Adding Some Bling

Actually, wearing and making jewelry were never really my thing. But, since I am into historical costuming, I realized that the ladies of “my” eras really loved their bling. And that changed my mind. Now I really love the look of historical and historically inspired jewelry. Since my costuming budget is somewhat tight until further notice, I can only dream about buying pieces from one of the many talented makers of historical jewelry out there. Hopefully, one day I can support those wonderful people with a purchase.

Until then I had to find a way to make do and started looking around YouTube for some simple jewelry making tutorials. It all looked very complicated to beginner me but eventually I decided to give it a try. Then, some months ago, the only jewelry supply nearby was turned into an outlet store with 50% off everything. That motivated me to try and make some simple bling to go with my costumes. And this are the results so far:

The first I made was the string of corals and matching earrings from some beads I had bought ages ago. This was my first pearl knotting project and it got me hooked. The corals had teeny tiny holes and I probably swore a lot as I fiddled around with my extra fine pearl needle. But in the end, I was very happy with the finished mini parure. I am looking forward to wearing it with my Regency attire. :D

A knotted coral mini “parure”.

Next, I made a sweetwater pearl necklace for the Historical Sew Monthly’s “Fastenings” challenge. Knotting these pearls went much faster. As with the corals I used matching linen twine, finished with clear nail polish.

Knotting away…

The necklace closes with 12″ ribbon ties, sewn through two pretty cast metal rings. Because I am a chicken about losing it, I added a detachable hook underneath. The finished thing makes me really happy. And the best part, neither of the two pearl necklaces cost more than €15 to make.

The finished pearl necklace.

Last week I found two matching fayx pearl drops which I just had to tearn into ear hangers. Now I am all set to wear some sparkle with my 17th-century outfits as well.

Matching pearl drops!

Slowly this is becoming a somewhat addictive side hobby. When I last went past the jewelry store, I discovered they had some pre-made collets, and they were pink! So I simply could not say no to them. It took about two hours to attach all the split rings. The finished collet necklace is more historical-ish.

My first collet necklace, sort of. ;)

Now I am pondering to make a matching bracelet, just in case I need something nice to wear with Regency full dress. And I do not even have a full dress ensemble completed yet. Oops. Looks like my inner Gollum put the cart before the horse. My precious… LOL

But now I have the best excuse to start planning for a new bib-front gown to match the bling. ;)

Nessa

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A Regency Apron Tutorial

Remember the smock apron I finished in March? Yesterday I found the pattern again. It was hiding in a vase in the living room. Not sure how it got there… LOL. Now I could get cracking on the drafting tutorial for you at last.

Federal-era smock apron, c. 1800, Colonial Williamsburg, Accesion 1995-33.

The pattern is based on this apron in the CW collection. It is pretty straightforward to draft and make up, even if you have not drafted your own pattern before. It uses some length estimates I took off the image in a plotter. The rest depends on personal preference and the figure of the wearer. To start off, you will need the flowing

Measurements:

  • Underbust
  • The distance from the top of your shoulder to your underbust. Usually it is enough to measure at the front, but I like to check this against the back, too. It may vary a bit.
  • Your armpit to armpit measure, taken at the front. You mainly need this for the width of the bib.
  • Desired front bodice height to/from the underbust. The extant apron has about 4″. I made mine a bit higher, at 5″ because I have a talent of dirtying myself just where the apron ends. ;)
  • Skirt length. It should come to the ankle or a little above that. Mine was 38″.

Bodice Pattern:

Originally, I thought about writing up step-by-step drafting instructions. But since everyone has a different working order, I put all the measurements, and maths, into one diagram. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask anytime!

One thing I did not note down is that I continued the apron straps for about 3-4″ before starting on the neckline and armhole curves. The dots on the front diagram are gathering marks. More on those in the sewing instructions below.

Apron front diagram.

Apron back diagram.

Add seam allowances to all the edges, except at the center front line. I settled for 5/8″ here.

Making up the bodice:

Cut out one front piece on fold and two back pieces, aligning the CB line with the fabric grain. Next, run two lines of gathering stitches between the dots at the top and bottom of the front piece. Each dot is 1 1/2″ away from CF, so you will be stitching four lines that are 3″ long. Pull up the gathers. Secure the threads by knotting them together and sewing own the loose ends on the wrong side of the fabric.

