Suzan’s JASNA Regency Costume Adventure

My costuming road trips continue as I purchase hats, ribbon, beads, and trim in Mexico in the winter and bed sheets for gown fabric in Canada in the summer for my Regency costuming events each year. What adventures I have! This time, the gig was a presentation on the Thrift Shop Regency Costume Experiment (TSRCE) at the May meeting of the Victoria BC Region of the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA).I shared a PowerPoint presentation explaining the TSRCE and its success, showed off a portion of my collection of Thrift Shop upcycled finds, and enjoyed the tea and goodies with other like-minded Austen fans on May 13, 2017. Here are the pictures to prove it. The presentation, complete with references to parasols:

Here are some of the materials on show (click on the thumbnails to enlarge):

 

This is just a sampling of my stash. I really need to buy less and construct/sew more as the raw materials for Regency costumes are taking over my closet!

Me with my new coral beads, earrings, and fan, with some Regency hat wannabes in the background:

There was good interest in the program, and I did a pitch for the Jane Austen Festival in Port Alberni on July 14-16, 2017. I’ll be there for the Guinness Book of Records count for most people in a room in Regency costuming on July 15 at 10am-noon. I also offered to email my drawings of patterns for a lace cap and my original cushion-cover reticules to interested members.

Thanks to Merle Brown and Alison Dacia Brown who shepherded me through my worries and needs for this event and helped make it a success, and to the members of Victoria JASNA for being so welcoming. Photo credit goes to Bruce, who also helped me with my technical issues for the projector, and Alison Dacia Brown.

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Other news:

  • I’m currently editing A Most Handsome Gentleman, a P&P-inspired Regency comedy-romance novella that just finished posting at AHA, for a fall release.
  • Learning from My Mistakes will return soon with more punctuation and some POV tips!Save

Reader knows best! Suzan Lauder’s new blog series “Learning from my Mistakes”

Suzan Lauder, Exhibit #158 at the Jane Austen Festival of Port Alberni, July 2016

Suzan Lauder, Exhibit #158 at the Jane Austen Festival of Port Alberni, July 2016

A couple of months ago, I thought about all I was learning while editing my latest novel and decided I’d write a few blog posts on the topic to help others learn from my experience. I thought I’d start writing posts straight away, but editing my novel, and my husband’s last minute decision to retire early, and editing, and summer, and editing, and working with the cover artist, and editing, and a Jane Austen Festival, and editing, and my niece’s visit, and editing all stepped in.

I haven’t had a haircut in more than three months, and the end-of-season sales are over and I still haven’t found that elusive perfect pair of low-heeled dressy wedge sandals with no toe post but a full ankle strap for next winter in Mexico. Fussy, right? You would be too if you’d turned your ankle one too many times on steep driveways across the sidewalk.

But the introductory post is now written and in your sweaty little palms. Or so it would be if this were 1979. More on that later.

Now we begin our journey together. We’re here to giggle over this author’s mistakes. Each post will have a few examples of my own revelations as lessons to all writers, perhaps to give you a boost rather than let you learn the hard way. The end result isn’t about my opinions any more than the opinions of writing experts, editors, publishers, or any person other than the reader.

parasol resized for bullet pointsSuzan Lauder’s “Learning from my Mistakes” Lesson #1: As an author, your goal is to provide a reading experience with the greatest level of satisfaction that is within your control.

Some of what I’ve learned as a writer in the last few years is different than in classic novels or “What We Learned in School” (as if the capitals in our voice somehow make it Gospel). Some say these techniques are trends, buzz phrases, “flavour of the month.” Yet, if techniques you think are buzz phrases are guaranteed to give the reader greater satisfaction, what’s stopping you from incorporating them into your story?

Hmmm? What’s that? I can’t hear you.

“The way I do it is was good enough for Hemingway.”

Are you Hemingway? If Hemingway knew ways to make the reader enjoy his novels more, would he have said the way he does it is “good enough?” Perhaps. But he had a gift that 99% of writers do not, so we have to fill the gap by utilizing every tool available to us.

An interesting story Miss Ray, by William Wood, 1806, Met Museum.

An interesting story Miss Ray, by William Wood, 1806, Met Museum.

I struggle to be a good writer where others find it easier. Ease is not a good reason to sit back on your laurels over and over again. You may get a toned butt and quadriceps, but that’s about it. Yeah, I suck at idioms.

Perhaps as an author, you can sell loads of books that are merely “good enough,” but as a reader, don’t you prefer that extra little something? It’s sort of like warming the speculum, chilling the beer mug, smiling at the end of the transaction.

Good writing practice is never “flavour of the month.” If you’re arguing against good writing practice, either you don’t understand the specific application or you’re making excuses to dig in your heels in a world that’s already made the big change. Despite my use of a goofy idiom, it’s no longer 1979, but if you want to stick with the way you’ve always done it, have fun with your typewriter.

Instead, I hope my blog followers enjoy how I describe newer writing concepts to make them easier to understand, and that other authors may be inspired and brave enough to give them a try.

I don’t expect to change the world, just entertain you for a few minutes. Please, have a few laughs at my expense as I bare all my “problems” as a writer!

Disclaimer: I’m not a writing expert. I’m just a writer who learned some stuff other writers might like to know instead of learning the hard way. My approach is pragmatic, and my posts are not professionally edited!

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Port Alberni goes for the #Regency #Costuming World Record!

Whenever I hear the name of the city of Port Alberni, I think of three things: the 1964 tsunami that tore through hundreds of homes in the community, huge water bombers for fighting forest fires, and the initials P.A., which make me think of Prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria. You have to be familiar with cities in Saskatchewan to make that last giant leap.port-alberni-background

Rupert Friend as Prince Albert, from "The Young Victoria"

Rupert Friend as Prince Albert, from “The Young Victoria”

A further leap: the actor who portrayed Mr. Wickham in the 2005 Pride and Prejudice adaptation, Rupert Friend, also played Prince Albert in The Young Victoria.

But back to Port Alberni: I now add a fourth–or first–thought of the city when I hear the city’s name: the Jane Austen Festival.

Port Alberni sits in the middle of Vancouver Island, which is just off the southwest coast of British Columbia, Canada. The island is about the size of Maryland or 1/4 the area of England.

The Jane Austen Festival of Port Alberni started in 2015, with one day of events, including a tea. In 2016, it will be a much larger, two day celebration. On Friday, July 8, a Regency style brunch will be held in the morning, a Regency style tea takes place that afternoon, and on Friday evening, participants get to meet me at the “Readings of Jane Austen’s Work” event!

As a guest speaker, I’ll describe The World of Austen-inspired Fiction. This will include a reading from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice that inspired my latest novel, as well as a short scene from Letter from Ramsgate, which will be released by Meryton Press in October, 2016.

You’ll also find me with other authors at the signing tables, where readers can either bring their own copy of my first novel, Alias Thomas Bennet, or the Meryton Press holiday romance anthology, Then Comes Winter, or purchase a copy from me for signing. Either way, participants for the signing will get an Alias Thomas Bennet bookmark and a chance to enter a draw for a set of three gender-appropriate Regency costuming accessories courtesy of the Thrift Shop Regency Costume Experiment.

The Centennial Belles in Regency Costume

The Centennial Belles in Regency Costume

The main event is Saturday morning: the attempt to break the Guinness world record for “Largest Gathering of People dressed in Regency Costumes!” The original record of 409 people set in Bath, England in 2009 is the most recent listing on the Guinness World Records web site. Since then, Bath and Louisville, KY, USA have been battling for the title, and each time, one outdoes the other! Louisville didn’t challenge the record in 2015 because they hosted the Jane Austen Society of North American Annual General Meeting instead. However, the 2015 Bath Festival had 550 participants including a number of Jane Austen Fan Fiction authors and bloggers.

Registrations for the World Record Challenge event will be accepted until 10am on Saturday, July 9, 2016, and all participants must be in attendance by then. Participants must be dressed according to the Guinness guidelines. Of course, help to throw a quick costume together is in my blog posts for the lady’s Regency costume and the gentleman’s Regency costume.

The Port Alberni organizers are the Centennial Belles Fashion Group, costumers who support local fundraisers with costuming from many eras. They’ve been hosting workshops and information sessions for nearly a year in preparation for this festival. They believe the majority of their participants will be from the local area.  It will be interesting to find out how far people come to participate in the event.

Cathedral Grove in MacMillan Provincial Park, BC, Canada (Click on thumbnail to view full size)

Cathedral Grove in MacMillan Provincial Park, BC, Canada (Click on thumbnail to view full size)

For me and Mr. Suze, it’s a two hour drive. On the way, there are some magnificent sights: Goldstream Provincial Park, where in the springtime, you can watch flocks of American eagles fishing for salmon as the fish make their way upstream to spawn; the magnificent views along the Malahat pass; the town of totems: Duncan, BC; the bustling city of Nanaimo where we’ll lunch with friends; the beaches of Parksville; Coombs and its funky reconstructed historical village of arts and crafts shops where the general store (gourmet store, really) has goats on the roof; and perhaps best of all, Cathedral Grove, an old growth cedar forest that will remind many of The Avenue of the Giants redwood forest in northern California. Slightly off the direct path are numerous wineries and farms in the Cowichan Valley; the little town of Cowichan Bay, its bay as pretty as a picture, and a bakery that features Bernard Callebaut chocolate chunk dinner rolls; Chemainus, known for its many large murals and summer theatre; Ladysmith, with eclectic shopping on its historic main street and some of the best cinnamon buns anywhere; and Qualicum Beach, with excellent restaurants and the original Quality Foods gourmet grocery. In addition, there are many types of outdoor adventures near Port Alberni.

mr suze and suzan lauder at louisville jasna 2015 ball blurredOn Saturday evening at the Jane Austen Festival, there will be a Regency dinner and ball, and the tickets are a steal for this type of event! Tickets are selling fast for the brunch, tea, dinner and ball. The Readings of Jane Austen’s Work event entry is by donation.

I procured a lovely purple pagoda umbrella, and I plan to add some tassels and lace to transform it into a Regency Parasol to flounce around with during the count for the record, as Vancouver Island tends to have dry, sunny summer days!

Come, join me and Mr. Suze in Port Alberni, or at the very least, put this event on your calendar for next July!

~

Other blog notes:

US_Flag_Backlit wiki commons smallHappy Fourth to my American friends, or as we like to call it in Canada, the last day in the Canada Day extended holiday weekend!

The promised posts on my learning experiences as a writer, with links to help those who want to become better self-editors, are delayed due to the pressures of editing my new novel. Sorry! Subscribe to my blog to get notifications so you know when they’re up!

Author Catherine Curzon, otherwise known as Madame Gilflurt, who hosted a guest post by me in January, has a book out in the UK! Life in the Georgian Court will be an excellent resource for historical fiction authors, as well as a fun romp through history. It will be released in the US in September, 2016. She’ll be a guest on my blog around that time! Yes, our eyebrows are all raised at what kind of fun she’d going to bring!

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The Party Ends with a Splash! #ItsJaneYall

The road trip is over and my “day job” as adorer of two kitties has resumed. I am reminded in bossy purring meows that both deserve extra attention, and I’m rewarded with relentless purring that will extend until the wee hours tonight and over the next several days at least.

Regency Lady has a Chili Dog: Author Suzan Lauder in Louisville, KY.

Regency Lady has a Chili Dog: Author Suzan Lauder in Louisville, KY.

A final late night involved packing all the gear we brought to the 2015 JASNSA AGM in Louisville, KY. In spite of delays resulting in my husband and I scurrying through to beat the clock at every connection, a re-routed itinerary, and a novice security person confiscating Mr. Suze’s Regency walking stick, we got home after 15 hours of travel in a good mood.

This AGM has been an important goal for almost two years. The event differed from my expectations, and I’m glad I attended, but in some ways, it was an anticlimax. My mixed emotions are yet to become clear, but some conclusions can be shared with the readers of this blog, including my feelings at this point: Relief, regret, and pride.

Relief

Sunday will be the last of two months of a marathon of preparation with many 2am bedtimes, including hand sewing every night of the conference! I won’t miss the stress, exhaustion, and missing out on other things that characterized my life at the end of the Thrift Shop Regency Costume Experiment!

My most substantial relief was measured by repeated expressions of admiration from other JASNA delegates on Friday and Saturday, followed by multiple entreaties to stop every 20 feet so a dozen flashes could go off while people photographed Mr. Suze and I as part of the Grand Promenade. It said the blog goal was successful.

