Romantic era ( late 1820s and 30s) is a rather, well, ‘interesting ‘ period, fashion wise. Men’s garb is superb – nipped in waists, tailcoats, cravats, waistocats galore – very smart, very dashing. Women’s fashions are – a bit extreme. … Continue reading
Some things start unexpectedly…. last January I picked some lovely silk that just screamed Victorian Seaside Bustle frock… And so for the summer I put a few days aside to make it – and to nip somewhere on the coast for … Continue reading
A long overdue post on a rather splendid ball we attended in London, in December. The Buttercup Ball was organized by Stuart Marsden ( the dance master for our Victorian ball last year – and this year’s edition too!) … Continue reading
Since our next Victorian Ball has a Crinoline theme, I have promised a few tutorials and pattern reviews for the folks who are making their own kit. Sew Curvy joined the fun and now offers very attractively priced patterns and crinoline kits from the era ( just a few left in stock…), so I took advantage of the offer and grabbed a few patterns too.
Normally I don’t bother with commercial patterns much, underwear included as I draft my own, and for Victorian Era the patterns in Francis Grimble’s books are of a great help – so this was a bit of an adventure, trying to actually follow instructions. Which I did, to some extent… 😉 And so, below, a short tutorial on making a set of mid-victorian open drawers, a chemise and a petticoat.
Fabrics: cotton lawn (but any lightweight cotton or linen will do) and cotton lace, 3 buttons.
Finish – I went for modern finish as was squeezing the project in between commissions and stock-making, but it doesnt mean that you have to follow me and use the same techniques – if you have time, do go for a hand finish 🙂
1. find your size on the chart, trace the pattern. I traced it onto paper once, so that I dont have to cut the pattern itself.
2. trace the pattern onto the fabric – fold the lawn in half and you will only have to cut once!
3. once cut, I overlocked the side seams and the facing for the size. I decided to save time and forego front and back facings – not really needed, though they would give a nicer finish! Instead of a self ruffle I used cotton broderie anglaise lace.
4. Follow the directions for working the side openings/facings – they are explained fairly clrealy.
5. Fold the overlocked edges of the crotch opening (or follow instructions for facings there)
6. Gather the legs and top – I gathered mine using a ruffle attachment, but you can pleat or gather on a string, too (lower the thread tension, use the long stitch setting and sew – then just pull the thread to gather)
7. Gather the ruffle – again, several methods are possible, I gathered mine on an overlocker
8. Sew each leg
9. Prepare the leg bands and attach lace to them – the instructions are quite clear about how to do it.
10. Attach the waistbands – again, the instructions are clear!
11. Make buttonholes and attach buttons. Fot this project I used buttons from my secret stash of antique buttons 🙂
Ready! it took me just over 2 hours to complete the project – it would be about 3 – 4 if I wasn’t using an overlocker.
- Trace and cut the pattern according to your size (again, I found it runs a tad too big for my liking – but it is not a huge issue at all – and it is always easier to end up with a chemise an inch or two too big rather than one too small!)
2. Overlock the sides and sew together; (or sew the sides together and finish the seam by hand if you prefer.)
3. Add the shouler strap reinforcement bits. I admit the instructions here were not too clear so I did it my way… I supose as long as the edges are strong enough for a button, etc, that is all that matters
4.Overlock the sleeve (or hand finish) and attach to the armhole. You will need to gather a bit; I did it as I sewed.
5. Prepare the neckline and hem edge (overlock and fold, or hand stitch – up to you)
6. Add lace – I used a narrow broderie anglaise, as I had enough to use on the sleeves, neck and hem!
7. Add buttons and work buttonholes
The chemise is now ready!
I have also made another version of the chemise, too – the same pattern, just with no sleeves, and no buttoned-up staps – I simply sewed the straps together instead. The neckline is finished with an eyelet lace with the ribbon, which controls the neckline as it can be pulled tighter, if needs be.
Next stage was to put one of my corsets on (a suitable corset kit can be bought here: corset kit – the pattern is later but the style works for mid-victorian silhouette and is much easier to make – I have made a mid-victorian corset using a commercial pattern and it wasn’t exactly a success – you can read about it here).
All we need now is a petticoat.
Petticoats are very easy to make – so easy that there is little point in providing an actual pattern. Even ‘Truly Victorian’ provides a diagram and instructions for free – petticoat instructions
I basically used a length of cotton sheeting – a rectangular piece. The length was the circumference of the crinoline cage plus 1m, the lengh – measured on the crinoline, from waist to the ground. If you do not plan flounces, pintucks etc, but a basic one, keep it a bit above the ground. If you want lots of pintucks, make it longer.
This particular one has been made with 5 rows of big pintucks
a few tips:
- dont wast time measuring and cutton your cotton. i usually just ,ark how long i want the piece to be , nicj the fabric and simply tear it. it tears easily and along the grain, you you have a straight line with no hassle. disadvantage – you will get a few hanging thread to deal with. I use the same metod for cutting the flounce
- pintucks – for small, decorarice pintucks you see on chemises etc, I use a seam gauge and a pintuck foot etc – the detail is important. for the petticoats however, where i want my pintucks bigger, and where it doent matter too much if the pintuck is 2mm longer at one side, I save time by not marking them at all – i simply use my finger as a gauge.
(A short video of how to make them fast using your finger as a gauge can be found on my instagram account. ( here)
I also opted for a flounce, also with pintucks and lace 🙂
Once the pintucks and the flounce were on, I simply gathered the wasit (there will be lots of fabric to gather – about 4.5-5m) using the ruffler attachment
Then attach the waistband, buttons, etc, and you are done!
If you are wondering why pintucks and flounces instead of a simple petticoat, well, they do have a function! PIntucks were used a lot on children’s clothing – as they grew up, the tucks were released and garment lengthened, here however the tucks are not only a decorative feature, but a practical one – they hide the shape of the cage and they stiffen the edge a bit more, hanging better; the flounce has the same function – this fills in the empty space between the cage’s end and the ground, preventing the ‘lampshade effect 🙂
There are a few beautiful petticoats still surving – you can fing some on my pinterest page
Now you are ready for a skirt and a bodice – or a gown. I have already written a post on a day dress – here.
I hope you found this little tutorial useful, the tutorial on how to make a gow bodice and skirt is here
Oh, and if you dont sew, dont worry,:-) chemises, petticoats, corsets and whole outfirs are now available in our online shop ! There are already a couple of nice dresses and a few petticoats there, more undergarments will be added shortly
And a few outtakes:-) i knew the chamber put would come in useful!
Throughout the history humans have come up with a variety of ways to get their garments to close and fit – ‘to make ends meet’. For someone just beginning their adventure with historical clothing, the labyrinth of which fastening on what garments in which era may seem a bit daunting – is it lacing? If so, what kind of lacing, or should it be buttons, or points or hooks and eyes? In the present article I plan to make the maze a little simpler and discuss what kind of fastening were used in which periods, from early medieval to Victorian.
One of the earlier fastening to be introduced in Europe – early garments were rather loosely-fitting tunics, kirtles and cloaks. To go over the wearer’s head the opening had to be wide enough – but too big an opening was not always welcome. Enter the ‘keyhole opening’ – a round neckline with a slit in front. Small brooches were used to fasten the edges of the slit together – and the wealthier the person, the more ornate the brooch. Bigger brooches were used for cloaks and mantles or for the Viking overdresses ( apron, or Danish dresses). Although maybe most popular in the medieval times, brooches have survived the last millennium both as practical and decorative items – and they are still used to pin traditional Scottish attire nowadays, for instance.
2. Laces (and their variants)
It seems that one of the earliest laced garments were 12th century bliaut – there is still a lot of controversy around this, but I am pretty convinced it was the first time when dress edges were actually laced together ( more on it in my article on the bliaut construction)
Dresses in this period were laced at the sides through hand sewn eyelets , using a plaited or woven cord.
The same method was used in late medieval kirtles – from the 14th century onwards there is more and more evidence of gowns and kirtles being laces at the sides, as well as the front or back.
The method of lacing varied – cross-lacing was used alongside ladder- and spiral-lacing. The eyelets were hand sewn, sometimes with a metal ring being placed over the hole and over sewn with linen thread, rendering the eyelet more robust – but no grommets were used at all, until they were introduced in the 19th century.
Sometimes metal rings were used on their own – here used to lace a burgundian gown. Lacing continued to be used throughout history as it was a convenient method of closing the garment tightly – the following garments could be laced:
Medieval: doublets, cotehardies, kirtles, gowns, jacks;
Tudor: kirtles and gowns (lacing usually hidden under the placard),
Stuart – dresses, gowns, bodies (stays), buff coats
18th century: stays (predominantly spiral-lacing with offset eyelets), ‘robe francaise’ (at the back, under the pleats, serving more as a fit adjusting means here)), for waistcoats and breeches (at the back), jackets, robes (with lacing over the stomacher – often only decorative)
19th century – stays, corsets, dresses,
Ties and points are, in a way, a variation of lacing as in principle the idea is similar – using a strip or two of fabric or a cord to tie garments together.
