A Cartridge-Pleated 1630s Petticoat

After all the talk about the stays, it is time for a post about the petticoat. Compared to the stays, it went together really fast. The “pattern” are two 150 cm wide and 95 cm long squares of fabric sewn together. I used the 17th-century petticoat instructions on Marquise.de as a guide. 

Trying on the petticoat for the first time.

My fabric was 100% combed wool. It was a bit on the heavy side so I did a sort of double closure with two 15 cm side seam plackets to balance everything. After some research, I found that such side closures are just as plausible as center-back ones. Also have a look at this great video about getting dressed in the mid-1600s by Prior Attire. It features a gorgeous side-laced bodiced petticoat which is just as plausible for the period.

One half of the waistband. I interfaced it with a strip of silk noil and added two eyelets to attach the finished petticoat to the stays.

I also wanted to talk about my petticoat because it is cartridge-pleated. At the time, cartridge, or accordion, pleats existed alongside knife pleats which were slowly coming into fashion. Knife pleating gives a narrower fit at the waist and a slightly different hang. When cartridge pleating for the first time, the process can be a bit befuddling. So here is a little walkthrough. I used Drea’s tutorial to get me started. Before pleating anything, do not forget to sew your hems…

“Hem before pleats” is definitely the second most important rule after “shoes before corset” ;).

After sewing three rows of gathering stitches with linen twine, I pulled the threads to match the waistband. Using the folded-over selvedge really helped because it saved me the hassle of finishing the top edges.

Pulling up the gathering stitches.

When the skirt bottom and waistband matched, I knotted up the threads to secure everything. Since they stay in the skirt, I then buried all the tails. Next I neatened the pleats by pinning them together in even clusters.

Pinning the pleats into clusters.

Next came the sewing. It is somewhat counter-intuitive because you put the skirt and waistband right sides together with the bottom of the band meeting the top of the skirt. But this is the most important thing to do, really. You will see why in a moment. To join the two, you use a whip stitch, putting two stitches into every pleat that meets the band, like so:

Whip-stitching with two stitches per pleat.

Now when the waistband is folded up, it pushes out the finished pleats to create the characteristic cartridge pleat look. It comes out really well in this photo, with the bum roll underneath. Please ignore the makeshift closure. The finished item closes with two sets of hooks and eyes.

The bum roll nicely pushing out the pleats.

Now that everything is officially finished, I have started planning the gown that will go on top. This makes me super excited! Also because I get to write the first proper research post in a long while … Eee! So please stay tuned for the next installment of 17th-century wackiness!

Cheers, Nessa

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Knitting Faux Lucet Cords

Now that the final lacing holes are on my 1630s stays, I realized that I had run out of cord to tie everything together.

Making the final lacing holes, yippee!

Lucet cord would be perfect, and period correct, for this project. But I have not learned how to use a lucet, yet. So I decided to try something else: knitted i-cords! Those do not require a lucet or loom, only a pair of double-pointed needles and some basic knitting skills. And they almost look like lucet cords.

Knitting an i-cord on 2.5 mm needles.

If you would like to learn knitting an i-cord, here is a very nice video tutorial by Kristen of Studio Knit. Another method for the non-knitter is to crochet it. :)

These are the two cords I finished today, to tie on the straps. I also made four longer ones to lace together the stays and petticoat at the waist. The yarn I used was a small leftover ball of orange cotton from my stash.

Two of my six cords.

I hope you will find this tip useful when you next run out of cord and/or have misplaced your lucet. ;)

Much love, Nessa

Open Seams with Herringbone Stitch -A Tutorial

While making my herringboned fichu, I realized it was about time to post a new tutorial. So I thought I would show you how I made the open seam at the back.

Open back seam on my fichu.

Open work is something I had always wanted to learn, because it never fails to look delicate, wherever you put it. But, so far, I have not found a go-to tutorial for it. When making the 18th-century baby caps for my cousins, I tried my hand at fagotting. It is very similar to what I did on the fichu, only with a more complicated stitch. I could not really wrap my head around it and eventually opted for a basic whipstitch finish.

