Pre-JASNA AGM Day trips: New Albany and Jeffersonville, Indiana

I’m truly on holidays. How do I know this? It’s 27C and sunny! (That’s 81F.) Of course, no one expected this summer-like weather in Louisville, KY in October, but they do it right around here!

New Albany and the Harvest Homecoming Festival

After a relaxing morning to compensate for yesterday’s air travel, Mr. Suze and I headed out for an afternoon of tourism. We checked the forecast, and I was glad I’d thrown one pair of shorts into my suitcase, as it was already warm!

Our destination was lunch at the food booths of the Harvest Homecoming, taking place October 3-11 in New Albany, Indiana, across the Ohio River from our hotel. We caught the #71 bus on Jefferson, about 4 blocks from our hotel.

New Albany, IndianaNew Albany, Indiana 3The trouble was, there were no events for the festival today! The food booths and craft fair start tomorrow, when I’m registered in sessions as part of the 2015 JASNA AGM!

We found a great sandwich place (Toast on Market), then enjoyed a long walk along Main Street then back along Spring Street in New Albany to see many fine houses and large commercial buildings from the 19th century in restored condition.New Albany, Indiana 2The Emporium!

Upon our return to Louisville (pronounced Loo’-uh-vull), I met up with Meryton Press Author Linda Beutler during registration for the JASNA AGM. After a chat and introductions to her friends from JASNA SW Washington/NW Oregon, we were about to set off to rest before dinner.

But first, we peeked into the Regency Emporium rooms to see all the goodies that were for sale: gift items with Austen quotes, both modern and Regency jewelry, top hats, hairpieces and wigs, paper products, “grown-up lady’s” caps similar to the John Williams Dress Cap pattern from 1826 in simple muslin, wax bas-relief profiles, books, toys, and more. Fewer than half the booths had merchandise (6pm Wednesday).

Ready-made Regency gowns were for sale for $200-$300 in a rainbow of colours, multiple styles including pre-Regency, and many sizes, mostly larger! The fabrics and finishing details showed off the designer’s ability to make each gown special, and I recognized her from Etsy (I think–if it’s the same person). Her work often has modern flair, but it’s so pretty, only the snottiest costumers will whisper and point. Most JASNA-goers will be pleased to see such a pretty gown!

My author colleague sneaked an early purchase (the Emporium officially opens tomorrow at 8am) of a beautiful shawl at a budget price from a vendor who also sold sari fabric for gowns, many eclectic books, and a few framed Regency fashion magazine prints! She showed us how to wrap a turban in far simpler terms than the videos, and mentioned she’d learned it from a Canadian! My favourite set of items for sale was right up the alley of the Thrift Shop Regency Costume Experiment: her lovely collection of “found” vintage reticules of all types!

On the way to the elevator, we nearly bumped into a pretty natural blond woman, casually dressed, and wearing glasses–OH! Author Sharon Lathan, one of the organizers of the author signing event on Saturday. She looked like an ordinary person! This is a taste of what to expect this weekend!

Pedestrian and cycling bridge between Louisville KY and Jeffersonville IN. The colours of the lights change regularly, and each side has different unique light towers to guide you up the ramps.

Pedestrian and cycling bridge between Louisville KY and Jeffersonville IN. The colours of the lights change regularly, and each side has different unique light towers to guide you up the ramps.

Jeffersonville via the Big Four Bridge

After a rest, my husband and I met Linda to walk over to Jeffersonville, IN for dinner. The paths along the Ohio river iin downtown Louisville are wide and surrounded by park area, and the huge area of bicycle racks for the weekend’s Iron Man Triathlon event was impressive!

Meryton Press Authors Suzan Lauder and Linda Beutler

Meryton Press Authors Suzan Lauder and Linda Beutler

We thought it was a half hour or so walk–but it turned out to take 50 minutes just to get to the footbridge! We were thirsty!

We chose the first restaurant (Red Yeti Brewing Company) we found in Jeffersonville about another half hour later. A prompt delivery of unsweetened iced tea and we were chatting happily as if it had taken 5 minutes to get there. (I like a little sweetening, but most sweet tea is too much for me, and Linda likes her tannins raw!) The memorable food featured yummy details like bacon jam on the brisket sandwich, and we all declared ourselves satisfied!

The rest was sufficient to restore our energy, and we walked back on the “short cut” along city streets instead of along the riverside, which shortened the trip to under an hour.

Tomorrow, Linda and I will let Mr. Suze explore on his own while we haunt the shops of the Emporium until our seminars start.

