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!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

 

 

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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.

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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!

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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!

A Grown-Up Lady Brings Tea Cakes to a Tea Party

I tore apart all my gowns. Not all, but the ones not torn apart need to be torn apart to be Regency. My ball gown is nearly completed, and some adjustments were planned for my morning gown, but I was better with the stitch ripper than concrete finished designs when I decided it would be fun to dress up for my local JASNA’s Jane Austen Regency Tea Party last Saturday.

I quickly faked Regency. So quickly, I forgot to take photos of much of the construction for this blog! The finished product will have to do!

Suzan Lauder costume JASNA tea Sept 15My Emergency Regency gown:

A Value Village purchase, a $7.99 length of paisley-embroidered super-fine cotton  targeted to eventually become an entire gown, became a skirt by gathering one long side at the centre (back). It was left open in front as it had trim along all four edges, so this was a Regency look I desired. The petticoats skirt from my morning gown was worn under it, as other possible underskirts were coloured with no trim, and this one was white with lace trim along the bottom, again, looking quite Regency! Coloured with lace would have been pretty.

A $9.99 navy silk blouse from Value Village was hemmed to bodice-size (like making a spencer). The ruffle at the neckline was used to make puffs at the tops of the long sleeves, and a front opening was added. I sewed a rolled edge on the neckline, but it  wasn’t pretty, so some sale Venetian lace from Dressew ($0.50 per meter) was added to the neckline. I liked it enough to add more to the sleeve bottoms.

The bodice was sewn to the skirt, except at the gathers, where I pinned, as it was too heavy for my machine. Hooks and eyes were used to close the front (more about that in a later post).

I also wore a fichu (the event was 2pm-4pm, still “morning” for Regency, hence arms and chest are covered), pantalets rather than another slip (the petticoats are sheer, but it was a warm day), and got away with my black bustier due to the navy bodice. The bustier gave a much better Regency silhouette than did the Balconet bra and waist cincher I wore to the Jane Austen Tea at Starling Winery in June. My half-boots and the first Capote hat I made for the Thrift Shop Regency Costume Experiment were also included, as was the Moorish-looking reticule and brisé fan.

I’ll have to rip the skirt apart again, but the top was planned to go with another skirt from a spaghetti strapped evening gown skirt with tons of fabric, so it got me ahead on another project. This project took about two days, much faster than assembling either of the other gowns, due to lace issues, and scissors that Mr. Suze used that now need to be sharpened, and it’s a long story.

I also made a Regency snack in that time! The 1820 cookbook I have on Google Books wasn’t too useful, so I cheated, but I’m sure this type of tea-cake is time-tested before Austen’s era. Here is the recipe:

Tea Cakes, from A New System of Domestic Cookery by A Lady (Maria Eliza Ketelby Rundell), 1833

Rub fine four ounces of butter into eight ounces of flour (I interpreted this as cutting unsalted butter into all purpose flour with my pastry cutter); mix eight ounces of currants (I only had 5, but it was plenty!) and six of fine Lisbon sugar (Whoa! Schweeet! I used regular granulated sugar.), two yolks and one white of eggs (I beat them slightly first), and a spoonful of brandy (What size spoon? Muahaha! Tablespoon!). Roll the paste (I worked with my hands to mix first) the thickness of an Oliver biscuit (Who?) and cut with a wine-glass. You may beat the other white and wash over them; and either dust sugar, or not, as you like. (I like! A big pinch per cookie.)

That’s it, the whole recipe, plus my comments, of course! I guessed, and baked them at 350F for 10 minutes. I got a couple more than two dozen, which allowed for taste testing! They were a bit more browned than I’d like, but the taste and texture were very nice! In retrospect, I’d make them a bit thicker (they were the thickness of a thick cookie) and bake at 325F for 8-10 minutes.

As for the mystery of how thick to roll them, one of our gentleman Janeites brought Bath Olivers! Oliver was a doctor in Bath, and invented Oliver buns, but found his patients gained weight from eating them. He developed Oliver biscuits for weight loss. They’re like a thick, doughy water cracker, to be eaten with cheese.

Other members brought sweets like Regency-style gingerbread cake, plum cake, pound cake, custard, jam tarts with a lard-based recipe for the crust, Regency-style tiny chocolate tarts, caraway-seed cookies, and Jane Austen’s silhouette-shaped sugar cookies. We tried Regency beverages including negus, spruce beer (non-alcoholic, like root beer, and in cans, from Montreal!), ginger beer, lemonade made the way Jane Austen would have made it, and elderflower cordial. There was a savoury mixed-meatball that sounded a bit gross, some Stilton, and other Regency treats on hand, as well as modern additions of tea sandwiches, devilled eggs, and chocolate cookies. I ate a salad for dinner that night!

In addition to the clothing mentioned above, I was the only one who wore a lace cap, or as christened in an earlier post, Special Headwear for the Grown-Up Lady, which details the Regency cap and shows some pretty museum examples.

The Lace Cap, Measured in Nails

The cap pattern was from The Workwoman’s Guide, by a lady, available on Google books; it’s worth having a peruse through for all the interesting information, including cuts of meat, carpentry, and other household knowledge. Descriptions are in the text of the book, but drawings are at the end.Bonnet Diagrams from The Workwoman's GuideMy cap for the Tea in June was made from Fig. 6 through Fig. 8, Simple Dress Cap or Bonnet, since it looks like many Regency bonnets. The instructions use nails as a measurement. My head circumference in comparison to the drawings suggested 1-3/4 inches per nail. I tend to wear small hats, and I have short hair. I made a little mock-up to be sure, and the length of the back panel was reduced to remove an ugly poof and allow gathering per the original pattern.

Last week, I made another to see how big one would be if it were made using two inch nails (somehow there’s a joke in there!). Without lace ruffles at the edge, it’s big on me, so I feel two-inch nails is size large. You can see the difference below in the fit on the wig head.

Lace cap, 1.75 inch nails (size small) with lace edge trim.

Lace cap, 1.75 inch nails (size small) with lace edge trim.

Lace cap, 2 inch nails, no lace edge trim, so fits medium to large.

Lace cap, 2 inch nails, no lace edge trim, so fits medium to large.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To make it easier for others, I drafted the adjusted pattern with notes, and the pdf is for anyone’s use: Simple Dress Cap or Bonnet Adapted from The Workwoman’s Guide (1840) by Author Suzan Lauder

Next post: Probably more of Mr. Suze’s costume: In addition to last week’s post, his boots, top hat, watch, and walking stick are ready to go. I have materials for trousers/breeches, shirt, cravat, and whiskers, all easy to make. We’re searching for a watch fob and he’s done! My lace issues may mean it takes longer for my gowns! Getting down to the wire for Louisville!

What quality of Regency dress do you get for $33.95?

If it weren’t for that elusive short-puffed-sleeve dress that was only a ribbon from Regency, I could have stopped shopping for a gown in February when I found my wonderful white dress for use as a morning gown.

Why did I continue for four more months? What made me keep seeking out a long gown in a pretty print, or similar in a smooth silk for a ball gown, that needed nothing more than to gather its extra fabric at the back and tie a ribbon about its empire waist? I believed in its existence, that’s why.

Several of the overview web sites listed in the “Cheat Sheet” post implied I’d find it with ease, and I was determined to! I saw many dresses that were close. Too short, too small, too much trouble removing panels of non-Regency trim, and mostly, polyester knit. Drat. Double drat.

In addition, some key accessories were found later on: my shawl was found in May, and the fan, half boots, and better ball slippers in June. I was still trying to find a better fan, a real pagoda parasol, and some better gloves to the last minute of the planned deadline of the end of June!

The quest for Mr. Suze’s outfit started in March as well, so I was searching for tailcoats, poet’s shirts, riding boots, and collared vests beginning in March. (I found three tailcoats that were perfect, except two were too large and one was too small. $35-$65.)

Some have suggested I spent far too much time shopping when I could have sewn a gown for the same cost.

My reply? Not the same gown, nor anything near as nice for $33.95, and my morning gown would take a substantial amount of time and skill to sew.

Morning dress and camisole.

Morning dress with matching belt; camisole.

The amount of time spent shopping was not that much by the time I found the white Prairie wedding dress from the ’80’s in late February. Though I started in summer 2014, I only went every three weeks or so for a couple of hours at first, and December, January, and half of February may have been three visits total, due to other commitments and vacation.

It took a while to acclimatize myself, but my early purchases were far more than a gown: the accessories alone made the time spent worthwhile, never mind ribbon, lace, no-sew tape, and items for future gowns. The the final months were not as productive, but by then, few items were remaining.

Matching waistband with Guipure lace.

Matching waistband with Guipure lace.

There is no way anyone could make a gown anywhere close to this quality for less than triple the cost. The photo above shows the generous amount of fabric in the skirt, sleeves, and integral petticoats. There’s the delicate camisole that came with the dress, and the matching belt.

Sleeve detail with lace on cuff and pin-tucks the length of arm.

Sleeve detail with lace on cuff and pin-tucks the length of arm.

Bodice with pin-tucking, lace panels, and high collar trimmed with lace.

Bodice with pin-tucking, lace panels, and high collar trimmed with lace.

 

 

A great deal of work went into pin-tucking on the bodice and sleeves, and pleats on the cuffs and lace panels on the skirt.

The sheer Swiss dot fabric is so fine, you can see the petticoat lace detail through it.

The sheer Swiss dot fabric is so fine, you can see the petticoat lace detail through it.

Petticoats of fine fabric with high-quality Guipure lace edging.

Petticoats of fine fabric with high-quality Guipure lace edging.

 

 

 

 

 

The fabric in this gown would cost $80-$120. The Swiss dot fabric is super-fine, as is the batiste petticoat: like Regency muslin. As mentioned in the previous post, the gown is cool to wear on a hot summer day with a light breeze because of the breath-ability of the delicate fabric.

 

 

 

 

Two rows of Guipure lace and fine pleats on the skirt.

Two rows of Guipure lace and fine pleats on the skirt.

 

The lace alone is worth at more than I paid for the dress: at least 8 metres of 1″ wide Guipure bridal lace on the gown and another 3m of ¼” wide scalloped Guipure lace on the bottom of the petticoats. The former would be around $8 a metre, and the latter would be $1 a meter at a discount place like Dressew.

Lace goes over bodice from front waistband to back, and forms a gathered ruffle at top of sleeve.

Lace goes over bodice from front waistband to back, and forms a gathered ruffle at top of sleeve.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The rest of the costume is shown below, since you couldn’t see a few of them in the previous post.

Everything else worn at the Jane Austen tea, except knee high stockings. Photographer forgot them!

Everything else worn at the Jane Austen tea, except knee high stockings. Photographer forgot them!

Because the dress had a gathered front, it would be pre- or early Regency. I thought about modifying it, but it would require sewing.

Instead, I chose the sage shoes since they have a slightly pointy toe from the same period. To coordinate with the shoes, green ribbon was used in the trim for the pantalets and lace cap (hastily machine-sewn the morning of the event, but more on that in a later post!) and for the waist ribbon on the gown.

In conclusion, those who’ve suggested the dress was not worth it should consider that the entire costume was the cost of a simple dress with lesser-quality fabric and no lace, and petticoats would be extra. If my time prior to the purchase of this dress was split between all the items, the effort would be no more than the time to make a dress of the level of detail I purchased.

But that was not the point of the Experiment! What’s more, it would fly in the face of the guidelines I shared when we started.

My learning experience was crafted not to get the best deal on a gown, but to get the best gown I could for a good price, without making it.

The intention was to share this experience, warts and all, so others might feel empowered to wear that Regency costume they’ve dreamed about for the next Austen-related event, and to let them know they have options. We should all be able to feel pretty and pretend we’re in another time in history!

