Mary Shelley does the Jane Austen Festival


When someone mentions Regency fashion one typically envisions pretty and demure young ladies flitting about in sheer white gowns tied neatly with pastel colored sashes ala your grandma’s nightgown. However, when I think of Regency fashion my mind immediately wanders to the unusual, the ridiculous, and the under represented, especially when I have the freedom of not having to actually represent anyone at all, just simply to make a thing.

Enter my Mary Shelley inspired ensemble for Friday evening at the Jane Austen Festival in Louisville, KY. I honestly don’t remember how it became the Mary Shelley gown, having its humble roots in a super cool fashion plate depicting a woman in a black bodiced petticoat with these weird sleeves and gorgeous long gloves.


I chose a pretty black cotton muslin for the bodiced petticoat and using the Laughing Moon pattern #126 I quickly whipped it together. I was then tasked with figuring out what the heck those weird sleeves were all about.

With no visible canezou or chemisette* to be in possession of the sleeves it had to be one of two things: sleeves added on to the bodiced petticoat itself or pleated shift sleeves like these seen on an extant in the V&A Museum. FBDEEE5A-AB8D-432B-9175-A5D100545B26 Not being entirely certain what they were I attempted to mimic the pleated sleeve look with a pair of  pleated gauze sleeves which I tacked onto my short shift sleeves.

I next turned to making a reticule. Now, anyone who knows me knows I am not a fan of the tiny little reticules often seen dangling daintily at the wrists of others. I like big purses in real life and big bags in my historical costuming. I started with a scrap of cotton muslin leftover from the petticoat and with its 9″ by 7″ measurements it was just the perfect size to carry my fan, phone, wallet, meds, gloves, and even a little bottle of water if needed — perfect for JAF. Only problem was a plain black bag was decidedly boring compared to the many examples in museums. I jazzed it up with some embroidery (an anatomical correct human heart in green silk) and voila it was now a Gothic Mary Shelley inspired look!


To top off the ensemble I retrimmed my straw capote from Virgil’s Fine Goods with some black grosgrain ribbon and added a beautiful antique veil for a fun touch – because bonnet veils are awesome but also help keep annoying bugs from your face.


Unfortunately I didn’t get a single picture of me in this costume at the actual festival, but I did manage to do a mini photo shoot prior to the event — and afterwards promptly shortened the hem and added the pleated sleeves and bonnet veil.

*Upon closer inspection and adjustment of the screen setting you can faintly make out a high neckline of a sheer chemisette under the black petticoat, which is the most likely explanation for where the sleeves are coming from.


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