Negus not Negas

Birthday Cake

Birthday Cake

I was recently invited to party in honor of a fellow Regency Girl’s Birthday. The party was touted as a Regency Gambling Party and instructed that costumes were required. The invitation was issued through the events feature on Facebook, which got me thinking about how this wonderful little world of 19th century reenactors are embracing modern technology to help promote and support the events that they adore so much.

New straw bonnet

New straw bonnet

I was looking forward to this party because it provided me the opportunity to wear a hat I made several years ago, but never had the right place to wear it. Most Regency era events I attend are either evening balls where headwear leans towards turbans, ribbons and feathers, or outdoor day functions such as picnics, where a bonnet is called for. I thought that sitting around card tables would be perfect for my little lace cap complete with lappets, and so it finally made its official debut. While on the topic of hats, I was gifted one at the party by a fantastic lady who I had done a small favor for. She made me wonderful straw bonnet as a thank you gesture, and I was thrilled with it.

While driving over to the party I had another clash of eras. Me, dressed in a regency dress and spencer with my little lace cap pinned on my head, car windows rolled down, lappets blowing in the breeze while singing along to XTC’s “Generals and Majors” on the radio. I may have been in my own little world, but the entire spectacle was quite visible to other motorists, which I noticed giving me strange looks about half way to my destination while stopped at a red light. All I could do is laugh, and continue on to the party.

When I arrived I was pleasantly surprised to find that almost all of the guests were in regency finery. For some of the guests, this was their first exposure to a reenactment event, but almost everyone made an effort to dress the part, and the atmosphere was all the better for it. Some of the ladies borrowed dresses from the gracious hostess, one lady sewed herself a dress by looking at pictures of gowns from Jane Austen films on Pinterest, and one of the fellows in attendance shaved off his beard to craft himself a fine set of mutton chops. Each and every gentleman in attendance was fitted with a cravat, and a good deal of the evening was spent discussing how wonderful we all looked.

A fine 19th century spread.

A fine 19th century spread.

The food was one of the finest regency spreads I have ever seen. The table was dominated by two Croquembouche, towers of small cream puffs held together by caramelized sugar. Around 9pm the food was set out. Platters of roast duck, salmon, and ham. Chicken in aspic, welsh rarebit, devilled eggs, nuts and sweetmeats. As a cook, I fully understood the cost and the time a table like this took to prepare, and I was beyond impressed.

There was even a pot of 18th century warm spiced wine called Negus on offer, and I admit I had more than a few servings of it, so delicious, and the perfect lubricant for conversation. There were literary and pop culture quotes flying fast and furious over the course of the evening, from Austen and Bronte to Harry Potter and Star Trek, brought on by the Negus, as opposed to ‘The Negas’, leader of the Ferengi Alliance. Again I noted that folks were standing around in 19th century attire, sipping an 18th century beverage and discussing Star Trek. In my mind it doesn’t get any better than that.

Negus

Negus

Negas

Negas

I spent most of the evening in the parlour chatting with friends, and never did make it to the card tables where games of Whist and Faro were being played. The hostess handmade the gambling chips for the Faro table, which added to the overall ambiance of the event. I am not sure if any fortunes were made or lost at the tables, but I saw no tears so assume all went well.

The Faro Table

The Faro Table

At one point during the evening, I was sitting in the parlour with a cup of Negus, taking in everybody’s costumes and I found myself thinking of a line from Austen’s Pride and Prejudice where Elizabeth observes “Perhaps by and bye I may observe that private balls are much pleasanter than public ones”. I shared the thought with the person I was sitting beside and we discussed it. There were differences between this private function in comparison to public events. The intimacy, the attention to detail, being surrounded by familiar faces, having some quiet spaces to sit and catch up with what was happening with people. I hope to see more of these smaller, private functions in the future, and am appreciative that I was a part of this one.

Lace cap
Lace cap
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What I have learned so far as a GTRG

Hello,

I have very busy week with work and family but I thought I would write a bit of a mini post about what being a GTRG has taught me so far….

That maybe with a little help and support ball gowns can be done, also if you go to Las Vegas you come back to Lady Jen having power sewn a good chunk of it.

While dancing if one gets lost in the dance, stick your hand out and smile. This is the Lady Kenzie’s key tip!

Hand sewing take time but it so worth it

On that note don’t use a daring needled for sewing a ball gown

That the dance I was writing was a bit of a mess but it was fixable

That my hubby likes it when I work on dance stuff, as it involves no bits of fabric

Lady Jen is to short to be on the mens side while danceing the Duke of Kents waltz

Thus you have it things I have learned so far!

I wish I was a little bit taller…I wish I was a baller…I wish I had a dance and was a caller…

Ok so I hope that all of you sung the title of my post. I hope that you get the joke, if not I will post a link at the end of this post. So no I don’t want to be taller and since I do go to dances I guess I am a “baller”, but I honestly wish I was a caller.

