Bath Victorian Ball 2015 – and what a ball it was!


 Amazing memories from the evening – and not only evening, the whole weekend was  a whirl of activities, pretty frocks and splendid food, all in even more splendid company!

 We started on Saturday afternoon arriving in Bath a tad later than expected ( the traffic on the slip road was very bad and many of us were stuck there – in fact, so many that we were considering a picnic on the roadside….), but unpacked, changed and  walked over to the Crescent for  a few relaxing hours of picnicking…. The weather was perfect, food lovely, and  as a perk we got to witness the balloon take off…. and  of course we took photos….


lovely original napkins were used..

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I wore my reversible Ripple Jacket and Ripple skirt:-) perfect for the picnic!

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 The next day saw us making last minute preparations, strolling around the town and slowly getting ready,,,

 The workshop started at 3 –  and we  practiced our quadrilles, lancers and waltzes for good 90 minutes – the practice was fun, but also cane in handy at the ball –  you not only know the basics of the dances, but you recognize the people, so you are able to relax in a more familiar environment.  our Dance master, Stuart Marsden,  kindly provided Carnet de Ball tickets – beautifully made, and very practical – at the end of the practice people were   making arrangements which dances they were to dance with who – really cuts on the chaos on finding a partner in the evening!

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 We will be using them next year as well, an excellent idea!.

 After the practice there was time to go and have a cuppa and a rest ( and for us organizers to get the photographers, musicians etc set up and ready), and then time to change into the evening’s finery….


Steaming my frock. Alas, I didn’t manage to get a new gown sorted due to an avalanche of orders, so had to make do with my old on – more on its creation here

Then it was time! The doors opened at & and the  guests started to arrive, dazzling us with their lovely creations. Drinks, chatting and photos made for a relaxed atmosphere – and since almost all the ball participants had been at the practice, people relaxed and chatted with their old and new dance partners. Traditionally, we started with a polonaise… It was a bit crowded, once all the people filled the  Grand Ballroom, but  Stuart managed to direct the dance nicely ! 150524-iz-001 150524-iz-003   And from then on, it was all dancing….. Spanish waltz was great to  get everybody  relaxed as you change partners a lot and get to know people, and then it was the amazing Lancers,  Quadrilles and Waltzes galore…. My personal favourite was the Cotillion waltz – simple, yet amazingly romantic, danced the the sweet notes of the waltz from the Merry Widow. Dimmed lights, romantic music, swaying on the dance floor in flowing silky gown – breathtaking.   10403574_10205243045328810_8612198867552845143_n 10641181_964655256900145_6214035122686672646_n 10404446_964657950233209_4098195498982672898_n 11329879_964655373566800_1271788064380533355_n 11350509_964655706900100_8438738575796585017_n 11351265_10205243045928825_6327791906229480019_n   150524-iz-014   11329879_964655373566800_1271788064380533355_n The  buffet break arrived  just in time to rest our weary feet and  get some sustenance for more dancing. And food, provided by Searcy’s was glorious –  beautifully presented, abundant ( and there was lots left!) and yummy – I must admit loved the desserts particularly… Then more dancing followed –  with a few  spontaneous waltzing breaks when folks just kicked their shoes off and took to whirling Viennese waltz at a moment notice ( our own Sissy here was the main culprit – though quite a lot removed their shoes at that point, myself included…). The evening ended with a Flirtation finale – lots of fun! And all that fun was mostly due to the  utterly amazing musicians – Alexis Bennett and the Liberty Belles, and our talented Dance Master, Stuart Marsden ( yes, the same one who has worked with BBC on Poldark, and many other projects…). The event would not have been the success it was without theses guys – so a huge thank you! musicians 11168031_10155795156300643_4697889363761570401_n   And while all the dancing was taking place, our photographers, Mockford Photography, were busy taking photos…. 10828141_10152878200577592_7286730915004478194_o 150524-iz-018 150524-iz-017 150524-iz-015   And did I not mention that there were some spectacular frocks  and very dashing gentlemen around?


Yes, we had Sissi too…


And a Dark Sissi too…

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oh yes, and, rather surprisingly, a 4 month old baby. That slept ( like a baby) all the way through…