Give-aways!

TSRCE Oct 8-12 giveaway itemsRemember, if you’re also here in Louisville with us, and have followed the blog, look out for me so you can meet me to let me know. I’ll be in costume Friday and Saturday, and in regular clothing Thursday and Sunday. The items in the photo will be given away here, a few in each of the next four days.

Linda and I will be signing copies of our books at the author booth on Saturday at 3:45. You can bring your own copy of Alias Thomas Bennet or buy a copy from Jane Austen Books at the AGM (the same for Linda’s 4 JAFF books!), or just stop by to say “Hi!”

For the balance of the followers of my blog, don’t forget to comment, as I’ll be giving away TSRCE prizes to be mailed out to winners of the draw on the blog, too!

UPDATE: Because we’ve had a lot of trouble with spam, some types of email addresses are being blocked by an extra-enthusiastic spam filter. If you’ve had trouble commenting on the blog (get an error message), I encourage you to comment on my Facebook page and mention the difficulties so we know for sure whether our spam blockers are too intense.

On the Road Again, Sans Ball Gown

jonquil original frontjonquil original backA sad event took place last Wednesday. I had to abandon efforts to complete my beautiful jonquil ball gown midway through the project.

My setback was part of a chain reaction from washing a panel of matching fabric to be used to line new gathers in back.

It’s best to wash new fabric in case it shrinks. The fabric came out fine.

 

The Original Plan

jonquil back with faux silk lining shownThe vintage 1960s gown from Women in Need (WiN) Thrift and Vintage Superstore (above and right, before any modifications) would have the following modifications:

  • The back skirt detached from the bodice, the zipper removed, and the center back seam opened.
  • A triangle cut from the former back panels to create Regency side panels 7″ wide at the top and 12″ wide at the bottom.
  • Part of the sheer overdress draping from the original dress, plus matching lining (faux silk from Salvation Army at $2.99 for 2 meters) added as a 24-inch-wide back panel, gathered to six inches wide.
  • The sleeves modified by cutting the overdress draping free at the neckline and reversing it to have a finished look like the artwork below left.
  • Panels from this draping would be finished with beads on the ends like the Regency fashion plate below right.
1815 Stephanie de Beauharnais-Baden wearing pale blue dress by Aloys Keßler after Johann Heinrich Schroeder

1815 Stephanie de Beauharnais-Baden wearing pale blue dress by Aloys Keßler after Johann Heinrich Schroeder

 

Evening Dress October 1811

Evening Dress October 1811

Indian blouse.

Indian blouse.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Lace from the Indian blouse was to run along the skirt bottom to lengthen the gown about 1.5 inches. Removal of this lace took quite a while since it was sewn on with  silver thread, which I wanted to retain to match the 1960s gown’s original waist trim.
  • A shirred panel from the ends of the draping would cover two holes in the bodice.

 

 

Disaster hits!

But when I decided to wash the gown along with the new fabric, on a super-delicate cycle, a horrid change took place: pin holes in the sheer fabric enlarged, and the overlay and draping, both from the same sheer material, shrank.

New projects emerged from the fiasco:

  • open the hemline where the overlay was attached to the lining so the fabric would relax before the lace was attached to the bottom of the sheer overlay,
  • cut a new piece from the sheer overdress draping for the back panel as the one previously cut was now too short,
  • re-think the sleeves since I stole the attached fabric for them and the dangly bits to create the second back panel,
  • figure out if I needed to add a panel at the hem for length (Maybe a rouleaux? I know, I keep adding beautiful design details!) now the bottom lace was a little higher,
  • find a way to camouflage the holes on the skirt.

 

I soldier on!

Yellow silk evening dress, 1817, Leeds Costume Collection.

Yellow silk evening dress, 1817, Leeds Costume Collection.

The Thrift Shop Regency Costume Experiment has always been about learning and adapting, and I wasn’t about to abandon this project yet. The back gathered panel, a simple project, turned out well. The gathered bodice overlay was a bit more complicated, but looks pretty.

I patched the holes on the front of the skirt using no-sew tape and tiny pieces of fabric from the overlay, and though they look better, it appears as if I spilled small drops of yogurt on my front!

Museum gowns, period fashion plates and Regency artwork were perused for additional hole camouflage ideas. Due to the location of the holes, I settled on diagonals of shirred fabric to mimic the museum piece on the right. I had plenty left from the Salvation Army piece.

