Monday, November 8, 2010

Dressing Up Regency, for Ladies

Ladies, this post is for you. With the GBCS Holiday party coming up December 18th, it's time to start putting together your costumes.

Regency describes the period of English history from about 1800-1820. In France it was known as "Empire" or the Napoleanic Era, and in the fresh new USA it's referred to as the Federalist period. No matter your country of origin, this period of dress has common trends and themes. Let's take a look, and come up with some ideas for Winter-time Regency clothing appropriate for an evening party.

At the turn of the 19th century, the fabric of choice was very thin cotton muslin, and this nearly sheer fabric was generally white, and often featured delicate embroidery, sprig printing (block printing, a new technology), or subtle striping. Light colors were favored over dark, and in the infant years of the Regency, these thing white muslins were worn in both Summer and Winter.

"Sari" gowns were very popular, inspired by the intense
colors and beautiful designs of India
Later in the Regency we begin to see heavier silk fabrics coming back into style, along with bold colors. These gowns featured Indian and Asian inspired embroidery, beading, and decoration, and could be very complex in the cuts of the bodice, but still featured the straight-front skirts, and gathered backs.

For Winter
Cool-weather wear included the pelisse, the spencer, and the open robe.

A green pelisse with much detail

A slate grey/blue pelisse
The pelisse is a long coat, often made of wool or velvet, that completely covers the dress, and was long-sleeved.
A spencer with military detailing and textured fabric

A quilted silk spencer
The spencer is a short jacket worn just over the bodice, fastening under the bust, and allowing the skirts of the gown underneath to show.
The Lady of Portland House's open robe, from Janet Arnold's
pattern (Patterns of Fashion 1)

An extant open robe from the the late 1790s, early 1800s.

The open robe is an over dress, with short, 3/4 or long sleeves, the drapes the full length of the gown, but is open in front, closing with a belt under the bust.

The pelisse and spencer are for outside, travelling, and riding, whereas the open robe is more of an evening or indoor garment.

Ballgowns and Evening Wear
A ballgown would be the appropriate garment for evening. These were often silk, taffeta, shiny, luxurious fabrics, with glitzy details, lace overlays, or in stunning bold colors. Here are some beautiful examples of ballgowns from the later Regency:

Hair, Hats, and Head Things
Regency hair styling was relatively simple in comparison to other periods. Think Greek and Roman - the hair was curled and pulled up into a high, short ponytail or a bun. The front of the hair was allowed to stay loose and fall in short ringlets over the ears and forehead. JaneAustenWorld has an excellent article on hairstyles and accessories.

Popular evening hair accoutrement included ostrich plumes, ribbons, wraps (again, think Greek), decorative combs and clips, and turbans.
A lady wearing beautiful evening dress, with a turban and feathers

Other accessories for ladies included a reticule, a folding fan, long white gloves, and delicate slippers.

The shape of these slippers is simple and modern.

an embroidered reticule, to keep your things in.
Resources for Regency:

Jane Austen World
We Make History - and Introduction to Ladies' Fashions of the Regency Era
Jessamyn's Regency Costume Companion
Fashion Era - Regency Fashion History

Emma (2009)
Emma (Gwenyth Paltrow)
Sense & Sensibility (Special Edition)
Pride & Prejudice (Keira Knightly)
Pride and Prejudice (Restored Edition) (Colin Firth)
Vanity Fair (Widescreen) (Reeser Witherspoon)
Regency House Party

Reference Books
Fashion: The Collection of the Kyoto Costume Institute
Federalist & Regency Costume: 1790-1819
Regency Era Fashion Plates: 1800-1819
Design Your Own Regency Dress

Simplicity 9221 - Regency Tea Gown and Jacket Costume Pattern - Size DD (4, 6, 8, 10)
1804 - 1812 Regency Gown Pattern
1790 -1810 Regency Evening Dress Pattern
Empire Dress Pattern
Regency Underthings Pattern
Butterick Sewing Pattern 6630 Misses' Regency Gown & Coat, Sizes 12-14-16
Simplicity Sewing Pattern 4055 Historical Costume / Regency Gown for Misses
Butterick Sewing Pattern B4890 Misses Historical Costume / Medieval Dress, Sizes 6-12, or 14-20
Early 1800s Regency Era Stays Pattern
1800 -1820 Regency Corset Pattern

Where to Buy Online (pre-made costume pieces):
Regency Reproductions
Garland of Grace on Etsy
Reproductions on Etsy
Little Bits Clothing Co. on Etsy

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

GBCS Regency Holiday Party

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Debbie and I have been planning a little Holiday diversion for you all, a Regency-themed Holiday party, complete with a historically accurate dinner and parlour games.  The party will be in the evening, from 5 pm - 8 pm (or those whereabouts), and we need your vote on which day in December will work best for you:

Many more details to follow!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Sacramento Gold Rush Days - September 4, 2010

When: September 4-5, 2010
Where: Old Downtown Sacramento, CA

From the Gold Rush Days website (

More than 200 tons of dirt will be dumped on the streets of Old Sacramento as the annual festival "turns back the clock," transforming Sacramento's historic district into a scene straight out of the 1850s. Costumed re-enactors, Wild West gun fights, musicians playing period instruments, and many aspects of life during the Gold Rush will be highlighted during the four-day event.

The Great Basin Costume Society would like to invite anybody and everybody interested in this period of history in the West. Come down for the day or the weekend - admission is FREE! - and enjoy a true "back in time" experience, with so much to see and do, many lovely shops to browse through (including Sac City Dry Goods, a boutique for costumers and re-enactors), and a great opportunity to wear your mid-Victorian Civil War and earlier costumes, and meet others from throughout our area interested in costuming and history.

This is a kid-friendly event, so bring the whole family. If you are in costume, prepare to have your photo taken a lot. The roads are dirt and the walkways made of wood, so wear sensible shoes. Tour the train museum while there, and participate in the costume contest!

Suggested costume - 1840s-1870s. California's Gold Rush, as we know, started in 1849, and California became a state in 1850. Civil War and Indian War attire is welcome, along with pioneer and settler costumes, miners, railroadmen, mountain men and women, gunslingers, ladies of the night, cowboys and cowgirls, pony express riders, you name it!

Nevada Territorial Wild West Fair - August 28, 2010

When: August 28th, 12 noon to midnight.  Costume Contest at 2 pm
Where: Reno Livestock Event Center, Reno

From the Wild West Fair website ( 

Every year the Nevada State Fair has attracted thousands of fair goers and tourists alike. And now with this new statewide heritage theme taking shape in our State Fair, we’re expecting bigger crowds and more regional, national, and international attention to our event in the months and years to come. Where else can you enjoy a day with your family involving something exciting for all ages?

This year the Nevada State Fair is evolving into a statewide heritage event with new faces, new events, new entertainment, more hands-on experiences, exhibits for kids, a living history of Nevada’s rich heritage and cultures from its territorial days, and of course, Paul Maurer Shows Carnival will return with many new and exciting rides!

Great Basin Costume Society Members - our club is working with the Wild West Fair to put on a Costume Exhibition and Contest, with outstanding prizes for the winners. Unfortunately, GBCS Members (those who have paid their membership dues) may participate in the exhibition (show off your costume), but may not participate in the contest. More information for the Costume Contest can be found on the flier attached to this event (see photos).

Come enjoy the fair in costume and represent the club! The fair runs August 25-29, and features much to do and see, historical reenactors, performers, rides and games, exhibits and attractions.

Admission (at the gate):
Adults - $10
Kids 10 & under - FREE
Seniors 65+ - FREE

Unlimited Ride Wrist Bands - $28
FREE admission opening night, August 25th

GBCS members helping out with the Fashion Exhibition will have FREE admission Saturday, August 28th.

Steampunk Steam Train Extravaganza - September 11, 2010

When: September 11, 2010 - memorialize 9/11 by celebrating our unique Western American Heritage.
Where: Carson City Train Depot - take the train to Virginia City and back again.
OR meet the group in Virginia City (drive up for the day).

Come join The Great Basin Costume Society AND the Sacramento Steampunk Society as we take the Wild West by storm as Steampunk time travelers!

GBCS members - ride the train from Carson if you like, or drive up to Virginia City to meet the Sac Steampunkers as they come in on the train. The 51st Annual International Camel Races are going on this weekend as well, so there will be lots to see and do, and plenty of people to admire us in our costumes!

Purchase Train Tickets:
(not affiliated with GBCS)

From the Sacramento Steampunk Society: This is a major weekend outing. We will meet in Carson City, Nevada at 9:30 AM Saturday (earlier if you want to tour the train museum first) to take a steam excursion train to Virginia City.

We will have about three and a half hours to tour the old west silver mining town of Virgina City (with an introduction by a local guide) before reboarding the train for the return trip.

Saturday evening we will have a banquet in Carson City (details to be arranged). We will be riding the historic Virginia City and Truckee railroad in recently restored 1914 Pullman cars (inside with padded seats) behind a recently restored real steam locomotive.

How to Dress Steampunk: 
Think of Jules Vern, "The Golden Compass," movies like "Stardust" and "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen." Steampunk is a combination of Victorian attire - fine ladies and gentlemen, explorers, goths and vampires, smugglers and pirates - Science, and Victorian aesthetic. Spruce up your Victorian outfits with watch gears, add some driving or flying goggles, combine costume pieces you wouldn't normally. It's not about being historically accurate, but is instead about creativity, "time travel," and having fun!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Wild West Fair - Costume Contest - Organizational Meeting!

When: August 22, 2010  1 pm- 3 pm
Where: Dana's House, 15300 Redmond Loop, Reno

For anyone interested in volunteering for the Wild West Fair's Costume Contest, GBCS's first sponsored and hosted event, please join us for this informational and organizational meeting. We will need a good group of ladies and gentlemen to act as icecream-servers, people-movers, entry-collectors, prize-givers, or to stand out as en example of awesome costuming! Judges, please also attend this meeting.

There will be drinks and snacks. This is a casual meeting, so costume is admired but not required. Please RSVP via Facebook or by e-mail:

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

1920s Fashion in Color

This is a fantastic piece of COLOR film from the 1920s, showing evening dress as well as day dress.  What a rare piece of footage, and a glimpse into the past!  There were real people, real clothes.  Very inspirational!

Alameda Vintage Fashion Fair - October 9, 2010

For anyone heading down to the Bay Area, there will be a vintage fashion expo on Alameda, October 9th.  Click the flyer image above for more information.  This is not a GBCS sponsored event, just a little info for those of you hunting vintage clothing!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Great Gatsby Festival & Tea - Lake Tahoe

When:  August 15, 2010   11 am - 4 pm
Where: Tallac Historic Site, South Lake Tahoe

Enjoy a lovely picnic in 1920s attire, at the beautiful Tallac Historic Mansion and grounds, South Lake Tahoe.

Bring a picnic, games, your friends, and experience the Gatsby Tea & Fashion Show (2pm), as well as music, dancing, antiques, historic house tours, vintage auto rides, and treats.

Suggested costume is 1920s-1930s, day wear for warm weather.

While the general festivities are FREE, the Gatsby Tea and Fashion Show is $35/ticket, includes tea, refreshments, and seating.  Contact Joyce via e-mail for tickets: or by phone (530) 544-7383.

The Great Gatsby Festival at Tahoe, and the Gatsby Tea and Fashion Show are not GBCS sponsored events.

RSVP via e-mail:
RSVP on Facebook: (click here)

What to Wear:
This is a summer, daytime event, so wear lightweight, light colored fabrics, floaty cottons and voiles, linen, and lace.  Bring a hat and sensible shoes.  Flapper attire is not quite right for this daytime event.  Here are some suggestions and inspirations for women and men:

Monday, July 5, 2010

GBCS Tea - aka Meeting

Hello Everyone, there will be a meeting and goodies to munch on! We will be discussing our role as hosts at the Parade and judges for the Costume Contest at the State Fair. Also the Fallon Fair is coming up.

Costumes are always admired, but never required! Looking forward to seeing everyone. If you need directions feel free to call.

When: July 18

Where: Carolyn's House
13830 Cochise Dr.
Reno, NV 89521

775-852-3420 H
775-843-3000 C

South on 395, exit 57 B (toward Carson City), turn left on St. Rt 341 toward Virginia City, go to past 7-11 to Chamy, turn left, go to Rim Rock, turn left, to Cochise turn right.

If you have facebook you can RSVP here

Friday, July 2, 2010

Mark Your Calendars! Aug 28, 2010

It is official! The new Nevada State Fair, the Wild West Fair has asked us to be the hosts for the Parade of Historical Fashion and the Costume Contest. We will be providing the organization and judges for this event. All are welcome to be in the Parade, but unfortunately if you are a member of GBCS you won't be able to compete in the Contest. Ya know, it's that thing about conflict of interest. We're the judges and we pick our own.

However if you are reading this and not a member by all means enter in.

The prizes are awesome! Real money! Fairly big money, enough to buy fabric and "stuff". They (State Fair) are talking in the range of $25.00 for various categories up to 1st prize of 150.00 or 300.00. Here is the link to the State Fair. We will have links on their site within the next week or so to the "rules",the categories, prizes and entrance forms.

Mark your calendars, save the date, plan on participating. If you are a GBCS member plan on helping out the day of by being in the Parade, helping with the Judging and helping with the Victorian Ice Cream Social. Yes you read right. One of the State Fair's sponsors is giving away Ice Cream. They will give it away just before we start so people can enjoy their ice cream and the show. We provide the ambiance and line people up for ice cream. Oh yes, we get to eat Ice Cream too!