Georgian Adventures in Stamford 2015

Georgian Butterscotch - September 27, 2015 - 2


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 🙂


although, as you can see, we clearly had the same colour scheme  in mind 🙂

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

IMG_2462Sunday 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..


men looking splendid….



I was modelling a 1790 redingote, and Eleanor was wearing her lovely francaise ( more on making it and more pictures  in the Georgian Ball post.


Amy fro the Period Costume Shop in a stunning polonaise  ( love the fabric!), me in the redingote and Kelly in her anglaise!


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!


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we even had a go at some heavy machinery….

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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!

Georgian Ball in Bath, March 2015

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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!


playing with the trim…


the gown and basic trim ready, now just the roses and the stomacher


sleeve before pinking – I pined it at the last moment, as although the fabrics didn’t fray much, we wanted the edges sharp for the event:-)


decoration on the petticoat – frills, flounces and roses


and a very important moment – once the roses were out of the box, Merlin jumped in It was the very first time in the last 3 years when he actually willingly went into a box… weird moggy



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..



that frame was an amazing investment. well worth it if you are working on larger pieces


waistcoat ready


the back



and a frilly shirt

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…


the stays ready


detail of the back


working on the anglaise – after a rial run with the trim we decided against it. the fabric did not lend itself well to piking and the thing frayed like hell, leaving bits of thread everywhere, especially on the white satin…


the back

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.


work in progress


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…


Eleanor at the dance practice, minding our hats… and boots…


after the practice, waiting for transport… surprisingly enough my redingote worked quite well as an extra layer over the anglaise


Hotel elevators…. barely big enough for 2…


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….

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Kelly and Glen in their finery

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then Eleanor…

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Georgian Ball - Bath March 2015-21 Lucas…

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and me:-)

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And a few group shots too…

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here discussing programme for our Victorian ball with our dance master – Stuart Marsden


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and a few of the dance demo

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and some outtakes….

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my usual face…

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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!







Robe a l’anglaise in dusty pink silk


  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.


getting started….


all pieces ready….


all pieces whipped together, ready for binding


tedious binding process…..




was so excited i popped them straight over my top… love the silhouette! worn on a random shift below…Image

The petticoat was next in line… – an easy rectangular shape, and nice and easy pleating did the job


front pleated


insides – the extra fabric is folded down and pleated, i secured the edges with piking later.

Then only a waistband and it was ready!


waistband pinned in


just needs pressing….

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!)


My very first 18th century gown, all handstitched.


experimenting with the mock up


lining is made first and seams boned


for boning I used think but strong reed


then silk was mounted over the lining


Piece by piece, handstitched.  Sleeves were next…Image


lining the sleeve


setting in the top part of the sleeve


and the shoulder strap is covered with silk, hiding the sleeve attachment

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the neck and sleeves were decorated with Valencia lace and silk ribbon.

 Once the bodice part of the gown was done, it was time to start pleating the skirts….

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pleats pinned

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and sewn in:-)

 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 😦


at the Bridal shoot photo by Mockford Photography

 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:-)

Looking the Part 1: Undergarments


 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 lucky – my first contact with historical interpretation was  guys from Past Pleasures, and after spending a summer travelling with them, observing knights at work at the Tower of London, or strolling alongside 18th century clad characters during the Pantiles festival at Tunbridge Wells, you do learn a bit.  When the summer ended and I returned  to Poland where I lived at the time, I joined a historical fencing group. When told that for Christmas party I need to have a medieval gown, I had at least some vague idea where to look for sources ( well before the internet era!) and  came up with a dress. It was awful – cotton velvet, lacing at the back, no overgown –  but it was a sensation, mostly because I wore proper headwear- veil, fillet, barbette and wimple.  Every girl wanted it –  and so my adventure with costuming started.   Over the years I studied, researched, learnt ( mostly on mistakes, mostly my own) and learnt more and more, gradually expanding  my range. Now,years later, I have been running my professional costuming and interpretation business for a few good years, turning a hobby and passion into a profession.


some of my very first outfits… yeah, I know, pretty amusing ( rather horrifyingly so), but we all started somewhere…

 One thing I have learnt over the last 15 years or so is the fact that no matter how perfect the frock, kirtle, habit etc is,  the whole image can be badly marred by  just a few, seemingly secondary factors- namely hairstyle and make up; lack or inappropriate foundation garments;  badly chosen shoes and accessories.  In this post I will discuss the undergarments issues, subsequent posts will deal with the other two.

 Obviously  one has to consider the issue of purpose as well – some people  are professional re-enactors, working for museums, stately homes, castles etc.  For some it is a hobby they indulge in at the weekends; some of you simply like a good dress up party a couple of times a year.  some of you are able to afford original items or best fabrics, some of you are on a very narrow budget – but if in your historical costuming you aim to produce a period correct silhouette, this article is for you.

  There is nothing sadder than  seeing a lovingly stitched dress  hanging shapelessly on the body, worn without  period correct support garments – Victorian bodices worn just on a bra look crumpled and shapeless; bustle skirts without the pad or cage display  all that lovely fabric hanging floppily in disarray,french gowns without panniers, dragging the too long sides on the ground… At the same time it is just as inappropriate to see medieval frocks with bra straps showing or, even worse, worn on corsets; or Tudor gowns  displaying way too much cleavage…  again, if you are not concerned with authentic look, that is all fine – Fantasy, Steampunk or Pirate conventions etc are great places to mix modern and traditional styles and nobody will bat an eyelid. However,  if you do strive to ‘look the part’,  correct undergarment is essential.

  Here’s a quick guide of dos and don’ts  through the time – not an full list, but just a basic point of reference, somewhere to start with.

   All periods: wear a chemise! or a smock, a shift – correct for your period.   They were the garments that would be washed, they protect your  clothes from  sweat etc. Yes,  it may not be visible much – or at all, but it will make a dramatic difference in how you wear your kit.  If it doesn’t show, and you are not a purist, wear cotton instead of linen,  of mixed fibers if you are allergic, just make sure the fabric breathes well – polyester silk chemise will make your kit into a mobile sauna, natural fabric will make wearing a wool kirtle  much cooler in the heat of summer. If any part of the garment is on show –  make sure it at least looks correct.

Pants, knickers etc – up to you,  ladies, most of the events we do not display such items publicly so  up to individual preferences. Do bear in mind however that some period underwear was rather specific  and fit for a purpose – split drawers are not split for nothing – something you will soon discover if you wear modern underwear under a french or cage crinoline….:-)


Blast…. maybe wearing pants and tights wasn’t such a good idea after all… oh dear….


1. wear your smock

2. Unless you are Agnes Sorel, posing as a Madonna, do not flash your boobs…. If there is even a glimpse of cleavage, it is a glimpse – but most often even that is covered.  Late medieval ladies sport high breasts – but without any ‘spillage’ visible – high, yes, but also contained…

3. Unless your assets are the perfect perky apple shape, you will need some help to achieve the look.   Well cut and fitted kirtle will go a long way, even on more generously endowed ladies. If more support is necessary, you can bind your breast with straps of linen – it does offer a bit of support and for some looks ( Italian 15 the cent)  it  does provide the perfect means to achieve the silhouette. If you have to, wear a bra, but make sure the straps are not showing, and the contours are not visible – seamless bras, just retaining natural shape are great; push up bras –  very rarely so…  Corsets, especially the modern ones – just don’t even consider the possibility… look awful, artificial, modern – and completely unnecessary


15th century kirtle over a chemise – no bra. I am 34 F, so can only dream of the high perky assets, but the fit of the kirtle provides enough support to keep things in place, contained and comfortable. The secret is to lace from the bottom up!

4.  leg wear – wear period hose and garters, if possible. Still, a glimpse of the leg would be  highly unusual unless you are a field labourer, so if you are not flashing your ankles too much and nobody inspects your hosiery, you will be fine with longer cotton socks in muted colours .  For purists  hose and garters are a must – and they do look sexy!


armour may not be the best choice…

5.  Layers – do not skip the kirtle if it is hot and you want to wear just a posh gown.  Bare calves visible through the thin silks are not posh…Want to be posh, well, sometimes suffering is involved too…

Tudor, Elizabethan and Stuart

1. Same remarks about cleavage apply…. The boned,stiffened kirtles and later stays were there to smooth the contours of the body, provide the support and contain your assets. A hint of a cleavage is fine, over-spilling boobage is not.  Yes, the stiff bodices and stays  do push things up a bit – but  the gowns, shifts, partlets etc do cover most of it. Well, unless you are a noble Jacobean lady going to a masque or posing for a fashionable  portrait in a court attire – some of them tended to be a tad revealing…. 🙂 like this one..  An excellent article on the masque costumes and the dancers going topless ( well, almost) is here….


Tudor kirtle with bodice stiffened with reed

During the Restoration it was fashionable to pose for a portrait in your unmentionables – or without them. If you re-enact Nell Gwyn as Venus, that’s fine – but remember that everyday costume did involve a tad more 🙂  The bodices were  more revealing, true, but still on a tasteful side.

3. For late Elizabethan/Stuart wear either stays  or boned bodices. A bra will not do. Modern corset will not give the period shape. if you are on a budget, boned bodice can be the perfect solution.  Stays and bodices were at that stage mostly boned with reed –  and reed is fantastic- it breathes well, it is flexible and adapts to the body – very comfortable. Remember that the reed found in the garments were mostly bundles of thin reeds – not chair cane! nowadays you can obtain either  thing oval reed ( Farthingales used to have them, USA) or  flat/oval reed from Vena Cava Designs – and it doesn’t cost much, the whole bundle is enough for several items!


reads and busk enclosed in 1660 bodice


the finished bodice


early mantua ( 1680-90) worn on boned stays

 4. Skirt supports. If your style calls for a Spanish farthingale, or a french one – wear it, no excuses.  If you are on a budget, you can sometimes get bridal petticoats  that can can be used as a farthingale and are cheap –  not perfect, but better that than nothing. All kind of bumrolls, pads etc here come into play as well – easy to make, they will make a tremendous difference  to your silhouette.

5. Wear your petticoats.  I know, it is yet another layer, but can be made quickly and don’t have to be made in expensive fabrics.  Also, they will cover the shape of the hoops in a farthingale if your kirtle/dress fabrics are not sufficient. It is a good idea  to wear one in low quality fabric petti as well, under the farthingale ( as a second layer on the chemise – this is the garment which will absorb most of the dirt and dust stirred up by the skirts dragging on the ground …

 6. hosiery –  especially with hooped skirts, or shorter late Elizabethan or Jacobean outfits you can get a glimpse, so make sure your hose or stockings look correct. in colder climates nice woolen stockings are a godsend.


getting ready – and flashing my lovely woolen stockings from Sally Pointer


1.  do use skirt supports  suitable for the style of the gown you are wearing: pocket hoops, panniers,  bum pads of all kind – they make the dress look good, without them, silk or not, they just resemble sad rags. Great  source of inspiration and knowledge can be found on the American Duchess website – Lauren specializes in the period and her tutorials are extremely helpful.  Do not be afraid to experiment with the shape of the support, it is worth it.

2. ditto – petticoats,

3. ditto stays.  More and more styles were available, and although more cleavage was sometimes seen, peaking from under a fishu,  overspill was generally avoided. Do choose stays suitable not only to your style but your body type: half boned stays with some horizontal boning at the breast will create more cleavage and are great for ladies with smaller assets, but may  not be sufficient to contain bigger volume. Fully boned stays  will flatten fuller bosoms and keep the puppies under control. Later styles call for the famous pigeon breast silhouette: shorter, half boned stays are perfect here . 

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with stays that shape the chemise ( here just trying out on a normal top) also has a role in containing things…. half boned stays in silk

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fully boned stays – ultimate control, made comfortable with the use of reed

For stays, it is still ok to use reed – whalebone started to be used too, I believe, but nowadays not available, and not ethical.

With the stays and skirt supports, you will get the fashion plate look spot on!


boobs up high, bum sticking out in all directions… perfect 🙂

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stays and hoop panniers underneath all that silk brocade…


1. petticoats, stays, hosiery etc, all apply. Many ladies believe that the high waisted styles mean stays are out and bras are fine – alas, this all to often spoils the effect. If you are lucky and  sport firm high breasts, yep, you won’t need  much. However, if you fall into a curvier category, you will need some help. Remember, if the bouncing continues after the dancing stops, you’s better invest in proper undergarments 😉

 Regency stays are there to hold your assets up and usually separate them ( divide and conquer style 😉 ). The cups come up mid bust level, and the breast are contained within the chemise. They do look very unnatural and high – but once you get the frock on, it all pays up.  The longer stays are comfortable and smooth the body, so the dress flows uninterrupted from the high waist.


regency stays, riding style ( not finished, couldn’t be bothered with the lacing at the hip at the time…). note the busk separating the breast and seemingly shallow cups. surprisingly comfortable too


it is the stays underneath that make the style at least remotely elegant for me – the dress simply flows so much better!

