The Gold Gown, market and a Regency Ball 2015

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 Last year we had a lovely time at out first Regency ball, part of the annual Jane Austen celebration in Bath (see post on that here). This year the dates were changed a bit, which meant that the Ball was on the first Saturday of the festival, and there was a market earlier on in the day too. So, two  birds with one stone – we could go and trade to earn our living in the day, and in the evening we could go and have a good dance at the ball!

 The usual dilemma ocurred – What to wear? I had my old evening gown, but it would be nice to make something new. As I had only 5 days to prepare regency dresses for sale, I decided to get the stock items sorted first and to work on my own frock if I had some time spare.

 I already knew what I would be using as an inspiration  – this gown from the Met museum

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 I already had some lovely gold semi-transparent silk in my stash, so all I needed to get was lace, decoration and the silk satin for the base of the dress. I didnt really like the pearl trim on the original, so decided on an alternative, but all of the components were ready and waiting, just in case I managed to make time for it!

 In the end I finished all the stock dresses on Friday moring – and we were to leave Friday night. I had about 8 hours. Well, you know that I do like challenges….

 One thing has to be said – working on the stock meant that whilst handstitching other frocks I had time to think about the gold gown construction even before I started to work on it. I must admit, it did take me some time – mostly because I simply couldn’t see how it closed! Yes, you can see the sheer overgown ties in front, but what about the satin gown?  You can zoom in quite a lot on the Met site so you can see clearly that there are no rows of buttons or ties at the back under the sheer, nothing at the side or front, no button closures, no bib closure, no tie closures… A mystery!

 I started  zooming in to maximum and checking every detail – and finally I found it! On the back, right of centre-back, you can just about see something on the satin layer that could be called a button and a loop, at the neck egde.

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I new that must be it – After thinking a little more, and analysing the cut I arrived at a very simple pattern idea – basically a sack with fitted neckline. I tried the idea on a mock-up first, making the top part of the gown in calic; it worked. I actually didn’t even need the button, the thing just slips ovehead and a simple tie does the rest.

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 So on the day I cut the gown in silk satin, sewed it, hemmed it, lined the bodice, etc – in other words it was ready for the overgown and the sleeves.

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Merlin was happy as for once he was allowed on the silk. normally it is off-limits but since it was my own stuff, I did not mind – and he did enjoy overseeing the work.

  That was the easy part…. the overgown was next – and whereas it is basically a loose robe, it took the most time due to all the finishing – cutting precise facings in flimsy sheer fabric is not my idea of fun! But the facings were cut, sewn, handstitched and metallic lace attached – then they were just awaiting the posh trim I wanted to use in place of the pearls.

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 Sleeves were next – and they were the most time-consuming…

 Cutting up the base and the satin layer first –

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 Then preparing the space for the gathering and placing the gathers in suitable places so that that they formed ‘pulling-outs’ –  just as in Tudor sleeves.

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Sleeve gathered on both sides

Once the gathers were positioned, I was able to add the overlay with the cut out holes and the gold metallic trim

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I was getting excited by this stage… All that now remained was getting the sleeves together, lining them, sewing into the armbands and then into the armhole, (both the satin and the  sheer layers of the dress).

And it was almost ready – just a little belt to add, made from the sheer (I tried to  attach it to pregathered sheer underneath like in the original, but after speding an hour I decided I didnt like it – so outside it went.  Only the posh trim remained, and that could be done before the ball next day.

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We packed up, drove to Bath (3 hours), checked into the hotel and collapsed…

Next day saw us setting up the stall at the market in the Guildhall – and we had 4 jolly hours of trading there…

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The stall, ready!

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Farthingale Hats stall. Yes, I did get a new hat….

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Amy’s (Costume Shop) stand where Lucas purcahsed his replacement hose; clocked, no less!

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I was sporting the redingote which I made last year – more on making that here. I still love it!

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Hair Story with their wonderfull wigs and hairpieces… And yes, I have commissioned some hair from them since…

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A dashing young fellow!

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The silhouette cutter was super popular!

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My Customers were sporting their Prior Attire bling – Janet picked up two new hats from me, and it was the first outing of the military style spencer… David’s finery was made a year ago – more on its making here.

After the market  we packed up the remaining goods, drove back to the hotel and collapsed (again). But we had a ball to go to! I was so tired, that honestly, if it hadnt been for the fact that there was food on offer I probably wouldnt have gone… But we knew Searcy’s would deliver a great meal (we were not disappointed as it turned out), so after a power nap I got my act together and sorted out the braid on the dress:-). Then it was time to get dressed…

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    do love my regency long stays, the are comfortable and provide anazing ahem, lift…. here shown with a petticoat

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    You can see here how the layers worked

    And so, off to the ball we went – armed with a big camera too!  We had an amazing time, despite being so tired (I danced every other dance to conserve my energy), and the meal was superb… pictures below!

    The gold dress first – I am rather happy with it – the design worked surprisingly well 🙂 Will probably sell it at some point,  as I simply cannot go to the ball next year in the same frock, can I ? 🙂

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    We snatched this one at the break as everybody rushed to grab some food…

    and more generic photos of the dancing  etc 🙂

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Loved the blue gown!

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Zack from Pinsent Tailoring, in the tightest breaches ever – check out his work, very good!

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I admit that we did leave ‘just’ before the ball ended – I was falling asleep! As it turned out, combining a working day with an evening of fun doesnt really work for me 😦

Still, we had a good night’s rest, a good brekkie and were on our way home  soon.  Once back home we decided to take the opportunity to photograph the remaining dresses  – they are now available in the shop – click  on the links to see the listing 🙂  I look tired but the gowns looked well, and that is enough for the shop 🙂

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A tiny bit too big, otherwse I think I would be keeping it to myself!

this is my favourite – super smooth cotton, with removable long sleeves:-)

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Undersleeves removed

We even made a short video about how to put on a regency brassiere: – enjoy!

Many thanks to PItcheresque Imagery for the photos!

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The most common mistakes in historical costuming/re-enactment – and how to avoid them!

 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

Hussar style corset

 

 

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 The inspiration struck  when I was making a Napoleonic set  for a client –  a thing with loads of braiding, military lace etc. Against all odds, I enjoyed making it ( and a post on that one can be found here) and thought that it would be nice to have something like that for myself….  And then I remembered artwork of a Polish artist, Bartek Drejewicz and his Napoleonic pin up girls ( do check his facebook page out,  – not only Napoleonic but different armies through the centuries, beautifully rendered!). And yes, there are Steampunk corsets with military styling etc available – but non actually using the ‘proper’ military lace or specific historical styling… So I wanted to have a go….

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The final design was actually worked out one evening when I was clearing my offcuts and left overs bits – and noticed narrow scraps of the broadcloth i used for the jacket.  Not good for much more, but  just enough for corset panels…  I quickly adapted an overbust pattern to work as a waistcoat – with  a black busk in front and lacing in the back. It did come out a tad short ( not enough fabric) but the first step was done – a waistcoat in broadcloth, cotton twill being used as the strength layer.  I opted for a slight curve and not much of a reduction – so that  I would be able to wear it at work at the markets- but also because it was the trial version:-)

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I ordered more military lace and braid and once it arrived i started putting the lace on – it took me a few months as was working on it  in between commissions….

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So even with help ( ahem…) it took some time….

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Once the frogging was on, I could put some silver soutache on the borders and the collar….

 

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Then it was only getting some buttons ( beads….) and we were ready for shooting!

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I tried the corset first with my Regency chemisette and plain black leggings….

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Then I had an epiphany and fished out Lucas’s  dancing breeches  – in lovely white superfine. The just about fitted too! Then e had some fun with my old cavalry sabre as a prop:-)

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The chemissette, in case anyone asks :

 

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The conclusions – well, loved wearing it ( and wore it to markets since) but a few improvements will be needed for the next  ones –  longer in front, more hip spring, and probably not using busks and frogging together – it is a pain to do it all up! Still, I think it is a success – and  more corsets in the style are planned, in different colours – already have a small stash of silver and gold military lace and braid, and am slowly collecting fabrics and props – I suspect we will have a bigger photoshoot with  more models ( and hopefully horses) just before Waterloo 🙂 Once the next models are done, will post a link here – including a link to the shop as they will be offered  on sale….

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Hope you liked this  experiment!

 

Credits:

Clothes, as always, Prior Attire

photography Pitcheresque Imagery

 

 

1815 Redingote a la Hussarde

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For our  Regency stay in Bath I needed something for daywear. I had the evening attire, but apart from my riding habit, I didn’t have anything suitable. I had limited financial resources, but was able to put aside a few days for stitching – so the idea was to invest more in time rather than in the materials per se.  For Regency that simply meant using cotton:-) A quick browse though the costume books and boards, and I set my heart on that lovely redingote from the Kyoto Institute of Fashion, all in white cotton, with pom poms and insane amounts of piping.  Cotton fabric is cheap, so most of the expense would be the pompoms and the accessories – and so a decision has been made.

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Materials:

6m of plain cotton ( for top layer and lining) ( approximately £45)

66 pompoms ( all handmade in cotton by Gina B) ( £120)

piping materials – cord and bias cotton tape – 36 metres ( !!!) ( £20)

10 pairs of hooks and eyes ( £2.00)

cotton lace ( broderie anglaise) – £12

calico for patterning

 

Time – about  20 hours

I experimented with the patterning first, to create the collar and upper bodice pieces. I used first the dummy and once I had the basics in place, I put it on myself, wearing stays ( modern dummies have  their busts in a very different position!)

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The skirts and sleeves were easy, didn’t have to do mock ups from them but used my blocks – so far so good!

The tricky part was the piped elements – I have never done piping before, and although it is strange to embark on a heavily piped garment without prior experience, I do Like a challenge. So I read some instructions  ( very good introduction on Historical Sewing!)practiced  on a bit of spare cotton,  and then whizzed all 36 metres of it.

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that’s the first batch…

Then it was time to apply it onto the  tabs…

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tabs on the front panel of the skirts

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took a few hours, that did, very boring hours… first the sirs, then the bodice, oversleeves and  and cuffs…

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It was at that point that I noticed that the slits on the hem, oversleeves and collar are well, let us say, distinctively feminine looking, and from that point on the redingote got a working name – The Pussy Frock….:-)

Next stage was to mount  the piped elements onto the proper pieces… this stage had to be done all by hand, and it took forever. to sweeten the labour, a suitable viewing was required…. 🙂

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2 episodes later, one side is done…

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the oversleeves

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the cuff

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bodice piping mounted

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The pussies on the hem….

 

Once all the piping was sorted and on, the redingote was assembled, lined, hooks and eyes added, belt added – and then the pompoms were sewn on:-)

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all ready!

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and then it struck me – I might actually need  a walking dress  to go on top of my petticoat….. we planned to do some  dance practice and redingote, lovely as it is, may not be the best choice to prance around the dancefloor…

a 4 metres of self striped cotton and 5 hours later I had a simple day dress sorted…

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The proper hat was almost ready for Bath – almost, I had trouble with the cockerel feathers mounting so in the end I decided go go for a different bonnet – straw base decorated with ribbon s and flowers. I finished it later on – but still not happy with it, I am not re-thinking the feathers mount options….

still, for the time being we got this:-)

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   As for the layers – I am wearing a linen chemise, a long line corset,  a petticoat,  a day dress, stockings, shoes, hats etc…. quite a lot.

  The whole outfit is surprisingly comfortable and the piping makes it quite heavy too.  the best things is, when it gets dirty, you just wash it  with no special care – after all, it is all cotton!

