Jane Austen in Miniature

I currently find myself knee deep in sewing preparations for our upcoming War of 1812 event at Historic Ft. Wayne. Not surprisingly, most of the preparations involve replacing L's drastically out grown clothing. However, since I have more lead time in preparing for this event, and am dually preparing for Mississinewa 1812 this fall, I am able to indulge my research desire a little fuller and ensure that her new clothing won't be out grown as quickly as her last set. Or at least this over worked mother can hope that it won't be.

L's 1812 wardrobe consists of the following:

A white linen, short sleeved shift. This is simply her standard shift made with shorter sleeves to fit better under the shorter regency era style sleeves. I've made so many shifts in the past few months I'm almost sewing them in my sleep now.

A high wasted linen petticoat with suspenders. I have yet to construct this piece, although it should be a quick & simple project. However, if I don't get it finished in time, wearing her usual petticoat tied higher and pinned in place is an option.

A tan checked pin-cloth inspired by the image shown here (above) by Samuel deRole Wilde, 1801, as worn by the girl on the right. I found that an apron simply does not stay in place on my active child. Instead it falls to the natural waist, creating a very odd look when combined with the high waisted regency clothing. The pin cloth however, covers well & stays in place. Not to mention they are quick to throw together & great for using scraps.

A black & white striped short gown. I constructed this piece based on sketches from Clothing for a New Era, by Cathy Johnson (Graphic/Fine Arts Press) which I found on the 1812civilian Yahoo group. The piece was draped to fit and entirely hand sewn while at 100 years on the Ohio. I really had no plans for this garment but needed something to do for the weekend and the material was handy. Plus at the time L was running around in an under sized gown, so the inspiration to update her wardrobe was pretty strong.

A pink linen gown. I drafted this gown based on measurements and the usual gown block that I use for all of L's dress needs. I then adjusted the pattern to resemble two extant examples, one from Denmark, the other from Kent State.

The first inspiration piece is a gown in the Danish Museum archive, Tidens Toj. While I don't speak Danish, and apparently the online translators I've found don't either, I can tell you that this gown was is dated for the first decade of the 19th century. The web page also includes a grid pattern for the garment itself which proved very useful in my recreation. I used this pattern & a bit of math to estimate the proportions of the gown. I then adjusted the numbers to fit L, the only significant change being that I raised the front bodice to a more modest level. I especially like how the front lays flat while the back fullness is gathered. This is very similar to the shape of the gown on the girl on the right in the painting above.

The other extant inspiration is actually a young boys gown from the Kent State University Museum’s collection. Thankfully the notes on this garment are in English!
"Young boy's brown cotton dress made of coarsely printed fabric dating from the fourth quarter of the 18th century. Gathered on drawstrings at the neckline, high waistline and twice at each sleeves. Tucked twice at the hem both for decoration and to allow for growth. Made for Ben Mowry, born in 1808."
This gown shares the gathered waist style of the Danish gown, although it gathers all the way around the waist rather than just at the back. It is also open in the back, a style that we see quite frequently in younger children's gowns during the regency era. This in not feasible for an active child such as L and I immediately disavowed the idea. I do particularly liked the detail of the drawstrings on the sleeves, a simple but effective way to add growth room to loose sleeves. I showed this detail to L but she was happy with the more plain un-gathered sleeves of the other gown. Oh well, perhaps I'll work that into a piece for myself instead.

These basic garments, along with her usual stockings & shoes, should give L a nice basic wardrobe for all of our upcoming War of 1812 events and should fit for more than a few seasons. It is simply a matter of finishing up this wardrobe before she grows again, or worse; hits puberty and starts caring about what she's wearing beyond the usual question; "can I get dirty in it?"
works cited:
Wilde, Samuel deRole. Music. 1801. Painting. Manchester Galleries, United Kingdom. http://www.manchestergalleries.org/

Johnson, Cathy. Clothing for a New Era; A Basic Guide to Women's Federal * Regency * Empire Costume. Graphics/Fine Arts Press, Excelsior Springs, MO.

Hverdagspigekjole or Child's gown. 1800-1810. Tidens Toj. http://tidenstoej.natmus.dk/

Boy's printed cotton dress. 1808-1811. Kent State University Museum. http://dept.kent.edu/museum/general/general.html


  1. How fun it is to sew for kids--we can indulge all of the lovely little prints that no longer look best on our large(r) frame!

  2. Um. *I* want her clothes. They are SO cute. :p

    (Hey, you use a backdrop for your pics? They look AWESOME! :D)

  3. M- the pictures aren't of L's clothes, they are the extant examples I used as inspiration for her wardrobe. I'll have pictures of her dressed next week, after this coming event.

  4. Ohh..I figured it out. The first set is the same dress. Duh. I thought they were both dresses you were talking about, and since they were the same fabric, they must have been the ones you made. And then I skimmed over the next one.

    Note to self...don't try figure out conundrums with a head full of snot.

  5. I can read Danish!
    The dress is an everyday-dress (rather unusual for extant clothing) made out of a cotton print. It's a little girls dress, and it probably belonged to one of the daughters of a man called Carl Gottlob Rafn (1769-1808). It has a drawstring all around the neckline, as well as at the bottom of the sleeves, and the back of the "waist" from the side-seams. The dress is 80 cm (31½") long in front, the bodice-length is 7,6 cm (3") and the skirt-width is 144 cm (56 3/4"). Afraid that's it... Like your blog, by the way!

  6. Sara,

    Thank you! That says exactly what I guessed it says. It's so nice when all the visual information matches with the text.



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