Project Journal: 1815-1820 Regency Ensemble Part IX: Completion of the Re-made Dress! (1812 Ball 2012)

I am so pleased with my re-made 1819 dress. You can get the background here or read the sewing update here! In short, the new style shares only the skirt with its former self. The new ruffles are all hand hemmed and hand sewn on. The dress seams are a mix of machine and hand sewing, depending on if I felt like digging out the sewing machine or not. All of the bodice seams are flat felled by hand. The dress closes in the back with 4 mother of pearl buttons. Oh, and let me not forget that the dress no longer has built in petticoats. Part of the re-make was to create a separate petticoat from one of the two petticoat layers built into the dress. The petticoat ties under the bust and has a single button to close the top of the bust. It is just a sleeveless, simple version of the gown. I’ll have to take pictures sometime so I can share them. But the dress… It fits! It is ruffly! It has so much more style than it did before! Just to compare, the first picture is your first glimpse of its current style, and below that is from before the re-make.

The re-made 1819 dress, with ruffles!
The 1819 dress in its first incarnation.

Isn’t it more stunning than it previously was? I wore it to the Commonwealth Vintage Dancers’ 1812 Ball (ok, so my dress was a little forward thinking… maybe I have a time machine?). I had a lovely time, as expected. I made some new acquaintances and renewed some old ones, I was able to wear my recently purchased kid leather opera-length (which means over the elbow) gloves and a beautiful shawl one of my aunts gave me a few years ago, I got to practice my historic hair styling techniques (more to come on that point soon), and I danced! But let me stop writing, because really this post is about sharing pictures.

The back view of the re-made dress.
Friends: don't we make a lovely group? Ok, wait, but there's a funny face...
How about this one? Same group, but now I'm making the funny face. Rather a severe expression, don't you think?

 I’d just like to insert a comment here: looking again at these pictures, all the ruffles on the bodice of my dress really manage to make me look much more busty than I actually am… Hm… there are a lot of ruffles going on there!

My friend made this beautiful fan to go with her dress! It's hard to see the detail in this picture, but it's absolutely lovely.
Front of her new dress. She also has the super cute tiara, that is much more sparkly in person...
Back of her new dress.

I’ll leave you with this image: a teaser for a soon-to-come post about the creation of this hair style!

Quite picturesque, I think. Thanks for taking the photos, Carly (and Mark)!

Project Journal: 1815-1820 Regency Ensemble Part VIII: Re-Trimming the Bonnet

As with the 1819 ivory gown, the bonnet that is part of my late Regency look has also been remade from its original style. Why re-make it, you might ask?

Though the bonnet was based off of an 1819 illustration in Cunnington’s English Women’s Clothing the Nineteenth Century, it was built for use in the theatre, so the materials used to trim it are nowhere near accurate for off stage use. However, the shape and placement of the trim was accuratly reproduced from the inspiration image and that fact made the re-trimming possible, because the base of the bonnet could remain unchanged!

Before: The bonnet before re-trimming

The original trim was entirely polyester, which stands out when placed with other, more accurate garments and in natural light (rather than stage lighting). The color scheme was pink and peach fabric manipulated in various ways: the flowers were pinked and gathered lengths of polyester fabric, the ribbons were bias cut polyester fabric, the inside of the brim was lined with pink polyester shantung, and the brim was edged with white polyester lace. Aside from the polyester problem, the pink color scheme would not match my darling new spencer, which is brown and green. It’s not that the colors would clash, it’s just that they would look like they were not intended for each other… and I really wanted a coherent, matching look to my ensemble.

And After: The re-trimmed bonnet with matching spencer

I removed all of the fabric flowers, the bias ribbon trim, the lace edging and the lining. The lining was replaced with green silk shantung to match the new bonnet trimmings and the spencer while the lace edging was changed to light brown vintage cotton lace that matches the lace used on the spencer. The flowers were replaced with millinery flowers in green and light brown from my stash. I decided to use the spark of orangey-brown near the top so that the bonnet wasn’t too matchy-matchy. The ribbon was changed out for a matching green ribbon that has narrow bands of gold along the edges (I confess it is still polyester… but I like the look of it and I didn’t have enough of my matching green silk satin ribbon to use it, nor did I like the shine of the satin with the green of the flowers). And voila! A bonnet that now is the right shape and has the right trimmings to match my Regency ensemble!

