Louisville JASNA Costume One: Familiar to Followers

An American flag coloured morning gown was suitable for the first official day of the 2015 Louisville JASNA AGM because I planned to be at sessions until about 4 pm, the end of the morning in the Regency period, at least in the city. Austen herself commented about rising at 9am, and many slept until 10am, since balls and social life ended in the wee hours the night before–kind of like it does for many people attending this conference!

We were overtaken today compared to our quiet little pre-conference activity days! Many, many glorious gowns and hats appeared on ladies, and a good half-dozen more costumed gents now hovered about them as they priced out ribbon. I had already been confused and intimidated about purchasing these unique, quality products. Can you imagine having Ms. Silk Reddingote in front of you, passing things to Mr. Custom Top Hat? The “Quality” has come.

I have a cold and a stomach upset of some sort, and since I’ve already been here three days, I’m tired, so I kept Regency hours. Regency ladies breakfasted at nine, took callers or made calls from 2-4, thus the length of the morning. The morning dress should cover the arms and chest during those hours, thus long sleeves and chemisettes, fichus, or lace tuckers were in order.

I wore the same outfit you saw in an earlier post, which I refer to as my “emergency” gown since I put it together in a few days for a Jane Austen Tea put on by my local JASNA in early September.

Here I am again, with more photos so you can see the back and my little “grown up lady’s” cap better. My ringlets turned out nice today. I cheated and used the tiniest amount of makeup, as I’m like Mr. Darcy in MP author Karalynne Mackrory’s book (ghostly complexion) otherwise!

louisville 15 friday louisville 15 friday backlouisville 15 friday sidelouisville 15 friday boot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One area of difficulty is I’d originally sewn nothing more than a no-fray finish on the top edge of the petticoats the first time, but lately, I added a narrow waist band with hooks and eyes to close it in back. It has back gathers to match any gown it would be worn with.

When I made the waist band, I measured myself under a regular bra. As you may recall, I’m using a bustier from years back when I was heavier as a corset. With the cups folded in and stitched down, its shape is good and it pushes the girls up well. Its boning is similar to a busk.

It turns out this bustier reduces my rib cage about an inch! I had to safety pin the petticoat to my bustier, and after about an hour, nearly tripped on it, as it was hanging a good eight inches low on one side! Two pins had become undone, as well as the back hooks and eyes! When I tried to fix them without being noticed, I jabbed myself instead! I returned to my hotel room to add more pins and close them with care this time!

The half boots have been enhanced since the other function, and coloured stockings were worn for fun. Please don’t ogle my pantalettes, necessary to keep the dark colour from being seen through two layers of super fine cotton skirts!

I got a generous number of compliments on various aspects of the costume, and several ladies were quite taken by those little boots. They’re a half size larger than my normal shoe size, so I could fit my custom orthotics inside, and save myself from knee pain. They also liked the little blue and gold reticule I got in Cottage Grove, OR on vacation last year.

It surprised me that many ladies wore their spencers or pelisses and hats indoors all day. It wouldn’t have been done in Austen’s time!

Judging from the vendor prices at the conference’s Regency Emporium, some of those big Lady Catherine hats with exotic feathers cost close to $500. I guess they want to get as much mileage out of them as they can, so “screw the idea of wearing just a lace cap indoors!” Similarly, a pretty spencer that took hours (or dollars) to complete should be shown off!

I think I may do the same tomorrow or one of the later days this weekend!

I wasn’t the only one in a cap, as several had lace or fine muslin versions. Some long-haired ladies had not done a Regency hairdo, and had a bare head with their hair down. This all takes time, and we have to cut corners to get to the seminars we waited so long for!

My favourite seminar of the day was on Regency plumbing and how it (and water systems) evolved before and after the Regency. The speaker, Janet Fahey is a P.E. like me! Not much was new to me, as toilets have always fascinated me, but it was a good seminar, and I learned about John Snow, the father of epidemiology, who effectively created the first spreadsheets.

I know, boring compared to big hats and silk riding wear! I’ll try to remember to take some photos for you all to see!

But I have to sew more lacy on my “emergency ball gown” before tomorrow night, so that’s it for this post!

Remember to comment here or on my Facebook page, or to approach me at the conference with a mention of the Thrift Shop Regency Costume Experiment for give-aways of reticules, embroidered handkerchiefs, bling, and more. I have extra prizes, so everyone’s a winner!

Conference delegates, come by the Authors’ signing tables tomorrow at 3:45pm to say “Hi!” to me and Linda Beutler! Better yet, buy a copy of Alias Thomas Bennet from the Jane Austen Books booth at the Emporium, and I’ll sign it for you!

Also, watch for free and sale books from Meryton Press this week, as Managing Editor Michele Reed is at the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville, TN!

Pre-JASNA AGM Day trips: New Albany and Jeffersonville, Indiana

I’m truly on holidays. How do I know this? It’s 27C and sunny! (That’s 81F.) Of course, no one expected this summer-like weather in Louisville, KY in October, but they do it right around here!

