A road trip to Madame Gilflurt’s blog: My guest post on sneaky Regency hands.

I clicked the wrong link. I intended to email the organizer of a Jane Austen ball to tell her about the Thrift Shop Regency Costume Experiment, but I accidentally clicked a link that led me to Madame Gilflurt.

011-Mrs-Robinson-as-Perdita-246x300 as Madame Gilflurt“No problem,” she said, “but would you consider doing a guest post on my blog?”

Of course! I love to hear myself talk, and a busy blog sounded fun. I had an idea for a blog post that came up during my research on Regency gowns, and offered to post it on her blog. She loved the idea. It took a while for me to write the actual text of the post, and by then, Madame Giflurt was in the middle of her own series.

Today, the post is up: The Itch Exposed: A Special Report for the Admirers of Regency and Georgian Fashion. It’s a tongue-in-cheek look at an accidental observation I made while perusing hundreds of Regency gowns in museum pieces, historical paintings, and fashion magazine drawings—the position of some ladies’ hands in drawings from Costume Parisien and other art during the early 1800s. You can read the post at A Covent Garden Gilfllurt’s Guide to Life: Glorious Georgian dispatches from the long 18th century…, Madame Gilflurt’s blog.

La Miroir de la Mode gown from 1803, the inspiration drawing for Suzan Lauder's January 20, 2016 guest post on "A Covent Garden Gilflurt's Guide to Life" blog.

La Miroir de la Mode gown from 1803, the inspiration drawing for Suzan Lauder’s January 20, 2016 guest post on “A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide to Life” blog.

Madame Gilflurt, also known as Catherine Curzon, blogs about the fascinating personalities of history, focused on the 18th Century and Regency periods. Her lively blog includes a number of interesting guest writers each year. She is also the online host for An Evening with Jane Austen, and may just get to see Adrian Lukis’s (Mr. Wickham from the BBC/A&E 1995 production of Pride and Prejudice) phone number come up on her call display from time-to-time. Madame Gilflurt will join road trips with the redhead for a guest post celebrating the release of her non-fiction book Life in the Georgian Court, which is being published by Pen and Sword books in June 2016.

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A reminder to catch up on chapters of Letter from Ramsgate, now posting at A Happy Assembly! We’re past the bad angst and moving towards mush. The comments thread is as much fun as the story!

Graphic art for signature design by L.L. Diamond using an oil painting by Johannes Vermeer: "A Lady Writing."

Graphic art for signature design by L.L. Diamond using an oil painting by Johannes Vermeer: “A Lady Writing.”

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As can be seen on the sidebar of this blog, Then Comes Winter has been selected as a favourite on three top JAFF book blogs! YAY!

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Please comment on this blog (below) at any time, or for today’s guest post, on Madame Gilflurt’s blog!

The Regency Gentleman and his Cravat

The Regency neck-cloth could never be called humble, even if its life begins as a simple strip of cloth. Instead, it’s an embellishment that can add drama and interest to the gentleman’s costume.

tsrce cravatThe cravat, or neck-cloth, was described in the popular post, Regency men were not sissies, even in blouses and scarves, along with the shirt (which was considered an undergarment) and the Regency man’s hat. The post was part of the Thrift Shop Regency Costume Experiment blog series. There, we noted I. E. Scottsdale’s Necklothitania, a satire on the elaborate styles used by Beau Brummel and his followers, and H. LeBlanc’s The Art of Tying a Cravat, as Regency documents that showed some of the many different tie styles possible.

mr suze cravatMy husband, Mr. Suze, used the simplest arrangement when he dressed for October’s JASNA AGM dinner and ball with a 52 inch long neck cloth. Recall that this is on the short side for the cloth, which is 4-10″ wide and 50-100″ long. Elaborate styles tend to require longer fabric.

