Thursday, September 18, 2014

My First Regency Outfit thanks to Marion May Designs!

Hello dear readers! Today it is a pleasure to be able to introduce to you my first regency outfit! A little while back I decided that I really wanted to take part in the Regency Promenade during the 2014 Jane Austen Festival. Therefore, I needed an outfit! I had already started building up a proper regency outfit but I missing the most important element - the dress! 

In the past, I remember stumbling upon Marion May Designs and loving the dresses, spencers, pelisses - everything! I really hoped to one day own something from this wonderful shop. 

I was still trying to put together my outfit and I began bidding on a dress on eBay, only to be outbid at the last second, leaving me once again dress less and with a ticket to the promenade - and I wasn't planning on walking around Bath wearing only some gloves with a fan and a parasol, which was all I had at the time! 

When posting on my Facebook page about my attempts at pulling together an outfit, the lovely Sarah Marshall commented and mentioned her shop which sold dresses and all sorts from the regency era, and it turned out to be Marion May Designs! 

And so, after a lot of emailing back and forth, I decided to order a dress! I felt just like a proper debutante, ordering my gown for my coming out ball or something! I cannot tell you how much fun it was getting fabric samples sent to me to choose from and picking the design and sleeve type, and being measured up so it was made to be my perfect fit - it really was so exciting! 

After my final order and specifications had been placed, the next bit was the hardest; the waiting! I had to wait for it to be lovingly crafted and I am not a very patient person ;) But the day it arrived was a very good day and I tried it on immediately and fell in love with it immediately! 

I had chosen the Elizabeth Day Dress design with short rouged sleeves (See the full variety of dress designs here!) 

I also had a lovely surprise when I opened the parcel of a beautiful scoop neck Spencer jacket (see the full array of jackets here!) The lovely, lovely Sarah told me this had been a left over jacket and that it happened to be in my size and the right colour for my dress and so she gave it to me - I could not believe my luck or her generosity! 

The quality of this dress is astounding! The fit is perfect and it is so well made and so comfortable to wear! I was over the moon with my dress and spencer and I would highly recommend this lovely shop for anyone wanting a beautiful regency dress. The communication whilst designing the dress was brilliant as was Sarah as she put up with all my questions and indecisiveness!

The back detail with the pleating was so pretty, as was the buttoning down the back. There was also a very clever draw-string under bust which created a perfectly snug and flattering fit! 

I, of course, had to accessorise! 

My lovely reticule I bought from Regency Regalia on Etsy. 

My flowery bonnet I purchased from Beth's Bonnet Shop on eBay - at a really reasonable price!

The elegant jewellery (necklace and earrings set) can be found at Graham's Treasure Chest on eBay. 

The lace fan, gloves and parasol can all be bought from The Jane Austen Centre Gift shop

I also interviewed Sarah about the process of creating and designing a dress and so we could all get to know this wonderful seamstress a little more! 


Hello Sarah! Thank you for stopping at Laughing with Lizzie to chat about your wonderful creations and how you go about making them! You are so talented and your dresses are brilliant! 

1. Firstly, I must ask, which is your favourite Jane Austen novel? And how about your favourite hero and heroine? 

My favourite Jane Austen novel has got to be Pride & Prejudice, I just adore all of the characters, especially Mr & Mrs Bennet, it is so skilfully written & it is the Austen novel that I most frequently go back to reading.  Close second is Persuasion, then Emma followed by Sense & Sensibility & then Mansfield Park & Northanger Abbey joint 5th.  

My favourite heroine is Elizabeth Bennet, I don't think I need to explain why to you ;) my favourite hero is more difficult, It alternates between Captain Wentworth, Mr Tilney & Mr Knightly.  Usually Tilney wins it because you have to admire a man who is willing to be disinherited to marry the girl of his choosing.  But I do have a strong admiration for Nelson and the navy so Captain Wentworth is always a strong favourite.

2. What was it that got you into sewing in the first place? And then why did you move to recreating historical garments, particularly regency era clothing? 

What got me first into sewing? That's easy, I had wonderful ideas of the type of clothing I wanted to wear, but could never find anything like it in the shops, if I did find something I liked, it was difficult getting the right fit.  So I bought a sewing machine, some fabric and a few patterns and after a lot of grafting, tantrums and tears, I began to produce my first garments.  They were 1950s style sundresses and they were good enough to sell on eBay.  

Soon after I tried my hand at a spencer style jacket and listed it for sale on eBay, with great success, I soon received many orders for different colours and sizes.  The Jane Austen Centre in Bath contacted me and asked if I would be interested in making costume to sell in their online gift shop.  I couldn't believe my luck to have this connection to Jane Austen, and so quickly after making my first garments.  I soon found myself making regency dresses, then pelisses and as I made more, people began asking me if I could make mens costume too, so I taught myself a bit of tailoring and produced my first Mr Darcy costume.

