Preening Like a…?

The very first event I went to in Louisville when we moved here more than two years ago was the annual Jane Austen Festival–the largest event of its kind in the country. Custom Wig Company goes every year. This year, though, the festival was postponed because the local chapter of the Jane Austen Society was hosting the Annual General Meeting, which we attended as well. So this was the year that my boss decided to invest in her very own Regency outfit made by yours truly (she had been borrowing outfits up until now). After all, we are planning to expand the historical side of our business starting next year, so we’ll be upping our historical wardrobes as well as our cosplay ones. We’ve been discussing it and decided that the only reasonable solution to our growing wardrobes is to buy a beautiful Victorian mansion just to keep all of our clothing in.

Heather looked at lots of research images before we got started, but she kept coming back to one that she found on the very first day:

*Inspiration Image
We didn’t copy this outfit exactly, but we used many of the details for inspiration to create a single dress, rather than a dress and spencer.

IMG_0767 IMG_0768In order to mimic the front-closing V-neck of the inspiration image, the dress has an apron front with a cross-over bodice, meaning that the bodice is attached to the skirt at the back, but not in the front. This opening allows the dress to be put on without needing a split down the back. The bodice is then pinned to the skirt at the front to keep everything together. This kind of closure was very common in the period–you can even see the pin-marks on some extant dresses!

IMG_0769Since an under-bust sized opening wouldn’t be enough for anyone to fit through, the skirt is open a bit on each side. When the dress is on, a hook and eye at the top of each slit keeps everything proper. The seams below the slits are flat-felled–meaning they are finished by trimming one side of the seam allowance short, then folding the other over it and securing it to the skirt with a slip stitch. This encases the raw edges and keeps the seam nice and flat. I had a picture to show you what I mean, but, as it sometimes does, WordPress decided it had something against that picture in particular.

I put the lace along the waist in two pieces. Technically I could have put it all along the bodice edge in one piece, but I decided that I would rather have it on the skirt front, so that it wouldn’t get in the way while pinning the bodice. In the back, the lace was basted just inside the bodice seam allowance, then the skirt gathered on and stitched. I love the way the back gathers look on a Regency skirt with no back opening!

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IMG_0775 IMG_0776The top of the skirt front got a very narrow hem. I then gathered the lace right along the edge and stitched it on. The top will be covered up when the bodice gets pinned on.

IMG_0797The inspiration photo only shows the bodice, so I got to have fun on the skirt. Heather is the proprietress of our shop, so I wanted things to look elegant and sumptuous–I went with two deep (6 inch wide!) ruffles trimmed with matching velvet ribbon for depth of texture. Ruffles lend weight to the hem of a gown, which helps it hang gracefully even without the aid of a petticoat–though we definitely plan to add one of those to her outfit in the future.

The woman in the miniature is wearing a spencer with lace trim at the shoulders. On Heather’s gown, I decided to do a short puff sleeve with detachable long sleeve instead, which makes the gown more versatile (the long sleeves are basted in and can easily be removed for evening). I put lace and more velvet ribbon around the band of the short sleeve, and velvet ribbon around the cuff as well. I just love velvet ribbon!

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The gown also has a silk organza chemisette with a high, standing ruffle to cap it off, but since I was completing that in a mad dash the night before it needed to be finished, I don’t have any pictures of the process. I do plan on making one for myself at some point though, so never fear! You can see the finished product in the photos of the compete outfit. Once again, I do apologize for the wrinkles–we took these photos at the end of a very long weekend:

IMG_0807 IMG_0808 IMG_0809 IMG_0810It was so convenient how the room we were in was practically designed to show of the color of this gown. It even goes perfectly with her cameo brooch and feather! We had a blast at the AGM, and Heather is already making plans for her next Regency look.

See you next time, when I will finally have completed the bonnet I said I was planning way back in my third ever blog post!

Wish me luck with that!


Green Goddess

These next two posts might be pretty short. I was in such a rush to finish things by AGM (the big annual Jane Austen Society conference), that I didn’t take as many pictures as normal.

I’ve been doing a lot of sewing for the past month, but you may have noticed, not as much writing. Not only did I have two complete Regency outfits to finish, I also attended the Burnley & Trowbridge Company’s pelisse workshop. More on that when I’ve finished the project, but I learned so much there may be brain leaking out my ears.

My big projects have been dresses for my boss and one of my coworkers to wear to the AGM, where we sell hairpieces, take orders for wigs, and help people with their Regency styling. Both of their gowns were styles I’ve never tried before, starting with my coworker Meredith’s green pinstripe crossover.

Meredith was a bit leery of Regency style, and wanted something very simple and sleek. Like me, she’s only about 5 feet tall, and was drawn to the elongating v-necked crossover styles she found in her research. She requested plain long sleeves and no extra frills whatsoever–which I realized is a new challenge for me. I do love my ruffles.

My first picture, though, is of the one and only extra frill I did add:

I sandwiched this teeny-tiny edging in the neckline seam--lucky for me, Meredith loved it!
I sandwiched this teeny-tiny edging in the neckline seam. Don’t worry, though, I sent her this photo before I actually did it, and lucky for me, she loved it!

IMG_0712I just adore the fabric she chose–the stripes are so tiny that from a distance, the dress appears a lovely shade of seafoam, but the pattern becomes apparent as you get closer. Everybody at the company wants pinstriped dresses now–including me!

Here’s the bodice, ready to go, with the trim in place all along the neckline to the waist seam. I made the neckline nice and high for modesty and day-time appropriateness sans chemisette. I suppose she could wear one, but there wouldn’t be much room for it.

The sleeves have just a touch of shoulder-broadening poof without adding excess volume to the upper arms.

IMG_0738 IMG_0740Since the skirt crosses over and is open in front, it needed to be hemmed on the sides as well as the bottom. The dress is made of very fine lawn, so I used french seams on the skirt in order to finish them. I pressed the first seam allowance open so that it would fold more neatly when I made the next seam.

A front closing dress means beautiful, uninterrupted gathers in the back.

IMG_0742IMG_0743The skirt extends a few inches beyond the edge of the bodice so that the two front panels overlap as much as possible–we don’t want any peeking petticoats when she walks! (Especially since I haven’t made her any petticoats!) The top edge of the skirt has a very narrow hem until it disappears under the lining.

The waist is closed with a narrow sash made of a bias strip of the same material. (Fun Fact: Always seam together bias strips at a 45 degree angle–with the grain of the fabric–it breaks up the bulk of the seam and helps it disappear so that the join is almost invisible.) The sash is tacked around the waistline to keep it in place. There are also hooks on the upper neckline corner and on the inner skirt corners.

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And that’s it, really. No ruffles, no frills, just nice, clean lines. I love the way it looks on her (sorry about the wrinkles, we didn’t get around to taking pictures until the last day):

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Obligatory plug for my awesome job: Meredith has a blonde bob in real life–this gorgeous ginger Grecian is the same wig she uses to cosplay Ginny Weasley from Harry Potter. Custom, hand-tied, human hair wigs may be expensive, but they sure are versatile! Case-in-point: I’m about to go style mine, which has already served me very well in 1816 and 1822, into a style from the 1790s!

I’ll be back next week with more about Custom Wig Company’s AGM style! In the meantime, like my new Facebook page to see updates about current projects and events, and follow me on Instagram (@fabricnfiction) for event photos, projects, and cats trying to “help”.