To accomplish this simple style of cravat tie, the following steps are taken by the gentleman:

  • Fold the centre 12-18″ of the length of the fabric as needed so the width is equal to the length of the man’s neck.
  • Hold this section of the cloth in front of you draw the neck cloth across the front of the neck.
  • Wrap the two halves round the sides of your neck and slide your hands along it to cross over each other at the centre back, then pull the ends forward again.
  • Tug the ends snug around your neck.
  • Tie a simple half knot (one end around the other once) in front to hold in place so it’s comfortable with no gaps. A good test is for size is just snug enough that you can just barely slip two fingers under the top edge.
  • Adjust the fabric all around with gentle folds so it’s neck height at the crossover and has no bunching or drooping along the sides.
  • Straighten the lay of the tied part so the top of the half knot is parallel to the edges of the wrapped cravat, and arrange the ends to the wearer’s preference.
  • Secure the ends in a neat position using a pin of some sort.

Mr. Suze commandeered my “ruby” Swarovski crystal stick pin, which is a bit hard to see because the conference lanyard has messed with the tie ends. The pin looked fantastic. A similar style of tying the cravat, with no ruffles on the shirt front, is seen below.regency cravatI would guess this example uses a longer or wider cloth due to the folds. With a longer cloth, the ends can be tucked as seen for this style, and if very long, the gentleman will start wrapping from behind rather than in front.

For a lovely array of neck cloth tie styles, not just Regency, you can enjoy a video with nearly 10 minutes of styles from movies and mini-series period dramas: The Cravat in Period Drama. The handsome actors will please you as well as the costumes!

Please check out the link, as I guarantee it’s well done and striking.

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A reminder that my latest Austen-inspired Regency story, Letter from Ramsgate #XPressLetter, is posting at #AHA (free, no ads), with a new chapter each Wednesday afternoon.

Soon, posting frequency will doubled! The second day each week will be either Monday or Saturday, whichever has the least other stories posting. Readers can elect to follow the topic on the upper right-hand corner of the story page, which sets up an automatic email for each new chapter, saving the trouble of remembering the schedule or watching and waiting for each post. This story is rated PG for implied off-screen sexual situations.

LfR has no violence, but it does have some chapters with extra dramatic tension.

The comments thread can be just as interesting as the story, so join in the fun reader reactions as our protagonists misunderstand each other, aided by well-meaning characters as well as slightly shady ones.

Graphic art for signature design by L.L. Diamond using an oil painting by Johannes Vermeer: "A Lady Writing."

Graphic art for signature design by L.L. Diamond using an oil painting by Johannes Vermeer: “A Lady Writing.”

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Feedback on this post will be appreciated as well, so let me know how you feel about men in cravats by replying below!

 

New Story Fun: A #Regency beach story excerpt and a book launch party!

Everyone loves to go to the beach for a few weeks in summer. Of course, they like it in winter, too, dependent upon where the beach is–somewhere warm, perhaps?

Modern Ramsgate beach.

Modern Ramsgate beach.

Those who are interested in Regency history and Jane Austen’s novels would believe it would be fun to spend time at Ramsgate.

What if Elizabeth Bennet had an opportunity to to just that? If she and her Aunt Gardiner are invited to join Mrs. Gardiner’s childhood friend at her home in Ramsgate for a few weeks in the midsummer of 1811?

Ramsgate harbour, early 19th century. Image courtesy Michael's Bookshop.

Ramsgate harbour, early 19th century. Image courtesy Michael’s Bookshop.

You may recognize the time as just prior to the start of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and note that a significant event took place at Ramsgate at that time: the near-elopement of Georgiana Darcy and George Wickham, with the assistance of Georgiana’s companion, Mrs. Younge. It would be interesting if the two young women were introduced by Mrs. Gardiner’s friend Lady Edwina Baverstock, and they became fast friends. But what of Mr. Wickham and Mrs. Younge?

My interpretation of the summer romance that Austen never completely explained, and how Elizabeth Bennet’s presence at Ramsgate influences the events we know about in Pride and Prejudice, is available for your reading pleasure! Today, I’m sharing the opening scenes of Letter from Ramsgate!

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Johannes Vermeer (Dutch, 1632 - 1675 ), A Lady Writing, c. 1665, oil on canvas, Gift of Harry Waldron Havemeyer and Horace Havemeyer, Jr., in memory of their father, Horace Havemeyer

Johannes Vermeer (Dutch, 1632 – 1675 ), A Lady Writing, c. 1665, oil on canvas, Gift of Harry Waldron Havemeyer and Horace Havemeyer, Jr., in memory of their father, Horace Havemeyer

Excerpt from
LETTER FROM RAMSGATE
by redhead (Suzan Lauder) © 2013

April 1812
Hunsford, Kent

Elizabeth stared as Mr. Darcy stalked towards the door, his broad shoulders stiff and tense. Each step created a measured, hollow tattoo in contrast to the staccato beat of her heart, accentuating their disparate states and a divergence impossible to resolve.

He paused as his hand touched the doorknob, and then he turned back so slowly it might have been a dream. As his eyes set upon her, a host of emotions played across his face. Were disappointment and regret mingling with the resentment he expressed so eloquently moments before? Could she hope his feelings would budge, just a bit?

Her fingers clutched her gown in mimicry of the grip around her heart, clenched so tight in her chest it might never return to its natural state, and although it fought hard, the struggle for its sense of equilibrium was out of reach.

He gave her one more contemptuous glance before he quit the room, closing the door so decidedly behind him, the sound made her shudder. The tumult of her mind was now painfully great. She knew not how to support herself, and from actual weakness sat down and cried for half an hour. Her astonishment, as she reflected on what had passed, was increased by every review of it.

That Mr. Darcy thought her such a dishonourable person was beyond anything she ever imagined. The anger in his voice, the almost menacing countenance as he rounded on her and accused her of such actions—these were indelibly imprinted in her mind. How, after their mutual exclamations of love, had he contrived to misunderstand the situation so egregiously?

Her mind searched past memories. It was near unfathomable how many unfortunate obstacles had served to pave the way to this final quarrel! Regret was her companion now, but she must own those uncomfortable feelings—it had been her choice to express herself with such malice when she could easily have disclosed the confidences that would have vindicated her. But she would stand by her promise.

So this was her fate. To have Fitzwilliam Darcy somewhere in the world thinking ill of her was almost too much for her to bear, yet it was so.

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One Year Earlier
April 1811
Longbourn, Hertfordshire

“Your uncle has been prevented by business from accompanying me, and given that you and I enjoy one another’s company so well, he obliged me and suggested you would be as good a replacement for him as any body.” Mrs. Gardiner’s eyes sparkled as she said it.

If she and her parents agreed, Elizabeth would spend a significant part of the summer at the home of her aunt’s good friend in Ramsgate, and she had never been to the seaside. Her aunt became more and more animated as the details of the plan were described, and tickly sensations of excitement traversed her spine.

She accepted swiftly and with great appreciation. “The intimacy we share as niece and aunt, along with likeness of mind and spirit, will prove to make for great felicity!”

By this time, her aunt had a firm grasp upon her hands. “We shall have a fine time of it, Lizzy.”

Elizabeth shared her aunt’s pleasure. “We shall not be like other travellers and merely take in the promenades and sea air; no, we shall seek adventure, and our minds shall be so full upon our return that we will have plenty to relate without relying on our imaginations.”

Her aunt offered no objection to such a scheme, and a date was fixed for Elizabeth to journey to London and join her for the trip. There were three months in which to plan, and three months to suffer her mother’s ideas of preparations.

Finally, she waved away her family and set out for her adventure.

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I hope this snippet made you curious enough to join us to read about Elizabeth’s adventure! Letter from Ramsgate is currently posting in serial format at A Happy Assembly. Readers interact with the author by commenting on each chapter as it’s posted weekly on Wednesday afternoons. Currently, chapter 1-4 are up, so it’s easy to catch up with the others. Membership to AHA is required, but there are no ads at this free Jane Austen literary club web site. Your private information remains as private as you choose.

