When I left you last, the pelisse was in one piece, though sans collar and many other little details. After Christmas, I finally had the time to put this to rights. (If you haven’t read the first part of this post about the Burnley and Trowbridge pelisse workshop, you can read about it here.)
It took me several test runs to get the collar just right, and when I finally got the flare and height just the way I wanted them, I sewed it all in place. Since the fabric is stiff and a bit unruly, I basted the outside of the collar to the body of the pelisse before folding the other side of the collar over and prick-stitching everything in place.
Once the collar was on, I got to do the really fun part–trimming! I started by making a pile of fabric flowers for ornamenting the cuffs and belt. The flowers are quite simple–here’s a quick tutorial on how to make them:
Next came the belt. I made this using another fancy trick from the Burnley & Trowbridge workshop. That is, I think I did. I may have. It was something Janea showed us really quick at the end of the day, and I was very tired, and didn’t completely understand what she was showing us at the time. So what I really did was something that made sense to me, picked up on the bits of Janea’s instructions that I did remember. Whether or not it’s exactly what we learned in the workshop, it worked very well, so here it is:
Basically, it’s a way of making something look as though it has piping around the edge, while only having to sew around the perimeter of the piece once.
When the belt was finished, I ornamented each cuff with four more of the fabric flowers and a smaller band made in the same way as the belt.
The pelisse is buttoned all the way down the front, so buttonholes were a huge ordeal that involved cocktails with my friend Amy and many, many episodes of Gilmore Girls.
The next step was to put a row of trim all the way down one side of the front, around the hem, and up the other side (there will be two rows, but I miscalculated how much I was going to need, and have to order some more). The trim comes from one of my favorite sources for fabric and trim, Farmhouse Fabrics. They have a wonderful selection of lace; I get nearly all of mine from them.
As you can see from the extant pelisse at the beginning of the post, there is a double row of trim around the collar as well. In the picture, you can just see the inner rows begin to slope towards each other before they disappear around to the back, out of sight. The trim pattern I did is my best guess from looking at the angle of the original trim.
There’s a row of trim around the edges of the belt as well, just inside of the false piping.
And that’s it! I’ll have to put that second row of trim on when it gets here, but then this three-month-long project is finally finished! (I didn’t do the sleeve caps, because I think I like it better without them–what do you think?)
I have to say, I’m incredibly proud of this project. I learned so much doing it, and I can’t thank Burnley and Trowbridge and Janea Whitacre enough for the pelisse workshop. It was an amazing experience, and I don’t think I could put a price on the knowledge and experience I got out of it. I hope I can make it to another workshop soon!
I’m planning a bonnet to go with this pelisse soon, and when it’s finished, I’ll try to do a nice, outdoor photo shoot with it. I think all that work deserves some really pretty pictures!
If you’re like me, you’ve read a lot of historical fiction, or possibly historically-inspired fantasy books. Inevitably, somewhere in these books, a woman gets a new dress. The dressmaker comes, takes measurements, shows her swatches and sketches, goes away, and a day or two later, the dress arrives, lovely, and perfect, and above all, finished. Now in my case, when I was young, I dreamed of reaching a skill level where I could work that fast (yes, yes, I know, the dressmaker would have had apprentices to help as well, but twelve-year-old me does not care). The older I got, and the more I sewed, the more I was baffled. I could sew fast. I could sew neatly. I didn’t actually start using a machine until I was 18, so I had years of hand-sewing experience. But there was still no possible way I could complete a garment, let along a ballgown, (even with help) in 48 hours. If you’re someone who knows anything about the differences between period and modern construction, you’re already laughing at me.
Over the years, especially since I started interpreting, I have added to my repertoire of hand-sewing skills, but nothing has shone light on the mysterious speed of historical seamstresses and tailors like the Burnley & Trowbridge workshop I attended in October. I signed up with two of my dearest friends, Amy and Melissa, almost as soon as the workshop was announced last winter, and the three of us planned for months and then trekked across the Appalachians to Williamsburg, VA. There were several times over the months between signing up and going when I considered dropping out for purely financial reasons. Even minus the hotel, gas, and price of admission, this was going to be an expensive project. I can’t tell you how glad I am that I stuck with it.
The workshop was led by Janea Whitacre, who is the Mistress Milliner and Mantua Maker at Colonial Williamsburg. Over the course of the three day workshop, she taught each of the (approximately) dozen women in the workshop how to make a Regency pelisse from the ground up. We started by ‘cutting on the person’ (draping on a body, rather than a dress-form), and stitched everything using period techniques that have fallen out of modern dressmaking, but suddenly explain how it was possible for a skilled dressmaker to produce garments so quickly. Everything about period construction is centered around a single goal: sew the smallest number of seams possible, mostly by not sewing the same seam twice unless absolutely necessary.
Amy draping my bodice.
Sewing my bodice.
