Friday, March 23, 2012

Welcoming Home the Civil War Heroes

The second period dance event we attended was an 1860's era ball held at the Town Hall in Holliston, Massachusetts.  Like the Salem Town Hall, the building features a large open space suitable for a ball or other social function and the period architecture added so much to the ambiance for the evening.  

Like the Regency Ball we attended last month, it was sponsored by the Commonwealth Vintage Dancers, which offers dance workshops for the dances of each period.

The style of the gown worn at an 1860's era ball is much more involved and elaborate.  A full hoop skirt is worn and the circumference of the hem of my dress was just over 200 inches.  In looking at fabrics, I again hit a stumbling block. The pattern I was working from called for nearly 8 yards of fabric, plus lining, lace, and ribbon. I found the perfect fabric hanging in my favorite curtain shop, Curtains 'n More, in Amesbury, Massachusetts.

Three ribbon embroidered shower curtain panels gave me the width for the skirt, decorative floral stripes, and plenty of fabric to complete the bodice.  The extra valances were used to embellish with fabric sashes over each shoulder.

To be able to get the fullness in the skirt without bunching fifteen feet of fabric, the skirt was extensively pleated at the waist.

The bodice and skirt are made separately and are not attached.  I plan to attach them in the future as the skirt tends to slide down, making dancing in the cumbersome hoop skirt quite a challenge.

In addition to getting the pleats even, I had to calculate placement of the floral motifs.
I calculated and marked the pleats and then tacked them by hand. Then I sewed around the top to hold them in place so I could attach the waistband.  The purple marks are disappearing seamstress marking pen. And yes, they did disappear, although it took closer to two days than the 24 hours promised on the package.
I used two valance sections to make the sashes that crossed over the bodice.  Using shower curtains instead of regular curtain panels gave me three extra decorative panels with finished edges. It made crafting the gown a breeze.
The finished waist. The waistband was cut from a decorative valance.

A scene from the 1860's era "Returning Heroes Ball".

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Our First Regency Ball

My husband and I have long enjoyed ballroom dancing. For the past several years, medical issues have kept me off the dance floor but recent improvements have allowed me the luxury of being able to take a turn around the parquets a time or two, as long as I pace myself and avoid too many rapid turns.

I recently wrote my very first Regency era novel and while researching dance history for a scene in the book, I came across a wonderful group of vintage dancers who provided not only a wealth of information and first hand experience, but also a new hobby that we are able to enjoy as a couple.

The Commonwealth Vintage Dancers have been dancing the dances of the Civil War, la Belle Epoque, and the Ragtime Eras for nearly 30 years.  They sponsor workshops in dance technique and costuming and hold public events where you can join them to dance back in time

After a crash course  - offered by the Vintage Dance Lyceum - in Regency dance, we attended the 1812 Ball hosted by the Commonwealth Vintage Dancers.

The women's Regency silhouette features an empire waist.  The undergarments - a corset, chemise, and pantaloons - shape the body to fit the style of the period.

In creating the design for my gown, I wanted to stay as historically accurate as possible, which meant no zippers, no elastic, and all seams hand felled.  It was quite the sewing adventure.

I couldn't find a fabric that suited me and I found myself describing what I was looking for and comparing it to the embroidered sheers that had been our bedroom curtains.  Could I?   Should I?   I did!   I utilized the scalloped edge for the hem of both the gown and the sleeve ruffles.

When I wear this gown again for a future Regency event, I will remake the sash and arm bows with a stiffer fabric. Otherwise, it was pleased with the end result. 

The gown was accessorized with a hand-painted Limoges brooch, Battenburg lace fan, and satin elbow length gloves embellished with bows.

My husband, Stephen, is wearing black tails over a Marcus Regency shirt with lace edged jabot and cuffs. The cane and felt madhatter hat, also from Gentlemen's Emporium, and white gloves finish the ensemble.

The 1812 Ball was held at the Old Town Hall in Salem, Massachusetts, and we danced to music by the Vintage musical ensemble "Spare Parts" in the beautifully appointed vintage setting..