 

Time is my enemy

It was Wednesday, and I would leave Friday morning for a short trip to celebrate my mother-in-law’s 86th birthday and an early Canadian Thanksgiving, before flying on to Louisville for the 2015 JASNA AGM.

Mother-in-law's 86th birthday and cool fall weather.

Mother-in-law’s 86th birthday in Winnipeg, MB, Canada.

In addition to the sleeves and skirt detail to hide the holes, the ball gown needed other work:

  • install the tapes with hooks and eyes on the back bodice to replace the zipper,
  • re-attach the waistline trim,
  • trim the neckline and sleeves with narrow silver braid to coordinate with the other trim,
  • use the same narrow silver trim to make the faux diamond back.

I was still thinking through the process and finish for the diagonal pieces on the skirt. I estimated this part of the project would take a full day.

The jonquil gown’s sleeves would take yet another day to design, make a pattern and at least one mock-up, and attach. Either of the two ideas that follow would be created with scraps of sheer draping and some of the faux silk.

1810 Ball Gown with pearls.

1810 Ball Gown with pearls.

Sleeve detail for 1811 gown, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Sleeve detail for 1811 gown, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No way could I finish this gown on time.

On top of those issues, several other machine-sewn projects were required for to the conference:

  • my spencer and the gentleman’s tail coat needed buttonholes–buttons had been temporarily attached to make deadlines for the blog posts!;
  • the white Swiss dot gown needed fake long sleeves, as the originals had been removed and short sleeves added, intended to make the dress flexible for morning or afternoon wear;
  • some pretty sheer fabric with white embroidery would be made into a fichu and, with the addition of some organza lace, a second cap.
  • Mr. Suze broke the cheap plastic belt lining product I’d used for his suspenders, and we had to purchase new banding and attach.
The jonquil ball gown needed too much additional work to earn its full parasol, and time ran out!

The jonquil ball gown needed too much additional work to earn its full parasol, and time ran out!

I also had numerous hand-sewn projects that would be tackled on the trip, such as 14 buttons on Mr. Suze’s tail coat and re-attaching the lining to my hat, which was not staying put with the double-sided tape.

Dozens of bags and containers of project items had to be packed up and stored after all this sewing, and I had to pack for a trip to two climates.

Something had to give, and the jonquil gown was sacrificed. I stopped all work on in mid-day Wednesday.

 

On to packing– but what to wear for the ball?

I had to quickly re-think possibilities for a ball gown. In a panic, I packed potential items that could be modified by hand, but were the dreaded polyester, and not my colour.

The alternative is the Swiss dotted gown (my original morning gown), but its fabric and style is less formal, better suited to an afternoon or dinner gown in its short-sleeved version.

I was in a terrible rush by the end, and didn’t stop moving from 7am Thursday to 1am Friday. I didn’t have time to make the new cap for day-wear, and have to wear my small-fitting first effort, made from cheap polyester lace at the last minute for my local JASNA’s Jane Austen Tea (an earlier blog post).

After the fact, I thought of a half dozen items that I should also have packed, e.g., my turban was to match the jonquil, and now I have to re-think headwear for the ball. I forgot my Alias Thomas Bennet book bead bracelet, which matches my editor and artists’ versions and would have been perfect for the book signing on Saturday prior to the promenade and ball.

I haven’t decided which way to go for the gown, and the only way to know is to watch my blog!

Next post: Louisville!

 

***UPDATE! Don’t forget to comment on The Thrift Shop Regency Costume blog posts, or find Author Suzan Lauder at the Louisville KY JASNA AGM for a chance to win items from the Experiment! Daily prizes October 8-12!

 

 

Trousers or Breeches for Best Bunchage?

Regency shoes with buckle.

Regency shoes with buckle.

1810 Rare Gentleman's Leather Shoes with Silk Ribbon Ties.

1810 Rare Gentleman’s Leather Shoes with Silk Ribbon Ties.

Footwear assisted the decision of whether Mr. Suze would wear trousers or breeches. The first aim was for comfort, and we thought we’d put buckles on a pair of his black work loafers and be done with it. But clarity on the appearance of a Regency man’s shoe pointed out that the soles of his shoes were too thick. You see, my husband and I both have wide feet and wear orthotics. His feet are sensitive, and he owns shoes he can’t wear for long without pain.

Thrift and vintage stores were checked for several months for plain black shoes or tall boots, both with minimal embellishment, minimal soles, a wider fit, and in my husband’s size. No luck. I thought if I could find some of those folding leather bedroom slippers, it would be better than the work shoes, but I only found new brown ones, at $60.