Brassieres are also surprisingly effective, though tricky to put on – and  they also seem to be working quite well for bigger bosoms.

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the kyoto brasierre

Victorian and Edwardian

1. Wear all the layers.  If you can skimp on one petticoat without compromising the look, fine, but do wear a proper corset, wear a proper skirt support for your period.   Corded petticoats  and sleeve supports for the romantic era, crinolines, bustle cages, bust improver, bustle pads etc – they were all there for a reason.  If wearing a crinoline, remember the petticoats will help you hide the outline of the hoops – and make sure your bottom hoop is not visible!


Mid Victorian undergarments – chemise, pantaloons ( long drawers) corset and a cage crinoline

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Petticoat on….

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the dress on crinoline cage and petticoat

18. bustle worn, side view

bustle cage


and a flounced petticoat

2. When planning an outfit always start with the foundations –  bodice made to fit a modern body will not fit over a corset.  skirt cut without taking the supports into consideration will be too long or too narrow.

Undergarment comparison

3. If you can, get the corset bespoke made ( or make one yourself).  If you will be wearing the clothes for some time, you will need a decent, bespoke corset made to you. In my corset I can move, can dance, can ride, can wear it all day long, working away, and I can breathe without any problems ( my rib cage is not crushed). Modern corsets off the peg may feel great for a short time, but  fail miserably  for longer periods of time. Bespoke is not cheap, but it is well worth saving. having said so, if you find an off the peg  Victorian or Edwardian corset ( not modern overbust though), that fits you well, you are lucky – very lucky, so enjoy, it will be usually less  than half the price of a bespoke one.

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corset provides the silhouette but remains invisible.

4. Wear corset cover. It is a pretty flimsy thing, bit it protect your nice silk dress from the corset, and also hides the outline of the corset a bit.

5. Wear Edwardian corsets for Edwardian  dresses and Victorian ones for Victorian frocks – don’t mix them, they do produce a very different silhouette and  Victorian corset with Edwardian gown is simply wrong. Modern overbust corsets  are not a good choice – overbust will push your assets a bit too high, creating  a very high bust shelf – not very comfortable and period… Victorian/Edwardian corsets are usually mid bust.


Edwardian corset


Edwardian corset, back view

For late Edwardian/ WWI costuming, corsets are still necessary! nowadays you see so many lovely frocks of the period, with the look ruined as women either don’t realize that corsets were still worn at the time – or choose to ignore the fact. Yes, the function of the corset was changing – here they were used not to support the breast so much as to smooth the silhouette, streamline it, so that the narrow style clothing looked good – and as they were not designed to cinch your waist a lot, they are very comfortable to wear too.  Later on this style of corsets changes onto girdle and brassieres are starting to appear:)


WWI style corset

6.drawers –  up to you, I love mine, and they make going to the toilet a much less daunting prospect!

46. Stocking, drawers, corset and the petticoat, worn on the bustle pad, at trial riding

checking how the Victorian underthings work on a horseback. the worked well…

48. back view - note the unbuttoned petticoat

a bit more ladylike…. 🙂

7. if possible, wear correct style petticoat for your dress. Natural form petticoats can differ from the bustle eras –  1870 petties are different from 1885. Sometimes you can cheat a bit, sometimes  not, so plan your outfit carefully.

8. cleavage – again,  very subtle, if ever.  Flout your curves, but tastefully, tantalizingly hidden in lace and silks .

 Again, American Duchess  is a good source, as is  Historical Sewing – great  tutorials and much more detailed information and advice on 19th century styles, from Regency to Edwardian – do check them up!. Historical sewing also offers online courses – very helpful!

