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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Lace Cap, Measured in Nails

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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!

Faking Regency Part One: A modern blazer morphs into a spencer.

This sounds pretty easy, right? Get an old blazer, cut and hem to under-bust length, and Bob’s Your Uncle. Well, not so easy. Unless, of course, you’re super-lucky and find exactly the right blazer.

Early 19th century spencer, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Early 19th century spencer, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Embroidered muslin bodice or spencer, 1800-1810

Embroidered muslin bodice or spencer, 1800-1810

Rose pink striped cotton and silk spencer, early 19th C.

Rose pink striped cotton and silk spencer, early 19th C.

Early 19th Century, Spencer, early 19th century, French, silk, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Early 19th Century, Spencer, early 19th century, French, silk, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Cream silk satin Spencer, c1818. Decorated in imitation of military uniforms. Worthing Museum.

Cream silk satin Spencer, c1818. Decorated in imitation of military uniforms. Worthing Museum.

If you hadn’t already figured it out, the Regency spencer is a little, long-sleeved jacket that’s just as long as the bodice of the empire waist gown. One bonus for shopping for a blazer to make into a Regency spencer is that almost any neckline will suit. Click on the thumbnails to see details, including neckline examples.

The difficulties include a requirement for long sleeves (as per usual in the Regency, longer than standard is better), a fitted bodice, fabrics that don’t look modern, colours that are more interesting than black, and a lack of embellishments such as studs, fake pockets on the chest, or jean jacket seams.

The textures and colours of many blazers in my thrift shop visits didn’t work. Black polyester rules, and next to that, corduroy and knits. Every time I saw one I’d consider, it was 3/4 sleeve, the wrong size, or had some detail that screamed the 90’s.

I looked at blouses, too, since some spencers are more blouse-like and some modern blouses are more blazer-like.

 

 

spencerspencer back

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This unlined, fitted, pomona-green jacket will be my spencer. Pomona? I would have called this leaf-green, as it’s fairly bright. (Some of my shots were taken in the evening, and appear darker.) Then I read an article about Ackermann saying Pomona green was the same as apple green and I thought, this is a little darker than apple green, but I’ll check on Google images. Enough of the examples were the same as my blazer for me to confidently say it’s one of the more popular colours of the Regency!

The 3/4 sleeve, linen, shawl-collared blazer was $16.50 at Women in Need Thrift and Vintage. It has unique matching self-covered buttons.

Short sleeved spencer alongside unusual short coat.

Short sleeved spencer alongside unusual short coat.

Sleeve trim idea.

Sleeve trim idea.

The down side of my blazer is the 3/4-length sleeves. At the time I bought it, I didn’t realize that detail wasn’t popular during first 20 years of the 1800s. I looked in vain for examples of Regency spencers with 3/4 sleeves, and though there are a few short-sleeved spencers, I found nothing 3/4 sleeved.

Lucky for me, the flared cuff was long enough to drop to make a long sleeve. I kept looking for a long-sleeved blazer for a spencer. As mentioned before, I saw a blazer with lovely soutache designs, but balked because I worried about how to cut down the blazer at a good point for the soutache. When I decided I could rework the soutache if need be, I returned, but it had been sold. But today, I found a cute, gold silk blazer with a pretty collar, long sleeves, and mother of pearl buttons! The only sad part is a centre-back seam. More on that later.

(An aside: I’ve seen the perfect dress that just needs an empire waist height ribbon to fake Regency on two shopping trips since June, but both times, they were too small for back gathers for me, but would work with a smaller person!)

In most cases, your blazer should be cut to 2-1/2″ longer than the bottom of your bust line, turned under 1/2″, and hemmed 1″. This will stiffen the edge and ensure it fits over your gown bodice, but it won’t be too long. You can see I’ve marked my blazer to spencer length while wearing it. This frees up two buttons from the front for embellishment elsewhere.

If your blazer doesn’t close tightly at the bottom after it’s trimmed to length, there are several possibilities. If there are buttons in the upper portion (part you’re wearing), it’s better to fit the spencer than to ease in fullness. Add darts or gathers under the bust, or pleats or gathers in the mid-back; they’re era-appropriate. Don’t make it too tight, as it must fit over the gathers of your gown.

