In case I ever get to attend a Jane Austen or other type of Regency event, I wanted to make a spencer to wear with my Regency gown. While researching extent spencers I stumbled upon some interesting historical information about them being military in style. Here's a peak at some of my research.
early 19th century spencer from the MET
early 19th century spencer from the MET
early 19th century from the MFA
1807-1810 century spencer from the V&A
1804-1814 spencer from the MET
1805-1815 spencer from the MET
There are various other images I cannot link to or are in books. I based my spencer mostly on the 1805-1815 military spencer at the MET.
Because of my interpretation (as a military supporter) and my son's interpretations through the historical eras of different military personnel requiring me to research and sew many a regimental through the course of time, I decided to make myself a spencer with regimental details! I thought it would be great fun to play off of his contantly growing regimental collection!
The Victoria and Albert Museum documents that military fashions were popular in Britain during the Regency era due to the Napoleonic Wars. Because we were focusing on the Napoleonic Wars in our history presentation, this would be perfect for my spencer! On ladies' garments, such as the bodice of the spencer and pelisse, regimental details were feminized to represent the military influence rather than to precisely replicate the pattern.
The Kyoto Costume Institute has in their collection a redingote, French for "riding coat," with military detail that they identify as Brandenburg Style, "expressed in the wrapped buttons and braid that decorate the front opening." This style was inspired from the coats of Napoleon's Hussars, who were light calvary. We know much about light calvalry from having met Lafayette and Tarleton (at seperate times) at Colonial Willliamsburg, and at one program I even trained as a dragoon (light calvalry) with my kids. This made me more excited to trim my spencer in "Brandenburg Style." I do hope that my interpretation is worthy of the name.
This is completely hand sewn. For the fashion fabric I chose a black cotton velvet and for the lining I chose a purple cotton with soft drape. For the pattern I used Period Impressions. Although I do not know how historically accurate it is, and the sleeve heads were mismatched and quite a bear to align properly into the shoulder of the gown, it wears quite comfortably. I initially chose the pattern because it offered a variety of styles that closely matched the extant images I found. As to the construction as per directions I do not know how accurate they are, so I based my handsewing on what I knew of sewing in the latter quarter of the 18th century.
These were the trim choices that I auditioned. I chose against the purple. Though stunning I couldn't find a similar type in extant images. The braiding went on the front and the velvet went on the back.
I planned the braiding based on several extant examples. I also made this functional which will be shown below, again based on an extant miltary style spencer. On one side the loop was not sewn down so that I could loop it around the button on the other side.
I added self-fabric ruching along the shoulders to symbolize epaulettes. I started with a peter pan collar from the pattern which ended up being too tight for me. After seeing a ruched collar with ruffles on an extant example, I ruched the peter pan collar then added a ruffle on top of and around the sides of that and it looked much like the extant spencer!
The back has a peplum.I seem to recall reading something significant about the peplum but now I can't find it. I considerably shortened the ties from the pattern because they were too cumbersome. I cut it down and pinned it to where I needed it to make the spencer fit me best. After looking at extent spencers I decided to decorate the small bands with self-fabric covered buttons, like many extant spencers I found. Also I put the velvet trim along the curve of the back seam line like I found in my key source image.
I covered the buttons in self-fabric, since Brandenburg style had wrapped buttons. I wasn't sure if that was thread wrapped or fabric wrapped. The example looked like it had self-fabric wrapped buttons so that is what I chose. Notice in the image above and below, that the outer loop of the braiding was left loose. That is to loop it over the button to secure the spencer which worked great!
For much of our history presentation I portrayed ladies of history indoors while wearing a pashmina shawl. (Stay tuned for those pictures.) One of our activities was to take a tour of many of the battlefields where Napoleon fought. For this I portrayed a Bonapartist and wore my spencer and bonnet (inspired by a French fashion plate). The tour was given by a French soldier (my son) so there are many more posts to come!
Now for the HSF details!
The Challenge: BiCentennial
Fabric: 100% cotton velvet
Pattern: Period Impressions and gleanings from extant spencers
Notions: trim, reproductions wooden button forms
How historically accurate is it? Highly accurate. 100% handsewn
Hours to complete: ?
First worn: history presentation
Total cost: $50