 For corsetry supplies and corset making courses – check Sew Curvy

 Well,  I think that’s about it – just skimming through the centuries, really, but i think i covered the most important points – hope you have enjoyed it, or at least found the information useful!  For more pictures  of garments across the centuries, please visit my page, or my pinterest boards!

 the other post on Looking the part series:

  looking the par – 2 –  Hair and make up

 looking the part3 –  accessories

Peterborough Heritage Festival 22-23 June 2013


strolling in the woods…John Grant Photography

 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!


there goes the last ship to England, Marguerrite! John Moore Photography

 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!


some serious shaving going on – Neil Storey in his element of a regency era barber and surgeon.. John Moore Photography


i was also making silhuettes – a popular pastime in the era; here Captain admiring the one i made of him:-)



boys having fun… John Moore Photography




kids area sported a ferrets’ obstacle course!


boys from the Sealed Knot discussing battle tactics.


John and Suzanne from Quartermasterie preparing for a good day’s trading


Bernie the Bolt’s stall busy as ever – manned, or rather womanned by his lovely daughter, Leanne


no slacking in the Roman camp… hard work all day…


a bit more at ease – the WWII encampment


Mr. Churchill inspecting the medical facilities…



and a rather good photo of me! – by John Moore Photography

  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




not so moody here, was actually caught laughing!



great full lenght portrait of Lucas


and of me

 and a few shots of what the Pimpernel is up to when not busy rescuing French aristos..


He enjoys rock music…


and checking out Facebook… 🙂

and me, enjoying a few minutes, being headless…:-)


Georgian Picnic at Gressenhall Farm



 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.


Eleanor as one of the benefactors of the workhouse – all ready to tell the children how fortunate they were to live and work there…

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!.


ladies desperately clutching at their hats…

 There were about 17 of us working there, and once the clock struck 10am, the courtyard filled with Georgian characters – and the visitors.


Lucas quickly assumed the role of the childcatcher… funny thing, the kids were not afraid at all!

  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.


new hat finished!

 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.


Andy the storyteller in full swing


tooth removal was very popular – it was difficult to get a good viewing spot!

 Muskets and guns were fired and dancing was performed at the chapel; the lucky ones even were allowed a ride in the sedan chair.


Lucas having a go at a musket firing:-)


 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!


in the museum…


supporting the poor somethimes means going through rather challenging olfactory experience


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!


music al fresco – delightful!

 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…


a stroll in the orchard


a lovely picture of Julia Barret and her daughter, Molly


Altogether, a great day was had by all –  and belowe find a few more pictures from the day:-)


most of the team at the end of the day… winddblown and a bit surnburnt, but happy!


was happy to be able to wear my silk robe anglaise – its second outing!


suspicious looking characters…


the place was full of lovely little nooks and crannies, with conviniently placed benches…


a childcatcher and a lady of quality – a dangerous liason?


apparently carrying a passenger in the sedan chair was pure enjoyment!


an afternoon nap…


simple, pastoral pleasures


Julia and Molly



 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

Spectacular! Spectacular! Masquerade Ball 2013


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.


outside, at 4 pm

Inside, the team from Corporate Events already laid up our oak dancefloor, covering the entire ballroom.


flooring sorted!

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.


Sarah and Lizzie hard at work…

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.


getting ready… the atmosphere was great as everybody was helping everybody else:-)

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 bar…


having fun on the patio

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


Lucas and Charlotte


polonaise in full swing…


leading with Chris

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.


a polka


one of the waltzes…


us having a go at a polka

some people preferred a more passive participation though, simply enjoying the view. Some took it very easy indeed!


taking it easy to the next level…

 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!


Paul Mockford at work!

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!


prince charming walk….


girls having fun!

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






best hat ever!


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… 🙂


after party bagel… yum! and after paerty look, not so yum…

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.
Thank you Izabella for a great night, and thankyou to all for their fabulous costumes, makeup, masks and headpieces, I so enjoyed looking at all the creativity. As you might have guessed, the kit did get finished, and got some really nice comments from other guests.
We had a lovely evening. Thanks for all your work in putting together such a lovely event in a stunning venue!

Seeking the Pimpernel


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 robe francaise – here at a wedding photoshoot, so excuse the modern hairdo!

 The other frocks:


Polonaise en fourreau in silk brocade, petticoat in silk taffeta


robe anglaise worn at one of the markets


riding habit, here at Audley End House

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.


the original…

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.


set and ready to go!

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 team!

  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…)


Lucas having problems being elusive…

 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!