Jane Austen´s World, part 3

Greetings to all new and old followers! Or perhaps you are perusing, collecting ideas for your own Regency costume? This blog has a little bit of this and that, but main focus is on Regency fashions, and I try to share my sporadic costume projects. This year I have been involved professionally in staging Jane Austen´s World, a costume exhibition in Skokloster Castle, where I work as curator. Since I happen to have this blog I simply must blog about these familiar – some of them even iconic – film costumes in a series of posts.

We already met the Bennets, the Dashwoods and Emma Woodhouse in the daytime parlour. Read about them here and here. In the second room we step in to the bedchamber. It is a lovely guest room, but we added some furniture and other objects from the collections. The four-poster beds are ca 1800, with printed cotton hangings, British, ca 1830. A dressing table, mirror, wash basins, towels and a bidet were added. This is the intimate sphere, where the young ladies – could be the Dashwood sisters or Jane and Lizzie Bennet – are being dressed. We talk about personal hygiene and how cotton fabric became more accessible around 1800.

A pair of nightgowns flanking a pair of stays and a chemise. These are not specific to a certain production or certain characters, but came from stock. Everything else is from the museum collections. Photo by Jens Mohr, LSH.


British Regency fabric on the beds: the printed cotton is lovely, and in excellent condition.

This intimate sphere includes other important features in the world of Jane Austen. Writing letters, for example:

Many of these letters are crucial to the plot, and Jane Austen often includes them in her novels. We also wanted to mention one of Austen´s contemporaries, a female author who wasn´t afraid to be published and who had to fight for her beliefs: Mary Wollstonecraft.

This is where we introduce one of the most famous literary characters ever created, Mr. Darcy. He is sitting at his desk writing the long letter to Lizzie Bennet where he reveals Mr. Wickham´s true nature:

Mr. Darcy. The coat, breeches and boots are from ‘Pride & Prejudice’, 2005. (The film version starring Keira Knightley as Lizzie and Matthew MacFadyen as Darcy.) For some reason this particular costume does not resonate with me, so I didn´t bother to take that many pictures of it.

Looks better on Matthew MacFadyen, but still not my favourite coat. (Pride & Prejudice, 2005)

But then there is that certain costume that most people associate with Darcy (and Jane Austen adaptations, for that matter): The Shirt.

This ordinary linen shirt caused quite a buzz back in 1995. It was Colin Firth´s ticket to eternal stardom and started Darcymania in its many varieties.

Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy in the BBC Pride and Prejudice, 1995.

This phenomenon has been analysed so many times since then, so what else can I add? It is fun to observe our visitors when they see the shirt and decide (if not sooner) that now is the time to take pictures.

Marianne Dashwood is there too, with her letters to that scoundrel Willoughby. Marianne Dashwood´s day gown is exhibited. It was designed by Jenny Beavan and worn by Kate Winslet in several scenes in Sense and Sensibility, 1995. It is a sleeveless silk robe with v-neck collar over a cotton dress. It is easy to miss it on screen, but it is a beautiful gown, with many details. Of course Marianne is the romantic, passionate sister, something that nearly kills her. Her relationship with Willoughby does not end well. It is interesting that both of them ignore propriety in several ways. On one of their outings they visit Willoughby´s estate, unshaperoned. That is enough to ruin a girl´s reputation in Regency society. Marianne seeks up Willoughby at the ball in London, again very unladylike behaviour. Society would frown upon a young lady writing (passionate!) letters to a gentleman to whom she isn´t related. We learn that there never was an engagement.

Marianne´s dress from Sense and Sensibility, 1995. Scattered on the desk is her desperate letters to Willoughby, and finally his polite but cold reply. Photo by Jens Mohr, LSH.


A drawstring closes the neckline. The silk dress has hooks and eyes on right hand side, concealed by the belt.


The silk appears to be either hand painted or hand printed. Or stencilled? Notice the amount of fabric that is pleated at the back? This create the elegant Empire style silhouette, so make sure to use enough material in your gowns, ladies!

