The Regency Wardrobe Collection - research & making - Wrapped in birds and butterflies
A standard accessory during the Regency, for any modest woman who felt she would otherwise have too much cleavage on show was a fichu, also called a “tucker” for you tucked it into the bodice of your gown.
Fichus from the 3rd quarter of the 18th century and 1789
The Met Museum
"Fichu - softly draped collar" - The Regency by Marion Sichel
"A fichu is a large, square kerchief worn by women to fill in the low neckline of a bodice. It originated in the United Kingdom in the 18th century and remained popular there and in France through the 19th with many variations as well as in the United States. The fichu was generally of linen fabric and was folded diagonally into a triangle and tied, pinned, or tucked into the bodice in front." - Wikipedia
"Fichu was, broadly speaking, the French term for a neckerchief or scarf. The term appears in French from at least as early as the mid-18th century, and was adopted for English use as a more elegant alternative to neckerchief in the early 19th century."
For more about the differences between Handkerchiefs, Neckerchiefs, Buffons (in French the Fichu Menteur) and Fichus see: http://thedreamstress.com/2013/05/terminology-buffons-fichu-neckerchief-handkerchief/
18th-19th Century - The Met Museum
Triangular Fichu early 19th Century https://www.meg-andrews.com/item-details/Triangular-Fichu/7514
1805-1810 - The V&A
"This antique blonde lace tambour embroidered fichu...dates from 1830. It is hand stitched, made of a sheer fine off white blonde net lace, with tambour embroidery work chain stitching done in a floral spray vine leaf pattern design. It features long lappet front ends which could be crossed at the front, tied in the back and would have been worn for modesty" - https://www.1860-1960.com/xa7596p0.html
For more about Tambour work please see: https://www.janeausten.co.uk/tambour-work/#more-18337
If Fichus were mostly worn for modesty then a muff was definitely designed and worn for keeping warm.
For more about "tippets (boas), pelerines (a broad collar-like cape which covers the shoulders) & muffs" I would direct you to: https://georgianera.wordpress.com/2016/02/23/georgian-era-muffs-tippets-and-furs/ I considered making a fichu as part of The Regency Wardrobe collection, I even designed one, but in the end I went for another item definitely intended to be worn for warmth but which also could be quite beautiful and that is the shawl. That therefore is what the rest of this post is about.
It's always interesting to compare the changes that can happen in fashion in just a few short years, particularly in this period. Here are a Jacket, Shawl, and Petticoat, c. 1750-1790.
A Regency lady might have worn a square shawl, usually folded into a triangle, and you will see some examples in the fashion plates on this page: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/accessoryqueen1/regency-shawls/ However, the most common shape for a shawl by the early 1800's was a long rectangle more akin to a wide scarf or what is often referred to as a pashmina today, no matter what it is made of.
In fashion plates and in museum collections we can see how decadently long many Regency shawls were, nearly dragging on the floor; often between 2-5 - 3.5 metres. It's difficult to find modern shawls that are even 2 metres long.
1801 fashion plate: https://www.flickr.com/photos/51592109@N08/sets/72157624477496471/
Felicite de Durfort von Merry-Joseph Blondel, 1808
This image (left) shows an Indian shawl made of cotton, silk, and gold thread 1790-1800,
As the full force of the East Indian company only increased over the next several decades the desire for indian shawls began to be evidenced even in literature. For example in Elizabeth Gaskell’s novel North and South (1855): “Helen had set her heart upon an Indian shawl, but really when I found what an extravagant price was asked, I was obliged to refuse her. She will be quite envious when she hears of Edith having Indian shawls. What kind are they? Delhi? with the lovely little borders?”
- https://www.mimimatthews.com/2015/07/29/shawls-and-wraps-in-19th-century-art-literature-and-fashion-history/ - this is a lovely post showing some beautiful examples of shawls portrayed, whilst being worn, in paintings.
But the preference for Indian pieces had been powerful also during the Regency:"Indian influence on Regency dress included fine Indian muslin, used for dresses and cravats, and beautiful, expensive hand-loomed shawls. During the late 18th-early 19th century, an unprecedented number of Indian cloths, made of quality fabrics, were exported to Britain. These cloths were expressly made for the British market, with colors and chintz patterns toned down to appeal to the more restrained British taste." - https://janeaustensworld.com/2015/11/15/the-gracefulness-of-india-shawls-in-the-georgian-era/
And in this post a lady of today describes trying to find a shawl that compares to those from the Regency: http://suzanlauder.merytonpress.com/a-pretty-wrap-to-keep-out-the-chill-regency-shawls/
1800-1810 British - The Met Museum
1812-1820 Probably French - The Met Museum
Again from The Met collection here is an image of the corner of a shawl that is pure lace: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/214463
The use of lace during the Regency and the types available requires a study (or at least a post) all it's own
"Before 1800 the threads of lace were usually linen; after 1800 cotton was more common. Silk and metal thread and occasionally such other materials as wool, aloe fiber, and hair of various kinds were also used. Almost all laces that have some claim to be called works of art are made in one of two techniques, needle lace and bobbin lace...Needle lace involves a very difficult technique and has seldom been used in folk art or, except at the beginning of its history, by amateurs. Bobbin lace in its simpler forms is a widespread craft and amateur pastime, but the more elaborate laces require the highest degree of skill. There are a number of minor techniques of lace making, including the following: drawn-thread work, or punto tirato; cutwork, or punto tagliato; filet, or network, lace; macrame, or knotted lace; punto a groppo; punto avorio; crochet; and tape lace". https://www.britannica.com/art/lace
The most common type of decoration of a Regency shawl is a plain ground with a design along its borders at either end but there were those that were covered in pattern.
So I'll admit that I ended up defying the more common preference from this period. You'll have to forgive me I needed to pursue the joy of exploring my material also so the shawl I ended up making, whilst being a nod toward a Regency shawl, rather grasps at the three example images shown above and runs away with the idea of a design that completely covers the piece. The design I created does change either end, allowing the black ground to show through, unlike in the middle, therefore changing the look of the decoration either end. And as another reflection of the Regency tradition of decorating the hem of a shawl I put the same design, as a wide border, around the hem of the accompanying dress Of Frills and Feathers. Please click on the link to read more about the inspiration behind both the dress and the shawl which became titled Wrapped in birds and butterflies.
Making Wrapped in birds and butterflies
I began with layers of paper, a Duni paper tablecloth roll, sheet of tissue paper, white wax free transfer paper, and a roll of lightweight white paper (as the top layer onto which I drew my design, which was inspired by the wallpaper from the William IV room of the Brighton Pavilion, just as each of the silhouette dresses were in their turn).
Taking away the drawing and using the free-machine embroidery foot on my sewing machine I sewed over the white lines, then I began cutting away at the layers of tissue, in between the stitched lines, leaving different shades of white and black.
As ever the floor was littered by the end of each day!
then it was a matter of tassel making, 42 of them!
The Regency Wardrobe will be exhibited at Firle Place, in 2021. As soon as the collection has been shown images of all the finished pieces including Wrapped in birds and butterflies will be made visible on stephaniesmart.net
This project is being supported by: