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

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HSM #2: A Market-Day Petticoat

Despite the finals still going strong, I surprised myself and finished the entry for the Historical Sew Monthly’s “Pleating & Tucks” challenge on time. It is a pleated petticoat to go with the shortgown I am planning to sew this year.

This marks the start of a whole working-class outfit which I am planning to wear at a historical market in October. It will be one of the very first costume events I am attending in Regency-era costume. And, boy, am I excited about it already! But first, here is a look at the petticoat:

The finished petticoat, front view.

The finished petticoat, rear view.

The petticoat is made of two yards of unbleached cotton broadcloth. I cut it to the finished skirt length, leaving one selvedge intact. After sewing the fabric into a tube with a single side seam, I pleated the raw edge into a  35″ wide waistband, using graduated pleats. At the center back, there are some 1/4″ pleats “stacked” on top of each other for some extra fullness. At the side seams, the pleats reach a maximum depth of 1″.

A close-up of the graduated pleats at the back.

The “tube” method I used to construct the skirt was inspired by the Hungarican Chick’s bib-front gown tutorial. It seems to work perfectly for that purpose, with an even front flap being cut into the skirt. Since there is no such flap in a petticoat, I had a little extra work getting it to hang  evenly. The little hack I used to balance it, is a 9″ long “dart” over the left hip, opposite the side seam. Here it is:

The dart balancing the skirt.

At the top of the side seam, there is a short in-seam placket, about 7″ long. It matches up with an overlapping hook-and-eye closure in the waistband. The overlap here is approximately 2 1/2″.

The inseam placket.

The overlapping waistband closure.

And there is another secret to the petticoat: The bottom edge is on the selvedge, so there is no need to hem it. At the moment, I like the look as it is, but I might fold it under when I decide to use it as an invisible petticoat under a dress or other skirt.

The bottom “hem”. I feel like such a cheater… ;)

When the skirt was all sewn up, I machine-dyed it with an artificial indigo dye. Afterwards, I sewed on the straps to keep it securely at the underbust line. They are made from 1″ wide white cotton tape which stays pretty invisible over the other underpinnings.

That is all there is to the construction process. It was easy and quite fast, in spite of mostly hand-sewing it. Now, here are the challenge details to fill you in on everything else. :)

 

The Challenge: #2 – Tucks & Pleating

Fabric / Materials: 2 yards of unbleached cotton broadcloth; blue dye

Pattern: None. Loosely based on Twila’s petticoat tutorial.

Year: c. 1800.

Notions: One yard of woven cotton tape; cotton thread.

How historically accurate is it? Most of it is hand-sewn, though I had no extant example to work by. Since the indigo dye was synthetic, I would say it is about 95% accurate.

Hours to complete: About 30 hours.

First worn: For the fitting, it will be worn more extensively at a historical market this autumn.

Total cost: € 6 for the fabric and notions, plus € 4 for the dye, so approximately € 10 altogether.

 

It was good to get the chance and post for you, but now it is back to the grindstone for another month. I am hoping to see you all again in April, with some updates on the two small projects I am trying to tackle for the “Protection” challenge. One of them is a set of two 18th-century baby caps. This is the first time I am making baby clothes and I am much looking forward to sharing this experience with you.

Until then, I wish you all the very best. See you next month!

Love, Nessa

HSM #1: A Procrastinated Chemise

Finally, I get to break the radio silence to share a new blog post with you. The final exam season at uni has picked up speed and it has been a bit of a toughie to fit in the usual amount of blogging and sewing with it. Nevertheless, the first HSM challenge of the year, “Procrastination”, has motivated me to make the new Regency chemise I have wanted for ages now.

Every time I did a fitting or took photos throughout the last year, I thought “Oh my, I could really use a new chemise!” This is what qualified this project for the challenge. And I actually did it! It is even mostly hand-sewn. For me, this is simply the best and prettiest way to work gussets and flat-felled seams, with an extra amount of control.

So here is a picture of the complete chemise. I took it when I should have been revising… ahem. The fabric I used is a basic light voile I bought in France. Even though it is cotton, it handles like a fine linen that was often used to make chemises for the upper classes in the Regency era.

A look at the finished chemise.

