I know quite a lot of people have been expecting the account of our French adventures in Versailles – so here it is. I am afraid it will be a rather a disappointing one, as due to the unforeseen … Continue reading
There is a Georgian Festival in Stamford every other year – and this year we were contracted for a couple of jobs there ( thanks to Black Knight Historical).
The festivities lasted 3 full days with lots of lectures, meetings, Georgian market and living history – but our adventure started on Friday night – at the Georgian ball!
We arrived in plenty of time , and were led to a proper theatre style dressing room – and it turned out we were sharing it with Dr. Lucy Worsley, who dropped in for a moment of respite between her talks, book signing and other public duties. We have met before as worked for the Worsley/Starkey documentary in Hampton court the year before, so it wasn’t too awkward. Still, not often do we get to share a dressing room with a celebrity – and I felt a bit overdressed on the occasion 🙂
At the ball we danced, we chatted – and then provided some entertaining background during the buffet break as the folks were queuing for some lovely food – there was chatting, playing cards and some sketching taking place….
After the break ( and after eating rather a lot of left over cake) there was more dancing and frivolities – until it was time to drive back home….
Saturday was a day off, and Sunday we were taking part in the fashion show, so with a day off in between, I decided to make myself a new outfit – just because I have always wanted a jacket, and because i had the fabric for ages!
I made the skirt in a lovely quilted cotton, with a fringe, and then worked the rest of the day on a 1790 pierrot jacket.
I quickly drafted the pattern and then fitted it – mock up first and then playing with the real thing, in silk and linen
Sunday morning saw the jacket finished – but i had a few hours left before we had to make a move. so time to make a new hat! a gigantic one! Not the best of my creations, admittedly, but it did the job.
Then it was packing the gear and setting off.
The fashion show went down a treat – there was a huge variety of costumes, from different decades and different walks of life, and the commentary was super as well… a few behind the scenes shots..
some unspeakable and unmentionable things happened too….
After the show, I could change into my new bits and have a stroll around Stamford – and take a few pictures
But I was not exactly happy – I felt the wig did not work very well with the colours of the walking outfit. So when we got back home, I changed wigs and we went on to snatch some autumnal pictures at the local Nature Reserve…. much happier with these!
we even had a go at some heavy machinery….
all together, a cracking weekend was had!
photography – Lucas from Timelight Photographic
costuming – Prior Attire ( the walking outfit is now available for sale – here)
shoes – American Duchess, naturellment!
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!
This was my first proper l’anglaise and a bit of experiment ( which project isn’t?). It was originally intended as a show piece for the bridal branch of the business, Prior Engagement, and serve as an example of an 18th century frock for a historically minded bride….
The styling was loosely based on one of the gowns from the Kyoto Costume Institute , particularly this one. the petticoat and the robe were made form the same fabric and since i had quite a lot of dusty rose silk, the idea of making everything in it suited me to a T.
The stays were first – half boned, with coutil/canvas strength layer, boned with reeds, bound in silk.
The petticoat was next in line… – an easy rectangular shape, and nice and easy pleating did the job
Then only a waistband and it was ready!
Then it was time for the robe itself…. Mock up first. I used a pattern based on the Janet Arnold polonaise ( used for my very very first polonaise years ago!)
Once the bodice part of the gown was done, it was time to start pleating the skirts….
and it was ready!
It was first worn for the wedding photoshoot at Harrowden Hall – alas on a model that was 3 sizes too small 😦
Also, I wasn’t convinced about the petticoat in the same colour – looked a bit boring. However, it looked much better with ivory taffeta petticoat ( part of another outfit….). a bright shawl, worn on beter support, with a wig and a hat, it looked much better! -Here worn at a Georgian picnic at Grassenholm Farm, photography by Pitcheresque Imagery
and with another hat….
As you can see this bridal project turned out to be a re-enactment item in the end – and love it too much to sell on…. a couple of things i would change, and probably will as still have bits and pieces of that silk – the sleeves are just a tad too tight, so will need to amend that inconvenience!
