Louisville JASNA Costume One: Familiar to Followers

An American flag coloured morning gown was suitable for the first official day of the 2015 Louisville JASNA AGM because I planned to be at sessions until about 4 pm, the end of the morning in the Regency period, at least in the city. Austen herself commented about rising at 9am, and many slept until 10am, since balls and social life ended in the wee hours the night before–kind of like it does for many people attending this conference!

We were overtaken today compared to our quiet little pre-conference activity days! Many, many glorious gowns and hats appeared on ladies, and a good half-dozen more costumed gents now hovered about them as they priced out ribbon. I had already been confused and intimidated about purchasing these unique, quality products. Can you imagine having Ms. Silk Reddingote in front of you, passing things to Mr. Custom Top Hat? The “Quality” has come.

I have a cold and a stomach upset of some sort, and since I’ve already been here three days, I’m tired, so I kept Regency hours. Regency ladies breakfasted at nine, took callers or made calls from 2-4, thus the length of the morning. The morning dress should cover the arms and chest during those hours, thus long sleeves and chemisettes, fichus, or lace tuckers were in order.

I wore the same outfit you saw in an earlier post, which I refer to as my “emergency” gown since I put it together in a few days for a Jane Austen Tea put on by my local JASNA in early September.

Here I am again, with more photos so you can see the back and my little “grown up lady’s” cap better. My ringlets turned out nice today. I cheated and used the tiniest amount of makeup, as I’m like Mr. Darcy in MP author Karalynne Mackrory’s book (ghostly complexion) otherwise!

louisville 15 friday louisville 15 friday backlouisville 15 friday sidelouisville 15 friday boot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One area of difficulty is I’d originally sewn nothing more than a no-fray finish on the top edge of the petticoats the first time, but lately, I added a narrow waist band with hooks and eyes to close it in back. It has back gathers to match any gown it would be worn with.

When I made the waist band, I measured myself under a regular bra. As you may recall, I’m using a bustier from years back when I was heavier as a corset. With the cups folded in and stitched down, its shape is good and it pushes the girls up well. Its boning is similar to a busk.

It turns out this bustier reduces my rib cage about an inch! I had to safety pin the petticoat to my bustier, and after about an hour, nearly tripped on it, as it was hanging a good eight inches low on one side! Two pins had become undone, as well as the back hooks and eyes! When I tried to fix them without being noticed, I jabbed myself instead! I returned to my hotel room to add more pins and close them with care this time!

The half boots have been enhanced since the other function, and coloured stockings were worn for fun. Please don’t ogle my pantalettes, necessary to keep the dark colour from being seen through two layers of super fine cotton skirts!

I got a generous number of compliments on various aspects of the costume, and several ladies were quite taken by those little boots. They’re a half size larger than my normal shoe size, so I could fit my custom orthotics inside, and save myself from knee pain. They also liked the little blue and gold reticule I got in Cottage Grove, OR on vacation last year.

It surprised me that many ladies wore their spencers or pelisses and hats indoors all day. It wouldn’t have been done in Austen’s time!

Judging from the vendor prices at the conference’s Regency Emporium, some of those big Lady Catherine hats with exotic feathers cost close to $500. I guess they want to get as much mileage out of them as they can, so “screw the idea of wearing just a lace cap indoors!” Similarly, a pretty spencer that took hours (or dollars) to complete should be shown off!

I think I may do the same tomorrow or one of the later days this weekend!

I wasn’t the only one in a cap, as several had lace or fine muslin versions. Some long-haired ladies had not done a Regency hairdo, and had a bare head with their hair down. This all takes time, and we have to cut corners to get to the seminars we waited so long for!

My favourite seminar of the day was on Regency plumbing and how it (and water systems) evolved before and after the Regency. The speaker, Janet Fahey is a P.E. like me! Not much was new to me, as toilets have always fascinated me, but it was a good seminar, and I learned about John Snow, the father of epidemiology, who effectively created the first spreadsheets.

I know, boring compared to big hats and silk riding wear! I’ll try to remember to take some photos for you all to see!

But I have to sew more lacy on my “emergency ball gown” before tomorrow night, so that’s it for this post!

Remember to comment here or on my Facebook page, or to approach me at the conference with a mention of the Thrift Shop Regency Costume Experiment for give-aways of reticules, embroidered handkerchiefs, bling, and more. I have extra prizes, so everyone’s a winner!

Conference delegates, come by the Authors’ signing tables tomorrow at 3:45pm to say “Hi!” to me and Linda Beutler! Better yet, buy a copy of Alias Thomas Bennet from the Jane Austen Books booth at the Emporium, and I’ll sign it for you!

Also, watch for free and sale books from Meryton Press this week, as Managing Editor Michele Reed is at the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville, TN!

Pre-JASNA AGM Day trips: New Albany and Jeffersonville, Indiana

I’m truly on holidays. How do I know this? It’s 27C and sunny! (That’s 81F.) Of course, no one expected this summer-like weather in Louisville, KY in October, but they do it right around here!

New Albany and the Harvest Homecoming Festival

After a relaxing morning to compensate for yesterday’s air travel, Mr. Suze and I headed out for an afternoon of tourism. We checked the forecast, and I was glad I’d thrown one pair of shorts into my suitcase, as it was already warm!

Our destination was lunch at the food booths of the Harvest Homecoming, taking place October 3-11 in New Albany, Indiana, across the Ohio River from our hotel. We caught the #71 bus on Jefferson, about 4 blocks from our hotel.

New Albany, IndianaNew Albany, Indiana 3The trouble was, there were no events for the festival today! The food booths and craft fair start tomorrow, when I’m registered in sessions as part of the 2015 JASNA AGM!

We found a great sandwich place (Toast on Market), then enjoyed a long walk along Main Street then back along Spring Street in New Albany to see many fine houses and large commercial buildings from the 19th century in restored condition.New Albany, Indiana 2The Emporium!

Upon our return to Louisville (pronounced Loo’-uh-vull), I met up with Meryton Press Author Linda Beutler during registration for the JASNA AGM. After a chat and introductions to her friends from JASNA SW Washington/NW Oregon, we were about to set off to rest before dinner.

