Shiny things expose my inner crow!

I was second last in the gift draw. I took the brown paper bag, reached my hand in, and felt around. Unable to discern by touch what the small items were, I grasped one at random. When I extracted my hand and opened it, I found BIG SPARKLE.

It turned out to be a key chain, roughly four inches long, and gaudy doesn’t begin to communicate its assault on my eyes. About 8 huge plastic gems hung in a cluster from large gold links, and below them dangled a tiny metal purse that would open were it not linked into the rest. When it moved even a tiny bit, it rattled. Yeah, I thought, it should have made the warning sound before I pulled it out of the bag.

I peered at the magnetic post-it grocery list note pad another participant won and felt the world was truly unfair. Yet when I examined the face of every other person, I realized it would not be in good form to say so. No one seemed to think my gift was the most awful, tasteless joke that was ever played upon someone. The sneer twitching at the corner of my lip was held in check, and instead, I said, “Oh, bling!” in an affected tone.

Thing is, I can’t bear to throw the thing away. I keep trying to think of someone to give it to who would appreciate it, or a way to give it some sort of useful employment. It moves from container to container as a “potential” and most recently, wound up in my kit of beads and baubles for my Regency costume. But once again, it’s proven to itself as a useless, gaudy thing. It has a few friends in that bag, but none as sparkly.

Like the crow, we’re all attracted to sparkly, otherwise there would never have been a gold rush or jewel thieves, and MJ’s glove would be boring. Many like to look at beautiful jewelry but don’t wear it. What I choose tends to be simple but unique. When I checked my own stash for potential items for my Regency costume, I found a few items that looked right to me. Then I did my research, and realized they were close, but some needed help. It was not impossible.my jewelry

Citrine jewelry 1820

Citrine jewelry 1820

Necklace 41.9 cm long, circa 1810.

Necklace 41.9 cm long, circa 1810.

In addition, I saw things in the period examples that I liked but would not normally consider wearing. Just as I’m not one to wear a hat with feathers, they became desirable when thought of as part of a costume, an act. A sale purchase from Joe Fresh was added to the small group of costume items of my own: a “diamond and freshwater pearl” choker in a floral pattern, as seen at the top of the photo above.

Numerous perusals of discount and second-hand store costume jewelry racks did not offer a suitable pair of ear-bobs to go with it. Anything close was on studs, and in the Regency, stud-backed earrings didn’t exist; they were all hung on wire hooks. I knew a simple way to modify them, and even had the right earring parts—years ago, I made earrings, hence, my experience with cam-shaped circles of metal. But I couldn’t wear the ones in my stash, as they were cheap gold imitations. Like many, I have a nickel allergy, and most inexpensive jewelry contains nickel as a hardener. I can wear costume jewelry for short periods of time, but my skin becomes inflamed easily.

Earrings "The Three Graces" 1810

Earrings “The Three Graces” 1810

Last week, I found some lead and nickel free earring parts on a two-for-one sale at a fabric store. Two pairs of earrings I owned were modified using an earring snap hook and a very small split ring. The split ring is like a super-tiny version of a key ring, and similar to work with, but saves using needle-nose pliers and making a cam out of a loop, or accidentally leaving the tiniest gap and then losing the earring, both of which are my constant experience.

I clamped the earring to the split ring, using a plastic back in one case so it was less visible (I’ve left one loose so you can see the construction), and a large back in the other, due to the weight and shape of the earring. I also have a new pair of labradorite and aquamarine earrings on silver hooks, a gift from my husband that I hoped would be appropriate. However, I could not find any examples of a rough-cut stone, so they won’t be part of the Regency costume. No big deal, since they’ll get plenty of showtime on regular days.

There’s also a leaf-themed barrette and a purple-jewelled elephant that you’ve already seen with turban-making, and they’ve become brooches. The elephant came from a card holder, and is symbolic of the final scene in my latest story (though the blog has been taking my writing time!), Letter from Ramsgate, which will be posted at A Happy Assembly. (If you’ve never been there, it’s a Jane Austen fan site, full of Austen-inspired fiction and discussion threads. Registration is required, but membership is free. Many published authors post their stories there first, and free unedited versions often still remain, alongside many unpublished and often better stories.)

