A Flowery Regency Straw Bonnet (CoBloWriMo #26 & HSM #8)

As you might have noticed, finishing up the 1620s stays, and a bum roll on top, has completely knocked me off the blogging train this week. So here is a catch-up post filling out several CoBloWriMo prompts (namely Small Project, Made For Myself, Event, Favourite Resource, and Media) and telling you about the straw bonnet I made for the current Historical Sew Monthly challenge. But, one after the other, before anyone gets dizzy.

First off, the “event” I made it for is the prospective photoshoot I told you about last month. In my area there are few costume groups I know and big reenactment events are few and far between. So I cannot usually attend them without traveling quite some distances. But, on the plus side, there is a lot of scenery around, such as a baroque city center nearby and a few pictorial hunting lodges. For my birthday last month, we went to Schwerin, which has a beautiful castle and park with a Georgian colonnade and all . It would have been perfect for photos. Then the weather made photos impossible with stints of pouring rain, followed by singeing sun. And traipsing in the mud would have ruined the gown…. Oh well, maybe next time.

The design for the bonnet was inspired by this French fashion plate from 1810. Especially by the second last one on the far left and a bit by the first on the far right side.


Fashion plate of different bonnets, caps and toques from Costume Parisien (c. 1810).

This brings us to the “Media” and “Rescource” section of this post. ;) I have to say that I loove Regency-era journals and magazines such as “Ackermann’s Repository” or “La Belle Assemblée”. Mostly, for the many fashion plates but also for the other period contents, such as letters to editors, etiquette or fashion advisors, short stories, poems and musical notes. Since I got to work with extant issues of Ackermann’s Repository in person, I am more or less enchanted. I even own a Franco-German volume of “Journal des Dames”, which was a total chance find. Sadly it has no fashion plates, only the French descriptions, with German translations on every other page.


My pride, a French-German volume of “Journal des Dames et des Modes” (c.1828).

Thanks to the Internet, many journals and plates are now freely accessible online, for all those who cannot simply pop into the nearest historical fashion archive. This is why online library databases are one of my favorite resources. These are the ones I use the most:

The Library of Congress, mostly for copies of Ackermann’s Repository, but also some fashion books.

Gallica for French journals, mainly Journal des Dames.

Google Books has some issues of La Belle Assemblée and Wiener Moden-Zeitung available. If you have no yet found a PDF copy of “Workwoman’s Guide”, you can also find it here. :)

But now, to the finished bonnet! Here it is. I used some ruffled fabric carnations and lavender ribbon for it. At first I was also contemplating white ostrich plumes. But eventually, those were saved for future projects. :)


The finished bonnet.


A look at the ribbon tie, wrapped under and over the crown.

I finished everything in the course of one evening, with my father looking on. When he was little, his mother befriended a professional milliner, so he has always been excited about hats and hat-making; although trimming this bonnet was nothing much to look at.

Here are the challenge facts to give you a better idea of how the bonnet came together:

The Challenge: #8 – Ridiculous.
Some of the headgear worn in the Regency era looks a bit ridiculous to the modern eye but was very stylish in the period. To make my bonnet less boring, I placed the flowers in a rather unusual way.

Materials: A pre-made straw bonnet I bought at Nehelenia Patterns some years ago; fabric flowers; satin ribbon.

Notions: Matching cotton threads.

Pattern: Based on an 1810 fashion plate.

Year: 1800-15

Time to complete: Roundabout 4 hours.

How historically accurate is it? Somewhat accurate.
The maker shaped the bonnet based on period templates. But the trimmings are made of modern materials.

First worn: Not yet. It was meant for a photoshoot, but the weather did not play along.

Total cost: About € 30 for the bonnet and € 4 for the trimmings.

Love, Nessa


HSM #3: Ladylike Hand Protection

For me, embroidery is one of the best pastimes during exam season. It gives you something to pick up and work on when the paper writing muse is silent or when you simply need to take a little break. That is why I decided to do a small, handy  embroidery project for this month’s “Protection” challenge: A pair of early Regency mitts.

The main inspiration came from these two extant pairs from the Met and MFA collections. The mitts from the Met are an earlier pair from the latter half of the 18th century. At this time, a triangular flap, often with a contrasting piece of fabric sewn to its underside, was a common feature of mitts. Towards the Regency period, this flap slowly disappeared in favour of a straight top, as you can see in the early-19th-century pair from the MFA below.

18th-century mitts, in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum.

Mitts, late 18th – early 19th century, MFA Boston.

Since this has been my first glove-making adventure and I was feeling a little unsure about how to design a pattern, I went to search for resources and found a wonderful tutorial for making Colonial mitts. It uses a pattern based on an extant pair from the Colonial Williamsburg collection. I used it as a base for my own pattern, enlarging it to about 120% and taking off the flap to get a straight top edge.

Next I picked a floral embroidery pattern from Ackermann’s Repository to decorate the top. It is a bud and leaf design I outlined in stem stitch. To fill out the buds, I also used stem. The leaves are filled with alternating satin or fishbone stitch.
Since the fabric I used was a light cotton sateen, I added the embroidery before cutting out the mitts, to prevent fraying in the wrong places. ;) Here is how it all looked in progress:

The embroidery in progress.

Once the embroidery was finished, I cut out the gloves and found that embroidering had been the easy part of this project. So I will give you a brief walkthrough of how I made up my pair, for future reference, in case you are planning to make your own. :)

Gathering the materials.

The first thing I did was to get together my materials. I used sateen for the outer layer and a light cotton shirting from the stash for the lining. All pieces are cut on the bias, to allow for a snug but comfortable fit. In this picture, the thumb holes are already cut out. Before I did that, though, I took an extra step:

Tracing the shape for the thumb hole.

After backstitching and overcasting the thumb pieces’ 1/4″ side seam, I placed the underside of the piece on the right side of the mitt body and traced the shape. I then subtracted 1/4″ on the inside of the trace line for the seam allowance and cut the hole based on that. There was a thumb hole given on the original pattern, but after sewing a test piece, I found that it needed some improvement. And taking the time to re-trace it really did a lot for the fit. :)

The shell and lining, with the side seams sewn and pressed open.

Next I attached the bottom edge of the thumb to the holes, right sides facing and backstitched it in place. Afterwards I just sewed up both the outer and lining pieces at the side seams, taking a 3/8″ allowance. Once all the seams had been pressed open, I slipped the lining over the outer, so that the “clean” sides faced each other and the thumb peeked out of the hole in the lining like so:

The shell and lining matched up at the side seams.

To line the mitts, I sewed the pieces together at the top edge with a backstitch, taking up a 1/4″ seam. After I folding the lining into the mitts, I finger-pressed under about 1/4″ of fabric around the thumb hole and stitched it down, encasing the raw edges on the inside. As a final step, I folded and slip-stitched the bottom hems of the mitts. To keep the lining invisible, I created a slightly deeper fold, so that it came out about 1/8″ shorter than the outer layer.

Once everything was in place, I used a single strand of embroidery floss to create a herringbone borser along the thumb hole. It came out very pretty, but also served to reinforce the fabric against wear and tear.

The finished mitts. :)

Here is what the finished pair of mitts looked like after this final step. I am quite happy with how they came out. Finishing them was a very sweet treat at the end of the exam season. :)

Now the new (and final !) term is here for me. At the moment I am still very busy juicing all the lemons uni throws at me. Although, finally, things are starting to roll again in the sewing room. There are a few new projects coming up and I am much looking forward to sharing them with you.

Thank you all for your patience in bearing with me until now. I will do my best to stop being such a stranger and bring the blog back up to speed again soon.

Much love, Nessa

Monsieur Kobold Wishes Happy Halloween!

Illustration from “Mother Goose” by Arthur Rackham (c.1913).

Happy Halloween, everyone! To celebrate this most eerie occasion I have found a Regency “ghost story” to share with you. It was first published in Ackermann’s Repository on March 1st, 1824 and tells the tale of a spooky prank servants played on their master, a French Major. While it is not really a spine-tingler, it is a fun read, spiced with a little saucy innuendo. ;)

Since the story is about goblins, I have chosen two gorgeous Edwardian book illustrations by Arthur Rackham to accompany it.


But now, I present to you the ghostly “Monsieur Kobold”:

“Ghost Stories – V” (Ackermann’s Repository, March 1824).

“Ghost Stories – V” (Ackermann’s Repository, March 1824).

“Ghost Stories – V” (Ackermann’s Repository, March 1824).

And that was it already. I hope you will have a fun night and get to take your beautiful costumes for a stroll. :)

Warmly, Nessa

The Best Of Regency Stripes

Oh dear, has it been three weeks already? But now, the historical sewing mojo is back at last and I finally get to share the first details on my new Regency day dress with you. Yay!

So far, nothing about it has gone according to plan. At first, I was dead-set on making simple white muslin crossover gown. But then, I stumbled upon a sheer woven-stripe muslin in a clearance sale. It was so gorgeous that I fell in love the second I spotted it. Since it was an end piece of roughly four yards, I had to change my plans accordingly: The dress is now going to be a simple early-Regency drawstring gown.

Now that I am making a striped gown, I started looking into the use of striped fabrics in the Regency era. As it turns out, vertical stripes were very popular between 1800 and the mid eighteen-teens. And they came in many shapes, shades and sizes, from woven, over yarn-dyed to printed or painted. In this post, I want to give you a tour of the most gorgeous dresses I have found. There is quite a few of them, so we better get started…

To start off, here is an 1817 miniature of the pregnant Charlotte, Princess of Wales by artist Charlotte Jones. She is wearing what looks like a finely striped dress of sheer muslin or sarcenet:

Miniature of Charlotte, Princess of Wales by Charlotte Jones (c. 1817).

My guess goes more towards the sarcenet, since I lucked into an 1816 fashion plate from Ackermann’s Repository showing an absolutely delicious gown for half-dress, made from red and white striped sarcenet. Also note the contrasting green ribbons.

Red and white sarcenet gown from Ackermann’s Repository (September 1816).

Another illustration I found is an 1810 watercolor drawing by Johann Klein. The blue-and-white fabric design is very close to the one I am working with. That being said, I think that the trims shown here would also work very well on my gown. ;)

German Watercolor sketch by Johann Klein (c. 1810).

Dwelling on the subject of sheer woven-stripe dresses, here are two white cotton muslin gowns from the first decade of the 19th century. The first one is from the collection of the Litchfield Historical Society. It belonged to a Mrs. Lucretia Champion and was made in 1807. The second is pretty similar in fabric design, while showing off a broader stripe.

Woven-stripe muslin dress of Mrs. Lucretia Champion (Litchfield Historical Society, c. 1807).

Striped muslin dress (Tasha Tudor Auctions, c. 1800-1810).

As for colored striped gowns, there is an even wider selection of extant garments yet around. For once, have a look at this gorgeous blue half-silk dress from Nordiska Museet. Especially note the playful bias stripes on the bodice and the fine golden trim contrasting the vertical stripes on the skirt and sleeves. This one is easily one of my most favorite Regency gowns still in existence.

Blue and gold half-silk gown (Nordiska Museet, c. 1815).

Recently, I have found another dress from the V&A Museum that is just as stunning and even more extraordinary for its time. It is made from a yellow cotton knit and the stripes are produced by a change in knitting direction. Before I found it, I had no idea that such a techniques was around this early on…wow.

Striped dress of yellow knitted cotton (Victoria & Albert Museum, c. 1812).

Another dress is this late Georgian / Early Empire cotton gown from the Musee de la Voiture. Even though it looks a little worse for wear nowadays, I think it was a simple, gorgeous dress in its time. Shape-wise, it is also very close to the early-era look I am going for in my dress.

Late 18th-century striped cotton dress (RMN Grand Palais, Compiegne).

Another early example of stripes is this printed green-and-gold dress from the Museo del Traje in Madrid:

Early printed striped silk gown (Museo del Traje, c. 1795).

There are two more dresses with an earlier silhouette that both show off very special stripe patterns. The first is a black-and-white cotton dress from the Met museum. It boasts slightly wavy stripes that, I supect, were printed, rather than woven. The other dress was recently cleared from the Met’s collection and is now on auction. The floral stripes here are printed on a solid moire fabric.

American striped cotton dress (Metropolitan Museum, early 1800s).

Polychrome moire gown with printed floral stripes (c.1795).

About ten years later, dresses made from pastel silks seemed to be all the rage in terms of fashionable stripes. An example of the style is this mauve gown of tone-in-tone woven silk from 1807:

Silk gown (Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, c. 1807).

Quite similar at first glance is this mauve silk gown auctioned by Augusta Auctions. But here, the stripes are printed onto the fabric instead.

Mauve dress with printed stripes (Augusta Auctions, first decade of the 19th century).

This pretty, yellow gown from the V&A’s collection is also made from printed silk. Just like the mauve example above, it can be dated to the time around 1805. Based on the museum’s description, it features a drop-front closure and was originally worn over a “bum pad”.

Yellow silk gown with pink printed stripes (Victoria & Albert Museum, c. 1805).

The last dress on my inspiration board comes from a slightly later time frame, dating to the early 1820s. I included it since it shows a very interesting contrast between two-tone stripes, solid applique work and one of the textured floral fabrics that became popular later in the period.

American striped silk dress (Philadelphia Museum of Art, c. 1823).

This yummy example closes the long list of gorgeous Regency striped gowns. Whew, that has been quite a long list. I hope it has not overwhelmed you and provided you with some inspiration for your own future Regency dress projects, I would love to hear which of these gowns you liked best. Hoping to be back with you soon.

Much love, Nessa

HSM “Brown”: The Finished Garters

One day before the end of study, the garters are finally complete. Yay! In this post, I will just give you a quick walk through the finished pair, since I am meaning to follow up with a longer tutorial on them in a little while. Here are some pictures for your viewing pleasure. By the way: did I ever mention that my left leg is skinnier than my right one? ;) You can see that quite nicely in the first photo, too…

The finished pair of embroidered early-Regency “elastic” garters.

A closer look at the embroidery.

The whole garter. The bar matching the double hook is hidden under the embroidered end.

If you compare my garter to an extant one from the early 1800s, you will see that the end which has been elasticized with steel springs is somewhat longer than the one I made using modern elastic cord. When worn, however, this difference is made up and the elastic end covers about half of the leg. This illustrates the difference between steel and rubber elastic rather well.

Extant early 19th-century garter, elasticized with steel wire coils (Source: mfa.org).

And here is a look at the challenge details, showing exactly which materials I have used to emulate the historical style. The base fabric itself is a study cotton, though, since this works best for embroidery. Other than that, it also holds on the the stockings very well. =)

The Challenge: #9 – “Brown”

Fabric: A 4″ wide scrap of white cotton canvas.

Pattern: My own, inspired by several extant garters at the MFA, Boston. The embroidery is based on an 1811 floral pattern from Ackermann’s Repository.

Year: ca. 1790s-1820s.

Notions: 2 ft. of brown 1/8″ elastic cord; 1 1/2 skeins of brown embroidery cotton; some orange embroidery cotton; 2 double hooks and bars.

How historically accurate is it? They are more historically inspired than accurate but emulate the period look very well when worn.

Total cost: €1.50 for the yarn; €1 for the elastic and €2 for the hooks = approx. €4.50. The fabric was “free” at this time.

Hours to complete: About 25-30 hours.

First worn: For the photos.

And that was it already. Once I have a little more time, I will write up a tutorial on how I made mine. They were a first try and may not be perfect. But I know what needs improving and will add these points, so you can profit from my little slip-ups and make your own, even better, pair. So please stay tuned. :)

All the best, Nessa

The Clandestine Regency Bonnet: A Quick Making-Of

Without me noticing, the next exam season has crept up on me. So, the blogging and corset-making have fallen a bit short of late. But I am still here and was very happy to receive all the positive feedback on the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award. You guys are all amazing sewers and bloggers so it was really, really hard for me to stick to just ten nominations. :)

In other news, looming exams seem to make me creative in quite strange ways. So, the other Saturday I was looking at this 1803 engraving of London headdresses from the Repository:

London headdresses (Ackermann’s Repository, c. 1803).

That moment I remembered that I had no entry for the HSM’s “Accesorize” challenge yet. And I also remembered this really cheap, Frankensteined sombrero hat still lurking in my stash:

A cut-up sombrero from the one-Euro store.

Since the hat is of woven straw and the top was way too high to work for a bonnet crown, I cut it down into the strange shape below. Eventually I then ended up opening the crown at the back and only keeping the brim and a narrow edge of straw above it. And, in fact, it made a surprisingly effective (and cheap) substitute for a buckram base. ;)

The partially cut-down hat-base.

Now, it was time to decide on the style of bonnet I wanted to make. And that was a tough one. Because, every single bonnet and hat in that plate is just really, really beautiful. So, eventually, I settled for making something basic that resembles the general period look and takes up a few elements from varied bonnets in the fashion plate.

As I had to cut off the hat’s crown, I patterned a fabric crown. It is really nothing more than a 60 cm wide circle. I cut it out twice, once from my outer fabric, for the shell, and once from some leftover cotton net, for the lining.

Cutting out the bonnet’s crown.

I then hemmed the circles by folding the edges over once and gathered them on the outside edge. As the two crowns were later sewn together, I matched them up to the desired size as I gathered.

Gathering up the crown fabric.

With my biggest embroidery needle and some matched baby-blue purl yarn, I then attached the outer crown to the brim, by hand-sewing through the straw. If you are brave enough to try this at home, please make sure to wear a thimble of your choosing, since the whole affair can get a bit “poky” otherwise… ;) But, after some tugging and stabbing, the crown and brim actually came together quite nicely.

The brim base and the crown after sewing them together.

At some point, before or after this step (but better before, really…), you should trace around your brim, to get a pattern for its fabric cover which you then cut out twice, with some added seam allowance all around. If your brim is nicer than mine, the bonnet would also look pretty “au nature”, with bias-bound side edges. :)

Before I started covering the bonnet, I sewed the crown lining to the shell, but only around the fabric edge at the back. Then the covering fun started. I began by clipping the inner edges of my cover pieces. Next, I pinned one cover piece to the underside of the brim, basted it in place around the outer edge and attached the unsewn bit of the crown lining to the inner one. The result looked like this:

The inside cover, before basting to the outer edge.

When the inside was all covered, I threw the other cover over the outside and matched it with the inside piece. By the way it looks in the photo, I just had to call this act “throwing” it onto the bonnet. ;)

Draping over the fabric to cover the outside.

At the top edge, I then wriggled the unfinished edge of the cover under the crown’s gathered hem and sewed the two together by hand.

Attaching the top cover underneath the crown.

Finally, I finished the raw side and outer edges with some leftover satin bias tape. Thus is the progress of my secret little bonnet project so far. It all looks a bit big and wriggly on Jane, calling for a nice ribbon tie and some trimmings.

The finished front side, after binding.

The 1800s bonnet so far.

Now, I only have to see how to get them done by the end of this month with two more exams waving at me. But I am sure I can work something out… Hoping to see you all again soon. You are not forgotten!

Love, Nessa

P.S.: The corset is also well underway: The test corset is fitted and all the supplies are here now. This means I can soon start cutting it out. Yay!

HSF # 17: An Embroidered Reticule

Even though it may look tedious, embroidery can be so relaxing. That is why I am glad I decided to make my embroidered reticule for the Yellow challenge. Because, right now, life is being a bit hectic again. When I got back from my merry journey to Sweden last week, I was told that I would be moving house in a week hence. So, here I am showing you the finished item from atop a pile of boxes. ;) I am really glad most of the embroidery was already done on the road and I only had to make up the reticule when I got back.

Here is how it all went along, from start to finish:

First, I picked a pattern that would go along well with the shape of reticule I wanted. I picked this one here from an 1821 issue of Ackermann’s Repository:

The 1821 needlework pattern.


Next, I transferred the pattern to the fabric and back-stitched the outlines. As the outer fabric was a wool blend it was not really co-operative when it came to tracing the pattern. So I had to resort to the paper-tracing method also used in my blackwork tutorial. It worked okay, but requires a lot of patience on loosely woven fabrics… Here is what the tracing process looked like. For this, I used a no. 3 fine crewel needle:

Paper-tracing and back-stitching the lines.

Then I carefully removed the paper with a pair of tweezers and started filling in using a no. 5 crewel. For the big petals, leaves and the garland I used two different satin stitches (split and regular). The smaller flowers were filled with long and short stitch to create some shading. it does not seem to be a 100% period stitch to do, but I wanted to try it. Everything else (stems, veins and the yellow buds) I filled in with stem stitch. Here is a picture of the finished embroidery:

The filled-in embroidery.


