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


Catching up: A linen and silk spencer

Can you believe it has been half a year already? When I decided to leave the blogging part of my life to graduate, I thought I would be back with you after a much shorter while. Now, six months later, I am still working on the master’s thesis, hoping to finish it this month at last. But I have missed you and the blog so badly that I have decided to slowly return now. Plus, I have been sewing a great deal, since it helped me to stay focused and gave me little moments of contentment when the thesis did not really co-operate in that respect. ;)

By now, the queue of projects and little things I am aching to share has become quite long. So it is about time to pick up the threads and start catching up! In this post, I will tell you about the first thing I began to make a little while after my last entry: a linen and silk spencer jacket.

I made it up based on this gorgeous extant roller print spencer from the Genesee Country Village Museum’s collection. The original is made up from a cotton print fabric, in very lovely shades of red. For mine, I used some medium blue linen. I had found just over a yard of it on the leftovers table at my favourite fabric store.

While the original is lined with unbleached muslin, mine got a lining of unbleached silk noil. Noil is a fabric made from the waste fibres combed out in the silk production. While it is usually coarse and not really nice to look at, it handles almost exactly like other silks but is much more affordable. So it worked very well as a nice, warming lining.

The pattern of the extant spencer at the GCVM.

The pattern of the extant spencer at GCVM.

Here is the pattern taken from the museum piece. It has only been the second time I worked with an extant pattern and so I was a little anxious. Though, as far as alterations go, I had to change only very little. Basically, I graded up the bottom halves of the bodice pieces to my underbust measurement, using the waistband (at the top) as a guide. Another thing I did was to extend the shoulder seams to my measurements. The rest I left as is. Especially with the sleeves, it was a little gamble. But since the original sleeve cap had lots of gathers, I got away with it. ;)

Still, it took me a good three weeks to get from the first mock-up to the finished pattern. Though the pattern mostly needed some taking in and lengthening, I was very determined to stick to the “measure twice, cut once” rule because there was not much of the lovely blue linen to waste. In the end, the only part I left unchanged was the armscye and the sleeve. They matched up very well and fit like a charm! Even on modern patterns, this hardly ever happens for me so I did a little happy dance after setting the sleeve into the final mock-up on first go. Yay!

The initial-mock up: a little short, but very roomy.

Yippee, the sleeve going in on the first try!

Yippee, the sleeve going in on the first try!

Cutting out: Not and inch of fabric to waste.

Cutting out: Not and inch of fabric to waste.

The bodice coming together.

The bodice coming together.

The basic spencer with sleeves and the lining basted to.

The spencer, with sleeves and the lining basted to.

Assembling the outer fabric and lining pieces was pretty straightforward altogether. Once the bodice had come together, I more or less flat-lined the bodice, sleeves and collar by basting and then sewing everything together. All the outer edges were left raw as I finished them up with a row of piping and self-fabric bias strips, as it was done on the original. Below you can see the lining process for the sleeves where I basted and then slip-stitched the lining’s bottom hem before sewing up the side seams.

The slip-stitched lining at the sleeve's bottom.

Slip-stitched the lining to the sleeve’s bottom…

... then sewing up the side seams of both layers in one go.

… then sewing up the side seams of both layers in one go.

The raw edge on the linen I finished by applying cotton piping to the right side, un-corded edge to the raw edge. This was then enclosed in a 1 1/2″ wide bias cuff from self fabric. The same method I used on the collar. It is a simple round collar with single under-layer of cotton canvas, sewn to the neck edge individually. The bias strip I used for binding here was 2″ wide with about two thirds of it folded into the underside. Amazingly, this trim was enough to make it all lie flat. But then this has also worked on the original. ;)

Sewing the collar around the neck edge (sorry for the blurry photo).

Sewing the collar around the neck edge (sorry for the blurry photo).

The finished collar trim, top and bottom.

The finished collar trim, top and bottom.

Matching trims!

Matching trims!