What is a caller you might ask? Good question. For those who take part in English Country Dancing, the Caller is the person who calls out the dance steps. They work with the band and pick the dances, and they make sure that everyone knows what to do. In groups that know the moves they may talk it over before the music starts, as the dances get going they will call out reminding all of us where to go and what to do.

Now I love to dance, but as with many things I get to a point where I feel the need to take it all apart and fiddle with what I know about it. This has led to many 1/2 done bits of projects that lay like a bone yard, in the basement as a testament to stuff that is “hard”. Thankfully (as my Hubby would say) this sort of project needs no bits of fabric, foam or spray paint. So what do I need to be a Caller? I am not really sure.

The next step would be to ask a Caller and I have. The response while friendly has been cryptic.

“Oh you know you just…sort of do it”

This can mean only one of two things:

In some sort of lodge the Callers meet in secret and call masked balls and share the calling craft

OR
It’s one of those things that you just have to “start” doing.

As much as I like the idea of secret society I think I will have to just dive in. Lady Jen and Lady Kenzie have been batting around the idea of a dinner party. If you read my post from a while back you’ll know I am working on a dance based on a video game. Fate? A chance to call my own dance? Me over thinking it all? Most likely all of the above.

OH and if you missed out on the pun that is my title or now have the song in your head, I leave you with this:

Brienne of Tarth

Brienne of Tarth.

Brienne

Now here is a lady I can identify with. Prefers trousers to skirts, leather to velvet, and is happy to make her own way in the world without the aid or hinderance of men. But something happens to this magnificent lady when you change the wardrobe.

Pink dress

She looks uncomfortable, awkward,  a fish out of water. Somehow her short-haired androgyny stuffed into a pink velvet party frock seems wrong. And boy do I identify.

Because here is what I usually look like…

Tractor

….and here are my party frocks…

 blue           Purple

 I have had the opportunity to wear my dresses a good half-dozen times over the past year, and I still feel awkward  in them. They are just so damn pretty and cleavage revealing. And the crazy thing is that I have plans to make even prettier ones in the near future. Prettier, more historically accurate, I have a thing for the tiny pleats that hang in the back of some gowns.  I have turned into this strange creature that can spend a few hours in a fabric store, imagining how awesome a dress made out of this or a fichu made out of that would be.  I’ve started making some bonnets and day caps to camouflage my super short-cropped hair, and I purchased a pair of pink leather slippers to do regency dancing in.  I am not sure if I will ever feel completely at ease in this ultra feminine regency garb, but for some reason I am having (and attending) a ball in it.  And at the end of the ball when my carriage turns into a pumpkin and my gown turns into blue jeans I do breathe a little sigh of relief, as Brienne must do when she gets to climb back into her armor.

 

Head Space

For the last month I have been working on a hand sewn day cap. This millinery adventure came as a result of two events. The first was attending a Georgian breakfast, in which the only head attire I had was a scarf that I wrapped into a turban. The scarf was slippery, and the day involved constant trips to the powder room to re-wrap the blasted thing. I was envious of the ladies in attendance who had day caps and bonnets and made a mental note to acquire an easier and more comfortable type of head attire to wear to regency themed functions.

The second event was the happy accident of meeting two regency good time girls in dance class. Since that time we have taken to meeting on a weekly basis to sew a variety of regency clothing and accessories. Having recently finished a ball gown and a day dress I was looking for a new project, remembered the turban trauma, and day cap it was.

I did some internet research and found this tutorial page about Victorian day caps:   http://www.darlinganddash.com/daycaps.html

The biggest issue I had was with lace. Initially I bought a straight-edged lace (shown on top of photo) which was extremely stiff and difficult to try to wrap around the curves of the cap. The second lace I tried was far superior (shown on bottom of photo). It was soft, and had a curved edge that not only wrapped easily around the curves, but also had the benefit of making the stitching used to attach it invisible. Being a beginner sewer this is a good thing. The entire cap only took one package of the second lace at a cost of $2.69 purchased in the craft section at Wal-Mart.

Top lace - bad Bottom lace - good

The cap took about 8 hours to make. While sitting in a small circle in regency costume, a cup of tea growing cold on the side table, the other ladies chatted away about family, books, and films, but I said very little.  I was completely engrossed in the stitching and started to notice a quiet, calm head space that began to surface. Having spent a small fortune over the years on mindful meditation classes and instructional books, I was pleasantly surprised to trip over mindfulness while sewing a day cap. The head space was wonderful.

Day Cap

Welcome to the Manor…

Welcome most gracious guest,

Should you be a person of good humor and a bit of fun then you have made your way to the right spot. We are the Good Time Regency Girls and as the tagline tells you we are 21st Century Girls, 19th Style.

 So what does that mean for you as you come along with us? Get ready for some dancing, cards, food, sewing and much more!

So come with us, and see how three modern women navigate history!