Regency Week

Costume Construction, Costume History, Fashion History

Remember Lucy from the History Wardrobe? Well, she’s developing a new show all about the “old maids and matriarchs” of Jane Austen’s novels, and so needed some Regency costumes making. Pauline very kindly invited me back to York for a week to make one of the pieces, a spencer jacket. Here’s how the week went…!

Monday: Made up a toile of the spencer from a period pattern Pauline had drafted earlier. Also made a teeny weeny bum roll which ultimately resembled a banana.

Tuesday: Fitting at 9 am. Got everything cut out and flat-tacked. Was a bit of a mission getting everything out of the blue cotton velvet Lucy wanted to use as it such a narrow piece, but Pauline made it work. This stamp is now somewhere inside the jacket:

Wednesday: Made up the bodice and fiddly bits, including piped collar and straps to button around the wrists.

Thursday: Started to sweat a bit at this point. Got the sleeves made up, straps included. It took a fair bit of fathoming out as I wasn’t absolutely sure which direction the straps should go – I was sure the straps on my one of my own coats (that I didn’t have with me on the day) went one way, but the straps in the picture Lucy had drawn went the other. After a bit of faffing I decided to just go with the drawing.

Once the sleeves were done, I finally made up the lining and got that attached along with the collar. It had finally begun to look like something, hurrah!

By the end of Thursday, I still had to set the sleeves, get the waist belt on, and do all the closures. Needless to say, I was in at the crack of 8.30 am Friday morning to Get It Done.

Friday: Final fabric fitting at 10 am. I got the sleeves in on time, hurrah! And fortunately I had been smart enough to do it properly even though I was rushing a bit, so I didn’t have to spend much time sorting tucks out or anything unpleasant like that once the fitting was finished. Once the sleeves were safely in, stay-stitched, and bound, it was time to sort out the belt. This proved a bit awkward as there wasn’t enough fabric to get the whole belt out in once piece, so I had to figure out where I wanted the seams to go and how much extra to add on for the rounded tab the overlapped at the end.

I got the belt on in the end, but there was still loads of hand finishing to do and closures to sew on. Bah.

Saturday: Got in for about 2pm (I needed at least one lie-in last week!). Practiced a few buttonholes on the machine, and then girded my loins and sewed buttonholes onto the wrist straps. Fortunately no disaster struck, and I even got the holes cut out without repeating the breeches buttonhole catastrophe. Buttons, hooks, and eyes for the finish – annoyingly, I had to move all three of the hooks because things that look right when the garment is flat definitely do no work when it is on a form. I’m glad I checked!

Anyway, with just enough time to tidy up and take a few snaps before rushing off to Leeds for a shift at the opera, I finished the spencer. Here it is:

As always, I couldn’t help but notice the belt is wobbly in places and the closures aren’t enough to get the edges to meet at the center front, but I had done all I could do and I had met my deadline. Cecily (another girl form the course who came in to make the dress that you can see in the final photos) assured me it looked great, so I hope Lucy agrees!

And that concludes my Regency Week in York.

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