2

So, are there other options? The above are based on 1 extant example, but one can imagine other possibilities. One would be that there was a string on the inside of the bodice not attached to the skirt (red in the above examples). If there were a slit on the side of the dress, the skirt tie could wrap around and attach to the bodice string on the inside throught the slit.

Something like this, with the red string attaching tot he bodice, the green wrapping around on the outside and attaching to the red throught the slit (blue) on the side. Just a disclamer, I’ve never seen an extant example like this, but it looks like a possibility. This could also be combined with two ties in the back (purple and blue in the first example) which would tie in the front.

Regency dresses - Cross-over Slit strings 3

 

For the cross-over apron-front dress I found some input on the facebook group. One extant dress showed the ties and closure. Mackenzie Anderson Scholz kindly let me post her images here. She’s working on a pattern for Fig Leaf Patterns, hopefully out in fall 2016, based on this dress.

These images show how the ties from the front panels tie to the ties at the center back. Left front to right back and the other way around. The right image shows how the skirt closes in the center-back. The image below shows the front with and without skirt closed. You can see that there’s a little gapping going on at the front, which seems a common occurrence with this type of dress.

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A shcematic. There are two ties to the front, red and pink. Then there’s two ties at the inside center back (blue & purple). The left front ties to the right back and the other way around. Then there are ties to either side to the skirt which tie around in the center back. There they’re held up by loops.

 

Regency dresses - Cross-over Apron front string

It seems all skirts of these type of dresses have ties which go around an tie in the back. The bodice might also just be held shut with pins though, without the ties.

Another problem with this type of dress is that the skirt panel falls down because it’s not really attached to the bodice front. For this, more pins might be a solution to keep it up.

 

To round up, something which also came up in the original discussion was that probably, women in the Regency era were also just doing whatever worked. You can’t see from a fashion-plate how a gown closes or a skirt stays up. Commercial dress-patterns were nonexistant and most front-closing dresses were made that way for practicality, so not for the highest classes. Many were also home sewn by women themselves, who were not necessarily dress-makers. This means that probably, everyone just fiddled along just as we do in trying to get it to work. (Some likely with more success than others). So fiddling around to make it work is period!

Finally, a little thank you for everyone who contributed to the original post on Facebook. If you recognize your own opinion here and would like credit, please let me know because I might’ve lost track of who said what.

 

I hope this post has offered a little insight on the possible options to close and wear these type of dresses. I’d be very interested in new insights on this, so if anyone has any ideas, or knows of extant examples which show different closures, I’d love to know!

 

Just as a closure, some commercial patterns of these type of gowns: (Let me know if I’m missing something)

Fig leaf patterns Apron-front gown (straight front, but could be adapted to a v-shape)

Sense & Sensibility Elegant lady’s closet (Cross-over gown)

Laughing moon 130 (Cross-over drop-front)

Laughing moon 126 (Bib-front, including v-neck option)

Period Impressions Bib-front gown

Past Patterns Empire Gown