I know, I know, I have been neglecting the blog a bit…. so am just trying to catch up on the year…. * One sunny weekend in July, the Prior Attire team and friends had a picnic. A victorian one … Continue reading
It was my pleasure, yet again, to organize the Victorian Ball in Bath – our 4th! This year it was a little bit earlier, and so far the coldest spring event so far – all the dolmans, mantles, coats … Continue reading
And what an amazing weekend it was! The ball was a huge success, and we all had a lovely time indeed. This was our 3rd ball in Bath Assembly room, and the most attended by far – 130 people, with … Continue reading
A long overdue post on a rather splendid ball we attended in London, in December. The Buttercup Ball was organized by Stuart Marsden ( the dance master for our Victorian ball last year – and this year’s edition too!) … Continue reading
After last year’s success at Sudeley castle , the Black Knight Historical team were invited once more – and that meant we were hired to entertain the visitors. The theme changed however – whereas last year we were inside the castle, doing 17th century stuff ( lace making, apothecary/early science), this time it was all about Richard III.
Which meant Lucas was one of the Richard’s cronies, Ratcliffe, and I was his wife Agnes. Which meant – posh stuff, posh tent, poshness galore, even more so since Eleanor (as Cecille Neville, Duchess of York, mother to the king) was to reside in our tent too.
And all of which meant that I needed to update my wardrobe. I had one posh frock but needed another one, plus a new kirtle, posher than the woollen ones I already had.
And as it happened I just managed to grab some lovely silks at the last market. They were supposed to go towards stock items, but I just couldn’t resist… not only that, I simply couldn’t afford much mid-season ( we had spent a bit on updating the tent’s interior), so I simply had to make do with whatever I had in my silk stash.
So, for a late 15th century I decided on a kirtle in this style, from the Marie of Burgundy portrait – especially since the silk I had, from Watts&CO, was almost exactly the same ..
I did not have time for the trim, belt and a new henin, but since it wasn’t meant to be an exact copy, the rest of the details could wait their turn ( I wonder how long will that be..). The rest however worked well.
The style is almost a transition gown, when the flat fronted kirtle started improving in cut and began to fit nicely, slowly transitioning into the kirtles of the early Tudor style.
Mine is lined with brown silk ( gold/orange for the sleeves), and the bodice section is strengthened with one layer of fine linen canvas – more than enough to keep one’s assets in place; Indeed I quickly discovered that it was giving me much more of a cleavage than I had reckoned for! At the event, for modesty’s sake, I covered the bosom with a placard or a linen neckerchief, but the frock will need to be adjusted so that the neckline will go up a bit. Heaving bosoms are not exactly the way to go in high medieval fashion… (more on silhouettes across the ages here)
The sleeves are funky. I laced up mine with lovely points made by Lucy the Tudor; the dress fastens at the back with a longer lace too.
The kirtle worked wonderfully – I wore it on its own ( that is with a chemise, hose, headgear, etc) when inside the tent. The tent represented my household so it was still proper to be on a slightly more relaxed footing, without the overgown. I was at home, weaving, while my important and recently-made-very-wealthy husband was discussing important business with the king. And the queen mother just happened to pay a visit…
So a great compromise, posh enough to be seen indoors – and, for one day at least, it was a blessing since it was incredibly hot! 3 layers is not much, but it just wasn’t too nice to be sweating!
I was mostly sitting in the shade, and demonstrating weaving – both on a rigid heddle and on tablets, and both styles proved to be very popular with the visitors. I enjoyed long and detailed chats about the history of weaving narrow wares, textiles etc, and it was a pleasure to exchange views and information with a very polite and well informed public. A few ladies had actually had a go at the weaving themselves 🙂
As far as the gown was concerned, I had a length of black damask and was hoping it would be just enough…
After some serious calculations ( yes! maths happened!), measurements, and drafting, trying to plan how much of the fabric I could use, and still match the pattern, it transpired that it was just enough for a voluminous gown with a modest train. I didn’t mind the modest train, my other frock has a long one, so a variety is there – plus I planned to posh this frock up with some fur…
The fur was purchased from GH leathers – 2 plates of white rabbit ( oh, and one of black for Lucas – didn’t I mention he was getting a new robe too?)
The gown was cut and made, lined with red silk and then the purfells were prepared – fur was cut to shape for the hem, collar and cuffs, and the borders were secured with tape.
Then they were studiously attached to the garment, by hand – it takes some time, but the whole process of preparing and attaching the purfells was worth it – the fur lies flat and neat!
I put on the gown next morning and we had a mini photo-shoot in the castle grounds before the public stormed in 🙂
I must admit that I like the comfortable, shorter gown without a huge train to lug behind, and the basic colours looked elegant – with just a hint of clashing reds and vibrant greens from the kirtle:-)
We found some nice windows for an atmospheric shot…
The grounds of Sudeley Castle are breathtaking, and the event went well the next day too – it was cooler, so I got to wear the dress most of the day, but it also rained rather a lot. However, Brits are used to this weather so we still had lots of visitors, though instead of sun hats and sandals they came armed with wellies and umbrellas:-)
The king ( Jason Kingsley) was around on both days, taking part at ceremonies, public dinners, shows and also entertaining the public while giving short demonstrations of exquisite horsemanship on ‘White Surrey’ (actually Warlord)
There were a lot of things to see – soldiers, kitchens, craftsmen, camp followers, storytelling, a whole bunch of Richard’s many cronies, a fashion show – in short enough to occupy a family for a day ( plus for the visitors nice food, the castle, medieval market, ice cream, and beautiful gardens to roam around).
In short, an exquisite event, probably the most enjoyable tented event of the year – and indeed staying in a posh medieval tent was very much like glamping… all the things we have accumulated over the years, fur covers, woven mats, tables, tapestries, lanterns, etc – it was all worth every penny; not only to see the pleasant surprise on the public’s faces – but for our own comfort!
Despite the rain, the tent was dry, and the mats got lightly wet at the edges only. The bed with its layers of sheepskin and wool bedding, with coverings made in wool and fur was not only warm but comfy ( Lucas may have a different opinion, as I got the bed before I knew him – so it is a tad too short for him). Me, I enjoy sleeping under the canvas, especially in the rain – so I loved every minute!
Tapestries made a real difference too, as well as all the paraphernalia – lots to talk about to the visitors. Some of the items were provided by Eleanor (the games table, religious items, a chair, etc. Still, there’s an ever growing list of what we need for the tent – more chests, more wall coverings, more chairs.. I now want a standing loom too… So, it looks as if we may need a trailer… or a van….
Oh, and did I mention that Lucas got a new robe? There it is, in the same silk as my kirtle, so we were matching 🙂 I still have enough of it to make another short robe, I may yet make a stock item after all…
And the usual facts and credits…….
Green kirtle – fabric – 4m of green silk, £115 per metre from the website if I remember well, but I managed to grab a roll at the market at a £80 per metre:-)
4m of taffeta for lining, £25 per metre
silk laces, £25
overall cost of materials – £450
Black damask – 7m @ £60 per metre,
Red taffeta for lining – £6m @ £25
Fur – £150
Overall cost of materials: – £650
…and the article on how to make Burgundian dress and a kirtle here...
With more medieval inspiration here –
Clothes – Prior Attire
Lovely bling (I got a hat gem specially for the event) – as always, by Gemmeus
Belt – Bayley Heritage Castings
Shoes and pattens – NP Historical shoes
Photography – Pitcheresque Imagery
And the good news is – it looks like the event will be back next August, 20/21st!! 🙂 a new page has been created for the event, so keep your eyes peeled! 🙂
This one was a very exciting commission – a friend who often works as Queen Vic needed a new corset.. and a new bodice and a train to go with the skirt she already had.
After a session of looking at different portraits and photographs of the Queen, with Eve pointing out which features she’d like to include in her bodice or train, we got some sketching done…
Fabric was next – and here we were lucky as got a length of beautiful silk brocade from Quartermasterie – all that i need to grab was silk taffeta for lining and pleats and some lace and buttons….
The corsets was made first – and it is a rather jazzy affair, so wont be shown here to preserve the dignity of the monarch, but i bet now a few people who’d meet Eve at work would be wondering what lingerie secrets her clothes hide ;-0
Bodice was a lovely blend of the 1880ties and earlier fashions – sporting a version of pagoda sleeves, apparently quite a favourite of the queen. we also added detachable under sleeves, for colder days .
The lace was simply lush, though applying it took some time, and the underside of the pagoda sleeves was also trimmed with lace, a more modest version.
The train was just fun. The construction was simple – a slightly shaped rectangular fabric, plasted and with tapes and buttons to allow the wearer to bustle to up if needs be. But it was recreatingthe pleated trim from one of the original photos that was interesting….
The train has a baleyeuse ( the dust ruffle) made of black cotton lace buttoned up – they were a truly delightful frilly affairs that made life so much easier – you wash only the ruffle as your skirts are protected.
The pick up day was also a shoot day as we offered Eve a mini session – the results below! Hope you like the final result:-)
Eve’s page is here – enjoy browsing! Queen Victoria
Amazing memories from the evening – and not only evening, the whole weekend was a whirl of activities, pretty frocks and splendid food, all in even more splendid company!
We started on Saturday afternoon arriving in Bath a tad later than expected ( the traffic on the slip road was very bad and many of us were stuck there – in fact, so many that we were considering a picnic on the roadside….), but unpacked, changed and walked over to the Crescent for a few relaxing hours of picnicking…. The weather was perfect, food lovely, and as a perk we got to witness the balloon take off…. and of course we took photos….
The next day saw us making last minute preparations, strolling around the town and slowly getting ready,,,
The workshop started at 3 – and we practiced our quadrilles, lancers and waltzes for good 90 minutes – the practice was fun, but also cane in handy at the ball – you not only know the basics of the dances, but you recognize the people, so you are able to relax in a more familiar environment. our Dance master, Stuart Marsden, kindly provided Carnet de Ball tickets – beautifully made, and very practical – at the end of the practice people were making arrangements which dances they were to dance with who – really cuts on the chaos on finding a partner in the evening!
We will be using them next year as well, an excellent idea!.
After the practice there was time to go and have a cuppa and a rest ( and for us organizers to get the photographers, musicians etc set up and ready), and then time to change into the evening’s finery….
Then it was time! The doors opened at & and the guests started to arrive, dazzling us with their lovely creations. Drinks, chatting and photos made for a relaxed atmosphere – and since almost all the ball participants had been at the practice, people relaxed and chatted with their old and new dance partners. Traditionally, we started with a polonaise… It was a bit crowded, once all the people filled the Grand Ballroom, but Stuart managed to direct the dance nicely ! And from then on, it was all dancing….. Spanish waltz was great to get everybody relaxed as you change partners a lot and get to know people, and then it was the amazing Lancers, Quadrilles and Waltzes galore…. My personal favourite was the Cotillion waltz – simple, yet amazingly romantic, danced the the sweet notes of the waltz from the Merry Widow. Dimmed lights, romantic music, swaying on the dance floor in flowing silky gown – breathtaking. The buffet break arrived just in time to rest our weary feet and get some sustenance for more dancing. And food, provided by Searcy’s was glorious – beautifully presented, abundant ( and there was lots left!) and yummy – I must admit loved the desserts particularly… Then more dancing followed – with a few spontaneous waltzing breaks when folks just kicked their shoes off and took to whirling Viennese waltz at a moment notice ( our own Sissy here was the main culprit – though quite a lot removed their shoes at that point, myself included…). The evening ended with a Flirtation finale – lots of fun! And all that fun was mostly due to the utterly amazing musicians – Alexis Bennett and the Liberty Belles, and our talented Dance Master, Stuart Marsden ( yes, the same one who has worked with BBC on Poldark, and many other projects…). The event would not have been the success it was without theses guys – so a huge thank you! And while all the dancing was taking place, our photographers, Mockford Photography, were busy taking photos…. And did I not mention that there were some spectacular frocks and very dashing gentlemen around?
Needless to say, by the end of it I could hardly walk ( need better shoes for next year….). but somehow I made it to the hotel, and although exhausted, I was still buzzing with the excitement – the night was so much better than I had hoped for! there was just enough time to have a mini after party for the staff ( amazing how many people you can squeeze into a single Travelodge bedroom) and then it was time for sleep. And about 4 hours later we were up again and getting ready for our breakfast at the Pump Rooms….. The yummy breakfast ( and live music too!) was followed bu a short wander around town and some photos…. Then it was time to go home and tend the very sore feet…. Altogether, I must say the event fr surpassed my expectations. Music was delightful, fool glorious, venue splendid and the people – well, let me just say that you were all such a friendly and polite bunch of folks! Everybody was relaxed and yet on their best behaviour – and that makes such a difference! it was also a good call to go for historical rather than an eclectic affair like the previous one – since most of the dances were called, the dance floor was always busy, only clearing up a bit at the end, as the pure exhaustion took over ( it was quite an exercise , especially the few more energetic dances…). So thank you all, staff and guests alike for making it such a wonderful occasion! Also, many thanks to all the people who sent their photos:-) And, guess what – we are having another Ball next year! The venue and caterers have already been booked and the tickets are on sale ( early bird prices valid till September), so put the date in your diary – 7th May. We have the same set of musicians and Stuart booked too – and next year we have an optional dress sub theme – Crinoline. We are already working on different offers for the ticket holders ( discounted rates from dressmakers and product suppliers, or, for those who make stuff themselves, special offers on corset, crinoline and Victorian patterns and kits from one of our providers too). You can follow the news on the facebook pages:
The event per se – Victorian Ball 2016
Page : Prior Attire Victorian Ball
Tickets and more info here – Victorian ball tickets
and the previous ball Spectacular!
Over the years I have been asked about a variety of problems within historical costuming – and how to avoid them. I have already written a few posts on different aspects such as the look, fabrics, etc – but here … Continue reading
Back in the autumn we were doing a few filming jobs – a couple of days for Horrible Histories ( not released yet, I think) and a bit for the BBC – filming the procession in Hampton Court.
There were close to 100 people in the procession and the task of sorting out the costumes was managed, very aptly, by Ninya Perry ( Tudor Tailor – rings a bell? 🙂 ) and her team. She talks about sourcing the costumes in her feature for the BBC here. It was a mammoth job, but the results were stunning!
Apart from the volunteers there was also a cluster of re-enactors, usually wearing their own kit ) I was wearing my old Tudor frockage in cream silk brocade and silk kirtle,all handstitched ( more on than and how to make your own here) – and I must say it is with the relief that I realized that I actually still fitted into it! I had a role of the train bearer – so following Lady Mary like a shadow…..
Lucas was one of the canopy bearers, and Darren from the Tudor Roses, whose outfits i made as well, had a prominent role too, looking resplendent in his new clothes of red wool – and he was kind enough to hire out the previous outfit I made him, in black wool.
The filming was – well , regular thing, comparing with other experience it was actually very well organized – yes, there was sitting around and waiting, and yes, we were repeating the same scene a few times, but mostly the work progressed smoothly – and it was a pleasure to actually meet David Starkey, whom I have always greatly admired.
In short – it was a good 8 hours work, but in good company, doing useful things – and we were fed well too 🙂
And the finished programme can be seen d=for the next few weeks on Iplayer –
and a few behind the scene photos below:-) enjoy the feature, lots of interesting things there!
I have been wanting to have a go at the early mantua for quite some time – but since the end of the 17th century is relatively underrepresented here in the UK, with no events at which to wear it, the project was just simmering on the edges of inspiration. Then, out of the blue, we were asked to provide accessories for a shoot inspired by the famous, (or rather infamous) “La Maupin” – this was a lingerie shoot for Kiss Me Deadly, in a lavish London location – and we were told that we could come and shoot some historical stuff there too. Well, that was enough to get me going…. ( and the post on the shoot itself is here)
Fabrics were bought, research conducted and ideas considered – and we were ready to go.
The items I needed to make were – a petticoat, mantua and fontage headdress
Inspiration board – http://www.pinterest.com/priorattire/1670-1700-dress-more-or-less-/
Grosgrain silk (gold on top, olive on the other side) – 5m; gold lace – 8m, bullion fringe – 5m, button. ( pic.1)
Pattern – my own, based on the instructions in the Nora Waugh book – a very simple affair, a rectangle of fabric, with the grain going horizontally.
Again, a very simple construction – Cut the rectangle of fabric (the original petticoat is 124”, mine is 130”), the front length will depend on your height and shoes. The back can be trained slightly (as it is in the original, or cut to an even length. I adjusted the length on the waist, so that the bottom hem has the grain running horizontally all around.
Sew the ends together, leaving an opening at the top – about 3-4 inches. Finish the seam (hand stich, securing the edges and press)
Hem the skirt and apply any planned decoration as wished – in my case this was a band of the same fabric but with the olive side showing, framed by the metallic lace and, at the very hem, the bullion fringe.
Cut out the waistband to the desired length, and pleat the skirt to fit it – the original has 13 pleats on each side, and I aimed for the same number.
Attach the pleated skirt to the waistband. Finish the waistband, add a button and work a button hole – and the petticoat is ready.
