New Story Fun: A #Regency beach story excerpt and a book launch party!

Everyone loves to go to the beach for a few weeks in summer. Of course, they like it in winter, too, dependent upon where the beach is–somewhere warm, perhaps?

Modern Ramsgate beach.

Modern Ramsgate beach.

Those who are interested in Regency history and Jane Austen’s novels would believe it would be fun to spend time at Ramsgate.

What if Elizabeth Bennet had an opportunity to to just that? If she and her Aunt Gardiner are invited to join Mrs. Gardiner’s childhood friend at her home in Ramsgate for a few weeks in the midsummer of 1811?

Ramsgate harbour, early 19th century. Image courtesy Michael's Bookshop.

Ramsgate harbour, early 19th century. Image courtesy Michael’s Bookshop.

You may recognize the time as just prior to the start of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and note that a significant event took place at Ramsgate at that time: the near-elopement of Georgiana Darcy and George Wickham, with the assistance of Georgiana’s companion, Mrs. Younge. It would be interesting if the two young women were introduced by Mrs. Gardiner’s friend Lady Edwina Baverstock, and they became fast friends. But what of Mr. Wickham and Mrs. Younge?

My interpretation of the summer romance that Austen never completely explained, and how Elizabeth Bennet’s presence at Ramsgate influences the events we know about in Pride and Prejudice, is available for your reading pleasure! Today, I’m sharing the opening scenes of Letter from Ramsgate!

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Johannes Vermeer (Dutch, 1632 - 1675 ), A Lady Writing, c. 1665, oil on canvas, Gift of Harry Waldron Havemeyer and Horace Havemeyer, Jr., in memory of their father, Horace Havemeyer

Johannes Vermeer (Dutch, 1632 – 1675 ), A Lady Writing, c. 1665, oil on canvas, Gift of Harry Waldron Havemeyer and Horace Havemeyer, Jr., in memory of their father, Horace Havemeyer

Excerpt from
LETTER FROM RAMSGATE
by redhead (Suzan Lauder) © 2013

April 1812
Hunsford, Kent

Elizabeth stared as Mr. Darcy stalked towards the door, his broad shoulders stiff and tense. Each step created a measured, hollow tattoo in contrast to the staccato beat of her heart, accentuating their disparate states and a divergence impossible to resolve.

He paused as his hand touched the doorknob, and then he turned back so slowly it might have been a dream. As his eyes set upon her, a host of emotions played across his face. Were disappointment and regret mingling with the resentment he expressed so eloquently moments before? Could she hope his feelings would budge, just a bit?

Her fingers clutched her gown in mimicry of the grip around her heart, clenched so tight in her chest it might never return to its natural state, and although it fought hard, the struggle for its sense of equilibrium was out of reach.

He gave her one more contemptuous glance before he quit the room, closing the door so decidedly behind him, the sound made her shudder. The tumult of her mind was now painfully great. She knew not how to support herself, and from actual weakness sat down and cried for half an hour. Her astonishment, as she reflected on what had passed, was increased by every review of it.

That Mr. Darcy thought her such a dishonourable person was beyond anything she ever imagined. The anger in his voice, the almost menacing countenance as he rounded on her and accused her of such actions—these were indelibly imprinted in her mind. How, after their mutual exclamations of love, had he contrived to misunderstand the situation so egregiously?

Her mind searched past memories. It was near unfathomable how many unfortunate obstacles had served to pave the way to this final quarrel! Regret was her companion now, but she must own those uncomfortable feelings—it had been her choice to express herself with such malice when she could easily have disclosed the confidences that would have vindicated her. But she would stand by her promise.

So this was her fate. To have Fitzwilliam Darcy somewhere in the world thinking ill of her was almost too much for her to bear, yet it was so.

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One Year Earlier
April 1811
Longbourn, Hertfordshire

“Your uncle has been prevented by business from accompanying me, and given that you and I enjoy one another’s company so well, he obliged me and suggested you would be as good a replacement for him as any body.” Mrs. Gardiner’s eyes sparkled as she said it.

If she and her parents agreed, Elizabeth would spend a significant part of the summer at the home of her aunt’s good friend in Ramsgate, and she had never been to the seaside. Her aunt became more and more animated as the details of the plan were described, and tickly sensations of excitement traversed her spine.

She accepted swiftly and with great appreciation. “The intimacy we share as niece and aunt, along with likeness of mind and spirit, will prove to make for great felicity!”

By this time, her aunt had a firm grasp upon her hands. “We shall have a fine time of it, Lizzy.”

Elizabeth shared her aunt’s pleasure. “We shall not be like other travellers and merely take in the promenades and sea air; no, we shall seek adventure, and our minds shall be so full upon our return that we will have plenty to relate without relying on our imaginations.”

Her aunt offered no objection to such a scheme, and a date was fixed for Elizabeth to journey to London and join her for the trip. There were three months in which to plan, and three months to suffer her mother’s ideas of preparations.

Finally, she waved away her family and set out for her adventure.

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I hope this snippet made you curious enough to join us to read about Elizabeth’s adventure! Letter from Ramsgate is currently posting in serial format at A Happy Assembly. Readers interact with the author by commenting on each chapter as it’s posted weekly on Wednesday afternoons. Currently, chapter 1-4 are up, so it’s easy to catch up with the others. Membership to AHA is required, but there are no ads at this free Jane Austen literary club web site. Your private information remains as private as you choose.

If now isn’t the best time for you to read, I plan to publish Letter from Ramsgate in 2016.

A_calm_by_James_Gillray smaller_______________

GREAT NEWS!:

French actor Gaspard Ulliel.

French actor Gaspard Ulliel.

A short, modern romance I wrote last summer will be featured in Meryton Press’s soon-to-be-released holiday anthology, Then Comes Winter, edited by Christina Boyd. W00t! Christina also edited the successful Meryton Press summer anthology, Sun-Kissed: Effusions of Summer, which is available at booksellers’ now.

My short story in the winter anthology is called Delivery Boy; it’s about mistaken first impressions, admiration from afar, and a rather heavy mustache!

Join us for the Merry, Merry Book Launch party on November 16-20 on Facebook, with fun games and give-aways! We’ll follow that with a blog tour; dates and times will be announced at Meryton Press!

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A Lady in Summer Dress with sea bathing in backgroundThe prizewinners from the online portion of the Louisville JASNA give-aways for Thrift Shop Regency Costume Experiment are jenred and daria! Congratulations, and thanks for commenting on the blog! Each will get a copy of the upcoming youth-and-up-rated Then Comes Winter, with my signature on my short modern romance, Delivery Boy, and one of my original design cushion cover reticules (I plan to line the two unlined ones I made before sending them off to these two). Each reticule contains an embroidered handkerchief and paper cocktail parasol, and is signed by me!

The Party Ends with a Splash! #ItsJaneYall

The road trip is over and my “day job” as adorer of two kitties has resumed. I am reminded in bossy purring meows that both deserve extra attention, and I’m rewarded with relentless purring that will extend until the wee hours tonight and over the next several days at least.

Regency Lady has a Chili Dog: Author Suzan Lauder in Louisville, KY.

Regency Lady has a Chili Dog: Author Suzan Lauder in Louisville, KY.

A final late night involved packing all the gear we brought to the 2015 JASNSA AGM in Louisville, KY. In spite of delays resulting in my husband and I scurrying through to beat the clock at every connection, a re-routed itinerary, and a novice security person confiscating Mr. Suze’s Regency walking stick, we got home after 15 hours of travel in a good mood.

This AGM has been an important goal for almost two years. The event differed from my expectations, and I’m glad I attended, but in some ways, it was an anticlimax. My mixed emotions are yet to become clear, but some conclusions can be shared with the readers of this blog, including my feelings at this point: Relief, regret, and pride.

Relief

Sunday will be the last of two months of a marathon of preparation with many 2am bedtimes, including hand sewing every night of the conference! I won’t miss the stress, exhaustion, and missing out on other things that characterized my life at the end of the Thrift Shop Regency Costume Experiment!

My most substantial relief was measured by repeated expressions of admiration from other JASNA delegates on Friday and Saturday, followed by multiple entreaties to stop every 20 feet so a dozen flashes could go off while people photographed Mr. Suze and I as part of the Grand Promenade. It said the blog goal was successful.

I’m also relieved that people who were less welcoming kept their views to themselves when off Facebook! I’ve avoided mentioning this on the blog to keep things light, but nay-sayers created a huge area of trepidation for me coming up to, and during the conference. It’s difficult enough for anyone to try something new in a public forum, but my fear of failure worsened when I discovered my blog had been an open topic of ridicule in some costuming circles. The funny thing is, these people state hopes to encourage others starting out in costuming, yet their welcome is wanting. No, scratch that. I’m still awaiting the welcome.

old louisville kyRegret

It’s too bad I didn’t have more time to explore more of Louisville, a nice-sized, safe, comfortable, lively town full of welcoming, friendly people. Everywhere we turned, we met and spoke with helpful, smiling locals. Because Mr. Suze explored while I was in seminars all day, he vocalized this opinion strongly.

I looked at lace and ribbons in the shops of the Regency Emporium, as well as actual fashion plates from the Regency (including examples I’ve used here!) for a minimum of 6 separate visits—and I bought only four unrelated books!

I’m sure the shop staff recognized me. I was intimidated and flummoxed because, similar to my experience shopping at home, I could see how lovely these items would be on a costume, but waffled on which to buy and quantities. Did I want to use expensive silk net for sleeves on a polyester gown?

I hope I won’t be too disappointed to have wasted an opportunity to purchase embellishments better than any I’ve ever seen elsewhere!

Contrary to my expectations, I don’t mind too much that I couldn’t bring the planned jonquil gown, as my last-minute compromise with the translucent fuchsia overdress worked well.

I left the AGM uncertain about whether the blog had readers outside of my circle of friends. I’d hoped to have more Janeites approach me for the give-aways, but prizes I’d planned to hand out came home with me.

However, when authors Maria Grace and Linda Beutler both commented, “Is that the spencer from the blog? I love it!” and admired all the details, especially the little skirt detail in back, I was proud, even if the sewing quality is atrocious!

I wish I’d had more time to get to know more people. I did enjoy the company of fellow Meryton Press author Linda Beutler for some events and tourism, and it was sad to split up to go home again. Luckily, there’s AHA Chat and Facebook to remain close to those I met whom I already liked!

Pride

mr suze and suzan lauder at louisville jasna 2015 ball blurredMr. Suze’s costume was right up there with some of the best of the menswear. The cut of the tailcoat and shirt neckline set his apart from amateurish-looking versions, even if we were no more expert than the others! I’d found some brass buttons with a crown-type coat-of-arms on them at 3 packs of 3-4 buttons for 99 cents each at Fabricland that really set off the tailcoat. Louisville has a fantastic gag shop (Caulfield’s Novelty Inc.), where he spent too much on a set of grey sideburns to add a final flourish that got quite a few laughs.

Many ladies’ costumes had breathtaking details in fine silk and fancy lace, with pleated, ruffled, or impossibly swirled trim, soutache and buttons and tassels in just the right places, enormous hats with giant feathers and unique bands, and gowns with professional-looking cut and quality of construction. Though my costumes were simple in comparison, they did the trick well.

saturday day gown frontsaturday day gown backsaturday stockingsSaturday’s gown from morning through the author signings was the Swiss dotted dress, remade with a Regency-cut skirt, the lace shared over three rows, shorter puffed sleeves, and a real diamond back bodice, as I developed a Regency pattern fitted specifically for myself. The Pomona green spencer was worn all morning, since many others were doing the same, perhaps in response to light-hearted in-character comments by a couple of presenters as they joked about disapproval of married women who wore plain white! I would have added more ribbon to give this lovely gown colour, but time ran out!

My ball costume was “thrown together” in a few days. Little flourishes, like the painted designs on my opera-length gloves, the way my turban tied in a unique and cheeky way in one go and sported a bejeweled elephant pin and curled ostrich feather on top, and two new rows of lace on the bottom of my improvised gown helped my simple effort look like it belonged there.

I think our smiles made me and the Mr. appear better than many at the ball, as we had a great time among the multitude of amazing costumes.

The visible minority!

turban revisedAbout 20% of the people at the AGM sported Regency costumes the first few days, but I’d guess the proportion was at least 40% at the banquet and ball on Saturday night. Author and organizer Sharon Lathan looked so perfectly ordinary when I first met her that I didn’t realize the pretty blonde woman in glasses and jeans was her! She glowed in her silk ball gown, though!

I wore Regency for two of the four days I was present for activities around the AGM proper, which was 2.5 days long. Others who, like me, were at their first AGM and all smiles in their bold effort at a costume that fit in at the ball, included JAFF authors Linda Thompson and Melanie Schertz, whose service dog, Mr. Darcy, had all the ladies swooning in his cravat!

linda beutler and suzan lauderAmong those who wore something awesome that wasn’t Regency was author Linda Beutler. She shared a table with me for the author signings and banquet wearing a vintage 1920’s beaded gown with exquisite details and accessories. With a break from her normal life of gardens for living, her nails matched her deep maroon gown.

Some participants, like author Syrie James, changed for the ball by simply removing a shawl or fichu from the dress they wore that day. Author Maria Grace sat next to Linda and me for the signing event, and she and her Mr. changed from regular clothes into attractive and well-executed Regency costumes for the evening, then cut up the dance floor like pros!

Sue Forgue of the Regency Encyclopedia turns out to be a bit of a fashion plate. She donned a different gown during the day and evening on Saturday, the former with an amazing floral pattern straight out of the Regency that made me match my spencer in jealousy. Interestingly, the latter was a Pomona green silk! Sue enhanced both gowns with gorgeous matching jewels and reticules! I wish I’d thought of photos, and if I get one, I’ll add it to this post.

The Splash

Not a literal splash, but trip on the Ohio River on a 1914-built steam-engine paddlewheel boat, the Queen of Louisville, was a ticketed event last night to culminate our visit for the AGM.

I doubt that more than 5% were dressed in Regency costume! I think many are more comfortable without a corset, no matter how well it improves one’s posture! I wore a nice modern skirt and blouse for the boat trip. In the daytime, it had been a Jane Austen t-shirt from my local library’s fundraiser paired with Michael Kors skinny denim capris!

The weather was fine, as it had been for the whole trip—in the high 80s, when seasonal normal daytime temperatures are in the low 70s.

The Future for my Regency Costuming

One of Meryton Press’s editors and our unofficial social media marketing coach, Christina Boyd, suggested early on in the Thrift Shop Regency Costume Experiment that the series would make a good book. She’s repeated the sentiment, and it’s tempting, though I’d have a great more due diligence on ensuring permissions for images, making it a big project when I’d like to get back to fiction.

“Encyclopedia Sue,” who adores JASNA as a learning experience, staunchly supports the positive examples that instigated the interest in the Regency and Austen for many (including the BBC/A&E miniseries) and spends a huge amount of time sharing resources to help writers and researchers improve their craft, suggested the blog as a seminar for a future JASNA AGM. Though I admit I had some interesting ideas for topics I’d enjoy presenting for this AGM (and didn’t explore them due to lack of time!), without Sue putting the seed in my mind, I’d have never thought of the TSRCE in a seminar format. I’m tempted!

back view mr suze and suzan lauder louisville jasna ball 2015 others blurredThough I know I’ll continue to make gowns and hats based on the wonderful examples I saw this year, for personal reasons, it’s unlikely I’ll have time to attend next year’s AGM in Washington, DC, but I hope to repeat this, with gowns made well ahead of time, for the Huntington Beach, CA AGM in 2017.

Locally, I’ll wear my costumes to JASNA events along with a dozen or so others who enjoy that aspect of study of Austen and Regency.

On July 8 and 9, 2016, the town of Port Alberni, BC, Canada (about 3 hours from me, on Vancouver Island) is hosting its first Jane Austen Festival, and claims an intention to break the world record for Regency costuming. I’ll be there, and I hope I can throw some of my extra gowns on some friends, including enticing a few from around the world to come visit me while they help Port Alberni with its goal. With vintage dresses and fabric, I have the basics for at least a dozen gowns, never mind that I yearn to tackle fabric and look a little like Sue did on Saturday!

~

Future posts:

  • Side issues and tips related to attending an AGM.
  • Reprint of a Regency-related article I wrote for another web site.
  • A blurb and teaser for my latest novel-length story, Letter from Ramsgate, rated Teen, which will be posted in full at A Happy Assembly. Join us in the group read and story comments! AHA is a members-only web site dedicated to Austen-inspired fiction, research of Austen and Regency topics, and the resulting social interactions. It has over 9000 members worldwide, and 500 completed Austen-inspired stories. Membership is simply to ensure readers are over 18, and your personal information remains as personal as you choose.
  • I have other writing projects underway, and blurbs or excerpts will be shared here in the future!

Mr. Darcy in the making: The Thrifty Regency Gentleman’s Costume

Beau Monde, 1807, Morning Dress

Beau Monde, 1807, Morning Dress

Mr. Suze used to bug me to let him read my Regency writing. I told him he’d have to read Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice first, so he’d understand it better. I didn’t expect him to actually read my favourite novel, but he did! What choice did I have but to share Alias Thomas Bennet with him? I was preparing to submit it to Meryton Press at the time, and he was a good final cold reader.

