Monday, February 21, 2011

How to make a thrift store Regency Spencer: Part 1

I went to the Salvation Army today in search of a coat I could transform into a Regency Spencer. There are a couple reasons I chose not to make one, choosing to alter one instead: 
  • I could not find a spencer pattern that was both affordable, AND a design that I liked. I was not happy with the baggy sleeves on Sense and Sensibility's pattern, and I simply could not afford La Mode Bagatelle's pattern.
  • No one would let me borrow their Spencer pattern.
  • I had a lot of pattern alterations in mind anyways (in order to make it look like Lizzie's black Spencer), so I'd basically be creating a pattern from scratch anyways.

    The only reason TO create my own Spencer was that I had bought some amazing black cotton velvet from my latest excursion to Bakersfield F&M and I really wanted to use it.  :-(

    With a three-to-one ratio, I decided to check out my local stores. After trying two thrift shoppes, I found this purple Kenar velvet coat that has a couple minuses, but also a lot of pluses!

    One thing I like is the military detailing on the front! This is definitely Regency!

    1) When going thrifting, make sure you find a coat that you CAN cut shorter to create that Regency look. This means, watch out for out-of place pockets that would prevent you from chopping where you want, OR ones that you wouldn't be able to avoid at all (like breast pockets.... BAD idea).

    2) Also, keep an eye out for fabrics and colors that would fit within the time period; A thin corduroy, tweed or linen would work fine. No chartreuse or neon colors, or modern patterns, please. however, I am told that denim-thick fabrics are actually okay... go figure.

    The reason I chose this jacket is that the collar is upright, just like Lizzie's!  
    However, a folded down collar is also perfectly Regency as well!  
    So, pick whichever style you prefer!
    3) Try to look for coats with a princess seam on the back. Mine has two slight princess seams, but you can't really see them in this pic:

    On the back of the coat I found is this embroidered band that I will remove 
    and think about whether I would want to reattach higher or not.

    On the front are these little claps and under-flap to eliminate a gap behind the clasps.
    I might get rid of these and close the coat with frogs or buttons instead.

    On the collar and back is this military-style embroidery which I think might be a little modern-looking, but oh well. Beggars can't be choosers. Not everything will be 100% perfect.

    My coat was priced at $14.80, but it happened to be half-off day. Nice.  As you can see, a definite MINUS is the terrible lining of the jacket. Really? You HAD to type your name all over it?  Geesh. Guess I can't take my Spencer off. Ever.

    Obviously, another issue is the purple velvet. First of all, velvet wasn't very common during the Regency Era, and I'm fairly certain purple was even less common. Well, it looks cool, so there.

    4) See Part 2 to know where to start for your first alterations to your coat.


    1. What a neat idea! I look forward to see it finished.

      I posted pictures of a velvet spencer a while ago. Dated to the last decade of the 18th century, so very early Regency, but still, it is a velvet spencer. :)

    2. Isis, I saw your posts of the Spanish velvet bodices, but I couldn't find your Spencer! Please point me in the right direction! I've got too many options to count for the back and would like to see your design.

    3. What a great idea! I will have to look around next time I am at a second-hand clothing store!!