But first, we peeked into the Regency Emporium rooms to see all the goodies that were for sale: gift items with Austen quotes, both modern and Regency jewelry, top hats, hairpieces and wigs, paper products, “grown-up lady’s” caps similar to the John Williams Dress Cap pattern from 1826 in simple muslin, wax bas-relief profiles, books, toys, and more. Fewer than half the booths had merchandise (6pm Wednesday).

Ready-made Regency gowns were for sale for $200-$300 in a rainbow of colours, multiple styles including pre-Regency, and many sizes, mostly larger! The fabrics and finishing details showed off the designer’s ability to make each gown special, and I recognized her from Etsy (I think–if it’s the same person). Her work often has modern flair, but it’s so pretty, only the snottiest costumers will whisper and point. Most JASNA-goers will be pleased to see such a pretty gown!

My author colleague sneaked an early purchase (the Emporium officially opens tomorrow at 8am) of a beautiful shawl at a budget price from a vendor who also sold sari fabric for gowns, many eclectic books, and a few framed Regency fashion magazine prints! She showed us how to wrap a turban in far simpler terms than the videos, and mentioned she’d learned it from a Canadian! My favourite set of items for sale was right up the alley of the Thrift Shop Regency Costume Experiment: her lovely collection of “found” vintage reticules of all types!

On the way to the elevator, we nearly bumped into a pretty natural blond woman, casually dressed, and wearing glasses–OH! Author Sharon Lathan, one of the organizers of the author signing event on Saturday. She looked like an ordinary person! This is a taste of what to expect this weekend!

Pedestrian and cycling bridge between Louisville KY and Jeffersonville IN. The colours of the lights change regularly, and each side has different unique light towers to guide you up the ramps.

Pedestrian and cycling bridge between Louisville KY and Jeffersonville IN. The colours of the lights change regularly, and each side has different unique light towers to guide you up the ramps.

Jeffersonville via the Big Four Bridge

After a rest, my husband and I met Linda to walk over to Jeffersonville, IN for dinner. The paths along the Ohio river iin downtown Louisville are wide and surrounded by park area, and the huge area of bicycle racks for the weekend’s Iron Man Triathlon event was impressive!

Meryton Press Authors Suzan Lauder and Linda Beutler

Meryton Press Authors Suzan Lauder and Linda Beutler

We thought it was a half hour or so walk–but it turned out to take 50 minutes just to get to the footbridge! We were thirsty!

We chose the first restaurant (Red Yeti Brewing Company) we found in Jeffersonville about another half hour later. A prompt delivery of unsweetened iced tea and we were chatting happily as if it had taken 5 minutes to get there. (I like a little sweetening, but most sweet tea is too much for me, and Linda likes her tannins raw!) The memorable food featured yummy details like bacon jam on the brisket sandwich, and we all declared ourselves satisfied!

The rest was sufficient to restore our energy, and we walked back on the “short cut” along city streets instead of along the riverside, which shortened the trip to under an hour.

Tomorrow, Linda and I will let Mr. Suze explore on his own while we haunt the shops of the Emporium until our seminars start.

Give-aways!

TSRCE Oct 8-12 giveaway itemsRemember, if you’re also here in Louisville with us, and have followed the blog, look out for me so you can meet me to let me know. I’ll be in costume Friday and Saturday, and in regular clothing Thursday and Sunday. The items in the photo will be given away here, a few in each of the next four days.

Linda and I will be signing copies of our books at the author booth on Saturday at 3:45. You can bring your own copy of Alias Thomas Bennet or buy a copy from Jane Austen Books at the AGM (the same for Linda’s 4 JAFF books!), or just stop by to say “Hi!”

For the balance of the followers of my blog, don’t forget to comment, as I’ll be giving away TSRCE prizes to be mailed out to winners of the draw on the blog, too!

UPDATE: Because we’ve had a lot of trouble with spam, some types of email addresses are being blocked by an extra-enthusiastic spam filter. If you’ve had trouble commenting on the blog (get an error message), I encourage you to comment on my Facebook page and mention the difficulties so we know for sure whether our spam blockers are too intense.

On the Road Again, Sans Ball Gown

jonquil original frontjonquil original backA sad event took place last Wednesday. I had to abandon efforts to complete my beautiful jonquil ball gown midway through the project.

My setback was part of a chain reaction from washing a panel of matching fabric to be used to line new gathers in back.

It’s best to wash new fabric in case it shrinks. The fabric came out fine.

 

The Original Plan

jonquil back with faux silk lining shownThe vintage 1960s gown from Women in Need (WiN) Thrift and Vintage Superstore (above and right, before any modifications) would have the following modifications:

  • The back skirt detached from the bodice, the zipper removed, and the center back seam opened.
  • A triangle cut from the former back panels to create Regency side panels 7″ wide at the top and 12″ wide at the bottom.
  • Part of the sheer overdress draping from the original dress, plus matching lining (faux silk from Salvation Army at $2.99 for 2 meters) added as a 24-inch-wide back panel, gathered to six inches wide.
  • The sleeves modified by cutting the overdress draping free at the neckline and reversing it to have a finished look like the artwork below left.
  • Panels from this draping would be finished with beads on the ends like the Regency fashion plate below right.
1815 Stephanie de Beauharnais-Baden wearing pale blue dress by Aloys Keßler after Johann Heinrich Schroeder

1815 Stephanie de Beauharnais-Baden wearing pale blue dress by Aloys Keßler after Johann Heinrich Schroeder

 

Evening Dress October 1811

Evening Dress October 1811

Indian blouse.

Indian blouse.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Lace from the Indian blouse was to run along the skirt bottom to lengthen the gown about 1.5 inches. Removal of this lace took quite a while since it was sewn on with  silver thread, which I wanted to retain to match the 1960s gown’s original waist trim.
  • A shirred panel from the ends of the draping would cover two holes in the bodice.

 

 

Disaster hits!

