Regency Pantalets : Taking The Risque

With the first HSM deadline approaching, now is a good time to give you some background input about my “Foundations” project.

Since the term finals are currently knocking at my door, I decided to start the year with something small and manageable. So I am hand-sewing my first-ever pair of Regency-era pantalets. While the pattern and construction are rather straightforward, the history of this particular garment is not. I first realized that much when I asked around the Jane Austen Regency Facebook group for some fabric advice on the project.

Among other wonderful ladies, Nora replied to my question. Those of you who are more experienced in Regency costume and reenactment will probably know her as a senior leader within the Oregon Regency Society. She offered me very valuable advice, pointing out that ladies’ pantalets, or drawers, only started to surface in the later Regency. This would mean a more widespread appearance of them between the mid-1810s and the 1820s.
Nora, if you are reading this, thank you again for the information *waves into the general direction of Oregon*.  :)

Generally,  the sources are not very accurate about dating their first appearance. But most agree on a later date.  But it is also claimed that Princess Charlotte was one of the first notable women to happily wear (and sometimes even accidentally flounce) a pair pantalets, well before 1820. The source of that rumor is the 1811 painting below. However, the lace trim peeking out under her skirt could be anything, from a petticoat, to a pantalet leg, or maybe even a chemise. Just have a look. I will leave the rest to your imagination. ;)

A painting of Princess Charlotte, supposedly wearing a pair of drawers (c.1811; Source: http://www.pemberley.com)

You might wonder why wearing a pant-shaped garment underneath your other underpinnings was considered shocking before the later Regency years. After all, they keep your legs warm and might even add a little coverage for modesty’s sake. But, in fact, the opposite was true for women of the day. Drawers were considered a most immodest, or “risque”, thing to wear for ladies, simply because men wore something similar underneath their trousers. So, for a long while yet, pantalets had a somewhat masculine whiff to them.

But, the closer you get towards the Victorian era, the more accepted did drawers become. While making my pair, I browsed through the Met Museum’s collection for some inspiration. These two sets of pantalets are the earliest exhibits I could find:

A pair of Regency pantalets (c.1810-20).

 

Pantalets (c.1830).

The first pair was dated to the Regency era and the second one is leaning more towards the Romantic age. But, except for the button closure and the slightly shorter legs in the later pair, the style does not differ all too much.

To be honest, I felt a bit bad about my Civil War-era drawers pattern having a waistband to hold the legs together. While the first Regency pantalets were apparently only two leg pieces, held together by a simple, narrow band of fabric, the first pair above already features a proper waistband.

Another issue I had with the pattern, was the finished leg length. As it recreates drawers from a time well past the 1820s, they were shorter than what you can see above, coming down to about mid-calf. But, as it turns out, my legs are short enough for them to still have the appropriate length. Sometimes being only 5’2″ really pays off…

Oh, and speaking of short drawers, I also ran into this cute pair of Victorian under-drawers while searching through the collections. I am still cooing over their frilly cuteness and just had to share them with you.

Cute Victorian drawers from the Metropolitan Museum’s collection.

To learn more about Regency drawers, I recommend this post from Jane Austen’s World. It gives a more detailed overview on the history and use of pantalets in the Regency era, including some very interesting pictures. As far as my own pair is concerned: It is just receiving the finishing touches. I am hoping to have the photos up for you by next week, just in time for the challenge finale.

Until soon, Nessa

Project Boudoir: Regency Nightwear

Before I vanish for a short trip down south, it is due time to finally share some research on Regency-era nightwear with you. As mentioned before, the materials to be found online are not as plentiful as usual. There are, however, a few rather good ones I will also list for you below. I will try my best to put together some key facts for you; and also clarify a thing or two. Here we go:

Nightgown, Undress, Negligée or Morning Dress?

This post will mainly deal with the clothes worn at bedtime. Those are, of course, a part of Undress, which loosely referred to the more comfortable clothing, worn around the house. Some nightwear items, such as the cap and bed jacket, could also be part of Morning Dress. But more on that further below.

Usually though, Morning Dress and negligées do not refer to sleep-wear, even though they are also part of Undress. They were usually worn around the house after getting up and before going back to sleep. This might also be why, nowadays, we sometimes call our nighties “negligées”. Back in the Regency era, however, the term referred to looser-fitting dresses for home wear.

