Saturday, August 2, 2014

Telling your Regency story with colour and fabric

Hello all! I regret neglecting this blog page for the NW chapter. I do have a good excuse though, and that is we're so busy with ORS events and the main website that we forget about this page sometimes. :) That *is* a good thing.  I digress! I have a little missive about fabric and colours for your regency delectation today. It may help you in constructing your regency wardrobe!

Building a regency wardrobe can be tricky, but only if you over think it. There are several cardinal rules you should stick to when you are assembling your wardrobe.

Slippy, shiny, froofy, mitchy-matchy and a tiny bit tacky.

1) Use natural fabrics. I cannot stress this enough! Stay away from poly blends or synthetics. The colours are not natural, and they are not period correct. They often reflect camera flashes and give off a shine that is unbecoming. Stick to silks, cottons, wools, linens and natural fibers. It’s also an advantage because these fabrics breathe better, and when you are layered up with all your underpinnings, it can get warm.

Particularly in silk, stay away from dupioni unless it is really smooth and not too slubby. Your best bet is shantung or taffeta. They did not use slubby silk, because it was considered cheap. You can probably get away with dupioni for hats and other accessories.

2) Choose tasteful trim. It's hard to define what tasteful is, but all you need to do is look at extant garments and fashion plates to understand what would be acceptable vs what is easy. Stay away from roses, stick with delicate patterns if you can find them.

3) Choose colours suited to the period.  There were bright colours, but they tended to have a muted value against some of the very bright, very pure colours of today. (See the bottom of this post for some colourway tools and ideas.

Jewel tones; bright and vibrant but not loud.

More lovely jewel tones.

Pastels that have just a dash of grey. Muted and subtle.

Subtle, muted pastels.

More muted, yet still vibrant tones.

Dusky earth tones.

More neutrals.
4) Don’t go matchy-matchy. No regency woman wanted to be one colour, or one pattern from head to toe. When picking fabrics for your outer garments and accessories, think neutrals, and think earthy tones. You can mix a brown hat with a slate blue redingote, and grey boots and nobody would blink an eye. Regency women did not in general, match their hats to their coats, and their dresses, and vice versa. Most of them could not afford to do that. They would make their garments, or buy and wear them until they had to repurpose them. 

Fabric was expensive. So to have matching items is perhaps a component of being rich, but even the rich were not compelled to make a hat that matched a particular dress. They might have coordinated a hat with a redingote, but not always. They mixed and matched their garments. The trick is to pick a colour and pattern story in your fabrics. To pick full neutrals for your hats and outwear, and even your accessories, and then be playful with your regular garments. Play with muted pastels (not modern pastels), earth tones, jewel tones, sparse and light patterns (roll and block prints), border prints, etc. Always in Regency, think DELICATE. Think SUBTLE. 

5) Stay away from Victorian busy rose prints. These are not regency. Large patterns were not common either. 



1820 - Yes
Absolutely yes.

6) Stay away from Victorian lace with busy repeated patterns. If you want to make an overlay, use a sheer with a sparse embroidery design, or border whitework. There are even net sheers for windows you can find that will work fine, but they should not be solid pattern. 

Pretty, but still a no.

A nice subtle dot, yes!

This would work.

7) Don't allow anyone persuade you NOT to use an 18th century style print for Regency. Again, fabric was expensive, and women very often reused the fabrics from their old gowns, their mother’s gowns and grandmother’s gowns. There are countless extant garments showing careful re-purposing of old-fashioned prints and fabrics by meticulous seamstresses. 

8) Do not hesitate to piece either. What does that mean? If you don’t have enough fabric to cut all your pieces in one large piece, you can add in little bits and bobs from your scraps to fill in. Regency women did it all the time. Precious, high-quality fabric was much valued. garments were lined in pieced scraps oftentimes, and gowns were decorated to hide the countless repairs and stains that inevitably happened. 

They were not the disposable world that we live in today. The rich often passed used garments down to servants and subordinates instead of throwing them away. Old, worn gowns were downgraded to morning gowns to be worn about the house when not visiting. 

9) Patterns were used for day (on the most part). Some jacquard style fabrics, silk stripes and elegant patterns can be gotten away with in regency evening wear. Regency evening wear was embellished with lace and trim—with few fully patterned fabrics. You do need to take care, however, in what you choose. Tastefulness is understated elegance, not fancy schmancy, especially during this period. 

In general, the patterned fabrics were used mostly for day gowns and morning gowns. See this Pinterest board for ideas of what kind of patterns and colours were used during that period. 

10) Any period prior to the time of mass-produced garments, there really are no absolutes (there ;aren't really any absolutes after that period either). People are imaginative; they have individual tastes,individual skills and ideas. We are creative now, they were creative then. What makes it authentic is the cut, the style, the technique, the fabrics, the colour story and the silhouette. 

Look at as many fashion plates as you can from the period, and decide your wardrobe from that. 

There are also really great tools to help you create a colour story palette to work with so when you pick fabrics, no matter how different they are from one another, their colours will complement each other. Dyes were natural, fabrics were never quite as white as modern whites are. So the brightness of a value was knocked down a bit. Keep that in mind when picking your colours. Stay away from Barbie pinks, and baby blues. Think of it this way; most colours in nature complement the other. Stick to natural tones and you can never go wrong. 

Some colour tools:
-Use a picture or a fashion plate to create a palette:
- Pick one colour you like and then let the software find its best colour friends.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The 2014 ORS Regency Retreat

Ahoy, visitors, we are announcing the ORS's 2014 Retreat dates and location (that's all we have so far!) But details will be added as we get them together.  In the meantime, this is an inclusive event, and all are welcome from anywhere. So mark your calendars, and plan your wardrobes.

September means autumn appropriate clothing! Redingotes and hats. The lodge is all ours, and the rooms are comfortable double-occupancy with lots of privacy. It's a destination venue and we will have some activities listed soon.

Registration forms can be downloaded here.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Recent events

The ORS has been organizing a list of new events for the next six months or more. They are being populated on the main website ( as they are finalized.  In the meantime, enjoy some movies of our three most recent events, A celebration of Shakespeare dance, the Topsails & Tea event in Hood River on June 1, and the Pittock Mansion Picnic, held this past Sunday, July 28 at the Portland landmark, the Pittock Mansion. :)

We will also be holding three costume workshops, with details to be posted here: A bonnet workshop, a stays workshop and a gown workshop. See our events page for details.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Speaking of shoes....

The American Duchess has been producing a growing array of historically inspired shoes for the costuming hordes for a while now. She has already produced the 'Pemberley' for the folks from our preferred time-period, a shoe with a small heel designed after shoes of the early Regency.  She made it in white leather, which is easily paintable... a canvas for your imagination.

The Pemberley
Here is an example of how you can take this simple white shoe, and elevate it to Regency bliss.

Click this image to see the blogpost detailing this project.
Now, the American Duchess has presented the newest Regency model called the 'Highbury'. This is a full Regency flat, and is something to covet.  For one... it is made of dyeable satin.  For two, there are four ribbon loops on each side of the inner shoe for ribbons, which can be laced through in myriad pleasing configurations.

The Highbury
As you can see, these are yet again, a wonderful canvas to play with.  Here is a blog post on a project working with a similar shoe:

Click this image to see the blogpost detailing this project.
Personally, I have always found the portraits of Regency ladies in white with a bright, jewel-toned pop of colour on their dainty feet, ribbons elegantly wound about their ankles to be visions of elegance.

Regency shoes were also intricately patterned and ornamented sometimes.  As seen by these examples, and by many more examples that can be dug up from around the interwebs:

A dye project is easy enough, as demonstrated by Miss Reeser (The American Duchess) in this helpful video.

However, like the project posted before, with the delicate painting, you can do just about anything, including even attempt silk-painting techniques using resist and dye to create an intricate design. I am not sure if this will work on dyeable satin, but it might be worth a try, maybe on some cheap shoes from David's Bridal or something first.

A modern silk-painting.
You can research more on silk painting through Dharma trading, where incidentally, you can find some fine voiles, cottons, silk gauze and dupioni silk for costumes for extremely reasonable prices if you are not afraid to dye fabrics.

The Highbury is on pre-order at present, which means, the model is proposed but not stocked. It must sell at least 100 pairs to be stocked. So I recommend you pre-order a pair as soon as possible so they can be made available to everyone.  They are at a decent discount, and you will also find some elegant accessories and shoe charms and clocked stockings for your costuming needs.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The 2012 retreat afterglow

A closeup of a man's frock coat, photo by Sara Palmer.
The 2012 ORS Regency Retreat was a resounding success. A completely different dynamic took hold this year as the retreat was held in the depth of summery August, and included lots of outdoor activities.  Organizer Stephanie Robertson was again extremely successful in blending together a succession of informative workshops, entertainments, activities and dining events.  From learning the art of making death-head buttons to writing regency letters with a quill, participants enjoyed a variety of period pursuits along with the welcoming society of their fellow participants. Presenters included the Lady of Portland House, who explained in detail the construction of period men's garments, to Author Mary Robinette Kowal, who taught writing letters with quill and ink, and Miss Kristen Behlings taught the workshop on creating a Regency hairstyle.

Miss Brehlings first sets the example.

The evening before, preparations are made for hair styling the next day.
Here is a delightful movie made up of some of the images captured from the four days at Newberg.  Below that, I have provided additional links to albums containing even more pictures.


More photos can be found here:
Mari Roll's Album (Facebook)