But when I decided to wash the gown along with the new fabric, on a super-delicate cycle, a horrid change took place: pin holes in the sheer fabric enlarged, and the overlay and draping, both from the same sheer material, shrank.

New projects emerged from the fiasco:

  • open the hemline where the overlay was attached to the lining so the fabric would relax before the lace was attached to the bottom of the sheer overlay,
  • cut a new piece from the sheer overdress draping for the back panel as the one previously cut was now too short,
  • re-think the sleeves since I stole the attached fabric for them and the dangly bits to create the second back panel,
  • figure out if I needed to add a panel at the hem for length (Maybe a rouleaux? I know, I keep adding beautiful design details!) now the bottom lace was a little higher,
  • find a way to camouflage the holes on the skirt.

 

I soldier on!

Yellow silk evening dress, 1817, Leeds Costume Collection.

Yellow silk evening dress, 1817, Leeds Costume Collection.

The Thrift Shop Regency Costume Experiment has always been about learning and adapting, and I wasn’t about to abandon this project yet. The back gathered panel, a simple project, turned out well. The gathered bodice overlay was a bit more complicated, but looks pretty.

I patched the holes on the front of the skirt using no-sew tape and tiny pieces of fabric from the overlay, and though they look better, it appears as if I spilled small drops of yogurt on my front!

Museum gowns, period fashion plates and Regency artwork were perused for additional hole camouflage ideas. Due to the location of the holes, I settled on diagonals of shirred fabric to mimic the museum piece on the right. I had plenty left from the Salvation Army piece.

 

Time is my enemy

It was Wednesday, and I would leave Friday morning for a short trip to celebrate my mother-in-law’s 86th birthday and an early Canadian Thanksgiving, before flying on to Louisville for the 2015 JASNA AGM.

Mother-in-law's 86th birthday and cool fall weather.

Mother-in-law’s 86th birthday in Winnipeg, MB, Canada.

In addition to the sleeves and skirt detail to hide the holes, the ball gown needed other work:

  • install the tapes with hooks and eyes on the back bodice to replace the zipper,
  • re-attach the waistline trim,
  • trim the neckline and sleeves with narrow silver braid to coordinate with the other trim,
  • use the same narrow silver trim to make the faux diamond back.

I was still thinking through the process and finish for the diagonal pieces on the skirt. I estimated this part of the project would take a full day.

The jonquil gown’s sleeves would take yet another day to design, make a pattern and at least one mock-up, and attach. Either of the two ideas that follow would be created with scraps of sheer draping and some of the faux silk.

1810 Ball Gown with pearls.

1810 Ball Gown with pearls.

Sleeve detail for 1811 gown, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Sleeve detail for 1811 gown, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No way could I finish this gown on time.

On top of those issues, several other machine-sewn projects were required for to the conference:

  • my spencer and the gentleman’s tail coat needed buttonholes–buttons had been temporarily attached to make deadlines for the blog posts!;
  • the white Swiss dot gown needed fake long sleeves, as the originals had been removed and short sleeves added, intended to make the dress flexible for morning or afternoon wear;
  • some pretty sheer fabric with white embroidery would be made into a fichu and, with the addition of some organza lace, a second cap.
  • Mr. Suze broke the cheap plastic belt lining product I’d used for his suspenders, and we had to purchase new banding and attach.
The jonquil ball gown needed too much additional work to earn its full parasol, and time ran out!

The jonquil ball gown needed too much additional work to earn its full parasol, and time ran out!

I also had numerous hand-sewn projects that would be tackled on the trip, such as 14 buttons on Mr. Suze’s tail coat and re-attaching the lining to my hat, which was not staying put with the double-sided tape.

Dozens of bags and containers of project items had to be packed up and stored after all this sewing, and I had to pack for a trip to two climates.

Something had to give, and the jonquil gown was sacrificed. I stopped all work on in mid-day Wednesday.

 

On to packing– but what to wear for the ball?

I had to quickly re-think possibilities for a ball gown. In a panic, I packed potential items that could be modified by hand, but were the dreaded polyester, and not my colour.

The alternative is the Swiss dotted gown (my original morning gown), but its fabric and style is less formal, better suited to an afternoon or dinner gown in its short-sleeved version.

I was in a terrible rush by the end, and didn’t stop moving from 7am Thursday to 1am Friday. I didn’t have time to make the new cap for day-wear, and have to wear my small-fitting first effort, made from cheap polyester lace at the last minute for my local JASNA’s Jane Austen Tea (an earlier blog post).

After the fact, I thought of a half dozen items that I should also have packed, e.g., my turban was to match the jonquil, and now I have to re-think headwear for the ball. I forgot my Alias Thomas Bennet book bead bracelet, which matches my editor and artists’ versions and would have been perfect for the book signing on Saturday prior to the promenade and ball.

I haven’t decided which way to go for the gown, and the only way to know is to watch my blog!

Next post: Louisville!

 

***UPDATE! Don’t forget to comment on The Thrift Shop Regency Costume blog posts, or find Author Suzan Lauder at the Louisville KY JASNA AGM for a chance to win items from the Experiment! Daily prizes October 8-12!

 

 

Tips for Faking Regency Costume Details #2

Clocked is a strange word. When I was young, when someone said “I clocked him,” I’m pretty sure it meant they hit him hard. I think it meant in the head, but I’m not sure. It’s not a word that I use in everyday conversation.

In Regency fashion, there are clocked stockings. This does not refer to anything resembling a clock as far as I can tell. It means stockings with a design on them.

Faking Regency Designs on Gloves and Stockings

Embroidered kid gloves, 1800-1830, National Trust Museums

Embroidered kid gloves, 1800-1830, National Trust Collections.

1775-1829 stockings, Victoria and Albert Museum

1775-1829 stockings, Victoria and Albert Museum

Embroidery or painting on stockings and gloves was an embellishment that was enjoyed by at least a few Regency ladies (and men), judging by the museum examples. Interestingly, an etiquette book of the time, Mirror of the Graces, frowns on clocked stockings. It looks like fashion won in consideration of a stuffy old guidebook!

Some of my stockings and gloves got a fake Regency treatment this weekend: I used fabric paint to apply designs. A stencil purchased for half price at Michaels was used in three different ways, by masking some of the areas with packing tape each time. Once I’d done all I could with the stencil, I decided to try a bit of freehand with the four colours of paints I had.painting accessories all

The floral designs on the white tights and the short and long white gloves were made with the stencil. The pink long gloves and the knee-high stockings are my attempt at freehand, loosely referring to photos of existing museum pieces (see below). Not bad for a non-crafty redheaded romance author!

Cotton fabric embroidered gloves, circa 1790-1810, bias cut for stretch, gold and sequinned scrollwork, pale pink, floss silk detailing.

Cotton fabric embroidered gloves, circa 1790-1810, bias cut for stretch, gold and sequinned scrollwork, pale pink, floss silk detailing.

Stockings, early 19th century Cooper Hewitt collection

Stockings, early 19th century, Cooper Hewitt collection.

Stockings, 1810, English, Kyoto Museum

Stockings, 1810, English, Kyoto Museum

 

 

 

 

 

 

painting accessories closeup to show detailI didn’t bother with the coloured tights as for now, the colours don’t suit my gowns.

The pens tended to bleed in the fabric, and the bottled paints were a bit puffy. After the first items, I used the pens for light lines and not fill, and used a Q-tip to apply the paint so it was smoother. If I was doing this again, I’d consider getting additional colours, but these were all I found on sale the day I bought them at Michaels.

~

How to Make Easy Back Gathers on Regency Gowns

One of my favourite tricks for faking Regency is to use drapery tape to make the back gathers for a gown. The tape must be the kind that makes all uniform gathers, and not pinch pleats. I had some 1″ wide tape I got in two meter-long pieces at a thrift store for $1 a long time ago. I used it to make the last-minute “emergency” gown for the JASNA outing I had a few weeks ago. Belt backing tape can be seen for the non-gathered part.gathering tape and waistband material inside paisley embroidered fabric for use as a skirtpaisley fabric gathered using drapery tape

There are two ways to use the drapery tape to make your Regency gathers in the back of the gown.

  1. The simplest is to machine sew the tape onto the gown. Take care not to sew on the strings. Gather using the strings, tie the strings, cut shorter, and leave in place.
  2. The second method allows re-use of the drapery tape and less bulk in the back of the gown. Hand-baste the drapery tape on, but do not lock the end of your basting thread, rather, leave an inch or so free. Once you’ve sewn your skirt to the bodice, the gathers are fixed, and all you need do is tug on the knot on your basting threads to pull them free and remove the drapery tape to use on another skirt.

You want to have at least three times the width of fabric as your final gathered amount, and 4-5 times looks pretty.

Depending on your fabric, you may want to leave a seam allowance above the drapery tape. Because my fabric (above) had a border, I ran the tape at the top edge, then hand-stitched it to the bodice.

If you’re interested in standard methods for gathering fabric, this video from Teach Yourself to Sew shows three different methods.

~

To Zipper or not to Zipper–or To Fake!

When you get a vintage or other type of newer-than-Regency gown and wear it for a Regency gown, to be authentic, you should remove the zipper. Regency alternatives were ties, hooks and eyes, or buttons, or they were pinned closed by a lady’s maid.

In most cases, a replacement closure for the zipper is not necessary on the skirt, as the ribbon or belt holds the top edges together. The skirt is loose due to the gathers, and should overlap. The concern would be to ensure the bodice fit is snug.

There may be gaps between the replacement closures. In the Regency, so many undergarments were worn, the gap was of little consequence; however, some modern women balk at the idea.

ribbon ties on back of original morning gown suzan lauderMost often, Regency gowns used ties to close at the back, and this is an easy-to-install and inexpensive closure. Discount and craft stores have narrow ribbons in limited colours for under $2 a roll, and attractive cords are under $1 a meter.

In the absence of a lady’s maid, to fake Regency with modern modesty, retain your zipper and add ribbon or light cording ties over it at a couple of locations. At right, two are tied and the lower one is not, so you can see where they’re attached. Care must be taken not to catch the ties when using the zipper.

At 12″, mine were too long; 6″-8″ would suffice.

~

To close the front of the “emergency” gown, I used hooks and eyes. This is not truly faking as they were common on Regency gowns. When hooks and eyes were used, seamstresses weren’t stingy, and used a lot of them.

Packages of individual hooks and eyes are inexpensive, and come in black, white, or steel in most stores, and some stores offer additional colours at a premium. They are fussy to sew on individually but are excellent in some cases, such as holding a short width or edges together.

For ease of installation when multiple hooks and eyes are needed, cotton tape with hooks spaced about every inch, and matching tape with eyes, is sold by the meter. I was lucky to get the tape with hooks on sale, but the tape with eyes was regular price.

An alternative to the tape with eyes (at half the price per meter) is a product intended for long rows of buttons, which looks like woven cording with loops every half inch or so. The loops appeared to align with the hooks, and for short lengths, they’re okay, but they’re just enough out of sync that, for longer lengths, I need to skip an extra one every so often.

As you can see, I used both types: tape on the crossover v-neck and individual hooks on the belt edge of the skirt. The installation was fair to both right and left handed openings!

hooks and eyes on emergency dressemergency dress closure

 

 

~

As much as we like buttons these days, they were less common on Regency women’s wear. Jane Austen remarked in a letter to her sister Cassandra that buttons were quite dear. Men’s clothing most often had self-covered buttons, but ladies’ used metal, shell, ivory, stones, gems, and similar materials.

Mother-of-pearl buttons are okay if you can find them, as are buttons made with fine cording such as Dorset buttons. Don’t use plastic buttons unless they are an excellent fake.

Pearl and metal buttons, 1780 to 1820, Luckcock Collection, Birmingham Museum of Art

Pearl and metal buttons, 1780 to 1820, Luckcock Collection, Birmingham Museum of Art

Dorset buttons

Dorset buttons

You could put fake buttons and loops on the gown just as you did for the ribbon ties, and keep your zipper.

~

Next post: I left all the hand-sewing for items like Mr. Suze’s coat to the last minute, and not much new is happening at the moment! I’ll try to take a photo or two of my ball gown as I complete it this week, but since I’ll be traveling prior to the JASNA AGM in Louisville, Kentucky on October 9-11, 2015, it will be a meager post!

~

The best word EVER: GIVE-AWAYS!

On October 8-11, while I’m in Louisville, there will be a draw for daily prizes from my stash of reticules, Regency accessories, and other goodies. The Regency items are one-of-a-kind. Though they’re hand made by someone who’s not crafty (so less than perfect), I’ve signed each one and added my signature pagoda parasol.

There are two ways to enter:

1) Comment on any Thrift Shop Regency Costume Experiment post on road trips with the redhead, with your email address (username at host dot com), or

2) approach me at the JASNA AGM and ask for a Parasol in a Ballroom. I’ll collect your name and email address.

**The first person who enters either way whose initials are M.C. is an automatic winner of a velvet reticule with your initials embroidered on it!

I’ll attempt to deliver winning prizes from the AGM while I’m there, and blog comment prizes will be mailed. Good luck!

Trousers or Breeches for Best Bunchage?

Regency shoes with buckle.

Regency shoes with buckle.

1810 Rare Gentleman's Leather Shoes with Silk Ribbon Ties.

1810 Rare Gentleman’s Leather Shoes with Silk Ribbon Ties.

Footwear assisted the decision of whether Mr. Suze would wear trousers or breeches. The first aim was for comfort, and we thought we’d put buckles on a pair of his black work loafers and be done with it. But clarity on the appearance of a Regency man’s shoe pointed out that the soles of his shoes were too thick. You see, my husband and I both have wide feet and wear orthotics. His feet are sensitive, and he owns shoes he can’t wear for long without pain.

Thrift and vintage stores were checked for several months for plain black shoes or tall boots, both with minimal embellishment, minimal soles, a wider fit, and in my husband’s size. No luck. I thought if I could find some of those folding leather bedroom slippers, it would be better than the work shoes, but I only found new brown ones, at $60.

I checked the Internet. I avoided this for my clothing for Thrift Shop Regency Costume Experiment because shipping charges can double the cost of an item, but my husband’s clothing has been a steal of a deal, even with shipping.

Real riding boots would cost at least $200. Jazz shoes are supposed to be a good alternative, but they didn’t look too much like Regency shoes. At $120, I gave them a miss, too.

I knew Mr. Suze would be more comfortable in boots than in stockings and slippers, and I concentrated on them more than shoes in my search, but the one I found first would dictate the rest of the costume.

The Boots

On a local “For Sale by Owner” site, I came across a pair of new black riding boots that were men’s size 9.5, and the owner claimed they fit wide. The ad stated the seller had originally asked $150 and was now asking $120. I emailed the link to my husband, but nothing happened, so a month or so later, I checked to see if they were still for sale. The price had been further reduced to $80, so I bugged Mr. Suze to go see them.

He returned with a pair of brand new boots, slightly too large, for $65—he’s great at dealing sellers down! The seller’s daughter was very tall, and he’d bought them for her, but she balked at men’s boots, and never wore them. Thick socks and orthotics will help the fit for my husband, and he won’t spend a great deal of time walking in them in Louisville.

The shaft of the boot was too tall, though, and rubbed the back of his thighs badly. We looked to see if we could turn the tops over to show the brown lining, but the leather was too stiff, and the lining had writing.

Riding Boots, 1810, British, leather. Philadephia Museum of Art

Riding Boots, 1810, British, leather. Philadephia Museum of Art

The different kinds of footwear popular in the Regency are in the drawing below. The jockey boot (black with a brown band) is most frequently seen in artwork and fashion magazines, the runner up is the Hessian, and we had a riding boot (left), similar to the Wellington—but it’s really a modern dressage boot, worn for show horse riding.

Regency Footwear

Regency Footwear

He checked to see how much to cut them down and was quoted $65. Ouch!

We looked into whether we could cut them easily ourselves, and there were no clear instructions on the Internet other than repeated short cuts with a utility knife. Now, I’ve cut many things with a utility knife, and 90% of the time, the cut has at least one ugly spot where the knife slipped. That idea was discarded.

Riding forum members advised other riders that the boots are supposed to sit a couple of inches above the knee, high enough to protect the leg from some aspect of the saddle, so they recommended not to cut them. Instead, suggestions included wetting the boots and walking around in them to get the leather to relax, plus wearing a sports wrap around the knee under the pants. We thought we’d still rather cut Mr. Suze’s boots.

Hessian boots: Mid-calf boots coming to just below the knee or lower that have tassels on the top, named for the German soldiers called Hessians who introduced them.

Hessian boots: Mid-calf boots coming to just below the knee or lower that have tassels on the top, named for the German soldiers called Hessians who introduced them.

At first, we said if we’re going to have them cut, we may as well get a Hessian profile. I could add trim and a tassel. We assumed this would be routine for the shoe maker.

Instead, he asked us to mark the cut line and would take no responsibility for problems. We hesitated, unsure we could do a good job of drafting the double curve.

Mr. Suze discovered a second shoe maker who would cut the boots for $40, but the same issue: he wouldn’t take responsibility for a special shape. We decided it was best to remove the top 2” with a profile to match the original curve.

 

How trousers intended to be breeches became trousers

After months of no luck finding pants suitable for breeches, I discovered a pair of buff-coloured Nubuck pants for $5.99 at Salvation Army.

Blogger Experiments in Elegance has a post on how to fake a Regency costume, and for breeches, advises cutting the pant legs off a few inches below the knee, and utilizing fabric from one cut-off leg to make a trim band for the bottom of the breeches.

I had bought some nice buckles from Dressew to use for knee buckles that would be used on the trim band. However, the most common closure was a set of three to six self-covered buttons up a placket above ties that are an extension of the trim band, which would be narrower than the blogger suggests.

Knee buckle, 1770-1810 American

Knee buckle, 1770-1810 American

Buckskin breeches, showing buttons and tie closure and jockey boots. Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Buckskin breeches, showing buttons and tie closure and jockey boots. Metropolitan Museum of Art.