To finish the edges, I used two kinds of hems: 1/4″ hand-rolled hems for the sleeves and a 3/4″ double-turned hem at the bottom. This is how I usually do it, to add a little extra weight and make the chemise hang more nicely. Here is a quick close-up of both hems:

The 1/4″ rolled hem at the sleeves.

The bottom hem. You can see how the fabric almost looks like a fine linen. =)

These are all the photos I have taken so far. This leaves the challenge facts to round off the project:

The Challenge: #1 – “Procrastination”

Fabric: Two yards of light cotton voile.

Pattern: Laughing Moon #115 – Regency & Romantic Era Corset.

Year: 1800-1815.

Notions: Cotton thread; cotton bobbin drawstring.

How historically accurate is it? It is mostly hand-sewn and I did my best to stick to period techniques. So I would say it’s 90% accurate, give or take.

Hours to complete: About 30-40 hours.

First worn: Not yet, but I am much looking forward to it!

Total cost: Around € 8 (which was the cost of the fabric).

 

And that was all the sewing I got to finish this month. Most likely, the busy time will go on for this month and the next. After that I am hoping to get back into my usual sewing routine again and to spend more time with you on the blog. I miss you all very much!

Love, Nessa

HSM #12: The Chemisette

Before completing the whole dress ensemble, here is a look at the chemisette that came together earlier this week. I am entering it into the Historical Sew Monthly “Re-Do” challenge separately, to make up for a few challenges I skipped this fall. Here is what it looks like, worn with the gown:

chem_finished

The chemise and gown – front view.

chem_back20dress

The chemise and gown – back view.

Just like the Regency dress, the chemise is hand-sewn, except for one invisible inner seam. The pattern I used as a base is from Sense & Sensibility’s Regency Underthings pattern. Originally, this version of the pattern offers a flat or standing ruffle as collar options. I decided to make it with the flat ruffle, but found it a bit too boring. ;)

So I cut a second, narrower, ruffle to go on top of it. In the previous post, I already showed you a sneak peek of how I hemmed them using the “magic” rolled hem stitch. To help the top ruffle to lay more nicely, a little bit of starch went into the bottom one.

Here is a look at the finished chemisette without the gown. As you can see, the buttoned section is slightly longer, to accommodate for dresses with lower necklines as well. Perhaps, one day, I will get it into my head to wear it underneath one of those risque-y French gowns. ;)

chem_front

The chemisette front.

chem_back

The chemisette back.

chem_side

A look at the side, with the French seam across the shoulder.

The chemisette closes with both ties and a set of three mother-of-pearl buttons.The pattern actually suggest to close the front with either ties or buttons, yet I felt safer using both. In the Regency era, “gap-itis” on drawstring closure was quite common. So I am perfectly fine with it, in all places but one: the front of chemisettes. ;)

Another thing I changed is the way the buttons fasten. Since the cotton voile I used is extra sheer and I wanted to learn a new technique, I made button loops instead of using regular button holes. All in all, the chemisette’s closure now looks like this:

chem_undone

The closure: A top and bottom drawstring and three buttons with silk thread loops.

Here is another close-up of the loops and buttons. Even though they are made from real mother of pearl, they were not all that expensive. I found them at a local “hippie” store that also sells a plethora of beads for jewelry-making. For the loops I used some off-white silk buttonhole thread. As you can also see here, the thread loops improved as I moved down the line. ;)

loops

My first set of button loops. Yay! :)

If you would like to learn more about sewing thread loops as well, I recommend Professor Pincushion’s video tutorial. It is a bit longer but walks you through the steps very nicely. :)

And that was all about the chemise already. I hope you enjoyed looking at the pictures. :) If you have questions about the tweaks I used in my interpretation of the pattern, please feel free to let me know. Now I will try my best to finish the dress as well, so that I can show you everything before I go home for the holidays.

Until very soon, Nessa

Early Regency Elastic Garters : A Tutorial

It has delighted me to see how many of you are also enamored of all those gorgeous period garters. It feels wonderful to be in such good company. But, admiring is only one side of it all. As costumers, we all love to also re-create the fashions we adore. To get you started on your own pair of drool-worthy garters, here is the promised tutorial on how to make “elastic” early 19th-century garters.

Before we start, it has to be said that the finished garters will not be made in a completely historically accurate way. This is because we will be using elastic cord instead of wire springs to elasticize the garters. Modern elastic varies greatly in its elastic properties, as opposed to the material available in the period. But the end result of this tutorial will be very close to the period look. So, here we go:


You will need:

  • 12″-15″ of elastic cord, approx. 1/8″ wide.
  • 2 pairs of “double” hooks and bars, normally used for in-seam skirt closures.
  • A short length of matching double-fold bias tape, about 6″ long.
  • Needle and thread (matching for the seams and optionally another color to accentuate the cording channels).
  • Four 4″ wide pieces of sturdy cotton fabric, according to your measurements (see below).

Placement and Measurements:

You can place the garters just below, or just above, the knee. To find out how long your fabric pieces need to be, measure snugly around the place of your choosing. For the two front pieces, you will divide this measurement by 2. Then you add 1 1/4″ to it, to get a 5/8″ seam allowance on either side. For a sample calculation: I decided to wear my garters below the knee and measured a leg diameter of 16″. So I ended up with a front piece length of 8″ + 1 1/4″ = 9 1/4″ by 4″ wide.

Obtaining the length of your elasticized back piece is a bit trickier and depends on the bit on how rigid or stretchy your elastic cord turns out to be. First, you need to stretch your elastic cord to see, how much of it is required to go across half your leg diameter. Typically, the amount will vary somewhere between 2/3 and 3/4 of your measurement. With my cord, I needed 6″ to stretch over the 8″ of the finished back piece. Now you can decide if you want a (nearly) flat back piece when wearing your garter, or rather a more ruffled look. Both seem to have existed for period garters and it is up to you, what you like best.

For the “flat” look, you simply take your halved diameter and add a 5/8″ seam at one end. If you would like to shir and ruffle your back piece a little more, you are now going to double the measurement of your elastic cord and add the 5/8″ allowance to that. This is how i did it and I came out with 6″ x 2 + 5/8″ = 12 5/8″ by 4″ wide. Now that you have your measurements, you can go ahead and cut 2 pieces of each.

Making up the garters:

First, fold all your pieces so that the two long edges are touching and press.

Step 2: Add your embellishments to the inside of the folded front pieces, steering clear of the fold and seam allowances.

Next you can decide whether you would like to add embroidery to your front pieces or if you want to ornament them with pieces of patterned ribbon instead. You will be placing your embellishments on one half of the folded front pieces. Since you will later turn them inside out, remember to put the adornments on the inside of the folded piece, making sure not to work over the fold line and seam allowances.

Step 3: Add cording channels to the sewn-up back pieces.

Now you will work on the folded back pieces: Sew along the long, raw edge on either piece, taking up a 3/8 seam. Leave the short ends open, trim the seam and turn inside out. Add two cording channels that are wide enough to hold your elastic cord, starting your first seam about 1/2″ from the top and bottom edges. If you are using 1/8″ cord I recommend you place the cording lines 3/8″ apart (as you can see, mine came out a little too narrow for easy cording).
Optional: Add a fifth seam in between the channels for decoration.

Step 4: Feed the elastic through the channels and secure.

After finishing the channels, cut four equal lengths of elastic cord, according to the calculations above. Feed them through the channels, using a bodkin and, if necessary, a pair of needle-nose pliers. Make sure that a little bit of the cord peeks out at either end and secure it, using straight or, even better, safety pins.
Stay stitch on both sides, close to the edges. This step is crucial, since elastic cord develops a life of its own otherwise. I forgot this when first making up my pair and ended up taking apart and re-cording them because the elastic came loose.

Step 5: Embellish your fronts, fold them back over and mark.

Once you have finished decorating the fronts, fold them back over, right sides facing. Measure 2-3″ from the left edge and mark the point. Now, sew along the right edge of each piece, as well as the long edge, up to the mark you just made. Turn inside out. Your sewn-up fronts will then look like this:

The front piece after sewing and turning.

Step 6: Attach the back pieces to the top side.

Now, place your back pieces on top of the fronts and pin in place. Carefully sew them to the top layer of the front pieces only, while taking up a 5/8″ seam. Make sure to move the back layer out of the way completely. Trim the seam a little, fold the back piece into the front and press.

Step 7: Hand-finish the back of the join.

To finish the front-back join, flip over the pieces. Fold the raw short edges on the back in by about 5/8″ and press, making sure to cover the entire raw edge of the back piece. Finish the side seam and the remainder of the long seam by hand, using a slip-stritch.

