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How To Be A LadyNerd: Pride And Prejudice Style, Part 1

Desperate to raise yourself in Caroline Bingley's esteem? Break out your needles and check out a few of these patterns from around the internet, and get busy. You know your modern sewing machine would have Miss Bingley's maid green with envy!

How To Be A LadyNerd: Pride And Prejudice Style, Part 1
Pantalettes were only worn by hookers and fast women like Lady Caroline Lamb, or something, and regular ladies wouldn't DREAM of donning undies.

"Oh! certainly," cried his faithful assistant, "no one can be really esteemed accomplished who does not greatly surpass what is usually met with. A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages, to deserve the word; and besides all this, she must possess a certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions, or the word will be but half-deserved."

"All this she must possess," added Darcy, "and to all this she must yet add something more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading."

I can't teach you French or Italian, nor can I teach you to play the piano via the internet (I could in real life, though), I certainly can't sing. I suck at drawing, I'm even worse at dancing, and Miss Caroline Bingley would be appalled at my address and expressions, but -- aside from extensive reading -- I CAN handle a needle or three. Here's a nice collection of (mostly) historically accurate patterns* for you to check out, if getting crafty is your thing.

*Look, I have a degree in history. As much as I love to knit, it drives me bananas when people run around asking, "What would Lizzy Bennet knit?" because the answer is NOTHING. She'd have Hill do it for her -- she's a gentleman's daughter, after all! So there are some knitting patterns here, but nothing too exciting. Mostly.

The Embroidery

Embroidery is what I usually imagine when I think of the Bennet girls' sewing baskets, not sock darning. A popular form of embroidery that was perfect for embellishing ball gowns was tambour work, where a hook is used with a needle to create continuous chain stitches. Sounds a bit complicated to me, the lazy embroiderer who would probably just use chain stitch. Anywho, draw your own pretty patterns, or check out some of these gorgeous patterns from My Fanciful Muse (there are tons more over there):

Or this simpler, geometric pattern -- perfect for a practical girl like Lizzy!

You can also try these on tulle or netting, or try one of the historical motifs from the Victorian Embroidery and Crafts website (I know, I know, Pride and Prejudice isn't Victorian):

Find basic embroidery stitches here.

The Sewing

With La Mode Bagatelle's Regency Wardrobe Pattern Set, you get pieces for bodiced petticoat, gown with 2 bodice options and optional train, chemisette, false sleeves, spencer, beret, muff and reticule. That's, like, 20 outfits or something! Also, if you have the time to actually SEW all these things yourself (and read the included historical notes booklet), please contact me so we can come to some sort of time-purchase arrangement, mmkay?

Sexy pants!

Of course, no outfit's fully accurate without a cunning set of the newest thing from Paris, pantalettes! Actually, I remember reading somewhere (maybe in the book I'm reviewing for Friday?) that pantalettes were only worn by hookers and fast women like Lady Caroline Lamb, or something, and regular ladies wouldn't DREAM of donning undies, but that could also be something I dreamed and/or hallucinated. Anyone know for sure?

Planning your outfit for the ball at Netherfield, or even just a Meryton Assembly? What to Wear has a complete list of all your needs, including some pattern links (there's one for the men, too! Skintight breeches!). Just as suspected, pantalettes don't make the list, but you could always splash out and plaster your face with lead to make it whiter.

The Knitting

Knitting! Everyone loves knitting; it's so hip, yeah? And OF COURSE all those accomplished young ladies were knitting up a storm, right? Wrong. According to Novel Craft: Victorian Domestic Handicraft and Nineteenth-Century Fiction by Talia Schaffer, knitting was "a working-class craft, very differently coded from the fashionable fancywork of crocheting or tatting lace. It was primarily a way to make unromantic items like stockings or socks, and it used inexpensive, rough wools in drab colors." While we knitters love to dream of knitted lace shawls, fashionable women would have worn paisley shawls like these, made popular by the wives of Napoleon's army, who wore Kashmir shawls sent home from Egypt by theiir husbands. Check out the brilliant textile historian and knitter Kate Davies' piece on the history of the Regency's favorites, cashmere and paisley.

Ok, so historical accuracy, yay! That means we get to knit lots and lots of socks, which for most knitters is GREAT, but I think I'm the only knitter on the planet who actually HATES socks. For those of you who love them, here are a few patterns:

The Regency sock by Heatherly Walker (that's her photo up there).

The Jane Bennet Socks from Interweave Press's Jane Austen Knits (check them out for more Jane Austen-inspired patterns).

And you can go authentic and knit something a fashionable young lady WOULD want to knit -- a pineapple reticule. Seriously, guys, I have some antique Godey's Lady's Books from the 19th century, and I think this pineapple is in all of them. It shows up EVERYWHERE Regency. This is a historical pattern (from 1841), so it can get a bit tricky.

STILL just really want a pretty, lacy shawl, kind of like the ladies in Cranford wore (at least half a decade later)? HISTORICAL ACCURACY BE DAMNED! you say? Haruni by Emily Ross (that's her photo up there) is gorgeous and would certainly keep you warm under Mr. Darcy's early chilling regard, and would be easy enough to lose in the shrubbery when things heat up.

The Fans

But what if you're not a needlewoman of ANY sort? Don't worry -- you're not relegated to taking silhouettes or painting teacups (unless you want to). Try making your own fan, and decorate it with images of classical mythology and pastoral scenes -- popular during the Regency period. Here's a schematic of a proper fan, in case you want to go crazy and play with more than construction paper and popsicle sticks. You'll need some bamboo sticks (you can cannibalize a cheap dollar store fan), two decorated pieces of paper, nonwoven interfacing, glue, a brad or rivet for holding the sticks together (if you didn't just peel the paper off a cheap store-bought fan), and an iron.

Got that? Right. Then you just iron the interfacing to the backs of the papers to strengthen them, sandwich the sticks in between and glue, then iron the folds in that baby (better instructions here). 


No artistic talent? Decoupage shit from magazines on that sucker if you want. Print a pretty picture from the internet and fold it accordian style. Whatever floats your boat. Just make sure you know how to properly communicate in the Language of the Fan, so you're not accidentally telling your new brother-in-law Wickham to meet you in the kitchen garden for a romp, when you really mean to tell him to get lost. 

Still want more? There are a billion, zillion crafty Jane Austen nuts out there, but I especially like The Jane Austen Centre in Bath, like how to pull apart an ugly old bonnet and trim it up nicely, just like Lydia!


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Meghan Miller's photo About the Author: Meghan is an erstwhile librarian in exile from Texas and writer for Forever Young Adult. She loves books, cooking and homey things like knitting and vintage cocktails. Although she’s around books all the time, she doesn’t get to read as much as she’d like.