Sunday, November 5, 2017

Regency Era Drop-Front Gown in Orange Silk

This past weekend I attended a themed murder mystery party hosted by the Regency Society of Virginia. The event was held at the historic Francis Land House, built 1805-1810, and is now a museum in Virginia Beach. It was a really neat event that was quite well organized by the Society, and I absolutely plan to attend again in the future. Being able to have the party inside a historic house helps with the setting- much better than a community center! I dragged my husband along as well. This is three Regency-themed events for him in one year, so I guess I had better make him some more clothing!

The assembled guests in all their finery 

The event was to be held on Saturday evening, and I originally planned to wear my blue silk 1790s gown with black accessories, but having forgotten to take the gown to the dry cleaners after the last wearing (it got some food spilled onto the skirt), I wasn't feeling particularly excited to wear it. On Thursday afternoon, only two days before the event, I decided I wanted to make something new, because I am a Crazy Costume Person. Everything for the gown was already in my stash. Here is the result!

I had purchased this pretty orange silk about 2 years ago, with plans to use it as a lining for a different gown. When I purchased it on Ebay, the listing photos made it look like a bright gold. However, it is quite orange, created by the red and gold crossed threads. It might have been the influence of the autumn leaves here in VA that made me decide to use this silk! It also really popped with the black accessories I had recently finished- perhaps I was still in Halloween mode when I started the dress on November 2nd. 

I used the Laughing Moon fall-front gown pattern for this, and their pattern is a pretty close fit for me. I only altered the size of the bib and the sleeve length, and looking back, I wish I had made the bib bigger and did some gathering for a more "ruched" effect. But it ended up quite close to what I envisioned.  Per usual, I made my own skirt pattern, which was just two fabric widths with slight trapezoidal shaping at the top, to make the hem kick out a bit. I made the skirt extra long so I could add some tucks at the hem.

I had started the spencer a few weeks back, expecting to wear it with my blue 1790s gown. It's silk brocade with a paisley pattern, with silk velvet cuffs. It's also from a Laughing Moon pattern, which again, fit pretty well out of the package.

 The reticule is made from leftover pieces of the spencer fabric, with a turks-head tassel for interest.

The shoes were surprisingly not planned for this gown, but they matched almost perfectly! The shoes were first worn with my blue 1790s gown at the Gadsby's Tavern Ball in September, but I failed to get a decent photo of them at that time, so you're seeing them now. I purchased inexpensive, bright yellow velvet d'Orsay flats and sewed lacing rings onto the sides and top of the heel, and laced some silk ribbon through. They're supposed to look like these amazing slippers painted by Vigee-LeBrun around 1800.

My hairstyle is quite similar to the one I wore to the Regency Ball last February. I put my real hair in a bun, then added the fake bangs and the pearl headband. This time I also added an awesome black netted bun cover, which was super necessary because I have cut off half my hair and the ends are rather choppy and layered, so the bun would just not stay tidy without the cover reigning in the ends of my hair. But it ended up looking really great and I didn't have to touch it all evening.

 A hair net being used in the Regency period.

Monday, September 25, 2017

1790s Blue Silk Gown

 All the way back in June I bought tickets to the Jane Austen Ball at Gadsby's Tavern, to be held in September. The theme specifically said 1790s, when Jane Austen was a young woman. Most people wore what could be considered more Regency era (post 1800), and I could have worn my Regency ball gown, but I wanted to try another era and I have a habit of making new outfits for events.

 I considered quite a lot of fabrics, knowing I wanted something in silk, and settled on a lovely, extremely light weight silk taffeta off Ebay. I had purchased yardage of the silk in yellow to line an upcoming project, and I was so taken by the softness, drape, and sheen of this taffeta that I knew I wanted a full dress out of it. It's a bit hard to sew as it's slippery, but it was worth the effort, as I am happy with how light it is to wear and how it flows. Plus it was under $15 a yard!

This blue and white ensemble above was my main inspiration. It's from 1796. The two paintings below both date to the 1790s and show ladies in gathered blue dresses with elbow length sleeves, which is what I chose to make.

