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Countess of Castiglione costume reproduction
18th century, 19th century, events, Frock Flicks, projects, travel

Countess of Castiligione Fancy Dress

Nobody freak out, but I’m going to write a post. About a dress. That I made! I have wanted to make this particular costume for about 20 years, which is why I am blowing the dust off my keyboard and doing this. I’d like to share some of the making on social media, and I’d like to be able to share more than just photos. So, let’s see if I remember how to do this?

I’ve shared the story of the real-life Countess of Castiglione, Virginia Oldoïni (1837-99), as well as my own personal interest in her, in a review I wrote for Frock Flicks. As I wrote there:

The Countess of Castiglione was Italian; she was married off at age 17 to the count, who was 12 years older. She was renowned for her beauty, which helped take her life in a couple of interesting directions. She got involved in the movement for Italian unification, moving to Paris in 1855 (initially with her husband) to try to gain political support from Napoleon III. She ended up becoming Napoleon’s mistress, and her husband separated from her. She became famous for wearing amazingly gorgeous and inspired costumes to the fancy dress balls that were then popular, and collaborated with French photographers Mayer and Pierson to create these insanely cool, artistic photographs of herself that were meant to recreate important moments in her life, many of which focused on fancy dress costume. She returned to Italy for a few years, then moved back to Paris where she lived in seclusion until the 1890s, when she did another series of weirdly arty photographs.

I’ve been a fan for over 20 years, and I played the countess at the Dickens Fair, where I had to make an “everyday” (i.e. not fancy dress) day dress, which I posted a bit about. But the costume of hers that I have always been obsessed with is this 18th century fancy dress/masquerade costume from the mid-1860s:

Portrait of Countess Virginia Oldoini di Castiglione by Pierre-Louis Pierson, 1863, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Portrait of Countess Virginia Oldoini di Castiglione by Pierre-Louis Pierson, 1863, Metropolitan Museum of Art

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16th century, Bella Donna, events

Carnevale Fantastico: New Italian Renaissance Faire in the SF Bay Area!

San Francisco Bay Area people: you should know about a NEW event coming up May 2-3 in Vallejo! Carnevale Fantastico is a brand new Renaissance faire, but it’s not just any Renaissance faire. It’s specifically an ITALIAN event, with performers, theater, food, and more that will be more than your usual “renfaire”! Bella Donna Historical Performers will be performing, and I’m really excited about it!

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Menacing Linda in the Great Hall
events, GBACG

Game of Thrones Costume/Event

Would you believe it, I sewed something! It was crazy around here! The Greater Bay Area Costumers Guild held a Game of Thrones event at Castello di Amorosa, a winery in the Napa valley. Now, I like Game of Thrones — I watch the show religiously, although I can tell that the books would drive me crazy. And I like the costumes, although I don’t love them. But when the event was announced and so many of my friends wanted to go, I decided to go too!

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