At the very end of summer I found myself at the local discount fabric store (not looking for fabric for myself–how often have you heard that?). As often happens when I’m looking for fabric, I found some that just absolutely needed to come home with me.
The top fabric is a lovely woven cotton plaid. It’s quite creamy, as the next photo shows. I’m considering making it into something mid-19th century someday and bought enough yardage to accommodate that idea.
The lower fabric is a cotton print that looks perfect for a Regency dress! I’ve been wanting a yellow on white cotton for at least a year, but hadn’t found just the right one in a price I wanted. The only downsides about this one are that it’s not block printed and that the weight is a quilting cotton rather than a lawn or voile. But I liked the colors, motif, and price enough to buy it. I finished off the bolt on this one! Whew! I’m glad there was enough for my Regency dress idea.
Neither of these ideas has any particular timeline (so don’t expect to see these fabrics again soon), but it was fun to share these with you before stashing them away!
I’ve wanted a Regency chemisette to complete my daytime looks since 2012, even going so far as to purchase a specific tool with the intent on using it for a chemisette ruffle. (Unfortunately, my cast iron crinkle cutter has been a very useful doorstop for the last few years but hasn’t been used at all for its actual purpose! To be fair, it still hasn’t been used for its actual purpose, but at least I know now that I have a chemisette pattern that fits, which makes me more likely to try it out for a more finely pleated collar version in the future.)
I’m so happy with this chemisette! I had sized up a chemisette pattern from Janet Arnold years ago, but it didn’t fit me as is, so for this I used the pattern for a pelisse I’m working on as a starting point for fit and the Janet Arnold pattern as a reference for grain lines and overall shape.
The fabric is ‘silky cotton voile’ from Dharma Trading. I used it for Annabelle, one of my mid-19th century dresses and had the perfect long straight scraps left for cutting out a chemisette! The weight of the fabric is lovely and so comfortable to wear and it’s nice and sheer just like a chemisette should be. Plus, it behaved so well, finger pressing as I did the seams and the pleats on the two collar layers.
I decided to add this garment to the list of Regency things I’m trying to get together for an event in April rather at the last minute. I was going on vacation with a very long travel time ahead of me and decided that having a hand sewing project would suit me very well. I found the time to cut the pieces and then hand sewed most of it while I was away, using nail clippers as my scissors. (I didn’t want to get in an argument with TSA about how the length of the blade on my thread snipping scissors actually is within their regulations.)
The chemisette uses a combination of running, whip, and slip stitches for the seams and narrow hems. It ties below the bust using a 1/4″ cotton twill tape. I thought of putting a closure at the neck, but decided against it as there are images of chemisettes being worn open at the neck (like this) and I really like that look on me rather than the head-on-a-platter look of it closed (see a mix of styles including that here). If I had closures but decided to wear the chemisette open at the neck you would see them and I don’t love that idea.
March’s HSM challenge is The Great Outdoors and I’m calling this chemisette a fit for the challenge, as I intend to wear it with a pelisse for an outdoor promenade. Plus, chemisettes are useful for protecting the skin from the sun (which of course you are so much more likely to be exposed to while outdoors!).
So, here are just the facts.
Fabric: Leftover bits of silky cotton voile from another project.
Pattern: Based off of my own, but referencing those in Janet Arnold.
Year: c. 1810.
Notions: Thread and 1/4″ cotton twill tape.
How historically accurate is it?: I’m going to go with 100% on this one. The materials are good and so is the method.
Hours to complete: I didn’t pay attention because I was leisurely sewing this while on vacation. Maybe 8-10?
For both of those Regency period hairstyles I took the time to create narrow curls to frame my face and I’ve been meaning to share how to achieve these perfect curls ever since, but am only just getting to it. However, I can’t take credit for the idea myself. I was inspired by Sanna and Noora during the Vernet project. I believe we had a conversation about it in the Vernet seamstress group but I can’t find the content at this point, so you’ll just have to take my word for it. (They both used straw curls for their hairstyles in this post of Sanna’s and this post by Noora, if you’d like to see how this technique can turn out on other hair types.)
The secret to getting really lovely corkscrew curls? Drinking straws used as rollers. This works for shorter length hair to create the oft-seen small curls around the face, but it also works just as well for longer hair. Have you heard of using straws for curls before?