 

 

 

 

 

Buttoned fall on museum breeches.

Buttoned fall on museum breeches.

Regency boots with breeches: Edmund Blair Leyton On the Threshold

Regency boots with breeches: Edmund Blair Leyton On the Threshold

Regency breeches had buttoned falls in front rather than the modern fly, though the odd museum piece from that era shows early use of a buttoned fly. The same blogger describes how to make a flap for the fall-front with the other leg.

 

 

 

Breeches were the best idea if I could find shoes. With boots, either breeches or trousers would suffice. Trousers would be advantageous for me, as I could put a stirrup at the end to hold the pants into the boot, much less work than making breeches.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trousers and Hessians: Thomas Philip Robinson the third Baron Grantham and later Earl de Grey aged 35 years - portrait study by the great French artist Jean Auguste Dominique.

Trousers and Hessians: Thomas Philip Robinson the third Baron Grantham and later Earl de Grey aged 35 years – portrait study by the great French artist Jean Auguste Dominique.

Trousers became popular in the mid-Regency for casual wear, but breeches with stockings and slippers remained the correct clothing for formal occasions like balls. Eventually, trousers overtook breeches in formal wear as well, though this occurred after the end of the Regency.

Since neither boots nor trousers were appropriate ball attire in the Regency (though one Oregon Regency Society gentleman said he was wearing his to the ball anyways), our story would be we were sneaking into the ball for a short while to watch, but would not dance since Mr. Suze was not properly attired.

We do not want to dance. It’s not that we don’t want to dance, it’s that we don’t want to ruin our marriage in the attempt to dance.

We took ballroom dance lessons once, and Mr. Suze stared at his feet and forgot he had a partner. I got frustrated and started to lead, but I’m terribly uncoordinated, which didn’t help Mr. Suze concentrate on his feet. We’d get messed up on the steps, he’d get mad, I’d try to instruct him, and we’d stop to argue. Neither of us were able to learn the steps of one dance before the instructors moved on to the next.

We’d try again, and repeat the whole mess. We finally dropped out of class, deciding we were too terrible at this, and we didn’t want to keep arguing to get better.

Neither of us is concerned that his trousers and boots aren’t correct for the ball, as we’ll be lurkers and watchers.

trousers after legs slimmed, with watch pocket, fake front fall edges before addingSince Regency trousers were slim, I cut about 3” from the inseam of the pants. Instead of using part of a pant leg for a flap, I used some of the cut fabric to make panels that look like the trim panels for the sides of the falls. Self-covered buttons were also made to fake Regency at the top of those flap edges, as well as to secure suspenders to keep the trousers high. A small watch pocket was made to set inside the waistband.

steampunk costume pocket watch showing paper insideAt first, I despaired of finding a pocket watch at a reasonable price, as the vintage watches I’d seen were over $100, and that was for either one that was a fake and used a battery, or another that didn’t work and would be another $200 to repair!

But Value Village had a display of Steampunk accessories for Hallowe’en, and I got a cool pocket watch and chain for $1.99! Outside, it’s a pretty good-looking imitation for the price. Inside, it has a hilarious paper face!

We now have to find a watch fob of some sort. The Pragmatic Costumer has a nice article on watch fobs for ideas.

finished breeches with suspendersA combination of the leg narrowing, the original size of the pants, and the need for So Mr. Suze to wear the pants high like Regency gentlemen caused the pants to be tight at the waist band. A 5” deep opening was made in the seam at the back of the pants, and eyelets and laces were added for true Regency fashion. I was going to sew the fly closed and have him use them.

When he tried the trousers on, he couldn’t reach the ties. Not such great idea, after all! We left the fly.

Puttin’ on the Ritz: The Walking Stick and Gloves

Cane with tortoiseshell and brass wire piqué on ivory.

Cane with tortoiseshell and brass wire piqué on ivory.

Mr. Suze’s project was to make himself a walking stick. We had some pieces of bamboo that had previously been used for supporting plants, and some of the Ackermann’s prints had bamboo walking sticks. I’d been looking for a handle re-purposed from a drawer or door handle, similar to the photo (left). I also knew that drapery rod ends may have other designs suitable for this.

Mr. Suze went to Habitat for Humanity’s Re-Store and found a pineapple-like end that he attached to the bamboo, then to Rona for an end piece so the bottom wouldn’t scratch floors.

I’d read that the walking sticks were quite long, and had seen some Ackermann’s illustrations that confirmed it, but my husband wasn’t so keen on a tall cane. The compromise was to make the length so his hand on the top made his arm parallel to the floor. He freshened up the bamboo with a light sanding and shoe oil.

TSRCE men's boots, gloves, and walking stick. The cut-off panels from the boots are shown.

TSRCE men’s boots, gloves, and walking stick. The cut-off panels from the boots are shown.

I was pleased with the pineapple look, as I’d learned at the JASNA Jane Austen Tea just a few weeks earlier that in the Regency, pineapples were important because they were so expensive. They were imported from Suriname or India, and a shipment of pineapples would allow a ship’s captain to retire in fine comfort. The rich had pineries to try to grow them, but they were so dear, they were rarely eaten, but just left on the table for decoration as they deteriorated! This explains why there were so many reticules of pineapple design as well.

The gloves are white cotton costume gloves for $4.99 from Value Village. They’re not something you’d see at other times of the year, but the Hallowe’en costumes are out! A Regency gentleman would be more likely to wear kid gloves, but I had enough trouble with the search for kid opera gloves for my costume since the few I found were far too small. There’s a good chance they’re more rare for a man!

Mr. Suze opted to glue on whiskers rather than grow his own sideburns, and found a moustache at a Dollar Store that’s pretty perfect, except it’s black, and he used to be blond but is all grey now! We’ll try using tempera paint to change the colour. He had the top of his hair left long for two haircuts, and will comb it forward, as that was the Regency style.

Quizzing glasses

Quizzing glasses

Perhaps he’d like to forego his glasses for the popular Regency accessory, the quizzing glass!

~

 

 

One thing I missed last week was the closure on the sleeves of the shirt. It has plastic buttons right now, but the most common was ribbon ties. Cuff links as we know them today became popular in Edwardian period, though in the post-Regency, around 1840, simple versions were introduced in France.

~

Some helpful sites for the Regency Gentleman’s costume:

The Oregon Regency Society’s Outfitting the Regency Man has links for purchasing authentic product and patterns to make costumes from scratch. Their How-To sheet shows a modification of a standard tuxedo tailcoat.

The Black Tie Guide’s Regency Evolution: Dress Details has details on things like lapels, colour, and etiquette while providing an excellent, succinct summary of the man’s outfit.

How to Make a Men’s Regency Boot on a Budget by Living with Jane uses leather-look boots and adds a leather-look panel to the top for jockey boots. They look like rubber boots to me.

How to Convert an Ordinary Suit Coat into a Tail Coat from Tor.Com is useful as long as your suit coat or blazer is in a fabric like Regency examples.

~

Next Post: I hope to have another episode of “Faking Regency,” because I haven’t yet finished my ball gown, which was my intended post for Monday. I’ll add a post between Monday and Louisville if I have time, then there will be pictures from the JASNA AGM!

Regency men were not sissies, even in blouses and scarves.

1807 men's shirt from The National Maritime Museum

1807 men’s shirt from The National Maritime Museum.

A poet’s or pirate’s shirt will work well for a Regency man’s shirt, they say. I remember sewing a similar shirt for a boyfriend in the 70’s: long sleeved, loose body, placket at the front. Surely a few vintage versions in a light, flowing fabric still exist!

For months, I searched the thrift and vintage stores for a plain, white, light weight, long-sleeved, wider-collared shirt with a placket-style opening, rather than button-down. Long-sleeved white dress shirts of any type were rare, probably popular for job interviews.

All were button-down. At least half had a subtle pattern woven into the fabric that was non-Regency in appearance. A few had logos emblazoned on the front pockets. Military shirts with epaulets were constructed of mid-weight, crisp fabric, rather than soft and flowing, as were tuxedo shirts with their multiple pleats in front. The odd shirt was collarless, and I needed a collar to stand up and wrap the cravat around.

Man's linen shirt, 1790-1810. Augusta Auctions.

Man’s linen shirt, 1790-1810. Augusta Auctions.

Early on, I expanded my search to ladies’ wear size large and greater for that front placket shirt, but they were rare, and in addition to similar traits to those for men above, often had ¾ sleeves or ruffles in the wrong arrangement. Ruffles aren’t a bad thing, as the neckline of the waistcoat shows off ruffles.

The Blouse

This month, I gave up on the placket front and searched for a white dress shirt in Mr. Suze’s neck size, loose in the body, and simple in design. At Value Village, I found a ladies’ extra-large blouse that looked ¾ sleeved at first, but discovered it had button tabs on the sleeves. The cuffed long sleeves were scrunched up and could be easily let down.

I measured the collar, and it was just short of 17” around, so larger than Mr. Suze’s 15½” shirt size, but my measurement didn’t count overlap for buttoning. To ensure the sleeve was a couple of inches too long for me (the advantage of having borrowed his cool-looking jean and leather jackets in the past is knowing this fact!), I tried on the blouse on over my own t-shirt before purchasing it at $7.99.

It fit Mr. Suze perfectly in the neck and sleeve, and was loose in the body! Hooray!

The shirt was button-down, and Poor Mr. Suze lamented that it buttoned backwards—that’s how he discovered it was a ladies’ blouse upon trying it on. It had no top button, so I attached two 8” ribbons to tie it closed. The Regency shirt would close with laces or a simple set of string ties.

I could have sewn the front panel partly closed to make it emulate a placket-type, but Mr. Suze didn’t mind the buttons too much and, as the shirt was considered underwear in the Regency, no one was allowed to see it. Yes, you heard that right. Underwear.

The main modification to Regency for a plain white shirt is simple: since the collar is to be turned up so it is standing, the front points need to be trimmed back slightly so the line of the collar goes straight across. When purchasing, a wider collar is better so it looks good standing up.

Depending on how the shirt is made, you might be able to push the points into themselves and sew closed with top-stitching near the edge. Because of top-stitching on the blouse collar, I had to open a seam, so I cut the corners back. Don’t forget the seam allowance!

An optional but beneficial modification while you’re at the collar is to cut a slight curve out of the middle back to suit the head of the wearer, so the collar stands up and doesn’t crinkle. My curve was about ⅝” deep in the middle and tapered down, overall about 5” wide. The seam allowances in the curves were clipped and pressed inside. Rather than remove the collar and redo the seam, the opening was top stitched close to the edge, then a second row of top stitching, similar to the original, was added.

Ruffles can be added to the placket area where the shirt shows above the neckline of the gentleman’s waistcoat. A plain, straight piece of light cotton 3”-4” wide, with a simple rolled hem on three sides, will work.

I used scalloped border panels from a white pillow sham (the main area’s lace was for a cap and fichu in previous posts). The scallops had a finished edge, and I made a narrow hem on each end.tsrce shirt showing three ruffles collar reshaping and tiesEach ruffle started as 4” wide and 20” long. I gathered it to 5” long, which was plenty long enough for the V neck on Mr. Suze’s waistcoat. I covered the base of the gathers and sewed that to the button panel. A third ruffle was added later, as two didn’t seem like enough, but when the cravat was added, I realized it fills the centre area, so two would be fine. The finished ruffles should be pressed backwards at ¼” near the bases, so they prefer to stand rather than lay flat along the shirt front.

Similar to Regency ladies’ wear, men’s clothing had longer sleeves, extending over the base of the hand. If your Mr.’s tail coat sleeves are not long enough, you can also add a ruffle at the cuff of the shirt. It can be sewn inside the cuff so minimal fussing over finishes is needed.

If you want to use a shirt that will be reverted back to a dress shirt after the Regency occasion, the collar corners can be neatly pinned inside, as the cravat will probably hide the pins, and the back curve ignored. Neckline ruffles can be basted to the inside opening of the waistcoat instead. Sleeve ruffles can also be attached with basting, but make sure the stitches are not obvious on the outside.

