August 14, 2013
I just ran the Sydney City-2-surf fun run (It is a 14km race in Sydney attracting about 95,000 competitors – loads of people dress up) and over the pre-race breakfast my husband suggested we do Jane Austen inspired costumes for the race next year.
The race is an annual thing for us and a big deal and I have been trying to come up with a great costume idea for ages. I love sewing and I love Austen so we are both really excited. We want costumes that look awesome..
I have spent the last few days trolling the Internet look at fashions from 1700-1890 trying to decide what era to go with.
I stumbled upon this forum because I am really looking for some advice, maybe some people to help steer me in the right direction.
Firstly, I am trying to figure out how much work is involved in making fairly authentic costumes. The event was only a few days ago so I have a full year to make the costumes – ideally one for myself, my husband, and my two children (2 and 4). The event is shaping up to be a big annual family event, and I have visions of slowly making a large outfit collection for us all. I have visions of a dozen family members all fully decked out in a great costume.
Secondly, I am trying to choose a single era for the entire group. I don’t want to have one of us in Late-Victorian and the other in a regency gown.
Thirdly, I want a wow-factor and I want us to look great.
I am struggling with just how simple the Regency era is (even though it is attractive because of Austen). The men with their cravats look downright sexy, but the shapeless women’s gown are troubling me. I know a colourful gown with a bustle would look stunning, or an open gown with a pretty inlaid piece, or a gown from the 17?? with panniers would be brilliant. However not only are they not from the beloved Regency era, but I suspect they would be an impossible amount of work. At least the Regency era empire dresses would be breezy for walking in.
I hope I have found the right place.
Welcome! You have found a very supportive and experienced group here on this forum.
August 4, 2013
Welcome! Waving hello from across the Pacific.
The event sounds like fun and is certainly do-able if you pace yourself. I have limited experience with Regency but a fair amount with 1860’s. Some things that I have discovered are universal in all eras. For one, please consider proper undergarments. It will give you the proper foundation for the silhouette as well as have you move and walk in a more authentic manner. It will also make the clothing look amazing on you. Second, do consider the real and authentic fabrics. Use cotton, silk, and wool, not polyester. The synthetic does not breathe. The real thing is usually not as costly as you might think, at least here in the United States. Besides it always looks better! Thirdly, do your research! For instance, buttons were considered unladylike on women’s clothing in the late 1700’s but are perfectly acceptable in 1860’s. Or natural fabrics are a must in Victorian eras and before but in 1940’s synthetics are the thing because the cotton is going to the war effort. Fourthly, consider your accessories. Think about your reticule (purse) gloves, bonnet, shoes, jewelry. All those things count and certainly complete your look.
Have fun! Sewing your own historical clothing is so rewarding and the best part is wearing them to an event where your will be appreciated and admired!
October 25, 2012
Perhaps a silly question:
Do you plan to run 14k in these costumes?
If you do, I think you’ll need to make some modifications.
My suggestion if you’re sticking with the Austen theme is to pick a year and then stick with it. The Regency was a time of experimentation and evolution of fashion. If you’re looking for more ornate… Choose something like 1815-1820. Ladies gowns got quite frilly and decorative. They also were a bit shorter and above the ankle is totally do-able.
Modifications: That high waisted Regency bustline is created with a corset. You might not want a corset for running in. In fact, you might not want boning…
A Regency era “gentleman” wore his jacket. He was “undressed” without it. You might want to consider simply making your husband a shirt and waistcoat. *Properly* he can’t get away with just a shirt. He’s in his underwear in just his shirt. The top hat was kind of standard wear but you might be able to find a straw top hat that would be more comfortable than a felt hat.
For children, the era couldn’t be easier to dress. It’s dresses and pantalettes for small children (both boys and girls) and then when a little boy get’s older he wears a skeleton suit, which evolves into the same dress as Daddy by the time he’s 8 or so.
You’ve got an awesome resource in Aylwen in Canberra. http://aylwen.blogspot.ca/
August 14, 2013
Thank you for your responses. I found Aylwen’s b log and site last night. I was considering doing one of her pre-cut dresses for my first attempt.
A great question about running. Yes. Some outfits will need to be modified for running. However I am happy to create hybrid outfits for the runners. I.e. I have run the event once, but lately with two little kids we walk the event (pushing a pram and carrying kids). In the future I look forward to running it again. At this stage the outfits will be geared towards authenticity, and the running hybrids would be something we look at way down the track.
We will all be wearing runners (joggers) with our outfits, but otherwise I am keen to make them fairly authentic. Cotton is the obvious choice because it breathes very well. I am happy to wear a corset if I am not running, and I definetly want top hats. The day begins very cool (jackets are great) but very quickly it heats up so that a long-sleeved running shirt is all we usually wear. Plenty of costumes look very hot (such as the guys who wear gorilla suits or wedding dresses).
I would be more then happy for a guy to remove his jacket once the race began, even if it is consdered being undressed… Heck there is a group of 30 or so blokes, known as the smurf house, that every year cheer the race on wearing nothing but a pair of underwear (and head to toe blue body paint).
I will look more closely at the 1815-1820 era.
I am an adequate dressmaker. I make heaps of my daughters clothes, and am working on a winter coat for myself right now, but I am still a relative beginner. I do regularly attend a sewing group with a seamstress who helps us with whatever we are working on, and I would be willing to get her assistance outside of class if need be.
Can someone tell me that other eras are out of my league at the moment. I am just in a research phase at the moment trying to make a decision about which era. I don’t have the time or skill to make panniers that were worn in the French and English courts, or the bustle skirts from that late-victorian era. I am still seeing them as an option but I need to hear that they are not possible or desirable.
October 25, 2012
I would suggest that Regency style is probably best for you to start on as it is for the whole family. Regency men’s tailoring can be quite tricky – I still don’t get the collar fitting quite right! However, you can make them look really good with practice.
18th century gowns are not that difficult in general, but the men’s costumes, to get them looking good, do take a bit of skill, but they can be made well with mainly dressmaking knowledge.
19th century bustle skirts, are huge fun to play with, but you will need some good underwear if they are to look “authentic” if that is what you want. You are aware, of course, that there are two basic styles – 1870’s and 1880’s. The men’s clothing involved hard tailoring, which takes quite a lot of skill. It is perfectly possible to teach yourself all the skills you need, but it all takes time. Although I went to college to learn my trade, I am self taught as a men’s tailor, and I wish I’d had the opportunity to do the same kind of men’s clothing course as I had with women’s clothing.
I look forward to seeing what you decide – it sounds such a fun idea!
October 25, 2012
I just came from an event this weekend where we were camping. Let me just say that a man in a Regency era linen shirt and trousers LOOKS like he’s in his underwear. It’s not pretty!
Now if he’s running, it’s probably perfectly acceptable.
You mention cotton… Yes, cotton is nice and it’s moderately priced, but for comfort I highly suggest light-weight linen for your underthings. Linen chemise for the ladies and small children and linen shirt for the men and boys. It’s surprising how huge a difference this makes. Linen breathes better, it naturally wicks sweat and it keeps you comfortable. I would also make the back of a man’s waistcoat out of linen.
When in full “garb” I wear linen chemise, cotton stays, cotton petticoat (I keep SAYING I’m going to make a linen one for me, but I keep sewing for other people and it’s been years…) and gown over top. I’ve got 2 cotton gowns and one linen. All are equally comfortable. When in the sun all day, I ether fill in the neckline with a fine cotton fichu or a chemisette (I’ve got one that’s silk organza and one that’s fine cotton). I also cover my arms with handkerchief linen mitts (I burn like crazy). And I wear a bonnet to shade my face from the sun.
Edit to add: For such a big project, outfitting your whole family, stick with Regency. The Austen theme is a good idea. If you’re happy with the fun results and are still inspired to venture off into more complicated historical eras later, there’s still the time to do that. You can get quite fluffy and frilly and ornate with late Regency.
March 14, 2013
Welcome to the forum!
I agree that Regency is the best period for making an entire wardrobe for your family. I would do the man’s tailcoat last and practice on everything else. Also some might recommend doing the lady’s stays last, but I would do them first so you can be sure your dress fits properly.
I would disagree that a man in his trousers and shirt is not a pretty sight — depends on the man!
August 14, 2013
I feel much more confident now, and very much excited.
I really know nothing of the fashions for those era (other than rereading all the Jane Austen novels every couple of years, and watching all the movies (multiple versions) when I am sick or wanting something to listen to while I knit and crochet.
I am looking forward to learning more about it all.
I think I shall begin with the underpinnings, and go from there.
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