He became a big fan of my writing, and joined me to watch the A&E/BBC 1995 production of Pride and Prejudice. A good sport, he went along with me on half a dozen meet-ups of my online friends from A Happy Assembly while we were on vacation in Washington, Oregon, and California over several road trips.

When I told him I wanted to go to Louisville, KY for the JASNA AGM, he said I could go on my own; he’d had enough of Jane Austen events. Over time, he softened to say he’d join me and enjoy the city on his own while I was at the conference, and later, he agreed to dress in a Regency costume for the Saturday festivities. In May, my vintage and thrift shop trips to finalize my own costume included searches for his items. I quickly got the lay of the land.

For this post, I’ll speak to two items: the tailcoat and waistcoat. The rest of the costume will be seen in future posts.

I saw only three tailcoats in vintage and thrift stores, at $65 and $35, but two were too large and one, too small. There were no suitable vests for a waistcoat, even if I looked at size extra-large in Ladies’ wear. Mr. Suze is not a large man, and I thought if I did a good job, he’d be okay with this.

Please note these are sewing projects. The same result will not be easy to achieve with no-sew iron-on tape, and the fabric is too heavy for that product in any case.

Upcycling a garment into a Regency tailcoat

Coat, 1810, dark brown herringbone.

Coat, 1810, dark brown herringbone.

Le Beau Monde, 1807

Le Beau Monde, 1807

Regency tailcoat 1815, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Regency tailcoat 1815, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Post-Regency example for fun! 1825-1830 dress coat

Post-Regency example for fun! 1825-1830 dress coat

Regency tailcoats were by no means all the same. They came in many colours, and some had interesting textures, as shown in these thumbnails, which can be enlarged if you click on them.

 

Louis-Léopold Boilly - The Arrival of a Stage-coach in the Courtyard of the Messageries (Detail), 1803.

Louis-Léopold Boilly – The Arrival of a Stage-coach in the Courtyard of the Messageries (Detail), 1803.

Both single and double-breasted designs were stylish, but double-breasted appears more frequently in the examples I could find, and I’ve been told they outnumbered single-breasted by about 2:1. Lapels tended to be wider, and the opening quite high in comparison to modern menswear.

Many modern tuxedo tailcoats require slight modifications to straighten the bottom front to match the style of the early 19th Century. The Regency tailcoat has no back waist seams: each panel is one piece of fabric, whereas post-Regency, the seam at the waistline came into play, and continues in modern tailcoats.

Because I couldn’t easily find a used tailcoat in thrift shops, I looked to the Internet, where previous rental tuxedo coats are readily available at under $100. Problems that rule out some modern tuxedo tailcoats include trim such as velvet or satin that do not look Regency. Shawl collars or narrow lapels are common. Most are black, white, or grey. Black would do for a court suit or a formal ball, but the other two would not work, unless I decided to buy a white one and dye it the popular dark blue of the Regency.

Modern morning coat, dark green wool, herringbone.

Modern morning coat, dark green wool, herringbone.

Back view of Regency tail coat to show the single panels of fabric, with no waist seams.

Back view of Regency tail coat to show the single panels of fabric, with no waist seams.

A wool morning coat in dark green, with a fine herringbone pattern and slightly wider lapels, caught my eye and got approval from Mr. Suze. Of course, he doesn’t know that Jane Austen fans love the idea of a green coat ever since Andrew Davies had Colin Firth choose it to ride into Lambton the day Elizabeth got her fateful letter from Jane!

This coat appeared to have no back waist seam in the photos online, but when it arrived, it did. Also, the collar was not self-lined, so it would have to stay down. Oh, well, we knew we were not going to be perfect by any stretch of the imagination, and it fit well, so that was a huge relief. It was advertised on eBay at £25, or $80 with shipping.

Green tailcoat after first cut of shape of front opening and tails.

Green tailcoat after first cut of shape of front opening and tails.

George "Beau" Brummell, watercolor by Richard Dighton, 1805.

George “Beau” Brummell, watercolor by Richard Dighton, 1805.

Mr. Suze is a bit particular about his clothing. His father was a menswear tailor at the Canadian institution of high-class shopping: Eaton’s. My husband is accustomed to a well-fitted, flattering suit in quality fabric, and that was my goal for the Regency tailcoat. We looked at numerous examples from museum pieces and fashion pages like Ackermann’s, and decided on a full curve at the waist, as opposed to a straighter line. A painting of Beau Brummel served as reference. The line was pinned while “my Beau” wore the coat, and the future wearer did a mirror check to approve it. To further achieve a Regency look, the lapels were pressed higher, and extra buttons are needed to suit this modification. The front of the cut coat is shown above, on the left.

I re-applied the matching fabric facings to the underside of the new shape of the tails. To sew the new contour front edges together, I thought about pinning them under and top-stitching, but I opted to sew a normal seam with the fabric pinned right sides together. That meant I had to turn half the jacket inside out.folded and tied with elastics to sew right sides togetherpinned for sewing, all inside the taildetail of fake side pocket

Green tailcoat, back, final except buttons.

Green tailcoat, back, final except buttons.

I tied the upper portion together with elastic bands as shown and laid it inside along the length of the tail, where I’d opened the bottom hem. The tail was pinned right sides together over it all, and sewn with a 1/2″ seam. It was turned it right side out again by pulling it through the open bottom of the tail.

I did a test run with the narrower side before I was brave enough to photograph it for this blog!

I used scraps of fabric to fake Regency by putting flaps that look like pockets at the sides of the jacket. Regency coats sometimes had a cuff, so if your modification allows more fabric, that’s another way to make it more authentic in appearance. Mine did not.

The Regency coat design didn’t always close, but boasted decorative buttons, and men wore them buttoned or unbuttoned, though I’d assume formal circumstances would demand a tightly-buttoned look. The buttons are plastic, and I have yet to purchase proper buttons for the tailcoat. As mentioned earlier, Regency menswear often had fabric-covered buttons in the same colour, though not always the same fabric as the garment. Regency coat fronts have buttons closer together, so my mockup has 4 buttons where the original suit had one.

My intention was self-covered buttons with a brass ring trim from Dressew, and I had enough extra fabric left for them. But I didn’t have enough buttons of the right size, and none of the stores in my city have the snap-on brass trim. I won’t be able to get to Dressew (in Vancouver, BC) prior to the JASNA conference, so I can’t use these buttons at this time.

Suit, 1815-1820, The Victoria & Albert Museum.

Suit, 1815-1820, The Victoria & Albert Museum.

The alternatives are thread buttons, which are a lot of work I don’t have time for, and metallic buttons. Brass buttons were a must on blue coats in the Regency, and seen on other colours sometimes, too. The estimated cost for this tailcoat is $20 on sale. Some attractive steel buttons with an insignia will cost about $7 at Fabricland, so next shopping trip, I’ll purchase them.

Making a modern vest into a Regency waistcoat

The modification of a vest into a nice facsimile of a Regency waistcoat was an easy sewing project, once I found the suitable vest. Strange, since I was lamenting that I’d have to make this item from scratch!

Waistcoat, 1810-20, National Trust Collections

Waistcoat, 1810-20, National Trust Collections

Waistcoat, early 19th century, British, wool and silk. 21" by 33", Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Waistcoat, early 19th century, British, wool and silk. 21″ by 33″, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

It’s not that Regency waistcoats are so limited in design that it’s impossible to find them: this clothing item was the pizazz in the man’s outfit. Almost limitless possibilities existed for colour and pattern, as seen in the set of thumbnails. Click to see larger images.

The most common fabric was silk, but cotton and linen were worn as well. Some boasted gorgeous detailed embroidery. Similar to the tailcoat, the waistcoat could be single- or double-breasted.

Waistcoat French or English, 1790–1810, Brooklyn Museum of Fine Arts. Note the detailed embroidery.

Waistcoat French or English, 1790–1810, Brooklyn Museum of Fine Arts. Note the detailed embroidery.

Waistcoat, 1805-1810, Mccord Museum, Montreal. Note the embroidery.

Waistcoat, 1805-1810, Mccord Museum, Montreal. Note the embroidery.

The trouble with modern vests is their simplicity. Plain, pin-striped, or herringbone wool or wool-like synthetics are as good as it gets for suit vests, which are difficult to find. Most thrift shop vests are casual, with zippers and fleece and plaid and quilting and such.

Regency vests usually had stand-up collars and lapels, too, which modern vests lack. The balance is that Regency vests were straight across at the bottom, so I knew I had a fabric source for the collar and/or lapels: that double V-shape on a dressy modern vest.

