Historical Fashion Fiction

 

In brief lulls between sewing (cash-generating alterations only, folks, so no new work photos at the moment. Nothing exciting being finished right now!) and studying, I’ve been carving out some relaxation time with a novelist that I’ve been meaning to get into for a while but never, for some reason, made it past the first couple of pages on previous attempts. Georgette Heyer has been credited with creating the historical romance as we know it today. She was a prolific author from the 1930s until her death in the 1970s, setting many of her novels in the world of Regency England. Romance is the key word in that description. If you you do not like your plots predictable, your heroines atypical of their time – but still beautiful and genteel – and your heroes, well, heroic, then I doubt very much you’ll enjoy any of the four works I’ve read so far (so maybe there was more reading than there should have been. But in my defence, I was in serious need of something to keep my mental attention while I hand hemmed four dresses, reconstructed a fully lined jacket, and took up 8 pairs of trousers…).

 

Authentic Regency fashions

Authentic Regency fashion

The stories are light enough to fly away, but enjoyable all the same, once you get past the fact that you know exactly how they are going to end. I think it was this that held me back from them for so long. As someone who has long scoffed at romance, I find it hard to admit that I now have a sneaky liking for it, arrived at by way of chick lit. But it’s true. I do enjoy something light, fluffy and easy to get through in a single sitting (provided that sitting is something like 7 hours long, that is). What I don’t like is the apparent lack of awareness of fashion int he regency period displayed in the books so far. Sure, there are passing mentions of muslin, an awareness that the fast set would damped their skirts to make them cling to the body, but the remaining descriptions sound like they are much later in the nineteenth century. And it bugs me, even when my brain is switched off by the rest of the book. It seems that they hoped to get by with references to muslin and the occasional pelisse – seemingly the only phrases really known by the author. But the lack of detail about dress sets the novels apart from the genuine regency article. And it is disappointing.

Georgette_Heyer

Georgette Heyer, looking all soft and romantic, just like her novels.

I haven’t read all of the novels written by Heyer – although I have a goodly number of them queued up on my kindle for perusal at a later date – but so far I find her novel entertaining enough, if formulaic. I will no doubt read many more them. But for all that, I prefer Phillipa Gregory for my history. Sure, she is also capable of playing fast and loose with historical fact and the film adaptations of her novels are guaranteed to send me into paroxysms when the female leads drop their dress to be completely naked underneath, but for all that there is at least an outward appearance of research. Gregory knows the facts before she meddles with them. Heyer, I’m convinced, just made them up to suit her. I’ll still be reading her though. It’s like car crash fiction – terrible, but at the same time, you have to look.

 

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Busy little bee

I know, I know. There has been a severe lack of posting going on with this blog of late. That’s because I’ve been busy actually sewing things. And finding other ways to procrastinate. But now, as soon as my terribly, painfully slow internet connection decides to let me access them, I have photos for updating what has been going on. I know – novel.

First there was the dress I made as a Christmas present for my niece.Last year she got a version of a ballet outfit – I say a version, because all of her dress ups are things that can be worn over other clothes – and she loved it. This year, I decided to go for a princess theme, based on Simplicity 2817.

Untitled-1

Her mother and I both try and avoid branding her too much, so she was never going to be Snow White or Cinderella. Plus, her favourite colour is purple, so that had to be in there somewhere. Add to that the fun of making something for a 3 year old who is the size of the average 6 year old, and you see where things might go wrong. Except it turns out that the only major problem was the length of the dress. I’m not sure if it was down to the lack of pouffy underskirts, but this dress was looong. As in I ended up having to take up about 15cm (6 inches for those who are still imperial), even after a deep hem. But she was thrilled with it, and refused to take it off – insisting that she must be called Princess A–. Incidentally, the pose is all her own doing. I told to stand still so I could take a photo and this is what she came up with.

Apologies for the terrible photo - that's what you get using a camera phone on a sunny day.

Apologies for the terrible photo – that’s what you get using a camera phone on a sunny day.

My other major tasks have all related to the Historial Sew Fortnightly (aka HSF). I’ve already mentioned the spencer that I planned. Turns out, I may have overestimated my pattern drafting abilities. Even working off the Janet Arnold original – which looks to be child sized to me, and may just fit Niece – I struggled to get something workable. So I ended up making my first attempt at draping.

On the whole, it came out pretty well, I think, even if the jacket is not, technically, finished. OK, it’s not finished at all, but you get the idea. The eagle eyed may notice one of the reasons why it’s not finished. I got a little distracted during the process and decided to makeover Esmeralda, my trusty dress form, so that she resembles me a little more closely. There will be more written about this at some stage, but suffice to say that hours with iron-on wadding, pins, and poplin caused me to evaluate my own natural shape in a fairly confronting manner. But they did also produce an increased likelihood that things will fit me better in future (except the hips, where I ran out of wadding…nothing seems to be getting finished at the moment).

Which of course leaves the question of what else I have been doing. Well, here it is. There was the bonus challenge for HSF, which I finished but never got around to photographing and posting. It’s a slip, planned for wearing under many a dress that I have daydreamed about, using up some gorgeous stretchy silk from the stash.

slip

I’m not entirely certain if this is late 1920s or early 1930s. I think I lean towards 1930s. Either way, it’s an entirely practical garment that is so unflattering I refuse to wear it in front of a camera. Esmeralda is otherwise occupied at the moment as well, so she has also refused to wear it.

I have been planning ahead with my HSF challenges. Or attempting to. There’s the UFO challenge up next. Of course, I have many UFOs. So I’ll not only be finishing the spencer jacket, I’ll be selecting something from the pile of period appropriate items that have been languishing in my UFO basket for years, in some cases. This is my task list for the next week or so –

UFO pile

Yep. I’m going to be busy again.