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19th century, balls, Bella Donna, events, projects

Vampire Ball – Bram Stoker’s Dracula group costume project

It’s been a crazy busy fall, what with work being busy plus TONS of Bella Donna performances.  Which accounts for my lack of posting around here, plus any court dress emails I haven’t responded to!

I did make something new, crazy me.  Bella Donna performs every year at the PEERS Vampire Ball, a fabulous event that is always right after Halloween.  It’s in a gorgeous hall and everyone brings out their gothy/historical best costumes.  We generally do two song sets of vampiric songs — we rewrite a lot of our English 16th & 18th c. songs into vampire lyrics, and this year we performed Thousand Years by Christina Perri (used in the most recent Twilight movie) and Love Song for a Vampire by Annie Lennox (from the 1992 Bram Stoker’s Dracula movie).

Usually we all wear whatever we’re in the mood for, but this year Karen had the crazy idea that we should do a group costume and go as the various characters from the 1992 Bram Stoker’s Dracula movie (the one directed by Coppola).  This was relatively crazy given how busy we all were, but it was such a good idea, and some of us had things already on hand that would work…

I went as one of the three brides of Dracula, along with Shawna and Tara.  Shawna and I bought ivory and gold cotton saris from Utsav Fashion, and I whipped them both into basic dresses.  For Shawna’s, we copied the dress worn by the redheaded bride in the movie; for mine, I just futzed until I liked it.

Here’s the inspiration:

Dracula's Brides from Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992)

Part of what made the costume seem do-able was that it was so simple, but of course you know me and hair — if it doesn’t have complicated hair, then I’m not interested!  So I immediately decided I wanted Monica Belluci’s fabulous high/braided hairstyle with cool headdress and veil.  So I bought a REALLY long wig and a bunch of half-braided pieces in a slightly darker color than I normally wear and got to work.  Things were going smoothly until I had to go on a work trip and left my bag that had all the braided hair, the headdress, my jewelry pliers, and my IPAD in a taxi.  I WAS SO PEEVED.  Multiple phone calls later, no bag, and I had to reorder all of that stuff.  Oh, plus the GORGEOUS vintage fan I was about to restore.  I am still the most bummed about that.

After that crisis… I made a wire form for the high portion of the wig, and then handsewed individual braids to it.  You’re thinking this sounds like it took a lot of time.  Yep!  I finally had to give up and accept that the back would be covered by the veil (a length of silk/metallic organza), and just bobby pin/roughly sew the braid ends down in back.  The headdress was made from various jewelry findings from Fire Mountain, plus a vintage Indian bullion applique.

So that, plus some custom-made fangs (yay!  I’ve wanted some forever!) and jewelry, and we ended up looking like this:

Dracula & Brides (Tara, Paul, & Kendra)

Dracula's Brides (Kendra, Shawna, & Tara)

I also managed to talk my husband Michael into coming (he loves Halloween, but the last few years he’s flaked out on this event).  To join in the group, he wanted to go as Renfield:

Tom Waits as Renfield |

I told him I could make his straightjacket for him, but he’d have to iron all the pleats into place because I didn’t have time to do it myself.  He bought the fabric, dyed it, and did all the pleating, and then I draped the straightjacket and hack sewed it together (thankfully it didn’t need to fit well or look well made!).  He then spent hours distressing it in the backyard while I napped!  Karen helped him achieve crazy hair, and he looked pretty great even tho we weren’t able to find him any good glasses:
Renfield (Michael)

Beyond that, we had Jenn as Mina in a gorgeous red bustle ballgown that she banged out the week before the ball, Karen as Lucy in her orange wafting-through-the-garden ensemble, Paul as young/hot Dracula, and Liam as Van Helsing.  All in all, I’m impressed what we came up with, and bonus — I think the colors on the singing group worked really well together, three of us in ivory/gold and the other two in orange and red!

Family Portrait

Mina (Jenn)

(C) David Bedno

(C) Laurie Tavan

You can see all of my pictures from that evening on Flickr, if you’re so inclined.

1775 maja, 18th century, 18th century wigs, balls, Bella Donna, events, projects

Vampire Ball!

Last night was the annual PEERS Vampire Ball, which is one the few balls I still get excited about!  It’s in a great venue (an Elks lodge that has a beautiful look) that’s about 3 blocks from my house, plus people really go all out with the costumes — over the top historical, vampire/goth, scifi, fantasy, and hybrids of all of these.  There’s so much eye candy, and that’s the best part!  Plus there’s not only historical dancing but also a goth club with a DJ, so you can get the best of both worlds.  Okay, and 2 bars.

For the past three years, Bella Donna has performed two 30 min. song sets at the ball, which is always lots of fun.  We’ve rewritten all of our English songs so that they’re vampire focused (so, for example, “Sweet nymph come to thy lover” becomes “Sweet prey come to thy vampire”), and it’s fun to get to do something different than our usual Renaissance show… and we get to wear whatever costume we’re in the mood to wear!

This year I was thinking about wearing the Marie Antoinette dress, but it’s so huge that it would be hard to get into singing formation with the group and I certainly couldn’t do any historical dancing. So I decided to wear the Maja fancy dress costume, but I wanted to do something different with it. I came up with the idea of doing a Pierrot makeup, in line with the whole black and white theme.

To do the makeup, I used Kryolan Supracolor again, and made my illustrator husband do the black/detail work. Everything went swimmingly until I went to power the makeup, which you need to do to set it — I was using a brush and all the black smeared!  So I had to do a bunch of repair work, which was super annoying… I’m not positive what the best way would be to powder when you’ve got more than one color going on, does anyone know?  I ended up using a power puff and just pressing it, but it still smeared a bit.

Makeup pre-smearing

I wanted to do a new wig, and decided to try a 1760s tete-de-mouton just to do something different — something along the lines of this. I used a pretty ratty wig that I’d cut to be a hedgehog, so the hair in front/top/sides wasn’t quite as long as it should be to do full justice to the curls across the top of the head… and I ended up doing things a bit backwards, in styling the front before the back, so had to do some curls at the side/back top to pull things together. But it was interesting to try something new, and now I know what to do differently next time!

The clearest shot of the wig I've got, which isn't very clear; or, yes, aquanet is period!

I ended up recovering a mini-tricorn form and trimming it the vintage b&w ribbon I bought at Hyman Hendler in NYC.

Pierrot Maja

The ball was fun and I had a great time seeing new and old friends, although I didn’t do ANY historic dancing — bad me!  Instead after our singing sets were over, I pretended to be goth with some of my Bella Donna friends in the club room and had fun doing swoopy dances and “catch the bat, release the bat.”

Pierrot Maja

Bella Donna performing at the Vampire Ball

1886 fancy dress "champagne", 19th century, balls, Bella Donna, events, projects

Fix This Costume! Meh Edition

So last year, I made a Victorian fancy dress costume — specifically, a c. 1886 “champagne” costume.  You can read more about it here, if you’ve totally forgotten about it by now.

Last time we talked, I made some undies.  Well, I also made a dress.  I was really sick the week before wearing it, but pushed myself through finishing by telling myself, “It doesn’t have to be god’s gift to costuming.”  Well, that prophecy came true, as it wasn’t!  Didn’t help that I was still woozy and fever-y and sick on the night I wore it, but I had to go as my singing group (Bella Donna) was performing at the Vampire Ball.

So yeah.  I never found the right trim for it, even after looking at gazillions of beaded trims and christmas ornaments, so maybe it’s the lack of trim that made me feel so meh about it that I never finished blogging?  I don’t know!  I also think maybe the sleeves (which were supposed to be more interesting, but lack of time made for a crappy pattern, so I had to ditch the original plan and go simple) should be A) more interesting and B) in the gold fabric?  Or maybe a sheer, shiny gold tulle, and then echo that in a center front opening showing a faux underlayer in shiny gold tulle, as in the inspirational fashion plate?  And the skirt hem could be shorter?  Help me figure out why this costume is so unexciting, and maybe I can wrestle it into shape?  Or at least do better the next time I attempt fancy dress!  And for trim, go for shiny gold balls, or clear glass balls?  Had a long debate with my husband about that one — I was picturing shiny gold balls, but he kept pointing out that champagne was clear…

A note on the photos — I had to photoshop the base skirt on photos #2 and 3, as the settings on Trystan’s camera were off and it turned my green skirt purple.  So the color/shine is most accurate in picture #1.

18th century, balls, events, travel

I put one costume away, I take it back out…

So, bad news but not horrible — the ball at Vaux-le-Vicomte has been cancelled.  This is what I get, karma-wise, for trying to so something this fabulous without Trystan and Sarah!  Apparently they didn’t sell enough tickets (not well advertised, price was really high, start time really late).  I’m disappointed but not traumatized, as my first thought when I heard something had gone wrong was that the whole thing (ie the Sunday Journee costume event) had been moved to another date and/or cancelled, so I was initially relieved that at least Sunday was still on.  But, now we’ve found out that we’re still going to get to do the costumed dinner, and there will be some kind of evening entertainment, and apparently they light the chateau with candles at night, so who cares, we’ll have fun!  I put away the polonaise thinking I’d only need one costume and pulled some of the trim off my hat to re-trim it to match the francaise — now I need to pull the polonaise back out, and put the original trim back on!  Such is life.

In other news… I leave Friday!  EEK!  I am busy getting organized and will start packing today.  EEP!  EEK!

18th century, balls, events, travel

I Love Paris in the Late Springtime/Early Summertime…

[Side note:  you are all heathens for not being excited about that Gainsborough portrait!]

So the thing I keep meaning to post about, but then get distracted by how busy life is these days, is… I’M GOING TO PARIS IN MAY!  EEP!  SUPER exciting!  I’ll be visiting Lisa, who lives in Paris, for a week and a half.

Beyond wanting to visit Lisa, and who DOESN’T want to go to Paris?  The thing that is getting this nervous flyer on a plane by herself is…

I’m going to be going to Vaux-le-Vicomte!  Which is the French chateau that was the inspiration for Versailles.  Specifically, to the Grand Bal Costume — a 17th/18th century (required! yay!) costume ball, with dinner beforehand.  The ball will be in the Grand Salon, which sounds very promising; and will have a Baroque musical group, and period dancing. (Side note:  I am amused that the ball goes from 11pm-3am, which is so VERY European!).  There will be fireworks in the garden.  I may die of happiness!

This is the room the ball will be in:

Grand Salon du chateau de Vaux le Vicomte

And then on Sunday, I’ll be going to the Journee Grand Siecle, which is a 17th/18th century costumed afternoon at Vaux where attendees are encouraged to bring picnics, plus there are various demonstrations/activities.

Journée Grand siècle - Château de Vaux le Vicomte

I am BEYOND excited!  I hope to meet/re-meet many European costumers I’ve chatted with online.  And and…TWO COSTUME EVENTS IN NOT JUST PERIOD BUILDINGS, BUT OVER-THE-TOP FABULOUSLY PERIOD BUILDINGS!!!  Where history happened!

Of course, there will be other adventures — I plan to spend as much of a day as I can stomach at the Louvre.  And there’s other costume stuff… but I’ll save that for the next post!

Oh, input desired!  I am going to wear my 1780 polonaise for the picnic day.  Which francaise should I wear to the ball — the peach or the black?  I am purposely NOT stressing myself by trying to make something new for this!

balls, events, Lumieres

An Excessively Halloween-y Weekend

I had an excessively Halloween-y weekend the weekend AFTER Halloween.  On Friday night, we had the Lumieres occult dinner, which was spooky & lovely — mediums and aristocrats mingled over yummy French food, champagne, and candelight.  I went as a medium — Mlle Marie Anne Lenormand, who was more Napoleonic than Rococo era but who’s double checking!  I wore my gaulle, which I accessorized with lots of black — black sash, jewelry, and hair ribbons.

On Saturday night was the PEERS Ball des Vampires, which is about 10 min. walk from my house – yay!  I went with Bridget & Katherine — we had great Italian food beforehand (and scared the locals), then walked over to the ball.  There were lots of fabulous costumes (lots of Victorian & 18th century, one sparkly Edward who I had fun teasing, etc.).  I spent most of my time downstairs in the goth-y DJ room (they played Hong Kong Garden, so I got to have my Marie Antoinette masquerade moment!) — only did one-half of one waltz!  I don’t know, I just wasn’t in the mood to jockey for partners.  It does make me want to make the effort to hit the ball scene a bit more frequently (altho that means talking some of my friends into going too) — it’s a great chance to dress up and socialize, even if you’re not in the mood to dance.  I was feeling very “this old thing” about my black francaise (the other option was Nell Gwyn, but it didn’t feel terribly Halloween-y) so I resisted the urge to attempt to make anything new, and focused my time and styling a new wig and making wig accessories.  I ended up making a “cake,” and my rockin’ husband made me a guillotine out of balsa wood (the man is a talent!), plus giving me a scary guillotine-d neck scar.  Jenn absolutely took the cake (ha ha) in her gorgeous black & orange francaise, with black wig that had a jack-o-lantern that LIT UP.  It ROCKED.

A preview of photos is below — you can find the rest of my Flickr account (which I’m going to be using from now on for event photos) — here’s the Lumieres occult dinner and the Vampire ball.