Regency Spencer (Cheating)

Skipping ahead a bit (I haven’t gotten around to uploading the photos of the dress by itself), here’s my attempt at period outerwear!

When I realized that due to my Regency event being in April it was likely to be pretty chilly outside, I decided to make a spencer (short jacket) to wear over my day dress. Of course, if there’s one thing I detest in sewing it’s making collars, and I didn’t have the energy to get a pattern and sew a whole jacket from scratch– so instead I went searching for a modern jacket I could convert into a spencer. I was looking for puffed sleeves, a small collar (regular jacket lapels are too big), and some shaping seams to keep it from looking too bulky.

I did a lot of searching online for “military” and “Victorian” jackets (they were the best keywords for the style I was looking for) and ended up finding a khaki-colored canvas jacket that appeared to meet most of my requirements on eBay. It was a size XL in juniors’ sizes, which meant that it ought to fit all right, and it had some nice pleating and piping details that I thought would look good on the finished spencer.


When it arrived I was happy to see that it actually fit with some room to spare. I tried it on over the dress and cut it short, leaving about an inch of extra fabric at the bottom. The original faux lapels were just kind of blocky-looking, so I took in long, angled darts, which I topstitched down to make some shapelier seams. See the difference between the left and right sides? The darts also helped to get rid of some of that extra room in the jacket, shaping it closer to the body.


The fabric that I’d cut off still had ruffle and piping detailing from the front, which not only interfered with using the fabric to make a waistband but also seemed kind of wasted in that capacity. I ended up doing some creative piecing and making a little pleated “tail” in the back of the jacket with the ruffled bits– something that’s very period, and also completely necessary because I didn’t have enough fabric for the waistband otherwise. I also repositioned the fabric-covered buttons so they were more attractively placed on the front of the jacket, and added a large hook-eye closure at the waistband. All in all, I used almost every scrap of fabric from the original jacket (seriously, there’s about 5 square inches of fabric left), but it looks completely different. Or at least I think so…


One more thing I did was to line the finished spencer in ivory-colored fleece, which I scavenged from a cheap hoodie I’d found at Primark. Basically I cut off the sleeves, hood, center zipper, and bottom, and used the resulting vest-shaped piece as lining. I whipstitched it to the edges of the spencer for now, but I may go back and add unobtrusive snaps to make it removable at will. The lining made the spencer much warmer, which I ended up needing that weekend. I would have hated to have to cover up my adorable outfit with a modern coat…



2 thoughts on “Regency Spencer (Cheating)

  1. Brilliant! And beautifully done. Heading to the thrift to see if I can approximate something similar, as it’s dropped from the 70s to the 40s and this weekend’s Regency tea includes a walking tour. Brrr…


  2. Pingback: Regency Costuming 101: Accessories – bookhoarding

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