 What I need now is a spencer, I think…. and a woolen pelisse for colder days.. .and another ball gown….. 🙂

 Credits:

 clothes – Prior Attire;

 boots – unbelievably comfy ones from American Duchess – when they arrived I suspected the heel will chafe – but after 3 hours of walking and 2 hours of dancing, my feet were snug and comfy – so a great buy!

 umbrella – Sherri Light; I supplied the silk, Sherri covered an antique frame and added antique silk fringe. Love it!

 stockings, ribbons and  straw hat base – Dressing History

 pompoms – Gina B Silkworks

 photography –Pitcheresque Imagery

Fabrics for historical costuming

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We all know that very often it is the fabric that makes The Dress. A wisely chosen set of materials will bring out the beauty of the design, will enhance the tailoring – or even hide some dressmaking mistakes.  A less than perfectly sewn dress will look amazing if the fabric is right – and a fantastically well stitched creation can be badly marred by a poor fabric choice.

Naturally what fabrics we chose differs – all depends on the purpose of the garment. If it is a one off frock cobbled together for a friend’s fancy dress party,  you may not want to spend a lot on expensive silks; however if you are planning  a creation that you are going to wear a lot, or if you strive for authenticity, the correct fabric choice is essential.

In this post I shall mostly concentrate on the historical accuracy and will try to provide a basic reference on which fabrics to use in which period. The list is aimed at providing a very general overview, so I won’t be getting into details like which weight for which garment in which century – would take ages and would make for a very, very long post indeed!  I have learnt a lot over the last 20 or so years in the field – but am not omniscient, so if you know of an article or a reference that would be helpful with researching which fabrics were used  when, please post in a  comment and I will add it onto the article –  it would be very much appreciated!

I will also get a list of providers of the fabrics I use most often.

So, there we go!

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Medieval.

Linen:  for undergarments, shirts, basic tunics, lining, gambesons, etc. Bleached linen for the unmentionables for the wealthy, unbleached, natural one for the less fortunate. Other colours ( reds, blues, browns, pinks etc were used for tunics, kirtles, linings etc. Different weights were used for different  garments.

Wool –  different weights and types were used – including   patterns – herringbone and diamond were apparently quite popular in the dark ages and Viking era for example; fulled wools tend to become popular from 9-10 century, whereas plain weaves were generally available throughout the period. napped and sheared wool start to appear in the 14th century too ( broadcloth, wool satins etc)

Silk –  plain weaves and some patterns are used from mid medieval period in the north of Europe,  earlier in the south – proximity to Byzantium and the silk route.  Available only for the wealthiest, really – and even then was used sparingly considering its great value. Plain weave, early taffetas ( 13-14th century), basic brocades and damasks were used. Silk velvet starts to appear in the end of 13th century, if I remember well, and by 15th has evolved into several styles ( cut, uncut patterns etc).

Raw silk was probably used more by the steppe tribes, and duponi was not used much either, apparently.

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14th century dress in wool, lined with linen

Cotton – although there are some references to cotton imported from India, they are very rare – fustian was used however (cotton/linen blend) and there were several fustian manufactures established on the continent.  In England cotton as a name is used in the 16th century and most likely refers to woolen cloth!

Great article on the use of cotton in the medieval, Elizabethan and Stuart era – here 

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silk/linen brocade, fleur de lys pattern

16-17th century

 Linen – different weights any types ( cambric, lawn, Holland, buckram etc) – for undergarments, linings, ruffs, coifs, interlining, aprons, doublets, waistcoats etc

Wool – lots of varieties by that time, including blends with linen and silk; looks for broadcloth, scarlet, kersey, worsted, stammel, russet, cotton etc ); also, as mocado ( velvet using wool pile instead of silk)

Silk – again, lots of silk types used, in a variety of weights, patterns, blends ( cloth of gold, cloth of silver, tinsel) and grades. Look for satins, damask, velvets,grosgrain, sarcenet, taffets) Different types and patterns were popular in different decades. A good link showing some types- here 

Don’t be tempted by duponis ( existed, but very rare as second rate fabrics – contrary to today, slubs were frowned upon apparently), noil, stretch or crushed velvets…. Not period….

(Duponi lovers, do not despair, modern powerwoven duponi has hardly any slubs at all may be used as an alternative to taffeta. just avoid the slubby stuff where it shows…)

Cotton – see medieval note

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Tudor gown in cloth of silver

 18th century

Linen – underwear,  waistcoats, breeches, also dresses in the second half of the century ( especial pattern or printed) – polonaises, jackets etc

Wool – breeches, waistcoats, coats, capes, cloaks, riding habits, travelling outfits, uniforms etc

Cotton – at last! Getting more and more popular – and cheaper (cotton from the West Indies and America) and with the Industral Revolution on its way, the invention of the Spinning Jenny and more advanced mechanical looms  meant being ablt to make cotton cloth in Englad too (  1774 saw the lift of the heavy tas levied on  brit produced cotton – it was established in the beginning of the century to protect native textile industry, and its revoking opened the marked for locally made cotton cloth :-); I believe the first cotton velvet is mentioned in 1790 or thereabouts – there is an extant male waistcoat made in cotton velvet in the States.

Silk –  taffetas, brocades, damasks, velvets –plain or very specific patterns –famous Spitalfields silks ; used for dresses, petticoats, coats, breeches, waistcoats, frockcoats etc

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striped silk for a polonaise

19th century

Linen, as before

Cotton – including muslin, lawn, voile and plain cottons for dresses, pelisses, breeches, linings etc also undergarments including corsetry

Wool – coats, habits, suits, cloaks, dresses, uniforms,  – everything goes! A variety of types and weights are used, broadcloth, superfine, shallon, worsted etc

Silks – velvets ( still mostly silks, cotton velvets or plushes used as furnishing fabrics too), tafettas, grosgrain, damasks, brocades, twills, satins etc – a great range of fabrics of different weights, weave and patterns used

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more stripes , wool this time, made into a Victorian bodice

 A few generic notes

*avoid man-made, artificial fibres whenever you can. Polyester taffetas may be cheap – and not only do they looks so, but they are a nightmare to work with too.

