HSM Challenge – December: An improvisation of the '20s

Historical Closet

I haven’t really participated in the Historical Sew Monthly Challenge this year, but we’re doing a ’20s themed New Year’s party, and I had some leftover woolblend fabrics from making trousers, and I had the idea of trying making a dress out of a challengingly small amount of fabric.

I’ve never done any 1920’s sewing before, which perhaps was a good thing, because it got me to improvise a pattern after looking at some fashion plates and pictures at Pintrest for inspiration. My first attempts at a new time period usually starts with the thought “how can I do this as a trial?” so this is dipping my feet into the ’20s, and if you’re more familiar with that decade, you’ll probably see all my errors!

The pictures in this post are quite grainy, since I took them with my back-up phone (due to an incident with my phone being dropped screen down onto gravel and dying), but I hope you can see enough of the process anyway!

The cut out of the improvised pattern. I used most of the fabric available for the dress, with very little scraps left.

Sewing the dress together was a quick job by machine, but trying it on made me realise something was missing. It needed some decoration, but I didn’t have much to add. Searching through my stash cupboard I found some ribbons, and improvised once again.

A ribbon rose, sewn onto a stripe of dress fabric on the side of the skirt.

Then, being a bit of a creature of habit, I hemmed the dress by hand. If you’re used to do more Viking/medieval clothes, this is the way…

Finally a picture that’s less blurry!

By the end of the evening, the dress was made, and since it fits into the last challenge of HSM, I’m counting it as an entry and a one-day-project!

Finished dress hanging on the kitchen door. Pictures of how it looked on me will come after New Years!

And now for the challenge facts:

The Challenge: December: On a shoestring

Material: Wool or wool blend

Pattern:  Very much improvised!

Year: 1920s-inspired

Notions: Ribbons

How historically accurate is it? Not much at all, this is more inspired than accurate. I’ve tried to get the general silhouette but it’s really a first time attempt at a new era for me.

Hours to complete: About 4 with hemming by hand

First worn: Tomorrow at New Year’s

Total cost: I’d guess at about SEK 75, or thereabouts, including the ribbons (the fabric was originally SEK 185, and it’s been used for a pair of trousers already). So below a take-away meal cost!

P&P, day 24, episode 6: The end is here!

Austen Advent Calendar

I haven’t watched it today, as I’ve already finished watching the final round, but I still want to celebrate having done it not-entirely-but-almost consistently over December! There have been many more blog posts written than it would have been otherwise, and I discovered that I really like it! Not writing every day, perhaps, but I’ll try to fit in a few more projects to write about.

Since we celebrate Christmas Eve in Sweden, I’m writing this between helping make the Christmas dinner and trying to stay out of the kitchen at the same time, so it won’t be a long post today!

On to the episode; this time around, I started to think of when I first saw this series. I was 12 years old, and I was bullied and awkward, but god damn how I loved it when Lizzie stands up to Lady Catherine the Bully! I think this is one of the keys to my love for Austen, to see someone standing up to a person with higher social status, and respecting their own claims to happiness, and destroying the final boss even without knowing if there’s a reward by the end – it was exactly what I needed to see!

If you have missed something of my Austen Advent Calendar, I’ll give you the links!

About the Regency

About the characters and stories of Austen

I also did a post about ideas for the remaining days after being ill and missing a lot of episodes, and some I did, some I didn’t. Since I didn’t get around to writing Pride, prejudice and parody, I want to end this post with one of my favourite parodies. Enjoy!


This project has been a join-in of Drunk Austen‘s original idea, and I owe them everything! And since they are in the States, they keep it going ’til the 25th!

The image is of Jane Austen by James Andrews, from Wikimedia Commons (public domain).

P&P, day 23, episode 5: Elopement (and a cheat)

Austen Advent Calendar

I’ll start with the cheating: I’ve watched the whole series already, since I didn’t know if I’d have enough time to watch and write and do everything connected to Christmas and uni assignments over Christmas during the last two days. So I’m cheating. There will still be blog posts coming up about two more episodes, but I’ve been practicing time management, and now I’ve been transparent about it too!