Next, line up the front and back pieces at the straps. Wrong sides together, sew up the strap seams. Press open, trim and finish the edges. At the bottom, the bodice pieces will not be sewn together, yet.

After these steps, your bodice should look something like this:

The joined bodice pieces.

Go ahead and hem the bodice pieces at CB and around the armholes, taking up a 1/4″ hem.

Hemming the armholes.

Now measure along the bottom edge of your bodice and add 1″. This will give you the top width of the skirt, including a hem allowance.

Making the skirt:

The skirt pattern is basically a trapezoid. At the top, you have the width you just measured in the previous step. The bottom edge should have a width between 58″ and 62″ plus 1″, depending on how full you want your skirt to be. The height of the trapezoid is your desired skirt length, plus 1 5/8″ for the top seam and bottom hem.

You can cut the skirt panel in one piece and save yourself the trouble of sewing any long seams. This works if you are using a modern fabric that is 60″ wide.

For narrower fabrics, and to create a more “period” look, you need to cut two panels. For this, add another 1 1/4″ to the top and bottom widths, then divide both measures in half. Draw a skirt panel with these new measurements. It should have one straight edge at CF that equals your skirt length, and a diagonal edge at the other end. Now cut two of these panels out of your fabric. Join them lengthwise, taking up a 5/8″ seam allowance. You can either join them on the straight or the bias edge, as you prefer. The extant apron has the skirt joined on the bias. It creates an interesting drape.

No matter if you made a one- or two-piece skirt, the next step is to hem the two long, raw outside edges. Next, align the bottom edges of the bodice with the top edge of the skirt, CF to CF and CB to CB. Like this:

Aligning the bodice and skirt.

Wrong sides together, sew the bodice to your skirt. Trim/finish the seam and press it down towards the skirt. You now have a smock apron with armholes. Go and try it on!

Ties & Finishing:

Next we need ties and a neckline drawstring to fasten the apron. For the ties at the underbust, cut two rectangles from your fabric, each about 12″ long and 2″ wide. Wrong sides out, sew up the long edges and one short edge with a narrow seam (1/4″-3/8″). Turn them inside out using a chopstick or wooden skewer. Attach the ties at CB, around underbust level, folding in and stitching over the remaining raw edge on the wrong side of the bodice.

For the neckline finish, cut a 1″ wide bias strip, the length of your neckline plus about 1″ extra. Attach it to the bodice neckline and fold it over the raw edge. Feed a narrow (1/2″-1″) linen tape through the drawstring channel you just created inside the neckline. It should be long enough to tie comfortably at the back.

Alternatively you can use four individual drawstrings, two to tie at the back, and two to adjust the front. For this, add two small eyelets to your bias strip at CF before sewing down the inner edge. Then feed through the separate tapes, stitching each one down firmly to the outside of the casing near the shoulder seams.

And you are done! Put on your new apron and check it out in the nearest mirror. :)

Pattern Notes:

  • This pattern can be made up from plain-weave linen or cotton fabrics. Solid colours or yarn-dyed checks or stripes work best. Period favourites included black, white or purple/mauve linen aprons. Blue and white small checks were especially popular in colonial New England.
  • See my research post for more apron details and styles.
  • The yardage for this pattern is around 2 yards, depending a bit on how wide your fabric is.
  • If you are planning to wear the apron with your Regncy costume, I strongly recommend you take your measurements over the gown and underthings, to allow yourself enough wriggle room.
  • If you do not want the straps to sit on top of your shoulders, you can put the strap seam back by lengthening the front strap and shortening the back strap by approx. 2″ respectively. I did this to create a slightly more historical look.

And that was all already. Sorry it took so long to post this. I hope the instructions are useful to you. Please have fun making your own smock apron. I would love to see the beautiful ones you have made. :)

Nessa

HSM #3: A Regency Smock Apron

As I take a break from sewing the sleeve wings on my 1630s bodice, I am using the time to finally share a bit about my new smock apron with you. It came together in the last “bodice break”. So far, I did not have the chance to wear it with my costume. But that is definitely still on the to-do list, now spring is finally here. And it definitely took its sweet time to come out this year. Another thing still on my blogging sheet is a drafting tutorial for the apron bodice. More about that below.

