Costume Update; Regency Gown #2

Regency # 2 a

Well, I’m finally done the second Regency gown and what a lovely thing it is!  It is made once again in the simple styling of the drawstring gown of the early 1800’s but with a few extravagances.

Regency gown # 2 - bI decided to do this one in an ivory silk like taffeta. The fabric has a lovely texture, just a little bit shiny and is liberally decorated with an embroidered leaves and vine pattern. I think it really has an authentic look about it.  I decorated this dress with some lovely ivory venetian style lace which I added to the sleeves and around the skirt of the gown and accented it with ivory satin rosebuds.  I made a wide belt with left over fabric and also decorated that with a length of the same lace.  There is a lace insert at the neckline of the gown and because it was improper for a lady to show her cleavage other than for evening, I also made a lace shawl collar to go with it and will wear long ivory opera length gloves to cover my arms.  This, I feel also nicely suits a middle aged lady like myself rather well. The great thing about it is that with the removal of the shawl feature the gown easily converts from a day dress to an evening gown with the right accessories.

Regency gown # 2 - cI was excited to purchase the most fabulous head gear from MsRegencys Bee In Your Bonnet at a super price. This lady creates the most delightful Regency bonnets and hats. You can visit her ebay store here if you are interested in having a look at her lovely and high quality products.  I added the ivory lace cap ruffle to the hat as most regency ladies would not have left home without this item; it was worn simply left on under the hat in much the way I am wearing it. To tie it in with my gown I added a large pearl hat pin and an ivory ostrich feather. Looks pretty snazzy I think!

For accessories, I already had my ivory parasol and fan both fully laced and decorated and I added an antique brass and carnelian cameo locket (complete with a minature of my seafaring Royal Marine husband inside), pearl earrings and a triple row of red coral beads around my neck. I also used a vintage shell cameo pin to secure the shawl.  I recently read that coral necklaces wereRegency gown # 2 - d very popular with the ladies of the regency period and since both my daughter and I each own coral necklaces I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to wear one of them. I also purchased a pair of cotton bloomers or pantaloons since my dress is quite see through and I’m wearing a nice pair of flat slipper shoes on my feet.

I really love this costume, it’s so very comfortable, easy to move in, exceptionally cool to wear and looks really lovely! Bless me, what more could a girl ask for, besides a hot cup of tea that is…?

Well…that’s about it really, I’ll let the pictures tell the rest of my story.  Now all I have to do is finish the lace on the Naval Officer’s uniforms and we’re all set for The Tall ships Festival, which by the by, is just a few scant weeks away.


Costume Update; Regency Gown #1

Shara, regency 1

The years between 1795 and 1825 were known in Britain as the Regency Period.  It was a  time characterized by war, political upheaval, revolution and immense change in Europe.  It occurred after the slower paced Georgian period where very little changed, and just prior to the fasting moving industrialization of the Victorian age.

Shara, Regency 2It was a time of growth, expansion, religious revival, defining of culture and testing of diplomatic and military willpower; a time of constant conflict and the clashing of the old ways, philosophies and points of view against a new more modern way of thinking, often displayed to the bloody extreme. Leading figures of the age included political and military icons such as Napoleon and Josephine Bonaparte, Lord Horatio Nelson, the Duke of Wellington, Czar Alexander I, Queen Louise of Prussia and diplomat Karl Metternich. The Regency era was also a time of great elegance and beauty. Ludwig von Beethoven composed “classical” music and Jane Austen wrote novels such as Pride & Predjudice, Sense & Sensibility and Emma. Country dances were popular, beautiful works of art were created and Greek architecture enjoyed a huge revival. This extended also to the fashion of the day. In efforts to emulate the styles and philosophies of the ancient Greeks, women’s clothing reached heights of classic simplicity it had not attained for many centuries, and so was born the Regency period gown.

