Monday, February 6, 2017

Regency Ball Gown

My first chance to attend a Regency themed event finally arrived with the Regency Romance Ball in Salt Lake City, held the first weekend in February each year. It is put on by the Jane Austen Society of North America (Utah Region), and Old Glory Vintage Dancers. I only heard about it for the first time about a year and a half ago, but as the event always falls on the same weekend as my local Shire's SCA event, I had to make the tough decision this year to skip my local event and head South to go to the ball. It was certainly worth it!




I started making the costume plans several months ago, to give myself a lot of time to make my own costume and some items for my husband. I've never done early 19th century before, so I took my time with this project. I managed to finish it all with more than a week to spare, so I was quite prepared!


My outfit consists of a gown and underthings: short stays (corset), chemise, and petticoat. The short stays were purchased from RedThreaded on Etsy. I found them well constructed and of good quality, but I chose to opt for a standard size instead of a custom order for two reasons: one, it's more expensive for a custom size and these corsets are pricey to begin with; two, I wanted to get working on the bodice patterning so waiting longer for a custom size would have held me up. The corset works well enough, but the bust is too small and the underbust is too big. I simply leave the top two eyelets unlaced so I have maximum room in the bust cups. If I end up doing a lot more Regency costuming later on, I'll make my own so it fits better, or make the bust gussets bigger on this corset.

The chemise is made from a light cotton muslin, and of very simple construction. Two long rectangles for the body, two short sleeve squares, two armpit gussets, and two hip gores. It has a drawstring neckline. I found it very comfortable. I based it off some extant chemises like this one, circa 1810, from UVM.
 The petticoat wasn't made specifically for this project, but it works very well underneath the gown. It's about 3.25 yards of silk taffeta, knife pleated to a waistband, and it closes in back with a hook and eye. I have worn this petticoat under Renaissance-era gowns, Edwardian skirts, and now Regency. It would work well for 18th century, too. I have petticoats that open on the sides, but I decided I wanted just the one closure for this petticoat. It has a deep hem- I used the full width of the fabric (54"), so the hem has about 10 inches of extra fabric folded inside to stiffen it.

To start the patterning of the gown bodice, I got out the Sense and Sensibility/Simplicity pattern that we see everywhere. I had gotten it on Joann's 99 cent clearance many years ago. I did three mock ups with this pattern and none of them worked for me because I wanted a smooth-front bodice instead of the gathering the pattern calls for. It's simply not designed to be altered that way, so I find no fault with that pattern, except for the fact that if you're over a B cup, the gathers won't fit over your bust, so alter according to their website instructions.

I got out my 16th century kirtle pattern and decided to alter that instead. The finished pattern is nothing like what it started as. The side seams got moved to the back, the straps moved back, and it has some darts under the bust for shaping. Overall I'm happy with the pattern, but I would have done the darts differently. They're accurate for this era (see Norah Waugh's "Cut and Construction of Women's Clothes"), but I simply folded them over like a pleat instead of sewing them like a proper dart, so they pouf a bit. I didn't want to remove and then reattach the skirt to change the darts, and it worked well enough. But if I make more Regency clothes down the line, I will use another pattern. The sides of the bust also wrinkle and pull, so I would start over with the pattern. But not too bad for my first try at this era!

The fabric for the gown is an aqua/seafoam silk taffeta with gold embroidered Fleur de Lys. While the Fleur de Lys is the emblem for French royalty and therefore isn't a typical "Regency" pattern as the Regency refers to 1811-1820 in England, I decided that the 1814 restoration of the Bourbon monarchy would be excuse enough to wear that pattern. I was inspired by several gowns that had intricate embroidery or beading patterns, and didn't find many other patterned fabrics that would achieve that look. I did seriously consider buying a sari or African George silk fabric, but decided to just get the patterned fabric and sew trim onto the hem. Here are some extant gowns that were my main inspiration (I think most if not all are French in origin):


The bodice laces up the back with hand-bound eyelets in a spiral lacing pattern. Next time I would make the back a bit shorter. The sleeves are just a large, rounded sleeve head, very short, gathered on top into the armscye, and on bottom into a narrow band. The hem trim is from India, and was only $4 a yard on Ebay. It's marvelous, high quality, and has sequins and heavy embroidery. The waistband/belt is just narrow gold trim with sequins from Joann's. I had a hard time matching the wider trim, as it's a more antique gold, which is hard to find in stores, especially with sequins.



Now for the accessories: gloves, headband, shoes, jewelry, and the hairpiece. The gloves are silk, and my third pair from Greatlookz (highly recommeded). The shoes are American Duchess, the Bronte, and I had them dyed by DyeMyShoes.com. They did a great job and I would again recommend- only $17 with shipping back! The necklace and earrings are genuine pearls, and some of my most treasured pieces. The necklace was given to me by my mom, and they were a gift from my father to her. The earrings were a gift from my best friend, and they tend to get worn a lot! The headband is from Sapphire and Sage, which I purchased probably 8 years ago, and it's holding up well after years of use. The hairpiece started as clip-on bangs, which I wet curled with foam rollers, let dry, then smoothed with curl cream. I simply put the headband over the fake "bangs" and went out! They stayed put all night and really made the whole outfit. My own hair is in a simple bun, which looked not so great, as I cut my hair recently and the ends are a bit too spiky when put up. I had to pin the crap out of it and it still didn't look good. At least the "bangs" kind of distracted from the sloppy bun!


I want to talk about the event a bit, in case any readers are interested in attending in future years. This was the 7th annual ball. We had the good fortune to be seated at a table with one of the founding organizers, so we got some history about the event. This was the largest ball they have done, with 294 tickets sold! I find that outstanding and impressive. I was thinking it would be more like 150! They rent out the large ballroom at the Little America Hotel in Salt Lake City. It was an utterly fantastic venue. I have rarely been able to attend an event in such a perfect venue, and so very well organized and ran. They served a nice dinner, probably did 20+ dances, had gaming tables, served dessert, and had a professional photographer there. We got a room at the hotel for the weekend, and simply took the elevator downstairs for the ball. Here's what the ballroom looked like:


My husband and I danced about 5 dances. I found this gown to be much easier to dance in than my 1860s gown. I didn't really dance at all at the Virginia City Victorian Ball because my dress prevented me from lifting my arms, the hoops were cumbersome (I'm not used to or trained in dancing with hoops), and I was worried that someone would step on my hem and tear my gown. This ball had everyone dancing. It was rare to see people not dancing. There were easily 250 people dancing all at once in this room; it was a sight to see! I can't recommend this event enough. We will absolutely attend again.

Speaking of my husband, I did a little sewing for him as well. I made his waistcoat, shirt, and cravat. I bought his drop-front trousers from Gentleman's Emporium, and had a velvet tailcoat custom made from a seller on Etsy. We didn't take many pictures of him, but because the venue and backdrops were so lovely, I had him take a lot of pictures of me for the blog. The room with the pink damask wallcloth was the women's restroom lounge! It was my favorite room for pictures, much to my husband's embarrassment!





All in all it was a great event that was well worth attending, and worth the effort to make a pretty costume. There were only a small handful of people who didn't wear a version of Regency-era attire, out of nearly 300 people. They did a little costume contest, which I was nominated for, and although I didn't win, it was an honor to be considered. I highly recommend this event if you are able to attend: people came from Arizona, Wyoming, Montana (us and two friends), and even a couple from Montreal! It's worth traveling for.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Projects and Plans for 2017

Seeing as I wrote up a post about my completed projects from 2016, I figured I would do a post about projects that are in-progress or on the list to make in 2017. I'll also talk about events I plan to attend, and what I might wear to them: I am the type of person who will plan out what I'm wearing to an event up to a year in advance! This helps me space out the wearing of my garb; I don't like to wear the same thing to two events in a row. Hell, I don't like to wear the same thing within six months!

