Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Christmas Goodies 2013

I enjoyed a wonderful Christmas, with lots of fabulous food and drink (with one sister making egg-nog, the other scrummy brioche for breakfast- I do the mulled wine Christmas eve, a tradition for a few years now), and fabulous company, of course! Having my delightful niece of nearly 13 months, and my gorgeous nephew who is 21 months to entertain and delight us all. And lots of cuddles for Auntie Pooks/Omi!! :) Yes, I have two names, which is fine as I don't often see both families together, but might get confusing as time goes on... This was also the first family Christmas without Dad (last year mum and I were on our own). So it was bitter sweet, as life so often is.

Here is a pic of the historical/costuming goodies I received this year:

I have been reading a lot about Mary Queen of Scots lately. With my obsession which started young with Henry VIII and all his shenanigans, I must admit to not knowing much about her, although I know a fair bit about Elizabeth I, so how I missed Mary, I don't know. Anyway, I recently read the first Jean Plaidy novel  (now, I will state here that I grew up on Jean Plaidy (as did my mum). Her books are not bodice rippers, or any sexy nonsense. She writes great historical fiction based on fact. You are able to become fully absorbed in the period, and they are easy to read. Many have gone through a re-print recently) based on her early life ''The Royal Road to Fotheringay'', so was delighted to receive the second half ''The Captive Queen of Scots'' for Christmas. The film ''Mary Queen of Scots'' has a superb cast, but of course, I can't watch that until I have read the second book.

After I had read ''The Royal Road to Fotheringay'', I read this one, which was, of course very different to the Jean Plaidy fiction. It was a short read, but succinct and enjoyable:

I will just mention here, that if you do like more historical fiction/romance, then she also wrote under pseudonyms such as 'Philippa Carr' and 'Victorian Holt' in this genre. Some are better than others. 

The other Jean Plaidy book there in the group is the first one of her triology about Catherine de' Medici, ''Madame Serpent'' (I already have the other two). Catherine features in Mary's early years, so I have most of the main female roles (that I didn't know much of before) covered! I read ''The Medici - Godfathers of the Renaissance'' by Paul Strathern about 5 years ago now, it was a  fascinating read.

I was excited to open my present with the Buttons book by the wonderful Gina Barrett. I love using authentic, historical details in my work, such as the correct buttons for the period in which I'm working on, so can't wait to get started on some new buttons. Hopefully I'll find the time next year.

And so, we are very nearly into a new year. I love New Year. A new year feels like a fresh start, a blank page. Around September time I find myself dreaming about my plans for the next year.. and I do love to plan!

Happy New Year all!

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

1815 Regency Lace and Muslin Gown at Poppies Cottage

As things are more than a little busy here at the moment, I thought that I would take this chance to show one of the wonderful items that has recently been purchased (not by me, sadly!) over at the fabulous Poppies Cottage :

This is a lace and muslin gown, from around 1815. The design at the top of the dress is so unique, and the lace abundant. It is a nursing gown (highly unusual for a lady of this social class), hence the atypical construction at the bodice area.

Well, I am afraid that it has to be a quick one today. I am off back to the workroon, to finish up a few orders before my Christmas break (yay!). I can't wait for this Christmas, as both my sisters are down with their gorgeous families and babies. My little niece and nephew are the light of my life, and I love them to bits! A Happy Christmas to you all, see you in the New Year!

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Regency/Early 19th Century Women's Night Jacket

A year or two ago, I missed bidding on a Regency era women's night jacket on ebay, and was so mad with myself. Anyway, last week I managed to win one, which was extremely similar to the other one. It came in the post a few days ago, so here it is:

I have popped it over one of my linen chemises. These were, I think, worn in bed, for a bit of extra warmth, or for sitting up and reading in before taking off and snuggling down, and maybe for early morning tea.

I was flicking through Frances Grimble's 'The Lady's Stratagem' (articles from the 1820s, first published in France) a few days ago, and came across these instructions about how a lady might care for her nigh-time attire:
  '' Fold the night jacket in quarters, with the sleeves folded upon themselves, and the night shift in the same way; then the night-cap...is placed upon the night jacket.''
This next section is also interesting:
  ''If the weather, habit, or some indisposition makes you wear a double fichu of muslin over your night jacket or night shift, the fichu must be folded in a square and placed in front of the caps.It is better to take the trouble of folding and unfolding it night and morning, than to leave it in the diagonal fold, because a continual fold will before long produce a worn streak, and the streak will tear.''

The next paragraph goes on to explain about wiping one's foot with a square of linen cloth before getting into bed, which ''is above all indispensable for persons whose feet perspire. This foot cloth should be renewed often'' (I should think it would need it!!).

There is a lot in this fabulous book about nightclothes, and night jackets. There is a section 'Morning Clothing', which describes how to dress for early morning. After ''putting on half-stays or a morning belt,... when it is very hot then you may wear a white petticoat and a similar night jacket.'' If you hair is in good order, you may remove your night-cap. Then it goes on to explain about having ''a dressing gown with sleeves, but even though you are only wearing a long shift underneath, do not leave off your half stays.'' 

So presumably a night jacket such as this would have been worn as 'early morning' or 'undress' attire, when one would possibly write letters and instruct servants, and maybe see only members of their own family. In a later section in the book, there are directions on patterns and how to sew a night jacket. It states that there will be flounces on a night jacket, and ''To draw in the back, sew a broad linen tape, at a suitable height, over the selvages on the wrong side, through which you pass the strings.''

My night jacket here is voluptuous, there is no tape inside to create shape. It is very simply made. The falling collar is made from a rectangle of fabric, and one end has been pieced together. The flounces of the collar and the sleeves are made from very fine linen, and the cuffs are made with a firmer linen. The rest of the jacket is a light cotton. There are 2 tucks at the very bottom of the flounces on the cuffs, and there are tabs for buttons which you can see below, but sadly no buttons. To fasten at the neck there is simply one set of ties.

There are no under arm gores, and the body of the jacket looks like rectangular pieces of fabric which are gathered at the neckline, very little if any shaping.

So, what are my plans for the night jacket? Well, the state of it is this: there are many holes, mostly small, which shall of course, be left. There are a fair few iron mould stains. Now if left, over time, these will form holes, as the fabric is eaten away. Some of these are already half stain, half hole. I will therefore remove these, and then the jacket will need to be very carefully washed. I will wash it on my conserver's mesh, of course. And I also hope to replace the buttons with appropriate Dorset buttons, in the Blandford style. Any remaining stains (there is a bright pink patch, sadly) will have to be left.

I am really busy up until Christmas, so I am not sure when all this will happen, but will be back sometime with new images of a freshened up and somewhat restored night jacket.

with love,

Monday, 7 October 2013

Heather Toomer Books - Lace and Whitework Research Gems

Last week I ordered a fabulous looking book, which I had somehow managed to stumble across on the internet. It has just been published (by the author herself) this summer:

'White-embroidered costume accessories from the 1790s to 1840s' by Heather Toomer, with drawings and patterns by Elspeth Reed'

When I read the title, to say that I was excited was an understatement. My favourite period, AND my favourite subject- whitework!! I was dreaming about gorgeous fichus, pelerines, chemisettes, hopefully aprons..... 

Now, I have got really excited about books in the past, which have sadly turned out to be major disappointments. Few colour photographs, poor reproductions etc, so I was also trying to pepper my enthusiasm with the thought that it may not prove to be as good as I had hoped.

I was, thankfully, MASSIVELY, massively wrong. It arrived today, and I am in seventh heaven. I even let my dinner get cold at lunchtime, as I couldn't stop flicking through and exclaiming "this woman is a genius", every so often.

This book has everything that I was hoping for:
*Superb quality photographs with fabulous detail shots of hundreds of antique accessories. Her personal collection of these items (which she has based this book around), is extensive.
*The accessories cover:
   Habit Shirts
   Cuffs  (after my last post, I now know a lot more about them!)
*Beautiful fashion plates which show the context of these items so well.
*There are also drawings and patterns by her colleague Elspeth Reed (having these in this book exceeded my expectations- I hadn't even thought that they might be included).

Heather Toomer has written other books prior to this one:
'Embroidered with White: the 18th century fashion for Dresden lace and other whiteworked accessories.' 2008

'Baby wore white: robes for special occasions, 1800-1910' 2005.

I have just bought this one too!! The previous 18th century book will have to wait until next month, I think.

Heather has also written two books on identifying lace and European lace. Fingers crossed for Christmas!

I was really interested to see that Heather has published these herself. You can order these from her direct through her website here.

From one deliriously happy historical dress lover:

If you are thinking of purchasing this book, don't think, just do it!! I can guarantee that you will not be disappointed.

with love,


Saturday, 17 August 2013

Nineteenth Century Lace Cuffs

Browsing around ebay a few months ago, I came across these beautiful 1820s lace cuffs for sale (well, they were listed as from the 1820s):

They are exquisite, with Dorset buttons and stunning lace. I am unable to see the lace close up, but it does look to me more likely to be the first half of the 19th century, rather than the second.

I am guessing that they were simply quite snuggly worn at the wrist, and the long sleeves came down over the top, so that to all intents and purposes it looked as though the lace was sewn to the inside of the hem of the sleeve, which of course it wasn't. They could then be popped off for a wash, perfect.

Were they worn with lace collars that matched?

The lace is much later in the 2 images below, but seeing the cuffs did remind me of a lace collar I sold on Antique Historika a couple of years ago:

These cuffs are not something that I have really come across before (although I am sure many other people have!).

As it happens, the wonderful Poppies Cottage have a pair of gorgeous cuffs for sale here :

The lovely lady that owns Poppies Cottage says that she is not sure of the date due to needing to date the lace (and she has a degree in historical dress), but they are similar to the pair above, and again close with Dorset buttons. The lace though seems to me to be a wee bit later, maybe 1870s or 1880s?

It goes without saying, of course, that with very small items like these, I am sure that old pieces of lace that had perhaps seen better days were re-purposed into cuffs and collars, and the same goes with the buttons - especially with the thriftier women of the nineteenth century.

with love,

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Chemisettes worn over Regency Gowns and Huge Regency Ruffs

 Ever since I came across these illustrations a few years ago:

  From this fabulous book (page 114):

Of this extant chemisette from the Snowshill Wade Costume Collection, part of The National Trust collection now:

I had been wondering if there were any images of Regency ladies wearing chemisettes over rather than under their clothing. Nancy Bradfield does mention that it was most likely worn over clothing, and I knew that it would be most uncomfortable with all those large shoulder-placed gathers and excess fabric if it were worn under.

A few months ago I finally came across an image with the proof I was looking for. Very pretty:

I find that Wikimedia Commons is the best place to look at some of the fabulous paintings of (especially) Russian Regency women. But can I remember what I searched for to be able to download this painting above? Sadly no, so I have no further details, but will endeavour to find out (when I have 2 minutes!).

I do however remember the details of this painting, with the wonderful, huge half a chemisette/half a ruff combination on the third lady from the left, from the end of the Regency period, which I also love:

The Begas Family 1821 by Carl Begas

This is not too dissimilar to it:

Large Ruff - early 1800s The Metropolitan Museum

Yikes! I am away for a few days, down to the West Country, so I had better hop it and get organised! Hopefully I'll be back with more info on that painting soon.

with love,

Monday, 29 April 2013

Regency Shirt for Sleeveless Gowns

In the midst of a rush of orders (it appears to be either feast or famine in my shop, rarely in between!!), one of my lovely regular customers asked me if I could make her a Regency shirt for sleeveless dresses (see last post)!

Great minds do indeed think alike! It was quite a task to find any information about this type of shirt. Like me she really loved the shirt that Romola had worn in 'Emma' (see below), so that was the basis for the design.

The only images I could find anywhere of an extant Regency shirt for a lady were these:

-from Augusta Auctions. Tasha Tudor Collection c.1820

 Met Museum c.1824

There are a fair few fashion plates with images of some form of blouse under sleeveless gowns, but it seems that they were not as popular as say chemisettes. The sleeves are always lovely and long, so that you get that puffy effect near the cuffs, as you do with the gentlemen's shirts. These two here have the ever popular ruff-like collar.

As my customer liked the look of the collared shirt of Romola's, we went for a simple design, with Dorset buttons down the front, and one at each cuff. I had managed to get my hands on some lovely and soft Irish linen, so that was the fabric decided upon.

And here we are:

Over the weekend I quickly ran up a basic day dress for the shirt, from some lovely fabric which I bought at our sewing shop in town, which is now fully stocked with gorgeous fabrics....bliss!!

                             Linen Shirt under Drawstring Sleeveless Dress

Phew, I was hoping to squeeze in a blog post during April somehow! I am in the process of looking for a new house with a (hopefully) much bigger workroom, so it is all go at the moment!

with love,

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Regency Gown and Blouse Ensembles

A few weeks back I watched 'Emma' - the version with Romola Garai and Jonny Lee Miller for the BBC mini-series in 2009, and remembered how much I loved the blouse and gown combo that she wore:

Regency Jumper Dress and Blouse

I had forgotten that we also see 'Harriet Smith' played by Louis Dylan in one too, fabulous!:

Regency Jumper Dress Heaven

There is also a yellow gown that she wears, with what I think is a blouse with detachable long sleeves?:

These ensembles reminded me of a similar, though slightly later combination that I liked from 'Wives & Daughters', again from the BBC but back in 1999, set in the late 1820s/1830s, although dear Molly never really wears the high fashion outfits that you see Hyacinth and Cynthia wear (her step mother and step sister):

Wives & Daughters Blue Gown and Blouse Combo

Late 1820s/Early 1830s Gown & Blouse Ensemble
I LOVE jumper dresses, of any description. Now I am pretty sure that 'jumper dress' was not a term used in the early 19th century. The blouses here are soooo pretty, and they would certainly save the gown from regular washing.

I was wondering where these two costume designers (Deirdre Clancy for 'Wives & Daughters', and Rosalind Ebbutt for 'Emma') had found their inspiration for these. A while ago I wandered across this dress:

Princess Charlotte's Gown c.1817, The Museum of London

The blue gown in 'Emma' is certainly extremely similar, minus the fringe though, of course. I found the gown on Pinterest (thank you to 'The Ornamented Being' via, Pinterest and Tumblr).

Here is their link, with much more info:
The Ornamented Being

Also, there is a post here from Jenny La Fleur - here she explains her views and research, which is very interesting indeed.

I wonder if the 'blouse' is a long blouse, or simply a chemisette type garment, which reaches down to only just below the bust? Was the blouse removed for the evening? I would think so, but I also think that Princess Charlotte would have changed again into a more sumptuous gown!

19th Feb Update:
Here is a link to a little information about the exhibition which featured the dress, http://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/archive/exhibits/royal/index.htm which was held between May to November, 1997, at The Museum of London.

Happy Valentine's Day!
with love,

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Antique Regency Roll

Antique Leather Regency Roll

These images here are from the wonderful Poppies Cottage. The owner of the antique costume, textiles and accessories shop, sold it a while ago, on ebay I think. I downloaded the images, and took a note of the measurements at the time:
Length- 7.5"
Mid Circumference- 3.5".
And I have finally gotten around to blogging about it!

Original Regency Roll

Regency Bum Roll with Eyelets

It is made from leather, and is tightly stuffed (although I'm not sure what with). The unusual thing here of course is that it has metal eyelets, or grommets.