Finally, the bottom edge was finished with the waistband. It is reinforced with a strip of canvas and has a short overlapping placket hooked shut at the center front. And this was the making process already. The last thing that was missing, was the closure. It is one of the things I like best about the spencer, since it is simple and genius at the same time. Basically it is a cleverly hidden hook-and-eye closure with the eyes sitting over the inside edge at CF and the hooks sewn to a tape underneath the overlapping side. Once you close it, it is completely hidden from view. The hooks are spaced unevenly, with smaller distances at the top and bigger ones towards the bottom. This was also done on the extant spencer and ensures a nice, secure fit.

The hidden closure.

The hidden closure.

And here is the finished piece. I wore it over my blue cotton petticoat, since it was the closest thing to hand and I was a bit excited about finally taking some pictures and entering the finished product into the Historical Sew Monthly’s “Travel” challenge. Now I am glad that I finally got to share the whole documentation with you. I hope you can forgive some of the atrocious photos. My new camera is not very well-behaved in artificial lighting but, at the time, it was the only light available… a by-product of writing by day and sewing by night. ;)

The finished linen and silk spencer... after about five weeks.

The finished linen and silk spencer… after about five weeks.

The back view, by daylight. I was so excited to be done, I completely forgot to iron the waistband. ;)

The back view, by daylight. I was so excited to be done, I completely forgot to iron it. ;)

This concludes my very first post in what has felt like ages. I have missed you all so much! Funnily, the number of the blog’s followers on Facebook has exploded during the idle months. We are not at over 300. Wow! This still leaves me baffled and in awe. I am very happy people stay so supportive and interested, even during longer times of hiatus. Still I am overjoyed to be back. Please give me a little while to catch up on all you have been up to in the past months. It feels like I have missed a great deal of wonderful things!

Much Love, Nessa


War & Peace: Josephine’s Toque

With the exam season finally coming to a close, it is due time for me to fill you in on my April “War & Peace” endeavor. I have thought long and hard about this one but, at last, I have come up with a solution of which I am very happy. As a result, this month’s thing item will focus on Napoleon’s first wife, Josephine de Bonaparte. Here is a posthumous engraving of the two, walking in the gardens of their estate at Malmaison:

Posthumous engraving of Napoleon I and Josephine, c. 1824 (Found on The History Blog).

The Backstory

Now, how is this project linked to the “War & Peace” challenge theme? Well, I have thought about it in the following way: The piece I am making is meant to portray the wealth and splendor that can be achieved through a series of successful war campaigns. With Napoleon turning himself into the ruler of France and becoming the protector of an increasing number of territories, his success on the battlefields also reflects on his wife and family. During the first decade of the 19th century, Josephine enjoyed the status of a fashion icon, sporting an impressive collection of lavish outfits.

For this challenge I will be making my own lavish fashion item, based on one of hers. It is a gold-embroidered turban cap, or toque, modeled after this extant one:

Josephine’s extant, gold-embroidered toque.

Making Up The Toque

Based on the photos and this tutorial from the Oregon Regency Society, I patterned my own cap. Instead of a circle, my crown came out slightly more oval, with the vertical diameter being slightly longer than the horizontal one. To find the right drape and sizing, I made a muslin and adjusted it by the trial and error method. Here is a quick photo history of my tries:

My toque mock-ups, progressing from left to right.

With the final pattern down, I decided on how to embellish the finished product. As a student, splurging on lavish decorations is not always easy, but I have found my fill of nice things to use: Textured gold embroidery floss, some washable seed pearls and a reasonably priced length of gold braid. Seeing as the braid color does not match the thread all that well, i might leave this one for another project… ;)

The modest selection of embellishments ;).

As for the embroidery design, I decided to swap the Napoleonic bees, which were mainly reserved to be used by the members of his royal family, for a period leaf pattern which I outlined onto my net fabric with a pattern marker. At the moment I am in the process of embroidering it.

The outline embroidery pattern on the crown.

The plan is to also repeat the leaf design on the cap’s band, using the beads. Since I have never beaded anything before, it is something I would really love to try. But, until then, there is still a mountain of gold embroidery to tackle… Although, at the current rate, it is likely that I will finish my “Practicality” item for the May challenge before the toque. I will keep you posted on the progress on either front. (No pun intended ;) .)

Love, Nessa

P.S.: Today, Cassidy has posted a more general overview of the Napoleonic War’s impact on fashion across Europe and America on her blog. It sets a nice backdrop for the “War & Peace” challenge and is well worth checking out.

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: 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

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

Back In Business

Hello again everyone,

After six long weeks of going without needlework and blogging, it feels really great to be back with you. To be honest, I have missed you all at least as much as the sewing. But now I am back and I promise I will be following your sewing ventures more closely again. :) As far as my own sewing goes, the time away from the blog has left me bursting with new ideas. On top of that, I have also stocked up my stash with a few new sewing goodies. Here is a quick summary of all that is new:

New Ideas

Without sewing materials at hand, my creative side got a little stir crazy. As a result, I got back home with a whole pile of new ideas. The inspiration for them came mainly from scavenger hunts through Pinterest, but also from questions and projects making the rounds in the historical sewing groups on Facebook. They really are an invaluable source of inspiration. :) All in all, the following new Regency ideas have popped up:

The open robe I have been wanting to make ever since I started this blog has finally gotten a face. I would like it to be sleeveless and tied with a string. As for the fabric, I am currently drooling over some saffron and burgundy-colored cottons with small floral prints. Additionally, I have also started plotting a short gown from a similar fabric in a different color.

As far as fitting underthings go, I realized that my bodiced petticoat might be a little sweaty for summer wear. So it is time for a lighter linen petticoat, without a full bodice. On top of that there are also the split drawers from the Simplicity pattern I have showed you last time. And once those two things are done, it will be due time for my first chemisette, or maybe two, or three…

Lastly, I have decided that it is finally time to start making my first reticule. As I have not done much embroidery lately, it will feature some colorful floral work, based on period patterns. There are so many awesome patterns out there and I am really aching to bring some of them to life in my embroidery loom. I really can’t wait :)

New Goodies

When I got back home last week, my mother introduced me to a new shopping center not far away from where they live. And the place also boasts a new fabric store. It is a branch of a Danish chain called “Stof & Stil”. They sell a lot of affordable, but not too bad, cottons and linens. Some of them have the most delicious floral prints which helped inspire me to make the open robe and short gown. Thanks to them I have now stocked up my strategic muslin reserves to a whole of 12 yards. Yay. :D

As they also sell a lot of tools and notions, I finally got around to buying a new pair of embroidery scissors. They are rather simple and do not look like anything special, but they cut like a charm. You can also see them in the photo of my current project below. ;)

And, today I did something really unusual: I bought another pattern. Normally, I try to self-draft and pattern whatever I can, but today I got a little weak. As Jennie is currently holding a 15% sale at Sensibility Patterns, I have finally decided to get her “Elegant Lady’s Closet” pattern. It features a nice variety of Regency dresses and one of them has a crossover bodice. I have a feeling that it will come in very handy when I start making the shawl-front gown from Wiener Moden-Zeitung…

Old Friends

But there are not only new sewing adventures, waiting to be discovered. There are also some old ones, aching to be completed. For once, there is my first 1800s dress, based on Janet Arnold’s smock pattern. It has been sitting here all this time, but now the bodice is nearing completion, just in time for the HSF “Terminology” challenge. Here is a little update on the bodice:

The bodice progress… and the new scissors.

Assembling this little beast has been quite a challenge of its own. But it feels great to finally see it made up in the fashion fabric. Now it is due time to get cracking on the skirt. I will keep you posted on the progress.

But for now, that is all from my end. It really is good to be back. I was also more than happy that Gwenyver at Confessions of a Costumeholic nominated me for yet another Liebster Award. I will try and answer her questions here very soon. And then, I might also start a new round of nominations as well. There really are more than a few of you who deserve an award for their stunning and inspiring creations. :)

Much love and until very soon,


Fitting the Regency Clone

It has been a while since my last post… but a lot has been happening here, on the private and university-related ends of life. So the sewing has taken a little break. But today it is back and I can finally give you an update on my latest Regency project:

Currently I am making the 1805 frock from Janet Arnold’s “Patterns of Fashion”, for which I finally fitted the toile today. And let me tell you, making this gown has been a marvel so far. The pattern was taken from this extant evening dress on exhibit at the V&A:

The extant 1805 frock.

