Friday, April 30, 2010

Exhibit Opening at the Peabody Museum

Yesterday I went to the opening of a new exhibit at the Peabody Museum. It was a neat topic - using old spy satellite data to see what landscapes used to look like, because apparently a lot of landscapes have lost important archaeological features in the meantime. Using those old pictures, you can see the things that have since disappeared, where you would otherwise have no way of studying them.

It is also very cool that this exhibit was worked on by archaeology students, so two of my closest friends had been working on this for months. It was great to go see them present it. Here they are, with the wall they worked on.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Stripey Corset

A couple weeks ago I made a stripey black and white corset. Read on for detailed blathering on about that, if you're curious about corsets. I made it as an experiment, but as I was throwing together a last minute outfit to wear to the Dances of Vice event, it turned out to be useful for that.

This is not a picture of a corset, but it is vaguely similar looking. I find it to be a really interesting bodice design. For pictures of my corset, stay tuned...
My corset was an experiment, and a learning experience, I suppose. Lesson one - this is a viable pattern for me (it is a significantly modified version of a Past Patterns pattern), and fits my difficult measurements well, but in the final analysis is a little too big. I can lace it completely closed and it is still a little bit loose. I think a well-fitting corset should have a little bit of space in the back where it laces... not many inches, but the edges shouldn't completely touch. The important measure for the fit of a corset is not how wide the gap is, but how parallel it is. For example, if a corset laces closed at the bottom, but there is a gap at the top, it was not made to accommodate your bust size. If the opposite, it is not big enough for your hips. You get the idea. If you wear a corset that does not fit, it will never be comfortable the way that a perfectly fitting customized corset will. You ought to be comfortable if you wear a corset. Unless, I suppose, the intention is to be uncomfortable, in which case I probably don't want to hear any of the details anyway.

Lesson two is that trying to make the stripes vertical was not particularly effective. It causes some weird optical illusions at the bust and hips, and I think I don't like them. Perhaps with thinner stripes this would look a little better. Perhaps with a less curvy underbust pattern this would be more successful. Perhaps I will angle the stripes the next time I use this fabric, and see how that goes.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Jenny Lind

We often hire a wonderful band called Spare Parts to do music for balls. They are a fantastic historical dance band. One song they play is called "The Jenny Lind Polka." It is a great song, but I had never given it more thought than that.

But apparently Jenny Lind was a famous singer, referred to as the Swedish Nightingale. Interesting. I stumbled across this picture of her in a pretty dress. I also found this very weird story about an antique "scarecrow" that ended up being a statue of Jenny Lind, apparently from the bow of a ship. If you're curious, it's here.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Two Hundred Years Too Late to Apologize

I don't listen to modern music frequently. I used to hear the current songs on radio on the bus to school, but college has fixed that. I do know about Lady Gaga, but only because she is such standard party-fare for college-campus parties that if I walk down the street on a Friday or Saturday night, I will hear final clubs (what we have instead of fraternities, basically) BLASTING her songs. On my own, I really don't listen to modern music.

But I do love a good parody. So, since you are almost certainly more familiar with modern music than I am, you probably know the song "Too Late to Apologize." First of all, I have a friend who is fairly obsessed with the movie of 1776, and she introduced me to the 1776 version of this. It is pretty funny... I would suggest that you watch the original music video for the song, because this mimics its format pretty effectively. And to great comedic effect. I also must admit to really enjoying the "No liberty, no tea" line. Well done.

The second one I just saw in section for a science class. The production value is not nearly so high, and the science is quite specific. So if you know a bit about apoptosis and regulated cell death systems, it is shockingly clever, but I bet the mass appeal is not so great as for the 1776 version.

So here they are, for your viewing pleasure...

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Scarlet Pimpernel, or THERE'S MORE!?!

As anyone who has ever read it must know, the Scarlet Pimpernel is one of the most wonderful books ever written. I really do love it, and if you haven't read it you should. Unless, of course, there is not a romantic bone in your body, in which case I don't know what you are doing listening to me.

