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.

 

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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!

Happy Christmas

Dear all,

T’is the season to be jolly! Or is it? I never comment on politics, but I have to say 2016 saw a world in turmoil. How did that happen? On a personal level I cannot complain, 2016 turned out to be rather terrific. One week before Christmas, for example, I had the opportunity to see this gorgeous carriage up close. The painted decor does feel appropriate for this time of year, don´t you think?

It is a phaeton, or a curricle, an elegant carriage for the sporty and perhaps even adventurous gentleman driver. (Remember Willoughby and Miss Marianne in Sense and Sensibility, 1996? Or Sir Percy and Jane Seymour in Scarlet Pimpernel, 1982?) This particular carriage was used by the De Geer family in the 1790´s, and is now in the stable building in Leufstad, once their country seat with ironworks two hours north of Stockholm. This type of vehicle was very light, drawn by a single horse, and could go fast, just for fun. There is a seat in the rear for a groom or footman, though, so the gentleman (and his company) was not completely unattended. (On a side note: feeding a horse cost £30 a year, more than dressing the groom in his liveries and feeding him…)

Behold the phaeton! It is really elegant, isn´t it?

The snow is gone now, but this heavenly view greeted me when arriving at work one or two weeks ago.

Regencygentleman aka Mr Tigercrona

Let us pretend I wore Regency attire all the time. Tally ho!

 

Announcements

Baroque grandeur has replaced my usual Empire elegance. At least professionally. This autumn I moved on to a new position as curator at Skokloster castle, a magnificent baroque palace one hour from Stockholm. It is in fact the largest private house ever built in Sweden. That is the reason why there has been very little time for blogging. But wait, there is more.

Skokloster Castle was built 1654-1676.

I reached for my non-existing smelling salts when my new colleagues informed me on the second day that next summer we will show Costumes From The Jane Austen Adaptations! About five and twenty costumes will be shipped over from Cosprop in London! The ballroom-sized guest rooms were refurbished in the neoclassical style in the early nineteenth century and make the perfect setting for some of the famous costumes from Pride and Prejudice 1995, Sense and Sensibility 1996, Emma 1996, Pride & Prejudice 2005, and I think even Persuasion 2008. Yes, Darcy´s shirt is included and Marianne Dashwoods wedding gown. But so is at least one of Mrs Bennet’s frocks. How about that!  Of course I will write more about this as things move ahead. Now is your chance make a wish list if you need more information or certain closeups of specific garments.

This is what I do for a living. Sometimes life is good.

Photo by Regencygentleman aka mr Tigercrona

Greetings from my “office”.

Now the palace is practically a baroque-era time capsule. It is one of the largest and best preserved private palaces in Europe, along the likes of Blenheim Palace and Chatsworth. Unlike them, Skokloster is no longer a residence. It was sold to the nation in 1967, and has been a museum since.

Photo by Regencygentleman

The exterior was rather old fashioned in the 1650s, but perhaps Count Wrangel did not want to seem too nouveau riche.

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The King´s hall. The ceilings are incredible. A stucco dragon holds the chandelier between her teeth. The chandelier is hanging in its original place at least since 1672, which makes it the oldest known chandelier still in its original position. Photo courtesy of Skokloster castle.

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The Count Wrangel´s state bedroom. The bed hangings are in silk taffeta with silver spangles. The Wrangels were international jet set, and were given diplomatic gifts by people like Louis XIV and hired one of the Bachs as court musician.

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The Armoury. View of one of sveral rooms filled with armour, shooting guns, swords, and curious objects from the new world. The chest to the right holds unique garments and tools from Native Americans in Delaware, shipped over to Sweden in the 1660s. Everything still in place according to inventories from 1690-1700. Photo courtesy of Skokloster castle.

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The unfinished banquet hall. The Wrangels ran out of cash and the political climate became harsh towards the high-ranking nobility in the 1670s. The only surviving building site, complete with tools and machinery, since the seventeenth century.

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The Yellow Bedroom, used by one of the last private owners. (Seen on the desk alongside a signed photograph of Emperor, then Crown Prince, Akihito, who stayed at the castle in 1954.

The Library.

Enough boasting. Over to some costume talk!

Photo by Regencygentleman aka mr Tigercrona

Meet the new hobbit! Trying on garments used by our education officers. This particular servant´s attire is terrific, but seriously, if I am ever invited to a Lord of the Rings party, I´d borrow this and only add pointed ears and hairy feet…

Our selfie-spot, a baroque banquet.

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Eleven year-old Vilmer posing at the table wearing a 165os doublet I quickly threw together .

Can you believe it, I “inherited” a stash with bolts of linen and broadcloth! So I decided to sew a 1630-40s doublet for kids to try on in our family room. It was a fun and easy project, but I made sure to thoroughly starch the collar and cuffs with corn starch.

A grey satin had to be made into a 1660s bodice and petticoat. I used Janet Arnold´s pattern. This has taken me a little longer to finish.

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When visiting another version of a Jane Austen costume exhibit in July.

The Empire days of 2016

August and September were hectic months (in a good way!) so there was no time to blog, but – take my word – I wanted to. I even had to decline an organised outing (in Regency attire) to watch the new film Love and Friendship. Besides the official photographs from the festival are stuck somewhere, and I was not taking that many pictures. For this post I was able to rely on friends who generously allowed me to use their photos!

Back in November last year I was invited to join the organising group. I did not have to think twice before accepting, as I thought it would be great fun. (And a perfect excuse to meet with a terrific group of people on a regular basis. Who would say no to that?)

We only made a few minor changes, so the programme was similar to last year. This year´s theme was Love. (What else?) So the music was particularily romantic, and the dance programme included many particularily romantic dances such as The Duke of Kent´s Waltz. The Empire days started with a dance-class on Thursday evening. I was occupied elsewhere, but I believe it was useful for those who needed to practise their dancing skills. I am by no means an expert, so various clips on youtube came in handy.

Friday was ball night. As one of the organisers I was early at the venue for preparations. One of my assignments was to set up a small exhibition in the parlour. I have blogged about it before, so I will not go into details, but the atmosphere in the historical manor house, Kristinehof, is unique.

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The ball started with a glass of bubbly in the courtyard.

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A Wedding breakfast in the parlour. Anders wrote most of the texts for those who wanted to learn more about courtship, wedding, and married life in the early nineteenth century.

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My contribution was to set the table for a wedding reception. This era saw the rise in popularity for intimate but elegant wedding ceremonies, often at home, with a few select guests mingling over tea, cake, wine, and sweets. We served bisquits, candied rose-petals and lilacs on East-Indian porcelain. An imported pineapple was extravagant.

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An ouverture before the first dance. Eager dancers listening to lovely tunes from the orchestra in the ball room.

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The orchestra and Mrs Löfgren, our Dance Master. Photo courtesy of Ulrika Rosander.

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Quadrille!

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Our photographer, Miss Lillemor. Photo courtesy of Ulrika Rosander.

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There was dinner and desserts! Photo courtesy of Olof Rosengren.

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Saturday was picknick-day. We met up in the Haga-park, one of the royal gardens. There was no fixed time. People could chose to stay throughout the day or only drop by. I needed a sleep in and had to rest my tired feet, so I was what could be described as “fashionably late”. It was the first outing for my new pantaloons and the striped waistcoat.

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The Echo Temple (1790) is perfect for dancing.

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Picknick and mingle on the lawn. Photo courtesy of Jenny Björkquist.

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Miss Annelie and the crocquet cart. Photo courtesy of Jenny Björkquist.

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There were many of us on the lawn in front of the Royal pavilion. Photo courtesy of Keit Svensson.

Photo courtesy of Jenny Björkquist.

The centre of events: dancing in The Echo Temple. One of the few full length views of my new pantaloons and waistcoat. (The pantaloons look baggy, but i assure you they were not.) Photo courtesy of Jenny Björkquist.

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And Vilhelm brought his harpsicord. (The rustic one in his collection.)

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The August night was dark but warm…

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… but it was nevertheless nice with a cup of tea. It is always nice with a cup of tea…

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Rain was pouring down on Sunday, so we moved the second picknick to our friends house.

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After lunch we cleared the dining room to make room for some more dancing.

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Photo courtesy Paula Krumlinde.

I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend, I certainly had! This year I took time to actually engage in conversation – there were so many nice people to talk to. It is always interesting to discuss Jane Austen and share costume ideas, but of course there is much more beyond those obvious topics.

This post was not so much about costuming and sewing projects. There is more to come in that department later this year…

The 2016 Empire Days

A quick update: The annual festival is over, and what can I say? It was marvellous. I think everyone is happy but exhausted. 

This is one of the magical things we did:
 
There is more to come as soon as I have sorted my photographs!

Linen Pantaloons

Only one week to go before the glorius Stockholm Empire Days of 2016! My summer was oh so busy, going places, so I had no plans to make anything new this year. Before the summer I made the striped waistcoat that hasn´t yet been out in public, and I could have settled with that. But then I thought: Why not make pair of breezy linen trousers for one of the picnics? The decision was made the moment I found some perfect linen in the stash. Luckily there was (just) enough of it.

Photo by Regencygentleman

Cutting the required pieces. I measured my legs and googled patterns on Regency trousers for a quick reference.


Photo by Regencygentleman

Marking where to cut the front fall. (The two vertical pins, top centre.)

Later that evening I went online to do some additional research/find inspiration. And changed my plans. Why not pantaloons? As seen in Costume Parisien 1800-1806. Costume Negligé is perfect attire for a picnic. One should avoid going overdressed for al fresco dining. (And I naturally chose to ignore the “TRÈS Jeune Homme“…) And what a relief to replace the warm boots with white socks and shoes (or in my case the opera pumps). 

Trousers came in all shapes during the Regency, from very loose fitting ones to the extremely tailored pantaloons that hugged one’s legs like a second skin. They could be made in cotton, wool, linen, or stretchy knitted material. Sometimes these different types of trousers and pantaloons were very long. They could have straps that went under the shoe to keep the fabric stretched. Sometimes they ended somewhere mid-calf. Sometimes they were really full around the waist (“cosacks”). And let us not forget that breeches were still very common, not only for formal attire. 

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1806: Very long pantaloons disappearing into the shoes.


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Again 1806, but these trousers, and the ones below, are ankle lenght.

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1800: These nankeen pantaloons are very tight. It looks like one of those Incroyables and we won´t go there. (Well at least not this time!)

Notice how well fitted they are over the legs, but more loose over the thighs and around the waist? These extant pantaloons from the MET show us the trick: the fabric was sewn in the shape of the leg. See? And they also reveal the baggy behind. Why? More on that in a minute.

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Linen pantaloons, The Metropolitan Museum.


Photo by Regencegentleman

First fitting. Trying out the legs. How tight dare I go?

I wanted a quick project, but then there was something wrong with the sewing machine. I was unable to figure it out so I started to sew by hand. Again. Now I am glad, I suppose. Hand sewing is sort of my thing…

Photo by Regencygentleman

Stitching centre back seam. Then I removed the orange basting.


Photo by Regencygentleman

Then I realised the linen was revealing so I rustled up some gauzy cotton to line the entire garment.


Photo by Regencygentleman

This is where the self-covered buttons will go. The fall and fall bearers are nearly done.


Photo by Regencygentleman

The back is gathered to the waistband. Adjustable tape at centre back.


Photo by Regencygentleman

And the back looks like this when wearing the pantaloons.


Photo by Regencygentleman

Very baggy seat compared to the legs. So different from modern trousers!


Photo by Regencygentleman

Without all that extra material it wouldn´t be possible to do this, since the fabric hugs the calves.


Photo by Regencygentleman

The front and thighs are relatively smooth, but not tight. The fall edge needs to be finished, but I wanted to make sure it is going high enough.


Photo by Regencygentleman

This is going to be one snappy pair of pantaloons. 🙂

Almost done! Now I only have to sew on the buttons, make button holes, four at the top and three on each ankle. Then I am ready to go!

Need I say how flattered I am that the Frock Flicks team mentioned my previous post? As a long time follower I have the deepest respect for their work. Imagine that they actually took time to read this modest blog…

 

Seven Costumes and A Castle

Summer greetings to all of you! I have not travelled to the Lake District, nor have I picked strawberries. But I have seen an exhibition that might interest you. First, some familiar faces. All of them are formidable actors portraying some of our favourite Jane Austen-characters. Now, what do these have in common?

Lizzie and Darcy

This week I saw these very costumes!

This lovely photo caught my eye some time ago:

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It is promotion for the summer exhibition at Tjolöholm Castle: Costumes from three famous Jane Austen adaptations! These fine ladies and the gent are reenactors based on the westcoast, so I am not acquainted with them. Back in June there was a Regency style picknick and they have arranged one or two themed afternoon teas. It is some hours away from Stockholm, and with work and all, I was unable to attend.

On a peninsula on the Swedish westcoast, overlooking the sea, is Tjolöholm Castle. It was built around 1900 by the wealthy Dickson family of Gothenburg. They had Scottish/British ancestry and chose to build their country retreat in the Arts & Crafts style with furnishings from Liberty. The castle is now a museum. Read more about it here. Dear Mrs E and I decided to pay them a visit.

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Tjolöholm Castle.

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English gardens overlooking the sea.

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Photography was not allowed inside the castle, but I quickly took this photo before the tour started. This impressive steampunk-esque chandelier was hanging over the billiard table.

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The Dicksons installed several state-of-the-art bathrooms.

All of this is lovely. You are only allowed inside on a guided tour, which we enjoyed, since it was our first visit. But our main reason for going there was of course the exhibition.

A perfect way to build up ones expectations was to visit the café in the old stables. There was a space with a generous amount of garments that visitors were allowed to try on. They were provided by students at the Gothenburg costume academy, and they were really well made. (I admit, I examined several of them up close.) Unfortunately there was a rack with Elizabethan costumes as well, a bonus from last year´s summer exhibition with costumes from the Cate Blanchett Elizabeth films, which obviously caused some confusion. Too bad since the general Swedish public still seem to have a limited idea of Regency era fashions. No wonder then that a handful of nice spencers in colourful velvets were hanging with Tudor doublets, and a farthingale-thing was mixed with the empire frocks. The museum should either remove the 17th century garments or put really obvious tags on them.

So over to the stars – the costumes, provided by Cosprop. These were on display in the castle, on the third floor. You had to go on the guided tour to get there, and the group was given just enough time to enjoy the exhibit. Photographs were allowed. What a treat it was! I suppose these costumes have been on tour for years now. (I have vague memories of seeing quite many of them back in the late nineties.)

Anyway, who could forget the unexpected encounter between Lizzie Bennet and Mr Darcy at Pemberley? The famous pond-scene that started Darcymania and made Colin Firth a star? Just to remind you:

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Awkward encounter at Pemberley. Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet and Colin Firth as Mr Darcy. The BBC Pride and Prejudice, 1995.

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The famous shirt! With the breeches, boots, and additional garments on the bench. (The boots should have wooden boot trees or they loose their shape and the leather might crack.)

The costume designer for Pride and Prejudice (1995) was Dinah Collin, and she was awarded with an Emmy for her outstanding work. I still think the costumes are very good, and they continue to be an inspiration to many of us. Keep in mind though that they are theatrical costumes, not extant garments, and therefore an interpretation of the era. Someone commented on the unlikely usage of the same pattern for all of Lizzie´s frocks and the “pretty” girls are always wearing low cut evening gowns, even at daytime. Read more about these issues over on Frock Flicks. IMHO the gentlemen´s costumes were perfect, from fashion-forward Darcy and Bingley, to the more conservative Messrs Bennet, Gardiner, and not the least , Collins.

