It was super exciting to be able to attend Gatsby On The Isles again last year! There haven’t been many multi-day historical adventures of late, so that made this one extra needed and appreciated!
I’ve loved wearing my 1930s Beach Pajamas to this event over multiple years. They are super comfy and don’t show wrinkles (great for long car and boat rides!). I opted for them again this year but wanted to change them up to create a new outfit. After a look through my closet I decided to try wearing my 1922 silk blouse tucked into the pants for a new take on these old favorites.
I added a decorative head scarf for a bit of a jaunty flair and finished off the bottom of the outfit with my American Duchess Ginger shoes. The scarf is one I’ve had for over 20 years. I used to wear it in the belt loops of my jeans as a decorative belt, I think… I haven’t used it for anything in probably 10 years or so, but I held on to it, thinking that the dusty pink color and gold sheen would be useful for something someday… and it was! I like how it blends the bold color of the pants with the bright white of the blouse.
I might have been slightly distracted from drinking my tea at the clifftop gazebo by the opportunity to take photos (or be in them)… Some with a stereoscope!
Croquet the following morning was also well documented.
The weekend included other opportunities for fun photos, as well. The evening dance had a masquerade theme, for which I turned my 1926 Silver Robe De Style into a star-themed fancy dress outfit. There’s a whole post about the fancy dress inspiration that you can read here.
We also ‘played’ tennis! Or at least, we batted a ball around a bit.
I had no trouble running around in my heels. It was quite fun, actually! I felt very sporty in my Gingers and new 1928 dress!
In addition to playing tennis, we also wandered around the rocky back side of the island in pursuit of stunning photo settings.
We achieved great photos, some alone and some in groups. These are just a few of them… There are are so many fun ones that I’m going to do another post just to share rocky background photos!
My shoes had no trouble on the rocks! I did tread carefully, for safety and so I didn’t bang up my shoes unnecessarily, but I enjoyed proving to myself (as I have before) that one can clamber even in fabulous historical shoes.
It was so nice to have a getaway! And see people! And wear historical clothing!
The theme recommendation for the evening soiree at Gatsby On The Isles earlier this year was a masquerade. I took that to heart and decided to adapt an existing dress in my closet to make it fancy dress. (It turns out that the majority of people who attended didn’t adhere to the guidelines, so I was a bit out of place, but I enjoyed my fancy dress regardless!)
My requirements for this outfit were: to use a dress as a base that was already in my closet, to not cost much, to not take much time, and to have the elements of fancy dress be easily reversible.
I looked through my 20th Century Fancy Dress Pinterest board and settled on the image below as my inspiration. (Unfortunately, I can’t find a source for the image that isn’t Pinterest. If anyone has information, please share.)
I thought the idea of stars would work well with my 1926 Silver Lace Robe de Style. I briefly considered creating the stars myself and then I remembered that I didn’t want this too take too much time and I started researching purchasable stars. I wanted something nice looking but not costly, remember, and I also wanted to stay away from glitter–the shedding! Ugh! While considering various metallic and cardboard style stars I realized that: 1- those may not travel well (I didn’t want bent stars!) and 2- they probably wouldn’t be comfortable to wear. So I started researching felt stars!
I decided on these felt stars. They were a good size, I liked the color, and they weren’t supposed to be too stiff. Not being stiff would be more comfortable to wear and also easier to sew through! I’d considered making garlands of the stars but I figured they would get tangled, so instead I opted to sew the stars directly onto the lace.
I started by placing the stars in a line diagonally across the top of the dress. The goal was to capture the feeling of my inspiration but didn’t feel the need to add as many stars as the drawing has, so I stopped with the one line. I liked the stars hanging from the hem, so I did those next–one star per each dip in the pattern of the lace.
After that I didn’t have many stars left! I used a scrap of metallic knit fabric to make a veil and put a star on each corner. The veil is a square, with one corner turned under, gathered, and stitched to a hair comb.
I also used some black felt scraps to cut a few stars by hand to accent the star at the waist. I thought this might tie in the metallic knit veil and also draw attention to the grey stars on the grey dress!
I added some sparkly shoe clips, pearl bracelets, and sparkly stars for my hair (reused from my 1885 Night Sky Fancy Dress) and the outfit was complete! It pays off to reuse themes for fancy dress, I guess!
It has been a goal to make a specifically fancy dress outfit for years, but particularly since I made a makeshift 1860s flower basket fancy dress outfit in 2015. This May I had the perfect opportunity in the form of a fancy dress ball!
I decided to make an 1880s bustle dress because I already had all the undergarments, including my still-new-feeling 1880s steam molded corset, and because it’s a period of dress that I rarely wear, especially for dancing. I wanted to experiment with dancing in a bustle to see how it worked and what it felt like.
I started my outfit in January and worked on it over the next four months or so, but despite all that preparation time I was still working on it right up until the day before the event. Luckily, I did the vast majority of the work of cutting, sewing, and fitting before March and April when I became super busy. Tasks left at that point included finishing the bodice edges, trimming, and closures.
