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!

The trials of Regency correctness in fiction writing: My guest post on Austen in August

Words coined during Queen Victoria’s era, critical plot points that require our hero to travel to London from Derbyshire and back twice in the same week, a twist that depends on English Parliament sitting in the fall in the wrong year–these elements creep into our Regency fiction writing every so often, and the poor author must re-think the scene. All three have affected my latest novel! On top of it, there’s technology and medicine, titles and inheritance law, etiquette and fashion… all must be in order in an Austen-inspired Regency romance, or beware!

When literary historian and blogger Roof Beam Reader was looking for guest blogs for his annual Austen in August series, I suggested a tongue-in-cheek summary of the challenges with keeping true to the era, and the energetic viewpoints of Austen enthusiasts regarding historical accuracy in Jane Austen Fan Fiction on some story boards. It was a new topic to him, and he was keen, as no one had taken this direction on his blog yet.

Regency lady writing: did she have issues with anachronisms? --From Ackermann's Repository for Art, 1813.

Regency lady writing: did she have issues with anachronisms? –From Ackermann’s Repository for Art, 1813.

Click here to read my post on Regency correctness on Roof Beam Reader’s blog! #AusteninAugustRBR

If you’ve already signed up for the Austen in August reading challenge, you can enter the giveaway, too! I’ve donated a signed copy of my Regency romance with a mystery twist Alias Thomas Bennet, a choice of reticule from a set including the two I upcycled for the “Pretty Little Purses” post for the Thrift Shop Regency Costume Experiment, and a special “grown-up lady” lace cap to be made to order.

A pretty wrap to keep out the chill: Regency shawls.

Shawl, muslin cotton, white embroidery. Made in India, 1806- 1814.

Shawl, muslin cotton, white embroidery. Made in India, 1806- 1814.

Whitework Shawl, 1810-1820

Whitework Shawl, 1810-1820

The first Regency shawls I saw were summer-weight, wispy things, mostly white-on-white and all lacy-looking. Thus, I purchased a sheer Indian shawl, as it was as close as I could get. Made of fine net in a seafoam colour with silver embroidery, it was a compromise, but I knew silver embroidery was popular on clothing in the Regency period. (Click on thumbnails for larger images.)

Shawl, cashmere and silk, 1800–1820, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Shawl, cashmere and silk, 1800–1820, Metropolitan Museum of Art

At some point, I saw other shawls, and realized these delicate ones were the minority. The majority were the  Kashmiri shawls, with their ubiquitous wide paisley panel at the ends and a border along the sides. Paisley, paisley, paisley. Most were cashmere, some with silk for a magnificent sheen. Wool, silk, or blends were also seen.

Shawl, Spitalfields. Silk, England 1810 -1815. The workers of the silk weaving district in London were French Huguenot silk workers who had fled to England to escape a religious purge.

Shawl, Spitalfields. Silk, England 1810 -1815. The workers of the silk weaving district in London were French Huguenot silk workers who had fled to England to escape a religious purge.

Shawl, wool and silk, Scotland, 1815.

Shawl, wool and silk, Scotland, 1815.

Shawl. Silk and wool. England, circa 1815.

Shawl. Silk and wool. England, circa 1815.

 

1812, Costume Parisien.

1812, Costume Parisien.

1811, Costume Parisien

1811, Costume Parisien

The love affair with Kashmiri textiles went to gowns, too. You can see how they were matched.

 

 

 

1810, Costume Parisien.

1810, Costume Parisien.

1810, LACMA collections.

1810, LACMA collections.

Felicite de Durfort von Merry-Joseph Blondel, 1808

Felicite de Durfort von Merry-Joseph Blondel, 1808

What’s with the paisley? The bent teardrop was a popular “Tree of Life” design in Persia. When Scotland became a leader in the production of textiles, the town of Paisley became the place where cashmere shawls were made. In England, the design became named after the town.

I was ecstatic when I found two paisley Pashmina shawls at Value Village for $7.99. This turned into a facepalm moment in my shopping history. I chose the one I liked best, that would go best with my outfits, and set aside the other. The next day, I realized these shawls were uncommon, and I could have given the second to a friend, or even sold it to someone assembling a Regency costume. But when I went back, the second one was gone.

 

While paisley was popular, Regency shawls used other designs, in all the colours of the rainbow!