A Magnificent Georgian 0.75ct Old Cut Diamond Snake Ring In 18ct Gold Circa 1800

A Magnificent Georgian 0.75ct Old Cut Diamond Snake Ring In 18ct Gold Circa 1800

But what’s with the snake stuff in my collection? This was one of the things that I found amazing and fascinating when I started to pay attention to Regency jewelry. As mentioned before, floral patterns were popular, as were crosses made with elongated stones, astronomical symbolism like moon and star themes, and the serpent. Hands on bracelets were another theme that I found unusual. I’ve selected a few examples for you to compare.

My snakes were $1 for the ring at a thrift store and $12 for the bracelet on sale at a drugstore. I used to have a brooch with the moon and stars that I gave to charity years ago, so maybe you still have one lurking about!

Silver mesh snake bracelet with garnet eyes. French c1800. Tadema Gallery.

Silver mesh snake bracelet with garnet eyes. French c1800. Tadema Gallery.

A ninenteenth-century carved coral bracelet, formed as a coiled serpent with gold-set emerald eyes; the snake biting its tail is a symbol of eternity.

A ninenteenth-century carved coral bracelet, formed as a coiled serpent with gold-set emerald eyes; the snake biting its tail is a symbol of eternity.

A Georgian diamond crescent brooch, diameter 4.2cm,  circa 1800

A Georgian diamond crescent brooch, diameter 4.2cm, circa 1800

Georgian Foil-backed Pink Topaz and Pearl Riviere with Cross Pendant, circa 1820

Georgian Foil-backed Pink Topaz and Pearl Riviere with Cross Pendant, circa 1820

Gold and coral bracelet, length 185mm, early 19th century.

Gold and coral bracelet, length 185mm, early 19th century.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The square-cut stone with its ring of “diamonds” came from a pair of gloves; one was lost, but this one will clamp over my own modest ring. It was not uncommon to wear costume jewelry. Paste and real stones were seen in many shapes, as were pearls of all types. Turquoise and red coral were also popular, the latter seen in one of the snakes and in many bead necklaces of the time. Multiple strands tied together with stones were an interesting design seen on several pieces.

Faceted table-cut emeralds in borders of brilliant-cut diamonds; briolette emerald drops; open-set in gold and silver, 1806

Faceted table-cut emeralds in borders of brilliant-cut diamonds; briolette emerald drops; open-set in gold and silver, 1806

Gold, enamel, seed pearl, and lapis lazuli parure consisting of  comb, three strand necklace, and ear-bobs, circa 1810.

Gold, enamel, seed pearl, and lapis lazuli parure consisting of comb, three strand necklace, and ear-bobs, circa 1810.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wealthy women wore more elaborate jewels, and people of more modest means may only wear a pendant on a chain, like the topaz crosses Jane and Cassandra Austen wore, a gift from their sailor brother Charles. In Mansfield Park, Austen included a plot point where Fanny Price is given a similar amber cross from her brother William, and Mary Crawford charms Fanny with a gift of a chain to wear it with. You can read more about it in the article “A Very Pretty Amber Cross.”

Topaz and citrine cross, circa 1820

Topaz and citrine cross, circa 1820

The costumers for the A&E/BBC Pride and Prejudice series in 1995 had Elizabeth and Jane Bennet wearing crosses like Jane and Cassandra Austen’s, but with red stones that many viewers have imagined as garnet or ruby.

When deciding on your jewelry, make sure you’re not wearing a silk gown with no jewels, or a cotton one along with too many large stones.

Various "lovers eye" pieces of jewelry.

Various “lovers eye” pieces of jewelry.

Romantic themes were played out in the “lover’s eye,” a miniature painting set in a brooch, pendant, or ring. If you’re an artist, this would be a cool thing to reproduce on an old brooch, locket, compact, etc.

Pieces containing strands of hair were often worn as a sign of mourning.