Step 8: Bind the raw back edges.

At this point, your garters are nearly down. All you need to do now is cut your length of bias tape in half and use it to bind the remaining raw edge on your back piece. Do it as you would bind a corset, stitching “in the ditch” on the top side and securing the folded-over side on the back with slip stitches.

Step 9: Attach the hook-and-bar closure.

At last, you sew the hooks and bars to close your garters. The double skirt hooks are the closest thing to the, often ornate, hook closures used on period garters. But they do well enough. It works best to attach the hook on the back end, and the bar on the front. If you look at extant pairs, you will find that the bar usually goes on the “pretty” side, right next to the embroidery. Since the modern hooks are not so pretty, I opted to put them on the undersides instead. ;)

The finished product. =)

And your garters are done! Here is a look at my finished product. But I have a feeling that yours will be all the prettier. If you get to try out the tutorial and make your own pair of garters, I would love to see how they turned out.

I will be back with you very soon, once the exams are all over. By then, I am hoping to have some news on my new Regency day dress as well. Now, back to fixing the garter I forgot to stay stitch… See you all very soon!

Cheers, Nessa

HSM “Brown”: The Finished Garters

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

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

A closer look at the embroidery.

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

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

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

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


The Challenge: #9 – “Brown”

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

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

Year: ca. 1790s-1820s.

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

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

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

Hours to complete: About 25-30 hours.

First worn: For the photos.

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

All the best, Nessa

Garters Galore

Today, the embroidery on the first garter has already come together. On this joyous occasion, I will delve into the subject of early 19th-century garters a little more and provide you with some delicious eye candy. ;)

But, first things first. Here is a look at the status quo of my embroidered garter fronts. By now they are both outlined in back stitch. And the bottom one is already filled with satin and stem stitch. Since some period garters also made do with rather sparse embroidery designs, I did get a bit lazy and decided against filling in all the flowers, too.

The embroidery progress on the garters.

I am quite content with how they are turning out, especially since I am a little pressed for time at the moment. But now, to the really gorgeous extant examples….

Up to the late 18th century, and into the very early 1800s, garters were mainly made of silk ribbons that tied at the top of the stockings to keep them in place. Embroidery was a staple. It was either placed directly on the ribbon or sewn to it, frequently with additional padding added underneath. Often, amorous and/or saucy mottoes were added to the designs. Here is a beautiful example of this style, using some delicious pink silk ribbon:

18th-century silk garters from the MFA, Boston. They read “My motto is to love you; it is never to change”.

Also have a look at this 18th-century pair with narrower ties and a wider embroidery section:

Another gorgeous pair of 18th-centuy garters from the MFA.

Further into the early 19th century, but already as early as 1800, innovation paved the way for another style of garters. It is elasticized using narrow steel springs in one half of the band. If you did not know it was steel, you could be tricked into believing you were actually looking at modern shirring, using elastic bands. This type of garter was fastened with a steel hook. For some time, both the tied and the hooked styles existed side by side. The following picture from the MFA shows them in comparison:

Comparison of tied and elasticized garters (Source: mfa.org).

Before I started researching, I had no idea that elasticized garters had already come into use this early on. And now, this style really fascinates me. Here are two more extant examples of early “elastic” garters that have served as my inspiration for the current project. :)

Early 19th-century garters, elasticized with coiled wire (Source: lacma.org).

Early 19th-century garters, auctioned by the Cora Ginsburg Gallery (Found on Pinterest).

There are so many more stunning and gorgeous extant period garters still in existence; more than enough, to fill several blog post. Just have a look around! I especially recommend browsing the MFA’s collection. It holds lots and lots of extant examples from various periods.

I hope this post has helped to awaken your interest in garters. Because, small as they may be, they provide some great examples of period craftsmanship. Even though I am not quite sure how “crafty” my pair will turn out, I will try and keep you posted on their progress.

Much Love, Nessa

The Art Of Getting Side-Tracked

This September is being a really busy month around here. Since my last blog post, I have slithered from the holiday in France, straight into the new student job at uni and onward into studying for the second block of exams. And, during this whole time, I have really missed the blog and reading about all the wonderful things you have been up to.

In this post, I will play catch-up and give you a quick update on all the new things that have happened in and around my sewing room since the last blog update. Even though it has been a very full month already, there has been some room for sewing. In fact, there was enough time for me to start two new projects and to get side-tracked more than once. But let us start at the beginning:

The month began in France. It was my first time going there and I absolutely fell in love with French fabric stores and the small merceries where you can buy the loveliest lace, ribbons, buttons and all sorts of other notions. Here is my haul:

Fabrics and notions from France.

At “Toto”, a small chain store, I bought 2 yards of both cream and white voile, as well as a coupon of salmon muslin with nearly transparent woven stripes. All of these will most likely go into making Regency attire. I also found 2 1/2 yards of a very delicate cotton lace and an embossed button at a local mercerie. The button is made of pewter and just begs to be turned into a brooch or necklace. Finding all these wonderful things makes me wonder whether I might have time-travelled back into the Napoleonic era upon stumbling into these shops…

Back home, I set about starting a gown to go over the finished Regency undergarments. I got as far as assembling the e-pattern (I am using Sense & Sensibility’s Elegant Ladies’ Closet with some alteration) and cutting out a first mock-up:

The first stages of the new Regency day dress.

Then I became indecisive about the fabric choice. I wanted to use a sheer white muslin and embroider it with some florals to match the HSM’s upcoming “Brown” challenge. Then this chance find side-tracked me:

Another unexpected fabric find.

It is a sheer, white pima cotton with blue woven stripes and an light check pattern in the base fabric. And it settled my indecision about the dress the moment I picked up the bale. Since it is a leftover, there will not be quite enough to accommodate the sleeves. But I already have some ideas what to do about that.

But first, I had to find a new, quick project for the “Brown” challenge. And I finally got an idea while browsing Pinterest the other night: garters to hold up my stockings. There I ran into two ways of doing them. One was Liz’s tutorial for tied 18th-century garters and another was this post by Isobel Carr, detailing early 19th-century spring steel garters. So I went about patterning my own pair and putting together an embroidery design to match the challenge.

Here is a glimpse of the, thoroughly brown, notions and the embroidery patterns. Since it was customary to add a motto to garters in the period, I came up with one as well: Coeur ouvert – Âme honnête. It means “open heart – honest soul”. That is not quite as cheeky as some of the period inscriptions. Yet, as a good friend has put it: A gentleman “should bloody well have those qualities if he gets as far as your garters.”

The notions for the “Brown” project.

The embroidery patterns; adapted from Ackermann’s Repository, c.1811.

It already feels as though this project is going to be a lot of fun. The plan is to finish it in time, despite all the studying, and to, hopefully, have a tutorial up for you by next month. So it is about time I go on working on it. ;)

Conveniently, this concludes the stream of exciting updates so that I can continue doing just that and wish you all a good start into this week. It feels good to be back with you and I am hoping to write up another post on the garters very soon. I have missed you all a lot!

Much Love, Nessa

An Economical Regency Petticoat

This past week has been a full one. But, just as with dessert, there is always room for some sewing. ;) So, on Tuesday, I set out to complete my Regency undergarments. With the stays done, all that was left now, was a petticoat. After a quick look at Jennifer’s petticoat fabric guide, I went into the sewing room, to hunt for the right material.

My choice was between a very sheer white poplin and the leftover sateen I had used to line the stays. But the poplin is so lovely that I decided to keep it for making an Edwardian shirtwaist. That left the sateen. At first I was hesitant to use it, since atlas-bound fabrics like these have a knack for being too heavy to make good petticoats. This particular sateen, however, is incredibly flimsy and nearly see-through. That is why it made the cut.

My visual inspiration mainly came from this earl 19th-century petticoat at the Met Museum, but also from the sheer, layered petticoat from the Oregon Regency Society’s blog.

Early 19th-century petticoat from the Metropolitan Museum.

Layered Regency petticoat (Source: Oregon Regency Society).

Since I was not entirely sure about the dimensions, I also looked around the web for suitable tutorials. I found two of those: One by Twila Tee and another by Beth. In Twila’s instructions, I found some information on the finished length and the best strap placement. And Beth’s gave me the great idea to use twill tape for the straps. It is just as narrow as the straps you find on extant petticoats and saves you the trouble of extra hemming. ;)

Yet I had to solve another fabric problem first: The leftover sateen was a 59″ x 59″ square. These are not ideal dimensions for a petticoat, but after doing some math, I found a period solution: Piecing. I cut the fabric at my desired length of 43 1/2 inches  and turned the cutoff into a panel of 12″x 43 1/2″. To give the petticoat an even look, I took a similar strip off the bigger panel as well. Then I put the two smaller rectangles to the left and right of the big one and sewed up everything into a 70 inch wide panel. This is about double my underbust measurement and just enough to make a nice, drapey petticoat.

To create enough fullness at the center back, I gathered the excess fabric into the back third of the waistband, so that I had about six inches of deep gathers to either side of the back placket. When everything was assembled, I added the twill straps. I attached one end 2 1/2″ away from the center back and the other 6 1/2″ further to the front, to get two loops that sit snugly at the edge of my shoulders.

Tweaking the back section with an adjustable tape closure.

For the closure I used a simple tape tie. To get some adjustable drape in the back section, I tweaked it a little by threading it through a channel in the waistband with a blunt bodkin. At the end of the gathered section, I poked the bodkin back through the fabric and secured the tape on the inside with a firm knot. I used the same technique with my late Regency pantalets. It works really well to create a more flexible fit.

The tucks at the bottom hem.

For embellishment and some extra weight around the bottom hem, I added five tucks to finish off the petticoat. The top and bottom one are each 1/2″ inch wide and the three smaller ones in the center are 1/4″ each. When I was done, the petticoat came down to my ankles.
And here is the result of it all, after about 15 hours of sewing: I think it came out pretty well.

The finished strapped petticoat – front view.

Strapped petticoat – back view.

Strapped petticoat – side view.

And so, my Regency underthings are complete at last. (Yay!) Now I can finally start making a first dress with a proper period fit.  Perhaps it will get finished in time for the HSM “Brown” challenge. Once it is done, I will also try to post some pictures for you, with all the different layers on my person. But first, it is time for a short break… ;)

Until very soon, Nessa

Another Way Of Spiral Lacing – Or Not?

After posting about the finished stays yesterday, a little confusion arose about how to lace them in a period way. Of course, we all know that spiral lacing with offset eyelets was the most period-correct method of doing it before cross-lacing came around. But, when I looked at the stays, I had to frown: The eyelets on the sewing pattern were not offset, and so they were not offset on the finished garment, either. And still, the instructions suggested to use spiral lacing with the parallel eyelet set-up. How can that be?

The pattern cannot be at fault, since it is very closely based on an extant pair of long stays. And JoAnn Peterson, the pattern author, really knows her Regency garments and provides great research for all the sewing patterns she publishes. If she does not use offset the eyelets, she does it for a reason.

So here is what I found: Offset spiral lacing does not seem to be the only extant method of doing up garments. Up to the 18th century, the majority of documented bodices and stays were constructed with this lacing method in mind, since it provides the proper structure for tightening a corset. This is also what Jen Thompson’s research on spiral lacing suggests. Please do check out her blog for her finds and a very in-depth spiral lacing tutorial.

But this is not the end of the story. Offset spiral lacing has a sloppy little cousin: The parallel spiral. While researching period lacing methods, I lucked into a very old article with an engraving of 17th to 18th-century lacing patterns:

Diagram of extant lacing patterns from the 17th/18th century. (Please click image for article.)

Now look at pattern A and compare it to pattern E. Drawn up tightly, they would create a somewhat similar picture. The article’s author also admits that pattern E was the most common lacing style he has found in historical sources. But A definitely also existed in documentations. If it was used in corsetry, though, remains hard to say.

With this picture in mind, I went back to the pattern envelope of my stays, and looked at the pictures there. It turns out that pattern A was exactly what JoAnn referred to as “spiral lacing” in her instructions. So this is what I did. Now my stays look like this:

Parallel spiral lacing on the stays.

What does this mean for you as a costumer? If you want to imitate spiral lacing on stays or bodices with parallel eyelets, you do not have to resort to ladder lacing (pattern B above) right away, if you do not want to. You can try and use parallel spiral lacing instead. Even though the historical evidence remains somewhat patchy, it will get you a little closer to the desired effect. Maybe “closer” is not 100% accurate, but at the moment, it will do for me. ;) Using it has made self-lacing a bit easier than with the previous crossed pattern, too…

Wishing you a calm and happy week!

Warmly, Nessa
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