The look is achieved by rolling wet hair around a drinking straw (with or without product–I’ve tried it both ways and have achieved good results) and letting the hair dry. Sanna and Noora reported that after rolling hair around the straws they knotted the ends of the straws, pinned the rolls to keep them in place, and left them in overnight. My method was slightly different. I cut my straws in half, rolled my hair around the shorter straws, pinned them in place, used a hair dryer on them until they were dry, and then took them down.
You could also use this technique to create curls for other time periods. The ‘hedgehog’ styles of the later 18th century are one possibility. What types of hairstyles have you created (or do you now want to try!?!) using this method?
I was very excited when Gina posted a tutorial for making shoe pom poms in September 2014. I decided then and there, while reading the post, that I needed some of my own. It only took me about 18 months to get around to it… but I am happy to report that in April 2016, I finally used Gina’s tutorial to finish making my very own!
What prompted me to really go ahead with making the poms is that I wanted to have something to spruce up an older outfit I wore to the 4th Annual CVD Regency Dance Weekend, but didn’t have the time to create a new dress, as the Versailles sacque and 1885 Fancy Dress were all consuming. I suppose what I should really say is that what prompted me to finish the poms is the opportunity to wear them. I think I actually started them in late 2015.
Let me start by saying that Gina’s tutorial is clear and easy to follow. I highly recommend it!
My issues were all self inflicted… I carefully followed Gina’s instructions, got partway through the process and realized that the scale was much bigger than I remembered and that I didn’t like it at all on top of my foot. Oh no! (But in going back to link to Gina’s tutorial for this post I have realized that of course her poms are not the scale I wanted, because her poms are bigger than I ever intended! Oops! Totally my fault!)
The only solution I could see at the time was to cut off the ends of each pieces and re-fray the silk ends! UGH! It was not a fun process to fray the ends and I could not face the idea of doing it again. So I refused to work on the poms for months because I was so frustrated. Then, in March or April, I had the brainstorm to make the pieces shorter by cutting out the middle so I wouldn’t need to re-fray the ends. Duh! From there it was smooth sailing to finish up the poms.
I used a purple silk shantung from my stash for this project so it would match my other purple accessories. The back of the poms have American Duchess shoe clips attached so that I can easily clip the poms to any shoes.
I was inspired by extant shoes with poms on the toes, such as these. You can also take a look through my Pinterest board to spot more pom-like shoe decorations.
I was inspired this fall to make an extra long Regency shawl. Others around the blog world have done this before–it’s certainly not a new idea I came up with so I can’t take credit for the creativity of sewing two pashminas together to make one longer one.
I started by looking at my Pinterest boards to see what colors popped up often in fashion plates and extant shawls so I could pick a reasonably Regency color for my own creation (this board has a number of fashion plates and extant shawls). Common colors I saw were cream, dark red, grassy green, and dark blue. Occasional other colors included vibrant autumnal orange and rich yellow.
The second step was to consider the colors in my current Regency wardrobe so I could pick a color shawl that would harmonize with my outfits. Lastly, I looked at what was available on eBay for available color options and with sufficiently wide borders around all the edges to have the look of a Regency shawl. I found a few that matched my research but the color that best fit all of my criteria was grassy green. This shawl from the Met is a very similar in color to mine and was an inspiration in terms of border proportions.
How historically accurate is it?: It definitely passes Leimomi’s test of being recognizable in its own time in general and in terms of the color and border trim proportions, but most shawls would have been silk or wool, which mine is not. Also, since it is two shawls sewn together, it has an inaccurate seam down the back. So we’ll sway 75%.
Hours to complete: Less than 1.
First worn: December 5, 2015.
Total cost: About $10-$15.
I was dancing in a Regency period hall in December and it was the perfect opportunity to get some of the classic Regency shawl pose pictures. (The hall was decorated for the holidays, which matched my accessories perfectly!) It’s always amusing to me how the shawls are often depicted halfway off the wearer or draped artfully but with no apparent desire to keep warm.
I wore my 1812 square neck dress but removed the pink sash that I’ve had on it for the last two years or so. It was nice to go back to a plain white dress for a change. It’s not plain at all with the new shawl!
I took the time to create a fun hairstyle with small diameter face framing curls and an extra braid of fake hair. I was very pleased with the overall shape and silhouette. (I’ll be sharing more about how I made the curls at some point in 2016 when I post more information about my Vernet ensemble and the photo shoot of the completed outfit.)
I had a blast dancing all day in such a beautiful space. When I cooled off between dances the shawl was great to keep me warm. And I love how festive it looks with the red necklace! I hope your holidays are full of fun, joy, and blessings!
In that last post, we left off with this enlightening sentence from the book Empire Fashions by Dover Publishers: “Around 1808, a high-waisted, fur-lined woman’s coat appeared, the witzchoura [wi choo ra].” Here is an example of what a witzchoura looks like.
My go-to source when I get geeky about word history is theOxford English Dictionary, and lucky for me, it has an entry for witzchoura! The OED tells us it as an obsolete noun from the French vitchoura and the Polish wilczura (a wolf-skin coat) that is defined as “A style of lady’s mantle fashionable c. 1820-35.” The OED also shares four uses of the word from period sources. Here they are, with slight edits:
1823 La Belle Assemblée Dec. Witzchoura pelisse of gros de Naples,..trimmed with a very broad border of swansdown. 1833 Ladies Pocket Mag. The witchoura is a very ample mantle, made with a very deep collar, and cape, and long, loose sleeves. 1835 Court Mag. [The mantle] is of the Witzchoura form, drawn close at the back, with large Turkish sleeves, and a deep falling collar. [1898 M. Loyd tr. O. Uzanne Fashion in Paris Witzchouras had not yet [c1806] come into vogue.]
So far, our qualifications for a witzchoura include: a high waist for earlier witzchouras (to correspond with the fashionable silhouette), fur lining, fur trim, the fact that a witzchoura is a coat or mantle (for outerwear, with another garment worn underneath), that it was most popular c. 1820-1835, and that it had not yet become fashionable c. 1806. Other sources add to a witzchoura’s qualifications those of its being full length, having large sleeves and a wide collar (or sometimes hood or cape layers over the shoulders) especially in the 1830s when the silhouette changed, as well as the general period of the “early 19th century” for its popularity, which makes sense since we’ve just looked at sources that mention dates between 1806 and 1835.
There is some information telling us that the garment became popular after Napoleon gained a Polish mistress in 1808 and other information that tells us that the garment was Russian in origin and became popular after the Napoleonic Wars brought the style back to France and England. (For more information about these early witzchoura influences, check out this post at the Sewing Empire blog.)
I’m excited the word has Polish or Russian origins, because “witz” sounds Polish or German to me. Also, I love that the last quote from the OED tells us that witzchouras weren’t popular just a few years prior to the year 1814. Oh, how fashionable is a merveilleuse!
The text reads: “Toque de Velours. Witz-choura de Satin.” I’ve looked at enough fashion plates to guess the meaning of most of the text. After some quick reference to translation programs, I confirmed my suspicions and translated the text as: “Hat of velvet. ____ of satin.” The question is, what does “Witz-choura” mean?
First, let me tell you that I originally read the plate as “Toque de Velours. With-choura de Satin.” That z looks remarkably like an h, despite the fact that I don’t think “with” is a word in French (also, I don’t really associate the letter z with French words, so I was happy to interpret it as an h). I followed this path for awhile, though, despite the fact that it didn’t quite make sense. Assuming “With” meant what it does in English, I proceeded to try to figure out what “choura” meant. I looked at English dictionaries, including the Oxford English Dictionary, with no luck. And in French dictionaries the closest thing I found is that “choura” is conjugation of “chouraver” or “chourer,” a verb which seems to mean “to steal” or “to rob” in English. But that didn’t make any sort of sense! The only other reference to the word “choura” I found was that it has a connection to an Arabic word relating to the parliament of an Islamic state. Again, no connection. So then I thought, what’s the word for shoes in French? Maybe “choura” is an older form of that word? Turns out that “les chaussures” means shoes in French.
I was about to pursue this train of thought, when Mr. Q interrupted me. When I complained about my lack of useful results he suggested I try, amongst other ideas, a search of Google Scholar. My initial search turned up lots of science related publications with authors whose last names were Choura. But then, when I added the word “fashion” to my search, I was returned one result which was to the point and clarified the whole business (at least a little bit!). Mr. Q broke the mystery wide open!
The clarification comes from the book Empire Fashions by Dover Publishers. The relevant sentence can be found here and reads: “Around 1808, a high-waisted, fur-lined woman’s coat appeared, the witzchoura [wi choo ra].” Ohhhh, I thought, that’s not an h it’s a z!
Upon searching for it with the now-corrected spelling I finally found relevant information! All that will be in future posts, though. I thought I’d break it up to avoid having one really long post. So you can look forward to a post with descriptions of witzchouras and then also a post with images of them. At least I was on the right track!
(Click here for my original post about the 1814 Vernet Project, to which this post refers.)