If now isn’t the best time for you to read, I plan to publish Letter from Ramsgate in 2016.

A_calm_by_James_Gillray smaller_______________

GREAT NEWS!:

French actor Gaspard Ulliel.

French actor Gaspard Ulliel.

A short, modern romance I wrote last summer will be featured in Meryton Press’s soon-to-be-released holiday anthology, Then Comes Winter, edited by Christina Boyd. W00t! Christina also edited the successful Meryton Press summer anthology, Sun-Kissed: Effusions of Summer, which is available at booksellers’ now.

My short story in the winter anthology is called Delivery Boy; it’s about mistaken first impressions, admiration from afar, and a rather heavy mustache!

Join us for the Merry, Merry Book Launch party on November 16-20 on Facebook, with fun games and give-aways! We’ll follow that with a blog tour; dates and times will be announced at Meryton Press!

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A Lady in Summer Dress with sea bathing in backgroundThe prizewinners from the online portion of the Louisville JASNA give-aways for Thrift Shop Regency Costume Experiment are jenred and daria! Congratulations, and thanks for commenting on the blog! Each will get a copy of the upcoming youth-and-up-rated Then Comes Winter, with my signature on my short modern romance, Delivery Boy, and one of my original design cushion cover reticules (I plan to line the two unlined ones I made before sending them off to these two). Each reticule contains an embroidered handkerchief and paper cocktail parasol, and is signed by me!

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!

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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

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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.

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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!

Shiny things expose my inner crow!

I was second last in the gift draw. I took the brown paper bag, reached my hand in, and felt around. Unable to discern by touch what the small items were, I grasped one at random. When I extracted my hand and opened it, I found BIG SPARKLE.

It turned out to be a key chain, roughly four inches long, and gaudy doesn’t begin to communicate its assault on my eyes. About 8 huge plastic gems hung in a cluster from large gold links, and below them dangled a tiny metal purse that would open were it not linked into the rest. When it moved even a tiny bit, it rattled. Yeah, I thought, it should have made the warning sound before I pulled it out of the bag.

I peered at the magnetic post-it grocery list note pad another participant won and felt the world was truly unfair. Yet when I examined the face of every other person, I realized it would not be in good form to say so. No one seemed to think my gift was the most awful, tasteless joke that was ever played upon someone. The sneer twitching at the corner of my lip was held in check, and instead, I said, “Oh, bling!” in an affected tone.

Thing is, I can’t bear to throw the thing away. I keep trying to think of someone to give it to who would appreciate it, or a way to give it some sort of useful employment. It moves from container to container as a “potential” and most recently, wound up in my kit of beads and baubles for my Regency costume. But once again, it’s proven to itself as a useless, gaudy thing. It has a few friends in that bag, but none as sparkly.

Like the crow, we’re all attracted to sparkly, otherwise there would never have been a gold rush or jewel thieves, and MJ’s glove would be boring. Many like to look at beautiful jewelry but don’t wear it. What I choose tends to be simple but unique. When I checked my own stash for potential items for my Regency costume, I found a few items that looked right to me. Then I did my research, and realized they were close, but some needed help. It was not impossible.my jewelry

Citrine jewelry 1820

Citrine jewelry 1820

Necklace 41.9 cm long, circa 1810.

Necklace 41.9 cm long, circa 1810.

In addition, I saw things in the period examples that I liked but would not normally consider wearing. Just as I’m not one to wear a hat with feathers, they became desirable when thought of as part of a costume, an act. A sale purchase from Joe Fresh was added to the small group of costume items of my own: a “diamond and freshwater pearl” choker in a floral pattern, as seen at the top of the photo above.

Numerous perusals of discount and second-hand store costume jewelry racks did not offer a suitable pair of ear-bobs to go with it. Anything close was on studs, and in the Regency, stud-backed earrings didn’t exist; they were all hung on wire hooks. I knew a simple way to modify them, and even had the right earring parts—years ago, I made earrings, hence, my experience with cam-shaped circles of metal. But I couldn’t wear the ones in my stash, as they were cheap gold imitations. Like many, I have a nickel allergy, and most inexpensive jewelry contains nickel as a hardener. I can wear costume jewelry for short periods of time, but my skin becomes inflamed easily.

Earrings "The Three Graces" 1810

Earrings “The Three Graces” 1810

Last week, I found some lead and nickel free earring parts on a two-for-one sale at a fabric store. Two pairs of earrings I owned were modified using an earring snap hook and a very small split ring. The split ring is like a super-tiny version of a key ring, and similar to work with, but saves using needle-nose pliers and making a cam out of a loop, or accidentally leaving the tiniest gap and then losing the earring, both of which are my constant experience.

I clamped the earring to the split ring, using a plastic back in one case so it was less visible (I’ve left one loose so you can see the construction), and a large back in the other, due to the weight and shape of the earring. I also have a new pair of labradorite and aquamarine earrings on silver hooks, a gift from my husband that I hoped would be appropriate. However, I could not find any examples of a rough-cut stone, so they won’t be part of the Regency costume. No big deal, since they’ll get plenty of showtime on regular days.

There’s also a leaf-themed barrette and a purple-jewelled elephant that you’ve already seen with turban-making, and they’ve become brooches. The elephant came from a card holder, and is symbolic of the final scene in my latest story (though the blog has been taking my writing time!), Letter from Ramsgate, which will be posted at A Happy Assembly. (If you’ve never been there, it’s a Jane Austen fan site, full of Austen-inspired fiction and discussion threads. Registration is required, but membership is free. Many published authors post their stories there first, and free unedited versions often still remain, alongside many unpublished and often better stories.)

A Magnificent Georgian 0.75ct Old Cut Diamond Snake Ring In 18ct Gold Circa 1800

A Magnificent Georgian 0.75ct Old Cut Diamond Snake Ring In 18ct Gold Circa 1800

But what’s with the snake stuff in my collection? This was one of the things that I found amazing and fascinating when I started to pay attention to Regency jewelry. As mentioned before, floral patterns were popular, as were crosses made with elongated stones, astronomical symbolism like moon and star themes, and the serpent. Hands on bracelets were another theme that I found unusual. I’ve selected a few examples for you to compare.

My snakes were $1 for the ring at a thrift store and $12 for the bracelet on sale at a drugstore. I used to have a brooch with the moon and stars that I gave to charity years ago, so maybe you still have one lurking about!

Silver mesh snake bracelet with garnet eyes. French c1800. Tadema Gallery.

Silver mesh snake bracelet with garnet eyes. French c1800. Tadema Gallery.

A ninenteenth-century carved coral bracelet, formed as a coiled serpent with gold-set emerald eyes; the snake biting its tail is a symbol of eternity.

A ninenteenth-century carved coral bracelet, formed as a coiled serpent with gold-set emerald eyes; the snake biting its tail is a symbol of eternity.

A Georgian diamond crescent brooch, diameter 4.2cm,  circa 1800

A Georgian diamond crescent brooch, diameter 4.2cm, circa 1800

Georgian Foil-backed Pink Topaz and Pearl Riviere with Cross Pendant, circa 1820

Georgian Foil-backed Pink Topaz and Pearl Riviere with Cross Pendant, circa 1820

Gold and coral bracelet, length 185mm, early 19th century.

Gold and coral bracelet, length 185mm, early 19th century.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The square-cut stone with its ring of “diamonds” came from a pair of gloves; one was lost, but this one will clamp over my own modest ring. It was not uncommon to wear costume jewelry. Paste and real stones were seen in many shapes, as were pearls of all types. Turquoise and red coral were also popular, the latter seen in one of the snakes and in many bead necklaces of the time. Multiple strands tied together with stones were an interesting design seen on several pieces.

Faceted table-cut emeralds in borders of brilliant-cut diamonds; briolette emerald drops; open-set in gold and silver, 1806

Faceted table-cut emeralds in borders of brilliant-cut diamonds; briolette emerald drops; open-set in gold and silver, 1806

Gold, enamel, seed pearl, and lapis lazuli parure consisting of  comb, three strand necklace, and ear-bobs, circa 1810.

Gold, enamel, seed pearl, and lapis lazuli parure consisting of comb, three strand necklace, and ear-bobs, circa 1810.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wealthy women wore more elaborate jewels, and people of more modest means may only wear a pendant on a chain, like the topaz crosses Jane and Cassandra Austen wore, a gift from their sailor brother Charles. In Mansfield Park, Austen included a plot point where Fanny Price is given a similar amber cross from her brother William, and Mary Crawford charms Fanny with a gift of a chain to wear it with. You can read more about it in the article “A Very Pretty Amber Cross.”

Topaz and citrine cross, circa 1820

Topaz and citrine cross, circa 1820

The costumers for the A&E/BBC Pride and Prejudice series in 1995 had Elizabeth and Jane Bennet wearing crosses like Jane and Cassandra Austen’s, but with red stones that many viewers have imagined as garnet or ruby.

When deciding on your jewelry, make sure you’re not wearing a silk gown with no jewels, or a cotton one along with too many large stones.

Various "lovers eye" pieces of jewelry.

Various “lovers eye” pieces of jewelry.

Romantic themes were played out in the “lover’s eye,” a miniature painting set in a brooch, pendant, or ring. If you’re an artist, this would be a cool thing to reproduce on an old brooch, locket, compact, etc.

Pieces containing strands of hair were often worn as a sign of mourning.

Mourning brooch with paste jewels, circa 1800

Mourning brooch with paste jewels, circa 1800

Georgian-era seed-pearl-surrounded locket with a lock of hair.

Georgian-era seed-pearl-surrounded locket with a lock of hair.

Pendants, chokers, bracelets, rings, arm-bands, ear-bobs, as well as hair jewelry like combs, tiaras, or diadems would be part of the essential accessories of the costume.

Not for the faint of heart crafter, the Mistress of Disguise shows how to make a Regency diadem from used lamp parts! No sewing necessary, but soldering or hot glue is part of the the process. I’ll pass, but I can look at all the pretty, shiny things!

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NEXT POST: Must-have Regency accessories are gloves, and most ladies want a fan for cooling in a candle- and ton-filled ballroom. To round out that post, because one of my signature expressions is “Parasol in a Ballroom,” I’m including the parasol I purchased, and I’ll try to make all three look Regency. These ones are much harder than some of the others!

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While it has nothing to do with this blog series or the Regency, today I’m giving a shout out to an upcycler from Israel, Urban Raven, who makes jewelry from old phone tokens, computer chips, and many other items.

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I’m looking (cross that out) begging for feedback. If anyone has seen any areas of improvement for this blog series, please forward them to me. As I’ve said on multiple occasions in the past, I’m new to this, and may have mistaken any aspect of the Regency costume based on clues that I misinterpreted. In addition, I may not have communicated something as well as you would have liked. Any help is appreciated!

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I’m officially signed up for the JASNA AGM in Louisville, KY in October! There are still a limited number of registrations left. I’ll have some give-aways to hand out to followers of my blog while I’m there, so pay attention for clues!

The Rules, uhm, vague guidelines for my Regency costume: #ThriftyRegency

I can sew well, but I hate it. It gives me back cramps. Worse, I’m cheap. If I find an item I like, but it’s too dear, I often seek an acceptable alternate. This posed a huge problem when I decided to attend the Jane Austen Society of North America Annual General Meeting (JASNA AGM) in Louisville, KY in October, 2015.

About a year and a half ago, when I finally got up the nerve to attend one of these annual gatherings for scholarly pursuits related to Austen, I knew I wanted to dress up. My friends, the Chat Chits at A Happy Assembly, joined me in perusing Ebay and Etsy for Regency gowns and bonnets.

