Nov 23, 2014

Sleeveless bodices in the regency period

Every now and then I see a movie gown from the regency period that looks too modern and wonder how much artistic licence the designer has taken. Now that I have access to pinterest I am finding out so much more about regency garments and together with the wonderful regency/napoleonic/empire costuming community on Facebook I am realising that many of these garments are fairly accurate.

One such garment is a sleeveless bodice or sleeveless spencer, and today while searching online I found a pattern for one, though you could just alter a bodice pattern from a gown or spencer.
According to the source at

I have been putting together a folder of images of these sleeveless garments at Some prints below give a good idea that this was not an uncommon garment, and is a relatively inexpensive option to update a regency gown for a new event or to change the look of a gown when attending a few events in one day.

Nov 16, 2014

Regency Neck Ruffs

Regency-era neck ruffs are also called lace ruffs or frills; neck frills; double frills of worked muslin; fraise; cherusse and betsies. 


...Petticoat of worked muslin...Spencer of dark blue cloth, edged with scarlet. Ruff of white lace round the neck. Plain muslin handkerchief. York tan gloves.

March 1794, Gallery of Fashion. Morning dress

Lady Elgin wearing a fraise over a chemisette, 1804, by François Gérard

Countess Therese Czernin (1798-1896), drawn in 1819

Walking Dress: Ladies' Monthly Museum, August 1815:
Robe of Jaconet Muslin or Fine Cambric, made high in the neck; the back and sleeves made very full; a double Frill of worked muslin round the neck; bottom of the robe to correspond”

Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg (2 January 1783 – 22 July 1853)
Portrait of Anna Maria Magnani
Oil on canvas, 1814 31 × 22 cm
The Hirschsprung Collection, Art museum, Copenhagen, Denmark

Fiche-guimpe, 1810
My Sewing Experiments

This was a neck ruff that I taught for a Regency Neck Ruff workshop at Jane Austen Festival Australia in April 2012. I used a sturdy cotton and did not teach whip stitch gathering as shown in examples below because we only had a short time to teach the fundamentals and get everyone sewing. In 2015 I'm hoping to teach a more involved workshop with whipstitch gathering and fine muslin.

Extant Examples

Since this workshop I have found more extant examples to base my work on. There is a neck frill documented in Nancy Bradfield's Costume in Detail, page 83.

National Trust Inventory Number 1350308

This one has a linen centre and a tiny bobbin lace decoration, ‘typical of the trimming laces of the very early19th Century’ The Lace Mentor. Found at

Sep 3, 2014

1809 Redingote update

My faux fur coat arrived and I'm feeling really guilty using it for applique, particularly as its a vintage coat that someone could wear. The silk velvet is gorgeous to touch and it really looks like fur.

After I've unpicked the lining
Close up of button area - maybe I'll use this part for the triangle shapes.

Playing with shapes.
Just needed to see this image from page 84 of the 1916 edition of and I'm on my way to fixing the collar.

Collars... has made me think even more - would the trim have been sewn on with modern applique techniques or might it have been piped like the trim is on this garment?

Date: ca. 1818

Sep 1, 2014

1795-1799 Half-Robe

Plans are in the works to make a regency-era half robe.  Out come my two favourite books - Nancy Bradfield's Costumes in Detail and Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion 1. Both of these books are indispensable to a costumer's collection.

1795-1800 half robe as illustrated in Patterns of Fashion 1.
1799 Half Robe from Costumes in Detail

Underneath the half robe will be a round robe (or round gown) like the one that is presented in Norah Waugh's book, The Cut of Women's Clothes.

Aug 19, 2014

1850 Australian Mourning Gown

Mourning dress probably worn by Amelia Hackney, part of the Australian Dress Register
I've been asked to make an 1850s mourning gown for a permanent public display. My pattern of choice to start with looks like Laughing Moon's 1850 Round Gown.

I've had a close inspection of an 1850s mourning gown worn by its maker, Amelia Hackney, in Sydney in the 1850s. I really must thank Lindie Ward, Curator at the Powerhouse Museum, for locating it for me. It is made of silk satin and is still in almost pristine condition, although is not on public display.

How do we know if a sewing machine was used?
The earliest sewing machines produced a chain stitch, and garments with this type of stitching are likely to date from the 1850s and 1860s. The lock stitch machine (where both sides of the stitching look similar) was also in use by the 1860s. Machines were also developed in this decade which could sew on braid, do chain stitch embroidery, and produce pleated trimmings, which are much in evidence on garments from the 1870s. If there is evidence of machine stitching in a garment which definitely dates from before the mid 1850s, it suggests a later alteration.

I've seen antique silk gowns from 1890 and early 1900 shattered and falling apart. Why is the silk used for this 1850s gown looking almost brand new?
Silk is naturally tough and hardwearing, so 18th century silks survived for decades, and can be found re-made into garments up to the 1890s. The chemical finishes applied to silks, especially lining silks, from the 1890s onwards, however, were very destructive, and caused the splitting and shattering of silk dresses and petticoats from 1890 – 1920 that presents such problems to museum staff today. Patterned silks, which dated quickly, have survived in museums in much greater quantity than plain silks, which could be recycled into children’s dresses, linings etc.

Jul 28, 2014

1809 Redingote update

Last January I started to make an 1809 Redingote, but the heat of summer and other pressing commitments prevented me from making much progress. I wonder if I need to have another go at getting it finished while it is so cold outside in our Australian winter?

I've had invaluable assistance from Sabine Schierhoff, Judy Lukas, Charo Palacios and Bronwyn Parry translating the description at the bottom of this fashion plate and finding fabric online.

We've worked out that it is telling us that the Redingote is decorated with an Astracan imitation made from silk plush(velvet) and that the turban is made of Muslin. The L'evantine fabric of the Redingote- [F. levantine, or It. levantina.] is a stout twilled silk fabric, formerly made in the Levant. 

I found a vintage Astrakhan coat and some nice wool fabric in January, but with this more expanded translation and time for much thinking about where and when I'd like to wear the coat, I have decided that I will make the coat from this dusty lavender silk twill, and ornament it with silk plush.

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