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18th century, 18th century wigs, events, Marie Antoinette redingote c. 1780, projects, travel

Shenanigans at the Chateau!

(Yes, I am shamelessly stealing that post title from the talented Cathy Hay!)

Aiee, we’re here!  In France!  In an ancient chateau, originally 16th century but restored in the 19th century, and very appropriately eighteenth-century themed inside!

Here is the lovely Chateau de Pys, in the southeast of France near Toulouse:

(C) Trystan L. Bass

(C) Thomas Dowrie. Currently I'm sleeping in the building to the right, next week I'll be moving into a bedroom in the chateau!

The view on a rainy late afternoon -- we actually have a view of the snow-covered peaks of the Pyrennees when it is clear, which I'll post once I've remembered to take a photo!

And we’re having a blast.  So far there have been sewing circles, cocktails, Eurovision final watching parties, yummy dinners…. and costumes!  Most of us are here for two weeks, so we’re spacing out the costume events to basically every other day, so nobody hits the wall.  It’s so lovely to BE in the place you’re going to be playing dress up — no hassle to get dressed and pop over — plus to then be able to put your pj’s on and have a late night, post-corset snack in the kitchen with everyone else!  I could SO get used to this…

Our first costume event was a picnic lunch on the terrace/outside.  It’s been drizzling on and  off, so we set up the lunch buffet-style on an outdoor table.  After food, we took TONS of photos, rambled about the grounds to see the nearby pond, woods, and lawns, played some ninepins, and lounged about on the steps.  As I keep repeating, This Does Not Suck.

Lisa & Francis


Thomas & Trystan

Cathy & Lisa

C'est moi!

Tomorrow:  details on my redingote and wig!

events, totally random

WonderCon 2013 – cosplay!?!

WonderCon 2013, a set on Flickr.

Last week I went down to Anaheim to help my husband, who is a professional illustrator, sell his art (originals, prints, cards, etc.) at WonderCon. This is an annual convention, officially for comics, but also for scifi, fantasy, video games, and all things geek-y, and is organized by the same people who put on ComicCon. I’ve been to this convention a few times to help my hubby, mostly when it was up in San Francisco. I spend most of the weekend sitting in a hard plastic chair helping Michael out — selling stuff, getting food, letting him go on breaks — but it’s also fun from another perspective: cosplay!

I don’t really do cosplay, but it’s (obviously) the most popular area of costuming and growing by leaps and bounds. It’s fun to get to watch people who are just as obsessive as us historical costumers get their costume geek on, even if I do spend most of the weekend asking my husband, “Who’s that character? And who’s that?” Okay, I can spot a Disney princess, Captain America (very popular this year!), and Game of Thrones (okay, so I am considering making a Game of Thrones outfit because they’re PRETTY and sometimes they have crazy hair!).

There are some things that don’t grab me as much about cosplay, mostly the purchasing items and putting them together into a costume part of things (some people make their own costumes, and others purchase and repurpose stuff — not saying there isn’t a ton of work that goes into that second option, just it’s not MY thing!). But what I do get is loving a character, show, book, etc. so much that you want to literally BE a part of it, and find some way to take on that character/world. I think part of what I love about reproducing paintings and fashion plates and historically set movies is that I am trying to put myself into that person or character, so in some ways it’s very much the same!

We’re generally in the small press area, which means we aren’t in the heart of things, so I know there are tons of cool costumes that I miss seeing. But here’s a few photos of costumes that I liked.  I think my favorites was Daenerys from Game of Thrones, and the Dr. Who girl who had a hand painted Tardis parasol!

18th century, 18th century wigs, events, Lumieres

Lumieres Russian Dinner

On Saturday, Lumieres (our 18th century role-playing group, for lack of a better description) held a dinner at the court of Catherine the Great of Russia… or Babushka restaurant in Concord!  It’s a small restaurant out in the burbs, but perfect because the food was great, the staff were super accomodating (they even dressed up in loaner costumes!), and the decor (if you ignored the disco elements) was oldey-timey enough to look great by candlelight!

It was an absolute blast — everyone was literally resplendent in gorgeous gowns, fabulous wigs, and sparkling jewels.  There was lots of in-character banter (my favorite), nice champagne, and flirting.  Francis and I got together ahead of time and practiced the minuet, which we learned a few months back, and we performed it for the guests with only one false start!

I wore my this-old-thing black francaise.  I was itching to do a c. 1780 super powdered wig like one of these Roslin portraits, so I set to work with a blond wig I had bought a while back, hoping powdering over blond would maintain some warmth and work better on my skin tone.  Well, I can report that powdered blond hair is still blond — duller, yes, but still blond — which totally doesn’t work on me.  So that wig will get finished and sold on Etsy!  Instead I pulled out the 1760s tete de mouton wig I styled for the Vampire Ball, which actually fits the era of the dress better, and powdered that.  So nothing new, just a slight tweak.  In the candlelight, it ended up looking like this:

(C) Linda Wenzelburger

Although here’s a flash photo that shows the warts & all — I’m posing with Trystan’s fabulous husband Thomas:

(C) Trystan L. Bass, via Flickr

We were welcomed by Catherine the Great herself:

(C) Diana Habra via Flickr:

And there was a LOT of scrummy scrummy costumes:

You can see the rest of my photos on Flickr!

events, projects

2012 Recap – Costumes & Events!

Now that I’ve finally posted about the last costume event of 2012, I can finally post my end-of-year recap!

(C) Wendi Koble

In late December/early January, I made a 1575 Florentine veste & petticoat to wear to Sarah’s laurelling ceremony.

In January, I wrote an article on 1912 evening wear

…and another on hair, makeup, and accessories.

In April, I bought some Indian wedding jewelry, slightly altered my 1910 Lady Maud evening dress, and went to the GBACG Titanic event.

In May, I made a new Venetian Renaissance dress to wear to Bella Donna performances….

(C) Mark Schiffer

…and it had its first outing when Bella Donna performed at the Valhalla Renaissance Faire.

(C) Karen Fox

I spent way too much time in June handsewing an 18th century Turkish ensemble, which I wore to the Lumieres Salacious Salon.

(C) Andrew Schmidt,

In July, I made the 1938 Marie Antoinette sorta-rocket dress, which I wore to Costume College.

Over fall,  I worked on a tambour embroidered fichu, which is nearly done (but not quite).

(C) Laurie Tavan

In September, I performed with Bella Donna at Much Ado About Sebastopol, a benefit Renaissance Faire that is really breaking new ground in terms of authenticity AND entertainment.

For Italian Heritage Day, Bella Donna walked in the SF Italian Heritage Parade and performed for two North Beach Italian restaurants.

In October, Bella Donna got dressed up and took a gondola ride on Lake Merritt in Oakland with Gondola Servizio.

(C) David Bedno

In early November, I recovered and trimmed a had, did some stage makeup, and wore my Maja dress to the Vampire Ball

…where I performed with Bella Donna.

(C) Brigit Kinch

Later that month, Bella Donna performed at the SCA West Kingdom fall Collegium feast, a beautiful dinner and dance set in 1530s Corregio. I actually reworked my green Venetian dress a bit, but I have no photos yet so I have yet to post about it!

In December, I reworked the failed Champagne fancy dress costume, which I wore to the Dickens Fair.

(C) Deborah Borlase

At the very end of December, I added a placket and wore my Gwendolen dress and had tea with the GBACG.

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.

1886 fancy dress "champagne", 19th century, Dickens Fair, events, projects

1886 “Champagne” Fancy Dress: Done!

Hey, I finished something!  Even better, this albatross!

Of course, I was up pretty late the nights before I wore this in order to get it done.  I widened the center front and reattached the trim, only to realize that it was STILL too narrow.  Ain’t nothing like doing it the hard way!

For lacing rings, I didn’t have time to get some real soldered rings, so I headed off to the hardware store and looked at random bits and bobs until I found some small-ish keyrings — hey, they worked!

I had one small issue when I put the gold ball trim on the CF, which is that I got to finish putting on the trim and realized I had about a half-ball-width hole, so I had to decide between a slight gap or trying to squeeze one more ball in.  I ended up squeezing one more in, which meant that the trim in front ended up looking kind of wonky.

I ran out of time to do anything useful with the champagne label, so I had to safety pin it on.  Looking back, I should have basted it on in the car, because it looks a little bit lame.  But oh well!

Last thing, I didn’t want to wear my hat until we got to fair because it was raining, and I hadn’t really planned out my hair.  So while I pictured wearing the hat on the top/side of my head, the only thing I could find to attach a hat pin too was way back/side — so I ended up looking pretty frowzy hat-wise, but everyone agreed that it was appropriate for a champagne bottle!

It’s not my best work, but it’s a whole lot better than the first try, and it was fun (and practical) to wear!  I had a great time at the fair, running into all sorts of friends wearing fabulous costumes and having a lovely tea. Oh, and most everyone got the costume, which was a good thing!

Me and Tara, who went in a beautiful bee-themed fancy dress ensemble.

So what’s next?  A whole lot of 18th century, but that’s another post!

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