Points were introduced first in medieval times, 11th-13th century, as a means of attaching a single hose to the braies. In the following centuries, as hose extended up and covered more and more leg and buttock, more points were needed, as was a more robust garment to which they could be laced. Late medieval doublets, pourpoints, etc, sport pairs of eyelets at the hem to which another pair on the hose corresponds – a cord with metal ‘aguillettes’ was passed through the eyelets and tied on top – a ‘point’. Similar method could also be used to fasten doublets in front. Holding up hose and later britches by attaching them to a doublet survived until about the mid 17th century – at the end, these were mainly a decorative item, often fashioned from silk ribbons and sporting pretty bows.
points in doublet
Points attaching a sleeve in lave medieval gown
Ornamental points on this boy’s gown and on a grown man’s doublet
Fabric ties – one of the easiest methods and a popular one too – mostly used on shifts, (necks and sleeves), coifs, bodices (early Tudor gowns), ruffs, collars, 18th century petticoats and gowns (again, often purely a decorative function), regency gowns (apron fronted ones), Victorian bustles (for tying a bustle pad around the cage), camisoles, hats, or as ties holding up the drape of bustled skirts, etc.
ties on boy’s shirt.
ties on bodice of Cecilia Heron, worn without placard
buffcoat, 17th century
ties on the overgown
drop-fronted gowns (more pictures of the pink ones http://www.vintagetextile.com/new_page_736.htm)
Drawstring – most likely used in medieval times for braes – but it seems there is no evidence of it being used in chemises. Chemises laced at the neck are also a L.A.R.P. invention it seems, (sorry Errol Flynn! ) -There are chemises aplenty gathered into a narrow band of fabric, but somehow almost no evidence of drawstring being used in garments until the 19th century (in regency necklines, transitional stays cups, ruching of skirts etc).
inside Victorian bodice, drawstring is used to make the neckline smug
Simple and a relatively inexpensive way to temporarily connect two bits of fabric, pins were used for ages. Veils were pinned to barbettes and wimples, sleeves were pinned to the shoulder-straps of gowns and kirtles. In the 16th century gown placards were pinned at the sides to the main gowns; in Stuart times collars were sometimes pinned to bodices (and having worn a big collar in windy weather I can understand how this works perfectly!) n the 18th century there is some evidence that the gown fronts (robes anglaise and polonaise) were sometimes closed in front using pins (Serena’s article). Hat pins were especially popular in the 18 and 19th century when fashionable headwear was pinned securely to one’s wig, hairpiece or simply to hair to stop it being blown away!
sleeves pinned to the kirtle
For some mysterious reason buttons appeared relatively late on the scene. They seem to have developed from decoratively applied beads before being seen as functional buttons. As a form of decoration they have been known for millennia, with buttons used as functional items only appearing on the scene in the 9th century (Hungary), some earlier evidence of them being used paired with buttonholes can be found in the 13th century ( Germany)
Buttons soon became all the rage, and the 14th century close-fitting garments sport them on front closures and sleeves, with the rule being ‘the more the better’… needless to say, their popularity has thrived over the ages and many forms have been developed – in medieval times metal shank buttons were popular, as were cloth buttons or cloth covered round/dome buttons. Tudor and Stuart times see a profusion of lavishly decorated ball buttons, covered with silk or linen thread, often sporting additional decoration with metallic threads. The 18th century is famed for its ornamental buttons – elaborately embroidered, wrapped or covered buttons are everywhere, reaching quite a size by the end of the 18th century. Flat buttons with holes are a relatively new invention, though. I am by no means a button expert – for more info on deaths-head buttons, Dorset buttons, embroidered, covered etc, I believe Gina B is the person to ask – and her DVD’s are fantastic if you fancy making some on your own!
The buttonholes, the bane of every costumier nowadays, were carefully handstitched with a strong thread – and in later centuries often corded for strength.
Together with thongs , horn toggles are a form of a button really and were used predominantly on medieval shoes (especially Viking origin) and seem to be used in the northern more primitive cultures, ( Siberian tribes, Inuit, etc ). Mysteriously they seem to almost disappear ( apart from toggle like ornaments used on Tudor garments) for centuries from the high fashion, with toggles on shoes being discarded – buckles, lacing and buttons being used in later centuries.
