I have wanted for a quite some time to make a proper empire (regency) outfit - I do have those for the peasant-me, but not for the lady-me ;-). BUT because of my busty bodytype I always thought it would be absolutely nononono...... until I saw so many busty ladies wearing empire (regency) dresses and even ladies bustier than me and they looked good. So I thought I can at least try...
My main goal for this challenge was to make a empire (regency) stays/ corset (I don't know when the word changed). And because I had to order a pattern for it I ordered one for the bodiced petticoat too (http://www.neheleniapatterns.com/). I have to advertise Nehelia, because they are just so good and helpful!
Of course I understood that I have to start with the shift. This year I have promised not to buy any fabric so I have to use only my stash - and there wasn't suitable linen for my shift so I had to use cotton batiste. The pattern is very basic, but I manage to mess something up so the sleeves were too big. I solved the problem making a fold on the shoulders. Not nice, not period (I guess) but will do now. The shift is totally hand sewn with cotton thread.
The corset - mock up
I used for the corset Mantua-Maker's Regency Corset 1800-1820 pattern. When I saw the picture that is in the cover page of the pattern I thought that the pattern was a good waste of money. I really looks awful.... (not the one in this picture thou)...
I started by making a mock-up using a very sheer old sheet and the result was very awful. So I thought it would never work. But then I took better fabrics - one layer cotton twill and one layer coutil. And I chose one size bigger and changed the bust gussets a little bit and made it til the end using my sewing machine, metal eyelets and cable ties. And then I tested it how it fits. And it fitted, almost too well. I had lowered the bust gussets so they started lower and now my girls weren't high enough. But thou they are fastly made and there's nearly nothing historical sewing they give me the 1830-40's silhoutte (bust is much lower than in the empire/ regency corset). So if I ever need a 1830-40's dress I already have a corset for it. Sadly I sewed it so badly....
At this point I thought I wouldn't be able to make the real corset in time, so I did the bodiced petticoat
While still waiting for the patterns I started to make the skirt part for the bodiced petticoat. When I got the pattern (Period Impressions: Bodicen Pettiocoat) I saw that the skirt was too wide but I didn't change it. It may be too voluminous but I'll see to it when I have a dress to test it. The pattern was easy, the instructions were easy to follow after I skipped the lining part which confuced me a little bit (the pattern sheet said cut the lining part, but no mentions of the lining in the instructions...) Because I ended up sewing it before I made the "real" corset I made eyelets instead of hook and eyes because I wasn't sure what my measurements would be with the corset. The bodicet petticoat is cotton, all hand sewn with the cotton thread. And must say, my fastest hand sewing project ever! The blue colour is from the marking pen....
The empire/ regency corset
After the petticoat was done I started with the corset. I for some reason wanted to make my corset from a linen fabric my mother bought me few years ago. It is thick so I can't use it for normal under wears and it stays stiff even after washing it. So I made a full linen corset, only too layers.
And this time I followed the pattern and didn't make any alterations except I moved the bust gussets little (they were too close in the middle). And I followed the instructions. The pattern is just wonderful!! It even made my bust look tiny :-)
I liked sewing gussets and everything except the gording in front of the corset. That's why there is so little cording, but time will tell if I have to do more (and the linen may strech so the cording could keep it straight). All hand sewn with linen thread, linen fabric, cable ties, cotton cord and cotton bias tape and cotton lace for the lacing. The corset looks much better on me but I won't put a picture on me here... Did I say the pattern is great!
And I made the wooden busk but I forgot the take a picture
My first ever cordings
Looks like it's no problem for that 8 stiches/inch, it's true - the more handsewing the tinier stiches
What the item is: Empire/ Regency underwear
Fabric: cotton (shift and bodiced petticoat), linen (corset) (mock-up 1830's corset cotton)
Pattern: Basic shift pattern, Period Impression's Bodiced petticoat and Mantua-Makers Regency Corset 1800-1820
Year: 1815 - but I guess any empire/ regency will do, and my mock-up corset is for 1830-1840's
Notions: Cotton and linen threads, cotton cord, cable ties, cotton lace, wooden busk, (for 1830's corset metal eyelets)
How historically accurate: If not counting the mock-up 1830's corset, I could say it's pretty ok. (the fabrics are modern and the threads are modern etc but in general). I think the parts I made of cotton should be linen and vice versa. All three parts are totally hand sewn with period techniques (except I sewed cording using running stiches and I dont' know if that ok)
Hours to complete: Didn't count, but Mr T. said too many (the house is a mess again)
First worn: not yet, just tried them on quickly
Total cost: all from stash, and I can't guess what it would cost if I bought all the fabrics and notions.