11145192_10152878091267592_8419642355183554815_n     150524-iz-006   11219086_10152878091177592_446625806833074319_n bath-15-0952   Needless to say, by the end of it I could hardly walk ( need better shoes for next year….). but somehow I made it to the hotel, and although exhausted, I was still buzzing with the excitement – the night  was so much better than I had hoped for! there was just enough time to have a mini after party for the staff ( amazing how many people you can squeeze into a single Travelodge bedroom) and then it was time for sleep. IMG_20150525_010756 IMG_20150525_010807 And about 4 hours later we were up again and getting ready for our breakfast at the Pump Rooms….. IMG_20150525_103357 Victorian Ball and Picnic-117 Victorian Ball and Picnic-122 Victorian Ball and Picnic-124 The yummy breakfast ( and live music too!) was followed bu a short wander around town and some photos…. Victorian Ball and Picnic-128 Victorian Ball and Picnic-130 Victorian Ball and Picnic-136   Then it was time to go home and  tend the very sore feet….   Altogether, I must say the event fr surpassed my expectations. Music was delightful, fool glorious, venue splendid and the people – well, let me just say that you were all such a friendly and polite bunch of folks!  Everybody was relaxed and yet on their best behaviour – and that makes such a difference! it was also a good call to go for historical rather than an eclectic affair like the previous one –  since most of the dances were called, the dance floor was always busy, only clearing  up a bit at the end, as the pure exhaustion took over (  it was quite an exercise , especially the few more energetic dances…).  So thank you all, staff and guests alike for making it such a wonderful occasion! Also, many thanks to all the people who sent their photos:-)   And, guess what – we are having another Ball next year! The venue and caterers have already been booked and the tickets are on sale ( early bird  prices valid till September), so put the date in your diary – 7th May. We have the same set of musicians and Stuart booked too – and next year  we have an optional  dress sub theme – Crinoline.  We are already working on different offers  for the ticket holders ( discounted rates from dressmakers and product suppliers, or, for those who make stuff themselves, special offers on corset, crinoline and Victorian patterns and kits from one of our providers too). You can follow the news  on the facebook pages:

The event per se – Victorian Ball 2016

Page : Prior Attire Victorian Ball 

 Tickets and more info here  – Victorian ball tickets

 and the previous ball  Spectacular!


Sewing Fast and Slow

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OK, so I do have a bit of an reputation for being a fast sewer. And because of that I have been exposed to a variety of opinions  ranging from ‘ Wow, you sew so fast, you must be good!’ to  ‘ It really must be crap, nobody can make it properly in that time’.


The fact is, however – neither of these sentiments are always true.   You may be labouring on one item for ages – but that in itself doesn’t mean that the finished item will be a masterpiece – it may still be ill-fittng, badly stitched etc.  Similarly – you can make items fast – and  that in itself doesn’t mean they are poorly made. There are exceptions to every rule, but the most important thing is –


 To produce a quality garments you need to be working at a pace  you are comfortable with. If you rush it – it will be reflected in the final look; but if you  procrastinate too much, you may loose interest/heart to the project , get bored – and that will show in sloppy work too.

 If you are in the comfortable position of  sewing just for yourself, as leisure,  do take your time. Unless, off course there is an unexpected event this weekend and suddenly you have an urgent need of a new frock… If you are earning your bread sewing things, you will need to find a pace you are the most efficient at without compromising the quality.

 I get asked a lot, how I can  make things quickly – and the answer is – not every item is made quickly – this simply depends on the purpose of the garment, the client’s purse and my own private time constraints .  The most important factors are the purpose – and the quantity you are making.

 The purpose of the garments  will  considerably influence the speed at which you can produce an item -. If you are aiming at  historically accurate garments and are making everything by hand ( the ‘before Singer’ eras)  because your garments will be shown to the public etc – it will take much longer than a garments that looks fine, has handfinished details but inside seams machined.  But if you are making modern clothing and are free to use sewing machine, overlocker etc – that would cut the timing considerably.

a few examples

1. –  2 17th century gowns,  one handmade ( 1660 style, in green silk); and a 1634 in blue satin with machined innards and the rest handfinished.  The handmade took me  5 solid days of stitching; the other one only 3. But can you spot a difference ? unless you look very, very closely, you cannot…  (more on  making the blue gown  and construction details here)




insides all handstitched




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2. Tudor gowns – this one  is completely handstitched – petticoat, kirtle, gown – every single stitch.  Took 2 solid weeks

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kirtle detail

These two were made using a machine, with hand finish – all inside seams are  machined, but lining is inserted by hand, all visible seams, eyelets etc are hand stitched. Each took about a week.


 A post on making Tudor kirtles and gowns is here  and the French hoods here

3. Napoleonic bling –  military lace sewn by hand ( 6 hours each side)


and on a machine, with hand finishing –  3 hours each side



A short tutorial on the machine style is here

 The other factor is the quantity – how many items of the same sort you make. In short – experience.  The more doublets/corsets/bustles you make, the easier it will get and  the faster you will become. This is mostly down to the fact that if you are making a new piece of clothing, you do take your time considering the best way of  putting it together, you make mistakes – but this is a very valuable time, as with every mistake, ever minute spent pondering on how on earth do these two bits fit in, you learn.  My first corset took 3 days as I was just experimenting with techniques.  Nowadays I can make simple corset in 3-4 hours, and if anything, is is better and much more structurally sound than the one I made in 3 days…


With that in mind, if you feel  you would like to speed up your sewing,  these are the tips I found worked for me:

* quality sewing machine and tools.   The machine doesn’t have to be expensive, but it needs to be reliable.  You don’t need an industrial model straight away – though I love my semi industrial Janome for its speed – just make sure it does its job consistently and without mishaps. Also – do that the advantage of the many different attachments. I love my ruffler for example – without it  it would take me much longer to make flounced petticoats, gathered chemises etc.

