When I started going to Regency events I looked for tutorials on how to do a Regency hair style. Most of them were for ladies with long hair. My hair is no longer than my shoulders and has been shorter than this. I’ve learned that with a sufficient number of bobby pins, I can approximate a Regency hairstyle.
I just realized that I have an 1814 copy of Elegant Extracts. I knew I had a couple of books from the early 1800s but it had been a decade or more since I acquired them and had forgotten what they were. We were cleaning and I picked this up and then exclaimed.
Why? Because I’d just finished a reread of Jane Austen’s Emma. Allow me to show you this excerpt from Chapter 4.
“Mr. Martin, I suppose, is not a man of information beyond the line of his own business. He does not read?”
“Oh, yes! that is, no — I do not know — but I believe he has read a good deal — but not what you would think any thing of. He reads the Agricultural Reports and some other books, that lay in one of the window seats — but he reads all them to himself. But sometimes of an evening, before we went to cards, he would read something aloud out of the Elegant Extracts — very entertaining. And I know he had read the Vicar of Wakefield. He never read the Romance of the Forest, nor the Children of the Abbey. He had never heard of such books before I mentioned them, but he is determined to get them now as soon as ever he can.”
I collect etiquette books and I’m sure I picked it up because of that, but I did not connect it with Austen until just this moment. I am looking forward to reading it– very carefully.
If you want to look at a few photos of the lovely binding, I’ve got a small slideshow below.
The interior has an inscription in Latin to Jonathan E. Woodbridge. I don’t know who Mr. Woodbridge was, but I totally want to insert him and the book into Without a Summer now.
The Regency retreat this weekend was glorious fun. I’ve just spent much of the day transcribing the, approximately, 5500 words I wrote while there. I was determined not to bring my computer this weekend, since it was supposed to be full immersion — plus indoor plumbing and central heating — but I was two chapters away from the end of the novel. I had already packed paper, a dip pen, and ink, so I decided to give writing longhand a try.
I fully expected to shift to a fountain pen after page or so, but spent most of the retreat camped by one of the windows with my quill and notebook. At night, I wrote by candlelight. It was surprisingly easy. I think it affected my sentence structure, making it a little longer and more complex. Certainly, I had more time to think as I composed because I had to pause every three of four lines to dip the pen.
However. It was also significantly slower than writing on the computer. I also seemed to be less likely to reread what I had just written after taking a break. I used a 45-minute sand timer to remind myself to stand up, stretch and get a fresh cup of tea. With the computer, I can quickly scan the typed page to see what I had written previously. With the long hand, only about a hundred words fit on a page and it required active reading to go back over what I’d just written. This wasn’t so bad when I took a full break, because I knew I needed to reread. When I paused to talk to someone though, the pen was still in my hand and I think I felt like I was still writing and seemed less likely to reread. So, I feel like parts of this are sort of a mess.
But, it was a great experience and I’m glad I gave writing this way a try.
The rest of the weekend was amazing as well. I need to do a full blog post about it but want to wait to have some more photos. I did not take my camera, but there were no shortage of photos being taken.
Meanwhile, I find the overhead lights at home over bright and miss sitting around the fire gossiping and sewing. A truly delightful weekend.
Technically, Friday was the first day of the con but since I got here on Thursday it feels like Day 2 for me.
We started with the opening ceremonies which were short and simple. The various GoH’s introduced themselves and said, “hello” to the audience. Martin Young, the Toastmaster, gave me the straight line of asking if things ever went wrong in puppetry, so I told the Sleeping Beauty story.
Sandra Tayler is in town and rooming with me. She is a delight to hang out with. By the way, I highly recommend having someone like Sandra with you when you GoH to act as a safety net.
From the Opening Ceremonies it was off to Getting Published Today with Dani Kollin, Eytan Kollin, and Susan Krinard. Oddly we were all Tor authors whose surnames began with the letter K. It was a fun conversation although at one point I remarked that we were a self-heckling panel. The key takeaway I think from that is that if you want to get published you have to have a good manuscript and do your research.
Between panels Sandra and I hung out in the bar area with John Picacio, Chris Garcia, Jeremy Llassen, and a roving cast of others. Funny conversations including a whole host of innocent sentences parents should not say about their children without risking jail time if they are heard out of context.
In the evening we went to the Meet the Guests reception which was good clean fun. I need to give a shout out to Tobi Schneider, guest liaison, who is doing a fantastic job of making us all feel welcome.
After the reception, I indulged in my guilty pleasure and went to the Regency Ball. I brought an extra dress and managed to talk Sandra into going. Man, some of those dances are really fast. At one point, I lost a shoe. I felt very much like Cinderella.
Here’s where you can find me today (Saturday)
11:30 AM to 1:00 PM in room: San Tomas Growing Artisticially Through Crisis
1:00 PM to 2:30 PM in room: Bayshore East and West Puppetry Workshop (Note: I will have the pencil-necked little weasel, and John Scalzi’s Papa Fuzzy puppet with me)
4:00 PM to 5:30 PM in room: Winchester $5, a Dead Fish, and a Time Machine
5:30 to 7:00 PM in room: Central Autographing
By the way, if I’m not in a panel, the bar is a good bet on where to find me.
I went over to Miss V–‘s for the second fitting of the spencer. The photo does not do it justice but wait until you see the finished garment.
For this fitting, she wanted to confirm that everything had lined up before she stitched together the lining and the exterior. Since she had trued the garment, it was always possible that things had shifted.
Indeed, we had to make adjustments to the sleeves to account for the fact that one arm is slightly longer than the other. This, by the way, is entirely normal.
Check it out. Put your elbows on the table in front of you and press your arms together with palms touching. Now look at your finger tips. Chances are that the tips of your dominant fingers will be slightly longer than your off-hand.
The other point of conversation that was interesting was on how to handle the closure on the spencer. Buttons or hooks-and-eyes were both in use in 1814 and it wasn’t clear, looking at reference material, which one would be more likely for a double-breasted spencer like this. Even garments that look buttoned may have decorative buttons and a hook and eye closure. I think we finally settled on self-covered buttons of the same green as the rest of 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.
For your amusement, here is one of my research tools for Shades of Milk and Honey. It’s very handy if you are doing anything set in the Regency. Also, I find it interesting how many vulgarities are just everyday speech now.
When I was trying to decide what garment I wanted to have made to go with my Regency dress, I was waffling between a pelisse and a spencer. I spent a lot of time looking at the book Revolution in Fashion: European Clothing, 1715-1815 which has really gorgeous photos of the Kyoto Costume Institute’s collection. Really, really gorgeous.
We eventually settled on a spencer, but in the course of looking at reference photos I ran across this picture of a pelisse.
Actually, not just any pelisse, but one thought to have been worn by Jane Austen. Take a second and click through to the Jane Austen Centre to read about how they came by the pelisse and why they think it might be something she wore. The article discusses everything from what colors were fashionable to diary references to the pattern of oak leaves on the fabric.
I’m having a dress made. Not just any dress, I am having a gown that would be correct for the 1810s, which is when Shades of Milk and Honey is set, so that at the launch party in August I can be appropriately attired.
To that end, I took myself to my modiste’s on Tuesday to discuss our plans for my ensemble. After looking at several options, we have settled upon a simple cream sprigged muslin gown with a spencer jacket. The gown will be flexible enough that it can be worn with several different looks should the need arise.
Meanwhile, I have ordered the undergarments necessary to create the line that is desirable under the gown. While one would not normally discuss such things in mixed company, I feel that it is of sufficient interest that I shall eschew the normal proprieties.
To begin, there will be a chemise which is worn next to the skin. Mine will be like this, but sleeveless. I have selected a white lawn fabric and the seamstress will embroider my initials upon one corner. I feel so very indulgent.
After the chemise comes the short stays. Now we did consider going with the modern equivalent, which is a demi-cup underwire bra with very short straps, but one of the reasons I want to do this is that in Glamour in Glass there are several scenes in which a ladies maid is helping her mistress dress and undress. While I can, in fact, read about this and have a perfectly fine understanding for writing the scenes I know from past experience that actually experiencing something will point out details that I wouldn’t have considered on my own. Which means that I’m having short stays made.
The short stays is considered a transitional garment in that it is midway between a corset and a bra. The one on the left is a short stay from the Kyoto Institute’s collection. One of the things about the Regency look is that the bosom is pushed up very high as you can see in the corset on the right. It makes all the difference in the line of the dress.
After the short stays comes a bodiced petticoat. Now I’m showing you the back of this garment because the construction of the bodice is interesting. What we know of as “princess seams” did not exist in the Regency. You can see how the seams on the bodice are straighter and run higher on the back than a princess seam would. To give the freedom of movement that a modern dress has, the armseye comes around much farther to the back.
Will this particular detail show to anyone but me? No. I could have gone with a different garment that would serve the same function but I find the changes, not just in fashion but in sewing technology, to be utterly fascinating.
You will, I’m afraid, have to wait to see pictures of the dress in progress. We are meeting again on Tuesday to look at fabrics.
(Tor Books — August 21, 2018) Continuing the grand sweep of alternate history laid out in The Calculating Stars, The Fated Sky looks forward to 1961, when mankind is well-established on the moon and looking forward to its next step: journeying to, and eventually colonizing, Mars. Of course, the noted Lady Astronaut Elma York would like to go, […]