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…!

The History Wardrobe


Today a lovely woman called Lucy Adlington came in to talk to us about 1940s fashion. She runs a company called The History Wardrobe, which puts on presentations that teach history through costume. It was only an informal talk she gave us today, but it offered some brilliant insight into the period. For example, we learned that on average women only had about 44 clothing ration coupons per year, which didn’t go very far seeing as a dress cost about 11 coupons. I was surprised that pyjamas cost 8 coupons and corsets cost only 3, until Lucy pointed out that you couldn’t just wear an old tee shirt to bed because you wouldn’t have had any central heating to keep you warm at night, or a tee shirt for that matter, and you’d want to be adequately dressed in case the air-raid sirens went off in the middle of the night. So there you go – the realities of rationing made evident through clothes.

After the presentation we had time to do research for our dresses, and as I had more or less decided what I wanted to make I had the rest of the afternoon to work on…

the TUTU.

I know the bodice is more important, but I was determined to sew the rest of those net layers on come hell or high water. And I DID!!

But it wasn’t easy.

By layer ten, you really do have to wrangle the net and force it under the machine, because it just does not want to go anywhere.

I’m sure the lat muscles on my left side are going to be sore tomorrow. But it was totally worth it.


There’s still a fair bit to do on it (french seam the knickers, sew on the basque, stitch up the center backs of the layers, stab stitch the waistband, let it settle, string it), but now I’m caught up with everyone else and can sleep easy knowing it at least looks like a tutu.

Bodice update from last week coming soon. Tomorrow it’s drafting patterns and making toiles of our 40s dress, which will hopefully all be done on time to go fabric shopping on Wednesday (meaning we’d be a day ahead!). Here’s hoping!