And, ever since enlarging the original pattern, I have dubbed this project “the clone”. This is not because I am re-making something extant, but because the original dress would fit me straight off the stand, without any alterations. Ever since realizing how its wearer’s bust and underbust measurements fit mine to the tee, I have been wondering whether there was a clone of me running free in the Regency era. And, I would have absolutely loved to meet the lady in question. Judging from the intricacy of her frock, she must have been from the French upper class. Perhaps I should write a short story about our meet-up one day.  ;)

When fitting the toile today, things got even funnier. While patterning the front piece, I had originally added an extra three inches to the neckline band and another four to the sleeve band, just to be sure. And, lo and behold, I ultimately ended up taking almost the whole extra length back out,  down to the original dimensions. You can see where I pinned off the excess fabric in the pictures below.

Fitting the toile. (Please ignore the gathering thread having slipped out on the right) ;).


Fit of the back neckline and sleeve.


The last thing I need to do now is to jump into my petticoat and stays, to make some final adjustments. And, with the toile fitting so well, I will not have to worry about making another lining; I can simply use the piece as they are. The toile was made from a scrap of an old cotton sheet and is very comfy to wear. Hence I see no reason to throw it out. This whole project will probably never stop to amaze me. :)

I will try to get back to you once the bodice and sleeves are finished. See you all in a little while.
Love, Nessa

A Pilgrim’s Indispensables

It is time for the Medieval sewing journey to continue. The fair will be tomorrow and so I have spent the past few days making up two little projects, to be ready for all eventualities during the pilgrimage to the festival grounds: A cowl to keep my head warm and a pilgrim’s satchel to bring along all my stuff. They are both made from the same yard of green wool blend off the clearance table and some burgundy scrap gabardine left over from my Saxon over-tunic. And yes, that one is finished now, too. You will get to see some more of it later this weekend, just in time for the HSF’s “Art” challenge.

Until then, I will tell you a little more about the two indispensables going along with it:
I started the cowl and circular cape quite a while ago. It is a rendition of this free pattern, originally by Randall Whitlock. While the original pattern is basically a 24-inch circle without a front opening, mine has a sideways closure. For this, I cut the “circle” (okay, more of an octagon ;)) apart at the center front and attached an extra gore to one side. As the cape is self-line, I cut two circles and two gores. You can see the pieces laid out here:

The cape pieces, laid out for cutting the self-lining.

When the cape was all sewn together, I made the cowl from a square of fabric, lined with a few strips of red gabardine, sewn together from some scraps. It gives the lining an unintentional, but cute, stripey look. If you look really closely, you can spot some of the seams in this picture of the finished product:

Inside view of the finished cowl.


To get an idea how the hood drapes over the shoulders, here is a back view of me wearing the cowl. In the front view right below, you can see the sideways button closure. (Please excuse my slumped shoulder ;).) The two loops you can see in the image above are what fastens the front gore over the circular bit.

Back view of the hood.

Front view of the button closure.


After the cowl was finished, I turned the leftover rectangle of wool fabric into the pilgrim’s bag. I got the inspiration from Sarah’s satchel, which is so much prettier than mine. It really only is a piece of cloth folded twice with the raw edges overlapping on the inside. I shaped the flap a little and faced in the edges with a bit of the burgundy stuff. For the eyelet closure I whipped on a plastic eyelet with a length of purl yarn and attached a short leather lace to go through it. Here is a close-up of the finished item:

The finished bag.


And now, the Medieval pilgrimage can finally begin. I will tell you all about it once I get back. :)


Love, Nessa

PS: The other day, I felt a bit audacious and started a Facebook page for this blog, to keep you all up to speed with the latest news and updates. If you would like to “like” it, just follow the link in the sidebar. :)

Getting the Bum Roll Rolling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love, Nessa