1801, Costume Parisien

1801, Costume Parisien

Shawl, silk and cotton, English, 1800-50, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Shawl, silk and cotton, English, 1800-50, Metropolitan Museum of Art

1802, Journal des Dames et des Modes

1802, Journal des Dames et des Modes

Spitalfields rectangular silk shawl with Chinoiserie borders, c.1810

Spitalfields rectangular silk shawl with Chinoiserie borders, c.1810

La Belle Assemblée, February 1811.

La Belle Assemblée, February 1811.

Silk shawl by Spitalfields, London, 1810-1815.

Silk shawl by Spitalfields, London, 1810-1815.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The fiber Kashmir, or cashmere, is made from the down hairs of Nepalese capra hircus goats, also called Cashmere goats or Pashmina goats. The Pashmina shawl is the modern equivalent of the Kashmiri shawl, and they’re ubiquitous once again, but in different designs. Pashmina is a high-level cashmere, made from the thinnest threads.

However, most modern shawls labelled “Pashmina” have no Pashmina hair in them, but unlike the word “cashmere,” there is no regulation of the term. The best knock-offs are made from cashmere and silk and cost around $100; the cheapest are $20 for viscose and/or wool. The latter textiles may keep you warm, but don’t have the light weight of the fibers they’re mimicking. Real cashmere will pill with wear, and doesn’t have sheen or create static electricity.

I bought a real Pashmina in Turkey in 2001, and since have acquired two knock-offs. Below are my shawls. They’re folded in half both so you can see their true size in comparison with one another, except the Value Village shawl is scrunched a bit to flip it over so you can the pattern on each side.My shawlsThe parasol ratings show the real Pashmina (pale green) with a closed umbrella, meaning it’s okay, but not the best choice. There are almost no shawls in my Regency image collection that are plain with no pattern. Its large size and light weight in comparison to its warmth is great, though. It’s my airplane blanket!

The red and brown “Pashmina” is as soft and has a nice silk-like glow, but its perpetually smooth texture and $19.99 price make me believe it’s viscose. The pattern and the stripe near the ends make this shawl reasonable in a Regency costume.

The brown striped “Pashmina” with animal spots was a gift. It’s small for a shawl: I use it as a large scarf. The fabric is coarse and probably contains a fair bit of sheep’s or regular goat’s wool. Though this scarf goes well with many of my winter clothes, the pattern eliminates it from my Regency wardrobe, so no parasol.

The previously mentioned seafoam net with silver is like an evening gown wrap, and that will be its best use at any Regency event I’ll attend.

Shawl c.1820

Shawl c.1820

The Value Village shawl is two-sided, with the centre area having bold stripes on one side and a dark grey main field opposite. When I took the photograph, I had not recalled any Regency shawls with a bold stripe in the main field, and thought I’d use what is likely intended as the back as the outside of the shawl. When I gathered photos for this post, I found an historical example similar to the side of the thrift store shawl that got a closed parasol! The sun came out, so we need to open that little parasol perched on the stripes!

Shawl, British, silk c.1822, Metropolitan Museum of Art

An interesting historical shawl is one that has no paisley and uses a different traditional design altogether: tartan. It’s a pity the only piece of Lauder tartan I own is a small scarf! I’d love to find a way to work it into one of the costumes without cutting it up or modifying it. It would be lame as a turban. These days, over the shoulder and tucked into the belt is reasonable, but I’ve yet to see a Regency outfit with tartan in this way. Do any of you know?

 

More shawls: Though mostly post-Regency, Mimi Matthews’ blog has a selection of beautiful 19th century artwork with shawls.

~~~

I’d planned to do a cushion reticule post today, but I haven’t made the last reticule for the set, and I had company this weekend from two different cities! Neither stayed with us, but my house needed to be tidied, and after that, our time was full with brunch, and The Bug Zoo, and skinny, former opium den streets, and other such tourist attractions!

I decided to do this shawl blog post first, as it was quick and easy. I know you don’t mind!

Next post: A twist added another design to my reticule arsenal, and three different designs will be shown, plus I hope to have the pdf’s ready for the patterns and instructions. After that, I still have at least three other designs I want to try making, but I may take a reticule break and show some of the “Faking Regency” tips.

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.

Book Club Questions for “Alias Thomas Bennet”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!