Ready for fun with JASNA in the City of Gardens!

With a new morning gown, glasses, fichu, and corset, plus almost a dozen items that I’m considering donating to the Soho Bazaar, you could say I’m on the final countdown for preparation for the Jane Austen Society of America Annual General Meeting (JASNA AGM) being held in my city of Victoria, BC, Canada this year. As a member of the organizing committee, I’m pleased to host people from all around the world.

With a theme of Sense and Sensibility in the City of Gardens, we are certain to please the over 700 attendees for this year’s festivities, which take place on September 26-October 4 2022, with the actual AGM on the weekend. The conference features tours, workshops, international speakers, education sessions, meetings, exhibits of really old stuff, shopping, an author signing, and really, something for everyone. Those attending can buy from a selection of my books at Jane Austen Books and seek me out for a signature!

To see enlarged image, click on thumbnail.

To see enlarged image, click on thumbnail.

I’ll be dressing up for the Saturday and Sunday of the AGM. The gown I recently sewed is from a pattern from 1808, and it took me nearly three years to complete it, doing some of the work in Mexico where I winter. That’s because I had to remake the bodice when it wasn’t quite right from the pattern, and I spent a lot of time thinking out the connections in a pattern that came with minimal instructions where I had to size it up for my bust especially, and interpret some of the instructions and their intention. But it goes on so easily, needing no real help from another person except perhaps to tie the back cords in a bow. The fabric choice looks truly Regency, but came from a bed sheet. Per my budget Regency bent, the whole thing cost under $25. The sheer fabric was free! I made a fichu from some of that sheer fabric as well.

My costume will be completed with Mary Bennet glasses, which you’ll see in the next post, which will show me at the AGM. I also bought a fabulous 1810 custom made corset from Redthreaded, shown here. She even fitted it at no extra charge (except shipping) at the last minute, knowing I had this conference to attend. What a great corset-maker!

The Soho Bazaar is sort of a jumble or rummage sale of goodies that are useful to the Regency lady, such as reticules, fichus, bonnets, and gloves. If you donate an item, you get a ticket for a free item up to three tickets. Items are sold for a looney or a tooney (that’s a dollar or two in Canadian money). It takes place before the fancy dinner at the AGM. When I went through my stuff, I had ten possible items, plus when I made my new fichu I miscalculated and made it too big, so when I remade it, there were two. Therefore, I have eleven possible items to give away that perhaps some Regency lady might like, and that’s not counting the possibility of throwing in some shoe roses. I’ll get my three tickets and try to fight off competition for a reticule that complements my purple gown. Or some really big feathers.

Next post will have my thoughts on the excellent speakers that I’ve signed up to see as well as the excellent costuming that I’m sure to find at the AGM. I’ve been told that nearly half the attendees dress up these days, at the very least for the formal dinner and ball.

Anyone who’s registered to attend the JASNA AGM in Victoria this year, please do approach me if you see me. I’ll have a special Suzan Lauder badge on in addition to my conference badge. If you ask me about prizes, I’ll either give you one on the spot or enter you for a draw for later. It should be fun as always, when I’m around!

PS Don’t forget to read my books! (This is a prize hint!)

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!

Book Club Questions for “Alias Thomas Bennet”

Who would expect heavy rains to be so welcome? After the recent extended drought in Los Angeles and Orange County, California, my home-away-from home again this weekend, it makes sense. My Chat Chit friends’ gardens will green up! Of course, I attribute it to the engineer friend who passed away this week: he’s up there above us, and repaired the systems!

The last time I was here, I was part of a “Meet the Author” event with “The Real Orange County Book Club.” I enjoyed meeting another of their members yesterday. Her enthusiasm about my book and writing inspired me to share the Book Club Questions I wrote for their use when my novel, Alias Thomas Bennet, was their monthly read for September 2014.

