Belated HSF #11: 18th Century Apricot Petticoat

Life! Is often great, but does rather get in the way of sewing plans sometimes…

This HSF challenge #11 had a due date of June 3rd. I actually finished sewing on June 18th, but I’ve been busy posting about other things so this has been even further delayed. Oh well, I had the best of intentions: to complete this 18th century petticoat for the Squares, Rectangles, and Triangles Challenge.

Description:
Many historical garments, and the costumes of many people around the world, use basic geometric shapes as their basis. In this challenge make a garment made entirely of squares, rectangles and triangles (with one curve allowed), whether it is an 18th century kimono, a flounced 1850s skirt, or a medieval shift.
 
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Apricot (orange) 18th century under petticoat.

Just the facts:

Fabric: Almost all of 4yds of apricot cotton I bought back in January.

Pattern: None, but I referenced both of these tutorials on constructing 18th century petticoats.  Katherine’s tutorial is for a petticoat with an uneven length (to go over panniers, or a bum roll, for example). Rebecca’s tutorial is for a petticoat with an even length (the same length all the way around, to be worn without extra supports). Both tutorials have construction information, Rebecca’s includes a bit more detail in terms of which stitches and methods to use.

Year: Loosely 1700-1790.

Notions: Thread, yellow polyester ribbon for ties.

How historically accurate?: I give it 70%. Accuracy gets knocked down because: 1- the color is a bit vibrant for the period (but it’s an under petticoat, and I wanted it to be fun!), 2- all unseen seams are machine sewn, 3- I used bright yellow polyester ribbon for ties, 4- I haven’t seen much research that shows cotton being used at this time for a single plain petticoat of this sort. On the other hand: 1- all finishing was done by hand, 2- the dimensions and method of creation are historically accurate.

Hours to complete: 6 or 7? I can’t really remember…

First worn: Well, Squishy wore it for pictures!

Total cost: $12 for the fabric. The ribbon is leftover from my childhood craft projects…

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Side view.
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Front. See the yellow ribbon?
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Back. I love how the pleats fan out.

I chose to bind the top with self fabric and use polyester ties in a fun color for this petticoat, since I knew it wouldn’t be seen and I might as well use some of those things from my stash! The back half of the petticoat ties in front, then the front ties wrap all the way around to the front and also tie in front. That’s why you can see all the yellow ribbon crossing in the back. This method used a solid 3 yds of ribbon, though the ends I have to tie with are generous and could probably be shorter if I wanted to save on tie length.

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Back tied in front before the front gets tied. There are hemmed pocket slit openings on each side.

I just love the color of this petticoat. It’s so bright and sunny and cheerful, especially with the yellow ribbons! There’s also a sneak peek in this last picture at what will likely be a future HSF item: the bum roll… more on that soon-ish.

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Resource: Commercial Pattern Archive at URI

Recently, I’ve been doing lots of thinking about and planning for a variety of summer sewing adventures. Whenever new projects begin there is a lot of research into the silhouette, cut, and fabrics. I’ve got my oft-referenced books, but the internet contains caches of great (and trustworthy) information as well, if you look in the right places and are wary of the information that is untrustworthy.

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Here is one new information source you probably haven’t come across in your internet travels: the Commercial Pattern Archive at the University of Rhode Island. “CoPA-Online contains over 50,000 scanned images (garments & pattern schematics) from 42,000 commercially produced patterns, dating back to 1868 and is growing daily.” Here is the background on this great resource:

The Commercial Pattern Archive database, CoPA, provides a unique tool for researchers and designers to recreate or date clothing from 1868 to 2000. There are several collections from the States, Canada and the UK represented in the database which functions like a Union Catalog of pattern collections. The cornerstone of CoPA is the Betty Williams Collection. Betty Williams, a theatrical costumer in New York City, pioneered research on commercial patterns in the early 1980s. She became a leader in the field, establishing a major personal pattern collection and encouraging others to actively participate in the collection and storage of patterns. Betty passed away in 1997 leaving a wealthy legacy of research, and an extensive pattern collection now housed at the University of Rhode Island. The Williams Collection is combined with the URI and Joy Spanabel Emery Collections in the Commercial Pattern Archive in URI Library Special Collections.