This reticule came with the dress, so Marianne had to carry one of her letters to Willoughby in it.


Kate Winslet as Marianne in Sense and Sensibility, 1995. Here with Emma Thompson, Imogen Stubbs and director Ang Lee.


This costume is seen earlier in the film when the girls gather reeds and Colonel Brandon offers Marianne a knife. They are still in mourning so Marianne is wearing a black lace cape or shawl with it.


Or does she? Here she is wearing only the cotton dress with a sleeveless green velvet spencer. Now I´m confused. And I have an excuse to go and watch the film.

 

Jane Austen´s World, part 2

This spring has been hectic but so much fun! Last time I introduced the exhibition we have been working on. Today we are taking a look at the Bennets! First, a group from the 1995 BBC ‘Pride and Prejudice’ – perhaps the best known costumes by now. They were designed by Dinah Collin and we have to say her team did a wonderful job. This was the beginning of the modern Austen-era, so they had to make nearly every costume from scratch. It was a challenge to find the right fabrics, so they screen printed patterns on muslins, and used a lot of Indian sari-fabrics.

Jane Bennet´s cotton dress and linen spencer. Soft pastels suit Jane´s sweet disposition.

Elizabeth Bennet often wears robust, earthy tones. This is her silk dress and brown embroidered spencer.

These two ensembles are seen in the very beginning of the story when the Bennets are walking home from church, and Mrs Bennet is going on about a certain new neighbour. Susannah Harker played Jane and Jennifer Ehle WAS Elizabeth. Pride and Prejudice, 1995.


Lizzie wears the silk dress frequently. Perhaps you rememember it from the disastruous first proposal… The girls´gowns all seem to have buttons in the back, which was coming in fashion in the 1810´s.


It was nice to create the daily mess in the Bennets´ drawing room. The girls have different interests. Mary is reading or playing the pianoforte, Kitty and Lydia are trimming a bonnet, and Jane is embroidering. The portrait is the real-life countess Brahe who lived in Skokloster castle during the first half of the 19th century.


And then there is of course Mrs Bennet. Her light wool dress with printed floral pattern.

Mrs B wears a frilled cap, a matching lace shawl and a coral necklace.

The dress is front-closing. A narrow silk ribbon ties the neckline. Hooks and snaps (!) fasten the skirt. The gauzy chemisette is tied around the waist.


The mannequin lacks mrs B´s persona, portrayed so annoyingly and spot-on by Allison Steadman. It is easier to see the cap and frills here. Benjamin Withrow played mr Bennet. At first glance she is the demanding wife and he is the long suffering husband, but I have greater sympathy with her today. She is only trying to secure the girls´future, since her husband seems to have given up, spending his days in the library, or talking to her in a patronising tone…

This dress has been used in several other productions. Read more about it over on Recycled movie costumes.

This concludes the first of several rooms. The following two rooms are very different. Through a bedroom is  the tower room packed with information for those who wish to learn more about the world of Jane Austen. There are interviews with Dinah Collin and Jenny Beavan, and a handful of Swedish experts on fashion history, English literature and of course Jane Austen.

This exquisite piece of furniture, ca 1750, doubles as ‘Jane Austen´s desk’. Piles of Miss Austen´s letters and manuscripts are scattered on the desk and chair.

Come back soon for more!

Jane Austen´s World

Dear all, the exhibition opened one month ago, and since then my intention has been to share the marvellous costumes with you. That moment has come, finally! I am afraid I have tons of pictures by now, so it took me the better part of the day to sort them out. Therefore I decided to do it in several installments.

Many of the costumes have been on tour for years by now, so you might think this is nothing to be excited about.  But what a ‘nerd-fest’ it is!  A handful of these costumes were in Sweden only last summer. Little did I know then I would be working with them myself one year later! The costumes, about 30 in total, were selected by us and rented from Cosprop, the renowned costumier in London.

