As part of my Regency wardrobe, I wanted to make a white chemisette to fill in the necklines of some of my gowns– most notably the pashmina gown, which I specifically made for daywear.
Taking my cue from several other bloggers, I started off with the chemisette pattern A from Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion I. It has a mostly-plain front with some tiny tucks at the shoulder line (not pictured in the illustration but they’re there in the instructions), and a triple-layered mushroom-pleated collar.
I did end up making a few structural edits– I widened the base width of the back, which otherwise would’ve been oddly pointy (and would not have matched the illustration at all), and did only two ruffles at the collar since my fabric was a bit heavier than what would’ve been used back then. And I didn’t bother cutting the neck band on the bias because it seemed wasteful and other chemisettes in the book had their neck bands cut on-grain, so it didn’t appear to be crucial.
Anyway, not having any graph paper on hand and not feeling inclined to figure out how to print out different sections of the original scanned pattern on different sheets of paper, I used a good old ruler and my knowledge of geometry to draw out the pattern for the chemisette. Honestly, I wouldn’t have done it if the pattern weren’t so simple, but at least on this occasion it worked out well.
The main body went together easily– I did a narrow double hem on the open sides and made my drawstring channels on the bottom with no problems. Then I had to figure out how to handle the neck ruffles.
To go with my fur-trimmed wrap I needed a hat to wear outside. Unlike all of my other bonnets, however (which are made of straw), this one needed to be winter-appropriate, so I took out my extra velvet fabric and got started.
I picked up a basic cloth-covered sun-hat at Goodwill (brand new, tags still on!), mostly to use its nice, wide brim.
I wanted the brim to frame my face without being too sunbonnet-y, and I wanted to have a nice big crown with room for a nice hairstyle that wouldn’t get squished. Something like this (apparently it’s called a capote):
I also really like the ruching on this bonnet from the 1995 Pride and Prejudice:
To go along with my winter Regency pashmina gown, I needed some winter-appropriate outerwear to take with me on the sleigh ride. However, I wasn’t up to sewing a pelisse from scratch in my limited timeframe, so I decided to wear a modern full-length black wool coat and just add a fancy fur-trimmed wrap to wear over it.
I wasn’t ready to learn how to sew real fur pelts, so at first I looked into faux fur; but when I added up the cost of an appropriately luxurious faux fur (the good stuff is expensive!), an outer layer, a lining, and an inner layer for warmth, it seemed like an awful lot of effort and money to sew something from scratch.
So I decided to cheat.
Since most of my Regency gowns were made for dance events or picnics, I’ve generally accessorized them with more formal items or bonnets. While these are appropriate for the occasion, I realize that I’ve been neglecting a standard piece of headwear for adult women– the cap.
Women (at least once married or deemed spinsters) would wear them pretty much all the time, whether alone (indoors) or under bonnets for outings. They could be made of plain or embroidered muslin, or even lace.
I thought that it might be nice to have one, either to cover up a not-so-historical hairstyle or just to add an extra touch of realism to an indoor outfit. The second cap pictured above is my favorite, with the embroidered net and delicate lace ruffles, so I started with that as my inspiration.
To make the neck ruff I did a little research about different methods of construction. Most costumers agreed that to make an authentic ruff, one needed to use starched linen and make stacked pleats to create the swirly-edged look. I was not about to do that, and decided that regular pleats would do just fine.
For this post I will refer to the parts and edges of the ruff this way:
Okay, so I already made one Regency bonnet out of a standard straw hat. That was easy. But for my second bonnet i wanted to be more of a purist and go with all straw, rather than a fabric crown. And I wanted it to be visually different from the first bonnet, with a more open, delicate look that would go with the light, airy cotton dress I would be wearing it with. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find any inexpensive straw hats that had the more open weave– that is, until I came across this cowboy hat.
I found it on eBay but it’s also available on Amazon (though more expensive there). As soon as I saw it, I knew that it would be perfect to make a lacy-looking straw bonnet. I was a little worried about the brown painted edge accents, but knew I could always paint over them. And after reading some tutorials online about how to re-block straw hats, I figured that the weird crown shaping would be no problem, so I ordered it and got started!
Going to Anime Boston this year reminded me that I haven’t told you all about my hat project. THE hat project. The big one. The mother of all projects. The project that spanned years, involved international commerce, and still has remnants floating around my house. And it all started with a single hat. Or, the lack of one.
A few years back, as the steampunk trend was just on the upswing, I decided to make myself a steampunk costume for Anime Boston. It would have a tweed skirt, a brocade bustier, some interesting leather doodads and brass thingies, and of course a miniature top hat. The problem was, I couldn’t find a hat that I liked– the pre-decorated ones were insanely expensive and the craft-store felt ones were really cheap looking, being more like flocked plastic than real felt and too small for what I had in mind. I did try to place an order for the largest available cheap felt hat from an online supply store, but they were out of stock. That, I think, was the turning point in the whole endeavor, because I had to think outside of the box. (why I didn’t just make a hat out of cardboard and cover it in fabric, I have no idea…)
As you know, if you do an in-depth search for an item on eBay the regular results eventually give way to hits for overseas wholesalers who will sell you bulk quantities of said item. While I personally had no need for huge numbers of tiny hats, it occurred to me that if I was having a problem locating a reasonably priced, decent-quality mini top hat, other people might be having the same problem. Pretty soon I had an email conversation going with a hat company in China that could ship me 150 black felt mini top hats for what worked out to be just under $4.00 a hat, including shipping (which was the most expensive part).
Sparing you the logistics, eventually I ended up with two giant cardboard boxes of hats and about 3 months in which to prepare them for sale at an Artist’s Alley table at Anime Boston.