Saturday, March 2, 2013

The HSF: Challenge #5: Peasants and Pioneers - spencer a la hussar

I'm not really a peasant kind of girl so this was a hard challenge for me.  But I had wanted to make a spencer to go with my new regency gown...and the red linen I had in the stash was the only thing the right color...and what could be more peasant-y than linen right?  ;)   I liked the look of the hussar-inspired spencers and pelisses I found online and I thought that would work with the other things I had in the stash.  So I went that direction with it, and had some fun researching the hussar influence on ladies' fashion.  And there is a history of upper classes taking inspiration from the common man, think of a la Marie Antoinette's Hameau.  So while I grant that it's a bit of a stretch, there is somewhat of a link between the common soldier and a lady's spencer.

And here's what I came up with:

 spencer2spencer 1

(Any opinions on the back trim?  With loopy motifs or without?)


 The Challenge: Challenge #5: Peasants and Pioneers
Fabric: Red linen, black satin scraps for piping, and off-white dupioni for the lining.
Pattern: The Mode Bagatelle Spencer pattern
Year: 1800-1810
Notions:  6 frogs, 2 appliques for sleeve decoration (4 if I add two more to the back) thread, piping made from the black satin, and plastic boning for stand up collar.
How historically accurate is it?  Somewhat as far as the lines and fabric but the machine sewing and plastic boning put this in the realm of looking but not being accurate.
Hours to complete:  Hard to say since I tend to work on multiple projects at once, maybe 12 hours?
First worn: Not yet!
Total cost: All stash - so kinda free!

Friday, March 1, 2013

I love a woman in a uniform or Hussars and Napoleonic women's dress

As I was working on the red spencer I found I became increasing influenced by the hussar style and that lead me to do some research on hussar costume and I thought you might be interested in some of what I found out. If you're of a certain age your first experience with Hussar uniforms was this:

Don't you ever, don't you ever, Stop being dandy, showing me you're handsome!

I've always loved female appropriation of menswear in historic costume but I didn't realize until I started poking around just how hussar-influenced women's Regency dress was. This influence makes a lot of sense within the context of the Napoleonic wars and the fact that nearly every country had a hussar unit.  France, Austria, Prussia, and Russia had had hussar regiments since the 18th century and Britain converted four light dragoon regiments to hussars in 1806.  They were notoriously reckless and wild and looked really different from other regiments.  So they were compelling and romantic figures and it makes sense the ladies might be attracted to them...and their uniforms! So what did the Napoleonic era hussar uniform consist of?

From the Napoleonic Uniform Glossary at the War Times Journal

First there was the pelisse, no, not the lady's coat of the same name, but a hussar's fur-lined overcoat worn slung over the shoulder.  Given the first usage of the word was in 1717 it seems pretty certain lady's coat was named for the hussar's and not the other way round.  You can see echos of the hussar's pelisse in many of the women's pelisses of the era, some of which even still have fur around the edges like this one:

And another pelisse this time without fur:
Source: via Loren on Pinterest

The dolman was the short tight jacket worn under the pelisse also highly decorated in braid. Women's spencer's often emmulated the dolman's braid decoration.  Here is a nearly literal interpretation of the dolman in spencer form, the only thing off about it is the soft butter-yellow color!

Source: via Loren on Pinterest

And another very military looking spencer:

Hussars' uniforms, like the ladies' dresses of the era, fitted close to the body (very close!) This necessitated an external pocket; the sabretache was the man purse pouch a hussar used to carry his orders and writing implements in.  It was highly decorated with gold emblems and braid and often had tassels and fringe.  And it bore a striking resemblance to many of the ladies' reticules of the time.  Probably not a coincidence since another term for the sabretache was...reticule. This is a hussar's sabretache, note how similar the shape is to many ladies' reticules.

And a fashion plate of a lady with hussar-like braid decoration AND a very sabretashe-looking reticule.

Another sabretache-inspired reticule

Buttons and pompoms were also major features of the hussar uniforms that also show up in women's clothing of the era.  There were three rows of buttons on many uniforms- a center functional row and two decorative ones on either side.  While this is not a hussar uniform it's a good close up without braid where you can see the triple button row.

I've seen this same button arrangement on the Kyoto Costume Institute's Regency riding habit as well as on other spencers and pelisses.  This one, also from KCI, has a wonderful front decoration a la hussar and pompoms!

Source: via Loren on Pinterest

If you've fallen in love with the hussar look there are sutlers out there who make wonderfully accurate reproductions of these uniforms...for a price:

You can see many more Napoleonic-era military uniforms and military inspired women's wear on my pinterest here.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Coming along

I'm having a bit of trouble with the sleeves ( go figure, damn sleevils :P) but thing are coming along very nicely on the new Spencer, very nicely indeed. A sneak preview pic...

Monday, February 25, 2013


So I started on the red Spencer today for the HFS #5 challenge: #5: Peasants & Pioneers.  I gotta hand it to the HSF, it IS motivating me to work - chop, chop!  It's going to be another all stash project - the remains of the off-white dupioni I got when the Pasadena Jo-Ann's closed for lining, some black silk remnants for piping, the red linen for the fashion fabric and 2 wonderful black military-esque frogs for the closures.  So yeah, this will not be very plebeian.*  I've only got the lining together and a few pieces piped so no pics yet, but it it is looking rather sharp if I do say so myself.  And because the red is so bright it's looking sort of Chinese with the black piping, which was not my intention, but is actually kinda cool.
* Every time I hear the word "pleb" I think of the "Shore Leave" episode of Star Trek - "You're just a pleb Jimmy Boy!"

Historical Sew Fortnightly #4: Embellish - Velvet Bustle Era Jacket

The Historical Sew Fortnightly at
The Challenge:#4 Embellish - For this challenge I retrimmed an old favorite.

Fabric: Cotton velvet with applied trim of pleated velvet ribbon, pleated sheer ribbon, beaded appliques and passementerie all in black and a new vestee in black and mustard stripes with decorative glass buttons.

Pattern: A Truly Victorian pattern no longer in production

Year: 1870s

Notions: the above trims, fabric and buttons and thread.
How historically accurate is it? Synthetics were used so no very
Hours to complete: Again hard to say, I've working on this whole outfit off and on since late January.

First worn: to the Edwardian Ball LA February 23, 2013.  Click on the link to see photos of me in it at the ball.

Total cost: Hard to say, these were all items in the stash save for the fabric which was a remnant from another project.

Here are a few in progress posts on it:
Starting on retrimming the jacket.
What the jacket looked like before.

sleeve and bodice front bottom detail

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Edwardian Ball LA 2013


Had a wonderful time as usual.  Our revamped outfits were a hit, we got to see some friends, the ball was full but not so crowded as to feel uncomfortable and we danced and people-watched and just enjoyed the craziness.  I didn't get many good pics with my iphone - the flash was too bright and without was too dark but here's what I have and once the official photographer posts his I'll put those up too.

Waiting in line  And the performers in the entryway
 in lineeb3
More performers, they were like statues .   A stiltwalker eb2eb
The main stage from below      and from the balcony
 A cool dude in stripes on the roof.    The rooftop DJ.
My friends Jake and Veronica.  Jake was cracking everyone up selling moustaches! j&Vjake
They had Gorey-esque illustrations all around.  We had fun.  :)
 oh heavensme&h