Monday, April 17, 2017

Embracing the Romantic: Mameluke Sleeves

I have been on a Regency princess sleeve kick lately-first my 1817 ballgown, and now a day dress. Both are made with the same base bodice pattern (based on a dress in Patterns of Fashion), and then...embellished.


Yeah, something like that.

During my winter campaign to come to terms with Regency (and develop a well-fitting pattern), I realized that I really need to find something in my clothes that is distinctive and structured, because otherwise I feel like I am making/wearing a nightgown. A very fancy nightgown, sure, but still a nightgown. So I need to make myself feel less nightgown-like, and so far sleeves seem to be the thing to do it.

This time I went full-on Romantic Movement: sheep-tastic levels of sleeve poof in gauzy white cotton. The long, regularly-puffed mameluke sleeves strike me as quite romantic, and accomplish their goal of helping me embrace Regency clothes. They say "heroine in a Gothic novel" a la Catherine Morland, or "wandering around on moors reciting Byron." I love them!

The romantic movement lasted throughout much of the early 19th century, and drew on Medieval romance archetypes for inspiration. The movement encouraged looking to the natural world for inspiration, valued imagination and emotion, and lauded passion. This is the same movement that inspired many of the Scottish-set romantic works that started the tartan craze, so it's unsurprising that it speaks to me. And this dress captures that sensibility-airy, dramatic, nostalgic, but also au courant and impractical. Perfectly suited to a heroine who needs to be visible on a moonless night on the hillside.

staring out of windows is romantic, right?
There are seven puffs on each sleeve, gathered at intervals and sewn to a fitted undersleeve to hold everything in place. I'm not totally sure of this as a period method, as the only insides of extant garments I've seen seem to be unlined and use ties inside to hold the puffs in place on the arm, but I think it's not unreasonable. And I'm definitely happy with the shape it gives-take a look at some of my inspiration in comparison:

Ackermann's Repository, 1815 (via
1814, LACMA collection

Costume Parisien, 1809
and mine!
I had a blast wearing this dress for the first time, kitted up with a chemisette, tartan shawl, and Hartfields that I painted green (I purchased them in white, although that option no longer appears to be available). We don't have any moors in Salem, but as one of the largest cities in the United States during the 1810s we do have some lovely examples of period architecture. So I wandered there instead!

outside a merchants' house, built 1817

inside the Old Town Hall, built 1816-1817
 Now I just need to make some friends, visit their estate, and convince myself there's a mystery afoot.



  1. I love this! One of those period details that few people replicate today.

    Didn't realize that AD wasn't selling white leather Hartfields anymore ... I still haven't dyed mine, and now there's an extra importance to choosing the color they should be. (I mean, I have the red dye, but that green looks so good!)

    1. Thank you so much! It was actually a bit of a challenge to figure out how to do the sleeves, because I couldn't find any other people doing it--usually other bloggers are such a good resource for sewing tips :)

      And yes! I'm sad about the lack of white Hartfields. I think red will be totally smashing, though, so don't stress too much!

  2. Sorry to be super late commenting- it's great to see pictures from the regency weekend, and your new gown looks fantastic! I think the best part is the green shoes, though. I love them!

    1. Thank you, I love them too! I'm happy with my dress, but it's definitely the little details that make the outfit :)