I attended a Twelfth Night Ball last weekend (a bit late, but who among us really tracks these things?) at Riversdale House Museum. It was fab, I wore my new feathers, and after talking to fellow guests my ladies maid (husband) and I retired to insert my feathers to their upright position. The secret? When you twist your scarf into a turban, you pin in your feathers and use the twist to hold it into place. It will remain upright for some time even after vigorous dancing. If your feathers remain erect for more than four hours, you must seek immediate medical help…
And here’s a video of how to twist a scarf into a turban. And doesn’t this lady in the center, who used this technique, look great?
The ball was a lot of fun with dancing and supper. One interesting thing was that at the beginning we seemed to have more men than women and then toward the end many of the men mysteriously disappeared and so we actually had a distaff set for one of the later dances. In Regency/Federal times they would have retired to drink and smoke, but since this is a fragile historical building, this was not an option. I think they went for a quiet sit down, exhausted by female energy.
Here we are dancing in a room that was originally the house’s stables and carriage house. It’s actually the west wing of the house and went through various incarnations over the past two hundred years and the walls are hung with copies of portraits of the Lords Baltimore, the founders of Maryland (like no one ever lived here before?). The first owner of the house, Rosalie Calvert, married into the family, although she was a Belgian with sophisticated European tastes who had fled to the New World to escape Napoleon.
If you’re in the Washington DC area you must visit Riversdale. Come this Sunday and you’ll meet me–I volunteer as a docent. Coming up on February 11, we have a program on chocolate, Tasting the Past: A Chocolate Sampler, which explores the history of chocolate in America. I definitely plan to attend that one! For a full schedule of events throughout the year, go here.
Other news I have to share today include our own Risky Elena guestblogging at Writer Unboxed on her successful comeback in the age of digital publishing. Go Elena! And you go on over there and say hi!
I linked earlier in the post to turban-tying instructions at American Duchess. This is a wonderful site, with lots of how-to stuff, solid historical research, and a source for historical footwear. If you love Downton Abbey (and who doesn’t, with the exception of me) you have surely noticed the clothes. Even I like the clothes. This is her latest offering, these glorious Astoria shoes from that period. The way it works is that the Duchess must receive pre-orders to go into production and if you put in an order early (now) you’ll receive a discount. Yum.
One of the other reasons this period is so popular right now, other than PBS, is that this April is the 100th anniversary of the Titanic and there’s a lot of historical reenactment connected with it. It’s also the 200th anniversary of the war of 1812, something Riversdale is involved in since the inglorious Battle of Bladensburg took place very near the house, followed by the sacking of Washington. Are you taking part in any events or planning to attend as an observer?
I would rock these shoes. They’re 1790’s but come on! They’re so pretty.
|Regency Hat, original condition|
I’m not so sure about the hat. I mean, maybe. But it wouldn’t go with the shoes. I think our own Risky Megan would look fantastic in this hat. I wish I had the skilz to show you how right I am. Someone with skilz needs to photoshop Megan’s face there. Because I’m right.
This silk gown is soooo pretty. Until you get to the red flowers. I’m not feeling that as a fashion choice, but maybe they were perkier a couple hundred years ago. And yet, it’s like they have some kind of power over me, because I would not mind wearing this dress at all.
I would attend a fancy tea in this dress and catch the eye of a certain Lord HeroMaterial. My slippers would probably be some shade of gold.
Or this one:
Look, it even has a little swooshy train and the embroidery, gosh. It that not divine? I would have to wear some underwear, but a yellow underskirt thingee would look pretty darn nice.
I would wear this gown to an exhibition, where Lord HeroMaterial would approach me with my cousin Eustace. We would be introduced.
There’s a lovely red dress for sale at this site. Red Silk Faile 1800-1810. The detailed photos will have you swooning. And more.
I would wear that red dress to go driving with Lord HeroMaterial. He would lose his head, just a little, on account of how adorable I looked, and I would have to give him a very stern look.
Where would you wear these clothes? And what might happen to you?
As I’m blogging today over at the Wet Noodle Posse on shoe and footcare for the RWA National Conference, I thought I’d talk about Regency shoes and provide you with some sites for your viewing pleasure and time-wasting.
Here’s a nice timeline from the University of Texas showing the progression of shoe design from the eighteenth to the nineteenth century, with the change in shape, from high-heels to flats, and in fabrics, embroidered silks to leather. The gorgeous high heels above are from the early 1700s, embroidered silk with a wood heel covered in red moroccan leather (yum). I rather fancy this nice pair of pink and black kidskin slippers from the 1790s that still have a cute little heel. You can get a closer look at these shoes and study the change from heels to flats at allaboutshoes.com.
Here are the Empress Josephine’s slippers from her 1804 Coronation. Totally flat, oh the pain, the lack of support. I hope she didn’t have to spend too much time on her feet. These are made of silk taffeta.
These shoes look old-fashioned but they are the ultimate f*** me shoes of 1800 that belonged to one Rose Marshall, wife of the upstanding Thomas Hay Marshall of Perth, who was responsible for much of the Georgian development of the city. Rose went off to have a wild affair with the Earl of Elgin (yes, he of the marbles) and was divorced in 1803. According to Captain Thomas Watson Greig, an, uh, amateur shoe enthusiast and author of both “Ladies Old-Fashioned Shoes” (1885) and “Ladies Dress Shoes of the Nineteenth Century”: Let us hope this actual pair of shoes did not carry their fair owner away to a chimerical happiness from the path of duty which appeared prosaic in the face of flattery and attention from one whose position far exceeded that of the burgher’s wife.
Some good sources for pix of shoes: The Kyoto Institute, which has this pair of shoes in the collection from the 1830s with braids of straw and horsehair, silk trimming and cockade, and lined with silk taffeta, the Bata Shoe Museum of Canada, and Shoe-Icons.
If you fancy a pair of shoes yourself, check out Burnley and Trowbridge, located near Williamsburg, VA. I rather like the look of these elegant, sturdy eighteenth-century shoes; maybe if Mrs. Marshall had worn this sort of red shoe she wouldn’t have dallied with the Earl. The site is a delight, with information on workshops, patterns, and materials–hand dyed silk ribbons, anyone?
Share your favorite shoes with us? (Amanda, remember other people may want a turn!)