1812 Sleeveless Undergarment Research

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.

Early 19th century. Petticoat. The Met.
Petticoat. 1800. Cotton. National Trust.
Early 19th century cotton petticoat/underdress. MFA Boston.

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.

1810s linen chemise from the Met.

1812 Guerriere Weekend Part IV: A New 1812 Gown

My favorite picture of my new 1812 gown, from the Guerriere weekend at the Commandant’s House at the Charlestown Navy Yard in Boston.

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.

Does it look like a curtain dress? I’m sad to report that Mr. Q didn’t realize, until I explained it to him, that the idea of a curtain dress is a famous theme from Gone With The Wind… How could I have attached myself to someone who doesn’t know that? Opposites attract?

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.

You can really see the difference between the flat front and the gathered back in this side view.

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.

Oooo, wait, I love this picture too! Sometimes I think my smile is dorky, but not here! And the leaves make a lovely background. Anyway… you can also see the bodice details better in this photo.

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.

You can see the fabric pretty well in this photo.

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.

1812 Guerriere Weekend Part III: Lounging at the Commandant’s House

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.

In the front part of the main floor, an enclosed porch with lovely painted walls.
The opposite wall from the last picture. The large windows overlook the Boston Harbor.
We had a great view of reenactors and tourists from the windows. It was also a picturesque spot for photos.
Inside the main floor at the house.
Looking down on the stairs that led to the upper floor. I love this shot!
On the second floor the main hallway was nautically themed, as you can see by the change in carpet. There was also a continuation of the stairway which led up to another floor.
Unfortunately, that upper upper floor was not available to us and we couldn’t go much past this point.
The different rooms on the upper floor had nautical names: Topside, Leeward, Port, Windward, and Starboard.
There were also labeled servant bells all around. Unfortunately, the bells were not operational, but the bells still added a fun element of atmosphere.
The most exciting room for photographs upstairs was this one.
It had this lovely dressing table and mirror set with drawers and cabinets.
These sorts of things make excellent props for photos.
We all took turns trying out different angles and poses.
Across the hall was a library, from which we borrowed a book to use as a prop.
Doesn’t this just have that Jane Austen atmosphere?
And it helped that this particular chair was quite comfy!
Thinking of Mr. Darcy, perhaps? This settee was also in the same room.
These wonderfully Regency poses were so easy to think of in this space!
In another room (in my head it is “the Green Room”) were more comfortable photo options.
It was really lovely!
Our randomly chosen prop book: “The Works of Shakes-peare Volume VIII.” I am super amused when I say his hyphenated name aloud.
The exterior of the Commandant’s House, looking up from the side with the harbor on it.
Just one shot of the lovely hydrangeas that are planted all around the house.
The side of the house. See that big stone wall? That’s actually the original front of the house: the original front door is about 4 feet from the wall. And right on the other side of the wall is the modern 4 lane street. So you can see why the back of the house is now what seems to be the front of the house.

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!

1812 Guerriere Weekend Part II: The USS Constitution

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!

Waiting for the Constitution to get under way. If you look really closely you can see her name poking out from behind our heads.
There she is, being tugged out of Boston Harbor.
Watching her being tugged away.
We wanted to be on the opposite side of the wharf for the Constitution’s return, so a few of us ran around (it was maybe 1/4 of a mile)… Along the way was a deserted parking lot we could either go around, or through… Of course we went through, which involved climbing/jumping/falling over the metal barricades… You should know that going around would have been an extra 90 feet or so of walking (ie. not much)…
But we made it without injuries! Here is the Constitution being tug pushed back into alignment to return to her docking area. You can see the modern marines furling the sails, so clearly, she actually did use them.
The four adventurous ladies who surmounted barricades to get great Constitution shots.
As she slowly glided into place we took the opportunity to wave at the reenactors and modern marines aboard. Some of them even waved back!
See all the people on the deck? Some of them, with the not modern shaped hats are the reenactors. It’s really cool that they were able to sail on the Constitution!
On our way back to join our friends we had time to stop at this large anchor.
In the museum. The banner states the whole purpose of the weekend’s celebrations.
He’s not a cardboard cut out…
Upstairs at the museum is a hand’s on walk through being aboard the Constitution in 1812. At this point, you get to hoist Billy the Goat aboard for food stores (he’s stuffed and makes loud goat sounds as you hoist him!).
There were lots of paintings and informational signs to imitate.
Then there’s this great spot, where you can stand on a rigging rope and furl a sail. This rope is only about 6″ off the ground, but obviously the real sails are much higher up.
Yup. Here’s the real Constitution, with real modern marines in the rigging.
There are other interactive things as well. Here, I am scrubbing the deck!
In this room, you can climb into hammocks. The floor is super squishy, in case you fall out! The hammocks were actually pretty comfortable. And you see the guy in the corner? He’s another cardboard cut out.