One of my students shared this resource with me a few months ago and I have only just started digging into all the wonderful information that is available. You have to subscribe to see all of the patterns in the collection, but there is a free sample search that brings up a limited amount of patterns. I’ve just been using the free sample search and have found lots of fabulous patterns. Some of the patterns just show the envelope front images, but a lot of them also contain an image of the construction pieces. It’s great, because you can see lots of patterns and layouts for different silhouettes from different periods. The archive includes clothing patterns for men, women, and children, nightwear, underwear, swimwear, outwear… a huge variety of patterns and information! It is also possible to arrange to visit the archive in person.

Coming up in my sewing queue for the summer are garments from the 1760s, 1860s, 1880s, 1920s, and 1950s. Ooo, exciting variety, right? You never know in what period I’m going to turn up next! (Except that in the past it was pretty likely to be between 1810-1930… but I’m pushing the boundaries now on both ends!) So far I’ve accessed CoPA to find resources for the 1880s and 1920s. Here are some examples:

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1885 Beatrice Bodice Pattern at CoPA.
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1927 Slip On Dress with Pleated Skirt Pattern at CoPA

This really is a great resource! Go check it out!

Details Of The Bronze And Pink 1893 Ball Gown

I’ve been meaning to post about my new 1893 ball gown since Newport Vintage Dance Week back in August… Well, I’m slow about getting it done, but but this is going to be a post with mounds of great detail, so I think the wait was worth it!

At the 1890s Soiree during Newport Vintage Dance Week in August.

This gown is constructed of bronze shot silk shantung with pale pink slightly slubby silk satin. It is flat lined throughout with ivory waxed cotton. It is stabilized with cotton canvas at the hem and in the waistband. The bodice is trimmed with ivory net and bits of metallic bronze/gold net that have sequin motifs on it (in fact, it’s the same metallic net as the top sleeve section of my 1912 burgundy silk evening gown, which I also wore at Newport). The sash is trimmed with the metallic bronze/gold net. The sleeves have layers of ivory tulle inside them to help maintain the full shape.

I wore this dress with a combination, a corset, a slight bum pad, two petticoats (one silk, one cotton), stockings, and shoes. Exterior accessories include cotton/poly elbow length white gloves (I have lovely leather ones that come up above the elbow, but they are getting soiled from being worn while dancing with men who are not wearing gloves (breech of decorum on their part!), so I chose not to wear those to this ball); my handy Battenburg lace fan; my faux pearl drop earrings; a long strand of faux pearls (originally bought to be worn with my 1928 green silk evening gown); a nice bling-y necklace borrowed from a friend for the evening; and my fabulous almost-Victorian tiara from eBay!

My tiara shares a general design with the Lover’s Knot Tiara, below. Both tiaras have round elements connected by jeweled arches above a second row of round elements, both rows of which are surmounted by tear shaped pearl elements which are set above a final row of further round shaped elements around the base. Additionally, in both tiaras there is a high point in the center which then diminishes toward each side. Obviously, the two are not exactly the same, but I think they’re similar. Of course, wearing mine for an 1893 look is slightly earlier than the given date of the Lover’s Knot Tiara, which is c. 1913. But isn’t that excusable, when the tiara looked so wonderful with my dress and accessories? There’s a closeup of my tiara below so you can compare.

Lover’s Knot Tiara by Garrard c.1913.
My eBay tiara.

It took a bit of work to come up with a hair style I liked that also worked with the tiara, I can tell you. I wanted to have a puff of hair not directly behind the tiara, but close enough that it would provide a dark background for the tiara to stand out from. Unfortunately, I don’t have any great pictures of my hair. Oh well! It also took A LOT of bobby pins to secure the tiara. I  think I used about 20 for the tiara alone. I put one between each of the base pearls, then another to cross the first one. I also secured the ends of the tiara with extra pins. It was really stable and didn’t move at all during the entire night, so that part was successful!

Here’s a closeup of the jewelry.