Melissa and I were very excited about our finished bodices!
Thanks Angela Burnley, for letting me use these photos!
With machines to help us, sewers today are rarely troubled by the idea of bag lining, where the same garment if made first of lining fabric, then of fashion fabric, and put together afterwards. But think how silly that would be if every seam had to be sewn by hand! You’d have to make the same garment twice! The period techniques we learned for lining are like magic tricks. You put your fabric together in a way that boggles the modern sewer’s mind, sew a single seam, and it all comes out stitched and lined! For example: did you know it’s possible to sew a lined sleeve with a single seam? You just fold the sleeve with the right sides together, fold the lining with the right sides together, stack the two pieces on top of each other, sew down the length of it once (though 4 thicknesses of fabric), turn the fabric right side out and, voilà! the lining is inside. The seam allowances are all going in one direction, but here’s the thing: who cares? When did it become more important to have seam allowances open than to sew efficiently?! The old finished product looks just as good, keeps the lining from twisting around inside the sleeve, and halves the sewing time. And it could be done on a machine, if you want. There’s literally no downside.
My Completed Sleeve
No need to worry about putting things in backwards when Melissa sets your sleeves right on you!
If you want to learn how to line a bodice in half the time, you’ll have to attend a workshop yourself, since Janea is a thousand times better at explaining in person with the real pieces in front of her than I could ever be trying to put everything in a single blog. I’m telling you: take one of these workshops, they are more than worth the price of admission and the travel time. The first couple of hours were worth the $165 I paid. B & T only have a couple of their workshops for this year up, but keep checking back.
But I suppose you want to see the concrete item I got out of this, and not just hear me geek out about all the tricks. So here you go:
Each of us brought our own inspiration images to the workshop, and I was working to reproduce this extant piece:
I’ve been wanting to try reproducing it for a while, and I’m so glad I didn’t get around to it until now.
When I was originally planning this project, I wanted to make it out of this silk from Renaissance Fabrics, but sadly, in the two intervening years, they ran out (shocking, I know). It’s incredibly difficult to find really interesting striped fabrics like this, and finding one that had stripes and florals was pretty much a pipe dream, but luckily, Renaissance also had a lovely cream, fawn and sky blue striped silk faille that worked very nicely. It even picks up the colors of the original piece.
Most of my process shots are from after I returned from the workshop. As you can imagine, everything there was happening way too fast to get many pictures in. By the time I left, I had a completed bodice and the sleeves and skirt were set and pinned in place, ready to be attached. The bodice seams are all sewn by top-or-prick-stitching (I chose prick) through two layers of fabric and one of lining, then covering the seam on the inside with the other lining piece and quickly slip-stitching it into place. Since I wasn’t lining my skirt, I got to learn about a fun little thing called a mantua maker’s seam, which allows you to sew a fully finished seam like a french seam with just one row of stitching. The Fashionable Past has a quick tutorial here.
The first thing I did when I got home was to sew the sleeves in place. Since the material is very thick and pulls hard against the pins, I basted it before doing the final prick-stitching. As you can see, the fullness is controlled by pleats, rather than gathering, since these are much easier to set on a person.
The skirt was attached the same way:
After that, I had to take a break for a while in order to finish the company dresses for the Jane Austen society AGM. You can read about Heather’s here, and Meredith’s here. When I got back to the pelisse, it was time to finish the front edges and hem.
At this point, life got in the way again as I rushed to complete holiday gifts. But once the holidays were over, I could finally buckle down and finish this project, which was now spread out over three months.
Not unlike the project itself, this post is not getting away from me, so I’ll wrap it up here, and there will be a special 2nd edition of this post on Wednesday, where you’ll get to see collar, trimming, buttonholes and the finished product! Here’s a sneak peek:
This holiday season has been just full of bustle, and the weeks leading up to it were also full of something else…great subterfuge and trickery. You see, it’s quite tricky to sew a present for the person you live with while still keeping it a secret.
In this case, the project was a linen Regency banyan, which is a casual men’s over-garment meant for wearing around the house. Basically, it’s a way of staying very comfortable while still not being embarrassed if guests come by. Attire’s Mind has a great rundown on the history of the banyan here.
What with the sweltering humidity of Louisville summers, Brandon has been desperately wanting a banyan ever since he learned they existed. Since he plays one of the sons of the Locust Grove family, it would be perfectly appropriate for him to wear during casual daytime events, and in a lightweight linen, it will be perfect to beat the heat.
