Put nine historical costumers into one 18th century chateau with a professional videographer, and this is what you get:
(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:
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.
Tomorrow: details on my redingote and wig!
On Friday night, after all my previous museum shenanigans, I met Fanny, Olympe, Carmene, and Anne — all fellow costumers — at Fanny’s shop, Au Temps d’Elegance. It is, I believe, the only shop of its kind in Paris. Fanny is a very talented costumer who does custom work, plus sells all sorts of bits and bobs for costuming (hats, feathers, jewelry, etc.) in her shop. It was fun to see all the shiny things in her shop, plus she brought out two real extant eighteenth century pieces — one a jacket, the other a dress — for us to peer at. It’s always fun to meet new people and talk costume — many of them go regularly to Vaux le Vicomte, Carnivale, etc. And if you’re in Paris, you should definitely check out her shop!
Now I’m at “our” chateau, so tomorrow: costume posts!
Bonjour from Paris! I’ve been here since Tuesday and already it’s been a whirlwind. In addition to being on vacation (I leave tomorrow for the south for our two weeks of playing dress-up), I’m also here in France doing research! See, the research I’ve been doing for years on the robes a la polonaise, turque, and circassienne have been growing and growing. First they turned into an article that’s coming out this month in Dress (the journal of the Costume Society of America). But it’s kept growing, and so… I’ve decided it’s a book!
What’s the book about? Well, partially about what exactly these styles are, how they were cut and what was different/the same about them vs. other dresses of the period. I’ve been doing tons of research, but I also really need to study more extant dresses and I especially want to take patterns. So I applied for, and am incredibly excited to have received, some research grants! I’ve received funding from the Design History Society’s Research Grant, and the Society of Antiquaries London’s Janet Arnold Award (hey, I won a grant in honor of Janet Arnold — how cool is that?).
So here in Paris I’ve just spent a day at a half at the Musee Toile de Jouy, a small museum about an hour outside Paris. The museum focuses on printed cottons and the history of the Oberkampf fabric printing factory. They have a dress that I’ve studied before, which belonged to Mme Oberkampf (the wife of the owner), which they’ve been calling a robe a la turque but that I have determined was a polonaise longue – a trained version of the robe a la polonaise. Confusing, because the polonaise was looped up, right? Well, one version featured the specific cut of the polonaise but had a long train, and that was the polonaise longue. Here’s a not-great photo of the dress I patterned:
Then this afternoon, I went to Versailles to the chateau of Mme Elisabeth, the youngest sister of Louis XVI, to see the exhibition that is all about her. Her chateau is very pretty, the gardens are stunning, and it’s waaaaay less crowded than the chateau de Versailles proper. The exhibition is really nice, with some great paintings of Elisabeth, Marie Antoinette, Louis XVI, and more, plus personal objects of Elisabeth and related people. And, best of all, there’s a room with about 8 costumes on display, including this tambour embroidered stunner that I think I’m going to have to make, now that I’m a tambour-ing demon (more on that shortly, I promise!):
Okay, I have more to write about but I’m exhausted (jet lag!) and I have to get up really early for my train to the south, so more soon!
(Tell me you’re surprised)
I keep wanting to do a 2012 wrap-up post, but am stymied by the fact that I have yet to upload photos from the GBACG holiday tea last weekend and then to post about said event. So in lieu of those posts, which are indeed forthcoming, let’s talk about the coming year!
I’m going to France! Specifically, the same group of friends who rented a manor house in England a few years back are getting together to rent a petit château in the very south of France, near Toulouse. I’m going to get to play dress up in this:
We are, as all sane and right-thinking people would do, making it all 18th century, all the time (for our costume events). So while I have some things in my wardrobe that I may bring along (one of my françaises, my Turkish ensemble for lounging, my proper polonaise for sure; maybe the round gown, or the gaulle, or the riding habit, or the Brunswick — oh god, I need to start whittling!), I am of course making some new things. Although after looking at that list, I am wondering why a bit…
For sure, I am going to make:
1. A 1770s camisole à la polonaise, this jacket filled out by this fashion plate:
2. This c. 1780 redingote as seen in this sketch of Marie-Antoinette:
3. I’m also going to be making a hand tambour-embroidered waistcoat for Francis.
If I have time, I may also make either this robe à la turque:
Or a 1770s robe à la française from this striped fabric:
Phew! I’ll be posting lots more about each of these projects — the camisole and redingote are actually under way — shortly. Plus that tea recap, and the 2012 recap!
Part of our evening at Vaux-le-Vicomte involved being extras for the filming of a French television show, “Secrets d’Histoire.” The episode, little did we know, was about Nicolas Fouquet (the original owner of Vaux-le-Vicomte). Unfortunately I can’t link you to the video, because it appears to only play in France (of course if you’re IN France, here you go!). Luckily my husband was able to track down the video, and there we are in all our glory! Okay, there we are for 3 seconds (Lisa) and 1 second (me).
