Regency Wardrobe Planning for the Jane Austen Festival, July 2011

My but don’t I have a lot of work to do.  My best friend Maggie moved to Tennessee this past December, and has already been enjoying the wonderful Regency era re-enactments and events that take place in that part of the country.  I am due her a visit, and as we love ever so to dress up and look pretty together, we thought to combine this visit with the Jane Austen Festival at Locust Grove, in July of this year.  And, of course, I haven’t a thing to wear.

Well, I do have ONE thing, my stays+petticoat, so at least the foundation is taken care of.  As for the rest, here’s my list, (some things I already have or can buy):

  • Day Dresses x 2
  • Evening Gown
  • Bonnet/Hat x 2
  • Evening Headgear (a turban or beret of some sort)
  • Shawl/Pashmina
  • Shoes (2 pairs of flats, one for day, one for evening, or a single pair if I can find them to work for both)
  • Stockings
  • Long Gloves
  • Fichu (opt)
  • Reticule

It will be July in a high-humidity environment (which I’m not used to), so I will be costuming for heat, and taking into account sweat (ew), ventilation, but also the possibility of cooler evenings.  I will not be making any spencers, riding habits, pelisses, or robes, though, and will rely on shawls.

I want to explore the changes to dress in this time period by doing one day gown from the 1790s, and the other from a later period, perhaps the 1810s.  No thoughts on the evening gown yet, although a vague idea of wanting it to be goldy shiny sparkly, like this one:

1820, LACMA

I’ve saved a few fashion references, but to be honest Regency isn’t my forte, and the items I do love dearly are all for cold-weather wear, /sadface.  So I will have to be crafty.

Mid to late 1790s
1790s – like the full skirts, and their straw hats
This is an evening gown, but I like the interesting asymmetrical drapey thingy, although it’s probably too much for hot summer days.
Simple, but with a cool hat and jacket.
Her jacket looks almost 19teens ish.  These fashion plates aren’t necessarily what I plan to recreate.  I’m getting a feel for the different sort of things in the Regency, to try to veer away from the everyday normal expected stuff.

I did go lurking about for fabric tonight and was out-of-my-mind gleeful to have discovered a large variety of voile (my favorite fabric!) on massive sale, under $3/yard!, on, and even better, dotted swiss voile (my even favoriter most favorite fabric ever!) for that price too….so…naturally…ordered quite a lot of that. :-).  So having the fabric is at least a start, right?

Striped voile, OMG OMG OMG – I’m seeing 1790s for this, and I got enough to probably make a petticoat for a 1770s/80s costume too.
Dotted swiss voile, white w/ pale yellow dotties.
Dotted swiss white on white.  I love this fabric so much because of the wonderful texture it gives to a normally “just white” gown.  It’s subtle.
As I am making two day dresses, I wanted one that would be mostly white, but then the other one to be a print.  This is voile (yay!), and maybe the print is too big?  We shall see, but I think it may be quite lovely.  If it doesn’t work it shall just have to be made into a summer dress of a more modern variety 🙂


  • Beth

    January 25, 2011 at 6:36 PM

    How fun that all sounds! I just finished sewing 1810's costumes for my husband and myself, for the annual Jane Austen Evening in Pasadena, CA (if you're interested, I've got pics on my blogs).

    For my next Regency I want to do a white muslin day dress and bonnet, so I'll be taking careful note of what you're working on! 🙂

  • Margravine Louisa

    January 25, 2011 at 8:15 PM

    I love the white dot on white – so cool and ever classic!
    You go girl – busy people get things done, and you are well up to it!
    can't wait for the progress report!

  • Abby

    January 25, 2011 at 9:01 PM

    I had to actually laugh out loud at your 'cooler at night' comment. No. Do not expect that in Louisville. It's hot and sticky all the time in the summer. If you even need a shawl, then something is wrong. Seriously, seriously wrong. 🙂

    I'm so inspired by this, I'm starting to think of what I will want to wear/make if I am actually home to go!

  • Lauren Stowell

    January 25, 2011 at 9:51 PM

    Hahaha, Abby, noted! I should realize – I lived in East Texas for awhile and it was like wet mayonnaise in the air, day and night, in summer! I will probably bring a lightweight scarfy shawl thing JUST in case (I already have one, so just throw it in the suitcase), because I always regret it when I don't have security blankets, haha.

    I'll stick to the cottons I bought for the day – I believe one or two of the fabrics is a blend (ew), but so pretty, so maybe better for evening gown. We'll see!

  • ZipZip

    January 26, 2011 at 7:59 PM

    Good heavens, you will be at JASNA Louisville? That's wonderful. It really is a good time. We went last year and plan to again this year.

    Personally speaking, it would be terrific if you all went 1790s…most people last year seem to have been dressed for post-1800, and War of 1812 era was very common.

    About the weather and location and what it may mean for dress: last year it was 95 degrees and incredibly humid.

    Last year I did 1795. Please pardon me for boring you with details, but they might help inform your decisions.

    First, underthings: The fully boned transition stays (Past Patterns #30, reed) performed well, to great surprise. The chemise beneath soaked up the perspiration, the exoskeleton stays hid and protected the dress from the wet. And for a 45+ aged woman, the design was suitably conservative for 1795.

    Robe and petticoat: designed after museum originals, in almost paperweight dupioni, with so few slubs as to appear like taffeta. Because it was my first 1790s ensemble, and it was the first time I had worn it, and I was insistent on pinning the front shut, and insistent on a colored fichu, the ensemble was still experimental. Really dumb idea to wear it to a major event. Dumb idea too to wear a train to a largely outdoors event on Kentucky grass, all Heideloff fashion plates, and warnings from contemporary literature notwithstanding. I stepped on it getting out of the car and immediately had honking big grass stains on it. The crowds at the event meant I had the train in hand most of the time or worried about it the rest, except for pictures, when it was fun. The fabric did keep out the heat, as silk will do, so that part was nice, but I would not wear silk unless I had something powerful underneath to hide perspiration. Anyhow, the dress was NOT a success.

    Hair: lost all style in under 10 minutes. I had no hairpiece, thinking that in summer Kentucky heat, wearing a full wig would be like wearing a Persian cat on my head.

    Matching hat: cool idea, based on Heideloff plates, and built by a dear milliner friend, trimmed in the car by moi. Would NOT stay on head, brim and plume treatment needed work, and was too outre for the milieu.

    The spectacular failure of this ensemble led to lots of further research, alterations, out-and-out rebuilding and changes. Finally got a workable look, with better fit, new hat, and partial hairpiece that is cool AND appropriately curly. Only the new fichu bugged me: it refused to lay well. You can see and critique the ensemble in two postings beginning at

    Now, for sheer fabric? In a trained robe it's undeniably graceful and garden-y, befitting Locust Grove. Polly's sheer Indian patterned voile was cool in the body, although the lined super-fitted sleeves were so hot she has asked me to remove the lining. Also, I need to make her a sash in the worst way; I hadn't had time before the event and the poor girl looked unfinished.

    Jenni was the most comfortable, in a cross-over dress, again of mid-weight Indian cotton. Her dress was looser, more able to breathe. She remained crisp, although her hair went flump. The guys reported being comfortable in their ensembles, although they're not the type to complain of the vapors. See

    For the ball? If you go to YouTube, you can find several videos of the event that will give you some ideas of the variety to be found. Your ideas sound scrumptious. The hall was nice and cool, by the way.

    Sorry for the disquitiion, but hope it helps,

    Natalie in KY

  • Lauren Stowell

    January 26, 2011 at 8:08 PM

    Natalie, thank you for all the great advice. I think I'm going to go as sheer and paired-down as I possibly can modestly get away with. Short sleeves, voile fabric, no fichu, straw open styled hat. I like the 1790s a lot, with the big skirts, but we'll see what "actually" happens, hahaha. I already know I'm going to melt like an ice cream cone in an incinerator, so must take precautions!

    I'm making two day dresses. Experience doing two days at any faire has taught me that you just don't want to wear your first-day dress again on the second day, especially if the sweat factor was high, not to mention in more humid climates various sweaty areas don't dry out overnight the way you'd hope, so you get cold wet armpits in the morning. Blah!

    I wasn't able to get the striped voile afterall – got an e-mail this morning telling me they were actually out, so I got a different voile instead, another dotted swiss for the ballgown. I'll take into account what you said about trains. I think they're lovely too, but not in crowded situations, and voile is likely to just rip if it's stepped on. I'll got for shorter. 🙂

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