Jane Austen´s World, Part 5

Since my last post I have been frantically sewing myself a costume for a ball in a different era (1680!). The film costumes are going back to Cosprop in London in less than two weeks, so I must hurry to walk you through the exhibition. (How on earth could it take me the lenght of a summer to do it?!)

The exhibition ends in the spirit of a Jane Austen novel: with a wedding reception. Three couples are lined up in the grand salon: Elinor and Edward, Marianne and Brandon, and Elizabeth and Darcy.

Jane Austen film costumes, Skokloster castle

Skokloster Castle

The painted baroque ceiling is stunning.

First, Jenny Beavan´s beautiful costumes from Sense and Sensibility (1995). The story ends with the wedding between Marianne and Brandon. The other couple to walk out to the cheering wedding party outside the church is Elinor and Edward. Despite all those unexpressed feelings between Elinor Dashwood and Edward Ferrars (superb acting by Thompson and Grant!) they end up getting married. Elinor is elegant in a printed muslin roundgown with a velvet spencer and a bonnet. Edward is dressed in black and white: black tailcoat, waistcoat, breeches and stockings. White linen shirt and cravat, and shoes with buckles. Nothing extravagant or avantgarde here, rather conservative and suitable for a country clergyman. They will settle in the parsonage on the Delaford estate and live sensibly – although comfortably – on 900 pounds per annum.

Costumes from Sense and Sensibility 1995. Skokloster castle.

The Ferrars, Elinor and Edward. Sense and Sensibility, 1995. Costume designer: Jenny Beavan and John Bright.

Emma Thompson and Hugh Grant as Elinor and Edward in Sense and Sensibility, 1995. This is of course the final scene outside the village church. Most people probably think it is a double wedding, but it is not. Elinor and Edward are already married and are acting as officiant/best man and matron of honour. (Explained by Emma Thompson in her film diaries.)

Costumes from Sense and Sensibility 1995. Skokloster castle.

Costumes from Sense and Sensibility 1995. Skokloster castle.

Costumes from Sense and Sensibility 1995. Skokloster castle.

Nice details on Elinor´s velvet spencer. The bows could be vintage. The roundgown has a delicate bobbin lace along the neckline and sleeves.

Sense and Sensibility 1995. Exhibition in Skokloster castle.

The bow in the back is never seen on screen but is a nice touch.

Sense and Sensibility 1995. Exhibition in Skokloster castle.

Costumes from Sense and Sensibility 1995. Skokloster castle.

The back, when we dressed the mannequin.

Have you noticed that Elinor is wearing this gown twice? It is first seen in one of the London scenes when the girls find themselves in a pickle, and Brandon turns up to help them. Emma Thompson in Sense and Sensibility, 1995.

Costumes from Sense and Sensibility 1995. Skokloster castle.

Elinor´s bonnet with all the trimmings.

Sense and Sensibility, 1995

Elinor and Edward in Sense and Sensibility, 1995.

Costumes from Sense and Sensibility 1995. Skokloster castle.

Edward´s suit. Very late eighteenth century, The restricted light makes it difficult to photograph black wool.

Costumes from Sense and Sensibility 1995. Skokloster castle.

Costumes from Sense and Sensibility 1995. Skokloster castle.

Elinor´s gown has a long train. This is still the 1790´s.

Costumes from Sense and Sensibility 1995. Skokloster castle.

Costumes from Sense and Sensibility 1995. Skokloster castle.

The table is ready for the wedding breakfast.

Marianne´s story is different. She falls passionately in love, gets her heart broken, and finds (a different sort of) love again. Dashing Willoughby is forced to marry another girl but loyal Colonel Brandon has been around throughout the story, and turns out to have qualities that go beyond the age gap. (In the beginning of the story Marianne finds Brandon a boring old man, he is at least 35!) This has been discussed for two centuries by now. Is she attracted to his quiet, gentemanlike manner? His interest in poetry and music? Or is it his estate Delaford and his fortune? Anyway, Marianne is fitted out in a magnificent gown in gold embroidered silk and tulle with a long train. The scene is over in a few seconds, so blink and you miss it.

Marianne and Colonel Brandon: Kate Winslet and Alan Rickman in Sense and Sensibility, 1995.

Colonel Brandon chooses to marry in his regimentals. He is transformed from an ‘old man in flannel waistcoat’ to a dashing husband. Earlier we were told that Brandon served in India, where ‘the air was full of spices’… Film scenes are seldom shot in sequence, so the wedding scene was Alan Rickman´s first day on set.

Costumes from Sense and Sensibility 1995. Skokloster castle.

Wedding costumes, worn by Kate Winslet and Alan Rickman as Marianne and Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility, 1995. Photo courtesy Jens Mohr.

Sense and Sensibilty 1995. Costume exhibit in Skokloster Castle.

Marianne´s gown and Colonel Brandon´s regimentals. The uniform consists of a red wool jacket with short tails, green cuffs and centre front. The jacket has gold trim and gold buttons, and a gold epaulette. White pantaloons and black hessian boots. A black silk stock and a deep red sash. (The sash was re-tied to the right after this picture was taken.)

Costumes from Sense and Sensibility 1995. Skokloster castle.

The open robe is in cream net fabric with straw worked standing collar and a long train bordered with open work straw braid and heavy gold and silver beading. The underdress is a cream gauze over silk, studded with tiny silver stars.

Costumes from Sense and Sensibility 1995. Skokloster castle.

So much work went into this gown!

Costumes from Sense and Sensibility 1995. Skokloster castle.

The net overdress with straw embroidery. This type of work was popular in the eighteenth century and several garments survive in museum collections.

Costumes from Sense and Sensibility 1995. Skokloster castle.

Marianne´s bonnet is a delicate veil and flowers on a wire frame.

A young Kate Winslet wearing the costume. Sense and Sensibility, 1995.

Costumes from Sense and Sensibility 1995. Skokloster castle.

Not the best picture, but here is a view of the back.

Costumes from Sense and Sensibility 1995. Skokloster castle.

Epaulette on Colonel Brandon´s uniform.

The final wedding clothes are from Pride and Prejudice, 1995. A spoiler alert is superfluous since we all know that Lizzy and Darcy end up marrying. Now, that IS a double wedding in the adaptation. (The weddings are mentioned only briefly in the novel.) Jane and Lizzy, the oldest Bennet girls, marry Bingley and Darcy. Dinah Collins designed the costumes.

A double wedding: Charles Bingley and Jane Bennet, Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet. Pride and Prejudice, 1995. The familiar faces behind them look very solemn, but most of them, except miss Bingley,  are extremely thrilled.

Pride and Prejudice 1995. Costume exhbition in Skokloster castle.

Elizabeth´s and Darcy´s wedding costumes, Pride and Prejudice, 1995.

Pride and Prejudice 1995. Costume exhbition in Skokloster castle.

Lizzy is wearing a lace edged, v-necked silk pelisse over a striped silk dress. Darcy´s attire is correct morning wear: navy tailcoat, cream silk waistcoat, white moleskin pantaloons, and shoes (pumps).

Pride and Prejudice 1995. Costume exhbition in Skokloster castle.

Pride and Prejudice 1995. Costume exhbition in Skokloster castle.

Decorative enamel buttons. A snap button keeps the little ‘belt’ in position.

Pride and Prejudice, 1995. Costume exhibit in Skokloster castle.

This is how it works: The pelisse and dress are partially sewn together. The striped skirt fastens with hooks and eyes to the gathered/pleated bodice.

Pride and Prejudice, 1995. Costume exhibit in Skokloster castle.

Pride and Prejudice, 1995. Costume exhibit in Skokloster Castle.

The enamel buttons are decorative as the bodice has hooks and eyes. There is a supportive under-bodice with a draw-string.

Pride and Prejudice, 1995. Costume exhibit in Skokloster castle.

Machine seams…

Pride and Prejudice 1995. Costume exhbition in Skokloster castle.

Gathered sleeves on Lizzy´s pelisse.

Pride and Prejudice, 1995. Costume exhibit in Skokloster castle.

The fine lace continues around the back. The width of the skirt is gathered in two deep pleats.

Pride and Prejudice 1995. Costume exhbition in Skokloster castle.

Lizzy´s bonnet. It was created by milliner Louise Macdonald.

Publicity still of Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, 1995.

Pride and Prejudice 1995. Costume exhbition in Skokloster castle.

Darcy´s morning suit.

Pride and Prejudice 1995. Costume exhbition in Skokloster castle.

Darcy´s silk waistcoat and cravat. The linen shirt has a ruffle. (It is a challenge to tie a decent cravat when the mannequin lacks any type of neck…)

Pride and Prejudice 1995. Costume exhbition in Skokloster castle.

M-notch lapel.

Pride and Prejudice, 1995. Costume exhibit in Skokloster castle.

Darcy´s moleskin pantaloons. The fall and the waist buttons with two metal buttons respectively.

Pride and Prejudice, 1995. Costume exhibit in Skokloster castle.

Darcy´s watch fob with heart-shaped pendant.

Pride and Prejudice 1995. Costume exhbition in Skokloster castle.

Would you know it: There is no watch! A safety pin holds the fob (ribbon) to the waistcoat. Movie magic…

This costume is often seen in a set of publicity stills. Different pendant on watch fob, though. Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle in Pride and Prejudice, 1995. (Early still with a different wig on Ehle.)

Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth in Pride and Prejudice, 1995. Darcy is wearing a grey cloak in many pictures. I suppose there were several takes.

‘Three daughters married!’ A winter wedding requires an abundance of swan feathers. Alison Steadman as mrs Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, 1995.

It has been a privilege to study these famous costumes in detail. Of course they didn´t know it back in the 1990´s, but today they are regarded as relics in the Austen-Regency-costuming community. Not everything is historically accurate, but the astounding work they did back then continue to inspire us. Is there a particular costume that you were inspired by? Out of the ones above I´d pick Darcy´s outfit any day! Elinor´s clothes may not look very special, but they are extremely well made, so I have a soft spot for them. But why choose at all?

Regencygentleman

Looking a bit grumpy because the show´s near the end… This particular day I had a couple of guided tours and acyually managed to tie a decent knot.

Next post will be about some of the costumes I made for the staff and visitors to this exhibition. And I ought to post some pictures from the ball…

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Jane Austen´s World, part 4

My goodness, how time flies! Since my return from summering in the country I have practically lived in the castle (work, that is – when day job and costuming meet, you know) preparing for the ball. It took place this past Saturday and I will write about it as soon as the pictures are delivered by the photographer. This one I took the morning after, a torn piece of vintage lace and a lost earring:

On 17 July, I was interviewed by one of the major and very serious radio-shows, trying to explain why I think Jane Austen and her work is more popular than ever, not the least here in Sweden. There probably is a link somewhere but I am not sharing here since it is entirely auf Schwedish. Jane Austen was of course everywhere in British media on that day.

I have more fantastic costumes to share with you, so let us continue with part four. I hope this exposé isn´t beginning to be tiresome. If you are new here or forgot what costumes I am referring to, read earlier posts about the exhibition here, here and here.

Coffee is served and the card table is ready in the drawing room. Enter Anne Elliot. The first costume is her lovely gown in pale yellow silk, as seen on actress Amanda Root in Persuasion (BBC, 1995). She is standing next to her cousin, the heir to Kellynch Hall, William Elliot. A young Samuel West played Elliot. Their first encounter is at Lyme Regis, and Elliot is dressed in the buff overcoat. Later, in Bath, he is often wearing a moss-green tailcoat, striped cotton pantaloons and checked waistcoat. Alexandra Byrne (Elizabeth, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Finding Neverland) designed the costumes, and actually won the BAFTA TV Award, in competition with Pride and Prejudice (1995). I admit, the costumes are perfection! This adaptation has never been my favourite, but this year I have re-watched it several times and now I really like it, for being so true to the novel. I suppose I appreciate it more now when I am older…

Poor Anne is bullied by her horrible father and sisters. She certainly deserves a decent dress, doesn´t she?. This intrictate trim is hardly seen on screen.

Persuasion (1995): Ciaran Hinds as Captain Wentworth and Amanda Root as Anne Elliot. Costumes by Amanda Byrne.

Persuasion (1995): Captain Wentworth and Anne Elliot, here with cousin William Elliot, played by Samuel West.

This is the costume in the exhibition.

Mr Elliot´s cravat.

The mannequin is standing in front of a window, so it is difficult to photograph.

Daring combination, don´t you think?

Standing by the tapestry: Emma Woodhouse and Jane Fairfax, from the most recent adaptation of Emma (2009). Rosalind Ebbut designed the costumes. Her ambition was to introduce more colour and texture. Emma is wearing more vibrant colours than we have seen before. Ebbut wanted the ballgowns in shimmering pastels so she layered sheer fabrics, organza and net over silk taffeta. The girls are wearing these frocks to the Crown Inn ball.

Ballgowns from Emma (2009). The incredible suite of tapestries is French, and was a gift from Louis XIV to the Swedish amassador, Count Nils Bielke. The furniture is upholstered in British printed cotton, ca 1830.

Emma´s gown is a shimmering peach silk organza layered over silk taffeta,

Nice to se hand stitching on the belt.

And here is Romola Garai as Emma Woodhouse in Emma (2009).

Jane´s dress is pale blue net or tulle over white silk. The tulle is sprinkled with tiny sequins and the belt is silver metallic weave.

Laura Pyper was Jane Fairfax in Emma (2009).

Then we return to Pride and Prejudice. Formal wear this time: Elizabeth Bennet´s ballgown, Darcy´s black and white tails, Miss Bingley´s ballgown and Lady Catherine de Bourgh´s old fashioned robe à la Francaise.

I am referring to these costumes.

Lizzie Bennet´s gown in cream and gold. She is wearing it to the famous ball at Netherfield Park.

I am certain that Dinah Collin used sari silk. Look at the woven pattern on the belt.

Most of Lizzie´s dresses button in the back.

Lady Catherine and her nephew, Darcy.

Darcy´s tailcoat with breeches and white cravat, waistcoat and stockings, Very little has changed since then in formal wear.

I would wear this.

Four decorative buttons on each side.

Darcy´s pumps. (Secrets of the trade: only we can see that the mannequin´s feet are too big for Darcy´s/Firth´s pumps.

Judi Dench as Lady Catherine in Pride & Prejudice (2005).

This extravagant dress is Miss Bingley´s signature colour and design, isn´t it?

Intricate details on Miss Bingley´s gown. Dinah Collins said the haughty Bingley sisters would wear the Gucci of the day. The jewel silks are a contrast to the Bennet girls´innocent printed cottons.

 

Anna Chancellor gave a spot-on performance as unpleasant Caroline Bingley. Pride and Prejudice, 1995.

Most of my Regency garments are in my office this summer. Whenever I give a tour or do other work I can dress up in appropriate attire. The perfect mix of business and pleasure!

 

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.

A Coat, a Stock, a Shirt, and a Waistcoat: Extant garments

Nordiska museet (“The Swedish Victoria & Albert museum”) has a fairly new permanent costume gallery, but space is limited and the costume collection is extensive, so obviously there is much more in storage. So imagine the thrill when they arranged a handling session last week with garments from the empire era. Needless to say I was there early, but there was already an exited crowd outside the door. It was nice to find several friends among them so we chatted while waiting for our turn.

Nordiskamuseet-e1405678871911

Nordiska museet, Stockholm

The chosen garments were laid out on tables and anybody who wanted to take a closer look was provided with cotton gloves. (Yes we were actually allowed to touch them, supervised by the helpful conservators.)

The first thing that caught my attention was this elegant stock:

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Stock, ca 1820. This pre-tied cravat is in a remarkable condition. The silk taffeta is practically undamaged. Follow this link to the Swedish museum database for more information.

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Inside view of the stock. It is thin and weighs almost nothing. It is stiffened with paper.

It was great to see this dark blue tailcoat (1820-40). A tailor-made masterpiece like this should be seen on a person or at least a mannequin,  laid out on a table did not quite do it justice. Anyway, the coat had many details that are characteristic for the era: m-notch lapels, double-breasted closure, slightly gathered sleeves, bell-shaped cuffs with one button – understated elegance. Again the condition was so good it could have been brand new. Here is the link to the database (where I borrowed the image below, because it was difficult to take any decent photographs).

Nordiska museet coat 1

Nordiska museet coat

Neat buttonholes and prick-stitch. The lining is a wool and linen blend.

nordiska museet coat

Interesting to see the angle where front meets tail. Notice the short v-shaped seam? I suppose it is there to prevent the coat from loosing its shape and to protect from wear and tear.

A not so well preserved garment was this striped silk and linen waistcoat:

Nordiska museet waistcoat

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Nice details on collar (above) and pockets (below).

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I also noticed that the back, made of linen, was unlined. A showy piece of garment, rather than something to keep you warm!

One highlight was this shirt, or THE shirt. It was of a very fine quality, both in material and the way it was made, most likely by a skilled (professional?) seamstress/tailor. Every stitch was incredibly fine and most seams were flat-felled.

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The shirt has a ruffle along both sides of the opening.

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The gathering was microscopic.

nordiska museet shirt 2

The shoulder seam and view of the neck.

nordiska museet shirt

Closure: the shirt was never buttoned, but rather tied with this narrow ribbon. Notice the neat finish of the inside of the collar.

Something for the ladies: an evening gown, ca 1815-20. A fresh light blue silk, with cream-coloured trim.

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In this weird photograph I wanted a look at the inside of the bodice. Here the bodice is folded forward over the skirt.

There were three or four other gowns, chemises, a couple of frilled caps, and a pair of slippers.

Insights and conclusions? Well, as always I have the deepest respect for the amount of work that went into making clothes before industrialisation. You could not just walk in to a shop and buy clothes off the rack. It took some time and consideration to invest in new clothes. People in general had to make do and mend.

I am always impressed by the fine materials that were used and the microscopic yet perfect stitches they were able to make. And it is interesting to see the unfinished seams and surprisingly crude stitches on the inside. (We do like shortcuts, don´t we?)

Books, the internet, reproductions, and film costumes are good sources, but seeing the primary source – the real thing – with your own eyes is invaluable. (As long as you are aware of the limitations in terms of styling, proper underpinnings, posture, hairstyles, social status, etc.) But if you, like me, do not own a costume collection, do visit a museum now and then!

Equestrian Excercises or just Horsing around…

Dogs may be man´s best friend, but only two or three generations ago another four-legged friend was absolutely essential on so many levels: the horse. Different breeds of horses were everywhere, not only in the country, but in the city as well. Horsepower was needed for transporting people and goods, in farming, the army, the industry, and so on.

Photo by Maria del Carmen

“Good morning my dear Lady X!”

Society expected gentlemen to be good horsemen. (And – to a certain degree – ladies too, for that matter.) One was practically brought up in the saddle. By 1800 people enjoyed watching races, were involved in the prestigeous Jockey Club, and of course the fox hunt. Riding in the city was a fashionable pastime, as a way to see and to be seen. I admit the subject is not my forte, so please read more about horses and riding during the Regency here and here. (I have never given it a thought before, but have now realised that you find many, well, half dressed ladies and gentlemen when googling “regency riding”…)

Daniel_Gardner_Sir_William

The Heathcote Hunting Group, painted in 1790 by Daniel Gardner (1750-1805). It shows the Rev. William Heathcote (1772–1802), on horseback (son of the 3rd Baronet) with company.


darcy-bingley

Mr Darcy and Mr Bingley. (Pride and Prejudice 2005)

Now, with all this in mind, I accepted an invitation some time ago to join a photo session out in the country – with a very nice horse named Diva. I packed my Regency attire and joined my friend and fellow-model Helena, dressed for genteel riding mid 18th century style in black and red silk. We met up at the stables outside the city with Maria, our photographer, and her friend Caroline, owner of Diva. Maria also brought an additional 1750s-ish men´s outfit for me to wear, but it was made for a gent of a somewhat sturdier build, so those photos did not make it to this blog…

Following photos courtesy of Maria del Carmen.

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Photo by Maria del Carmen

Photo by Maria del Carmen

Amiring the estate. Yours truly was practically brought up in the saddle. Not. Please overlook any historical inacurracies regarding the horse tack.


Photo by Maria del Carmen

This could be the cover of a cheesy (but classy!) romantic novel…


Fooling around with a crow. I started the session wearing a rather loose-fitting 1750´s outfit.

It was an interesting experience to mount a horse dressed in full Regency attire. However comfortable they are the clothes restrict one´s movements. It is practically  impossibe to sit like haysack in them. It was also fun to observe the group of horses in the adjoining paddock. They followed every step we took and listened to our attacks of giggles, in full astonishment. Apparently we were an unsusual sight!

