Project Journal: 1815-1820 Regency Ensemble Part III: Spencer Research

Merry Christmas!

Let me start by explaining my reasoning about adding to my Regency wardrobe. You see, I had two events in mind for which I needed two different Regency looks: the Massachusetts Costumers annual Regency Holiday Tea and the Commonwealth Vintage Dancers 1812 Ball. What to wear???

“Well,” I thought, “I have an 1819 dress that I built last year for the Sense and Sensibility Ball… but I don’t have the right corset to wear under it. Nor do I have any way to make the ball gown into day wear… And, now that I think of it, what will I do with my hair for a day style???”

The first and most foundational step was to build a corset to provide the proper support and shape for the Regency period. You can see my research and construction of the corset in previous posts.

The next step was to turn my ball gown into day wear! Well, Spencers are a classic Regency garment that can perfectly disguise my ball gown by hiding the short sleeves and low neckline, thus turning it into day wear. Perfect! After the Spencer will come the adventure of finding a suitable hair/hat solution.

What is a Spencer? It is a short, waist length jacket from the 18th and 19th centuries first worn by men but quickly adapted into women’s wear. The garment is named after George John, the 2nd Earl of Spencer who was an English politician during the last quarter of the 18th century and the first quarter of the 19th century.

Early 19th Century Fashion Plate at LACMA (Spencer on the right)
Fashion Plate, 1807 at LACMA (Spencer on the right)

Right now I am interested in the Regency style Spencers, since that is what I will be making, so I will focus my research on that period. Here are some of the Spencers I found most inspirational for my reproduction. These garments are from the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s collection.

1819-1822 Spencer
Early 19th Century Spencer
Early 19th Century Spencer
c. 1815 Spencer
1814-1820 Spencer
c. 1816 Spencer
c. 1818 Spencer
1804-1818 Spencer (That is a lot of tassels!)
c. 1820 Spencer

Let’s leave the Spencer here, in the research stage, for today. More will be coming soon with mock-up pictures of my reproduction!

While looking for research images I did come across this blog post that shows a reproduction of an 1815 Spencer at the LACMA. The post (and her other posts as well)  have great commentary about the research and construction of reproduction garments with lots of pictures included!

Reproduction 1815 Spencer

4 thoughts on “Project Journal: 1815-1820 Regency Ensemble Part III: Spencer Research

  1. It’s funny how so many people have spencers on the mind right now: it’s really running through the historical costuming world! I can’t wait to see what yours looks like!

    That 1807 fashion plate cracks me up – the enormous bicorn hat and crazy long tasseled scarf.

  2. I hadn’t thought about it, but you’re right, they do seem to be quite popular. Maybe it’s because they are so adorable and can be made in such a variety of fabrics and styles?

    The hat is quite hysterical. She looks pretty foolish, considering it is as wide as her shoulders! 🙂

    I plan to post pictures of the completed Spencer soon! It turned out quite wonderfully…

  3. Wow! Can’t wait to see your finished spencer!
    I do love this type of garment for several reasons. It’s usually full of pretty detail. Not a vast amount of yardage is needed, which makes even silk affordable. It’s easier to handle while hand sewing, than long bulky pelisses and redingotes. It “spices” up every dress!
    Honestley I’ve pondered to reproduce the whole dozen of spencers at the MET (they are sooo gorgeous), but then…this would be insane, wouldn’t it?!

    Happy sewing,

  4. I agree, Spencers are great for all those reasons! And there are so many different ways to make one garment have different styles.

    I think it might be a fun challenge to reproduce all the Spencers at the Met! 🙂 It would be a really neat series of photos, when the project was finished. Perhaps it’s something where a group of reproduction costumers could each build one or two and then digitally bring them all together in the end. That’s certainly something I would seriously consider taking part in!

    I really enjoy your blog, Sabine. I look forward to more posts in 2012. Happy New Year!

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