 It is worth investing in some specific machinery if you make lots of similar items -for example, for corsetmaking getting an eyelet setting press  meant  shaving at least 30min off the complete making time.

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ruffler in action

*take notes. If you are working on a new project, just jot down bits that caused you problems –  next time you wont have to work it out from the very beginning. I admit I had problems working our suspenders production – and since i wasn’t making a lot of corsets with suspenders , the first  couple of times i had to work out how to make the things, made mistakes and wasted time.  Once I started making a lot of them – I simply made a sample one and pinned it on a board, within reach if i ever need to be reminded how to put the thing together.   Sorted, no more wasted time.  you can always take photos and scribble on them too :-)


* Practice – basically  that’s where the experience kicks in. The more you make, the better you can get at it ( practice makes perfect!) but remember to practice only the bits that worked – repeating the mistakes again and again wont do you much good, o matter how long you spent practicing it :-(. The more you sew,  the more you will learn about how different fabrics behave, which stitches, needles, setting to use – almost automatically, without  sitting there and looking for the manual.

* if you are making clothes mostly for yourself, save the mock ups and make them into generic patterns, you can then adjust them  ( neckline, hems, sleeve length etc)  to fit in with a new project – and it will save you at least an hour or two on making a mock up from a scratch. The same  applies to your repeat clients; or, if you are making a lot of stock items,  a few graded hard patterns  will  not only speed the work up, but also ensure consistent sizing.


* Neat work environment. Well, this actually doesn’t work for me at all, by work space is consistently chaotic, cluttered -some would call it messy, even… but I generally know what is where. I have attempted a neat work environment, works for about 2 days and then  get s back to its original  chaotic state.  But if you are a person who can tame the chaos, and organize the space well – that would help too!

* plan ahead. Time management is essential, especially if you are running a business –  I have written a whole post on just this issue – here

*outsourcing.  Sometimes it is simply easier and faster to rely on others who are better at certain things. I can make handwoven braid, lace, etc – but I know I cannot make the braid as fast as those who specialize in it. So when time is an issue, I buy my braid, points, laces from people who are expert.  Money well spent!


beautiful handwoven braids from Nordulf

* limit procrastination. Yes, I am guilty here too… when time is of an essence and I know I need to concentrate I simply try to eliminate the procrastination  sources – switch off facebook, usually.:-)…  I answer my emails once a day in the morning, then switch off the  outlook too, so no notification, pings etc distract me.  It is not always possible, but when it is, it is great. I found I work much faster when I go to my Stitch and Bitch sessions at Julia, at Sew Curvy –  I haven’t got a laptop with me, I put the phone aside, and all I can do is work ( and chat)  – and  am at my most productive.

* set a time limit. If you like competing against yourself and enjoy a challenge – set a deadline.  I work best when on a tight deadline, it motivates me far more  than anything else – and I love it. Not everybody’s cup of tea as some people find it stressful – though there is a way around it, if you are willing to have a go. If you set a deadline  on a bit of sewing that is not hugely important  and failing it won’t influence your work in general, you can see whether you enjoy the challenge.  And if you don’t – back to time management and planning….

*music.  Again, different music works better for different projects –  so find out which tunes motivate you, jeep you alert and happy. Similarly, for hand sewing I love audio books and learning languages.  while stitching hems is pretty boring, listening to the Game of Thrones  etc makes the task not only enjoyable, keeping your mind occupied and stopping if from looking for distractions, but  you will sew faster too.

  Having said all that – remember it is not always a race.   I do often have to rush things for myself, as I ‘squeeze ; private projects in between the commissions ( best example , a ballgown in 24hours here_)- but  I also have a few long term bits I work on and I enjoy taking my time – I am just finishing  a lace making project I started about 3 years ago, for example:-)


 So find your own pace, the pace that works for you, and stitch happy ! :-)


Fun Medieval Photoshoot

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Sometimes the timing is just right – a few months ago I was preparing stock items for the approaching market, and  it just happened that a friend and a client was stopping by  on her way to Devon. We had fitting scheduled for her new Victorian outfit, but  on an impulse we  decided to do a min shoot of the stock medieval items – using Amy and me as Models, and accompanied by  Amy’s ferrets and bird.

