January 20, 2019

An 18th Century Ballet Costume



When I started musing about costumes I wanted to take to Carnivale in Venice, I immediately knew an 18th Century ballet costume was going onto my list.  I'd always love the frothy, impractical silliness of these costumes but had never had a good excuse to make one.  But it seemed perfect for Venice!

There's a large series of ballet costumes painted by Jean-Frederic Schall in the 18th Century, and while they are obviously stylized (um...look at those waists!) they provided my main inspiration for my dress







Starting out I only had two specific ideas: I wanted it to lace up the front (so much easier for getting in and out of!) and I wanted to use up stash fabric.

Because each element is an individual piece, this was a great project for using up scraps and small yardage, including trim!

Here are the pieces of this outfit:
Underskirt of striped silk taffeta
Overskirt of pink taffeta
Bodice of yellow taffeta
Separate puffed sleeves of cotton organza

The real trick to this outfit is the volume of the skirts.  The foundations of this outfit are my pocket hoops that I wear with my francaise gown AND my largest but roll, which I typically wear with my 1780s gowns.  This gives full volume all the way around.  A thick quilted underpetticoat is put over the supports to smooth the lines between the two supports and fill in the gaps.

Pockets Hoops
Paired with my largest false rump!
 And then I have a quilted cloth underpetticoat that goes over all of it.  This fabric came from Renaissance Fabrics and they currently have an ivory in stock.  This stuff is AWESOME for making underpetticoats!  https://www.renaissancefabrics.net/product/white-cotton-matelasse/


Once the underpetticoat is over it, everything is nice and smooth and you can't see the differences between the hoops and the rump.

Next comes the petticoat of gold and yellow striped silk, which is just a simple shortened petticoat.  It closes only at the back with one tie and I concentrated the volume at the sides and back.

Over that goes the pink petticoat.  This one was made a bit shorter that the striped one, then I pulled up four puffs (two in the front and two in the back) and tacked on a ribbon bow.  The pink petticoat closes in the FRONT only.  I just have it safety pinned so that no ties hang out of the front of the bodice.



Over that goes the bodice of the outfit.  I just used my basic 18th Century bodice pattern that I use for most of my gowns, but made it sleeveless, cut the waist a bit higher than normal (to allow for maximum puff from the skirts!) and closed the front with eyelets instead of pins. The center back seam is boned with a piece of synthetic whalebone.

The sleeves are simply a MUCH wider version of my regular 18th Century sleeve with two gathering channels sewn in and it drawn up to fit my arms.  The sleeve was then attached to a cotton tape and tacked down into the armseye of the bodice. 







This is worn with my American Duchess shoes: https://www.american-duchess.com/shoes-18th-century/sophie-18th-century-mules-green
My hair features buckles and hair pads from JennylaFleur: https://www.etsy.com/shop/jennylafleur
And I'm wearing earrings from me, Dames a la Mode: https://www.damesalamode.com/products/blush-pink-crystal-and-pearl-dangles

Et voilà!

March 31, 2018

New Reproduction Historical Rings

I'm very excited to announce that I now have historically-inspired rings available for your reenacting and historical costuming purposes!  These rings are modeled after ones seen in 18th century portraits.  They are made with Quartz stones - a nice way to get the large size of the rings in the period without the cost of a large gemstone- and real Pearls.  They are all made with Vermeil, which is a fancy term for Gold-plated Sterling silver for those of us with metal allergies.

My new rings are available on my Dames a la Mode website.



Here are a few of the portraits that I used as inspiration:

Portrait of a Lady, 1760, The Bowes Museum
She's wearing what looks like a large oval pink or red stone.

 The  Comtesse de Ceres by Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun ,1784
The Comtesse is wearing a large square-shaped blue stone

Doña María de la Luz by Miguel Cabrera, 1760.  The Brooklyn Mueum.
She's wearing several rings, including two large single stones - one on each hand!

And don't worry, Gentlemen!  There is also some evidence that you can wear these large rings, too!

Detail of L'Ecriture by Jean-Etienne Liotard, 1752.
Would you like to see more examples?  Here's a link to my Pinterest page of rings in Georgian art - and you'll also seem some examples from other time periods, too!  https://www.pinterest.com/damesalamode/georgian-jewelry/georgian-rings-in-art/

Shop all of my available rings on my website: https://www.damesalamode.com/collections/all/ring

December 28, 2016

It's time for Georgian January!

I'm delighted to announce the 2nd Annual Georgian January Instagram Challenge!  I hosted this Instagram challenge for the first time last year and was blown away by how much fun it was.  I've been looking forward to doing it again all year! Want to join in? It's so easy!  

-First, make sure you have an Instagram account (sign up here if you don't have one: https://www.instagram.com/) and follow me @Dames_a_la_mode (https://www.instagram.com/dames_a_la_mode/).  If you don't have Instagram, feel free to join in on whatever platform you have- your blog, facebook, pinterest!  The whole point is to discover the beauty of the Georgian Era, so don't let the lack of Instagram dissuade you, just keep in mind that you may miss out on some of the social aspects of the challenge. 

-Second, each day check the theme and post an image related to that theme.  The only rules are that it has to be constrained within the very broad confines of the Georgian Era, 1714-1830.  I know that the Georgian Era technically describes a part of British history, but I'm not playing by those rules.  Any place goes...the time frame is the important part. It  can be literally anything that is in any way related to the Georgian Era.  Last year we had art, clothes, cartoons, jewelry (of course!), reenactors, historical seamstresses, keepsakes, buildings, places, animals, and people!  Go crazy!

-Third, make sure to use the hashtag #GeorgianJanuary in your posts and tag me so I can see what you're posting.  And then explore the hashtag.  I can 100% guarantee you that you will see beautiful and inspiring things that you have never seen before and find new like-minded Georgian lovers to follow on Instagram.  

We're in for a wild ride this time, because last year when I did this I think I had in the neighborhood of 1,000 followers and right now I'm up over 15,000, so hopefully that means we will have A LOT more people joining in on our Georgian adventure!

And now the important part...the themes:




So start thinking about your images now and get inspired!  I can't wait to see you all on January 1st!

December 3, 2016

Historical Christmas Wishlist!

Do you have a history-lover or reenactor in your life and you're stumped about what to get them?  Are you drawing a blank on what to add to your own wishlist?  Here are some of my favorite ideas for historically-themed holiday gifts this year!

$30 and Under:


Historical apothecary from LBCC Historical:  I adore the historically inspired cosmetics and apothecary goods from LBCC!  I personally use a lot of them in my costuming AND everyday life.  A favorite in our house is the "Fine Salve for Beautifying the Face" which does everything from moisturizing my lips to keeping Mr. Dames a la Mode's hands from getting chapped due to winter bike riding!

Jane Austen Teas from Bingley's Teas:  These delightful teas are on regular rotation in my teapot.  My personal favorites are Longbourne Wedding Tea and Lizzy Bennet's Wit, but each one I've tried is delicious!

Antique Ribbons from Bulldog and Baum:  There is SUCH promise in a length of ribbon.  It inspires my creativity and makes me itch to make something beautiful.  Bulldog and Baum has some of the loveliest ribbon you'll find anywhere!

Patterns and Guides from The Old Petticoat Shop:  I've taken several of Jennifer's online classes and they are so helpful.  This Corded Petticoat Workbook looks like it would be so helpful!

Reproduction Regency Pearl Earrings from Dames a la Mode: I based these earrings off of several 19th Century portraits, but they are truly timeless!

$30 and Up:



Replica Jane Austen Cross from Dames a la Mode:  My custom-made crosses are as close as you can get to Jane's in size, shape, and color!  A must-have for any Jane Austen lover.

Reproduction Muffs from The Lady Detalle:  Her stock changes frequently, but she's just added a lot of gorgeous portrait muffs that are delightful!  The Duchess of Devonshire one is my favorite!

Silk Fabric from Burnley and Trowbridge:  Angela has outdone herself with her latest find of beautiful silk plaids!  And the price is amazing too at only $15/yard!

