Friday, June 7, 2013

Barbara Johnson's Brunswick

On finding out that Barbara Johnson--an 18th century woman who kept a record of all the fabric and dresses she had--had a Manchester cloth checked Brunswick, I knew I had to have one. How wonderfully different, and yes, tacky! The Manchester cloth was likely a cotton linen blend, and while that is available, I chose a cotton gingham instead. There were two reasons. One, $6 a yard instead of $20 a yard, and two, in the 18th century, it would've been a linen warp and cotton weft(or the other way around, I can never keep it straight) and the modern would just have the fibers blended together.

While I have a tutorial planned for the hooded waistcoat, this is just going to be a picture post. The Brunswick itself is just a pet-en-l'air with sleeve extensions basted in. These are simply trapezoids that I'm sure I took pictures of but can't find anywhere. They're very simple though--measure you arm at the elbow (where your sleeve ends), the wrist, and the distance between. Add ease, and sew, leaving the last bit open so it's easier to get your hand in.

Brunswick 10 Brunswick 12

I'm wearing it over a shift, stays, habit shirt, cravat-lette and two underpetticoats. And yes, I am wearing my red Burnley and Trowbridge shoes. How could I not wear red shoes with a blue and white checked dress? :)

Before wearing it again, I need a longer cravat. I much prefer the look of the waistcoat open, but this one is too short to do it with. It's made from scraps of my habit shirt, and I didn't want to make it out of less nice linen that that...

The waistcoat closes with deaths head buttons.

Brunswick 5 Brunswick 6

And here we have some standard posed shots. The check is quite small, 1/8 an inch, but is close in size to the original, which was a little under 1/4 inch.

Brunswick 8 Brunswick 9

The hood is lined with white China silk and is mainly decorative. I don't think it would stay on my head without a pin :)

Brunswick 13 Brunswick 14

Brunswick 15 Untitled

The waistcoat laces up the back with very sloppy eyelets. I made all of them in 15 minutes. And they work perfectly! The top of the waistcoat has checked fabric so it the lining doesn't show above the pet-en-l'air neckline. Also, a comparison of my fabric with Barbara Johnson's.

I really do prefer the way the waistcoat looks unbuttoned!

Brunswick 16

Who doesn't want to match her picnic basket? :)

Nicole and Kendra have excellent Brunswick information as well.

Nicole's Brunswick
Kendra's Brunswick

And my LJ tag so you can see it being made!


  1. It's adorable. But wait, are you barefoot?

    1. Ha! I am in the last pictures. The day involved a lot of walking and that was back at the house :)

  2. I love this so much! As always, you look absolutely perfect!

    1. Thank you! It really is a fun dress. So many checks...

  3. I absolutely love the jacket (not sure what you would call it). Beautiful dress. Can you post some closeups of the jacket in the front? I would love to see how it is adorned in the front, how it stays on and the side. Wow, really gorgeous.

  4. Super cute! I love the fabric choice and the buttons on the front. I'd love to see a closeup of them. DId you make them?


  5. So cool! I love the idea of reproing one of Barbara Johnson's outfits. I also like the basted in lower sleeves. I've always wondered if that was what they did, it seems so practical to be able to remove them.

  6. I love it!

    PS I have had the Barbara Johnson book for quite awhile and love that too!

  7. What a gorgeous Brunswick! I'd love to hear how you mastered making Deathshead buttons, though. I'm really struggling with those and yours are stunning :)


  8. First of all, I love this dress! You did a lovely job, and personally, I love the colour/pattern. I do have a question that's been frustrating me for a bit, though. The pet-en-l'air pieces never seem to be attached and I can't see a means of keeping them on. Are they pinned to the front of the waistcoat? Or are they kept on through some other sort of historical costuming magic?

  9. I love this outfit. Could you please provide a source for your Barbara Johnson's "kept a record pf all the fabric and dresses" Where can I go to get a look at this?