This annual Regency Dance Weekend is organized and run by the Commonwealth Vintage Dancers. If you want to see more pictures and read more about the amazing Regency moments I’ve had in past years, I have posts about them here: 2013, 2014, and 2016.
Saturday always begins with dance classes in modern clothes. The hard work we all put in during the day pays off at the evening ball, when we are able to dance with quick reminders of the figures but without full teaching. It’s a very special experience every year!
After a final class on Sunday morning, we take the afternoon off from dancing for a bit of leisure. Often it has been tea, though in some years we’ve had promenades, or even archery! This year we focused on tea, games, and chatting.
This venue, Old Town Hall, has lovely windows that make perfect frames for picture taking!
After tea, those of us running the weekend calmly (well, probably with a lot of scurrying) switch venues to the more elegant Hamilton Hall, where we have a formal ball with a lavish reception. Hamilton Hall is special, with a gleaming sprung floor, musicians balcony, and gorgeous gilt framed mirrors.
Sometimes, though, silliness ensues! I couldn’t resist making a face in the picture below… After that is a face that often happens after I run out of pose ideas…
There is lovely dancing on that evening. The things we’ve all learned have had time to sink in and people dance marvelously, again without teaching.
There are lots of yummy and beautiful foods to tempt everyone away from the ballroom, as well. This year we had some successful fruit filled jellies, a popular dessert in the 19th century.
After lots of dancing (and dish washing–lovely spreads like this with real dishes don’t appear without a fair bit of work behind the scenes) a much needed sitting break provided a nice opportunity for a group photo.
As usual, it was a lovely weekend full of great dancing and meeting lots of lovely new people from around the country, the more local New England area, and even Canada! Maybe some year I’ll get to meet you, too!
On the same January shopping trip that I unexpectedly found the blush sparkle fabric I made a 1920s dress out of I also unexpectedly found an excellent fabric for a new Regency evening dress. I hadn’t made one in awhile, but I had a Regency weekend coming up and I was wanting something new for the fancier ball (and of course nothing in my stash was inspiring me). In my wanderings around the store, I discovered an organza curtain sheer that brought to mind this particular fashion plate that has been on my ‘to-sew’ list for years.
I’d been on the look-out for a sheer with black stripes but hadn’t found anything suitable. Once I found the curtain fabric, I debated whether to use it for a dress in this style or to hold out for the black stripe. As you’ll see, I decided to call this inspiration fulfilled by the gold striped fabric that I found. It’s polyester, but that means it was a good price. Occasionally, a polyester can be just the thing.
In addition to the Ackerman’s fashion plate, I also borrowed design ideas from two other striped evening gowns: this earlier Costume Parisien fashion plate from 1809 and this image of the Duchess d’Angoulême c. 1815. My dress is a conglomeration of these and the 1819 fashion plate. I borrowed the sheer overdress idea from 1819, the single row of scalloped trim from 1809, and the bias cut sleeves from 1815. I date my dress to 1817, as the fluffy nature of the organza pushes the silhouette towards 1820, but the single row of trim pulls it back from 1819 just a bit.
I have a full compliment of nicely finished underthings that are perfect for making the sheer dress opaque. It was never my intention to be a scandalous Regency lady with minimal underthings! In fact, to make the ensemble sufficiently opaque, I wore my chemise plus two petticoats under the sheer dress. Without the second petticoat it was clear where my chemise ended (at my knees, in case you’re curious), but I didn’t want to have the illusion of scandal with this, I really wanted opacity all the way down.
Like the new pelisse, the sheer dress provided another perfect opportunity to make further use of my Vernet petticoat, which has a lovely eyelet border at the hem. Here’s another view that shows off the lace on the petticoat.
It’s usual for me to meticulously finish the insides of my garments, but in the case of a sheer dress, that desire became a necessity. Accordingly, all of the inside seams are nicely finished with a mix of French, flat felled, and folding seam allowances to hide raw edges and whipping them together. I kept the finished seam allowances small, so that they wouldn’t detract from the stripes.
The bottoms of the sleeves and the front and back necklines are all adjustable with tiny drawstrings made from champagne colored embroidery floss. The goal was to have ties that would blend and not be noticeable through the sheer fabric.
The pattern for this dress was adapted from other Regency dresses I have made. I think I most closely referenced the patterns for my tree gown and square neck gown, but adjusted the fullness to give this dress a little more oomph.
This dress is machine sewn and hand finished. All of the French seaming was done on machine, as was the assembly of the bodice, waistband, and skirt to make a dress, but all of the other stitching (casings, hems, trim, finishing seam allowances in non-French ways, etc.) was done by hand.