I checked the Internet. I avoided this for my clothing for Thrift Shop Regency Costume Experiment because shipping charges can double the cost of an item, but my husband’s clothing has been a steal of a deal, even with shipping.

Real riding boots would cost at least $200. Jazz shoes are supposed to be a good alternative, but they didn’t look too much like Regency shoes. At $120, I gave them a miss, too.

I knew Mr. Suze would be more comfortable in boots than in stockings and slippers, and I concentrated on them more than shoes in my search, but the one I found first would dictate the rest of the costume.

The Boots

On a local “For Sale by Owner” site, I came across a pair of new black riding boots that were men’s size 9.5, and the owner claimed they fit wide. The ad stated the seller had originally asked $150 and was now asking $120. I emailed the link to my husband, but nothing happened, so a month or so later, I checked to see if they were still for sale. The price had been further reduced to $80, so I bugged Mr. Suze to go see them.

He returned with a pair of brand new boots, slightly too large, for $65—he’s great at dealing sellers down! The seller’s daughter was very tall, and he’d bought them for her, but she balked at men’s boots, and never wore them. Thick socks and orthotics will help the fit for my husband, and he won’t spend a great deal of time walking in them in Louisville.

The shaft of the boot was too tall, though, and rubbed the back of his thighs badly. We looked to see if we could turn the tops over to show the brown lining, but the leather was too stiff, and the lining had writing.

Riding Boots, 1810, British, leather. Philadephia Museum of Art

Riding Boots, 1810, British, leather. Philadephia Museum of Art

The different kinds of footwear popular in the Regency are in the drawing below. The jockey boot (black with a brown band) is most frequently seen in artwork and fashion magazines, the runner up is the Hessian, and we had a riding boot (left), similar to the Wellington—but it’s really a modern dressage boot, worn for show horse riding.

Regency Footwear

Regency Footwear

He checked to see how much to cut them down and was quoted $65. Ouch!

We looked into whether we could cut them easily ourselves, and there were no clear instructions on the Internet other than repeated short cuts with a utility knife. Now, I’ve cut many things with a utility knife, and 90% of the time, the cut has at least one ugly spot where the knife slipped. That idea was discarded.

Riding forum members advised other riders that the boots are supposed to sit a couple of inches above the knee, high enough to protect the leg from some aspect of the saddle, so they recommended not to cut them. Instead, suggestions included wetting the boots and walking around in them to get the leather to relax, plus wearing a sports wrap around the knee under the pants. We thought we’d still rather cut Mr. Suze’s boots.

Hessian boots: Mid-calf boots coming to just below the knee or lower that have tassels on the top, named for the German soldiers called Hessians who introduced them.

Hessian boots: Mid-calf boots coming to just below the knee or lower that have tassels on the top, named for the German soldiers called Hessians who introduced them.

At first, we said if we’re going to have them cut, we may as well get a Hessian profile. I could add trim and a tassel. We assumed this would be routine for the shoe maker.

Instead, he asked us to mark the cut line and would take no responsibility for problems. We hesitated, unsure we could do a good job of drafting the double curve.

Mr. Suze discovered a second shoe maker who would cut the boots for $40, but the same issue: he wouldn’t take responsibility for a special shape. We decided it was best to remove the top 2” with a profile to match the original curve.

 

How trousers intended to be breeches became trousers

After months of no luck finding pants suitable for breeches, I discovered a pair of buff-coloured Nubuck pants for $5.99 at Salvation Army.

Blogger Experiments in Elegance has a post on how to fake a Regency costume, and for breeches, advises cutting the pant legs off a few inches below the knee, and utilizing fabric from one cut-off leg to make a trim band for the bottom of the breeches.

I had bought some nice buckles from Dressew to use for knee buckles that would be used on the trim band. However, the most common closure was a set of three to six self-covered buttons up a placket above ties that are an extension of the trim band, which would be narrower than the blogger suggests.

Knee buckle, 1770-1810 American

Knee buckle, 1770-1810 American

Buckskin breeches, showing buttons and tie closure and jockey boots. Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Buckskin breeches, showing buttons and tie closure and jockey boots. Metropolitan Museum of Art.

 

 

 

 

 

Buttoned fall on museum breeches.

Buttoned fall on museum breeches.

Regency boots with breeches: Edmund Blair Leyton On the Threshold

Regency boots with breeches: Edmund Blair Leyton On the Threshold

Regency breeches had buttoned falls in front rather than the modern fly, though the odd museum piece from that era shows early use of a buttoned fly. The same blogger describes how to make a flap for the fall-front with the other leg.

