A simple Regency chemise

One of my goals for the Historical Sew Fortnightly, both 2013 & 2014, has been to expand my Regency wardrobe.

So far, progress has been slow.  I’ve made mitts, and my 1813 Kashmiri dress is a thing of beauty and a joy forever, but my wrap corset a la paresseus is a disappointment on.

But look, now I finally have a proper chemise, so I can stop wearing my 1880s ones under my Regency dresses!

Linen Regency chemise thedreamstress.com

(and I just feel the URGENT need to point out here that I’m wearing a bra, camisole, knickers, tap pants, and a slip under the chemise, so any weird shadows in the photo are JUST weird shadows!)

It’s entirely hand sewn, in a lightweight (not quite handkerchief weight) linen I picked up at Fabric-a-Brac for $5.

Linen Regency chemise thedreamstress.com

The chemise is classic fabric-saving geometric construction: one rectangle for the body, little rectangles for the sleeves, the extra fabric cut into long triangles to add width to the chemise, and square gussets under the arms to help with movement.

Linen Regency chemise thedreamstress.com

All the seams are flat felled, to reinforce them and hide any raw edges.  There is something so wonderfully satisfying about hand sewing flat felled seams on nice linen!

Linen Regency chemise thedreamstress.com

I’ve been working on this for months, just as my bit of handsewing when there was nothing else on, but the vast majority of it got finished on a midwinter trip down to Nelson to visit my in-laws, where I sewed between rounds of scrabble and jenga.

I also got to sew somewhere quite exciting that used to be my most productive sewing place, but is now impossible except on tiny planes between obscure destinations (and even then I make sure to have my threads pre-cut, pack my scissors in my stowed luggage, and to use a needle I am willing to relinquish if the flight attendant isn’t sure it’s allowed).

Sewing a regency chemise, thedreamstress.com

To figure out the neckline, I put the chemise under the 1813 Kashmiri dress and copied out the neckline: low and square in front, dipped and round in back.

Linen Regency chemise thedreamstress.com

The chemise was finished well in time for the Under $10 challenge, and I got some quick documentary shots of it on Isabelle to post in the challenge album, but I just haven’t had the time to get photographs of me in it (and also, it’s been cold, and wearing only a chemise as outerwear when it is cold isn’t much fun).

Linen Regency chemise thedreamstress.com

 

This weekend I sucked it up and put on the chemise, and my corset a la paresseus, and a new pair of Under $10 stockings, and posed in the bedroom.

Linen Regency chemise thedreamstress.com

Unfortunately the wrap corset isn’t improving with time (sometimes I find I like initially disappointing projects much better the second or third wear), either in comfort, or in how it supports my bust.  C’est la vie.  Someone else will just have to wear it for me.

Linen Regency chemise thedreamstress.com

 

It’s still a really interesting garment, and at least I am very happy with the new chemise.

Linen Regency chemise thedreamstress.com

 

It fits just as I want it to, front and back, and the new (as in, not usually seen in earlier 18th century chemises) drawstring neckline provides just the right amount of snugging in.  I hadn’t originally intended to use a drawstring neckline, as there are plenty of examples of Regency chemises without them, but it was just a wee bit too open without it.

Linen Regency chemise thedreamstress.com

The Challenge: Under $10

Fabric: 1.5m of lightweight linen (found at at fabric fair for $5, and I’ve got a 30cm or so of it left)

Pattern: None, based on period examples

Year: 1795-1825

Notions: linen thread, cotton tape

How historically accurate is it?: 95.99% – almost as close as you could get with a modern recreation. Excepting the bias drawstring binding, the materials are virtually indistinguishable in fibre, weave, hand etc, the pattern is period, and the construction techniques all match those seen on period examples.

Hours to complete: Lots. Maybe 8? I’m a slow hand sewer, and worked on this while doing other things.