The dress has a scalloped trim band around the bottom, set up high enough to show off the lace on the Vernet petticoat. It’s hand hemmed and it seems like miles… though I think it was only about 9 yards. Hemming, gathering, and attaching this was one of the last tasks and it was going right up until about 2am on the morning of the ball. By the time it was being sewn on there was no measuring or sectioning, just eyeballing, so it’s a little wavier than I would normally allow, but one has to make accommodations (sometimes). I was envisioning the scallops would be spaced out more and therefore be more defined, but as I was furiously sewing the trim on I was not about to cut it up and resew it, so all 9 yards made it onto the dress. It’s fine. I’m happy. I do not plan to re-do the fullness of the trim or the placement!
Way back when I started the Regency pelisse I posted about recently, I got very excited about the version of the inspiration image that is labeled ‘Orange Boven Dinner Dress.’ I had no idea what the description ‘orange boven’ meant and so I went looking for information…which led me down the research rabbit hole.
Turns out that ‘orange boven’ is much more than a description of color. In fact, it is connected to Dutch history! (That fact reminds me strongly of Orange Pekoe tea, which has nothing to do with tasting like oranges and everything to do with a historical association with the House of Orange and the Dutch East India Company, in addition to the tea leaf grading system.)
I’ve put together a few excerpts from my research to better explain the historical context of ‘orange boven.’ These first excerpts are from “The History Of The Northern War; Commencing In 1812, To The Congress At Vienna In 1815.” John Hampdon, Esq. 1815. (The full text of this book is free on google books, you can view it by clicking the link. If you put “history of orange boven” into the search feature it will take you directly to the relevant pages, some of which I have condensed here.)
From Chapter XXIII. Pages 360-361.
“…But it was not necessary that the troops of the allies should make their appearance in those countries, which had so long endured the miseries of French subjugation, to free them from their invaders…the sentiments and feelings of the conquered countries, which had so long been kept down by their presence, being now unchecked, spontaneously burst forth in favour of their legitimate governments.
Holland, which had so long groaned under French tyranny; which, from the peculiar nature of the country, and the dispositions and habits of its people, had suffered more from the continental system than any other part of Europe, set the example of liberating itself from its oppressors. All at once, and, there is reason to believe, most unexpectedly, both to the governments of Great Britain and France, on the 15th of November an insurrection broke out in Amsterdam, where the people rose in a body, proclaiming the house of Orange, with the old cry of Orange boven, and universally putting up the orange cockade. The example of the inhabitations of Amsterdam was immediately followed by those of other towns in the provinces of Holland and Utrecht; the French authorities were dismissed; a provisional government formed, from which two deputies were sent to the prince of Orange in this country; and the following laconic and emphatic address to the Dutch was circulated:
‘Orange boven! Holland is free–the allies advance upon Utrecht–the English are invited–the French fly on all sides–the sea is open–trade revives–party spirit has ceased–what has been suffered is forgiven and forgotten–men of consequence and consideration are called to the government–the government invites the prince to the sovereignty–we join the allies, and force the enemy to sue for peace–the people are to have a day of rejoicing at the public expence, without being allowed to plunder or commit any excess–every one renders thanks to God–old times are returned–Orange boven!’
The prince of Orange lost no time in going over to Holland; and the ministry of Great Britain nobly seconded him in his purpose of completely liberating his country…”
From Chapter XXIV. Pages 375-376. Another account of the same events.
“Nov. 21, 1813.
The baron Perponcher and Mr James Fagel have arrived this day from Holland…to inform his royal highness the prince regent and his serene highness the prince of Orange, that a counter-revolution broke out in…on Monday last, the 15th instant, when the people of Amsterdam rose in a body, proclaiming the house of Orange with the old cry of Orange boven, and universally putting up the Orange colours.
This example was immediately followed by the other towns of the provinces…
The French authorities were dismissed, and a temporary government established and proclaimed in the name of the prince of Orange, and, until his serene highness’s arrival, composed of the most respectable members of the old government, and chiefly of those not employed under the French.”
From Chapter XXVI. Pages 399-400.
“Amersterdam, Dec. 2. About three o’clock, his serene highness the prince of Orange made his solemn entry into this capital, thorough the gate of Haerlem, under the roar of artillery, and with the ringing of all the bells. The joy was general among all classes of inhabitants; the numbers of the populace that were assembled, and flew to every part where his highness passed, were past description; the joyful acclamations of Huzza! Orange boven! And Long live prince William the First, sovereign price of the Netherlands! were uninterrupted. The whole city will be illuminated this evening.”