You can see the green bonnet lining here

Project Journal: 1815-1820 Regency Ensemble: Part VII: Gown Progress

I’ve been stitching away at the re-make of my 1819 Regency gown. The progress:

  • the bodice and skirt ruffles are all being hemmed by hand and there is only one skirt ruffle left to complete
  • the bodice has been put together, with the exception of sleeves and the finishing of the neck edge
  • the seams on the bodice are finished by hand (each seam is flat felled to hide the raw edges on the inside)
Skirt ruffles in progress: I've actually completed more than is pictured
The hem and join of one skirt ruffle
The bodice seams with ruffles inserted
The rolled hem on the bodice ruffles
Center front on the bodice has a double edged ruffle
The flat felled seams on the inside of the bodice
The flat felled seam used on each seam on the bodice and the hand sewn top stitching (which is only along these curved back seams)

Here is a refresher of the bodice inspiration image. My bodice looks like a reasonable interpretation to me. I am quite pleased with the progress and overall look so far. How do you think my interpretation compares?

The inspiration for my bodice

Lastly, here is the image of the sleeve I plan to use. I described the sleeve in my last post, an overview of my planned gown updates. The sleeve is on a page with many other sleeve variations from the 1830s, but I think that it will suit my 1819 Regency (pushing 1820s) dress quite well. I am debating the possibility of outlining the triangular inset with piping. Do you think that would suit the dress and be a faithful representation of the double line delineating the inset in the image? Alternatively, there is a possibility that I might use green piping or ribbon (the same shade of green used  in my 1819 spencer) to delineate that line. But then must I also use the green somewhere else to create visual harmony? Hmm…

From the first few pages of Janet Arnold's early 19th century pattern book

Project Journal: 1815-1820 Regency Ensemble Part VI: Updating the Gown

Original construction

I have decided to remake my ivory 1819 cotton gown for an upcoming Regency ball. Originally, my plan was to add trim to the dress as it currently exists, but I realized there were many things about the dress I wanted to change: with my new late Regency corset the neckline tended to sit away from my body in front, the back closure was too tight for comfort, the bust line in front was so high that it was very hard to get it to sit below my bust, the sleeve openings were uncomfortably tight, the sleeves weren’t puffed enough, I wanted to separate all the petticoat layers to be individual layers rather than petticoats built into the dress, and I wanted to add ruffles to the skirt  to really bring it up to the years just before the 1820s. Indeed, the things I wanted to change were so numerous that I decided to just remake the dress!

In the end, the only thing that I decided to keep the same is the skirt base fabric… Using just one additional yard of the original fabric, I plan to complete the following changes: constructing an entirely new bodice with ruffled trimming, creating entirely new puffed sleeves with a cute v-shaped detail, making stand alone petticoats out of the original built in petticoats, and adding bias ruffles to the skirt.

From Ackermann's Repository 1822

My dress is from the period just before the 1820s and I felt that I needed to go more in an 1820s direction with the new trimming and adornment. The main feature of trimming in the 1820s is wide sections of trimmings on the skirt, in combination with corresponding trim across the bodice and sleeves. Thus, there two horizontal lines of interest with a simple, unadorned mid-section (as in the fashion plate on the left, from 1822).

Before I had decided to make so many changes, my original intention was to simply add ruffles to the bottom hem, along the lines of the dress (below) from the Kyoto Costume Institute.

c. 1820 Silk Day Dress (Kyoto Costume Institute)
Ribbon trim on 1819 dress before the remake

However, as I thought about it I realized that the ruffle style (above) just would not have a corresponding look to the current zig zag ribbon trim on the dress bodice (right). Those two styles did not make sense on one dress.

The logical step was to change the trim on the bodice. But remember that I had other complaints about the bodice as well… So came the decision to remake the bodice. But how to trim it to correspond with the ruffles on the skirt? I was not at all interested in the bodice trimming on the Kyoto dress for my dress, because the fabric doesn’t lend itself to that look. Well, I started researching trimming from the late 18-teens to see if I would be inspired. The image below is one of my favorites that didn’t make the cut, and there are more on my 1819 dress trimming ideas Pinterest board (thank you to Lauren, at American Duchess, for linking to her Pinterest board in a post and sparking my interest in this fabulous organization tool).

From Ackermann's Repository 1819

Many of my Pinterest images come from the same place: the blog “My Fanciful Muse” by EK Duncan. She has a series of posts that contain text and fashion plates from Ackermann’s Repository beginning in 1808 and going through 1828! Here is the link for the post on 1828: if you scroll to the bottom you will see a list of links to all of the previous years. It is absolutely fabulous! If you haven’t seen this yet you MUST visit! (Thank you for sharing, Evelyn!)

In the end, I decided on a combination of the two dresses in the image below: the ruffles on the skirt of the dress on the right (for some reason I really like the idea of ruffles on my skirt!) and the bodice of the dress on the left. The repeated use of ruffles on the skirt and bodice will produce the corresponding style I am aiming for. The sleeves will be a style from the first few pages of the first half of the 19th century Janet Arnold pattern book: a puffed sleeve with a triangular inset coming from the shoulder. I’ve wanted to use that sleeve style for months and now I finally have a way to use it that makes sense!

