What a peaceful Regency setting!

My daughter at the previous festival in 2014.

A few months ago I went to the Jane Austen Festival in Canberra with my daughter, and I was eager to make her a new dress to wear. So, in addition to letting down a number of her other gowns, I set myself the task of drafting a pattern for her.

I have wanted to learn the art of draping for awhile too, where material is held onto the body (or dressmakers form) and cut, smoothed and pinned to fit. Generally speaking, the process most of us use is to pin our pattern piece to the material, which is cut and sewn and then finally fitted. However, many experienced dressmakers tell me that draping is a really good way to get an effective fit for a garment.

For this gown I did not have heaps of time to learn (and have the necessary trial and error achievements) for draping, so I thought I could try and drape using paper. Effectively I would be laying paper on the body and cutting around it to form the pattern pieces to use.

Construction Steps

Step One: I started with thinking about the type of gown I want to make; that is, thinking about its particular features. I wanted a gown with:

  • long skirts, but slightly flared,
  • a bodice with some gathers around the bottom of the bust,
  • no waistband,
  • short puffy sleeves over a longer under-sleeve,
  • button fastenings at the centre back.

I found it is also important to think about where the seams will be, which then tells you how many pieces your garment will have, and which of those pieces will be cut on the fold, etc…

Step Two: I held up a piece of paper against my daughter, starting with the back. I made a back bodice piece first, then the front bodice piece, and then a side bodice piece. I cut the paper roughly to size (its always important not to accidentally cut hair or clothes!!) and then neatened it up later.

The back bodice piece

The back bodice piece being cut out on the body.

As I cut the pattern pieces, I made them as I wanted them to look when finished, that is, I made them without seam allowances. This meant that the pieces needed to meet each other along the seamlines, and the centre front on-the-fold-line should be on the centre front line of the body. Likewise, the centre back area needed a bit extra for the overlap to place buttons and buttonholes (which I added to the pattern notations later).

The back bodice piece finished. The shoulder seam is set far back, as was the fashion during Regency.

The back bodice piece finished. The shoulder seam is set far back, as was the fashion during Regency.

I think it is actually more difficult to draft/drape with paper, as it is much hard to pin and hold in place. However, it felt a lot less scary than cutting into fabric while holding it on the body. I did throw out a few sheets of paper, as I inevitably made mistakes with my cutting lines!

Step Three: I wrote notations on my pattern pieces to stop me getting confused later. Things such as: notches to show which panel is joined to which; the centre front and back; grainlines; place-on-fold marks. You can see below that I made a reminder for myself to allow more at the centre back for the button placket that I intended to make.

These are the pattern pieces with the notations added. Once adjustments are made, the pattern pieces can be altered.

These are the pattern pieces with the notations added. Once fitting adjustments were made, the pattern pieces can be altered (which they were). It is also a good idea to name the pieces, which I haven’t done here.

When marking grainlines, it is a general rule that the grainline runs parallel to the centre front/back line (and perpendicular to the waistline).

Step Four: I began to cut out the bodice pieces. Just in case I had made a mistake, I allowed bigger seam allowances on all the side seams of the bodice and the centre back seams. This allowed me to have “room to move” to make some fitting adjustments later.

Step Five: The skirt pieces I cut out with reference to a pattern of an extant girl’s dress I have made before. My skirts were in three pieces (1 centre front piece cut on the fold, 2 back pieces cut on the selvedge) and were slightly flared (which I like because the child can run around a little easier). I merely had to measure how long I needed them to be, that is, from the Regency waistline to the floor. The gathers of the skirt were all pulled to the centre back.

Step Six: The sleeve pieces were a bit more tricky. For the oversleeve, I flat-patterned the sleeve based on some other sleeves I had made, and then I just adjusted it to fit on the dress. You can use the extant pattern link above as a starting point, or use a tutorial for patterning puffed sleeves. I made it quite puffy, mainly because it is easier to make it smaller but impossible to make it larger if you have cut it too small!

The undersleeve was a very basic symmetrical shape, which I have sketched below.

The undersleeve was a symmetrical piece (even though it doesn't appear so from my hurried sketch).

The undersleeve is a symmetrical piece (even though it doesn’t appear so from my hurried sketch).

Step Seven: For the neckline, I sewed bias binding to the raw neckline edge (right sides together) and then folded it to the inside, leaving none of the binding visible. It was machine sewn down to make a casing. I threaded a piece of cotton tape through the casing and then pulled in the neckline to fit. Rather than having to tie it up at the back, I sewed the tape to the casing at the centre back to secure it.

Step Eight: The last parts to do were the hem, the dorset buttons and buttonholes.

The dorset buttons and buttonholes. You can see the centre back gathers on the skirt, as well as the piping around the bottom edge of the puffed sleeve. The bias binding is also visible around the inside of the front neckline.

The dorset buttons and buttonholes completed. You can see the centre back gathers on the skirt, as well as the piping around the bottom edge of the puffed sleeve. The bias binding is also visible around the inside of the front neckline.

Here are some pictures of the finished dress worn during the Festival promenade on the Sunday morning.

The front view

The front view

girls regency dress back

The back view (with some dorset buttons popped off, which were replaced later).

I found this process to be a good way to practise draping and drafting. I hope it encourages you to try it too!

Related Posts

How to make a Basic Regency Girl’s Dress

Dress-ups for a Girl

Dress-ups for a Baby

Sources and Relevant Links

Draping on a Dressform – by Craftsy

Draping on a stand for beginners (a snippet of a longer course) – Youtube tutorial

How to draft a puffed sleeve – at Sewing Mamas forum

How to make Dorset Buttons – by Potter Wright & Webb

A British navy waistcoat, after 1812.

A British navy waistcoat, worn by either a captain or commander, (circa. after 1812).

In this series I have been making a midshipman uniform for my 9-year-old son. The period I am focussing on for this uniform is the years between 1795-1812. In this particular post I have been working on a waistcoat.

This dear William would soon be amongst them. There could be no doubt of his obtaining leave of absence immediately, for he was still only a midshipman; and as his parents, from living on the spot, must already have seen him and be seeing him perhaps daily, his direct holidays might with justice be instantly given to his sister, who had been his best correspondent through a period of seven years…

Mansfield Park, by Jane Austen

One of the difficulties I am facing is that not many extant midshipmen uniforms have survived, so it is a little more difficult to find out the exact regulations for the the time period than merely looking at museum pieces. There are also less pictures (both paintings and cartoons) of midshipmen versus those of higher naval rank. I am also working to a deadline, as my son would like to wear this uniform next month for “Book Week” at his school. This deadline has squashed any desire in me to search for copies of British Navy regulations to peruse!

A Portrait of a Midshipman, by Sir Martin Archer Slee.

A Portrait of a Midshipman, by Sir Martin Archer Shee.

The British navy uniform included a white, woven wool, single-breasted waistcoat for all its officers. This waistcoat featured an upstanding collar, pockets (flap pockets earlier in the period and welt pockets later), and brass buttons. The Royal Museums Greenwich states that the pattern on the buttons indicate the rank and status of the wearer, and Diana’s Buttons have a useful summary of the British naval buttons through the 18th and 19th centuries. The waistcoat could be lined with cotton or silk, backed with cotton, and with the fronts and facings (if they had facings) in wool. Waistcoats of this era also often had tapes (or eyelets and cord) at the back for adjustment.


My pattern inspiration initially came from the all the extant waistcoats I could find. None of these are identified as midshipmen waistcoats, and the paintings of midshipman don’t always show the waistcoat clearly, so my general assumption is that they were all similar.

A waistcoat from the uniform of a British naval officer, c. 1807

A waistcoat from the uniform of a British naval surgeon, (circa. 1807).

I looked at The Cut of Men’s Clothes, by Norah Waugh, and Costume Close-Up, by Linda Baumgarten for ideas on the shapes of pattern pieces, particularly the collar. Both of these books have examples of waistcoats from the 1790’s.

From this information I draped the lining on my son and cut away! *gasp* This is the first garment that I have actually draped with fabric. Having recently made a vest for an Oliver production may have helped my courage!