*Sometimes (well, almost always!) quality will hit your pocket hard – but in the long run, it is worth it.  Don’t go for plastic embroidered duponis etc – save up  for a month or two and get plain silk taffeta; if you cannot afford a dress in silk velvet, use a cheaper silk, or blend – or wool – a very period thing to do, plus it is easier to clean.

*Hunt for bargains –  I have searches set up on ebay looking for  different silk fabrics and sending me reports every week – some of the listings are useless, but sometimes you can  stumble upon real treasures! Go to sales at silk mills, fabric stores etc.

*If possible,  do not skimp on fabric. True, sometimes you get  a fantastic end of roll silk –  and there is only so much of it – then piece the panels up and of course use it – but if you are at liberty to  get the proper amount of the fabric for the project, do so.

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Silk brocade, Victorian

Trims and embellishment.

More or less similar things apply – avoid artificial stuff!  Elastic plastic lace will spoil any Victorian outfit, rayon guipure  lace will clash with proper Elizabethan fabrics. Also mark that different type of lace or braids were used in different periods – putting a cluny lace onto a 12th century bliaud instead of tablet woven braid will not do you any favours.

Again, please mark all those notes are for historical attire – if you are making fantasy, bridal, steampunk, etc garments, you have  much more freedom with the fabrics and embellishment choice – I  love experimenting with the alternative bridal styles or Steampunk looks as my imagination can run wild and I can go for the trims and interesting fabrics that I cannot use for historical gear!

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steampunk wedding gown using poly taffeta and satin – looks ok, but was an absolute nightmare to work with!

 Suppliers, in no particular order

Historical textiles – great quality  broadcloth, superfine and other

Hainsworths – wool

Whaleys – cotton, linen, silk

Bernie the Bolt – wool, linen, cotton – frequents UK and Europen markets – no website:-(

 Herts Fabrics – wool, linen –

 Renaissance fabrics – wool, linen, silks – lovely stuff!

Sew curvy – corsetry fabrics ( coutil, broche, drill)

 James Hare – lovely silks,  great lace,- you will need a trader’s account

 Silk Baron – silk velvet ( 80/20%), taffetas, duponi

Quartermasterie – lovely silks, also stunning silk velvet on cotton backing  – no website though! frequents UK markets

Harrington Fabrics – lace, silks, lovely brocades  – trader’s account needed

Watts&Co – church fabrics, absolutely gorgeous but very pricey ( looking at   £100 – £250 per metre, many fabrics made to order only)

Sartor – – historical textiles –  – great fabrics, do check the fibre composition information, as many of the stunning historical patterns are made in blends – half silk, half viscose:-(! some are 100% silk though and are a great find.

MacCulloch and Wallis – cloth, lace, haberdashery

Duran textiles AB – lovely silks and cotton prints, suitable for 18th and 19th century

Tudor Tailor – lovely wools suitable for Tudor and later costuming, plus linen and calico

Wm.Booth Draper –  great fabrics especially for 18th and 19th century

Happy shopping!

 

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Officer’s jacket, Napoleonic era – Military bling galore!

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I do not do men’s garments after 1800.  But some people are very persuasive ( or simply very stubborn)…

In this case one of my existing customers ( I made a whole set of Regency wardrobe for his lovely lady last winter) managed to persuade me that I wanted nothing more than to make his new gear. A consensus was made, I gave under pressure and agreed to making shirts, waistcoats and the blingy coat, but drew a line at pantaloons. I shouldn’t have bothered at that line as it later turned out that since another tailor was a bit behind and wouldn’t be able to do the pantaloons – and  so I ended up making 2 pairs of the trousers. And a nice redingote for the lady…

The inspiration was the dress jacket from the National Army Museum 

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Over July measurements were made, toiles were fitted and all the ingredients were assembled – and there was a lot to assemble!

The cloth ( broadcloth) came from Historical Textiles,  silly amount of military lace and braid from Hand&Lock, and some more braid and buttons were provided by the customer.

I started with the waistcoat….

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pockets!

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eyelets at the back

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the waistcoat closes with hooks and eyes

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ready!

Time for the jacket….

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lace was applied and i started applying the trim….

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all the wriggly bits ( official term!) in place

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time to play with the front decoration…..

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the innards showing the stitches – the braid was attached with a strong linen thread.  The whole jacket was later lined in red light woolen cloth ( shalloon)

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sleeves ready!

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and the result:-)

the pantaloons were next – and they worked surprisingly well! 2 pairs were maid, one on navy broadcloth, one in white one…

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back waist detail

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done!

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front detail

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and the navy pair

The whole set was worn at Bath during the Jane Austen festival – and as we were there for the Ball,  Lucas took some pictures of it all being worn together:-)

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very dapper….

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back view

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undressed…

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and chatting with the ladies….

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At the ball with his lay wife, who is also sporting a Prior Attire kit:-)

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and if you are wondering about the prices…

well, the blingy bits ( lace, braids, buttons) were well over £200,

fabric – broadcloth is at around £50 a metre ( and worth every penny!) –  6m were used.

1m of shallon for jacket lining, – £21

shirts, lining and neckclothes –  linen – 3m – £26

calico for toiles and interlining – £10

altogether the materials cost more or less around £400

Labour for it all – roughly £1000…..  it took altogether about 60 hours to complete….more or less.

Not a cheap  set – and obviously the accessories  were of fantastic quality and also , I imagine, rather dear. But gosh, doesn’t it all look fantastic! 🙂

And surprisingly – I really enjoyed making it, so watch this space, I don’t think it is the end of military bling for me!

