A Flowery Regency Straw Bonnet (CoBloWriMo #26 & HSM #8)

As you might have noticed, finishing up the 1620s stays, and a bum roll on top, has completely knocked me off the blogging train this week. So here is a catch-up post filling out several CoBloWriMo prompts (namely Small Project, Made For Myself, Event, Favourite Resource, and Media) and telling you about the straw bonnet I made for the current Historical Sew Monthly challenge. But, one after the other, before anyone gets dizzy.

First off, the “event” I made it for is the prospective photoshoot I told you about last month. In my area there are few costume groups I know and big reenactment events are few and far between. So I cannot usually attend them without traveling quite some distances. But, on the plus side, there is a lot of scenery around, such as a baroque city center nearby and a few pictorial hunting lodges. For my birthday last month, we went to Schwerin, which has a beautiful castle and park with a Georgian colonnade and all . It would have been perfect for photos. Then the weather made photos impossible with stints of pouring rain, followed by singeing sun. And traipsing in the mud would have ruined the gown…. Oh well, maybe next time.

The design for the bonnet was inspired by this French fashion plate from 1810. Especially by the second last one on the far left and a bit by the first on the far right side.


Fashion plate of different bonnets, caps and toques from Costume Parisien (c. 1810).

This brings us to the “Media” and “Rescource” section of this post. ;) I have to say that I loove Regency-era journals and magazines such as “Ackermann’s Repository” or “La Belle Assemblée”. Mostly, for the many fashion plates but also for the other period contents, such as letters to editors, etiquette or fashion advisors, short stories, poems and musical notes. Since I got to work with extant issues of Ackermann’s Repository in person, I am more or less enchanted. I even own a Franco-German volume of “Journal des Dames”, which was a total chance find. Sadly it has no fashion plates, only the French descriptions, with German translations on every other page.


My pride, a French-German volume of “Journal des Dames et des Modes” (c.1828).

Thanks to the Internet, many journals and plates are now freely accessible online, for all those who cannot simply pop into the nearest historical fashion archive. This is why online library databases are one of my favorite resources. These are the ones I use the most:

The Library of Congress, mostly for copies of Ackermann’s Repository, but also some fashion books.

Gallica for French journals, mainly Journal des Dames.

Google Books has some issues of La Belle Assemblée and Wiener Moden-Zeitung available. If you have no yet found a PDF copy of “Workwoman’s Guide”, you can also find it here. :)

But now, to the finished bonnet! Here it is. I used some ruffled fabric carnations and lavender ribbon for it. At first I was also contemplating white ostrich plumes. But eventually, those were saved for future projects. :)


The finished bonnet.


A look at the ribbon tie, wrapped under and over the crown.

I finished everything in the course of one evening, with my father looking on. When he was little, his mother befriended a professional milliner, so he has always been excited about hats and hat-making; although trimming this bonnet was nothing much to look at.

Here are the challenge facts to give you a better idea of how the bonnet came together:
The Challenge: #8 – Ridiculous.
Some of the headgear worn in the Regency era looks a bit ridiculous to the modern eye but was very stylish in the period. To make my bonnet less boring, I placed the flowers in a rather unusual way.
Materials: A pre-made straw bonnet I bought at Nehelenia Patterns some years ago; fabric flowers; satin ribbon.
Notions: Matching cotton threads.
Pattern: Based on an 1810 fashion plate.
Year: 1800-15
Time to complete: Roundabout 4 hours.
How historically accurate is it? Somewhat accurate.
The maker shaped the bonnet based on period templates. But the trimmings are made of modern materials.

First worn: Not yet. It was meant for a photoshoot, but the weather did not play along.
Total cost: About € 30 for the bonnet and € 4 for the trimmings.
Love, Nessa

HSM 2015 – A Look Ahead

Sadly, year reviews and summaries are absolutely not my thing. This is why, instead of all the retrospection, I will give you a little look ahead into the new year and the HSM challenges I would like to tackle. So far, my plans ahead reach as far as June and there are a few general ideas and sewing wishes on top of that. But, we will see. ;)

First of all, I would like to tell you, how glad I was about your reception of the corselet skirt tutorial. It always feels good to create a post that is helpful to others. And, in fact, after having gone off writing tutorials by the middle of last year, I might try to make a few more now. So, hopefully, there will be a few good opportunities to do so in this coming year…


As far as the first half of HSM challenges go, 2015 will begin with Foundations (yay!) and I have decided to start small, with a pair of split drawers from that certain Simplicity pattern, which has been hiding in the pattern box for some time now:

For the “Blue” challenge to follow, I am planning to use my night-blue wool blend to finally make my version on Kelly’s amazing Regency cloak. I got two 2 1/2 yard pieces of it in a clearance sale and now I am really glad they are blue and not green, like I had originally wanted.

Since I also still need a new Regency-era corset, as a base to continue making a few new dresses and petticoats, that will be my sewing endeavor in March. I will be using the Laughing Moon corset pattern, which is already in my stash, along with my surprisingly big hoard of sateen and twill.

The LMM Regency corset pattern.

The next challenge I already have a concrete idea about is “Practicality” in May. It will be a great excuse to sew and Edwardian dress-apron to wear for sewing. Usually, I end up covering my school clothes in thread and fabric lint while doing needlework. Now I can finally solve that problem in style. ;) There are several dress-apron patterns in my new early-1900s linen book. I envisioned one that looks a little like this, only with a full back:

Full Edwardian apron (Found on http://my-ear-trumpet.tumblr.com).

In June, the first half of the HSM will already be over. For the “Out of Your Comfort Zone” challenge, I will give the 1932 summer dress a chance at last. It had been sitting there, untouched and also a bit intimidating, for over 15 months now. ;)

For the rest of the sewing year, I have not quite decided what to make yet. But, there are at least two more Regency dresses I would like to tackle, a plain white one, with a floral open-robe on top, and a certain red walking ensemble I simply fell in love with. Do you remember it?

1816 Promenade Dress from Wiener Moden-Zeitung.

Promenade Dress from Wiener Moden-Zeitung (c. 1816).

For both projects, the “Elegant Ladies’ Closet” pattern from Sense and Sensibility will be a good starting point. I will try out the pattern by making the white gown first; then I am planning to modify the apron-front version into a shawl-front. As that creates a “false” front of sorts. Perhaps I can enter it into “Sewing Secrets” in October. Hmm…

And then, there is also the issue of the Empress Josephine cap with attached faux curls. I have been drooling over it for quite a while now and the faux hair pieces are already lying in wait. Maybe that is something to make for “Accessorize” in July. We will see.

Empress Josephine’s net cap with faux curls (RNM, Paris).

The last thing stuck in my had, is a, somewhat nutty, idea for this year’s Christmas outfit. I want to make something that may look like an Empire fashion at first glance, but is much older and wilder than that. It will be a Chinese ruqun in the Tang dynasty style. The wish to make it is a relic of the time when I was a tad obsessed with ancient China. And, at first glance this really looks like an oriental Regency fashion plate, right?

Chinese drawing of ruqun from the Tang dynasty.

As far as this project is concerned… you might see it come to life for November’s “Silver Screen” challenge. Of course, I will keep you posted about it and all the other sewing adventures happening on the blog in 2015. I wish you all a relaxed and successful sewing year in 2015.

Love, Nessa


Liebster Award Part Two – The Q&A

While I was away working, the lovely Gwenyver has nominated me for my second Liebester Award. For those of you who have not heard of it: It is an award bloggers from all genres pass along to other bloggers they enjoy following. Usually the nominations go along with a set of questions asked by the nominating blogger.

And now it is about time to finally answer the great questions that came with Gwenyver’s nomination. They have made me think a little and I hope my answers will give you a little more insight into my love of historical costuming. So, please enjoy this short Q&A:

How did you get into costuming?

This is a tough one. Prepare for a longish story. ;) Okay, here goes:  the whole costuming enterprise started on a rainy winter afternoon about two years ago. I have always toyed around with the idea of sewing my own thing, since I was very young. Back then I sometimes sewed little dresses for my cuddly toys from old cloth handkerchiefs, but somehow it never stuck. Then, this one afternoon I got it into my head to just sew a historical dress. I googled around for hours and hours until I found an original pattern for a Victorian wrapper. Then I pretty much got the fabric, drafted a pattern and taught myself to sew.

The story went on during my exchange semester in Vienna. Here I discovered the most awesome fashion library ever. They carried original copies of Ackermann’s, Costume Parisienne and Wiener Moden-Zeitung from the Regency era. And the many trips there rekindled an old love. But I also got to look into some original Edwardian pattern books and I still have some of those patterns in my “want-to-do” pile. And that is how I got into costuming.

The Victorian wrapper pattern that started it all.