On to the episode, and the main theme of this episode is Lydia’s elopement. Even if history isn’t your main interest in the world, you probably know that having sex outside of marriage, or more accurately, if it was known that you’d had sex outside of marriage, was not encouraged in society. Especially women were punished by social exclusion, and it seems like it was the duty of everyone, including the woman in question, to protect women from everything sexual, both consensual and (the much worse but no less occuring) unconsensual, before being married. This is perhaps why Mary goes on about “loss of virtue in a female is irretrievable, and therefore, we cannot be too guarded in our behaviour towards the undeserving of the other sex” and Mr. Gardiner thinks it unlikely that Wickham would go after “a girl who is by no means unprotected or friendless, and who’s actually staying in the Colonel’s family”.

This post will concentrate more on the consensual elopement, because it’s a less upsetting subject, though we can all condemn Wickham for being an adult creep targeting young, 15-16 year-old girls.

All articles I’ve found about elopement in England in the 19th century (and late 18th) draws the conclusion that it has its basis in the Marriage Act of 1753, or the Hardwicke Act. This law states that the persons marrying should both be at least 21 years old or have their parents’ or guardians’ permission to marry. The law also called for banns to be called for three weeks to make sure the couple was eligeble for marriage, and not engaged to another, married to another (a book called Jane Eyre springs to mind here…) or inappropriately related. This makes me want to look into the whole thing with cousins marrying in Austen’s novels, perhaps cousins were the first “acceptable” kind of relation with whom you could marry? If you had money and needed to marry in a hurry, you could purchase a special licence to skip the banns, but at £100 it would have been out of many people’s means.

The purpose of the law was to prevent scoundrels (like Wickham) to elope with heiresses for their money. The practical effects of the law was the setting of Gretna Green as a Las Vegas of 19th century Britain, because Scottish marriage laws were less rigid. In Scotland, you didn’t need the consent of your guardians, and you could be younger than 21 to marry. The Scottish age limit differs with different sources, so I’m uncertain if it was 16 for both, or if it was 14 for boys and 12 for girls. This information makes me happy to live in a place and time where the legislation and societal norms of matrimonial age both are much higher than that…

That Lydia seems to be fine with her and Wickham not going to Scotland can be explained with that many couples, especially where money was tight, couldn’t travel the four-ish days to Scotland. There were many couples going to London or other large towns, loosing themselves in the crowd, and marrying when their relatives hadn’t had time to react to the banns. This option was cheaper, and there is a passage in the book where they think that Lydia and Wickham could have come up with the plan to marry cheaper in London, though if it made it to the adaption, I’ve missed it.

The panic the others feel for Lydia is real. And in the end, when everything has solved itself as good as you can hope for given the circumstances, Lizzie’s comment is: “And they must marry. Yet he is such a man.” It’s a sad story, which is felt by everyone as it takes place, except Lydia, and perhaps Wickham… My interpretation is that they’ll probably feel the effects of it later on in their lives though…


Read more about a real elopement, reported in the newspapers in 1809.

Or read more about this Austen Advent Calendar in my posts, or the posts from Drunk Austen, whose idea this whole Austen advent calendar is!

The image is from the online collection of the British Museum, CC BY-NC-SA 4.0.

P&P, day 22, episode 4: The role of the servants

Austen Advent Calendar

There are several servants in this episode, from mentions like “Oh, your uncle. He keeps a manservant, does he? I’m very glad you have someone who thinks of these things” and the servant who’s sent away by Lizze before Kitty and Lydia tells her the news about Wickham, to the named characters like Mrs. Reynolds, the housekeeper at Pemberley, or Hannah at the Lambton inn. Of course, there’s also Mrs. Hill, who probably is the housekeeper, and Sarah, a maid, in the Longbourn household, even though they’re not very visible in this episode, they are named in other episodes.

The servants’ part has been analysed in several ways around Jane Austen’s works. It’s not a theme that stands out in the stories, but it’d be pretty much impossible to run a household like the ones described in every Austen novel without the help of servants. And the more servants you had, the better. Large estates like Pemberley employed a steward to oversee all the servants (as Mr. Darcy says: “I found that I had business with my steward and so rode on ahead of the party”), whereas Longbourn would have had a housekeeper in charge of the female staff, and a butler in charge of the male. And poorer families, the ones that are depicted as poor in Austen’s novels, can “only” afford two or three servants.

There were different status amongst the servants as well. If you have seen Downton Abbey, you’d get a sense of it, but there are mentions of the status of different servants in this post, and you can see the difference between “your maid” and the Bingley sisters’ “elegant ladies” in this list.

To sum it up, there’s a lot of invisible work, and some visible work, being done, and it’s all being done by people in employment in the great (and not so great, too) houses. But as has been pointed out, the phrase “of all this I might have been mistress” also means that Lizzie would have to assume responsibility of running the estate. To be the lady of a household, you’d have to be a boss over a large number of people, and if you haven’t really had much experience before, well, I guess you’d have a rather challenging first year as a newly-wed with responsibility for 50+ employees…


For more things that may shatter the romance of this story (I’m so sorry!), check out the rest of my posts in the Austen Advent Calendar!

And I’m doing this as a join-in of the original idea of Drunk Austen, who you should follow for the rest of this Christmas countdown! Only a few more days left! Edit: I’ve just read their last post and I’m choking from laughter! Go read it!

The restaurant photo of this post is by Nils Stahl on Unsplash.

P&P, day 21, episode 3: A sudden headache – a rant about health

Austen Advent Calendar

Lizzie blames a sudden headache to cover up her visible agitation when she finds out about Mr. Darcy’s interferance with Bingley & Jane’s relationship. As an added bonus, she gets out of a visit to Lady Catherine! And since I have a bit of a headache myself today, I thought this theme would be as good as any… because I may have had a bit of writer’s block, despite my list of suggestions a few posts away!

I did a quick search for the history of health and Jane Austen, and there is an article about headaches used as plot device in Austen’s work! Unfortunately my university doesn’t have access to it, but if you have access, it might be an interesting read! I’ve found another article on Jane Austen and the cultural history of health on the same journal publication page, so I can only read the abstracts.

Another thing that pops up in my search was the Jane Austen diet thing. I’ve linked it so you can make up your own mind about it, since this article is not behind a journal publication wall. I’m not entirely sold on the premise, as you probably could tell from my introduction of the subject! It sort of gives me the same feeling as when someone has quoted Caroline Bingley’s “There is no enjoyment like reading!” to show that books are good – it simply seems to lack the original context. I think my issue with this branding is the same issue I have, as an archaeologist, with the branding of the paleo diet. It all boils down to:

Don’t brand things as a diet from history if you haven’t studied food consumption from that time period! Or at least read and taken in the research of other published scientists and researchers in the field…

There are so many things that make my skeptical mind go haywire. Like paleo dishes with tomatoes. Or claiming that Jane Austen was a health guru in disguise.

I can see the business need for branding and storytelling of diets in this day and age, and there will always be different readings by different people from the same source material. But it still rubs me the wrong way.

At least the article about Austen as health guru rather than dowdy spinster (in the words of the article) names the diet “in lack of better description”. I just have issues with the historical fancy diet names in the same way I have issues with phrases like “when we were hunted by lions on the savanna and lived in caves” whenever people want to romanticize the early stone age or tell us about how different our world was when our bodies’ stress mechanisms evolved.

I guess everyone has their rights to whatever interpretation they wish. I just wish for a world where there wouldn’t be a need for fancy diet names. That, I think, would be most beneficial for both mental and physical health.


This went from headaches to a rant about diets, you just never know what happens in the Austen Advent Calendar! If you want the original context of this, you should check out Drunk Austen, as I’m doing this as a join-in of their tradition!

I’ve updated the image of the post since I saw that the original image I used was free for download, but not to put on another website. I’ve chosen to exchange the image to the current one, a fashion plate in the public domain from LACMA. I try to use other people’s images as correctly as possible, and will change it if I realise I’ve made a mistake!

P&P, day 20, part 3, episode 2: Where is Jane's blue gown?

Austen Advent Calendar

I have looked for Jane’s blue gown, which she should run and put on in episode 6, in all of the episodes, and I can’t find it. Has one of her sisters borrowed it? Do they mean her blue-gray spencer? Is it a really new dress, which is why we haven’t seen it, and Mrs. Bennet thinks she should get her very newest gown to impress Mr. Bingley when he returns?

