Getting the Bum Roll Rolling

Whenever I am busy, the sewing likes to cry for my attention. Yesterday night, it did it again. So now, pretty unexpectedly, the Regency bum roll is already under way. Originally, it was planned for HSF #13 “Under $10”, then jumped forward to #12 “Shape & Support”. But as it is also white, we are now going with challenge #9 “Black and White”, due on May 15th. This way I might even get my first proper Regency gown started before the internship and moving house later this year… yay. :)

Regency-era “bum rolls” were especially popular in the late Georgian/early Regency period, starting from around 1790. Later on, they popped up every once in a while, depending on the current fashion of skirt shape and style. In times when the rolls were not that popular, smaller, stuffed pads were sewn into the dresses, directly underneath the back of the skirts.

When I started Regency costuming, I had the funny notion that bustle pads were attached to the bottom of the stays. After getting the Underthings pattern from Sense & Sensibility, I became curious and wrote Jennie Chancey about it. In return, she sent me a very nice mail with images of extant and reproduction bum rolls. We also realized that the thing that had mislead me, a little “tail” on a pair of 1790s stays, was actually a leftover of the 18th-century tabs. Jennie also mailed me the link to this Elizabethan bum roll tutorial from Farthingales.

I found it pretty neat and decided to adjust it for Regency wear. The period “bum line” was not at the high hip, as depicted in the tutorial, but rather a few inches below the underbust. Hence, this is where I took the three measurements instead, using the bottom of my short stays as a guide. The front “horn” of my roll came to sit about a hand’s breadth away from the stay’s side seam, approx 30 cm (11 1/2 inches) from the center back line. The other two measurements, the middle of the body’s curve and the back end of it, came to 22 cm (8 2/3 inches) and 12 cm (4 3/4 inches), respectively.

Furthermore, Regency bustles were rather slim, to give just the right amount of skirt support, without creating a hump-back. So, I slimmed down the bum roll’s width from the proposed 10 cm to only 4-5 cm (1 3/4 – 2 inches). Here is the finished pattern:

From this, I cut eight pieces, four on straight grain and four on the bias. This is why the grain arrow near the center back line came in very useful. As I was feeling a little cheeky, I cut the bias pieces from some leftover pink fabric. Those will go on the inside, so the finished project will still be white, to fit the challenge, but with a certain rebel streak. The stuffing will also be white, as I made it from a scrap of white upholstery cotton. Cut out, the two different kinds of pattern pieces painted this pretty picture:

Right now, I am really looking forward to sewing them up. And afterwards, it will soon be time for that first dress. Early next month, there will be a fabric market here in the city and I am hoping to find just the right material for it there.

Love, Nessa

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