The “Scarf”

The mystery of how to make a cravat or neck-cloth covers Regency costuming pages all over the Internet. There are three commonly suggested designs: a rectangle, a rectangle with tapered ends, and a triangle. Most sites explaining the triangle use the same wording, which is so poorly described that people have wound up with huge rectangles instead!

Suggested sizes for a rectangle are 50”-80” long by 4”-10” wide, but I found the finished length should be at least 60”, and the finished width no more than your Mr.’s neck length. Tapered ends on a rectangular shape make the tied cravat tails less bulky.

Another design uses a long, low isosceles triangle. The two short sides are 50” long, and the triangle is 10” high, with rolled hems on the cut edges. To wear, it’s rolled to a width to suit the wearer’s neck length. This is a very long cravat, but well-suited to complex tie styles or multiple wraps, as it has far less bulk at the ends.

White or off-white were the most common colours for a Regency cravat, and the only colours acceptable for a ball. Various ideas on fabric stiffness abound on the Internet: some say pliable, some suggest starch. From my experience making one cravat, if the fabric can keep a neat shape without collapsing, but not so stiff that it’s uncomfortable or won’t drape a little, it should work.

A Fabricland $1.99 remnant of light but not super-sheer white cotton at 53” wide was the source for Mr. Suze’s cravat. A 9” wide panel was cut the full width of the fabric. It was folded lengthwise and the ends tapered starting 8” back, with the tapers in opposite directions as seen in the photo. A blanket-type seam closed and bound the edges, with a 4” gap left halfway along the taper of one end. The cravat was turned inside out through this gap, pressed flat, and the opening sewn closed. The finished width was just under 4½”, as any wider made no sense with the length of Mr. Suze’s neck. Some sites suggest a rolled hem, which is better for heavier or stiffer fabric, but doubled up has a more finished appearance.tsrce cravatWith a basic tie style, this cravat is barely long enough. If I can find a longer piece of fabric, I’ll make another. This is why I suggest no shorter than 60”!

The cravat is tied over the shirt collar but inside the waistcoat collar. The easiest style is to start with the middle of the length of the cravat in front of your neck, cross over at the back and pull forward, cross one end over the other in a half knot in front and snug up, tidying edges around your neck and fluffing folds of the panel that falls down vertical in front. A simple pin can hold the front fall in place.

Tea in a Teapot has a summary from an 1818 satire on the cravat called “Neckclothitania” that appears on several other blogs as well. The complicated tie styles have been attempted by some modern costumers, with varying degrees of success. I think the author would be suitably amused that his work was taken with such a degree of seriousness!

The Art of Tying the Cravat by H. Le Blanc (post-Regency, 1828) is an interesting read via Google books (free e-book). It has additional designs for the neck-cloth knots, and the illustrations are below.plate-b-the-art-of-tying-the-cravatregency cravatYour Mr.’s cravat tie style should be no more complicated than he is comfortable with creating. A man confident in making a full Windsor on a regular basis, or who plays with knots—boat owners often are often hobbyists with knot-making—can fuss all he wants with styles from the links. For the rest, there’s no shame in simplicity.

 

 

A gentlemanly way to top off a blouse and scarf

Bicorne hat, Costume Parisien, 1819

Bicorne hat, Costume Parisien, 1819

Top hat, Costume Parisien, 1809

Top hat, Costume Parisien, 1809

Regency men wore a variety of hat styles, but a simple top hat was most common in art work. The bicorne was also popular, particularly for formal situations like a ball, and is favoured for faux-military costuming.

A top hat can be had for as little as $10 for one-size fuzz-covered plastic at a party store; $25 for a magician’s silk hat or one-size felt coachman’s hat (too tall and costumey) at Dressew; or as much as $200 and up for a vintage collapsible opera hat or actual beaver fur top hat on eBay, and you have to pay over $300 for good condition.

In vintage stores during my shopping trips, I saw two vintage felt top hats. A hat in great condition but a small size was $125, and $165 could get a hat showing a little wear but otherwise in good condition. These had superb shape compared to an inexpensive felt hat, were lined, had hat boxes, and silk hat bands.

Mr. Suze settled for a $35.99 (including shipping) wool felt hat from eBay. The sides of the pipe part are straighter than a milliner’s top hat, but its brim shape is nice, and the quality is excellent for the price. It came in small-medium-large-XL sizes, not one size fits all. It didn’t come with a hat box for that price, so it will go to Louisville in the rectangular box with Styrofoam inserts that it was shipped in. We’ve already accepted the requirement to take the giant suitcase from my set of three, which has only been used once before!

I don’t recommend magician’s collapsing satin hats. Back in May, I purchased one at Dressew as the first item for Mr. Suze’s costume, and presented it to him with an entreaty to consider a costume when he’d been resistant beforehand. The collapsible option seemed practical for travel, and the top hat looked well enough when open. However, it had a heavy metal frame inside to facilitate the collapse and easy “snap of the wrist” restoration of its shape for performance. As a result, it fit small. On my small head, it was acceptable—that is, if you don’t mind having a wire frame in your skull! But the hat perched atop Mr. Suze’s normal-sized head. It was returned the next day.

Beaver hats of the 18th and 19th century.

Beaver hats of the 18th and 19th century.

To show you the results, Millie wore one of Mr. Suze’s blazers, as her shoulders were too narrow for the shirt to hang properly. Mr. Suze is not this big around, as he fits inside the blazer, and the sleeves are also under the shirt! Similarly, Chili has a hat under the top hat.tsrce mens shirt with cravat, crystal stick pin, and top hatI sacrificed a ruby-red Swarovski crystal stick pin I’d used on my turban as it’s perfect for Mr. Suze’s cravat, and none of my other stick pins were right. It was also stunning on the turban, but I have a hat pin I’ll use instead.

Next post: Trousers, boots, and accessories for your Regency beau! Watch for it as a second post this week! YES! Double post week for the Gentleman’s Thrift Shop Regency Costume!