 You will no doubt recognize Amy ( the owner of Feathers&Flight Historical Falconry) from our precious shoot as she was the awesome Neobedouin and  Neonavajo in our Steampunk Amazones collection

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 And so without further ado a plan was hatched –  Amy came over ( not without adventures – blowing her tire  just off the motorway, abut 15 min away from us), fitting was done, pizza consumed and we set about photographing 4 medieval gowns. It was also a test of one of our new backgrounds, so lots of playing with set up, props, lights etc was insured – Pitcheresque Imagery sure had some fun with that!

 late 12th/13th style gowns were first. We did a few product shots and then  tried to do a generic ones involving the pets too:-)

 1. Burgundy wool and silk trim gown, lined with linen – worn over a silk undergown. here with Flynn, the barnowl

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2. A wool gown with silk trim

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With Mr. Baggins

Then it was time for  15th century.

first – an early 15th century houppelande in silk, lined with linen ( this one is still available  from our shop – here)

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 and then a late 15th century Burgundian gown in wool sateen with brocade collar and cuffs

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 For this look we tried to experiment  and  stage the Lady With an Ermine portrait look –  but the ferret ( Merry – and he was very merry indeed!) was very excited and the whole thing turned out to be very challenging – lots of fun ( much to the irritation of the photographer, I suppose), but trying to get him to stay more or less still in a graceful pose was tricky ( especially since we didn’t really want the animals to touch the gowns – there was for ale after all)… still we got a few fun pixs!

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Merry is all grace and loveliness – but Amy is clearly up to no good here! :-)

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giggles galore…

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ewww, what’s that thing??? ;_)

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and at last, success :-)

 And a few behind the scenes shots to wrap it up!

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ghastly attack

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practicing the fashionably pregnant look. The closest I will ever get to the real thing I think! :-)

Hope you enjoyed these – I am already looking forward to our next stock photoshoot at some point at the end of June/beginning of July! :-)

The Myth of Perfection


A recent post  by Wearing History  shed some light on the weird phenomena that social media create –  what people usually show is just the good sides of their lives, creating the illusion that this is the only side.  But reality is in fact far from perfect:-)

The blog post is well worth a read  – and Lauren also threw a gauntlet asking other bloggers to  help dispel the myth that everything is always ideal  ( another one by American Duchess here)- well, this is my contribution.

I must admit that I am a very optimistic and at the same  a very pragmatic person – and to start with I just couldn’t   find anything worth mentioning – yes, there have been good times, and bad times, but in the end, it all worked out ok, and that’s all that matters. I think I have been very lucky so far – no partucularly serious injuries, illnesses, tragedies, etc –  just some boring everyday reality, really…. So I suppose a few of the  bits below may seem trivial – but trivia are also a part of our lives, so, for whatever it is worth, I decided to include some banal thing here too.

Here we go!


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York, circa 2006. Had a  horrendous toothache – to such an extent that I spent half the day trying to get an emergency appointment with a local dentist – and then the other half with my jaw frozen up and dribbling – but at least pain free…


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Wideacre muster with Grenvilles, August bank holiday, 2008

A  fantastic event – made even more interesting by the fact that one of the troopers brought viral gastroenteritis with him…  he spent the first day and practice in tent, recovering – the following day our CO  got and and was busy ‘purging’ and so unavailable for action. The day after ( luckily Tuesday, so no battle) I spent early morning  hanging out of my  tent, looking at the contents of my stomach. Then had to drive back home, stopping ever few miles  for some more stomach action ( though my man had provided me with a bucket, secured in the passenger’s seat. very helpful). I was  able to get back to solid food 3 days later, was off work for a week. In total, half the regiment succumbed to the virus. And oh, one of the troopers came back with a broken hand ( and he wasn’t even riding.. )



2 more Grenville events – just before and after my wrist operation, when was  in such pain I could hardly grip my sword… My right wrist is in a brace, carefully hidden in the gauntlet.

and underneath:








Peterborough, Katherine of Aragon festival  – looking serene, but my car broke down on the way to the event, on A1. I was already in full kit, and spent 15min trying to coax the pile of junk into some semblance of life. A few well placed hits with a spanner did it in the end, so was able to get there, albeit late – and had no guarantee that I will have a car to go back home in….



196188_478064845553848_870930021_n Holkham Hall  50ties event. It was June, but I was freezing ! more on the event here – Being MM. Also, being a sex symbol had its price – some of the comments from the public, whispered, were indecent – and  there were  a few older gents, who, why posing for photos, cuddles with me and the rest of their family, let their hands stray…. not a big deal, just unpleasant.

Fortunately the company of friends made up for it:-)



 Bridal/Georgian photoshoot



On my birthday, 18th April. I had a very painful operation on the 13th – just a few days before.  Heavily drugged with painkillers, suffering from blood loss and not able to move my hand, the shoot was not much fun – especially since I had 2 more models to dress up too.  I had to stand in a very peculiar way to hide the dressing….