But even if you know the book (or one of any number of film adaptations, but I promise the book is worth it), you may not have realized that there are several other books. Yes, it is, in fact, a SERIES. Super exciting, no?

See? This is an illustration from a later book, the Elusive Pimpernel. Proof!I have actually know this for a long time. My father used to point it out. I am confident that somewhere in our house, we have all these books. But since our house is full of books and treasures, I have never found them. And since they are not very well known, they are not easy books to find. So imagine my delight when I found this. That's right, the second book. Thank you, internet.

Although I am itching to read it, I have way too much reading for school to do. And I am technically in the middle of a couple of other books. I wish I had more time for reading, right now and in general, but college is cramping my style, if you will. It doesn't seem right that I would read less in college, does it? Ah well. I'll read this sometime in the summer, and let you know if it is just as wonderful as the original.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Two Strings to her Bow

The artist is John Pettie. It was painted in the 1880s, so it is not the best thing to use as an example for research, because I am sure it is intended to be regency. But it is pretty... I like her bonnet. I think I need to make some regency bonnets. Also, I think that every young lady deserves two well dressed and handsome gentlemen as fashion accessories. I mean, it might be a bit excessive, but it would solve our gender balance issues at balls, because ladies are generally so much more eager to dance.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Wellesley SCA Event

I was finally feeling a little bit better (after an absolutely vicious cold), so although I though I would have to miss this even, I made an appearance. A sniffly, less than impressive appearance, but it was nice to see things anyway. I have a couple of friends who go to Wellesley (or "Felding" in the SCA), really lovely girls, and all their friends there also seem very nice. They should be proud of pulling off an adorable event, even in the face of adversity (getting permission to use college spaces can be really difficult!). There was lots of sunshine and pretty grass to sit on. There was fighting, but I think I missed most of it. There was a Commedia del'Arte play. There was some dancing. There were marinated mushrooms (which I have a ridiculous affinity for). In my opinion, that adds up to a very nice event indeed!

I was so not together that I didn't even take pictures of people being lovely. But this is one I have scavenged from facebook... shhhh! Don't they look lovely?

Friday, April 23, 2010

More Adam Ant

Because I am terribly ill right now, here are a couple lovely music videos by Adam Ant for you to watch. I will write more interesting things when I am less ill, probably.

From the rockabilly phase...

I bet it would have been really fun to go to an Adam Ant concert, once upon a time. Check out what they've done here... he is on a rope ladder, hanging from a screen on which appears a rope ladder. Subtle, but clever. I like it.

Also, some good ones with scantly-historically-clad women.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Francois Martin-Kavel

I am so glad that is is not this wintery anymore. Muffs are seriously cool, but that is insufficient compensation for snow. She looks happy enough, anyway.Her jacket is lovely. I enjoy it.
"A beauty with red ribboned hat," and what a hat it is!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Adam Ant, Ultimate Role Model

Adam Ant is one of the coolest things to come out of the 80s. Not only did he have a wonderful sense of dramatic fashion (excessively trimmed military jackets, tall boots, ruffly poet's shirts, and more!), which is enough to make him a role model for me, he also had a number of songs with wonderful messages. From
"No method to our madness, just pride about our manner" to
"It's so sad, when you're young, to be told you're having fun" to
"Prince Charming, Prince Charming, Ridicule is nothing to be scared of. Don't you ever, don't you ever stop being dandy, showing me you're handsome." Now those are words to live by. Dramatic, romantic, completely over the top words to live by. My very favorite kind!

I was listening to Adam Ant a few weeks ago, and I made a comment about what a good role model he would make. I mean, he is quite obviously a cool guy, and the messages in so many of his songs are about being your own person, not caring about what others think of you, etc etc etc... the sort of things teachers and parents are always trying to teach children. At least, I think that's why I brought up the role model thing... as a personal role model his impeccable use of poet's shirts might really be sufficient.

My little sister's reaction was that she had once seen a television special on him, and he had, "gotten arrested for throwing some kind of fit. He was dressed as a pirate."

My reaction was that getting arrested does not rule you out as a role model, as long as you do it dressed like a pirate!

Anyway, here is his very best video, for the song Stand and Deliver. I honestly could not tell you whether the lyrics or costumes make me happier, so take a little time to appreciate both. This is why Adam Ant is my hero. If you like this, consider also looking up the music videos for Puss in Boots (a fantastic specimen of the poet's shirt, with quite a lot of plot going for it) and Room at the Top (hilarious women from various historical time periods, in various levels of undress), or any others really. If Adam Ant did it, it is probably fantastic.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Tricorn Hats for Ladies

Here are a couple paintings by Gustave Jean Jacquet of an especially girly and adorable tricorn hat. Very pretty, I think. I made a couple of miniature tricorn hats a couple of months ago, and I should probably make more. They were awfully pretty, though I have never been quite content with the way that miniature hats like that look... imagine a flat tricorn hat... since it isn't big enough to stick out around your head, it rests on a plane on top of your head, meaning that the points are kind of stuck out above the head. I don't personally like how this looks. I had only come up with two solutions to this issue. One is to make the hat smaller, but I prefer the proportions of a small hat perched on the head to that of a genuinely tiny hat plopped on the head. The other solution is to the hat plane problem was to put the hair up and make it bigger, so it meets the plane of the hat for most of the underside area. I hope that sort of made sense... the downside is that this limits the usefulness of your hat.

Anyway, it looks like this girl has just gone with it, exaggerating the tipped-up nature of the points of her hat so that it looks more intentional. I should give this a try, since it really looks quite attractive.

Monday, April 19, 2010

L Enfant Au Bilboquet

The artist is Jeanne Bole, and the painting makes me think of my friend the drummer from yesterday's post. Tricorn hats are really a lot of fun.

I have never been any good at cup and ball type games, by the way. This one looks particularly difficult. Oh dear.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

A Disturbingly Pretty Drummer Boy

This is my very cool friend. Among her many other fantastic artistic endeavors, she is a drummer with the Lincoln minute men. Doesn't she look dashing?A lot of our dorm buildings have these boot scrapers at the entrances. I find them super entertaining, so I got her to pose with one of them.And with the hair out. Isn't this a fantastic outfit? She was quite (and quite reasonably) excited about it. I mean, I get way too excited about women's clothes, but I should probably remember that men's clothes could be neat too.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Albert Lynch's L'heure Du The

They are so lovely and ragtime-ey. I especially like the grey dress. Lovely.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Transitions In Fashion - 18th to 19th Century

I just ran across this. It sounds so familiar that it might have actually been mentioned at the "Fashions in Federal New England" talk I attended a while ago (here). Regency is not really my thing, but I think I will end up doing more of it. Maybe. On the other hand, I found it honestly myself... I just discovered that my school gives me access to the most WONDERFUL database of 19th century British periodicals (from newspapers to Girls Own papers, and more!). I am so excited... I have a number of new personal research projects to work on. I should probably work on my academic research papers first, but I don't want to! So I was browsing through articles when I found this wonderful "conversation."

First, some setting. As you go from the 18th to 19th century, you go from super-wide, highly structured dresses to wifty, empire-waisted dresses. Imagine Marie Antoinette, and imagine Jane Austen - completely different, and yet chronologically not nearly so far removed as you would guess from the style differences.

For further orientation, here is a painting from 1801, the same year as this piece was written. It was painted by Constance Mayer.Now, here is the factual information for the piece:
The Lady's Monthly Museum (London, England), [Sunday], [February 01, 1801]; pg. 126. New Readerships.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

1910 Dress with Butterflies!

So pretty. It is actually on sale here for $785. I am so in love with white summery dresses at the moment, and this one is particularly lovely. Perfect to wear to a tea.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Vanity is perfectly reasonable if you have that lovely a vanity to sit at, don't you think? I have really wanted a vanity for a while, and I keep finding lovely (and far too expensive) antique wood vanities. They are gorgeous, but for something I really don't need, not justifiable. I absolutely love this one, with the beautiful gauzy curtains and drapery. Perhaps I will make something like this, instead.

I also rather like her hair and dress, especially with the white petticoat peeking out. I bet it wouldn't if she were standing... too bad, because I sort of like the white ruffle at the hem of an otherwise black dress. Interesting.

She was painted by Gustave Leonhard de Jonghe, if you care particularly.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

An Afternoon of Fishing

Fishing is certainly not my thing, but they are so darling! I love the tipped-up hat, and the bunched up skirt. She is so pretty. He has a good hat and outfit, too. As the weather has started getting less terrible, I've been feeling very inspired to do things outside while in beautiful clothing. Fishing still doesn't make that list, but this is inspiring nonetheless. The artist is Frederick Hendrik Kaemmerer.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Psyche Knot

This comes from a website (here) that appears to have "moved," but I couldn't find this content on the new website. I'm not sure what to make of this. But the pictures, from a 1911 Girls Own Paper and Woman's Magazine, are wonderful. If you want to read the how-to text with them, telling you how to do this lovely hairstyle, the link takes you to the (abandoned? but still present) page with instructions. It is somewhat self explanatory, though, and very pretty.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Fair Decievers - Charles Haigh-Wood

They aren't painted in the 18th century, so although they are adorable I wouldn't trust their clothes perfectly. But they are awfully pretty, nonetheless.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Francesco Renaldi

Francesco Renaldi - Lady Maria Tryphena Cockerell and Lady Charlotte Imhoff Making Music at a Harpsichord. c. 1789

Look at that hat. The feather plumes defy gravity. I really really need to make some hats, and I really need to play with ostrich feathers. I am developing an ostrich feather obsession.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Nico Jungmann - An Elegant Lady

I love the ruffly train of her skirt. I feel like she herself is a bit weirdly proportioned, but that is alright. It makes me want to put the rest of the ruffles on my lavender/white striped skirt.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Boudoir Cloche

The website these pictures came from (here) describes it as a "c. 1920's Boudoir Cloche Cap of Lace with Light Yellow Silk Ribbons." It is so pretty. And it is a brilliant design, I think, with the lace bands held together by the ribbons, and the really cool effect the ribbons make on the side of the hat. Apparently it is on the large side, so probably meant to be worn over a hairstyle. If I had more use for such a thing, I would make a reproduction in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, I think ballgowns are just more useful for me. But it sure is lovely to look at.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Preparing for the Ball - Louis Humbert

First of all, I think she looks lovely. I like the train on the dress, and the lace details are interesting... beautiful elegant lines to the dress. But I also found the wrinkles along the seams kind of fascinating. I guess I have justification for using shiny wrinkly fabric for ballgowns now.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


If I say something about Scaramouche to someone, I am usually met with a, "What? Like the Queen song?" (referring to the "Scaramouce, Scaramouche, will you do the fandango?" line in Bohemian Rhapsody). If I said something to a Commedia del'Arte friend, they would surely know the name of the character (although the group I perform with does not use that particular character... they do Italian renaissance and he is a just a later character). But the best reason to know the name Scaramouche is for the incredible 1952 movie.

I recently showed this to a friend, so it is very much on my mind. The movie is based on a book from the 1920s, though the plot is significantly different. This movie has a lot of things to recommend it, from cute 1950s-ified 18th century clothing to clever dialogue. Probably the most notable feature of Scaramouche is the incredibly good final fencing scene. Seriously, go watch it now.

