Saturday 21 January 2012

The final belt!!

Since my last post in Feb 2011, the belt was completed and a custom display stand was made by the exhibition team at Brighton Hove Museum. The belt is currently on display at the Royal Pavilion, Brighton as part of the Dress for Excess exhibition.
I am so proud and honoured to have been a part of this project. A sincere thanks to the curator, Martin Pel for the opportunity to share in the project.

Thursday 3 February 2011

George IV body belt for Dress for Excess

It's been a busy few months for me. Since my last post in September I have completed my MA dissertation and have been working on preparation for my MA show, which opened this week.

The project deadlines for the Brighton exhibition Dress for Excess were swapped and the replica of George IV's body belt became the first replica to go on display when the exhibition opens on Saturday, 5th February 2011.
The remaining projects will go on display in August 2011, so keep checking back for updates!

Correct materials in purely natural fibers can be hard to find these days, but I managed to find cotton twill for the base fabric, cotton thread, cotton twill tape and shell buttons to complete the belt. I was unable (thankfully) to use whalebone for the boning, so used standard metal corset boning.

The most difficult element of the construction was the laced slits in the center front and sides of the belt. Getting a consistent, clean finish in these areas was difficult but the result was well worth the effort.

The most confusing element of the project was the construction used to fasten the belt in the back. Martin found a chapter in Robert Doyle's Waisted Efforts on this specific belt and answered our questions regarding fastening, buttons and loops!
Here is a photo of the finished back with the loop detail.

Image of the finished belt, front view.

Image of finished belt before adding the buttons, back view.

The belt will be on display with three original garments worn by George IV.
Hopefully I will be able to get some photos of the display and object panel once it's installed.
When Martin showed me where the belt would be on display I was overwhelmed with excitement and so thankful to have had the opportunity to work on the project.
Knowing that I have something I made on display at the Royal Pavillion is so exciting!!

Here is the link to the press release for the exhibition:

Thursday 2 September 2010

Regency underdress - second fitting

After the first fitting we decided to keep the underdress a simple loose shift.
Through the continued research I'm doing for this project, I decided to try a fitted 
sleeveless gown based on a the same style and shape as the overdress.

I created the new pattern and muslin for the second fitting. I had just enough muslin 
to make the complete bodice and one front section of the skirt.

front view of muslin for the second fitting

view of back bodice for second fitting

Martin and I were very happy with the look of this more fitted underdress, even though the skirt had only one section it was enough confirm the correct fullness. Some adjustments need to be made to the length, shape of the armhole and the depth of the front and back neckline.

front view of both gowns on the mannequin

I'm currently working on the revisions to the pattern in order to create a muslin for a final fitting.

My third project will be a dress to go with this gorgeous bodice in the collection. I'm in the process of researching the proper silhouette to go with this bodice.

front view

side view

back view

Thursday 26 August 2010

Costume Society Award!

I have been very lucky to be one of two people chosen to receive an award for the work I'm doing with Martin and the Regency exhibition at Brighton.
I will receive £500 for the garments I'm making and I will write a paper reflecting on my experience to be published on the Costume Society website and in the journal.
It is a curator's choice to nominate volunteers they work with and I am very fortunate that Martin nominated me, and that the work I'm doing was thought of as valuable enough by the Costume Society to receive an award.

From the website:
'The Society promotes every aspect of the study of clothing and textiles: The society aims to encourage access to costume history,

including contemporary dress in various different ways, our appeal is wide-ranging and object-based. Our members include academics, collectors, curators, designers, re-enactors, students and informed enthusiasts across the world. What we have in common is our wish to provide the best and most varied opportunities to study this fascinating topic.'

Hopefully soon they will update their website to list the 2009 winners.

For more information visit the website at:

Regency underdress - first fitting

My second garment for the Regency project is a shift for this dress in the collection.

The garment came to the museum without a shift and cannot be displayed without one.

The dress is a natural beige color, possibly Indian cotton due to the fine quality? The dress is in need of a cleaning to bring out the beauty of the fabric but otherwise is in good condition. The sleeves are double layer, the under layer opaque cotton, the top layer sheer with embroidery. The front bib buttons near the shoulders with two fabric covered metal buttons and the skirt wraps and ties under the bust in the traditional Regency style. The skirt is gathered along the empire line, is quite full and there is a considerable train.
There is embroidery all over the dress in floral patterns. There is a silk ribbon belt (not photographed) in a golden, mustard color and purple edging in what looks like a grosgrain ribbon weave.

To my knowledge, this dress could have been worn to less formal evening events and represents the wearer as well off enough to afford such a good quality dress but not vastly rich or royal.

Once we put this dress on the mannequin and lowered it so the hem touched the floor, the height of the owner could not have been more than 5ft 4". The dress looked quite small while I was standing next to it.

detail of front laying flat

front on a mannequin

back laying flat

back on the mannequin

We have decided to create the shift out of silk in a golden color that compliments the belt.
I am in the process of sourcing fabric and am finding matching the color to be particularly difficult, so that may change in the future.
I will use silk thread to sew the garment and cotton lacing at the neckline of the shift.
The shift will not be as full as the dress and will not have a train.

I have made the first toile of muslin and have marked the corrections to the shape of the front and back neckline. We have decided to make the shift sleeveless since the dress already has a double sleeve and would add too much bulk.
The muslin needed to be longer and fuller in general. I'm now working on the revised pattern of the shift and will prepare a new toile to fit in the next month.

George IV's Regency Body Belt

My first task was to visit the Museum of London and copy the pattern of a body belt worn by George IV. The pattern itself was stitched together with thick thread to create one long piece. There are two diagonal bone channels to the side of center front, slit openings with lacing marks at the center front and sides, and decorative stitch patterns at each end of the belt in a diamond wave pattern.

detail of center front, side openings, and holes to mark the placement of laces

wearer's right end with possible hook markings

wearer's left end with possible markings for lacing and modesty panel

Details of each end of the body belt. The configuration on the belt ends is confusing to everyone that I've shown it too. Wearer's right end seems to mark hooks, but on the wearer's left end the horizontal lines could represent a modesty panel under lacing? If so, what is the lacing secured to on that side? My research so far has not given me any answers so it is something I will be considering throughout this project.

There is stitching next to the hook marks on the wearer's right end that could mark a bone channel, but there are no corresponding marking on the wearer's left end next to the horizontal lines. Bone channels on either side of the corset lacing is a common construction in many corsets but I don't know if it was common in this period, and the intent of the construction is another question I need to find an answer for.

There are always debates about reconstructing period garments, whether it should be done at all or if done; how far do you go with correct materials and construction for a garment that will be in a museum collection?

I will be constructing this corset with period correct materials, exceptions being the metal bones and completing the sewing by machine. The period correct materials will be natural color cotton coutil for the shell, natural color linen for the lining, silk thread, natural color cotton twill tape to bind the edges, metal hooks and natural color cotton laces. The non- correct materials will be metal bones since whalebone is no longer in use (thank goodness), and sewing by machine since sewing by hand would simply be to much work for the size of the project.

I've sourced all the supplies except the center front and side lacing. The lacing holes were so small that I suspect finding the right size lacing, in cotton, and in the right color will be difficult.

I have made the first toile in muslin and will check the fit on the correct mannequin when it is ready.
This garment would have been worn under clothing, but in this exhibition it will be on display as a representation of men's Regency undergarments.
While at the Museum of London I was fortunate to see a women's corset of the same period in order to compare and inform my choices on construction and materials.

detail of women's corset from the same period, side opening with lacing

detail of front of women's corset and decorative stitching