I had a wonderful day with Helena, Maria, Caroline, and Diva.

Photo by Regencygentleman

Quel horreur. In the afternoon my breeches looked like this. But I prefer a ripped seam rather than torn fabric. It is so much easier to mend…

A First Empire Tailcoat

When we visited the Rosendal Palace back in August, they had on display this mouth-watering tailcoat. Having seen it in various publications over the years it was interesting to see it in real life. It is a tailcoat in the formal court style as seen in many countries from the late 18th century and well into the 20th century. Variations of it is worn even today both here and there. This particular coat once belonged to the Marshal Bernadotte of the First French Empire, later King Karl XIV Johan of Sweden, and founder of the Bernadotte dynasty.

Frack,_fransk_marskalkuniform,_Jean_Baptiste_Bernadotte_-_Livrustkammaren_-_86920_tif

A dark blue single breasted tailcoat, with embroidery in gold depicting oak leaves and acorns. The buttons have marshal´s batons in the shape of a cross surrounded by laurel and oak leaves. France, 1804-1810. The Royal Armory, Sweden.

800px-Jean-Baptiste-Jules_Bernadotte,_Prince_de_Ponte-Corvo,_roi_de_Suède,_Maréchal_de_France_(1763-1844)

The coat (or a version of it) on its original owner, the dashing Marshal Bernadotte, Prince of Ponte-Corvo, and sometimes referred to as “Belle-Jambe” (“Pretty legs”). Painting by Joseph Nicolas Jouy, after François-Joseph Kinson. Notice the impressive black neck-stock, the feathered bicorne, and insignia – such as the Legion of Honour – and the marshal´s baton, a blue cylinder with stars and eagles (introduced during the First French Empire). It has the Latin inscription: Terror belli, decus pacis, which means “terror in war, ornament in peace”.

Jean Bernadotte (1763-1844), born in the town of Pau, France, into a modest bourgeois family, was a self-made man and had one of the most extraordinary careers ever. He rose to the rank of general in the turmoils of the French Revolution. In 1798 he married Désirée Clary, the daughter of a successful merchant in Marseille, and whose sister was married to Joseph, Napoleon’s elder brother. Mademoiselle Clary herself was Napoleon´s former fiancée.

On the introduction of the French Empire in 1804, Bernadotte became one of the eighteen Marshals of the Empire. He served as governor of the recently occupied Hanover, and as a reward for his services at Austerlitz in 1805 he became the Sovereign Prince of Ponte Corvo the following year. Napoleon could not fail to respect Bernadotte´s talents, both as a general and as an administrator, but he found his independence extremely vexing. Perhaps in an attempt to get rid of him, Napoleon offered Bernadotte the position of governor of Louisiana. It never happened.

In 1810, as Marshal Bernadotte was about to travel to Rome to take up the role of Governor General, he learned that he had been elected Crown Prince of Sweden (as the Swedish King was childless). The Swedes chose to overlook Bernadotte´s humble origins thanks to his qualifications, his personal fortune, and his position as one of the most loyal allies of the French Emperor.

The Bonaparte saga was short, but the Bernadotte dynasty is still standing in Sweden, and its descendants are to be found in the Royal families of Denmark, Norway, and Belgium.

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A closeup showing the guilt buttons and the embroidery.

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In this older photograph the coat looks rather worn. The report says the sleaves were altered or restored. Interesting to see a glimpse of the embroidery on the tails.

The coat was obviously never worn in Sweden, but ended up in the collection of the Royal Armory. Click here for a link to info on the database for Swedish museum collections.

This is a myth but but I cannot resist including it: During his reign, Karl XIV Johan allegedly would not allow his doctors to examine his naked torso. The explanation was discovered as his body was prepared for the funeral: the former Republican solder had a tattoo on his chest (some sources report it was the left arm) and among other Jacobin symbols with the words, Death to Kings!

A New Tailcoat! Part 4.

I swear, the clock ticks faster when there is a tailcoat to be done. It was a hectic week with this tailcoat project, work, dance practice – and then switch gears from frantic last minute sewing in a home scattered with ironing boards, scissors, pins, scraps of wool, and what have you – to graceful manners in genteel society. You know exactly what I mean, don´t you?