Banyans were a holdover from the 18th c., and while Regency men generally wore solid colored frock coats, banyans were a different story. As you can see above, they came in stripes, dots, and brocades, and that’s not all: paisleys, florals, and patchwork are all represented in extant examples. Basically the sky’s the limit when it comes to fabric pattern, though Brandon did request when he hinted he wanted one of these, that his not be too over-the-top. He’s not a man at home in head to toe paisley, and certainly not in this:
So I set out on a quest for a tasteful, striped linen with enough visual interest to showcase how different a banyan is from a frock coat, while still being something Brandon would happily wear. I went through many options. The fabric I was originally planning to get was from Burnley & Trowbridge, whom I adore, but sadly they had one yard less than required. I was nervous at this point, since I’d discovered in my first search that an irregular, but not over-the-top stripe is incredibly hard to find. Either the stripes are regular, or it’s white with bright green and yellow stripes, or something equally eye-catching. I was about to give up on my dream of irregular stripes when I found the perfect thing on Fashion Fabrics Club. It’s a very light weight linen in a dusty purple (you may think purple would be too much for Brandon, but in fact it’s his favorite color, so I was home free there) with dark blue stripes alternated with subtly patterned beige stripe.
It was perfect, even better than my first plan. I ran it past our male costume director (our friend Brian) with my fingers crossed and he loved it! I sent the package straight to his house to avoid prying eyes.
So that was the fabric squared away, but I still needed to get this thing made. As you can see from the examples, it’s not a small garment that could be easily worked on in secret.
Cutting it out wasn’t a problem, I “worked late” and zipped over to Brian and Amy’s for a cup of tea, chat, and fabric cutting, then snuck the pieces home at the bottom of my enormous work bag. Once safely at home and out of sight I stacked them in the order in which I would need them and hid the stack at the bottom of a box of pillows waiting to be covered for other Christmas gifts.
The main construction all got done in little chunks while Brandon was in the shower, and when he leaves earlier than me for work on Mondays. Occasionally, he would have to go do something on one of the days when I work from home, and I would go “Jackpot! I’ll do this now and work a little late!”
I used the Mill Farm Banyan and Cap pattern, though I borrowed it from Brian, who had already altered it slightly to fit himself, and his altered pattern was perfect on Brandon. Though the pattern calls for lining, I didn’t do this, since the point was to make the banyan as light and airy as possible. All of the seams are French seams, so that they are nicely finished.
The collar is a very simple narrow band, and all the edges of the front are hemmed, since there is no lining or facing to finish them.
Once it got down to the more time consuming hand stitching, I would “stay late at work” and either sew at the studio, or go over and hang out with Brian and Amy. The closest Brandon got to discovery was when I came home smelling like fried onion because Brian was cooking dinner while I was there. It made Brandon suspicious, but he still didn’t know!
Here are the cuffs: They are prick stitched all long both edges to keep them nice and neat, and stitched to the sleeve itself along part of the top edge to keep them hanging properly:
The pattern doesn’t include any kind of closure, but I added 5 one inch covered buttons (though I didn’t put them on until after Christmas, so I could fit it on him first). I covered simple wooden buttons from Joann by gathering one large circle (about 5/8″ bigger than the button) around the front and tying it off. I covered up the raw edges with a smaller circle (about 1/4″ bigger than the button) that I gathered up, flattened into a disk and whip stitched to the back of the button. I could then use the same thread to sew the buttons to the front of the banyan. I backed each place where a button was sewn on, and each buttonhole, with scraps of canvas to keep from pulling on the thin linen.
The pocket flaps are quite large, and didn’t lay nicely, especially considering how incredibly not-stiff the fabric is, so I added a buttonhole at each corner and fastened them down with 1/2 inch buttons covered in the same way. The gap between them is still large enough that Brandon can slide his hand in without rumpling them.
Here’s the finished product, though I forgot to get a back or side view where you could see the pockets.
I managed to get it wrapped and in the present stack without Brandon knowing where it came from, and his reaction on Christmas was a totally worth all of the subterfuge. He was so excited, and proceeded to wear it for the rest of the day. For next year, I guess I’ll have to come up with some new sneaky tactics…
I toyed with the idea of calling this post “Turn This Stupid Fat Rat Yellow”, but decided one could push an allusion too far.
As previously discussed, this spring my friend and I took a mini-road-trip to a fabric store that was going out of business, and while there, I bought 6 yards of extremely wide seersucker that was probably originally meant for curtains for only $5 a yard. I used half of it to make a dress for my friend Marrie, who is a fellow interpreter. The rest of it is now a lovely summer pelisse for me! (Actually I can hardly believe this, but there’s still nearly a yard of it left.)
Now that I have two day gowns and a spencer, a pelisse was the obvious addition to my wardrobe. Pelisses were extremely popular in 1816, which was known as the Year Without a Summer. Temperatures (already at the tail end of the centuries long cooling period known as the Little Ice Age) were very low the entire year due to the massive eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia, so women would take any extra warmth they could get.
I based my pelisse on this one by John Bell, from February 1815:
Since this plate shows only the back, and I could find no description of the front, I had to dig around a bit to determine what the front might have looked like. Capelets like this were relatively common, but often shown from the back, since they were (presumably) the most unique and interesting detail about the piece, but I was able to use plates like the one below for inspiration. Though much of her bodice is covered with that amazing cascading ruff, you can see that the cape folds down and comes down to a point at the underbust.