My blazer was already fitted with six darts in front and two very long back darts (in fact, the back darts were over-sewn longer and deeper than the originals). It was snug across the bustline, so I removed the back darts, washed it so the stitch holes relaxed closed again, and pressed out the remaining dart creases while it was still damp. A few gathers added by hand in the mid-back at the waistline help to fit my slimmer rib-cage under the bust.

If the bottom button is too far from the bottom of the spencer, you can put back a cut-off button and make a buttonhole at the band level, or add hooks and eyes. To fake Regency, buttons should have a Regency look: metal, shell, pearl, mother-of-pearl, fabric-covered, thread-covered (such as Dorset), or corded knot (such as Celtic or Chinese knot or frogs with knots) are best. Since metal buttons were expensive, use them only if your spencer has a rich look with elaborate trim. With corded buttons, your other trim would be best as corded, in fact, a military look to the spencer was popular! Self covered buttons were ubiquitous on mens’ wear, but less so for ladies’.

Spencer jacket, 1790-1815. Note no closure in front.

Spencer jacket, 1790-1815. Note no closure in front.

If there are no buttons, there’s nothing wrong with having a spencer that doesn’t fasten closed, unless you need it for warmth. An example of an open-front spencer can be seen on the left, and others existed in the Regency.

My blazer was unlined, so I chose to use the inside bottom facing from the original blazer on the outside, as a waist band. Bias tape was used to finish it on the inside where it’s not seen. Another option is to add a contrasting band (as on the pink striped blazer above). If you have good sewing skills and choose to add a waist band, it’s an opportunity to put contrasting piping all around it per a tutorial below.

Spencer jacket 1815 (back). This trim is an example of how we plan to fake a Regency diamond back! The real shoulder seam will never be noticed!

Spencer jacket 1815 (back). This trim is an example of how we plan to fake a Regency diamond back! The real shoulder seam will never be noticed!

Since the facing didn’t continue across the buttonhole panel in front of the original blazer, it didn’t go all the way around, so was short for the waist band. To make up for this, I used extra fabric from the cut away parts in front. If you use multiple pieces for the waist band, make sure your seams are at the blazer’s side seams, or at both bottoms of the diamond-back, so they’re less noticeable.

In addition, to fake Regency, some front cut-off material from my blazer made a little skirt-tail in the centre back, similar to the museum examples. See thumbnails below; click to enlarge. Extra self-covered buttons trim the ends of the waist band tabs in back.

Back detail of a spencer, 1813, American or European, Wool and silk, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Back detail of a spencer, 1813, American or European, Wool and silk, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

To fake Regency, you need do none of the above. Focus on the one detail that’s not too hard to manage: the diamond back.

The look was on almost all women’s wear of the period, achieved by a shoulder seam that fell behind, rather than on top of the shoulder, and a pair of side-back seams that curved from the outside edge of the back gathers on gowns to partway up the back of the sleeve. The back of the sleeve fit farther into the back of the bodice than a modern sleeve, too. Click on the thumbnails for examples of the backs of spencers.

Silk spencer, 1810. Augusta Auctions.

Silk spencer, 1810. Augusta Auctions.

A faux-diamond-back can easily be achieved by numerous methods. You can fake the seams with a line of fabric paint or even fine-line permanent marker in a slightly darker colour, a line of top-stitching using hand back-stitching in embroidery thread, or machine top-stitching a double line.

Spencer, early 19th century, American or European, silk. Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Spencer, early 19th century, American or European, silk. Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Better yet,  Regency clothing often had trim over these seams to show off the shape, making them even easier to fake: cording, piping, soutache, braid, narrow ribbon, narrow bias tape, and other similar materials can be attached along the line where the seams would sit.

I got a great deal on a few dozen packages of bias binding tape in multiple colours at Value Village for $3.99, and I’m using a slightly darker green for all my trim, as I have four packages in two sizes. For most of the trim, I’ve just folded 3/4″ bias tape in on itself to the width of the pieces folded behind. This means it has some thickness at 1/4″ wide.

If you’re an experienced sewer, you can make piping or a piped band from purchased bias tape. Links to tutorials are at the end of this post.