Though prices started at just under $100, the cheap dresses were, well, cheap. A decent but simple dress could be bought for $150-250, most ball gowns were $250-$400, with higher prices for the couture models. The one I liked best was at the top of the range, as expected.

“Sew it yourself,” said one of the Chits, who owns a serger. I’ve found that those who own a serger think anyone can sew anything.

The gowns in so many of the photos of JASNA AGM, the Bath Festival, the Jane Austen Festival, and similar events have been painstakingly hand-sewn by their owners or someone like the vendors on Etsy. The big problem is that most are based on the same pattern from Simplicity. It has a lovely neckline, square with rounded corners.

TRTSE-2-1 Simplicity4055TTSRCE-2-6TTSRCE-2-7But I want something different. I follow several Pinterest collections with actual Regency gowns from museums, and the necklines are all over the map. From those plates, I noticed that many of the outfits I’d seen at Austen events had aspects from the Victorian era, and the owner had been duped by sellers who called them Regency. Some vendors will advertise Regency/Jane Austen/Victorian/Steampunk/Pioneer/Medieval/Fantasy/Titanic for the same gown! When I read more, some sites suggested purchasing a vintage gown from the ‘80’s, which are supposedly close to the right design.

While looking at gowns, I also saw various recommendations on other parts of the Regency ensemble. I decided to put together an outfit from items not purpose-made for Regency costumes, rather, I would find clothing articles and accessories that would suit with a bit of modification. I would also aim for minimal need for crafting or sewing skills, since some sites were daunting because of phrases like “Buckram molding.”

TTSRCE-2-4I made myself a rough set of “rules” for The Thrift Shop Regency Costume Experiment (tTSRCE). Okay, rules are meant to be broken, and it may happen, but for now I have restricted myself to these guidelines for procurement of raw materials:

  • Things I find around the house.
  • Thrift store items, not just clothing, but trims, fabric, etc.
  • Similarly, vintage store items.
  • Free stuff from others.
  • New items on sale.

We moved to a smaller home a few years ago, and performed several iterations of radical de-cluttering, so most of the raw materials I could have used have already gone to charity. All my dated or ill-fitting clothing, old shoes, Hallowe’en costumes and materials, linens, fabric scraps, even patterns! I never anticipated this costume, and decided I had no need for them.

TTSRCE-2-2I started shopping last summer, and the photos here are some of the items I have procured so far, as well as ones I found in my own home, for example, the hat and earrings above. I found some items were easy to match to the styles from the Metropolitan Museum of Art; Boston Museum of Fine Arts; McCord; Victoria and Albert; Brooklyn; Swansea; and similar costume museums, and some more difficult.

TTSRCE-2-3I’m going to start the blog with a couple of easy, ones, so anyone who wants to do this will feel encouraged. But I’ll also address the difficult ones early, and return to them in later posts, to give readers time to find them.

  1. I’ll include photos for ideas.
  2. There is a scene in my next novel that involves a parasol, so I will be grading possible purchases or finds with a parasol.
    1. An open parasol means it’s an acceptable choice for your Regency outfit.
    2. A closed parasol means it’s a compromise because of at least one important feature, or more than one minor mismatch to Regency, but not terrible. It’s offered because I think some readers need a wider choice than a strict match.
    3. No parasol means the item is not a good choice, for a number of reasons, which I’ll list. It’s like a parasol in a ballroom: it may be pretty, but will be out of place. Even parasols will get parasol grades! Properties such as unreasonable cost, obvious synthetics that can’t be disguised, and post-1820 or pre-1795 Georgian fashion will fall into this category.
  3. There will be lots of links to help with areas that others have already done well.
  4. I’ll also offer a “Quick Checklist” to help a person who wants to assemble an outfit super-quickly, but not spend too much.
  5. I plan to post a completed gown and coordinating outfit by the end of June 2015. However, the accessories posts will each cover a broad range of situations, and with any luck I’ll have both a morning/day gown and evening/ball gown completed by the end of June. Outerwear and bonus items will follow.

TTSRCE-2-5UP NEXT: Shoes!