Did Jane Austen sew her own dresses?
I’ve recently taken up sewing again, mainly to relieve stress, but also because “fast fashion” annoys me. Since I love the Regency period, and Regency fashions are easy to sew, I wondered about Jane Austen.
Jane Austen: did Jane sew her own dresses?
Google to the rescue — yes, Jane sewed:
(Jane recorded) her needlework activities, including making her own clothes. Edward Austen-Leigh wrote in 1870 that, ‘Her needlework both plain and ornamental was excellent … She was considered especially great in satin stitch. She spent much time in these occupations, and some of her merriest talk was over clothes which she and her companions were making, sometimes for themselves, and sometimes for the poor’ (Memoir of Jane Austen, p. 98).
You can sew your own “Jane Austen” dresses
Want to experience the Regency in your own Regency gowns? You’ll need some patterns.
Here’s a Regency gown pattern with lots of options:
Options for long sleeves, short sleeves, under-sleeves and wide or narrow skirt.
You can download the pattern as a PDF (sewing instructions on the site), or you can find the paper pattern at retailers.
To get the proper Jane Austen effect, you’ll need underthings too. The same site has a “Regency underthings” pattern, for:
… patterns for a chemise, short stays, and two chemisettes. The chemise was modeled from original garments in several museum collections and features an adjustable drawstring neckline and gussets under the arms for a comfortable fit. The short stays lace in the front and were based upon extant stays in museum collections…
You can even buy a Jane Austen pattern from Simplicity.
Here’s Simplicity Sewing Pattern S8941 Misses’ Costume.
The pattern looks easy to sew.
Want to sew Jane Austen’s silk pelisse?
If you’re an experienced seamstress, you could make Jane Austen’s silk pelisse. A pattern is included in the article:
The author took an exact pattern of the pelisse (included), then made replica garments… The silk’s oak-leaf pattern is interpreted as a British patriotic motif, especially during the period of Napoleonic conflicts.
The above image shows the silk used in Jane’s pelisse: “Figured silk twill sarsenet, 1809 in Barbara Johnson’s album, London: Victoria and Albert Museum.”
If you’re looking for a long project, you can sew your own Regency ballgown.
Get inspired: a hand-sewn silk Regency ballgown
Katrina Holte’s gown is beautiful:
… (it) would ultimately take eight months (on and off) of hand sewing to complete. And yes, I sewed every single stitch, seam, and flower by hand! This dress did not come within ten feet of my sewing machine, and all interior seams were finished by hand stitching as well, whether French seams or overcasting.
If you’re looking for people who share your Regency interests…
Historical reenactment is huge, but how do you find people who share your interests?
How to Find a Local Costume Group / Reenactment / Art Deco Events gives you some ideas.
Google search: I started my search online trying to find any group or single person that had anything to do with historical clothing in my area.
Start small, with a Regency reticule
Before I dive into sewing a Regency chemise and gown, I’m starting small, with a reticule in the style Jane Austen might have carried.
Here’s The Procrastinator’s Purse: A Free Printable Reticule Pattern, which looks like an easy make.
While I’m looking for the perfect Regency-style fabrics for the reticule, I’m making a toile in inexpensive cotton. It will be a perfect daily-carry for my phone.
Add this reticule pattern to your “gift ideas” file, and sew them for your friends.
Happy Jane Austen sewing. 🙂
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