The frock pattern from Janet Arnold’s “Patterns of Fashion” is an example of a negligée. Because of the fine silver embroidery on the hem, though, even Janet Arnold was not entirely sure if this was really the case. But perhaps this dress belonged to a richer lady. As with everything, their morning attire was as stylish and fashionable as the rest of their wardrobe. I do not think this has changed much over the centuries. But, no matter how plain the Regency morning dress, it beats a baggy pair of tracksuit bottoms any day.

Janet Arnold’s Regency negligée at the V&A.

If I was to define the difference between night and morning wear, I would draw a line at the point when the lady puts on her stays. In the morning, softer stays were common. This includes wrap stays, such as the ones in the next picture I found on Leimomi’s blog or the “bra” exhibited at the Kyoto Fashion Institute, and short or half stays. But those were definitely no bedtime item. ;)

Soft wrap stays, found on The Dreamstress.

Nightgowns and Accessories

If negligées were not worn in bed, then what was? The main garments were the bed shift and nightcap. But ladies often wore an extra layer on top, namely the bed, or night, jacket.

Bed Shifts and Shirts

Basically the bed shift or night shift was a type of chemise. It was made from plain linen or thicker cotton and worn by both men and women. As opposed to daytime chemises, which tended to ended a little below the knee, bed shifts usually reached a little lower, to somewhere between the calf and ankle. They could have long sleeves, as was the case up to the 18th century, but shorter sleeves were also common. In some cases, especially men also slept in their daytime shirts. One source, I do not quite recall which, also talked about ladies sleeping in their daytime chemises.

Georgian / Regency bed shift, posted by Hope A. Greenburg.

But usually, the shift was not the end of the story. As bedrooms tended not to be heated at night, especially women usually wore at least one extra layer on top of it. In the painting you can see a late-eighteenth-century lady in her bedtime finery. In the early Georgian and Regency eras, she might have worn the same amount of garments, but made up to be lighter and less voluminous.

“Mrs. Wheatley Asleep” by Francis Wheatley (1790s).


Bed Jackets and Additional Layers

Since sleeping in the cold is never fun, and for modesty’s sake, Regency ladies wore a bed jacket on top of the shift. It was a loose-fitting, shirt-like cotton or linen jacket. I managed to find two extant examples on the internet, the one in the picture and another on Historikal Modiste. Both are tied at the neck and gathered a little at the back. They also feature a wide collar to keep the throat and chest covered at night. Sometimes, bed jackets were also worn in place of dressing gowns around the boudoir. Hence they had a little overlap with garments worn for Morning Dress.

Extant Regency bed jacket, found on Vickiegarden.com.

If it got really cold at night, a thin fichu was sometimes worn over the jacket as well. This fact comes from an 1820s article on the French ladies’ toilette. An English translation of it can be found in “The Lady’s Strategem” by Frances Grimble. As it contains a whole wealth of info on period home wear and toilette, this one is on my wish list for when I can afford it. ;)

Nighttime Head Coverings

To keep the head warm, and to keep the hair in order, at night, night caps were worn. As opposed to the boudoir cap I made, they rather resembled mob caps, often tied around the top. “The Female’s Friend”, a domestic periodical from the 1830s-1840s, features a night-cap pattern very similar to the Regency style. It is available for free on Google Books.

When the hair had survived the night, still looking presentable, the lady took off her night-cap. If not, she kept it on, exchanged it for the boudoir cap or tamed her mane with a cloth headband. To cover the hair while dressing or to hide the day’s hairdo while setting, a boudoir cap was worn as well.

Night cap pattern from "The Female Friend" (1837)

Night cap pattern from “The Female Friend” (1837).

This was the gist of what I have found in my project research. I hope it was helpful. Maybe you even learned a few things about the Regency era you always wanted to know. If you are intrigued and want to know more about period bed and boudoir attire, feel free to have a look at the list of sources at the bottom. :) Now that I have filled you in on the historical background, I will start blogging about the two cozy nightwear items I am working on and their make up.

The linen shift should be finished soon and then the bed jacket will follow. Please stay tuned.

All the best, Nessa

Sources:

An overview of morning dress by Candice Hern.

An overview of 1790s ladies’ night shifts by Joanna Bourne.

Explanations on Regency nightwear and an extant bed jacket on Historikal Modiste.

The latter source also featured a few helpful quotations from ”The Lady’s Strategem”  by Frances Grimble.

Regency & Victorian White Work – A Primer

And finally, it is time for another embroidery tutorial.

In my previous post, about the Regency-era cap, I promised you to blog a bit about period white-work embroidery. So here goes a little primer / tutorial for you all to enjoy. First I will start you off with some hard facts about this nifty kind of embroidery. Then I will show you another quick way of tracing patterns, especially suitable for white, translucent fabrics. After that, we will go down to business with a few basic stitches. But not to worry, they are not that hard to do at all.

To show you, how white-work creates really pretty results with easy stitches, I would like to share a little picture with you. Here is the white embroidery work that will go on my Regency cap. I finished it the other day. Yay!

Finished Regency white-work.

What is White-Work Embroidery?

First of all, white-work is called white-work because it consists of white stitching, worked on white fabrics. Basically it is the direct precursor of the basic style of embroidery that is popular today. Only nowadays, we do the same stitches, only using lots and lots of colorful thread. Especially in the Regency and Victorian eras, it was all the rage in linen embroidery: It was used on handkerchiefs, underthings, caps, white muslin gowns and all the textiles up and down the trousseau, namely bed linens, tablecloths and towels.

As white thread is not exactly visible on white ground, white-work likes to use raised stitches of different kinds. This creates satiny, tangible patterns that stand out, in the sense of the word. Back in the day, it was also indispensable when it came to binding decorative eyelets and scalloped hems. Monograms of any kind where usually worked in this fashion, too. So, for historical costuming, it is an incredibly useful, and beautiful, technique to know.

When I first researched this kind of embroidery on-line, I came across the most awesome needlework book from the Victorian era: the “Encyclopedia of Needlework” by Thérèse de Dillmont. It contains  chapters on all kinds of period needlework with many drawings and practical tips. Here is a link to the chapter on white embroidery. If you would like to learn more about it beyond this post, it will teach you all you will ever need to know.

Tracing Patterns

When we talked about Elizabethan blackwork in the other tutorial, I showed you how to trace by simply basting the paper pattern to the fabric. This method is the most go-to when working with thicker and/or colorful fabrics. For tracing patterns onto thinner white cottons there is a different little trick, which, surprisingly, is period correct. When I read about it in the above-mentioned book I thought, “Man, Victorians were really practical.”

For it you will need: your fabric, your pattern traced onto a slightly transparent piece of paper, such as notebook paper, a pencil, a windowpane and daylight. So, all you do is put your fabric, right side up, on top of the sheet of paper. Make sure everything lies nice and smooth. Then pin the paper to the fabric, placing the pins around the pattern, rather than spearing through it. Now you place the two pieces against the windowpane and trace the pattern onto the fabric with your pencil. If you would rather not use a pencil on muslin, fabric marker or colored tailor’s chalk will work, too. And done. Below you can see how I did this with my muslin pattern:

Tracing a pattern onto white muslin.

 

The traced pattern, placed into the hoop.

Basic Stitches

Now that you know how much fun tracing can be, we will move on to learning some stitches. And I bet you will recall at least one, or two, from hand-sewing. To do white-work, I recommend you use 2-3 strands of white cotton embroidery floss. For the stitching above, I worked the yarn through the fabric with a very fine number 3 crewel needle. When embroidering light white cottons and muslins, fine needles really are the safest (and sanest) way to go, unless you like nasty poke-holes in the weave. ;)

Back-Stitch

All in all, the back-stitch is no different from the back-stitch you know from sewing. It is used to outline the pattern on the fabric. Additionally, it gives support and padding to all the raised stitches, which are worked over it. Use small, even stitches for your outlines. When you use it for padding, the stitches can be longer and messier, as nobody will see them when you are finished. A special variant is the “knot stitch” which is nothing else but two rows of back-stitch worked right next to each other with their stitch patterns matched up.

from “Encyclopedia of Needlework”.

Satin Stitch

Now, this one is probably new to you. It is the simplest filling stitch that is still used to date. I like it because it creates nice, smooth textures. On the downside, it also eats up a lot of thread. To work it, you first need to outline and pad the area you would like to fill with back-stitching. Otherwise, satin stitch has a habit of caving in. If you work very short satin stitches, you can forgo the padding.

To work it, you come up with the thread on one side of the outline. From there, you take it horizontally to the opposite outline and go back down. Repeat this on the underside of the fabric and come back up right next to your first stitch. Only pull the thread until it lies flat. Otherwise you will and up with something crooked. A variety I like it the split satin stitch, which consists of two columns of satin stitches: one goes from the first outline to the center of the filled area, the other from the center to the opposite outline.

Satin Stitch, source: Stitching Cow.

 

Overcasting, Button-Holing & Eyelet-Making

Now to the fun part of white-work: Eyelets and scallops. Those sound creepy in the beginning, but once you try them, you will love them on the spot. Both eyelets and hem scallops are raw when you cut them out, so they need to be bound, much like in regular sewing. The stitches used for this are also two old friends: the buttonhole, or blanket, stitch and the overcasting, or whip, stitch. You work them much like you would when hand-sewing a hem or buttonhole.

from “Encyclopedia of Needlework”.

A much-loved application of overcasting us the embroidered eyelet. At first, the thought of making these sort of crept me out. So I have decided to give you a little step-by-step guide on how I make them, to save you the trouble of getting all fretful yourselves. ;) First, you outline the uncut eyelet with a circle of back-stitching. You then poke a hole into the center with a fine tailor’s awl or thinnish knitting needle. For bigger holes, you would cut out the center with fine contour scissors. Sharp cuticle scissors work, too, by the way. ;) Then you bind the eyelet as follows:

Step 1. Come up right next to your outline and bring the needle towards the center of the eyelet.

Step 2. Move the needle through the hole in the center. Then go back into the fabric from underneath. Now you should come up right next to where you started out.

Step 3. Repeat until you have gone all the way around the eyelet, covering the whole inner edge with thread. After your last stitch, go back down in a slanting motion and secure your thread on the back.

 

Note that, with eyelets, it is perfectly fine to pull the stitching a little more tightly. This way, the hole will stay open. To get an idea of what you can create by using the different stitches in combination, here are two little WIP picture of my Regency pattern where you can see all the above-mentioned techniques in action:

Half-done embroidery with outline, padding and finished cover stitches.

Back-stitch in and split satin stitch progress.

And this concludes our little white-work primer. I hope it will be helpful to some of you and inspire some stunning new creations.

Love, Nessa

Useful links:

Encyclopedia of Needlework by Thérèse de Dillmont (1886).

Drafting vintage block patterns with Inkscape – A tutorial

Hello everyone,

Today it is time for another tutorial. As I have mentioned in my previous post, I found some early-1900s block patterns at the library. Now I finally got around to enlarging them. Usually I would have done this on a sheet of brown paper. But, right now, I don’t have my foot-long ruler and French curve with me. So I decided to try out a different, more tech-savvy way. For this, I used Inkscape, a free line-draw software you can download here. It is pretty basic and not always straightforward to use, but still very recommendable for patternmaking. It has an option to save your drawings in PDF format. Further down, I will explain how to turn these files into a tiled print-at-home-style pattern.

In this tutorial, we will draft this pattern piece from Antonie Steimann’s “Ich kann schneidern” (“I can tailor”) first published in 1908. It is the first side gore of a 4-piece corselet skirt. As it is a German publication, all measures are in centimeters. Length measures are indicated down the vertical lines of the block and the width measures are on the horizontal sides. Actually, this bit is quite universal and intuitive. ;)

1908 corselet skirt gore

Before we start, I should add a word of warning. The following steps will be pretty picture-heavy. But I hope things will be easier to understand this way, especially for the less computer-loving people among us. So, here we go:

Drafting the pattern:

Open a new document by selecting “File” -> “Default”

Now, select “Document Properties” from the same menu to get your block ready for drafting.