In the picture above you can see the jewelry better. You can also see the one major flaw in this dress. The wide neckline wasn’t shaped quite right, so the sleeves started slipping off my shoulders, making the sleeves look slightly less impressive. This is one of those things that was perfectly fine in all my fittings. It’s during those pesky balls, when you move and sweat, that you really discover the flaws in your clothes! I’ll have to do something about that before I wear the dress again.

A full length view. This was the end of the night, and the end of the week, so that’s why I look tired.
A full length back view. Again, you can see how the sleeves just didn’t want to stay on my shoulders.

Now on to the specifics of patterning. The bodice (and especially the sleeves) of this dress are from Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion 2, as is the skirt. The decorative sash and bodice trim were inspired by an image in Norah Waugh’s The Cut of Women’s Clothes. I looked at many images that had similar sashes with bows, so I’m sure I was influenced by those as well.

The next thing to discuss is the construction of the dress. It is in two pieces: a plain bronze silk skirt and a decorative bronze and pink silk bodice. The wonderful thing about this arrangement is that I can make other bodices to go with the skirt (I’ve got extra bronze and pink silk). For example, I plan to one day make a day bodice to go with the same skirt. Since the skirt takes the biggest bulk of fabric, this is an economical and practical plan in addition to adding to my wardrobe!

I’ve got some great closeup pictures of the bodice construction, but I didn’t take any close up pictures of the skirt, come to think of it. Honestly, though, it’s not as interesting. The skirt is gathered in back and set into a waistband which closes at the back with hooks. There is a placket opening that is hidden in the gathers. The entire skirt is flat lined with ivory cotton. In addition, the hem has a 12″ band of bias cut canvas tacked between the silk and cotton. The canvas helps the skirt form those wide folds at the hem as well as providing a certain weight and gravity to the lightweight silk. Finally, it also helps provide a clean sharp edge over which to turn the hem. For the hem, the bronze silk is folded to the inside over the canvas, turned again, and stitched to the cotton lining. The hem is about 1/4″.

The bodice, by itself. As you can see, the sash is a part of the bodice.
Here is the net applique on the sash ends. The net is great because it doesn’t fray, so I simply had to cut out the motif I wanted and then stitch it around all the edges to the sash. The sash is a tube of bias finished at an angle on the ends with a slip stitch.
A closup of the shoulder and top of the sleeve. You can see the ivory net trim around the neck of the bodice, which terminates in those cute bows on the shoulder. The bronze part of the sleeves are rectangles that are knife pleated radially at the shoulder, which you can see in this photo. And finally, you can see the gold net applique which is stitched over the ivory net around the neck opening.
Then comes the question, where are the closures on this bodice? Well, the sash is stitched to the bodice from the right side front around the left side to center back. Then the bodice opens up center back.
To keep the sash in place around the right side, there are three hooks that correspond to thread loops on the bodice. This keeps the sash in place. You can see the canvas backing of the sash in this picture.
One of the thread loops on the bodice that holds the sash in place.
The center back closure is hooks and thread loops. I like thread loops better than the metal eyes or loops because you can’t see them when the bodice is pulled tight, like you can with the metal. You can see that I added a placket that extends farther than the loops just in case something pops open.
The inside of the bodice. I LOVE to make the insides of garments pretty, and I think this is one of my finest examples! Aside from the fact that it is modern materials, it looks just like an extant garment from the 19th century. The bodice is boned up center front, the front darts (which create a V-shape on either side of center front), the side seams, and each of the four side back seams. The neck and hem are finished off with self fabric bias with is then nicely whip stitched to the cotton flat lining. The armholes are bound with self bias. Then there is also a waistband, to help alleviate the tension on the center back closure. This waistband is cross stitched to each boning channel and closes with hooks and eyes.
The right side of the bodice. You can see the bias bindings, the boning channels, cross stitched waistband, and hooks. Oh, and I just noticed that I also finished the exposed seam allowances by turning them back on themselves and whip stitching. (The seam allowances under the boning channels are trimmed and left raw.)
Center front. The boning channels were whip stitched to the cotton lining along the sides. It was a bit of a logistal problem to determine how to nicely bind off the edges of the bodice with bias, since there is a sash part of the way around. You can see that there is a separate piece of bias covering the join between the sash and the bodice from the right side where the sash opens.
The left side. On the waistband I did use the metal bars instead of thread loops, since I knew they wouldn’t be seen from the outside. You can also see how the sash was attached. It was flipped up and topstitched to the bodice (avoiding bones!), then flipped down to cover the raw edges and joined to the bottom of the bodice with bias.
The interior of the pink under sleeve. The silk is gathered into a cotton lining. Of course, you can’t see up into the sleeve when there is an arm in it!

It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, to have such a beautifully finished bodice. And I felt like such a princess at the 1890s Soiree, to be wearing an all silk dress with silk petticoat and a fabulous tiara!

Whee!

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.

Titanic Weekend Part II: All About The New 1912 Day Ensemble

We took a rather in-depth look at my new 1912 evening gown. Now, on to the second 1912 ensemble that I also wore during the weekend: day gown and hat!

Gown and hat with (unbuttoned...) white kid opera gloves. I'm so pleased with the overall effect! Unfortunately, I don't have pictures of the back. There are cool details back there, so another fashion shoot will be required in the future...

This gown is constructed from silk charmeuse. The skirt is a single layer in addition to the overskirt panel in front. The bodice has a foundation of the same white cotton as my new evening gown. Mounted on to that cotton are (from the neck down) layers of ivory silk charmeuse, ivory silk flat lined with fabulous ivory colored diamond lace, black silk velvet, and black silk charmeuse. The overskirt panel is trimmed with matching silk velvet and the belt is constructed of the same. There are small buttons on the overskirt velvet trim (because, really, the Edwardians just loved adding buttons everywhere!). Because the back bodice mirrors the front in its style (which unfortunately I don’t have a picture of right now…), I had to be crafty with my closures. The dress has two places that open with hooks and bars: the left side from just under the arm to a few inches down the hip and the left shoulder seam around the neck to the center back of the collar. The effect is a form fitting dress that looks like it was magically donned. The side closure is straight forward, with the foundation layer hooking first, to take the tension of holding the dress tight, and the outer charmeuse layer hooking over that simply to stay closed. Again, the foundation is essential to achieving the elegant, effortless exterior. The neck closure is a series of hook and bars that turn different directions to accommodate the seams: front to back at the shoulder, hooks that hook up on the collar to attach it to the back neck, and hooks going sideways on the center back of the collar.

In addition to the gown, I also constructed what I call the “mushroom” hat, which you can read more about in this previous post. I created the pattern for the hat, which is basically just a shaped brim with circular side band. The side band support the crown, which is a circle that is pleated to create that “mushroom” shape. I love the hat! It lends such an air of Edwardian drama and elegance to the look! And I am so pleased the the “mushroom” shape worked out!

Hm… Patterning this dress… Well, the general skirt shape is from Janet Arnold, but it is adapted to have two symmetrical box pleats that terminate at the top in delightfully detailed seams (which I really, really need pictures of!). The bodice pattern was draped with many references to my inspiration image. I created a basic shape for the bodice and then cut in into the different pieces (ivory silk, ivory silk and lace, black velvet, and black charmeuse) so that each piece would fit together perfectly. The belt is slightly shaped but doesn’t actually have a pattern.

The dress is inspired by this image from a 1910 issue of the magazine Bon Ton.

I'm sure you can guess, but the dress I was referring to is the one on the right.

In the end I made a few changes: I added a train, discarded the white under sleeves (I made them, I tried them, and they just didn’t work! They pulled the bodice in all sorts of weird ways… Maybe if the were not so tight they wouldn’t pull so much? I am fine with having gloves cover my lower arms, anyway.), and drastically scaled back the beading. Perhaps you’ll remember my plan to bead this dress? Well, the beading was drastically scaled back because I didn’t like the beads I bought as much as I thought I would (they are rectangular and larger than I thought… not seed bead-y at all), I realized I didn’t want to devote as much time as it would take to do the amount of beading I originally intended, I didn’t have enough beads to bead all four panels as much as the one panel I completed and I didn’t want to buy more beads, and I didn’t like the beading motif I had created, nor was I inspired to change it. You can see that I did leave one outline shape of beading on the bodice in the velvet section, but the rest was scrapped. That one line is repeated front and back (symmetry, you know). I did actually complete the overskirt top panel, but decided not to use it after my scaling back plan was complete (you can see it, below). I’m going to keep the beaded panel and see if it finds its way onto another project one day… I would still love to do intense beading on a garment, but I’ll have to pick a different one, because it wasn’t measuring up to my expectations for this dress.