Alias Thomas Bennet 1263 x 900Alias Thomas Bennet by Suzan Lauder
Book Club Questions

1. Alias Thomas Bennet is inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and follows its general plot line, which in Fan Fiction is referred to as “canon.” Discuss the differences between “canon” and Alias Thomas Bennet. Do you agree with how the changes have been made? What could be done differently?

2. Outside of this book, Fan Fiction encompasses almost every area of storytelling in our culture: from The X Files to Mulan, Little Women to Wolverine, the online community of re-writes is immense. Discuss your familiarity and reactions to the idea of Fan Fiction. What other examples of Fan Fiction are you aware of? (Hint: famous trilogy based on Twilight!)

3. Maria Lucas is a minor character in the original Pride and Prejudice. What do you think of her role in Alias Thomas Bennet? Discuss her motivation and the societal aspects that compelled her.

4. A mature scene told from Darcy’s point of view has been controversial with readers. How would this differ if it was presented by an omniscient narrator as in most mature novels? Do you think it would be different if it was not a fantasy, but a sex scene? What is your reaction to the concept that Darcy ultimately decided to propose because of his desire? Do you think there might be some element of that in Pride and Prejudice?

5. The story begins with a series of flashbacks. Talk about your reaction to the exposure of information in the flashbacks, your understanding of them, and your suspicions as they evolved with the information in each vignette. Discuss how close your conjecture was to the exposé in chapter 8 and 9.

6. Wickham is a particularly evil villain in this adaptation. Some might criticise this as a ploy to victimize the heroine in order to add importance to the role of the hero. What is your view? What do you think about the outcome for him in this book? What do you think about Elizabeth’s reactions?

7. What is your impression of Fanny and Thomas Bennet/Lord Shelton? Do you think they are over-played, and the story should be more about Elizabeth and Darcy, as in Pride and Prejudice? Why?

8. In canon, Fanny Bennet is flighty and distractible. In Alias Thomas Bennet, it’s implied she suffers from PTSD. What do you think of this possibility? Why or why not is it a plausible explanation for her canon personality?

9. Discuss what life would have been like on a sailing ship for a month with small children, eating only hard tack (cracker-like bread) and gruel.

10. Some readers love the gown descriptions, and some hate them. What do you think?

11. Discuss what it might have felt like for Elizabeth and Jane to suddenly become the focus of society, when before, they were unknown. What do you think of this class structure issue? How does it compare with how people are judged today? What are the similarities and differences?

12. What did you like best about this novel? What would you change?

~~~

Please share any special thoughts that came up as you read this list, as I love feedback, and other readers would love to hear about it as well!

Twenty Layers of Unmentionables and no Panties!

I read bodice rippers! In the steamy scenes, the Regency hero is forced to wade through layers upon layers of underthings as he tries to seduce the heroine. The poor guy might find an overdress or an underdress as part of the gown. Once he had dispensed with that, he would first find petticoats and/or drawers/pantalets, then a corset or stays, and finally, a chemise and stockings under that enticing gown.

Okay, it’s not twenty layers, but I’m sure it seemed so to the impassioned, impatient fellow!

Chemises, petticoats, and drawers:

Chemise

Chemise

Chemise with owner s initials, A.F. c. 1820 to1830 at Vintage Textiles

Chemise, 1820 to 1830

We start closest to the body, with the chemise (shift). It’s like a light, straight full-slip, worn under the corset to prevent chafing. It often had short sleeves.

 

 

 

 

Petticoat, Metropolitan Museum of Arts

Petticoat, Metropolitan Museum of Arts

Regency petticoats are not heavy crinolines to pouf up the dress, rather, another slip, either a half- or full-slip. Worn over the stays or corset, the petticoat’s function is to make certain your soft, pretty skirt doesn’t bunch up around your legs. Some are heavily gathered and some are straighter, depending on the fabric and style of the dress they’re intended to shape.

Petticoats, Metropolitan Museum of Arts

Early 19th Century Petticoats, Metropolitan Museum of Arts

Some Regency petticoats had stays built in; you can buy a new bodiced petticoat custom-made to fit you for $90 from vendors at sites such as Etsy. If you are a sewer, Merle Brown of the Victoria BC chapter of JASNA recommends La Mode Bagatelle pattern  bodiced petticoats. She has made at least 6 of them.

1815 petticoat

1815 petticoat

1810 underdress or overdress

1810 underdress or overdress

Other petticoats were cut so they hung open-busted from narrow shoulder straps to the dress “waistline,” to ensure they did not show in the opening of the low-cut gown.

In the mid-Regency, when the gown length became shorter, the petticoat was intentionally longer than the gown, and had beautiful lace decoration on the bottom that was intended to be seen. If anything got dirty, as in Elizabeth Bennet’s case when she walked to Netherfield, it would be the petticoat, which easier to wash than the gown, and cheaper if ruined by a stain.

Pantalets, Metropolitan Museum of Arts

Pantalets, Metropolitan Museum of Arts

Drawers or pantalets are like a pair of legs of pants tied at the waist. They serve more or less the same function as the petticoat, and are in similar fabrics. Like the petticoats, their bottom lace trim was allowed to be seen at the bottom of the skirt.

The two legs weren’t joined at the top section until 30 years later, and briefs/panties/knickers as we know them didn’t exist until the 1930’s. (Even then, early panties were only used during menstruation!) For the pre- and post-Regency woman, this made sense, as the dresses had more layers of hoops and petticoats, and it made it easier to urinate if nothing had to be removed. I know, I know; you don’t want to imagine that!

 

 

The alternative: A full slip

For the purposes of your Regency costume, a floor-length full-slip should perform the function of all three. (You can add whatever underpants and shapewear you’re comfortable with.) If you’ve chosen a corset that hasn’t been lined for comfort, you may want to wear the slip underneath, otherwise, it can fit over top.

Slips used to be ubiquitous: in the 20th century, every lady had so many, she needed a “slip drawer” to hold them all. The slips inside would include regular-length and floor-length full-slips and half-slips (skirt only). Some would be bra-slips, and have side slits or back slits, and there may be mini-slips or ¾-length slips, as well. In all likelihood, each would be duplicated in black, white, and écru, a beige-y colour.

Elizabeth Taylor in a "regular-length" slip, in BUtterfield 8 (1960). She won her first Oscar for the role.

Elizabeth Taylor in a “regular-length” slip, in BUtterfield 8 (1960). She won her first Oscar for the role.

They were the 20th century version of petticoats: they helped skirts to sit flat across the legs, so no indication of a split was evident. But that taboo has gone, and floor length full slips haven’t been sold in regular stores for a good 10 years.

If you can’t find anything in your closet or your mom’s, or in thrift or vintage shops, a very light dress or nightgown, or the lining of an evening gown will work as well. This is where that dress that didn’t have enough fabric for a gown would be useful! It should have enough fullness to the skirt to support the gown and keep it from draping between your legs.

The colour must not show under your dress, so with a sheerer gown, it should be a similar colour, with no pattern. The exception is where you have a sheer overdress and want this as an underdress of a specific colour.

I purchased two cream-coloured nightgowns at small thrift shops for $9.99 and $7.99, and a fuschia slip-dress at a vintage store for $19.99, for use as an underdress.

Underwear and convertibles, tTSRCEThe slip neckline must be at least one inch larger than the gown neckline so it won’t show, so you may have to cut it back. Lace, trim, or any heavy edges on the undergarment that could be lumpy under any fitted area of the gown should be removed as well. Any new edges should be finished.*

You could consider a common Regency petticoat cut, as seen above in the 1810 underdress/overdress: Remove the entire front to the empire waist except for an inch or two at the sides (clear of the neckline) as shoulder straps.

If it’s just petticoats you need (your bodice is lined or of heavier fabric, and your corset alternative does not chafe), a floor-length half-slip or lightweight skirt can be tucked under the bosom instead of at the natural waist. It may be on the short side, but unless you need it to show at the bottom of a too-short gown, it should serve the purpose. If you have some sewing skills, a ¾ slip can be trimmed and modified to fit.

A special alternative for pantalets:

If you normally wear pants all the time, and this dress is quite the stretch for you already, a pair of lightweight cotton pajama pants or loose-legged capris can be worn as if they were pantalets, instead of the slip. Any colour or pattern must not show through.

I found a pair of capri-length cotton pajama pants (above) for $1 (everything was 50% off!) at a charity thrift store, and some very wide lace trim from a fabric store in Mazatlán (as part of my $5 trim purchase spree there) will make them more Regency. I’m leaving the crotch sewn together; I’m not that much of a stickler for exact period correctness!

You can use a camisole or sleeveless/short sleeved blouse with the half-slip or pantalets if you see the need, e.g. if the fabric of your gown’s bodice is lightweight and light-coloured, or if you need something under a corset. It must be cut back to suit the gown’s neckline, similar to the slip instructions above.

Stockings:

stockings and garters kyoto 1810 stockings england french acid green silk stockings early 19th c stockings early 19th c stockings met 1800-1829(Click on thumbnails for larger images.)

These went higher than the knee, and most were opaque, silk, and tied with ribbons or garters. There was no elastic of quality for this type of use for another 50 years or so. Many examples of Regency stockings in the museum photos have beautiful designs on them, and a wide range of colours are shown, similar to the shoes.

I plan to wear tights, and got three pair, as seen above. Since they were on sale for $1 at Joe Fresh, the colours of two pairs are pretty wild, and I may not find I have an outfit to wear them with, but they work for everyday in any case.

The third is white, bought on holidays for $1.99 brand new at the Goodwill in Portland, OR. Had I been successful in connecting with Meryton Press author Linda Beutler for dinner during the unplanned stop, I wouldn’t have had the time!

The tights could be trimmed to a more authentic length, but care would need to be taken to finish the edges well to avoid runs. In addition, I’m worried they’d keep falling down, and I don’t want to spend my entire time at any Jane Austen function trying to hike up my hose. I’m afraid I would look less than ladylike!

If I find time, I may try to transfer a simplified version of one of the designs onto the tights, and use fabric paint. If you like this idea, but don’t want to be crafty, Betsey Johnson has floral printed thigh-highs for $18 a pair!

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NEXT POST: Make your evening gown convertible!

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* For finishing edges or hemming where you have to adjust the product you buy or salvage at home, you can machine sew, hand sew, or use hemming tapes, which come in an iron-on type and a type that’s like double-sided tape. If the edge will be visible, a prettier edge will be achieved by attaching a very narrow lingerie ribbon to just cover the edge, in lieu of the hem.

Update for non-Upcycle (new) Products:

  • Victoria’s Secret has a Heritage Cotton Gown (nightgown) that works as petticoats for $38.
  • Sears sells Vanity Fair half slips and pants liners called “Snip-It” that can be used like the skirt of petticoats or pantalets, at $19.99.
  • Various companies sell Regency-looking silk or cotton stockings for $25 and $15 respectively. Google “historical silk stockings” or “clocked silk stockings.” Please take care when looking at other products at these companies, and don’t purchase Victorian-era products or expensive shoes sold as Regency that don’t resemble true museum examples.

Regency Bad Hair Day? Wrap a Turban!

Mihrimah Sultan, daughter of Suleyman the Magnificent and Roxelana of Ukraine

Mihrimah Sultan, daughter of Suleyman the Magnificent and Roxelana of Ukraine

When Regency fashionista Lord Byron was invited to visit Topkapi Palace in 1810, the Ottoman Turks refused to recognize his peerage and, as a non-diplomat, he was ranked behind everyone else. In hopes of changing their minds, the well-known dandy arrived in the most impressive “scarlet regimentals topped by a profusely feathered cocked hat,” but the Ottoman Turks were not swayed: he would take his place at the end of the line, behind all the staff of the embassy.

Woman in Turkish Clothing--Jean Etienne Liotard

Woman in Turkish Clothing–Jean Etienne Liotard

According to Stratford Canning, the embassy secretary and a good friend, Byron shot them a “look of scornful indignation which so well became his fine imperious features” and stormed away to sulk in his chambers over the ordeal.(1)

Marie Therese Princess von Esterhazy (Almack's Patroness)--Alois Maria Martignon

Marie Therese Princess von Esterhazy (Almack’s Patroness)–Alois Maria Martignon

I visited Topkapi 15 years ago, and Byron should have counted his blessings for the chance see the inner sanctum, which at that time was rarely seen by outsiders. Obviously, he wasn’t the fashion scout who brought back the turbans shown in numerous fashion plates and paintings in the late 18th and 19th century, including the Regency. Marie-Louise-Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun was partial to them; they’re featured in many of her paintings.

(Click on thumbnails for larger images.)

 

Self-Portrait (1800)--Marie-Louise Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun

Self-Portrait (1800)–Marie-Louise Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun

Mlle du Pront (1812) --Marie-Louise Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun

Mlle du Pront (1812) –Marie-Louise Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the twenty-first century, the turban is a great alternative to a fancy Regency hairstyle for those of us with short hair or unable to style our own complex up-do. You’ll need an attractive silk panel long enough to wrap around your head twice and wide enough to cover your hair while doing so (such as an oblong scarf), lots of bobby pins and safety pins, and decorative trim.scarves table runner and pareo potential turban plus hair piece

I had a choice of a number of scarves, table runners, and a pareo, as shown. Some fabrics and prints didn’t look Regency, so I didn’t use them. Dresser scarves; a length of smooth silk or similar fabric 10-20” wide and 4-5 feet long, with neatly finished ends; a small, light silk shawl or wrap; or similar fabric finds will work. It’s nice to have fringed, tasseled, or otherwise decorated ends to dangle, but not necessary.

turban 2 raw materials incl pins, hairband, bobby pinsFor my first turban, I chose two oblong scarves in complimentary fabrics, one with a lace pattern on the end, and the other with fringe. They were purchased at Value Village for $5.99 and $3.99.turban 2 first panel on head

After trying to create the look a couple of times, I realized a hairband was a helpful cheat—the kind that has elastic threads woven through so it’s a bit “sticky” both sides—when set just behind the front curls of my hair to hold the slippery fabric from sliding off my head. Here are the steps I used for this turban (for larger images, click on thumbnails):turban 2 drape of 2 scarves

  • Anchor the lace end of the lighter-coloured scarf to the hair band using bobby pins; cover the crown of the head.
  • Arrange the second scarf so it drapes behind the front curls on one side; tuck bobby pins under it to anchor it to the temple.
  • Drape this scarf across top of head, attach with bobby pins hidden underneath.
  • Use a safety pin or two to join both scarves at that point.turban 2 twisting the scarves
  • Loosely twist scarves and wrap around the head.
  • Use bobby pins hidden under the edge to anchor the first turn and hidden safety pins to anchor the second turn.
