The Regency Project
THE REGENCY PROJECT
This project is really coming together, and what remains is basically the decorations and the raw seams at left shoulder. Last thing I did was to sew buttonholes in the back of the bodice and attach buttons.
Some years ago my hometown started having an annual summer event set in early Regency period ( KJÆMPESTADEN ). Though being a major Jane Austen fan I've never sat down to make a proper Regency dress, and I never felt the urge to do so either. But when I started studying the era a bit closer and saw all the funky military inspired dresses and spencer jackets, my interest grew. And when I came across this hideous - yet somehow pretty - stripy fabric in Oslo, I just had to buy it and try it out for a Regency project. It has an almost moss/lime green tone in the botton, and with brown/marron stripes in various widths. It is.... a very interesting fabric, and probably as synthetic as it gets.
Yes, I do love these light, flowing white and pastel dresses typical for the era. But I wanted to make a garb that was plausible for my hometown ca. 1810, and the chemise-like robes would more likely be worn in Paris than in Arendal (much because of the climate). Arendal was an incredibly rich city in most of the 19.th century. Shipping was a popular profession, and when the men went abroad, maybe for months at the time, the ladies were in charge at home. That called for sturdy dresses one could work in. Alas, there aren't discovered too many CITY Regency dresses from that era, but much of what is found from the 19.th century shows lots of stripes of various sorts. Cotton velvet with flowery stripes, stripy silk, homespun stripy wool, wool and linen mixes, stripy woolbouclé... (Fossnes, 2000) So I concluded that my yucky/lovely fabric would make a good basis for a practical Regency dress.
My dress is inspired by an outfit in the care of the Kyoto Costume Institute (see pictures in the gallery). On page 182 in their book "Fashion" (Fukai, 2006) there's a fascinating brown-and-blue stripy silk dress with jacket, and I like the not-so-obvious beauty of the dress. The pastel and white dresses are very obvious beauties, this one is more... hidden. I will not attempt to make a faithful replica, partly because I'm only to make a gown and not dress + jacket, and partly because the actual bodice of that Kyoto dress is never shown. I have also pushed the date back a bit, so it'll be more around the time of the "Sense and Sensibilty" costumes (1995 movie). I'm fond of the transitional style from round gown to narrow empire.
I was thrilled to find that stripy dresses weren't as uncommon in Regency time as I first suspected. The wonderful book "Fashion in Colour" shows a redingote dress from ca. 1810-1815. It is described as French, made from "printed plain cotton". Accompanying text sais: "Stripes were in fashion as an Oriental pattern just after the French revolution. After the revolution, under the influence of Napoleon's expedition to Egypt and other events, Egyptian or Turkish stripes were often used for clothes or interior decorations. The fashion for stripes was partly due to their exotism, but also the invention of machinery such as spinning machines and Jacquard looms that could produce them more efficiently". (Fukai, 2004).
For the bodice and sleeves I have used the pattern from my folk costume jacket, but cut the back and the front so it shows more decolletage than my folk costume. The folk costume jacket is a spencer jacket with curved seams in the back and a nice military touch with elaborate cuffs and buttons in front, and the pattern suits me like a glove. My bodice is also slightly inspired by other Kyoto items - the ones on page 160 and 179). Closeups of both can be found in the gallery. So far I have finished the bodice and the sleeves, and I'm particularly happy with how the back turned out.
The bodice will not have the puffed blue decorations of the Kyoto jacket, nor the puffed sleeves. The book "Nineteenth-century fashion in detail" (Johnston, 2006) shows a stripy dress with a broad, braided ribbon decorating the decolletage (yellow dress in gallery). Might be worth trying out, because the effect is subtle but effective, and my dress is more of a middle-class girl than high-fashion lady.
I've tried to copy the main look of the sleeves of the blue/brown Kyoto outfit. It echoes the stripes of the fabric, as well as being slightly military inspired. I choose a burgundy polyester for the task, as it compliments the marron-ish nuance of the fabric very well. I'm a fan of almost-matching when it comes to historical outfits. I love to blend various nuances of a colour, so they create a vibrant total, rather than having everything in the exact same nuance. The sleeves are made out of two panels, which enables giving them a slight curve. This is identical to my folk costume jacket.
The skirt is a bit fuller than a tranditional Regency dress - being three metres in total. The front is kept quite narrow, with the stripes of the bodice continuing in the skirt. But the back is full and pleated. Thisis to keep up with the transitional style idea, and it's definitely historical plausible: "Inverted pleats at the centre back give shape and fullness to the skirt (.....). This contrasts with the front of the skirt which is made up of a single width of fabric which falls straight to the ground." (page 56, Johnston 2006). I've also made a tiny train, and a belt of the stripy fabric. I'm pondering on adding a braided trim similar to the yellow dress in the gallery - it is subtle, but effective, and maybe just what my dress needs as a finishing touch. But right now I'm working on decorating a bonnet with moss green ribbons and artificial flowers.
Fossnes, Torild (2000) "Silkebrokade, lin og lue, drakt og draktplagg fra Aust-Agder på 17- og 1800-tallet", Aust-Agder kulutrvernråd, Arendal
Fukai, Akiko ++ (2004) "Fashion in colors", Assouline, New York
Fukai, Akiko ++ (2006) "Fashion - a history from the 18.th to the 20.th century", Kyoto Costume Institute, Kyoto and Tachen, Köln
Johnston, Lucy (2006) "Nineteenth-century fashion in detail", Victoria and Albert Museum, London
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