Then I remembered that herringbone stitch can also be used for open work. And here we have it, simple and pretty. If you have not seen herringbone stitch before, here is a very good video tutorial. We will be doing just the same to create the open seam. The only difference will be the gap between the two stitch lines.

Now that you have familiarized yourselves with the stitch… off we go!

You will need:

  • The two pieces you want to join.
  • A thread of your choice. You can match it or just go wild with colours. Sewing thread might be too thin. What works well are fillet crochet yarn (no. 80 or 100), silk buttonhole or one to two strands of embroidery floss.
  • A matching needle. For best results, it should be smallish and sharp.
  • A piece or strip of paper as long as your fabric edge. It need not be wider than 1″.
  • A cushion to anchor your work. A small sofa cushion or throw pillow will do.
  • Pins.
  • A ruler and pencil.

How it is done:

  1. Finish your fabric edges. Before you start, the two edges you are stitching over need to be hemmed. Hemming any other edges is advisable, though, especially if your fabric is on the sheer side. Narrow hand-rolled hems work well. You can use them to get some extra stability for your seam (see below).

    Make a paper template for the seam.

  2. Use your paper and pencil to make a template. Basically you draw two parallel lines, each one as long as your fabric edges. The space between the lines should be between 1/4″ to 1/8″. For the tutorial I started with 1/2″, but eventually went with 1/4″ for the fichu.

    Pin the template to the cushion.

  3. Secure the template on the cushion with pins. Make sure it lies flat.

    Pin the fabric pieces on top.

  4. Now pin your fabric pieces onto the cushion. Match the fabric edges you are working on with the lines on the template.

    Bring up the thread and start stitching.

  5. Thread your needle. If you have wax to hand, waxing the thread is a good idea. Now bring your needle underneath the hem on the back of your fabric and bury the knot between the layers. Then bring the needle to the front. It should come up at the top edge of one piece, a little ways away from the working edge.
    NB: If you have a rolled hem, come up right at the inner edge of it. Working the herringbone over the hems will help stabilize the stitch.

    And stitch away!

  6. Work the herringbone stitch between the edges until your seam is done. Try to keep an even tension to avoid puckering or loose stitches.Take the needle to the back to finish off.
  7. When you reach the end of the seam, take your needle to the back, coming up on the hem.

    Knot the thread and bury the tail.

  8. Knot off the thread and bury the tail between the layers at the hem. And, tadah, your open seam is all done!

    Your finished open work seam. Yay!

And that is it already. Easy, right? The next level would be to use a double herringbone stitch instead. Here is a video tutorial for that one. Try not to get dizzy. I still do sometimes! ;) 

I hope you found this brief tutorial useful. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to let me know. I cannot wait to see your own, beautiful open work creations!

Nessa

Making a 1620s Busk (CoBloWriMo Day 15)

With several small projects happening at the moment, I am getting a head start on tomorrow’s “Small Project” prompt. The first project I am presenting you today is the wooden busk I made for my 1620s stays. I made it using these instructions from Drea Leed’s Elizabethan Costume page.

The finished busk.

For it, I used a 35 mm wide, 10 mm thick pine board. The finished length is 12″ (30 cm). Since the busk’s conical shape was a little trickier to work than the simple Regency-era busk I made using a paint stir stick, my dad kindly gave me a hand with the woodworking.

When it was all sanded and oiled with a tiny dash of canola oil, I felt like adding some design to the finished piece. So I scratched away with a small etching knife and created this little fleur-de-lis. Seeing how I had never etched anything before, it turned out pretty well.

My attempt at an etched fleur-de-lis.

This whole project was so small, it came together in one afternoon. And I am quite happy with it. Although it’s not a real hardwood busk as they were used in the period, it is very stable but also light to wear. The only choice of hardwood at the local store would have been beechwood. But it would have been very, very heavy. So sticking with the trusty old pine was a good idea. :)

Nessa

Top Tips for Handsewing Needles (CoBloWriMo Day 13)

Today’s CoBloWriMo prompt is “Top Tips”.

In their posts,Thedementedfairy,  Kitty Calash and Cassidy have pointed out how important handsewing and using the right materials is to achieve the best possible results. My tips are an addition to all the great handsewing advice they have already given.

Being a stickler for always using the suitable needles for each task, I have compiled some points on those pointy things for you. ;)

As someone who primarily hand-sews, I find that proper control over the needle is one of the most important things. To get it, I use the smallest, sharpest needles I can find, namely quilting “betweens”. 

Quilting betweens, sizes no. 7 & 9.

Betweens are shorter than modern standard needles. This brings them closer to historical handsewing needles which were often on the shortish side. Recently I found someone who was totally stumped at people using 1″ long needles for sewing. To be fair, it takes practice and threading them can be fiddly. 

Thus it is best to start with a slightly bigger size, like a no. 7, and to go down as you are feeling comfortable with it. I am now on a no. 9, which is the smallest size I can source locally. On the long run, downsizing is well worth it. I especially notice the difference when sewing invisible stitches, whipped gathers or tiny rolled hems. They turn out much nicer as the stitching becomes smaller and finer.

Another thing I find important is to toss your needles and take new ones regularly. On average, I do this after every second or third project. When sewing with silk or extra fine voile, I automatically take a fresh needle, just to be on the safe side.

If you are unsure if a needle is still good, pass the point over your trouser leg (or skirt ;) ) at an angle. If it scratches or snags, the needle is a goner. You can do the same with machine needles, to be sure you do not get holes in the fabric or a sewing machine on strike.

I hope these tips are no old news to you and will help you a little with your sewing. :)

Love, Nessa

The 1920s Step-Chemise (CoBloWriMo Day 8)

For today’s “Vocabulary” prompt, I will tell you about the 1920s step-in chemise I finished in January. Yes… January. So it is about time you finally get to see them. Colloquially, this type of chemise with leg holes or attached knickers was also know as “Teddy” or camiknickers. It emerged for the first time in the 1910s and was more practical than long knickers as dresses gradually became shorter. It was also especially popular in the 1920s as it avoided a visible “panty line” and thus supporter the fashionable boyish silhouette.

For my pair, I used an interesting pattern from a 1921 issue of “La Mode de Femme de France”. The original thing about it is that it only consists of a single square of fabric. It as a neck hole in the center and is tied with a ribbon, either at the bust or waist line. The pattern looked so intriguing, I had to try it at once!

chemise femme de france

Step-in chemise pattern from Mode de Femme de France (Sept. 1921). Click for original.

I made my Teddy out of a square of cotton Muslin, using the original measurements. The fit was spot-on. Although, if you are taller than me (over 5 feet) you should alter the measurements to fit you. Measure yourself from where you want the chemise to begin, down to your crotch area. This will give you half the diagonal of the square you will need. To get from here to the side length you will cut, double this measure. Then divide it by  √2. This will give you the side length.

To get the width of the center opening, use about half your circumference in the spot where you want the chemise to sit. If you are not super busty, however, the dimensions in the original pattern will do nicely. Then, to form the leg holes, cut off a bit of the two tips at the bottom, finish these edges with a small hem and add buttons or snaps for the closure. Measure and make up the straps last, when you are happy with everything else. The ribbon tying the square into a chemise is laced through a series of buttonholes. They can either by placed at the underbust or hip level. I recommend trying out both versions with a piece of ribbon before you decide where to cut and sew the buttonholes.

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The finished Teddy, laid out flat to show the make-up.

I stuck with the “empire” waistline and it turned out lovely! To spruce up the neckline a bit, I did a shell hem. This was also a suggestion pictured in the original instructions. The other was to use matching ribbon for the neckline finish and straps. To make the shell edge, I used this lovely tutorial. For some extra traction when pulling the thread taut, I cut a finger off a spandex glove and stuck it on my thumb.

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Creating the shell hem.

The finished product turned out looking very lush. All that I need to make now is a period brassiere to go on top. :)

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The finished Teddy, front view.

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The finished Teddy, back view.

Just before starting the Teddy, I finished a slip and robe de style for the family Christmas party. Tomorrow’s “big project” prompt will be perfect to tell you about that poofy little monster. Stay tuned!

Nessa

A Cap for a Dear Friend

After fixing some image server issues, the blog is back and I can finally tell you about all the projects I have finished over the past few months. Since my last post, the white crossover gown has come together at last. But I will keep you in suspense a little longer, since a photo shoot opportunity (my first proper photo op, yay!) might arise at the end of this month.

So, today I want to tell you about a gift for my dear friend Ann. She was kind enough to go through her stash and send me fabric for my shortgown when I could not find anything suitable on this side of the pond. This is why I simply had to sew something for her in return. Because she had once told me that she does not have a simple linen cap for reenactment, I knew just what to make for her.

For the cap I used my favourite Mill Farm pattern, the same I have used for mine here, and leftover white linen fabric from the bed shift. When making it up, I tried my hand on two period sewing techniques. The first were itty bitty rolled hems around the brim, on the back crown, and the ties.

Rolled hems around the brim…

…. and on the tape ties.

Further, I got to learn a new technique I had been ogling for a while: rolled whipped gathers! And now that I know how they work, I never want to go back to regular gathers, ever again. They just give you much more control over the gathering process and a much neater edge finish besides. To learn rolling and whipping, I used two video tutorials for orientation: This one from Katherine and another from Conner Prairie, which has sadly gone offline. This second one described a rolling process of the fabric around the needle. But I found that you automatically start doing that, once your stitching gets quicker. Here are some photos of the gathering process around the crown, with a look at the finished item:

Finishing the row of whipped gathers on the crown.

The gathered crown (with a rolled hem at the bottom).

The attached whipped gathers, inside view.

The attached whipped gathers, outside view.

Once everything was hemmed and the gathers were in place, all that remained was to back-stitch the tape ties into the brim, wash and iron the finished item. Here are some photos I took before mailing the cap overseas. It reached its new owner quickly so that she could make plans to wear it for the Regency Ladies Weekend at Riversdale House Museum last month. This was only the third historical costume gift I got to sew for someone and I am super glad that she liked it. :)

The finished cap.

The finished cap… back view.

Speaking of gifts: There has been another, very exciting, surprise that reached me in the mail earlier this year. But I will leave it for next time, since it really deserves a post of its own.
So… stay tuned!

Until soon, Nessa

PS: The image issues should be resolved now, but should you have any trouble viewing or accessing the images on the site, please let me know. Thank you! :)

A 1630s Smock – Pattern & Construction

A day after my last post I decided to stop being a chicken and got to work on my 1630s smock. My journey into this new-to-me period started with a good look through “Patterns of Fashion 4”. There I found the 1625-30 smock from the V&A collection (p. 117). As you can see in the picture, the extant original features some really delicious lace inserts, made from five different types of bobbin lace. I was in love with it even before I had seen pictures of the actual smock.

Smock, c. 1620-40, Victoria & Albert Museum.

This, and the dating of course, is why I decided to use this smock as the main pattern base for mine. My version will not include as much lace, though, and perhaps a bit of plain embroidery. Other sources I used to create my pattern were Drea Leed’s Elizabethan Smock Pattern Generator and the Italian chemise tutorial by Jen of Festive Attyre. While I was looking around the web for resources I also stumbled across the collection of 17th century costume links Elisa of Isis’ Wardrobe has put together. It is a great place to start if you are planning to make a 17th-century outfit.

When making my smock pattern I tried to take some bulk out of the pretty massive extant pattern and tweak it to my petite 5′ stature. Instead of the high neck, I chose to make a low neckline to create a versatile garment that can also go under the more low-cut bodices of the time. In the end, my pattern looked like this:

Pattern pieces and measurements.

The pattern pieces are the following:

  • 1 body piece, 90″x45″
  • 2 sleeves, 23″ long, 20″ wide at the top, 10″ wide at the bottom
  • 2 underarm gussets. 5″ square
  • 2 triangular skirt gores, 11″ wide and 33 1/2″ high

The pattern includes a 1/2″ seam allowance and a 1 1/2″ hem at the bottom. To save space, I cut the gores from rectangles and joined them up at the center. This technique can also be seen on some extant smocks in PoF 4.

After cutting out all the pieces, I folded the body lengthwise and cut out the neck opening, following the schematic below. It sits right at the center of the body and has a total length of 35″ across, leaving a shoulder length of 5″ at each side. The dotted line in the drawing represents the shoulder line.  :)

Schematic of the neckline.

When making up the smock, the neckline is gathered into a 1/2″ wide band, folded in half. To make the band I used a 1 1/2″ wide fabric strip, cut on the straight of grain. The smock at the V&A uses a folded 1/4″ band, but I was too much of a chicken to try that on mine. ;) The length of the strip I determined by gathering the front and back neckline until I liked the fit. Then I measured around the opening:

The gathered front neckline comes to just over the top of the bust and has a total length of 21″. To this I added 10″ for the gathered back neckline. The outer 2″ edges of the neckline are not gathered. This helps the smock to stay on the shoulders. For them I added an extra 4″ to the neckband. Plus a 1″ seam allowance, this added up to a 38″ x 1 1/2″ binding strip.

You can use a similar strip to bind the sleeve cuffs. For a gathered sleeve, however, you should widen the sleeves’ bottom edge by 5 to 10 inches. My version has simple 1/4″ rolled hems. The top 3″ of the sleeve seam are left open to create a slit at the wrist. The bit above that I am closing up with a drawstring in a lace casing. Once finished, it will look like a delicate sleeve ruffle. I will post some pictures of what exactly I did there when the smock is finished.

It will not be too long now. The sewn-up smock went into the wash today. I am hoping to iron and finish everything in time for the April “Circles, Squares & Rectangles” challenge of the Historical Sew Monthly. I will tell you a little more about the materials and construction, too, once the challenge photos are in. Until then, I wish you all a lovely, sunny Mayday weekend.

Love, Nessa

An Everyday Regency Morning Belt

Over the past few months, a discussion about wearing historical costume for everyday occasions has made the rounds in some online costuming groups. This reminded me of how much I love wearing Regency underpinnings with modern outfits. Half a year ago, I finally got around to making the Regency-era morning belt I have wanted to make for so long now. Since then, I have worn it under historical costume, but it has also had more than a few cameos as a bra replacement. Worn over a fitted camisole or t-shirt, it is super comfortable, much more than most modern bras. And, since a morning belt involves next to no lacing, it comes on and off more quickly than a pair of stays. :)

In today’s post, I will share the research and drafting / making process with you, so you can go on and make your own morning belt. The research has proven a little tricky, since extant examples of Regency-era morning belts are scarce, or at least somewhat hard to identify. But more on that in a moment!

Some Morning Belt Research

The one thing that has kept me from making the morning belt for so long (years, actually!) is that fact that this style is one of the least documented known Regency undergarments. The closest surviving examples to be found today are various sets of boned half stays. Examples of this are the Utrecht half stays Sabine has taken a pattern from and this corselet held at the Musée Galliera:

Corselet (Palais Galliera, c. 1820)

Corselet (Palais Galliera, c. 1820)

Corselet (Palais Galliera, c. 1820)

Since only very little information on the wearers and the occasion of wear exists, we can only assume that they have been used for morning / undress or maternity wear. And it seems very likely.  Still, I have always missed a clear link between these examples and the ominous “morning belt” from period texts. So I did a little digging.

On a whim, I started searching in French. This way I stumbled into a period book I had not know before the “Manuel des dames” by Madame Clenart, whose real name was Élisabeth-Félicie Bayle-Mouillart. You can access the full text here at Gallica. This is a second edition from 1833, but the content seems to date back to at least the early 1820, so it is a great resource for the mid to late Regency era. And it really is pure gold, it does no only hold advice on corsetry, fashion and manners but recipes for cosmetics, perfumes and some laundry directions for dress fabrics, among other things.

The corsetry chapter lists many types of stays, featuring suggestions on stays for maternity wear and instructions on turning a regular pair of stays into a corset à la prasseuse (the period equivalent of fan-lacing). This chapter also describes mornings belts and gives some instructions of how to make them up:

Extract from “Manuel des Dames” (2nd edition, c.1833).

In short, this extract gives the following hints for the construction of a morning belt (from what I could gather with my very basic French):

Half-stays for the morning are about 8 to 10 inches high (I understood this to be the back length), corded or lightly boned. The top part is shaped like it would be in a regular pair of stays, but the back ends in two long tabs that tie at the front with thread ribbon. They are very convenient for dressing in the morning, plan on going on a bath later or when you are in a hurry to get dressed. I do not know about you, but this sounds perfect to me on an average morning!
Fabric suggestion include white cotton or coutil for summer and nankeen or grey cotton canvas for winter wear. A lining in a matching colour is also suggested to make the morning belt more durable.

From this I gathered that morning belts also featured the crossover back tabs seen in the half stays above. Although they do not quite resemble those in the Galliera example, but come very close to those of the Utrecht stays.

Half-boned stays (Centraal Museum, c.1820).

Half-boned stays (Centraal Museum, c.1820).

On a side note, you can also find this kind of crossover wrapping for shape in a more unusual Regency-era garment. This bust (under-) bodice at the Victoria & Albert Museum:

Bust bodice ( V&A, c. 1820-29).

Bust bodice ( V&A, c. 1820-29).

After gathering this information, I finally felt confident to delve right into drafting my morning belt.

The Pattern

Since this has been my first venture into drafting a piece of corsetry, I decided to use these  drafting instructions for short stays by Mistress of Disguise. They also work wonderfully for actually making short stays. ;)

I started by following the instructions given for the front and back / side back pieces. The only thing I did differently was to use a slightly longer back length (9″ instead of the given 8″). For the bust gussets I cheated and used my size gusset from the Laughing Moon #115 pattern. I left out the straps and included them in the back piece later on.

To create the crossover back tabs, I turned to the pattern for the Utrecht stays by Sabine as a rough guide. First, I created the overlapping section at the center back. For this I drew two lines. The first was a straight extension of they stays’ bottom (underbust) line. Its length was equal to about 1/8 of my underbust measurement. I redrew this line later. Then I connected the end point to the top end of the CB line with a diagonal.

From here I rotated the back pattern piece outwards until the diagonal line was perfectly vertical. I will show you what I mean by this on the finished pattern piece in the picture below. When cutting out, the straight grain will run along this line, too. (Sorry about the slightly rumpled look. For some reason I could not find my original pattern draft…)

The rotated back pattern piece.

The rotated back pattern piece.

Now I elongated the vertical line by the length of my side back piece (again 1/8 underbust) plus two or so extra inches that would got over to the front at the sides. At the bottom edge of the line, I drew a perpendicular that was 2 1/2″ long. This marks the later front width of the tabs. Now I went back to the original bottom edge of the CB line from the initial draft. and connected it to the end point of the short perpendicular line with a long curve.

For the strap, I did a similar thing. I extended the top of the long vertical line by the desired strap length (14″ in my case). Again, there is a perpendicular line at the top edge, 2 1/2″ long. From its end point, I drew another line, parallel to the vertical. To get the length of the line I calculated my strap length – shoulder to underbust length at CB. This way I made sure that only a narrow strap shows at the front.