1820 illustration from Cunnington's English Women's Clothing in the Nineteenth Century (the illustration is based off of contemporary fashion plates)

 

Project Journal: 1815-1820 Regency Ensemble Part V: Completed Spencer (Massachusetts Costumers Regency Holiday Tea)

In the greenhouses at the Regency Holiday Tea.

Despite the long name of this post… Here it is! My (almost) finished 1819 Regency Ensemble! The ensemble includes an early 19th century white linen chemise, 1815-1820 pink cotton corset, 1815-1825 ivory cotton gown, 1819 brown velvet Spencer, 1819 straw bonnet, and mid-19th century fur muff (ok, so it’s not quite as giant and droopy as a Regency muff… but it was cold outside!). You can click on the links to see more about each piece. There is more to come on the gown and bonnet.

Right now I want to focus on the completed Spencer and its details. Please click on the link above to see my research for the Spencer: it is based off a Spencer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. You can see pictures of the mockup Spencer here. The Spencer is constructed of brown cotton velvet that is flatlined with white cotton. It is trimmed with green cotton cording, vintage brown lace, and green tassels to match (Aren’t the tassels so adorable?).

1819 Spencer
Back of the 1819 Spencer

I wore this Spencer to the Massachusetts Costumers annual Regency Holiday Tea. This year, in addition to having tea, we visited the Lyman Estates Greenhouses, which were built in 1804 and added to in 1820, 1840, and 1930.

On to see more of the greenhouses
Ornaments hanging from a tree!
Picture time!
Admiring the decor
So many beautiful things to look at

The tea was lovely and I do believe that my Spencer turned out wonderfully! Spencers are so adorable and varied. I hope to make more in the future… but there are other things to do before I go back to Spencers. The next big push is going to be Edwardian outfits for Titantic evens in April!

Project Journal: 1815-1820 Regency Ensemble Part IV: Spencer Mockup

I recently shared with you my research for a Regency Spencer! I found many inspiring images, but below is the one that I chose to reproduce, with some creative license, of course. 1819 is the specific year much of my Regency ensemble is aimed at, so this Spencer fits in perfectly! Aren’t the tassels adorable?

1819-1822 Spencer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
1819-1822 Spencer Back

First of all, let me share pictures of the mock-up of this garment!

I draped the pattern and left seam allowance on the draped pieces (to eliminate the step of creating a paper pattern from my muslin) so I could move straight to the mock-up stage. In this case especially, I felt the mock-up to be essential to the fit of the spencer (especially the seams in the back) as well as to reaffirm the scale and placement of the decorative elements. Only after I had fit the Spencer and marked the necessary alterations did I rip open the seams and use the muslin to create a paper pattern.

1819 Spencer Mock-up
1819 Spencer Mockup
Back: close up
Sleeve: close up

Coming soon will be pictures of the finished garment!

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

Project Journal: 1815-1820 Regency Ensemble Part II: Corset Construction

Well, it’s been a little bit of time since I shared with you my research and plan to build a Regency corset to accompany my 1819 gown. I’m excited to say that I was successful! The corset is complete, although I still plan to quilt a diamond pattern along front rib section within the next few months (I’ll share photos of that once it is complete). You can see the diamond quilting in the photos in the link, above.

The dummy isn't quite the right shape for this corset, but here it is!
Corset back

This corset is constructed of two layers of pink cotton twill with a layer of coutil sandwiched between them to provide stability and support. I began construction by flatlining the coutil to the outer layer of twill. I sewed the non-gusset seams (the front and back pieces) together in these flat lined pieces, leaving the inside twill layer for later. Each gusset had all three layers flatlined together and sewn into place with the seam allowances pressed away from the gussets themselves. Then I went back and basted the inner twill pieces into place that had been left aside. I turned under the seams on these pieces and hand sewed them over the seam allowance of the gussets so that no seam allowance was showing.

After completing the inside construction I bound the edges with purple bias silk taffeta, scraps from another project. The final step was to create eyelets. I decided to do these by hand in purple cotton embroidery floss. Each eyelet is reinforced with a metal jump ring that is caught under the thread on the inside of each eyelet. This reinforces the edge of each eyelet and keeps them from stretching out of shape when laced. The jump rings are only visible on the inside of the eyelets, where the stitching is bulkier because it passes over the rings.

