Tag Archives: Historical Clothing

Regency Underoos


Sense & Sensibility Patterns Regency chemise and short stays

 It occurs to me that I’m establishing a bit of a pattern here. I’ve made another set of historical underclothing. Hmm. If you go back and include the fairly-mediaeval bliaut I made way-pre-blog (hand-worked eyelets up each side, dude), that was basically an underdress as well… well, let’s just say I have yet to produce any historical outer wear of note. Hmm. Maybe I should give up and just go with “underwear across the ages”. 😉

Regardless of what that says about my sewing inclinations (or maybe just my attention span), I have made another set: Regency underthings this time, perhaps aiming for a date around 1805, although frankly I’m trying to restrain my latent authenticity Nazi and don’t feel like researching ’til my brains ooze out my ears. But I kind of spent a bunch of time on vacation last month pinning Regency fashions, since they’re some of my favourite (and arguably considerably more translatable into a modern aesthetic than anything much before or after), and then I got it into my head that maybe it would be a fun Hallowe’en costume. One impulse purchase of the Sense & Sensibility Patterns Regency Chemise and Short-Stays pattern (PDF), some serious grumbling over the printing thereof (not pre-tiled, layout not at all paper-maximizing), and a very very small piece ofsome very scrumptious embroidered silk and, well…



  I didn’t really follow the chemise pattern, partly because I only printed half of it, but mostly because I prefer a gored construction method, and I’m pretty sure it’s still historically accurate. I did copy the neckline, but otherwise I used the same two-gored construction I did for my Victorian chemise. In hind-sight, I wish I’d done the single, asymmetrical gore (more “old fashioned”) but I forgot at the time. Apparently I need to make another. Because I really need another historical chemise. >_< Add rectangular bits for sleeves and the last couple of square scraps for gussets.


Flat felling, be hand and machine

  I did all the long seams flat-felled on my machine, but I can’t quite wrap my head around flat felling the gussets by machine, and I never do a very good job of matching things up so my seam allowances were, ah, wonky… So I felled those seams by hand. Hand-sewing: for fixing fuckups. 😉

  I made hand-worked eyelets for the neckline drawstring to pass through. However, not being overly bright, I worked them in the BACK of the neckline. Oops. I’m not really happy with the neckline anyway (I did a fairly terrible job of applying the bias tape drawstring casing) and it seems a little high so when/if I get the time and inclination Imay redo it. 


Coffe, coffee everywhere. 😦

 The short-stays were more fun, and slightly less of a comedy of errors. Aside from the part where I dumped an entire cup of coffee on the pattern and fabric. We won’t speak further on that. At leas the silk is pretty coffee coloured to begin with. 


Ticking lining

 I used ticking for the lining and interlining, rather than coutil, mostly because a friend had recommended it as a locally-available alternative to  coutil, apparently very low-stretch due to the tight weave. Though I’m not sure this was the best project to test it out as the short stays are very lightly boned. The softness of the ticking wouldn’t be too much of a problem in a fully-boned corset, but might be an issue in something that has less boning than some of my bras. Though at least initially it seems to be working. I used the maximum amount of boning suggested (the instructions are pretty thorough in going over various options for boning and cording and even quilting. And there’s an online version with extra photos, too.)



 Speaking of which, I added some quilting to the back, which is completely unboned, for a wee bit more support. It looks nice, anyway. 


Back view

 I wanted a coordinating silk in a solid to make my bias binding (the idea of trying to make a binding out of my embroidered silk was a bit horrifying) but there was naught to be had. So I threw authenticity out the window* and went with a very modern polyester satin bias trim, which was both fast and easy and a great colour. 


Front. My dressform does not squish as well as I do.

 I made my eyelets by hand, as per period (and not nearly as many as that damn mediaeval dress, as I reminded myself constantly) but reinforced with metal jump rings. Although I’m not sure how often this was actually done, (I did read about it, though, somewhere) it was fun to try out and the resulting eyelets are nicely circular and sturdy. 


Eyelet inside, with jump ring.

 After studying my Pinterest boards, I opted for spiral lacing. Regency seems to be pretty much right around when the switch from spiral to crisscrossing lacing happened, but more of the extant garments and images seemed to me (in a very unscientific survey) to be spiral-laced. (Or have holes spaced for spiral lacing even if their laces are currently cross-laced.) 

