Vernet 1814: The Spencer - Construction

Let's learn about the spencer in my Vernet fashion plate, shall we..

First's actually called a Canezou, which was a very popular style of outerwear in 1811.  Made of cotton/silk velvet, lined with silk, decorated with fringe, and EXTREMELY tight fitting, this is a luxury garment in every way.

I decided to try out a new (to me) stitch that was used in the early 19th century (and previously,) the Bourdon Stitch.  Natalie tipped me off (and we experimented together) on this stitch.  Our knowledge was gleaned from Temps d'Elegance.  She's such an incredibly smart woman, and her blog is an invaluable resource.  She has a drawn out tutorial of this stitching method on her blog, but I wanted to give you a visual of how it worked out for me.
You start with sewing each piece separately with a simple running-back stitch, lining and outer fabric together, right-sides facing each other.  Once the piece is sewn at the seam, turn the piece right side out and press.  At this point, there should be NO seam allowance.

Pin one piece to the next, right sides facing each other.

Knot the end of your thread, and start by placing the needle through the edge of the lining on the right piece.  Pull the thread all the way through.

Next, cross your needle over to the left side piece, and pierce all the way through the two layers of outer fabric right at the edge.

Pull the thread all the way through and tighten slightly.  You're creating a hinge here, so you don't want it too tight.  Then, begin again just a few centimeters above that stitch....pierce through the right side lining fabric at the edge...cross your needle over to the left side, and pierce through both layers of outer fabric...pull tight...begin again, etc, etc.

Once you've gone all the way up the seam, it will look like this.

Open the fabric at the seam, and use your fingers to work up the 'spine' of the seam until the piece is flat.

Turn the piece over, and it will look like this from the outside.

Attach together each piece of the bodice in the same fashion.

Here's a peek at the inside of the Canezou.  Attaching the collar and decorative hem was done after the sleeves.  Short sleeves only are sewn onto the body of the spencer.  I stitched on narrow tape ties to the sleeve seams, so that I could attach the long sleeves at my convenience.

I have been affectionately calling the long sleeves "lobster claws."

The cuff is finger length, and decorative triangles rim the edge.  The long sleeves in the fashion plate are skin tight.  To make sure my sleeves fit as close as possible, I cut the fabric on the bias, so that it had a bit of a stretch to it.

Let's talk fringe for a moment.  I made a post previously about how I was following in the footsteps of the frangeirs.  Let's just say that I couldn't keep up with them.  I loved the weaving process, but my fringe just wasn't turning out good enough for this project.  Perhaps it was the material I was chenille is a beast that refuses to be tamed.  So, in the end, I purchased rayon (yes I know, it's not period) fringe.  Rayon is very close to silk in feel and quality, and it worked perfectly for this project.

I'm not really into fringe normally, so as soon as this outfit gets one good wear out of it, I plan on removing the fringe from the short sleeves and redoing them.

The collar...oh, the fashionably high and stiff...but so impractical!  Four inches high at its peak, it is boned to make it stand.  Decorated with triangle trimming around the top edge, if the sleeves are "lobster claws," then the collar is a "dragons mouth."  Again, this will be something I alter.  I love the design, but lowering the height of the collar will make this spencer much more practical to wear at events.

The back of the canezou is cut with a typical diamond shape.  There is no shortage of spencers made in this common fashion, and it wasn't hard to find more examples of this kind through museum extant pieces or other fashion plates.  Take a look at my Pinterest board for a plethora of similar images.

The last piece of the puzzle is done.  Next up, the big reveal.  Do I measure up to Vernet's image?


Dear Jenni,

Your description of how to create that seam is so clear! Thank you, thank you. I had already forgotten how to do it :P

It's a neat spencer but man, it will be so much more comfortable with the renovations...


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