Handsewn Cap from Flying Heart Millinery:  I own one of these beautifully-made caps and if you've ever cursed while making tiny rolled hems, you'll know that the price on these is excellent!

Silk Satin Cloak Kit from At The Sign of the Golden Scissors:  Everything you need to make up a beautiful 18th century cloak!

An Agreeable Tyrant Exhibition Catalog:  You've probably heard the buzz around this new Federal-era fashion exhibit at the DAR Museum in DC, but if you can't get there in person, this exhibit catalog is an excellent consolation prize!  Lots of images, great information, and even patterns!

$100 and Up:



Historical Corsets by Redthreaded:  I have a pair of her Regency Long Stays, which are my favorite undergarment I own.  And I'm really eyeing her new 1860s Gored Corset, too, which has a beautiful shape!

Historical shoes by American Duchess:  I won't even admit to the quantity of American Duchess shoes I own and will only say that they outnumber my everyday shoes by a considerable margin!  I'm lusting after her new Victorian side-lacing boots!

Reproduction Collet Necklace from Dames a la Mode:  Available in dozens of colors...take your pick!

Many wonderful things to choose from!  What's on your list this year?

March 15, 2016

Gallerie des Modes Inspired 1784 Gown!

I made something and I LOVE IT.  That hasn't happened to me in ages and it is blissful!

This weekend was the 5th Annual Francaise Dinner which for the last two years has been held in Alexandria, VA, and the beautiful Gadsby's Tavern.  As you can tell by the name, the idea is to wear a Francaise gown, but it's also a good excuse to wear something frivolous and ridiculous.

 I've been sitting on 10 yards of silk taffeta for a while that was set aside for a very specific Francaise gown, but the reality is I HATE making them.  I think they are a pain and I really don't like the style all that much, so eventually I threw up my hands and said "I'm gonna make this instead"

Gallerie des Modes, 1784
I really adore this dress.  It is so impractical with the giant skirts and so weird with the narrow ribbon banding and the yellow sleeve blocks.  I happened to be conveniently hoarding a whole lot of purple silk taffeta, and while it wasn't the lovely lilac of this gown, it was a gorgeous plumb color.

This dress was supposed to be one of those easy ones, but with one of the worst cases of sleevils I've ever dealt with, it ended up like all the others:  the desperate panic of two-hours-before-the-event sewing.  A group of us got ready at a hotel in the hours before the party, so while I managed to have the gown itself done before I left my house, I walked into the hotel room with a spool of thread and a piece of yellow silk and proceeded to make it right there on the floor of the hotel room (I'm embarrassed to say I'm famous for doing crap like this...when will I ever learn?!).  BUT! Thanks to the lovely Carolyn, who hemmed the petticoat for me, I ended up with a totally wearable gown. There wasn't even a single safety pin in it anywhere, y'all!



Obviously the biggest feature of this gown is the giant puff of skirt and even though I cut them impractically long they STILL weren't long enough!  I upped the puff factor by using three widths of fabric in the skirts instead of the usual two.  It's wide fabric, too- 58"!   There is a hell of a lot of silk pleated into that waist!  But the result was perfect.  I'm only wearing a small bum pad and my marsailles cloth underpetticoat for bulk, but that is about 85% skirt you see there.  It was so light and fluffy!

There really isn't much rhyme or reason to the puffing- about an hour before I put it on I took 5 big tucks in the upper part of the skirt and tacked them down.  I didn't even measure or anything.  Having this much fabric was very forgiving!

Laced my stays too tightly, haha!  Nice to know I can breathe a little deeper next time I wear this!

It still need a little more work to be perfect- the petticoat needs a band of ribbon and I need to move the location of the sleeve bows so they face outward more- but overall I'm just thrilled with this gown.  It was so fun to wear and easy to move in, since I wasn't burdened by heavy or awkward skirt supports!


ALSO: Best hair I've ever managed by myself, hands down!  I was really excited by how good it turned out!  

