2015 – A New Year of History – The Regency and Beyond!

Hello my lovely creatures! Did you enjoy a wonderful Christmas with your family and friends? Mine was busy, busy, busy and has not quite stopped as I have yet to see any of my siblings. Lady E and Lord R are popping over today for a pre-NYE lunch since we missed them over Christmas, and then tomorrow Lord A and Lady B are coming by to celebrate the beginning of 2015.

Sadly, after January 11th all the War of 1812 events will be over, they are coming to a close at the Battle of New Orleans. Lord G and I spent a week in the Big Easy in December and I have a ridiculous amount of historical pictures and facts to share. Look for that in January!  I know some fellow reenactors who will be heading South and I cannot wait to see the pictures. Over 1400 reenactors are supposed to be in attendance! 1400!!

Though the Regency will live on long after our War of 1812 events are over, I have decided that I shall attempt not only to make Regency attire this year, but something a little bit later as well. You could say I am broadening my horizons! For Christmas, Lord G gave me two lovely patterns Рa corset pattern for late 19th century and a Burda dress pattern from 1880, complete with bustle. I have to say I am very excited to attempt this project, as late 19th century offers a wider range of colours and fabrics and will be a challenge that I think I am up to!

 

Well I must run, dearest friends, but I shall write soon!

Yours always,

Lady Jen

Lady Jen’s Sewing Goals for the Winter of 2013/2014

So the Season is finally over and with it comes the time to reevaluate my Regency closet and see what needs to go, what needs to be replaced, and what is still missing. At the moment I have three dresses, pink cotton print, blue cotton print, and the dark purple cotton voile.

The dark purple cotton voile dress is the one I wore to the Spencerville Ball. It’s one of my favourite dresses but it has a few problems that need to be worked out. The sleeves were a nightmare, something I mostly attribute to a) a flaw in the Sense and Sensibility pattern and b) rushing to get it finished in time. I have very little remnants of the fabric left but I am hoping to redo the sleeves or get rid of them altogether and wear the dress over top of a white muslin or voile dress.

Also at Spencerville I purchased some of the most gorgeous teal cotton that I want to make into a ball gown, but I am wary to use the S&S pattern as it has done nothing but frustrate me since I started using it. I was considered La Mode Bagatelle but I have no heard good and bad things about that pattern as well. So, although I have no pattern decided upon yet I will be using this nice black satin ribbon as the trim. It’s a striking combination and I can’t wait to see it complete!

The one thing I am really really REALLY in need of is a new pair of stays. The Frankenstays have finally bit the dust. I’ve worn them to at least 6 or 7 balls, and two very humid, sticky, reenactments. I’ve replaced the shoulder straps, the sides, added boning, added cording, got rid of the boning, etc. The fact that I was even able to get them to lift anything this past weekend in Chatham is amazing. And they are just plain hideous to look at! So my most current project is constructing a useable pair of stays that I can put on myself at reenactments, in a tent, standing at a 75 degree angle. With all those requirements in mind, I’ve decided to make the Daffodown Dilly wrap stays. Look for a blog post on that process in the coming month or so, as I will be documenting my process step-by-step.

Also this winter I will be making a few more shifts, and a bodiced petticoat! I think I’m going to be super busy this year but hopefully I can get it all done in time for March when the Living history Conference kicks off next season!

Dolls and Dress making

Fun fact it’s only been in the past year I have learned to read a pattern. You would think that after years of doing costuming stuff, both for theatre and for cosplay this would be something I would have learned a long time ago. I have only just learned to sew so patterns are newish to me. Up until now I have managed to get around both these things when working with fabric.

You see my Mother sews but mostly only straight lines. She also can’t read a pattern and when working on a project in the past we have a simple solution…and her name up to this point had been Barbie.

When ever I had wanted a costume that was fabric based, we would dig though the bin of Barbie clothing find an outfit that looked right and then flip the tiny clothing inside out. From here it would be a matter of using the outfit as a guid line with my Mother just cutting and pinning the fabric down on me until it fit. Yes it really was that easy. Or it was before I decided I wanted to go to a local Regency event.

You can’t seem to find a Regency Barbie. Trust me I tried. So we got a pattern and struggled though it. Though since most of the costume stuff me and my Mother have done is more theatrical then historical….annnnd I didn’t know at the time how into this I was going to be getting….we put Velcro in the back of the dress.