If you are curious about the plot, here is an idea of what happens. Otherwise, stop reading now. Preferably to go watch Scaramouche immediately. The movie starts with the villan, the Marquis de Maynes. I say villain, but he is a dashing and well-dressed villain with impeccable etiquette, so that is really quite alright. He has a habit of dueling (and is an excellent swordsman), so the Queen calls him in to chastise him for killing some of her favorite nobles, and also to ask him to find a wife (there is some serious tension between those two). He says he will marry, but asks her to choose his wife. She suggests Aline, and everyone is wiling to go along with this.
(Tension! I told you he was well-dressed)
(Aren't they all so pretty?)
Meanwhile, our hero, Andre Moreau (played by Stewart Granger), is having troubles with the actress Lenore. He stops her from marrying a wealthy (but insufficiently romantic) sausage maker, and says he will marry her. But then he gets very side-tracked, getting his dear friend Philippe de Valmorin (who happens to be a revolutionary, and has been publishing revolutionary pamphlets! Oh dear!) out of Paris and out of danger. Moreau meets Aline, and falls immediately in love with her, but also realizes that they can't possible be together (there is a very good reason, but I wouldn't want to ruin all the good revelations for you!).
(Meeting Aline - Seriously, are you sure this is the 18th century, not the 1950s?)
To speed up this summary a bit, the Marquis kills Philippe in a duel, Andre is beyond upset and becomes determined to kill the Marquis. Of course, since our hero has no talent for fencing, he will need to learn first. Also, he is now in a fair bit of trouble with all this revolutionary business. He hides with a traveling theater troupe, playing the masked character Scaramouche! He picks up some fencing lessons, falls into politics, and continuously seeks his revenge on the Marquis. Of course, now you really have to go watch the movie to find out the rest of what happens.
(Disguised as Scaramouche!)

Monday, April 5, 2010

Dances of Vice - Swan Lake Masquerade Ball

Good news. I recently heard from the lovely Shien Lee, who runs monthly events in New York. So far I have only managed to get to one of these "Dances of Vice" events, although I keep hoping to go to more of them. On the other hand, the internet is littered with gorgeous pictures of people in stunning clothes at these events, so if you enjoy beautiful and excessive clothing this would certainly be something to check out.

On April 30 Dances of Vice will be hosting a Swan Lake Masquerade Ball, and I am very excited to say that I will be teaching some dancing there. There are some other performers lined up for this event, and they all sound wonderful. And of course, I expect to see some incredible clothing. I know New York is a bit of a trek for me, but if I can manage it, you should consider going too! I look forward to seeing wonderful people there. The website is here, and it is very easy to find the page for this specific event.That weekend is going to be a busy one for me. I have a Steampunk event the next day in Boston (stay tuned for more information soon), and will probably be attending a ball that the Harvard Gilbert and Sullivan group will be having that evening. Oh my! It is good to be busy, though, and I am very excited about all these things. Now, time to sew an outfit for this...

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Vienna - the Balls

I meant to put up pictures of Vienna when it happened, but various technological difficulties and camera malfunctions meant I didn't even end up with pictures until recently. So this is what we wore in Vienna (if you don't recall, I went with my mother and sister to a vintage dance week in Vienna this February, and it was fantastic).

There were only two really fancy balls (and one casual costume evening which we did not manage to pack anything interesting for). First, there was an afternoon dance, with a lot of regency clothes and Sachertorte for refreshments. Mmmm.
For that one, we wore dresses made from a Past Patterns pattern for a Federal Dress. The grey one was made by Saundra Altman herself (she makes Past Patterns, and is a wonderful clothing historian). The brown one was thrown together on a sewing machine by mother and myself. The red one was made in Vienna, handsewn throughout the week by the two of us. Basically, mother realized she had nothing to wear and no time to make something, so she threw the pattern and a chunk of fabric into the suitcase. It is really cool fabric, by the way.Ever since I went to a talk about Fashions in Federal New England (go here to read about it), I have had this thing about regency dresses looking like columns. So I had to have a picture with a column. You can just barely see that I am wearing my fantastically cool red dance boots here. I love those so much.Then there was the final ball. We wore 1860s, though that was not universal. I always forget how atypical we are in the Boston area (and Newport when we hold our ridiculously fancy dance week there) for segregating by time period. We have 1860s balls and 1890s balls, and most people at least make a stab at wearing the right silhouette. I think that the outcome is a more realistic ball-going experience... more like time travel and reconstructing an actual event, less like a mish-mash of fun historical things. Which is certainly not to say that I don't like mish-mashes too, I just think that what we do is particularly special.

Anyway, there was an impressive catered dinner, and dancing, and really adorable dance cards that Andrea made. Lovely lovely. Also, I love my shiny blue ballgown. It is too much fun. I am wearing red dance boots here too, although you can't see them.
Also, while I often look silly in pictures, this is my favorite. I was laughing...