New Albany and the Harvest Homecoming Festival

After a relaxing morning to compensate for yesterday’s air travel, Mr. Suze and I headed out for an afternoon of tourism. We checked the forecast, and I was glad I’d thrown one pair of shorts into my suitcase, as it was already warm!

Our destination was lunch at the food booths of the Harvest Homecoming, taking place October 3-11 in New Albany, Indiana, across the Ohio River from our hotel. We caught the #71 bus on Jefferson, about 4 blocks from our hotel.

New Albany, IndianaNew Albany, Indiana 3The trouble was, there were no events for the festival today! The food booths and craft fair start tomorrow, when I’m registered in sessions as part of the 2015 JASNA AGM!

We found a great sandwich place (Toast on Market), then enjoyed a long walk along Main Street then back along Spring Street in New Albany to see many fine houses and large commercial buildings from the 19th century in restored condition.New Albany, Indiana 2The Emporium!

Upon our return to Louisville (pronounced Loo’-uh-vull), I met up with Meryton Press Author Linda Beutler during registration for the JASNA AGM. After a chat and introductions to her friends from JASNA SW Washington/NW Oregon, we were about to set off to rest before dinner.

But first, we peeked into the Regency Emporium rooms to see all the goodies that were for sale: gift items with Austen quotes, both modern and Regency jewelry, top hats, hairpieces and wigs, paper products, “grown-up lady’s” caps similar to the John Williams Dress Cap pattern from 1826 in simple muslin, wax bas-relief profiles, books, toys, and more. Fewer than half the booths had merchandise (6pm Wednesday).

Ready-made Regency gowns were for sale for $200-$300 in a rainbow of colours, multiple styles including pre-Regency, and many sizes, mostly larger! The fabrics and finishing details showed off the designer’s ability to make each gown special, and I recognized her from Etsy (I think–if it’s the same person). Her work often has modern flair, but it’s so pretty, only the snottiest costumers will whisper and point. Most JASNA-goers will be pleased to see such a pretty gown!

My author colleague sneaked an early purchase (the Emporium officially opens tomorrow at 8am) of a beautiful shawl at a budget price from a vendor who also sold sari fabric for gowns, many eclectic books, and a few framed Regency fashion magazine prints! She showed us how to wrap a turban in far simpler terms than the videos, and mentioned she’d learned it from a Canadian! My favourite set of items for sale was right up the alley of the Thrift Shop Regency Costume Experiment: her lovely collection of “found” vintage reticules of all types!

On the way to the elevator, we nearly bumped into a pretty natural blond woman, casually dressed, and wearing glasses–OH! Author Sharon Lathan, one of the organizers of the author signing event on Saturday. She looked like an ordinary person! This is a taste of what to expect this weekend!

Pedestrian and cycling bridge between Louisville KY and Jeffersonville IN. The colours of the lights change regularly, and each side has different unique light towers to guide you up the ramps.

Pedestrian and cycling bridge between Louisville KY and Jeffersonville IN. The colours of the lights change regularly, and each side has different unique light towers to guide you up the ramps.

Jeffersonville via the Big Four Bridge

After a rest, my husband and I met Linda to walk over to Jeffersonville, IN for dinner. The paths along the Ohio river iin downtown Louisville are wide and surrounded by park area, and the huge area of bicycle racks for the weekend’s Iron Man Triathlon event was impressive!

Meryton Press Authors Suzan Lauder and Linda Beutler

Meryton Press Authors Suzan Lauder and Linda Beutler

We thought it was a half hour or so walk–but it turned out to take 50 minutes just to get to the footbridge! We were thirsty!

We chose the first restaurant (Red Yeti Brewing Company) we found in Jeffersonville about another half hour later. A prompt delivery of unsweetened iced tea and we were chatting happily as if it had taken 5 minutes to get there. (I like a little sweetening, but most sweet tea is too much for me, and Linda likes her tannins raw!) The memorable food featured yummy details like bacon jam on the brisket sandwich, and we all declared ourselves satisfied!

The rest was sufficient to restore our energy, and we walked back on the “short cut” along city streets instead of along the riverside, which shortened the trip to under an hour.

Tomorrow, Linda and I will let Mr. Suze explore on his own while we haunt the shops of the Emporium until our seminars start.

Give-aways!

TSRCE Oct 8-12 giveaway itemsRemember, if you’re also here in Louisville with us, and have followed the blog, look out for me so you can meet me to let me know. I’ll be in costume Friday and Saturday, and in regular clothing Thursday and Sunday. The items in the photo will be given away here, a few in each of the next four days.

Linda and I will be signing copies of our books at the author booth on Saturday at 3:45. You can bring your own copy of Alias Thomas Bennet or buy a copy from Jane Austen Books at the AGM (the same for Linda’s 4 JAFF books!), or just stop by to say “Hi!”

For the balance of the followers of my blog, don’t forget to comment, as I’ll be giving away TSRCE prizes to be mailed out to winners of the draw on the blog, too!

UPDATE: Because we’ve had a lot of trouble with spam, some types of email addresses are being blocked by an extra-enthusiastic spam filter. If you’ve had trouble commenting on the blog (get an error message), I encourage you to comment on my Facebook page and mention the difficulties so we know for sure whether our spam blockers are too intense.

On the Road Again, Sans Ball Gown

jonquil original frontjonquil original backA sad event took place last Wednesday. I had to abandon efforts to complete my beautiful jonquil ball gown midway through the project.

My setback was part of a chain reaction from washing a panel of matching fabric to be used to line new gathers in back.

It’s best to wash new fabric in case it shrinks. The fabric came out fine.

 

The Original Plan

jonquil back with faux silk lining shownThe vintage 1960s gown from Women in Need (WiN) Thrift and Vintage Superstore (above and right, before any modifications) would have the following modifications:

  • The back skirt detached from the bodice, the zipper removed, and the center back seam opened.
  • A triangle cut from the former back panels to create Regency side panels 7″ wide at the top and 12″ wide at the bottom.
  • Part of the sheer overdress draping from the original dress, plus matching lining (faux silk from Salvation Army at $2.99 for 2 meters) added as a 24-inch-wide back panel, gathered to six inches wide.
  • The sleeves modified by cutting the overdress draping free at the neckline and reversing it to have a finished look like the artwork below left.
  • Panels from this draping would be finished with beads on the ends like the Regency fashion plate below right.
1815 Stephanie de Beauharnais-Baden wearing pale blue dress by Aloys Keßler after Johann Heinrich Schroeder

1815 Stephanie de Beauharnais-Baden wearing pale blue dress by Aloys Keßler after Johann Heinrich Schroeder

 

Evening Dress October 1811

Evening Dress October 1811

Indian blouse.

Indian blouse.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Lace from the Indian blouse was to run along the skirt bottom to lengthen the gown about 1.5 inches. Removal of this lace took quite a while since it was sewn on with  silver thread, which I wanted to retain to match the 1960s gown’s original waist trim.
  • A shirred panel from the ends of the draping would cover two holes in the bodice.

 

 

Disaster hits!

But when I decided to wash the gown along with the new fabric, on a super-delicate cycle, a horrid change took place: pin holes in the sheer fabric enlarged, and the overlay and draping, both from the same sheer material, shrank.

New projects emerged from the fiasco:

  • open the hemline where the overlay was attached to the lining so the fabric would relax before the lace was attached to the bottom of the sheer overlay,
  • cut a new piece from the sheer overdress draping for the back panel as the one previously cut was now too short,
  • re-think the sleeves since I stole the attached fabric for them and the dangly bits to create the second back panel,
  • figure out if I needed to add a panel at the hem for length (Maybe a rouleaux? I know, I keep adding beautiful design details!) now the bottom lace was a little higher,
  • find a way to camouflage the holes on the skirt.

 

I soldier on!

Yellow silk evening dress, 1817, Leeds Costume Collection.

Yellow silk evening dress, 1817, Leeds Costume Collection.

The Thrift Shop Regency Costume Experiment has always been about learning and adapting, and I wasn’t about to abandon this project yet. The back gathered panel, a simple project, turned out well. The gathered bodice overlay was a bit more complicated, but looks pretty.

I patched the holes on the front of the skirt using no-sew tape and tiny pieces of fabric from the overlay, and though they look better, it appears as if I spilled small drops of yogurt on my front!

Museum gowns, period fashion plates and Regency artwork were perused for additional hole camouflage ideas. Due to the location of the holes, I settled on diagonals of shirred fabric to mimic the museum piece on the right. I had plenty left from the Salvation Army piece.

 

Time is my enemy

It was Wednesday, and I would leave Friday morning for a short trip to celebrate my mother-in-law’s 86th birthday and an early Canadian Thanksgiving, before flying on to Louisville for the 2015 JASNA AGM.

Mother-in-law's 86th birthday and cool fall weather.

Mother-in-law’s 86th birthday in Winnipeg, MB, Canada.

In addition to the sleeves and skirt detail to hide the holes, the ball gown needed other work:

  • install the tapes with hooks and eyes on the back bodice to replace the zipper,
  • re-attach the waistline trim,
  • trim the neckline and sleeves with narrow silver braid to coordinate with the other trim,
  • use the same narrow silver trim to make the faux diamond back.

I was still thinking through the process and finish for the diagonal pieces on the skirt. I estimated this part of the project would take a full day.

The jonquil gown’s sleeves would take yet another day to design, make a pattern and at least one mock-up, and attach. Either of the two ideas that follow would be created with scraps of sheer draping and some of the faux silk.

1810 Ball Gown with pearls.

1810 Ball Gown with pearls.

Sleeve detail for 1811 gown, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Sleeve detail for 1811 gown, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No way could I finish this gown on time.

On top of those issues, several other machine-sewn projects were required for to the conference:

  • my spencer and the gentleman’s tail coat needed buttonholes–buttons had been temporarily attached to make deadlines for the blog posts!;
  • the white Swiss dot gown needed fake long sleeves, as the originals had been removed and short sleeves added, intended to make the dress flexible for morning or afternoon wear;
  • some pretty sheer fabric with white embroidery would be made into a fichu and, with the addition of some organza lace, a second cap.
  • Mr. Suze broke the cheap plastic belt lining product I’d used for his suspenders, and we had to purchase new banding and attach.
The jonquil ball gown needed too much additional work to earn its full parasol, and time ran out!

The jonquil ball gown needed too much additional work to earn its full parasol, and time ran out!

I also had numerous hand-sewn projects that would be tackled on the trip, such as 14 buttons on Mr. Suze’s tail coat and re-attaching the lining to my hat, which was not staying put with the double-sided tape.

Dozens of bags and containers of project items had to be packed up and stored after all this sewing, and I had to pack for a trip to two climates.

Something had to give, and the jonquil gown was sacrificed. I stopped all work on in mid-day Wednesday.

 

On to packing– but what to wear for the ball?

I had to quickly re-think possibilities for a ball gown. In a panic, I packed potential items that could be modified by hand, but were the dreaded polyester, and not my colour.

The alternative is the Swiss dotted gown (my original morning gown), but its fabric and style is less formal, better suited to an afternoon or dinner gown in its short-sleeved version.

I was in a terrible rush by the end, and didn’t stop moving from 7am Thursday to 1am Friday. I didn’t have time to make the new cap for day-wear, and have to wear my small-fitting first effort, made from cheap polyester lace at the last minute for my local JASNA’s Jane Austen Tea (an earlier blog post).

After the fact, I thought of a half dozen items that I should also have packed, e.g., my turban was to match the jonquil, and now I have to re-think headwear for the ball. I forgot my Alias Thomas Bennet book bead bracelet, which matches my editor and artists’ versions and would have been perfect for the book signing on Saturday prior to the promenade and ball.

I haven’t decided which way to go for the gown, and the only way to know is to watch my blog!

Next post: Louisville!

 

***UPDATE! Don’t forget to comment on The Thrift Shop Regency Costume blog posts, or find Author Suzan Lauder at the Louisville KY JASNA AGM for a chance to win items from the Experiment! Daily prizes October 8-12!

 

 

Book Club Questions for “Alias Thomas Bennet”

Who would expect heavy rains to be so welcome? After the recent extended drought in Los Angeles and Orange County, California, my home-away-from home again this weekend, it makes sense. My Chat Chit friends’ gardens will green up! Of course, I attribute it to the engineer friend who passed away this week: he’s up there above us, and repaired the systems!

The last time I was here, I was part of a “Meet the Author” event with “The Real Orange County Book Club.” I enjoyed meeting another of their members yesterday. Her enthusiasm about my book and writing inspired me to share the Book Club Questions I wrote for their use when my novel, Alias Thomas Bennet, was their monthly read for September 2014.

Alias Thomas Bennet 1263 x 900Alias Thomas Bennet by Suzan Lauder
Book Club Questions

1. Alias Thomas Bennet is inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and follows its general plot line, which in Fan Fiction is referred to as “canon.” Discuss the differences between “canon” and Alias Thomas Bennet. Do you agree with how the changes have been made? What could be done differently?

2. Outside of this book, Fan Fiction encompasses almost every area of storytelling in our culture: from The X Files to Mulan, Little Women to Wolverine, the online community of re-writes is immense. Discuss your familiarity and reactions to the idea of Fan Fiction. What other examples of Fan Fiction are you aware of? (Hint: famous trilogy based on Twilight!)

3. Maria Lucas is a minor character in the original Pride and Prejudice. What do you think of her role in Alias Thomas Bennet? Discuss her motivation and the societal aspects that compelled her.

4. A mature scene told from Darcy’s point of view has been controversial with readers. How would this differ if it was presented by an omniscient narrator as in most mature novels? Do you think it would be different if it was not a fantasy, but a sex scene? What is your reaction to the concept that Darcy ultimately decided to propose because of his desire? Do you think there might be some element of that in Pride and Prejudice?

5. The story begins with a series of flashbacks. Talk about your reaction to the exposure of information in the flashbacks, your understanding of them, and your suspicions as they evolved with the information in each vignette. Discuss how close your conjecture was to the exposé in chapter 8 and 9.

6. Wickham is a particularly evil villain in this adaptation. Some might criticise this as a ploy to victimize the heroine in order to add importance to the role of the hero. What is your view? What do you think about the outcome for him in this book? What do you think about Elizabeth’s reactions?

7. What is your impression of Fanny and Thomas Bennet/Lord Shelton? Do you think they are over-played, and the story should be more about Elizabeth and Darcy, as in Pride and Prejudice? Why?

8. In canon, Fanny Bennet is flighty and distractible. In Alias Thomas Bennet, it’s implied she suffers from PTSD. What do you think of this possibility? Why or why not is it a plausible explanation for her canon personality?

9. Discuss what life would have been like on a sailing ship for a month with small children, eating only hard tack (cracker-like bread) and gruel.

10. Some readers love the gown descriptions, and some hate them. What do you think?

11. Discuss what it might have felt like for Elizabeth and Jane to suddenly become the focus of society, when before, they were unknown. What do you think of this class structure issue? How does it compare with how people are judged today? What are the similarities and differences?

12. What did you like best about this novel? What would you change?

~~~

Please share any special thoughts that came up as you read this list, as I love feedback, and other readers would love to hear about it as well!

Hypothesis challenged, testing complete, final report now available

A photograph session with my antiques was the plan. It worked for all the individual costume parts, so why not for the reveal of the entire Thrift Shop Regency Costume? Because a better opportunity came out of the blue!

When a Jane Austen Tea fundraiser was mentioned by my local JASNA group on Facebook, I realized I’d be able to wear the full costume for an earlier photo op. Lucky me! I hopped in the little car for the short drive out to the event at Starling Winery, which was a great grand finale for my blog series. The grounds are stunning, and the day was warm and sunny.

austen tea party young ladieshats

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About 10% of those attending had a clue about Jane Austen era clothing, at least, that’s what I gathered from the costumes. Most of the rest wore a picture brim hat with mounds of netting, a long rayon sun dress from their closets, and sandals. There were a few fans and pairs of gloves, too. No one minded, though. Suddenly, I was less ashamed of my zipper.

Jane Austen Tea Party Starling Winery June 20 2015The Regency costumes were wonderful to see. Some had marvellous fabrics, others remarkable lace. A group of young women had bonnets to die for.

I discovered that, although I was wearing a dress with long sleeves, a high neckline, and a floor-length skirt, I wasn’t as overheated as expected, as the super-fine fabric breathed very well, and I could feel the day’s light breeze through it.

So here it is (drumroll)… TA-DA!Austen Tea Party Starling Winery 2015 Lame Mr. DarcySorry about Mr. Darcy. He was wearing one of those £50 All-in-One Regency Men’s costumes that actually has no shirt or waistcoat, just a dickey with a pre-tied cravat, and those are boot covers. He’s aged about 20 years, too. But he’s such a fine, tall, person, with handsome features and a noble mien!

~~~

Great buys:

  • The sage shoes with slightly pointed toes were new from a thrift shop at $7.99, and the trim on them meant no extra work.
  • The vintage, black, crocheted and beaded, gate-closure reticule (a different reticule is included in the cost estimate) was a steal at $3.99, and is beautifully unique.
  • Ribbon and lace at a 3 for 1 sale.
  • Braid, ribbon, lace, fringe, and an ostrich feather from a fabric store in Mexico for $5 total.
  • $1 tassels from an Indian fabric store for my parasol and future reticule project.
  • The vintage, 1980’s, white, Swiss-dotted cotton, Prairie Dress-style wedding gown for the Regency gown.
    • I had budgeted up to $100, believing it would cover a gown that needed no more than back gathering and a waist ribbon.
    • This $33.95 gown needed the skirt raised from natural to empire waist.
    • It has a fine cotton skirt lining and camisole, so I had no need for petticoats.
    • For the JASNA AGM in Louisville, KY in October 2015, I’ll remove the zipper and add hooks and eyes.
    • An extra cost was a coloured ribbon I preferred in the place of the self-coloured tie that came with the gown.

Total cost: $114.92

Shoes $7.99
Stockings $1.99
Pantalets $1 + $1 lace = $2
Balconet bra $27.50
Waist cincher $5.50
Gown $33.95 + $1 sewing tape, thread + $2 hooks and eyes + $1 waist ribbon = $37.95
Gloves (on hand for many years) $0
Cap $2
Hat $8
Modifications to earrings $2
Ring $1
Fan $1
Parasol $9.99 + 8 x $1 = $17.99
Reticule and handkerchief (gift) $0

$115 is about entry level price for a basic, Regency style, long-sleeved morning gown in unpleasant-looking but probably appropriate fabric, but with no petticoats or lace. It will also get a short-sleeved gown in a pretty cotton print and nice Regency cut, but none of the lace. Plus, this is an entire costume, not just the gown.

This means the Thrift Shop Regency Costume Experiment was a success. Yes, it is possible, and not all that difficult to assemble a nice, Regency acceptable costume at a low price using found, budget, and upcycled materials.

While I was checking for examples of gowns for my cost on Etsy, I was dismayed to see horrible non-Regency ball gowns being sold as such for $175 (plastic-looking fabric and buttons, modern cut) and $250 (modern fabric, non-Regency application of contrasting colour, and strange collar)! The interest in this topic has made all kinds of uneducated sellers decide they want a piece of the pie.

On the other hand, a couple of really nice ball gowns with attractive details and trim were offered for around $170, and both pulled off the look in synthetic. They were from different dressmakers. So if you want to buy a custom Regency gown rather than search the thrift shops, it doesn’t have to be horribly expensive.

