The Regency Wardrobe collection - research & making - Dressed for promenading

Reader's note: This post details the work done on one or more of the pieces in The Regency Wardrobe collection. Two thirds of the collection was created over 17 months as the result of a residency at the Regency Town House, Hove; a Regency era house that is gradually being turned into a heritage centre through the work of volunteers. Fine artist Stephanie Smart, of The House of Embroidered Paper, worked closely with town house volunteers, who are credited in many of the following posts, in order to incorporate local social history and period research into the design of each piece as well as developing the necessary paper and thread techniques. She also visited the storage facilities of public and private collections in order to research Regency art, design and fashion. These included: The National Maritime Museum Greenwich, The National Trusts’ Fashion Collection at Killerton House, The Army Museum London, Chertsey Museum, Worthing Museum, Bath Fashion Museum and The Fan Museum Greenwich and with special access to The Royal Pavilion, Brighton.


The Regency Wardrobe collection consists of 11 life size garments, plus accessories and shoes, all made entirely from paper and thread. The collection was first due to be exhibited to the public in May 2020 and was then planned for May 2021. It will be finally exhibited at the very beautiful Firle Place, East Sussex between 29th August - 26th October 2021. Certain pieces will then tour and be able to be seen at Chertsey Museum between November 2021 and February 2022 and at Worthing Museum from April 17th 2022 - August 1st. Please check back for further details. Images of all the finished pieces will be made visible on the Regency Wardrobe page of stephaniesmart.net in line with the opening of the exhibition at Firle Place


Walking in Regency England


"Walking Dresses were worn to see and be seen. They are often referred to as Promenade Dresses, a very literal definition of their purpose. The fashionable Regency woman was seen walking in the parks or in the shopping districts during the London Season (spring and early summer); at the popular seaside resorts in August and September; and in the countryside at their own estates or at house parties during the fall and winter months. Walking Dresses differ for each location and season of the year. Because they were meant to be worn outdoors, the full costume of the Walking Dress always included a head covering of some kind, an outer garment or wrap, and gloves. Bonnets, caps, and veils were worn to cover the head, and were often the means of the most dashing or frivolous fashion statement".

- https://www.janeausten.co.uk/walking-dresses/


As an interesting aside I smiled when I came across this image of a woman taking snuff before a walk

(or afterwards): https://www.regrom.com/2018/01/12/regency-culture-and-society-ladies-taking-snuff/


Imagine if you will setting out for a walk in Brighton, from Brunswick square, in the late 1820's. Of course you would likely head along the sea front in front of the townhouses that look out to sea, therefore toward the Chain pier; promenading along the promenade so to speak. But in the early days of its existence Brunswick square was right on the edge of Brighton & Hove. So if you had turned right instead of left you would have walked straight into a green landscape, whilst yet staying beside the blue horizon. As this image shows:

© The Regency Society & the Society of Brighton Print Collectors - please see: http://sbpc.regencysociety.org/view-of-brunswick-square-and-adjacent-buildings-adjoining-brighton/

And if you were female and the weather was a little chilly you might be wearing a floor length pelisse.

As is evident in the quote from janeausten.co.uk above the term "walking dress" seems included the outer layers, jackets, cloaks, wraps etc, that a woman would have worn whilst walking. These outer garments were often made from colourful fabrics, while the dress beneath was commonly white during this period. Earlier styles of jacket include one coincidentally (considering where our imaginary character is walking) called the Brunswick, please see: https://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O115756/brunswick-unknown/ but by the early nineteenth century fashion would more surely have dictated that a Spencer or a Pelisse be worn

For more about the history of the Pelisse please see my earlier post: https://stephaniesmart.wixsite.com/stephaniesmart/single-post/2018/11/26/Pelisse

Loops, Buttons and Trim

I found this wonderful sky blue example early on in my research and became absolutely enamoured by it (there seems to be a green version in existence also). It's owned by the museum of London: https://collections.museumoflondon.org.uk/online/object/82460.html and covered in, what I would go on to discover, was called rouleaux work. I also went on to find other examples of beautiful rouleaux work but few seemed quite to compare.