I don't often post in-progress pictures, because sometimes we have to abandon a project, or we lose interest and decide to put it away for a few months, or change our mind and don't finish it. I don't often completely give up on a project, but sometimes they get shelved for a while until an event to wear them to comes along. I also don't like seeing in-progress posts by bloggers, who then never finish that outfit, and so we never see the end result- I don't want to be a bad blogger!

January 14th is 12th Night in my SCA Kingdom, and I'll be heading over to Billings, MT, for their event. I'm going to wear my new pink silk satin 15th century gown, but instead of a hennin, I have a silk velvet open hood ordered from Lady Malina in Poland. Both of these hats would be acceptable to wear with this gown, but I decided on the open hood because I wore a hennin to my last event, and I just don't feel like wearing my big hennin for an entire day. Plus, new hats need to be worn!


February 4 is the Regency Romance Ball in Salt Lake City. This event has been held on the same date as our local winter event, and it is again this year, but I wanted to try to get to the Regency Ball. I've been wanting more chances to sew costumes that are out of SCA time period (post 1600), and while I'm bummed to miss my local event, I want to do something new.

I've been working on Regency costumes for my husband and I since December. I've made him a waistcoat, shirt, and cravat, and purchased him breeches and a tailcoat. For myself, I've made a chemise and gown, and purchased a corset. Everything is finished except my gown. The gown is wearable, I'm just waiting on some trim to arrive for the hem and a belt.


The first weekend in March, a friend is being elevated to the Order of the Master of Defense, and my friend Sarah and I have offered to make him a doublet and breeches for the ceremony. I will do the main construction, and Sarah will do the handwork. The breeches are nearly done, they're now with Sarah getting the handwork finished. Her handsewing is much smaller and tidier than mine, so it works well for us to share the work this way. I can handsew, but for a project that is a gift for a friend, it's best for us to use our strengths to make the best garment possible. The fabric is the same red silk brocade I used for my surcote with the floor-length sleeves, and it's fully lined in red silk. It will have lots of small gold buttons and black velvet trim.


March also has us hopefully attending Coronation in Salt Lake City. Our current Artemisian King and Queen are doing a "Viking" reign (or maybe Rus?), and our Prince and Princess who will be stepping up at Coronation will likely also be doing something similar, Norse or Viking, so Coronation should be a very Viking affair. I'm currently well into a Norse project for myself, that includes several layers: linen underdress (serk), herringbone "wool" apron dress (actually a heavy cotton flannel that mimics wool), and a wool caftan/Birka coat. I've ordered new turtle brooches and made new bead swags to hang from them. Here's where I'm at today:


I started a pink wool flannel kirtle several months ago, perhaps even a year ago, back when I was still doing 16th century rather often. The bodice is an experiment in support: I've found that most of my 16th century bodices have too much compression on my chest, so I tried a new boning method for this bodice. When I finish the gown, I'll do a big post about how the support works and the boning pattern used. More gold silk trim needs to go on the sleeves and the hem of the skirt. It's all getting sewn on my hand, which has been good practice for making my handsewing even and less noticeable.

You can also see that I have a new smock with this kirtle. The fabric is an embroidered cotton I found in the LA Garment District last year. Of course linen would be the more historical choice for a 16th century smock, but I couldn't pass this fabric up, as it looks so much like blackwork, and it was $7 a yard!  The smock needs cuffs and the ruffles, and then it's done. I don't have a specific event to wear this outfit to, so it's not on my priority list for the next couple months.

April has Crown Tournament being held in Billings, so we'll definitely head over there for that event. I'll likely wear something fancy, as the event is being held indoors in a nice hall, likely with just the fighting outside. This calls for a nice dress but bring a coat along for standing outside to watch the Tourney. Perhaps the pink kirtle? I have a black, pink, and gold coat that I purchased from a friend which goes perfectly with this kirtle, so maybe I'll wear that.


Speaking of this coat, it's another one of my projects for the first half of this year. The coat got washed after it was constructed and worn a few times outside, and the heavy wool fashion fabric shrunk, while the lining did not. This means that the bottom hem of the coat is uneven. I am going to try to stretch the wool back out, by getting the coat wet, putting it on my dress form, and tugging at the wool. If it doesn't stretch out, I will add a wide guard to the hem of the coat (likely some pink velvet I have), making it a bit longer. The coat fits great at the top, but because it shrunk lengthwise, and because my friend who made it is quite shorter than me, I could use a bit more length. This coat is absolutely incredible; the workmanship is exquisite and perfect, and I am so happy that my friend allowed me to purchase it from her.

I do want to make a white linen 14th century hood for summer, and embroider it with gold thread. I have found that a hood is great sun protection for the neck and chest, but my hoods are all wool, so I'm hoping to make a linen one that will work for sun coverage but not make me roast and sweat. Perhaps April or May will be the time to make that, before the summer events.

June might see me attending Uprising in Idaho, and I won't need anything new for it. I have so much camping garb now, because last year I went to Estrella War and SCA 50 Year, and made a ton of clothes for those events. Artemisia 20 Year is being held over the 4th of July weekend, and I also doubt I'll need new garb for that. Maybe another early period linen smock, but that's it. I've got a couple more events in Summer and Fall of 2017, but it's gotten to the point where I have so much garb, that I don't need anything new, unless a special event arises, or extreme weather.

I have a couple other projects on the "maybe" list, some of them finishing a project, some of them re-doing an old outfit. I started (and nearly finished) a late 15th century gown in silk brocade, but the collar ended up wrong, so I put it in the closet for when I feel like finishing it. My ice blue French gown from 2015 ended up a bit small in the bodice, so I want to re-do it, which means taking the entire thing apart. That is getting avoided until I want to wear the gown again for some special occasion. I wore the gown once in March 2015, and by the end of the day, I was actually suffering- it was too tight in the chest, shoulders, and armscye. That is what made me decide to work on my 16th century bodice pattern, which led to the pink kirtle experiment. Once the pink kirtle is done, I will decide if I like the new boning style, and then will apply my findings to fix the blue gown.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Completed Projects and Events Attended in 2016

I always enjoy reading the posts from costume bloggers about everything they made over the past year, and as I saw a few pop up this week, I decided it might be fun to make one of my own for 2016! Nearly everything you see on this post has been blogged about over the last year; you can click the links in the "archive" on the right to see them.

January saw me and the husband attend a 12th Night event in Salt Lake City. I completed a set of late 15th century Burgundian gowns for us in black chenille velvet. We didn't take any pictures at that particular event, but we have pics in the same outfits from an event later in the year.


February we attended two events, the Feast of St. Valentine's with our local group, and Estrella War down in Arizona. I wore the purple and gold silk brocade 14th century gown again, but my husband's cotehardie was new: purple and black herringbone cotton flannel that mimics wool, with gold buttons, fully lined in linen, so it's nice and cozy for winter events. We drafted him a new body block pattern around this time, which helped me a lot throughout this year when I made him new clothes.


I made several new things for Estrella war, as I didn't want to bring anything from my 16th century wardrobe to such a warm event. I made a few linen kirtles, a new wool hood, and the St. Birgitta's cap. My husband got a new linen tunic and a warm surcote.


March had us attending Coronation in Idaho Falls, where my best friend stepped down from her term serving as Queen of Artemisia. I made a plaid cotehardie to wear with some items I had finished in February, a teal kirtle and a pink hood. I love this cotehardie and am looking forward to more chances to wear it. It's very comfortable, warm without making me overheat, and I think it looks great.