Scrapped beaded panel. A mix of silvery and black beads. I started in the center with the somewhat wonky lines, can you see improvement? I think it would have been distracting from the dress to have four panels like this.

Titanic Weekend Part I: All About The New 1912 Evening Gown

I recently returned from a successful Titanic-themed weekend of events, including multiple vintage dance opportunities. I’ve been working on some new clothing for these events since January, which you can read more about in my past posts relating to the 100th Anniversary of the Titanic. I’ve been rather remiss in posting updates about the progress of the new dresses I constructed for these events… So my first task is to share pictures of my attire and explain the inspiration and construction of the garments.

I created two new 1912 ensembles: an evening gown and a day gown with accompanying hat. Let’s start with the evening gown!

My camera had a challenging time capturing the colors and shimmering sequins on this gown, but this is a good representation of the colors. Look! I wore my ballroom dance shoes, which worked well, and my white kid opera gloves and pearl drop earrings... fabulous!
Fabulous painted backdrop! Perfect for taking photos, although my camera didn't quite catch the colors so well in this photo. I think this gown is so much more fabulous in person! I was told that the sequins just shimmer in subdued mood lighting.

This gown is burgundy silk charmeuse with a gold silk charmeuse underskirt. The bodice is gold silk layered under gold sequined net. The sleeves are the same gold sequined net flat lined with nude colored tulle: the tulle provides unnoticeable stability for the net layer. The burgundy layers are pleated up and held in place in two places by gold silk and sequined net covered buttons. The bodice and skirt are lined with brown cotton and the entire dress is mounted on a foundation of some extra white cotton which I have an excess of in my fabric stash. The foundation layer is essential to the drape of the dress, because it provides stability as well as a layer to attach all of the pleats and drapery points to. The foundation allows the burgundy silk to effortlessly hang and artfully fold without looking heavy or as though it serves to hold an weight. The foundation layer also supports the underskirt which is attached at about knee height (thus not extending all the way up to the waist and saving fabric). If you plan to create a draped Edwardian gown I strongly suggest that you include a foundation layer: the practice is historically accurate and will help your dress look effortless rather than heavy. This gown closes center back with hooks and eyes along the gold sequin area and a complicated series of further hooks and eyes at the top of the burgundy back drape. The hooks and eyes help create the tension that is required to keep the waist carefully draped in elegant folds across the waist.

There is not a hat associated with this gown because hats were not worn for formal evening events. I did create a wonderful Edwardian coiffure with loops and puffs of hair on the crown of my head surmounting the two front sweeps from the front as they swooped around the base of the back of my head. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any closeups of the style. I feel it is necessary to encourage you by saying that the more often I practice my Edwardian hair styling the faster I am and the better the styles look. You, too, can have fabulous Edwardian hair! Practice! Practice! Practice!

I draped the pattern for the foundation, bodice, and sleeves. The underskirt is a mix of information from the usual pattern book culprits (Janet Arnold and Norah Waugh) that I took in and then kept in mind while flat patterning a knee high underskirt pattern. The outer draped layer is just that: draped. It was a good challenge–I would have a hard time creating a flat pattern of that layer. All I can say is that it is just one rectangular piece of fabric that was sometimes frustrating and draped with many references to my inspirational images.

It turns out that the evening gown is a mash-up of two gowns (pictured below) at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I think I started by aiming for the pink dress but wound up moseying my way along to the pale blue dress. Do you see the influence of both the pink and pale blue dresses? I do…

1914 Callot Soeurs evening dress
Side/Back of the same.
1911-1914 Callot Souers evening dress.
Side/Back of the same.

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