As I mentioned in my last post, the one where I shared pictures of my new 1812 under garments, there aren’t a whole lot of extant examples of sleeveless undergarments from the Regency period, so I had to take the research images I could find and extrapolate what was necessary for my dress from that information. Here are a few extant examples of sleeveless underdresses.
It is fitting that this last one was worn by someone who lived in Boston, MA (that’s where I live). Neat! And isn’t the whitework at the hem lovely? Fashion plates and extant underdresses and petticoats from the early 19th century not uncommonly have hems that had white work and lace decorations. I didn’t incorporate that into my underdress… but maybe in the future I can make another such garment and include that detail!
Natalie Garbett also wrote a blog post about a sleeveless underdress that she made, which you can read by clicking this link. It’s super cute (and has hem trim)!
I actually didn’t find any sleeveless chemises, though I did come across mentions of them. I suppose a lady could have tucked up the sleeves of a normal chemise, or worn a sheer dress with the sleeves of the chemise showing through. Here’s an example of an early 19th century chemise with sleeves. This one is pretty ruffly, but the basic shape is the same, as is the gathering tie at the neck.
Ok, I admit that it is not a very clever title, but it fits the subject matter perfectly!
First, some details. This 1812 reproduction gown is constructed from 100% cotton curtains from Ikea. Yes, Ikea. You never know where you’re going to run across fantastic fabric. In fact, these Matilda curtains were made in India, which is very fitting for a Regency gown, because cottons in the early 19th century were being imported from India. It is very lightweight, sheer gauze with a 1/8″ vertical stripe spaced every 1″ across the fabric and with woven in dots every 1″ vertically. I bought a package of two curtain panels, each 55″ wide by 98″ long.
The skirt for the gown is a two panel tube, 43″ long by 110″ circumference. The front is stitched flat to the waistband and the remaining fabric is tightly gathered into the back across 13″. Center front and center back are actually the middle of the panels, so that the two seams are lost in the back gathers. The gown opens center back with hooks and eyes on the bodice and a narrowly hemmed slit that extends 8″ down the center of the back panel. The slit is also lost in the gathers. The waistband is 1″ wide. It was cut on the cross and has long tucks taken all around it so that it has three stripes spaced close together.
The bodice pattern is taken from Janet Arnold Patterns of Fashion I “c. 1806-1809 frock” and adjusted for fit and so that the entire front panel has a 2:1 gather ratio at the top and bottom (essentially, just more gathers than the original dress). What I really love about that pattern is the simplicity of the neckline. The bodice is cut separately from the straps, and the straps are cut on the straight grain, thus they fit really well with a wide square neck that stays square and doesn’t fall off your shoulders! GENIUS! Sometimes those historic tailors and dressmakers really amaze me with their sensible-ness. The bottom gathers are sewn to the waistband, but the top gathers are adjustable with a tie at center front. The ties are stitched to the armsceye seam allowance and can be tightened from center front then tucked inside the gown. The shoulder straps are folded in half with the fold towards the neck so that I didn’t have to finish that edge (another 19th century smart trick!). There is a stripe in the middle of each strap.
The sleeves are a conglomeration of various patterns… essentially they are just a normal Regency short sleeve pattern with about 6″ extra fullness at the top and bottom which is gathered into the armsceye and the sleeve band. The sleeve bands are cut on the cross, like the shoulder straps, and on the fold. They are placed so that the stripe runs around them. I wanted them to puff more, so after these pictures I took a few tucks in the underarm seams of the sleeves so they can’t hang as low on my arms. We’ll see how that looks next time I wear the dress.
With regard to inside finishing… The skirt seams didn’t need anything, because they are selvedge edges. The hem is 1″ turned twice and stitched down with a small running stitch (stitches every 1/16″ to 1/8″). The waistband is faced on the inside with a second waistband (without worrying about having three stripes running around it) that encloses all of the gathers on the top and bottom. The armsceyes are bound with self fabric bias strips. The few bodice seams are flat felled. The top edge of the back of the bodice has a narrow hem.
The best part about this dress is that it is the first entirely hand sewn reproduction garment I’ve made (I think). I’ve come pretty close in work I’ve done in the past, but I’ve always used a sewing machine for inside seams and things that won’t be seen. Not so with this one. There were two reasons for hand sewing it: 1-I wanted to have the satisfaction of it 2-I had a week to make the dress and a long road trip for about half of the week I had… you can’t use a sewing machine in a moving car as far as I know… but you can hand sew! So the second best part about this dress: I whipped it up in one week, with undergarments!
I hadn’t mentioned that part yet. To accomodate the wide, square neckline and sheer sleeves of this gown, I had to make three other new pieces as well! A sleeveless chemise to accommodate the square neck and sheer sleeves, an underdress/petticoat to add some opacity which also needed to have a square neck, and a new pair of stays in white (because my only other regency pair are pink… and that would have not been subtle at all!). To be fair and honest, I didn’t get all the inside finishing done on these four garments the first time I wore them, and I did use a sewing machine for the undergarments. I was saftey pinned into the stays… I was madly hemming the underdress the day of our final dress rehearsal… and the chemise had unfinished edges… but you couldn’t tell once I put the dress on! I still need to finish some of the undergarments, actually… so hopefully once I do that I can take some pictures of them and do a post detailing their construction! Also in the works is another underdress that can be worn under this white dress. It will be a nice medium Regency-like blue.
Between our performances during the day on Saturday and the evening ball that night we had down time during which we wanted to escape the public eye and do a little modern relaxing. Lucky for us, the upper floor of the Commandant’s house was made available to us. The entire house is lovely, so I have pictures from various parts of the house, but the bulk of the pictures are from the upper floor.
And there we are! We have lounged in the Commandant’s House! The last installment of pictures will be a post highlighting the new gown I whipped up!
In this second installment of the Guerriere weekend, we’ll look at pictures relating to the USS Constitution and the USS Constitution Museum. As I mentioned in my first post about the weekend, I sorted the pictures into loose categories to break them up for blog posting purposes. These pictures are all from Sunday, when the USS Constitution was tugged out of Boston harbor and sailed out in the Atlantic under her own power (this is one of the first times this has happened in about the last century! She is tugged and turned around every year or so, I think, but she doesn’t sail under her own power at those times.). From the Charlestown Navy Yard we could see the tugging, but unfortunately the open Atlantic was too far away for us to see her sailing under her own power. Despite that sad fact, it was still exciting to see her move!
Fun day! It’s so neat to be a part of interesting and exciting things like the sailing of the Constitution. The next post about the weekend is gong to be wonderfully picturesque photos of us Lounging in the Commandant’s House! Stay tuned!
New month = new adventures! This one happened back in August (I did a lot of things that month, so you’ll be hearing about them for awhile) not too long after Newport Vintage Dance Week, the subject of the last… ahem… ten posts on this blog. Anyway, this was another fun filled dancing adventure with the same young people that attended Newport… but in a different period: Regency.
In August, the Commonwealth Vintage Dancers performed in and occupied the Commandant’s House at the Charlestown Navy Yard in Boston as part of the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the USS Constitution‘s defeat of the HMS Guerriere in the War of 1812. The Navy Yard was also host to multiple groups of War of 1812 military reenactors from both the American and British sides who did various exhibitions during the weekend in addition to just hanging around their camps looking stylish in their military uniforms.
I wound up with about 400 of my own pictures from the weekend, a number which I have slimmed down in order to share with you only the best of the bunch; however, it’s still more pictures than is reasonable for one post. Thus, I will be doing four posts about the weekend! I had to sort the pictures somehow, so I’ve created four different focuses for each of the posts. This first post I entitled “Happenings” because it is pictures of CVD members and reenactors doing things of various sorts (as opposed to the content of my next two posts: “The USS Constitution” and “Lounging in the Commandant’s House”). The final post will be about the all new hand sewn 1812 dress I whipped out in the week before the performance! I’ll have to come up with a fun title for that one…
I thought I would just quickly share with you this 1812 Tailcoat Pattern. You can find it in the pattern section of Wm. Booth, Draper. The pattern actually has a wider date range on it than strictly 1812: it is listed as a tailcoat pattern 1800-1820. This is the description:
This tailcoat pattern is the first well made civilian tailcoat pattern specific to the first two decades of the 19th century. The pattern comes with three sizes: Medium, Large and XLarge. There are two options for the collar, comprehensive directions and documentation.
And here is the information about the quantity of fabric needed, etc. (the underlined sections are other items that Wm. Booth, Draper carries):