To shape the top curve, I extended the curve on top of the side back piece, across the back piece, until it reached the end point of the parallel.  The finished back pattern looks like this: Originally the strap was a part of the back piece. But when doing the final mock-up, I decided to make it into a separate piece to reduce some of the strain on the fabric. The seam runs in a spot where the mock-up had a little pucker. There is now no pucker in the end result. ;)

The finished back and strap pieces.

The finished back and strap pieces.

Making Up The Morning Belt

When making morning belt, I used up the leftovers from my long stays. Thus I made them out of two layers, an outer layer of white cotton twill and a sateen lining. After putting in the gussets and sewing together the individual layers, I joined them together by stitching through the side and side back seams. This minimized the amount of basting at this stage and made for nice, extra durable seams on the finished corset.

Joining the layers by stitching through the side seams.

Joining the layers together by stitching through the side seams.

For the light boning, I used four rows of cording with 1/4″ kitchen twine over the side back seams and two rows of cording plus a small piece of heavy-duty cable tie at the side seams. For the busk, I made a teeny 4″ wooden busk from a paint stirrer, using my own busk tutorial. With some hindsight from the last time though, I did not oil it as profusely as the last one. ;)

A tiny 4

A tiny 4″ busk.

After adding four hand-bound eyelets to tie the straps to the front, I started binding the morning belt with cotton bias tape. I bound the short edges of the bottom tabs individually then sandwiched the twill ribbon that ties at the front in between. Then I went about the remaining binding as usual. The top binding at the front holds a small 1/2″ drawstring that keeps the ladies in check.

On the dress form, the finished morning belt looks like this. It fits much better on my ( somewhat more squishy) self and I really love how it came out.

The finished morning belt, front view. :)

The finished morning belt, front view. :)

The finished morning belt, crossover back view. ;)

The finished morning belt, crossover back view. ;)

Close-up of the strap lacing and side boning.

Close-up of the strap lacing and side boning.

Cording at the side back seam.

Cording at the side back seam.

Now I am so happy that I finally got to make this piece of Regency corsetry for modern ladies in a rush to get dressed! :D I hope you enjoyed this rather long post and it has shed some light on the making of a morning belt. If you have questions, please feel free to ask them here at any time. Wishing you all a lovely rest of the week!

Cheers, Nessa

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A Shortgown At Last

Finally, I got to compile the long-overdue post on my beloved shortgown I finished a few months ago. To start off, here is the finished product: I took these pictures after wearing it to one of my very first costume events (a historical market) so it is not perfectly pressed. ;)

The finished shortgown.

The finished shortgown.

The back, with pleats and a little bow.

The back, with pleats and a little bow.

The fabric I used was a gift from a dear friend who is a Regency/Federal-era costumer herself. She was very, very kind to send it across the Pond after I had spent weeks not finding a suitable fabric for the gown I liked. I am so glad she could help me out. But before I got to work with this beautiful fabric, which is a light, printed quilting cotton, I delved into research to get inspired about possible patterns.

Some Research
To begin with, shortgowns were present in women’s wardrobes in the 18th and early 19th centuries. In the 18th century the were also often known as bedgowns or manteaux de lit. And, while the general style of the gown stayed the same over time, some little details in the cut and shaping changed: Earlier versions of shortgowns were often cut from one piece and more or less symmetrical, with a front opening and a flared skirt section, shaped using pleating and / or tucking. Marquise wrote up some very good instructions for an 18th-century bedgown, based on Garsault’s book, here. Another example for this style, but with a more flared skirt, is the Kallfors gown from Sweden. The reproduction in the link also comes with a pattern. :)

And, while one-piece versions seemed to have been the rule, it is not uncommon to find gowns where the skirt section has been pieced on. This was done in the Kallfors shortgown, too. But it is not easy to spot from further away. Here is another Swedish example from Digitalt Museum where the piecing is more obvious in the lovely, bold stripe pattern.

A mid 18th-century Swedish bedgown from Digitalt Museum.

A mid 18th-century Swedish bedgown from Digitalt Museum.

As time went on towards the Regency era, narrower shoulders and slightly deeper necklines made an appearance as working-class women began to adapt the look that was fashionable at the time. Isabella of the Two Nerdy History Girls wrote a very nice post that sums up these developments. With the changes in shaping, neckline and waist drawstring began to be used in shortgowns. Here is a Dutch example from the very early 19th century that seems to have a neckline drawstring and sports a leaner silhouette than the more flared earlier gowns.

Early 19th-century shortgown from Friesland (Source: Memory of the Netherlands database).

Early 19th-century shortgown from Friesland (Source: Memory of the Netherlands database).

Another Dutch gown, where the drawstrings are a bit more prominent is this brown one. It has a visible join and drawstring at the waits, though the join might also be a casing sewn as a tuck. To me, this one looks super cute and very “Regency” and so it became the main inspiration for my project. Below, I will tell you how I went about making it.

Another Dutch shortgown, probably 19th century, from Amsterdam Museum.

Another Dutch shortgown, probably 19th century, from Amsterdam Museum.

The Making
To make mine, I played around with the Sense & Sensibility ELC pattern I used for my stripe dress last winter. I went with the long-sleeve version of the bodice pattern. The only difference was that I included a front opening. For this, I added an overlap of 3/4″ at the center front and cut two halves of the front piece, instead of a whole one. Here is a photo of my cutting layout and the lovely brown fabric:

The bodice pattern and layout. :)

The bodice pattern and layout. :)

To finish the front overlap, I pressed over 1/8″ and sewed a tiny hand-rolled hem on either side. I think this is how I finally fell in love with making them. They did not take long and came out looking really cute, almost like iced on. After finishing them, I sewed the rest of the bodice according to package… erm pattern instructions. ;)

The 1/8

The 1/8″ rolled hem on the bodice front.

And the finished bodice, with drawstring neckline.

And the finished bodice, with drawstring neckline.

The neckline drawstring casing I made of self-fabric bias binding, also based on the pattern. For the top closure, I sewed two small eyelets into the inside of the casing. They are set off by about 1/2″ so that they tie safely on the inside.

One of the two CF eyelets. :)

One of the two center-front eyelets. Below you also see the casing for the waist drawstring. :)

Like in some of the earlier extant gowns, I also made a separate skirt piece. I had two rectangles for the front that were 8″ long, plus 1 1/4″ for the top and bottom seams. They attach to the back piece at the bodice’s side seam. For the back piece, I played around with the pattern’s skirt piece, which has a curved top seam line. I trimmed it down to 28″ width, to accommodate one box pleat at center back and four small knife pleats on either side. At CB, the piece was about 11″ high and it went down to 8″ on either edge, to fit the front pieces. After sewing the three pieces together, I added two more tiny 1/8″ hems at center front.

The skirt piece, sewn together and hemmed.

The skirt piece, sewn together and hemmed at center front.

After attaching the skirt to the gown, I finished the skirt seam with bias binding. I then sewed it up into the bodice from CF to the side back seam line to form two drawstring casings. The strings tie up to pieces of cord near the back. To finish off, I finally added a little decorative bow to the back. It helps to cinch up the waistline and nicely brings out the pleats. :)

Another “gimmick” my shortgown has is a bodice “lining” piece that keeps everything in place. It was a feature of the S&S pattern and I decided to keep it, since it helps a lot with keeping the gown straight over the stays.

The bodice

The bodice “lining” from scrap fabric.

When I wore it to the event, the lining and outer gown were held together by a total of 30 (!) short pins. And, after spending six hours plus in costume, the whole construction had not budged an inch. I also wore the fichu on the occasion, using even more pins on it and it behaved very well, too. This taught me again that pins really are a great period closure method. And that, no, they do not prick and poke you at all. :D

So, all in all, I am very happy with my first shortgown and actually having worn it “in public” for an event. Here is hoping that I can repeat this again soon.  Until then, it is back to the thesis and more sewing (yay!). Wishing you all a relaxed remainder of the weekend.

Love, Nessa

 

 

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