First off, let us talk about the construction process a bit. I started by self-drafting the bodice and skirt based on this apron in the Colonial Williamsburg collection. Their site does not have permalinks. For a look at the details, just type the accession number into the search box. :)

Regency smock apron, c. 1800-20, Colonial Williamsburg collection. Acc. Number 1995-33

Since I only had the one image to work off, I loaded it into Inkscape and scaled it up, based on the given length of 46″. This did not really provide accurate measurements, but gave a good estimate of the dimensions. Based on that, I drafted and mocked up the bodice pieces. Eventually I came out with this piece, which I hand-finished with 1/4″ hems around the edges. The insides are finished with a bias strip that holds a drawstring case.

The apron bodice.

Hemming the edges…

The bodice front is basically a trapezoid that gets its Regency-esque shape from the gathers at CF. The two skirt panels are joined on the bias in front and contribute to this look, too. It is pretty straightforward but since a few people asked about how exactly it is done, I will try to put up a drafting tutorial once I can track down my draft sheet and notes.

When cutting the skirt, I forgot that my fabric was printed, not yarn-dyed. Duh. So I ended up piecing one of the miscut panels. But it was only half bad. I accidentally matched the pattern and, besides, piecing adds some period appeal, right?

Joining the bodice to the skirt. The armholes are open at the bottom and only joined through the skirt seam.

The apron closes at the neck and waistline. At the top, the neckline drawstring provides the ties. For the waist, I made two narrow 12″ ties from fabric scraps.

Yay, waist ties, turned inside out with a shishkebab stick.

And that was that. The apron is done and currently sitting on the dressform.

The finished smock apron.

As a little bonus, I made a fabric bunny out of the scraps, just in time for Easter. He looks a bit like a Lindt bunny, but will last longer, due to lacking chocolate content.

Mr. Apron Scrap Bunny. :D

And here are the HSM challenge facts:

The Challenge: #3 – Comfort At Home

Material: 1 1/2 yards checked cotton broadcloth.

Pattern: My own, based on an extant apron at Colonial Williamsburg (Acc. No. 1995-33).

Year: 1800-20.

Notions: 1 1/2 yards 3/8″ twill tape; cotton thread; linen twine for the drawstring eyelets at the front.

How historically accurate is it? I did not manage to source a yarn-dyed, woven check on short notice, so I went with a printed fabric (I found a much better one, just when the apron was finished…). So I have to mark myself down. Same for working off one image without a closer look at the construction details. But it is all hand-sewn. :) Overall, I would give it 80% accuracy.

Hours to complete: About 24 hours.

First worn: Around the house. :D

Total cost: € 13.

Nessa

Regency Apron Research

I did it again! I finished a project without writing all the blog posts first. So now seems a good time to unravel the planning behind the Regency apron I just finished for the Historical Sew Monthly.

Some of you may still remember my Regency half apron from 2016. Now I wanted one that covers the top of the dress, too, because that is where I usually dirty myself. ;) To get inspired, I had a quick browse through the full apron styles and colours popular in the Regency era. That was the perfect excuse to look through one of my favourite collections of period fashion plates, the “Costumes d’ouvriéres parisiennes” by Georges-Jacques Gatine and Louis-Marie Lanté, published in 1824. You can view it here on Gallica.

The first thing I noticed was the range of different colours. Black was very fashionable, because hey, it hides most stains. It’s for a similar reason that 18th-century surgeons turned to blue aprons. (See this post by Susan Holloway Scott). Of course, there was lots of white around, too. From my research into the other apron, I already knew about rosy and powder pink being fashionable. But that did not prepare me for this very flashy purple. Just wow. And the one below is not the only example in the collection.

Earthenware seller, in a stunning purple apron, c. 1824.

Beyond the high-waist half aprons, like the one above, there is one rare example of a pinner apron among the plates. Offhand, I could not think of an extant one in this style.

Dairywoman wearing a pinner apron, c.1824.

Much more widespread were bib aprons with narrow shoulder straps, at least based on how many there are in these fashion plates alone. Here are two examples, one black and one white.

A hatter, in a black, strapped apron, c. 1824.

Chamber maid, with a back view of the shoulder straps, c. 1824. See how they are angled?

Sabine made a beautiful repriduction of such a strapped apron. On her blog, I saw a different strap style, too, which makes the apron look a bit like a pinafore, or smock. I still wonder which parlor game these ladies might be playing, too.

Apron with wide straps, Le Bon Genre, Plate 89, June 1816, British Museum.

This made me think a bit, since shoulder straps are my known enemy, in historical and modern clothes. As a lady with sloping shoulders, I could really use a smock-style to keep those straps from slipping. That is why I have been ogling this Russian folkwear apron at the Met for quite some time now. It has a nearly full bodice in the back. But that style is not really documentable for general Regency fashion.

Russian apron, 19th century, Metropolitan Museum, New York.

But then I found this beautiful smock apron in the Colonial Williamsburg collection, and I fell in love! It dates between 1800 and 1820 and is made from blue-white checked linen tabby.

Checked high-waist apron, c.1800-20, Colonial Williamsburg, Accesion No. 1995-33.

In New England, blue and white checks were quite common for aprons, as was the high-waisted smock style. Kitty Calash wrote a wonderful research post on surviving examples and the provenance of checked linens. She also made one for herself.

This became the main inspiration for my own apron. As time was short (yay for short-term sewing projects), I went out to get some checked fabric and settled for a printed cotton tabby. When I found a yarn-dyed variety, known as “zephyr cloth” here, halfway through sewing the thing, I was a bit annoyed with my planning skills. Oh well, next time. One can never have enough aprons, right?

Nessa

Little Project Show & Tell

There have been a lot of little projects going on lately. They are too small to write a blog post about each. So I thought to give it a go and sum them all up in a single post. If it works out well, I might do this more often to fill the gaps between bigger project updates. So here come my three current mini projects.

First I have been working on two small, tuckable fichus with bobbin lace trim. They are much like the one I wore to the market last year, simple triangles that are about 20″ high and 40″ wide at the bottom. The first one is all finished and I am about to start on the second one.

Making cotton voile fichus. One down, one to go.

What I just finished is a length of gold trim for my prospective 1630s gown. It is a simple square knot macramé pattern, worked in cotton and lurex cord. It was a lucky find in the Christmas section at the one-euro store. Out of 6 yards of cord, I got 30″ of trim. Since I am working in increments, to have manageable bits of cord, working through it all will take some time. Hopefully I will have enough trim in time for the finished gown. ;)

Macramé gold trim in the making.

The other project I have just started is a small crewel embroidery piece. When it is done, it will be a sweetbag. I found the pattern on Amie Sparrow’s blog. She has copied some gorgeous 16th-century patterns and made them available for personal use.

Ready for the embroidery on the sweetbag.

Right now, I cannot share too much about this project, because it will be a surprise for a friend. So shh… ;)

And these are the projects keeping me busy at the moment. What are your current projects? I would love to hear about them! :)

Nessa

Stumbling into a Georgian Room

Last week, I went to visit a local museum, the Behnhaus-Drägerhaus in Lübeck. It is an amazing place that has been there all my life. Set up in two Georgian townhouses, it combines displays of 18th, 19th and 20th-century art with period rooms that are filled with Georgian and Regency furniture. The experience was very immersive as I went there on a quiet weekday. It left me puzzled why I had not come here before.

At the museum two surprises awaited me. One, this painting with a very interesting suggestion for accessorizing my new crossover gown. Just look at that frilly, ruffly chemisette…

Portrait of Henriette von Heintze with her children by Friedrich C. Gröger, c. 1803.

The second surprise was almost a bit out of this world. I found it on the top floor of the museum. Compared to the other two floors, it was almost empty. There was some minor construction work going on but it was open to the public. So I snuck up there. At least it felt like that way… up the historical staircase that got steeper the higher it went. If ever I had experienced the stairs servants had climbed to get to their part of the house, it was here. Once upstairs, I walked into an empty room…

… a Georgian room! It was labeled as the guests’ parlour and breakfast room. Like many others in the museum, it still had the original panelling, stucco and wall paintings that have been restored very well. The creaky wooden boards added to the experience. All that was newer, was the electrical lamp that should date to the early 20th century.

Just being in there left me breathless. I stood there for a good minute, gawping and wondering. Then I sort of started decorating it with period furnishings from plates in Ackermann’s Repository before my mind’s eye. This experience was as strange as it was amazing.

I should visit this special place more often. Maybe, next time, I can come back in costume.

