July 27, 2017

Regency Short Stays

"Let the youthful female exhibit without shade as much of her bust as shall come within the limits of fashion, without infringing on the borders of immodesty. Let the fair of riper years appear less exposed. To sensible and tasteful women a hint is merely required." - "On the Detail of Dress," The Mirror of the Graces by a Lady of Distinction, 1811

Front-lacing Regency Short Stays

Short stays, long stays, half and transitional stays!  Pull up a seat and stay a while as today's post is all about the making of my new Regency short stays.  

Historical Inspiration 

Much like the variety in the types of stays during the Regency period, there were many styles of short or half stays.  I pulled my inspiration for this project from several extant examples and period fashion plates.  

Regency underclothes from an 1824 reprint of the Book of English Trades (1811).
(Image source: Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Corselet, 1820.
(Image source:  Palais Galliera, GAL1957.16.17)

Costume Parisien, 1810
(Image source:  SceneInThePast, Flickr)

Short Stays, 1800
"The front part [is] closed by lacing (string original), and stiffened
by thin horizontal and parallel brass springs inserted between fabric and lining."
(Image source: Abiti Antichi Gallery)

Cotton corset, dated c.1861 by the MET.
(Image source: Metropolitan Museum of Art, C.I.50.35.1)

Construction Details

My version is constructed from an outer layer of white cotton twill and an inner layer of a natural-colored cotton drill.  I used the pieces from the Sense & Sensibility Regency Underthings Pattern, and decided to machine stitch most of the garment with some hand finishings (flossing, binding and eyelets).  I did make one mock up, but choose not to correct the fit as these are intended for use as a teaching example and for children to try on, rather than actual wear.  

As for the process, the sewing was very straightforward.  The most time consuming aspects would be the fitting (as I could tell that it would have requited quite a bit of alteration to properly support me straight from the pattern), followed by the gussets.  

Step one: cut gusset slits and attach the first side, right sides together.

Step two: don't skip the pressing!

Step three: attach the other side matching right sides together.

Step four: top stitch along the outer edge to secure the gussets.

Step five: press and repeat with the other side as well as the lining.

Once I finished all of the gussets, I stitched the lining and fashion fabric layers separately.  Then, to join them, I stitched the fronts, right sides together and basted along the upper and lower edges.  I also stitched-in-the-ditch along the side, side back, and shoulder strap seams.

The lining and outer layers were stitched together separably.

Joining the lining and outer layers.

On each side, I added two metal bones near the eyelets, and two plastic bones along the sides of the gussets as well as the side seams.  Six bones per side and twelve bones total.

Six bones per side, twelve bones total in the short stays.

To finish, I stiffened the fronts with seven rows of cording per side, and bound the top, armscye, and bottom edges with cotton bias tape.  I made five hand-stitched eyelets on each side for lacing, and flossed the gussets with white embroidery floss for stability and a last decorate touch. 

Each side features seven rows of cording, five eyelets and flossed gussets.
So happy with how the hand-stitched eyelets turned out!

Completed Project Shots

The completed short stays, front.

Side front.

Side back.


Lining, front.

Lining, back.

Now, off to make a pair of long, corded stays with a busk! 

Recommended Resources

  • An Overview of Regency Stays/Corsets - A great article by the Oregon Regency Society that offers a breakdown of short, transition and full stays with busks.  Helpful sample pictures and pattern recommendations are also included. 
  • Achieving a Proper Fit with Regency Stays - The members of the Oregon Regency Society once again provide an clear analysis of early stays, dispelling myths about stays vs. corset shaping.  The support and proper silhouette comes from the pattern and cut, rather than boning and waist cinching, as the instructions illustrate. 
  • Half Stays a la Paresseuse - An excellent article written by Sabine of the Kleidung um 1800 blog and all-things-Regency-fashion fame!  Her research includes a wealth of period sources and references.  
  • Short Stays' Studies - Schnürleib Studien - Another study done by Sabine, the reining champ of short stay research, on her blog: Kleidung um 1800

July 25, 2017

Lace on My Clothes & Bows on My Caps

"'I wonder if I shall ever be happy enough to have real lace on my clothes, and bows on my caps?' said Meg impatiently." - Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

A mid-century fancy dress cap.

Getting back into the swing of sewing, today's blog post details the construction of a mid-19th century fancy dress cap.  For as long as I can remember, I have been intrigued by these frilly, lace and beribboned confections, so I set to make my own for the May challenge of the Historical Sew Monthly.  I am just getting around to writing about it now...better late than never?

Historical Inspiration  

When it comes to informal and formal caps during the mid-19th century, there seems to be an abundance of terms used in periodicals, plates and extant identifications.  From "morning" to "breakfast," "day" and "evening," "fancy," "dress" and even "fancy dress" caps, there was a style and term for every occasion.  Other specific references include "widow's caps," "Marie Stuart" and general "house caps."  In fact, Heather Sheen of the blog Southern Creations wrote a nice article on Ladies' Caps of the Civil War.  I was drawn to the extravagant dress caps, much like those offered by Originals by Kay.  

Full and evening dress caps appear in many period sources including this fashion plate from the September 15, 1860 edition of La Mode Illustree: 

A silk and tulle cap from Mode Illustree, September 15, 1860.
(Image source:  Ebay, via Pinterest)

Another source of inspiration from an 1860 edition of La Mode Illustree:  Please see the descriptions in the caption.

"Bonnet en Tulle de Soie noir et blanc." (Bonnet in black and white silk tulle.)
"Bonnet en Tulle blanc avec rubans Roses." (Bonnet in white tulle with pink ribbons.)
La Mode Illustree, 1860.
(Image source:  Pinterest)

Further examples of "morning" and "dress" caps of "silk tulle, silk lace, and silk ribbon" from page 207 of Arthur's Illustrated Home Magazine, 1858:   
Morning and dress caps from Arthur's Illustrated Home Magazine, 1858.
(Image source:  Google books, page 207 of
Arthur's Illustrated Home Magazine, Volumes 11-12

There are also plenty of period photographs depicting how fashionable dress caps  and hairnets were worn:  

Lady with cap.
(Image via: Pinterest)

As well as extant examples, like this one from the MET: 

Cap, 1863-65.
(Image source:  Metropolitan Museum of Art via Pinterest)

For further historical examples and inspiration, please check out my 1860s Fancy Caps & Nets Pinterest Board.

Construction Details 

The cap is completely hand-stitched with a base formed from a strip of buckram shaped with a millinery wire.

Three rows of pleated net frills were added, as well as navy ribbon loops.  

An extra layer of buckram and net were added to soften the wire lines.

Detail of the navy ribbon loops and extra side frills.

A layer of white point d'esprit flat lined with black point d'esprit were pleated and stitched onto the band form the caul.  

Inside view.

Outside view.

Two frills of black lace were pleated and more navy ribbons complete the look:

Bow and lace frill at the top of the cap.

The completed cap from the front featuring long, navy ribbon streamers.

Completed Project Shots

Front view of fancy dress cap.

The following excerpt is from Chapter Nine, "Meg Goes to Vanity Fair," of Little Women by Louisa May Alcott:
"'Annie Moffat has blue and pink bows on her nightcaps. Would you put some on mine?' [Meg] asked, as Beth brought up a pile of snowy muslin's, fresh from Hannah's hands. 
'No, I wouldn't, for the smart caps won't match the plain gowns without any trimming on them. Poor folks shouldn't rig,' said Jo decidedly. 
'I wonder if I shall ever be happy enough to have real lace on my clothes, and bows on my caps?' said Meg impatiently.  
'You said the other day that you'd be perfectly happy if you could only go to Annie Moffat's,' observed Beth in her quiet way. 
'So I did! Well, I am happy, and I won't fret, but it does seem as if the more one gets the more one wants, doesn't it?'" 
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott 


Another of view from the side.

The other side.


Historical Sew Monthly Entry Details 

May and July HSM entry - an 1860s fancy dress cap.

The Challenge:  The dress cap was originally intended for the May: Literature Challenge – The written word has commemorated and immortalised fashions for centuries, from the ‘gleaming’ clothes that Trojans wore before the war, to Desdemona’s handkerchief, ‘spotted with strawberries’, to Meg in Belle Moffat’s borrowed ballgown, and Anne’s longed for puffed sleeves. In this challenge make something inspired by literature: whether you recreate a garment or accessory mentioned in a book, poem or play, or dress your favourite historical literary character as you imagine them.

My entry pays homage to Louisa May Alcott's Little Women.  Inspired by both Meg's desire "to have real lace on [her] clothes, and bows on [her] caps," as well as Annie Moffat's "blue and pink bows on her nightcaps," from Chapter Nine: "Meg Goes to Vanity Fair," my dress cap could have been sported by a refined woman like Mrs. Moffat or other elegant, wealthy company.

Screenshot of Meg from Little Women (1994).
(Image via: Pinterest)

My entry also fits in the July: Fashion Plate Challenge – Make an outfit inspired by a fashion plate, whether it is a direct replica, or a more toned down version that fits the resources and lifestyle of the character you are portraying. If you want to stick to a period prior to the 17th century advent of fashion plates, either re-interpret a Victorian ‘historical’ fashion illustration as period accurate, or use an image from your period that depicts and idealised and aspirational fashion.

It resembles fancy dress caps like this one from an 1854 Le Moniteur de la Mode fashion plate:

Dress cap with side frills and back lappets.
Le Moniteur de la Mode, 1854.
(Image via: Pinterest)

Buckram, net, point d'esprit, lace and navy, satin ribbon.

Pattern:  My own, based on period inspiration.

Year:  1850s-1860s

Notions:  Millinery wire, black and white thread of various weights.

How historically accurate is it?  The shape and decorations were based on period examples, though the materials contain some polyester.  It is also completely hand stitched.  I believe it would be recognizable in its time period, so, 75%?

Hours to complete:  Too many!  It was quite a fiddly project, though I look forward to further experimentation with net caps!

First worn:  For pictures.

Total cost:  If I had to guess, maybe $25 for all of the materials?

Photograph courtesy of Maria M.

Recommended Resources:
  • Ladies' Caps of the Civil War - an excellent article written by Heather Sheen of the blog, Southern Creations, which offers detailed descriptions of "breakfast," "day" and "evening" caps. 
  • Originals by Kay - a one stop shop for any and all kinds of hairnets, informal and formal caps, and evening coiffures!  
  • 1860s Fancy Caps & Nets - my pinterest board featuring over a hundred period photographs, fashion plates, paintings and extant examples of dress caps.  

July 8, 2017

Summer Sewing

Is this summer going fast or what?  While I am keeping busy at the museum, and with some other commitments, I feel that I am not sewing or blogging nearly enough or as much as I would like.  I may or may not have a four page sewing list and the stash to match!  Aah clothing was soo much better in the 19th century!  

A dress in progress.

Anyways, I thought I would compose a quick, summer sewing list of projects currently in progress, many of which I hope to finish before college begins again:

(1)  Late-1820s Red Roller Print Dress. When I came across this fabric four years ago, I snatched up a dress-length plus some to reproduce one of my favorite late-1820s extant dresses in the Snowshill Wade Costume Collection.  Something about all of those vertical, horizontal and bias stripes made me happy, and I just need it!  

Red roller printed fabric.

Dress c.1825-1830
Snowshill Wade Costume Collection
(Source: National Trust Collection, 1349130)

I had wanted to finish it in time for the c.1826 4th of July celebration at the village, but alas...good thing it's an annual event.  In addition to the dress, I would like to make a new set of 1820s undergarments (shift, long corded stays, and corded petticoat), large double collar, cap and apron with pockets and matching navy ribbon trim.  I've also dreamed of playing around with a hard-bottomed reticule, perhaps using a woven basket as the base?  

Hem facing.

Pinterest board for this project:  1820s Stripe Dress

(2)  1830s Orange Squiggle Dress.  Another dress in progress...all cut out and ready to be assembled!  I had intended to make this for the Hosmer Dinners earlier in the season, but ended up abandoning it post-cutting out.  I find that the most enjoyable parts of a project for me are the initial planning/designing and cutting.  I tend to lose my momentum after that - CADD (Costume Attention Deficit Disorder) strikes again!   

