Yesterday was the DFWCG's Mat Hatters Tea Party, so I wanted an appropriately flamboyant hat (and new costume to wear with it) to celebrate the event. I've spent the past 2 months angsting about what to make, and I think I started working on at least 3 or 4 other possibilities before I finally settled on a simple 1790's spencer and bonnet. But I ended up loving the final outfit so much that now I can't imagine wearing anything else!
I usually have some sort of period pattern diagram to get me started with my costumes, but this garment was 100% draped from scratch. I knew where the seams should be thanks to the illustrations and a few surviving examples, so I used one of my paper tape dress forms to drape the body and collar. I did look at a pattern diagram for an 1790's youth's skeleton suit to get the general shape for the 2-part curved sleeves, but then I just free drew the shapes and tweaked them for a few days until I got something that fit just right. I know it is not an overly complicated garment to make, and there are still a few nit-picky things that could be improved, but I am really proud of the results considering that this was the first time for me to make something using this method.
The bonnet also marks another first for me - it's the first time I've ever built a fabric-covered buckram hat. I used Lynn McMaster's seaside bonnet pattern to make it, but I cut the crown down by an inch because I preferred some of the more moderate-sized examples in the fashion plates. It is covered in a remnant of bronze silk satin and lined with ivory silk, which also both came from my stash. I sewed the entire thing by hand and there is not a drop of hot glue on it, which is a small miracle for me. I am usually a HUGE fan of hot glue millinery!
Since the costume was made completely from materials that I had in my stash, I decided to splurge a bit on the finishing touches. I bought another Lioness wig in chestnut brown this time (I also used this style of wig for another 18th c. outfit from a few years ago). It is great for making a huge hedgehog style hairdo and there is a ton of length for various types of tails in the back as well. This time I straightened the long part in the back with a flat iron and looped it like the style seen in many illustrations from this period. I had some flyaway pieces that tried to escape from the ponytail at first, but I added a long flat barrette across the back of the loop after these first pictures, and that seemed to solve the problem pretty well.
I also have lusted over regency shawls for years now, so I asked around for suggestions on where to buy one. My friend Aubry from A Fractured Fairytale suggested this ebay store, which has a variety of rectangular shawls with paisley borders, which is exactly what I was looking for. It still wasn't as long as real regency shawls should be, but at $19.99 I couldn't pass it up! I actually ended up loving this thing so much that I bought a second one that is exactly the same, and I am going to try to sew two of them together to make one super-long shawl that will be even more perfect for drapey Regency goodness.
When I was younger, I didn't care for Regency fashions at all, and I swore that I would never wear this sort of dress. I'm not sure what happened, but I've turned into a complete convert and I feel so elegant wearing these styles now. Maybe I just needed to get over my obsession with tiny waistlines first, but I guess pregnancy will do that for you.
Even though I'm making a bit of a funny face in this last picture, it's actually my favorite one of all. I think I look like a meddling, match-making aunt from a Jane Austen novel in this shot. I need a little speech bubble that says "oh, ree-aaally?" LOL!
You can see the full set of pictures from this wonderfully fun event on my Flickr page.