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Rate the Dress: Regency furbelows

Last week most of you loved the Victoroco (or should that be Rococtorian?) fantasy dress.  There were some slight quibbles about the colour, and the bow on the front bodice, or the skirt draping (btw, as the grand queen of this blog I’ve decided that those of you who suggested it needed to be pulled up on both sides were wrong.  If you did that it would make her look too much like a porcelain shepherdess, and the fantasy would become cliche and would be utterly ruined), but the dress managed a very impressive 9.5 out of 10.

For all its popularity, Andreotti’s painting left me with a bit of a dilemma.  Where do you go from a rate the dress that included both the 18th and 19th centuries, and that had so many colours and details in it?

How about a compromise?  Regency – halfway between the dates.  Something with lots of colours and details, but with all the details agains a simple backdrop.

Portrait of an Unknown Lady, Henri François Mulard (1769-1850), ca 1810

So I present this unknown woman.  She’s got a lot going on: striped ribbon sash, Kashmir shawl, striped kerchief, garnet necklace and earrings, yellow kid gloves, gold diadem,  and ruffles around her sleeves and neck.  Is it too much?  Or do all the details add interest to the simple Regency dress?  Do all the colours clash, or harmonize into a portrait of a strong, individualistic woman?

Rate the Dress on a scale of 1 to 10

Ninon’s dress: sleeves!

After two toiles, and three re-pleatings/readjusting of the sleeves, Ninon’s sleeves are done.

Poofy balloon sleeves!

Or at least I’m happy enough with them to let them go for one wearing while I re-assess them. So typically me!

I pleated the top of the sleeves with soft knife pleats.  It’s less controlled than the stiff cartridge pleats on most extent mid 17th century sleeves, but I felt it looked more like the softer pleats on my inspiration piece:

Élisabeth (Isabelle) d'Orléans, Duchess of Guise by Beaubrun, 1670

The bottom of the sleeves are done with sewn-down cartridge pleats.

Sewn down knife pleats

I left a bit of the band at the bottom of the sleeve totally plain, as that seems to be what is going on in my inspiration image.   I think it will sit a bit better and collapse less when it has all the trim that is in the inspiration image.

The plain band at the bottom to allow the shift sleeve to poof through

I found the sleeve ‘wing’ really irritating.  I think it is a leftover transition from the Elizabethan shoulder wings, but as a transition piece it no longer really makes sense, and is just a bit of a hassle.

Irritating, mostly-pointless sleeve wing

I’m really happy with how the sleeves sit and look across the back.  All the convergence of lines and wings and pleats and lacing is so pretty.

The back

It’s not nearly as extreme as many extent examples, but modern posture has changed so much it has to be.

German bodice, 1660, 1889 sketch: extreme back lines

So, that’s the last of my actual construction done!  Now all that is needed is trim, and I am done, done, done.  Squee!



Ninon’s dress: binding the tabs

I’ve finished binding the tabs of the bodice of Ninon’s dress.

My bound tabs

I used kid leather to bind the tabs.  This may not be 100% historically accurate.

There are numerous examples of 18th century stays bound in leather, but I couldn’t find any extent 17th century bodices with leather bindings.  However, all the bodices I did find were bound in a different fabric from the main bodice fabric: usually a sort of ribbed tape.  I couldn’t find a suitable modern alternative, especially in the right colour,  so I decided to go with kid.

I cut apart an old kid glove for my bindings.  A few years back I found a bag of mis-matched and soiled gloves at an op shop and I picked them up thinking they might be useful.

My soiled kid gloves

Boy am I so glad I did!  Binding stays with kid leather is soooooo much easier than any other kind of binding.  Because the leather doesn’t fray, you don’t have to fold in the cut edges.  The leather folds smoothly over the inner and outer curves of the tabs.  The kid is soft enough to easily push a needle through.  It’s fantastic.

I’m binding all my stays in kid leather from now on – and I can, because it only took 3 half inch wide strips of kid to do these tabs, and there is enough of the one glove left to do it another 3 or four times.  Considering I have a dozen gloves, I have kid for a couple dozen stays!   Happiness!

The leather curving over the tabs

The other cool thing about the kid is that when you run out of a piece you just overlap a new piece and continue sewing.

An overlapped join in the kid

I’m sure my sewing technique will get better as I do more kid binding, but this first attempt doesn’t look too bad.

The binding from the back