Orange squiggle fabric!

Dress c.1832–35
Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection
(Source:  MET, 2009.300.948a–e)

For ease of dressing by one's self, this project will include a front opening dress with a gathered bodice overlay, and matching pelerine with fun scalloped edges.  Accessories will include a gathered cap, wide green silk belt and buckle, as well as a double ruffle chemisette like this one:  

Chemisette, c.1825 - 1835
Snowshill Wade Costume Collection
(Source: National Trust Collection, 1349953)

Another skirt hem done!

Pinterest board for this project: 1830s Squiggle Print

(3) 1860s Birthday Dress or the Purple Plaid Dress.  I sort of ran out of time this year for a birthday dress seeing as the 5th of July has come and gone...though I had been planning this last teenage hurrah for half the year!  I came across 6.5 yards of this lovely plaid silk twill at a local second hand shop and snagged it at a incredible price for a plaid skirt and white blouse combination.  Since it was to be my 21st birthday dress, I thought a short puffed sleeve blouse would be a nice nod to the teenage styles, which I'd like to try before I lose the chance.  Two yards of yummy black silk taffeta were purchased for a Swiss waist with streamers like this:  

Young ladies, c.1861-1865
(Source: The Barrington House)

Plaid silk for the skirt, black silk taffeta for the Swiss waist,
and cotton lawn for the puffed sleeve blouse.

To make the ensemble more versatile, I planned to either make a matching day bodice with pagoda sleeves...

1860's Lavender & Gray Silk Stripe Dress
(Source: Ebay #17137)

...Or a matching plaid silk waist as well!  And probably a long sleeve blouse to go with it too.

Purple plaid silk dress, c.1865
Kent State University Costume Collection
(Source:  In the Swan's Shadow)

Silk for my project, with the black stripes running horizontally.

Pinterest board for this project:  1860s Purple Plaid 

(3.5)  1860s Undergarments.  I still need to finish a new chemise and drawers set, as well as the matching under-hoop petticoat.

(4)  Maria Reynolds, Hamilton Cosplay.  Oh Hamilton, coming from a theatre conservatory, I must have listed to you at least 1000+ times in the dorms, and another 1000+ times since then!  Just for fun and not intended for historical use!  I began this project over the winter, and think it would make a good entry for the September - Seen Onscreen challenge of the Historical Sew Fortnightly.  

Jasmine Cephas Jones as Maria Reynolds in Hamilton.

The start of my cosplay including 18th century style supports and petticoats,
over a 19th century corset and shift... 

(5)  Three Important Projects (not for me) - these include a wedding veil, 19th-century baby layette, and toddler size sacque coat, but that's all I can say for now ;) 

Future projects worth mentioning here include two bustle dresses - an 1870s lilac polonaise and an 1880s plaid & velvet ensemble!  I have been dying to try the late-Victorian Era, which means an entire set of new undergarments and supports.

For the lilac polonaise, I purchased 3 yards of a coral sateen and 5 yards of sage silk to pair with the main printed cotton.  I also saved a length of white China silk and forest green velveteen for a hat and accessorizing.  

Coral sateen, sage silk & lilac printed cotton.

Dress detail, c.1872–75
(Source:  Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1986.304a, b

Forest green velveteen and white China silk (not pictured)
were set aside for a bonnet and further accessorizing.

For the 1880s ensemble, I have 8 yards of a lightweight cotton plaid for a bustle skirt and over-skirt draperies to go with a navy cotton velveteen bodice.

Plaid cotton, navy velveteen, ombre ribbon & velvet flowers.

I'm also really in a regency mood!  One of the projects that I would like to make is another morning robe to wear over a white petticoat with puffings and tucks:

As well as a sheer, light yellow cross over gown accented with wool challis borders and a tall stovepipe bonnet trimmed with bright orange ribbons:

With that, I'll be all set with projects probably until the next summer!