When shopping for the blazer, the faux-diamond-back will look better if you buy one that doesn’t have a centre back seam. In fact, many that don’t have the centre back seam have a side panel with a seam similar to the lower curve of some Regency clothing backs, and I’d suggest using that curve, plus faking the shoulder seam that sits two or more inches behind the modern one.

pomona spencer pinning on fake regency diamond backIt’s best to make a pattern for your trim so it’s mirror image both sides. Light cardboard–mine was from a breakfast cereal box–works well. Set it so one side runs along the centre back of your shortened and hemmed blazer, and play with lines and curves in pencil until you see one you like. Mark it with marker and cut out to make a pattern to guide in placement of the trim on each side.

I pinned my trim in place, then put it on a model for a photo. On the model, the fake Regency shoulder seams looked better if dropped down more at the sleeve end, so check before you sew. Attach the trim after you make any adjustments to sleeves, described next.

1810

1810

1815-1820

1815-1820

Modern reproduction.

Modern reproduction.

1815 LACMA

1815 LACMA

1820-25, Metropolitan Museum of Art

1820-25, Metropolitan Museum of Art

1820, Metropolitan Museum of Art

1820, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Like gowns, spencers often had puffed sleeves or similar-looking embellishments over a straight sleeve, however, many had a plain sleeve (see some examples above), so faking Regency here is optional.

If you prefer a little over-sleeve, examples to the right range from clusters of petal-like fabric to fancy slashed and looped designs. These sleeve examples are on spencers, and more ideas from gowns can be found in the post, “Were Regency gowns worn on the Titanic?

You won’t have enough fabric to make the full sleeve variations, but a simple, small capped, tulip, or shirred cap sleeve, or a rolled tube at the top of the sleeve, can come from the fabric cut from the back of the blazer, or you can utilize sleeves made with coordinating fabric.

There’s a tutorial below for tulip sleeves. If desired, use the same trim you used to fake Regency with your diamond back to attach the new sleeve over the old one at the seam line, or turn under 1/4″ to 1/2″ and top-stitch close to the edge. If it’s possible to hide the ends, make the new sleeve fit an inch or two farther towards the middle of the back of your spencer, so you also have a fake Regency sleeve fit!

pomona spencer gathered cap sleeve mock upFor my fake short over-sleeve, I used the leftover fabric from the back panel. First, I experimented with some cheap fabric from a pair of torn pants to make the best of the small amount of fabric. A piped band (tutorials below) made from 2″ wide bias tape held the gathers, topped with one of the self-covered buttons from the old sleeve cuffs.

1818, Metropolitan Museum of Art

1818, Metropolitan Museum of Art

The simplest fake Regency sleeve topper, to the right, was another option I considered. I could have used the 3/4″ bias tape (sewn closed) and the three buttons from the 3/4 sleeves on each side. This can also be accomplished with ribbon, if the same ribbon is used for the fake Regency diamond back.

Self-covered button kits can be purchased at fabric stores for about $3 a package of 3-6, depending on size (full price, but I got one from Dressew for $0.99!), and they’re easy to make.

Alternatively, matching ribbon or fabric can be stretched over stiff plastic circles with a little glue, then the back fabric stitched in place. It should be slightly more than double the diameter so it closes fully behind the button and there’s something to sew it on with. Important note: the latter is fine for trim but not for actual working buttons.

The finished pomona green spencer, with cap sleeves over long sleeves, tied back with a piped band and button from the original blazer.

Front view of Suzan Lauder’s pomona green spencer, with cap sleeves over long sleeves, tied back with a piped band and button from the original blazer. Long sleeves are trimmed at the bottom with piped band also. An extra button was added to empire waist band, made from original blazer facing.

Back view of Suzan Lauder's pomona green spencer, with Fake Regency diamond back and pleated skirt-like ruffle.

Back view of Suzan Lauder’s pomona green spencer, with Fake Regency diamond back and pleated skirt-like ruffle. Buttons from the original 3/4 sleeve cuffs are used on the tabs at the back of the empire waist band.

This project wasn’t easy for me, though it may be for a more experienced sewer. I hadn’t sewn much for 30 years, except for the odd repair, straight-line window toppers and throw cushions, or slapping together a Hallowe’en costume that was meant to last a few hours. I became good friends with my stitch ripper over the last two weeks and learned a few things along the way.

