Project Boudoir: The Complete Ensemble

As promised in the Making-of, here is a quick picture post of the completed Regency boudoir ensemble. I finally finished the bed-jacket yesterday and got to enter it into the HSF’s “Re-Do” challenge. All in all, I am very happy with it. It goes along nicely with the bed shift.

At first, I was a bit worried about its poofiness, especially around the sleeves. But the poof is exactly what makes the jacket warm and cozy, allowing for some extra warm air to circulate. When I was taking the photos yesterday I got really, really sleepy and did not want to take it all off again afterwards…

Here are the photos of the ensemble and a few more detail shots of the jacket. So you can see it all together with the boudoir cap I made a little exception, sharing a frontal shot of sleepy me. You will also find the HSF challenge details for the entire project below. Enjoy. :)

 

The Finished Boudoir Ensemble

The finished bed-shift, bad-jacket and boudoir cap.

Back view.

 

Some Jacket Details

Back view of the folded collar and ruffle.

Upturned collar and front tie.

Sleeve and underarm gusset.

The cuff and ruffle. I tacked the cuff’s slit together with a small strand of crochet cotton for a better fit.

My very first shoulder gusset. Above it, you see the shoulder seam and below it, the edge of the collar.

 

The Challenge Facts

The Challenge: #21 – “Re-Do”

Challenges redone: “Under it All”; “Black & White”

Fabric:
For the bed-shift: 2.5 yards of 60/40 linen-cotton blend.
For the bed-jacket: 3 yards of woven Swiss-dot cotton.

Pattern:
Shift: Sense & Sensibility “Regency Underthings” chemise with modifications, based on this extant shift.
Jacket: My own, inspired by Kelly’s shirt tutorial.

Year: 1800-1810

Notions: approx. 2 yds of woven cotton tape; cotton thread, thread wax

How historically accurate is it? I gave my best. Some of the seams were machine sewn for speed, but most are hand-sewn. I would say 75% accurate.

Hours to complete: About 30 hours for the bed-shift and another 50-60 hours for the bed-jacket.

First worn: For the photos.

Total cost: € 15 each, € 30 altogether.

With this post, “Project Boudoir” come to a close. I hope you enjoyed this venture into the world of the Regency lady’s bedroom. To be sure, I did. And, on top of that, it has given me the most comfortable bedtime outfit ever. ;) Wearing it does not feel like being in costume at all, but like donning an everyday garment.

For the remainder of November and the holiday season, I will turn to a few new sewing projects, including a historically inspired Christmas outfit for HSF # 23 “Modern History”. And, for the first time ever, I will be sewing some, historical and non-historical presents for friends this year. To keep them a surprise, though, I shall post about them here after Christmas. ;)

See you soon, Nessa

Project Boudoir: Making the Bed-Jacket

Hello again. :)

After a row of evenings spent sewing up the Regency bed-jacket, I have finally made some time to tell you about the making-of. It all started out with wondering about how to pattern a  bed-jacket at all. It is not really a staple Regency item, sewn by costumers and hence, there are not really many pre-made patterns around. But then… I had an idea:

More or less by accident, I started looking at Regency-era men’s shirts. Just as the bed-jacket I showed you before, they are made from light linen or cotton fabrics. They are also no less frilly than the jacket in question. Here it is again.

The extant bed-jacket.

Now if you compare it to an extant gentleman’s shirt… it looks quite similar, right?

An extant men’s shirt from the Met’s collection (c. 1816).

Luckily, there are a good few shirt-making tutorials available online. The two I liked best were Kelly’s tutorial and this one from Marquise. After some measuring and drafting around, I decided to make the bed-jacket, based on Kelly’s instructions, with a few minor alterations. These are the following:

 

Pattern Pieces & Measurements
As I am no, tall, dashing Mr. Sharpe or Mr. Darcy, but a rather petite lady, the main thing I did was to scale down the pattern pieces to my measurements. But I also added a front closure to the shirt’s body and omitted some pieces, such as the side-seam gusset at the bottom or the neck ruffle. Instead of that ruffle, though, I cut two extra ruffles for the cuffs and another for the collar. Here is an overview of the pieces for my bed-jacket, including seam allowances of 7/8″ on each side:

  • Two front pieces, each 28″ x 18″
    (The finished fronts will overlap a bit, if you would like a button placket, add another 2 inches.)
  • One back piece, 28″ x 34″
  • Sleeves, each 19″ x 36″
    (This is a very generous measurement, creating a very poofy sleeve. For something more fitted, take a measurement of your upper arm, add seam allowances and double it.)
  • Two collar pieces, each 4″ x 19″
  • Four cuff pieces, each 10 1/2″ x 3 1/2″
  • Two shoulder gussets, 2″ x 2
  • Two underarm gussets, 5″ x 5″
  • One collar ruffle, 52″ x 3 1/2″
  • Two cuff ruffles, 18″ x 4″

 

Making Up

All in all, I followed Kelly’s wonderful instructions. But, here again, a few changes were needed to adjust for shape and sizing:

Around the top of the jacket, I only sewed up a 4-inch shoulder seam on either side. to this, the shoulder gusset added another 2 inches and made for a comfy shoulder fit. Usually, I am not big on gussets, but shoulder gussets are just awesome.

The next thing was that I used two front pieces. So I did not have to cut a slit and simply hemmed the front ends before gathering it all into the collar. I later fastened the jacket with a length of soft cotton tape at the top, right below the collar hem.

As you might have noticed, I used four cuff pieces, instead of two. The reason for this is that I gathered and then sandwiched the ruffles between two cuffs before attaching everything to the gathered sleeve. When assembling the collar, I did the same again.

At the bottom of the sleeves, I left a shorter slit of 3″, to fit my slender wrists. If that is too wide, you can also tack or button the slit shut below the cuffs. But, if you choose to tack, make sure that your wrists still fit through comfortably.

 

And that was it already…

As for everything else, no more big changes were necessary. And I think this is the place to give Kelly another big thank you. Without her blogging about the shirt, there would have been no bed jacket.
But now there is. (Yay!) Even though it is a little too late for the HSF “Re-Do” challenge, I will try to get a few photos to put into a challenge post over the next few days.

Maybe, in the meanwhile, some of you will start making their own Regency bed-jacket and/or matching shirt. Just like the jackets, it was not uncommon for gentlemen to slip a night-shirt over their shift to stay warm. With the holiday season at the door, it would certainly make for a very special present.

Cheers, Nessa

 

Project Boudoir: Bed-Shift Photos

After finally charging up the camera and setting up everything for the first round of photos in the new living-room, I have captured a few pictures of the finished bed-shift for you. It is made from a light, but cozy, linen-cotton blend and turned out very nicely. I could wear it around the house, day in and day out. The only problem with that endeavor is the rising autumn chill outside….

But, luckily, the pieces of the bed jacket have already been cut out. I patterned it using late-18th and early-19th men’s shirts as a guide. In a little while, I will tell you some more about it all. But, for tonight, here are a few pictures for your viewing pleasure:

The front view.

 

The back view.

The neckline and lacing.

The sleeve with lace trim and gusset.

My first-ever monogram. It says “N.S.”. I picked it out in satin stitch, using an 18th-century alphabet for linen embroidery.

 

Those are the impressions of the bed-shift so far. I will add more photos once the whole boudoir ensemble is finished and ready for the HSF’s “Re-do” challenge, due on November 15th. But I will blog some more before that as well. ;)

 

All the best, Nessa

P.S. This weekend, I realized that “Sewing Empire” now has a total of 55 followers, here and on Facebook. It has amazed me to see the blog being received this well. And I would love to thank you for your wonderful feedback and support. Please keep it coming. You are the best. =)

Project Boudoir: The Bed-Shift Pattern

Now that the holidays are over and real life has me back, it is time to get a little more “real” about the bedtime attire. I am glad that the bed-shift has made some really nice progress and is as good as finished. But, today, I would like to take you back to the start of it and tell you a little about making the pattern.

Basically, the shift pattern started out as the chemise from the Sense & Sensibility Regency Underthings Pattern, which I already used for my first Regency chemise.
Starting from this, I reshaped the yoke and neckline to look more like the one in the picture from last week’s post.

Last week’s Georgian chemise, as found on Hope Greenberg’s website.

As Regency shifts and chemises usually have necklines that are a bit on the wide side, it took me a while to puzzle out just how low and wide I wanted to make it to still be suitable for bedtime wear. With the help of the awesome historical sewing crowd on Facebook, I finally reached a decision. I have to thank everyone that replied yet again. You guys are the best help one can possibly wish for. :)

In this context, someone also directed my attention towards this extant chemise pattern from the Missouri Historical Society. It looks very much like what I had in mind:

Pattern of an extant chemise from the MHS.

