• Regency,  Research

    Accessory Vices

    A few days ago I went into DSW to the clearance section looking to see if I could replace some everyday sandals that have gotten a bit ratty this summer. I didn’t find my sandals, but I came out with these. They begged me to take them home with me; they fit, they’re my favorite color and they’re sparkly. Just right for running around Price Chopper!
    I don’t know if I would have had a shoe thing during the Regency. Ladies’ shoes tended to be simple, kind of like ballet flats we might wear now. Here is an example from the Northampton Central Museum, found on the footwear page at Jessamyn’s Regency Costume Companion (one of my favorite online resources on Regency costume). These shoes are circa 1810 and leather, so not quite as delicate as they might look. Styles became plainer (and more round-toed) as the era progressed. Although flats are cute, there is just not enough variety for me to want to collect them.
    I suspect that hats were the accessory vice of choice for many Regency ladies. However, many styles of hat that I like on other people don’t look good on me. So I rarely wear hats, but when I do, I have a simple crocheted wool hat for winter and a straw cloche for summer. I wouldn’t be able to pull off any of these elaborate styles from 1811. I’d end up wearing something small and simple. Cute, but one or two would be enough.
    So my vice of choice would probably be jewelry. I probably have even more pairs of earrings than shoes, though that isn’t as expensive as it  sounds. I like costume jewelry best; it’s often as pretty as the “real” stuff and I don’t have to fret about losing it.
    During the Regency, I think I would be happy with paste and pinchbeck. Paste was the term for a type of glass that was cut to resemble gemstones. It takes a better eye than mine to distinguish the stones in these earrings from diamonds.
    Pinchbeck was an alloy of base metals that looks enough like gold to please me. I’ve long admired this set of earrings from www.georgianjewelry.com, one of my favorite places to window shop for my heroines.
    Do you have any accessory vices? If you were a Regency heroine, how would you spend your pin-money?
    Elena
  • Uncategorized

    Dancing and fine feathers

    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?

  • Uncategorized

    A Few of My Favorite Regency Things

    This place has lovely things to look at.

    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?

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