Nessa

My Own Georgian Pockets

After delving into the wonderful world of extant Georgian pockets in my last post, I have finally finished my own pair. Yay! They got done just in time for the Historical Sew Monthly’s “Inspiration” challenge next month. My inspiration were these cute patchwork pockets made by The Young Sewphisticate. For the pattern, I went with an extant pocket from Costume Close Up. I shortened it to 12″, so the pockets would not bump into my knees. Short girl problems. ;)

The finished pockets.

The left pocket is patchworked with fabric bits from my stash and quilted in a simple diamond pattern. For the binding, I used some leftover double-fold bias tape. Instead of pins, I used wonder clips. They worked like a charm!

Binding the quilted pocket.

For the pocket on the right I bought a fat quarter of block-printed cotton. Up close, the off-white base looks almost like nankeen, so it worked wonderfully. I would have loved to get more for a dress; only the store no longer sold it by the yard… bummer.

The second pocket, looking cute.

The binding on this one is made out of scraps left over from my shortgown. On the bias, the brown and white checks get a whole new look. For the top edge, I went back to the green tape, to turn my pockets into a proper pair.

The halfway bound pocket.

The trickiest part about making the pockets was to neatly bind the slits. It is a popular topic for questions on the costume groups, too. So I will talk about it a little more in a separate post. For now, I will go and put the finishing touches on my stays. They have to get done in time for this month’s HSM. So much for setting priorities… LOL!

Cheers, Nessa

Georgian Pockets Galore!

As autumn is finally here and we are about to spend more time indoors, enjoying our needlework, period movies or a good book over a nice cup of tea, I thought it was time for a picture post. In line with my current project for the HSM “Inspiration” challenge I have put together a little collection of extant Georgian pockets to marvel at.

Now you might say: “Wait, wasn’t she working on a 17th-century costume and what about her usual Regency stuff? Why is she getting side-tracked by pockets?” Well, here is the thing: I am one of those people whose handbag is always full of little bits and bobs in modern life. At events this has proven tricky in the past. No Regency reticule can hold all my stuff. Alternatively I brought along a lidded wicker basket or a nondescript cloth carrier bag.  It worked but was not the most period accurate solution.

Then I remembered Georgian pockets. They were still around in the early Regency era which I love so much. And since my new crossover gown has a drop front with deep plackets, pockets wear easily undeneath. The next consideration was what to do for my 17th-century costume. This was what initially made me research pockets. Sources often say that ladies wore them between the mid-17th and 19th centuries. Since my gown dates earlier than this, I wondered what had gone before pockets as we know them.  And I found the saccoccia, a belt pocket worn in Renaissance Italy. It had roughly the same shape but was worn outside the skirt more often. For more details on the saccoccia, I recommend this in-depth post by Anéa Costume.

For now, Georgian pockets will be my fix-all solution for both periods. Knowing my 17th-century persona, she would be cheeky and inventive enough to stick the pockets under her skirt, even before 1650. But now, I will just stop rambling and show you all these pretty pictures!

When we think of pockets, we often picture those amazing little works of hand embroidery some ladies have put on theirs. Like these ones here:

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Pair of embroidered linen pockets, mid-1700s, Worthing Museum and Art Gallery.

Equally gorgeous is this quilted and embroidered pair, featuring a shepherdess:

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Embroidered and quilted linen pocket, with silk binding, early 18th century, MFA Boston.

To make suck pockets, the design was stitched onto an uncut piece of fabric which was later cut and lined to protect the back of the work. Here is a set of stunning, nearly finished pocket fronts held at the V&A:

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Pair of pocket front, embroidered by Hannah Haines, c. 1718-20, Victoria & Albert Museum.

But, even in the old days, not every lady was a super-skilled embroiderer. Pockets were a welcome canvas to practice not-yet-so-perfect needlework skills. This is why I am in love with this one from the early 1800s.

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Embroidered wool twill pocket, c. 1807-15, Winterthur Museum.

As seen above, another technique used to embellish ladies’ pockets was quilting. Sometimes it was done in white thread on simple white pockets. And, simple as it may sound, the results look absolutely stunning:

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Quilted linen pocket, c. 1760-75, Victoria & Albert Museum.

Also often associated with quilting, is patchwork, which was extremely popular with pockets, too. Examples come in many shapes and sizes. There is patchwork with bigger squares….

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Patchwork pocket from New England, c. 1800-10, Winterthur Museum.

… patchwork with tiny squares…

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Pocket, early or mid-19th century, Royal School of Needlework.

… beautifully designed patchwork…

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Patchwork pocket, New England, 18th century, MFA Boston.

… or patchwork with applique.

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Pieced and appliqued pocket, American, late 18th or early 19th century, auctioned by Crocker Farm.

So pockets were definitely a way to use up all your beautiful fabric leftovers. But sometimes they were also made of one single piece of beautiful fabric, often printed cotton calico:

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Pocket made from block-printed calico, English, c. 1720-30, Winterthur Museum.

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Cotton calico pocket, early 1800s, Manchester City Galleries.

And the print fabrics used were not all white, either. Look at this pink pocket with autumn leaves:

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Cotton pocket, late 18th or early 19th century, private collection.

There are a lot more stunning and intriguing examples out there. This is just a small selection to fire up your pocket imagination. Maybe now you are going to make your own on one of those long evenings to come. I am currently working on my second pocket and have become a tad addicted. :)

Yours,  Nessa

A Herringbone Fichu

After the stays, I was itching to do a pretty project that would not take ages to finish. Thus I picked up a scrap of cotton voile and made another fichu. Like my previous one, I based it on this super handy fichu guide by the Oregon Regency Society. Only this time around, I made it rectangular in shape.

Here is what I did: I started by cutting two rectangles, each 28″ long and 12″ wide. After finishing the edges with 1/4″ hand-rolled hems, I joined up the pieces with an 8″ open herringbone seam. It now sits at the center back of the finished fichu. Finally I embroidered two more rows of herringbone stitch down center edges to match.

Creating the open herringbone stitch.

All herringboning was done is a blue no. 80 filet crochet cotton, which I use for anything but crochet. It works great for sturdy finishes or small embroidery designs like this one. Here is the finished item. Making it took about eight hours in all.

The front view.

A closer look at the herringbone finish.

The back view.

A close-up of the open-work seam.

This small project was much fun as I got to do two of my favorite sewing things… decorative stitching and rolled hems. After hand-rolling quite a few of those, the process has become a bit addictive. I think some of you can sympathize here, no? :)

Yours, Nessa

A Percale Crossover Gown (CoBloWriMo #29)

The CoBloWriMo prompt for today is “Ensemble”. It made me realize that I have not yet shown you my new crossover Regency gown. The gown will be the base for future ensembles. I have plans to make a sleeveless bodice and an open robe to have different options for topping it off.

When doing some research I found that there are much fewer surviving crossover gowns than other styles. Here is a pretty golden one. Have a look at the apron front closure which is pinned over a bodice extension. My gown closes in the exact same way. :)

Regency crossover gown, c. 1810-20 (Source: Vintagetextile.com).

View of the apron front closure (Source: Vintagetextile.com).

In fashion plates and paintings, there are a few more representations of crossover gowns. Date-wise, different crossover styles were especially “en vogue” in the late 1790s and then again in the mid-late 1810s. Below you can see two plates, one from each decade. The first is a crossover round gown and the second a French percale gown.

Plate of a crossover round gown, c. 1798.

Robe de Percale, Costume Parisien, c. 1816.

Speaking of percale… When I found this plate, my heart leapt a little. The fabric I used for my gown is also a percale! I realized as much after first blogging about it here. Only my gown is much plainer and does not have such a delicious vandyke trim. In fact, I did not yet trim it at all. Perhaps a ruffle or two will magically appear, once I know what the rest of the ensemble will look like. ;)

Here is the finished crossover gown. I made it using the Laughing Moon crossover gown, tunic and pelisse pattern. The fabric is a woven check cotton percale. After the photoshoot did not go ahead as planned, there are still no photos of me wearing it. So, for now, the dressform will have to do the job.

The finished crossover gown.

The back view. I made the skirt without the optional train.

The side view. The gown has a very “Regency-esque” silhouette, even without underpinnings.

A closer look at the crossover front. You can see where the skirt ties over the bodice.

I am glad to finally share this with you. After the first fitting, I already know that it wears pretty well. Here is hoping that I can finally take it for a stroll soon. :)

Cheers, Nessa