  • Near the end of the wrapping, twist the second scarf back so the second fringed end drapes alongside the first and tuck the other end of the lace scarf around the turban so it looks nice.turban 2 final wrap right side
  • Secure with safety pins hidden within the folds.

Attach your choice of decorative trim: I used some curled ribbon, an elephant from a card holder, and some floral stamens, tied together with fine wire, with a safety pin attached behind to pin the arrangement to the turban.turban 2 left rearturban 2 right rear

turban 2 decorationUpon scrutiny, when I sorted my photos for this blog, I realized this turban is a bit small and under-decorated. I suck at the latter, and you’ll see that when we get to hats, too. But I try, and no excellence is acquired without constant practice! **Squints eyes in suspicion that Martha Stewart may be channeling Lady Catherine de Bourgh!**turban 2 frontAn interesting piece of cording or ribbon can be attached to the scarves when you first join the two, then twisted along with them; ideally it will make a full circle with them. A third scarf, or sturdier/heavier fabric, would make a more noticeable head dress, and lighter coloured, bigger trim would help.

Aside: A couple of weeks ago, I was in Mexico and scored a couple meters of ribbon, parasol fringe, wide lace, braid for my spencer, and an ostrich feather, for $5 total, but misplaced the ostrich feather, or I would have used it to dress this up. I’ll find it and use it later!

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Turban 1 materialsThe materials for my other turban can be seen: I scored a Pier One lined silk table runner with cool thread-wrapped ball tassels for $7.99 at Value Village. Someone had tossed it because of a small amount of candle wax, which I removed by placing an absorbent cloth over the wax, then using a hot iron to melt the wax.

I’ve shown extra trim ideas: “jewels” from a pair of broken thongs ($1 at Value Village), an old barrette of mine with a topaz-coloured leaf design, dried and gold painted seeds, and a $5 hat pin from Salvation Army.

Be imaginative when looking for trim. You can attach a safety pin to your decoration with sturdy tape like duct tape.

The heavier fabric was difficult to work with, and I struggled with it for a long time, even though I used a simple wrap method in the video link below. Had I used a lot more pins and the hair band, I think it would have taken less effort. The end product looks nice, though.turban 1 croppedturban 1 right rear croppedturban 1 left rear croppedI used a bobby pin to secure a fan of guinea fowl feathers (never tasted it—apparently it’s quite good!), and a Swarovski crystal stick pin I got as a freebie years ago in Innsbruck when I bought a crystal kitty. I used double-sided tape to add a sand dollar medallion that I think came with a bookmark that fell apart, but I can’t be sure—there were short pieces of ribbon still attached. I’d tossed it in with buttons and beads. I do keep some stuff!

Lady Charlotte Susan Maria Bury (née Campbell) (1812)--Archibald Skirving

Lady Charlotte Susan Maria Bury (née Campbell) (1812)–Archibald Skirving

These three links show alternative ways to wrap a turban, and some nice trim ideas:

Lynn McMasters shows three ways to make a turban. There used to be a video for this but I can no longer find it.

American Duchess has a video of a simple technique for wrapping a turban. I used a similar technique for the table runner turban. You don’t have to do the end twisting steps if you like your turban simple—just pin them to hold.

1810s Eléonore de Montmorency

1810s Eléonore de Montmorency

Jen Thompson makes her turban like a cap, so you make it and then put it on, rather than twisting it on your head. Sewing is involved in this one.

Portret van Catharina Valentina van der Kun (1811-1813)--Gijsbertus Johannus van den Berg

Portret van Catharina Valentina van der Kun (1811-1813)–Gijsbertus Johannus van den Berg

I have a brimless soft velvet hat that I used on a visor for the hat mock-up shown in a previous post with my morning gown; it looks a lot like the first part of Jen’s tutorial. A fringed silk scarf wound around it, and perhaps my wayward ostrich feather, and it would be just the thing!

 

 

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A follow-up to my last post: The rat on the door knob in the photo of scarves on the door is a clamp-on hairpiece I purchased for $9.99 at Value Village, then shampooed and conditioned. It’s got a nice wave and it’s a good match to my hair—and my hairdresser could make it perfect for an event. At my age, “redhead” is either memories of my youth or an hour at her salon!

I had a little time yesterday, so I tied it into a ponytail (which looks like a bun over the hair clamp) and then pinned the waves into curls, letting them curve the way they wanted to, and sprayed everything liberally. Then I put most of my own bobbed hair into a ponytail, and clamped the thing over it. The bun looked odd, so I tied a ribbon around the base of it. This weekend I had my 30th wedding anniversary, so I thought I’d show you the roses along with my ‘do.hair in fall with roses

hair in fall back viewHad I more time, I’d have fussed with the loose ends of hair at my nape to make pin curls. One could tie a twisted pair of scarves around the hairline and in behind the curls—essentially, the turban I made already, but without covering the back of the head.

This hair-do is huge compared to my intention. If I decide to wear it for real, I’ll have to figure out how to do it so the curls wrap around the base rather than look like a pouf on top of a bun. cream-puffsThat’s a look reserved for pâte à choux and crème fouettée. Yeah, that emoticon! Hey—it looks a bit like… like… a turban!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Regency print detail c. 1803 Here's an example of a turban a woman of fashion might have worn.turban and sleeve 3turban and sleeve 2turban and sleeve 1

 

 

 

Here are some more turbans, and some sleeve ideas for that dress!

 

 

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NEXT POST: For the married woman or spinster, another sneaky way to hide your hair is to wear a CAP! When you go outdoors, you plop your hat or bonnet over it. It’s not a dressy enough look for a ball, where the turban is a better choice, but for day-wear, it rocks! PLUS a sneak peak at HATS! Be there or be square.

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1. Richmond, Steven (2014): The Voice of England in the East: Stratford Canning and Diplomacy with the Ottoman Empire. London: 2014 I.B. Tauris and Co. Ltd.

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NEWS FLASH!! Edited May 4 9:27pm PDT to add Livia (Guiggioli) Firth’s Plastic Bottle gown!

The Thrift Shop Regency Costume Experiment started as a project to obtain a more affordable, nicer style of gown without designing it and sewing it myself (although the design part is coming into it in a big way, and my stitch ripper is getting a workout!). I’ve always been a sustainability advocate, so it was natural to re-use beautiful “found” materials. As I delved farther into this project and started to get feedback, it became evident that the repurposing/upcycling aspect was huge to others. I started to pay attention to it, rather than just assume it was an ordinary thing to do.

I’d love to snag Livia’s Antonio Berardi gown after the Met Gala, to remake. (We love the Met historical costumes on this blog!). She’s so tiny, even with the beautiful trailing wrap, I doubt there’s enough fabric there for my back gathers! A sketch of the back detail of her gown is shown with this article and in this photo. She sure looks like she’s having fun!

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May 26, 2016 update on tying the turban:

At the Louisville JASNA AGM, a vendor showed Author Linda Beutler and I an easier way of tying a turban than the method above or in some videos. Women often start from the back, like we tie bath towels on wet hair. The vendor said a Canadian showed her that if you first position the middle of the turban scarf across the front of your hair, just behind the curls, it’s easier.

You cross the ends at the nape of your neck and loop them back over themselves. Pull the ends forward and twist the fabric as desired. Bring the ends up over the first bit, cross them and loop back over themselves again. Tuck or safety pin ends to hold in place, or tie in an attractive knot. It’s nice to leave one or the other end dangling, especially if it has fringe or an attractive design, such as that of a Kashmir scarf. Fold and tuck in the parts you don’t want loose and pin where needed, hiding the pin in the fabric folds. Secure to hair with bobby pins as needed, though I didn’t need near as many with this process.

My turban looked good on the first attempt, whereas the other way, I had many lumpy failures. For the Grand Ball at JASNA, I started with the fabric (the same silk table scarf as above) slightly off-centre (one end longer than the other) so the final tie of the fabric was off to one side of my head. There’s lots of inspiration for how to tie them in Madame Vigée Le Brun’s paintings.

The finer scarves in the first attempt at a turban (above) are nice for those wearing their hair in “The Titus” or hiding the pinned-on portion of a hairpiece.