The Jane Austen Ball

Todd and I attended the Jane Austen Ball on Saturday, and it was, of course, utterly fabulous.

This is me — grinning.

Why, you ask, am I grinning? Because I finished the bottom of my dress. Finally. At the last moment. (With a lot of Todd’s help.)

Do admire the bottom of the skirt. Can you see the intricate pleating?

No? Well, it’s there. Took me way longer than I thought it would (I’m no seamstress!)

I could bore you all now with the entire history of the bottom of my Regency gown — but I won’t. (I was explaining it in great detail to one of my local RWA chaptermates who was also at the ball, and Todd sort of rescued her and implied that no human alive would want to hear so much about my hem.)

Here, also, are some pictures I took at the ball, mostly of people who have way better costumes than me.

And, yes, way better period hair. Though I was very pleased with my hair this year. I got some of it to curl!

Tea was first — six kinds of tea, plus lots of food (my favorite was the rosemary shortbread, though the cucumber sandwiches were very interesting — and I mean that in a good way, in an admiring way, as a woman who has tried several different recipes for cucumber sandwiches herself.)

Then there was a lecture on society in Jane Austen’s England — nothing I didn’t know, but entertaining nonetheless, and delivered (by the inimitable Walter Nelson) with a great deal of humor.

Did I mention that many of the costumes were amazing??? These hussars in particular had everyone staring in admiration!

(Apparently they are in a group that rides horses in costume every week and — er, that is, the horses aren’t in costume, of course — well, I don’t think they are — anyway, they ride, and train, and train others, and appear in movies, and all sorts of things. Their website, in case anyone is interested, is http://www.warhorsefoundation.com/index.htm)

Oh yes — and there was dancing. Lots and lots of dancing. We did English country dances most of the time, plus one waltz.

The music was live and lovely, and I performed four different types of hey!

Some of the more colorfully-named country dances were “Mr. Beveridge’s Maggot” (famous from the BBC/A&E Pride & Prejudice), “Irish Lamentation,” “Rakes of Rochester,” and “Lasses of Portsmouth.” (Perhaps the rakes of Rochester jilted the lasses of Portsmouth, causing much Irish lamentation. But I confess I have no idea where Mr. Beveridge’s maggot comes in!)

(Oh, I know — it’s a common problem on the “Dressed Ship,” and on “Auretti’s Dutch Skipper.”)

Now I know that all of you are going to attend next year’s Jane Austen Ball. Even those of you who live in other countries are going to fly out to Southern California to attend, right?

Right?

(For the date of next year’s ball, see http://www.lahacal.org/austen/index.html.)

Question for the day: if you were inventing a Regency dance with an odd name, what would it be?

Cara
Cara King, author of MY LADY GAMESTER
Signet Regency — still available through Amazon!

About Elena Greene

Elena Greene grew up reading anything she could lay her hands on, including her mother's Georgette Heyer novels. She also enjoyed writing but decided to pursue a more practical career in software engineering. Fate intervened when she was sent on a three year international assignment to England, where she was inspired to start writing romances set in the Regency. Her books have won the National Readers' Choice Award, the Desert Rose Golden Quill and the Colorado Romance Writers' Award of Excellence. Her Super Regency, LADY DEARING'S MASQUERADE, won RT Book Club's award for Best Regency Romance of 2005 and made the Kindle Top 100 list in 2011. When not writing, Elena enjoys swimming, cooking, meditation, playing the piano, volunteer work and craft projects. She lives in upstate New York with her two daughters and more yarn, wire and beads than she would like to admit.
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23 Responses to The Jane Austen Ball

  1. Todd says:

    Cara asked me not to just say that she looks adorable in the picture, so I will add some substantive comments as window-dressing.

    The saga of The Hem (or, as I will always think of it, THE @#%$ HEM), is indeed long and gory. It involves much wailing and gnashing of teeth. And threading bobbins. And ironing. But the end result is quite attractive, even if you have to kneel by Cara’s feet to appreciate it. (This is, for me, a fairly normal posture.)

    My own costume pales in comparison–difficult for an almost all-black ensemble, but possible. And the costumes at the ball were amazing! I particularly admired the Hussar uniforms, and went to chat with their wearers. They cut quite a dash in the ballroom, but I think showed great restraint in leaving their horses behind.

    Because of their low-hanging cavalry sabers, you could also hear it any time one of the Hussars went up or down the stairs. There would come a loud, rhythmic banging, and we would all nod sagely and say “I hear that the cavalry has arrived!”

    The dance was tremendous fun. But I must say, after dancing Sir Roger de Coverly wearing a shirt, waistcoat, and coat, with about a square yard of fabric wrapped around my neck, I was more than a trifle overheated. I don’t know how those Regency beaus managed it in the era before showers and deodorant!

    Todd-whose-toes-were-also-feeling-the-heat-by-the-end

  2. Anonymous says:

    Todd, did you get a chance to try dancing with both left feet?

    Cara, your costume was gorgeous–I loved how it suited your skin color and hair color. You did manage some curly waves there. The pink satin sleeve bows and the pink and white design below and above the pleats of the hem look great.

    Since modern clothes don’t have decorative hems, I’m unaccustomed to looking at the complete dress, including the hems.

    Cara, are those special Regency slippers? And is the height of the hem from the floor, that correct length for a gown?

  3. Anonymous says:

    That lady with the gorgeous white updo sporting a coronet of pink flowers is my favorite hair style.

  4. Anonymous says:

    The costumes are indeed gorgeous, as is the lady with the stunning white hair. I hope you both had a wonderful time.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Wow at the hussars! It’s amazing to see all that ornate braid and busy detail–somehow seeing it in an ordinary photograph gives a different effect that a period portrait or a costume in a Sharpe movie.

    Cara, you look great!

  6. Manuelita says:

    I loved the pictures! Cara, your hem is amazing, and so is the rest of the dress. Very lovely. And your hem definitely outshines the one on the green dress!!

    Hmmm, a silly name for a dance. How about Vicar Victor’s Vendetta?

  7. Manuelita says:

    Oh, I forgot to mention that I was able to display an enlarged version of the picture by clicking on it. Hence providing a better view of Cara’s hem.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Oh man, that looks soooooooo great!! πŸ™‚ Ah well, hmm, me in California anytime in the next decade. . . well, it could happen, maybe. πŸ™‚ And the gowns are so great!!! πŸ™‚

    As for a dance. . . hmm. . . Bertie’s ode to Brummel?

    Okay, so I’m pooped and the brain cells are snoozing. πŸ˜‰

    Lois

  9. Cara, your dress is lovely! Your hair is lovely. You look beautiful.

    Manuelita, thanks for the tip on enlarging the photo. I wanted to see the hem close up. It looks like a lot of work well done and I’ll bet in person it showed off very well.

    The Hussars??? Swooon…..

    Diane (who loves a man in uniform…)

  10. Cara King says:

    Ooh, thank you all for the kind compliments on my dress!

    Cara, your costume was gorgeous–I loved how it suited your skin color and hair color

    Wow, thanks, Keira! And if the colors go at all well on me, it is only by accident — I made this dress (minus the bottom bit) several years ago when I had not so much money, and I bought the least expensive fabric in the entire yard goods store that could possibly pass as period-correct (from a distance). πŸ™‚

    Cara, are those special Regency slippers? And is the height of the hem from the floor, that correct length for a gown?

    No, those are shoes I got in a thrift store once. πŸ™‚ I wear them because (a) they’re white, so they go with the dress, and (b) they have straps, so they don’t fall off when I’m dancing. (I have narrow heels, and pumps like to fall off my feet.) I also was married in these shoes (also because of criteria #1 and #2!)

    As for gown lengths, I’m not a big costume expert (someone like Kalen would know much better than I), but my general feeling is (1) lengths varied a bit, and (2) it’s actually sort of hard to tell, because fashion plates and caricatures were always so distorted, and extant gowns don’t carry a tag stating the height of the wearer!

    Anyway, I believe the length is reasonable for an evening dress — much longer and it would be difficult to dance in.

    Cara

  11. Cara King says:

    That lady with the gorgeous white updo sporting a coronet of pink flowers is my favorite hair style.

    The costumes are indeed gorgeous, as is the lady with the stunning white hair.

    Yes, that hair is stunning, isn’t it? (Took me a while to realize it’s probably a wig! Very 18th century. Maybe that’s what I should do with my hair!) πŸ™‚

    I hope you both had a wonderful time.

    Oh, we did, Bookwormom! And by the end of the night we had the sore feet to prove it. πŸ™‚

    somehow seeing it in an ordinary photograph gives a different effect that a period portrait or a costume in a Sharpe movie.

    Very true, Susan. Sort of the same as with movie stars… Someone who in the movies plays an attractive-but-normal person — say, Ben Affleck or Sandra Bullock or Drew Barrymore — in real life is often overwhelmingly beautiful and, well, larger than life. (Not that I’ve seen all that many stars, but enough.)

    And I can see why the British soldiers got uniform envy of the hussars and started having hussars of their own — very imposing! And dashing.

    Cara

  12. Here are names for new dances:

    The Delicate Turkey
    PIgeon among the Peascods
    Bertie the Beau’s Beautiful Biscuit
    Trip to McDonalds

    As for a dance. . . hmm. . . Bertie’s ode to Brummel?

    Oh, thank you, Milady Lois! Though perhaps it would be “Brummel’s Ode to Bertie.”

    Bertie the Beau

  13. Anonymous says:

    Someone who in the movies plays an attractive-but-normal person — say, Ben Affleck or Sandra Bullock or Drew Barrymore — in real life is often overwhelmingly beautiful and, well, larger than life.

    OTOH, someone on a posting board I sometimes hang out at posted a set of “stars without make-up” pictures that made me feel much better about myself–I too could be wildly beautiful with people devoted to making me appear so!

    I just sent the link for the military horse organization to my husband and said that if we lived in L.A., I’d have to learn a lot more about riding and join them. We’re now having an exchange where he says I’m weird, and I just keep repeating, “HORSIES!”

  14. Cara, the hem looks great! I remember at RWA a few years ago when you were sewing on a ruffle. πŸ™‚ I would LOVE to attend the Jane Austen ball someday!

  15. Anonymous says:

    Cara~ I think you are likely correct about the lady with the white hair, but I did spend a little while trying to figure out how to replicate it. My Hair is likely long enough, but I’d need extra arms to get all the pins in the right places. LOL Lady’s maids had their work cut out for them!

  16. Cara King says:

    The Delicate Turkey
    PIgeon among the Peascods
    Bertie the Beau’s Beautiful Biscuit
    Trip to McDonalds

    Um, Bertie — are you by any chance hungry?

    Cara

  17. Todd says:

    Keira wrote:

    Todd, did you get a chance to try dancing with both left feet?

    I never do anything else! I’ve tried dancing with only one of them, but then I tend to fall over when I set right.

    Todd-whose-left-feet-were-both-sore-by-the-end

  18. Elena Greene says:

    That looks like so much fun!

    I recently found out there’s a group in my area that do English country dancing. Maybe there’s some hope for me after all. As long as they are patient with slow learners. Like Todd I have two left feet but they are moderately trainable. πŸ™‚

  19. Cara King says:

    HORSIES!

    Cara, the hem looks great! I remember at RWA a few years ago when you were sewing on a ruffle.

    Yes, indeed, Amanda!

    Now I feel the compulsion to give everyone the abbreviated history of my hem. (Honest, Todd, it will be SHORT!)

    1) I make the dress, to wear at the Beau Monde Soiree, at which I will be co-dance-mistress, and do a waltzing demo. Todd pins the hem before I cut it. I say, “I need to waltz in it! Don’t make it too long! No, make it even shorter!”

    2) I waltz. Later, I see photo of me waltzing. I say “Ack! That’s way too short!”

    3) Next year, when soiree time comes round, I have to lengthen it somehow. In a thrift store, I find a pink something (curtain??) with a ruffle. I cut off the ruffle, and in our hotel room the night before, I add the pink ruffle to the bottom.

    4) For several years, people tell me how cute the pink ruffle is — out of pity, I am sure, because I HATE it, and know it looks terrible, because the color’s not the right match, and there’s just something very very wrong-looking about it.

    5) This year, I take action! I study period costumes, make a plan, cut off the ruffle, and add a bizarre pleat thing.

    6) Now I am truly happy!

    Okay, sorry, Todd, it wasn’t exactly short. But it is SO TRUE that I’m sure no one minds. πŸ™‚

    HORSIES!

    Cara

  20. Cara King says:

    Cara~ I think you are likely correct about the lady with the white hair, but I did spend a little while trying to figure out how to replicate it. My Hair is likely long enough, but I’d need extra arms to get all the pins in the right places.

    Ooh, my hair hates pins. It’s long, but it’s always breaking, so I have lots of different lengths, and it doesn’t like to curl or be held by any kind of pin… So I do tend to despair of doing anything clever with it!

    Then again, if I could stand behind myself and do my hair, who knows what I could accomplish?

    I recently found out there’s a group in my area that do English country dancing. Maybe there’s some hope for me after all. As long as they are patient with slow learners.

    I’m sure they are, Elena! And you’re not a total newbie — you have some idea of progressing up and down a set, and all that!

    Cara

  21. Todd says:

    Cara wrote:

    Now I feel the compulsion to give everyone the abbreviated history of my hem. (Honest, Todd, it will be SHORT!)

    THE @#%$ HEM!

    Hmm, maybe I’ll try calming down with this mantra that seems to be going around:

    HORSIES!

    Wow, that really is soothing!

    Todd-who-will-try-unicorns-next

  22. Todd says:

    The Marvelous Mr. St. James’s Merovingian Maggot.

    Todd-who-thinks-that-beats-Mr.-Beveridge-any-day

  23. Anonymous says:

    Todd said… “The Marvelous Mr. St. James’s Merovingian Maggot.”

    You seem to be aspiring to Van Gogh’s absynthe-worm fame.

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