Isn’t my dress exquisite? I’m so proud to wear it!

I feel lucky to have found it, even if the ball gown proved to be difficult so far. But I’ll probably peek at the dresses every time I pop into a thrift store to see if they have a medium-sized tailcoat! You never know!

 

My Regency Costume Cheat Sheet, by Suzan Lauder, Regency Romance Author

Example of Regency letter-writing by http://toracellie.blogspot.ca

With 17 verbose posts full of images, the challenge of an Absolute Basic Check List was a bit daunting. How does one summarize a lady’s needs for a full Regency costume suitable to wear at a function where people are knowledgeable about the era? Actually, some of the links shared at the end of this post do a pretty good job of it.

For procuring and creating the costume parts, however, the individual blog posts in the Thrift Shop Regency Costume Experiment series will be of much more use. That’s because of the numerous images of step-by-step construction of the re-purposed or upcycled items, museum examples of actual clothing from the Regency era, period fashion magazine sketches, and paintings of people in the era. There are also topic-specific links and how-to videos in many areas.

This post also has a number of overview links, links with more images of museum and purpose-made Regency wear, and a sort of “next steps” list for some readers: how-to links that require sewing skills.

For the Checklist, I’ve noted price ranges:

  • Lowest prices listed are the minimum you would pay for a good-quality finished version of the item (new, gently used, or repurposed/upcycled using minimum crafting or sewing skills), based on my experience with the guidelines set out for the Thrift Shop Regency Costume Experiment.
  • If there is a zero instead of a bottom price, it’s because this is an item you’d probably choose only if you already had one, and if purchasing, another choice on the list is preferable.
  • Highest prices are for purchase of a period-correct, attractive, good-quality (but not always top end), brand new item from a good vendor, custom-made to fit you in the case of clothing.
  • If there is a question mark instead of a price, it means the item is of such a personal nature, the top end cost is based on the buyer’s evaluation.
  • If you have the item on hand, it will cost nothing.
  • Most items can be obtained in the lower half of the price range.

Footwear

  • Simple ballet flats ($5-$20)
    • Fully enclosed (pump).
    • Round, pointed, or square toe.
    • Slim sole, separate heel under 1” high (not wedge), and any heel over ¼” should be a flared kitten heel.
    • Silk-look fabric, fine cotton, or soft leather.
    • Any colour except for black, dark brown. Wide stripes and large dots are fine.
    • No elastic, rubber, jute or coarse cotton, large trim items, folded leather detail, external seams, etc.
    • Ribbon ties up the leg with flat soles are optional (good for keeping shoes on while dancing).
    • Simple trim is optional.

      My second set of footwear for potential Regency Costumes: a pair of half-boots and two pairs of satin ballet flat shoes. The boots will have the buckle removed (perhaps for a man’s shoes!) and get dressed up with a ribbon and fabric rose across the base of the toes. The white and pink shoes will be cleaned, then the white will get white ribbons to lace up the legs. The pink shoes will have the fringe covered with a ribbon and the cut-away area disguised.

  • For day wear, flat, lace-up half-boots ($18-$155).
    • 8′-12″ tall, round toe, slim sole and ¼” heel maximum.
    • Light colours.
    • Softer leather, cotton, or denim.
  • Orthotics may fit if you buy a half size larger than normal.
  • Post: Put on Your Dancing Shoes!

Stockings

High-lift foundation garment for “the girls”

  • Custom made Regency short stays ($70-$190), for C cup and under, OR
  • Custom made Regency full corset ($95-$380), for D cup and higher, OR
  • Push-up bustier or modern corset that’s low cut and not too cinched in the waist ($0-?), OR
  • Well-fitted (or slightly small) demi-cup, push-up bra, such as a Balconette. ($20-$?), plus a waist cincher if needed for extra lift.
  • Post: Lift and Separate!

