Thursday, December 3, 2015

Elizabeth Bennett's, not Black but Green, Velvet Spencer Jacket

Sew a clothing item from a (historical) movie or TV show. That was pretty much the description for November's Historical Sew Monthly challenge, The Silver Screen. Great, I love movies and TV shows set in former time periods. The only issue?  Choosing only one thing to make. An entire regency outfit from Pride and Prejudice? I don't have time for that. One if Jane Eyre's dark 1840's dresses? I was already making a 1840s fan front dress, much to bright to be Jane's. A dress from North and South? I already have a couple 1860s dresses, sewing another one isn't high on my to do list. Then I watched the 1995, 6 hour long, Pride and Prejudice movie, and I found the perfect item.

 Spencer Jacket - Philippa Jane Keyworth - Regency Romance Author

This velvet spencer jacket. I've been wanting to sew myself a regency wardrobe for a while now, I just haven't gotten around to it. Making this spencer jacket would be the perfect item to start my regency collection! It would be (relatively) quick and easy to make, and totally wearable with my modern clothing as well as with the regency dress I'm (eventually) going to make. Even better? I already had black velvet to make it out of! With this decided, I started researching my pattern options and looking at lots and lots of pictures of actual regency spencers.

Jacket (Spencer), 1805–15, French. Cotton, silk, & linen. Metropolitan Museum of Art.

 My first thought when it came to finding a pattern was, I could just size up and alter a pattern from Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion 1. Then I remembered how much work, how many mock-ups, and how many fittings went into the pattern for my completely hand sewn dress. If I was going to have this spencer done by the end of November, sizing up a Janet Arnold pattern just wasn't going to work. I could buy a historically accurate pattern off line, but that could be expensive. So, I went and picked up Butterick B6074 at a pattern sale. This gave me a regency spencer pattern, but it was far from historically accurate.

I couldn't bring myself to use the Butterick pattern as it was, however, thus I decided to combine it with the Janet Arnold pattern. I looked at the pattern shapes in Patterns if Fashion 1. I traced all the Butterick pattern pieces onto white paper. Then I reshaped each piece, taking some from this piece, adding it to this one, combining these two, moving this seam, etc.. It worked great! In the end I had a pattern that was more accurate than the Butterick, took less time than sizing up the Janet Arnold, and quite a bit less expensive than buying a historically accurate pattern off line.

I was all ready to cut out my spencer jacket, only to discover I didn't have enough black velvet! Uh-oh. Well, in my reading and research leading up to this project I discovered that the spencer in the movie was most likely, actually, a rather dark green, not black. Perfect! Green is my favorite color! So I took my shortage of black velvet as a blessing in disguise, and took my 60% off coupon to Joann's for some green velvet. I also picked up some green cotton for the lining and a bit of gorgeous green taffeta for the piping. 

First I cut out and basted together the lining, then tried that on. A couple small tweaks and it was good to go. I took the lining apart and used it as the pattern for cutting into the green velvet.

I machine sewed the spencer together, but used as many historically accurate construction methods as possible. The HSM facebook group was great while I was researching construction techniques! All of my seams are enclosed thanks to an 18th century method of lining.

The way that the sleeves are sewn is quite clever, not something I would have come up with on my own, but definitely something I plan to repeat in later projects! I then hand sewed the sleeves to the jacket, using this method shown in a book by Pernilla Rasmussen, so that I could continue to keep all the raw edges hidden and not have machine stitches showing.

Once the spencer itself was sewn, it needed trim! The edges were finished with self made green taffeta piping. The same green taffeta was used to decorate the front of the spencer. Finally frog closures were added as a finishing, and practical, touch.

(the taffeta is actually a MUCH better match than it appears to be in this picture
Then Elizabeth Bennett's green velvet spencer jacket was done and all ready for me to wear! 

Since I don't yet have a proper regency dress, under the spencer jacket I wore a very long, rather straight, elastic waist skirt I found in a box of old fabric someone gave me.

Now that this jacket is done, I can't wait to get started on my regency dress!

The first order of business though, will have to be a set of regency stays! After all, I can't get the correct historical look with out the right foundations.

What the item is: 
Elizabeth Bennett's green velvet spencer jacket from the 1995 Pride and Prejudice movie

The Challenge: 
Well it was supposed to be for November's silver screen challenge, but as I missed the deadline for that by a few days I decided to instead use it was one of my entries for December's re-do challenge. So, challenge #12 re-do

What Challenge/s are you re-doing?:
Primarily, Challenge #11, The Silver Screen.
Also, Challenge #4, War & Peace. Thanks to the military inspired front decoration.

Green syn. velvet, green/black syn. shot taffeta, green cotton broad cloth

Butterick B6074, heavily altered so that the pattern pieces resembled those of the riding habit jacket pattern in Patterns of Fashion 1

approximately 1810

Thread, frog closures, cotton yarn for piping

How historically accurate is it?
Well, nearly all my materials are synthetic, and I did use my sewing machine, but, the pattern is correct, as are my construction methods, and the look is right. So I'd say about 70%

Hours to complete:
I didn't really keep track, probably about 10. There was alot of handsewing and pattern altering.

First worn:
12/3, for pictures

Total cost:
Around $20, thanks to coupons!

I certainly need to make myself a proper regency dress to go under it, but for now it works well to "winterize" some of my favorite sundresses!


  1. This is incredibly well done! Bravo.
    Could you provide a bit more detail into your process of pattern altering. I'm a costume designer in Chicago, and am designing a regency show. I discovered the same pattern in my search, but found that it was too frilly for me as is.

    1. Thank you! I made this aver 2 years ago, so I don't remember too much unfortunately, but here's what I can tell you;
      I redrew the neckline and added a cut-on collar. I believe I traced the neckline and collar off another pattern onto this one.
      I moved the side and shoulder seams from under the arm and the top of the shoulder toward the back for a more historically accurate shape. This resulted in a more "diamond-shaped" back piece.
      I cut the sleeves as a 2 piece sleeve, I believe the pattern was for a 1 piece sleeve.
      I left off the waistband and just finished the bottom edge with piping.
      That's all I can remember - if you need more info let me know!

  2. nice spencer :) color is pretty