Monday, February 28, 2011

A 9-Strut Regency Umbrella

As soon as I say something, I must revise it. I stand by what I said before, actually, that a 7-strutted parasol was odd and surprising to me. I will maintain that 8 or 6 is what I see the most, so it is reasonable to wonder if an a-typical number of struts and segments might not be an artistic issue rather than an actual phenomenon. But here is a physical object rather than a drawing - an umbrella (not totally the same thing, but close cousin of the parasol), sold by August Auctions here. They dated it to 1790-1810. Here is the description and the pictures, but pay special attention to the picture of the inside, where you can see the struts. Count them. I see nine, an odd and unusual number. Isn't that fascinating?

"Umbrella with dark blue-green cotton cover, striped with beige around edges, ivory or bone points, metal framing, baleen canopy ribs, tortoise colored crooked handle, possibly horn, brass cylindrical slide and tip, stenciled green and tan cotton drawstring case, (small dents in brass, minor stains and wear to wood handle) excellent."

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Regency Armlets

It all started with this 1809 painting of Mrs Harrison Gray Otis. She is pretty, the dress is pretty - but it was the bracelet high up on her arm that transfixed me. What was going on? I am a mid-nineteenth century girl, and I can't remember having seen any example of this before. But it is really cool, no? So was Mrs Otis just a bit odd, or was this really a trend?
Then I started looking for further documentation. I found lots of portraits of girls with gold bands about their arms, high and at about the level of the edge of the sleeve. But most of these, I am convinced, are actually just bands of trim on the sleeve. See if you don't agree. These were dead ends for solving my mystery. In fact, I started to worry that even Mrs Otis was just wearing sleeve trim and super-sheer sleeves. After all, there are a lot of renaissance paintings where I know the woman is wearing a super-sheer chemise but I can only really tell because the very edge is slightly visible)
On the other hand, I found a couple of portraits with what might be trim, or what could really genuinely be bracelets, at that same high point but this time over sleeves instead of below them on bare arms. I can't be truly sure on these, but I feel like they are jewelry, not trim.It wasn't until I found this fashion plate (look here) that I really solved the mystery. The text for the plate says "A turban a la Greque, of pale yellow and silver, the hair in small ringlets round the face; diamond earings, and armlets, either with or without necklace. Sack dress of pale yellow, trimmed with silver, white satin shoes, and white kid gloves."Eureka! Armlets! Not bracelets, but armlets. A little further research, now that I had the name, and I am convinced that armlets were definitely a thing in the early nineteenth century. I like that the text says armlets, plural. I don't have evidence that these should be worn in pairs, and the women in the portraits are dis-obligingly in profile where we can only see one arm, but since I am used to bracelet pairs later in the century I am very comfortable with this idea. Anyway, I'm going to have to trot out a pair of cool armlets for our next regency ball (I think I have just the right pair of too-large-and-too-round-for-my-wrists bracelets in mind, even).

Saturday, February 26, 2011

7-Segmented Parasol?

This is an 1801 engraving. Count carefully... her parasol has seven segments and seven struts. I am assuming that this is an artistic issue - I have never seen an uneven parasol. I see a lot with 8 struts, a lot with 6 struts, the occasional one with 4 struts (though not, in my experience, this early in the century). Artistic idiosyncrasy or unusual parasol - either way it is funky and interesting. Also, while we're at it, check out the beautiful back on the top engraving. So pretty!

Friday, February 25, 2011

A Women's Regency Garrick

This is from Journal des Dames et des Modes 1817, and is an illustration of a "garrick." It is the same concept as the men's coats I've been posting (here and here), except that this one would look cute on me! I kind of love it. In fact, I could probably have been calling those garricks too, but I'm not sure how common the word is (since I haven't run across it until now), and "overcoat" is good enough for me. I can't count the cape layers confidently, since they are just too fine and delicate, but I think there are at least 5. I have no immediate plans to sew one of these, but now I kind of want one of my own...
A reminder, for comparison:

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Modern Bubble Dress

I helped a friend of mine make a party dress. We made it Friday night and she wore it Saturday night. Fun, right? Not my usual style of project, but it was an interesting adventure. We totally made up the bubble skirt technique, but it turns out that just making the lining shorter is really enough to do it. Nice. So this is what I do at college... haha.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Event Announcement - A Trip to the Museum of Fine Arts

This should be really fun. I love going on random outings in fabulous clothing, and this won't have any specific time period, so just grab whatever you have. It is the perfect opportunity to trot out a new outfit never worn before (yeah, stay tuned... I started something a couple of days ago), OR even wear modern cloths. I would love to see my friends or make some new ones, and this should be a particularly welcoming event.Meet us at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, on Sunday, February 27 at 2 pm in the new Art of the Americas wing. From 2-5 we will be strolling, ready to see and be seen, in our historical best. We would love to see you, so dress-up in your favorite historical (or modern!) outfit, and join us! Pre-registration is not necessary. Consider getting a discount on museum admission at your local library.

For more information or answers to your questions phone CVD at (617) 819-4283,
or email

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The 1812 Overcoat in the 1995 Pride and Prejudice

The costumer on the 1995 Pride and Prejudice was so cool. This coat shows up on a minor character briefly (when Elizabeth first visits Lady Catherine de Burgh, and then you also see one arm as Jane and Mr. Bingley get into their carriage at the very end). But doesn't it look familiar? Though it does have only 4 cape layers, not 5. Still, very classy.Forgive the poor quality pictures. I am hopeless with computers, and this is such a obscure thing that I could only get pictures by taking screencaps myself, so they are less than perfect.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Regency Ice Skating

First of all, I love this set of pictures that mother took. So cool!
Let us just say that this gentleman was a much better ice skater than I was. In fact, let us further say that it is a total surprise I only fell dramatically once. My knee is all purple... Ow! Other highlights of the afternoon include hearing Cake on the sound system (somehow I don't think it is actually because the ice skating people read my blog... but it was a fun coincidence), and of course watching Julia's cape flip over her head and blind her - repeatedly - as she attempted to skate around in the strong winds. Those winds were REALLY strong.... there were times when I was standing still but the wind blew me across the ice until I was actually moving pretty fast. And of course, if you were already moving at a reasonable speed, the wind make that speed unreasonable.

As for what I wore, I started with my brown federal-era dress, made from a (very pretty) Past Patterns pattern. This is the same one I wore in Vienna. To make it a little more day-wear-like (i.e. less astoundingly busty), I added a make-shift fichu to the neckline. Now, remember all my lessons about how to fake the outfit by getting the silhouette as close as possible? I did not have a pelisse, but I did have this cute 1960s jacket with an artificially high waistline. I pinned the lapels up and decided to go with it. Honestly, the giant velvet buttons say Ragtime to me, not Regency, but these are details! Then to stay really warm, I added a little red caplet that I recently made, and a hat for good measure.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Men's Regency Overcoat

I take it all back. Men's clothing is totally interesting. I just found this illustration from an 1812 Costume Parisian. It made me think of this rather drool-worthy coat from the MET that I've been in love with (which, now that I go back and check, is also labeled as 1812). Between this and the vest I posted a couple of days ago, I must admit that men's clothing can be fabulous.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


I think it is time for a break from regency, and all the fascinating historical things I have in mind. When I take a break, I like to listen to Cake. This is because Cake is a fantastically cool band. Have some Cake. Short Skirt Long Jacket is one of the more brilliantly constructed songs ever, and the music video for The Distance is very clever. Enjoy.

Glorious Regency Vest

I am in love. The offset stripes... the alternating buttons! It is too, too beautiful.

Monday, February 14, 2011

After Dancing with the Dashwoods

The ball this weekend was spectacular. We had about 150 people there, which was really exciting, and most of them had at least made an effort to wear Regency clothing - some of them had really fabulous outfits. The dancing was also really exciting, and I hope everyone enjoyed dancing as much as I enjoyed watching them dance. It was just too cool! All in all, Mr. Darcy might not have approved, but I am sure Kitty and Lydia would have had a blast!
Time for the fashion show. Julia wore mother's yellow silk dress, and a pearl collar I made years ago but which has, I think, never been worn. Mother wore a beaded net overdress we had lying around over a seafoam silk underdress (which we started making at 11 PM the night before) and a turban (which I threw together experimentally that morning). I wore a new, fairly plain, cream colored dress with embroidery which we started during school break, but which Mother did most of the work for while I was at school. I accessorized with a necklace of gold filigree beads mother often wears, then twined a strand of similar gold filigree beads (earmarked for a different project) into my hair, then added a pair of really spiffy earrings from the Uffizi gift shop. And red boots - always the signature red boots. The hair was mostly inspired by a portrait that I included in my regency hair post - I'm not sure if she has little combs or if she did exactly the same thing as I did with the beads, but either way I think I got the right feeling going.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Regency Military Uniforms

Something else for the men... gorgeous British army and navy uniforms. I bet you can't get one of these made by tomorrow, but they are lovely to look at, and there is always next year! By the way, we are practically at capacity for the ball tomorrow (over 100 people signed up). I am so excited!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Event Announcement - Regency Ice Skating Party

Will you be looking for more opportunities to wear your regency outfit after the ball this Saturday? Then keep February 19 free for some fun and ice skating! This is more of a meet-up type event, so you don't need to register with us, just pay admission at the skating rink. Come in your best regency clothes (and a few warm layers too - the rink is outside), or just wear anything and come skating anyway. You can even come if you didn't go to the ball (but I know you want to go to the ball too!). Really, there are no requirements for this event, but I am really excited about it - so show up!

Regency Ice Skating Party
February 19, at 1 pm
Cambridge, Massachusetts
Sponsored by: The Commonwealth Vintage Dancers

Meet us at Kendall Square Community Skating, 300 Athenaeum St (near 3rd St), Cambridge. We will be skating from 1 to 4 pm. The rink has skate rentals and hot drinks, and is reasonably priced. No pre-registration is necessary, so just come join us! For more information or answers to your questions phone CVD at (617) 819-4283, or email