I sew mostly out of necessity. See, when I was about thirteen, the Boob Fairy came down with a case of short-term memory loss, and she just kept visiting my house. In the space of about six months, I didn’t just fill out, I over-filled, then bloomed, blossomed and burst out. Someday I’ll find her and give her the share of low-back aches she visited upon me.
I’m also short (thanks, Mom) and short-waisted. I can either buy off the rack and look like hell, buy off the rack and alter and look like Purgatory, commission custom and eat oatmeal, or just accept that my down time will be spent developing a meaningful relationship with my iron and my seam-ripper.
I also did re-enactment and theater as a young adult, and there’s no off the rack for either of those. I’ve built my share of custom clothing, and I’m not bad at it, when I have patience, motivation and either spare time or spare money. I’ve even built corsets, which are the sewist equivalent of a Waterford Apprentice Bowl — once you make one, you can pretty much make anything else.
And in addition to that, my partner is a foot taller than me, broad shouldered, long-armed, long-torso’ed, and has issues with seam finishes, fabrics, textures and colors. He really hates overlocked seams, would rather wear a Tyvek hazmat suit than go shopping, and dislikes polyester, wool and silk. He does have a specific style of trousers that will be available as long as BDUs are made, so I don’t have to make his slacks or his jockeys, but shirts are a pain to find. It turned out to be easier to develop a pattern and make him a new polo or dress shirt about once a month than try to buy for him.
This adds up to me being comfortable with my mad sewing skillz.
But… I am a practical girl. I don’t like ruffles, or lace or much trimming of any sort. As egotistical and vain as he was, Beau Brummel had a really good notion when he started pushing for simplicity of line and exquisite craftwork as a means of conspicuous consumption. The bad news for a chickie playing in the Regency era is that very little of Brummel’s sensibility got into women’s fashion. The good news is that one area of women’s fashion was dominated by male tailors serving a primarily male audience — the riding habit.
Interesting thing about the habit — according to Ackermann’s Repository, riding habits tended to get used for traveling clothing, and habits would come with walking skirts for specifically that purpose.
That’s what I’m making: habits, with walking skirts.
The fabric has arrived (pics of that tomorrow, assuming I have light) but the sketches are finished:
Underpinnings: Chemise, corset. I’ll need at least four of the former, and two of the latter. I learned to like reed as boning when I lived in a much hotter desert than this one, so the corsets will be a combination of reed and cording. I’m going to try Laughing Moon’s new Regency Stays pattern, but instead of using their gusset cups to contain my bounty, I’ll be using a draw-string adjustable gathered cup. Extant corsets had this feature, and it’s a practical one, given that the Regency bustline is essentially Lift, Separate, Balance On High Shelf. Any woman with any cuppage at all had to contain her assets somehow.
Next layer is the skirt, which, given Regency waistlines, is more jumper, and shirt. I’m using La Mode Bagatelle’s Bodiced Petticoat pattern (but without additional boning) and putting in a side opening. Shirt is plain, sleeved, cotton lawn, with underarm gussets and cut to a natural waist length.
Spencer or pelisse — still not sure. Right now, I’m looking for documentation on a feminine tail coat or similar. I think this would look smashing with a red skirt, an open swallowtail coat, and a brocaded waistcoat, but that may be just a costume fantasy rather than a re-enactment piece. I have seen an extant, 1810 habit with a long waistline (like to the natural waist) but I need to find more documentation on that specific piece.