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…!

My Own Mr. Darcy – Part 2


Ben came to York with me last Saturday so he could try on his jacket. I think the photos speak for themselves…

Don’t worry, he’ll have boots on for the photo shoot.

He convinced me that he doesn’t need to bother growing out his sideburns to look more period because the collar would hide most of them anyway. I couldn’t argue with that.

Look at that posture! According to Ben, just having the outfit on makes you stand up straight.

And is it me, or is it easy to imagine that instead of a cell phone he’s holding, it’s some pocket almanac or calling card or other small hand-held Regency items?

Oh, the transformative power of costume!

Unfinished Business


Here is a list of the things that were meant to be finished by now, and are not:

1. shirt
2. breeches
3. jacket
4. waistcoat
5. ladies’ period combinations

In a word, everything.

In another word, nothing. Nothing is finished, and it has been five weeks.

But does this bother me? Not particularly. It’s not only me. No one has finished anything. Some of the ladies are much closer than I am – jackets completed except for buttons and buttonholes, breeches you can wear with waistbands on – but in general we are all behind together. And that makes me feel not-so-bad.

In fact, I think I’ve done pretty well on the jacket seeing as I gave up an entire day to work on it. There’s still a ways to go, but the collar is on and the sleeves are pinned into place, so it actually looks like something! Here, look:


Seriously, arriving at the stage of setting in sleeves felt like reaching the promised land. Never mind that I need to even out the pleats and sew them in properly; let’s forget about all that for now and lookit some pretty pictures!

back view

back view detail

And yes, those are functional pockets!

So that’s the jacket. We officially switched gears on Thursday and started work on our waistcoats (which I thought I had taken photos of but apparently not so hey ho, coming soon). As much as I was hankering to actually finish something, it was nice to set the jacket aside and focus entirely on something else. Especially something fairly straightforward and – dare I say it? – simple, like a waistcoat.

Ok, well, not simple exactly. Welt pockets require a level of finesse that amounts to three hours’ work – more if you’re pattern-matching. In the end, I got the pockets done and a few bits together (I’m nearly the furthest one along, for once! It’snotaraceit’snotaraceit’snotarace), but I didn’t get as far along as Pauline had hoped. Her goal for the end of Friday had been to have the waistcoats entirely finished up to buttons and buttonholes, which on Thursday afternoon seemed reasonable. Turns out, it wasn’t.

The revised plan is to FINISH waistcoats tomorrow (god help us), and make a start on the next project on Tuesday: corsets and bustle cages. As for the unfinished Regency menswear, we’ll just have to catch up as and when we can: late nights and early mornings, for days (possibly weeks) on end.

And I’m ok with that. Like I keep telling myself, things will take as long as they’re going to take, and so what if I have to stay late and come early? It’s only one summer, might as well get as much out of it as I can, and it’ll all be worth it in the end.

Getting shirty


Today we started our men’s shirts. (See what I did there? Ha.) The pattern was pretty easy – just a bunch of rectangles, really – but wrangling all three meters of fabric and getting the pieces to fit properly was a pain and a half. Then we had a practice placket session, to mitigate the potential for tears and panic when it comes time to put them in tomorrow. At least, that’s the goal.

By the end of the day I had all of my shirt pieces cut, marked, and overlocked, but before I can sew it all together I still need to cut the interfacing and wrist plackets. My goal is to have all the “bits” done by mid-morning break at 11 am, leaving plenty of time to finish making up the shirt by tomorrow evening.

Until then, here are some of my sewing samples from Friday:

French seam

decorative finish

lapped seam

piped seam

channel/slotted seam

welt seam

satin-bound and zig-zagged seam finish


Cue Pac-Man twirl-around-and-drop-dead noise.

Holy breeches, Batman!


Excellent second day. Spent the morning perusing Pauline’s library of costume and pattern-cutting books while watching snippets of Colin Firth in Pride & Prejudice (for research, of course).  I selected an 1815-1820 ensemble, as follows:

double breasted tailcoat, waistcoat, & cravat

tailcoat & waistcoat technical drawings (not my handiwork)

split fall breeches

Even though research had been scheduled for the whole day, I had compiled everything by lunchtime and so made a move on drafting the breeches.

pattern for breeches

Pauline showed us a nifty way to scale the patterns up, which involves plotting points along the pattern by measuring up from a straight line rather than on radiating diagonal lines. I surprised myself by how quickly I caught onto this new method, and I think it’s my new go-to! I spent an hour and a half on the first pattern, and an hour and ten minutes on the second. The result:

drafted breeches pattern

Overall I am THRILLED with today’s progress, and I can’t wait to get back to work tomorrow!!