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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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18th century, 18th century wigs, Bella Donna, events, GBACG, Lumieres

So What Else Has Been Going On?

There’s been NO sewing since the vampire dress last fall. Mostly because WIGSBOOKWIGSBOOK, but also because WIGSBOOK turned my sewing room into a STY the likes of which it may never recover from. Seriously. I go in there to get something, then run out and shut the door because I have The Fear.

Nonetheless, there have been a few dress up occasions over the past 6-8 months:

I went to GBACG’s Bal di Carnivale, which was a FAAABULOUS masked 18th century dinner. Since the theme was 18th century masquerade, I wore my fancy dress Maja costume, with my 1938 Marie Antoinette wig, and a black and silver harlequin mask. The wig was a last minute idea — I was stressed because I had no time to make anything for myself, but given the WIGSBOOKWIGSBOOK, how could I show up at an 18th century event in a crappy old wig? All of my current red wigs have seen better days, and frankly, they’re just not up to par even if they weren’t looking ratty! I was so glad to realize the white wig would work, and I think it really added to the ensemble.

Francis and I were asked to perform a minuet, something that I learned how to do about a year or two ago. It has been a life dream to learn, and we performed it at a Lumieres dinner and again when we were in France. I said sure, then when the day of came got super grumbly as we were last minute scrambling to remember the steps. But then when we danced it, it felt super magical, and I was so glad we did!

A month or two ago, Bella Donna performed at the San Jose Fantasy Fair. This was our second time at this fair, and it’s a lot of fun — almost all the audience is little kids, and we play crazy-in-a-good-way OTT princesses. I wasn’t in the mood for a complex costume or big hair, so I ended up doing a riff on last year’s Pirate Fest 18th c. outfit, but with super princess-y hair, with a braid around my head and long curls on one side. And a ton of flowers and ribbons, to dress things up. We had a great performance — we do a ridiculously silly show that is essentially a mash up of Cinderella and The Bachelor. And in our space, we had a tea party set up for little kids, which was SO cute — kids just knew it was for them, marched right up, plopped down, and started playing tea party.

And finally, I went to a Lumieres 18th century dinner, which was lots of fun. I was nearing the book finish line, so I wasn’t in the mood AT ALL to wear anything complicated — so I wore a black striped 18th c. jacket that I banged out a few years ago and have never managed to blog with a white cotton, embroidered petticoat. I threw together a new wig, which I ended up powdering because I ran out of time to dye my hair! I don’t have any great pics, but here’s photographic proof:

(C) Niki Rotheneder

Oh, and I almost forgot! I went to a semi-interactive theater performance set in a 1920s speakeasy. I dressed up in a modern, slightly faux-1920s silk charmeuse dress with a pretty flower printed on the lower portion, and a vintage 1920s black silk satin evening coat — and the repro Great Gatsby bandeau. And my husband went, in a modern suit as he doesn’t have anything 1920s!

18th century, events, GBACG, shopping

And in other news!

Pre-orders for the 18th c. hair/wig book are going swimmingly — I’m only $750 away from my goal!  Of course, some of that money is for shipping, so fingers crossed I’ll go OVER my goal and then I’ll REALLY be able to license images up the wazoo!

But in other news, there are two cool things coming up that I wanted to tell you about!

Bal di Carnival

The first is that my local costuming organization, the Greater Bay Area Costumers Guild, is putting on a REALLY fabulous event that you should think about attending:  the Bal di Carnivale, on February 8 in San Jose.  Seriously, this one would be worth flying in for (Southwest flies to San Jose! I’m just saying!).

The event is set in 18th century Venice, and costumes should be 18th century, and CAN be fancy dress/carnivale costumes.  With no time to sew and wardrobe full of 18th century, I’ll be wearing my Maja fancy dress costume, a big wig, and a harlequin mask.  Actually, the mask is the one element of the painting that I ran out of time to recreate, and I was initially thinking this would be the perfect opportunity… until I realized a full face mask and eating/drinking won’t go well together. Bastards!

The venue is a hotel that is supposed to be gorgeous.  I haven’t seen it, but all my San Jose friends said “ooo!”  There will be a five course Italian meal, wine, and dessert. And for entertainment, the Dolls of Doom will be performing — professional acrobats!

New 18th Century Dress Pattern

Any day now, Hallie Larkin and Stephanie Smith of The Hive/At the Sign of the Golden Scissors will be coming out with a new 18th century dress pattern.

Hallie is a very respected costume researcher and costumer based in New England.  She and Stephanie are coming out with what will be the first of many patterns — the first one for a 1760s-70s fitted-back English mantua.

Why is this exciting?  Because they are approaching the pattern from a historically accurate point of view!  Not only is the gown drafted from a real historical piece, but most importantly, the sewing instructions are going to walk you through how to construct and hand-sew the dress in a period correct manner.  This is the first source that I have heard of that will actually walk you through the process, step by step.

And, the dress looks really pretty!

I’m not positive if they are taking orders yet, but they will be any day now… and when they do, you can order the pattern here.  You can read more about the dress project in various posts on Hallie’s blog.

19th century, events, GBACG, Gwendolen

GBACG Holiday Tea

At the very end of December, the Greater Bay Area Costumers Guild held a bustle-era tea at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco.  The Palace is super fancy and dates from 1875 but was rebuilt after the 1906 earthquake — the restaurant where tea is served is what used to be where carriages would pull in and is just beautiful:

Palace Hotel, San Francisco

The tea was hosted by Mrs. Vanderbilt (Cynthia) and THE Mrs. Astor (Catherine), both tres chic in their bustle gowns:

Mrs. Vanderbilt & Mrs. Astor

Costumes ranged from the 1870s to the 1890s:


Teresa and Bridget were both super pregnant and super cute with their unbuttoned bodices:

Teresa & Bridget

There was lots of gorgeous beading and fabulous hats:


And a lovely lady wearing an actual antique late 1860s/early 1870s gown:


I wore my purple and white striped Gwendolen dress, this time without the lower hoops as I wasn’t in the mood to wrestle them on BART (our local commuter train).  The bodice appears to have (ahem) shrunk, but luckily I saved scraps of the fabric and hit on the faaabulous idea of adding a V striped false waistcoat front — I’m so glad there are two runs of buttons on each side of the bodice opening!


Sadly the hat I made to go with the outfit just doesn’t want to work over 1870s hair.  I could have jammed it on my head and not liked the effect, so I chose to go without (shocking!).

Tea was scrummy — I couldn’t even finish all of my sweets and had to take some home! And the hotel had lots of beautiful photo spots:


All in all, a lovely afternoon!  You can see a few more photos in my Flickr set.

20th century, events, GBACG

I Dressed Up & It Didn’t Kill Me!

I even SEWED — a teeny, tiny bit — and it didn’t kill me!

Just over a week ago was the GBACG Last Dinner on the Titanic. You’ve probably read all about it on other blogs, but just in case…

I wore a “this old thing” that had only been one worn once — my olive green 1910 Lady Maud evening dress. As costumes are wont to do, it had shrunk over the intervening years (I’m convinced there’s something about dark closets that shrink costumes), so I had to let it out a bit.  Of course, I decided to make it harder on myself but not just letting it out but also removing the lining from the overskirt — in my zeal to line everything, I felt like the whole dress hung too heavy for the era, so I took the lining off the overskirt for a hopefully lighter effect. Also, I needed a wider placket in back (that whole shrinking thing), and I had used all the fabric, so I took some fabric off of the underskirt (where it’s hidden under the overskirt) for placket-ing.  I didn’t LOVE altering it, but it didn’t kill me, so that’s something!

My Indian wedding jewelry showed up in plenty of time. Of course, one piece was broken, a drop pearl was missing, and one glass bit needed reglueing — oh, and the whole thing needed a serious wipe down — but that’s par for the course, as far as I’m concerned, when you buy cheap jewelry on ebay.  I have no expectations of perfection when I spend that little money!

I was inspired by the bandeau worn by Perdita Weeks in the recent (very meh) Titanic miniseries, and made one similar with three rows of olive green velvet ribbon. I wanted it to hold its shape without a ton of bobby pins messing up the line, so I sewed the ribbon to some lightweight wire; then I took apart the maang tika (forehead jewel) and used parts of it as decoration on each side of the bandeau.

I was super excited to have both Loren and Jenny-Rose fly in to go to the event! We got dressed at my place — I tried to do something similar to this hairstyle and it worked out relatively well, although the sides got flattened as soon as I put the bandeau on.

The event was at the Bellevue Club in Oakland, which has become my favorite venue and I now think all costume events should be held here.  Yes, it’s expensive, but I’ll pay up!  I have been costumign long enough that I am no longer excited just to get to dress up.  I need value add in the form of a fabulous venue and/or attempts to be in-character/in-period.

Luckily, I was sitting with a group of friends who share my desire to be in-period, so we all chose real people who were on the Titanic to play. I was Miss Madeleine Newell, returning from a trip to Egypt and Palestine with my younger sister Maud (played by Jenny-Rose). We were joined by Miss Edith Russell (a journalist), Lady Duff-Gordon (who designs women’s unmentionables), Mr. Cavendish (of the Devonshire Duchy family!) and his American wife, and two couples whose names I’ve forgotten, but the “wife” of one turned out to be his mistress (which I had no idea!).  Rather shocking!  Luckily, we all have a good time playing characters but are also mellow about it, so we sort of go in and out of character as the mood strikes us — nobody minds if you crack a joke or make a comment as your modern self.  The part that made my toes curl is that the three gentlemen at our table stood up whenever a lady stood, which SO works for me.

The fabulous Richard Man took formal photos, and as always, they turned out fabulous. I’ve heard he’s going to retire from photographing costuming events soon, and I am very sad!  Here’s the best shots he took of me:

(C) Richard Man

(C) Richard Man

Then there were cocktails in the beautiful Mural Lounge, which has 2 story high ceilings, antique furniture, pink walls, and looks like it stepped out of Versailles.  Dinner was in the main dining room, which is equally stunning and decorated in green. Here’s a shot of the dining room before we sat down to eat:

(C) Jenny-Rose White

The food was REALLY good, and they had a live band (a quartet I think?) playing music of the era during dinner. Some people got up to dance, but we mostly sat and socialized and ate and drank and laughed!

Here’s my table, minus Jenny-Rose who’s taking the picture!

(C) Jenny-Rose White

After dinner, there was more dancing, but we retired back to the Mural Lounge to lounge and chat and take photos. Everyone, not just our group, looked amazing — there were so many beautiful dresses (and themes! lots of women in green, and lots in pink/orange/peach) and the gentlemen looked REALLY good.  I’ll tell ya, guys look good in all sorts of historic costume when it’s done right, but NOTHING’s better than a man in a well-tailored suit.

"Our" sharp-dressed men; (C) Jenny-Rose White

I totally failed to bring my camera, but you can see more pictures here: