Victoria here, bringing you the delightful story of Jess Russell, who opted for historical accuracy to the extent that she fashioned her own regency gown, sometimes working by candlelight, to know what a regency dressmaker would have experienced.
DRESSMAKER JESS RUSSELL
I met Jess at the Beau Monde's 2015 Regency Writers Conference and Soiree, where she appeared (above) in her lovely creation. All of us were wowed in the best 21st century tradition!
Jess is the author of the best-selling novel The Dressmaker's Duke. To Read more about Jess and her novel, click here
Jess agreed to tell the story of her novel and her gown for this blog. She writes:
In The Dressmaker’s Duke, my Heroine, Olivia Weston, is
(surprise) a dressmaker. To help launch the book I decided to create a Regency
gown from scratch, just as Olivia would have done.
Imagine sewing everything by hand, in poor light, without even a
dress form. And then, after working your fingers to the bone creating this
stunning gown, you can’t even get your rich client to pay up. Well, my poor
heroine goes through such a trial. The good news is her money
troubles throw her smack up against my monkish, but oh-so-sexy Duke.
thought it only fitting that as Olivia’s creator, I should have to step
into her slippers.
the finished gown~
Things I learned making
sewing a simple straight seam takes about 7 x’s longer than using a machine.
2. Use a
thimble if you can master it. Your fingertips will thank you. (I ended up using
tip of an old leather glove.)
29 hours spent sewing.
the same number of threaded needles used.
stitch! If you have to cut the fabric and have used a back stitch you
won’t lose all your
your thread through bees wax. This helps the thread from snarling.
7. It is
EXTREMELY hard to rip out when sewing lace. All the threads look alike.
8. It is
surprisingly hard to sew in a straight line.
9. My best
running stitch was 14 stitches per inch.
10. I now
have arthritis in my pinkie finger.
lighting is paramount! Not easy when you are trying to sew by candlelight.
must have had very tired eyes.
Things I learned wearing
this gown at the Beau Monde Soiree~
1. It is
light gowns must have been lovely in the summer, but brutal in winter in a
have to be aware of the blasted train at all times! I would think it’s
much like driving;
you have to watch out for not only you, but the other
drivers as well. (I can’t imagine
negotiating a crowded ball room. No wonder
there was always a maid installed in the “ladies
retiring room” to mend ripped
dances are exhausting but great FUN!
cannot do a darned thing when wearing gloves. And taking them on and off can be
At the Beau Monde Soiree, L to R: Ann, Sir Reggie, Jess
I made the over-dress out of an old bed
canopy. Re-purposing this piece of lace inspired my blog called “Trash to
Treasure.” Each month I transform a thrift store find into something new and
exciting! You can find me at://jessrussellromance.com/
For a sneak peak here is my Mid-century
evening coat re-made into a 19th century Redingote!
The Dressmaker’s Duke was a double finalist in
the National Readers Choice Awards for Best First Book and Best Historical and
is available at Amazon, iTunes, and BandN.
Thanks so much for having me share my love of
sewing! Jess Russell
Victoria again. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences, Jess. And just to remind readers of this blog and not incidentally myself (!) -- all us us who thinks this might be easy -- Jess adds:
I have been sewing since I was very young. So when I embarked on my first novel the phrase “write what you know” came to mind. Well, I know sewing. Here is my wedding gown. The pattern I made out of newspaper and the rest I made up as I went along.
Jess in her bridal gown
Again, all I can say is wow!! Even if I were an experienced stitcher, I could not begin to imagine creating such a fabulous dress!! Brava, Jess.