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1775 maja

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

1775 maja, 18th century, projects

Officially Final Photos of the Maja

Okay, when I get ambitious, I will probably try to take some photos in REALLY the exact pose as the inspiration photo… but until then, these photos by the fabulous Richard Man will have to suffice!

1775 maja, 18th century, Costume College, events, projects

Maja Done – at Least Enough for Now!

Whew!  I sewed and sewed those last few weeks, but I got there!  There are still somethings I would add/fix if/when I decide to call this Officially Perfect… but aren’t there always?

On the bodice, I:

  • Decided the back seamline spangle patterns should match the sleeves (ie 2 rows instead of 1), so I ripped out the CB and redid that.  Yes, I’m a dork, but I’m really glad I did it, as I think it looks great.
  • Put the sleeves together and attached them.
  • Ripped out the spangle trim around the arm when I realized that 1) the angle actually parallels the neckline trim, and 2) I didn’t have enough spangles to do 2 rows on the CB.
  • Hemmed, hawed, and hemmed again about the armhole trim.  You can see that it definitely Vs, and I couldn’t figure out a way to do that that didn’t involve doing the flying geese pleating pattern.  It looks very similar to this trim on an extant Spanish man’s jacket, except somewhat looser.  I followed that as a model, but spaced things out a bit more.  I also added the occasional spangle on top of the trim, which you can see in super high res versions of the painting.
  • I finished the 10,000 miles of lucet cord.  Why did I ever think it would be a good idea to make my own cord?  Ok, I’m glad I did b/c it looks really great, but it took FOREVER.  And, of course, now that it’s done I think the silk cord I picked is too cream.  Bah.
  • I attached all the pompoms and cords.

On the skirt, I:

  • Hemmed and hawed about how the skirt trim would be attached.  You can see very clear scallops on scallops, and they almost look flat against the skirt.  However,  you can’t sew the trim on in a wave pattern without some kind of gathering/pleating (unless you cut the skirt trim in waves, which is SO not an 18th c. thing to do — such fabric waste!).  I looked at a lot of extant pieces and was hoping I’d be able to slightly gather and then ease the trim… but no such luck, as it pulled when it went over the curves — so I had to officially gather it.
  • Pleated the skirt and sewed it to 2 strips of linen tape for a waistband.
  • Hemmed the apron, and pleated and sewed that to a strip of linen for a waistband.


  • I bought some marcasite earrings that had the same look as those in the painting (altho those are very fuzzy, so there was guesswork involved).
  • I strung a gazillion pearls into a choker, which ended up sitting a bit too loosely on me, but oh well.
  • I could never find a silk organza/gauze/chiffon that had the right satin plaid, so I used my on-hand striped silk gauze for the fichu.
  • I attempted to drape the cap, which took WAY too long and was WAY too annoying.  Finally, I drafted up the men’s cap from Costume Close Up and messed with that.  I sewed the cap in the car on the way to CoCo, and attached some vintage millinery trims.
  • I originally wanted to skip the Dorky Pink Snood, but Trystan said I had to have one.  Now, she did say I could buy a crappy renfaire snood, but you know I couldn’t do that!  I’m guessing the original was knotted, but I didn’t have the time or mental energy to figure out how that would work, so I went with knitting since I already know how to do that.  I got some pink lace weight alpaca/silk, looked high & low for a snood pattern that would work, couldn’t find one, used a DOILY pattern instead… so yes, I am wearing a pink doily on my head.  And I knitted it in the car/at CoCo!  I found some pink satin/shantung at Stone Mountain that I used for the band.
  • I tracked down makeup (particularly a light peachy lipstick) that echoed the look the Marquesa is wearing in the portrait.

And it all came together in the end!  I think those who’ve read my blog obviously knew what I was doing, but I think those that don’t may have been scratching their heads a bit.

I did get some really nice photos taken where I am pretty closely posed the same as the original painting, although those aren’t yet online — I am, however, irritated to realize that the people I had posing me didn’t notice that she’s holding her jacket open with her fist — so the jacket is laying differently.  Bah.  I will have to dress up in all this and get my hubby to take pics.

So, until the fancy pictures are available, here are some from my camera (and 2 stolen from Jen)!

(And, here’s all my CoCo pics)

1775 maja, 18th century, Costume College, events, projects

Fly By Post

I’m deep in the Costume College crunch!  Been sewing like a madwoman with lots of progress and various bits of rework, plus a recalcitrant hat pattern.  I thought I was ahead of schedule and would be mostly done yesterday, but of course things took way longer than I thought, and thus in about 30 min. I’ll be mostly done (minus the hat and snood, which I can easily do in the car/in classes).

SO!  No real content here, just some pics of how things were looking earlier this week.  After CoCo I’ll post about the specifics.