May 2015 update –  and indeed it wasn’t….. since then I have made a corsetted waistcoat  and another set of a waistcoat and dolman, even blingier than this one:-)

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Credits

Cloth and help with patterning – Sean Phillips from Historical Textiles

Military lace:Hand&Lock

braid and buttons and the barrel sash:Stitch in Time

leatherwork – Peter Stroud – Menagerie Leatherwork

Photography – Pitcheresque Imagery

and all of this has been brought together by Prior Attire

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First Impressions – Regency Ball

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Pray excuse my blatant use of the original, unofficial title of ‘Pride and Prejudice’, but it was exceedingly appropriate here for once 🙂

Let me explain.

Last weekend we partook of a Regency Ball in Bath – marking the end of the week-long festivities going on there during the 14th annual Jane Austen festival. It was our first ball there, and my first visit to Bath –  Regency is not my favourite period and I felt that I couldn’t be bothered to make something specifically for the occasion, but as last December  I had to make an evening gown for the 1820 Christmas feature for NBC (details here), I thought – I have the frock, I might just as well use it! Since Lucas had appropriate kit ( his wedding gear plus a pair of new breeches I cobbled together ), the decision was made and tickets were bought.

More on the clothes that I finally did make in other posts –  today we are looking at our own ‘First Impressions’…

 

 

The Ball was a fantastic event- even better, there was a dance practice in the afternoon, preparing us for the exertions of the evening, and the town was lovely – especially the gardens. In the evening there were about 200 people strolling around, dancing, drinking, playing cards and other games – a very convivial evening. The food was fantastic and there was plenty of it, and the musicians excelled.

All together, a perfect evening – we danced until we could hardly walk, we talked and laughed ’til we couldn’t speak and generally had fun.

Of course, all through the evening,  my professional costumier’s eye was noting the details of the clothes being worn. Naturally, there were no ‘authenticity police’ rigorously barring the entrance  to all those whose kit didn’t pass ‘historical inspection’ – so a huge variety in quality was observed.

Some dresses were amazing, some mediocre, some fairly awful – however,this was not a fashion show but a social occasion so it didn’t really matter. The idea was for everybody to have fun – and so no unkind words were said by anybody, which I thought was terrific – after all, many guests simply rented the costumes for the evening, or cobbled things together for themselves at the last minute, whereas others had evidently been sewing for years and preparing for the occasion for months.  Good breeding shows in good manners, and manners were excellent all round that night!

Having said all that, my professional inner self was taking notes – I noticed a few interesting facts and thought I share them with you.

It was interesting to notice that on average the gentlemen’s wear was of a much higher quality than ladies’: all the men looked very dashing, be they in regimental or civilian gear. I may not be too enthusiastic about the ladies wear of the era, but by Jove, the men’s fashions were just amazing. What was even more interesting – the cut of the dolmans, jackets, tailcoats, etc, made all the blokes walk and move differently, with a proud and graceful posture – no slouching, no dragging feet or shuffling to be seen. Amazing!

As far as ladies wear is concerned, I realised  a very peculiar thing. The costumier in me looked at every gown, true – but as the evening progressed I noticed that the ladies who stood out most and looked the most authentic were not necessarily the ones with the best dresses…  It was the lasses who took care of all the elements together who looked the best overall. I have previously ranted at length about period silhouette, hair, accessories, etc (links to the  relevant posts  at the end of this post), and now I have the perfect proof.

Some amazingly well made dresses, all hand stitched silks, lovingly embroidered hems, etc, looked rather sad without their proper undergarments, (and yes, a lady’s posture without them is immediately recognisable); a few otherwise lovely gowns were also somewhat marred by modern hairdos and faces caked with make up and mascara.

On the other hand, there were gowns that were not really that well made, or where the fabrics were not that fantastic – but they looked spot-on as the wearer invested in proper undergarments (or perhaps had a naturally Regency suited figure ;-), had a proper hairdo (and not necessarily a complex one – there were a some very good, simple hairstyles that worked beautifully!), and went easy on the modern make up.
Add a pair of gloves, a shawl  and sometimes a reticule – and  all together the wearer stood out from the crowd – not merely a woman in fancy party dress, (however good it might be), but a woman truly wearing the clothes of the era.

The effect of taking such care was really amazing- indeed it was often easy to overlook how simple a dress really was, or what fabric was used – because it was the whole picture that caught the eye, not the mere details.
And it so happens that a girl in a borrowed,  poorly- fitting or cheaply made dress looked better (and at no great cost!) than  some ladies who spent a fortune on an elaborate silk gown but neglected the rest. The underwear and details do make such a difference – So voila – the First Impressions!

And yes, some first impressions would not pass a closer look unscathed – but for this particular occasion it simply didn’t matter 🙂

Disclaimer: It is not my intention to offend anyone with this post, criticize their outfits  etc. it is just an impartial observation about the difference the attention to detail can make.

Promised links –

Looking the part1:(undergarments)

Looking the part 2 ( hair and make up)

 Looking the part 3 ( accossories)

 

and a few photos from the event!

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great cap and bonnet combo!

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yep, that’s us!

 

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loved that blue gown in the later style, fantastic!

 

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Fifty Shades of Sepia…

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With the trailer of the film running amok in the internet and showing in every feed, we were a bit fed up with the 50 shades of Gray overexposure.  I do sincerely hope the film is going to be better than the book, which was a serious abuse of my gray matter – those who have read it know it, those who didn’t – well, if you fancy a badly written parody with hardly any plot, no character development worth speaking about and seriously bored soliloquies  and dialogues ( blessedly short, mind you  ) – have a go, you’ll enjoy it once you realize it is a bit of a parody:-). Anyway, fingers crossed the film will be at least a bit more interesting.

