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18th century, 18th Century Hairdressing Book, 18th century wigs, 20th century, Bella Donna, events, Frock Flicks, publications

Catching Up

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 a circus costume inspired by a picture of my great-grandmother. I forced myself to do the worst sewing job ever on it, since it was such a throw-away costume, and I looked pregnant in it (note to self: stand up straight!), but I had fun!

Gertrude Daniels Blumenfeld, circus performer, c. 1910s

With Laina & Karen

With Olive - (C) Laurie Tavan

I performed at Pirate Fest with Bella Donna (as the House of the Rising Sun — New Orleans tarts), for which I made a quick wig based on the Balloon style from The Book. Accessorized by a faaaabulous hat by Jenn.

And I prepped for, went to, and recovered from Costume College, but like everyone else, I’m waiting on professional photos for that post! I no longer bother to take good pics of myself, since I know the professionals can take such better ones. So yeah. More about that soon!

OH, and Frock Flicks is back. After years of my poking them, Trystan & Sarah have finally gotten excited about this again. We have a website. And a Facebook page. And a twitter. And will be recording a new podcast in the next week or two.

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.

Costume Society of America, events, exhibitions

Upcoming SF Bay Area Event: Bulgari Jewelry, Jan. 11

San Francisco Bay Area people, and those into shiny things, should consider joining the Costume Society of America Western Region’s event:

The Art of Bulgari: La Dolce Vita & Beyond 1950–1990 
de Young Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
Saturday January 11, 2014

Sautoir, 1969. Platinum with sapphires and diamonds. Chain, Pendant/Brooch. Formerly in the collection of Elizabeth Taylor. Bulgari Heritage Collection. copywright Barrella Studio Orizzonte.

Here’s the event description:

This exhibition The Art of Bulgari: La Dolce Vita & Beyond, 1950–1990 at the de Young Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco will highlight jewelry that defined a pivotal period in Italian design, and includes many pieces from the personal collection of Elizabeth Taylor and other celebrities. Amanda Triossi, a jewelry historian, author, consultant to luxury goods companies, and curator of the Bulgari Heritage Collection, curated the exhibit.

Our private guide will enrich our gallery tour as we hear about the company and the jewelry. Bulgari notably began to create its own trademark in jewelry in the 1960s by embracing boldly-colored combinations of gemstones, use of heavy gold, and forms derived from Greco-Roman classicism, the Italian Renaissance, and the 19th-century Roman school of goldsmiths. The company helped to develop a look that would come to be known as the “Italian school” of jewelry design. Pieces in the exhibition display the jeweler’s eclectic creativity and invention during this period.

Bulgari’s successful cultivation of prominent patrons and movie stars like Sophia Loren, Ingrid Bergman, and perhaps most notably, Elizabeth Taylor, has long been a key aspect of the jeweler’s reputation. To help explore the cultural context in which these objects were made, the exhibition includes innovative uses of sketches, photographs, and other archival materials that help to reveal a fascinating intersection of celebrity, design, and fine craftsmanship.

At 1:00pm in the Koret Auditorium there will be a free public lecture on the Bulgari exhibit.

The Art of Bulgari: La Dolce Vita & Beyond, 1950–1990 continues the Fine Arts Museums’ strong track record of exhibitions highlighting the work of decisive figures and movements in the world of fashion and design including: Cartier in America, Balenciaga and Spain, Yves Saint Laurent and The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk, among others.

Adjacent to the Bulgari Exhibit, in the Textile Arts Education Gallery, will be an exhibit entitled, Lace: A Labor of Luxury. CSA Member and associate at the de Young Textile Arts Department, Kristen Stewart, curated this exhibit and will guide us through it. Portraits of fashionable lace-wearing men and women from the Achenbach collection of prints will be exhibited alongside fine examples of lace from the sixteenth through the nineteenth centuries to support a chronological narrative of successive lace capitals and coups. The Education Gallery also displays textile study pieces for close examination.

If you’re interested in attending, you need to register by January 3rd!

I’ll be there — will you?

16th century, 18th century, Bella Donna, events

Bella Donna fall season

So I mentioned it’d been a typically busy fall for Bella Donna, my mostly-Renaissance Italian singing/performing group.  What did we get up to?

First, we performed at Much Ado About Sebastopol, a small, historically accurate (I know!) Renaissance faire in Northern California.

We did two different shows each day | (C) Howard Gold

Took over the Queen's Court while the Queen was away, which got us in the local paper | (C) Connor Jay, Santa Rosa Press Democrat

Challenged the court gentlemen to perform the Ham Pants Dance, which scandalized poor Sarah beyond recognition...

Got lectured by the Queen the next day, during which we cried and blamed the gents | (C) Philip Pavliger

For the annual San Francisco Italian Heritage Parade in October:

We dressed in an 18th c. Venetian carnivale theme | (C) Beppe Sabatini


Made Liam carry our Really Huge Venetian Flag… | (C) Froguy

And won second place for “Best Novelty Act”!

Then we went to the Folsom Renaissance Faire, where we again did multiple shows…

Hung out at court | (C) Jon Wilhelmson

And I wore my relatively recently revamped green dress, which now has a better constructed/lacing front but is more widely open, and has had new trim added! | (C) John Wilhemson

And then there was the Vampire Ball — 4 gigs over 2 months — phew!

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.

Costume College, events

Costume College – OMG Too Much Stuff!

I just printed off my packing list for Costume College and started hyperventilating — I have like 7 different costumes!  WTH!  And I actually need to bring 6 of them!

In other news, I’m teaching only one class:  “Hairstyles of the 18th Century.”  FYI, the time has been changed due to conflict with tea set up — now it will be Sunday 3-5pm. The quick schedule will have the right time, but the big book won’t.

I’m terrified nobody will come, since it’ll be the end of a long weekend, so if you’re thinking about coming make a mental note!  Save me from an empty room!