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 Medieval pageant.  The owl crapped on my new silk surcoat.  3 times….



My wedding. It was the first time Lucas hunted with me in the morning – and then we rode after the ceremony ( more on the event here – Victorian Wedding) . But a few months later he fell of a horse when we were riding in Pland, and fractured his vertebrae. He spend 3 months in a corset, and it healed but the picture above is one of the last pictures ever of him riding – the risk to his spine is now too great :-(((



A very  hot day  in Hereford ( more on that here ). It was boiling  hot and I was drenched in sweat. Moreover,  with a heavy period, I suffered from cramps all day long – but the real problem was the fact that throughout the day  I felt  liquid running down my thighs, straight into my boots- and could not check whether it was sweat or blood….   Was happy to find out it was sweat, and was not leaving bloody footprints…



Holkham 2013 – just a fortnight later our garage caught fire. Lost all my stock, lots of private stuff and despite insurance cost me a few grand. Still we got a nice photoshoot out of it!



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One of the effects of the garage fire was having to move house –  we found a nice place, a pricey one, but just on the  borderline of affordability.  We moved on Friday, and on Monday my husband was made redundant.  We did the shoot for the Summer dress while we we living off savings,  in a limbo of unemployment,  staying n a house we could not afford to rent. It did turn out ok in the end, but these were 5 very stressful months!


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 Georgian Ball, March 2015.  Completely lost voice. Some may argue though, that it was in fact a blessing on that occasion :-))

 Well, there you have it –  life is not all beer and skittles, silks and balls – reality does creep in. And so it should, it would be boring otherwise! :-)

 And oh, the last one – my workroom  looks like that.  About twice a year.  For about half a day. Then creative chaos creeps in – and on every other day it looks like a fabric bomb has exploded.  A few times…  and sometimes there is too much work to spend time tidying… :-((


The most common mistakes in historical costuming/re-enactment – and how to avoid them!


 Over the years I have been asked about  a variety of problems within historical costuming – and how to avoid them. I have already written a few posts on different aspects such as the look, fabrics, etc – but here all of them will be linked in one place, providing a good reference base. :-)

 Please note, this post is targeted at folks who want to aim for the elusive ‘authenticity pinnacle’, (and ‘aim’ is usually all we can do – 100% authenticity is, of course, not achievable; Still, that shouldn’t mean that we cannot try…), and who need information to ‘up their game’ a little – either for  personal satisfaction, for work, ( re-enactors, interpreters etc), or for both.

 Many thanks to my FB followers on Prior Attire  who also contributed their ideas for this post !

1. Poor fabric/embellishment choice.

 A pretty obvious one – but  it happens again and again, often because people are not aware of the fact that the fabric they bought as ‘silk’, is actually a polyester/rayon mix… Sadly, often such fabrics are wrongly advertised as silk.  Also, it is not obvious to everybody that there are many kinds of velvets, satins and damasks – we can have cotton velvet, rayon, silk, silk/cotton blend, silk/rayon blend; many sellers say just ‘damask’, and we all jump with glee at seeing the price of £9.99 a metre… Well, guess what? Proper silk damask starts from about £40 per metre, if you are lucky – and goes on to £200 per metre, or more.

 The same is true for wool, linen, etc – some linens which are sold as ‘pure’ are in fact cotton/linen blends; some wools are blends too. Always make sure; and if it looks dodgy and too good to be true, it probably is:-(

  If you are after correct fabrics beware of these – nice patterns, but not only plastic, also dangerous near fire!


Flocked damask on ebay 

…and this – very popular; I see it on lots of medieval and Tudor gowns – ebay link here


 Don’t get me wrong, they can be useful; I made a gown from one from of these when it happened to land on my table – but be aware that this is not silk. They do make nice clothes that can look good from a distance, can be washed frequently and are cheap – but they will not pass muster if you plan to be portraying high-quality living history roles. I would recommend them for folks doing horsey displays  – nobody fingers those gowns to check the fibre content; and it is rarely  re-enactors, who do so, to be fair, rather it is public members do that frequently – invited or not! :-(
These fabrics are easy to clean, so may be suitable for this specific purpose.

 For living history, however, a proper fabric choice is a ‘must’ – and buying a poly-cotton mix instead of linen doesn’t really make much sense. It is marginally cheaper, but  for a few quids-worth of savings you get a far lower quality of cloth that will not last that long. Polyester taffetas may be cheaper than proper silk- but they not only look plastic, they feel like wearing a plastic tent too – or a mobile sauna, as poly fabrics do not breathe – making them a nightmare in the summer!