In the meantime, we decided to have our own 50 Shades – but in sepia… Lucas  went through our few last stock photoshoots ( the Edwardian corsetry and Stock photography) and picked out the most tasteful/funny/ridiculous/atmospheric  shoots of historical lingerie and render them in sepia….

 

Here is Mr. Sepia himself…

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and  his girls…

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Hope  you like the experiment – some of the corsets etc are still available in our shop!

Many thanks to our elegantly playful models : Miss Lilian Love, Helen Radlett, Adrianna Renarde  and Anett Novak

Photography –Picturesque Imagery – you can find more  images from the session here

 

1810 Riding Habit

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 1810 Riding habit.

 

Today we are looking  at  yet anothern of my favourites,  a Regency riding habit,  closely based on the exhibit from the Kyoto Costume Institute ( if you have the book, it is on page171-173,  inv AC5313, 86-2AB –  or simply find it here. I am not really a fan of Regency fashions as they are not exactly flattering for my figure, but this habit did catch my eye and my imagination because of its simple elegance and surprisingly, not such a high waistline.  And so, after craving it for the last two years or so, the time had come for me to tackle the project about 2 years ago – and if you fancy having a go as well, I hope you find the information and the instructions below useful.

 1. close up of the original  habit

riding habit 1810

 Background information and research.

 

Those two photos were all I really had to go with. I did write to the Institute asking if it was possible to obtain more information regarding the cloth, lining or the buttons – or maybe just a few more images, but was very politely told that the museum did not provide that service.  So all I had was a short description stating that it is ‘a Riding Suit, c.1810; black wool broadcloth; set of tailored jacket and a skirt of appropriate length for horse riding’.

Not much then – but a start.

The decoration on the front of the jacket is very similar to another item from the institute, a hunting Jacket – a spencer (INV.AC3187 80-8-1, dated 1815). The length of the spencer is also reminiscent of the one of the riding jacket.

The back of the jacket closely resembles that of the riding habit in Salisbury museum described in detail by Janet Arnold in her Patterns of Fashion 1 (page 46). The Salisbury museum skirt features there would also be suitable for my project – there are differences between the original I had in mind, but after careful deliberation, I decided to stick on to the well documented source and pattern instead of doing more improvising.

 

The idea was then to use the pattern from Janet Arnold for the skirt and the back of the bodice, and improvise the front of the jacket – and as i have discovered a little bit later on, exactly what another excellent costumier had done before – though she seemed to have opted for the hunting spencer front instead (http://www.koshka-the-cat.com/riding_habit.html).

 

 

 Materials needed

Black broadcloth wool – 3.5m;

Silk taffeta (lining of the jacket, plus skirts bodice) – 1.5m

Linen (lining for the skirt bodice (0.5m)

40 Wooden moulds for the jacket buttons (or just use ordinary buttons)

2 small and 4 tiny buttons or moulds for the skirt bodice closure

A strip of buckram for lining the collar

Black and white linen thread,

Beige silk thread

2m of linen tape for the skirt ties

Hooks and eyes if you plan to attach your jacket to the skirt

 

  The skirt.

The skirt is attached to a small silk bodice, lined with linen.  There is no mention of the skirt being lined at all – not surprisingly though, since lining the skirt with silk or even linen, would render it even more slippery and compromise the rider’s grip. My 18th century habit  has a skirt lined with silk, as that’s what the original had for lining, and whereas it rides well and I wouldn’t have problems riding in a show in it, I would not take it out hunting. Considering the fact that in the Regency period side saddles were not the safest contraptions (the leaping head that provides so much more secure grip was yet to be invented), and taking into the account the fact that due to the fencing off the countryside jumping the fences became a necessity, a spirited lady who wished to follow the hunt needed all the help she could get. Indeed, it is believed that some were even strapping themselves to the saddles to help them over the fences  – not the safest idea really. All things considered, it looked as the lack of lining made sense – many thanks to Gini Newton and Becca Holland for helping me out with this issue! )

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The pattern –  Janet Arnold. I scaled the bodice pattern to fit me, but left the skirt as it was without any changes.

The  skirt bodice construction:

3. linen mock up pieces - later used as lining

3. linen mock up pieces – later used as lining

1. Cut out the pieces in calico or linen to form a mock up. If you are lucky and your mock up doesn’t require any serious changes, your linen mock up can serve as the lining.

2. Pin or baste the pieces together, leaving it open on the right side. Try on – either on yourself or on a pre-prepared dummy. Make sure you try it on the underwear you are planning to wear with it – especially if you are wearing Regency stays – the bust position is very different to the one the modern bra gives – particularly true for more ample bosoms.

3. Adjust as necessary till you are satisfied with the outcome. Unpin the pieces and use them to draw the pattern.

4.  Cut out the bodice in your top fabric and lining.

5. Sew the top pieces together: first insert the little gussets in the front pieces, and then sew the back pieces and left front together. Add the shoulder straps. The right piece with the gusset is on its own for the time being, it will be stitched directly to the waistband of the skirt later. Press the seams open.  Repeat the same steps with the lining pieces

4. top fabric sewn together

top fabric sewn together

 

4. Fold the top edges of the silk and stitch it down.  Snip the curves and notch to avoiding bulk- the fabric should lay flat on the curves

6. top fabric edges folded and  pinned up ready to be  sewn

 

8. silk bodice with edges secured

silk bodice with edges secured

5. Pin the lining to the top pieces and stitch them together.  Press.

Note: if you prefer to save time and use the sewing machine, simply skip the step 4 and 5: pin the lining and top fabric right sides together and sew alongside the top edges. Turn outside out and press.

 

You now have the bodice ready, time for the other components – the skirt, bustle pad and the pocket.

The skirt.