Rouleaux is usually made from fabric of course, by sewing together the edges of a long strip and then turning it inside out. Please see: https://fabricnfiction.com/tag/regency-dress/

Making garments from paper means that many fabric techniques have to be adapted and I'm very grateful to Gilly Burton for all the time she spent working out the best way to create reams of paper rouleaux for the front of Loops, Buttons and Trim, part of The Regency Wardrobe collection.




Image of the middle of Loops, Buttons and Trim showing the paper rouleaux

Working and finished photos of the Loops, Buttons and Trim showing the paper rouleaux being applied. For more images please click right

Rouleaux credit to Gilly Burton, Jenny Fraser, Kerry Crofton

In the past I've always banned the inclusion of any material other than thread and paper (but including card) in the making, or even in the display, of any of the garments I've made. But I have found it very interesting, during my research into historical fashion, including whilst looking at real pieces in museum and private collections (for more on this please see: https://stephaniesmart.wixsite.com/thehiddenwardrobe), to consider how real garments were held together. And pins were commonly used not just during construction but whilst pieces were actually being worn, to hold them on the body.

"Pins were so essential to the 18th c. lady that the British trade embargoes against American colonists during the Revolution made their price skyrocket in Boston and other colonial cities. Ladies could live without tea. Pins were quite another matter. Abigail Adams famously wrote from Massachusetts to her husband John in London in 1775, begging him to "purchase me a bundle of pins & put them in your trunk for me. The cry for pins [in Boston] is so great, that what I used to buy for seven shillings and sixpence, are now twenty shillings, and not to be had for that." - http://twonerdyhistorygirls.blogspot.com/2009/11/pins-pinning.html

While hooks and eyes for example (see image above) were in use by this period pins were still essential during the Regency for holding together parts of an outfit whilst it was being worn.

For an interesting history of pin usage please see: https://regencyredingote.wordpress.com/2011/09/16/regency-pins/


as another quick aside it might seem that dress pins would be more dangerous than

hairpins but the hairpin was at this time could be dangerous in a way you might not imagine:

http://www.regrom.com/2016/10/18/regency-health-and-medicine-important-caution-to-females/

I mention this because it's true that for the first time I did decide not always to try and find alternatives, ribbons etc that i could make out of paper. So, when stitching has proved inappropriate for holding parts of a garment in this collection together, for it's display on a mannequin, I have employing pins, if rarely. Certain parts of paper garments are obviously fragile, in different respects to the ways in which fabric garments are, but there are many lessons that are transferable, in construction as well as attachment. After all, who am I to argue with the fact that humans have used pins since possibly as early as 3,000 BC presumably for good reason. Sometimes they are just the best way of holding one part of a garment to another.

Likewise I looked at belts, from the period, particularly those attached to a pelisse. In fact it's hard to find images of women's belts otherwise. The empire line, high waisted style of many dresses meant that belts appear to have been rarely worn except on these long jackets.


When we visited the store at Worthing Museum to see this gorgeous emerald green example we found an example of a belt with a large bow attached to the back, with a simple sliding front, just as is shown in the Museum of London example. As you can see there was also beautiful rouleaux on this piece.

Regency Town House volunteer Megan Breckell and the Worthing Museum pelisse.

The top three pictures of this pelisse were taken by me on our visit to Worthing, the bottom two come from: https://www.facebook.com/pg/KentCostumeTrust/posts/

I chose to mirror the design of the front fastening of these belts on Loops, Buttons and Trim, whilst applying a large decorative feature (but on the front as a twist) to the third white walking dress in this series of three, please see The Chertsey Pelisse (below).

As I've said in other posts pieces made by The House of Embroidered Paper are never direct copies of historical garments that were once made in fabric. Instead each is unique but often designed by encorporating and combining elements of two or more other pieces, depending on where my research leads. That is true in this case. Having fallen for the pale blue pelisse above I also went on to see examples of both pelisse and spencer jackets held in store at Chertsey museum, part of the Olive Matthews collection. One of them had leaf like trim around the neck line and on the shoulders, and seemed to speak directly to the slightly larger but similar shapes that can be seen on the Museum of London Pelisse. Of course this spencer is also covered in beautiful rouleaux