 Nobody expects you to spend a fortune on fabric –  if you cannot afford brocades, get plain silks; if you cannot stretch to silk – get nice wool or linen. Also – a silk chenille doublet will be both more expensive and less accurate than a wool or linen one – so the high cost does not always mean the fabric is suitable!

A short note on wool – nowadays we  associate it with winter coats, etc, and think that it is just too hot to wear at other times; But there are lots of kinds of wool with different weights and textures. There are some lovely soft lightweight woolen cloths that make fantastic summer kirtles, gowns, doublets, etc. As a natural fabric, wool breathes well, is non-sweaty and nice to touch – and since it is worn over a chemise, it need not be itchy, or unpleasant in any way. So choose the type of fabric suitable for the season, (or the country you live in…)


a gown for a lady doing a medieval horse display

Choosing the right fabric can be a real maze – so when you are starting your costuming adventure it can be intimidating. The best way forward? Simply ask reliable people – it is much better to seek advice before mistakenly splashing gazillions of pounds on silk velvet for a 9th century gown; or an expensive chenille cloth for a medieval robe… More on which fabrics to use for which century, and a list of providers, can be found in this post: Historical fabrics

2.Wrong pattern/shape/finish

Very tricky, this one! Obviously there were several different variations of many garments, and claiming that there is just one ‘proper’ pattern for a doublet, codpiece, bliaut or sack gown is a bit silly – especially for periods when publicly accessible information about patterns was non-existent. Still, folks tried to achieve the fashionable look in whatever way they could – and so can we. I  base my patterns on existing examples, paintings, etc, showing the seams, and then experimenting to achieve the right look and shape. There are also some historical patterns, (or books with patterns), that can start you on the right path.

The most common mistake though? Not enough fabric used to make an item. This happens a lot – and believe me, folks, If you are going for a posh garment, then that requires volume; sometimes splashing out for one more meter can make all the difference…

I have used, and can recommend, the Tudor Tailor Patterns, Truly Victorian, and some Reconstructing History ones. Still, be prepared to do a mock up and to fiddle with the item a lot before it fits!

Books with patterns –  just a few favourites:

Series of Victorian fashions by Francis Grimble



The  must have – Janet Arnold series, Patterns of fashion


 The Victorian Tailor

The Tudor Tailor

Corsets and Crinolines

17th century women’s dress patterns – 2 volumes

 The cut of women’s clothes – Men’s in separate book

The Medieval Tailor Assistant


friends rocking their lower status gear

As for sewing per se, you can go authentic and sew everything by hand, (at least until the sewing machine arrives in the 19th century) – and I do like making my own clothes this way. But sometimes there is just not enough time – and for many people time is money. I offer my clients different levels of finish – from modern, ( still minimal machine stitching used, but may be visible at a very close distance),  to the ‘golden middle’, (inside seams machined, all finishing by hand, etc), to completely authentic for the period (Hand stitched throughout). If you are participating in battle re-enactment, you may not want to spend lots of time or money on hand-stitched garments, and the public will not be able to tell from a distance. But if you are ‘up close and personal’, with people talking to you about what you wear, it is nice to show at least some hand finishing (e.g. hand woven braids instead of cheap sari trims on medieval garments, hand-stitched eyelets or buttonholes), at least on the outside.


handmade eyelets on a medieval arming doublet

Oh and zips? – Just don’t… A post on what fastenings were used throughout the ages – Fastenings

3. Status

A huge issue here – everybody tends to want to be the queen/king/lady/knight. Well, thatt is all fine, but in the past, social status was evident – and it cost to show it. Today it is not much different – if you want to portray a posh persona, be prepared to dig into your pocket. Really deep.

In this case, the dress and the fabric is just a small part of the whole – you will also need shoes, accoutrements, jewellery/bling, headgear, a retinue, weaponry, even a horse – a wealthy knight without a horse and a squire? At least get a squire -cheaper than a horse! ;-) It all costs…

But generally, if portraying wealth, the fabric, the cut, the layers, the jewelry, everything needs to be there to form the right impression. There is nothing sadder than a queen walking alone in a skimpy polyester dress and sneakers.

Most people say the cost is too high – they want to be royalty but cannot afford the fur, silk, bling. There are short cuts (more on that in the article below), but to be honest, there is no shame in not being able to afford such royal kit – we all have modern lives, and modern priorities, and have to live and pay the bills too – people will understand if you say, “sorry, cannot do a queen/king, but can do a lady in waiting/a peasant woman/ a sailor”. And, more to the point, portraying a less affluent persona is fun, too. Usually even more so, especially if you are demonstrating  a craft. Middle class is both more practical, comfortable and affordable – and can be very pretty  – and there is a lot of scope to show off your sewing skills as well. You cannot afford  10 metres of purple  silk velvet? Settle for 7m of good quality cloth and nice linen, with a touch of poshness, ( 1 or 2 rings instead of  8, a small brooch, a tasteful pendant); Or go even lower – a lot of research and work  is still needed to create a great-looking lower class person, and it is just as much fun! My all time favourite is a portrayal of a middle class lace maker – I get to demonstrate a rare skill, and people are far less intimidated (full-on royalty can be a bit too much for some!), and they are interested in what I am making, so great discussions usually follow. I will take a ‘craft demonstration’ over a ‘swan around in a posh frock’ job anytime!


For Victorian  I love these guys, showing the less glamorous side of the era –  The Ragged Victorians

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The Ragged Victorians- Photo by Patricia Jacobs Photography

I wrote a detailed post on the costing giving examples, so I won’t repeat myself much – simply head here for more details – A queen on a budget


a late 12th century/ early13th court, nicely decorated room, the queen with her ladies in attendance, all busy – what a joy to behold! Photo courtesy of the Feudals

3.a –  HORSES – so related to status.

A quick note on the horses and their use – if you are portraying a noble, or a knight and want to do it right, DO learn how to ride a horse properly. Too often have I seen a full armoured ‘knight’ or a ‘king’ sitting on a horse, being lead  around at a very sedate walk, usually by a lower rank person ( more often than not, a woman).  Knight being led by a woman, a king not able to control their own horse – not authentic, not particularly safe either. Until you  can attain the skills necessary, simply forgo the sad display – it will be far more accurate to see the same knight  holding court or engaged in ground combat.  And yes, the practice, whether on your own horse or a hired one is not cheap and takes time, effort and a few bruises too. it makes for a really joyous sight to actually see folks who  do it right –  recently at a Richard III event at Sudeley Castle the King was portrayed by Jason from Destier, the owner of the Tournament Stud –  mounted on his own horse, displaying the ease and professionalism of an adept rider and jouster,  and able to answer numerous questions about the  horse mounted warfare of the period. It was a joy to behold.

Oh, and the other way round is not too good either -having a horse and being a rider doesn’t mean that leggins and a  generic cotton tunic  or an Eroll Flynn shirt are ok for portraying a knight….

Horses and Ladies – recently side saddle riding has been coming back – which is great:-)  however, it has to be noted that using a late 19th century sidesaddle for a medieval display is not authentic.   Medieval women rode astride  ( usually mid class) or aside – either on planchette saddles or riding pillion ( a beautiful example of a hunting party with a lady riding pillion can be seen in this promotional video advertising the tournament at St. Wendel). Planchette saddle doesn’t really leave a lot of control over the mount and is  not the safest or the most comfortable contraption, but  that’s what it  was.   it is towards the end of the 15th century that the beginning of the proper side saddle are starting to emerge ( with the lady actually facing forwards) – but even then  they do feel  very different and do not offer the full comfort and support of the  later Victorian saddles, with  a leaping head. ( a short summary of the history -here history of side saddle ).  Again it is not cheap and pain free to learn ( my own adventures here), and it takes time and money –  but for the determined it is possible to find  a saddler specializing in reproduction saddles, be it for jousting, travelling or ladies riding.

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A lovely reproduction of a late 15th/early 16th century saddle – and a lady riding in it, in a reproduction Holbain gown – both at St.Wendel tournament.

Also: Riding habits. very popular nowadays, and whereas it is true that in some eras they would be worn for travelling  ( in a carriage, not on a horseback) as well, their primary use was for riding.  So if you are wearing one, but do not ride, and are not currently on a horse, make sure  it does come from a period when it can be worn for general travel.

4.   Silhouette – Lack of foundation garments.

Simple –  if a corset, stays, etc are needed, then a modern bra just will not do.  Bustle cages, panniers, starched petticoats, shoulder supports, chemises, etc are a MUST… A detailed post on what supports and underwear goes in which century  here – Looking the part1 

Undergarment comparison

the same dress worn without supports -corset, petticoat and bustle cage – and with….

5. Modern make up and hairstyle

Again, a very common mistake, and one that is very easy to spot…   Fortunately it doesn’t take a lot to rectify it – there are ways to use makeup suitable for the portrayed century, ditto with hair – and it is not very pricey :-). Again, a whole post with examples and a run through from Medieval to Edwardian fashions – Looking the part2

6. No accessories/Or modern ones!

Accessories do complete the look, but they also serve a purpose: that Regency shawl may look pretty, but it will give some extra warmth on a windy evening; a reticule may look silly, but it can contain your necessary bits-and-pieces (you know, mobile phone, car keys etc :-) ); a hat pin is not only an ornament but prevents your hat from sailing away on a stronger gust of wind…  Medieval glasses may not be the most fetching items, but if you need glasses and contacts are not an option, they are a way to go.