In other news… tomorrow I need to pack!  Trying to decide what to bring for the Fri. night social — either the 1780 polonaise, or the Gwendolen day dress.

1775 maja, 18th century, Costume College, events, projects

Maja Sleevage & Closures

Been plugging away on the Maja… first, in peering at the painting, I realized I had forgotten a section of embroidery on the waistcoat, along the neckline, on the “underside” piece (which doesn’t have any other embroidery).  Whoops!  So I opened the edge seam up and fixed that.  Then I took off the jacket facings/turnbacks, as I’d mismeasured and was missing a tiny corner of black near the bottom of the facing.  I had originally thought I would just piece in the missing square, but I hadn’t liked how I’d finished the edge.  Obviously the CF and bottom edge are bound in contrasting black; I assume the neckline is just sewn shut like a standard bodice.  I couldn’t figure out how best to finish the scalloped edge of the facing, though.  I had tried clipping and turning in the SAs, but that looked like crap, so then I tried continuing the binding all the way up the CF… and that looked like even more crap.  So, I pulled off the binding and the facing, made new black facings and re-embroidered them, reattached them, and then redid the finishing.  I ended up doing the SA turn in thing, but this time I basted the turn line, then basted the SA down, then edge stitched, then pulled out all the basting.  Lots more work, but it looks WAY better now!  I know this rework may seem silly, but I’m really trying to make this a “absolute best I can do” project (versus “I just want a pretty dress” projects, which I am giving myself permission to bang out).

So!  Amongst all this I worked on the sleeves — first embroidering the spangles on the sleeve and cuff, then putting it all together.  I couldn’t tell for certain whether the black under the sleeve closures (decorative? functional?) was an underplacket or faked by laying the black on top.  I decided it was a weird place to split the sleeve open — wouldn’t it make MUCH more sense to have a placket along the seamline?  So I applied the black on top, as that seemed easier.  I’m going to make the closures “functional” in the sense that they’ll tighten the sleeve up a bit at the wrist, but I’m not going to slit anything (ie I can get the sleeve on over my hand without needing to open anything).  I similarly wasn’t sure about whether that was a “real” cuff (as in lined and separate from the sleeve) or again just laid on top… when I peered at the painting, I didn’t see any real dimension to it, so I decided to just lay it on top and stitch it down.

I’ve also been on the hunt for the right closures.  I’d been peering at the painting again, plus Alyxx had some good comments on a previous post… so I’ve decided we’re looking at pompoms and toggle buttons with some kind of tufty action.  No problem, I thought!  I’ll just get some beads that are the right size, and thread something through them to make the tufts!  Except duh, how will I then attach the beads to the jacket?  So, I’m going to accept that the “right” toggle isn’t something I’m going to be able to achieve, and tracked down some vintage glass buttons that look very much like the toggles and will be ignoring the tufty bits.  I was surprised to find that there are many instructions for making pompoms online, and they’re really quite easy.  I wanted to use silk, so I went over to Needle in a Haystack (I’m lucky in having a really nice embroidery store in my town) and got some silk embroidery floss.  I made about half as many pompoms as I need (somewhere between 24-30, depending on what I assume is going on in sections I can’t see in the painting) before running out of the floss, so I need to go back and get more.  I’m also going to follow Shelly’s excellent suggestion (on a previous post) and make my own lucet cord.  It’s period, it looks like the painting, and it’s not too hard.  In order to see what it would do, I made a ghetto lucet tool by cutting the shape out of cardboard.  It looked good, so now I’ve ordered a real lucet tool and am waiting for that to show up.

I am considering what I’ll do if I can’t get this done enough in time for the CoCo gala.  I’d really like to wear this, and I probably will… but then I’ve wanted to make this outfit for SO long, and see again about this being an “absolute best I can do,” and I don’t want to have to skimp.  Right now, I’ve got done:  most of the bodice, the sleeves, base skirt is cut and assembled (minus pleating/waistband).  What I have left to do:  redo one more bit of embroidery on the bodice, make more pompoms, make lucet cord, attach all the closures, double check the bodice fit and then sew down the straps, attach the sleeves, cut out the skirt trim and apply it, cut out hem and attach the apron, pleat/waistband the skirt, knit the dorky pink snood, buy black velvet and make the montera cap, attach vintage flowers to the cap, cut black ribbons for the shoes.  Phew!  I THINK I can get most of that done — the big work is closures (making lucet/pompoms and attaching) and the rest of the skirt (trim/apron/pleat/waistband).  I COULD forgo to the dorky pink snood for this wearing, but I don’t think it’ll take too long to make.

If I can’t get this done in time, I guess I’d wear the 1787 roundgown… but while that’s pretty, it’s not really gala-worthy!  So I’ll focus on trying to get this done enough to feel like it’s wearable.