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I am not entirely sure I liked this display. The other fine garments on the bench just like that? Most visitors in our group just hurried on, unaware of the importance of this “relic”. I fully understand a museum like this works on a budget and staff is limited. But the iconic shirt was simply lacking the drama. I would have given it more space, and had added at least some images of Colin Firth as Mr Darcy. Why not more about the attention in media back in 1995? Explain the basics of gentlemen´s fashions during the Regency? There were some leaflets nearby, I admit, but I wanted to use those precious minutes on the actual costumes.

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This image is from the internet. It is possible that the boots have wood blocks here and the coat, waistcoat and hat are arranged differently. It looks more tidy.

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Still a bit disturbed by this (thinking that I would have added some quiet music in the background, soundtrack?), but moving on to Lizzie Bennet´s gown, spencer, and bonnet. What I did like was the possibility to get really close, something that is rare in a museum. (This is probably the closest I ever get to Jennifer Ehle…)

Photo by Regencygentleman

A closeup of the spencer. A nice cinnamon coloured linen (or wool?) with fine details. The gown was made of cotton, with the print used inside out. I tried to determine if  the garments were hand sewn, but it was difficult to tell.

Photo by Regencygentleman

Nice diamond-shaped back with piping.

In three adjoining rooms were costumes from the Ang Lee/Emma Thompson Sense and Sensibility (1995). This story is set a few years earlier, somewhere in the late 1790´s. The silhouette is slightly different from P&P; we see fuller skirts, and narrow, 3/4 sleeves. Costume designers Jenny Beavan and John Bright were nominated for a Bafta and an Oscar, and they certainly did a great job! My favourite costumes among the gents are seen on Colonel Brandon, Sir John, and that awful Willoughby. Their costumes were not included in this exhibition, though.

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Marianne Dashwood (Kate Winslet, hello!) wearing the pelisse and bonnet…

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… that were in a room where you could only stand in the doorway. (Apologies for looking like a stalker.) I find this particular type of pelisse or coat rather uninteresting. But I like the bonnet and the floral sprigged dress, which is barely visible.

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It looks like this dress (far right). I would gladly have seen more of it. (Sense and Sensibility, 1995)

Publicity photo from Sense and Sensibility (1995): Emma Thompson and Hugh Grant as Elinor Dashwood and Edward Ferrars. (They were young back then!) Both of these outfits were on display, but in separate rooms.

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Costumes worn by Edward and Elinor. The lavender gown is of course the one Elinor wears to the ball in London:

The gown is nicely executed. I managed to see hand stitching at the belt and the trim, and the hook-and-eye closure. This is also a good example on the importance of correct undergarments. Emma Thompson is wearing a pair of good stays, that make the most of her assets.

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Edward´s tailcoat looks perfectly fine here, but I always thought the fit was too loose on Hugh Grant. (Of course this shows that his character Edwars Ferrars is completely uninterested in trivial things such as fashion.) The striped double-breasted waistcoat is easy to reckognize.

Photo by Regencegentleman

Wait a minute. This tailcoat looks very tailored. Not nearly as loose fitting as Hugh Grant´s coat above. If going by the cut of the collar, structure of the weave, and colour, I say it is a coat worn by Edward Ferrars, yes, but by Dan Stevens in the 2008 miniseries Sense and Sensibility. What do you think?

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Again, Dan Stevens as Edward Ferrars, in the 2008 Sense and Sensibility. Look at the m-notch collar and the light gathering on the sleeve cap. Hmm.

Photo by Regencygentleman aka Mr Tigercrona

Moving on to Elinor´s other gown, the checked cross-front that we see a lot in the film.

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Elinor (Emma Thompson) wears this gown many times, including the important proposal scene.

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Closeup of the sheer embroidered trim. Notice how the muslin apron is buttoned on. When Elinor is doing heavier gardening in front of the cottage she covers it with a thicker apron:

The exhibition had one final costume, and that was something completely different: A robe a la Francaise. This is from the 2005 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. (The “Keira Knightley” or the “Pig” version.) This time they decided to move back the story to the 1790´s when Jane Austen originally wrote the novel. This means transitional fashions between the Georgian era and the Regency. Was it good or not? This has been discussed ever since. Here, and here. Costume designer Jacqueline Durran was nominated for a Bafta and an Oscar.