First worn: For the photoshoot

Total cost: $5 (about US$3.5)

And most importantly…

Does Felicity Approve?:

I think we can give this a wholehearted yes:

Linen Regency chemise thedreamstress.com

Linen Regency chemise thedreamstress.com

Rate the Dress: Plaid for outdoor pursuits in the 1890s

Last week I showed you an 1860s ballgown in very large scale pale green plaid.  Your opinions ranged from wholehearted approval, to feeling that the proportions between the plaid and the trim were just a little bit off, to one lonely unenthusiastic meh.  While most of you did like it and felt it evoked lovely images of Little Women, Balmoral and Gone with the Wind, there was something about the dress that kept many voters from fully committing to a round number: I’ve never had such a swathe of score.5 ratings!  The final tally was 8.7 out of 10.

This week we’re sticking with plaid, but moving on to the theme of The Great Outdoors, as I show you a walking suit in rust coloured wool with plaid silk taffeta.  With it’s practical dark hues, menswear inspired false shirtfront and faux bolero, and restrained ornamentation it’s very different in mood to last week’s ballgown:

The ensemble is described as a walking suit, but someone at the Mint Museum clearly had fun when they came to dress the mannequin for the photo.  “Hmmm…walking is a bit boring, and we have those antique skates, what if we make it a skating suit? ”  “Oooh, yes, and then she’s going to need that cute skirt-picky-upy gizmo that we have!” “And serious gloves.”  “Of course!  And then she should wear that little velvet toque with the funny puff too”. “But then it looks weird with no hair!” “Ummm…just wrap a scarf around it to hide that and hold it all on?”  “Perfect!”  “I don’t know…it’s missing something…”  “Oooooh!  I know!  Those 19th century sunglasses!”  “Yes!  Just the thing!  And then she can hang the silver sunglass case off her belt!”

(Is that even what that silver thing is?  I don’t recognise it and am just guessing here).

What do you think?  Does the whole thing say chic, cosy, elegant outerwear with a twist, or is it just wacky?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10

Rate the Dress: Whoa…that’s plaid!

I’m sometimes a bit sad when lots of people rate Rate the Dresses based on how a frock would look on them personally.  For me, a huge part of the joy of historical fashions is that there is a look and an era for every figure, and they allow me to enjoy all sorts of shapes that don’t look good on me, but do look spectacular on others (the world would be so boring if the only clothes available were ones that looked good on me).

So last week’s discussion on the richly brocaded 18th century gown, and how it really did look better on one particular figure, and how many of you rather liked it for that, was an absolute delight.  I’ve got to say though, I may not have the figure it looked best on, but I would wear that dress in a heartbeat, and lots of you agreed with me, because it rated a rather nice 8.4 out of 10, loosing a few points, perhaps because, as Daniel pointed out, it was gorgeous but still generic.

Switching our attention to this weeks offering, it’s a pretty good guess that if the title of the post is ‘Whoa…that’s plaid!’, the dress is going to date from ca. 1860.  Today’s dress to rate does nothing to change that expectation.

This 1859-60ish confection of taffeta and striped picot-edged bows is made from very large plaid in shades of green and ivory with narrow pink stripes.

Quite coincidentally, this dress, like last week’s frock, and the suit from the week before, from the MFA Boston.  I’ve been on quite a roll with their collection lately.  I’m not trying, but every time I find a frock that says something quite interesting (if not necessarily tasteful) to me, it just happens to be from the MFA.

 

What does the dress say to you?  I know a number of raters mentioned last week that they weren’t that fond of green.  Plaid can also be a bit touch-and-go on Rate the Dress, and this is a particularly distinctive, assertive plaid in its scale.  Does the expanse of skirt excuse the size of the plaid?  Do the bows keep it sweet and dainty, despite the boldness of the individual elements?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10

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Leimomi Oakes is the Dreamstress, a textile historian, seamstress, designer, speaker and museum professional. Leimomi is available for educational and entertaining presentations, textile and fashion advice, special commissions and events. Click to learn more

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