The costume designer of the show has probably given Jane a palette where blue is difficult to fit in. She wears gold-ish or pink gowns for the evening and balls, which we can see in this episode (2), and mostly white/yellowish or printed muslin dresses for day wear. The only blue I’ve seen is her spencer.

I think it’s a line from the book, and when they made this show, I’m sure they didn’t think it’d be the success it became, and they just didn’t think about whether or not their Jane actually had a blue gown, because no-one would pay that much of detailed attention to it. Little did they know…


It’s getting late, so I’d better post this before midnight so I’ve caught up with all the blog posts. I’ve written about money (if you want a more informative post) and my favourite adaptations (if you want to agree or disagree!) earlier today, and you should also check out Drunk Austen’s post of day 20 for an indepth dive into all things regency!

I’ve updated the image of the post since I saw that the original image I used was free for download, but not to put on another website. I’ve chosen to exchange the image to the current one, a fashion plate in the public domain from September 1817. I try to use other people’s images as correctly as possible, and will change it if I realise I’ve made a mistake!

P&P day 20, part 2, episode 1: Money, money, money…

Austen Advent Calendar

Money and love are never absent in Jane Austen’s writing, and it’s a common theme in analysis of her work as well. Even the public balls would have cost some money in admission tickets, though the assemblies in Meryton would probably have been a little less expensive than in a public place such as Bath. Still, an interesting read about the value of a ball subscription for a season in Bath gives an idea – one dress ball, if you subscribed to the season, would have been about 18 pounds in today’s value.

When we hear of Bingley’s £5 000 and Darcy’s £10 000/year, we’re made to understand it’s a great sum, but we don’t really have any idea of how much it would be in our value of money.

Enter the calculators of the internet! With their help, we have an easier task of figuring out how much it could be than we would have if we had done this advent calendar in 1995. Since I live in Sweden, I’ve entered the calculations for the value of the Swedish krona in 2015, but you can easily try other currencies too. I’ve gone for the pound in 1813, which is when Pride & Prejudice was published. The calculating page I’ve used is in English, but the results seem to be based on Swedish conditions of life, which can tilt the results a bit.

The table below lists the value of 1813 in pounds, the value in 2015 in kronor, and the amount of gold the 1813 sum would buy, listed in grams. If you use a different weight system, I’m sure Dr. Google will help you find a converter! For a quick conversion to continue reading, the Euro or US dollar is usually worth about SEK 10, to get an idea, but not an absolute value.

Money in Pride & Prejudice

Earnings of different characters per year. The £50 sum is from Lizzie wanting to be able to “love a man who would love her enough to marry her for a mere £50 a year“, which makes me think that’s the worth of her dowry, but I can have interpreted this wrong. It might also be her entire share of the family fortune.

Value in 1813Value in 2015Gold (g) in 1813
£5 000 (Bingley)SEK 4 396 440 28 495 – nearly 28.5 kg
£10 000 (Darcy)SEK 8 792 879 56 990 – nearly 57 kg
£2 000 (Bennet)SEK 1 758 576 11 398 – nearly 11.4 kg
£50 (Lizzie’s dowry)SEK  43 964 285 – not even half a kilo
Values have been rounded to whole numbers.

Seeing this table, it gives context to the very real danger of losing Longbourn in the entail for the Bennet sisters! If we look at the yearly earnings of Mr. Bennet, and compare it with Lizzie’s sum in the series (I can’t remember the book sums) – it’d be a difficult transition! (Lizzie’s share is about two month’s salary, if you’re in a rather low paying full time job in Sweden right now…)

(Though I’m a student right now, with no student loans left since I’ve studied too much, so I can fully sympathize with Lizzie… A depressing thought!)


The Austen Advent Calendar is a join-in of Drunk Austen’s tradition – check them out!

The image of Abba comes from Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0, image by Beeld & Geluid Wiki, AVRO. I’ve cut a bit of the lower part of the picture.

P&P, day 20, part 1, episode 6: All is well that ends well?

Austen Advent Calendar

The final episode, with happy ever after endings for everyone – except Lydia, the Bennet parents, Charlotte, Anne de Bourgh, and I’m including the villains Lady Catherine, Caroline Bingley and Mr. Wickham too… Ok, so happy ever after endings might not be something Jane Austen did, but the main characters and our protagonists get their happiness for a while at least!