While I am not certain whether the long and short fill stitch was popular during the Regency period, the stem stitch was definitely a favourite for outlining and filling, in white as well as coloured work. By chance I found this wonderful embroidery detail in the Met collection, filled almost entirely with tiny rows of stem stitching. When this whole moving craze is done, I will try and give you a quick tutorial on this, very versatile, stitch.

An 1820s corset embroidery, filled in with stem and satin stitch.

Afterwards, it was time to make up the reticule. My pattern inspiration was a blend of the two reticule patterns that come with Sense & Sensibility’s “Elegant Lady’s Closet” pattern. Here is a picture of the lining, to give you a better idea of the shape:

A look at the lining.

At last, I joined the inner and outer fabric at the top hem and fed a yellow satin ribbon through the drawsting casing. Luckily, I remembered to attach the tassel before this, so I could bury the knot on the inside, never to be seen again. ;) Here is a picture of the finished reticule, along with the challenge details.


The finished reticule.

The Challenge: HSF #17 – Yellow

Fabric: Shell: Yellow silk-wool blend; Lining: Light blue cotton canvas

Pattern: Reticule: My take on the Sensibility reticule patterns (Elegant Lady’s Closet); Embroidery: 1821 Needlework pattern from Ackermann’s Repository.

Year: 1820s

Notions:9 skeins of cotton embroidery twist for the embroidery and the tassel; 20 inches of yellow satin ribbon

How historically accurate is it? The fabric and patterns are period-approriate and everything was stitched and finished by hand. So, rather accurate altogether.

Hours to complete:Embroidery: approx. 36 hours for I am a bit slow; Making up: 2 hours.

First worn: For the photos.

Total cost: € 14 for the yarn and shell fabric. The lining was made from a piece of scrap.

And that was it already. I shall see you with some catch-up posts on this project, and maybe also some new, exciting ones, after moving and regaining internet access in the new city. Until then, take good care.

Love, Nessa


HSF #16: From the Calico – My First Regency Dress

It is official, I am a laggard. This is the first time I am a little late posting a challenge item for the HSF. But, now that the craziness of the last eight weeks is slowly subsiding, I am slowly getting the hang of sewing and blogging again. (And yes, I did not forget the week roundup I promised you last time. But so many new, exciting things have happened; so it ended up being postponed until I find the right words to tell you all about that.)

But first things first. Here are a few facts about making the dress and how it ended up in the “Terminology” challenge:

This is my first attempt at a Regency gown and the very first time I altered a pattern almost entirely based on the mock-up. And the good news is: there were barely any alterations needed. Because of this, I was able to keep the toile and re-use it for the bodice lining. Since the gown was originally meant for the “Paisley and Plaid” challenge last month, this was my way of smuggling it into the HSF after all. ;) To do so, I needed a fitting term from The Dreamstress’s Historical Fashion and Textile Encyclopedia. Luckily I ran into “calico”, which is also sometimes used to refer to mock-ups, along with toile and muslin. And, because this aspect was pretty important to me, it fit.

Cutting out the bodice pieces from the calico.

Since this is a first attempt though, I am not entirely happy with the result. The other day my side seams decided to rip clean through because there was a little too much strain on them. And then there are a few issues with the trim, half of which merely exists because the skirt came out a wee bit too long and I forgot to shorten it until everything was made up… *headdesk* But, in the end, I quite like those tucks and the dress is actually wearable. Still, I cannot wait to start the next one, if only to iron out those silly beginners mistakes. ;)

Now, that was enough moping, here are the challenge summary and photos:

The Challenge: HSF #16 – Terminology

The Term: Calico (European use)

Fabric: 5 yards of “Moscow check” poly-cotton for the dress and old calico bed-sheet for the mock-up and lining.

Pattern: Janet Arnold’s 1806-09 Muslin frock, without major alterations.

Year: Early 1800s-1810

Notions: 1 3/4 yard soft cotton tape and 2 ecru shank buttons for the back closure; 5 yards of satin ribbon and 5 yards satin bias tape.

How historically accurate is it? Pretty accurate. The pattern is derived from an extant gown, about 80% of the seams are hand-sewn and the lilac check fabric was sampled in an early issue of Ackermann’s; except that the fabric I used had some synthetic fiber content.

Hours to complete: about 70 hours.