William Blake, by Thomas Phillips, oil on canvas, 1807.

William Blake, by Thomas Phillips, oil on canvas, 1807.

The internet, and used tuxedo rentals, offered more options in terms of colour and pattern, and the satin vests mimic the look of silk. Mr. Suze and I agreed on a paisley pattern for a fullback vest. It cost $11.99, and included a matching bow tie; the total was $25 by the time we paid for shipping.

He selected ivory since it best suited the green coat, compared to the bright colour palette otherwise available. The other colours would be great with a black or blue tailcoat. We had also noted that many of the waistcoats in paintings were white or ivory.

The vest was a bit on the big side, and I realized I could use that to my advantage, as I pinned it up at the shoulders to get extra fabric to make a short stand-up collar, plus raise the V of the neckline higher, to make it more Regency in appearance. The photos show it pinned up before the cut (left) and after the collar is made, but not attached, and the bottom is trimmed (right). Two extra buttons are on the bottom in the photo on the right, to show how it would look if more were added.Ivory paisley waistcoat, pinned for the cuts to the shouldersIvory paisley waistcoat, collar made, showing cut and location for lapel

 

 

 

 

 

Waistcoat, National Trust Inventory, 1790 - 1810, Cotton and silk, Chastleton House, Oxfordshire.

Waistcoat, National Trust Inventory, 1790 – 1810, Cotton and silk, Chastleton House, Oxfordshire.

Regency waistcoats sometimes had distinct lapels, but more often, the front panel rose to the collar above the button line, and that upper portion was propped open by the cravat. Unfortunately, when I removed the two Vs from the vest’s bottom front to straighten the line for a Regency look, I couldn’t put it on like the latter design, as it was lined in herringbone, the same as the back panel of the vest. The option was a small lapel.

Ivory paisley waistcoat, final

 

 

 

 

If you have additional fabric, a detail that appears on some, but not all Regency waistcoats is a small pocket on each side, which can be faked with a piece of finished size of about 1-1/2″ by 5″. I tried to make them with what I had left, but they were too small.

This vest had matching satin-covered buttons, perfect for Regency. One was cut off with the bottom V, and there was one spare. Because Regency had lots of buttons, I’ll add more in between the current buttons if I have time after my other projects are complete for Louisville.

The two pieces put together look nice! There’s about 2″-3″ of waistcoat showing below the bottom of the waistline of the tailcoat, a fashionable length. The small lapel on the waistcoat fits neatly into the higher opening at the collar of the tailcoat. We’ll see the shirt ruffles and cravat fill that space in a future post!

TSRCE for Gentlemen: Green herringbone tailcoat and ivory paisley waistcoat.

TSRCE for Gentlemen: Green herringbone tailcoat and ivory paisley waistcoat.

Next post: Who knows? My time has become filled with editing for myself and a fellow author, fitness programs that stopped for August, as well as new activities.

I’m scrambling to complete the most important Regency costume projects now, as time is running out. The balance of Mr. Suze’s costume will come some time this month, and I have lots of little projects I want to finish for Louisville. If I can manage to write something to accompany photos, that will be the topic for upcoming posts!

Hypothesis challenged, testing complete, final report now available

A photograph session with my antiques was the plan. It worked for all the individual costume parts, so why not for the reveal of the entire Thrift Shop Regency Costume? Because a better opportunity came out of the blue!

When a Jane Austen Tea fundraiser was mentioned by my local JASNA group on Facebook, I realized I’d be able to wear the full costume for an earlier photo op. Lucky me! I hopped in the little car for the short drive out to the event at Starling Winery, which was a great grand finale for my blog series. The grounds are stunning, and the day was warm and sunny.

austen tea party young ladieshats

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About 10% of those attending had a clue about Jane Austen era clothing, at least, that’s what I gathered from the costumes. Most of the rest wore a picture brim hat with mounds of netting, a long rayon sun dress from their closets, and sandals. There were a few fans and pairs of gloves, too. No one minded, though. Suddenly, I was less ashamed of my zipper.

Jane Austen Tea Party Starling Winery June 20 2015The Regency costumes were wonderful to see. Some had marvellous fabrics, others remarkable lace. A group of young women had bonnets to die for.

I discovered that, although I was wearing a dress with long sleeves, a high neckline, and a floor-length skirt, I wasn’t as overheated as expected, as the super-fine fabric breathed very well, and I could feel the day’s light breeze through it.

So here it is (drumroll)… TA-DA!Austen Tea Party Starling Winery 2015 Lame Mr. DarcySorry about Mr. Darcy. He was wearing one of those £50 All-in-One Regency Men’s costumes that actually has no shirt or waistcoat, just a dickey with a pre-tied cravat, and those are boot covers. He’s aged about 20 years, too. But he’s such a fine, tall, person, with handsome features and a noble mien!

~~~

Great buys:

  • The sage shoes with slightly pointed toes were new from a thrift shop at $7.99, and the trim on them meant no extra work.
  • The vintage, black, crocheted and beaded, gate-closure reticule (a different reticule is included in the cost estimate) was a steal at $3.99, and is beautifully unique.
  • Ribbon and lace at a 3 for 1 sale.
  • Braid, ribbon, lace, fringe, and an ostrich feather from a fabric store in Mexico for $5 total.
  • $1 tassels from an Indian fabric store for my parasol and future reticule project.
  • The vintage, 1980’s, white, Swiss-dotted cotton, Prairie Dress-style wedding gown for the Regency gown.
    • I had budgeted up to $100, believing it would cover a gown that needed no more than back gathering and a waist ribbon.
    • This $33.95 gown needed the skirt raised from natural to empire waist.
    • It has a fine cotton skirt lining and camisole, so I had no need for petticoats.
    • For the JASNA AGM in Louisville, KY in October 2015, I’ll remove the zipper and add hooks and eyes.
    • An extra cost was a coloured ribbon I preferred in the place of the self-coloured tie that came with the gown.

Total cost: $114.92

Shoes $7.99
Stockings $1.99
Pantalets $1 + $1 lace = $2
Balconet bra $27.50
Waist cincher $5.50
Gown $33.95 + $1 sewing tape, thread + $2 hooks and eyes + $1 waist ribbon = $37.95
Gloves (on hand for many years) $0
Cap $2
Hat $8
Modifications to earrings $2
Ring $1
Fan $1
Parasol $9.99 + 8 x $1 = $17.99
Reticule and handkerchief (gift) $0

$115 is about entry level price for a basic, Regency style, long-sleeved morning gown in unpleasant-looking but probably appropriate fabric, but with no petticoats or lace. It will also get a short-sleeved gown in a pretty cotton print and nice Regency cut, but none of the lace. Plus, this is an entire costume, not just the gown.

This means the Thrift Shop Regency Costume Experiment was a success. Yes, it is possible, and not all that difficult to assemble a nice, Regency acceptable costume at a low price using found, budget, and upcycled materials.

While I was checking for examples of gowns for my cost on Etsy, I was dismayed to see horrible non-Regency ball gowns being sold as such for $175 (plastic-looking fabric and buttons, modern cut) and $250 (modern fabric, non-Regency application of contrasting colour, and strange collar)! The interest in this topic has made all kinds of uneducated sellers decide they want a piece of the pie.

On the other hand, a couple of really nice ball gowns with attractive details and trim were offered for around $170, and both pulled off the look in synthetic. They were from different dressmakers. So if you want to buy a custom Regency gown rather than search the thrift shops, it doesn’t have to be horribly expensive.

Then a blouse for a morning gown look, etc., etc… well, you just have to follow the rest of the series!

~~~

Beyond the basic costume:

I have more materials than required for my base costume, but it gives me a different outfit for every event at the conference, plus some things to give away as gifts to Janeite friends!

In addition to the above, ready to wear articles include 4 reticules, three pairs of ballet flats, one pair of half-boots, three pairs of tights, two floor-length full slips, one black bustier, one fuchsia slip dress for an over or underdress, the makings for two turbans (scarves from one can also be bandeau head wraps), a medium-length, slightly curly pony tail hair fall, a second cap, The Pink Bonnet, two necklaces, a second pair of earrings, a bracelet, and a Regency-look Pashmina shawl.

Items requiring modifications to be worn include the Lydia Bennet hat, the Lady Catherine bonnet, a light blazer for a summer spencer, a pelisse dress, two long dresses requiring minimal modification to become evening/ball gowns. A lucky buy was a piece of faux silk in exactly the right colour to match the jonquil 1960’s dress for a ball gown. I was going to add a contrasting front panel to free up fabric for back gathering. Adding a panel at the back while I remove the zipper will be much simpler.

