Dressed to Kill

Sometimes the synchronicity is just so…synchronous, you know?  I wasn’t looking for fabric when I went out today.

After the farmer’s market this morning (strawberries! ripe tomatoes! peaches sweeter than my daughters!) I went to a garage sale a friend was having, and for $30 picked up six lengths of green brocade-y sort of fabric–not period, but close enough to play period on TV, as it were.  I had no idea what I would do with this fabric, but it was beautiful, and sometimes things come up (viz: my younger daughter coming home last month to announce that I was costuming, not just her, but three classmates, for a scene from Romeo and Juliet) and you need fabric in a hurry.

Let me parenthetically explain that I am a self-taught seamstress; I love the construction aspect of the whole thing, making a garment come together, the architecture.  I have no patience for the finishing bits, and it’s only because I can hem, or whipstitch, or do whatever it is while watching TV, that things I sew don’t look like a bad pile up on I-280 at rush hour.  So I don’t often take on anything much more complex than a costume for my kids.

Anyway: I got home, settled the dog, and got an email from my publisher (can I say how much I love saying that?  I really do) talking about an idea that would require me to, like, wear Regency clothes for a photo.  I do, in fact, have one Regency gown which I made more than 20 years ago for a much younger and, alas, slimmer me.  It hangs in my closet and I pet it occasionally (silk velvet…slides through your hands like garnet colored water) but I have not worn it for years.  But because I am me, I had to start going through online resources, looking for patterns, thinking about what I would do if I had to make myself a Regency outfit…

And I have this fabric, see, that would make a perfectly splendid coat over a muslin round gown.  It would not be perfectly period; coats were generally made of plain-colored fabric; patterned fabrics generally had very small patterns that were woven in.  But…oh, it would be a handsome thing.  I’m thinking a coat using the spencer pattern shown here: but with an ankle length skirt, worn over a dress like the one below, only in a light muslin (the silk is utterly gorgeous, but 1) not my color and 2) too expensive).

The problem is, even before I began fretting over the spencer and gown, I’d have to make myself a set of stays.  Stay-making is a big production, particularly because I can’t just wear any old stays any more: they’d have to be highly structured.  In fact, I got the pattern for stays this afternoon and spent an hour reading them: I’ll tell you, that sweet ingenuous muslin-gown look had a hell of a lot of infrastructure.  And really, do I need a project like this?

And yet I have this fabric that so wants to be made into something splendid.

But now that the thought has occurred to me, it’s really hard to stuff back into the bottle.  If you don’t hear from me for a while, look under the sewing machine.

About madeleinerobins

2 responses to “Dressed to Kill

  • Deborah Grabien

    Your publisher has this really pretty picture in her head, wherein the Regency woman in the green brocade is holding a rapier or foil or whatever period bit of blade ordinance works, in full ready-to-administer-le-baiser-de-mort death lunge, being subtly but not completely photoshopped into a classic drawing or print of Regency London as a backdrop. Leaving the dress and the sword and the wearer to not completely meld into the background – a sort of sparkle effect that hints at a fantasy element.


  • madeleinerobins

    Full baiser-de-mort lunge is likely to look a little undignified in Regency dress–I was thinking more in a garde or parry. But we could take shots of all this in varying poses and decide which we like best…

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