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!

1812 Guerriere Weekend Part I: Happenings

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…

You know us TNG-ers. We like pictures of us running around. In this picture, we’re running up the walk to the Commandant’s House, our hang out for the 1812 weekend.
Some CVD performers starting the weekend off with pictures!
A little bit of Wilson’s Waltz on Saturday.
And some Scotch Reel.
It was pretty fabulous that on Saturday we had live music to dance to!
Between performances on Saturday we played Regency card games including Palace and… (oh no, my mind is blanking! Someone help me remember the name of that C game! It wasn’t Convergence… or Chance… Eep!)
Getting to know a few of the British soldiers while we were preparing for lunch in the dining room.
Lunch was a Regency food potluck affair. It looked pretty appetizing and picturesque.
I enjoyed looking out of the windows and exclaiming “Look! Dudes are doing drills!”
In the afternoon we played Blind Man’s Bluff, which is super fun and works really well on a wooden floor.
It’s quite possible that running around and playing this game was more tiring than dancing.
The way the game works is that the blindfolded person has to try and catch someone else and then correctly guess who it is. The trouble is that all the un-blindfolded people can either be really quiet or make lots of noise to confuse the blindfolded person.
More CVD: this time inside the house in one of the rooms we danced in.
British are red. Americans are blue.
I think almost everyone had made new clothes for this performance, since Regency isn’t a period CVD usually performs.
There was also an unoccupied guard hut in front of the Commandant’s House that begged for pictures.
How many people do you think will fit inside?
On Saturday evening there was a ball for the reenactors. Sadly, not many of them attended, and even fewer stuck it out until the end of the night. However, the small number of people made for a cosy atmosphere.
On Sunday afternoon we had a picnic out on the lawn of the Commandant’s House.
And we ran around on the lawn.
We also went down to the dock to see the Constitution. The reenactors were also there. Here are the Americans.
And here are the British. Isn’t the Boston skyline in the background an interesting contrast to the bayonets?
The British soldiers were posing for pictures for the tourists. We took the opportunity to join them, with many cheers from the crowd.
British soldiers at ease.
There was also this little mini-cannon. Not sure what it was for.
This hat beat them all! I love these fur hats! It’s like the guards at Buckingham Palace.
The British soldiers certainly made more appearances on my camera. Here they are heading off to create new adventures.

And that is the end of Part I: Happenings.

1812 Tailcoat Pattern

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):

To make this coat between 2 1/2 to 2 3/4 yards of superfine wool broadcloth or slightly more (to allow for shrinking) linen and about the same amount for a lining of oatmeal 3.7 oz. linen is required. An extra 1/4 yard will be needed for the pocket bags. Notions needed are about 1 1/4 yard linen buckram interfacing, between 6 to 8 5/8″ buttons or button molds, one or two additional buttons that are flat on both top and bottom are recommended for a double breasted coat. For the sleeves 4 to 6 1/2″ optional matching cuff buttons or button molds are needed as is Linen threadof either 50/3 or 35/2 to match the lining and outer fabric. For sewing the button holes you will need one or possibly two spools of quilter’s thread or buttonhole twist that matches the outer fabric.