In the dialog that pops up now, you have to change the units used in the document to those indicated in your pattern. This one is in cm, but you can also set it to inches, or whatever else you need. Set the length unit in both the “Default units” and the “Units” drop-down menu. This way you will later also see the length of your lines in the right unit.

Next you have to set the dimensions of your sheet. For this, you enter the maximum width (from point b to the right edge) and the maximum length (from point b to the bottom edge) of the block. In this case, the sheet will be 34 cm wide and 110 cm high/long.

In the same window, go to the “Grids” tab. Here we will create a grid to guide our lines later. Click on “New” to get started. Next, change the units to the same ones you used before. Now pick a spacing. Usually, the equal amount on both axes makes sense. I picked .5 cm and added a major line every 1 cm (or every 2 units as it says here). On the two lines below, you can set the grid lines to a different color to be easier to distinguish.


Now jump to the “Snap” tab. Here you set the “snap to grids” option to “Always snap”. Leave everything else as it is and close the window. Later this option will help you adjust your lines.


Now zoom into the top left corner of your document with the magnifying glass tool. Then select the line tool from the sidebar.

Move the tool tip to the top left corner of the page. Wait for the little cross and the text “Handle to grid intersection” appears underneath it. Then click once. Important: For an accurate pattern, always wait for the cross to appear before you click anything. Otherwise your measurements will be off by a bit…

Now we draw our first vertical line. It will end 7 cm from the corner point (point b). For this, you move the line tool straight down the edge. At the very bottom of the window, where it says “Line segment” you can see the angle and length of the line you are just drawing. For vertical lines the angle should always be at (-) 90 degrees. The angle for perfectly horizontal lines is 0 degs. When you reach the desired length, snap the line to the matching grid square. For this, just make sure the length stays as it is and the line stays straight and wait for the little cross to appear again. Then you double-click and your first line shows up.

Next we repeat the same steps for the first horizontal line which ends 11 cm from point b.

Next we will work down the right edge of the page and draw the horizontal guides you can see in the pattern above. For this, we will use the line tool to measure the distances along the edge. For this, you click on the right corner point once and draw a line like before. Only this time, you will click on the end point just once when you reach the desired length (5 cm in this case).

Moving right on from this point, draw the first horizontal guide line, finishing it off with a double-click, once it reaches the indicated length of 22 cm.

Now it is time to draw the first two lines of the skirt’s top end.For this, you first connect the end point of the guide line with the end point of the first side line we drew. In a next step, you connect the same end point upwards, with the end point of our first horizontal line on the page’s top edge. For the last of these three lines, you have to measure down 2 cm from the top left corner, like you did before. After clicking once, draw a line that connects with the end point of the previous line to form the skirt’s waistband.

Starting from the top right corner again, create the second horizontal guide. When the line is finished, connect its end point with that of the previous guide line.


Next our skirt will get its bottom edge. For this, scroll down to the bottom right corner of the page. As it is easier this way, we will now measure up 2.5 cm to reach the 107.5 cm indicated in the pattern. Now, connect this point to the one at the very bottom of the page’s left corner. Double-click, as always.

Now, go back to the other end point of this last line. Scrolling back up, connect it to the end point of the second horizontal guide line.


Going back to the top left corner again, draw the 20 cm long line shown in the pattern. From the end point, draw another, all the way down to the bottom left corner. For the next step it is important to draw these two lines separately. Now we will bend those lines in need of rounding. For this, select the “move nodes” tool from the sidebar. It is the second one from the top.

When using the nodes tool, use it gently and wriggle your lines around a bit. If you pull too hard, you will get some quite funky-looking curves. ;)


And we are already done drafting our block. Now you first save it in Inkscape’s default format (.svg) by selecting “Save” from the File menu. To get our PDF, select “Save as” from the same menu next.


In the dialogue box, select the “PDF” option from the drop-down. Then click “Save”. In the next section, I will show you how to turn this file into a printable pattern, using ye olde Adobe Reader.

Printing the pattern:

Open the PDF file in Adobe Reader and select “File” -> “Print”.