Altogether I must say that I love the simple style much better than the ornate grandeur of the robe a la francaise – simple lines, minimum decoration somehow work well for me:-)
OK, so I have been in the business for a while. I have been re-enacting even longer – my first gig was in 1997 if I remember well, and I got into costume making almost straight away. True, I was … Continue reading
The weekend of 22-23 June saw us working for Black Knight Historical at the Peterborough heritage festival. it wasnt the first time i have worked there, and the festival, organized by Vivacity, is always a great place to be – lots of interesting displays, demonstrations, market stalls,living history – and off course the Cathedral speaks for itself!
This year was no exception and for the 2 days the place was bustling with various historical ( and not only) activity. I , for a change, was not in my customary role there, as Katherine of Aragon – it was Sir Percy Blakely and Margaret Blakely this time and we were spinning the tales of the famous Scarlet Pimpernel – but also discusing the fashions, social and political situation of the era, and above all – the revolution!
But let the pictures speak for themselves – we were lucky enough to meet up and work with two tallented photographers: John Moore and John Grant. plus, Lucas ( aka Scarlet Pimpernel) went undercover at one point and snapped a few shots as well. Enjoy!
We actually participated in 2 proper photoshoots, posing for the professionals -one for John Moore, with few pictures above, and below just a few snaps from a great session with John Grant. it was not the first time we worked together, and he captured Katherine of Aragon a few times on film, and to a great effect – and working with him was a pleasure. more pictures here, and the extensive galleries can be gfound on the photographers’ websites too: John Grant, John More
and a few shots of what the Pimpernel is up to when not busy rescuing French aristos..
and me, enjoying a few minutes, being headless…:-)
What a wonderful day it has been! We were hired by Black Knight Historical to provide costumed characters for the Georgian Picnic at Gressenhall Farm – the event commemarated the establishment of the workhouse there in the second half of 18th century – 1767 if I remember well.
It was an early morning for us, getting up at 6.30 ( not a common occurrance for me at all!), but it was worth it – after 2 hours of a nice drive we arrived at the stunning location, and the weather, for a change, was superb – sunny, but not too hot, and not too cold,only the wind being a pest – trying to blow our hats away!.
There were about 17 of us working there, and once the clock struck 10am, the courtyard filled with Georgian characters – and the visitors.
The tables were set with food ( pies, tarts, cakes, cheese, fruit etc) and people could discuss fashionable dishes of the day and compare the menu of the loal workhouse kitchen ( boiled meat on sunday, pottage on monday, potatoes and veggies the rest of the week…) with the extravagance of the food served to those born into the higher class of the Georgian society.
I prepared my basket and a rug to sit on and set on my task for the day – embellishing my bergere hat with lace, ribbon and paper flowers. As I worked, I chatted to the visitors about the realia of the day – the fashionable clothing and accessories, the customs, the entertainment – and all the aspect of the life in the second half of the 18th century.
There was other entertainemnt as well – the surgeon performing a tooth removal, very cheap and almost without pain; musicians played in the background and the storyteller kept all the little ones ( and not only) enruptures with captivating stories.
Muskets and guns were fired and dancing was performed at the chapel; the lucky ones even were allowed a ride in the sedan chair.
In the meantime, the museum was open for everybody to have a good look at what a life in the workhouse and on the farm looked like – and the exhibits were amazing!
The cafe and the gift shop were throbbing with customers and there was a lot of smiling, relaxed people lounging on the grass listening either to the music or to the stories. needless to say, a lot of pictures were taken too!
The premisses encompas a delightful orchard, with the apple trees in full bloom – and a woodland playarea for the kids wioth the swings and slides looked very appealing even to me – had to be persuaded that sliding down a long tune on fancy frock may not be the best idea…
Altogether, a great day was had by all – and belowe find a few more pictures from the day:-)
more pictures on Prior Attire page – here
The costumes ( the pink robe anglaise etc, Lucas coat etc, Eleanor’s caraco jacket and petticoat) – also by Prior Attire
And it is done. The Ball has taken place, and what a night it was!
The last few days before the ball ( 27th April) were manic – i only had about a day and a half to get my dress sorted ( a separate post on that here..) and deal with the last minute issues, problems, cancellations etc.
But all was sorted in time and by 1pm we were on the move, driving first to our hotel in Slough, even managing a short nap there, and then by 4 we were at the beautiful Heatherden Hall – a part of Pinewood Studios.
Inside, the team from Corporate Events already laid up our oak dancefloor, covering the entire ballroom.
We had a quick chat with Paul, our DJ on the day ( also from Corporate Events), about the music, preferences, set up etc – and with the music working we simply had to have a go on the dance floor ! we decided to go through our tango routine, but the stress was making it more of a free style improvisation rather than our proper routine! At that point our photographer, Paul Mockford and his assistant Jason arrived – and without much ado filmed the thing! you can see it here…
After that sneaky footage the boys got started on setting their photo studio in the Pools room, and we had a chat with the resident staff who was to care for us in the evening, headed by the competent Ivona. after that all that was to do was getting ready. Sarah and Lizzie, providing the beauty saloon services, were ready at 5, and the ladies who secured their make up and hairstyling slots were arriving on time – the rest of the guests were to start arriving at 6.
By then I was already dresses, make up and hair sorted ( more or less) and helping other ladies to get dressed – the facilities were great as we had the whole of the Conservatory and the PIne room just for ladies. during various lacing, arranging and pinning, i talked to our dance teacher, Charlotte Ewart, going through the last bits of information on the dances to be taught.
The weather wasnt perfect – but luckily by 6 it has stopped raining and the guests started arriving on the red carpet. Soon the gardens, patio and the bar, where the welcome drinks were served, were throbbing with people dressed in their finest..
The gardens, with their bridges, sculptures and the labirinth-like hedges were a popular destination for strolling and taking photos…
Then, at 8 the dancing started. We begun with the traditional Polish dance, Polonaise – it is a promenade dance, easy to follow and it is still the dance that opens every Prom Ball in Poland..
I led with Chris , our musician ( Blast from the Past) and Lucas followed with Charlotte. Our fears that people would be reluctant to dance were quickly dispelled – the dancefloor was packed full as we processed to the polonaise from Eugene Onegin
After the polonaise Charlotte guided us through the Duke of Kent waltz, proper waltz hold and steps, aend even a few polkas. Polkas were a killer, leaving us completely breathless! all to lovely live music from Sophie and Chris.
some people preferred a more passive participation though, simply enjoying the view. Some took it very easy indeed!
After the lesson the DJ took over and more waltzes, quicksteps, and more waltzes following for another hour. The dance floor emptied a bit as at the same time food was served and most folks made their way to the pools room to partake in the buffet.
The food was delicious – alas so delicious that some people went to get seconds and thirds – and as a consequence a few folks who were still dancing, us including arrived to see empty plates – or half full plates being carried back to the kitchen as people piled more food than they could eat… a bit of a lesson on human nature here, so the food issue is one to be seriously addressed in the future, if i decide to organize another ball. As it was, I was lucky enough to get a bite of a tiramisu Sarah managed to secure for me…
At the same time the photography team had their hands full – people were having their photos taken, printed and mounted in one go!
After a few more waltzes ( lots of improvisation on our part – but there were a few good couples who could really whirl around!) music gradually changed to a more modern tracks, including music from Moulin Rouge and a fully eclectic mix of rock, tango ( again, lots of improvisation and silliness here on our part!) and other dance tunes. The Prince Charming theme went down a treat – many thanks to whoever requested it! some gilrs chose to take the log skirts off and boogie around in shorter numbers, but the majority danced the night away in their finery!
And so the evening continued – dancing, drinking, chatting in a relaxing manner.
As far ars the costumes are concerned – I was hugely impressed! I must admit that I dreaded seeing those cheap fancy dress rental pieces, but I shouldn’t have worried. tTe garments were absolutely divine, in most cased hand made by the participants or by few skillful costumiers present at the ball – Felicity Westmacott, Denise Piggin or Christina Dettmers to name just a few – and of course I had a hand in making a few of the costumes too…..:-) ( historical and bridal)
The range was astounding – from pure blown out fantasy, through fashion corsetry to authentic Georgian, Victorian or Edwardian or Tudor garments. Steampunk was very much in evidence as well – in short a true feast for the eyes! just a few picture s here, more can be founf on fb – link here
The fun ended at about 12.30 when the bar closed, and we saw the last of the guests off just after 1am…
Absolutely knackered, we made our way to the hotel when at last, hungry as we were, we shared a left over bagel… 🙂
Altogether, a successful night, with the food issue to be addressed at any future events. Feedback so far was good, so many thanks to all of you who contributed to the fantastic atmosphere at the ball – and thank you for those who let me use their photos…
another blog on the ball, written by one of the guests, can be found here
and if you fancy another ball – this year;s event is coming soon! Check out our Victorian Ball
and some of the feedback received on our pages – many, many thanks for it, i was really down because the food situation, and the feebback received did raise my spirits a great deal!:
Thank you for a truly spectacular evening! We all had a fantastic time! Really appreciate all the time and effort you went to to make it such an incredible event! ♥
great evaning Izabela! Thank you for all the hard work. It ran so smoothly, a testament to your great planning!
What a lovely night! I got to dance to The Sound of Music- Edelweiss and NIN- Closer all in one night… As always I am blown away by the talent that surrounded me. The dresses and coats, the skirts and corsets, waistcoats and pantaloons, each of them were beautifully constructed and many of them by the very people wearing them. It inspires me 🙂 Thanks to everyone who came for making it such a friendly evening, it was a pleasure meeting you, and thank you to the Prior Attire team for putting together a truly Spectacular! Spectacular! event 🙂
We are all amazing. What a beautiful evening.
Last autumn we were asked to participate in an 18th century event at Ayscoughfee Hall Museum. it was a fairly generic do, the first of many more to come hopefully, as the place is steeped in history and boasts not only lovely interiors but also rather spectacular gadens. I agreed to provide a few dresses for the display, and, accompanied by my hubby, to interract with the public.
The dresses to go on display were 3 items from 1770-85: a robe anglaise, a polonaise and a riding habit. I had a nice francaise too, but it got sold and now lives with a lovely lady in Paris!
The other frocks:
All that meant that I needed something new to wear…
And since Lucas agreed to entertain the visitors with tales of his daring deeds as Scarlet Pimpernel, I became Lady Margueritte Blackney – and the lady needed a travelling outfit suitable for autumnal temperatures and comfortable to wear.
It was an easy choice – I have always loved the simple elegance of the redingotes and the one in LACMA has been on my to do list for ages.
And since it just happened that a suitable fabric was living in my closet for a while, I set to it – I had 2 days to make the redingote and the muslin petticoat, and two days to get my Scarlet Pimpernel a waistcoat and a coat suitable for his role.
On the day, it was rather brisk – so the travelling outfits were a blessing – even though we were inside. The rest of the team was getting ready; we were joined by lovely Julia Gant and her team from the 4and20blackbirds and Eleanor from The Guild of Historical Interpreters.
The event was lovely – not crowded, but with lots of interesting people popping by for a chat – and it was a real pleasure to discuss history,its military, social and costuming issues. The contrast between our 1790 outfits and the earlier focks on display provided a valued starting point to a discussion to all the social changes the French Revolution brought about. so a very interesting day!
In the meantime Eleanor was showing the kids how to decorate fans – and I also had a go at cutting out silhuettes:-).
Scarlet Pimpernel was not as elusive as he is supposed to be ( though he did suggest that the best way to re-enact him would be not to turn up at all so that we send the folks looking for him…)
The lunch was a rather yummy affair, beautifully presented and tasted as well as it looked!
Altogheter, a great day’s fun, informative and entartaining! and of course, rather pleased with the way the redingote turned out 0 i did amend the front slightly later on, but happy with the first attempt!