Then a blouse for a morning gown look, etc., etc… well, you just have to follow the rest of the series!

~~~

Beyond the basic costume:

I have more materials than required for my base costume, but it gives me a different outfit for every event at the conference, plus some things to give away as gifts to Janeite friends!

In addition to the above, ready to wear articles include 4 reticules, three pairs of ballet flats, one pair of half-boots, three pairs of tights, two floor-length full slips, one black bustier, one fuchsia slip dress for an over or underdress, the makings for two turbans (scarves from one can also be bandeau head wraps), a medium-length, slightly curly pony tail hair fall, a second cap, The Pink Bonnet, two necklaces, a second pair of earrings, a bracelet, and a Regency-look Pashmina shawl.

Items requiring modifications to be worn include the Lydia Bennet hat, the Lady Catherine bonnet, a light blazer for a summer spencer, a pelisse dress, two long dresses requiring minimal modification to become evening/ball gowns. A lucky buy was a piece of faux silk in exactly the right colour to match the jonquil 1960’s dress for a ball gown. I was going to add a contrasting front panel to free up fabric for back gathering. Adding a panel at the back while I remove the zipper will be much simpler.

A variety of ribbon, lace, tassels, fringe, braid, bias tape, cording, beads, and some fabric remnants also are available for completing the above. The only items I may have excesses of are ribbon and a huge roll of 6” wide lace from a grab bag that can be used for sleeves or caps. I have material to make up to 12 reticules with my new designs!

~~~

Time spent:

At first, I went to one or two shops every two or three weeks for up to two hours. In February, I started to go at least once a week for 2-4 hours. Construction, modification, and decorating probably took 40 hours total. The greatest amount of time was spent in my head, thinking about how to best approach designs, and match colours and fabrics.

As this is a leisure activity, I hesitate to value my time any more than I would for redecorating my home or reading. Any excess of material (caps and reticules) will be given away.

~~~

Problems Encountered:

The learning curve on Regency fashion:

  • Examples of things I learned along the way: Long sleeves are typically very long, so they are up the arm and fall over the base of the hand. Laces and buttons were not as common on gowns as I thought: ties were most common.
  • The styles changed a lot over the period, and included very simple gowns to gowns with a great deal of elaborate trim.

Misunderstandings about Regency styles:

  • A cap is not crocheted lace, it’s very fine cotton, sometimes made into a lace-like look with pulled thread, darning, and whitework embroidery.
  • Puffed sleeves: There were many more types of sleeve than the short, puffed sleeve, or the long sleeves with a puff at the top, though both were so common, it’s a reasonable mistake.
  • Dark-based prints are uncommon, but do show in extant gowns.
  • The empire waist is not the only style. Some gowns had no waist, though the cut or an overdress was reminiscent of the empire waist.

~~~

Difficulties encountered along the way:

My own culling of items in my closet:

  • With moves and sale of a rental where we had some storage, we were living in a smaller space. I had given most of my clothes, and all of my fabric, crafts, and Hallowe’en costume parts to charity two years before. Some of the clothes and shoes would have been useful!

Jane Austen Tea Party Starling Winery June 20 2015 2
The dress I had in mind was elusive:

  • If all else seemed good, the thrift store dress would be polyester knit; black with huge roses; too fitted to make back gathers; sleeveless with no extra fabric for sleeves; covered in appliques or patchwork; have multiple long darts that would likely show if taken out; not my size; or too short.
  • A few true vintage items from the mid-20th century, in great condition, might have worked if modified, but I couldn’t bear cutting such a great piece of fashion history, so I wouldn’t buy them.
  • Polyester knit is ubiquitous, not just in dresses, but in slips, camisoles, and lace blouses (for sleeves), too. I saw one woven cotton camisole, and it was too small.
  • After the first few months, I purchased a couple of items that need more work because of fear I wouldn’t find anything.

Jane Austen Tea Party Starling Winery June 20 2015  me

The opposite of the impulse buy problem:

  • A bag of notions seemed pricey until I saw the price of the items new, but it was gone when I came back.
  • A blazer with a lot of soutache work could have been a lovely spencer, but I hesitated because I couldn’t easily see a place to break up the design. Someone else got it.
  • When I bought my shawl (not in this base costume, as it will be covered in outerwear), there was another similar, and I chose the one I thought went best with my evening gowns. I now believe that a shawl with that quality of design may not be common, and the price was cheap—if not for me, for a friend. But there were no more like it when I went back.

Other costume items:

  • Similarly, the fan and parasol were difficult to find. At least they were one size.

Availability of the right type of stores:

  • I live in a small city, so there aren’t many vintage and thrift stores, and similarly, fabric stores.
  • About half of second hand stores have good quality merchandise intended to be reasonably fashionable today, and none of that works well for Regency.
  • Thrift stores have more items that are older and out of style, and even more so in Vintage stores, though most of their items are funky for those on the edge of fashion, or items that are back in style and can be worn today.
  • I had four trips to larger cities during the course of the blog series, and was able to buy some good value items that I’ve never seen here.

Colour matching:

  • Even though you don’t have to be matchy-matchy with accessories, for back ties and fake sleeves it’s best, and it’s hard. Choosing a feather for a hat is similar.

Technical difficulties:

  • My new iron got glummed up one of the first times I used iron-on no-sew tape. You’re supposed to use a press cloth, and I didn’t read the instructions. The pieces of heat-activated glue tape weren’t fully under the fabric, and the hot iron in contact with a tiny piece tugged it out.
  • No-sew tapes (iron-on and double-sided) are fine for simple, flat attachments that take almost no load, but do not work well for more complex things such as pleats, drawstring openings, and the heavy texture of a straw hat.
  • I am terrible at crafting. I don’t seem to have the manual dexterity to make things neat and tidy. If you zoom in on the inside of the Capote hat, you’ll see an uneven ribbon that thankfully will be hidden by my hair.
  • I tied the gown’s waist ribbon off to the side, and in photos, it appears like a droopy breast! Unless you are young and perky, centre front or back tie is better!

Prices went up and product availability changed:

  • When I started a year ago, shoes that would work were $4-10. Now the price in thrift stores is no different than for new shoes on sale at budget stores. Of course, the ballet flats weren’t on sale all winter, and won’t be until fall again.
  • The little flared kitten heel shoes disappeared before I bought, though I saw a half-dozen pairs in my size on a visit a few months before I started to buy, when I was just beginning to consider what I’d wear to Louisville. I think the style was too old. Lucky are those who still have them in their closets!

~~~

The biggest change:

I discovered a new love. I’ve started to follow Pinterest pages and Facebook groups on costuming, and have been tempted to buy books for more than coffee table use!

I know I’ll be using the sewing machine again, and this time, the challenge will be to use existing patterns and modify them to make them my own, as opposed to purchasing modern patterns. I may be crazy to do so, but I’ll learn along the way, just as I did for this Experiment.

My dream is to actually see the museum pieces. I constantly have little questions about this and that, and only looking at actual construction would help. Costumers with many years of experience and related degrees rarely have this opportunity, so it may be the impossible dream.

But if we did not dream, the death of our imaginations would turn us into black holes, imploding into the nothingness of an empty life. As an author, I rely on possibilities to light my life. Things seem to work out in the long run, in spite of any bumps in the road along the way!Jane Austen Tea Party Starling Winery June 20 2015 harpist

~~~

A point of pride:

I learned the bulk of the knowledge I’ve shared throughout this series by observing examples on the Internet. I read some excellent web site summaries, but avoided asking experts for help, and didn’t buy any books on the topic, as that cost could be put towards the costume.

I even got to the point in my acumen where I could pick out bloggers who knew enough to be dangerous and give inaccurate advice—kind of like how I started. I’m still learning, and it’s never been a chore. I enjoy the challenge of research.

The part of this story that was not intentional is important, that of the re-use of discarded items. It’s not just about being cheap, it’s about minimizing waste. Our society loves to buy and throw away, and the little thrift shops are full of evidence of that. But someone else’s discards became my treasure.

I’m going to miss those shopping trips. But wait… Mr. Suze needs a tailcoat, and breeches, and boots, and more!

I hope you enjoyed this little series of less than imaginative writing. I could never have imagined myself as a blogger, yet sometimes, fortune falls at your feet. It’s been an experience beyond the ordinary: I proved I could act outside of the box of consumerism, not just buy because I can afford it, and I’m proud of how far I’ve come.

Thank you for joining me on this trip.

~~~

NEXT POST: No promises on a specific topic.

This summer, I plan to focus on the final edits on Letter from Ramsgate, which has taken a back seat to this blog. Then I’ll be posting it twice weekly on A Happy Assembly!

At the same time, I’ll make my ball gown and a spencer, and there will be a post for each. I’ll show you my shawl, too. I promised a post on tricks to fake Regency, and I’ve developed my own pattern for reticules that I’ll share, as well as pulled an old pattern for a cap off a plate in a book and will draft it for you to use. So you’ll hear from me every 2-3 weeks or so, and then from Louisville, KY at the JASNA AGM!

Starling winery raspberriesI’d like to promote the Centennial Belles of Port Alberni’s Jane Austen Tea on July 3 and 4, 2015, and the Port Alberni Jane Austen Festival on July 8 and 9, 2016. This little town has ambitious plans for 2016: to break the world record of people in Regency costume, which is currently regularly broken by The Jane Austen Festivals in Louisville, KY and in Bath, UK. Perhaps a few of my Janeite and Chat Chit friends may decide this is a good time to come visit me on their way there!

December 4, 2014: The Cost of a Pedicab for a Chat Chit in San Diego

She was standing on the doorstep waiting for me by the time I was halfway down the front walk. Gail Warner is not the type to wait for the doorbell and answer as if your arrival is a surprise when she’s eager to meet the last of her authors in person (me!). I’d seen photos of her, and that smile says it all. She’s warm, intelligent, and has a fantastic sense of humour. I think of her as “my Gail,” and the other authors she’s edited for feel likewise.

 photo 20140917_091851_zps36e47336.jpg

The day was as warm as Gail, perfect for the drive along the ocean from Orange County to San Diego that morning. We chatted like old friends, which I suppose in a way we were, after the close nature of our work on Alias Thomas Bennet gave us a bond like no other. Gail is keen to get her hands on my current work, Letter from Ramsgate, and I hope she’s pleasantly surprised by how much my writing and editing have improved from the rough work she helped me refine last spring. Of course, I learned from the best!

I could have stayed and talked all day, but I’d planned to meet the instigator of the AHA San Diego Meet-Up at the airport. I tease her by calling her “Birdie,” but defiantfalcon is her A Happy Assembly (AHA) username, and it suits. I knew she was small, but it was still a surprise because she’s so decisive and assertive. She walked up to the hotel desk and greeted them with all the polite manners of a southern lady before she stated her needs as if she would brook no opposition.

She’s been my rock over the last few years, excellent support when I was ill, and as the plot beta (similar to a developmental editor) for Letter from Ramsgate. When she told me a plot twist was an unnecessary distraction that added nothing to the story’s flow, I cut the chapter. Next, my clever scene for reunification of Darcy and Elizabeth had too many contrivances, and I had to think of a new scenario. The sweet and funny epilogue was too much of a change from the tone of the story. I didn’t realize it until defiantfalcon pointed it out.

We went for lunch and talked away, again like old friends. Job, family, pets. The day was heating up, but she’s a southern gal and used to it, and there was a nice breeze. We were both tired, and separated to rest up for the “main event.”

The AHA San Diego Meet-Up was set for a seafood restaurant on the Embarcadero, with views to the bay. Gail joked that when she arrived, she realized she knew one person, and didn’t know if I was there yet. I walked from Little Italy and thought I couldn’t find the restaurant. I was just texting defiantfalcon when I passed the USS Midway and there it was! We had a chatty seafood meal, discussing all kinds of Austen topics: the cool details in the books, the stories on AHA, the dynamics of the members, and the men! We all knew each other from AHA Chat, but to chat in person, and laugh together, was a wonderful extension of our relationships.

Afterward, we checked out the statue “The Kiss” or “Unconditional Surrender,” and the bronze installation to Bob Hope. As much as we enjoyed each other’s “real” company, it was time to head back to our hotels. When we had arrived, the place was alive with cabs, yet now a pair of pedicabs were parked near the door. After a short wait, we ambled out to the street, stopping to admire the bronze plaques that honoured past leaders of the US Navy. Pedicab after pedicab went by, but nothing else. Since three were headed one way, and my hotel was in the opposite direction, they encouraged me to take one. I thought it would be fun, but the driver was in a horrible mood.

And worse yet, I made the mistake travelers around the world make: I failed to agree on a fare ahead of time. He demanded double what I had expected based on cab rides in the city earlier! I argued for a few minutes, but it was hopeless. Much like Elizabeth in the scene in my July blog post, it was all the cash I had, but Mr. Suze wasn’t a surprise.

The next day, several of us enjoyed the San Diego Zoo’s Wildlife Safari, a large park full of African and Asian animals. I’m not well, and the day before had used up all my energy resources. DH suggested I stay back and rest, but I protested: I wanted to see the four baby lions. We were in luck! When we inquired as we paid our admission, we found they had been out where the public could see them for the first time yesterday, and maybe would be again today, at 9am. As an unadvertised item, there were few people there. Mama paced, agitated about the safety of her young, and the little ones rolled around and played lazily.

lionsWe sat back and relaxed as defiantfalcon clicked away. Her hobby is zoo photography, and she’s good: her home zoo uses some of her work for their promotional material. When she had her fill at that exhibit, we took a tram around the park to discover that many of the other animals had new babies, too: giraffes, elephants, hippos, to name a few. The facility exists to breed and protect species, and it has one rhino who will be the last of his kind. It was fun to watch the baby elephants at play. One pushed its sibling into the pond, and the wet elephant made the best of it and had a bath.

I saw the highlights before I ran out of steam, and we left the others mid-afternoon. In spite of drinking about 2 litres of water with salts, as I got to the car, I was lightheaded and had to sit. The car thermometer said it was 112oF (44oC)! However, as we descended to the city, it cooled nicely. Later, when the others were driving back, a heavy rain obscured the highway and caused flash floods.

brunch 3 resizedThe next morning, the group was joined by josurinu for breakfast, who had driven from LA early that morning. A few years ago, josurinu, defiantfalcon, and I worked together on her two Austen-inspired modern romances, Someone Like You and spin-off Someone Like Me, my first experience as a story beta (line edit), and we call each other Team SLY. She would join Lalita and defiantfalcon to the San Diego Zoo and Sea World, where the latter two had booked a swim with the dolphins. But DH and I had seen many of the tourist attractions on a previous visit to San Diego, so we were on the road again. Besides, I had run out of copies of Alias Thomas Bennet to sign and give away!

We took three days to drive home, as expected. Friends recommended Highway 99 in California instead of the I-5, and it was a great choice: less traffic, more scenic. We uncovered the identity of the mystery trees along the road—walnuts—which I don’t recommend eating green. We lamented the fact that the Shasta Lakes were almost dry: easily 20 feet low. We revisited Cottage Grove, OR and discovered a thriving old town main street with a great used book store and coffee shop in an old theatre, where I bought a reticule. (If you’ve never been to that area of Oregon, it’s worth the trip to see the dozens of covered wood bridges.) The next day, I found the funkiest vintage story ever in Portland, OR, with 50’s cowgirl dresses among the other classic selections.

But in order to close this tale, I must back up.

Our last stop in California was to return to a location we had found on the way down, in Red Bluff. I may have mentioned once or twice that DH and I have a bit of a ritual in our U.S. travels. So it’s fitting that we end this story of the AHA San Diego Meet-Up with that fine aspect of American culture: PIE.

piePhotos by dogpoundphoto and Chaotic Her