Once you have made a supply of Regency gowns, the next thing to try making is something to keep you warm during those promenades around town. I had been wanting to try making a Regency spencer for a while and I had a small piece of velvet in my stash that I wanted to use for it.
I found a pattern for a Regency pelisse (c. 1820) in Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion 1, and so I decided to just use the top half and turn it into a spencer. The only significant (and tricky) alteration I made was to make a peplum for the back. Both the outer fabric and the lining are cotton, and the interlining is cotton flannel. The trims are made from velvet and satin.
This garment fits in nicely with the Historical Sew-Fortnightly Challenge #20: Outerwear.
The pattern pieces are:
- Side Back
- Back (with the peplum I fashioned myself)
- Sleeve cuff
- Mancheron (or upper over-sleeve)
Some pattern pieces are not shown in the photo below. These are the sleeve head (cut from calico), and the two belts that go around the waist. Any extra “bits” are described in the steps below.
Step 1: Treating the lining material and the flannel interlining as one, piece together the side seams (there are two; the side-back seam and side-front seam) and shoulder seams. Note that when sewing the side-back panel to the back panel, leave sufficient seam allowance at the bottom of the garment to attach the pleated peplum later.
Press the back seam allowances to the side. Repeat for the outer material.
Step 2: Sew three front darts in either side of the front panel for both the lining layers and outer layer.
Step 3: I made up two strips of velvet, with piping along the edges, to be sewn to each side of the centre front. However, the pattern produced by Janet Arnold is complete without it. In her example, the decorative centre front strip is mounted on top of the fabric on one side only.
Step 4: Sew the collar seam at the centre back and then sew the two layers of collar pieces together, right sides facing. You may want to add piping along the seam, as I have.
The collar is then turned right side out and sewn to the garment. Instead of attaching this collar in the normal way, I laid both layers of the collar in between the lining and outer fabrics of the spencer and sewed through all layers. This made the neck seam less bulky when using velvet.
Step 5: While the outer layer and the lining layers were still inside out, I sewed around the bottom of the spencer, between the side back seam and the front, stopping where the velvet trim begins. I also sewed the bottom edge of the peplum. Then I turned the garment in the right way.
Step 5: Treating the lining and outer fabric as one, pleat the peplum and attach to the bottom of the side back panel of the outer fabric, along the waistline. Clip the seam allowance to make it easier.
Step 6: Attach the calico sleeve head to the top of the sleeve, and then sew side seams.
Attach the velvet cuffs. You may like to sew piping along the edges as I have done. Once again, the pattern piece is complete without the need for cuffs. In Janet Arnold’s example the decorative edging on the cuff area was mounted on top of the fabric.
Step 7: The mancherons (or upper over-sleeves) are lined with black net to stiffen them. The horseshoe-shaped areas are cut out and bound with bias binding.
Gather the bottom edge of the mancheron and attach binding to cover this raw edge. (Hint: Make sure this bottom edge will fit around the upper part of your arm!)
Make the decorative piped band that will be used to ruche up the mancheron. You may want to experiment with different ways to do this, otherwise I have a tutorial on how I constructed mine (How to make a piped band). These should be attached to the head of the mancheron and tucked under the horseshoe cutouts to be sewn in place.
Step 8: Gather the mancheron to fit the sleeve by using small tucks. Fold the side edges (underarm area) of the mancheron under and sew to the outside of the sleeve. According to Janet Arnold, this reduces the bulk of material under the arm. Then, treating the sleeve and mancheron as one, gather the sleeve head to fit the armhole (again using small tucks) and sew to the garment.
Step 9: Two belts should be cut to fit from the side back seam to the centre front. I attached piping around the velvet waistband and lined them using the same lining material as the garment. In the original pelisse, this belt does not appear to be attached except at the back with a button, but because this is a spencer and I did not want the waistband to sag or ride up, I handstitched it in place.
Step 10: The spencer is fastened at the front with hidden loop buttonholes and covered buttons. After these were attached, I handsewed the centre front lining down.
Unfortunately the centre front opens slightly, so I may attach some hooks and eyes to keep it flat. However, it is finished!
This garment is fairly historically accurate as far as the pattern and look of the garment is concerned. It took many hours (probably 30 or 40) to complete, mostly because I spent a lot of time on a toile to get it to fit nicely and then again experimenting with the trim. Having a baby in the middle of the project didn’t help either! The total cost of the project was about $40 AUD, and I am hoping to wear this garment for next years Jane Austen Festival in Australia.
For more of my Regency sewing, go to My Regency Journey.
Sources and Relevant Links
Patterns of Fashion 1: Englishwomen’s dresses and their construction, by Janet Arnold – buy on Amazon
Image Source: from Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
Historical Sew-Fornightly – hosted by Dreamstress