It was a first for the Bluestockings: the invitations were issued by our friends we met at Jondaryan Heritage Festival. Preparations were a bit of a scramble as we had only two weeks to find or construct our costumes, and I confess to being concerned to present in front of folk who have hosted period balls for years.
Have I mentioned before that I can’t sew? Costume stores, apart from the prohibitive cost of hiring multiple outfits, were out because of the timing of our holidays and the public holidays. So it was off to the op shops.
Miss 12 found this dress (I’m thinking 70′s Bridesmaid?) and it was love at first sight. So with thoughts of pinning the waist higher, and cutting the sleeves short and puffy to suit the Regency period, we took it home.
The Broderie Anglaise sleeves, however, formed a large part of what Miss 12 had fallen in love with. Not even the thought of missing out on wearing opera length gloves would move her. Or more to the point, in my mind, the thought of wearing long, synthetic sleeves mid summer! There was a lot of dress pinning, a brooch to aid the staying power of the pinning, a night with her hair in rags, and a pair of satin ballet slippers to finish the costume.
The Chicklette came across this fluffy pink wonder, and I knew God loved me. (You would have to understand how much the task of sewing can daunt me, to know what a deliverance it was to find a suitable dress.) With the addition of long trailing ribbons, a brooch, gloves, fan, reticule and an upstyle, she was deliciously “Pride and Prejudice”. (Puff sleeves would have been perfect. But I remind you, Bloggy friends – just two weeks to prepare, and I can’t sew for peanuts.)
Mr BB was prepared, under sufferance, to show up at the event, but not to be involved in procuring his costume. I purchased a top hat and gloves on ebay; black pants and jacket from the op shop; and Mr BB’s own black shoes and white shirt sufficed. My mother donated a pair of white support stockings, which on being presented almost sent Mr BB into an apoplectic fit, but I’m sure you’ll agree they looked lovely.
Mr BB’s jacket had to be turned into tails. I procrastinated for as long as possible (under the guise of waiting for inspiration, but really just hoping the job would do itself) and finally tackled it with the kind of recklessness that is born of being forced to sew under pressure. Or sew at all. (Have I mentioned.. I don’t? )
The pants had to be cut short to just below the knees, and I used the removed pieces to attach to the back of the jacket to make tails. I cut a curve along the front of the jacket to shorten it to waist length and added satin ribbon to cover the raw edges. The bottom of the pants had the same black satin ribbon to draw them to the leg.
The result? The lighting at the Ball was soft and forgiving. That’s all that matters
Along with our gloves and fans, we each carried our own designed and hand-sewn silk reticule. When Grandma (whose house we left from) felt the weight of the Chicklette’s, she exclaimed at what she could be carrying that was so heavy.
It did contain the necessary : a fine linen handkerchief, a lip gloss, a purse-size perfume, and… a pocket knife. Yes, a pocket knife. Grandma was shocked; Mr BB laughed and announced that only the Chicklette would go to a ball “packing”; but the Chicklette was unruffled. A girl needs to be … um.. prepared. That’s it. Prepared. I consoled Grandma with the thought that at least it didn’t contain the torch and compass that normally come with the knife.
It was impossible to find a free pattern for reticules on the ‘net, and the Chicklette assures me (even though slack-at- blogging runs in the family!) that she will be posting our patterns, with a tutorial, for the beneficence of womankind. Stay tuned for that one.
Our hosts had transformed a church hall into a wonderland of candles and flowers. Wrought iron sconces lined the walls, with flowers wreathed about the candles. Matching chandeliers hung from the centre of the room.
Friends, it’s not something I would have thought to do, but the evening was very enjoyable. Our hosts, who are old hands at period balls, started the practice many years ago as an amusement for their young people. Did I mention they are homeschoolers? Of course there is a wealth of research required in preparation, and many skills to experiment with to bring the event to pass.
So, if you are looking for an idea to enhance your history program this might just be the ticket!