Jessamyn's Regency Costume Companion: Historical Work

Norman Invasion.

This is a medieval costume, ca. A.D. 1100. It consists of a black long-sleeved undergown and a green linen overgown, with grey trim and a black wool border at the hem (to keep out the snow!). The sleeves are bell-shaped and the back laces up from tailbone to nape of neck - after the Norman Invasion of 1066, shapeless English tunics began to be replaced by newer French styles, which were fitted to the body with lacing and shaped seams. A long, low-slung brocade belt completes it. This is actually a very comfortable garment for a range of temperatures and activities.

It would be beautiful for a wedding in a figured silk brocade, or in plain satin with embroidery at the hem and placket.

Price in linen or wool: from $500; in silk brocade, from $600.

The Age of Austen.

This gown was made as a bridesmaid's dress, inspired by the gown Lizzy wears to the Netherfield ball in the A&E version of Pride & Prejudice, down to the double-layer hem and extra box pleat on either side-back of the skirt. The period represented is roughly 1809 or so. The fabric here is oyster-colored silk duppioni (not a perfectly period-accurate choice, but this was for a modern wedding), and the gown has self-fabric piping and buttons down the back. I made a matching gown for the four-year-old flower girl, who was cute as a button!

Click on the thumbnails for larger images. Price: from $325 for adult gown, $200 for child's

The wedding was great -
I got so many compliments on the dress! Thanks!
- Christine

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Photo (c) Romantic Homes 2001.
The Romantic Era

I was asked to create a gown for Romantic Homes magazine's editor, Eileen Paulin. Eileen would be attending a ball commemorating the restoration of an 1825 mansion, and she wanted to be appropriately dressed for the photographs that would be taken for the magazine!

Since the period of the ball was just a bit later than most of what is shown on this site, I researched and sent Eileen images of ballgowns of 1823-25 (the beginning of the post-Regency, pre-Victorian decade sometimes called the Romantic Era). She told me what she liked in general and what colors worked for her, but otherwise gave me a free hand to create something beautiful.

I used a fairly heavy pure silk satin in a lovely shell pink, trimming the gown with self-fabric piping and ruffles, and double-faced silk satin ribbon in a cocoa color. It was worn with an A-line petticoat and beautiful, period-perfect jewelry that Eileen supplied. I created the pattern more or less from scratch, based on scale patterns in Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion and Jean Hunnisett's Period Costume for Stage & Screen.

I adapted the sleeves of Eileen's gown from the top puffs of long sleeves on a pelisse of the period now in the Gloucester Museum. Piped bands of satin sewn into the sleeve head catch up the puff sleeve by passing through horseshoe-shaped piped openings.

The ruffles are also piped at their hems and trimmed with ribbon where they meet the gown. The ribbon at the neckline was steamed to fit the curve and handstitched in place. The back fastens with self-fabric buttons and loops over a placket. A tight bunch of gathers at center back gives additional fullness to the skirt, which is cut in gores.

All in all, a very romantic dress for Romantic Homes magazine! I really enjoyed making this gown, and think that it would be a very flattering style for almost anyone - a more forgiving shape than the straight up-and-down of the earlier Regency. Below is the dress on a form, alongside contemporary fashion plates of gowns of the period. Click on the thumbnails for full views. Price: $700 as shown

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Copyright 2003-09 by David and Jessamyn Reeves-Brown. All rights reserved.
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