No-sew iron-on tape would work for simpler modifications to make a spencer, but some of my problems came from construction and developing my own patterns, so they’d occur had I used no-sew tape, too. In addition, it sucks for curves, and you couldn’t have made piped band. Other trims (like in the thumbnails) are fine, and there’s nothing wrong with straight lines for your fake Regency diamond back.

Most of these ideas for faking Regency are applicable to gowns, pelisses, redingcotes, and any other bodiced clothing of the Regency period. Have fun shopping for trim on sale or in grab bags at thrift stores!

A blue quilted spencer, front. Late 18th early to 19th century, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

A blue quilted spencer, front. Late 18th early to 19th century, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Spencer, late 18th to early 19th century, French, silk. Note the unusual detail below the centre back.

Spencer, late 18th to early 19th century, French, silk. Note the unusual detail below the centre back.

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Web sites with ideas and tutorials:

Inspiration: So Many Backs from Atelier Nostalgia Though these are gowns, you can see the line of the Regency diamond back you want to emulate, and variations on that design.

Sew Many Seams’ Tulip Sleeve Tutorial  Shows two types of tulip sleeves to make, using a plain sleeve pattern as a guide.

Slashed puffed sleeve from Firefly Path: The inside of the slash can be made from the spare fabric cut from the spencer, and the oversleeve from a complimentary fabric using a regular puffed sleeve pattern. Maybe use that extra cushion cover or dinner napkin! The slashes need not be filled in, either. You can loop trim material from the inside shoulder to outside through each slash. Similarly, a loop can be made from the cuff inside to outside. Very fake Regency!

Sew4Home’s excellent tutorial on how to make your own piping and bias tape.

For the advanced sewer, two choices for instructions for a piped band: Kleidung 1800‘s site is German, but brief descriptions of each step are in English under the photos. Tea in a Teacup has a different way to make the band, and it looks a bit different in the end.

For the ambitious spencer designer, two posts about making soutache designs: The Fashionable Past shows technique while trimming a Victorian coat, and a trick to make the loops easy by Threads.

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Next few posts: I’ve started on projects for Mr. Suze’s costume, and I have a “Grown-up Lady’s Lace Cap” to make as part of the give-away for my guest post on Roof Beam Reader’s blog as part of his Austen in August (#AusteninAugustRBR) reading challenge, and I’ll draft up the cap pattern to share.

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I WON A PRIZE!!! As part of the same reading challenge above, I won JAFF Author Lisa Pliscou‘s Young Jane Austen: Becoming a Writer, which I’ve been coveting since it came out, for its cool illustrations. I’ve entered every contest I’ve seen about this book! HOORAY FOR ME!

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There are still spaces remaining for the Jane Austen Society of North America Annual General Meeting on October 9-11, 2015, my goal destination for the Thrift Shop Regency Costume Experiment series. The conference theme is “Living in Jane Austen’s World,” and the workshops run the gamut (?? who says stuff like that?) from Regency medicine and home remedies, to evaluation of the wealth of Austen’s characters; the influence of India on Regency England; plants and gardens of the Regency (featuring Meryton Press’s Linda Beutler, an international clematis expert!); food, fashion, and social events of the period; and many others! Pre-conference activities start on October 7. Registration deadline is September 1, 2015, so don’t delay!

 

 

Fun with Reticules: The first half-dozen designs!

One cushion cover down, two to go! My favourite, the silk with strands of beads about every half inch along the edge, was the one to start with. Recall that it was $1.99 from Women in Need (WiN). A back zipper limited the use with my standard designs, which yield for four reticules from one cushion, two of each of two designs. Instead, I still used the first design, but made two from the wider section, after which I stared at the leftover panel for a while.

Two small square reticules could be made, but the beads were on two sides of each half. I decided on a three-sided reticule with the row of beads at the top, below a ruffle.

Beaded cushion cover reticules: Design #1, Design #2, and "Bonus Reticule," similar to Design #5 ("The American Girl's Book" Three-Sided Reticule).

Beaded cushion cover reticules: Design #1, Design #2, and “Bonus Reticule,” similar to Design #5 (“The American Girl’s Book” Three-Sided Reticule).

I started by cutting a square piece of newspaper the size of my cushion cover, then folding it on the diagonal and marking the centre. The cushion cover had a zipper about 2/3 of the way across the back, so I cut the pattern to the size of the largest back panel. I realized I’d only get two reticules made from this piece.

