Wednesday, 22 December 2010

A Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year!

Thank you to all my customers to making this a successful year. Also thank you to all those who view and comment on my blog.

See you in the New Year!

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Imperial Shirts - Made in England

Here is one of a set of shirts made for an important person in France. I don't think he would have really had any clothing made in England during the epoch but now there is an 'Entente Cordiale' :-)

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Shortgowns and Shortened Gowns

Short gowns were worn for working or informal wear at home. They were popular from the 1760s and into the early 19th century. They were practical and were usually cut in a basic T-shape with triangular shaped inserts added to accomodate the petticoat worn underneath. Some examples from the early 19th century became shaped under the bust with a cord  or seam to follow the cut of the Empire line.

Here are some examples I have made. The printed T-shape shortgown is based on the original example features in 'Costume Close Up' by Linda Baumgarten and John Watson with Florine Carr. The two yellow examples are cut to a dress bodice pattern and fitted with a cord in the neckline and under the bust. One was cut based on the pattern from Kohler's ' A History of Costume' At the end are two original printed fichu from my collection.


Thursday, 4 November 2010

Napoleonic Shabraque (saddle cover)

I completed this French Premiere Empire shabraque last week. In the past I've even taken measurements from a horse for a rug. That's what I like about this job, you never know what you might be making or who you might meet!

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Then and Now

I was having a clear out and I found an old outfit I made nearly 10 years ago! The cut was inspired by French Napoleonic Uniforms and I used bits of braid and embroidery which  I had started collecting to trim it. I was amazed (and very happy) that it still fitted. The cut is not bad for my level 10 years ago although the sleeve pleating is totally wrong. This outfit was not based on any particular female garment of the period and I designed it to be worn for riding sidesaddle. However having seen some of the clothes of Queen Louise of Prussia whos outfits were very masculine style it is not too bad. At the end I've attached a back view of the pelisse I made for Compiegne this year. I had these cut steel trim bits for a while and they worked so well with the colour of the velvet.

I'll be posting pictures of my recent completed work next week. Thank you everyone for looking at my blog. Nearly 1450 unique visitors so far!!

Friday, 22 October 2010

An Eventful Year!

Some photos of my favourite events this year. There have been some amazing moments. From making the clothes for Marie Louise at Compiegne to the Jane Austen Society of Florence weekend. Thanks to Ester Paronetto and Ann Cockerton for the photos.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Seams Strange!

There is a particular style in English Regency Fashion which has always interested me, the dress with no under bust seam. This style is particular to England and is featured in fashion plates from around 1807-1811. My interest is how you would re-create this style? Looking at the various examples in fashion plates the dress still fits well. You can still see the shape of the body. As I am only referencing from fashion plates you must also allow for the difference between artistic license and reality. I would think the back is still cut with the curved side back seam and typical back pattern cutting of this period. Perhaps the dresses had an internal cord or tie which was attached at the centre front or back only and would give some sort of of control over the shape?   Next making project perhaps??

Monday, 4 October 2010

Fan Boxes- An Ideal Gift

My friend Allison Bristow has started to make customised fan boxes. They are lined in silk and covered in copies of late 18th century paper. She made these lovely ones for me to store a couple of my precious original fans. If you are interested in commissioning one please contact her at

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Goodbye Milan, Hello Rome. Napoleon and the Empire of Fashion 1795-1815

I cannot believe it is nearly three months since the exhibition opened. Next week I return to Milan to pack everything and prepare for the opening in Rome in October. I feel very lucky to have the opportunity to study these unique dresses close up and examine the construction. I urge anyone who is studying costume history or fashion to visit collections and look at the real items because you can learn so much. The provenance of many of the dresses indicate that the original owners were from the bourgeois and middle classes of society. You can gain more of an insight into the fashion history of a cross section of the population rather than just the clothes of the aristocracy.

These dresses answer many questions about Empire/ Regency fashion and by displaying them in this way you get a sense of how the dress could have been actually worn. On a few occasions when putting a dress on a mannequin we could see there was something not quite right about the way it fitted. Closer examination showed this was due to the use of pins or brooches to fit the bodice. Many of the dresses had evidence of tiny pin holes. On portraits and miniatures of the period you can observe that belts, jewellery and even decorative flowers were used to aid the fit of the bodice, especially in the centre front. Stays of this period had a centre front busk which provided a solid point on which to pin the bodice to stop it riding up from under the bustline.

I have often heard it said that people were smaller in the past. Maybe on average they were, due to factors including health and diet. Many of the women would have been born in the later part of the 18th century and would have been from the 'stayed' generation. Some would have grown up wearing a form of stay or corset and this constriction would have had an effect on the growth of the ribcage. However at least ten of the dresses in the collection were worn by women who were at least 5ft 6inches in height and their dress size would be an English size 10-12, so not so small.

Thanks to Margarita Martinez for the photo

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

1811 Fashion Wisdom

When researching I always look at primary source evidence whether it is an original dress, painting, miniature or text of the epoch. Whilst researching corsets I read further into 'The Mirror of Graces' and thought these passages particularly interesting with advice that is relevant today.

"But in our days, an English woman has the extensive privilege of arraying herself in whatever garb may best suit her figure or her fancy. The fashions of every nation and of every era are open to her choice. One day she may appear as the Egyptian Cleopatra, then a Grecian Helen ; next morning the Roman Cornelia; or, if these styles be too august for her taste, there are Sylphs, Goddesses, Nymphs of every region, in earth or air, ready to lend her their wardrobe. In short, no land or age is permitted to withhold its costume from the adoption of an English woman of fashion.

Elegant dressing is not found in expense; money without judgment may load, but never can adorn. You may show profusion without grace: you may cover a neck with pearls, a head with jewels, hands and arms with rings, bracelets and trinkets, and yet produce no effect, but having emptied some merchant's counter upon your person. The best chosen dress is that which so harmonizes with the figure as to make the raiment pass unobserved. The result of the finest toilet should be an elegant woman, not an elegantly* dressed woman. Where a perfect whole is intended, it is a sign of defect in the execution when the details first present themselves to observation.

In short, the secret of dressing lies in simplicity, and a certain adaption to your figure, your rank, your circumstances- To dress well on these principles, (and they are the only just ones) does not require that extravagant attention to so minor an object, as is usually exhibited by persons who make the toilet a study. When ladies place the spell ol their attraction in their clothes, we generally see them arrayed in robes of a thousand makes and dyes, and curiously constructed of materials brought from heaven knows where. Thus much time, thought, and wealth are wasted on a comparatively worthless object. To lavish many of the precious hours of life in the invention and arrangement of dress, is as criminal an offence, as to exhaust the finances of your husband or parents by a thriftless expenditure on its component parts".

Friday, 13 August 2010

Take Two Uniforms.....

Here are two uniforms I made in the past few years. The first a Kings German Legion tunic from the Napoleonic period for re-enacment. Second a late Victorian Rifle Officers tunic for History Horse

Monday, 9 August 2010

A day with Skinners Horse at Broadlands

I was invited by my friends at Skinners Horse to join them for their display at Broadlands House. My outfit was a conversion from my 1880s ballgown into a day dress (see earlier blog post). I did this by adding a chemisette to fill in the neckline and some tulle sleeves to the bodice. The weather here in England is changeable at the moment and true to form it turned into a hot day just as I had to wear four layers of clothing. In fact the weather was quite fitting for a re-creation of the 1st Bengal Lancers (Skinners Horse).
Thanks to Tiffany Parkinson for the photos

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Here's one I made earlier........

I made this circa 1805-10 bib-fronted dress from a badly damaged paisley shawl a few years ago. The linen flaps overlap and are pinned together. Then the 'bib' front is pinned on either side over the top of the flaps. Two ties then are passed around the centre back through loops to pull up the front skirt panel to fit. These dresses are very practical as you can dress yourself without help. The contrast decoration on the bodice front and sleeves came from the border of the shawl which I used for the entire hem.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Coming soon...

I've had many enquiries about the catalogue for
Napoleone e l’Impero della Moda 1795-1815. I'm pleased to announce that the English version will be available in the next couple of months published by Skira. I'll post as soon as I have more information.
Thank you for all your comments too. I really appreciate them.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Details in Miniature

When I'm researching clothing and uniforms from the Empire/Regency period I always refer to portrait miniatures of the epoch for details. They are are wealth of information from hairstyles, jewellery to dress details. There are plenty of images available online. These ones were sold on eBay.
No copyright infringement intented. Images for inspiration and research only.