First worn: For the photos and fitting.

Total cost: about € 35 altogether.

And here are a few pictures, posing with one of great-grandad’s very old books. ;)

The front view.

The back view.

And now, unto the next challenge. Hopefully this time it will be on time. And I will keep you posted again more regularly from now on, promised. :)

All the best, Nessa


Liebster Award Part Two – The Q&A

While I was away working, the lovely Gwenyver has nominated me for my second Liebester Award. For those of you who have not heard of it: It is an award bloggers from all genres pass along to other bloggers they enjoy following. Usually the nominations go along with a set of questions asked by the nominating blogger.

And now it is about time to finally answer the great questions that came with Gwenyver’s nomination. They have made me think a little and I hope my answers will give you a little more insight into my love of historical costuming. So, please enjoy this short Q&A:

How did you get into costuming?

This is a tough one. Prepare for a longish story. ;) Okay, here goes:  the whole costuming enterprise started on a rainy winter afternoon about two years ago. I have always toyed around with the idea of sewing my own thing, since I was very young. Back then I sometimes sewed little dresses for my cuddly toys from old cloth handkerchiefs, but somehow it never stuck. Then, this one afternoon I got it into my head to just sew a historical dress. I googled around for hours and hours until I found an original pattern for a Victorian wrapper. Then I pretty much got the fabric, drafted a pattern and taught myself to sew.

The story went on during my exchange semester in Vienna. Here I discovered the most awesome fashion library ever. They carried original copies of Ackermann’s, Costume Parisienne and Wiener Moden-Zeitung from the Regency era. And the many trips there rekindled an old love. But I also got to look into some original Edwardian pattern books and I still have some of those patterns in my “want-to-do” pile. And that is how I got into costuming.

The Victorian wrapper pattern that started it all.

What is your favourite type of costumes? (Historical, Sci Fi, cosplay, Movie Recreation, Original Concept, Ethnic, etc.)

Historical all the way. At the moment I mainly work on Regency projects, some Edwardian patterns are in the planning and I have a soft spot for late Renaissance fashions.  Then I also own a few sets of Bavarian folk costume and hats. But, since my family is mainly Bavarian and Austrian, I do not regard those as costumes, more as proper wear. ;)

Sewing machine or hand sewing?

Originally, I sewed everything by hand and I still do that a lot. But last Christmas, I got my first sewing machine. And it really is faster to use it sometimes.

What is your preferred method of embellishment?

All kinds of embroidery. It does not have to be overly fancy, but I really am a sucker for it, as you can also see on the blog.

Do you wear any sort of physical modifier to complete your look when you are in costume? (wigs, coloured contacts, prosthetics, allover make-up, etc.)

Well, I do wear Regency stays under the dresses, to achieve the period silhouette.  Besides, they are also so much comfier than a bra, no kidding. As for wigs… I might have bought something that counts for one earlier this week. But this is still a bit of a secret. So shh…

Which costume are you unsatisfied with and wish you could redo?

That first wrapper is still sitting in the PHD pile. One day I will give it a proper makeover. And there is also a half-authentic Italian Renaissance dress in dire need of re-work.

Is there something costume related that you compulsively buy / hoard? (Patterns, fabric, jewelry, trims, etc)

I will answer this one with a picture:

(Found on sewdelcious.com.au)

If you could bring back one fashion trend from any time in human history, what would it be?

The Empire waistline; because it looks flattering on women of all shapes and sizes. :)

What skill would you like to learn/master next to improve your costuming?

Making needlepoint lace and also embroidering scalloped hems with period white-work.

Is there a costumer that you admire? Who are they?

I admire everyone who sews their own historical costumes, era notwithstanding. If I had to pick one, it would be The Dreamstress. I love her blogging style and the things she makes. And she also created the HSF, which has brought together an awesome crowd of historical sewers from all over the world. Without the fortnightly challenges, my historical sewing adventure would definitely not be the same.

Could you please share a funny costume related story?

It is not really a story; but my dad is my biggest fan. He has no background in historical costuming at all but has a very keen eye for shapings. So, whenever I show him a new gown and he politely tells me that it is not really flattering on the silhouette, I know that it fits exactly the way it should. We have a good laugh every time he does that.

