Assembling a Regency ensemble: Fitting the spencer

Today I headed over to my modiste’s to try on the muslin for the green spencer that I’m having made to wear at the Shades of Milk and Honey Launch Party in Raleigh. She had used the lining of the spencer to create the muslin.

The fit was pretty good right from the start, which is nice. V– is using the spencer/pelisse pattern from sensibility.com. The entire time she was fitting me she kept raving about how good the pattern was and how well it went together.

One of the first questions we came to was sleeve length.  This changes with the period. So while V–‘s inclination today would be to have the sleeve end just above the wide part of my hand, the spencer is modeled on a man’s military jacket. For those, it comes down over the wide part of the hand. We checked original pieces and behold, the sleeves for a lady’s spencer came quite far down.

Once we had the sleeve length and V– could see how the garment lay, we turned it inside out so that she could adjust the fit.  The spencer is double-breasted and quite fitted.  You can see the multitude of pins V– employed to make it snug. She also decided to move the bottom of the spencer up so that it was closer to the waistline of the dress.  One of the interesting things about these is that the fashion changes constantly and since every garment was handmade for a specific person, there is no single “right” way to make something period correct.   It involves looking at a lot of pictures and interpreting the design principles of the Regency to come up with something that makes sense on the body of the person wearing it.

One of the things that is fairly consistent is the way the backs are constructed at this point. With the spencer on inside out, it’s easier to see the lines of the back.  The armscye of the spencer and my dress both much farther into the back than a modern garment. The result of this is that even though the bodice is quite snug I have a pretty full range of motion. I can cross my arms over my chest and lift them over my head.  This isn’t an option by the time you get to the Victorian era.

Now that the spencer is fitted, V– will true up the lines on the pattern, which basically means that she’ll adjust the paper pattern for my actual size and make sure everything is smooth.  Then she’ll cut the final fabric.

The outer fabric is a green silk sari that I brought back from India years ago.  We’re actually going to reverse the border, which has gold thread, because the reverse side is more delicate than the front.

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2 Responses

  1. Mary Kay

    I’m finding this whole process more entertaining than one would expect. Must be geek influence. I wish I were going to be at the party, but I’m going to Aussiecon and doing both just Wasn’t On. (Sigh. It isn’t the finances; it’s my energy levels. Getting old: not for sissies.) I’m sure you’ll provide us lots of pics though, right?

    MKK