December 4, 2014

An 18th-Century Photoshoot

I had the absolute pleasure to be a model in a recent photoshoot in Fredericksburg, Va with my dear friend Jenny-Rose of the fabulous Jenny la Fleur (who, incidentally, inspired me to get into costuming a hundred years ago!).  She just finished cosmetology school and is an WIZARD with historical hair styles.  (She's the one who did my 1790s hair last year).  She and her friend Treneka, of For the Joy Photography, were looking to collaborate on a photography session and they asked me to come along.  Always a sucker for having my hair done (and getting professional photos of my Georgian Jewelry), I agreed readily.

I arrived Saturday afternoon and was immediately given a glass of champagne and airbrushed makeup (the secret to looking pretty!).  We had such a fun time, and I thought I'd share some of Treneka's exquisite photos!

I wore my "oh this old thing" crossbarr'd silk gown (which is still my favorite after a lot of wears) and my beloved green shoes from American Duchess.

Photos: For the Joy Photography
Hair and Styling: Jenny la Fleur
Gown and Jewelry by me, Dames a la Mode











Can you even believe this amazing hair?


Here's a little background shot of Jenny-Rose fixing me up!

And, lest you think all of my pictures look this good, I can assure you that Treneka had to delete about a thousand where I am making faces like this one :)


What a fun and wonderful day!  Thank you for the laughter, ladies, and for making me feel like an absolute princess!

February 13, 2014

Millinery Flowers as Trim on Regency Ball Gowns

The Drunk Tailor and I decided on a whim (spurred by a wonderful Southwest sale) to head up to Massachusetts for the Dolley Madison Ball hosted by the Commonwealth Vintage Dancers.  I used to live in the Boston area but hadn't been back in over three years, so it was a wonderful opportunity to visit friends and play in Regency clothes in on fell swoop!

I had grand plans to make a net ball dress, but the silk organdy I was using was so infuriating that I couldn't bring myself to finish.  Instead, I re-purposed by well-worn Laure Bro white voile gown.  I decided to actually use some of the hundreds of paper millinery flowers I have taking up space in my house, and went to the fashion plates to gather some inspiration:

Journal des Dames et des Modes, 1813

Ackermann's Repository of the Arts, Ball Dress, October 1816

Journal des Dames et des Modes, Ball Dress, 1808.


Journal des Dames et des Modes, 1808

Journal des Dames et des Modes, Ball Dress, 1809

Journal des Dames et des Modes, Ball Dress, 1821.

La Belle Assemblee, Court Dress, 1819.

La Belle Assemblee, Ball Dress, June 1811.

The Lady's Magazine, Ball Dress, November 1825.

Journal des Dames et des Modes, Ball Dress, 1804.
They are all lovely gowns, but in particular I loved this last one and that was the one that gave me the most inspiration. Unfortunately I didn't bring enough flowers with me to do the arrangement of the flowers up the center front of the gown.  That was poor planning on my part, having just packed a bunch of flowers and leaves without really seeing how many I would need to do this arrangement.  I also used paper lilies instead of my roses, but overall I was very pleased with the effect!


These are the lilies and paper leaves I used, both of which are available in my Etsy shop

Each festoon was 1 cluster of five lilies, with three leaves on either side.  I used a few extras to accent the ribbon tie (inspired by Quinn's post on adding some variety to where we tie the ribbons on our Regency gowns!) and to stick in my hair.  We joked that I was the Regency Frieda Kahlo all night, but I think the overall look was pretty lovely, if I say so myself!  I feel like I capture the look of the fashion plates, and I think the flowers in the hair is what really put the look over the top!




As you can see, I accessorized with one of my Collet Necklaces, just like so many of the ladies in the fashion plates!

And a silly dancing fashion-plate pose, of course!
Action shot!
We had a really marvelous time.  The music was wonderful, I was really impressed with the quality of the costumes, the setting in a historic hall was perfect, and everyone was very friendly even though I messed up the steps in every single dance.  You know it has been a good time when they play the last dance and you think "What?!  Already?  But we just got here, didn't we?!"  I'm ready to go back again, and if you are in the New England area you should really make an effort to attend one these functions.