A variety of ribbon, lace, tassels, fringe, braid, bias tape, cording, beads, and some fabric remnants also are available for completing the above. The only items I may have excesses of are ribbon and a huge roll of 6” wide lace from a grab bag that can be used for sleeves or caps. I have material to make up to 12 reticules with my new designs!

~~~

Time spent:

At first, I went to one or two shops every two or three weeks for up to two hours. In February, I started to go at least once a week for 2-4 hours. Construction, modification, and decorating probably took 40 hours total. The greatest amount of time was spent in my head, thinking about how to best approach designs, and match colours and fabrics.

As this is a leisure activity, I hesitate to value my time any more than I would for redecorating my home or reading. Any excess of material (caps and reticules) will be given away.

~~~

Problems Encountered:

The learning curve on Regency fashion:

  • Examples of things I learned along the way: Long sleeves are typically very long, so they are up the arm and fall over the base of the hand. Laces and buttons were not as common on gowns as I thought: ties were most common.
  • The styles changed a lot over the period, and included very simple gowns to gowns with a great deal of elaborate trim.

Misunderstandings about Regency styles:

  • A cap is not crocheted lace, it’s very fine cotton, sometimes made into a lace-like look with pulled thread, darning, and whitework embroidery.
  • Puffed sleeves: There were many more types of sleeve than the short, puffed sleeve, or the long sleeves with a puff at the top, though both were so common, it’s a reasonable mistake.
  • Dark-based prints are uncommon, but do show in extant gowns.
  • The empire waist is not the only style. Some gowns had no waist, though the cut or an overdress was reminiscent of the empire waist.

~~~

Difficulties encountered along the way:

My own culling of items in my closet:

  • With moves and sale of a rental where we had some storage, we were living in a smaller space. I had given most of my clothes, and all of my fabric, crafts, and Hallowe’en costume parts to charity two years before. Some of the clothes and shoes would have been useful!

Jane Austen Tea Party Starling Winery June 20 2015 2
The dress I had in mind was elusive:

  • If all else seemed good, the thrift store dress would be polyester knit; black with huge roses; too fitted to make back gathers; sleeveless with no extra fabric for sleeves; covered in appliques or patchwork; have multiple long darts that would likely show if taken out; not my size; or too short.
  • A few true vintage items from the mid-20th century, in great condition, might have worked if modified, but I couldn’t bear cutting such a great piece of fashion history, so I wouldn’t buy them.
  • Polyester knit is ubiquitous, not just in dresses, but in slips, camisoles, and lace blouses (for sleeves), too. I saw one woven cotton camisole, and it was too small.
  • After the first few months, I purchased a couple of items that need more work because of fear I wouldn’t find anything.

Jane Austen Tea Party Starling Winery June 20 2015  me

The opposite of the impulse buy problem:

  • A bag of notions seemed pricey until I saw the price of the items new, but it was gone when I came back.
  • A blazer with a lot of soutache work could have been a lovely spencer, but I hesitated because I couldn’t easily see a place to break up the design. Someone else got it.
  • When I bought my shawl (not in this base costume, as it will be covered in outerwear), there was another similar, and I chose the one I thought went best with my evening gowns. I now believe that a shawl with that quality of design may not be common, and the price was cheap—if not for me, for a friend. But there were no more like it when I went back.

Other costume items:

  • Similarly, the fan and parasol were difficult to find. At least they were one size.

Availability of the right type of stores:

  • I live in a small city, so there aren’t many vintage and thrift stores, and similarly, fabric stores.
  • About half of second hand stores have good quality merchandise intended to be reasonably fashionable today, and none of that works well for Regency.
  • Thrift stores have more items that are older and out of style, and even more so in Vintage stores, though most of their items are funky for those on the edge of fashion, or items that are back in style and can be worn today.
  • I had four trips to larger cities during the course of the blog series, and was able to buy some good value items that I’ve never seen here.

Colour matching:

  • Even though you don’t have to be matchy-matchy with accessories, for back ties and fake sleeves it’s best, and it’s hard. Choosing a feather for a hat is similar.

Technical difficulties:

  • My new iron got glummed up one of the first times I used iron-on no-sew tape. You’re supposed to use a press cloth, and I didn’t read the instructions. The pieces of heat-activated glue tape weren’t fully under the fabric, and the hot iron in contact with a tiny piece tugged it out.
  • No-sew tapes (iron-on and double-sided) are fine for simple, flat attachments that take almost no load, but do not work well for more complex things such as pleats, drawstring openings, and the heavy texture of a straw hat.
  • I am terrible at crafting. I don’t seem to have the manual dexterity to make things neat and tidy. If you zoom in on the inside of the Capote hat, you’ll see an uneven ribbon that thankfully will be hidden by my hair.
  • I tied the gown’s waist ribbon off to the side, and in photos, it appears like a droopy breast! Unless you are young and perky, centre front or back tie is better!

Prices went up and product availability changed:

  • When I started a year ago, shoes that would work were $4-10. Now the price in thrift stores is no different than for new shoes on sale at budget stores. Of course, the ballet flats weren’t on sale all winter, and won’t be until fall again.
  • The little flared kitten heel shoes disappeared before I bought, though I saw a half-dozen pairs in my size on a visit a few months before I started to buy, when I was just beginning to consider what I’d wear to Louisville. I think the style was too old. Lucky are those who still have them in their closets!

~~~

The biggest change:

I discovered a new love. I’ve started to follow Pinterest pages and Facebook groups on costuming, and have been tempted to buy books for more than coffee table use!

I know I’ll be using the sewing machine again, and this time, the challenge will be to use existing patterns and modify them to make them my own, as opposed to purchasing modern patterns. I may be crazy to do so, but I’ll learn along the way, just as I did for this Experiment.

My dream is to actually see the museum pieces. I constantly have little questions about this and that, and only looking at actual construction would help. Costumers with many years of experience and related degrees rarely have this opportunity, so it may be the impossible dream.

But if we did not dream, the death of our imaginations would turn us into black holes, imploding into the nothingness of an empty life. As an author, I rely on possibilities to light my life. Things seem to work out in the long run, in spite of any bumps in the road along the way!Jane Austen Tea Party Starling Winery June 20 2015 harpist

~~~

A point of pride:

I learned the bulk of the knowledge I’ve shared throughout this series by observing examples on the Internet. I read some excellent web site summaries, but avoided asking experts for help, and didn’t buy any books on the topic, as that cost could be put towards the costume.

I even got to the point in my acumen where I could pick out bloggers who knew enough to be dangerous and give inaccurate advice—kind of like how I started. I’m still learning, and it’s never been a chore. I enjoy the challenge of research.

The part of this story that was not intentional is important, that of the re-use of discarded items. It’s not just about being cheap, it’s about minimizing waste. Our society loves to buy and throw away, and the little thrift shops are full of evidence of that. But someone else’s discards became my treasure.

I’m going to miss those shopping trips. But wait… Mr. Suze needs a tailcoat, and breeches, and boots, and more!

I hope you enjoyed this little series of less than imaginative writing. I could never have imagined myself as a blogger, yet sometimes, fortune falls at your feet. It’s been an experience beyond the ordinary: I proved I could act outside of the box of consumerism, not just buy because I can afford it, and I’m proud of how far I’ve come.

Thank you for joining me on this trip.

~~~

NEXT POST: No promises on a specific topic.

This summer, I plan to focus on the final edits on Letter from Ramsgate, which has taken a back seat to this blog. Then I’ll be posting it twice weekly on A Happy Assembly!

At the same time, I’ll make my ball gown and a spencer, and there will be a post for each. I’ll show you my shawl, too. I promised a post on tricks to fake Regency, and I’ve developed my own pattern for reticules that I’ll share, as well as pulled an old pattern for a cap off a plate in a book and will draft it for you to use. So you’ll hear from me every 2-3 weeks or so, and then from Louisville, KY at the JASNA AGM!

Starling winery raspberriesI’d like to promote the Centennial Belles of Port Alberni’s Jane Austen Tea on July 3 and 4, 2015, and the Port Alberni Jane Austen Festival on July 8 and 9, 2016. This little town has ambitious plans for 2016: to break the world record of people in Regency costume, which is currently regularly broken by The Jane Austen Festivals in Louisville, KY and in Bath, UK. Perhaps a few of my Janeite and Chat Chit friends may decide this is a good time to come visit me on their way there!

All the pretty little purses

The finely-fitted out modern woman has a few things in her hobo. Trouble is, the 19th century woman’s hobo was pretty tiny. Thank goodness a full set of cosmetics, hair gear, phone, tablet, photo album, and dishwasher were not necessary to tote around during the Regency.