Shara, Regency 3I myself have also gone through a change of heart with regards to this manner of dress. Even as little as a year ago, I would not have embraced this gown. The flimsy fabrics and often risque manner of attire did not appeal to me, but as in the Regency period itself, I found that times of change can’t be helped, but instead are reflected in one’s own attitude towards many things. It was with the coming of our little grandson that I slowly came to a change of mind.  I had fashioned the rather large gowns of the Georgian era with the boned bodices and hooped petticoats and much as I love them still, I really had to be a little more realistic about what Shara and I were actually going to wear to such an event as the Tall Ships Festival.  Although the Georgian gowns are perhaps more in keeping with the 250th anniversary of the Royal Navy Dockyards in Halifax, the time was to be July, and some the warmest weather of the year could be expected. With our entourage, we were going to have a small child and a nursing mother and I had to be honest with myself. The Georgian gowns were just not going to work for us this particular  time and occasion.

Regency modesty cover

Warily, I set my mind back to the Regency period. After-all, our men are dressing as Naval and Marine officers circa about 1805, Napoleonic Wars to the War of 1812, and really wouldn’t a regency gown seriously match the uniforms they would be wearing in a much more authentic way? So I set my mind to researching the gowns of that era. I found that fabrics such as fine muslins, lawns, silks and laces would be so much cooler for us and so much more adaptable to our requirements. I found that although clothing was simpler and more revealing, it also had an innocence, elegance and beauty that was very desirable. Fine women were still as modest and refined as ever but were granted some modicum of freedom in their dress and self expression. This led to many advances for them in lifestyle, as well as artistic and literary endeavours, to name but a few. I certainly couldn’t begrudge them that and I liked it…a lot!

Regency backThe first Regency gown I have completed, and which is modeled by my daughter Shara in this post, is very simple in it’s design.  It is based upon research I did about the drawstring gowns that were being worn at the time. They are very conducive to women of differing situations and sizes and also flattering to many figure types. I also watched Emma, Pride & Prejudice and several other Jane Austen movies. 🙂 I started with an embroidered raw silk like fabric in a cinnamon shade for the dress, a fine see through gold checked lawn and a gold venice style lace for accent.  The neckline is fairly low and the waist is high, both would normally be gathered with a simple drawstring and tied. I sacrificed a little authenticity here and used modern day elastic, simply to make the act of nursing an infant easier. I made the slightly gathered sleeves about elbow length and added a lace insert at the cleavage in order to abide somewhat to the then rules of modesty in day dress. Bare arms Regency Shara, 5and cleavage were acceptable only for evening wear. I also added a wide belt and satin ribbon to accentuate the empire waistline.  I also made a triangular lace modesty piece to wear over the shoulders and to be used as both a cover up and a warmer. I was so happy to find a plain regency reproduction straw bonnet/hat, which I decorated with scraps of fabric, lawn, ribbon and lace. Self made buttons also decorate both the hat and the dress.

So, all in all I’m pretty happy with the result ‘and Shara looks a very fine Regency lady in it. Quite lovely! Mr. Darcy would no doubt approve!

“Privateer Extraordinaire”: The Story of Enos Collins

Enos Collins, YoungEnos Collins was born in Liverpool, Nova Scotia on September 5, 1774 and died November 18, 1871. He was a seaman, merchant, shipowner, financier, legislator and a very successful privateer.  The eldest son and second child of Hallet Collins and Rhoda Peek, his father was a merchant, trader, and justice of the peace in Liverpool, N.S,  who was married three times, and fathered 26 children.

Enos, did not receive much in the way of a formal education, but instead went to sea at an early age as a cabin boy on one of his father’s trading or fishing vessels. At the age of 19 he was master of the schooner Adamant, sailing to Bermuda and by 1799 he was serving as first lieutenant on the famous privateer ship the Charles Mary Wentworth. As a very ambitious young man, he soon obtained part-ownership in a number of vessels trading out of Liverpool. During the Peninsular War he made a large profit by sending three supply vessels to break the Spanish blockade and replenish the British army at Cadiz which set him on the road to making a fortune.

Not long after, he outgrew the opportunities offered by the thriving seaport of Liverpool, and moved to Halifax where, by 1811, he had established himself as a merchant and shipper.  In Halifax, during the War of 1812, Collins bought captured American ships and cargoes at prize auctions; he stored the cargoes in his stone warehouse on the waterfront and sold these for a profit.  One end of this warehouse became the Halifax Banking Company, founded by himself and several other Halifax merchants and which is known today as the Imperial Bank of Commerce.  This private bank was nicknamed Collins’ Bank, and the building which housed it, is still a part of Halifax’s Historic Properties.

Collins' Court

He was also a part-owner of three privateers, including the Liverpool Packet, the most famous and most feared Nova Scotian privateer to sail the New England waters during that war. She may have captured prizes worth a million dollars. The Black Joke, as described by John Boileau in his book, Half Hearted Enemies, was originally a slave ship captured by the British Navy in it’s attempt to stop the slave trade which had been illegal in the British Empire since 1807. She was sent to Halifax where  she was condemned by the court of the Vice-Admiralty and put up for sale to the highest bidder and bought by Enos Collins. She was built in the United States and was a 53 foot black hulled compact schooner that weighed only 67 tons. Her two masts slanted back and carried sails both fore and aft, her foremast also carried sails and three large head sails swept back from her bowsprit. She was built like a racer and the crafty Enos Collins recognized her potential.  She still reeked of her last prohibited cargo and he had to fumigate her with vinegar, tar and brimstone before he could crew and captain her. When this was accomplished he re-christened her the Liverpool Packet.

Liverpool Packet, ActualInitially she ran passengers and mail to his home town of Liverpool. With the advent of the War of 1812, however,  she was to become the most successful Letter of Marque to ever sail out of a Canadian port. She became the nemesis of American merchant shipping, capturing a total of 50 American ships, and making Enos Collins a very wealthy man. She was briefly captured by the Americans but quickly recaptured by the British Navy and returned to her owners to continue her lucrative career.

18-1During the years after the war Enos Collins was involved in many business ventures that earned him a lot of money. The bulk of his fortune was made by shrewd wartime trading and careful peacetime investments. He was successful in currency speculation, backed many trading ventures, carried on his mercantile activities, and entered the lumbering and whaling businesses. Like many of his peers, he also invested in the USA and rumour had it that his American holdings equaled those in Nova Scotia. By 1822 he was ready to move on to new ground but was convinced to remain in Nova Scotia by an offer made to him of a seat in the council.

GorsebrookAfter his entry into the principal governing body of the colony, the Council of Twelve, he reinforced his position as a member of the ruling élite in 1825 by marrying Margaret, the eldest daughter of Brenton Halliburton. He also built a fine estate which he called Gorsebrook and where he and his wife entertained the governor and other elites of the community. Gorsebrook is today the site of the Saint Mary’s University in Halifax and unfortunately his mansion no longer stands, having been demolished by the university in the 1960s. Enos and Margaret had nine children, although only one son and three daughters lived beyond childhood.

enos_collins-2Enos Collins spent the last 30 years of his life in partial retirement keeping a close eye on his investments but withdrawn mainly to the privacy of Gorsebrook.  He was a member of the Church of England and supported it financially. He believed strongly that the ruling class was responsible for the less fortunate and the less successful members of society; he was a member of the Poor Man’s Friend Society and gave generously in support of the blind, and to other charities common to 19th-century Halifax. He lived to the very old age of 97 and upon his death was reported to be the richest man in Canada.  His estimated worth was thought to be in the neighbourhood of $6,000,000 which was a huge amount of money at that time.

Enos Collins was ambitious, shrewd and very often a hard-headed and harsh business man. In other words, he was what we might call a pretty tough guy, and quite definitely a “privateer extraordinaire”!