Mourning brooch with paste jewels, circa 1800

Mourning brooch with paste jewels, circa 1800

Georgian-era seed-pearl-surrounded locket with a lock of hair.

Georgian-era seed-pearl-surrounded locket with a lock of hair.

Pendants, chokers, bracelets, rings, arm-bands, ear-bobs, as well as hair jewelry like combs, tiaras, or diadems would be part of the essential accessories of the costume.

Not for the faint of heart crafter, the Mistress of Disguise shows how to make a Regency diadem from used lamp parts! No sewing necessary, but soldering or hot glue is part of the the process. I’ll pass, but I can look at all the pretty, shiny things!

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NEXT POST: Must-have Regency accessories are gloves, and most ladies want a fan for cooling in a candle- and ton-filled ballroom. To round out that post, because one of my signature expressions is “Parasol in a Ballroom,” I’m including the parasol I purchased, and I’ll try to make all three look Regency. These ones are much harder than some of the others!

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While it has nothing to do with this blog series or the Regency, today I’m giving a shout out to an upcycler from Israel, Urban Raven, who makes jewelry from old phone tokens, computer chips, and many other items.

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I’m looking (cross that out) begging for feedback. If anyone has seen any areas of improvement for this blog series, please forward them to me. As I’ve said on multiple occasions in the past, I’m new to this, and may have mistaken any aspect of the Regency costume based on clues that I misinterpreted. In addition, I may not have communicated something as well as you would have liked. Any help is appreciated!

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I’m officially signed up for the JASNA AGM in Louisville, KY in October! There are still a limited number of registrations left. I’ll have some give-aways to hand out to followers of my blog while I’m there, so pay attention for clues!

How-to Times Two: Variations on Dressing up a Bonnet

Hat 2 underside and shape

Underside of hat to show brim shape and braided trim.

A bit of an impulse buy, as a few of my items were, the Pink Hat has a beautiful, perfect Regency shape and some nice trim. I was so pleased with those aspects, I overlooked the fact that it was overpriced for what it is and for the intention of this experiment, at $25 from a little second-hand store.

It’s so very, very PINK! I almost never wear pink!

I was uncertain whether to include it in this blog. I decided it represented a normal part of this type of project, and if my readership knew I could eat my mistakes, they may have less fear of showing up in an item that was slightly incorrect. The idea worked so well for me that I used the Pink Hat as a bit of a mascot!Hat 2 materials used

This post shares two quick and easy ideas for enhancing this hat and making it appear like a Regency bonnet. The materials for both are in the photos above.

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The Pink Hat Design #1: A three-ribbon design is seen often in Regency hats and hairstyles. (Click on the thumbnails for larger images.)

  • Loosen the existing hat band around the front and sides.Hat 2 loosen band and loop ribbon under
  • Fold a ½” to 1″ wide by 2m long ribbon in half and tuck under the band from below, with the loop heading to the back of the hat.
  • Arrange so the ribbon is at an angle with the tails at the middle of the hat band front to back, and the middle of the ribbon is just barely over the back of the crown of the hat.Hat 2 pin ribbon to band at halfway back both sides and loop over back edge of top where it sits best and smoothest
  • Use the band to help you fold each side of the ribbon up and back over the hat, one going straight across the middle, and the other at a slight angle across the front crown of the hat.Hat 2 fold ribbon up and over top of hat, one end over middle and one over front of hat
  • Each tail can go under the far side of the hat. Adjust so the hatband is down and the ribbons are roughly in the middle, though they won’t be neat at this point.Hat 2 remove pin holding in place and add one at the fold of the ribbon
  • Safety pin the ribbon at the “V” made when the ribbon is folding under the hat band (the first fold you made) on each side.
  • Remove the ribbon. Re-install, but this time, do not wrap over band, instead, use the pin to help you place the fold behind the band.
  • Adjust until the bands are equally spaced and smooth over the crown, the hat band is down and in place, and the “V” is hidden.Hat 2 Remove ribbon, then put back in place only under the band, using the pin as a guide as to fold location
  • Pin in place from behind.
  • The ties will come down the middle of the side of the hat to tie under your chin, and the bonnet will sit back of your ringlets.