What is your favourite type of costumes? (Historical, Sci Fi, cosplay, Movie Recreation, Original Concept, Ethnic, etc.)

Historical all the way. At the moment I mainly work on Regency projects, some Edwardian patterns are in the planning and I have a soft spot for late Renaissance fashions.  Then I also own a few sets of Bavarian folk costume and hats. But, since my family is mainly Bavarian and Austrian, I do not regard those as costumes, more as proper wear. ;)

Sewing machine or hand sewing?

Originally, I sewed everything by hand and I still do that a lot. But last Christmas, I got my first sewing machine. And it really is faster to use it sometimes.

What is your preferred method of embellishment?

All kinds of embroidery. It does not have to be overly fancy, but I really am a sucker for it, as you can also see on the blog.

Do you wear any sort of physical modifier to complete your look when you are in costume? (wigs, coloured contacts, prosthetics, allover make-up, etc.)

Well, I do wear Regency stays under the dresses, to achieve the period silhouette.  Besides, they are also so much comfier than a bra, no kidding. As for wigs… I might have bought something that counts for one earlier this week. But this is still a bit of a secret. So shh…

Which costume are you unsatisfied with and wish you could redo?

That first wrapper is still sitting in the PHD pile. One day I will give it a proper makeover. And there is also a half-authentic Italian Renaissance dress in dire need of re-work.

Is there something costume related that you compulsively buy / hoard? (Patterns, fabric, jewelry, trims, etc)

I will answer this one with a picture:

(Found on sewdelcious.com.au)

If you could bring back one fashion trend from any time in human history, what would it be?

The Empire waistline; because it looks flattering on women of all shapes and sizes. :)

What skill would you like to learn/master next to improve your costuming?

Making needlepoint lace and also embroidering scalloped hems with period white-work.

Is there a costumer that you admire? Who are they?

I admire everyone who sews their own historical costumes, era notwithstanding. If I had to pick one, it would be The Dreamstress. I love her blogging style and the things she makes. And she also created the HSF, which has brought together an awesome crowd of historical sewers from all over the world. Without the fortnightly challenges, my historical sewing adventure would definitely not be the same.

Could you please share a funny costume related story?

It is not really a story; but my dad is my biggest fan. He has no background in historical costuming at all but has a very keen eye for shapings. So, whenever I show him a new gown and he politely tells me that it is not really flattering on the silhouette, I know that it fits exactly the way it should. We have a good laugh every time he does that.

And that was it already. Thank you again, Gwenyver. Your nomination has really flattered me. It is so wonderful and priceless to know that my beginner’s sewing blog is actually this enjoyable to readers out there. :)

Love, Nessa

P.S.: As this week has been pretty exciting in many ways, please look out for a little summary here very soon. It will also include quite a bit of sewing. ;)


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,



Regency Dress Plans

After finally beating my Bachelor’s thesis into submission, it is about time I return to you with a long-promised blog post. And, as I am feeling like being a bit mean today, it will not be about the top-secret project I promised to reveal to you last time. You will have to wait for it just a little longer. ;) But, today I will finally let you in on the plans and ideas about my first-ever Regency-era dress.

As it turns out, a blog buddy of mine is also just working on a Georgian wardrobe. So this post will be especially dedicated to her *waves at Susan*. Okay, let us start with…


The Fabric:

On Saturday, my friend, her boyfriend and I all went on a successful fabric hunt on the half-yearly Dutch fabric market in our city. We were all mind-blown by the variety of fabrics offered there. After three hours of jostling around the stalls we were exhausted and very happy. She found an awesome green-and-gold Russian linen with a woven floral pattern for a Medieval wedding gown and, after a lot of comparing, fussing and calculating, I found the most unexpected fabric for my Regency dress.

As I want to submit it to the HSF “Paisley and Plaid” challenge, I was actually more in search of a period-accurate small-pattern paisley cotton. But then, for the first time ever, I fell in love with a bale of checked fabric, which is usually not my thing. But, just look at it:


Both my friend and I had an inkling that it must be halfway Regency-appropriate. But we were wrong … about the halfway part. ;) Because yesterday, the following happened: In an 1811 issue of Ackermann’s, I found this plate of fabric samples and my jaw pretty much dropped to the floor:

1811 fabric samples. Source: Ackermann’s Repository.

Now look at the swatch in the top right corner. It’s a cotton sarsnet with what is called a “Moscow Check” pattern. And, before aging, it has actually been lilac, too. :D In the fabric description, the editors give a few suggestions as to what to make of this fabric. There it says:

Fabric description from Ackermann’s, 1811.