In the spirit of happiness and Jane Austen, I’d thought I’d share my favourite adaptations (that I’ve seen) of her most famous books:

(I’m not including Lady Susan or Sanditon in this as I’ve only seen one adaptation of Lady Susan, and I haven’t seen Sanditon.)

Pride and Prejudice

It’s this one! Still this one, even after this advent calendar that I’m shamefully behind on!

Did you know there was a small blooper video out in the world? 🙂

Sense and Sensibility

The 1995 movie is magical. You cannot beat Emma Thompson. But my favourite lines are from Mr. Palmer…

If you like Mr. Bennet, you’ll love Mr. Palmer

Emma

Once again, I’m going for the movie magic in the choice of adaption – the 2009 mini-series captures the story and lifts Emma’s well-meaning but snobby intentions so well! And the chemistry between Romola and Jonny in their dance makes it, though made up, one of my favourite dance scenes in any adaptation!

Love this!

Northanger Abbey

The 2007 version, with JJ Fields doing a great as Mr. Tilney.

So many examples of muslin!

Mansfield Park

I’m going out on a limb here but my favourite MP is the youtube vlog series from a couple of years ago. This is because of Fanny’s character, because though they changed her name, they stayed true to her personality. Recommended!

Frankie Price gets a camera from her brother who’s out with the Navy

Persuasion

This one is a bit tricky, but I think 1995 wins again. 1995 was a good year for adaptations!

Everybody wants Anne to fix everything…

So, these are my recommendations! Which are your favourite adaptations?


This Austen Advent Calendar is a join-in of an original idea by Drunk Austen – check them out!

P&P, late blog post, day 19: I'll refer you to a greater source

Austen Advent Calendar

I wanted to write two blog posts today, because I missed writing yesterday. But it’ll have to wait. If you’re looking for the Austen advent calendar, you need not look any further than today’s post from Drunk Austen. It’s just that good, and today, I cannot compete.

I have my guesses of who said what in the game of DA’s blog post, but I can’t be sure…


To find my takes on the Austen advent calendar, have a look here! And there will be plenty of blog posts tomorrow to make up for my missed days!

P&P day 17, episode 5: The essence of the characters

Austen Advent Calendar

One of my favourite scenes in the whole series is the scene where Mr. Collins comes to condole with the Bennets. In the book, he writes a letter, but it’s a brilliant choice to have him visit and let everybody play out their characters to full effect!

Kitty‘s reaction is fantastic – “I’m not going to sit with him for anyone!” – and runs away to hide. Then you can see her through the window, spying how much longer she has to keep away, and finally comes forward with asking if he’s gone and it’s safe to come out.

Mary‘s reaction is that Mr. Collins makes sense, since she herself has thought about which moral lessons there are to be learned from Lydia’s disgrace, and still believes that since Mr. Collins is a clergyman, he has studied much and has all the right reasons for expressing sympathy.

Jane‘s reaction is to try to make everybody come out of this meeting alive, and would Mary please not encourage Mr. Collins to continue talking, so Jane can direct her energy to prevent Lizzie from reacting too vividly to the things Mr. Collins says (that she too reacts to, but decides that it’s more important to prevent Lizzie from attacking Collins when he basically wishes Lydia’s death…) Poor Jane, having been the only sensible person in this whole affair, she reminds me of Elinor Dashwood here!

Lizzie‘s reaction is pure anger, so if this was another kind of adaptation (no one named, no one forgotten), heads would fly… In this more peaceful adaptation, she does a great job of telling Collins off when she gets her chance, knowing full well that Mr. Collins doesn’t understand irony or sarcasm.

Mr. Collins is Mr. Collins squared in this scene. And he’s probably done a lot of damage from talking to Lady Catherine about the whole thing too. He just wants to rub it in that he’s not tainted by this scandal, and boast of his good luck and relief that Lizzie turned him down. At least in Lizzie’s interpretation. Jane supposes he means well in true Jane-fashion, and Mary thinks he’s very kind to condole with the Bennets. And Kitty (as well as her sisters, save perhaps Mary) is relieved when he leaves.

All in all: This scene is gold!


This Austen Advent Calendar project is a join in of an original idea by Drunk Austen and if you haven’t checked them out yet, you should do it now!

I’ve updated the image of this post since I saw that the original image I used was free for download, but not to put on another website. I’ve chosen to exchange the image to the current one, a painting by Francois Courboin which is in the public domain. I try to use other people’s images as correctly as possible, and will change it if I realise I’ve made a mistake!

P&P day 16, episode 4: The country house guided tour

Austen Advent Calendar

The image of this blog post is of Blenheim Palace, and it’s one of the houses that Mr. & Mrs. Gardiner and Lizzie visit off screen on their way to Derbyshire and Pemberley. It’s also a place mentioned in the book. Both Blenheim Palace and Chatsworth, which Mr. Gardiner mentions as houses they have visited before, are still open for visitors. I’ve never been myself, but if you have, drop me a line and tell me about it!

Nowadays, it doesn’t seem strange to us that you can visit the grand country houses. Usually there are events happening at them, or they have been turned to hotels, restaurants, cafés or museums, and there are very few houses, even inhabited, who don’t also provide some sort of guided tour or opening hours to the public. It’s all a part of being able to keep the houses running, because as we see even in this series, it takes a lot of work to keep a house this size going!

But, as early as the 18th century, there were guide books printed for some of the grand houses, Blenheim amongst them. It’s not strange for the Gardiners and Lizzie to have visited all these houses, and to see Pemberley is a natural continuation of their tour, were it not for Lizzie’s own reasons for not wanting to run into Mr. Darcy.

Money being tight for the upper class and their country estates is a theme in Austen’s Persuasion, but it seems the real struggle began in the late 19th century, and continued into the 20th (which you can follow in Downton Abbey as well). When the house owners’ land became less profitable to rent out to tennants who farmed the land, the houses themselves struggled, and a lot of them were torned down, according to the linked article.

I don’t really know whether the visiting of a country estate was a way to keep the household running in the early 19th century, or if it was a way to show off your wealth, taste and power. There seems to be a difference as to which people were visiting other’s houses, and I hardly think it was the “ordinary” people who had to work for a living, at least not when you see the excerpts from the Newdigates or expeditions from Adare Manor.

I’m about to fall asleep now, so I’ll leave it at this: There was nothing weird with the Gardiners and Lizzie’s visit to Pemberley. The weird thing was that the owner of the house happened to be there unexpectedly, and that his and Lizzie’s story took another turn…


Visit Drunk Austen‘s page and celebrate Jane Austen’s birthday!

The image of this blog post is from DeFacto account at Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0.

P&P, day 10-15, all episodes: A flipped marathon

Austen Advent Calendar

I’m watching all the episodes I missed when being sick and having no energy, and I’m watching them in the order I missed them. That means I’m watching the whole thing as a marathon, but with the second DVD (episode 4-6) first. I’m at episode 5 now, and my idea for this blog is to make a list of subjects to cover in future blogs. I’ll link to the blog posts once I’ve written them!

Leave a comment if you want to help me pick which subjects to choose!

Coming blog post ideas

Speaking of parodies, this is one of my favourites!
  • Kitty as the forgotten sister (this subject has already been done by Drunk Austen, but it’s a good one!)
  • Regency travelling
  • Books and adaptations (Edit: I did a post about adaptations)
  • Fashion plates, 2nd edition (due to seeing the walking sticks/canes the men have as an accessory rather than necessity)
  • More on clothes (because most of this site is about historical clothing and textile crafts!) And also: Where is Jane’s blue gown?
  • Something about the Making-of Documentary
  • The scene with Lizzie, Jane, Mary, Mr. Collins, and Kitty all being the essence of their characters in episode 5
  • Servants and the service “industry” (Hill, Sarah, Hannah at the Lambton Inn, the other unnamed characters making the households and inns possible)
  • Ok, I think I’ve got enough ideas for the nine days to come…

If you want to catch up with someone who’s powered through illness like a heroic boss and written blog posts in a better and more consistent way than I have, visit Drunk Austen and read the episode reviews! I’ve linked to the reviews of the first episodes, but it’s the last review post – which makes perfect sense to me since I’m watching the flipped marathon!

You can also read my other posts in this advent calendar!