Periwinkle-lilac regency walking dress, an ensemble in three pieces

In January 2018, when I was in Paris the second time, I decided to make a spur-of-the-moment trip to London, and deeply regretted not taking my zoom lenses with me when I found that some gowns I loved were on display.  But I also hadn’t intended to take any zoomed in photos in Paris, and so didn’t take those lenses at all.  When I returned to Paris in March 2019, I went both with pre-existing plans to go to London again, and with my lenses.

One of the gowns I was most excited to see was this beautiful periwinkle…well, I’ve seen it called a redingote or a pelisse, but the description of it calls it a walking dress with spencer, skirt, and bodice. Clicking all images will open larger version of them.

This ensemble is labeled as a spencer, skirt, and bodice, though I’ve often seen it referred to as a redingote or pelisse.  But according to the V&A Museum, it is a spencer with a separate skirt and separate bodice.  I’ll add in information not visible as needed.

Let’s start with the front of the Spencer, which is silk crepe lined with cream cotton, and the waistband is lined with pink ribbon.  The spencer closes with black hooks and eyes.  Two things to note in this photo are the very wide collar trimmed with double piping, with two tassels at each end, and the four silk satin flourishes, each edged with single piping.


In this photo, pay attention to the teeny tiny stitches on that seam. Click this photo to see it larger.  The front edges of the spencer have double piping on each side.


The waistband of the spencer is edged in a single piping. The way the shadows of the skirt’s folds are are one of the things that show the spencer to be a separate piece. Prior to reading the description as spencer, skirt and bodice, I had thought this was one single item of clothing, and was initially convinced the description must has been wrong, but then I paid attention to things like shadows and realized that it is indeed multiple pieces.


I was surprised to see that the detailing on the front, in addition to the silk-wound wood beads (just wrap thread around a bead through the hole, around and around and around) and silk cord, there are four crescents that are covered in silk satin, but then also have several threads criss-crossing over them. Each crescent has a piece of cording sewn to the edge with visible sewing.  Each of the four flourishes ends with an edged crescent on a bed of cording, with three covered beads.


On to the sleeves tops!  What appear to be bows are a strange thing. They aren’t…quite…bows. One half, the side toward the back, is smaller than the half that points toward the front. The shape is similar to a goldfish cracker, if the tail was shaped similar to the body, but smaller, and then it’s gathered with five wraps of covered cording, and what looks like one wrap of the covering without the cording. I’m not sure what to make of this.  There is a total of five of these strange pseudo-bows on each sleeve that overlap, smaller end on top of large side, with the soft diamond pointy parts lining up with the edges of the larger side of the next one.  This is what makes them look like bows on first glance.


This photo better shows the overlap I mentioned above. It also better shows that the larger side of each pseudo-bow connects to the sleeve band as well as to the spencer at the armcythe. The sleeve band is edged on each side with double piping. This is entirely free of the under-sleeve. If you follow the creases in the under-sleeve, you can tell that you could hook your finger under the sleeve band because the under-sleeve connects to the spencer only at the armcythe.  If we’re to get into obsessive detail, two of the pseudo-bows connect to the armcythe forward of the collar’s tassels.


There are no observable gathers for the under-sleeve at the front of the spencer, only at the back.  And if we continue our obsessive detail of the pseudo-bows, three more connect behind the collar tassels, two above the dropped shoulder seam, and one about halfway between the dropped shoulder seam and the back seam.


I like that this photo shows the light through the pseudo-bow’s fabric. It’s easy to see that the support for the fabric is the cording at the edge.  It also shows the side seam of the spencer.


The under-sleeves are about knuckle-length.  There are no seams visible from the front or back at all.  I think that the seam must be on the underside where modern seams would be on long sleeves.


The wrists are gathered with a triple-band of the silk crepe, edged with double piping, but the triple band is not three separate bands.  They make me think of a three-fingered glove.


The edge of the sleeve is bound in silk satin trimmed in single piping.


The corded tassels on each of the fingers (once you see it as gloves, you can’t unsee it) is connected only to the outside of each band.  These fingers close together with black hooks and eyes.


The back of this spencer is quite interesting.


The collar has a third point in the back that comes down quite far, and it has two tassels. The back seams are very gently curved. Like the front seams, the dropped shoulder and back seams are top-stitched with very tiny seams.  The seams would be pressed toward the side seams and the front.   This is also the photo that shows the right sleeve and how the smaller side of the pseudo-bow is toward the back, mirroring the left sleeve.


No text with this one.


At the bottom of each of the back seams on the waistband is a “flower” of a button-form covered in silk cording over a bed or looped cording and with three tassels underneath.


The skirt is seven panels with a padded hem, and either ten or eleven repeating motifs around the bottom.  The front panel is straight and the rest are wedge-shaped.  The skirt has heliotrope-colored shoulder straps, and closes at the back waist with a lilac ribbon.


Nothing to say about this pic, but still thought it should be shared.


Each repeating motif has a gentle hill of silk satin, and in each valley is three pieces of silk satin swooping counterclockwise. Unlike the tops of the sleeves, the direction doesn’t change depending on the size. All around the hem, the direction stays the same.


Each of the curved pieces of the three-swoop group is edged with single piping, and the undulating top is also edged with single piping.  The straight bottom is the only section of silk satin that’s not edged in piping. Under each three-swoop group is a cordonné pleated trim with five central pleats.  This trim is connected only at the bottom and at the bottom of the three-swoop group.


Another view of the bottom.

Now, not shown but confirmed is that there is a separate bodice beneath the spencer and over the skirt.  The neckline is a low square in front and back, trimmed the front with a few rows of pleated ribbon with a tassel on each end pleated ribbon around the neckline, and silk satin cordonné pleated trim around the armcythes.  The bodice is sleeveless.  The next time I go, and there will be a next time (I’m a paying member of the museum for a reason), I will see if there’s any way to arrange a private viewing of this ensemble to get photos of it.

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