A Bit of Friday Fun – The Regency Ladies Wedgie Society

Whilst recently reviewing my nominees for the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award, I discovered something so wonderful and amazing and delightfully compelling that I just might be forced to finally complete a Regency garment so I can participate.

The RLWS badge

I present: The Regency Ladies Wedgie Societythe place for lovers of all things Regency to see and be seen on Pinterest. How can you not absolutely love this?! The photos are fabulous. Thanks to Jennifer at Festive Attyre for creating this Regency-inspired electronic funhouse. Who needs a wobbly mirror when you’re surrounded by historical wedgies?


Eureka! (Maybe) + Hooray! (Definitely)

The Eureka

The comments about the previous post got my mental juices flowing again…must the sleeve cap be a single piece or were there alternate styles? So I went back to Google and Pinterest, searched for images of 1795 round gowns, again, and I think I may have found a solution. (Note to the befuddled,  like me – never give up, the answer’s out there somewhere.)

1795 round gowns.

1795 round gowns.

Dress (round gown)c. 1795-Italy. White silk taffeta brocade one-piece dress; green silk and gold embroidery and sequins; pin-tucks at top of front; fly fringe and tassel ornamentation.

Dress (round gown)c. 1795-Italy. White silk taffeta brocade one-piece dress; green silk and gold embroidery and sequins; pin-tucks at top of front; fly fringe and tassel ornamentation.

Looking at these extant garments, it appears that I can put a cap over the cap (don’t you love it when I get all technical?). Which means I could add some volume back onto the sleeve cap and hide it with the extra piece on top, so it would essentially end up looking like a removable sleeve without actually being one. And that would be a heck of a lot simpler than going through any more gyrations (she says now). So I’m gonna give it a go and see what happens. If nothing else, it will be desperately exasperating fun and instructive.

Thank you Val (#1) for taking a swing with your idea…I don’t know if I would have stumbled upon this without your help.

The Hooray

(photo copyright American Duchess)

(photo copyright American Duchess)

This morning, whilst lurking around  in blog-land, I discovered that American Duchess is having a sale. I’ve been hankering for a pair of her buff-colored Regency Nankeen boots since she introduced them and they’re on sale!!! So HoHoHo and Happy Holidays to me…I have a pair on Easy Pay layaway. Even better, they are dye-able. I have my eye on a lovely, soft lilac or perhaps a yummy rosy-coral. Or I  may like the buff and leave them be.

In any case, they’re mine as of the first of February and the SITU-Seattle Winter event (“Victory over the British”, 1815 attire – celebrating the end of the War of 1812) isn’t until February 22, 2015, so they’ll get here in plenty of time to be dyed and waxed. WooHoo!

Curses, Foiled Again!

Labyrinth - 19th Century Board game 'The Mansion of Bliss' . Created by Thomas Newton.

Labyrinth – 19th Century Board game ‘The Mansion of Bliss’ . Created by Thomas Newton.

It is now quite clear to me that I cannot fix my bodice issue without help from someone who knows how to “see” what needs to be done. If the sleeve cap was too big for the bodice, all I’d have to do would be pleat it at the back bodice armscye and call it done. No such luck.

The problem is that the bodice is too big for the sleeve. In a ridiculously overemphasized 3-D view it would look like a mixing bowl set upside down over marble. The curve of the sleeve being the marble, and the mixing bowl being the way-too-big bodice armscye…and I can’t gather or pleat the bodice to bring to down to the match the sleeve cap.

I’ve put this bodice through all manner of tortured origami with no luck. When I used my original approach it distorted the bodice armscye to the point where I would have needed to go back to the original sleeve (before trimming down the cap) to even come close.

Yesterday, I spent nearly four hours fiddling with this problem and getting nowhere. One obvious solution is to just cut another bodice and/or another set of sleeves, but there’s no more fabric left. I bought it years ago and that fabric run is long gone: I had just enough to cut this one garment. (Which serves to reinforce the value of making a muslin for everything first, which there wasn’t enough class time to do.)

So, it’s time to call in the pros. Fortunately, the next SITU sewing circle is in a couple of weeks and I know Bobbie Kalben will spot the problem in an instant.

2014-01-28 12.42.15 (1)

As I see it, the worst case scenario is that I end up ditching the bodice and the sleeves and turning the skirt into a “petticoat” with shoulder straps. Then I could make a spencer to go with it and not lose this beautiful fabric altogether.

(Lemons…lemonade…you know.)

Achoo! (sniff, sniff)

(source unknown)

Let me be frank: what ever this demonic bug is, I hate it. I feel crummy, then I feel like it’s going away then – wham! – it’s back. On any given day I’m congested or not, coughing or not, sneezing or not, headache-y or not, feverish or not, feeling like a drained battery or not – or any/all symptoms appearing in random combinations.

For example: I went to bed early last night with a low-grade fever and feeling exhausted. At 2 a.m. I woke up with a massively congested head. Hot, steamy water didn’t help much so I took a decongestant and went back to sleep. Eventually. Then at 5 a.m. I awoke again, this time with a pounding quasi-migraine headache. Popped two Tylenol Migraine tabs and fell asleep fairly quickly (thank goodness) and slept until 10:30. Woke up with neither headache nor congestion. But now I’m sneezing. *rolls eyes*

To quote Her Majesty: We are not amused.

Project Update: I did manage to get the third skirt panel cut and the back bodice adjusted on the Regency gown. Still fiddling with adjusting the sleeve caps, which is a bit tricky without help (translation – I stabbed my shoulder twice, but it did take my mind off the cold for a few minutes). I think it will end up with a comfortable fit, which would be great.

I will be devoting more time to the gown this weekend so it’s a good thing it’s washable. Don’t know if I’ll get it done, but am shooting for at least finishing up the machine work. If I can stay awake for more than 5 hours a day, that is.

Don’t be surprised if this weekend’s Wow! features antique bathrobes and house slippers.

(Photograph - R. Smith)

(Photograph – R. Smith)

Armscye versus Sleeve. Fiddlesticks!

It should have been obvious to me that a public display of enthusiasm would come back to bite me. And it wasted no time doing so.

Sleeve edge is at the top, armscye is at the bottom.

Sleeve edge is at the top, armscye is at the bottom. Not good.

I pinned the right side sleeve into the right side armscye and…uh oh. The armscye is larger than the sleeve, which is not supposed to happen. And it’s weird because I never have problems with setting in sleeves and never have had. Even matching plaids. (It’s as close as I come to having a super-power.) Anyway, I was stumped.

I double-checked that I did indeed sew the right sleeve to the right armscye and not the left sleeve to the right armscye. I didn’t know why this was happening but I basted it into place, went to the left side and the same thing happened. They say one sign of success is being able to reproduce your results, but this ain’t it.

Lookin' good from the front.

Lookin’ good from the front. Sleeves will be trimmed to elbow length.

Since I’m a visual learner I put the bodice back onto the dress form. Sure enough, it was evenly “air-conditioned” on both sides. No matter how I wiggled it around on the dress form, it wasn’t going to make a difference in the gaps.

I racked my brain trying to figure out how this happened and the light bulb finally flickered. Back at the workshop, when Nora was helping me with fitting the sleeves, there was too much fabric at the top (because of my sloping shoulders) so she re-drew the cutting line and it ended up below the original cutting line. She said, “Here you go.” I went merrily on my way.

Now I know that when you’re changing a curve the adjoining curve also need altering so the two curves will still meet at the seam. I know that. And today I forgot all about it. Since we made the sleeve cap smaller the bodice armscyes need to be adjusted. I didn’t do that. Hence the mismatch.

A pinch here...

A pinch here…

Luckily, a minor adjustment at the back strap seam takes care of the problem nicely, makes a good match with my sloping shoulders and leaves just enough sleeve for a bit of minor gathering/pleating. So now I’m figuring a way to make the adjustment without taking the whole thing apart. Fingers crossed.

...and a tuck there...

…and a tuck there…

The Round Gown Bodice – Update

Despite rumors to the contrary, I have been working on my hand sewing and yesterday I finished the bulk of work on the bodice for the round gown. Here it is just draped over my dress form (i.e., no foundation garments, wrong chemise).

round gown bodice

round gown bodice

The neckline casing was done with a simple, on-the-grain piece of self fabric. I used my machine to sew it on and understitch to keep it flat. Then I turned the casing and sewed it down by hand. A length of white 1/4-inch grosgrain ribbon works great for gathering the neckline and tucks inside to stay hidden.

One of the things I like about Nora Azevedo’s pattern is its utter simplicity. The 1795 style is genuine. It’s a simple two-drawstring garment, with one at the neck and one at the waist and both gathered from the center front. No buttons or fiddly bits. One piece, over-the-head, pop on and go. This is the one I should have started with. Now that I can see with my own eyes what the fit is supposed to look like my other 1795 pattern makes a lot more sense, fit-wise.

Tomorrow is another sewing circle (yay!) so today I’ll french seam the sleeves and sew them onto the bodice. But I’ll leave the sleeve caps hand basted so we can fiddle with the pleating and get the fit just right.

In addition, I’d like to get that third panel of the skirt seamed and at least basted in place because I think having the full weight of the garment will help with the position of the sleeves as they will be worn. I don’t know if that’s true, but it sounds reasonable to me.

Hopefully, I’ll remember to take some photos this time so you can see how the Regency long stays look when I’m wearing them.


Let’s just say they do their job quite well (as in I feel like two large appetizers being served on a platter). And that will take some getting used to.

Fabrics for Tomorrow’s Regency Round Gown Workshop

"A vintage-y fabric stash" - found on Pinterest.

“A vintage-y fabric stash” – found on Pinterest.

Yesterday I started pulling potential fabrics for the workshop from my stash and discovered I’ve somehow managed to amass quite a selection. Far more than I’d kept track of…even the “dreaded” whites. In a way, though, I’m glad because now that I’ll have a pattern that’s drawn to fit me I can put together a few round gowns together in a more timely manner. Time will tell.

I’m also glad I this now because I’ve forgotten to pre-wash four of the them, plus each of the fabrics needs ironing (the whites are especially crinkly, despite a low temp dry). Guess how I’ll be spending this afternoon.

Here are the candidates to go into the project bag:

The Prints

You’ll remember these from before – I still can’t decide whether to make a solid gown with print overdress or a print gown with a solid overdress. But there will lots of people around, including the instructor, so I’ll take a vote and see which wins. And feel free to weigh in with your preference.

2014-04-14 18.03.38

In reality, they are no way near this bright. The print is a late 17th century-ish design cotton, the background is an ivory/cream – a bit of a gamble since yellow and I don’t work well together – but there is enough reds and pinks to outweigh the draining effect. The solid is a cranberry/merlot cotton lawn, greyed down just enough to fit the period.

And there is my very favorite soft blue “homespun”, although not quite that coarse, gingham check.

Lightweight woven cotton check

Lightweight woven cotton check

And there’s also a lightweight blue on white semi-sheer plaid that’s been lurking around for a while.

Dark Navy and Light Blue plaid on white

The Whites

These may also look familiar. Despite my aversion to solid white – it’s everywhere – it’s what was done so who am I to hold a grudge against it? They are  both cotton. The one with plain stripes irons out really stiff (hoping to get some tips about that) and the woven stripe is fab (but it’s loose enough that it may show a tendency to ravel if looked at crossways).

The Colors

I have more of these than I thought. Every time Denver Fabrics had a sale on their cotton lawn I bought a chunk. It’s gorgeous stuff and washes up brilliantly with just the right amount of sheerness in a solid color. I have Cherry Red, Cranberry Red, Forest Green and deep Marine Blue. Unfortunately, attempts at photographing the colors didn’t work: it’s quite grey outside and the artificial light skews them: the blue photographs as green.

The Cherry Red is pretty but bright and I want to show it to Nora Azevedo to get her take on it. I love the Marine Blue and I think it’s safe color-wise, but I’m bringing it to show her as well. The Cranberry Red and Forest Green are perfect colors.

Altogether, that makes enough for ten – ten! – gowns and/or dress/overdresses ensembles. But I don’t want to use them all for a single round gown style…I still like these others. So hard to choose!

Regency Gown Workshop and a Great Fabric Info Link

It’s time to shift gears and head back to Regency fashions. Flipping back and forth through the centuries like this can make my head spin, but it also makes for variety.

This coming Saturday, I will be attending a SITU-University Round Gown Workshop. Somewhere in Time Unlimited – Seattle is a great costuming group and our members’ interests cover all aspect of costuming genres. The University meetings are instructional and cover a range of needs and interests. And they’re always great fun.

Nora Azevedo in her Regency Round Gown pattern. (Oregon Regency Society)

Nora Azevedo in her Regency Round Gown pattern. (Oregon Regency Society)

On Saturday we will have Nora Azevedo, from the Oregon Regency Society spend a day teaching us the ins and outs of making a Regency gown using a pattern she’s developed. Just the tutorial I need! The instructions are to bring you Regency undies (so we will be dressed for proper fitting) and at least 5 yards of 45″ fabric.

As for determining which fabric, I found a fabulous resource. The Oregon Regency Society has a Northwest Chapter and I’m a member. The latest entry in the chapter’s blog is “Telling your Regency story with colour (sic) and fabric.” It covers colors, tones, prints – the works.

Best of all, it is chock full of visual examples: color palettes and prints and all sorts of visual references. No more wondering what “vibrant rose” or “muted greens” mean – you can actually see the color. Not only is the range of colors is much larger than I’d imagined, it contains some colors I love but thought were excluded. Yay!

The elbow is still pretty achy at times, but this is an opportunity I don’t want to pass up. (Note to self: throw some aspirin in the bag, too.) Photos and report to follow.

PS – My 18th century outfit hasn’t been put aside. I just need to go slow because my elbow hates staying tightly bent and pretty stationary while I do the handwork.

So…What’s Happening with the Regency Morning Dress?

Ladies in their morning gowns at breakfast. Heideloff, 1794.

Ladies in their morning gowns at breakfast. Heideloff, 1794.

You might be wondering what, in the midst of this 18th century fervor, has been going on with the Regency Morning Dress for CoCo 2015’s Breakfast with the Bennets. The truth is, not much. Altering the muslin was a breeze, but our sewing circle doesn’t meet until later this month. As a result, it’s been sitting in the corner, pouting.

And then…great news! Somewhere in Time, Unlimited – Seattle, my local historical costuming group, is holding an all-day Regency Round Gown workshop on November 8th. I’ve signed up and bought the ticket. So between the further adjustments at this month’s sewing circle and the November workshop, I’ll have lots of fitting help, lots of sewing time and should end up with both a 1795 morning gown and a 1812 round gown.

I love it when thing come together like this.

Toile #2, Part Two: photo results of the initial fitting

The set of photos taken this morning are a bit better. There are still issues with the lighting and my hands are a bit shaky today, but we’ll make do with what we have.

To make sure I kept the lower edge level, I pinned it to the waist band of the petticoat. Here are the results: the left side of the bodice as it is without intervention, the right side of the bodice is pinned for better fit.

bodice front

bodice front

bodice back

bodice back

The left side – unaltered:

rippling neckline, gap at armscye, folded underarm

Rippling neckline, gap at armscye, fold at underarm,

sagging back, again with deep underarm fold

sagging back, again with deep underarm fold,

but in spite of it all there is a decent shape to the back of the armsye

but in spite of it all there is a decent shape to the back of the armsye.

The right side, pinned:

neckline lays straight and flat,

Neckline lays straight and flat.

the underarm is too high, but now it also lays flat,

the underarm is too high, but now it also lays flat.

The back needs the largest amount of changes - a horizontal fold to take up the excess length, pulling the shoulder strap back a bit further, and taking in some excess just in front of the back armscye.

The back needs the largest amount of changes – a horizontal fold to take up the excess length, pulling the shoulder strap back a bit further on the outer (sleeve) edge, and taking in some excess just in front of the back armscye.

But then the back contour of the armscye is almost completely lost.

However, then the back contour of the armscye is almost completely lost. But it does make the back strap seam line and the back side seam line almost meet in a diamond point which, historically speaking, is OK


When I looked at making an entirely new bodice in the next size down, the measurements were all wrong. I think it’s just the way I’m built and how it differs from the pattern model’s shape.

I do want to put in a left side sleeve to see how it changes the fit, if at all, and see what the overall armscye shape is supposed to be like (although I sincerely doubt it will resolve the problems).

And I may try to cut a pattern based on the pinned side, just to see what happens.

Either way, this coming Sunday is the Somewhere In Time, Unlimited – Seattle sewing circle where Bobbie Kalben, Costume College instructor and our fabulous fitting guru, can help bail me out.

On a different note: I found this video, courtesy of Ms. Daffodil Digresses, from Colonial Williamsburg which shows the making of a satin dress in one day using period techniques. And now I want a pinking iron.