A quick update: The annual festival is over, and what can I say? It was marvellous. I think everyone is happy but exhausted.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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…
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?
This week I saw these very costumes!
This lovely photo caught my eye some time ago:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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:
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).
A not so well preserved garment was this striped silk and linen waistcoat:
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.
Something for the ladies: an evening gown, ca 1815-20. A fresh light blue silk, with cream-coloured trim.
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!
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.
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?
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.
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:
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.)
This turned out to be a long post! Next time I should report on the waistcoat…
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.
I have very little time at present, but my plan is to present the finished waistcoat in the next post…
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.
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.
Now for some more linen to cut the back!