The pattern for the dress is a slightly altered Sense and Sensibility "Elegant Lady's Closet"  drawstring dress. I had to make the back neckline higher to cover my back tattoo, and I deepened the front neckline a few inches. I didn't use the skirt part of the pattern; I just made my own using trapezoidal panels, knife pleated in the back. I also adjusted how the drawstring is attached- I don't tend to follow pattern directions. Other than that, I liked the pattern and will use it again soon.

 I knew that I would want something on top of the gown for an accent. I considered a proper spencer or a sheer overdress, but after seeing several extant bodices and a lot of women wearing them in 1790s fashion plates, I decided to do just the little bodice.

My bodice is heavy silk satin from Pure Silks, lined in white silk dupioni, with some white sequin and gimp trim from Heritage Trading. I used the base bodice pattern of Laughing Moon's drop front dress, not including the bib part. I took it in after the first mock up and wish I hadn't; now it's a smidge small! I definitely will use the pattern again without alterations. The little tail is just a crescent shape of the silk, box pleated.

About a month ago, I cut a foot off my hair. It has been waist length or longer for 12 years, and I decided to change it up a bit. Now it's just below my collarbone, which I have found makes it very difficult to do many period hairstyles. I can't put it in a high bun without the back falling down. For this event, I chose to buy a wig! I have been using hair pieces for a while now, but this is my first ever wig.

I followed the directions for the 1790s hairstyle in the book "18th Century Hair and Wig Styling" by Kendra van Cleave. I highly recommend the book, even if you're terrible at hairstyling like I am. The book advises purchasing the "Southern Belle" wig from Lacey Wigs, and adding more curls to the shorter front layers. I did exactly this and I am really liking the style. I got a lot of compliments when I wore it to the ball. I wrapped a silk satin scarf from Dharma Trading around the wig for some interest, but next time I'll also add feathers!

 As for my accessories, I am wearing silk gloves, a silk reticule I made back in January, a painted fan from K. Walters at the Sign of the Gray Horse, and a necklace and earrings set, made by Dames a la Mode, my husband gifted me for our 3 year wedding anniversary last month.

I made a bodiced petticoat a couple months ago to be my main petticoat to wear under Regency dresses. I am wearing this under the blue gown above, and the white and black block-printed dress. It's made from cotton muslin, unlined, has three skirt tucks to give shape to the bottom of the skirt, and uses the drawstring dress pattern from the "Elegant Lady's Closet". I did made it about 2 inches smaller in center front to reduce bulk and gathers, which worked well.

I am also wearing a 1790s corset underneath the gown and petticoat, but I haven't taken proper photos of me wearing it. That'll be in a later post I hope.

Friday, August 18, 2017

1810s or Regency Block Printed Dress

 In July and August I put this Regency-era dress together, knowing there would be more Regency-themed events coming up this year for me to attend. The first one was the annual Regency Tea put on by the Regency Society of Virginia. It's held at this sweet little house in Amelia, VA, where they have a tea room set up downstairs. It was a great event, well attended, and everyone's costumes were top-notch. I have rarely seen such great quality costuming by every single person attending, ever.

I hunted around for some fabric in early July, settling on a white cotton muslin with a hand-done Indian block print in black. I wanted to avoid a mostly-white dress, as they seem so common in the reenactor community (probably because they were extremely popular historically), but I came across this black and white print on Etsy and decided to go with it.

My main dress inspiration was this extant dress, along with the pattern to another extant dress held in the Genesee Country Museum. Both date to around 1810-1815. They both have a drawstring front bodice placket, which I wanted to try instead of the simpler drawstring bodice we see pretty often. The pattern for the extant dress was way too small for me, so I used most of my Regency bodice pattern as a base, and then made the front rectangular panel. The panel has the lower gathers stitched to a waistband, while the upper gathers are on a drawstring. My dress buttons up the back instead of on a drawstring.

 Block printed cotton fabrics were very popular during the Regency era. Here is an image of a sample of print patterns, and other dresses that I used for fabric inspiration. Notice the border on the hems. I had to cut off the border of my fabric and re-sew it onto the hem and sleeve cuffs, as the pattern for the fabric ran vertically while the border was only on one side. I have a black silk spencer in the works as well; I didn't make it for the tea as I knew it would be very warm at the event.

 And now for some pictures from the tea! I made a simple swiss dot chemisette, but I need to add a ruffle onto the edge. I may re-do it entirely and make it a high collar instead of a v-neck. Mostly I needed something quick because my corset is purple and the dress is unlined and I didn't want the corset showing! I do have on a white cotton tucked petticoat, and with the chemisette, the outfit is not see through, except the sleeves.

 My hairstyle was pretty easy to do, now that I have some hair pieces. I have the curled bangs I made for the Regency ball earlier this year, and added my braided headband. All of my own hair is just in a simple bun. I decided not to buy or make a bonnet/hat for this event as it was all indoors. I definitely want to get a black hat or bonnet soon.

 Stacy from the Regency Society was also wearing black and white, and looked fabulous! My SCA friend Pamela came to the event with me, and I helped her put together a blue wool drawstring dress a few weeks before. She paired it with a gorgeous neckerchief and shawl. We had our own little table at the tea and got two of each savory treat.

 I'm quite pleased with how this dress turned out. It was just the right weight for the temperature of the day, so I think it'll get a fair bit of use at warm events. Maybe if I can attend the Jane Austen Festival in the future (Kentucky in July!), I can wear it there.

I have two more Regency/Jane Austen themed events coming up in September and November, but I think I will be wearing fancier dresses to those. The dress for the September event (the Jane Austen Ball at Gadsby's Tavern in Alexandria, VA) is pretty much done, and it's a 1790s blue silk drawstring gown. November is a Regency Murder Mystery party put on by the Regency Society, and I won't know what I'm wearing until I'm assigned a character. I wouldn't be surprised if I made something new for that as well!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

1760s - 1770s Green Jacket and Petticoat

Last weekend I went to Colonial Williamsburg (15 minutes from my house!) with my husband for a dinner and dancing night out. We went to the King's Arms Tavern, which was delicious and had musicians, and then popped by the Governor's Palace for an 18th century dancing demonstration, and we got to learn a few dances as well.

I am slowly easing my way into 18th century costuming, and decided to make another jacket with matching petticoat. This one is a bit fancier than the other set. The jacket is the JP Ryan pattern, and made into a "casaquin" style- I think! I'm not fantastic at the different names for the jackets, but I found some extant ones and based my jacket off of them. I wanted something with self-fabric trim and ribbons. Casaquin jackets are likely hip length, with flared panels, and show up around the middle of the 18th century. Earlier jackets tend to have wide flared cuffs, and later jackets often have self-fabric ruffles at the elbows, so I chose that style.

My jacket and petticoat are made from an emerald-hunter green silk/linen blend. My gold 1770s petticoat is also silk/linen, but that mix has more silk, and the green is more linen. It does still have a light sheen to it though. The rose pink ribbons are silk. I chose pink because I loved the combo with green, but I also have some rose silk satin that will become another petticoat and could get worn with this jacket, and then they'll match. The trim is box-pleated self-fabric, which I did on the machine as I went along, as I can pleat evenly without pinning. This is certainly not an historically-accurate method, but it went together quickly and easily, and the machine stitches are barely visible.

The jacket bodice is lined in white linen. Normally I like to line my outfits in nearly-identically colored fabric so you don't notice the inside edges, but you nearly never see that historically, so I went with the white linen. I don't love how it shows at the bottom skirt edge, but hey, it's correct.

 Here's how it looks without the neckerchief and apron. It could be worn this way for evening with fancier jewelry and hair, but I like how the white accessories make the fabric pop.

 I purchased a suit of linen clothes for my husband from Jas. Townsend. It consists of a coat, waistcoat, breeches, and hat. They are very well made but all a bit big for him, so I will be taking them in soon. I made his shirt and neck-cloth for the Regency ball a few months ago, but they work for 18th century, too. His shoes are from Fugawee and the buckles are the "James" from K. Walters at the Sign of the Gray Horse.