 

Additional ideas:

  • If desired, you can flip the front of the bonnet up, using steam to shape it, but be careful of burns.

    July 1812

    July 1812

  • I’ve left the existing fabric flowers in back because I like them, and they hide a gap in the brim trim.
  • A strategically placed ostrich feather, curved forward, with some smaller items at its base, would work instead of the fabric flowers.
  • Additional trim is optional, but a ribbon flower, a few clusters of flowers, a medallion, or whatever pleases you can be placed on the joint of the three ribbons. Remember, simple trim means early Regency, and embellishments became more elaborate, especially in the teens. Match to your outfit’s time period.

This bonnet cost about $28, plus any additional trim.

Hat 2 pin in place from behind and trim as desired

Note that a similar hat, in natural straw, without the hatband or trim, is $5 at major craft stores. I’d recommend going that way. A ½” to 1½” wide hatband should be attached at the centre back to facilitate the instructions in this post. Ribbon, braid, beaded band, or similar material can be used.

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The Pink Hat Design #2: Inspired by hats in the Napoleonic Collection, with a sheer panel of fabric stretched over the hat and tied under the chin.Hat 2 design 2 fold scarf in half and slide under band from rear

  • Fold an oblong scarf (about 5 feet long) in a co-ordinating colour in half. A sheer or solid scarf can be used.
  • Slide down the front of the crown of the hat, under hatband, in a flat position.
  • Adjust so front (folded) edge of scarf is under hatband.Hat 2 design 2 roll edge of scarf and tuck under band
  • Roll up corners and tuck along sides under hatband. Adjust to your choice of fit: tight over crown of hat; with soft, regular folds; or puffed like a Capote hat.Hat 2 design 2 cross ends of scarf over back of hat
  • Pull tail ends of scarves so they cross to opposite sides and the back of the crown of the hat is covered.
  • Tug tail ends of scarf forward under hat band until they are midway between the front and back of hat.Hat 2 design 2 tuck scarf ends under band at about halfway point and adjust to hide extra fabric
  • Adjust folds and edges that are tucked under the band.
  • If necessary, pin, double-sided tape, or glue sections of the scarf under the edge.
  • The existing fabric flowers, with the frayed edges trimmed, are good embellishments for this hat. But each person has their own ideas, so add extra trim as suits your fancy!

Hat 2 design 2 completedThis bonnet cost about $32, plus any alternative or additional trim the owner selects.

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Why are these called bonnets and not hats? The only difference I could figure out between a bonnet and a hat was that a bonnet was tied on and a hat was not. These are called “cottage” bonnets.

Luise Kleider der Konigen 1810

1810

Cottage Bonnet ca 1810, Meg Andrews

1810

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I still have three—count ‘em—three more potential Regency hats/bonnets!hat basicsTwo hats in the original “group of seven” didn’t make the “Okay for Regency” grade indicated by an open parasol: their shapes and fabrics are intended to show contrast.

The brown synthetic fleece hat might be okay as a base, if wrapped with fabric almost like a turban; tulle or net might work.

The sad little baseball cap visor has no parasol, as it’s not worth the effort. Not even a tea cosy will revive it.

Close-up of painting, Portrait of a Woman--François Flameng

Close-up of painting, Portrait of a Woman–François Flameng

1814, Metropolitan Museum of Art

1814, Metropolitan Museum of Art

I want to make the larger-brimmed visor (far right, $4 from a Wal-Mart in Mazatlán, Mexico) into a Lady Catherine stove-pipe or leghorn bonnet, which involves a curved tube. After a lot of searches, I found a site that gave me an idea how to start it. There will still be lots of trial and error, so I’m leaving it to after the main blog series, in the “bonus” posts. (Click on the thumbnails to see larger images.)

Fez and rollupI’m not sure if I’ll create something with the roll-up hat from the San Diego zoo from 10 or more years ago (upper left), but I bought a little purple felt fez I could prop on top! It would assemble/disassemble well for travel! Hahaha! This hat is also suitable for a Capote-like covering or a tube, just like the other two topless hats. (Hmmm. That sounds nasty.)