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Need I say I made it? Here I am arriving at the ball. But first things first. (Photo by Matilda Furness.)

 

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In my last post I left you with this, and was about to sew on sleeves. That was fairly uncomplicated, due to already having a toile (mock-up) so there was no need to adjust the fit over the back and shoulders.

 

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Cuffs in making: I drafted the pattern and cut three layers for each cuff: wool + linen + wool. With right sides together they were sewn on three sides (bottom and both ends). Corners were trimmed, then right side turned out.

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Cuffs done. Pressed, and mounted onto the sleeve. (Raw edge of sleeve sandwiched between the layers.) I did not bother with buttonholes. A few stitches keep the cuff closed, and the button is there for show. (For some mysterious reason both sleeves ended up with a crease just above the button. Have to partially unpick the seam and move end of cuff higher by 1/2 inch.)

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Pocket flaps (non-working pockets): top, in progress and below, the finished flaps. These were cut in one layer of wool and one layer of linen. Similar construction as cuffs. Top edges left open, raw edges folded in, pressed and basted on to the coat.

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Closeup of the finished back: Pocket flaps, and one button above each side vent. These heavy brass buttons caught my eye, even if I was looking for something thinner in filigree. Centre back seam ends in a horisontal seam that keeps vent in place. Everything looks terribly uneven here, but that is because the coat was photographed on a hanger…

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Collar: I needed to focus, so I completely forgot to take pictures of the pieces laid out flat. The undercollar was pad-stitched to embroidery canvas, pressed and steamed, and pinned to the coat. When position looked good I whip-stitched along the same line.

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Collar meets lapel (on right side of coat). I had to stand in front of a mirror and check angles, then remove coat, trim with scissors, pin, and back on. (I really need a tailor´s dummy!) The lapel is still unfinished here because it was difficult to decide exact angle before having the collar. The wool is folded and held in place with a quick running stitch through the canvas. (Pins would make everything uneven.)

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Upper collar was then sewn to cover the canvas. I folded the edges and whip-stitched the layers together. Here is a closeup of the collar (or is it a lapel?) on left side.

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There! And buttons! In order to avoid overheating, the back and sleeves were left unlined.

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And seen from the back. The unsightly creases are caused by the hanger.

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Did you ever see such refined elegance 😉

 

Friday afternoon was really warm and I was running out of time. When the last thread end was cut off it was high time to get dressed. And then off to the ball!

 

A New Tailcoat! Part 3.

So, I worked on the tailcoat this past week. This is when I was lining the tails:

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Right side of tails.

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Inside view of tail. Whip stitching lining to outer fabric. (The lining is very dark indigo irl.)

Then I was about to start on the collar and lapels – when I changed my plans. It was really going very well, padstitching done, but on Sunday afternoon I realised this wasn´t what I wanted… August and all, and here I was making this warm and cumbersome garment.

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After some quick research I made a big change to the design. I cut off half of the front and one inch off the tails (front edges). No photos of the process, but you understand what I mean with these following images. At a quick glance there is nothing new to see, but actually this type of coat has a more restrained design. It doesn´t close, in the same fashion as modern tailcoats. No flapping fabric.

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Le Beau Monde, 1807

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1807

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1803

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1805

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Le Beau Monde, 1808

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And a painting: Louis-Léopold Boilly – The Downpour c.1805 – detail

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Instead of this (as seen on Colonel Fitzwilliam in 1995 P&P)…

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… we have this. (As seen on Darcy in 1995 P&P.)

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Or this, if you prefer: Mr Bingley. (1995 P&P)

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The coat in its demolished state.

 

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But now with neatly stitched edges.

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Shoulder seams done.

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Some awkward angles in front of the mirror.

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New cut is promising.

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Weird without waistcoat and breeches, but you get the idea.

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Sleeves! Appears blue here but it is still same green wool. Two pieces. Slightly gathered to ease in.

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Sleeves pinned in place, right sides together, then basted with a running stitch. (White thread.)

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White thread is removed when the proper stitch is done.

Next time I hope to present a finished coat. (Complete with collar, cuffs, buttons, and pocket flaps.)

 

A New Tailcoat! Part 2

Weekend? What is a weekend? I know what I will be up to anyway. Sewing. 

Here follows a quick update on the tailcoat-status. Last week I made a new toile and cut all main pieces in wool, linen and (where required) canvas. Luckily my 2,5 metres was more than enough so it will be easy to cut pocket flaps, cuffs, and collar.

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Then it was high time to return to work after a long, glorius vacation. Perhaps not the best idea to start a new sewing project the same week. 

Below I was about to start padstitching the linen canvas to the front. When that was done I added some padding to the shoulder/chest area.

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I continued with stitching cotton tape to reinforce the bottom edge and tail.

Photo by Regencygentleman

Photo by Regencygentleman

Shoulders and side seams are quickly basted together to check fit. The tail lining is only pinned in place. I need to think a little bit more about the lapels, so I cut them very generously. (It is easier to trim excess fabric rather than adding, right?)

Photo by Regencygentleman

The back looks like a mess, but do not get upset. Only the middle back seam is done properly at this stage. I see now that the neck opening needs to be trimmed quite a lot. The padding is seen through the armscye.

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Oh, and I have stitched the sleeves (under sleeve to front). No photo documentation of that, though. Hopefully there is more to come after two days of work, so please stay tuned!

A New Tailcoat! Part 1.

One of the most anticipated events of the year is soon here. In fact, the date is coming closer at an alarming speed. I am talking about The Season. It is THE event for any person with the slightest interest in the Regency/Empire-period. Three days of music, dancing, and picnics in beautiful Stockholm. The highlight is a ball with live music and delicious dining in a lovely setting. Now, gentlemen are always scarce, so it is only my duty to make an effort, despite being an old married man and all. So, with only a fortnight to go, I have decided to brush off my tailoring skills and make a new tailcoat.

Photo by Regencygentleman

There is nothing wrong with the coat I made last year – the swallow tail, with a curved front, remember? However, the typical Regency style coat – with double-breasted front, cut straight off, and large lapels – would be a welcome addition to any Regency-wardrobe, wouldn´t it? Mine in particular… I am usually not a great admirer of double-breasted jackets (lot of material that creates bulk, and the buttons accentuate a horizontal proportion that can make the wearer – ever so lean – look short and stout). I will have to experiment with the placement of the buttons (self-covered, I think), to achieve more elegant proportions.

Over to my main source of inspiration: fashion plates and portraits from about 1805-1815. There are so many to choose from, but here is a small selection, showing outfits for daytime and evening. You have to admit the coats look darn good!

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This smart gent and the two below are dressed for morning or daytime. Replacing the boots with stockings and shoes makes the outfit more formal.

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Full dress, something you´d wear for a dinner party or ball. Bicorne instead of top hat.

Costume Parisien

Notice that they all have a fairly narrow space between the buttons. It could be possible to wear these coats unbuttoned without being hindered by unflattering amounts of fabric, weighed down by the buttons. The tails are short, they don´t reach the knee. The long, fitted sleeves are gathered at the shoulders (which makes fitting them easier). The shoulders are narrow. (Too broad shoulders cut like a modern suit loses some of the Regency look.)

A couple of portraits and an extant garment:

1815 William Owen Portrait of a Man and his Dog wikipaintings.org

Country stroll 1. Impeccably dressed. Portrait of a Man and his Dog, William Owen, 1815

 

Portrait-of-Count-Andrey-Bezborodko, Robert Lefevre,

Country stroll 2: Portrait of Count Andrey Bezborodko, Robert Lefevre, 1804.

Extant 1815 Kerry Auctions

And the real thing: a rare, extant garment, ca 1815. Sold at Kerry Auctions.

Material: This terrific moss-green wool is perfect. The day I found it I was a bit reluctant to spend any money, so I purchased only 2,5 metres (three yards). That means I will have to take great care when cutting the pieces. In our stash I found a bolt of dark linen that is perfect for lining, and odd pieces of heavier linen for interlining. Guterman’s silk thread in colour 02776.

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Pattern: I will use my toile from last year, with some additional drafting on the front and lapels. The two patterns below will be useful: Norah Waugh´s The Cut of Men’s Clothes and the one from the Danish Tidens Toj. They are found online.

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