I couldn’t do exactly that, because my inspiration plate also has a collar, and the collar has to attach somewhere, but this at least gave me a jumping off point for the basic line of the design. In the end, I attached the collar in the normal way, and made the capelet a separate piece that was blindstitched in place. The ends extend slightly below the waist and have little tassels on them to go with the tassels at the back of the cape.
I did several rounds of mockups to get the shape and drape of the cape and collar just how I wanted them, but as usual when I’m concentrating on mockups, I didn’t think to get pictures of all the steps. I must work on that. I did, however get a picture of how the skirt works.
The skirt in my inspiration plate, instead of falling straight down and being squared off at the bottom, curves from the waist around to the back, leaving the front of the gown skirt exposed. I originally intended to do this with three pieces, one in back and two in front, but as I was drafting, I realized that I had so much fabric that I could do the entire skirt in a single piece, since the front pieces of the skirt would have been extremely small in any case. I used the Sensibility Regency Gown Pattern. You can see that I’ve folded down the curve at the top of the skirt back. This makes the skirt work for a later-Regency walking dress, where the hem should be even all around, rather than dropped slightly in the back. It’s possible to hem the original pattern into the right shape, but much easier if you keep everything straight right from the start so that the grain of the fabric is working with you. The blue line is where I’ve extended the skirt by half of my front underbust measurement and gradually curved it down to the hem.
After putting together the bodice and lining, my first fun step was the collar. I tacked a small piece of trim just inside the seamline before sewing so that it would show when I turned the collar right side out. If you’ve never done this, it’s one of those things that gives you this extremely satisfying feeling of precise-work-well-done. I highly recommend it. Also, I love how the collar has that little dip in it to make it just that much more interesting.
I gathered both the skirt back and the bodice back into the center, so that the underbust would fit nice and snug. Before sewing them together, though, I had to hem and hem and hem and hem all the way around the edges of the skirt.
And then I had to hem and hem some more, because it was time for the cape! As I said above, the cape was then stitched on under the collar and along the front of the bodice, where it is mostly covered by lapel until it meets the edge of the bodice opening. The ends are free-hanging.
Now here’s the real reason I was so excited to make this particular pelisse. I’ve had the perfect trim hanging out in my stash for nearly two years, just waiting for the right project!
I mean look at this stuff! Could it have been any more perfect if I’d gone out looking for it? I love that this is the kind of trim you put on top of the hem, because it even has those adorable little picots on the top–wouldn’t want to hide them! Don’t worry, I gave it all a good press with a little starch when I was finished so they all lie nicely.
The sleeves were feeling unloved, so I gave them their own little bit of trim and ribbon to get them to stop grumbling.
And now…tassels! I made two little tassels for the ends of the cape in front, and a larger one for the back using whatever I had lying around on my desk to measure.
Loving the tassel swish!
Anyway, here it is:
I think I’ll probably move the front ties up a smidge and fiddle with the lapels, as I’m not quite happy with how they’re lying yet, but I love that cape in the back so much!
I just started working on a white silk bonnet to go with it. I’m embarking into unknown territory with this one, but I can’t wait to show you how (if) it turns out!
Somehow, in the two years since I made my first Regency dress, I have never made another day dress for myself. Now, I wear Regency/Federal clothing pretty often compared to your average citizen, and I have to wear my white dress and maroon spencer every single time. This seems a bit silly (not to mention smelly on a hot summer weekend) to me, so I’ve set out to remedy it.
At the Jane Austen Festival in Louisville last July, I bought a lovely lightweight grey cotton with a marigold and maroon block print at Regency Revisited. I sat on that fabric for a year as project after project passed it in the queue, though I had lots of plans for what I wanted my prospective new dress to look like.
Unfortunately, my ideas went through a lot of evolution before I actually got around to cutting the fabric, and it turned out that I didn’t have enough fabric for all of the ruffles on my planned dress. I had to go back to the drawing board, searching through fashion plates until I came across this one:
I laid out my pieces, measured very carefully, and as luck would have it, I had just enough extra fabric to make those lovely scalloped ruffles for the hem.
The base of the dress is just the Sensibility Regency Gown pattern, altered to fit me a little better, and with the neckline raised at the front and back, but left the same at the shoulders to form a slit-shaped neckline. This is just the mockup, so I pinned the pattern pieces to the muslin and made the alterations right on the fabric. I made several more rounds of minor alterations to get the neckline and fit just right after this one. This week, Pico decided that her new favorite sleeping spot was behind my sewing machine. She glared at me every time I ran it, but didn’t seem interested in moving.
Once again, I’ll skip most of the basic dress construction and get right to the more interesting things.
The sleeves in the fashion plate have a sort of flared not-really-a-cuff on the sleeve that covers the hand from wrist to knuckles. I made this by gathering the sleeve onto a piece of narrow bias tape so that it was the right size at the wrists. The ‘cuff’ is just a rectangle of fabric gathered into the already gathered end of the sleeve. I did all this before sewing the sleeve into a tube.
And now it’s time for the really fun part: scalloped ruffles. I turned ruminated over the best way to do these for a long time, and finally I decided that it was insanity, at least for this dress, to try to put a backing on the whole piece so that it would have a nice finished edge. If the scallops were larger, I probably would have, but these were quite small, only about an inch wide and 3/4 of an inch tall.
So I made myself a template out of part of a box of crackers and set to marking each and every scallop. When they were all marked, I cut them out with clipping scissors, veeeery carefully. For the raw edges to work out, there couldn’t be any rough patches for things to snag on. In the 19th century, ruffles were often pinked on the bottom edge, instead of hemmed (since it takes a lot of hemming to hem several layers of ruffle), but that wouldn’t work for these. Once again, if those scallops were bigger… When the scallops were cut, I starched each strip to help them keep their shape, and (since I’m a modern woman) painted the edges of each with clear nail polish. I wear these dresses a lot, and I’m not willing to put all that work in for ruffles that disintegrate as soon as you look at them. Once the scallops were cut and reinforced, I just gathered and sewed them on like any other ruffle.
The skirt got three rows of ruffles, overlapped as close as I could estimate to the same point as the ones in the fashion plate.
The last major step on this dress was to create the lace details at the waist, cuff and neck. The waist cuff was simple, I just gathered lace slightly and stitched it inside the cuffs. I pinned some lace to the gathered wrist, but decided I didn’t like it there. The neckline was a bit trickier. The trim consists of two rows of lace edging attached to a central band. To make the band, I cut a few bias strips from a scrap of the main fabric, sewed them together, and pressed the edges under. I pinned this around the neckline of the dress before attaching any lace, so that I was sure it would go around the curves neatly. Then I gathered more lace and pinned it just beneath the lower edge of the bias band. I stitched through the band, lace and dress (but not the lining) all along that edge to attach it, then did the same at the top.
And that’s it! Here’s the finished product (note the fashion-plate-mimicking stance):
I got to wear the dress for the first time this weekend for a super-special-exciting event that I can’t actually tell you about yet–but I can’t wait! I’m so completely thrilled with how it turned out–so glad I got diverted from my original plans and made this one instead! Someday, I’ll have to get myself a fabulous straw top hat like the lady in the fashion plate has and recreate it!
Next up: back to yellow stripes for my new pelisse!
So, you might think that after finishing an insanely huge event like the 1822 wedding, I would take a break for a while, but while idle hands may not be the devil’s playthings, they do drive me mad. I can’t even watch 20 minutes of Parks and Rec without something to do with my hands. So when all of the wedding pieces were finished, I did a cross stitch piece for a friend’s birthday and jumped straight into another Regency dress. Not for me this time, that comes next, but a commission from another interpreter.
Several months ago, a friend of mine heard of a fabric store that was going out of business several towns over. That was sad of course, but it meant it was time for a road trip! I got six yards of some lovely yellow and white striped fabric for $5 a yard, plus it was meant for curtains, so it’s really wide. It turned out to be the perfect fabric for Marrie’s dress, and there will be enough to make myself a pelisse as well!
I should have taken pictures of the two rounds of mockups we did in order to get the bodice fit exactly right, but sadly, I did not. I’ll begin with the real bodice instead.
This fabric is basically an extra-large seersucker. It is lightweight enough to be just translucent, but sturdy enough that it goes through the sewing machine beautifully. The stripes were nice to work with because they’re an automatic guide to whether you’re square on the grain, and lining up buttonholes has never been easier.
From here I’m going to skip a few steps, because the basic structure of the skirt and sleeves is not particularly interesting. The fun of this dress comes from the embellishment!
The skirt decoration is actually very similar to the poofs on my 1822 wedding gown (and made of the same material too!). I started with loops of fabric about twice as long as the circumference of the hem and creased each edge under, then ran a gathering stitch through both layers of the creased edge. The biggest difference is that instead of letting the strip poof out, it is pulled taut against the main fabric.
When the skirt was done, I took a quick break from the dress to create the fichu, which is also made of the leftover Swiss dot from my 1822 dress. It has matching ruffles around the edges which are gathered down the center and pinked on the edges instead of being finished with a hem–a very common time-saver in the period.
Time for the last details:
I originally bought this lace to use on the fichu, but when I pinned it on it was just too much. It was perfect, however, to create a ruffly detail on the cuffs, with more of that yellow satin ribbon as an accent down the center.