 

 

 

Breeches were the best idea if I could find shoes. With boots, either breeches or trousers would suffice. Trousers would be advantageous for me, as I could put a stirrup at the end to hold the pants into the boot, much less work than making breeches.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trousers and Hessians: Thomas Philip Robinson the third Baron Grantham and later Earl de Grey aged 35 years - portrait study by the great French artist Jean Auguste Dominique.

Trousers and Hessians: Thomas Philip Robinson the third Baron Grantham and later Earl de Grey aged 35 years – portrait study by the great French artist Jean Auguste Dominique.

Trousers became popular in the mid-Regency for casual wear, but breeches with stockings and slippers remained the correct clothing for formal occasions like balls. Eventually, trousers overtook breeches in formal wear as well, though this occurred after the end of the Regency.

Since neither boots nor trousers were appropriate ball attire in the Regency (though one Oregon Regency Society gentleman said he was wearing his to the ball anyways), our story would be we were sneaking into the ball for a short while to watch, but would not dance since Mr. Suze was not properly attired.

We do not want to dance. It’s not that we don’t want to dance, it’s that we don’t want to ruin our marriage in the attempt to dance.

We took ballroom dance lessons once, and Mr. Suze stared at his feet and forgot he had a partner. I got frustrated and started to lead, but I’m terribly uncoordinated, which didn’t help Mr. Suze concentrate on his feet. We’d get messed up on the steps, he’d get mad, I’d try to instruct him, and we’d stop to argue. Neither of us were able to learn the steps of one dance before the instructors moved on to the next.

We’d try again, and repeat the whole mess. We finally dropped out of class, deciding we were too terrible at this, and we didn’t want to keep arguing to get better.

Neither of us is concerned that his trousers and boots aren’t correct for the ball, as we’ll be lurkers and watchers.

trousers after legs slimmed, with watch pocket, fake front fall edges before addingSince Regency trousers were slim, I cut about 3” from the inseam of the pants. Instead of using part of a pant leg for a flap, I used some of the cut fabric to make panels that look like the trim panels for the sides of the falls. Self-covered buttons were also made to fake Regency at the top of those flap edges, as well as to secure suspenders to keep the trousers high. A small watch pocket was made to set inside the waistband.

steampunk costume pocket watch showing paper insideAt first, I despaired of finding a pocket watch at a reasonable price, as the vintage watches I’d seen were over $100, and that was for either one that was a fake and used a battery, or another that didn’t work and would be another $200 to repair!

But Value Village had a display of Steampunk accessories for Hallowe’en, and I got a cool pocket watch and chain for $1.99! Outside, it’s a pretty good-looking imitation for the price. Inside, it has a hilarious paper face!

We now have to find a watch fob of some sort. The Pragmatic Costumer has a nice article on watch fobs for ideas.

finished breeches with suspendersA combination of the leg narrowing, the original size of the pants, and the need for So Mr. Suze to wear the pants high like Regency gentlemen caused the pants to be tight at the waist band. A 5” deep opening was made in the seam at the back of the pants, and eyelets and laces were added for true Regency fashion. I was going to sew the fly closed and have him use them.

When he tried the trousers on, he couldn’t reach the ties. Not such great idea, after all! We left the fly.

Puttin’ on the Ritz: The Walking Stick and Gloves

Cane with tortoiseshell and brass wire piqué on ivory.

Cane with tortoiseshell and brass wire piqué on ivory.

Mr. Suze’s project was to make himself a walking stick. We had some pieces of bamboo that had previously been used for supporting plants, and some of the Ackermann’s prints had bamboo walking sticks. I’d been looking for a handle re-purposed from a drawer or door handle, similar to the photo (left). I also knew that drapery rod ends may have other designs suitable for this.

Mr. Suze went to Habitat for Humanity’s Re-Store and found a pineapple-like end that he attached to the bamboo, then to Rona for an end piece so the bottom wouldn’t scratch floors.

I’d read that the walking sticks were quite long, and had seen some Ackermann’s illustrations that confirmed it, but my husband wasn’t so keen on a tall cane. The compromise was to make the length so his hand on the top made his arm parallel to the floor. He freshened up the bamboo with a light sanding and shoe oil.

TSRCE men's boots, gloves, and walking stick. The cut-off panels from the boots are shown.

TSRCE men’s boots, gloves, and walking stick. The cut-off panels from the boots are shown.