The front panels were made from cream wool, and the waistcoat was lined and backed with ivory cotton broadcloth. The buttons have a fouled anchor imprint and are made from gold-coloured metal.


A modern waistcoat is relatively simple to make, as it generally consists of sewing two side seams and attaching buttons to the front. For this reason I have not gone through every step of the construction process. If you are interesting in seeing each step of a Regency waistcoat, you can refer to my previous post, MY Mr Knightley: Making a Regency Waistcoat.

What is different in Regency waistcoats is the collar and pockets, as many modern vests do not have these features.

I drafted the collar piece after examining the pattern pieces in Costume Close-up. It seems that many collars were seamed at the centre back. This has the effect of drawing them in closer around the neck. The grainline was often vertical in historical pieces, but in modern wear collars often have the grainline running horizontally.

The pattern for the collar piece. To the left is the centre back and to the right is the centre front. No seam allowances have been added to the pattern.

The pattern for the collar piece. To the left is the centre back and to the right is the centre front. No seam allowances have been added to the pattern.

I put in welt pockets, using a tutorial from Craftsy.

The welt pockets

The welt pockets

The buttonholes were slashed and handsewn with buttonhole stitch, and the buttons sewn on. You can see the edges of the waistcoat have been handsewn through all thicknesses with a running stitch to help keep the wool flat.

The buttons and handsewn buttonholes

The buttons and handsewn buttonholes, and the centre front edges sewn with running stitch.

The front view

The front view

The back view

The back view

Keep an eye out for my next post in this series, making a midshipman coat – coming soon!

Related Posts

The Making of a Midshipman – the introduction

MY Mr Knightley: Making a Regency Waistcoat

Sources and Relevant Links

Mansfield Park, by Jane Austen – read online

Image Source: A British Navy waistcoat (circa. after 1812) – at Royal Museums Greenwich

Image Source: A Portrait of a Midshipman, painted by Sir Martin Archer Shee

Image Source: A British Navy waistcoat (circa. after 1807) – at Royal Museums Greenwich

Buttons of the U.K.’s Royal Navy – by Diana’s Buttons

The Cut of Men’s Clothes, by Norah Waugh – buy on Amazon

Costume Close-up: Clothing Construction and Pattern 1750-1790, by Linda Baumgarten – buy on Amazon

Sewing a welt pocket – by Craftsy

Mark Lester as Oliver Twist in the movie, "Oliver!", in  1968.

Mark Lester as Oliver Twist in the movie, “Oliver!”, in 1968.

One of my sons was in a recent production of Oliver at school, and I decided to make him a quick costume for it.

There are many online instructions for putting together an Oliver costume, but generally speaking there are four components:

  • a shirt,
  • pants,
  • vest
  • and cap.

Optional extras include braces, jacket, black shoes, a scarf/cravat … and dirt!


I bought a normal white button-up business shirt from a second-hand shop and unpicked the collar, that is, the “pointy” part.

The shirt with the pointy strip of the collar removed.

The shirt with the pointy strip of the collar removed.

Then I sewed the neckband back together, making sure all the raw edges were tucked under. The shirt ended up being quite long, as it was a small adult size, so I roughly cut around the bottom edge so it didn’t look too ridiculous!


I decided not to worry too much about making pants, so he just wore a brown pair of cargo drill pants that we already had at home, with the legs rolled up to his calves. Many boys in the Victorian period had matching pant/vest/jacket suits, so making something from the same material as the vest is always an option.


For the vest, I used newspaper for the pattern pieces and held it up to my son’s body and cut it out. There were two pieces, a back panel (to be cut with the centre back on a fold) and a front panel (with extra at the centre front for the button placket). Just remember that the centre front and the centre back need to be placed on the grainline. Grainlines generally run at right angles to the waistline.

The newspaper pattern I drafted. I have marked the centre front and back.

The newspaper pattern I drafted. I have marked the centre front and back.

This is a useful video tutorial on how to make a very simple vest. You can easily make adjustments to it to suit a different style of vest.

The vest front, shown with the shirt and pants.

The vest front, shown with the shirt and pants.

I had bought a large man’s button-up shirt from a second-hand shop, made from a heavy, thick woven cotton. I used this to make the both the vest and the cap. The vest is not lined, but is backed with black bemsilk.


After unsuccessfully scouring second-hand shops for something suitable, I resigned myself to having to sew a cap. I used the free pattern and tutorial provided on Clevergirl, and set to work. This cap was made from the same heavy cotton material I used for the vest, and was lined with black bemsilk.

The cap

The cap

This cap is probably a tiny bit floppy for the purpose, but it can easily be adapted if you prefer the panels to be smaller.

The good thing about this type of costume is that it can be used for a number of characters, including Gilbert Blyth (Anne of Green Gables). I am always on the look out for easy, versatile book-character costumes to use for Book Week!

Related Posts

Dress-ups for a Girl – an 18th century costume

Dress-ups for a Baby – an Edwardian costume

Sources and Relevant Links

How to make a simple vest – Youtube tutorial

Newsboy Cap: Pattern and Tutorial – by Clevergirl

Be A Fun Mum

Be A Fun Mum is a blog all about the challenges of motherhood.

Be A Fun Mum is a blog all about the challenges of motherhood.

Today I am being featured on Be A Fun Mum, run by the very passionate and enthusiastic Kelly! Kelly is particularly dedicated to trying to enjoy the moment in the hectic pace of life as a mother. She writes articles covering many topics of motherhood, including organisation, holiday activities, food ideas, fashion tips, and even how to overcome a bad week! She is an inspiration to many, including me!

One particular interest of Kelly’s is period fashion, literature, and films. She has a second blog called Very Jane Austen that is developed on this theme.

I feel very privileged to be featured on her blog and I hope you can pop over to Be A Fun Mum and have a read of the article, “Beautiful Period Fashion“, written by Cath Johnsen.

My son is constantly nagging me to complete the next item in his “midshipman wardrobe”, so I have been busy. In my previous post, I made my-little-midshipman a shirt and stock. In this post I will be making a pair of breeches.

A midshipman of scant service depended for his authority on board largely on the force of his own personality. He was only a warrant officer himself; when all was said and done a midshipman was not nearly as important to the ship’s economy – and was far more easily replaced – than, say, Washburn, the cooper’s mate over there, who knew all about the making and storage of the ship’s water barrels.

Mr. Midshipman Hornblower, C.S. Forester

Breeches worn by Lord Nelson at Trafalgar (18..)

The Royal Naval breeches (1795 pattern) worn by Lord Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 (front view).

The Royal Naval breeches were very similar to all other breeches of this period. The waistband was thick and sat very high (compared to current fashion), and contained a small fob pocket in it. The breeches had a central fall front done up with buttons, and two “fall” pockets at either side also done up with buttons. The centre back waistband contained a triangular gusset with eyelets and a cord that laced up, providing an extra means of adjustment.

The back view of Lord Nelson's breeches, worn in 1805.

The back view of Lord Nelson’s breeches, worn in 1805.

In contrast to the “normal” breeches of this period, Royal Naval breeches were always made of white material, such as woven wool. The breeches reached to the knee, as they all did during that time, and were fastened with four Royal Navy brass buttons, as well as a brass buckle. Navy breeches also seemed to routinely have four extra buttons around the top of the waistband for the use of braces.

Hornblower poked forward his padded leg, pointed his toe, laid his hand on his heart and bowed with all the depth the tightness of his breeches allowed – he had still been growing when he bought them on joining the Indefatigable.

Mr. Midshipman Hornblower, by C.S. Forester

In looking for a pattern, I began with the same pattern as I used for making my husband’s breeches, which was Simplicity #4923. I used the same shape of the pattern pieces and drafted them smaller to fit my son. I also wanted these breeches to be tighter in the normal Regency style. The measurements I took from my son were:

Simplicity pattern #4923

Simplicity pattern #4923

  • Waist circumference
  • Underknee circumference
  • Waist-to-underknee length
  • Waist-(centre front)-to-crotch length
  • Crotch-to-knee (inner thigh)

Knowing these measurements helped me change the size of the pattern pieces. I often mark the material by sticking pins vertically into the carpet so that I can stand back and look at the shape of the pattern pieces as I go. It is important that the pieces correspond to the measurements, but it is also important that the pattern pieces retain the same overall shape, as it is the pattern shapes which form the characteristics of any garment. Using pins in this manner makes it easy to change the pieces as I remeasure and compare to the original pattern piece. In hindsight, it might have been good to copy this “pattern” onto a sheet of paper to use again!

The breeches back and front marked with pins and cut out.

The breeches back and front marked with pins and cut out. Once this had been fitted, I did need to take a large wedge out of the centre back seam for it to fit properly.

I used a lemon coloured cotton broadcloth (surely white breeches did not stay white for long!!), with small gold-coloured metal buttons.

I made several changes to the pattern, as I did for my husband’s pair. I added a triangular gusset to the centre back of the waistband, with some eyelets and cord to lace them up.

The back triangular gusset in the centre back, laced with cotton cording.

The back triangular gusset in the centre back, laced with cotton cording. You can see the buttons added for the use of braces.

Instead of using bias binding to hem the bottom under-knee edge, I attached a narrow cuff, leaving some overhang to use with a buckle.

The knee buttons and buckle. The buttons are

The knee buttons and buckle. The buttons are not the navy buttons normally seen during this era, but I had limited gold buttons to choose from!

The front view

The front view

The back view

The back view, without the lacing done up properly (oops!).

These breeches have turned out quite well, I think. They fit nicely, with enough room for some growing. I would like to make a second pair with ivory cotton broadcloth, as I wonder if the lemon ones might be a bit too yellow. I would also like to try and alter the pattern to include the two side “fall” pockets that are so often found in the originals. At this stage I have not put the small fob pocket in the waistband either.

But for now, I am moving on to the waistcoat!

To read more about The Making of a Midshipman, go to My Regency Journey.

Related Posts

The Making of a Midshipman

MY Mr Knightley: Making Breeches

Sources and Relevant Links

Lord Nelson’s breeches – from Royal Museums Greenwich

Mr Midshipman Hornblower, by C.S. Forester – buy on Amazon

Simplicity pattern #4923 – for sale on Simplicity.com

Midshipman Michael Daintry (1813), painted by Thomas Lawrence.

Midshipman Michael Daintry (1813), painted by Thomas Lawrence.

Since my 9-year-old son asked to come to the Jane Austen Festival, I have become inspired to make him a midshipman uniform for the occasion. He also seems rather keen to go to “Book Week” as “Mr Midshipman Hornblower”, which could be interesting for him!

There was no sign of anything brewing while dinner was being eaten in the great cabin of the Indefatigable. Pellew was a courtly host at the head of the table. Conversation flowed freely and along indifferent channels among the senior officers present – the two lieutenants, Eccles and Chadd, and the sailing master, Soames. Hornblower and the other junior officer – Mallory, a midshipman of over two years’ seniority – kept silent, as midshipmen should, thereby being able to devote their undivided attention to the food, so vastly superior to what was served in the midshipmen’s berth. 

Mr. Midshipman Hornblower, by C.S. Forester

For the second post in this series, I will be making an 18th century boys shirt and stock.


Generally speaking, men’s 18th century shirts were all made along the same lines. They were made from rectangles and squares, neatly cut as to have little offcuts, and rather roomy in the body, only fitting closely around the neck and the wrist cuffs.

18th century linen shirts, from

Late 18th century linen shirts, from Germanisches National Museum. The front ruffle and the wrist frills can be easily seen.

In addition to this, midshipmen from this Regency period all seemed to have a front frill on their 18th century shirts, which is often seen peeking out from below their neckstocks. However, they do not seem to have the corresponding frill around their wrists, which was so popular during the 18th century.

Using this information, I made my-little-midshipman a shirt. I last made an 18th century shirt when I was making a Regency costume for my husband, so I simply referred back to my post and followed the same process using the smaller measurements.

There is a basic pattern for a shirt in Norah Waugh’s The Cut of Men’s Clothes, or there are various places online to look for making an 18th century shirt.

I made this shirt from white cotton broadcloth. It has a front frill and a dorset button on each wrist cuff and the collar. It is rather roomy, but I am hopeful that it will still fit if he grows before April next year.

A little dorset button on the cuff.

A little dorset button on the cuff.

Showing a midshipman, master and commander, and a cabin boy.

Showing a midshipman, master and commander, and a cabin boy. The midshipman’s stock appears knotted here.


A black stock was considered the general sign of a military man in this period. Sometimes they were made into a short straight strip, laid on the front of the neck and then attached at the back with ties. Other times they appear to be a longer strip of fabric that crosses at the back and is knotted at the front.

Bush felt the perspiration prickling under his uniform, and his stock constricted his thick neck so that every now and again he put two fingers into it and tugged, without relief. It would have been the simplest matter in the world to take off his heavy uniform coat and unhook his stock, but it never crossed his mind that he should do so. Bodily discomfort was something that one bore without a complaint in the world; habit and pride both helped.

Lieutenant Hornblower, by C.S. Forester

I have previously made a variety of cravats for my husband, but this time I particularly wanted a stock that knotted in front, similar to the painting of Midshipman Michael Daintry above.

From the pictures I have seen, this type of stock appeared to be a long triangular piece that was folded, laid on the front of the neck, crossed at the back and then neatly knotted (with short ends) at the front.

I used black cotton broadcloth and cut it with the long straight edge on the selvedge. The neckcloth is folded lengthways before being put around the neck.

A black neckcloth for a midshipman. The long flat edge is cut on the selvedge (measuring 41 inches), and the depth at the midpoint measures 7.5 inches.

A black neckcloth for a midshipman. The long flat edge is cut on the selvedge, measuring 41 inches long, and the depth at the midpoint of the triangle measures 7.5 inches.

All finished! And looking good so far.

The shirt and stock of a little midshipman

The shirt and stock of a little midshipman

Next up, making a little midshipman’s breeches.

Related Posts

The Making of a Midshipman

MY Mr Knightley: Making a Shirt

MY Mr Knightley: Making a Neckcloth

Sources and Relevant Links

Portrait of Midshipman Michael Daintry (1813) – painted by Thomas Lawrence

18th century shirts – from Germanisches National Museum

The Cut of Men’s Clothes, by Norah Waugh – buy on Amazon

Making an 18th Century shirt – the cutting and sewing instructions from 1760

Image (Drawing) Source – from Osprey Men-at-Arms 65: Royal Navy 1790-1970

The Secret River, by Kate Grenville (date)

The Secret River, by Kate Grenville (2008)

The Secret River is a novel by Australian author, Kate Grenville. It explores the experiences of early convict settlement in Australia when fictional character, Will Thornhill, is transported from England 1806 and then pardoned to live as a free settler in New South Wales.

The story focuses much of the plot on William; first his early life, his transportation as a convict, and then the process and difficulties of becoming a landholder. His wife, Sal Thornhill, also travels to Australia with him and, together with their growing family, they eventually settle along the Hawkesbury River in what is now Sydney.

This novel explores the very natural conflict that occurred between white settlers and the native Aboriginals, as both groups fought for ownership over the land. The plot also contrasts the attitudes of those white settlers who had begun to realise that these native people were essentially the same as them – they loved their children, they loved their home -, with those who believed the natives were little more than animals.

Late last year I was contacted by a dancing friend of mine who was looking to gather together a group of “youngish” period dancers to dance in a scene of an up-and-coming movie-mini-series by the ABC, The Secret River. I was so excited to participate, as it was the first time I had been an extra in a movie, but the fact that is was a PERIOD movie really tickled me!

I am pleased to announce that the two-part mini-series premieres on Australian television on ABC, on June 14th and 21st, 2015. I will be watching to see if my scene made it into the final edit!

This book has also been adapted for the stage by Andrew Bovell, and was dramatised for audiences by the Sydney Theatre Company in 2013.

Related Posts

Every Savage Can Dance!

James Boswell’s Trip to Tyburn

Sources and Relevant Links

The Secret River, by Kate Grenville

The Secret River Airdate – view the trailer

The Secret River: An adaptation for the stage, by Andrew Bovell

The Secret River – pictures of the play


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