Yes Velcro, I will let all those with an eye for historic detail shutter. So yes I have a very lovely green dress that if I was to be in need of a quick change I could slip out fast. To be fair you can’t really tell unless you look close and with a spencer on top the dress looks fine. I wear it all the time still.

Up until recently I had called it “the Velcro dress”. That was about to change. With a doll who was very very far from Barbie.

This past weekend myself and Lady Jen were away to a reenactment and ball. (A full review will be coming very soon) GTRG friend Lady Kathy had asked us over and share some pleasant conversation. It was then that I related my story about dress making and Barbies. Lady Kathy thought that was very interesting and brought into the room her daughters American Girl doll. Who had a wonderful Regency set of outfits. Her suggestion was that next time me and my Mother should look into using this line of dolls in our costume creation.

These dolls are far bigger then a Barbie and are based on moments in history. They also come with a whole back story. If you in fact did wish to make a dress based off of doll clothing I would say look at this line. This was the first time I had seen one up close and her outfit very impressive, also with a larger size I would bet easier then the Barbie clothes to work with.

As Lady Jen picked up the doll and flipped it over she burst out laughing. Sure enough there in the back of the dress was a big strip of….yes….Velcro. After explaining what was so funny to Lady Kathy my Velcro dress was dubbed the “American Girl Dress”

I have a feeling that this name will be sticking.

2D to 3D 2 on me

2D to 3D 2 on me

I wrote a post a while back about starting work on a costume from a video game. When I wrote that I posted a picture of the character and had been very pleased at the fabric I had selected. The next thing was to make the costume. Enlisting the help of Lady Jen for the skirt we managed to get it all done inside of two sewing sessions.

In the past while never a fabric based costume (I tend to work in foam) I do have experience working off of video games and cartoons. Projects like this tend not to have a set pattern, these articles of clothing are right from someone’s mind to the page. The other problem is that they have been drawn/painted/digitized on. The body in the outfit was drawn to wear it.

Alright this is the part where I link this all back to something historical.

While many folks who work on regency garments work from patterns – some like to work off of fashion plates, paintings or perhaps just can’t find a pattern that works. After working off many 2D images I have a few thoughts for anyone looking to work off a flat picture.

1) Draw out the outfit. No matter even if you are just someone who doodles. This will help you work out the flow and feel that the artist was going for.

2) Take a picture with you when you go for fabric and be willing to compromise. Sometimes the fabric in your 2D doesn’t exist.

3) See if you have a pattern that is close enough and work out way early what you will have to mod. With regency outfit you should be able to make this work. For us with the skirt we mashed a skirt patten and a petticoat pattern together, but made note of fabric we would need for the pleats. You may even want to make a mock up out of cheeper fabric. Please note that this is by no means how you draft a pattern but if you are open to experimenting has worked for me in the past.

4) Pick a spot on you that will be your point of reference. As I said before the person you are taking inspiration from was drawn to wear that outfit. Artist wanted the skirt longer maybe they just drew longer legs. More detail in the bust area, it’s not a problem if they make the torso a bit bigger. While the figure you are looking at may not seem out of proportion when you get that outfit on you it may look all kinds of wrong. The way I have always dealt with this is by picking a spot where what I am looking at will 100% sit in the right place on me. With me I always pick my waist.

5) Ask for help and rip it out. With something like this the best thing you can do it have a second set of eyes. Even if it is as simple of having them look at you in your mock up and saying if it looks alright. Note as well if something looks odd not just to you but them as well, get ready to rip out and try again.

For those of you who are wondering I have added a pic of me in the final outfit below. Character image I used was mostly the one I put up a few post back. However I also used game play footage to get a feel of movement and flow.

On my way to the Con!

On my way to the Con!

Have you ever worked from a 2D image? If you did what would you make?

Fabricland, Sales and Cosplay

So this evening myself and Lady Jen took a trip to Fabricland. As the name would indicate this is a large store full of fabric. Once we had gotten there the most wonderful surprise found us…a sale. Moving though the store we chatted and picked up the odd bolt to get cut, and I looked for something just right. I was looking for something for a skirt for a costume and also something that I could use to make a pelisse. Something I think I need to work on is that I don’t really know that much about fabric. I mean I know what is cotton and what vinyl is like but it’s all the shades of in between. It’s also that I have a very little idea of what things should cost. To top it all off as I am just learning to sew so my concept of what is easy to work with is also a bit wonky. Slowly and with a handful of trips like this I am learning.

As I said above I was looking for something to make a skirt out of, the one I want to make is in the pic below.

This is what I am going for

For those of you who have read my earlier posts you know two things about me

1) That I love the BioShock games and dig the Elizabeth character (see above)
2) That if life was a video game I am currently a lvl 2 hand sewer

Now you may ask well what dose this have to do with you and being a GTRG? Glad you asked.

Costumes have always been something I have loved. Up to this point many of my costumes (out side of my regency gear) have been made from a mix of found clothing and molded foam floor mats. Many of these costumes are based on folks from sci-fi and video games. Today with the help of Lady Jen I am hoping to work on a video game costume that is more fabric then hot glue. The idea of getting into a costume is what brought me into the world of Regency to start with. If it hadn’t been for the fact that I got to dress up I never would have gone to my first ball, never found that I loved dancing…and above all else never would have meet my fellow GTRG’s.

Nothing in the world is quite like putting on something you have made yourself. Regardless if it is space armor or a ball gown. I hope that with the help of Lady Jen (and goodness knows I will need it) I can bring my skills one step closer to constructing more Regency clothing for myself. The goal is to learn some more and the make a pelisse mostly on my own.

As we got to the check out the woman behind the counter asked us what we were working on. Lady Jen began to talk about the new set of stays. The sales woman suddenly became very excited. She then launched into a story about making a corset for a Steampunk outfit. As it turns out she will be attending the same event I hope to debut my Elizabeth outfit at. While all of us are working on a different type of project it’s nice to be able to be part of such a broad community of creative costume-y folks, and to gain a skill set I may not have gotten had I never become a GTRG.

The 200th Anniversary for the Battle of Crysler’s Farm

So I’ve been trying to figure out how I wanted to approach my review of my weekend at Crysler’s Farm and my experience as a camp follower. Let me give you some background – I grew up in Eastern Ontario, I have been to Upper Canada Village more times than I can even count. In fact when I was 12 I wanted to LIVE at Upper Canada Village. So when emails started coming up about the 200th anniversary reenactment, I was intrigued if for no other reason then I would be able to walk around Upper Canada Village in period attire. In case you haven’t figured out already, I’m a little bit of a history nerd.

With the decision made to attend Crysler’s Farm, I spent the next couple of weeks scrambling to finish some outfits, including my shortgown (which I never ended up wearing because it was dark purple and by Friday afternoon I wanted nothing to do with anything that attracted the sun) and my stays.

I arrived Thursday afternoon, as I was riding up with Dave (who owns Coughlin and Upton. You should check out the website, it is pretty awesome.) There were several other people from our group already their so we went to work setting up our tents in the encampment. Surprisingly, wedge tents are not that hard to assemble, especially when the ground is so soft that you can basically push the pegs into the ground with your bare feet. Last week we got some pretty torrential rains and unfortunately CF was not spared. The ground was soaked, in fact at some points I was standing in the grass with an inch of water over my feet (thankfully my tent was not in this puddle), but it dried up as the weekend went by and it all added to the charm. In fact walking in wet grass was actually really nice when I was sweltering in my dress!

Thursday night was a challenge. I’m not going to lie. It was damp and cold and I spent most of the night tossing and turning on my cot, with my sleeping bag, my cloak and all four of my gowns on top of me. Needless to say by 4:30am I was wide awake and currently rethinking the entire endeavour. Since no one was awake, I headed over to the port-a-pottys and then went on a walk up to the monument.

I sat on the stone wall and watched the sunrise and it was one of the most pleasant experiences. It was so quiet and still, and it made me think of the original battle 200 years ago, and of all the villages and buildings that had been flooded when they expanded the St. Lawrence river. So there I was, going on only a few hours of sleep, cold, damp and crying over flooded buildings. This was really not going well at all, but I was determined not to let it get to me.

Friday proved to be a lot of fun, I went to the village with Steve and Lenore, and we had a great time touring the buildings! I also experienced being constantly photographed by tourists. At first it was very odd and slightly off putting, especially for someone who doesn’t really like to have their picture taken, but as the weekend progressed I got more and more used to it.

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After the your we went back to camp where more people had begun to arrive! Our camp was looking pretty great by Friday night! Which brings me to Port NIght. This is apparently an IMUC tradition and it was a lot of fun to be a part of. I got to try some really great Port, including a homemade chocolate port. I’m pretty sure I was in heaven when I tried that. It was so delicious! I was however still freezing on Friday night, but it was not as bad as Thursday night.