Hooks and eyes.
I believe a simple Winningas or dress hook was the predecessor of the functional hooks and eyes closure – Winnegas hook being a simple hook placed at the end of the binding wrapped around Anglo-Saxon calves – the hook simply caught the woven braid easily making sure the bindings stayed in place.
Proper hooks and eyes (or as they seem to be known before the end of the 17th century, crochet and loop) were used on late medieval garments to close collars, livery coats and gowns – as fabrics with patterns were popular in the second half of the 15th century, a closure that would not disturb those patterns was especially welcome!
Later they were used to close jerkins, gowns, jackets, bodices – and are still in use today, predominantly on lingerie items.
The hooks were also used on the corsets, as a means of preventing the petticoat and skirts to ride up!
Invented by a French Corsetier, Jean-Julien Josselin in 1829 they became extremely popular after the slot and stud closure was patented by Joseph Cooper in 1848. The spit busk took over the corsetry as it provided two things – rigid structure and a front closure that made it so much easier for the corset to be put on and removed by the wearer. Various form developed over the decades, including narrow, wide, conical and spoon busks. To my knowledge they were never used in any other item of clothing apart from corsets (well, historically speaking – 21st century excluded here)
Mark that the above picture shows press studs too – there were a recent invention as well and they were mainly used as supplementary means for skirts closures.
Well, and there you have it – a brief outline or what was worn and when. By no means encompassing all the wealth of possible closures but at least a start! 🙂
Fashion in detail, VAM, all 3 books… http://www.amazon.co.uk/Underwear-Wearden-Jennifer/dp/1851776168/ref=pd_sim_b_3
Janet Arnold – all the books….
The Tudor Tailor books – http://www.tudortailor.com/bookshoptt.html
Ok, so not everybody can afford a steel-clad jouster on a white horse as a fashion accessory – but don’t worry, there are ways around it:-)
So far, in our Looking the Part series, we have covered the foundation garments in Part 1, and make up and hairstyles in Part 2. Part 3, as can be quite safely inferred from the title, will be about accessorizing – but not only…
Please bear in mind, that I speak from a professional historical interpreter’s perspective – these posts are offered as generic advice only and you can choose which you may want to incorporate in your job or hobby. You can be as historically authentic or as fantasy as you want – simply choose the tips that would apply to you, and help you to create a convincing persona or character.
And so, let us start, with a truly vital element of every costume .. shoes
Not so much an accessory,but utterly indispensable for most folks – unless you are happy to run around barefoot in peasant gear ( done that, great fun!). Alas, good shoes and boots are not cheap – but it really is worth to save up for a few months and get a decent pair – and they will last you long, especially if you cover several periods, or dot need to wear them for days at a time. Most of the early footwear can have the simple advantage of lasting longer as you can often simply get a new sole fitted to your shoe.
Key things to remember:
*Wear shoes suitable to the historical period – but also to your status, occasion and weather: Riding boots are rarely appropriate for ballroom; court shoes will be useless on a campaign; if re-enacting medieval styles, it is a good idea to invest in pattens, if you work in a wet climate ( most of the UK then! :-). They are not only a nice accessory that attracts public attention, they are fantastic means of saving your fancy thin leather slippers from the mud!
* If you work in costume, or at least spend a lot if time in kit, do invest in shoes that fit. Banal, yes, but somehow many of us tends to economize and usually go for cheaper pair that sort of fits, instead of spending a few pounds more and getting a better pair, or a bespoke on. I It is simply not worth the pain – as I suppose most of re-enactors learnt the hard way!
* Before buying – do your research. Quality providers of historical footwear will always be able to show you the sources they used for the design on the shoe. Before you decide on style, do your homework and check online, or in books, what shapes, heels, colours were used in the given period. Don’t go for cheap copies based on ‘general knowledge of the period’ – if you are interpreting and talking to the public, you will be surprised how often shoes are on the agenda…. Also, make sure that the workmanship is decent – shoes that look right but are shoddily made will not be of much use. if you can, get your footwear from a recommended supplier.
* Take care of your shoes – remove mud, use grease, or shoe polish as often as needed – that simple and obvious step will prolong the life of leather, prevent cracks etc.
Shoe providers I have used and can recommend:
American Duchess – doesn’t really need introduction – covering 18th to early 20th century designs, great shoes at affordable prices. Love my Victorian Tavistocks, and am saving up for a couple of more pairs. …
Andy Burke – one of the top UK suppliers, great quality work – many styles available for a variety of budgets. I have my 12th century shoes from him – not the cheapest, but very comfy!
