This and That, plus a Little Bit of Cheating

I used to have a huge sewing studio. It was my dream space. I had full-spectrum fluorescent lights above with a diffuser to soften it up a bit. I had a little 14-inch television with a built-in DVD player. I had shelved stacked with bolts of fabric. And in the center was a fabulous Horn sewing cabinet with extensions that gave me about an acre of sewing space…perfect for those pieces that took 14, or so, yards of fabric. And the bathroom was right next door. It was the first time ever I had a dedicated sewing space and was able to set it up so it was just right for me. Let me tell you, I got spoiled big time.

My dining/office/sewing space. Nice view, too!

My dining/office/sewing space. Nice view, too!

This is my sewing space now. It’s a built-in dining nook with a fixed center table and built-in bench seats running down each side. I no longer have the sewing cabinet, the little TV or the full-spectrum lighting overhead. But it’s far from suffering.

The table is surrounded by eight tall windows that let in as much light as I can take. No need for artificial full-spectrum here. For good or bad, depending on your personal position on such things, the space is located at the end of the kitchen (and there’s ice cream in the freezer – but don’t tell anyone). No TV, however the stereo is readily available. And, of course, there is Mr. iPod to keep me company – nothing can lift me out of a corset-induced funk like singing along with Tom Lehrer. (Who? Look him up and take a listen. He really does the trick.)

As I said, I’m far from suffering.

Elbow-length French White Kid Gloves

Elbow-length French White Kid Gloves

The white French kid leather gloves, purchased on eBay for a song, arrived in perfect condition and smelling of wet, musty garage (which I later found was exactly where they’d been stored, hence the “song”). I’ve aired them out and the odor is about 50% better. Fortunately, they are hand-washable and that should take care of the rest. I haven’t been able to find true Regency-style gloves but I think these will be fine for the time being. They fit perfectly, have no stains or discolorations, all seams are intact and they’re very comfortable. Once the smell is gone I’ll even be able to wear them in public.

And now for the cheating.

First: I have two pair of vintage Victorian knickers of the au plein aire variety. They are quite comfortable to wear and certainly have a lot of “breathability.” I know that Regency gals didn’t wear undies, but I am loath to go completely starkers underneath. So I’m jumping ahead 50 years in this department. Think of it as a Steampunk Salute to Regency Time Travel. Or something like that.

Second: I know it will take me forever for me to get this all together, and I really do want to do the dress by hand. So I farmed out the muslin underdress (slip equivalent). I had it custom-made; purchased from Eleanor’s Box on Etsy:

Hemline of muslin underdress.

Hemline of muslin underdress.

I had her add the pleats and ruffle to help hold the dress away from my body. Now, I know that a lot of you are thinking: why on earth did I have someone else make one of the easiest pieces?  Because I’m new to Regency style and fit. Because without proper undergarments the whole thing falls apart. And because, when all is said and done, I don’t want to look like I’m dressed in poorly-fitted sausage casing. Good foundations are the key.

Anyway, I sent in my measurements (being sure to account for the not-yet-made stays underneath), we wrote back and forth, and – voila! A fabulous underdress was born. Well-constructed and a perfect fit with enough room for the long stays underneath. I love it.

"Why, good evening, Your Grace."

“Why, good evening, Your Grace.”

Now, I’m no prude. And I knew that these “necklines” (Why are they called that when they’re 10 feet away from your neck?) were low. Really low. Yet still, the first time I put it on I was…a bit…surprised. And feeling a draft.

The girls, however, were whooping it up. Those brash babes were front and center; all but leaping out to say “Why, good evening, Your Grace” at the first opportunity. And this is WITHOUT the stays! They are ready to party like it’s 1809. Me? It feels a tad like dressing for Regency porn, if you must know. But it was the style of the day and I will get over it. However, for daytime I am definitely wearing a fichu.

Over a chemisette.

Under a Spencer.