Thursday, July 11, 2013

Long Sleeves for Mrs. Bennet

Months after making my Regency muslin dress, I went back and sewed a pair of long sleeves that can be attached to the dress for daywear, just like the ones that go with the dress from Patterns of Fashion 2 I used as a modelI sewed the sleeves back in May for a Historical Sew Fortnightly challenge, but couldn't very well post about them without posting about the dress first. So here is my very late entry for HSF Challenge #10 — Literature: a pair of long sleeves for Mrs. Bennet.

I don't have a picture of them with the dress yet — this will have to do!

Like pretty much every woman I've ever met, I'm a huge Jane Austen nut. I read Pride and Prejudice more often than I would care to admit, and am well on my way to knowing the whole book by heart. When I set out to make my long sleeves, my mind immediately jumped to one of the rare instances when Austen alludes to fashion in the book. It's such a minor reference that many people probably wouldn't notice it, but it tickles me every time I read it. Mrs. Bennet is complaining to her visiting sister about the disappointment of her daughter Elizabeth's recent refusal of an offer of marriage:
“I do not blame Jane," she continued, "for Jane would have got Mr. Bingley if she could. But Lizzy! Oh, sister! It is very hard to think that she might have been Mr. Collins's wife by this time, had it not been for her own perverseness. He made her an offer in this very room, and she refused him. The consequence of it is, that Lady Lucas will have a daughter married before I have, and that the Longbourn estate is just as much entailed as ever. The Lucases are very artful people indeed, sister. They are all for what they can get. I am sorry to say it of them, but so it is. It makes me very nervous and poorly, to be thwarted so in my own family, and to have neighbours who think of themselves before anybody else. However, your coming just at this time is the greatest of comforts, and I am very glad to hear what you tell us, of long sleeves.”
The abrupt transition at the end of the speech, Mrs. Bennet's ability to be comforted by something so trivial as the fashion for long sleeves, shows us that her nervous distress over her unmarried daughters is just as superficial as most of her other worries and complaints throughout the book. She is thoroughly vain and silly, without a serious thought in her head. Every time I wear these long sleeves, I will try to remember to be a little more grounded and sensible than Mrs. Bennet. Here are the details:

The Challenge: #10 — Literature

Fabric: spotted white muslin

Pattern: adapted from Patterns of Fashion 2

Year: the dress these were patterned from is dated 1798-1804

Notions: white cotton thread

How historically accurate is it? Very accurate. The pattern was taken from an original garment, the fabric is very similar to original textiles, and they were sewn by hand. 

Hours to complete: 2 hours

First worn: Will be worn to some unknown future Regency event

Total cost: Cut from the leftover fabric from the dress, so a couple of dollars

1 comment:

  1. Gorgeous.
    Perhaps not such a silly woman, daresay. Unmarried daughters were liabilities; after all, what could one do with them?