NP HIstorical shoes – lovely work, haven’t bought any from them yet, but inspected, and admired several times at different markets
Pilgrim Shoes – quality shoes on budget – my Tudor shoes are from her, they are great fit and have so far served me well for the last 6 years.
U szewca – Polish guys – my 17th century shoes and Cavalry bucket tops are form them… They do ship abroad, drop them a line! both pairs were made to measure, and are very comfortable and durable – I still use the shoes, some 10 years later – same goes for the bucket tops ( though they recently died in our garage fire – so will be ordering a new pair)
2. Hats – we already covered hats while talking about hair in the Part 2 , so just a reminder – wear them! Hats, hoods, bonnets etc are not only great for completing the period look – they also serve a function as they protect from the sun, rain, cold etc. They also help hide a bad hair day…. 🙂
As to obtaining the hats etc – the same key point apply – make sure it is appropriate for the period, status; ensure the supplier is trustworthy – if possible use recommended companies. Do your research as well….
Providers – since I make most of my own hats ( Prior Attire ), I rarely buy them – but i have recently treated myself to a lovely hat from Sherri Light ( Farthingale HIstorical Hats) – my friends also buy from her, and I often admire her designs at the markets:-)
I am not a fan of jewellery normally – indeed the only bling I wear is my engagement and wedding ring – had that for a couple of years, the longest any of my jewellery items has survived… the reason is simple – I do a lot of sports and earnings, bracelets etc are a bit of a hindrance – or danger even when you do martial arts or horse riding.
However, I have accumulated some historical bling over the years ( not near enough though!) and I do wear it if I re-enact a wealthy character. Not much point having clothes it for a queen and then skimp on necklace, earrings, ouches and rings, isn’t it? this is the area I am most deficient in, but am slowly catching up!
So if you want posh, get your bling – and bear in mind that items like surface decoration, pater nosters, pomanders, decorative hat pins or tiaras count as well!
Provider I have used in the past – Gemmus – lovely work!
4. other stuff.
And there we have a number of not only decorative but also useful items:
* fans – look great, useful in hot weather and perfect for demonstrating the secret language of the fan…..
* walking sticks – great accessory – looks fantastic, provides support when your legs are tired, and can be used as a weapon… 🙂
*gloves – in many periods a must – but also keep your hands warm ( and clean).
*muffs – fantastic for colder weather
* bags, purses,pouches, reticules- you name it. Look period, are practical ( make sure they are big enough for a hankie, car keys and a mobile phone 🙂
* umbrellas and parasols
*belts, girdles etc – goes without saying really 🙂
*keys ( chatelaines)
*tools – medieval scissors hanging from the belt, a viking needle case, etc – range of styles and options through the ages, depending on the profession represented!
* weaponry ( mostly for men in this case, but not always)!
* no doubt many others….
a good accessory is not only great for the look and comfort – but they also serve an additional purse – a perfect conversational gambit, essential when dealing with members of the public.
hope you have enjoyed the mini series – and hope it may be useful to at least some 🙂
One final remark – a perfect frock, on perfect underwear, impeccable hair and all the accessories required will count for nothing if your behaviour is not suitable to the portrayed persona. If it is a social event, closed to the public – hell, free rein! but if you are working at a living history event, do mind your manners – and mannerism of the era too! Queens rarely ran around barefooted with flowing tresses, chased by scantily clad youths; ladies rarely swore; gentlemen treated ladies with respect ( at least in public!); servants did not treat their betters as equals – and so on and so forth. It is impossible to be 100% authentic in your behavior, language, mien etc – but we can at least try and eliminate the most obvious things! 🙂
A slightly different post – mostly to honour one of my most loyal customers – or, to be precise, a customer who, though the years of stitching, fittings, events etc, has became a very close friend. Eleanor now has a rather full wardrobe of Prior Attrie outfits, from medieval to Victorian – and I am going to present some of them below.
The first contact was made through Ebay – Eleanor wanted to purchase one of the frocks i was selling – but needed it shorter..
Shortening the gown was no problem, so we met at one of the markets and I have sorted it on the spot.. and that’s how it started… that is also how I met Ian from Black Knight Historical – but this i think will be another post… 🙂
A gown fit for a queen – clothes for Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine
kirtle in silk, dress in silk with ornamental borders, veil and wimple
middle / lower class kirtle and dress in wool
a surcoat in cloth of gold – another queenly garment…
and a bit more modest, a nun’s outfit – 13-14th century
most of the work here was either kirtles for the camp or burgundian gowns – i have made 3… some of them below…
here we started with an upper-middle class merchant’s wife..
a bit posher…
and a silk velvet gown, for Peterborough cathedral
alas, nothing as yet…. i think…
a pair of brocaded stays, silk petticoat and brocade jacket. event blog here
Regency – a gown in silk – here as a Mrs. Bennett, with me as her daughter – more details of the event here
a schoolmistress/egyptologist just a jacket by me. my first ever Victorian item too!
was a 1883 suit for my wedding – Eleanor was my Matron of Honour:-)
then the mourning gown – work at Holkham ( blog here)
and a 1884 evening gown, also worn for our Spectacular Ball
I even did a Halloween corset and skirt for Eleanor – here worn for our Steampunk dinner at Coombe Abbey last autumn – not a best photo but we were too busy eating and having fun – so it is almost the only one I think…
and for the time being – that’s it! Many thanks to Eleanor for being a perfect client and a perfect friend – hope you enjoyed the journey too!
Well, it was a rather exciting day! the very unusual wedding fair, The Eclectic Wedding Extravaganza, taking place in Fazeley Studios, in Birmingham was abuzz with people. Despite frosty weather, unusual for late March, we managed to get there on time – and so did our lovely models and the stylist, Sarah.. and here’s a short pictorial report from the day!
Our stand was not a stand really, but a nice boudoir – very cosy and conveniently placed just off the cafe!
once the place was ready, and the dresses on the mannequins, it was time to get dressed!
and then at last we were ready…
as she was heaving her hair done…
and Lucas performing the last corrections…
The highlight of the day was the fashion show – there were a few companies taking part, all sporting lovely attire!
and the Prior Engagement team in action
after the show we had an imprompty photoshoot with Jay Mountford – soo looking forward to the photos!
Then back to the stall – fortunatelly our little boudoir was perfect for lounging….
Sarah, work done, went on to a mini shopping spree…
and considering the goodies on offer, we think she showed considerable restrain!
then it was time to pack up, and head back home- tinly little bit fatigued…..
Now back home, enjoying a good cuppa of brown joy!
Many thanks to all the guys in the team, some of them travelling across the country to be there – greatly appreciated! xxx
Also, check out the results of the impromptu photoshoot with Jay – some amazing pictures!
Spectacular!Spectacular! Masquerade Ball April 27, 2013
So you get engaged, spend 10 months organizing the big day, you get married, a bit surprised at how smoothly things went, go on a honeymoon and then back to normal life.
Although my ‘normal life’ is according to generic standards not particularly normal; none of the 9 to 5 thing going on, more of a 8-23, but with breaks for running, coffee, training, naps etc; no work dress code, but then dressing up for events, (one week as queen Katherine of Aragon, the next as a Victorian lady, or a 15th century merchant’s wife, or an aristocratic escapee from the French revolution…), I found that I missed the excitement of the preparation for the wedding.
So when my newlywed husband asked me a few months into the wedlock if I had any particular plans for the following year, the answer was: ‘I want a ball! Preferably a Victorian one, but a fantasy/steampunk one would not be frowned upon either’.
This sort of wishful thinking is generally ‘easier said than done’, but, with lots of contacts in the re-enactment community, dance groups and alternative subcultures, it turned out to be a bit more feasible.
We started with some basic market research, asking a simple question on Facebook. Within a few hours we had lots of positive replies, and although you do tend to take such things with a pinch of salt – usually about a third of the people who declare they are interested in doing something ends up doing it – the rest fall behind as the timing, cost or other life issues pop up.
Still, it was a start.
Finding the venue was the next big step. We visited a few suitable venues – Woburn Abbey was stunning, but well above our means – we could afford it only if we didn’t want to offer food, and we felt that a nice little buffet served half way through would be quite popular.
Still, the stunning surroundings of the place offer a lot of potential, and I suppose it would be a very strong contender if we ever considered a ball without the option of food.
Wrest Park was the next on our list – again, absolutely lovely and one of my firm favourites, but the catering option would eat our finances down to nothing in no time at all, or make the price of tickets far too high.
And then we found Heatherden Hall, a part of Pinewoods Studios. After a short visit, we were enchanted. Lovely rooms, stunning gardens, and what’s more important – within our budget – even with the catering. We needed to pay a bit more to cover the cost of covering the entire ballroom with proper dance floor, but it was worth it.
Venue booked, ticket prices and guest numbers more or less agreed on, it was time to get a Facebook event going and start advertising, marketing and selling tickets. It was relatively early and we still had about 9 months, but it never does any harm to plan early!
Lucas & I came up with some lovely wording for the page and the rest is history…
So, let me show you the place and explain what is happening on the day….
The Venue: we have the use of the following rooms on the ground floor:
Most important: the Ballroom. This will be floored with oak panelling, entirely suitable for about 200 people to throw themselves around in waltzes, tangos and more modern rhythms.
The Pools room – That’s where the grub will be! Tables in the middle, with casual seating all around. It even sports a very elegant little lounging section with a working fountain!
Club bar, selling quality booze!
Hitchcock room – ideal to serve the welcome drinks, and for sitting and chatting before the ball starts.
The Pine room – this will form the ladies’ boudoir…. a place for the girls to change into their frocks, and to leave their coats and bags behind.
The conservatory – Sarah, our stylist, with her helper Lizzie, will be setting up a beauty parlour there. Lots of room to change as well, and it has a direct access onto the patio and to the gardens. If you want an appointment with Sarah to have lovely make up done and your hair styled, drop her a line – I understand there are only a few places left!
The gardens – absolutely stunning, and hopefully the weather will be kind enough for us to have a relaxing walk about – there are some really lovely spots to take pictures in all your finery too!
The place will be staffed, including security guards, to make sure everybody can feel safe and relaxed.
A professional photographer, Paul Mockford, will set up a stand in one of the rooms – there you will have an unique opportunity to have your photo taken by a professional photographic artist, and printed on the spot, for a small charge.
Access to the venue will be from 6pm: you will then have about an hour and a half to make any final preparations, enjoy your welcome drink, have a stroll in the garden and enjoy the surroundings.
The ball will open from 8pm. For the first hour, the talented Charlotte will be putting us through our paces in some historical dance tuition. Do not be afraid, most dances are not fast (though we may have a go at a waltz and a polka…) and can be danced with either male or female partner. Sophie and Chris from ‘Blast from the Past’ will be providing live music for this part of the ball!
Once we have practiced our dancing and are all warmed up, our DJ will kick in with more traditional music: we will have some waltzes, tangos, polkas, etc – since the ball is named after a song from the Moulin Rouge film, the music from the movie will feature strongly on the agenda! We will mix in slower dances with more modern beats, so expect a fully eclectic mixture – from polkas, jazz, cha -chas and salsa to rock and roll and modern dance pieces, so that everybody will find something to hop, jump, glide, swoosh, sway and spin around to. We will most likely start with the traditional and dance our way towards more modern tunes as the night progresses – so ladies wearing more cumbersome frocks are free to dash to the Pine room and change into less restricting attire, should they wish.
And when hopping around gets a bit tiresome – the buffet in the Pools room will be available from 9pm onwards. The menu is rather impressive we combined two different sets, making sure there is a more or less balanced choice for all of our carnivorous and vegetarian guests, with special diets catered for as well. The Hitchcock Bar will be open until 12.30 … so there will be plenty of drinks to quench your thirst.
Menu: Smoked Salmon and Cream Cheese Bagels
Rare Roast Beef with Horseradish in a Mini Yorkshire pudding
Broccoli and Stilton Quiche
Mini Chicken Salsa… Wraps
Salmon Fish Cakes with Lime Mayonnaise
Crispy Vegetables with Plum Sauce
Sea Salt and Black Pepper Potato Wedges
Assortment of Finger Sandwiches
Chicken Satay with Coconut and Lime
Breaded King Prawns with a Mango Salsa.
Oriental Seafood Parcels with Soy Sauce
Mini Cheese burgers
Lamb kofta kebabs with mint and yogurt dressing
Spinach and Feta Goujons
dessert:Wild Berry and Apple Crumble
Dancing, chatting, lounging and all the revels will last till after midnight, carriages are planned for 1am
The dress code:
Although Moulin Rouge Victoriana/Steampunk or evening wear is recommended, we expect a truly eclectic feel to the evening; simply wear whatever makes you feel Spectacular and Special, and you will dazzle! So whether it is a Tudor dress and a top-hat, a Venetian carnival outfit, a Steampunk gown or a modern evening wear, simply be whoever you want that night.
We have pinned an inspiration board here…http://pinterest.com/priorattire/spectacular-spectacular-masquerade-inspiration/
I will have a few dresses for hire on the night – link here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.429609537113456.98657.320351544705923&type=1
The one thing that WILL be expected of you, (at least for the first hour or so), will be a mask….