I absolutely adore this dress! I’m actually a bit jealous of Marrie, but I can’t wait to see it in action on her, either! Here are a few preliminary photos of her, and hopefully I’ll get more at an event in the future:
And now it’s my turn! I’m finally starting on a new day dress for myself with some block printed grey fabric that I’ve had in my stash for a year. About time!
This is a recap of the event at Locust Grove. To read about the construction of my 1822 dress, you can start here.
I know I’m a little late in showing off how the 1822 wedding turned out, but I hope you’ll forgive me when you hear about all the excitement!
For Brandon and I the day started at 10, when we got to Locust Grove and started piling on the layers. Things were right down to the wire, and this was the first time Brandon had put on the finished jacket. Just for kicks, the event landed on a 97 degree day with a 106 degree heat index, so you can imagine how snug he was in thick, dark-colored wool. So glad that an amazing team of other CIs took on the task of creating a jacket from the 1821 regulations (a tricky period since it was a uniform that lasted only a few years, and there is very little documentation about it besides the regs themselves). So many blind-stitched buttonholes.
Luckily I had help putting on shift, stays, petticoat, chemisette, dress and wig. I left the veil off until just before the ceremony–something needed to be a surprise!
The wedding party gathered on the porch at 11 for a final rehearsal (our officiant had to step in at the last moment!). When that was over, Brandon got me to take a quick stroll through the garden before our busy day started. No matter how much stuff I wanted to do, or how many friends I wanted to chat with, he insisted, and by the grape arbor (where we took pictures together our very first time at Locust Grove), he told me he thought it would be weird for us to get fake married before we were really engaged. He dropped to a knee for only a moment (couldn’t risk those breeches getting dirty in the wet grass), but it was enough!
So, newly engaged, we scampered off to find our friends. We just about scared poor Brian (the program coordinator) to death when we told him to come with us to find everybody else. I don’t know what disasters were going through his mind in that moment, but we apologize for giving him a mini heart attack. Luckily, our fearless CI leader, Amy, had a couple bottles of champagne squirreled away, and we got a toast out of the way just as the event opened at noon.
The men went off to carouse and shoot the fowler.
The ladies started our day on the porch, where we could catch guests as they went into the house and talk up the wedding later in the day.
We spent the afternoon wandering the grounds, chatting, and watching readings of Jane Austen’s early works, while the other CI ladies found married guests to ask for advice on my behalf. There was much giggling and blushing and grinning, all compounded by the excitement of a real engagement! The news was all around the event the moment it started. People we’d never seen before came up to congratulate us. Brandon had to rush to intercept his mom and brother when they arrived to make sure they heard it first from him instead of a stranger!
As the ceremony drew nearer, the ladies retired to the great parlor to prepare:
This was my absolute favorite part of the day. It was a perfect moment in interpreting: alive and vibrant. We were able to really bring the excitement of the day to the guests, and interact with people who came through the house on an intimate level. The moment I put my veil on and looked in the mirror sent a little shiver down my back as well.
I couldn’t believe how fast the day flew by, and too soon it was time to leave this space and head to the main event!
If you were there, you may have recognized the ceremony from the 1995 A&E Pride and Prejudice, but with all the extra fire-and-brimstone that they left out. My favorite bit is when he has to dedicate his body to me. Oddly enough, I did not have to do the same for him.
After the ceremony, we retired to a lovely tent for cake, wine and more congratulations than we knew what to do with. Thanks to everyone who was there! The day couldn’t have been better.
We meant to get back to the grape arbor and take some pictures for posterity, but never did get around to it. Luckily, the whole day was captured beautifully by Heather Hiner of Fox and Rose Photography. You can find more fun recaps of the event on the Locust Grove blog.
Now we get to look forward to another day just as special next year!
If you want to read about the making of this dress, you can begin here.
Lacemaking has always been one of those crafts that has interested me, but that I never seemed to have the time to pursue. Things like bobbin lacemaking and tatting are time consuming and complicated to learn. I decided I wanted to learn one of the methods that involves embroidering designs onto mesh, instead of arranging threads to create a strip of lace. Finally, earlier this year, I went and did some research into the myriad methods of making. There are several different methods involving embroidery, and of them all, I landed on tambour for my first attempt. Tambour turns up in England around the 1760s, when lightweight muslins from India became popular. It requires only two tools: an embroidery hoop on a stand, and a sharp hook, which is used to tie a series of chain stitches through fabric. Here are images of the hook, and a tambour shawl from the 19th c.
The art was incredibly popular in the Regency, and can be used not only on mesh, but on fabric for dresses, cushions, and more. Tambour is easy to learn, and once you get comfortable with it, much faster than any other kind of embroidery. I picked it because of it’s speed, popularity, and the fact that the basic motion of it, using a hook to create interconnected loops, has similarities to both wigmaking and crochet, so I hoped to pick it up quickly.
*Edit–I’ve been doing tambour, and improving my technique for several years now, and if you are interested in starting to learn yourself, you can start right here on Fabric & Fiction, with my new Tambour Lace tutorial series!*
Brandon got me the things I needed to start doing tambour for my birthday in March, but then things go so busy that I never got the chance to start, though I had several projects planned. But in the past couple of weeks, I could put it off no longer, because guess what Ann Croghan needed for her wedding? A veil! Once again, these two lovely brides from 1820 and 1823 were my inspiration.
Both brides wear a lace veil attached behind their hairstyle with a triangular headpiece that sits on the top of the head. I set out to recreate the style.
First I scoured Ackermann’s Repository issues from 1821 and early 1822 for embroidery patterns I liked. I landed on this one from November 1821:
Since I was crunched for time, I decided to do only the border, and skip the allover pattern of smaller flowers and sprigs. I also skipped doing a more traditional marking method like sewing a running stitch around the design in favor of my trusty water-soluble marker. The event is coming up fast after all!
For the first few motifs, I was afraid I’d never finish in time. Panicked thoughts ran through my head. “Oh God, I had so many projects planned. This is terrible! I’ve made a dreadful mistake!” But soon enough I got the hang of things: the tension, the way you have to vary stitch size around tight curves and at corners, and eventually I was zipping along at a pace I couldn’t have imagined at the beginning.
The pattern is made up of alternating leaf and flower motifs, so I thought I’d show you how each one of these motifs went together, starting with one of the leaves:
The flowers definitely turned out to be the simpler, quicker part of the pattern:
But while embroidering is fun, getting rid of all those pesky thread ends is not. Each thread starts with something called a waste knot, which you can see in the third picture. The thread is tied to the mesh outside of the pattern, then brought through to the back so it’s in the right place for embroidering. Each of these knots had to be snipped, and both ends of the thread woven through the back of the embroidery to secure them (no knots in embroidery unless they’re part of the pattern!). I thought about counting how many thread ends there were, before deciding that that was insane. Suffice it to say, there were a lot!
Finally, I trimmed the veil edges into scallops following the shape of the pattern, and removed all of the blue marker. After a nice press the veil was ready to go.
Thread ends in and edges trimmed, there was nothing else between me and that silly little lacy triangle that perches on top of the bride’s head.
I used a bit of spare buckram from my last bonnet to make the triangle. Luckily I’m working on a wig for myself as well, so I could test out the size using the wig head. (More to come on that later!)
I covered the triangle in white silk batiste, which would give it a smoother finish, while remaining translucent, as the headpieces of the fashion plate brides seem to be.
And once again, what bride doesn’t need as much froofy lace as possible, so I attached two rows of gathered lace around the edges:
With veil and headpiece both ready, it was time to attach them. I gathered the top, un-embroidered edge of the veil, and arranged the gathers against the headpiece until I had enough space for a bun to poke through. I could have just sewn the ends together, but a few weeks ago I ordered some vintage silk orange blossoms (a very popular wedding flower) to wear in my hair, and the seller sent couple of cute little tiny roses on single wires with them.
I slipped the wire through the mesh of the veil and the lace on the headpiece, and wrapped the wire around to secure it. This way, I can easily remove the veil and use it for something else, or adjust it if the bun works differently than expected.
I’m now in real crunch time trying to make sure I get my wig done in time, so back to work! Come see the whole outfit in action at Locust Grove on July 18th!
When I first started interpreting 1816, I loved pretty much every aspect of clothing (as I do in many eras) but there was one accessory I shook my head at. I laughed about it. I swore I would never wear it. You’ll see what I mean:
The Ruff. (These are, in order, an 1815 fashion plate from Costume Parisien, an 1815 fashion plate by John Bell and an 1815 sketch by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, one of my favorite portrait painters.)
I thought it was silly. Why would anyone want to make their neck wider? Or look like a disgruntled chicken fluffing her feathers?
But it says something about how fashion works that the longer I’ve been doing Regency, and the more images I look at, the more I like the ruff. It’s frilly and feminine, and it’s one of those details that is so beautifully, distinctly a part of its era. It can really give a period outfit that finishing touch that makes it seem like more than a costume.
And ruffs like these, inspired by Elizabethan fashion, stuck around though the 18-teens and into the ’20s. In 1822, when Ann Croghan wed Thomas Jesup, they were still fashionable in all shapes and sizes:
(Extant dress ca. 1818, 1822 La Belle Assemble Fashion Plate, 1822 Ackermann’s Repository Fashion Plate)
So I set out to make my very own chemisette with attached ruff (a chemisette is a simple garment that fills in the neckline of a low-cut gown in order to make it more modest for use during the day). The nice part about this particular accessory is that when it has done its duty for the wedding, it can go into my regular 1816 wardrobe. I kept the ruff on the small side for 1822 in order to ensure that this is the case.
The basic structure of a chemisette is incredibly simple. The body has three pieces: one back piece and two front pieces (I believe they can also go the other way, with the opening in the back). The real fun and interest of a chemisette comes with the collar: plain, ruffled, lacy, embroidered, or full on ruff. Mine is made of cotton voile, so it is a bit sheer, but not overly so.
The only seams in the body are at the shoulders. Since there’s no lining, I made these french seams, meaning that I sewed a narrow seam with the wrong sides together, then flipped it around with right sides together and sewed a second seam that encased the raw edges. I flipped back the fabric edge for the second photo so you can see both the finished edge and the raw edge it is enclosing.
Then it’s time to hem, and hem, and hem. Every edge but the neck needs a hem. The bottom hem is slightly wider so that you can put a string though to secure it under the bustline.
The collar is tall, so that it can fit plenty of lacy goodness, with overlapping points in the center where it comes together. Like most collars, it is made of two identical pieces sewn together, which makes neat edges all around, and gives a bit of extra stability for attaching those ruffles.
Since the collar needs to fit snugly around my neck, the body of the chemiette had to be gathered into it, which I think adds another level of pretty detail. With the collar attached, the only thing left to do was the lace. I got a pretty simple cotton lace with a pattern of dots for it, since all those layers meant the pattern wouldn’t be very visible anyway. Plus the dots imitate the dotted Swiss dress fabric, which I enjoy.
Now the fun part! (Look at me accidentally taking pictures going every which way)
My chemisette and lace even got to come with me on a trip to my parent’s house in Michigan. (See that blue carpeting? Chicago O’Hare.)
Once the lace was all gathered and attached, I just had to add a couple of strategic hook and eyes and here it is:
I took pictures first without the dress, so you can see how the whole thing works. Next time I do one of these, I’ll get more lace and gather it more so that it really wants to stand out, but I think this is a nice not-too-ostentatious start to my ruff-wearing experience.
The event is coming up quickly (only three weeks!), so it’s good to see things coming together. There’s still a wig and veil to complete, though! Don’t forget to come see it at Locust Grove on July 18th!
Deep breath. And. IT’S FINISHED! Exactly one month to the day after I started this crazy journey, Ann Croghan’s wedding gown is complete. As you could see in my last post, things were winding down last weekend. The skirt decoration was finished, the dress was shaped like a dress, the lining was in, but there was still a ways to go.
As you may remember from my first post about this project, the sleeves were inspired by these from an original 1822 wedding gown:
I had been putting them off for three weeks, but everything else was done, and and it was time to face the sleeves.
The first step was to cut out the pieces. The white piece is a bit larger than the blue so that it can get gathered in the center. I carefully drew and cut out the teardrop shapes so that the blue would show through.
But, of course, when you cut a bunch of holes in your fabric, you have to do something to keep it from falling apart, so I bound the edges of the slashes in blue.
While that was a long and fiddly task, the tricky part was doing the little button loops that contain the excess fabric between each set of slashes.
Once those were done, I just wrapped them through the slashes, secured the button, arranged the extra fabric how I liked it, and stitched them in place.
When the sleeve pieces were sitting on the table after I’d cut them out, Brandon walked by and asked “What are those football things?”
“No they’re not.”
“Seriously. I promise. They will one day look like sleeves!”
So I set out to prove that they would indeed, someday look like sleeeves. The first step was to gather the lower part of the sleeve into the sleeve band, then to sew the underarm seam to form a ring. (No picture of that since I figured you’d seen enough pictures of me sewing a seam that could or could not be the one I was talking about).
And then to fold under the sleeve binding and stitch it in place to create a nice edge. See? Now they look like sleeves (sort of). It’s easy to forget how bizarre pattern pieces look unless you know what you’re looking at.
Here’s what I get for doing things out of the natural order. I had to wrestle with the entire heavy dress while I gathered the sleeves onto the bodice and stitched them in place. But look how pretty! The puffs are longer and the extra fabric in the center a bit less than in the inspiration, but I’ll take it!
But puffs weren’t the only part of the sleeves! I used the white fabric with no blue underneath to create the rest of the sleeve, so that it would be a little sheer, and stitched it to the inside of the sleeve band on the puff.
As we all know, every wedding dress could use more lace! So I added some at the cuff and sleeve band.
We’re down to the smallest finishing touches now!
That’s it! With that final anticlimactic and interminable seam, I was finished! The height of the skirt back may need a bit of adjustment once I’ve completed my corded petticoat and tried it on, but here it is!
Once again, I couldn’t have done this without help from some fantastic ladies! I can’t wait to show you all the rest of the outfit as it comes together (or maybe I’ll make you wait until July to see it all together!). If you possibly can, don’t forget to come to the Locust Grove Historic Picnic on July 18th. You’ll get to see the dress in action at a period ceremony, plus lots of other fun stuff including dancing, a reading by the Kentucky Shakespeare Company and much more!