And that was it already. Thank you again, Gwenyver. Your nomination has really flattered me. It is so wonderful and priceless to know that my beginner’s sewing blog is actually this enjoyable to readers out there. :)

Love, Nessa

P.S.: As this week has been pretty exciting in many ways, please look out for a little summary here very soon. It will also include quite a bit of sewing. ;)


Regency Dress Plans

After finally beating my Bachelor’s thesis into submission, it is about time I return to you with a long-promised blog post. And, as I am feeling like being a bit mean today, it will not be about the top-secret project I promised to reveal to you last time. You will have to wait for it just a little longer. ;) But, today I will finally let you in on the plans and ideas about my first-ever Regency-era dress.

As it turns out, a blog buddy of mine is also just working on a Georgian wardrobe. So this post will be especially dedicated to her *waves at Susan*. Okay, let us start with…


The Fabric:

On Saturday, my friend, her boyfriend and I all went on a successful fabric hunt on the half-yearly Dutch fabric market in our city. We were all mind-blown by the variety of fabrics offered there. After three hours of jostling around the stalls we were exhausted and very happy. She found an awesome green-and-gold Russian linen with a woven floral pattern for a Medieval wedding gown and, after a lot of comparing, fussing and calculating, I found the most unexpected fabric for my Regency dress.

As I want to submit it to the HSF “Paisley and Plaid” challenge, I was actually more in search of a period-accurate small-pattern paisley cotton. But then, for the first time ever, I fell in love with a bale of checked fabric, which is usually not my thing. But, just look at it:


Both my friend and I had an inkling that it must be halfway Regency-appropriate. But we were wrong … about the halfway part. ;) Because yesterday, the following happened: In an 1811 issue of Ackermann’s, I found this plate of fabric samples and my jaw pretty much dropped to the floor:

1811 fabric samples. Source: Ackermann’s Repository.

Now look at the swatch in the top right corner. It’s a cotton sarsnet with what is called a “Moscow Check” pattern. And, before aging, it has actually been lilac, too. :D In the fabric description, the editors give a few suggestions as to what to make of this fabric. There it says:

Fabric description from Ackermann’s, 1811.

Hmm… demi-trained dresses with beaded lace. How did they know that was exactly what I had in mind, too? Could it possibly be I am living in the wrong time period? But wait, let us take a step back. Here is the whole Regency dress plan for this fabric:


The Dress Inspiration:

The dress I have reserved for this one is the first one I ever sat eyes on while working with original journals at the Library: A half-dress from 1809. The plate of it is actually quite popular and has also been reprinted in historical sewing books like “Historical Costumes and How to Make Them”. It is this one:

1809 half-dress from Ackermann’s Repository.


Aside from having a gorgeous neckline and a little train, it also has a lot of lovely lace. The Vandyke tucker at the bosom is also part of the gown and not connected to the long-sleeved chemisette underneath. This is just a little rare for a Regency dress, but I love it. Also, the tiny black and white dots on the lace trimmings have inspired me to use ribbon-beaded lace to double as a drawstring casing. Thinking of it alone makes me really excited. So, I better stop babbling now and leave you to your own imagination. ;) To add a little more to that, here are the other two dress project plans I am leaving for later:


The Future Gowns:

There are two further prospective dresses I would like to present to you. The fabric for both of them is already sitting in my stash, but it will probably be until late summer or fall until any of them gets sewn. First, there is our old friend, the red atlas promenade gown with the tucked shawl front from Wiener Moden-Zeitung:

1816 promenade dress from Wiener Moden-Zeitung

1816 promenade dress from Wiener Moden-Zeitung.


And the second, and last plan. will be a ball gown, to complete the Regency wardrobe. It is made of sheer white muslin and decorated with lots and lots of roses. This makes it the perfect excuse to finally learn how to hand-make Regency-style fabric roses. Here it is:

1817 muslin ball gown from Ackermann’s.

To be honest, the matching white feather hat also looks delicious. If I am feeling really courageous, I might try and make it, too. But we will see. Right now, the thought of patterning and making the half-dress has my heart fluttering enough. It will be some time till its completion, but I will keep you posted. After nearly two weeks of missing you all dearly, there will be more updates again, too. The list of planned posts is actually rather long now. It is about time you get to read them.

See you soon, Nessa