The team is very happy with how the exhibition turned out, and we have had a lot of attention from media. And we love when visitors turn up in Regency fashions.

The costumes are of course lovely, but the other star of the show is the setting. This part of the castle is usually closed to the public, which is a shame because the rooms are stunning. They are a mix of Baroque ceilings, fireplaces and wainscoting, and late 18th to early 19th century neoclassical furnishings and paintings. It was rather easy to recreate the atmosphere you see in the different adaptations. We moved some furniture and re-arranged the paintings.

The weeks leading up to the opening were hectic, as always, but it was a fairly smooth process.

The opening ceremony was on 1 June. Friends and associates (the usual suspects) were invited to enjoy afternoon tea in the ground floor gallery. The British ambassador mr David Hearn graciously accepted to give the opening speech. When my co-workers aren´t busy posing as the Dashwood sisters, their business titles are conservator and administrator, respectively. Several of the frocks I made this spring premiered on this day. Some of the guests wore Regency attire, too.

These silhouettes lead the way up to the third floor.

A bit too dark, but this is the introduction in the third floor gallery, before entering the suite of rooms where the costumes are.


The first costume is from the Kate Beckinsale ‘Emma’, the ITV television production from 1996.Screen writer Andrew Davies was joined by the production team from Pride and Prejudice the year before. Jenny Beavan designed the costumes.

Emma´s nice 3/4 length velvet coat is worn over a printed muslin dress, accessorised with a frilled collar. The velvet is plum coloured, but it was obviously difficult for me to photograph… There are several adaptations of the novel. They all have their pros and cons. I would say that Kate Beckinsale does a good job here and it stays fairly close to the book. I don´t care much for mr Elton in this one though. The story is set in 1816, when the novel was published, which is reflected by the costumes. Waists were as high as they could go and skirts were shorter, starting to show some ancle.

Emma 1996. ITV Archive

As seen on Kate Beckinsale as Emma Woodhouse.

Emma´s printed dress was featured in the promotion pictures. Here with Mark Strong as Knightley.

This vignette illustrates Regency etiquette. As the highest ranking lady in Highbury Emma Woodhouse has obligations, such as helping the poor and visiting the tiresome chatterbox miss Bates.


The following set of costumes is from ‘Sense and Sensibility’, 1995. This is the big screen adaptation directed by Ang Lee. Emma Thompson wrote the script and was awarded with both a Bafta and an Oscar. She also played Elinor and a young Kate Winslet was Marianne. The cast is very impressive with formidable actors such as Elizabeth Spriggs, Harriet Walter and Hugh Laurie, only to name a few. I always liked the costumes in this version. They were designed by award-winning Jenny Beavan and John Bright.

This is where we can discuss the precarious situation women could find themselves in when the family estate was entailed away on the male line.

Kate Winslet played Marianne and Hugh Grant was Edward Ferrars.

Marianne´s red printed dress and grey redingote. This looks untidy, I took the photo when the mannequin was dressed. You can see how the dress fastens with small hooks and eyes under the bust.

This is when mrs Dashwood and her daughters move to Barton Cottage in Devonshire.

Edward Ferrar´s double-breasted waistcoat and cutaway tailcoat. He wore this outfit many times, including the proposal scene. I arranged the collars and tied the cravats, and was truly impressed by the high quality both in material and execution.

Standing to the left is Elinor Dashwood´s riding habit. I like how the jacket is constructed in the 18th century manner. The front is folded to shape, and continues to the shoulder seam, see below. I also like how the waist is raised, but not directly under the bust, indicating the transitional silhoutte 1795-1800.

The coat and striped waistcoat are actually sewn together. I don´t know how accurate it is. The striped fabric is very similar to Edward´s waistcoat. Perhaps they came from the same manufacturer? Photo by Jens Mohr.

And here they both are, in the beginning of the story, before the Dashwoods move to the cottage and Edward is sent off to mama.

