Be afraid. Be very, VERY afraid. For I have decided that it’s time to perform at Dickens Fair, something I haven’t done for a number of years. And while previously I played scum, this time around I’m joining the Adventurers’ Club, who portray real historical people — the intelligentsia of Victorian England.

Part of the reason I haven’t performed at Dickens for a while is that I’ve been loathing mid-Victorian costume for a number of years. I was even planning to sell off things like my reproduction 1860s boots because I was sure that I would never do it again. But the desire to perform has finally risen above my dislike of this Aunt Pittypat era… and in so doing, I’ve even found a few dresses and things that I don’t hate. I even started a Pinterest board called Mid-Victorian I don’t loathe!

Also, another problem has been finding a character I could get excited to play. I’ve looked through many a list of mid-Victorian Brits, and aside from maybe Elizabeth Siddal (who is already cast), I haven’t been able to find someone that I could actually get excited about to play. Oh, of course I could also audition to play a Dickens character, but — I’m 40. Dickens didn’t write very many interesting female parts for women my age. Oh yes, there are no small parts, only small actors — but I’m a small actor. Call me crazy, but I don’t want to play So-and-So’s governess. And the few good adult female parts? Yep, those are also cast.

BUT! I hit on a semi-genius idea for a non-English character, and got approval to play her, and so I will be Virginia Oldoini, Countess of Castiglione. Snapshot: Italian countess, lived in Paris, famous beauty in her younger years, mistress of Napoleon III (I’ll be avoiding this, as it’s too smutty — but luckily she always denied it!), and most interesting — after her famous beauty years, she designed and posed for all of these crazy costumed painted photographs. So I’ll be playing her in those photography years, as the faded beauty (hey, I theoretically could have been Teh Hotness when I was younger!) who is all about draping veils on herself and being Medea:

In terms of costume design, I can’t do anything too crazy — no fancy dress costumes, and I have to stay within the fair’s costuming guidelines: fashionable day dress, no later than 1863, hoops no bigger than 110″, etc. I had to balance my desire to make something tailored that would suit my figure and taste with something that would suit the Countess, who was clearly into drama and ruffles and giant sleeves and crap-on-crap.

Here’s what I came up with, a slightly modified version of an 1862 La Mode Illustrée (I think) fashion plate:

The wide pagoda sleeves and black lace are all nods to the Countess’s flair for the dramatic, while the vertical ribbon lines and deep V neck on the bodice are there to suit my figure.

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Frock Flicks! Because stretch velvet isn’t historically accurate.

October 2, 2014 costume in cinema

Do you remember Frock Flicks, our costume movie podcast? A few years ago, myself, Trystan, and Sarah were semi-regularly podcasting about the good and bad (oh, the bad) about costume movies. We podcasted about a number of different costume movies: from Sophia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette, to The Other Boleyn Girl, to The Tudors (okay, so [...]

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Vampire Ball costume!

October 1, 2014 20th century

What do these things (with some tweaking and sewing and assembling) have in common? Well, hopefully they will make… I’ll let you know!

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September 9, 2014 17th century

When it comes to costume/fashion history books, I am a sucker. Even though I work in a university library, I still need to own ALL THE BOOKS! With that in mind, here are some recently published and forthcoming books that I am excited about. (It feels like it’s been a while since there’s been a [...]

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September 5, 2014 18th Century Hairdressing Book

In all caps, because it’s taken me so long to write about it! Costume College happened, and it was tons of fun, as always. I got to hang out with old friends and meet new people, and teach some classes, and go to some classes, and flog the wig book! First, though, I want to [...]

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Catching Up

August 19, 2014 18th century

Oh god, I’ll never catch up with stuff if I wait to do posts about each individual thing, so here, minus The Book, my life the last few (many?) months! I went to a 1920s Circus Picnic, for which I turned a shitty polyester prom dress from ebay plus a bit of a sari into [...]

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BOOK! (World’s Worst Blogger edition)

August 11, 2014 18th Century Hairdressing Book

I have turned into the World’s Worst Blogger(TM). So much costume-related stuff has happened that I have totally failed to blog about! If you follow me (or The Book) on Facebook, there will be a lot of repeats coming up. But whether or not it’s been all over Facebook and Costume College, and whether or [...]

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