Last weekend, I surprised myself by whipping out a new little garment: a Regency sleeveless spencer!
I had mostly constructed it but had decided I didn’t need a new garment – until early evening, the night before my event, when inspiration struck (thanks to Rachel)! Even though it’s a mere trifle, it still required a good bit of hand sewing. The lining is sewn by machine, but that’s where it ended — all the rest is by hand, with most of it top stitching.
I don’t know about you, but top stitching takes me some time. Thankfully, I finished this baby up at 1:30am, so it was ready to wear the next morning!
One random day, I saw this beauty of a painting and had an epiphany — I had the smallest scrap of blue velvet in my stash, a perfect match for the portrait! And luckily, the costuming gods smiled upon me: the scrap was just the right size. I decided then and there that I would make a little something new for the Victorian Tea & Dance Society’s Jane Austen themed dance, even though my better judgement argued since I have lots and lots of more important sewing to do for February.
If you read my post about all my crazy 2017 costuming plans, then you’ll recognize this one! I gave up on the idea for a few weeks until, as you know, the evening before the event!
I constructed this little sleeveless spencer by sewing the lining — a natural cotton/linen blend — right sides together by machine. Pin the fashion fabric back piece on; then roll under the seam allowance of each side back piece, pin them on top of the back piece, and top stitch this down (much like the top stitched 1860s seams). The shoulder seams are done much the same way, as I noticed these top stitched details when studying a few extant sleeveless spencers.
The only seam I didn’t top stitch for the outer fabric is where the from piece and the side back piece connect (there is no proper “side” piece, as the front wraps around quite far). I used Katherine’s sleeveless spencer tutorial as a guide, and had I looked closer before cutting my fabric I would have noticed that she didn’t have a side seam at all! This is accurate (see original above) and it would’ve saved me some time, but it worked out fine in the end.
The top and bottom edges — both velvet and lining — are turned under and top stitched together. The center front edges of the velvet are turned back and whip stitched to the lining. Eyelets are sewn by hand, of course!
My Finished Sleeveless Spencer!
I first wore this for last weekend’s Jane Austen tea & dance in Pasadena, CA. This is a quieter, more relaxed event than the famous Jane Austen Evening that precedes it the night before.
It was extremely comfortable to wear and added so much to my white dress! The deep blue really pops, and I think it was just enough color to prevent the favored Regency white from washing me out. I love the novelty of the laced closure as a change.
My sleeveless spencer is worn over my shift, Bernhardt stays, a strapped petticoat, and my old Regency white windowpane dress (which is much in need of a refurbishment). All of which are completely hand sewn!
Hair: I set the side fronts of my hair in pincurls overnight, and the back was leftover curls from my weekly hair set. The front curls were loosely broken up, with a false braid across the crown. I covered the braid’s ends with a layer of my hair from the nape of my neck, before sweeping all the back hair up. I loosely pinned the curls from this ponytail around the elastic, and I wrapped one of my false mini sausage curls around the bun with a few inches hanging loose.
Accessories: My gloves are vintage kid leather, the necklace is a vintage brass chain doubled, and my earrings are the hoops I wear daily (I think from Forever 21, years ago! It’s time to replace these). The slippers are simple pointed toe flats loaned to me from my sister, I believe they’re from Forever 21 or Target or the like — they’re suede, but they’ll do in a pinch! My pashmina was a gift.
Finally, a few fun group photos from the event with the loveliest of ladies!
Thanks for stopping by!
What’s on your costume sewing table this weekend?
Do you sew costumes last minute, the evening before, like me? :3
Until next time,
Lauren || The Homemade Historian
Keep up with me on my “days off” from the blog: