This is not a directly book related post but still in the literary realm. I haven’t been reading a whole lot because I was preparing for this event.
The Sacramento county library put on a Jane Austen birthday tea. I was of course interested and I told my friend Scarlett (ig @toadhalltea) about the event and we decided to go together and make Regency outfits. I’ve always been into costuming and it is one of the things Scarlett and I bonded over when we first met and its continued to be a common interest as we’ve been friends for over ten years.
I don’t have much more than a cursory knowledge of regency era clothing so I didn’t want to try anything like drafting my own pattern at this stage. So I bought a pattern from JoAnn’s, some cotton fabric from there and I used some velvet I’ve had. I was actually given a green velvet dress in high school but long outgrew it so I picked it apart and I’ve had it in my fabric pile, I finally got to use it in this. The velvet jacket actually ended up being my favorite piece. It’s so comfortable and soft. I tried to keep cost down as much as possible because it’s the holiday season and money is already tight before gifts.
One concern I had was about what to do with my hair. I have a bob right now and my hair is also blue. I don’t do much normally besides brush my hair so I always feel lost over my hair let alone historical looks. The night before I finally decided to not worry about my hair color. I like dyeing my hair unnatural colors and I don’t see myself stopping anytime soon. I’ve been a performer for Renaissance faires since I was a kid so everything being historically accurate is built into all my thinking. But this I’m doing for fun, I’m not a performer for this so there is no reason to hold myself at that standard. I took a look at google images at portraiture to get some ideas of what the heck I could do with my length of hair.
I finally decided if I curled my hair then I could create a faux bun by pulling it up. I don’t own a curling iron or curlers so I decided to try a different technique that is probably closer to period anyways. I made strips out of my leftover dress fabric and set up rag curls the night before. Not something I’ve ever tried so I was taking a risk with my hair. The bottom layer of my hair was too short to even curl up so I wasn’t sure how well it would look. I let it stay in until the last moment and pulled them out. After putting it up I was super pleased. It was slightly ridiculous but the good level of historical ridiculousness.
So the event itself! We were a bit late getting there and that wasn’t helped by the fact the event was held downtown which had not only normally awful street parking but in the same area, a Nutcracker performance, A Christmas Carol performance and a cheer competition. So downtown was pretty dang packed. We made it though, it had already started but we made our way in and found two open seats together at a table. I think we lucked out on our table mates, the woman I was sitting next to was with her husband and teen daughter and she was so sweet. She made sure we got all the food passed to us and later when I was dancing she wouldn’t let the servers take my plate until I came back and confirmed I was finished.
The food was… Okay. I think the macaron was my favorite. We were starving as it was when we arrived but overall the food wasn’t very satisfying. It was doubly disappointing in the fresh hot water that was set down was lukewarm. Which meant by the time our tea steeped it was cold. I mean, it’s a tea party! The tea should be one of the highlights. Maybe Scarlett and I just love tea more than the average American but we were let down.
The entertainment though was pretty good. While everyone was eating a harpist played and there was also a soprano who preformed songs from the period. It was very nice, should I have learned he harp I would have been a great proficient. After they had lessons in English country dancing. Those were fun to learn. We were split up into groups of six and one woman ruined it for us. Part of the dance includes skipping and she kept insisting no one should skip and so made it less fun. I kept trying to skip but kept stepping on her. I didn’t feel that bad over it.
We of course had to participate in Caroline Bingley’s favorite activity and took a turn about the room. We strolled arm in arm and looked around. I was glad not to be the only people in costume and there were some really great ones. I was a little annoyed I had several women (not dressed in any costume at all) coming up to me and telling me my hair color was not period. Not shit dude. It was just annoying, why point that out? I later decided next time someone mentioned it I would just insist it was my natural hair color, no one did though. I wasn’t a performer and just doing this for fun, not for anyone else so what does it matter to them?
Once the event was over we were starving so we went out to dinner at our favorite fondue restaurant. We didn’t change, I didn’t even have a change of clothes. We had people asking if we were in A Christmas Carol. Which was funny to me, because women at the event pointed out my blue hair wasn’t period but no one thought it odd someone would have blue hair in the play. Or at least they didn’t mention it. The time periods are also very different but I totally get why they would associate us with that.
Overall, was the event worth it? It was a great excuse to try a new era of costuming. But the event itself kinda was a let down. I liked the entertainment but my main pull was tea party and the tea sucked. Sucked so bad. Don’t know if I would pay that ticket price again for something like this but it was a good experience. One really cool thing, outside they had a display of an extant dress from the period.
This dress is fascinating to us. Especially due to all the details we could see and note for future costuming endeavors. The quilted bottom hem was so cool and different from anything we had seen before. We could see the seams, which we believe to be French seams. The hooks and eyes closures were cool, and not common for the period. It was just beautiful and looked like it could be for a young girl 8-12 in age. It was very small but tall too.
I plan to next work on 18th century clothing, chemise a la reine most likely, but I don’t exactly have any events to wear it for. Besides just having some fun. But yeah, it was a good new experience.