In the print dialogue box, set the sizing options to “Poster”. The tile scale should always be at 100%. You can customize the page overlap you will need to tape together the single “tiles”, or printed pages, later. I usually go for the .01 inches you can see above. Make sure to always check both the “Cut marks” and “Labels” boxes! One will help you when aligning the pages, the other will name and number the pages to help you sort them.
Click “Print” and enjoy your pattern. :) If you need any help taping up the pages you just printed, please let me know. It takes some practice to go smoothly, but you can do it.

So, this marks the end of today’s little monster post. I hope it was insightful, and not too monstrous, for you. Let me know what you think. :)

Best wishes, Nessa

The Cap à la Russe – Some Research over Christmas

Merry late Christmas, everyone!

After the holidays, I am finally back with a new post for you. Over Christmas I have sorely missed my sewing projects. So I did some research on Regency caps instead. There is a rather special day cap that caught my attention. It is called a “cap à la Russe”. I found it in a mid-1813 issue of Ackermann’s. Right below is a quick (slightly sloppy) sketch of it I made at the library. Funnily, there is next to nothing about it on the internet, so here is my take on it for your reading pleasure:

My sketch of a "cap à la Russe" with notes.

My sketch of a “cap à la Russe” with notes.

What is a “cap à la Russe” and how is it Russian?

When you read through fashion publications from the 1810s and 20s you will usually find praise and descriptions of the latest French couture. Seeing how the Empire look was mainly a French brainchild, this is not so surprising. Now, between 1813 and 1815 that enthusiasm ebbed away a bit in most English journals. And no wonder, it was the hot phase of the Napoleonic Wars. So, patriotism found its way into English fashion.
For once, Spitalfields Silk became a fashionable dress fabric all over the country. On the other hand, Regency fashions from other countries, especially from Russia, gained a little more attention.

The “cap à la Russe” in one of these non-French twist on Empire clothing. Basically, it is a round-eared cap, like the one from the Kannik’s Korner 1740-1820 cap pattern. But, unlike your average cloth cap, it is laced to one side, rather than below the chin. That is pretty much it.

Some general thoughts on cap construction:

Being pretty new to cap making, I took some time to look around for helpful construction and patterning hints. One of the first things I found was Jenni’s girls’ cap on Living with Jane. It gave me a good idea of the general shape and construction of regency caps. There is also Sarah Jane’s organdy caps on Romantic History. Here, the brim and ruffle are a little shorter and further away from the face. I like both very much, but the second cap is probably a bit closer to the look I want for my project.

As another source, I looked into some “newer” cap patterns from the early Victorian era. The 1837 night cap from “The Female’s Friend” is close to the roundish Regency shape. But, when you look at the overall length of 45 inches, the pattern turns out to be slightly too long.

Night cap pattern from "The Female Friend" (1837)

Night cap pattern from “The Female Friend” (1837)

Another pattern comes from “The Workwoman’s Guide”. The measurements on it are in nails. One nail are 2 1/4 inches. Surprisingly, you can actually use Google to do the conversions. On top of that, both books are available in full through Google Books. :) Especially the “Workwoman’s Guide” is worth a look as it features lots and lots of authentic 19th-century underwear and linen patterns.

Cap pattern from “The Workwoman’s Guide” (1840).

For my “cap à la Russe” I am going to make a sort-of hybrid out of these two patterns with some alterations:

  1. Shorten the main pattern piece so that the ruffle ends just on top of the forehead.
  2. Measure the brim and ruffle short enough to leave a little gap at the nape of the neck.
  3. Close a portion at the bottom of the cap because the lacing will not really do that job here. (I could also use a circular pattern and draw it up, but then it will be more of a mob cap. ;) )
  4. Insert a length of ribbon or bobbin band between the cap and brim that laces to one side of the head. A narrow casing for tie would be another option. We will see what works best…

Once I have made a working cap pattern, I will show it off to you on here. But perhaps you will be quicker making your own now. Either way, I hope my post was helpful for you. If you have questions or further pattern suggestions, please let me know. :)

Meanwhile I will finally get to work on my chemise for the Historical Sew Fortnightly 2014. This will be my first-ever project for the HSF and I am super excited about it. :D

Much Love and a Happy New Year,

Nessa

 

Useful links:

“The Workwoman’s Guide” (1840) and “The Female’s Friend and General Domestic Adviser” (1837) on Google Books.