Saturday there was so much to see and do, and don’t forget the heat! I spent time perusing the wares of Sutlers Row, and found some lovely items including a very light weight wool shawl, a walking stick (for the most fashionable of ladies), cotton stockings, and a new ink well and pen.

In the afternoon I met up with my fellow GTRG Devon and we watched the afternoon battle. It was great (especially because we were in the shade), and it was very thrilling to see everyone in action though I know it was very hot for the people out on the field!

Saturday evening the group I was with, the Glengarry Light Infantry, had a potluck dinner – including roast beef cooked on an open spit and in a reflector oven! The food was absolutely delicious and the company even better!

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After dinner we walked over to the Village, where there was an ‘impromptu’ pistol duel followed by the night time battle. Playing an adulterous wife and having a duel fought over you is hard work, so I gave up my Regency ball ticket to someone else as I was just too exhausted by Saturday night, and Devon’s got an excellent review of the ball just below this one. I did however have enough energy to go back to camp and play a thoroughly enjoyable game of bid euchre where Andrew and I kicked ass! The score was 44-11, but apparently that’s debatable considering the game only goes to 42…

Sunday was much quieter and relaxed in the morning, we took our time going for breakfast and Kate and I spent a good deal of time sitting on the edge of the fountain cooling off our legs. In hindsight we should have started doing that on Friday!

Sunday was also the day of the actual re-creation for the Battle of Crysler’s Farm. Kate and I found a shady spot on the hill overlooking the battle and stayed until about the end, then headed back towards camp before the crowd dispersed.

The rest of the day was spent packing up, taking down tents, packing cars and then finally the long journey back home.

All in all I couldn’t have asked for anything better when it came to my first true reenactment – it was an amazing experience and I am definitely looking forward to the next one! (And next time I promise to take more pictures – the pictures in this post were taken by Steve Ball, to who I am very grateful!)

Elizabeth – Darcy – A review

So on Sunday afternoon myself and Lady Jen made our way to Muddy York (down town Toronto) to take in the show Elizabeth-Darcy. This production is fast becoming the must see show of the Toronto Fringe Festival. Staged in historic Campbell House Museum, the audience moved from room to room with the action. Hallie Burt and Kate Werneburg not only co-adapted Pride and Prejudice, but play all the parts. That’s right this was a two woman show.

To start I don’t think a better location could have been selected. From the moment we got in line I was all set to go back in time. Nothing like a 1822 home to get you in the mood. Once inside it was very clear this was going to be a very different theater experience. I’ve been in this home many times and was thrilled to step in and find it lit only by candles, blacked out windows as to blocking the busy modern street and a costumed stage manager (Steven Vargo) ready to greet us.

It is now that I want to talk to the wonderful work of Ms. Burt and Ms.Werneburg. As I said before they played all the parts, though when I think back to the show it really did feel like this production was done with a full cast. With such skill and confidence they flipped from one character to another and brought to life some wonderful outlandish people, while making them feel real. It must be noted that the jump from Elizabeth Bennet to Lydia Bennet by Ms Burt, and Ms. Wernburg’s shifting from Mr. Collins to Mrs. Bennet stick out. Both these moments must be seen to be believed. Fine acting though out the whole show.

Now I am told that this adaption is very close to the book and I will have to take Lady Jen’s word on that. You see I have never read P and P, and have tried many times but just could not make it past more then the first chapter. To add to this I have never been able to sit though a film adaption. So for me this was a very new story. I found myself in this wonderful setting with these wonderful actress and wishing we could see more of what the other characters were up to.

I know that it is Liz’s and Darcy’s great romance but with such a talented pair bringing all these people to life, I just wanted more! How did the romance of Jane and Charles go? How did someone like Mr. Bennet wind up with Mrs.Bennet? Oh and above all else what went down with Wickham? I would have been happy to see a full show about him and Lydia. Maybe that’s a good thing and a testament to how good the show really was. It captivated me and I walked away having seen a story I never seen before. So I can honestly recommend this production for those who have never read/don’t like the book.

All in all it wouldn’t be a big surprise if this production wins something at the end of it’s run. If you can only see one show this year at the Toronto Fringe make it Elizabeth-Darcy.