  1. Cut the fabric according to the pattern.
  2. Sew the pieces together.
  3. Hem the skirt – an inch wide hem seems to work fine, giving it enough weight, but smooth finish too.
  4. Place the skirt on a flat surface and pin the tapes into position.I used the same position as in the original, but do try it out first to make sure that the tied up skirt is not too short or too long. Stitch them securely, but make sure the stitches do not show too much on the right side.

10. pinning the tapes inside the skirt

  1.    Cut small tabs and place them on the hem directly below the individual ties. Stitch firmly into position – only at the short sides, making sure the tapes can pass under them freely
11.a tabs in place! (4)

tabs in place!

  1.  Cut out the waistband – it should be long enough to go around your high waist with a small overlap, and quite narrow.
  2. If you plan to have a watch pocket , cut it out now in two layers of silk or linen – it should be big enough to accommodate your watch  (or a ph0ne….). Place right sides together, sew, turn out and press.

12. pocket ready

It is time to put all the pieces together – and it is not an easy task!

  1. Pin the bodice parts onto the waistband. Try to waistband on and make sure the pieces are in the right position.  You might discover it is easier to simply put the waistband on the dummy, then pin the pieces onto it – saves time. Mark the final position of the bodice on the waistband and sew – make sure you sew only through the top layer of the bodice.
  2.   Pin the skirt onto the waistband– the front part is mostly lying flat, the back will be cartridge pleated. At that stage you are simply making sure where to start the pleating!
  3. If you are happy with the position and know how much fabric has to be pleated into how much space, prepare a needle with a long and strong thread and sew a running stitch through the skirt to be pleated. The pleats should be small – depending on how much fabric you have, you should have your stitches around 1cm long. Draw the thread to see if the pleated section matches its place on the waistband. If it does, tie a strong knot in the thread to make sure the pleats stay together.
  4.  Sew the skirt onto the waistband – use the machine for the front parts where the skirt lies flat, and then, with a strong thread attach the cartridge pleats

13. attaching the cartridge pleats onto the waistband

  1.  Try the skirt on – again a dummy is a good option as well.You can now mark the position of the buttons on the shoulder straps – do not do it earlier on as the weight of the skirt will change the position of the bodice a bit!
14. trying the almost finished skirt on a padded dummy

trying the almost finished skirt on a padded dummy

  1.  If everything fits snugly, attach the pocket to the waistband. Then sew the lining onto the waistband, covering its insides

15. all pieces together - not the waistband can be covered by the lining of the bodice

  1.  Cut out the little bustle pieces, place right sides together and sew along the outside edges, leaving part of the inside open. Turn inside out and stuff with some scraps. Pin  or sew shut  and stitch to the waistband at the back of the skirt

18. bustle pad stitched in position

  1.  All that needs to be done now is to sew the buttons on ( I covered mine with taffeta, using tiny ones on the shoulder straps and bigger ones at the side closure then make the buttonholes.

20. side closure buttons

The skirt is ready now!  Here worn tied up to facilitate walking around..

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 The jacket.

As mentioned before, I decided to use the pattern for the back from Janet Arnold and to improvise the front.

  1. Cut the back pieces in calico using a scaled pattern from J. Arnold. Cut all the back pieces including the peplum gussets etc. Also, cut out the sleeve.
  2. Draw a simple piece or the front – the important measurements here are the width – front to side seam at the bust and the waist level, the shoulder seam and the front length.
  1.  Pin the parts together and put the jacket on the dummy. Pin the back piece onto the dummy and start working on your experimental piece. Mark the waist position, the length in front, back and sides. Mark the darts.  Once the front starts to resemble a piece of clothing, take it off the dummy, adjust the corrections, and sew the mock up parts together.
  2.  Put it on the dummy again – if the back and sides are ok when the front is closed, you can now work on the shape of the lapels. Mark how long you want them to be, where is the best place to attach the collar, how high you want it to button up. Draft a collar pattern and experiment with that too.

 

  1.   Adjust as many times as necessary till you are satisfied with the look. Then take the mock up off the dummy – it is a good idea to try it on now on your own body too.
22. paper pattern for the jacket ready

paper pattern for the jacket ready

 

Note – it hugely helps if you have another person who knows her/his way around patterning helping  – then you can skip the dummy process and have the patterns adjusted directly on yourself.

  1.  Unpick the seams, perform any necessary corrections and voila! You have a pattern.  You can now use your calico pieces as a stock pattern or use them to copy the pattern on a paper.
  2.  Cut out the pieces in your lining fabric

23. lining pieces cut out

  1.    Just on the safe side (if you are not lucky enough to have another costumier at hand…) pin the lining together and try it on  your stays and skirt. Any corrections here should be small, but better to see them on the lining than on the top fabric.  Here, although the mock up seemed fine,  I discovered the shoulder seams still needed adjusting
24. lining pinned, tried onto the corset and the skirt for one final check

lining pinned, tried onto the corset and the skirt for one final check

25. lining pinned - back view

lining pinned – back view

  1.  Adjust if necessary , transfer any corrections onto the pattern and then and sew the lining pieces together

26. lining stitched together

  1.  Cut out the top fabric pieces.  Stitch the darts in the front parts first. Sew in the back gusset, then the front pieces and then the little side and back peplum pieces. Sew the shoulder seam.