Next we have the Bennets, so over to Longbourn!

Fabulous costumes!

With less than a week before the opening of the Jane Austen exhibition everything is more or less installed, with only some minor adjustments left to be done. (Although enough to keep us busy!)

I am very impressed by the quality of the costumes. A lot of hand sewn seams and delicate materials on the gowns and the coats are properly tailored. Jenny Beavan and Dinah Collins obviously know their business.

Here are only a few samples for all you Jane Austen-fans out there:

Photo by Regencygentleman

Miss Bingley’s evening frock is suitably grand.

Photo by Regencygentleman

One of Miss Marianne Dashwood’s lovely gowns. (Kate Winslet is petite.)

Photo by Regencygentleman

Another beatifully made gown. This one is hardly seen on screen. Can you guess which one it is?

The Costumes have arrived!

Photo by Regencygentleman

Yesterday these boxes arrived. They are not just any boxes. They contained the legendary costumes that will go on display, carefully packed on top of hatboxes and heavier shoes and boots.

Our textile conservators started to unpack them and I tried not to drool too much, but took a few quick photos. Starting today, they will be steamed if needed and mounted on to mannequins.  I will keep you posted.

Photo by Regencygentleman
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A Pair of Habits à la Française, 1811

Last time I wrote about the upcoming Jane Austen exhibition. With less than three weeks to the opening, the Cosprop costumes are arriving tomorrow! It will of course focus on the famous film costumes, but they are supplemented with a handful of extant garments from our collections. The fictional Mr Darcy, Mr Ferrars, and Colonel Brandon are sort of visiting Count Brahe, the real life owner of Skokloster Castle.

There is plenty of remarkable textiles in the Skokloster Castle collections, such as clothing, bed hangings and tapestries. Most of them date back to the seventeenth century when the castle was built, but there are some very fine garments from later eras, and specifically from 1811, so no wonder that we take the opportunity to put them on display this summer.

In 1811 His Excellency Count Magnus Fredrik Brahe was appointed Swedish envoy to the imperial court of Napoleon. Count Brahe was the highest ranking aristocrat in Sweden. He held many honorary titles and a vast fortune was entailed to him. Nonetheless this meant a great expence to him. His entourage included the countess Brahe and his handsome twenty-year old son. The witty Countess Aurora Brahe charmed the French society and Napoleon named her “La Belle Suédoise”.  In Paris the count ordered two formal suits à la Française for the celebration of  the birth of the King of Rome, that is Napleon’s son, Napoleon. The baptism was held in Notre Dame on 9 June 1811. It was a grand affair, and as ambassador Brahe was required to wear court suit. Napoleon had revived the extravagant embroidered silk suits worn at court before the revolution. If the provenance was unknown these could easily have been made twenty years earlier.

From the digital database: Count Brahe´s two court suits seen here with a livery probably worn by his valet to the same occasion.

His Excellency, Count Magnus Fredrik Brahe (1754-1826). Painting by Carl von Breda, Skokloster Castle.

Countess Aurora Wilhelmina Brahe, “La Belle Suédoise”. This miniature portrait was painted by Jean-Baptiste Augustin in Paris, 1811. Private collection.

Protected by white cotton covers, safely tucked away in our textile storage…

…are these stunning suits. This is the one in lavender grosgrain silk. The tailcoat has nine decorative buttons down the front, and three working button holes. Inv no 11930, 11931, 11939. Link to the database here.

View of the rear.

The lavender suit. This is the most formal of the two with elaborate silk embroidery, including cording, silver spangles, and glass sequins.

The embroidery is marvellous!

A closeup of the waistcoat. I discovered just now that some of the sequins have been lost.

Interesting seams over the shoulders. This indicates that pre-embroidered sections were pieced together.

Notice the cord and the button on the collar? This was either to hold a cloak or the ceremonial sword.

Notice how the embroidered flowers are cut in half by the side seams?

Let us take a look at the brown and green suit. Inv no 11945-11947. Link to collections database here. The embroidery is less formal, executed in silk thread only, without the glitter, but nonetheless very decorative.

Interestingly the upper buttonholes on both coat and waistcoat are nonfunctional. Again the condition is remarkable, but the suit was probably only used on that one occasion.

The silk is woven with small irregular dots. It is currently laid out on a large table.

Could have been made yesterday.

The breeches are green silk velvet.

Buttons and embroidered kneeband. Unexpected use of gold thread and sequins, since there is nothing of the sort on coat and waistcoat. I wonder why?

A glimpse of the inside. This is centre back. A string through one hole on each side of a gusset makes the waist adjustable. The garment is lined with a fine linen, Surprisingly, white linen is used on the waistband.

The white silk satin waiscoat. The collar is about 80 mm high.

These waistcoats came as a “waist shape”, a pre-embroidered length of silk that was cut and assembled by ones tailor. The emboidery was designed “à la disposition” and was easier to carry out on flat silk instead of a garment.

A Waistcoat shape, Victoria & Albert Museum.

Silk intended for a coat. Notice the embroidered circles that would cover the buttons? The Metropolitan Museum.

These suits are a testament to the skilled embroiderers who created such incredible work. Sadly there is no record of receipts or labels so their names are lost to us. They also evoke Napoleonic imperial splendour and aristocratic duties during the early nineteenth century. They will no doubt make a contrast to the no-nonsense Austen gentlemen.

The Jane Austen Exhibition

Photo: Jens Mohr, LSH

We have hectic days at work now with everything that needs to be done before the palace gates open again in May. The conservators are spring cleaning the state apartments, the shop is stocked with new goods, guides are being hired, and countless other things. Perhaps you remember me mentioning some time ago that the summer exhibition is Jane Austen? The focus will be thirty costumes (supplied by Cosprop in London) as seen in Pride and Prejudice (1995), Sense and Sensibility (1995), Persuasion (1995), Emma (1996 and 2009), and Pride & Prejudice (2005). We are also digging out a handful of not too shabby historical costumes from the museum collections.

Photo by Jens Mohr, LSH

Serious drama going on here.

Today is exactly two months before the opening. The press release and pictures were made public a few weeks ago. Here is an excerpt from the English version (not my translation):

Beautiful scenery surrounds the film costumes worn by actors such as Kate Winslet, Hugh Grant and Colin Firth. Costumes for many people forever linked with characters such as Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. In the Jane Austen’s world exhibition, these characters open the doors to tales of the lifestyle, dilemmas and fashions during the early 1800s.

Magnificent costumes in a historical setting
The costumes are presented in the castle’s guest suites, furnished with objects from the late 1700s and early 1800s. This is a unique opportunity to experience parts of the castle which are not normally open to the general public. The objects on display include the fantastic bridal gown worn by Marianne Dashwood (played by Kate Winslet) from the film Sense and Sensibility and not least the once soaked shirt worn by Mr. Darcy (played by Colin Firth) in the BBC series of Pride and Prejudice. The historical setting of Skokloster Castle is a perfect stage for the exhibition, which presents a period coloured by magnificent clothing, narrow female spheres and strict etiquette.

Jane Austen – always current
Jane Austen is one of the world’s most read authors, and her almost 200-year old novels are more popular than ever, with new editions, interpretations, dramatisations and film versions of her works being released constantly. In her novels, Austen succeeds in combining an easy style with sharp social criticism concealed beneath emotionally charged intrigue.

‘Jane Austen was a perceptive observer of the strict social patterns that permeated the privileged social class to which she belonged. Austen’s young heroines struggle against and with the limitations of their period. For many women, marriage was the only opportunity way they could support themselves. And just like in her books, women are at the centre of Jane Austen’s world. Marriage as a guarantor of the survival of the family is a theme that also forms part of the history of Skokloster Castle. In the exhibition, you can also follow the “Meanwhile at Skokloster” track, which presents a number of women at Skokloster’, explains Annika Williams, curator of the exhibition at Skokloster Castle.

This summer, Skokloster Castle is offering a range of programme activities related to the exhibition, including themed viewings, lectures, a picnic in the castle grounds, Regency dancing, costume displays, a ball and afternoon teas with guest speakers. All in the true spirit of Jane Austen. Guided tours every day.

How about that! If you wish to know more, follow this link.

My co-workers are absolutely wonderful and their dedication to Jane Austen and the Regency era is impressive. At times we indulge in a veritable nerd-fest, I am afraid.

The gorgeous promotion photos accompanying today´s post were taken by our photographer, Jens Mohr. It took considerable time to agree on what type of pictures we wanted in terms of style and atmosphere. We definitely wanted to show a strong and confident young lady, one that might take matters in her own hands instead of passively waiting for a suitor.

You cannot see, but the temperature was near freezing in the state appartments back in early February when Elinor and I tried to look our best in Regency finery, or at least tried to stop shaking… They say the camera puts on extra weight, but it certainly does not help when one is wearing a warm sweater under waistcoat and all. (In hindsight I know I should not have worn it.) Of course Elinor, poor thing, was lovely in the summery open robe and sheer linen dress, channelling her inner Lizzie Bennet. She also managed to not attract pneumonia. Or so I believe. I presented the two gowns here.

Photo by Jens Mohr, LSH

Photo by Jens Mohr, LSH

Next time I will write about which gentlemen´s costumes that will go on display in the exhibition.

Oh, and we have released tickets to the Jane Austen ball in August, and the rest of the programmes. It is going to be so much fun! (And hard work.)

Masked ball à la Romaine

Come March and 225 years since the fatal shot in Ballo in Maschera, the masked ball where king Gustaf III was assassinated by plotting aristocrats. To commemorate this event a masked ball set in 1792 is organized in March every year. Despite the grim reason the ball is fun so I really wanted to attend, regardless of heavy workload and fatigue.

With all my sewing going on I really did not need to start a new project and thought I´d reuse something old. But lo and behold, I struck gold at work! Up in the palace attic, stowed away in a dust covered cardboard box, was not only one but half a dozen sapphire blue and gold tunics! They are 1990s replicas of a theatre costume from 1672 that is in our collection. (Link to the database here.)

Half a dozen tunics!

After some quick research I devised a plan. Fancy dress “à la Romaine”, to dress as a Roman god or emperor, was popular during the Renaissance and Baroque, among court dancers and other performers but among monarchs in particular. This I could do without too much effort.

A well known example: Louis XIV as the Sun King. Château de Versailles.

One of the Swedish monarchs: An allusion of a triumphant Charles XI on horse back, painting by J K Ehrenstrahl, 1674. Skokloster Castle.

I now had the tunic. (They were all in – how can I put it- well-worn state. I think i managed to choose the one that was in the best condition.) I used my regular shirt, golden stockings, and opera pumps. White mask and powdered wig from last year and to finish it off I glue-gunned a coronet from metallic paper to support my ostrich feathers. Ét voilá!

The tunic was somewhat soiled but careful ironing did the trick.

A cloak, secured to the shoulders with two brooches, added some drama and it very conveniently hid the safety pins that were necessary to achieve a decent fit. The piece of matching fabric (Acetate? Silk taffeta?) draped well. I found it in a bag filled with odd scraps of fabric.

My opera pumps were temporarily upgraded with a large bow and some trim in metallic paper topped with a glass bead.

The ball was magnificent! The white mask and large ostrich feathers is me trying to see my feet… Photo credit Fernando Orellana.

My 1790s wig from last year and a contraption I made from metallic paper and glass beads, to accommodate my ostrich feathers. (If you, dear readers, say I remind you of a roaring twenties flapper – minus earrings and eyelashes, I will be most seriously displeased. I assure you, this was regarded as super manly.)

There was some operatic entertainment between dances. Here is the dance programme:

Doing my best eighteenth century Roman god (Apollo? Zephyr?) impression.

Later we moved upstairs to enjoy decadently delicious refreshments. Photo credit Fernando Ortellana.

Yours truly was starving by now. Photo credit Fernando Ortellana.

These dames could be Marie Antoinette´s ladies-in-waiting while at Le Petit Trianon.

My Regency chums Ylva and Jacob.

Would you believe it: to my surprise I was awarded a prize for one of the best costumes! It was a jar of locally produced honey. Tasty indeed!

 

 

Drop-front Dress and Spencer

Last time I presented a number of GOWNS I have been making at work for our staff. I have written about it before, but it is a gift to be able to mix work and pleasure. Costuming is something I normally do for my own amusement, but now I have again moved out from my comfort zone over to the proffessional arena.

While exploring the shift-dress I also started on a couple of other garments. First, a drop-front gown, also known as bib-front, stomacher-front or apron-front, with a short spencer:

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I used every scrap of the same teal and gold sari that became an open robe.

The formidable Janet Arnold provided me with the pattern, the “Salisbury Museum” day dress, ca. 18oo.

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I omitted the double sleeve, but otherwise I used the pattern more or less without alterations. The original dress was constructed in a manner that was was quite common at the time: the lining was assembled first and then the outer fabric was sewn on top of it, neatly sealing all seams between the layers. I decided to use this technique. I machine stitched the lining, but hand-stitched the outer fabric. It was fun and it came together rather quickly.

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The bodice. The green cotton is pinned closed, and covered by the bib. (I am aware of the mis-matching greens, but I found a perfect lenght of the pea-green cotton in our stash. Of course they are never seen together.) The neck is finished with strip of the cotton, cut on the bias.

Pinning sari fabric to the lining . Then it was trimmed, edges folded in and whip-stitched along the edges.

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Inside view of the folded down bib. Nearly finished. The shoulders need to be covered with the sari-fabric and the skirt seams are only pinned. The tucker or fichu is of course optional. A chemisette could be nice too.

The skirt front fastens around the waist with ribbons, then the bib is turned up and pinned in place.

I pleated the fabric on the bib, something I regret, it took ages to keep the vertical stripes aligned…

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The woven pattern works well with the design, giving a rich effect, don´t you think? Caroline Bingley could wear this…

When I got bored with all this gauzy sari-fabric I turned my attention to some tailoring using a rich, dark green broadcloth. There was just enough for a spencer, like the one seen on Elizabeth Bennet:

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Jennifer Ehle as Lizzie Bennet, Pride and Prejudice, 1995.

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Again I used the same bodice pattern, but altered the front and drafted a collar.

Working on the standing collar. Pad-stitching interlining to broadcloth.

Then I folded the seam allowance to the inside, securing it with small but loose stitches. The green linen lining went on top of this.

But first I steamed the collar and allowed it cool on the ironing board.

A peek of the inside: green linen lining. I used yellow glazed cotton to line the sleeves.

On the dress form. I think the spencer was designed for a smaller bust…

I added some fullness to the sleeves. It does not show, but there are a couple of tucks below the bust, and some sturdy interlining along the front edges.

The standing collar.

A view of the back. Now I was reminded of the pins that still keep the skirt in place…

Photo by Regencygentleman

And finally a full shot of the dress and spencer.

 

Busy days

I thought I´d remedy my irregular posting by sharing a handful (!) of garments I´ve made lately. No, they are not for me. (If you came to this blog hoping for breeches and tailcoats do not bother to read the following.) I detoured from my usual gentlemen´s tailoring and have spent many hours (mainly at work, but I confess, one or two weekends at home while watching The Crown) on something quite different: various ladies garments. These ladies, who are yet to be recruited, are female members of our educational staff, and they need to be dressed in Regency fashions for the Jane Austen film costume exhibition this summer. The storage is bursting with 17th century garments, but nothing later, so I had to start from scratch.