Appended to this post are two pdfs: one for the reticules and one for trim. The first has the main patterns for 6 different reticules, the instructions on how to sew the reticules, including special no-sew iron-on tape instructions, and a bonus design for leftover panels. A second pdf describes how to run and trim drawstrings, decorating the reticule body, several ways to line a reticule, and the installation of tassels and other hanging baubles.

with pattern pieces for #1 and #2This cushion cover made Reticule #1 and Reticule #2 (with exposed lining). I marked the design on my newspaper, cut each pattern out, pinned it on the fabric, cut the fabric, and assembled each according to the instructions.

I added beads to the loops of the drawstrings of Reticule #1 because it was simpler in appearance than the other. You could add a lot more decoration to either if desired.beaded cushion cover reticule #1 thread beads and tie with reef knot

Suzan Lauder's Cushion Cover Reticules, Design #1

Suzan Lauder’s Cushion Cover Reticules, Design #1

Suzan Lauder's Cushion Cover Reticules, Design #2, "The Envelope Reticule."

Suzan Lauder’s Cushion Cover Reticules, Design #2, “The Envelope Reticule.”

#2 lining goes in wrong side out with outer part right side out

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#3 cuts

 

 

 

 

 

 

I removed the zipper from the leftover panel and cut the fabric into three strips, then opened them up to make panels for the final reticule. The beads that were on the end wound up at the top of the reticule, since the section below them became the body and the section above, the drawstring casing and a ruffle. This is shown as a “Bonus Reticule on the pdf, which has patterns and instructions for Reticules #1 through #6.

In retrospect, I wish I’d left the row of beads halfway down instead of at the top–in other words, shortened the lower portion rather than trimming the upper portion prior to sewing. I could have used the beads cut off from the sides and tucked them under the edge of the drawstring casing for double the beads.

I also had some difficulty with this one since I made it on the fly, where I’d carefully written the instructions for the others first, made them, then updated the instructions for the learning experience. I found it awkward to sew the beads at the base, and next time, I’ll just re-thread them and hand-sew them on at the end.

Note that similar reticules on Etsy start at $15, and cheap-looking bat-wing ones sell in the $25 range!

Bonus Reticule, similar to Reticule #5.

Bonus Reticule, similar to Reticule #5.

#3 three panels spread out

 

PDFs for this post:
Cushion Cover Reticule Patterns 1 to 6 by Suzan Lauder
Drawstrings, Trim, Linings, and Tassels for Reticules by Suzan Lauder

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Additional reticule designs for the other two cushions will be shown in a few weeks, and two more pdf’s will be added with that post. The main hangup is I don’t like the designs I have for the next two cushions. A paper fill inside the cording of one swelled when I washed it, so the look of the threads has deteriorated where the brown shows through. I can’t use it where I’d planned: Reticule #6. In addition, the woven pattern on its fabric wouldn’t be shown off to its best in a petal reticule. The other has no trim and is a bit bland, but may turn into a pineapple yet! It would be great if I could find one more.

But do I need to make more reticules to test my patterns and show off my designs? I’m running out of time before the Louisville JASNA AGM. Instead of shopping for more for myself, as I need to sew my last items, and Mr. Suze needs a costume! I’ll post about the Gentleman’s Thrift Shop Regency Costume as I progress.

I’ll divulge that I’m happy with four purchases for my husband’s costume so far:

  • New black leather dressage riding boots for $65 via a local “used items for sale by owner” web site. The fellow bought them for over $200 for a very tall daughter, who didn’t like them. DH will spend $40 to have them cut down 2″, rather than risk blisters behind his knees. From what I can see on the Internet, that’s a huge bargain! DH has hard-to-fit feet, and boots will be easier to fit than dance slippers.
  • Buff-coloured, slim-fitting, fine, faux-suede trousers for $6.99 from The Salvation Army will be made into breeches, with part of a leg used to make the front flap. I already have some nice knee buckles from an old visit to Dressew. They were $1 each.
  • A dark green, wool, cutaway morning coat for $65 (including shipping) from an online seller of former rental tuxedos on eBay. The front bottom edge will be cut to a Regency line, and the lapels tacked a bit higher if possible.
  • An ivory, paisley, satin waistcoat from a different online seller of used tuxedos, for $25 (including shipping), which comes with a matching bow tie! All the men’s vests I saw at local thrift stores were wool, and I was even looking at ladies’, just in case. I’ll cut the modern bottom edge straight across and use the extra pieces to make a collar. The buttons will be replaced with self-covered ones, perhaps using that bow tie. I already have two packs of four self-covered button kits, plus brass trim rings, from Dressew for $0.25 a package!