Hmm… demi-trained dresses with beaded lace. How did they know that was exactly what I had in mind, too? Could it possibly be I am living in the wrong time period? But wait, let us take a step back. Here is the whole Regency dress plan for this fabric:


The Dress Inspiration:

The dress I have reserved for this one is the first one I ever sat eyes on while working with original journals at the Library: A half-dress from 1809. The plate of it is actually quite popular and has also been reprinted in historical sewing books like “Historical Costumes and How to Make Them”. It is this one:

1809 half-dress from Ackermann’s Repository.


Aside from having a gorgeous neckline and a little train, it also has a lot of lovely lace. The Vandyke tucker at the bosom is also part of the gown and not connected to the long-sleeved chemisette underneath. This is just a little rare for a Regency dress, but I love it. Also, the tiny black and white dots on the lace trimmings have inspired me to use ribbon-beaded lace to double as a drawstring casing. Thinking of it alone makes me really excited. So, I better stop babbling now and leave you to your own imagination. ;) To add a little more to that, here are the other two dress project plans I am leaving for later:


The Future Gowns:

There are two further prospective dresses I would like to present to you. The fabric for both of them is already sitting in my stash, but it will probably be until late summer or fall until any of them gets sewn. First, there is our old friend, the red atlas promenade gown with the tucked shawl front from Wiener Moden-Zeitung:

1816 promenade dress from Wiener Moden-Zeitung

1816 promenade dress from Wiener Moden-Zeitung.


And the second, and last plan. will be a ball gown, to complete the Regency wardrobe. It is made of sheer white muslin and decorated with lots and lots of roses. This makes it the perfect excuse to finally learn how to hand-make Regency-style fabric roses. Here it is:

1817 muslin ball gown from Ackermann’s.

To be honest, the matching white feather hat also looks delicious. If I am feeling really courageous, I might try and make it, too. But we will see. Right now, the thought of patterning and making the half-dress has my heart fluttering enough. It will be some time till its completion, but I will keep you posted. After nearly two weeks of missing you all dearly, there will be more updates again, too. The list of planned posts is actually rather long now. It is about time you get to read them.

See you soon, Nessa


A Farewell to the Library

Soon I will be leaving Vienna…

… and the fashion archive will leave with me. On Wednesday I went there for a last research session. For the first time, I also had a very nice chat with the curator. She told me that the whole archive will be moving out of the hunting lodge within the next weeks. They are relocated to a central museum collection in a small village that is not exactly nearby. This made me a little sad because the location in the fashion school’s palatial buildings seemed a perfect match.

But at least we are both moving at the same time. ;) And the farewell was a very warm one. As a little memento of the good, yet brief, time I have had at the library, I would like to share some of my sketches with you. Even though Art was one of my high-school majors, they are not as pretty as the drawings I have seen on Kura’s blog, but I hope you can enjoy them anyway. Most of them are taken from Ackermann’s Repository (1810-19) and Wiener Moden-Zeitung (1817-19).

On this last visit I have also gotten hold of two original Edwardian block patterns, a 1908 shirtwaist and corset skirt. For me, it was the find of the year so far. Besides, I have taught myself to draft them using Inkscape (a free line-draw software). If you are interested in how that works, I will make a quick tutorial for you on here. Because a tiled PDF-pattern sheet does beat a brown-paper one… ;)

Love, Nessa

Anatomy of a Dress – Regency Dress Measurements

Have you ever gawked at an Empire gown, wondering just how long and wide it is cut?

Well, I have. Since I have taken up sewing, every piece of clothing that grabs my attention turns into pattern pieces in my head. When it comes to measurements and dimensions though, I am quite the klutz. So, all these little numbers and yardages became one of the first things I researched about Regency fashions. The first insight into measurements came from this ball gown pattern, found in the Jane Austen Centre’s Online Magazine:

Authentic Regency ball gown pattern with measurements

Authentic Regency ball gown pattern with measurements

But, as these measurements were taken from an authentic period gown, some adjustments to a “modern” woman’s body are often needed:

Even though the 18-teens were only 200 years ago, most of you will be taller than the average Georgian woman. When I, a dwarf of 5’1″, first drafted a skirt based on the above pattern, the hem came down somewhere above the ankle. I needed to add another 3 inches to the skirt length. Most of you will need to add even more.

That is one thing. Another is the empire waist. Most of the sources measuring on period gowns estimated the waist circumference at around 25 inches. Now, most women I know today have an under-bust measure of at least 30 inches. And, taking into account the numerous layers of undergarments plus the fact that some of the drawstring-closed dresses are supposed to have a gathered waistline… oh dear. ;) My advice is to simply add the necessary amount to your draft, based on your personal needs. In the schematics you will see below, I left out the circumference estimate, since it is really a matter of girth and taste.

As you can see, that first approach was not really satisfying. So I went on researching. On Jennie Chancey’s Diary of a Dress I have found some very helpful insights into train lengths and construction. Then at the library, I ran into several annotations in various costuming handbooks and also some remarks about women’s riding dress in an early issue of Wiener Moden-Zeitung. All my findings, I have put into two compact little schematics for you. As a base, I used this pretty gown on Maggie May’s Clothing:

Schematic of a Regency gown (front)

Schematic of a Regency gown (front)


Schematic of a Regency gown (back)

I hope you will find my scribblings helpful. As to the specialties of closure (hooks vs. single or double drawstring) and  sleeve construction, I will try and cover these topics in their own posts. Just wait for it…

Oh, and before I forget…

There is also a new page on this blog. :) It is called “The Sewing List”. Being a list person, I have put on it all the sewing projects I am currently working on and those planned for later. Hopefully it will give you a little overview of the ideas cluttered in the sewing area of my brain. ;)

Much love,


Gloves On, Research Up – On Period Journals

When you think of the perfect historic library, what do you imagine?

Big, candlelit castle halls full of ancient tomes from floor to ceiling? A quiet back room at a museum, full of valuable books and curiosities? Or maybe even the gigantic, creepy library straight out of Doctor Who?

As far as I am concerned, the perfect library for my fashion research is somewhat different. And I found it, right here in Vienna. It is located in an old, palatial hunting lodge which also houses the Vienna Fashion Institute (the coolest vocational fashion high school ever). They own a huge collection of original sources, like fashion plates and magazines, dating as far back as 1798. And you can actually use them. :D

When I slip on my gloves and go through old issues of Ackermann’s Repository or the Wiener Moden-Zeitung in the small reading room, I am pretty much seated right in the middle of historical fashion: In the next room there is a small workshop where original garments from Vienna’s historical fashion collection are restored and often, you find garment models hovering right at your elbow. The last time I walked in, there was a whole pile of reconstructed 15th to 18th-century caps and bonnets just sitting on the table. I think I smirked with glee when I saw it.

The first time I went there to look at all these journals, I set my eyes on this belle here:

1816 promenade dress from Wiener Moden-Zeitung

1816 promenade dress from Wiener Moden-Zeitung

It is a promenade dress from the 1816 collection of the Wiener Moden-Zeitung.

Luckily I found this issue in digital on Google Books over here. This way I get the chance to show you. Now you can of course ask:

What the heck does the front part look like?

The answer came in this little text, written in German:

Description of the dress in German

Description of the dress in German

To sum it up, it says here that the gown is made out of red atlas silk and decorated with rouleaux made of the same fabric. It has an ornamental tie, fastened in a bow at the back and the sleeves are full-length and slit down the middle, as you can see. ;)

Now, about the front: The bottom half of it forms “half a shawl” and three rouleaux rolls run from the top front, over the shoulder where their ends meet with the tie. Okay, erm, “half a shawl”, what does that mean? It took me some time to puzzle out what it might mean. I came up with three possible ideas:

First, a crossed bodice like on this dress, worn by Theresa of Mecklenburg-Strelitz:

Crossed bodice front on a dress worn by Theresa of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (c. 1820)

Crossed bodice front on a dress worn by Theresa of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (c. 1820)

Second, an array of horizontal pin tucks/pleats shaping the bottom bodice like a shawl. I saw this on some gowns from various museums and it seems like the thing I am most likely going to do when sewing this beauty.

Third: You could fashion the dress into a cross-over gown like this one by the wonderful Kelly over on Tea in a Teacup. Her post gave me the last hints I needed to get the hang of the whole construction:

So much about my recent research adventures in Vienna. Right now, I am pretty cross there was no space for my sewing supplies at the student hall. Can’t wait to get started on more planning and pattern-making for this project. I will make sure to keep you posted and spam you with more pics and suggestions on my Regency research board, over on Pinterest. (To find it, just click the icon over on the left.)