Chemise and petticoats or pantalettes

  • Authentic, custom-made, new, Regency undergarments from specialty stores or Etsy:

    Petticoat, early 19th c, American, Boston Museum of Fine Arts

    • Chemise ($45-$100) (worn under the corset for comfort), and
    • Petticoats ($35-90) or pantalettes ($35) (to “fluff out” the gown so it won’t stick between your legs), OR
  • In place of all of the above:
    • A floor-length full slip or nightgown, deep cut to match neckline of stays/corset/bra ($7-$38), or
    • A floor-length half-slip pinned to base of bra ($7-$20), or
    • Plain, lightweight, light-coloured cotton capris or pajama pants, or pants liners. ($5-$20), and
    • A low-cut camisole if needed with the last two items ($5-$25).
    • Super-fine woven cotton is best for comfort, but polyester will work.
  • Post: Twenty Layers of Unmentionables and no Panties!

Basic empire waist gown ($38-$400)no information

  • Floor length, empire waist.
  • Straight (non-fitted) skirt, flat in front and gathered in back.
  • Short, puffed sleeves and wide, low neckline for a dinner/evening/ball gown; long sleeves and high neckline for morning gown (to 4pm).
  • Simple-print finely-woven cotton, linen, or percale (not black-based), smooth silk, organdy, or synthetics that are good facsimiles.
  • 2m (6’-7’) by 1”-2” ribbon tied under the bust.
  • Don’t buy a pre-made “Regency” gown for under $100 on Etsy, as most are terrible!
  • $200-$400 should buy a nice, authentic, custom-made gown.1812 costume parisien
  • Posts: Floor length, Empire waist, and what else? Anne Shirley? (description of a Regency gown and examples); A Morning Gown plus some Frankenstein Gown Parts (what aspects of vintage gown styles to avoid; my gown purchases; morning gown modification from 80’s vintage); Were Regency gowns worn on the Titanic? (purchase tips for new handmade Regency gown; what to look for in a vintage gown to re-purpose).

Regency Hair Style

  • Centre parted, with ringlets around the face; fancy up-do with bun and curls or braids, worn close to the head. (How-to and video links in posts.)
  • If hair is too short for a fancy up-do, a hairpiece (bun maker, bun hair, and 1-3 braids for $10-$30), fall ($0-$50), wig ($0-$92), or a turban are options.
  • Ringlets can be purchased or taken from a doll or fall ($7-$60) and held on by a bandeau, or flat pin curls can be made.
  • For very short hair, comb forward in a “Titus” and hold in place with a ribbon, bandeau, or similar decorative item.
  • If desired, trim with ribbon, lace, bandeau, braided fillet, small silk flowers, feathers, tiara, diadem, combs, etc. ($0-?)
  • Posts: Faking Purdy Locks: The Modern Hairstyle goes Regency;
    Regency Bad Hair Day? Wrap a Turban! (my clip-on fall in an updo at end of post).

Headwear

  • Bonnet or hat ($6-$70)
    • Preferable if your hair looks nice when you remove your hat indoors.
    • Brim is sturdy, not floppy, and straw or satin-type fabric.
    • Capote hat or bonnet can be made from a wrap-around straw visor or hat, a 20” diameter simple, smooth, silk-like fabric cover, and a ribbon.
    • A good hat base is the narrower brim straw picture hat at Michaels, $5.
    • Add 1.5′-2.5′ of 1″-1.5” ribbon to make ties for a bonnet.
    • If desired, trim with several bunches of small fabric flowers and greenery; larger fabric roses; an ostrich, peacock, or other feather and brooch/medallion; hat pin; or combination, or other designs based on Regency sketches.

      Mock up of design of green and straw visor with green velvet cap.

      Mock up of design of green and straw visor with green velvet cap.

    • A nice range of new items can be found at the upper half of the price range above. Fancy items are double the top price listed here.
    • Posts: The Thrifty Regency Hat-trick! (Capote hat from visor and dinner napkin for under $10); How-to Times Two: Variations on Dressing up a Bonnet (The Pink Hat); Special Headwear for the Grown-up Lady (museum hat examples at the end of the post).
  • Lace cap ($2-$40)
    • Optional; for married or single-and-proud-of-it women only.
    • Similar to the idea of a turban, this will hide hair for women who can’t manage a Regency hair style and will be indoors where they must remove their hat.
    • Can be made from super-fine white cotton and/or fine whitework lace items such as doilies, handkerchiefs, curtains, cushion/pillow covers, or purchased applique items and ribbon.
    • Post: Special Headwear for the Grown-up Lady
  • Turban ($15-$40)
    • An alternative to the hat or bonnet that does not have to be removed when you go indoors.
    • A nice choice for evening wear if you’re unable to create an up-do.
    • Twist 2-3 silk or satin scarves (how-to and video links on this blog), or a length of silk or satin fabric (could be a table or dresser runner, a pashmina, small shawl or wrap) about 15″-20” wide and 40” long about your head behind ringlets; secure with safety pins and bobby pins.
    • A brimless, soft, natural fabric hat with a scarf or fabric wound around its base in textured waves works well also.
    • Fringe or ends with some type of embellishment or trim are recommended, and can be left to droop on one side.
    • Braid or cord can be woven around with turban cloth.
    • Add feathers, foliage, brooch, medallion, hat pin, or similar items.
    • Post: Regency Bad Hair Day? Wrap a Turban!

Jewelry ($0-?)

  • Simplest would be a medium-sized “jeweled” cross on a chain.
  • More elaborate choices include “jeweled” necklaces, armlets, bracelets, brooches, rings, earrings, and combs.
  • Almost all stones are are acceptable, but they should be cut stones. Costume jewelry is fine if it doesn’t look plastic.
  • Cameos and red coral were popular.
  • Drop earrings were on hooks not studs; clasped or open hooks are period.
  • Lover’s eye brooches were fashionable.
  • Post: Shiny things expose my inner crow!
Regency Opera Gloves, kid, Metropolitan Museum of Arts

Regency Opera Gloves, kid, Metropolitan Museum of Arts

Gloves

  • Cotton, silk, or kid leather.
  • Short or optional for day wear ($5-$25).
  • Evening gloves go above the elbow: 24”-31″ (opera-length) with a loose-fitted upper arm are period-correct ($8-$32 for synthetic; $50-$200 for natural materials); 19” minimum.
  • If synthetic opera gloves are worn, buy a matte and not shiny satin finish, as it looks fake.
  • Any colour but black. White and softer colours were most common.
  • Post: I never did mind about the little things…

Fan ($1-$10)

  • Optional, but necessary on a warm day or in a ballroom.
  • Folding hand fan.
  • Avoid plastic and obvious synthetic materials for the sticks and guards.
  • If the fan has any scenes on the leaves, they should be English.
  • Any colour. Trim can include feathers, sequins, metallic, mother-of-pearl.
  • Post: I never did mind about the little things…

Parasol ($20-$200)

  • Optional if your face is protected from the sun by a bonnet or hat, or you are in a ballroom.
  • Eight or fewer ribs is Regency-appropriate, but who’s counting? As long as it’s not a dozen!
  • Pagoda shapes were most common, but round parasols were also in use.
  • A shallow curve is fine, but avoid flat Asian-style parasols.
  • The fabric should look like silk or cotton if possible.
    • Patterns on the fabric itself were rare, and would be a wide stripe or large dot or similar.
    • Fabric on vintage pagoda parasols from the early 20th century might not be very close to a Regency look.
    • Do not buy a Battenburg lace parasol, as they’re Victorian.
  • Most trim was on the periphery of the parasol: fringe (almost any kind), tassels, or lace. Some had embroidery.
  • Any colour but black.
  • Post: I never did mind about the little things…

Reticule ($5-$65)

  • Small drawstring bag (under 8” by 8”).
  • Almost any colour or shape works, in a fine fabric, beaded, netted, or knitted.
  • Avoid printed satin, most open lace or crocheted styles, eyelet lace, or leather.
  • Beads or sequins should not look plastic.
  • No zipper, but metal snap clasp or gate closures are fine.
  • The smooth silk bat-wing or moon reticules on Etsy are overpriced ($15-$22) for what you’re getting. The beaded and embroidered ones are often very good deals.
  • Post: All the pretty little purses

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A few good overview web sites for a Regency costume:

These sites are summaries of what we’ve learned during the 17 previous posts in the Thrift Shop Regency Costume Experiment blog series, and I refer to them regularly myself.

Best site (pdf version) for showing the details one should search for: It’s All in the Details: Making an early 19th Century Ball Gown, by Hope Greenberg.

Best site (pdf version) for applying the other to real life: Miss Lisa Brown’s Guide to Dressing for a Regency Ball—Ladies’ Edition.

BBC/A&E Pride and Prejudice, 1995

Less useful, but detailed, with lots of drawings and paintings is Wikipedia’s 1795-1820 in Western fashion.

An interesting article explaining Regency fashions while referencing the movie adaptations of Pride and Prejudice. Dressing for the Netherfield Ball in Pride and Prejudice: Regency Fashion.

Lots of links for buying stuff new can be found at Regency Attire: Purchasing Your Costume by Regency Dances.org  Not all these items are accurate, as they try to cover numerous costuming situations.

 

Sites for examples of Regency gowns:

Museum gowns:
Real people wore these, so they’re a bit more accurate than fashion plates such as Ackermann’s Repository for Art, La Belle Assemblée, or Costume Parisién.
The Vintage Thimble tumblr
Kyoto Costume Museum Archives 1800s-1810s

Ideas from others’ modern interpretations:
The JASNA AGM Regency Ball in Brooklyn, 2012. Most of these are probably handmade from modern reproduction patterns. There will be non-Regency clothing represented as well, as not everyone is immune to the marketing of those selling the Titanic/Downton Abbey gowns.
The Jane Austen Festival in Bath is a similar situation.

Erica Duncan's montage of Regency fashion plates for each year between 1809 to 1828.  Original art from Ackermann's Repository for Arts. Click on thumbnail for much larger image.

Erica Duncan’s montage of Regency fashion plates for each year between 1809 to 1828.
Original art from Ackermann’s Repository for Arts.
Click on thumbnail for much larger image.

Pinterest has a lot of good images, but I’d suggest searches by clothing article rather than just “Regency,” as the number is overwhelming even then.The site will often offer sub-headings at that point, too. This is an example of a huge board. Take care, as some images are modern and may contain misinformation; that’s why I like to stick to museum examples. But sometimes those are mis-dated by some pinner, too. It won’t be long before you’re picking them out yourself, though, as there’s nothing like 50 Regency gowns compared to one 1830’s gown. Warning: Pinterest is like crack.

Resources for making your own gown if you can sew a bit:

A video tutorial from Follies Past shows how to make a Regency ladies’ gown from a bridesmaid dress, a set of curtains, and a lace blouse. This requires beginner sewing skills.

Old Petticoat Shop offers their Regency Dress Online Class for $97 plus fabric, notions, etc.

My Regency Journey from Tea in a Teacup goes through creation of an entire Regency costume, but made from scratch.

Diary of a Mantua Maker has two tutorials on fitting a Regency gown: the first shows common mistakes and the second, sleeve and bodice fitting.

Sense and Sensibility Patterns has a number of videos with tips on how to fit your gown or modify the design of a pattern, as well as some sewing techniques.

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Update: A nice little summary for evening wear, with some of the wonderful descriptions from The Lady’s Magazine and La Belle Assemblée: Mimi Matthews’ Elizabeth Bennet, La Belle Assemblée, and Early 19th Century Fashion.

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turban 1 croppedNEXT POST: The grand finale! Photos of my completed costume, plus an overview of my learning experience with the “experiment” and brief notes on what the summer bonus posts will look like.