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

 

 

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. On the right flowered prints from actual dresses.

Chintz chosen by Cecil Beaton for his country house, reproduced by Beaudesert (via little augury).detail of 1795-1800 dress 18th century fabric

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:

White

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 practically always had sleeves! Sometimes a sleeveless over-dress was worn, but these wouldn’t usually be worn on their own. Shoulders almost 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 or linen), 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 left 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.