Next stop, the Academy Awards (or the Cesars, I should say)!
I wanted to post while I was gone, but as I was on my iPad it got incredibly difficult to upload pictures, and what’s a post without pictures?
SO! It was fabulous — of course! Had a wonderful time hanging out with Lisa, got to see lots of things I hadn’t before and a few repeats, tried pain au chocolat from every boulangerie in Lisa’s neighborhood… you get the drill!
Some costume-related specifics:
- Went to the Musee Cognac-Jay, which is a small museum in the Marais dedicated to the 18th c. I hadn’t been before, and I was pleasantly surprised by how great their collection is!
- Went back to the Carnavalet, this time focusing on the Revolutionary period and the 16th c. wing. They have some amazing stuff, including the actual furniture that was in the royal family’s cell in the Conciergerie!
- Went twice to the Louvre, both times to see sections I’d missed previously: 17th-18th c. paintings, and sculptures. Lots of big name paintings and busts of Marie Antoinette, Du Barry, and more!
- Went to the Musee du Moyen-Age for the first time, and again was pleasantly surprised! Lots of nice tapestries in particular, and I found some good weird hairdos (I’m all about the crazy hair).
- Went to Versailles for the first time (I know)! It was amazing but also hard to take in — I got there about 30 min. after opening and it was still FULL of pushy tour groups. Ugh. I heard one tour guide tell his group that they didn’t have bathrooms, and if they had to go they just went out into the gardens. Yes, Marie-Antoinette got up in the middle of the night and wandered out into the gardens if she had to go. Uh huh. The gardens, Grand Trianon, Petit Trianon’s gardens, and the Hameau were better — fewer people, more able to get lost. The PT’s gardens were particularly amazing — I nearly jumped up and down when I saw the Rock and Belvedere, as it immediately conjured one of my favorite paintings. Sadly, I kept trying to dawdle to let the crowds die down before going thru the Petit Trianon to no avail, and it was crowded and annoying. Le sigh! They should have a day where just people who actually know what they are looking at get in!
- Went to the Basilica of Saint-Denis, where most of the kings & queens of France were buried, to see all the effigies.
And in non-costume related news, I went to the Conciergerie (the chapel to Marie Antoinette is pretty cool!) and Sainte-Chapelle for a Baroque concert.
Of course, most importantly, Lisa and I went to Vaux-le-Vicomte for the evening event and the picnic the following day! (I already posted the following on LJ — apologies for the duplication)
We got to our B&B (ok, a small 16th c. chateau) with tons of time to spare and so had a leisurely time getting ready. Great hilarity ensued when I tried to get into our rental car with my ginormous wig on – Lisa had to get out while I did a 360 degree turn in order to wrench myself in, and then I had to sit with the seat back.
We got there perfectly on time once we figured out that Lisa’s google maps was set to walking directions. I should recap to say that the original plan for sat night was a dinner and ball organized by the chateau and a French group called Bal de Versailles. However they didn’t sell enough tickets, so the ball was cancelled, and instead they organized a dinner for us as planned, followed by the chance to watch and be extras for the filming of an episode of a french TV show featuring Baroque dancers, plus the chateau regularly does candlelit evenings where they light the whole chateau and grounds with candles and do fireworks.
Ok, so we arrive and this place is jaw droppingly GORGEOUS. OMG. I can’t even tell you. The sun was setting and we got some nice photos in front of the chateau, then wandered over to where our group was eating. They had appetizers and champagne for us, and we met some really nice people and had chit chat.
Dinner was FAB except I was scared of the pate. Great salad, great beef, cheese course – oh yes and now the wine comes out, yay! The sun was setting and the 10,000 candles were starting to glow and I tell you it was MAGIC. I should say they had us on the terrace of the Orangerie with a view of the chateau. Only problem was a storm was coming in – summer storm so the temperature was fine. Had some gorgeous dramatic lightning and then it started to rain just as we were finishing, so they announced we’d have dessert in the chateau.
So we headed inside, immediately to the Grand Salon, which is the main room of the chateau and simply gorgeous. They had more champagne – yay! And the chateau was open to us and tourists alike. So we went through some of the rooms, chatting and taking pictures. The chateau was gorgeous but I was tipsy and giggly enough to not really be able to take it in – no prob, we said, we’d see more tomorrow.
We headed back to the Grand Salon for the filming. We drank more champagne and watched the filming, which was a Baroque dance performed by a professional troupe. It was pretty abut it got a bit long. The funniest part was all the regular tourists outside were peering in the windows at us, so there were lots of jokes about the unwashed masses outside. Just as I’d announced I wanted to traipse thru the gardens, they were done.
So! My #1 life fantasy is to run around a formal garden at night, tipsy, in costume. Seriously. So out we go, down the steps, and into a magical garden FILLED with gleaming candles stretching about 2 football fields in length. With statues. And formal hedges. And fountains and pools. Seriously, I just clutched Lisa and said “this is so amazing!” over and over. I ran off for a few minutes alone, ran back to Lisa and our friends, ran off for more moments alone. Swung my champagne glass around and thought of Trystan and Sarah. And history. And Marie Antoinette. And various Louis(s), esp My Boyfriend Louis XV. Then I plonked on a bench and did more of the same, when I heard a man’s voice singing French opera. I nearly died. I listened for a while, then got up to head back to our friends, when the drag queen who had attended the dinner came up – he was the singer! He could tell I was loving it, so he serenaded me, all super dramatically, wandering around and clutching my hand, singing about something tragic that I couldn’t follow but loved.
And then it was around 1:30 am and time to go! Back we went for some sleep with plans to meet some of our new friends for the big Journee the next day. Blake and Kristiana invited us to share their picnic which was great as we had only gotten some champagne and cheese so far. We offered to bring dessert so hit the grocery store on the way. Sadly I couldn’t think of how to say “We gave the servants the day off” in French. Then we were off to Vaux again. We both agreed last night had been so perfect we didn’t really need another day – we were tired and we’d blown our wad – but we wanted to continue to build the friendships we had started and hopefully meet some others.
We headed in- had to wait in a bit of a line to get in. Most of the attendees were in period-inspired costumes, although there was a small percentage of historically accurate outfits. Most of the men were in 17th c which was new for us and rather hot. Waaaay more men in silk/faux silk, wigs, and makeup which was HAWT.
So we’re tired and our feet hurt already, and now we have a ginormous garden filled with hundreds and hundreds of people. And the thing about 17th c gardens is – there’s no shade. The temp was okay, but still! Shade is your friend! Oh and all the paths were covered with pebbles which is hard to walk on in period shoes. So we start the great trek – for those who’ve attended Gatsby, similar but like 3x as long. We finally spot a tiny bit of shade next to one of the pools and plonck down, declaring we’ll never get up again, and wait for our friends. We realized we had only a bit of bread and cheese, dessert, and a bottle of champagne – and no water. At first we’re like “we need water!” and then we’re like “screw it!” so we drank most of our champagne and ate chocolate eclairs while we waited for the rest. We were laughing that they’d find us passed out drunk covered in chocolate. Luckily they showed up with tons of great food and lots more to drink including water! So we flopped and ate and drank and admired some of the costumes that wandered by and declared our intention to never move again. Saw a troupe of musketeers go by and saw a sword fighting demo from afar. Saw antique carriages go by, said “That would be cool!” and failed to get up. One group of girls came by one of which Lisa knew online and we said hi and admired their costumes but they quickly went off to take photos.
Finally I was tipsy enough and enough clouds had come in to inspire me to get up and wander a but. Took some photos, met a few costumers. Lisa later pointed out rightly how few people even talked costume and were surprised if we mentioned we’d made ours – if it even came up! Such a different event I think than those filled primarily with costumers. Lots more people in 17th c. than you’d see at an American event; also, it seems like many of the costumers are primarily Carnivale people, so that probably explains the period-ish rather than historically accurate costumes.
They were having a costume contest which I idly thought about entering; Lisa had to use the bathroom so we undertook the trek toward the chateau. The bathroom trek was like Gatsby x4. I chatted with some people, took some photos, Lisa came back, and we decided we were done and not to bother with the contest. It looked huge, plus we felt like our costumes were too understated compared with many others. Headed back to our picnic spot, ate some dessert, and decided we’d officially Hit The Wall. Tried to find various friends we’d made on our way out but only found a few. Trekked the endless dying-on-the-overland-trail trek to the bathrooms and the car. Were immensely glad we hadn’t entered the contest as it was STILL going on endlessly. And so we headed back to the B&B for baths and flopping!
Finally, on Monday we caught an early train as I had a research appointment at the Musee Toile de Jouy to study a robe a la turque and Lisa wanted to come along. I wasn’t sure what to expect as this was my first research appointment in France. We were bummed that the museum was closed that day as we’d wanted to see the current exhibit (on gardens in toile fabrics) which included some costumes. Well, the curator turned out to be faaaabulous – gave us a personal guided tour of the exhibit plus the permanent collection; when she ran out of time she let us go thru on our own. We went to see the robe and it was stunning – I took tons of photos for my research (which I can’t put online). The dress belonged to the Oberkampf family which owned the Jouy fabric manufactury, and it’s the theory that it was Mme Oberkampf’s wedding dress. It was the style of gown I was trying to find so was fascinating for that reason, plus it was the most finely stitched gown I have ever seen. Like, insane. Like, you’ve never seen anything like it.
So that’s the scoop! Here’s a few best-of photos — you can see the full set of pictures on Flickr: photos from the Paris portion of the trip, including lots of museum images; and photos from the Vaux-le-Vicomte weekend