I was pleased with the pineapple look, as I’d learned at the JASNA Jane Austen Tea just a few weeks earlier that in the Regency, pineapples were important because they were so expensive. They were imported from Suriname or India, and a shipment of pineapples would allow a ship’s captain to retire in fine comfort. The rich had pineries to try to grow them, but they were so dear, they were rarely eaten, but just left on the table for decoration as they deteriorated! This explains why there were so many reticules of pineapple design as well.

The gloves are white cotton costume gloves for $4.99 from Value Village. They’re not something you’d see at other times of the year, but the Hallowe’en costumes are out! A Regency gentleman would be more likely to wear kid gloves, but I had enough trouble with the search for kid opera gloves for my costume since the few I found were far too small. There’s a good chance they’re more rare for a man!

Mr. Suze opted to glue on whiskers rather than grow his own sideburns, and found a moustache at a Dollar Store that’s pretty perfect, except it’s black, and he used to be blond but is all grey now! We’ll try using tempera paint to change the colour. He had the top of his hair left long for two haircuts, and will comb it forward, as that was the Regency style.

Quizzing glasses

Quizzing glasses

Perhaps he’d like to forego his glasses for the popular Regency accessory, the quizzing glass!

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One thing I missed last week was the closure on the sleeves of the shirt. It has plastic buttons right now, but the most common was ribbon ties. Cuff links as we know them today became popular in Edwardian period, though in the post-Regency, around 1840, simple versions were introduced in France.

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Some helpful sites for the Regency Gentleman’s costume:

The Oregon Regency Society’s Outfitting the Regency Man has links for purchasing authentic product and patterns to make costumes from scratch. Their How-To sheet shows a modification of a standard tuxedo tailcoat.

The Black Tie Guide’s Regency Evolution: Dress Details has details on things like lapels, colour, and etiquette while providing an excellent, succinct summary of the man’s outfit.

How to Make a Men’s Regency Boot on a Budget by Living with Jane uses leather-look boots and adds a leather-look panel to the top for jockey boots. They look like rubber boots to me.

How to Convert an Ordinary Suit Coat into a Tail Coat from Tor.Com is useful as long as your suit coat or blazer is in a fabric like Regency examples.

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Next Post: I hope to have another episode of “Faking Regency,” because I haven’t yet finished my ball gown, which was my intended post for Monday. I’ll add a post between Monday and Louisville if I have time, then there will be pictures from the JASNA AGM!

Regency men were not sissies, even in blouses and scarves.

1807 men's shirt from The National Maritime Museum

1807 men’s shirt from The National Maritime Museum.

A poet’s or pirate’s shirt will work well for a Regency man’s shirt, they say. I remember sewing a similar shirt for a boyfriend in the 70’s: long sleeved, loose body, placket at the front. Surely a few vintage versions in a light, flowing fabric still exist!

For months, I searched the thrift and vintage stores for a plain, white, light weight, long-sleeved, wider-collared shirt with a placket-style opening, rather than button-down. Long-sleeved white dress shirts of any type were rare, probably popular for job interviews.

All were button-down. At least half had a subtle pattern woven into the fabric that was non-Regency in appearance. A few had logos emblazoned on the front pockets. Military shirts with epaulets were constructed of mid-weight, crisp fabric, rather than soft and flowing, as were tuxedo shirts with their multiple pleats in front. The odd shirt was collarless, and I needed a collar to stand up and wrap the cravat around.

Man's linen shirt, 1790-1810. Augusta Auctions.

Man’s linen shirt, 1790-1810. Augusta Auctions.

Early on, I expanded my search to ladies’ wear size large and greater for that front placket shirt, but they were rare, and in addition to similar traits to those for men above, often had ¾ sleeves or ruffles in the wrong arrangement. Ruffles aren’t a bad thing, as the neckline of the waistcoat shows off ruffles.

The Blouse

This month, I gave up on the placket front and searched for a white dress shirt in Mr. Suze’s neck size, loose in the body, and simple in design. At Value Village, I found a ladies’ extra-large blouse that looked ¾ sleeved at first, but discovered it had button tabs on the sleeves. The cuffed long sleeves were scrunched up and could be easily let down.

I measured the collar, and it was just short of 17” around, so larger than Mr. Suze’s 15½” shirt size, but my measurement didn’t count overlap for buttoning. To ensure the sleeve was a couple of inches too long for me (the advantage of having borrowed his cool-looking jean and leather jackets in the past is knowing this fact!), I tried on the blouse on over my own t-shirt before purchasing it at $7.99.