27. jacket top fabric stitched - back view

  1.  For authentic looking finish – and if your fabric is difficult to open seam press, couch the seams down with linen or silk thread. Fold the edges and stitch them down.
  2. The sleeves – sew the top fabric sleeves – you can leave the cuff part open, or closed. Couch down the seam.  The lining: stitch the cuffs to the lining of the sleeves first  then sew them shut.
30. lining sleeves with the cuffs attached

lining sleeves with the cuffs attached

 

31. lining sleeves ready

lining sleeves ready

  1. Insert the sleeves into the armscythes. Pin carefully from underside first.  When you reach the top part of the shoulder, you will see there is some fabric left. Either form it into small pleats to fit the armhole, or, as I did, use a strong thread to sew a running stitch near the edge and gather the pleats as you would have done for cartridge pleating – though here is simply helps to control the tiny pleats. Pin the section in place. Sew the sleeve in and repeat for the second sleeve and for the lining sleeves.
  2.  Time for the collar.  You should have the pieces cut out – both top side and lining in wool
32.

the collar pieces

  1.  Take the top fabric piece and attach a small piece of buckram using parallel rows of stitching.
33.

collar inside – attaching the buckram

  1. Sew the reinforced collar onto the jacket.
  2.  Put the lining in. Pin it carefully to the bodice and sew. Once you have done the bottom hem, and attached the lining in front and upper parts, do the same do the wool cuffs at the sleeves
35.

detail of the lining stitched to the bodice

  1. For the front, I have decided to use a facing. Cut the facing part big enough for the front part of the jacket, you will need 2 pieces. Stitch them carefully to the front, upper and lower edge of the jacket – and to the lining near the dart.
37.

facing pinned in ready for stitching

  1. Pin and stitch the collar lining into place. Mark the position of the front buttonholes than set to work on them – either on a machine or by hand.

 

38.

buttonholes and buttons in place

  1.  If you are lucky enough to have appropriate buttons ready – all that remains is to sew the buttons on. If not – make the buttons using moulds and bits of your top fabric.
  2.  Sew the buttons to the front edge, then proceed to add the decorative ones on both sides of the bodice, at the cuffs (if you want to have buttoned cuffs, that is), and at the peplum

 

Your habit is now ready!

The whole outfit is worn over a chemise and stays (here once made using a Mantua  Makers pattern – minus the lacing on the hip gussets. The others I had with lacing on tended to dig into the flesh when riding…).

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Then a linen petticoat, and a habit shirt with frilled cuffs, with a simple silk stock.

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My hat here is a simple silk topper with some rooster feathers attached.

 

and the result – photos  on foot – from an event in Hereford

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And with a mount..

 

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Side saddle pictured  here is of a Victorian design – much safer to ride in than the Regency ones, and the skirt works reasonably well, although it has to be said that without a help of a groom who would hoist me into the saddle and help the skirt lie flat over the pommels, it was very difficult to get the folds lie correctly and to adjust the length. Still, the skirt seemed to be reasonably secure to be ridden in, though the cut means it is not perfect for the Victorian saddle.    but more about the Victorian habit in a few days time…. 🙂

 

Bibliography

Janet Arnold, Patterns of Fashion, Macmillan,  New York, 1984

The Collection of the Kyoto Costume Institute; Fashion, a History from the 18th to the 20th century,  Taschen, 2002

Digital Archives of Kyoto Costume Institute: http://www.kci.or.jp/archives/index_e.html [Accessed 8/01/2012]

Garage Fire and Post-Conflagration Photoshoot

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As some of you may already know, on December 28th we had a garage fire – a faulty socket started a rather unexpected conflagration. The fire was discovered by our neighbours and the fire brigade was called….

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whatever you do, do not open the door…. raging inferno inside….

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fire quenched…. all steaming nicely…

The firemen did a starling job, and an hour later the garage was soaked in water, steaming like hell, but secure – and so the boys left,  bearing quite a lot of our post Christmas posh choccies –  at least a token of gratitude.

The next morning we inspected the damage….  there was a lot of personal items there, bikes, re-enactment stuff, tools, tents, camping gear, furniture etc – but also almost all my stock – both finished items ( including the gowns from the Autumn Bride collection) and  wool, silk and linen awaiting their turn to be sewn up into lovely costumes. It also contained quite a lot of other people’s items,  things left  behind, or brought for re sizing, embellishment etc…

The inspection did not bring good news – just a few pictures here…

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that heap contains most of our re-enactment footwear – Regency riding boots, 18th century shoes, medieval ones, my cavalry boots ; all melted….

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that’s what remained of my bucket tops cavalry boots….

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unlikely survivors… fire-starters… how ironic!

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the culprit

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the clothes were ruined – the ones n plastic covers, or in the wardrobe were covered with melted plastic, charred, some burnt. some , mostly wool, were just dirty – but changed size a bit – being first hot, then wet, and then drying up in still hot garage overnight, the wool shrank…

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  Fortunately we were insured – unfortunately I didn’t realize  that in order to cover the 3rd party items i need to have an additional third party option – public liability was apparently no good, as the folks who lost their things would have to claim on their own insurances and prove that I was liable – negligent, or actually starting the fire. since it was plain I wasn’t – they would lose the case. So now it looks like the money the insurance is going to pay for the stock and business equipment  is going to be mostly spent on paying up other people. The insurers were a bit surprised that that ‘s what i need to do – they clearly though that was other people loss and nothing to do with me. It was just as clear to me, that i cannot afford to treat my clients so – and they are all being reimbursed ( about 4 grand…) as soon as the money arrives..   lesson to other costumers etc – do check your insurances for the 3rd party damage!  I have learnt my lesson….

 I will  just have enough to pay up for the new fabrics to help me rebuild the stock ( will take a few years…).  oh well. Not a good start of  the year, but nobody was hurt – and most of the possessions are just that – possessions….

 There was a silver lining though – we decided that the lovely charred wall in the garage and all the damaged items are only too good not to take advantage of, so we held 2 photo shoots in the garage, exploring the post apocalyptic, distressed ideas, letting the gowns shine one last time….

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a bit of Judith and Holofernes going on here….

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good acting, Lucas!

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a bit of lady Borgia….

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Pride and prejudice and the Zombies!

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 Many, many thanks to the models who come over and got dirty with us!

 photography – Pitcheresque Imagery

models: Miss Lilian Love, Helen Underwood, Jenny Bowers, Izabela Pitcher, Lucas Pitcher