The big reveal: the Lydia Bennet special! (Click on thumbnail for larger image.)

Lydia hat before

The “Lydia Bennet” hat, before.

“Look here, I have bought this bonnet. I do not think it is very pretty; but I thought I might as well buy it as not. I shall pull it to pieces as soon as I get home, and see if I can make it up any better.”

And when her sisters abused it as ugly, she added, with perfect unconcern, “Oh! but there were two or three much uglier in the shop; and when I have bought some prettier-coloured satin to trim it with fresh, I think it will be very tolerable.”

—Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 39

French, 1800-1805, Boston Museum of Fine Arts

French, 1800-1805, Boston Museum of Fine Arts

At first glance, this hat is quite pretty. But looks deceive: it has good bones, but requires some serious deconstruction of braided plastic ribbons, then replacement with satin and sheer ribbon in a similar design. You can see the look in these museum hats; that’s why I was drawn to this one.

1820, Augusta Auctions

1820, Augusta Auctions

American, 1810, Metropolitan Museum of Art

American, 1810, Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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There are more complicated hats and bonnets you can make, but sewing and more complex craft skills are required.

http://themerrydressmaker.blogspot.ca/2011/08/regency-bonnet-tutorial.html
https://teainateacup.wordpress.com/2011/08/01/how-to-make-a-regency-poke-bonnet-in-ten-steps/?blogsub=confirmed#blog_subscription-3

This video demonstrates the second of the more complicated sites above:
http://oregonregency.blogspot.ca/2008/04/how-to-make-regency-poke-bonnet.html

I can’t quite understand tearing apart a straw hat into its spirals, or cutting off the back half and having to cover it, when it’s more work than is necessary. Regency bonnets came in so many shapes; it’s odd to take a shape that would work, only to change it to another, rather than seek out the second shape in the first place. But these sites have other good ideas.

Modern reproduction Poke bonnet

Modern reproduction Poke bonnet

Even more complicated is a stovepipe bonnet from the late Regency, made with a buckram frame: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=98vKEHfjOAA

If I do a stovepipe bonnet, I’ll likely use more traditional techniques as in the Regency: cardboard and/or papier maché. It’s not so much that I’m afraid of buckram (maybe I am) or have no clue where to obtain it, but I know my skills with wire, and I’d wind up with a bumpy cam-shaped thing when I need an oval.

 

 

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More on my pillowcase cap: A web site with a series of cap patterns for sale included a comment that the more uppercrust caps had more than one style of lace on them, as did the lovely examples in an earlier post. I’d like to find some finer pieces of whitework or lace to fill in some holes, rather than use the plain cotton of the pillow case. Shopping never seems to be done!

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NEXT WEEK’S POST: There’s more to undies than corsets! **Cue tawdry bump-n-grind music!**

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Lift and Separate!

Nothing destroys a Regency look faster than droopy boobage—it’s better suited to activities with pot and daisy-weaving involved. The Regency bodice demands softness on top rather than on the bottom, and the opposite will be noticed, because the pretty ribbon you chose for your Regency “waist” will be obscured. Why wear a nice gown and fail to make sure “the girls” sit like queens?

Corsets and Stays:

Short stays and corset from the Met museum, courtesy "Jane Austen's World"

Short stays and corset from the Met museum, courtesy “Jane Austen’s World”

This is one of the most important parts of your costume: to get the proper shape under the bodice of those high-waisted, low-cut gowns. You should wear your corset—or whatever alternative you choose—when trying on potential gowns, so this foundation garment is a procurement priority.

The Regency stays or corsets have a very specific goal: elevate. The idea is to get “the girls” so high you’d pass the pencil test with a whole box of HB’s. That’s where the “waistband” and ribbon of your empire gown will fit. The bottom of the breast is slightly flattened, as the softness is transferred to the top.

pride-prejudice-22-copy1Many younger women will identify with women’s shapes in Austenesque artwork and movies because they already wear a push-up bra, and recognize the shape the Regency short stays (that fit like a longline bra) or Regency corset (fits to the waist or lower for more support) create. Michele Reed, the publisher of Meryton Press, swears a well-fitted Regency corset is quite comfortable, and if you were leaning in the direction of authenticity, that’s encouraging. If you’re a Nervous Nellie about exposing the tops of “the girls,” have a quick look at the BBC/A&E production of Pride and Prejudice from 1995—it’s a lovely look on anyone!

crossover stays kyoto

Wrap around brassiere-type Regency stays from the Kyoto museum.

Regency short stays are fine if your bra size is under C cup. At $65 to $170 custom-made, the more costly of these use additional personal measurements for a better fit, use better fabric, have breast gussets and extra boning, and are lined for comfort. The bra-like wrap stays, as seen in the Kyoto museum, can be custom-made for you—at $275! Ouch! I’d rather invest in my gown.

Lower-priced short stays on vendor sites such as Etsy appear well-made, if a simple design, making them a good bargain if your breasts don’t need much support. We’ll discuss the chemise later in the blog, but it can be worn underneath for comfort. A similar alternative is the bodiced petticoat, new and custom-made for $90. This is like simple stays, chemise, and petticoats in one garment.

Front view, 1811 corset, Met Museum

Front view, 1811 corset, Met Museum

Back view, 1811 corset, Met Museum

Back view, 1811 corset, Met Museum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

According to Regency undergarment seamstresses, a corset is a better choice if you wear a D cup or larger. A bonus is that a longer line will aid those who are concerned about the appearance of their midriff under the gown’s flat-fronted skirt.

Transitional or long stays, or a Regency corset, will set you back $50 to $375; $75-$330 for plus-sized. Reasons for price variations include the length of the corset—though some transitional corsets are dearer than some longer ones, due to complexity of design—and the comments for stays above. Some cheaper corsets and long stays have boning instead of the important wooden busk, and the differences in boning are far more obvious over the longer length.

Corset similar to less expensive styles. 1810-20

Corset similar to less expensive styles. 1810-20

If you’re larger, you should count on spending more, because the cheap ones will collapse. Gussets are necessary on a larger breast, and the complex boning of a dearer corset can help a great deal with a slimmer look.

With intermediate sewing skills, you can make your own. Patterns are common at about $20-$30, and kits of the hard-to-find materials are $70, but this is not a beginner sewing project. Some patterns include the important wooden busk (about $7 on its own) that sits along the centre front to separate “the girls;” others have patterns for other Regency undergarments. Vendors for baleen, plastic, or steel boning are available, though heavy cable ties (zip ties) are a good alternative, and you can get them at a hardware or dollar store. Online resources show how to fit a Regency corset. For those wearing a C-cup and lower, the Kyoto museum brassiere-like stays look easier to make.

The Budget Alternatives:

If you balk at the price for proper Regency support, and were tempted to buy a modern busked/boned corset from a lingerie store instead, DON’T. Most are the wrong shape for Regency: too cinched in the waist and wide in the hips and breasts, not enough lift in the breasts, and too much breast coverage!

Consider wearing a bra instead—but only if it provides the right look and fit. The bra must provide super-high lift without cleavage; your breasts must still be separated. To accommodate the wide, low ball gown necklines, the shoulder straps should be wide-spaced across the chest, near the shoulders, and the cups must be low-cut to show a bit of roundness on top. A near-horizontal cup top is necessary if you plan to match a squared off neckline of the P&P era.

ti-amo-light-cream-push-up-bra-by-gorsenia small

lavinia smalllane bryant 3 smallLeonisa-011789-4 small

 

 

 

The balconette (balconet, balcony) bra and many push-up styles of bra have the right shape, plus you’ll have a pretty bra to wear with other things, too! It’s sometimes called a t-shirt bra or demi-bra, but beware, sometimes these don’t have the wide-set straps or lower-cut horizontal tops—they’re just a seamless push-up bra.

I bought a pair of well-fitting balconette bras at an average lingerie store on sale for $55 for both. I wear 32-34F, so this is a good buy compared to a bra in a high-quality brand. The ones in the small photos vary from $17 to $48, the large photo is $64.

How to make sure your bra shape is right for Regency:

If you’ve never been fitted for a bra, get fitted first!* It’s usually free at lingerie and better department stores.

Once you know your size, you could consider trying on a bra one cup or band size smaller to see if you get more lift. You don’t want cleavage or four breasts (where the bra top edge cuts into the breast), just lots of lift. If you don’t like it, go back to your regular size—it didn’t work for me. Once you’ve made your purchase, tighten the straps as much as you can without discomfort.

If you wear a very large cup and/or have bottom-weighted,** menopausal breasts like me, you may still have a bit of softness on the bottom. Midriff shapewear, such as a spandex open bust camisole or waist cincher, can be worn slightly over the base of the breast to flatten, it as well as your midriff. I found a $5.50 straight-sided boned waist shaper from the WiN (Women in Need) charity vintage and thrift store.

Additional choices:

longline balconet from lane bryant smallSome longline bras or bustiers can work, too, if the garment has a lot of lift and breast separation, ideally with boning. You have to be ready to cut off the top half of the cup and finish the cut edge, so the ones in the backs of your drawers are preferable to buying new.***

Make sure the waist is natural and not too cinched, the cup lifts very high and covers just over half your breast, and the straps are set wide. You can remove the straps and safety pin them wider if necessary.

My balconette bra, bustier, and waist cincher.

My balconette bra, bustier, and waist cincher.

I’ve taken a 90’s bustier from before I lost weight, turned the too-large soft cups inside (almost in half) then moved the removable straps. This gave extra lift and opened up the top of the bra portion. I’ll need a light-coloured slip or camisole to cover to hide the black under light dresses, and that’s covered in a later post.

If, after all this, you like your old bra and don’t like shapewear, I understand. Tighten the straps on your old bra; it will help. To manage any bottom softness, when you try on or modify dresses, ensure that the empire “waistline” of your gown is at the lowest point of your breast, rather than under it. You don’t want the ribbon to be hidden or folded.

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Next post: Polyester knits, fitted gores, and spaghetti straps: the problems I had finding a gown, and how to work around them.

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* Many bra sizing charts suggest exhaling deeply and adding 4” to the under bust measurement to get band size. I find that results in too loose a band, so that’s why I recommend this site over others. Bare Necessities Sizing Help.

** From the Blog “Bras I Hate and Love,” Clarifying Breast Shape: Full-on-top vs. Full-on-bottom.

*** 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. Hemming tapes come in an iron-on type and a type that’s like double-sided tape, and should not be used where the seam has to carry too much weight. Either turn back the edges slightly wider than the iron-on tape, or use pre-folded bias tape or a 3/4″ or wider ribbon ironed into a fold. Place the fold over the edge and attach to both sides. This latter method is best for thicker fabric.

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Update: A Most Peculiar Mademoiselle‘s blog has a photo series of “Mademoiselle” in a Regency short dress with and without her corset. She’s what I’d call a normal-sized gal, and it’s quite convincing!

December 22, 2014: New story excerpt at A Happy Assembly: “Letter from Ramsgate!”

Interrobang! A livid Darcy scowls, then storms out of the Parsonage at Hunsford, just after he and Elizabeth have declared their mutual love?! Attractive widow Isabel Younge plans to mould Georgiana Darcy into an interesting young lady like herself, so she can tag along to all the balls and catch a rich man herself?!

It’s all in Chapter One of “Letter From Ramsgate,” now posted in the Coming Attractions forum at A Happy Assembly. The 22-chapter story is completely written, with the final chapters in editing with fantastic beta readers.

The site contains mature material, and though “Letter from Ramsgate” is teen-rated, registration is required. But not to worry; personal information is personal. I’m “redhead!” Drop a comment!