In the end I used the overall width at the top and the strap length as a guide to shape a new yoke, which I then connected to the original pattern’s body. I distributed the strap length to be 6 inches at the front and 4 at the back, which, more or less, equals the proportions of the original pattern’s cleavage. But still, it turned out quite a bit higher than the original. I will probably only wear it for winter wear outside of bed, where it can hide under a chemisette or high-necked walking dress.

To make it all a tad longer than a day-wear shift, I simply went without shortening the pattern. Originally, it is probably meant to be knee-length for ladies about half a foot taller than me. When altering the pattern into a bed-shift, some of you might have to lengthen it at the designated marks…

And that was all about the bed-shift’s basic pattern. Another thing I changed was the neckline binding: Instead of making bias tape with the pattern’s binding guide, I used 3-inch wide strips of self-fabric, overlapping them at the corners of the neckline, to better preserve the square shape.

As in the original pattern, I fed a drawstring through the inside of the binding, to keep the shift from sailing off at night. (This happens to you once and never again… ;) )

Oh, and I decided to add a monogram and some lace to the shift. But I will tell you more about that in the next post. Until then, I wish you all a Happy Halloween.

Much love, 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.

Project Boudoir: The Cap

And here is the promised look at the first boudoir garment I finished a few days ago: A simple dressing cap, or boudoir cap. These were worn while the lady was in the process of dressing for the day, to protect the clothes from stray hairs, to hide curlers, or the out-of-bed hair mess some of us find when they get up in the morning. My inspiration came from these two American linen caps from the Met’s collection:

American Regency dressing cap from the Met, linen.

American linen cap, c. 1812, also from the Met collection.

Since my hair has grown out pretty well now and I already have a European hat size 56 (Ladies’ XL), my version of the cap had to be a little longer, and somewhat wider than these two.  To construct it, I went with the simple cap pattern I drafted when making the Cap à la Russe. It is basically a flat semicircle to which I added two matching strips of fabric for the brim and a longer one for the front ruffle. In the process of making it, I trimmed down the long side from 56 to about 54 cm while leaving the brim as it was. This created the slightly hanging side pieces.

The basic cap pattern.

To trim off the ruffle’s raw front edge, I purchased some punched lace with two finished edges and folded it under to the brim’s underside. The finished result looks like this: Also say hello to my new, sized Styrofoam head. Her name is Jane and she is much less camera-shy than me. :)

The boudoir cap. Front view.

The boudoir cap. Side view.

While I was posting this, I have finally washed those 6 yards of white fabrics I will use for the actual night garments. One of them is a very lovely cotton-linen blend and the other a woven Swiss-dot cotton I simply had to get. Just look at it:

The Swiss-dot cotton.

 

I will keep you posted about how things are going with it, and what it will ultimately turn into. =)

 

Hoping to see you all soon. Nessa

Introducing: Project Boudoir

Hello again everyone,

After the heads-up on my autumn sewing plans in the last post, it is due time I revealed a little more to you. As I have already mentioned last time, I am going to make a few cozy Regency items for the cold season awaiting ahead. Perhaps you have already guessed what I am about to make. For, when the days grow chillier and the nights get longer, what is homelier than a comfy set of period undress? Nothing, really.

Since there is more than one garment in the making, the whole project will have a working title: “Project Boudoir”.

Now, for a little explanation: What exactly is the boudoir and what does it have to do with nightwear?
In former times, the boudoir used to be a lady’s private bed and dressing room. Here, women went about their toilette, dressed themselves or simply spent some quality time, all on their own. Hence, translated back from French, “boudoir” literally means “sulking room”. And, if not for sulking, the boudoir was also the perfect place to skulk around in your jammies on a rainy Sunday. Only that our modern pyjamas cannot really hold a candle to their Regency-era equivalents… ;)

Mme. Juliette Récamier lounging in her undress.
Painting: “Madame Récamier” by François Gérard (1802).

As part of this project, there will be a research post on the garments worn around bed time in the early 19th century. Even though there is loads of info to be found on the other facets of Regency fashion, this certain aspect has received less attention. Luckily, at least a few fellow bloggers and sources have already ventured into the material.But, before I will put together some core facts for you, you will get to see the first finished item of my Regency undress (yay!).

So, please stay tuned for more boudoir stories (of the non-saucy kind)…

Love, Nessa