Tuesday, August 4, 2015

A Sleeveless Spencer--A Tutorial

If you've made a plain Regency dress with the intention of dressing it up and pairing it with accesories, a sleeveless spencer is one of the easier things to make. It uses the same pattern as your dress, and doesn't have sleeves--a rather excellent combination!

I made my white dress about 10 years ago, using the pattern for the drop front dress in Patterns of Fashion as a base. I used the same pattern for this spencer.

My spencer has a pointed trim along the bottom edge. Bottom trim is of course optional, but if you decide not to use it, be sure to cut the back of the spencer a little longer (or make a mock up) since spencers often sit slightly differently than dresses do, and even with the same pattern, the waistline may not match.

Sleeveless Spencer Construction 1

To start, sew your lining. This was the same lining as the dress. The only difference was I shortened the flaps that cross over in front, and adjusted the neckline shape a little bit.

Sleeveless Spencer Construction 2

Next, fold the center front flaps in and interline them. Unlike in my picture, the interlining should be a little shorter than your lining so you can hem the neckline. I used linen buckram from William Booth, Draper.

Sleeveless Spencer Construction 3

Then pin the center back fabric to the lining.

Sleeveless Spencer Construction 4

And pin the front pieces to the lining. Fold the seam allowances for both the straps and the back seams under.

Decide how you want to finish your edges. I turned the lining and fabric towards each other and sewed them together. You can also finish the edges with bias tape, as seen in this example I found after I made my bodice.

Topstitch the fabric to the lining.

If you're turning the edges in, don't sew the fabric to the lining for the first and last inch or so of each seam.

If you're using bias, topstitch the whole shoulder strap seam to the lining, and just leave the bottom inch or so of the center back seam free of the lining (if you're adding decoration of some sort, that is, otherwise, just topstitch the whole seam to the lining.)

For both methods, don't sew the center front yet. You'll turn this under later, so you don't get a white (or whatever color your lining is) at the edge of your bodice. You can see this in the next picture.

Sleeveless Spencer Construction 5

Once the edges are finished, add any waistline decoration--points, ruffles, and pleats are all options. They can be at the back or all around the bodice.

To measure my points, I took a piece of fabric and laid it against the bottom of my bodice. It extended slightly past the lining to account for a seam allowance.

Sleeveless Spencer Construction 6

I then divided the strip of fabric into seven points--I just futzed it until I found a size that worked and I liked. I folded a piece of paper to use as a template for the points.

Sleeveless Spencer Construction 7

I then drew the points on the strip of fabric.

Sleeveless Spencer Construction 8

I sewed along those lines using a running stitch.

Sleeveless Spencer Construction 9

I then very carefully (nervously!) cut the points out. It's much easier to sew and then cut!

Sleeveless Spencer Construction 10

I cut as close to the sewing as possible since I was turning it right side out.

Sleeveless Spencer Construction 11

Then I turned the strip right side out.

Sleeveless Spencer Construction 13

To iron the points, I inserted the paper template into each one so the seams would press flat.

Sleeveless Spencer Construction 14

I then pinned the points to the lining...

Sleeveless Spencer Construction 15

...and sewed them with a running stitch and pressed them down.

Sleeveless Spencer Construction 16

I then pinned the fabric seam allowance over the points and topstiched them into place. While you could sew the points to the fabric and whipstitch the lining, I find doing it this way leaves a cleaner line.

Sleeveless Spencer Construction 17

I then folded back the center fronts, whipstitched them into place, and added eyelets. And that's it!


The completed spencer!


  1. Thank you for sharing this wonderful tutorial. Before next summer, I am due to make a light spencer, too and it's a great inspiration. :)

  2. That's a great tutorial, I've recently finished my dress and a spencer or pelisse is on the list of things to make to add to the look.

    1. Excellent! It's so nice to have a dress you can add things to. Thank you!