1886 fancy dress "champagne", 19th century, projects

Pulling Teeth, or, Reattempting the 1886 Champagne Fancy Dress Costume

“Pulling teeth,” because that’s what writing this blog post has become.  Gah!  It was another busy fall semester with little sewing, and I’ve gotten out of the habit of blogging.  I have been noodling on my embroidered fichu, but I’m not going to bore you with “embroidered another flower” posts.

This Saturday I’m heading to the Dickens Fair in San Francisco to see friends and for GBACG day. I was waffling on whether or not to go, because I couldn’t think of anything I wanted to wear… mid-Victorian is just a total butterchurn-y snoozefest to me.  Bonnets! High necklines! Giant sleeves! Giant skirts!  I feel like it’s all too much, and as a tall girl with a lot of padding, the last thing I need is to add more pouf in all directions.  But when I remembered the Champagne project and what I initially WANTED it to be (not what it ended up as), I got a little more into it.
Thanks to everyone who gave me feedback on what didn’t work (besides the lack of trim) a few months back.  I took your suggestions and basically took the whole thing apart… ditched the bodice, took the skirt apart.  So here’s the new plan:
First, I’m going back to the original fashion plate inspiration, which is just so perfect for turning into a “champagne” costume:

Original fashion plate inspiration.

I decided to make the whole dress out of dark green velvet, and keep the gold/foil/cork part for my head.  So I took off all that lighter green silk on the skirt and replaced it with green velvet.  Only problem was, I had some dark green velvet in my stash, but it was a yellower green than the blue/green I’d used for the original skirt pieces.  I decided to try overdyeing the stash fabric with a bit of blue, and to my amazement it came out to a perfect match, so off I went merrily… until I tried taking a picture of the pile-o-velvet that is the bodice and skirt and the colors are coming out totally differently.  I swear to god, they match 99% in real life… knowing my luck, all pictures taken of me will totally show the different velvet colors. Sigh.

The pile-o-velvet that is the finished skirt and almost finished bodice. In real life, the velvet colors match. Sigh.

So the plan is to follow the fashion plate and trim the bodice and skirt with some kind of gold ball trim to evoke the idea of champagne bubbles.  Last year I searched and wibbled and prevaricated and never ended up finding a trim I liked.  This time, I managed to find some cheap xmas garlands at my local hardware store (after scouring the craft store — weird!) and am Just Going With It.

Gold ball christmas garlands.

Pulling them apart to make trim.

I’m going to string them (on wire, I guess?) and sew them on to many of the edges.  I’m also planning to put some gold netting in the center front of the bodice and around the neckline, again hoping to evoke foil and champagne bubbles. We’ll see! It works in my head.

I want my head to be cork/foil part, so I bought a mini-top hat frame off of Jenn to recover.  Because I realized after the last try that I need to be Really Obvious for this costume to work, after I covered the hat in pretty gold silk taffeta, I fabric-glued champagne corks all around the brim:

Mini top hat frame.

The covered and be-corked hat.

All of this brings me to… most of the time I’ve been a costumer, I’ve been a relative purist about historical accuracy.  Oh sure, on some costumes I may cut some corners, and I’m pretty religious about wearing some kind of makeup with costumes for the last few years, but I’ve never wanted to make totally non-historical stuff.  Something about making the Marie Antoinette dress this summer has changed that, and that and the Pierrot/maja costume have been the most fun things I’ve worn in a long time!  Suddenly doing (most) straight historical costumes is seeming boring, and I’m finding myself wondering what I can add to costumes to put them over the top.  This is new and weird!

To that end, I bought a bunch of gold makeup that I plan on using this weekend, plus I’m contemplating crazy hair (it seems like champagne hair should be curly and frizzy and UP, am I right?  I’m thinking about getting my Helena Bonham Carter on — what do you think?).

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  • Reply maricha November 28, 2012 at 11:13 am

    I agree that wearing historical costumes exactly as expected is boring, besides which I doubt it’s as accurate as we’re led to believe. If someone 150 years from now went by our magazines or some writer’s description to know how we were dressed would they get it right? Some of us wear make-up, some don’t, we mix clothes however we please. We put on clothes from other eras for all sorts of reasons and some are eccentrics who invent their own style. To say nothing of foreigners and those imitating their timeless outfits.
    I find it very hard to believe that if even people today who must perforce usually wear manufactured goods can show this much variation in their looks, people in those days who wore one-of-a-kind hand sewn clothing and accessories, since manufactured clothes were unheard of, slavishly followed fashion as it is shown in reference books.

  • Reply Jaquelinne November 28, 2012 at 12:20 pm

    Re: hair, I completely agree!

  • Reply Laura December 1, 2012 at 10:21 pm

    Welcome to the Dark Side, lol. The costume looks really fun with the gold ball trim, and the cork hat is so fun. Can’t wait to see the finished look!

  • Reply The Cheap Chick December 2, 2012 at 8:10 pm

    I hear you about embracing the crazy fun stuff. Which is why I’ve now made THREE Green Bay Packer costumes – Elizabethan, Steampunk, and belly-dance (Go Pack Go). Because honestly? More is more! And better! And this costume is going to be as fabulous as your Marie Antoinette. Which, by the way, I utterly adore.

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