I am very excited to be joining the Jane Austen Festival Grand Regency Costumed Promenade in Bath for the first time this year. We are attempting to break the world record for the most people in Regency costume at one time.
|My ticket to promenade|
The rules require ladies to wear “full-length dresses with a high waistline, low cut necks and bonnet” with “the necessary accessories to complete the costume, e.g. hat or bonnet, reticule, gloves, Spencer jacket or pelisse or shawl”.
Creating a Regency costume
Acquiring a Regency outfit is not a simple process. You can’t just walk into a clothes shop and buy one off the shelf. So a few months ago, I tweeted asking for advice and several lovely people responded, offering suggestions of who might be able to help. As a result, I was put in contact with Natalie Garbett, who is not only a wonderfully talented historical costumer, but is actually based in my home town of Weymouth.
|Natalie pinning up the hem of my|
Regency dress at my first fitting
So many choices
But finding a dressmaker was only part of the solution. I had to choose a design. Did I want a day dress or an evening dress? Silk or cotton? Long sleeves or short sleeves? From the beginning, middle or end of the Regency period? What colour, style, fastenings, undergarments, accessories…? The choices were somewhat overwhelming, especially as this was a whole new world to me.
from Ackermann's Repository (Dec 1813)
I went to Regency fashion prints for inspiration. It is always surprising to look through pages of prints and realise that not all of them are in the traditional Regency style, with the high waistline we associate with the Jane Austen era, but I knew this was the shape I needed. I found some prints from 1813 and 1814 showing the sort of style I had in mind.
from Ackermann's Repository
Natalie was very helpful in refining my ideas. Our aim was to create an outfit which not only looked Regency, but was made of the right sort of fabric and colour for the period. I decided a neutral colour would be the most versatile and so, after much discussion, we decided on cream cotton for the dress with a more brightly-coloured silk Spencer to wear over it. The basic design we chose is similar to the red dress above, with a square neckline and puffed sleeves, but Natalie has cleverly added detachable long sleeves.
We initially looked for a dotted cotton fabric with a bit of texture, but when we failed to find one, we opted for some ivory-coloured vintage floral cotton poplin which I found on the Minerva crafts website.
|Getting the dress sleeves right at my first fitting|
It is a wonderful feeling to have a dress made to fit you. I think I could get a taste for it! I am looking forward to being fitted for the Spencer this week.
Read about my Spencer in my summer newsletter here.
Is anyone else parading or coming to watch?
All photographs © Andrew Knowles - www.flickr.com/photos/dragontomato