It fit Mr. Suze perfectly in the neck and sleeve, and was loose in the body! Hooray!

The shirt was button-down, and Poor Mr. Suze lamented that it buttoned backwards—that’s how he discovered it was a ladies’ blouse upon trying it on. It had no top button, so I attached two 8” ribbons to tie it closed. The Regency shirt would close with laces or a simple set of string ties.

I could have sewn the front panel partly closed to make it emulate a placket-type, but Mr. Suze didn’t mind the buttons too much and, as the shirt was considered underwear in the Regency, no one was allowed to see it. Yes, you heard that right. Underwear.

The main modification to Regency for a plain white shirt is simple: since the collar is to be turned up so it is standing, the front points need to be trimmed back slightly so the line of the collar goes straight across. When purchasing, a wider collar is better so it looks good standing up.

Depending on how the shirt is made, you might be able to push the points into themselves and sew closed with top-stitching near the edge. Because of top-stitching on the blouse collar, I had to open a seam, so I cut the corners back. Don’t forget the seam allowance!

An optional but beneficial modification while you’re at the collar is to cut a slight curve out of the middle back to suit the head of the wearer, so the collar stands up and doesn’t crinkle. My curve was about ⅝” deep in the middle and tapered down, overall about 5” wide. The seam allowances in the curves were clipped and pressed inside. Rather than remove the collar and redo the seam, the opening was top stitched close to the edge, then a second row of top stitching, similar to the original, was added.

Ruffles can be added to the placket area where the shirt shows above the neckline of the gentleman’s waistcoat. A plain, straight piece of light cotton 3”-4” wide, with a simple rolled hem on three sides, will work.

I used scalloped border panels from a white pillow sham (the main area’s lace was for a cap and fichu in previous posts). The scallops had a finished edge, and I made a narrow hem on each end.tsrce shirt showing three ruffles collar reshaping and tiesEach ruffle started as 4” wide and 20” long. I gathered it to 5” long, which was plenty long enough for the V neck on Mr. Suze’s waistcoat. I covered the base of the gathers and sewed that to the button panel. A third ruffle was added later, as two didn’t seem like enough, but when the cravat was added, I realized it fills the centre area, so two would be fine. The finished ruffles should be pressed backwards at ¼” near the bases, so they prefer to stand rather than lay flat along the shirt front.

Similar to Regency ladies’ wear, men’s clothing had longer sleeves, extending over the base of the hand. If your Mr.’s tail coat sleeves are not long enough, you can also add a ruffle at the cuff of the shirt. It can be sewn inside the cuff so minimal fussing over finishes is needed.

If you want to use a shirt that will be reverted back to a dress shirt after the Regency occasion, the collar corners can be neatly pinned inside, as the cravat will probably hide the pins, and the back curve ignored. Neckline ruffles can be basted to the inside opening of the waistcoat instead. Sleeve ruffles can also be attached with basting, but make sure the stitches are not obvious on the outside.

The “Scarf”

The mystery of how to make a cravat or neck-cloth covers Regency costuming pages all over the Internet. There are three commonly suggested designs: a rectangle, a rectangle with tapered ends, and a triangle. Most sites explaining the triangle use the same wording, which is so poorly described that people have wound up with huge rectangles instead!

Suggested sizes for a rectangle are 50”-80” long by 4”-10” wide, but I found the finished length should be at least 60”, and the finished width no more than your Mr.’s neck length. Tapered ends on a rectangular shape make the tied cravat tails less bulky.

Another design uses a long, low isosceles triangle. The two short sides are 50” long, and the triangle is 10” high, with rolled hems on the cut edges. To wear, it’s rolled to a width to suit the wearer’s neck length. This is a very long cravat, but well-suited to complex tie styles or multiple wraps, as it has far less bulk at the ends.

White or off-white were the most common colours for a Regency cravat, and the only colours acceptable for a ball. Various ideas on fabric stiffness abound on the Internet: some say pliable, some suggest starch. From my experience making one cravat, if the fabric can keep a neat shape without collapsing, but not so stiff that it’s uncomfortable or won’t drape a little, it should work.