Early 19th century silk purse, 8 inches,  with silk embroidery, fringe, tassels

Early 19th century silk purse, 8 inches, with silk embroidery, fringe, tassels

The Regency lady carried a small drawstring bag or purse called a reticule. For some reason it’s been jokingly called a “ridicule” on occasion, but I don’t know why, and frankly, I don’t care, because how could you make fun of such pretty little purses?

Here’s the low-down on them:

  • Roughly 4-8 inches wide and 4-8 inches tall, plus closure (most in the mid-range). (Click on the thumbnails for larger images.)
  • A multitude of shapes.
  • Closure is typically drawstrings at the top.
    • Drawstrings are made of cording or ribbon, often with beads or tassels at the ends.
    • Double or single drawstrings are seen.

      Reticule with gate closure

      Reticule with gate closure

    • No zippers.
    • Gate and metal clasp closures were less common but acceptable.

      Early 1800s blue silk netted purse

      Early 1800s blue silk netted purse.

  • Made of a variety of materials and methods, including silk, linen, tapestry, cording (including metal), straw, beads of all kinds, wool, and more, by sewing, netting, weaving, or knitting.

    Silk reticule with embroidery and tassels, 1810, LA Costume Museum/.

    • Embroidery was common on smooth silks, including chenille and tambour work; also painted designs.
    • Designs can be anything, but most tend to be floral.

      4.5 inches long knitted pineapple reticule, 1800, Kyoto museum.

      4.5 inches long knitted pineapple reticule, 1800, Kyoto museum.

    • Pineapple purses made from straw or knitted were very popular.
    • Some crocheted designs existed, but take care, as many modern crocheted bags are too loose and large of a design.

      1800-1825 Brown crocheted silk bar purse.

      1800-1825 Brown crocheted silk bar purse.

    • Many have tassels, beads, or fringe trim on the bottom.

      Reticule, 1800–1825, British, silk and metal, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

      Reticule, 1800–1825, British, silk and metal, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A bag that works like this can often easily be found in a Thrift Shop, or even at home, where it may have come as a cover to a product. You may have to trim it to make it more festive. Fabric for a bag like this can come from an old decorative cushion and trim from jewelry.

For the Thrift Shop Regency Costume Experiment, I bought three bags. Part of my second and third purchase for this blog (with the grey pelisse dress in summer 2014) was an crocheted beaded black purse with a short, beaded carry strap and a gate closure. It was $3.99 at Value Village and needs no modifications.

A black, designer-label, beaded satin purse with beaded fringe, a broken beaded shoulder strap, and a zipper closing was $1.99 at Value Village shortly after my initial find. I’m sure it was so cheap because of the broken strap.

my reticulesIt cemented my view that the reticule was the easiest item to find, and that’s why I’ve left it to the end: so you could focus on the difficult items earlier on.

cottage grove used book store source of blue and gold reticuleThe blue and bronze beaded bag has a pattern that reminds me of Moorish azulejo tiles seen in Sevilla, Andalucia, Spain. I lucked into finding it at Kalapuya books, a used books and gifts shop in Cottage Grove, Oregon, USA with a theater, bar, coffee shop, and excellent bakery all attached! At $15.99, it was more costly than most of the purchases I typically made for this thrift-based series. I also bought two books (English Cottages and an older copy of The Chicago Manual of Style) and got a free paperback of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road because my purchase was over $30!

The reticule has gorgeous coordinating beads at the ends of its drawstrings. It’s a bit small, but so pretty!

A month later, I saw a fourth bag at a vintage store in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, which was $25.99, and perfect for the Regency. I coveted it for a heartbeat or two, but knew it was too much, not just in cost, but in number of reticules!

I already had two simpler bags on hand when I started. In with my travel items, I had a cream damask bag that came with some beauty item or other. At 8.5″wide by 8″ tall, this is the largest of the reticules in my set. It was boring as-is, so I dressed it up in green. Click on the thumbnails for larger images.

Fringe and ribbon applique ironed on with “Stitch Witchery.” Use existing off-white cord to thread two green cords in opposite directions. This is much easier to tighten and release than a single cord.

Loop tassel over cord near end, then tie a tight knot in the green cord over it, close to the end of the cord. Tie pairs of tasseled cords together just at the point the reticule is fully open.

$0.49 of sale fringe and some pre-made ribbon applique decorations (three small (left) on sale for $0.49 each, and $1.99 for the large, below) from Dressew Supply in Vancouver, BC, Canada were added and made a huge difference. I replaced the single, fraying cream cord with a longer green cord from another grab bag (cut into two), and attached four green tassels on the cord ends (on sale for $0.49 each at Dressew). Total price: under $6.

The completed green and black reticules. Note that with the black one, I tied the loose ends of the velvet ribbon together firmly, and slid them into the ribbon sleeve, rather than add tassels as on the green cord. (The black ribbon was not long enough.) You could also thread beads and sew them onto the ends instead of tassels.

Silk reticule with steel cut beads, beaded tassels, and double drawstring, 1810, Bowes Museum.

To update the zippered black bag with beaded fringe (left), I removed the zipper and managed to free the other end of the shoulder strap without untying the strings, so no beads were lost in this venture! I may use this lovely braided string of beads tied around the Empire waistband of a ball gown.

I put a scrap of ribbon inside the purse to act as a sleeve for the drawstring, and threaded black velvet ribbon that I’d had on hand for a dozen or more years. Note that  reticule drawstrings should each be at least 18 inches in length and threaded opposite ways to make for the ideal closure. The total cost for this bag was less than $3.

My wedding rings came in a little chocolate brown velvet bag with matching tasseled drawstring and the initials of the jeweler on the side, and of course, I kept it and the little metal boxes all these years. Before this blog was started, I went to a local stage presentation of Pride and Prejudice, I attempted to dress it up by hooking a set of wineglass rings along the bottom like jewels. I said all along I wasn’t crafty!

This drawstring bag is very small (5″x7.5″) and would only suit someone with the initials M.C. Perhaps Mr. Parachute Pants will come out of retirement for this? Oh, goodness! **blushes** It sounds like I think he’d like to dress like Elizabeth Bennet! M.C. Regency Cross-Dresser Hammer! Drop that thought!

Anyhow, this reticule is rated with a closed parasol at best: acceptable, but not the best choice. Better beads at the bottom would help its look, but it’s still small, with someone else’s initials on it.

I got another reticule for a gift last Christmas, as part of the A Happy Assembly Holiday Card Exchange, made by member Sharlotte. The fabric is a rich yet subtle silver and gold silk brocade fabric, with gold drawstrings and the satin lining trimming the top.

Inside, she included some “work” for the recipients: a new scallop-hemmed handkerchief with two skeins of embroidery thread for decorating it! To go with that theme, I’m showing my little collection of handkerchiefs.handkerchiefsThe whitework one with a purple lace edge and the daisy motif handkerchief both belonged to my mother, and were gifts for use at my wedding. The attendants were required to use them to hold the ceremonial gold crowns of the Orthodox wedding ceremony above Mr. Suze’s and my heads. The plain lace-edged one was also from my wedding.

The other whitework one and the pansy pattern handkerchiefs were purchased for $3.99 and $2.99 each at Women in Need (WiN) Thrift and Vintage.

This reticule seems better for a daytime reticule than the others. It could be fancied up with beads or tassels, but for now, I like it as-is.

The other two items in the big picture of my reticules (above) are for demonstration purposes. Both are pillow covers, one oblong, and one square with beaded edges, folded up like a dinner napkin. These could be used to make reticules.

Although the shape would work to make two reticules, I don’t like the fabric or colours for the oblong one, hence, no parasol. As for the other, one of the bonus projects this summer will be making several designs of reticules from a cushion cover using a pattern I developed myself.

Simple and elegant reticule with lavender embroidered on one side and the lady's initial on the other surrounded by flowers, 1800-10 Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Simple and elegant reticule with lavender embroidered on one side and the lady’s initial on the other surrounded by flowers, 1800-10 Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The opposite side. 1800-1810, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The opposite side. 1800-1810, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

How does one manage with such a tiny purse instead of the hobo? I’m sure you’ve used a tiny dress clutch for a formal situation before! In this case, we don’t need a stash of makeup on hand, for starters.

