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.

Pantaloons MET

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.

Kate Winslet

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?

Edward Ferrars

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…

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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

Regencygentleman

Photo courtesy of Johanna Paulsen

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Alba made this very appropriate chocolate cake.

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.

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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.

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The shoulder seam and view of the neck.

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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!

Another Waistcoat, part 3

Ladies and gentlemen, the waistcoat is finished! I have yet to wear it, but here is some picture proof to show you the result. Last time I was nearly there, but since then I made the collar, pockets, buttonholes, and general tidying up. About 95% is hand sewn. To speed the process I resorted to using the machine on one or two seams.

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Cutting the collar: striped cotton x 2 with linen interlining. It is about three inches/eight cm high and is not folded down. The linen is cut without seam allowance since it should only be sandwiched between the outer layers. I opted for vertical stripes rather than horisontal – as opposed to the actual waistcoat. Right or wrong? I thought it looked better.

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And here it is, sewn onto the waistcoat, meeting the lapel. The right end of the collar looks terribly uneven here, but it is acceptable inrl.

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The finished waistcoat: not a masterpiece but it will do. The lapels are a bit intimidating with their size and all that stripey-ness.

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The back in two layers of gauzy cotton/linen. Tabs in self-fabric ensures a better fit. I may have to sew an additional button on the inside to prevent the front from sagging as you can see here.

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Lapel and buttons.

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Another closeup. Hand-worked buttonholes! Functional pockets! (Although a closeup reveals the welt has the weave running in wrong direction – apparently the only difference between the right and wrong sides on the fabric – but who can tell…)

 

The finished waistcoat is not a masterpiece and I am not sure if it will ever be a favourite, but it will do for a picnic or two, and other events this summer. And it is nice to have a new addition to the wardrobe that wasn´t thrown together minutes before an event (says the master of procrastination). Are you on schedule with your current costume projects? Or are you one of those fellows who is occasionally sewn or stapled into a frock or other garment?

A Gustavian Masquerade in Van Dyck Costume

Photo by Regencygentleman

If judging by number of posts on this blog lately it may look like Yours Truly has had his attention elsewhere. However, that is not the case. Wigs have been styled and balls have been attended! I have much to tell so today´s post will be a long one.

This past month turned out to be unusually hectic. While toiling away at work I was invited to go with friends to S:t Petersburg (!) and attend the Nicolaevsky ball. The ball was organised by Russian reenactors, and was of course to be held in a gem of a palace. Dresscode was strictly Empire. Apparently several of the dancers were extras in the new BBC adaptation of Tolstoy’s War and Peace. Almost to good to be true, no? Sadly it was practically impossible to take days off from work, and I could not justify the expence at the moment.

I decided not to go, but fortunately I was able to dive into another costume event – an event that required very little travelling and no sewing: The Gustavian Masquerade Ball of 2016.

This ball is arranged every year to commemorate the great eighteenth century king Gustaf III of Sweden (1746-1792). Same generation as Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, he was a great patron of the fine arts, and he was fond of theatre in particular. He was assassinated (for political reasons) at the now infamous masquerade ball at the Royal Opera, on March 16, 1792. (Of course Verdi turned this in to his famous opera Un ballo in maschera.)

There was no time to sew a new costume. I would have to make do with something I already had. Lacking decent eighteenth century attire, and spending some time googling for masked ball-pictures, I realised I could use my old 1630´s costume and dress “á la Van Dyck”. I made the costume over a decade ago, and it consists of a doublet and breeches in blue silk, a short cloak in black velvet, and the characteristic cuffs and lace collar.

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Inspiration: Van Dyck costume. John Hussey Delaval, first Baron Delaval (1728-1808), by W. Bell, 1774. National Trust/John Hammond.

It was popular among the Aristocracy to be portrayed wearing fashions in the style of the cavaliers during the reign of Charles I, as seeen in so many paintings by the artist Anthony van Dyck. I suppose it was part of the newborn romantic interest in history. (Particularily in Britain. A better known phenomenon is of course the 18th century Gothic revival architecture.)

So, I already had a costume and I also happened to have a white papier-mache mask. It only needed some tweaking. I trimmed off the chin and part of the forehead, and added on a more pronounced nose. Then I covered it with white cotton for a smooth finish and replaced the elastic band with som white silk ribbon. (It certainly did the trick, several friends didn´t recognize me until I spoke!)

Notice that Baron Delaval is wearing fashionably old-fashioned clothes, but his hair is very 1774? Most portraits in this genre show that these gentlemen held on to their usual powdered wigs. And so would I. My plan was to do a 1780´s hedgehog hairstyle. Something like William Pitt the Younger:

William Pitt the Younger ?c.1783 George Romney 1734-1802 Bequeathed by Admiral John E. Pringle 1908 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N02280

Inspiration: William Pitt the Younger c.1783, by George Romney. Tate Gallery.

 

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I bought a reasonably priced wig of no particular quality. The package tells all.

Photo by Regencygentleman aka Mr Tigercrona

Unpacking the wig and channelling my inner rock star. Please don´t judge me. I had to start somewhere…

Photo by Regencygentleman aka Mr Tigercrona

Travelling back in time: a matter of moments, and it already looked more appropriate. Here I divided the hair in four sections: front, back, and one section on each side. I wanted more frizz, and intended to do tight rag curls, but changed my mind, saving time and thinking the hair had enough body, and only needed pins and pomade (hairspray).

