Wednesday, July 1, 2020

A Sleeveless Summer Spencer

As I was planning my Regency capsule wardrobe for England, I remembered one night - while I was finishing up the Blue Velveteen Bodice - that I had another sleeveless bodice/spencer that I hadn't worn in years, and I pulled it out to try it on.  

It didn't fit.  

And there was no letting it out to make it fit at this point.  But it got me thinking about more outfit possibilities, and I decided to see if I could find some fabric in my stash to make another one real quick.


This was June 3, and I was leaving on the 16th.  :p  I still had an entire dress to make, another to repair, and a petticoat to draft and make.  This was fine.  

I did find fabric - that was the easy part.  I decided that linen would make a nice summer bodice, and I found scraps of a dense, celery-green linen that I felt would make a nice sturdy bodice without the need for a lining.  Question was... did I have enough?

I believe there were six of the larger pieces, and two of the smaller ones.

As usual, I just barely eked it out.  But I was determined! 

I used the Spencer pattern from La Mode Bagatelle, which I had used previously and knew how it went together.  I did go up a size, as I had gained roughly 20 pounds since the last time I had used the pattern, and needed significantly more room in the bust (yay pregnancy!).  

You can see that I had originally highlighted the size 10 on all the pieces, and I had *just* enough to squeak out a size 12!

I altered the collar piece to fit on one of the fabric scraps, leaving room for a strip to cut the waistband.  I kept the neckline of the collar the same, just made it a couple of inches narrower all the way around.  

I had to piece only one spot - on the upper corner of the back shoulder seam:  

I opted to face the collar with vintage seam binding, instead of lining it.  I didn't want to add bulk at the neck, and since the base bodice wouldn't be lined either, it seemed silly to line the collar.  

I stitched the seam binding on by machine, turned and pressed it to the inside, and tacked down the edge by hand:  

Since I wasn't lining it, and linen frays horribly, I flat-felled all the seams by hand:

This added a lot of time to an already time-crunched project, but I think it was worth it.  

For the arm- and neck-holes, I cut facings from leftover scraps:  

I sandwiched the collar between the bodice neckline:  

And the facing:  

Then I turned the facing to the inside, pressed it out over the seam allowance, and stitched through the facing and seam allowance right inside the seam, to keep the facing from rolling outwards. 

The center front edges had been strategically cut on the selvedge, so I could simply turn them back once without adding extra bulk with a facing or rolled hem:  

I trimmed back the neckline facing:  

And folded the selvedge over top:  

Once basic construction was done I tried it on my dress form (and myself, but I don't have pictures of that):  

I liked it, but felt it was probably a little too plain.  

I toyed around with adding ruffles at the shoulders:

And a peplum in the back:

But ended up going for a simple petal sleeve:  

I just draped a couple of rounded scraps in place:  

Traced the edge of the armscye onto them: 

Cut matching sets for the other arm and some pale green cotton for lining (I was out of green seam binding at this point):

Then I added these back in before attaching the armhole facings.  I was really pleased with the effect - I think they look rather sweet!

(Sadly, once I committed to the petal sleeves, there wasn't enough leftover material to also make the peplum.)

And with the waistband attached, she was done!  I omitted fastenings on the center front edges, opting to simply pin them closed when I wore it.  And it only took me two days to make!  :D

Bonus, the green linen matched a ton of accessories I already had for Regency!  

Most of these ended up coming to England with me.  It was kismet. 


  1. Truly lovely! Thank you for the tutorial. I am just embarking on creating a Regency wardrobe and this helps.

    1. Thank you, and you're welcome! I'm glad I can be helpful :)

  2. So pretty! I really like the sleeve detail. Hoping to eventually make a sleeveless spencer myself so I'm impressed when people just whip them out in no time, haha!

    1. They are a really quick project! It's great, because you don't have to worry about sleeves, and you can use up small pieces of fabric that aren't enough to make anything else out of.