Now, how do you sew Regency costumes for people you’ve not met? The magic words are the Shift Dress or Round Gown. It is the perfect type of dress that can easily be adjusted with drawstrings, as long as the back and shoulders have a fairly good fit.

Emerging in the years leading up to La Revolution Française the informal muslin dress offered a relief from the very formal court gowns of the era. This type of gown was all the rage in the 1790s and actually became the quintessential Regency dress. They were often in white or pale muslins, but it was not unusual with printed cottons and colourful silks. The silhoutte became slimmer after 1805 or so, but variations of the round gown were in use well into the 1810s, thus covering most of the Regency era. Read more about the shift dress and its different terminology here.

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Inspiration: a 1790s chemise dress. The waistline is slightly raised. Notice how her son is wearing a similar style? Madame Seriziat, by Jacques-Louis David, 1795, Musée du Louvre.

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Inspiration: Silk (?) chemise gowns now with the high empire waist. Portrait des demoiselles Flamand, by François Dumont, l’Aîné, Musée du Louvre.

I had very little time to search for a variety of fabrics, but I think I managed to find some decent striped and printed cottons, suitable for day dresses. The castle interiors are quite grand, though, so they can´t be too plain. I constructed the pattern from scratch with great help from Janet Arnold and Cassidy Percoco, and endless research online.

What about male staff? Of course there are men among them, but that is another post.

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One of the striped gowns, dolled up with some bows. I was still trying out the design and have changed it since, the cotton tape gathers at the side and is tucked in the side opening.

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White chemise gown in striped linen. Our photographer took this picture as reference. I snatched it from him, because his camera is better. (Obviously.) Photo by Jens Mohr.

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Very sheer linen. (Closeup of one of the unlined sleeves.)

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It will probably need a fichu…

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The fitted back. I hope it will look better when ironed.

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Blue striped cotton. I decided it was better looking with a softer contrast so I turned the fabric inside out.

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Playing with the sleeves and adding a longer sash. The round gown/chemise dress tend to have rather few embellishments, and if there is something it is often found on the sleeves.

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We had a historically themed christmas party, and my co-worker E., right, used the blue striped dress, with a fichu and a turban. L., the elegant lady to the left, is one of those talented people who can throw together an outfit in no time and look just perfect. (The party was in the Royal Armoury, at the Royal Palace. Yay!)

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The dress above got a twin, this time in pink. To avoid unnecessary bulk I made the front of this one narrower, about 40″ or 100 cm. (The mannequin is a smaller size so there is still a lot of fabric.)

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Wheat-coloured stripes.

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I am afraid I stuffed the mannequin too generously.

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After these gowns I got bored. Now I know how to make them properly. They were often worn with an open robe, so I decided to try my luck. First, a rather grand one, made from a semi-old sari that has been in our stash for ages. It is a sheer mystery-material with gold thread woven to create a grid pattern. The golden border is perfect along the front edges. The front consists of two lengths, pleated and sewn to the back piece at the shoulders. The pleats are also stitched to a waistband. The back skirt is pleated and sewn to a separate smooth back piece.

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Green open robe. (I am aware that the grid pattern isn´t aligned, but historically they didn´t seem to bother with that particular detail.)

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Green open robe. My fingers were freezing so it was difficult to take sharp photographs.

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The front is gathered to the small back. The edges are not finished.

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Different mannequin with better fit.

Then I made a pink one, in a modified version. It has three quarter length sleeves and the front is gathered with drawstrings, so that the size can be adjusted to the potential person(s) wearing it. The lovely printed cotton is manufactured by Duran textiles.

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Seen here over the white linen chemise.

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I am rahter pleased with how the back turned out.

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Terrific print!

Conclusion: sewing for imaginary people is difficult (What if nothing fits?!) but sewing this type of ladies garments is so much quicker than endless tailoring and pad stitching. I am now being creative with one or two new gowns, and they will be completely different!