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#LfR #Parasolinaballroom #MondayBlogs

October 2, 2014: Zoooooomm to California for an Austen-themed road trip

In September 2011, my husband and I drove the Pacific Coast Highway (US 101) from Olympia, WA to San Luis Obispo, CA, including Hwy#1 north of San Francisco. If you ever get the chance, take this drive. One of the alternating photos in my banner above is Pacific City, OR, where we watched surfers and “sand-boarders”—they ski the dunes.

We wanted to continue the drive farther south one day, and when fellow AHA Chat Chit defiantfalcon—who is also my plot beta for my current work-in-progress, Letter from Ramsgate—said she planned to go to San Diego on vacation in September 2014, we started coordinating plans. The next person we contacted was SoCal resident josurinu, because the collaboration on her excellent AHA stories Someone Like You and sequel Someone Like Me cemented the friendship between the three of us. We call each other Team SLY.

This is the first in a series of posts that will follow my latest Austen-themed road trip, which ends with the Team SLY meet-up! It was a wonderful trip, with sunshine and friends all the way. Oh, and that thing Americans do best: PIE.

We started early for each of two long days on the I-5 to San Francisco, where we caught up with BP, my husband’s friend since they were boys in Winnipeg’s North End, and his wife, Susie Hara, whom I met the earlier trip. Both had careers as writers, though it was no longer their primary employment.

During the first trip, Susie asked what I did for a living, and as I mentioned my job, my husband interjected: “She also writes.” I was so embarrassed! At that time I told no one. It was therapy for my PTSD and an outlet to express my enjoyment of Austen—no more than a hobby.

I said, “I’m an amateur writer.”

Susie corrected me: “You’re a writer. There is no such thing as amateur. Be proud of your craft.” There was such firm finality in the way she said it, like gospel. In addition, we were headed uphill, and she was above me! But that simple change in attitude  enhanced my pride in my work.

Before I left, she gave me a copy of an anthology of erotic short stories, X: The Erotic Treasury (her main area of writing to date), and signed her story within it: “For Suzan—a new friend and writer.” The book binding is gorgeous and classic. Yet, she was working on a novel that deviated from that genre—a mystery.

So it was wonderful to see her again last month. We met her and BP at a restaurant they recommended in their ‘hood, the Mission District, which was fairly empty when we arrived. I gave Susie a signed copy of my book, and she blushed at the note that referred to her comment about not being amateur and how it changed my attitude.

But I was in for a surprise! Her mystery novel, Finder of Lost Objects, had been published in March! I was so happy for her! It has an average of 4.9 stars on Amazon and the premise is certainly unique.

The four of us chattered away intently on many topics, and we were almost done our meal when I noticed the restaurant was packed, and everyone else was Latino. I enjoyed my ensalada de nopales, pleased to find it offered outside of Mexico, but I had no idea this was a favored haunt for the locals. I liked that, a lot!

BP and Susie then took us for a walk, and it was with mixed feelings I saw many changes in the Mission. It’s cleaned up in a certain way, but the new stores have stolen some of its quaint charm. At this rate, it won’t be long before Forever 21 and its ilk move in, and papusas will disappear because the rents are no longer affordable.

jellyfish smallerWe said good-bye to SF and had a great day in Monterey, where we chilled at the kelp pool and were hypnotized by the jellyfish dance at the world-class aquarium. It’s the 6th largest in the world, and is rated the top aquarium in the world by TripAdvisor, number 4 in the world by The Weather Network, number 6 by Conservation Institute… pretty much every top ten list there is! The weekly farmer’s market is on the same street as our hotel, and we had enjoyed it for dinner in 2011 and again that evening.

Wake up early… we’re on to Santa Barbara, Oxnard, and LA in the next post!

Author confession: I was diverted from my purpose… which means a new redhead story on AHA!

With my current Austen-Inspired Regency Romance less than a chapter from being completed, why do I find myself scribbling down a short story that keeps sneaking additional ideas into itself, not to mention an original character? Authors will tell you this happens a lot. It seems like you’re in control, but you’re really not. The characters win, every time.

It’s good news for the readers, though! I’ve posted my short story, Storm About His Love, on AHA. Check it out!

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