Regency Leather Roll

There appears to be four of them at just one end. Maybe the leather was previously used for something else first? And was it later than the Regency period, as I have read in a few places that metal eyelets weren't around until the later 1820s in clothing, but were they used say in industry? Was a section of leather with these grommets taken from something else to make the roll? Norah Waugh in her 'Corsets and Crinolines' states that the Regency roll that was used in the early 1800s "increased in size...and became the bustle of the 1830s." But this one here is so narrow that I am not convinced that the shape would be very effective for the 1830s skirts; so surely it must come from the Regency period, or perhaps it was made for a young girl?

I shall keep looking for any further clues...

with love,

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Resolutions and Remembrances

I know, I know, it's the 5th of January, and it's a bit late to be talking about New Year plans. But hey, as there are 365 days in the year, I feel that it's ok!

My Christmas was quiet but lovely, with just Mum and I, and skyping with family and friends around the world made it what it should be, so I am so grateful for that.

I belong to the 'Positivity Team' over at Etsy, and last year and this year we have made Christmas Decorations for another member within the team- those that choose to participate. This year a very thoughtful and touching tree ornament landed on my doorstep, from the wonderful Kate (a dear friend), over at Kates Cottage Shop  (have a look at her beautiful silk butterflies), and Larkspur And Linen - her beautiful wedding shop. Here is the ornament on our small but perfectly formed tree:

It is made from a family photo, taken on my Dad's 60th birthday family barbeque, so you can imagine that there were a few tears as I put it in pride of place on the tree. :) Thank you so much, Kate.

My stocking was full of costume books, as always, but my little sister, in the midst of preparing for her first baby (gorgeous little girl!), read here on my blog that I quite fancied one of these from Merchant & Mills:

 And so bless her, she bought it for me! I love it!

This last year has been a real rollercoster of the best things happening (one nephew and a niece, whom I love so much it is like my heart might burst), and the sadness surrounding my poor father's death and then my grandmother. My grandmother was a very difficult lady at the best of times, but still, she was my last grandparent to go, and we did have some good times, amongst the bad. So this Christmas was an emotional and strange one, although this year's Christmas will be different again, I am sure.

I had a rest over Christmas and New Year, and so now it is back to work. My New Year's resolution this year is a simple one; to take care of myself and others, and to just take things as they come. Now, those reading this who know me, will know that I am not a laid back person. It just isn't part of my nature. But having gone through the horrors of this year and last with my Dad, and knowing that I have an auto-immune disease and most likely a mild form of CFS (which doesn't feel mild on certain days!), I have begun to realise that if I don't take care of myself, I will certainly be no good to others, my mum especially. And at some point this year we will be moving to the west country (an hour away from Bath- Jane Austen central, whopppeee!!), so taking it easy and not piling the pressure upon myself is the only wise thing to do right now.

Do I have plans for 2013? You bet! And I have all ready make a great start in the last week, catching up with a lot of jobs that needed to be done (such as being able to blog and have my email account free at the same time- seriously, why do they make things so tricksy?!), and getting my tax return completed BEFORE Christmas, and not in a mad rush towards the end of Jan. These tasks sound small, but for me it is about getting myself in a good place to be able to move forward in a gentle manner. And by the way, now that I do have this blog pickle sorted, I will be on here a great deal more often, mostly with my own historical dress projects and English social history posts. For the first time I have organised my working week into a plan which incorporates time for the blog, my etsy teams, research and historical clothing making for myself.

Those of you who have seen the TED talk by the creator of Super Better might remember her discussing the top 5 statements that are most commonly expressed by people who are sadly terminally ill. They really struck a chord with me:

* I wish that I hadn't worked so hard
* I wish I had kept up more with my friends
* I wish that I had let myself be happier
* I wish I had had the courage to express my true self
* I wish I had led a life true to my dreams and not what other people expected of me.

May you all have a fabulous 2013!