In addition to the Mrs. Vanderbilt’s inspiration I also looked at other 1880s skirts for draping ideas and other 1880s fancy dress outfits for trimming ideas. You can see the most inspiring images and extant garments on my Pinterest board for this project here.
For ease of documentation, I’ll do the facts as with the HSF:
Fabric: 2-3 yards of navy blue cotton twill for underskirt, 6ish yards of navy blue polyester charmeuse, 1ish yard of pink cotton twill for flat lining, and 1-2yds of silver net.
Notions: A 3yd tinsel garland, 6 star brooches, 3yds of navy polyester ribbon for lacing, hook and bar closures for the skirt, and thread.
How historically accurate is it?: 90%. Recognizable in it’s own time, certainly. Reasonable construction, certainly. Materials, not so much. It was much more important to use what was on hand than to purchase new fabrics, especially since this is an outfit that I don’t see getting a lot of use.
Hours to complete: Tons. I didn’t keep track. Bustles are fussy and require lots of time with a dress form to achieve an elegant drape.
First worn: May 21.
Total cost: Most of the fabrics were in the stash with the exception of the silver net and most of the notions were purchased cheaply on eBay. Let’s say $20.
For the photos I wore the dress with my black Seaburys and the new rhinestone shoe clips that I purchased in March. It was quite sparkly and elegant, but for dancing I changed into navy blue velvet flats. They were just as cute but did not get the special treatment of being shown off in photos.
I had the grand idea to use my curly hair ends flipped up on top of my head like the curled fringe popular in the 1880s. It’s also long enough that I was able to make the bun shape on the back also using only my natural hair. I pinned in star brooches to match those on my dress as decoration.
All in all I’m quite happy with the final result! Dancing in the bustle was just as easy as any other Victorian style. The differences were that all the extra fabric was behind me making some movements more challenging due to space such as during a quadrille, and that the bustle and layers of fabric on the back gathered a fair bit of momentum when turning, creating quite a swish!
Construction wise the only change I would like to make after one wearing is to bone the center back edges so that the back lies flat when laced onto my body and to sew in a matching fabric piece behind the lacing holes to hide any white from undergarments that wants to peak out. I’ll also need to wear a different chemise or tuck the top down so there’s not white cotton poking out at the armholes. However, these are minor changes and I’m not sure when I’ll have the opportunity to wear this again so it might be awhile before they happen.
For this ball we set up a double sided picture backdrop, one side of which you’ve already seen. The other side included a large stuffed jaguar/panther I dubbed Jaggy for the night. You often see backdrops in regular Victorian photos as well as fancy dress photos. Unfortunately, with my heels on I was too tall for them! Oops! Being too tall inspired me to take some fun sitting photos.
For decoration out of the ordinary, we had the lucky and unexpected use of the fabulous blue and turquoise lanterns in many of the pictures as well as multicolored paper lanterns with lights inside. We put the lanterns around the room in glass vases as bouquets. First, a picture from the set up part of the evening. Second, a picture with some lanterns creeping into the photo.
A few weekends ago now, I went to an event at The Down Town Association in New York. It was an event out of my usual ordinary line of events and so I took the opportunity to create something out of the ordinary to wear. The title of the post rather gives it away… but I only had a week to put my outfit together!
Using this image as my inspiration, I determined that I needed to make a flower basket, but that I could use Annabelle as the base for the floral dress. I also wanted to use only items from my stash, thus limiting my options a little bit. So I spent my weeknights creating a fabric basket that fit over my hoops and then furiously pinned flowers to my skirt the day we were leaving for New York in the hopes that they would look good and at least a little like my inspiration image…
In the end, I enjoyed my flower basket very much, but didn’t like the fact that my furious pinning job didn’t really achieve the cascading flower look I was going for and that Annabelle’s pre-existing flowers were rather heavier looking than I had hoped, also contributing to the lack of cascading flower look. Maybe someday I’ll try again with the same basket and a different, or differently modified dress, but it was fun to do something different even if the results were not as great as I hoped for.
As I mentioned, this event was held at The Down Town Association in New York, which was established in 1860 (perfect for my fancy dress!). As far as I can tell the association is still housed in the same building they’ve been in since 1860. It was quite lovely inside, with detailed architecture and beautiful rooms. One room was a library full of a rather random collection of books. I enjoy perusing books and so proceeded to examine the titles closely. And guess what I found? A volume of Burke’s Peerage and Baronetage from 1912!
This excited me quite a bit, not only because it was from 1912, but I think also because it reminded me of Persuasion, in which Mr. Elliot is described as putting Burke’s Peerage in a position of honor in his estimation of important things in the world. Regardless, I got distracted and insisted that I needed to take pictures and look through.
Burke’s Peerage certainly is an undertaking, and this volume only covered the alphabet through letter L! Unfortunately, I didn’t spot a second volume in the library, but I hope it’s there somewhere.