In April I attended Crown Tournament in Boise, and I finished a new outfit in time for that event. This outfit proved to be my post popular post of the year: a gold silk kirtle with a blue silk cotehardie over it. I'm really liking the unlined cotehardies look right now, and they assemble quickly and easily.


In May, we drove over to Billings for their Schola event, where I taught a hairstyles class with my friend Sarah. I had been wanting to make a fancy 14th century surcote, so I put together this outfit, all out of silk. Silk brocade lined in dupioni, with silk undersleeves. I've worn this surcote twice now, and I quite like it, even if the sleeves sometimes get in the way in the restroom! I have to be super careful when I wear it.

June had us making the big trip to SCA 50 Year Celebration in Indiana. I made a few new things for this event, but I didn't have to make much as I had just completed a lot of hot weather camping garb for Estrella only 4 months earlier. I did make a black linen kirtle and a white wool hood, just for more options. For hot weather, my new favorite choice is an unlined linen kirtle, in a medium to dark color so I can skip an underwear layer, as the linen kirtle itself is very washable.


I also finished a late 15th century Italian gamurra in time for 50 Year. I wore it for a couple hours at an indoor activity at 50 Year, and decided that I made it a bit too small in the bodice. I really like it, but I put it up for sale on Etsy because I don't think I can wear it again comfortably.


Late July had us attending Kingdom Champions in Billings. We didn't wear anything new for that event, but my husband placed 8th in the Archery competition, which made me very proud of him.
July and August had me hard at work for the Victorian Ball we attended in mid August. I made a gown for my mother and a gown and all the underpinnings for myself. This was a big project! I hope to have an event to wear the outfit to in the near future, as I'm really proud of how it turned out for my first Victorian.


Also in August I completed a new silk cotehardie for my husband. It's a cool orange figured silk, lined in cotton, with a ton of buttons. I think this outfit is a great look on him, especially with the tall boots!

I was the event steward for a Coronation event that was held by our local group in September, with our new King and Queen of Artemisia stepping up. After this event, it was time to buckle down and get started on my projects for entering the Kingdom A&S competition to be held in November.

September and October had me hard at work on new late 15th century outfits. I haven't blogged much about them because I did some original research with the papers I presented, and I haven't decided yet how I want to get the information out there. I will give some sneak peeks of the outfits though (there's more pics on my Facebook page, see link at the top right). I'm very proud of them, but I have waited to talk about them until I feel that my research can be presented in its best light. In October we attended our little Shire potluck and we wore our black Burgundians again, and we went down to Crown Tourney in SLC, where I wore my red silk surcote.


In November I attended Kingdom A&S, wearing a new 15th century silk damask kirtle during the day, and adding the green gown over it for court. I won populace choice for my display at the event, which was a nice feeling after all my hard work. I also performed a song on the keyboard as part of my entry in the competition, which I had been practicing since August. I continue to practice the keyboard so I can play at events in the future.


December weather prevented us from attending Solstice Court in SLC, which was a bummer, as it will be over 2 months between SCA events for me, once we attend 12th night in two weeks. I did get to attend a little Victorian tea at an historic mansion in my city. I thrifted a costume for the 1890s, which was great fun! I really want to do more Victorian and Edwardian events.


December also had me working on Regency clothes for my husband and I, for the ball we're attending in SLC in February. I've got my gown mostly done, and his shirt, waistcoat, and cravat are finished. I have also spent the last couple days researching Norse clothing, and have started a big Norse project to wear to Coronation in March.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Gowns Up For Sale on Etsy

Hello blog readers! I have just put up two silk gowns for sale in my newly created Etsy shop. Both of them are for a modern size 6-8, hemmed for someone 5'8" tall. They best fit measurements: bust 35-36, waist 28-30.

View them here on my Etsy shop!

An Italian gamurra, for 1480s-1490s Italian renaissance:


An Elizabethan gown, for 1560s-1580s England or France.