Then came the birth of my website, I named it 'Marion May' after my grandmother and designed and built it myself.  My sister usually models the female costume and I have an excellent mannequin who is of course called Darcy, to model the male costumes.

6 years on, I still have hundreds of designs drawn up and waiting to be added to the website.  I love my job and feel very fortunate to be able to do what I love for a living.  I am constantly researching, learning and improving my sewing skills.

3. Your dresses are fantastic and I love how you use inspiration from the adaptations of her novels for the dresses. Which is your favourite design? Which is the easiest, and hardest, to make? Do you have a favourite dress from any of the adaptations? (I have to say I love the wardrobe of both Jennifer Ehle and Romala Garai!) 

My favourite things to make are the dresses, they are all relatively easy for me to make now and I can make upto 4 a day.  My least favourite things to make are the mens tailcoats as they are quite difficult and time consuming.  I have long admired the costumes from the 1995 p&p and wanted very much to own a few of Jennifer Ehle's gowns.  My favourites are the dresses and Spencer's she wears when she visits Rosings whilst staying with the Colins'.  I also love the costume from Vanity Fair and have taken much inspiration from this adaptation too.

4. You mentioned in an email that you love your job, being able to sit and sew whilst watching Austen. That does sound perfect to me - if I could sew! Which adaptations are your favourite? Are they the ones you tend to watch while sewing? 

My favourite adaptations? Hmmm, I have a vast library of period dramas on dvd, the top 5 most watched while working are: P&P, North & South, Our Mutual Friend, Vanity Fair, Persuasion (both modern adaptations), Lost in Austen and I'm also quite partial to a bit of Sharpe and Hornblower.  I am not very fond of the 2005 P&P, but I do own it.  I tend to buy most period dramas as research into costume as I do get customers ask if I could make a dress from a certain adaptation, so it is handy to have them and is also a very good excuse for my addiction to buying period dramas.

5. I suspect that you are coming to a busy period, working up to the Jane Austen festival in September! Is it your busiest time? Have you been to the festival before? Will I see you there this year? 

My busiest time of year tends to be toward the build up of the Jane Austen festival, I am often working from 9am-10 or 11 pm throughout August, getting costume ready and made up to reach everybody in time.  I also find October and January are very busy months too, so there must be balls of some sort going on around the globe.  I do try to keep abreast of all the events UK and overseas, but Regency re-enactment seems to be so popular, there is always something going on.

I've not been to the Jane Austen festival so far, it is something I would love to do, but always find myself too busy making everyone else's costume to attend.  Hopefully next year I shall make it.  I am very excited to see if we can break the world record this year for the most people dressed in costume and I am extremely glad that you are so pleased with your dress and spencer.  The pictures from your photo shoot, received today look lovely and all of your accessories really look the part.

I have plans to add lots more costume to the Marion May website, in particular late regency and also expand the 1940's dresses and add medieval costume too, so I shall be busy right through to the new year, when hopefully, I will be able to add a new page to the website, 'novels'; I have 2 almost completed Regency romantic satires 'Thurrogate Hall' and 'The Harridans House'.  You shall be the first to read my synopsis when I have them ready!  
So you see, there is no hope for me, I am quite obsessed with everything Regency and do believe myself only one small step away from dressing like Lizzy Bennet on a daily basis and writing all of my correspondence in dip pen and ink!

Well Sarah you really do sound just as obsessed as I am as I have contemplated wearing regency clothing all the time, however at the moment my wardrobe would be pretty limited!


Here are a few other photos for you - my sister and I did a trial run for the festival and had a little photo shoot which is where these photos for this post have come from!

(Sorry for the photo overload! Put it down to my excitement!)

Any future dresses I need I will certainly be getting from Marion May Designs

I have been behind in my posts and the promenade has in fact happened - and it was amazing! - and I will be doing a post all about that wonderful day very soon!   

Your affectionate friend,
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  1. Ah, lovely and sweet pictures. Fun to meet the dressmaker through your interview.

  2. Lovely interview. Can't believe Sarah can run up FOUR dresses in a day - that's amazing work! Your outfit was gorgeous, Sophie, as I think I've said elsewhere. Looking forward to reading your post about the Festival.

    1. I know! 4 in one day! That is amazing! I couldn't do one in four weeks! And thank you! :) I am working on the festival post and should be out soon! :)

  3. You look lovely, Sophie! I love that particular shade of blue, and the accessories are wonderful. Thank you for the interview as well -- I loved learning more of the background to Marion May.

    1. Thank you very much!! :) and I found the interview so intersting to read as well!

  4. Thank you for sharing information about Marion May and photos of your first regency dress! Lovely attire and cute photos:) I wish one day I could get a regency dress of my own and participate in Bath festival:)

    1. Thank you so much! And I am glad you liked the interview! I hope you get an outfit and get to bath soon as well! It is worth it!


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