The bottom of the stays is designed to have a drawstring to hold them down. I left the channel open but haven’t tried to thread it—my rib cage  doesn’t exactly taper downwards, so I’m not convinced it would help with anything. 


On me. Hopefully I’ll have better pics eventually

 I cut a size 12 (same sizing as big 4 patterns, as far as I can tell, how nice), with the B-cup gussets. I optimistically auditioned the C-cup versions but, ah, no. I also cut down to a size 10 in circumference, though I didn’t mess with any of the vertical measurements. 


Shoulder tie.

 The only actual change I made to the pattern was to have the straps separate in the front and attach with ties. Not so much because I thought there was anything wrong with the pattern length but just in case, y’know. Plus I had this fabulous matching velvet ribbon. I think I set them a little further apart than the original pattern would call for—this isn’t inappropriate for the period but would probably be too wide for a lot of people (including my dress form.) They seem to stay fairy well on me, though—though I haven’t tested them under heavy movement yet. 


Lift and separate!

It was a pretty darn fun project, anyway, however ridiculously impractical. And quick.  And now I can think about a Regency gown for Hallowe’en.

Although first I’m gonna need another petticoat. 😉

*if there was anything left to throw out after I chose my embroidered silk; I haven’t been able to find anything in period even remotely as ornate as my silk. 



Filed under Sewing

The Second Petticoat

I finished my second petticoat! FINALLY. If I thought the first one took forever… (though, I did NOT hand-stitch the hem this time.)

Petticoat # 2

Petticoat # 2

Anyway, as with the flannel petticoat, I largely followed the directions from The Home Needle, with a bit of supplementation from the various diagrams of Patterns of Fashion 2, which really drive home that yes, they are describing what you think they’re describing to make those “gores” and yes, it is as weird as it seems, sewing off-grain bias edges to on-grain straight edges, in violation of all guidelines for good drape.

Skirt diagram

Skirt diagram (for this pattern, I used two “side” gores per side.)

I guess when you have that much fabric going on drape is kinda irrelevant? Hard to say. On the other hand, it’s a very, very low-waste method—I used probably about six metres of fabric, mind you (it’s a pretty full petticoat, also, RUFFLES), and the only waste was the narrow triangles cut off the sides of the symmetrical front gore. If you wanted to add a front seam, even that could be eliminated. Because I wasn’t using a yoke this time, I did add a bit more shaping to the top of the front gore, plus eyeballed in some narrow darts to give it a wee bit of tummy room, since Mrs. Church commented that one of the chief problems with the hang of skirts came of them being put in too tightly at the front. Or something like that.

As per Mrs. Church’s instructions, I made my vertical seams flat-felled, but really I would’ve been better off using French seams—either way, though, I was struggling with a lot of puckering on my really freakin’ light-weight cotton (voile or batiste or something of that sort.) So I switched the cotton thread. Upside: no puckering, presses like a dream. Downside: not nearly so strong. So if this petticoat is disintegrating in a year, you’ll know why. Also, right in the middle of the process, Jennifer Rossbrugh of Historical Sewing posted about starching your petticoats. I had been dreading the idea of pintucks in my soft fabric, so I had to jump on the bandwagon. This was a ridiculously-simple process involving mixing a small amount of cornstarch with a slightly larger amount of water, heating until the mixture went clear, adding more water, and then dropping in the petticoat until all was soaked in starchy water, and hanging dry. Then ironing, lots and lots of ironing, but ironing starched stuff is actually pretty darn pleasant as it looks so great. And it made sewing all the 1/4″ tucks in the ruffle far less hellish than it would’ve been otherwise.

Perusal of the page of petticoats (“White Skirts” in both the Home Needle and my mother’s 1886 Bloomingdales Catalogue reprint) suggested that ALL the petticoats seemed to be largely plain but with a deep ruffle along the bottom. Or at least, if they had anything else, the advertisers weren’t advertising it.

The ruffle (pre-ruffling)

The ruffle (pre-ruffling)

So, I cried a little and resigned myself to a ruffle. I still wish I had pleated it, but, meh. I picked my ruffle depth by the highly scientific method of tearing my leftover fabric after making the main portion of the petticoat into eight equal strips. I had already decided I wanted 1/4″ tucks, so then I added those in, three in each panel, starting with a fold right at the middle. Once I had those tucks made, I joined seven of the eight panels (measuring my lace having determined that I wouldn’t have enough to go along the eight panel anyway.) I attached the lace at the bottom using a tuck—basically, sewing a french seam on the outside surface. I thought it looked lonely, though, so I added two more 1/4″ tucks above it. I like the overall look, but I was definitely more precise (which is still a long way from perfect) on the first set of tucks. Eh. I finished the top edge with my narrowest-of-narrow-hemmers, and ran the whole mess through the ruffler on what was supposed to be a roughly 2:1 gathering ratio.

Two ruffles in the back

Two ruffles in the back

Whether due to the weight of the fabric, or my ruffler being loose at times, or me just being a tool, what I wound up with was rather more gathered length than I expected, so I added the second ruffle across just the bustle/back of the skirt. Except that it goes up one gore seam further on one side than the other. HEADDESK. I am not going to change it. Quit looking!

Buttonhole and stroked gathering.

Buttonhole and stroked gathering.

My other big booboo (as opposed to the myriad little booboos in the seams and the tucks and whatnot) came when gathering the waistband. I had measured my waist plus and inch or two for overlap, but I couldn’t quite wrap my head around the side-back opening as it related to the necessary gathering. Basically, my waistband wound up lop-sided, and I was extremely loathe to unpick the whole thing and re-arrange my painstakingly stroked hand-gathering. Instead, I unpicked the other end, where I didn’t have enough gathering, and tightened that way up, essentially shortening my waistband by about three inches.

It is, um, snug. Maybe my next corset with be more waist-reducing, though.

That hand-worked buttonhole isn’t particularly pretty, now, (and it is worked on the wrong side, oopsie.) But it’s entirely serviceable and only took about ten minutes to put in. So there’s that.



The whole thing is pretty delightfully frothy, once you wriggle into it.



The fabric is pretty thin, and you can see the under-structure pretty clearly. Obviously another petticoat is required, maybe a more plain one, to go under this.

Happy bum

Happy bum

The under-structure, by the way, is my lobster-tail bustle, based pretty much exactly on the American Duchess tutorial, though I did vary the angle of my boning at the top a bit, and I added lacing to hold it closed on the inside, not just ties. This wasn’t quite as brilliant as I had thought it might be, as the lacing tends to pull the whole thing up a little bit, but it works just fine and I think if I added a ruffle to the bottom the pull up would largely be neutralized. Although now that I’ve seen it under the petticoat, and worn it a bit, I don’t actually think I care.

My American Duchess Bustle

My American Duchess Bustle

It’s boned entirely with 1/4″ spring steel from Farthingales Corset Making, which is my favourite corset-supply site, at least partly because it’s Canadian so the shipping is fast and the prices don’t mysteriously skyrocket between my cart and my bank account. Frick I hate having the dollar low again. No complaints, though, about Farthingales. Reasonable prices, quick shipping, arrives promptly. A lot of people seem to use 10mm steels or even wider on these support garments, and while I’m sure that’s strong, I feel like most of the originals I look at had more bones of a narrower width… anyway. The 1/4″ seems more than sufficient for the bustle. I took it with me to my last Marr Residence Historical Clothing thingy, and lots of people had fun trying it on and then practicing sitting down. 😀

Side view

Side view

Of course, now it’s finished and I’m struck by the crushing dissatisfaction that I find accompanies most costume sewing—it’s finished and it’s awesome and I DON”T GET TO WEAR IT ANYWHERE. I mean, I’m already known for pushing the wardrobe bounds at work with my fluffy dresses. I don’t think even I’m going to move into full Victorian mode, though. Even for my final wardrobe workshop,* coming at the end of the month, I probably won’t actually wear it as I will want to have it out for people to look at. /sigh.

Anyway, it’s done and it was a fun process, so we’ll call that a win! Edging ever closer towards… uh oh… OUTER GARMENTS!!!!!)

*Must blog those. They were awesome. To the cool people I met (I know at least one or two of you have buzzed the blog), THANK YOU!!!!!


Filed under Sewing