Photo by Regencygentleman aka Mr Tigercrona

Nearly finished! Powder makes all the difference. Generous amounts of hairspray, and equally generous sprinkling of powder to get rid of the shine. I used a cheap body talcum powder from the chemist.

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Looks like a dead poodle here but I was happy with the result.

Regencygentleman aka Mr Tigercrona

So happy…

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The costume is a sky-blue watered silk, with gold trimmings. Here is a closeup of the wide breeches.

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I spruced up my opera pumps with some ribbon. I opted for dark blue stockings and blue silk garters.

Photo by Regencygentleman

A quick snap in the lobby while waiting for the taxi. The costume came with a lace collar and a short velvet cloak. (Partly hidden by the plant.)

The ball was magical and I really enjoyed every minute of it. It was well planned in every detail, from the music and dances to refreshments and decorations.

I often get questions about the dances in our repertoire, so below is the programme. You probably recognize the country dances but there were many quadrilles aswell. (All of the dances with Swedish names. I always confuse them so I made myself indisposed during one of them, and made sure to find able-bodied ladies for the others.)

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Needless to say, but the costumes came in a wide range of period-appropriate spectacular to understated elegance.

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There were two intervals when we could rest our tired feet while being treated to lovely musical entertainment.

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What better way to end this glorious evening than going upstairs and enjoying a late supper lovingly prepared by the wonderful folks at the manor?

Regencygentleman aka Mr Tigercrona

 

This turned out to be a long post! Next time I should report on the waistcoat…

Another Waistcoat Part 2

Last time I presented this new project. A striped waistcoat with two rows of self covered buttons. It is not a major undertaking but do you think I managed to finish it? No. But I have at least sewn a little.

I am using a version of the flatlining technique (there seem to be different methods out there!) that is rarely seen today (except perhaps in haute couture). Before assembling the garment, main fabric and lining are joined together and are treated as one layer. The separate pieces of the main fabric are sewn together with corresponding piece of lining, right sides together. The right side is then turned out. This gives more weight to my rather thin main fabric and it makes neat edges on at least three sides. To assemble the waistcoat the pieces are whip-stitched or seamed together. This is the same method I used when making the pink linen waistcoat.

Waistcoat Williamsburg

Inspiration: Waistcoat, striped pink silk 1780-1800. Origin: Europe or England. Pink and cream silk satin with horizontal stripe, linen lining. Double breasted style with lapels and standing collar. Horizontal pocket welts. Waistcoat is cut straight across at waist. Back of plain linen with fitting ties. Colonial Williamsburg.

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The two front pieces are nearly done. I am saving the bottom edge and top of lapel for later.

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The inside: facing and lining.

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A peek between the layers: (from top) lining/facing, interlining and outer fabric.

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The back is cut from a thin cotton-linen blend. It looks hand-woven (althouhg it is not) and reminds me of cheese cloth. I certainly don´t need another warm garment and this fabric lets the heat out.

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The back is treated in the same way as the front pieces (with the exception of interlining), two layers are stitched together, then turned right side out.

I have very little time at present, but my plan is to present the finished waistcoat in the next post…

Another Waistcoat

I made the bold decision to start the new year with a waistcoat. It is not a project of gigantic proportions, but something to keep my hands busy these dark nights. Striped fabrics were fashionable for several decades during the neoclassical period from the late eighteenth century until at least the 1810´s, or so. Gentlemen who wished to be a la mode could invest in a waistcoat with the stripes running either vertically or horisontally. With this in mind it is obvious that my Regency wardrobe is in desperate need of a horisontally striped AND double-breasted waistcoat. I found this fiercly elegant waistcoat online through Colonial Williamsburg. Who can resist it? I like that the buttons are relatively small and self-covered and placed in two neat rows, not too far apart. I also like the simple collar and the elegant lapels that are just there, without making a statement. If you want more details visit the Williamsburg website here.

Waistcoat Williamsburg

Waistcoat, striped pink silk 1780-1800 Origin: Europe or England. Pink and cream silk satin with horizontal stripe, linen lining. Double breasted style with lapels and standing collar. Horizontal pocket welts. Waistcoat is cut straight across at waist. Back of plain linen with fitting ties. Colonial Williamsburg.

A different waistcoat. (From where? Had this image for ages.) It shows the adjustable tabs even though it is unnessecarily bulky.

Costume Parisien 1811.

Come January and all, I am reluctant to spending a lot of money. Now, modern gentlemen´s shirts are often striped, aren´t they? After a look in my closet I found this rarely used Italian shirt. Heard of Alessandro Fellini, anyone? I guess it was rather expensive at some point, but I was not emotionally attached to it and decided to repurpose it.

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Many fine details on this shirt. Figured I would not likely wear it again, but the striped cotton is nice and the colours match my coats and breeches.

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Carefully cutting the pieces. The back had just enough material for the waistcoat fronts.

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The cotton is rather thin, so I decided to interline it with mustard linen, to give it some weight. Seen here with a strip of heavier linen to give support to the buttons.

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Inside of right front sewn here with the facing. It needed some piecing, so there are two seams following the stripes and one vertical seam.

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Again the right part, folded along the seam with the linen interlining sandwiched between the striped layers.

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There is a lot of work left to do, but couldn´t resist starting on the buttons. The cotton is woven in diagonal stripes, so I decided to use this effect here.

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I think these metal buttons work fine. Fortunately they are not too expensive. I need at least a dozen.

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Lapel and button.

 

Now for some more linen to cut the back!