A Fabricland $1.99 remnant of light but not super-sheer white cotton at 53” wide was the source for Mr. Suze’s cravat. A 9” wide panel was cut the full width of the fabric. It was folded lengthwise and the ends tapered starting 8” back, with the tapers in opposite directions as seen in the photo. A blanket-type seam closed and bound the edges, with a 4” gap left halfway along the taper of one end. The cravat was turned inside out through this gap, pressed flat, and the opening sewn closed. The finished width was just under 4½”, as any wider made no sense with the length of Mr. Suze’s neck. Some sites suggest a rolled hem, which is better for heavier or stiffer fabric, but doubled up has a more finished appearance.tsrce cravatWith a basic tie style, this cravat is barely long enough. If I can find a longer piece of fabric, I’ll make another. This is why I suggest no shorter than 60”!

The cravat is tied over the shirt collar but inside the waistcoat collar. The easiest style is to start with the middle of the length of the cravat in front of your neck, cross over at the back and pull forward, cross one end over the other in a half knot in front and snug up, tidying edges around your neck and fluffing folds of the panel that falls down vertical in front. A simple pin can hold the front fall in place.

Tea in a Teapot has a summary from an 1818 satire on the cravat called “Neckclothitania” that appears on several other blogs as well. The complicated tie styles have been attempted by some modern costumers, with varying degrees of success. I think the author would be suitably amused that his work was taken with such a degree of seriousness!

The Art of Tying the Cravat by H. Le Blanc (post-Regency, 1828) is an interesting read via Google books (free e-book). It has additional designs for the neck-cloth knots, and the illustrations are below.plate-b-the-art-of-tying-the-cravatregency cravatYour Mr.’s cravat tie style should be no more complicated than he is comfortable with creating. A man confident in making a full Windsor on a regular basis, or who plays with knots—boat owners often are often hobbyists with knot-making—can fuss all he wants with styles from the links. For the rest, there’s no shame in simplicity.

 

 

A gentlemanly way to top off a blouse and scarf

Bicorne hat, Costume Parisien, 1819

Bicorne hat, Costume Parisien, 1819

Top hat, Costume Parisien, 1809

Top hat, Costume Parisien, 1809

Regency men wore a variety of hat styles, but a simple top hat was most common in art work. The bicorne was also popular, particularly for formal situations like a ball, and is favoured for faux-military costuming.

A top hat can be had for as little as $10 for one-size fuzz-covered plastic at a party store; $25 for a magician’s silk hat or one-size felt coachman’s hat (too tall and costumey) at Dressew; or as much as $200 and up for a vintage collapsible opera hat or actual beaver fur top hat on eBay, and you have to pay over $300 for good condition.

In vintage stores during my shopping trips, I saw two vintage felt top hats. A hat in great condition but a small size was $125, and $165 could get a hat showing a little wear but otherwise in good condition. These had superb shape compared to an inexpensive felt hat, were lined, had hat boxes, and silk hat bands.

Mr. Suze settled for a $35.99 (including shipping) wool felt hat from eBay. The sides of the pipe part are straighter than a milliner’s top hat, but its brim shape is nice, and the quality is excellent for the price. It came in small-medium-large-XL sizes, not one size fits all. It didn’t come with a hat box for that price, so it will go to Louisville in the rectangular box with Styrofoam inserts that it was shipped in. We’ve already accepted the requirement to take the giant suitcase from my set of three, which has only been used once before!

I don’t recommend magician’s collapsing satin hats. Back in May, I purchased one at Dressew as the first item for Mr. Suze’s costume, and presented it to him with an entreaty to consider a costume when he’d been resistant beforehand. The collapsible option seemed practical for travel, and the top hat looked well enough when open. However, it had a heavy metal frame inside to facilitate the collapse and easy “snap of the wrist” restoration of its shape for performance. As a result, it fit small. On my small head, it was acceptable—that is, if you don’t mind having a wire frame in your skull! But the hat perched atop Mr. Suze’s normal-sized head. It was returned the next day.

Beaver hats of the 18th and 19th century.

Beaver hats of the 18th and 19th century.

To show you the results, Millie wore one of Mr. Suze’s blazers, as her shoulders were too narrow for the shirt to hang properly. Mr. Suze is not this big around, as he fits inside the blazer, and the sleeves are also under the shirt! Similarly, Chili has a hat under the top hat.tsrce mens shirt with cravat, crystal stick pin, and top hatI sacrificed a ruby-red Swarovski crystal stick pin I’d used on my turban as it’s perfect for Mr. Suze’s cravat, and none of my other stick pins were right. It was also stunning on the turban, but I have a hat pin I’ll use instead.

Next post: Trousers, boots, and accessories for your Regency beau! Watch for it as a second post this week! YES! Double post week for the Gentleman’s Thrift Shop Regency Costume!

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!