8m of silk taffeta,
20m of wide metallic lace,
10m of narrow metallic braid,
Hooks for the train,
Pins for the stomacher
Linen (0.5-1m) and reeds for the stomacher.
If you are lining your mantua, you will need the same amount of lining as the top fabric…. Some mantuas are lined, some unlined, if you have a fabric that has a different shade on the other side (like my petticoat), that would work very well too.
For sewing I used silk thread.
Again, Norah Waugh’s pattern – I even used the same measurements on all the pieces.
Cut out all the pieces in silk. Put the sleeves, revers and neck pieces aside for the time being and deal with the main parts of the gown first.
Back piece – sew the skirts together at the CB (unless you cut on fold) and mark the pleating lines. Fold the fabric in the recommended direction on every pleat and pin. Experiment with the depths of pins until the back measurement of the gown matches your own – the easiest way to do so is to use your block, or to try to pin on a mannequin of your size.
Once you are satisfied with the pleats, secure them with hand stitching
Repeat the same process on the front pieces – experiment with the pleats on a dummy, or on yourself if you have help. Make sure to wear the undergarments that you will be wearing – in my case it was fully boned stays. Without the foundation provided by the stays, the pleating will not only result in the wrong silhouette, but will also be much more difficult – remember that a modern bra will give bust a natural round shape, very different from the flat, straight lines created by rigid stays of the era.
Again, once you have tweaked your pleats, secure them with hand stitching.
Prepare your revers – sew in the dart, sew lining (I used the same fabric) and pin onto the front. Again, experiment with the exact positioning and the shape of the front edge, and once happy with it, stitch together.
That’s the most difficult and fiddly part done, really. Yes, there will be a lot of hemming and hand stitching later, but the crucial fitting is mostly over
Next step – connect the front parts with the back –at the shoulders and the sides. Follow the directions in the book – part of the side seams are stitched wrong-sides together so that they won’t show too much when the train is hooked up in the back! Stitch, secure, and press.
Prepare the sleeves – work the seam, secure the raw edges, add the cuff. Pleat the top, if applicable, and insert into the armscythe.
Hem the thing…. This will take quite some time as the train is very long, but if you plan to show it, do it by hand. If you plan to stitch decoration over, then a machine finish will be fine.
Neck pieces next. Tidy and secure the back neck edge, then attach the neck pieces, matching the centre back seam. Stitch carefully
. Your mantua is now ready to be decorated.
Decoration time. I used a fine metallic lace and applied it, well, everywhere really… On the cuffs and all around the gown. The inside of the skirts sports a narrow metallic braid, which finishes it nicely once the skirts are arranged.
. For arranging the train – attach hooks as indicated on the pattern. They simply hook up to the belt at the back
Stomacher next – I made mine out of 2 layers of linen buckram, fully boned in reed, then covered in the taffeta and lined it.
Your mantua is now ready!
To finish the look however, I need a headdress – the famous “fontage”. After some brief research I stumbled upon this little tutorial – and followed it more or less directly:
I tried it first in calico, as a mock-up
Once I was happy with the size and shape, I cut it in linen, hemmed the crescents, applied lace and pleated it. I then pressed and starched it and inserted the boning (reed), then stitched the pleats closed at the back.
Next, the bag was attached, (a simple circle gathered onto a band), and the long wide lace lappets finished the look
On the day of the shoot, I wore the following items:
Silk stockings (American Duchess) and C17th shoes
Linen chemise with lace cuffs,
Fully boned stays
Silk petticoat (in red)
Decorated petticoat with the fringe
Fontage (worn over my own hair and curly hairpieces)
Jewellery by Gemmeus
I was surprised to notice that the stomacher needed only a very, very basic pinning at the top – as once the train is hooked up to the belt (here a length of wide metallic braid) at the back, the tension keeps the belt taunt, and stomacher in place. The whole outfit looked far better that I had ever hoped – as, let’s face it, a fontage is a bit of a silly thing to wear on your head! But once everything was on, it all fell into place, and it all felt not only comfortable, but also correct and entirely in keeping in with the environs. Needless to say, I felt great – and didn’t want to take the thing off…..
We arrived on the location in a good time and managed to shoot our stuff way before we were overcome by glamorously bewigged girls in sexy lingerie, brandishing swords, fans and rapiers…. More information on the shoot can be found here: https://adamselindisdress.wordpress.com/2014/04/06/early-mantua-and-la-maupin-style-shoot/