The purple gown was worn by no other than the great Judi Dench as Lady Catherine de Bourgh. This portayal is not my favourite. Judi´s Lady Catherine is hot tempered and feisty, not as sly and manipulative as Lady Catherine in the 1995 version. Judi Dench is also very tanned, which Lady Catherine most certainly wouldn´t be. It is nevertheless a splendid gown.

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Judi Dench as Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Pride & Prejudice, 2005. Gorgeous hair!

To sum this up: The exhibition was small and tucked away in this castle, but should be a treat for every dedicated Jane Austen-fan. Have you seen any of these costumes? Do tell!

 

Cravats and Stocks: Regency Neckwear

If you are dealing with eighteenth or nineteenth century gentlemen´s fashions you will sooner or later come across discussions about a certain detail: the neckcloth, also known as the cravat or possibly the stock. What exactly did gentlemen wear around their necks?

Any chap during the Regency era would feel terribly undressed without the tall collars and the neckcloth.  The contrast between starched white linen and a dark coat is striking. It frames the face in a flattering way. At the time one sought to create the illusion of one´s head resting nobly on a Grecian column. The greatest dandy of them all, Beau Brummel, is often given credit for the look. His doings have been described so often, so I will leave him at that.

Cravats are basically a length of fabric tied around the neck in a knot. But are the cravats triangular or rectangular? Exactly how stiff is it supposed to be? If I was planning to make a new cravat – should I look for bleached linen of finest possible quality or readily available cotton batiste? Or silk? What is historically accurate?  There seems to be different opinions on that matter.

Perhaps I am a fool, but I decided to make an attempt to sort out the intricasies of the cravat, mainly through portraits and some extant examples, and I wrap it up with showing you a couple of basic knots.

Let us begin with taking a look at some portraits:

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Richard Cosway: Portrait miniature of a gentleman, “wearing blue coat with gold buttons, tied stock and frilled cravat”, 1790. The softer look of the Georgians is transforming into the high collar and stiff cravat of the Regency. Is he actually wearing a stock AND a cravat? I thought the frill came with the shirt…

Directorie dandy

A-L Girodet de Roucy-Trioson: Portrait of J. B. Belley (detail), deputy for Saint-Domingue, 1797. Musée National du Château, Versailles. A nonchalant cravat paired with a frilled shirt. The amount of fabric and the ends suggest that this is a square folded into a triangle.

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Francisco de Goya: Portrait of Marques de San Adrian, 1804. Museo de Navarra. Large knot with the short ends pointing in different directions.

autoportrait 1805, Jean-Francois Sablet

Jean-Francois Sablet: Self portrait, 1805. Collar, cravat (or stock), and frill. The knot is so small it nearly blends with the frill, so is Monsieur Sablet actually wearing a stock?

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Francois Xavier-Fabre: A Young man, 1809. Scottish National Gallery. Similar style, but the overall effect is well-starched crispness.

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M-J Blondel: Portrait of Pierre-Jean-George Cabanis, c. 1810. Frill is gone but the collar is higher than ever. Is this a stock, with the ends tied in front? It seems very stiff, yet loose fitting. Does the shape of the ends suggest a triangle shaped cravat?  And the stiffness leads us to… starch.

Starch? Seems to have been essential, since it is so often mentioned. I wonder how stiff the cravats actually were though. They do not always look all that starched to me. (Just look at the Marques above.) Would it be possible to tie a neat bow if the fabric was stiff as paper? Or was it enough to starch only lightly just to keep the white crispness? (As opposed to labourers in soft neckcloths in different colours.) Or was it different depending on whether it was half dress or full dress? Anyway, rice starch would apparently do the trick – although I have not tried it yet. All that washing, starching, and ironing sure kept the maids busy. Especially if you discarded a neckcloth that didn´t turn out well. You only had the one chance.

Adventures with starch, an interesting discussion over on the Regency Society of America page. (Image borrowed there,)

Adventures with starch, an interesting discussion over on the Regency Society of America . (Image borrowed from there.) Note that the collar is made in two pieces: the upper piece is slightly gathered to a lower band. The frill is detachable. This image gives a good view of the equally starched cuffs.

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Good example of collar and frill, on another shirt. (I am not sure this is an extant garment.) The collar was either left standing or was folded down over or under the tie. Borrowed this image from excellent Darcy clothing.

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It is very similar to this shirt from Nordiska museet, Stockholm, that I had the opportunity to examine some time ago. It was obviously not starched at all, but of very fine quality. One difference is the closure with ties instead of buttons.

The neckcloth could be worn under or over the shirt collar. This is crucial for the result. During the eighteenth century before collars increased in height, they could be folded down before or after tying on the cravat. The collar would then be either completely hidden or visible like a modern shirt and tie combination. The overall narrower silhouette towards the end of the century saw the new fashion of keeping the collar upright with the cravat clearly visible.

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Baron Gros: Baron Gerard. Ca 1790. The Metropolitan museum. A folded down collar. (The collar is actually very tall, since it is folded down and still touches the jaw!)

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Thomas Lawrence: Portrait of Humphry Davy. Ca 1821. National Portrait Gallery, London. Only the very top of the collar is folded down over the cravat.

The often cited pamphlet Neckclothitania was published in 1818 as a satire that made fun of popular cravat styles of the time. The descriptions are written in a style that was entertaining but were probably not meant to be taken too seriously. They look like the same knots with very small variations.

neckclothitania-1818

 

The actual neckcloth was cut either as a rectangle or square. Sources differ, but there were basically three options when choosing the material: finest linen, cotton lawn, or silk, always white. Coloured neckcloths were introduced in the 1820´s, but the white neckcloth continued to be used on formal occasions, a custom that survives to this day. Shirts could be of a lesser quality since little of them actually showed, saving the finer material for collar and cuffs. I have always preferred the rectangular cravat, which in my opinion is easier to handle. Mine is about one foot (30 cm) wide and sixty inches (150 cm) long, hemmed and folded lengthwise along the middle. The ends are cut straight along the grain of the fabric and are consealed by the waistcoat. Another option is to cut them diagonally, which gives a nice finish when tying a knot with exposed ends. When the neckcloth is a square, about one yard on each side, it is first folded diagonally, then folded again and again until a suitable width.

An alternative to the cravat was the neck-stock. This might come as a surprise to you. At least I have never given it much thought before. The stock is essentially a pre-tied cravat. This was the most formal neckwear, a collar or band of white material of a fine quality, carefully pleated horizontally to fit over a shirt collar and tightly around the neck. They could be without folds too, and were then stiffened with paper and sometimes even boned like stays. Military officers often wore black stocks, made of fabric or leather. The stock had tabs in the back that tied, buttoned or buckled together with a metal buckle. Buckles were commonly used because they were easier to adjust and they kept the stock firmly in place. During the eighteenth century the stock often had a decorative ruffle,  jabot, gathered at the front. This is the cause of some confusion, I think. Another version (that still exists today) is the stock with hanging linen bands, known as short bands. These stocks represented the learned professions, clergymen, barristers, and academics. This looks very much like a cravat with the decorative ends hanging down, covering the shirt breast. Sometimes when a gentleman desired a nice knot or bow, a cravat was tied on top of the stock. I think they simply led a parallell existence. The stock was in use in civilian fashion through the 184os-1850s (and came in different colours), before shrinking into the narrow clip-on bow tie of the late Victorians.

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Impressive black stock on Marshal Bernadotte of France, later king Karl Johan of Sweden. Ca 1805. Painting by Joseph Nicolas Jouy, after François-Joseph Kinson. (detail)

Neck stock 1

“This stock is beautifully constructed from a lavish amount of material–62 inches of fine semisheer cotton gathered into the three-inch wide linen tabs that fastened at the back of the neck.” Colonial Williamsburg, Acc. No. 2008-114

 

Neck stock 2

White linen neck stock consisting of fabric gathered at each end to linen tabs with fine cartridge pleating. One tab has a single buttonhole for receiving a removable stock buckle with a T-shaped chape. Colonial Williamsburg, Acc. No. 2011-2

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Stock and a fancy buckle. Image from Nadelmaid.

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Elegant silk stock with the ends tied in a elaborate knot. Nordiska museet, Stockholm. 1820´s.

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Neckcloth, in unstarched and badly tied condition. Nordiska museet, Stockholm. I photographed it, but failed to examine it more closely, so I cannot say if it is a stock or a neckcloth. At the time I thought a stock but now I think the latter. The image on the table shows an interesting detail: top collar sewn to a neckband. This would sit under the neckcloth with the ends showing under the chin. Is this the beginning of detachable collars?

No scroll back to the portraits, and do tell if the gentlemen are wearing a cravat or a stock!

I thought I would share my two favourite knots that even the beginner can master, considering that valets or personal servants are scarce in our day and age: The Mail Coach and The Barrel. They have been described many times. I borrow the following from Kristen Koster:

The Mail Coach or Waterfall Knot
This knot is simple enough to require no assistance in type, yet quite distinguished looking. The Mail Coach or Waterfall is made by tying the cravat with a single knot, and then bringing one of the ends over, so as to completely hide the knot, and spreading it out, and turning it down in the waistcoat.

1. Hold one end of the cloth in your right hand and the other in your left so the cloth is stretched out.

2. Find the midpoint of the cloth and place it at the front of your neck. Wrap the right side of the cloth behind your neck so the right end of the cloth comes out on the left side of your neck.

3. Wrap the left side of the cloth around the back side of your neck so that the end comes out on the front right side. Repeat if your cloth is long enough, layering the cravat so that it covers your entire neck. Leave at least a foot of slack on the ends of the cloth for tying.

4. Bring the ends of the cloth to the front. Place the left piece of cloth over the right piece of cloth to create an “X”. Pull the end of the top layer of cloth through the hole made at the top of the “X”.

5. Tighten the knot at the top of your neck. Arrange the top layer of cloth so that it covers the bottom layer and hides the knot. Spread the top layer of cloth so that it lies flat against your chest.

Photo by Regencygentleman aka mr Tigercrona

The Coachman or Waterfall Knot.

The Barrel Knot:

1. Repeat step 1-4 above. Make sure the ends are long enough.

2. Tighten the knot, and position it in the centre against the lower part of the cravat and collar. Now use the ends and tie another knot, and pull as tightly as desired. Arrange the ends down both sides of the shirt buttons.

Photo by Regencegentleman aka mr Tigercrona

My cravat tied in a basic knot, known as the “barrel knot”. I remember I was quite happy with the result.

 

Photo by Regencygentleman

A closeup of my basic knot. This one is not so tidy. The cravat is unstarched.

 

Conclusion: when looking at cravats and collars from the 1790´s to the 1810´s it is evident that they came in different shapes and used different techniques. Factors such as social status and place of geography propably made an impact, but I like to think that ones personal taste had a say in this,

So do not be afraid to experiment! I welcome comments if you have experienced the triangular cravat or tried the stock. Or starch!

 

A Regency Dinner or Posing on the Stairs

Two of my costuming-friends, Ylva and Jacob, recently moved to a new house, and a couple of weeks ago they invited Regency friends for dancing and a bring-and-share dinner. It was a nice change, considering that we normally assemble in various public spaces. I did not take any photographs, but we had a spur of the moment session in the grand stairs before dinner, and Matilda and Johanna generously shared some pictures afterwards. I wore my standard attire: green tailcoat, shirt, cravat, pink linen waistcoat, breeches, stockings, and slippers. (Wearing full gear on the metro in rush hour was not so fun.) It looks like I was there on my own, but there was quite a crowd. Needless to say it was a terrific evening!

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Apparently posing comes naturally – one is damaged by years of researching portraits by Reynolds, Gainsborough et al. Photo courtesy of Matilda Furness

Regencygentleman

Photo courtesy of Matilda Furness

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I could live in a house with stairs like these. Photo courtesy of Johanna Paulsen

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Photo courtesy of Johanna Paulsen

Alba

Alba made this very appropriate chocolate cake.