New Regency shoe from American Duchess!

Dear fellow costumers,

I’m sure many of you have read about the Pemberley shoes being offered by American Duchess… but in case you have not seen yet, or in case you need a reminder… American Duchess is now offering a Regency style, historically accurate shoe! The shoe is available for pre-order today (November 25 through December 9) and at least 100 orders must be placed for the shoe to be produced. Let’s make it happen!

Also, given that it is the holiday season (which is a time for wishes, you know), I would like to wish that a higher heel Pemberley shoe would one day be produced by American Duchess… I envision a shoe with a 1 1/2″ –  2″ heel that can be worn with late 19th century clothing, like the styles below…

Happy shoe-ing to all!

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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

The 14 hour Regency dress (Sense and Sensibility Regency Ball 2011)

I’d decided months ago to attend  the Dancing with the Dashwoods (Jane Austen period) Ball recently hosted by the Commonwealth Vintage Dancers; however, I was in a sticky spot about what to wear! I did not have a dress appropriate to the period of this ball and I really needed to focus on my tailoring project… what to do?!?

Well, I decided to spend just one day making a cotton Regency dress. I quickly adapted a pattern from Norah Waugh’s The Cut of Women’s Clothes: 1600-1930 to my size and decided to forgo the mockup step. Cutting out the fabric is my least favorite part of making garments, so I tried to make that part go as quickly as possible.

In an effort to simplify things, I included two petticoat layers in the dress itself and decided not to worry about finishing my seams on the inside. The bodice also has two extra layers inside of it to keep it opaque. Each piece (of three layers) was treated as one piece when I went to sew it.

All in all, the basic seams went quickly. What slowed me down and took about a third of my time on the dress were the finishing steps of completing the neck trim and putting closures on the back. The trim took a fair amount of time to pin, stitch, and thread through the ribbon loops, and the hook and thread loop closures took time because it was getting late at that point…

Fast-forward to the ball! I had the good fortune to be able to bring along friends as well! It was crowded but super fun to dance in period costume and a period hall! Enjoy the photos!