Once the idea of Conwy Tours had formed I decided to make tailoring an authentic costume my lockdown craft project. I excitedly began researching the internet and was relieved to see from historic postcards etc. that there was quite a range of acceptable Welsh lady costumes though there were several essential items. The tall black hat obviously (which I would not even attempt to make!) and a bedgown. Very confusing since a bedgown was worn anywhere but in bed! It is a cross between a jacket and a dress. I would also need a fitchu (muslin neck scarf) and a mob cap
On turning to my old friend the internet I found a fantastic pattern for a late 18th century redicote which is a type of bedgown at www.blacksnailpatterns.com.
I was very impressed with the instructions
I was in lockdown so one problem was fitting a dress to myself so I decided to invest in a dressmaker's dummy which I named Annie. She was incredibly useful. I also bit the bullet expenditure wise by ordered some expensive lightweight mohair suiting. I thought if it was worth doing it was worth doing properly and also I wanted the costume to be comfortable to wear in the Summer. Part of the cost was recouped by getting the checked cotton for the petticoat an the muslin for the fitchu (the scarf that preserves one's modesty and warmth) and cap very cheap.
The pattern contained some strange items which were essential to the authentic look of the costume. The first was a padded split bum - yes exactly what it said to get that late Georgian bustle effect. The second was a set of pockets - like Lucy Lockett lost. These tie under the petticoat and are accessed by splits in it.
I also had to experiment with making a mob cap to go under the tall hat. I tried with a couple of different diameter circles sewing them together and then two rows of stitching to insert elastic - don't know what they used in the 18th century - probably smocking but I had already cheated by using an electric machine. You can only take authenticity so far!
The lined redicote was quite complicated to sew and I think every piece got sewn on upside down or back to front and had to be unpicked and resewn at one time or another. I was so glad I made a toile or rough from old tablecloths first. I then discovered the pattern was designed to be worn over stays and was cut with at least an inch off the waist. That was not going to make for comfortable workwear so I made Annie my size and recut the bodice. I had to insert boning - again not authentic - no whales were hurt during the making of this garment! I also had to do a lot of maths to ensure the back gathers were accurate and regularly spaced around the tailed back.
The petticoat was relatively straightforward apart from the maths to get the pleating so that it fitted the waistband - In fact it is a little big so I added some hooks to adjust. The hemline threw me at first then I realised of course it had to go over that big bustle and still be straight at the bottom. Phew - my work uniform was ready - all except the tall hat which I bought from a wedding outfitters. A pair of black boots - or slippers for hot weather completes the show.