Annamarie Victor, Design Development

Key selected influential garments and people from collection shown on research pages for use in character specific design:

Charlotte Benton, daughter of Joseph Bonaparte and Julie Clary merged French Royalty into the new American wealthy class in 1803. Other women like the Ridgleys of Towson maintained trade and communication despite war and changing alliances in the world
Betsy Patterson, married to Napoleon Bonaparte’s youngest brother Jerome, in 1803 was one of the richest women in America. She, like the Ridgelys nearby, ran her father’s investments to great success in spite of being expelled by the French until after their war
Josephine, Napoleon’s empress, was setting the fashion trend 1800-1805. This classic “little white dress” must be the basis for any 1st Regency Era ensemble. Most women wore white pearls, but the Royals liked coral.
Samples of American cotton or silk almost always included embroiderie; possibly imported from the West Indies. Many extant garments appearing to be tan, might have been shades of pink, coral, or orange. American cotton dyes of the time did not hold their color over time.
Dolley Madison, President’s wife, wore young fashion for an older women. We take from her inspiration the turban with pin, pearls, plain white dress with puffy sleeves, and short hairstyle
We take from these 2 garments the American trend for 1-color matching embroidery with the accent bust ribbon and classic lines of the 1st Regency basic dress. This would be the “little white dress” made more functional for busy American women, more practical for durability, easy to clean, and possibly strictly domestically sourced, plus it allows Americans a little more modesty than those trend-setting and daring “Marveilleuse” and Josephine influenced French of the 1790’s-1801
From this we take the basic white dress with the plain colored, military inspired spencer. Done in natural dyes and tailored, they almost always needed gloves, shawls, and hats to cover up what was otherwise nearly naked
The earlier the bonnet, the more cone-shaped and funnel like it was. Later bonnets went higher to accommodate hairstyles rising. For recognition by the public, we will go with the “Jane Austen” 1810 era and cheat a bit to be later than what would be the predecessor to and otherwise look like the eventual pioneer bonnet.
Simple wrap turbans and gloves with chemisettes will help with warmth and modesty for our actress. We’ll put together something for winter
This cashmere shawl is simple, although without the popular paisley, it shows how the whole look can come together with accessories of one highly contrasting color
Closer to our color scheme, this shawl matching the belt with shoes of color matching the dress and the long plain colored expanse with the paisley attached, and even the shorter ankle length is dead on accurate for our depiction

Gold embroidered white cotton, short puffed sleeves, ribboned waist, string tied back, full gathered back, low calf length, bib front
Same as above but lemon yellow fabric without embroidery
Gold embroidered body and sleeves with cotton insert (special embroidered check pattern) in burgundy bodice
Long sleeve option with slight gathered sleeve, plain white cotton, ankle length, with white button collared chemisette (also with drop bib front, gathered and string tied back), optional train, including accessories knit scarf and period bonnet
Same as above in salmon/red 18th century integrated taffeta silk, with full body knit shawl, period bonnet, and white cotton chemisette
Red linen/cotton blend Spencer jacket with standing ruffled collar and back; optional tie or button pull sleeves, with accessories long scarf and turban over short or ankle length embroidered cotton or plain white cotton dress of other view
Same as above in teal 7.1 (heavy weight) linen. Collar options include tailored tab collar or plain. All views include fichu (tucker)
Same as above with plain white dress and cotton/linen blend in green
Same as above with embroidered cotton and green spencer jacket of any fabric; linen, linen/cotton, or wool, and any collar type
Red linen/cotton spencer jacket with gold embroidered dress at ankle length and special knit scarf preferably of imported or dyed silk with tassels
Undergarments: bib drop front, full corded (lightweight) stays alternate short stays for smaller bust, high calf flat sleeved chemise, optional rump pad to lift back gathers, and optional modesty straight petticoat. White stockings, slippers (black, white, or satin to match), and optional body stocking or stockings by customer

Dyes: must be from “natural” sources; plants, fibers, berries, etc. – means blue will be “teal”, green will be yellow or bluish, red will be in the orange or burgundy (not bright cherry though some in orange range acceptable), and there would be no purples, bright greens, deep blues, or deep blue range.

Colors: As illustrated in “American Extant” above, the Americans had more on the gold, yellow, brown, white end of the spectrum of these dyes. That is most likely because they were independent of Europe, and would be using American generated goods.

Fabric type: Linen would be a more typical fabric for this era, although a fashionable young lady would be first in line for the new American cotton coming out of mills – notably white, unbleached, or in the tan, gold, yellow range yet again. Accessories or special things might be pink or other pastels, especially for day wear for a young lady.

Other choices would be flax, wool, and silk. There were no synthetic dyes nor fabrics invented yet. Silk, like the taffeta shown, would be very stiff and a bit noisy for Regency style, so young ladies most likely would have used a softer silk rather than their grandmother’s taffeta.

Notions: Everything was PINNED – no buttons, hooks/eyes, grommets, or metal connections. These had not been invented yet. Yes there were buttons in metal, bone, pearl (mussel), or rare jewels, and many were metal or metal covered with fabric.

The way the Regency gown works, however, is a complex system of ties with the finishing done with a period appropriate straight pin. These are longer and much heavier made of steel than any of today’s dressmaker pins. They are about 4x as wide in diameter as today’s pin too.

Notions shown are more appropriate to the 1850-80’s, as the dye processes are more complex, and the cotton weight much heavier than the earlier years. Disregard these early Victorian items to consider the fabrics shown.

Knits: The scarves and drapes as shown would be of a knit silk and imported from some place like the West Indies with exotic patterns and color blends typical of “exotic” climes. This is wide open to interpretation and construction, though they would not be made of a heavy wool knitting process as we know it today, but more like a fringed tablecloth of fine silk.

Gold embroidered cotton for dress; optional embroidered cotton for bodice
Linen in mid to heavy weight with or linen/cotton blend for spencer jacket and linings; optional dress can be made in any color handkerchief linen; e.g. lemon yellow (not shown)
Salmon/pink taffeta (right) with later era accessories

For a Ridgely daughter, a ball of cotton is a playful twist on history, fashion, and accessories
Soft white wool flannel with a reproduction brooch to make and pin the quick winter turban
Gold Silk Taffeta with muted green, pink, and gold for bonnet

Click here to return to Anna’s Main Page for the FINISHED PRODUCT (next)

Click here to go to Anna’s Historical Research of Time & Place Page

Click here to go to Anna’s Fashion History Research Page

Click here to go to top of this page