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Next Post: Faking Regency #1, using my spencer and some artwork and museum pieces for ideas.

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RETICULE GIVE-AWAYS! I’ll be giving away one reticule as part of my upcoming guest post on Austen in August, on August 24, 2015. It will be chosen from the two I improved for the “All the Pretty Little Purses” post (below), and perhaps one or more of the cushion cover reticules from today, or any I make before then! Of course, they’re handmade by a non-crafty person, so there are flaws, but I’ve signed each one inside.

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

Suzan Lauder’s Thrift Shop Regency Costume Experiment: The completed green and black reticules.

Fun with Reticules: Introduction

Are you playful? The tiny purses of the Regency are! They’re a flexible accessory, with plenty of room to play when selecting or making one. A cute little drawstring bag similar to Regency museum pieces isn’t hard to find, but if none can be procured to suit your taste, they’re not complicated to make for under $10.

My moorish reticuleIn perusing the various fabrics and designs of museum photos of purses from the first 20 or so years of the 19th century, I realized the brocades, embroidery, and silks of modern throw pillows had amounts and type of fabric to suit re-purposing/upcycling into reticules. Decorative cushion covers run from $1.99 to $7.99 at thrift stores. The most common size is 17” square.

Cushion covers come with two layers, sometimes in pairs, often feature attractive trim and, depending on the shape desired, they’re partly sewn. From there, I came up with designs to maximize the fabric, and discovered that up to four reticules could come from one 17” square or larger cushion cover! I have several designs to share, and they could inspire you to use your cover for your own unique reticule.

Now, I know you don’t need so many reticules! You can make just one, or you can give the extras as gifts. Even friends who don’t dress up for Regency events will like them as an evening purse, to store lingerie or jewelry, or to fill with lavender for a closet or drawer scent.

It’s important to consider your final design when you purchase the cushion cover. Many have directional fabric; are made in multiple panels, with different motifs in each; or have modern themes that don’t suit a reticule. The buyer must pick and choose.

Three Cushion Covers for Reticules tTSRCEI chose three:

• For $1.99 at WiN (Women in Need Vintage and Thrift Store), I got a 17” silk dupione cushion cover with a beaded fringe—plastic, but I think it looks enough like glass beads.
• A 16” square gold damask polyester cushion was $2.99 at Value Village, and it looks rich enough to be silk. There’s no edge trim.
• The most expensive cushion was $3.99 at Value Village, a 17” red brocade with pink and yellow roses in the centre field and in a square around it, with multi-coloured bands on each side. It also has a pink corded edge sewn in without the benefit of an attached tab.

Lining the reticule is optional, but may be preferable if it’s a light fabric. I lucked into finding a cream satin pillow sham that has potential to line up to six reticules.

I’ve designed five pages of patterns, to come up with eight different reticules, and potential to modify them with scallops makes even more possibilities! In addition to instructions for each design, I also have instructions for adding lining, cording, trim, and tassels.

The Designs (click on thumbnails for larger views of the museum Regency examples)

1810–20 French, cotton, glass 6 38 in. Metropolitan Museum of Art

1810–20 French, cotton, glass 6 38 in. Metropolitan Museum of Art

Square or rectangular reticules can be made from any cushion cover with dimensions starting at 14” for two side-by-side, and the maximum length that works without wasting fabric is 24”. There is no pattern sheet for these, but there will be instructions.

 

 

 

 

Reticule, Dutch, 1805. Silk, multicolored embroidered silk flowers, slide ring. Rijksmuseum

Reticule, Dutch, 1805. Silk, multicolored embroidered silk flowers, slide ring. Rijksmuseum

Reticule Designs 1 through 4 are on two pages, with instructions. They are nice for cushion covers that have a running trim along the edges, be it fringe (including tassel fringe or ball fringe) hanging bead work, piping, or braid, though all designs work with any kind of cover. Reticule 3 is especially good for piping or braid.

Woven Reticule Purse Shield Shape 1795

Woven Reticule Purse Shield Shape 1795

Designs 2 and 4 are smaller, and would benefit from a lining, so the top would not have to overlap to make the sleeve for the drawstring—we’ll see an example. The Envelope Reticule (#2) is my own original design. It’s Regency-appropriate and unique.

Reticule, American or English, Early 19th century, 10-5/8"x7-7/8", silk, satin, metal, embroidery. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Reticule, American or English, Early 19th century, 10-5/8″x7-7/8″, silk, satin, metal, embroidery. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Reticule, American or English; Early 19th century, 10-5/8"x7-7/8", silk, satin, metal, embroidery. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. (Side two.)

Reticule, American or English; Early 19th century, 10-5/8″x7-7/8″, silk, satin, metal, embroidery. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. (Side two.)

The patterns can be modified, for example, scalloped edges can be added to designs 1 and 3, tassels sewn into the seams at the points. The folded end finish directions of Reticules 2 and 4 will make these scalloped reticules close in looks to the museum examples.

1800-1825 French Reticule, LACMA Collections

1800-1825 French Reticule, LACMA Collections

The American Girl's Book, Or, Occupation for Play Hours - Eliza Leslie, Harriet Elizabeth Fourdrinier

The American Girl’s Book, Or, Occupation for Play Hours – Eliza Leslie, Harriet Elizabeth Fourdrinier

 

 

 

One of the most common styles of reticules seen in the Regency is a three-sided version of the above, and instructions are included with the pattern for #3 and #4. A large cushion cover with a plain back is best for this design.

 

Reticule, 10-1/4" long, French. Early 19th c. Silk, metal, glass. Metropolitan Museum of Art

Reticule, 10-1/4″ long, French. Early 19th c. Silk, metal, glass. Metropolitan Museum of Art

Design #6 is ideal for a cushion cover with a regular banded design making square interior frames on the sides, and preferably also a corded or piped edge. It can be made with either same both sides or one-side finished cushion covers. The finished reticule looks similar to the one on the left. Depending on size, a nice central field design on the cushion could make another reticule.

 

 

 

Reticule, silk and metal, 1800–1810, probably German. Metropolitan Museum of Art. Like Petal Reticule #2.

Reticule, silk and metal, 1800–1810, probably German. Metropolitan Museum of Art. Like Petal Reticule #2.

Petal Reticule #1 (No historical information on this example.)

Petal Reticule #1 (No historical information on this example.)

There are two patterns for Petal Top Reticules, which work well with cushion covers with a corded or piped edge and some motif of interest near the corners. Both of these work better if the back panel is a plain/lining material rather than matching the front side.

 

Six-petaled reticule. (No historical information.)

Six-petaled reticule. (No historical information.)

The inspiration museum designs show one where two matched cushion covers would be needed to make 6 petals for Petal Reticule #1.

Reticule, 1818. Glass, silk. Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection.

Reticule, 1818. Glass, silk. Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection.

 

 

 

 

 

A long Petal Reticule or three-sided Reticule #1, with sharp scallops cut in the sides can look like a Pineapple Reticule (right), which were very popular.

 

Construction:

No-sew tape can be used to make the reticules, but some seams should be reinforced with hand stitching and bias tape, and no-sew tape is hard to use on curves. The beginner sewer will find it takes less time and may be easier to sew the short, straight seams.

Square reticule examplesA mock-up is shown for the most straightforward design: the square reticule. The option of tassels or fringe is shown, as well as a geometric design on the side, made with cording. You can see what beads would look like on the drawstrings.

The dahlia and marigolds are from my garden, in one of Grandma Lauder’s pinwheel crystal vases. I was dead-heading and awkwardly lopped off a few fresh flowers, so I kept them!

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There are far more reticule designs in museums, many more complicated than these simple ones, made by up-cycling an item that’s no longer stylish for its original intent!

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NEXT POST: Some examples of assembly of these reticules, and the patterns.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Morning dress and camisole.

Morning dress with matching belt; camisole.

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

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

Matching waistband with Guipure lace.

Matching waistband with Guipure lace.

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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