Saturday, January 12, 2013

Historical Sew Fortnightly: Regency Bodiced Petticoat

Week #1's challenge for the Historical Sew Fortnightly was the " Bi/Tri/Quadri/Quin/Sex/Septi/Octo/Nona Centennial," i.e. sew something that would be worn in __13. I had grand plans for finishing my ball gown for the Jane Austen ball, but alas, I got bogged down in the research and all the possible fabric/trim/pattern possibilities. I'm still not sure on that front, but in the interest of having something finished, and because I know it's important to have the correct underpinnings, I tried my best to sew up a bodiced petticoat following the directions on Sense and Sensibility's website.

Let's just preface this whole HSF endeavour by saying that I will never be a historically accurate costumer. I love my sewing machine too much (read: don't have the time or patience for hand-sewing) to make entire costumes by hand, and I don't have the budget for getting historically accurate patterns, fabrics, or notions. Still, I'm going to do my darndest to produce historically "inspired" costumes on a budget (both chronologically and financially speaking...meaning more bed sheets!). This means utilizing free resources to the best of my abilities, namely the internet and the two Patterns of Fashion books I already have.
I'm not modeling it because it's quite scandalously low-cut. I will say, though, that there's nothing like a Regency outfit that's supposed to "lift and separate" to remind oneself that there's nothing to display on that shelf. The skirt was quite long, so I added a couple of tucks to bring it up some, but I might put in one more. I'm not really sure how long it should be. I might also want to eventually add in a ruffle or something at the bottom to pretty it up, in which case it will definitely need more tucks to ensure that the hem's not dragging on the floor. 

It fastens at the back with four large, un-period buttons, along with a hook and bar at the waistband.
You can kind of see here that there are three different fabrics being used: the skirt, the bodice shell, and the bodice lining.  

The Challenge: Bi/Tri/Quadri/Quin/Sex/Septi/Octo/Nona/Centennial
Fabric: 3.5 yards of 35" wide 100% cotton muslin, but from three different sources and therefore in three different shades of white...
Pattern: The directions called for using your Regency gown pattern as the basis of the bodice, but I didn't have one, so I used Burdastyle's free Danielle dress bodice. I had to modify the neckline and angle of the straps to match the diagram in the S&S directions, but it wasn't too difficult. If I were doing this again, though, I would make the back much shorter to be more historically accurate. The skirt was just two panels of muslin sewn up the sides and gathered into the waistband.
Year: 1813-ish.
Notions: I used the heftiest zip ties I could find for the boning, bias tape for the casing, and seam binding for the drawstring.
How historically accurate is it? Erm, not very? Besides being entirely machine-stitched and using plastic boning, I think the circumference at the hem isn't quite wide enough, but I didn't have anymore muslin and was too lazy to drive out to the nearest Joann's (not to mention that once I purchased the muslin I'd still have to wash and iron it). I did check to be sure I could still dance in it, though.
Hours to complete: Six...even though essentially it's just a sleeveless dress like all the ones I started out making, it took a while to futz with the pattern and fitting, plus turning it through those tiny straps took ages!
First worn: Not yet, but it will make its debut in a couple weekends!
Total cost: $10

I know that one of the goals of the HSF were to encourage us to improve our standards of historical accuracy, but frankly I'm going more for some of the other goals that Leimomi listed, namely having an excuse to sew up historical costumes, and to have fun. I think I'm doing a pretty good job of the latter! With that disclaimer, please don't laugh too hard at the mismatched bodice and skirt fabrics, or my terribly wonky darts. Do you know how difficult it is to pin triple darts on yourself without an assistant?

At least no one will see these under my actual dress!

On a totally different note, do you ever feel like your background entertainment (Netflix, podcasts, audiobooks, etc.) has to match what you're sewing? I was watching My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic while sewing this, but felt like it was slightly I should be watching Pride and Prejudice or Sense and Sensibility instead. Oh well!


  1. I would imaging plenty of period garments are sewn up from fabrics laying about the house and/or culled from worn/outgrown garments. So there you go.

    Also, very, very cute. I love it!

  2. I wish I had more opportunities to wear costumes of any kind, I think anything in my area would probably be civil war/homestead focused. Nothing wrong with that, but there still aren't many events for that(and I'd probably need a willing buddy to get enough courage to do it anyways).
    Your petticoat looks great, if you didn't tell me there was plastic and machine stitching on it I'd think it looked pretty spot on. Who cares about details anyways!

  3. This is so cute! I definitely couldn't tell that the whites weren't the same exact shade. I think you went to a lot of effort for an undergarment, so that sure makes up for any historical inaccuracy. Nicely done!

  4. I've said it before and I'll say it again - you make do like any costumer I've ever worked with (and I'm including myself in that). Complete hand-sewing is something that only couture houses have time to do. And there's nothing wrong with loving to sew by machine. =) It will be a wonderful foundation for your costume - can't wait to see it!

    When it comes to costuming, it's usually more about function & practicality over technically accurate. I've never watched a "period movie" that was truly historically accurate - all costume design is influenced by the designer's impressions about what a period should look like and by modern bias. (If they were to make a movie like The Great Gatsby look authentically 20's, modern audiences would think the actresses looked ugly.) In the end, if people can guess the time period you are trying to capture, you have done a good job.

  5. I love, love, LOVE Regency gowns! And this is really quite lovely! It almost seems a shame to cover it up :)
    I find that if I really want to get some sewing done, BBC dramas work the best for me--Austen, Dickens, Gaskill--all accompany my sewing perfectly (whether I'm working on some sort of historical garment or not).

  6. Also, I'm glad to see I'm not the only one who isn't sewing jack by hand for this challenge. Embroider, yes. Handsewing, hahahahahaha no.

    Also, may I recommend Catherine Cookson series on netflix for sewing? They aren't the best thing ever but their predictability means you don't necessarily have to be paying close attention to the plot while trying to sew.

  7. I think the over all look is lovely, and if you don't care about the small inaccuracies, why should anyone else? One has to define to oneself what level of period correctness one is comfortable with and you've done that, and been upfront about it - all one could wish for.

    I too often make do with what I have in my stash, but since I usually know what I'd like to make in future, I can sometimes pick up what I need when I find suitable materials at charity shops, or sales. It's economic as to money, but not time, as it may take years before I've found all I need for an outfit.

    However there certainly are lots of people who prefer hand sewing to using the machine (even for modern day sewing), and wouldn't dream of making pre-sewing machine clothing any other way. In my living history group, one of our "missions" are to educate the public about the late 14th century, and we can't do that properly if our medieval clothes are machine sewn... It's dangerous though; once immersed in the variety of hand stitches used in period, one is captivated and may never go back ;)

  8. I think it's really lovely.
    I totally agree about the background stuff. If I'm listening or watching to the wrong thing than my whole rhythm can be thrown off :o)

  9. You did a great job - I have one of these that I made for myself (to go under that gown that I mentioned I recently cut up ;op) I used hook and eye tape down the front of the top - it serves two great purposes. 1. you can get in and out of it yourself and 2. you can create great cleavage (this is coming from someone who doesn't have much to work with ;op) I can't wait to see the full look!!!

  10. I think Leimomi also made clear somewhere that the garments can be historically-inspired, so, there.
    Good job! Especially on using what you had on hand - that's something I can very much relate to. :-)

  11. This is lovely, I like the tucks as a way to shorten it. So much more interesting than just chopping a bit off the bottom.

  12. I am very sure Regency ladies would have thought sewing machines were magnificent! Hand sewing is great, if that is what you desire. Your petticoat is beautiful. There is a great deal to be said for faux authenticity. Regena in TN.

  13. I love it and good for you to use what you have. I have cut plastic milk cartons up for boning and it worked fine. I agree with embroidery, yes, hand has to be pretty important and certainly I would never attempt a whole dress! But then my docent era is 1890-1910. Sewing machine were around!

  14. I think it looks lovely and you did a fine job. I can't wait to see your ballgown!

  15. Really impressive, very neatly made! Can't wait to see the dress over it!

  16. I think it looks quite appropriate for the time, and I didn't notice the different shades of white even after you pointed them out.

    My little pony is always the right thing to be watching, haha. Most of the things I watch while sewing are police dramas (bones, criminal minds, etc), because they are usually so formulaic what the bits I miss while the sewing machine is running don't detract from the plot too much. I'm not sure what type of garment would go with that programming!

  17. My Little Pony is never wrong. Never. As for the dress, despite years of hanging around Leimomi and after historical costume enthusiasts I know virtually nothing about historical fashion pre 1920s. It must drive her bonkers. But I am very impressed with this, and think it looks pretty and well made! And I'm sure it'll look great under your dress!

  18. Wow this is cool and if you hadn't mentioned the wonky darts I wouldn't have noticed! I shall skip ahead to see if you've blogged about wearing it yet!


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