Saturday, October 22, 2016

A Regency Tailor's Tale

   Okay, so I cannot lay claim to the title ‘tailor’ and you will soon see why.
   This is the story of how I made my Regency outfit for my zombie costume for my book release party. This is not a how-to. More of a how-not-to.
   I was driven to sewing by desperation.
   Ever since I was little, I liked capes and cloaks and things.
   I wanted costumes, but my Mom wasn’t much of a seamstress, not to say she couldn’t, just wouldn’t. My next stop was the thrift stores around Halloween time. Although we have lovely thrift stores in our area, their costume selections always left much to be desired (and I think they’ve gotten worse since I stopped looking). I had to start making them myself.
   I still used the thrift stores for my fabric purchasing. I didn’t use patterns and I sewed by hand. This was arduous.
   Eventually, I got a hold of a sewing machine (my Grandma brought hers up for my sister. My sister had no interest in sewing and so I took the thing over). My first attempts were shaky. I still didn’t use patterns. Totally cooked it up from my head and while chopping up fabric. When I attempted my first pair of trousers, I finally cut up an old pair of pants and used that for a pattern.
   Then I began making coats. I took an old suit coat and chopped it up for a pattern. The first was a simple copy. 
The first pair of trousers, originally for a Sweeney Todd costume, paired with the first coat for a Mad Hatter. My brother made the hat.

   The second diverged greatly, becoming somewhat reminiscent of  a Regency era coat for last year’s Halloween, inspired by Tanz der Vampire, the German musical with the incredible costumes. Needless to say, I totally winged it with the collar and it’s barely satisfactory. Also, the thrift store is no longer my fabric store. I found gorgeous fabric at a local shop called the Alley Fabric Nook. The drawback to this, is the astronomical prices of fabric. Slide your card and whack bang you spent fifty dollars on cloth!
Tanz Der Vampire costume. I made the waistcoat, coat, cape, and trousers. And ascot, if you can really say that a half sewed together strip of silk is an  ascot.

   Now I’m working on coat number three.
   I started with the waistcoat. This outfit was inspired by Lord Chornby’s unholy getup in Ambulatory Cadavers, and was going to include a paisley waistcoat. I went fabric shopping, this time on amazon, and found some birds I couldn’t pass up. So I made the waistcoat first. And the shirt. This time I decided to actually sew the shirt, too. The shirt turned out rather wild and untamed, but it will be mostly hidden, so I think it will do.
This photo was before I added the ruffles on the shirt cuffs

   I still don’t know how one is supposed to do the tall collars on this style of waistcoat, so this one has issues. I suppose it needs to be sewn in between the outer layer and the lining or something crazy like that, I just sew it straight on and frown when it doesn’t lay how I want. I think this one turned out a little crooked as well, and it’s too tall, so unless the coat collar can keep it in check I’ll have to shorten it or fold it and call it good.
   I almost got a little too ambitious with the coat. I pulled out my copy of The Mode in Costume by R. Turner Wilcox and flipped to the section ‘The French Restoration’ encompassing Louis XVIII, 1815-1824 and Charles X, 1824-1830. I examined the claw and hammer coat tails on those glorious frock coats and couldn’t refrain. 
Frock coat from 'The Mode in Costume'

   Instead of copying the two back panels of my cut up suit coat pattern, I made the back of the coat in four pieces. I didn’t quite succeed in the layering of the claw and hammer, but I got a deluxe-looking back.
Advanced sewing, no? For me, yes. Took some dexterous manipulation.

   It took me three tries to get the collar right. Those Regency era coat collars are so weird looking (in a good way!). How do you make those? I still don’t know. This is just as close as I got.

The pictures make it look better than reality!


  1. I love it! My boyfriend's mum is really good at making clothes so now I have a rainbow stole. It may be my second favourite possession after my kindle

    1. Thank you! That sounds lovely :)

    2. Thank you! That sounds lovely :)