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.

January 9, 2014

ANOTHER Regency Hairstyle! This time with how-to!

This is my January entry to Trystan's Accessories Challenge!  Yay!  I'm now 2 for 4 months, but given that next month is jewelry, I think I'm safe for that one, too :)

NOTE:  I wasn't originally going to post this tutorial, because the pictures didn't turn out as well as I hoped and I kinda dropped the ball on the last part of it, but all of my clamoring fans (and by all I mean 3) begged, so here you go!

A few months ago I ran across this gorgeous image:

Miss Mary Tadman by John Smart, 1809.  The Fitzwilliam Museum. 

She really struck me.  Not only is she lovely, but her hair is beautiful and unusual.  I love the braid that goes across the top of her forehead and I was really charmed by the tiny curls that accent the style. 

I decided that I wanted to try to do this hairstyle at my next fancy Regency event, so our recent 12th Night party was the perfect opportunity.  

Mostly Successful Regency Hair

 I’m not 100% happy with the results and it is more inspired-by than copied, but I do have some good tricks.  I took pictures of parts of it, so I thought I’d share with you on how I did it.
I should give some caveats

  1.  I’m not great with hair.  I wear my hair in a ponytail or a bun 95% of the time.  I’ve owned the same set of hot rollers since 2001 and they are rarely used.  I have only the most basic knowledge of hairstyling, so please don’t think that I am some kind of expert!  I know my hair usually looks pretty good in period stuff, but that is because of…
  2. I have a ton of hair.  It is long and thick and ridiculous.  This is pretty frustrating in everyday life, but GREAT for reenacting.   Here’s a picture of me with my hair freshly styled from the salon:
And my hair will never, ever look this good again. Ever.
So yeah.  A lot.  I can’t really give any tips for those of you who don’t have mops on your head, but there are a few places where I know that hair rats, falls, and various other fluffy things will help greatly!

This hairstyle started out the night before when I showered and then let my hair air dry.  I didn’t use a blowdryer or a flat iron.  I did this because I have a lot of natural wavy texture to my hair, and I wanted volume.  It makes a HUGE difference in volume if my hair is flatironed or not.  If you have naturally straight hair, you may want to put it in braids and let it dry.  This will give you some extra oophm, which is really important for the big bun.

Textured hair
The next morning, I put 4 tiny rollers in my hair.  I dampened my hair before I put the curlers in.  I rolled the sides of my bangs and 1 very small long piece on each side (maybe 1/8” of hair?).  The key here is not to roll all the way up to the scalp.  You can see from the image that her curls are low, so I stopped around the level of my eyebrows.  If I had smaller curlers than these, I would have used them.  As it is, even these tiny ones are a bit too big.  I left these in all day- taking them out was almost the last thing I did.

When it came down to the actual business of doing the hairstyle, I started out by making the braid that would go across my forehead.  I started mine at below my ear near the base of my skull, but if you have shorter hair, you could start it just behind your ear.  Remember you will lose some length with the braid, so make sure it is long enough!   You aren’t doing anything with this braid just yet, so just let it chill out on the side of your head.

Next, I made a high bun on the back of my head with the top 1/3 of my hair.  This was put into a loose bun as the sole purpose is to give fullness to the rest of the pouf.  If you don’t have a lot of hair, this is a great place to put in a hair rat or a clip-in bun. 

Once I had my foundation bun, I began building the rest of it.  Taking 1-inch sections of hair, I pinned them to the base of the bun, then twisted what was left into ropes.  I wrapped the ropes around the base bun, then let them unwind a bit before pinning them down.  I know that is a little hard to explain, and I’m sorry I don’t have a picture showing the twisting/pinning!  The reason for doing this is that the untwisting allows the pieces to have awesome volume, so they look much bigger than they are!   Do this with the rest of your hair until you only have one ½ inch piece left.  I left one at the back of my head.
You can see the twists beginning here

And you can see here how they wrap around the foundation bun.  I wish I made them a little tighter!  You can also see the hilarious faux aigrette I have from my bangs!  I was intending to curl these, but I eventually just pinned the sticky-upy parts down.
The leftover 1/2 inch piece
You’ll want to split this into two separate pieces so you have two little wisps of hair.  Pin those wisps into the base of your bun, then curl the pieces that hang out with a very small curling iron.  Pin these curls into the bun so they add some nice, curling focal points.  Unfortunately you can’t really see these in my pictures, but I promise they were there!

Finally, it is time to deal with that braid.  Pull it across, low on the forehead, and put in a few pins along the way.  Once I had mine pinned in, I took the elastic band out of the end and just pinned down the tail (and used a ton of hairspray).  I didn’t want the modern elastic showing!

Now it is time to take out your curlers!  Hopefully they will be tight little pert things, so make sure you spray the dickens out of them right when you take them out of the curlers.  You can pin these up and back as you so desire, making sure they frame your face.  Our inspiration girl has asymmetrical curls, but you see plenty of examples where they match on either side, so it can be whatever you prefer.  

Now, just empty out a can of hairspray on your head and you are good to go!

Thanks go Gloria ( for this photo!  This is at the end of the night, so you can see how the curls started to loosen up.
 When it was time to go to bed, I was really drunk tired, so I didn’t want to deal with taking it down.  I pinned my curls up onto my forehead, wrapped a giant handkerchief around my head, and slept like a baby.  When I woke up the next morning, I was astonished that it still looked pretty good!  I had to fiddle with the curls a bit since they had loosened up and were wonkified, but it was awesome that I didn’t have to worry about my hair for our breakfast!

So there you go!  I hope this is helpful- I wish I was better at describing how I did things and paid more attention when I was taking the pictures.  Do you have any Regency hair tutorials?  Please link to them in the comments- I'd love to see!

January 5, 2014

My first costume of 2014

I was supposed to finish 2013 with an Regency Christmas party, but thanks to crazy winter weather it became my first event of 2014 and a Regency 12th Night Party!

A large group of us went to Alice's incredible 1820s home to celebrate the holiday, and I can't say enough about this amazing house!  Fireplaces, wonderful furniture, bottomless punch bowls, incredible food, and enough candles and candlesticks that we were able to spend the entire evening in firelight only!  And every time I am around my friends I am astonished at how talented and beautiful they are.  The costumes were just spectacular!

I pulled something out of the UFO pile and finished it up (on the way to the event, naturally!).  It turned out to be a 1790s-ish open robe out of blue and gold striped taffeta that I purchased wayyyy to much of many years ago.  This is my 2nd gown out of this fabric, but I do love it very much!

I made it all up, and it isn't based on anything in particular, but there were a few images floating around in my head: 

1790s Silk Open Robe, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

I'm annoyed that I can't find the source for this- I'm down a dead Pinterest link rabbit hole and even my reverse-image-search google-fu isn't helping!  All I seem to know about this one is that it is a 1795 open robe.  Anyone know where it is from?  EDIT!  Thank you to Sabine ( for giving me the source for this.  It is part of the personal collection of Hyancinthodes non-scripta who posted it on her Pinterest page (  Thank you for sharing!

And a few trusty fashion plates, per usual:

Journal de Luxus und der Moden, 1797

1794, Ann Frankland Lewis (LACMA)

 And two from Gallery of Fashion, 1794 and 1795, respectively:

(The red one on the left)

And here is what I managed with mine:

It still needs some work!  I'd like to make the front more decorative- perhaps a false buttoning front?  And maybe a row of tiny ruffles along the neckline like the extant pink gown? 

All in all, I'm pretty darn happy with something I threw together at the last minute!  It definitely has the longest train of anything I've ever done, which miraculously was only stepped on three time!  And given the amount of punch, champagne, and sherry we consumed, miracle is the correct word to use!