More details can be found on the event’s pages:
Tickets – not many left and the deadline is 12th April. After that date only recycled tickets will be available – a step necessary since as we are providing food, the catering folks need to know the exact numbers 2 weeks ahead… Tickets can be purchased by BACS, Cheque, (details on fb), or for those preferring Paypal, you can buy them here: https://www.etsy.com/listing/124673581/spectacular-spectacular-prior-attire
And so now, with just 6 weeks to go, the pressure and the expectation are starting to build – I cannot wait to see all the people dressed in their finest, swanning around, swaying to the music, or lounging around the fountain; gallant gentlemen helping the ladies to find the tastiest morsels, the chevaliers whisking their sweethearts away for a romantic walk in the garden; ladies chattering behind their fans about the dances and frocks; the men enjoying a whiskey at the bar… ‘romantic, nostalgic and passionate’ is the feel I would like to experience for the night – and that depends on the people taking part. Somehow, I do not feel I will be disappointed – and I know we will have a great time – in fact, we will have a Ball!
I spent the last weekend in the well appointed studio belonging to a friend of mine, Julia Bremble. Julia is the corsetiere artist behind the Clessidra ( http://www.clessidra.co.uk) specialising in bespoke corsetry, and she also runs an online shop, Sew Curvy, with corset kits and supplies.
An author of a very helpful e-book on making corsets, Julia teaches corsetry as well – and her workshop is ofen used for courses and classes of other creative artists – Jenni Hampshire from Sparklewren holds regular classes there, as is the owner of the lovely Crikey Aphrodite.
Last weekend it was my turn, and we spent 2 lovely days working on Victorian bustle cages, bustle pads and petticoats – either in their proper Victorian form or with a twist, as Steampunk renditions. Saturday was the bustling day. The aim was to produce either a traditional cage, or a steampunked one. Time permitting, we will also have a go at bustle pads.
The students, Jane and Helen, arrived on time and after a cuppa and a short chat we set to work. The morning was spent on using the provided pattern to make their own versions, and the girls cut out the pieces and set about hemming them. Helen was creating a more traditional version of the bustle in white twill and lace, to go with the ball gown for our Spectacular ball in April ( https://www.facebook.com/events/146217962178037/?fref=ts), whereas Jane was making a more colourful version in brown cotton dill and red lace, leaning towards steampunk sensibilities.
Apart from learning how to construct the bustle, both ladies had a go on Julia’s sander, filing their steel bones – i believe it was the first time for both of them! After lunch and a good chat, fuelled by leafing through the costuming books, the girls tacked the main task of the day – boning the bustles.
One of the most challenging tasks was sewing the bustle together after the bones have been inserted – you can see that Jane is enjoying every minute of that particular task!
just the final touches:
and it was done!
We just had enough time left to have a go at the bustle pads – most work was done in the class, with the girls being assigned homework – finishing the pads and adding lace.
After such a busy day it was now time to hit the supermarket to get the provisions for Sunday’s lunch, and thenI spent a delightful evening at Julia’s, with her lovely family – i admit I was especially taken with their greyhound, Marley…
Sunday was a day for petticoats. Again, the aim was to make a flounced petticoat according to authentic Victorian patterns – though there was an option of adding some cunning bits and to make the petti into a steampunk dress…
The stundents, Jane and Suzy, opted for the Sgteampunk versions, and after measuring and drafting the patterns, the girls were soon cutting out the fabric.
Both girls decided to trim their flounces with lace, and to speed the proces up we decided to use the overlocker for serging the edges – and it was their first experience with the machine.
All the flounces serged and decorated, it was time for lunch and a chat, and then promptly back to work. and a lot of wark it was as we were sewing the flounces onto the back of the petticoats and that involved a lot of pins and a lot of patience.
After that it was just assembling the petticoats, adding waistbands ( both girls chose elesticated waists for ease and comfort), and it was done! we did overun and the class ended a bit late, but the effect was worth it!
Altoghether, a very satisfactory and a very productive weekend – there are more course planned on bespoke basis, so if you wish to have a go, check out the workshop page of Sew Curvy! http://www.sewcurvy.com/corsetmakingsupplies/cat_327295-Workshops.html
Detailed article with insgtructions how to make Bustle cages and petticoat, in both proper Victorian and Steampunk rendition are available on amazon – links to UK sites below, but they are also available in the US or everywhere else in the world!