Tuesday, April 26, 2011

In Praise of the Cut of the Back of Regency Dresses

Emma in the 2009 BBC Emma

I know that for me to praise the back of a dress will likely scare a few people, and scandalize others. The fact is, most people pay more attention to the front of a dress... probably due to a combination of the face and the bust... however, last year I realized that the Regency dress actually is lovely from any angle.

Emma and Mr. Knightley in the 2009 BBC Emma

The goal here is to show in the best way (though words do not do justice!) how the topic is neither frightful nor scandalous. In fact, what I hope to do here is to point out how Regency dresses manage to avoid both the old world sin of artificially increasing the size of a woman's rear (think of excessive padding, etc.) and the modern sin of trying to virtually paste the dress onto a woman and leave nothing to the imagination.

Miss Aurora's blue Regency dress

Instead, my dear readers, please observe... the back of the regency dress does a number of very interesting things:
  • It gives room for the lady to walk (the gathering in the back prevents billowing at the front and allows the dress to actually have give. If a 'Regency' dress is constructed without the gathering and extra material, the lady may not be able to walk easily... and will look significantly more awkward and less elegant)
  • It does not cling to her rear unnecessarily (again, a feature of the gathering and interestingly, the empire waist... by starting the waist higher, the upper back is accentuated, rather than the lady's behind)
  • Depending on the lengh of the dress, the gathering may even form a miniature train (again, due to the extra material/gathering)
  • It gives the lady a more slender upright figure (this is the result of the empire waist combined with the floor-length skirt)
  • It frames her upper back in a most lovely fashion (look at the picture and observe the lines of the stitching and how the neckline at the top lines up with the waist and the sleeves... the buttons also frame the center in a way similar to how the 3 buttons on a white-tie men's waistcoat frames the lower part of the waistcoat)
  • In summary... there is no other dress style that gives the exact elegant, statuesque, graceful attitude to the wearer from the back. (and the front)
Close up of Miss Aurora's Regency dress

Northanger Abbey: notice how the dresses allow the ladies room to move, while remaining completely graceful and modest in the process

Another additional point that is important: I've heard girls complain that modern empire waist attire makes them look as though they are with child. My observation is that with most properly constructed Regency dresses, this is not an issue. Why? Because the length of the skirt pulls the dress down with its weight. Additionally... the length of a dress not only makes it more formal (if cut right!) but also prevents anyone from being in danger of questioning a girl's reputation. Something I cannot say for the ever popular cocktail minidresses that many girls today seem to be having a passionate love affair with.

In Bath, England with Miss Aurora during the 2009 Jane Austen Festival

Many thanks to my good friend, Miss Aurora, of The Secret Dreamworld of a Jane Austen Fan, who kindly gave her permission for me to use some of her pictures for this post!

The snapshots from iTV's 2007 Northanger Abbey and BBC's 2009 Emma are used for informational purposes and I hold no rights to the images.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Panoramic Photographs: Salisbury Cathedral

Here's another installment in panoramic photographs... today's collection is from my visit to Salisbury Cathedral in 2009. This year I have been looking through the pictures and attempting to match them up into panoramic shots, although they weren't exactly always taken ideally for that. Enjoy the photos!

Cathedral Exterior... like everything else in England in 2009, it too was in scaffolding

This here is in the very back of the church, right as you arrive in the sanctuary. I forget the exact name for this, unfortunately.

This picture faces the opposite direction of the last picture, it is taken from the ledge right below the stain glass window.

Here's an example of the wooden scaffolding holding some parts together and making others walkable. This is the same level as the previous picture

This is inside the bell tower... notice the bracing

This is a closer up panorama of the lower part of the last shot

I believe this is part of the apparatus that rings the bell

Panoramic view of the courtyard (including the cafe, which is covered with a glass roof) from the top of the bell tower

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Sewing my first Formal Waistcoat... (Part 1)

I'm terribly behind in posting these pictures from last Saturday. This week I'm hoping to add the buttons and finish the back attachment so that the vest will be complete. You can expect a follow-up post to this one in the near future :)

For those who are curious as to why the fabric is different from my preview, the reason is simple: this particular project was my first attempt, my experiment if you will, to make sure I understand the pattern before using the cotton pique material. I used a type of polyester fabric that I happened to have lying around instead of the muslin, because I thought it looked much nicer. It also has the added benefit of being stain-resistant. (liquids bead up on it) The only drawback, is that the material frays like nothing else, so I'll have to be careful using it.

Laying out the pattern pieces... I traced them onto tissue paper rather than use the originals, as you can see both the original and copied pieces. This allows me to reuse the original later in a different size should I wish to.

Facing cut out

Main body cut out... (notice my fabric wasn't wide enough... I fixed this later)

Cutting out the fusible interfacing

Preparing to cut out the lining

The lining was rather tricky to cut out and to determine later which side was the correct side, as they seem almost identical. (maybe they are!)

Getting ready to stitch the welts (the little pocket-like things on the front of the waistcoat)

Welts prior to attachment to front of vest

One completed welt on the right, and first step of attachment on the left. The welts are attached upside down, then folded up to hide stitching and then edge-stitched on the sides to create the pocket effect.

Adding the fusible interfacing

Both sides with fusible interfacing

Sewing the facings to the lining... this part was confusing, because the seam between the lining and facing actually are almost mirror images of each other, yet when stitched, they line up perfectly

Surprise, it worked!

Attaching the main body to lining/facings

Here you can see both sides (main body and facing/lining) being attached inside out

Sewing the material... this was the tricky part, because some pieces didn't want to line up quite right... my second side worked much better than the first too

Notice the front pieces have extra ends attached to fill in for fabric being too small...

Sewing can be quite messy... I had thread and fabric everywhere... and pins!

Turning the first side right side out

It's double-sided!

Back folded over to show contrast with front

Ironing the first side

Turning the second side

Almost done!

Laying it out on ironing table

The hardest part with turning were the ends up at the top, because it's so tight, it took a while of pinching and pulling to get it all done

Before ironing

Un-ironed vs ironed side

I folded over the facings and ironed them flat to create the lapels

Finished product!

Close-up of edges... notice how my solution for extending my fabric worked out rather nicely :)

Front and back

Close up of lower front

I rather like the contrast between the lining and the front... :)