I’m also relieved that people who were less welcoming kept their views to themselves when off Facebook! I’ve avoided mentioning this on the blog to keep things light, but nay-sayers created a huge area of trepidation for me coming up to, and during the conference. It’s difficult enough for anyone to try something new in a public forum, but my fear of failure worsened when I discovered my blog had been an open topic of ridicule in some costuming circles. The funny thing is, these people state hopes to encourage others starting out in costuming, yet their welcome is wanting. No, scratch that. I’m still awaiting the welcome.

old louisville kyRegret

It’s too bad I didn’t have more time to explore more of Louisville, a nice-sized, safe, comfortable, lively town full of welcoming, friendly people. Everywhere we turned, we met and spoke with helpful, smiling locals. Because Mr. Suze explored while I was in seminars all day, he vocalized this opinion strongly.

I looked at lace and ribbons in the shops of the Regency Emporium, as well as actual fashion plates from the Regency (including examples I’ve used here!) for a minimum of 6 separate visits—and I bought only four unrelated books!

I’m sure the shop staff recognized me. I was intimidated and flummoxed because, similar to my experience shopping at home, I could see how lovely these items would be on a costume, but waffled on which to buy and quantities. Did I want to use expensive silk net for sleeves on a polyester gown?

I hope I won’t be too disappointed to have wasted an opportunity to purchase embellishments better than any I’ve ever seen elsewhere!

Contrary to my expectations, I don’t mind too much that I couldn’t bring the planned jonquil gown, as my last-minute compromise with the translucent fuchsia overdress worked well.

I left the AGM uncertain about whether the blog had readers outside of my circle of friends. I’d hoped to have more Janeites approach me for the give-aways, but prizes I’d planned to hand out came home with me.

However, when authors Maria Grace and Linda Beutler both commented, “Is that the spencer from the blog? I love it!” and admired all the details, especially the little skirt detail in back, I was proud, even if the sewing quality is atrocious!

I wish I’d had more time to get to know more people. I did enjoy the company of fellow Meryton Press author Linda Beutler for some events and tourism, and it was sad to split up to go home again. Luckily, there’s AHA Chat and Facebook to remain close to those I met whom I already liked!

Pride

mr suze and suzan lauder at louisville jasna 2015 ball blurredMr. Suze’s costume was right up there with some of the best of the menswear. The cut of the tailcoat and shirt neckline set his apart from amateurish-looking versions, even if we were no more expert than the others! I’d found some brass buttons with a crown-type coat-of-arms on them at 3 packs of 3-4 buttons for 99 cents each at Fabricland that really set off the tailcoat. Louisville has a fantastic gag shop (Caulfield’s Novelty Inc.), where he spent too much on a set of grey sideburns to add a final flourish that got quite a few laughs.

Many ladies’ costumes had breathtaking details in fine silk and fancy lace, with pleated, ruffled, or impossibly swirled trim, soutache and buttons and tassels in just the right places, enormous hats with giant feathers and unique bands, and gowns with professional-looking cut and quality of construction. Though my costumes were simple in comparison, they did the trick well.

saturday day gown frontsaturday day gown backsaturday stockingsSaturday’s gown from morning through the author signings was the Swiss dotted dress, remade with a Regency-cut skirt, the lace shared over three rows, shorter puffed sleeves, and a real diamond back bodice, as I developed a Regency pattern fitted specifically for myself. The Pomona green spencer was worn all morning, since many others were doing the same, perhaps in response to light-hearted in-character comments by a couple of presenters as they joked about disapproval of married women who wore plain white! I would have added more ribbon to give this lovely gown colour, but time ran out!

My ball costume was “thrown together” in a few days. Little flourishes, like the painted designs on my opera-length gloves, the way my turban tied in a unique and cheeky way in one go and sported a bejeweled elephant pin and curled ostrich feather on top, and two new rows of lace on the bottom of my improvised gown helped my simple effort look like it belonged there.

I think our smiles made me and the Mr. appear better than many at the ball, as we had a great time among the multitude of amazing costumes.

The visible minority!

turban revisedAbout 20% of the people at the AGM sported Regency costumes the first few days, but I’d guess the proportion was at least 40% at the banquet and ball on Saturday night. Author and organizer Sharon Lathan looked so perfectly ordinary when I first met her that I didn’t realize the pretty blonde woman in glasses and jeans was her! She glowed in her silk ball gown, though!

I wore Regency for two of the four days I was present for activities around the AGM proper, which was 2.5 days long. Others who, like me, were at their first AGM and all smiles in their bold effort at a costume that fit in at the ball, included JAFF authors Linda Thompson and Melanie Schertz, whose service dog, Mr. Darcy, had all the ladies swooning in his cravat!

linda beutler and suzan lauderAmong those who wore something awesome that wasn’t Regency was author Linda Beutler. She shared a table with me for the author signings and banquet wearing a vintage 1920’s beaded gown with exquisite details and accessories. With a break from her normal life of gardens for living, her nails matched her deep maroon gown.

Some participants, like author Syrie James, changed for the ball by simply removing a shawl or fichu from the dress they wore that day. Author Maria Grace sat next to Linda and me for the signing event, and she and her Mr. changed from regular clothes into attractive and well-executed Regency costumes for the evening, then cut up the dance floor like pros!

Sue Forgue of the Regency Encyclopedia turns out to be a bit of a fashion plate. She donned a different gown during the day and evening on Saturday, the former with an amazing floral pattern straight out of the Regency that made me match my spencer in jealousy. Interestingly, the latter was a Pomona green silk! Sue enhanced both gowns with gorgeous matching jewels and reticules! I wish I’d thought of photos, and if I get one, I’ll add it to this post.

The Splash

Not a literal splash, but trip on the Ohio River on a 1914-built steam-engine paddlewheel boat, the Queen of Louisville, was a ticketed event last night to culminate our visit for the AGM.

I doubt that more than 5% were dressed in Regency costume! I think many are more comfortable without a corset, no matter how well it improves one’s posture! I wore a nice modern skirt and blouse for the boat trip. In the daytime, it had been a Jane Austen t-shirt from my local library’s fundraiser paired with Michael Kors skinny denim capris!

The weather was fine, as it had been for the whole trip—in the high 80s, when seasonal normal daytime temperatures are in the low 70s.

The Future for my Regency Costuming

One of Meryton Press’s editors and our unofficial social media marketing coach, Christina Boyd, suggested early on in the Thrift Shop Regency Costume Experiment that the series would make a good book. She’s repeated the sentiment, and it’s tempting, though I’d have a great more due diligence on ensuring permissions for images, making it a big project when I’d like to get back to fiction.

“Encyclopedia Sue,” who adores JASNA as a learning experience, staunchly supports the positive examples that instigated the interest in the Regency and Austen for many (including the BBC/A&E miniseries) and spends a huge amount of time sharing resources to help writers and researchers improve their craft, suggested the blog as a seminar for a future JASNA AGM. Though I admit I had some interesting ideas for topics I’d enjoy presenting for this AGM (and didn’t explore them due to lack of time!), without Sue putting the seed in my mind, I’d have never thought of the TSRCE in a seminar format. I’m tempted!

back view mr suze and suzan lauder louisville jasna ball 2015 others blurredThough I know I’ll continue to make gowns and hats based on the wonderful examples I saw this year, for personal reasons, it’s unlikely I’ll have time to attend next year’s AGM in Washington, DC, but I hope to repeat this, with gowns made well ahead of time, for the Huntington Beach, CA AGM in 2017.

Locally, I’ll wear my costumes to JASNA events along with a dozen or so others who enjoy that aspect of study of Austen and Regency.

On July 8 and 9, 2016, the town of Port Alberni, BC, Canada (about 3 hours from me, on Vancouver Island) is hosting its first Jane Austen Festival, and claims an intention to break the world record for Regency costuming. I’ll be there, and I hope I can throw some of my extra gowns on some friends, including enticing a few from around the world to come visit me while they help Port Alberni with its goal. With vintage dresses and fabric, I have the basics for at least a dozen gowns, never mind that I yearn to tackle fabric and look a little like Sue did on Saturday!

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Future posts:

  • Side issues and tips related to attending an AGM.
  • Reprint of a Regency-related article I wrote for another web site.
  • A blurb and teaser for my latest novel-length story, Letter from Ramsgate, rated Teen, which will be posted in full at A Happy Assembly. Join us in the group read and story comments! AHA is a members-only web site dedicated to Austen-inspired fiction, research of Austen and Regency topics, and the resulting social interactions. It has over 9000 members worldwide, and 500 completed Austen-inspired stories. Membership is simply to ensure readers are over 18, and your personal information remains as personal as you choose.
  • I have other writing projects underway, and blurbs or excerpts will be shared here in the future!

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!

~~~

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.

~~~

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!