Well, I thought our previous event at the venue was a blast – but this year it was even better! After a year of preparations, marketing, meetings, sales, dealing with emergencies and unplanned changes, sewing and general organisational madness, … Continue reading
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sleeves were next – and they were the most time-consuming…
Cutting up the base and the satin layer first –
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.
Once the gathers were positioned, I was able to add the overlay with the cut out holes and the gold metallic trim
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.
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…
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…
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 ? 🙂
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 🙂
We even made a short video about how to put on a regency brassiere: – enjoy!
Many thanks to PItcheresque Imagery for the photos!
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!
It all started innocently enough – I was approached to create a set of Georgian attire for a ball by new customers, a lovely couple.
We discussed the designs, fabrics , fitting schedule etc, and it was all going smoothly – and then I just had to ask: what ball is it anyway?
And hearing it is the one in Bath, organized by the Bath Minuet Company, we just had to go along and buy tickets….. after all we did enjoy the Regency Ball there a lot! And Eleanor, our friend jumped at the opportunity and joined in – and commissioned a frock too. So suddenly I ended up with having 2 big commissions plus trying to get some time to make Lucas; kit – and maybe there would be just enough time to get mine sorted too – I had my pink robe anglaise, just in case I wouldn’t, but since I got some lovely brocade last November, I did hope to be able to knock something out for myself too.
Eleanor’s set was done first, as she was available for fittings early… After much deliberation on which fabrics o use, Eleanor decided on a crispy mat silk in slate – we had quite a lot of and it went very well with pink roses and gold braid, and the design was loosely based on the robe francaise worn by Mme de Pompadour.
the foundations were first – stays, and pocket hoops in silk!
then the petticoat, and draping on the francaise – there was loads of fabric going into it!
The original commission that started the whole Georgian frenzy was interesting too – a suit of black satin for the gentleman, with an embroidered waistcoat, and a robe anglaise, with the cut away front ( zone front) for the lady. Plus set of undergarments for both.
I especially enjoyed working on the embroidery – with silver metallic tread and silk..
The lady’s kit consisted of a chemise, a pair of stays in silk brocade, skirt supports, skirt in silk satin, with a fringe, and a robe anglaise in striped silk…
with just 2 days to spare I was pressed for time to work on Lucas kit – and our initial plan of using gold and red pinstripe silk ( breeches, waistcoat and jacket) were discarded in favour for some lovely silk taffetta I was hoarding for myself – but it meant the colour could go with an original waistcoat Lucas already had, so less work… plus, how could I refuse my husband….
As much as I would like to spend days embroidering his jacket, making fancy buttons etc, we were pressed for time so drastic measures had to be taken – Lucas decided on a posh modern trim instead. Looks correct and although makes the kit more of a theatre costume than re-enactment piece, for the ball it worked just fine..
And then with just 8 hours to spare, I had a go at my robe francaise. I had just enough fabrics to get a francaise and petticoat in it, though not enough for any decoration and I even had to piece one sleeve and the flounces. I do love the fabric, and I was very lucky to get it at a reduced price – I payed £40 a metre instead of the usual £75 or so). The ladies at the Sudbury Silk Mill where I got it from said it was because of a fault running through the length, but since I could barely see it, i did not mind at all.
And it turned out I had just enough some matching taffeta from my stash to work a trim – paired with a chenille braid:-)
With just a few bits left to be stitched later on ( buttons) we were ready – and fortunately our wigs, ordered quite late from the States ( from Historical Hairdresser) arrived with a few days to spare!
The day of the ball was full of mishaps…. first I woke up with laringitis – voice gone completely….. Then, 1 hour into the drive we realised that Lucas’ lovely waistcoat is still at home….. so had to turn back… Then Bath was clogged up with roadworks and traffic jams. Luckily we were just in time to check into the hotel, get dressed and rush to the dance practice…
We had a few hours before the ball, so we finished last minute jobs, had a meal and started getting ready. 90 minutes before our carriage was supposed to arrive – and yes, carriage – we booked proper horsey transportation from Courtyard Carriages– the company called us saying they cannot do it, giving a rather feeble excuse. considering that we booked them with over a month before, that as a bit of a blow – so folks, if you are ever tempted to book a carriage in bath, Do NOT use them!
Still, we though, we will take a cab. WE will need a bigger one, to accommodate all the frockage, and so a suitable vehicle was booked, using a dedicated hotel line to a cab company.
But alas – when we got into the lobby, there was not a car to be found…. finally, after 8 calls from us, the hotel etc, and lots of excused on the side of the cab company, they sent us a car – 50 minutes after the agreed time! needless to say, we were not in the least amused – we basically missed most of the first half of the danceo not remember the name of the company, but if you are in the Travelodge Waterside, do not use the cabs line there – the hotel staff was very helpful, and it was not their fault, it was purely that the company were managed by an incompetent prat.
Still, an hour late, we made it…..
We had a lovely time dancing, chatting, taking photos, doing more dancing and admiring the dance demonstration from the Minuet company – and so the evening went ahead smoothly ( though on my part rather quietly – still no voice – some may argue it was a blessing, especially considering the mishaps – a lot of very bad language would have otherwise occurred…)
Lucas grabbed some photos too – enjoy!
first, the results of all that stitching….
And a few group shots too…
and a few of the dance demo
and some outtakes….
all together, it was a success and we will gladly come back again:-)
The next day saw us at the Assembly Rooms, meeting with Stuart and the caterers and discussing our Victorian ball in May – so looking forward to it too!