Hand sewn eyelets, on the outside

The corset is lightly boned at center front and center back. I struggled over what material would be best to create the 2″ wide center front bone. Eventually I remembered a suggestion from a friend, Carly, who had used a creative option for boning that I decided would be perfect for this project. Home supply stores such as Home Depot and Loew’s sell plastic wire ties that are about 3/8″ wide and which come in lengths up to about 20″. The ties are a good 1/8″ thick, strong, but still bendable. They have a similar tension to a steel bone, but are a little thicker. And the nice thing is that you can cut and shape them easily with scissors! Of course, plastic boning is not historically accurate, but it is functional and affordable (a pack of these wire ties is about $5, and there are about 12 per pack) and creates a boned garment that feels similar to one boned with steel bones (and once you finish the garment, who would know?).

In this corset, each side of center back has a single bone. The 2″ wide center front bone is actually 5 wire ties attached to one other with (shhh!!!) masking tape! This is an experiment that I hope will work (I have slight fears that body heat might one day cause the tape to lose its grip and the bones to start to move around in funny ways, or worse, that the tape will leech sitcky goo onto the fabric that will stain the exterior). I put the center front bone in between the layer of coutil and the inside twill, so even if the masking tape does one day create stains, it is unlikely that the stains will make it to the outside of the corset.

For now, success and wearability!

Project Journal: 1815-1820 Regency Ensemble Part I: Corset Research and Patterning

First of all, Happy Thanksgiving!

I have a whole list of projects to work on during this Thanksgiving period: I need to reinforce some trim and closures on various gowns that will be worn during the next few months, I need to build a flowered hair accessory (I hesitate to say wreath) to match my blue 1860s ball gown, Belle, and I need to construct a Regency corset! I’ll pass over the stitching of the trim and closures (because, really, I don’t think that would be an exciting post) and save the hair ornamentation post for later. That leaves us with one more topic… The Regency corset.

I don't have very many good pictures of this gown (I'll have to get some!) but I'm on the far right. Click on the link to the left to read more about this ball!

Here’s the background on this plan: I have a Regency dress that I built last February. At the time, I could not build the undergarments that would accompany this gown at that time. (You can read the story of the dress here.) Now I have time and so I plan to backtrack to this project and make the right undergarments! I have a chemise which will work (you can see it under my 1780s corset in the photos in this post) because chemise styles were unvaried from the late 18th century through the first quarter of the 19th century; however, I do not currently own a Regency period corset!

First of all, what is the Regency period? The term brings to mind Jane Austen books and films and general ideas of the early 19th century, but upon closer inspection Regency is actually more specific than I was thinking. I’ve got two relevant definitions for you from the Oxford English Dictionary.

  1. Noun: Senses relating to government or rule by a regent. Usu. with capital initial. The period during which a regent governs; spec. the period in France from 1715 to 1723 when Philip, Duke of Orleans, was regent, or in Britain from 1811 to 1820 when George, Prince of Wales, was regent.
  2. Designating a style of architecture, clothing, furniture, etc., characteristic of the British Regency of 1811–20 or, more widely, of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, featuring neoclassical elements often with Greek and Egyptian motifs.

Regency is a more specific period of time than that of the overarching Georgian period, which includes the reins of George I, George II, George III, and George IV of Great Britain. The Georgian period is from 1714-1830 and sometimes includes the years 1830-1837 as well. 1837 marks the beginning of Queen Victoria’s reign, which is where the term Victorian comes from.

Upon reflection I realized that I had forgotten the year my dress is from! Certainly it is Georgian, but is it really Regency? I had made the gown in a rush and so I had to retrace my steps and really think about what specific span of years the gown fits into to answer that question. It turns out that the gown is, in fact, from the Regency period: it is from 1816-1819! Whew!

Once that information was determined, I could move forward and research the corset shapes and patterns of that specific period (that is, 1816-1819). It turns out that patterns in Norah Waugh’s Corsets and Crinolines jump from the late 18th century to the 1820s; however, I did find images of extant corsets from the first part of the 19th century. “Oh well,” I thought, and used the images and the 1820s pattern in Corsets and Crinolines to drape a pattern.

Here are some of the research images from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I’ve included a wide span of years so you can see the development of the corset shape over time. Note the bust and hip darts as well as the beautiful quilting that begins to define the waist by the 1840s.

c. 1811 Cotton Corset
c. 1811 Cotton Corset Back
1815-1825 Corset (I really like the simple lines and straight forward color combination in this garment: this is my most inspiring image. It is interesting that the lines of this corset are so simple, relative to these other examples. This corset seems to be lacking hip darts or an inward angled front panel plus side panel.)
1820-1839 Cotton and SIlk Corset (the embroidery on this corset is great)
1820-1839 Cotton and Silk Corset Back (I especially like the back)
1830-1835 Cotton Corset
1830s-1840s Corset

I am including these last ones because I think they are lovely, even thought they are not from the period I need to build. I’ll have to keep them in mind for future!

1820 Corset (this is in the Collection of the Kyoto Costume Institute)
1830-1839 Cotton Corset