Here is another account, from a few decades later. This is from a History of Europe During The French Revolution. 1789-1815. Archibald Allison, 1841. (Again, the full text of this book is free on google books, you can view it by clicking the link. If you put “history of orange boven” into the search feature it will take you directly to the relevant pages, some of which I have condensed here.)
From Chapter LXXI. Pages 657-658..
“At Amsterdam, the [French] troops were no sooner gone than the inhabitants rose in insurrection, deposed the Imperial authorities, hoisted the orange flag, and established a provisional government, with a view to the re-establishment of the ancient order of things…the people every where, amidst cries of ‘Orange Boven!’ and universal rapture, mounted the orange cockade, and reinstated the ancient authorities; and after twenty years of foreign domination and suffering, the glorious spectacle was exhibited, of a people peacefully regaining their independence, and not shedding a drop of blood, and, without either passion or vengeance, reverting to the institutions of former times.”
Here is a much more succinct mention. This is from A History of Germany; From Its Invasion By Marius to the Year 1850 (1862). (Again, the full text of this book is free on google books, you can view it by clicking the link. If you put “history of orange boven” into the search feature it will take you directly to the relevant pages, some of which I have condensed here.)
From Chapter LI. Page 350.
…Meanwhile the partisans of William of Orange, then in his twenty-second year, were rousing the nation with the cry of “Oranjie boven,” Up with Orange. Hats were decorated with orange-colored ribbons, and on every tower waved a banner with the inscription–
Up with Orange, down with Witt; Him who says nay, may thunder split.
Another source I came across is a book published in 1900 called Anneke: A Little Dame of New Netherlands. Written by Elizabeth Williams Chimney, there is an entire chapter with the title ‘orange boven.’ The forward of the book reveals its fictional nature and I have not been able to find another reference to the information on the first page of the chapter, but it is an interesting and quick read if you’re further interested in this topic. This link will take you directly to the first page of the ‘orange boven’ chapter.
At least three years ago I was inspired by a fashion plate, as one often is, and started working on a Regency pelisse following the design in the image. I got really far along, finishing the construction and even part of the trimming, but then stalled and let the ensemble languish for years before determining to pick it up and finish it off this year or else! I’m excited to have finally reached a ‘done’ point in this project so I can remove it from the UFO list!
The pelisse (and hat) are directly inspired by the following fashion plate, which can be seen here with slightly different coloring and here in black and white. In the first of those two links, the garment is labeled as a dinner dress, but I thought the design would make excellent pelisse trimming and so I adapted it.
You’ll notice, perhaps, that the finished pelisse does not have as much trim on it as the inspiration image. Early in this project, before it languished, I cut out all of the appliqués for the neck, sleeves, and hem as well as the front edges. I pressed under a 1/4″ on each side of each piece, too. And then, as I was finishing all that triangle trim on the front earlier this year, two things happened:
#1- I lost steam and really just needed to be done with this project.
#2- I decided I liked the simplicity of the pelisse without the extra trim. It’s so easy to draw lots of details, but then in a real garment the details don’t always translate. For example, the triangles around the neck just looked bad and awkward (plus, I wonder if that is a chemisette collar and not trim on the dress itself?) and the sleeves just looked too crowded. I was also afraid that putting all that work into triangles around the hem would just get dirty and not be a good use of many more yards of the vintage lace I used to edge the triangles.
In fact, despite the somewhat-simplified trim, there are actually a lot of details in the construction of the pelisse. Each back seam is piped and the belt has double piping above and below it. The neck is bound with piping, which is sewn with small, invisible stitches around the neck to hold the seam allowance to the inside. Also, the skirt is knife pleated into the back, allowing for a nice silhouette from all sides.
The pelisse is made entirely from peach colored cotton. It is unlined, except on the belt, where it is lined in order to hide the raw edges. The other seam allowances are whip stitched to keep them tidy. Here is an inside view of the bodice section. I do like my insides to be tidy!
The trim fabric is a cream colored poly/cotton blend. Each triangle is edged in very light tan vintage lace. Then, to top it all off, there are peach tassels on each triangle down the front as well. The peach tassels were removed from a length of upholstery trim that happened to be a perfect color match!
The pelisse is machine sewn on the interior seams and hand finished, including the hem, neckline, seam allowances, and all that trim. The darts are also sewn by hand with a small running stitch, a detail I picked up from looking at extant pelisses, though of course it’s been so many years now that I can’t find a specific example. I like how the top stitched darts at a little extra interest.
The pattern for this pelisse is of my own design. I’m pretty sure it was based on my 1819 spencer, but adapted slightly for a different fit. It’s hard to remember since it’s been so many years since I made the pattern! The skirt is a large rectangle–two panels of fabric seamed at center back.
I’m wearing the pelisse with the following garments: a chemise and my short stays, my Vernet petticoat , my recently finished chemisette, and the hat that matches the whole ensemble. I’m excited to have found a use for the Vernet petticoat that shows off the trim at the hem! I did take out the tucks that made it the right length for my Witzchoura so that it would be the right length for the pelisse, but that’s what tucks are for, right? On picture day there was a nice breeze blowing everything around and showing off all the layers nicely.
I was lucky to take these photos in and around some of the Regency period buildings in Salem, MA. You can’t beat buildings from the right period for a suitable backdrop for a garment like this!
Now I have my first pelisse. More outings will hopefully arise in the future so I can wear it again. I’m so glad I’ve decided it’s finished and that it was a comfortable garment to wear, though I maintain that the hat is a bit silly.
I am pleased to report that I made a garment which qualifies for the HSM challenge #4: Circles, Squares, and Rectangles! I wasn’t sure I had anything on the sewing list that would do, but then I remembered years ago when I started this hat and it was only two pieces, a circle for the crown and a rectangle for the binding. Perfect! (I’m not counting the triangular trim. That’s just the trimming!)
As you might guess from the photo, this hat is part of a matching ensemble: a pelisse and hat from 1814. I’ve got lots of details planned regarding the inspiration for this ensemble as well as more pictures of the finished outfit, but for now this teaser will have to suffice. It gives context to the rather silly hat.
Just the facts:
Fabric: Pale peach cotton and cream (likely) poly/cotton blend.
Pattern: My own based on my head measurements.
Notions: Thread, two ostrich feathers, and about 1 yard of vintage lace.
How historically accurate is it?: I’m going to go with 95% on this one. It’s entirely recognizable in its own time and made in a way that is straightforward and consistent with historic garments. The materials are not 100% accurate.
Hours to complete: If I’m only counting the hat, about 3 or 4, since it is entirely hand sewn.
First worn: April 9 for a Regency tea.
Total cost: About $8 for the hat without the pelisse.
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?
This is the last post about the construction of my amazing 1814 Vernet Project. I really enjoyed doing the research and making the parts of this project. It was great fun and such a lovely learning experience to be part of the group of people making Vernet ensembles. And I was able to wear most of the ensemble for more than just pictures! I hope to find future reasons to wear these again!
I’ve been saving the best for last–the construction of the main piece, the witzchoura itself. As with all the other pieces in this ensemble, the witzchoura is entirely hand sewn. It is made up of a faux fur lining and an exterior of silk taffeta flat lined with cotton flannel and trimmed with more faux fur. Here are some in progress photos.
Ta da! The finished witzchoura with all of the lovely accessories. It certainly is a luxurious looking and feeling ensemble!
I thought I would address a few other points as well. Some people have been waiting for answers to these questions for a long time! Thank you for your patience as I waited to answer your questions until now in order to keep everything together in terms of information.
Is it heavy to wear?
No, once dressed, the ensemble does not feel heavy. But, when holding it, or hanging it, or putting it on, YES, it feels quite heavy! It’s a fair bit of fabric, with three layers, and the faux fur gets heavy quickly with such yardage.
What is the weight? How does it compare to a heavy wool winter coat, for example?
Oh dear. I’m very bad at estimating this. I like the comparison question better! If you’ve ever held a very heavy, thick, full length winter coat, I think this is probably similar in weight. But compared to anything less, it would feel heavier.
Is it easy to walk and move with such an enveloping set of objects?
This is the sort of question I would want to know the answer to! Yes, it’s easy to walk. The ensemble does not restrict leg movement. I can also move my head with ease, because the hat sits low enough that it is well anchored and not going anywhere. However, the witzchoura does restrict arm movement some. For example, putting it on without just the right movement (which is lifting it up and behind and then sliding both arms in at the same time) doesn’t really work. And once it’s on, there’s only so much forward and backward arm movements that are possible. Lifting arms is better, but still not full range of movement. Each layer by itself has more possibilities, but the faux fur fills a lot of space inside the silk exterior. This makes it quite warm, but feels a little bit like wearing a marshmallow.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my Vernet journey! If you have any other questions about the ensemble please let me know. I would be happy to answer them!