I intend to minimize the size and number of items I have with me. For Louisville, instead of a wallet, I’ll put my US cash in an envelope, my change in Frida (the name of my little zipper coin purse from a gallery in Mazatlán, Sinaloa, Mexico), and the minimum of cards (driver’s license, health services card, and one credit card, all in RFID* sleeves) in a small card holder. An organza bag will organize my small pill holder and an emergency kit: some safety and bobby pins for repairs; blister strips, in case the new shoes bug me; and wax for my braces. Glasses and case and cleaner cloth (“those lion eyes”), and it’s full!Stuff that goes into the reticuleIf you’re accustomed to having a photo album in your wallet, pare it down to one or two. Even better, trace the important ones onto onion skin paper, fold like a Regency letter, and put it in the envelope with your cash.

Last but not least, a Regency lady must have at least one embroidered handkerchief on hand, in case she winds up featured in one of those Romance novels where it is plays a starring role!

~~~

This was the last item for the full Regency costume as planned!

On Saturday, I was at a “Jane Austen Tea” fundraiser that I heard of only two days before. The costume was ready, but I decided to make a better version of my lace cap at the last minute. Up until then, I was okay, since there was the other cap for this series, and I had until Louisville in October to make one closer to my needs for my Regency costume.

This project was out of the scope of the “Experiment,” as it was machine sewn, but only because of time constraints. I’m super-proud of how I used a 1900’s pattern that was almost unreadable, figured out the instructions (how many “nails” large my head is!), made a mock-up, adjusted it to fit me, and made my version simple, but cute. Pity it was under my hat most of the day! I’ll share more about this “dress cap” next month, once I’ve drafted a tidied pattern.

The photos from the tea will be part of next Monday’s post, with the full costume featured as the end to the “Experiment.” In the meantime…

NEXT POST: The promised “quick checklist” to summarize the Regency costume, with links back to the articles on each topic, and a number of my favourite web resources… and it will be later this week! WOO-HOO! Two posts in a week again!

The fabulous Zorylee Diaz-Lupitou fixed the comments problem, and there’s a “Reply” link at the end of the list of Tags! For Monday’s post, let me know if there’s anything I missed in the series. Do you have any questions or feedback to help ensure the last post of the series is satisfying?

~~~

*RFID sleeves are metal lined paper covers used to hold identification and credit or debit cards that have information that can be read by radio frequency. Though the odds of unauthorized information access are extremely low, the information is pretty much useless to the person who gathers it, and my bank will cover any losses, I still use them.

I never did mind about the little things…

Slippers similar to ballet flats; several layers of underwear to enhance her bosom and disguise that she had legs; a gown appropriate for the time of day; stylish curls and a fancy but tidy up-do; a turban, bonnet, or hat, and perhaps a cap; a cherished piece of jewelry—what more could a Regency lady need?

From Costume de Promenade, 1804-1805, opera gloves

From Costume de Promenade, 1804-1805, opera gloves

Accessories, of course! Heaven forbid if she left her home without her gloves, and she’ll die from the heat at a ball without her fan! On a morning promenade, her parasol will keep her delicate skin from growing coarse and brown in the sun.

This post is about how to obtain these accessories for your Regency costume.

~~~

Dudmaston National Trust (Claire Reeves) -- Embroidered kid gloves, circa 1800-1830

Dudmaston National Trust (Claire Reeves) — Embroidered kid gloves, circa 1800-1830

 

Gloves

Gloves were common apparel outside the home, though period art indicates they were not imperative during the day. It’s pretty simple to find Regency-appropriate gloves for day-wear: short, cotton gloves are acceptable, and stores carry them for hand care at a low price. I continue to watch for nicer ones, in finer cotton, and maybe with trim like seed pearls or lace, but simple will do. Of course, if you can obtain kid gloves, it’s even better!

For evening wear, the sleeves were short and the gloves were long. Super long, much past the elbow. Opera-length.

Circa 1810 kid leather, buff.

Circa 1810 kid leather, buff.

Not a problem, right? Long, synthetic, “satin” evening gloves are dirt cheap, and easy to find. One would think they’d pass for fancy ones from 1812. White sounds like the right colour, right? Unfortunately, they’re not the best choice.

Most Regency evening gloves were made of kid leather. They were often white, but also came in many colours, usually muted, softer tones.  Though vintage kid opera gloves in cream, buff, bone, pale yellow, pale pink, ecru, and similar colours are common on Etsy and ebay, with bids starting at $25 and up, read the fine print: they tend to be size 6 or 6.5 when most women these days wear at least a size 7. (In case you don’t know your glove size, this is a handy link: Your Glove Size.)

Glove lengths in inches.

Glove lengths in inches.

Beware: many vendors will say their gloves are opera length, but they may be as short as 11 inches! A true opera-length glove goes past the elbow: a minimum of 19 to 21 inches on most women.

In addition, vintage kid gloves can be stained, torn, worn, or otherwise damaged, especially if unlined. The three-button wrist opening is Victorian, so don’t be tempted to buy gloves with that style.

“New” in-package vintage opera-length kid gloves start at $150 on ebay, but are in small sizes, too. Brand new kid gloves made for coming-out balls are $200-$300 in Regency colours and modern sizes. If that were not enough to make this accessory difficult, many Regency gloves had embroidery along the back!

From La Belle Assemblee April 1808, opera gloves

From La Belle Assemblee April 1808, Opera gloves

As seen in Regency art, the fit tended to be relaxed, which meant the glove fell so it drooped along the arms, yet still wound up falling higher than the elbow. To accomplish this, a minimum of a 12-button glove (24 inches long) would be required, and the example to the left is much longer.

Glove lengths in “buttons.” Opera gloves are 12 buttons or longer.

An alternative, new lambskin gloves, come at reasonable prices ($25 starting bid on ebay for unlined 21-inch gloves) for black (mourning gloves in Regency), white, brown, or bright, saturated colours. Faux leather is about $10 for the same colour ranges.

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston--Women's Gloves, early 19th century, silk.

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston–Women’s Gloves, early 19th century, silk.

Fabric evening gloves in the Regency were cotton or silk, and they weren’t shiny. If all you can find are those shiny satin ones (they are 19 inches long), some people use sandpaper them to dull them, then dye them if desired. The colour selections in dyes these days are bright, basic tones, so watch to limit dye time so the colour isn’t too saturated; though if I recall correctly, that type of fabric takes dyes poorly.

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 sequined scrollwork, pale pink floss silk detailing.

my glovesI purchased 19 inch (8-button) matte-look synthetic gloves for $7.99 at Dressew in Vancouver, BC, in pale pink and white, on top of the original white satin pair. They also had purple matte, but I felt it was too bright. The nice buff yellow colour was only in the shiny satin finish. All these gloves fit the arm snugly, and just barely cover the elbow, but many Austen costume wearers feel they’re a reasonable enough choice. Like with my stockings, I may try to mimic an embroidered pattern using fabric paint.

In the meantime, I’m still watching ebay and Etsy for ball gloves in size 8 and any colour but black, brown, or loud! If I can get 16-button (31 inch) gloves in a nice soft yellow or cream, it will be like heaven! If they’re kid leather with no wrist buttons, I’ll have to pay more than I did for any of my dresses!

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Fans:

A Regency ballroom can become very warm. Fans were a must-have accessory for one’s comfort. Chinatown, thrift, vintage, and budget stores are possible places to buy your fan.

The one fan I purchased was part of a $2.99 grab bag at Value Village. Though I adore it, it’s rather simple for its purpose: a medium-toned wooden brisé fan with a line drawing of a Chinese scene printed on the leaves, and a satin-looking sleeve.my first fanIt took months to find this fan. The available fans were all cheap-looking or had non-Regency features. Most wood fans had paper leaves that were plain or had very Asian motifs, and pale, plain wood sticks. Fans with silk/satin leaves had sticks and guards made of cheap plastic, no matter how pretty or elaborate the painting on the leaves!

Ten or so years ago when I shopped for a gift for my sister, fans with dark, rich wood or enamelled sticks, with inlays such as mother-of-pearl on the guards, were available at a reasonable price, but I didn’t see one fan like this in months of searching. It doesn’t help that, though the Chinatown in my current city is the second-oldest on the West coast, it’s also the smallest, at two blocks long.

Brisé fan, circa 1790, wood.

Brisé minuet fan with blue silk. Dutch, 1810. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Regency fans came with sticks and guards made from ivory, mother-of-pearl, bone, tortoise shell, metal, ebony, and horn. Ribs and leaves could be of the same material as the sticks, or the fan could have leaves made from gauze, silk, paper, or feathers, and trimmed in gilt, lace, ribbons, or sequins. They could be inlaid or piquéd, painted, pierced in a pattern, or embroidered, and any scene depicted would be English. For full size images, click on the thumbnails.

Battoir fan, 1800-1830. Silk, ivory, and metal. National Trust Collections, UK.

Battoir fan, 1800-1830. Silk, ivory, and metal. National Trust Collections, UK.

Fan, 1800-1815, French. Bone, silk, metal, wood. Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Fan, 1800-1815, French. Bone, silk, metal, wood. Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Folding fan of ivory sticks with a silk leaf embroidered with sequins and painted with a female figure watering plants. English, circa 1810. Fan Museum, Greenwich.

Folding fan of ivory sticks with a silk leaf, embroidered with sequins and painted with a female figure watering plants. English, circa 1810. Fan Museum, Greenwich.

Folding fan. Carved, gilded mother-of-pearl sticks, silk leaf decorated with gold sequins, embroidery, mezzotint. Two girls with a cat. English, circa 1800-1820. Fitzwilliam Museum.

Cartouche fan, from a plate in Ackermann's Repository for Art, 1808.

Cartouche fan, from a plate in Ackermann’s Repository for Art, 1808.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The coolest fans (not meaning efficacy, but in eye-catching quality) are the cartouche fans, which open to 360 degrees.

If you can find a fan with an attractive non-plastic material for the sticks and guard, and a pretty painted or embroidered design that isn’t too Asian, it will do well.

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Parasol:

If you’ve followed this blog from the start, you’ll know one of my catch-phrases is “Parasol in a Ballroom.” This originates from a scene I wrote in the original Alias Thomas Bennet before posting it in serial form at A Happy Assembly.

While in London, Jane Bennet writes to her sister Elizabeth, who is at Hunsford:

“Mary and I attended a private ball at Miss Morris’ home and it was all that was spectacular. The ballroom was the largest I have ever seen, and the candles were so brilliant that the room was almost as bright as day. The ladies were in beautiful dresses and held lovely fans or parasols.”

Cassandra, the final cold reader, tagged the final word with a simple comment in a balloon: “At a ball?”

Indeed! Why would they use parasols indoors at night? In my mind, I could just see Cassie’s head-tilt! It’s been a joke between us ever since.

tumblr_na3t53ZkSc1s5i6ido3_1280Although a parasol is an optional item, mainly for when the headwear doesn’t protect the Regency lady’s face from the sun, it’s seen in many fashion sketches of the time, leading me to believe it was for show, as well.

Walking dress, parasol with knotted tassel fringe, 1810.

This item comes in so many variations, it’s not nearly so difficult to procure something that is a good facsimile. Deep or shallow scallops between the ribs, either rounded or pagoda shaped, deep or shallow curve to the parasol body, but not flat: all are appropriate in almost any colour except black, unless you are in mourning.

Parasol, 1805, Metropolitan  Museum of Art

Parasol, 1805, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Parasol, European, circa 1805. Silk knit with glass and steel beads, wood, bone, and metal.

Parasol, European, circa 1805. Silk knit with glass and steel beads, wood, bone, and metal.

Multiple modes of decoration enhance the parasol cover, such as stripes, prints, tassels, embroidery, and all types of fringe: eyelash, brush, ball, and multiple-knot tassel fringe. Others are plain. Most handles were straight, though a few curved ones existed, and they were sometimes decorated and inlaid not unlike the guards on the fans. A fascinating Regency specialty is the hinged parasol.

Hinged parasol, Costume Parisien, 1810

Hinged parasol, Costume Parisien, 1810

Lace is not common, though, and the ones I’ve seen with lace use it as trim similar to fringe. The Battenburg lace parasols sold as Regency are Victorian, so don’t waste your money!

Of course, a real Regency parasol frame is made from wood or baleen (whalebone), and the cover from silk. Modern Asian parasols of wood frame construction tend to have too many ribs; Regency ones had four to ten, though six to eight were most common on the plates I’ve seen, and many had seven.

Pagoda parasol from Ackermann's Repository print, 1814

Pagoda parasol from Ackermann’s Repository print, 1814

If you’ve followed this blog from the start, you know my obsession with the idea of a pagoda parasol, which has a second upward curve on the canopy of the parasol. They were common during the Regency period, in fact, up until the 1960s. Vintage pagoda parasols on Etsy and ebay are usually mid-20th century, with a metal frame and handle made from bakelite, a non-melting plastic that’s still used for items such as billiard balls today. The fabric is often in a “modern” pattern for the era, so it may not work well for a Regency costume.

A vintage pink nylon-covered non-pagoda umbrella, with a matching fitted sleeve complete with a grommet for the spiked end, was purchased for $9.99 at WiN (Women in Need Vintage and Thrift Store). It has an interesting, curved, patterned aluminum handle. I’m not a pink person, yet I manage to repeatedly find the best items in pink!

Silk parasol, ca. 1811, Victoria and Albert Museum.

Silk parasol, ca. 1811, Victoria and Albert Museum.

Two-inch wide white fringe was one of the items in my amazing budget purchase of multiple types of trim for $5 in Mazatlán, and the idea was to tone back the pink and make the umbrella look more like a Regency parasol.

Garden promenade dresses, 1809, Fashion Plate Collection. Tasseled parasol on the right and parasol with knotted tassel fringe on the left.

Garden promenade dresses, 1809, Fashion Plate Collection. Tasseled parasol on the right and parasol with knotted tassel fringe on the left.

Later, a local Indian fabric store (K T Boutique and Fabrics) was selling certain colours of tassels at half price, and I liked the idea of tassels better, as the parasol would be less bulky when folded. I got eight in a muted violet for $1 each.

But I kept looking for my pagoda parasol with a straight handle, in materials that looked like they could be from the Regency.

Then I read an article on how to make a regular umbrella into a pagoda parasol, using a length of milliner’s wire twisted into a spring and inserted inside the canopy of the umbrella, around the part of the stick that’s above the frame. Some time ago, I’d been curious about the inner workings of a pump cosmetics bottle, and had two short, fat springs on hand as a result, so I didn’t have to use my questionable wire-bending skills.

 

 

First spring inserted above the upper rib of the umbrella frame.

The beginning of the pagoda shape from the first spring, and second spring displayed (just hanging on the end of a rib) to show how it looks before installation.

Inside the open umbrella, I placed my fingers around the umbrella stick between the canopy and the frame, then easily slid the canopy up the spike so I could thread the spring on, much like you’d put a key on a key ring. Click on the thumbnails for larger images of the instructional photos.

Second spring in place.

Second spring in place.

After the first, I decided it would look better with two springs. The second was much harder to install. You could not do this with an umbrella that does not have a long enough spike on top.

A slimmer spring would be better, as these tend to slide down over the ribs when the umbrella is closed, and I have to reach in and wiggle them up to get the umbrella to open. In addition, the extra bulk means the matching sleeve no longer goes on all the way. I’m going to wait until I finish my hand lotion to procure the alternate spring!

I found it difficult to figure out how to tie on the tassels, so I’ve shown the steps I eventually used to save you all some trouble. I did a better job of showing the “How-to” steps by using captions this time! Click on the thumbnails for larger images.

Tighten the top knot on the tassel (left). Tie a second knot about 2-3mm or ⅛ inch above it (right).

Loop string between rib and fabric, inside of where the cover fabric ties to the end of the rib.

Push tassel through loop to tie to rib.

Push tassel through loop to tie to rib.

Pull the tassel to the end of the rib and push the gap between the knots over the ball at end of rib.

Pull the tassel to the end of the rib and push the gap between the knots over the ball at end of rib.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Final pagoda shape of parasol, with eight tassels. Matching sleeve is shown below.

Final pagoda shape of parasol, with eight tassels. Matching sleeve is shown below.

Parasol closed, with sleeve. You can see all the tassels here.

Voila! A pagoda parasol with tassels for my Thrift Shop Regency Costume! I’m so pleased, I barely care what else I wear!

 

 

 

 

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NEXT POST: One of the easiest items to find for your Regency costume is a reticule. A small drawstring bag (at least 5 inches wide, but under 8 inches in each dimension) of almost any shape, in a rich fabric, will suffice. If the bag you found is too simple, we have ways to dress it up! I have six examples, and three came to me in fine condition with no need for upgrades. Three need simple, typical modifications that are super-easy for the non-crafter.

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Pop quiz: Did anyone know the source of the title without looking it up? In what other movie did the same guy play a sort of a “cleaner?” What Regency-era movie was he in?

I’d adore some comments! (The Meryton Press blog page version of this post is the best location for this.) I’m trying to decide how to do a give-away, and feedback would help me to know if anyone besides me is reading this shiz.

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Updates: If you’re interested in learning more about Regency fans, or just seeing some more beautiful designs, check out this blog post: Special Exhibition: The Unrivalled Beauty of the Hand-held Fan in the Romantic Age 

Thanks to Zorylee Diaz-Lupitou, who solved my problem with the comments box. Hopefully, it should be working now!