In short – Do accessorize! Again, styles and examples here – Looking the part3

Regency Stock April 2015-6

5. Age/maritial status

It doesn’t really matter if you are married or not, you can choose the suitable fashions for either – but if you are portraying a married woman, a widow, a young maiden, make sure you wear styles, hair, accessories, etc which are suitable to that status and age.  Wear a cap or a bonnet, in short cover your hair in most periods, especially if you are married, (over 20 or so).

Also, this maybe a bit harsh, but  act your age… if you can pass for 25 when 35 – fantastic, good for you! – but if your character is  significantly older/younger, it might be just a poor choice? A 20-year-old ‘Eleanor of Aquitaine’ collecting a ransom for Richard is a bit of a joke… We are lucky, as it may be argued that in the past people matured/grew up/got older earlier – nowadays with advances in medical care, with better lifestyle, nutrition, and beauty care, a 50 year old may well pass for 40 – but it is wise not to stretch the boundary too much… ;-) Yes, it is fascinating to be portraying a 20 year  old princess,  and as I get older I feel sad that some interesting characters are forever beyond my grasp – but then again I have discovered a plethora of intriguing characters closer to my real age, giving me an excuse for more research  (and more frocks to make!!)

Ladies Mediaeval Attire-31

6. Children

Believe it or not, children are authentic!  :-)  But if you take your little ones to work/events, you may want to consider making it fun for them too. I do understand that sometimes this is not possible, but if it is, there is little cuter than lads in tunics and hose, playing with wooden swords, or a little girl  dressed in a lovely frock learning her first stitches. At a living history display it is often possible to hide away any modern conveniences in part of a tent, away from the public – so when the little darlings get bored with the swords and bows and wants to play a video game, get him/her inside –  they will be happy, the public won’t see it, and you will remain sane:-)


lovely picture of Julia and her daughter at an event

7. Modern items.

If you are working/demonstrating etc – just switch off that mobile, take off the watch, (unless period correct), or modern jewelery, and resist the temptation to get that burger/ice cream.

Yes, we all need to eat – if you have modern food, cover it with a piece of linen, and eat it discretely, away from the public. Anachronistic photos are fun to take – after hours, when the work is done. During an event, eating a big Magnum ice cream or chatting on a phone sticking out from under your gable hood is a no-no.

You can snack on period-correct or similar looking items, and if you are going for a lunch break and eating in a cafe/restaurant, make it clear that you are on a lunch break to the public too – ask them not to take photos.  People understand that you are not really a 14th century physician, but a modern bloke who is working and needs sustenance – and will come back later to chat once you are back at work.


nothing wrong with cream tea for Edwardians… :-)

8. Behaviour

A tricky one, this, but the least we can do is to try to behave in a way that our character reasonably would.  A noble lady would not be running around with her skirts hitched up, showing her knees, chasing a lowly page boy, for example; a Victorian lady would not be riding in trousers, astride, a peasant would not be amicably chatting with the king, etc – you get the idea :-)

Our behaviour towards the public counts too –  even if you are not working, and if re-enacting is your hobby, if you are  interacting with the public simply be polite – it is difficult at times, but one sarcastic word or inappropriate remark can taint the experience and give the whole community a bad name. If you prefer sitting in the corner and quietly polishing your sword, tending the pot, etc, that is all fine, you don’t have to be the main public entertainer all the time, (unless you were hired to do exactly that). For some people it takes time to overcome their shyness, and talk to strangers without problems (it is in a way a ‘public speaking’ engagement, and many folks dread it).

Also – speech. Nobody expects you to speak Old English (mostly because nobody would understand it; trust me, I studied it at Uni, and it sounds like a funky mixture of German and Scandinavian spiced with a few vaguely recognizable words…), or Middle English (more understandable, though pronunciation still very different). Just stick to normal speech, avoiding obviously modern phrasing and words – better still, learn a few period swearwords :-). Authentic is fine, (and many people do take the time and effort to research and replicate speech patterns, syntax and phonetics of their period – fascinating stuff!), but your public will be more grateful if they can understand what you are saying….

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reading Chaucer…  I love middle English, and it’s fun for people to compare with modern English :-)

9. Lack of knowledge

This is utterly unforgivable, if you are paid to do the job – but in my books it is just as bad  if you are just swanning around some country house in a posh frock ‘being Anne Boleyn’, or Jane Austen, and ‘looking good’ (though regrettably most often not – somehow the lack of knowledge goes together with all those rayon brocades…) and being unable to interact with the public. In the majority of cases historical interpretation is there not simply to entertain, but also to educate. So if you are at an event and dressed up, people assume that you know what you are talking about. So – do your research for the character and for generic period – and by research I do not mean just Philippa Gregory’s or other historical fiction books. Entertaining as they may be, and they do have a place in sparking an interest, do follow up with proper research before the event.  If you are asked a question to which you don’t know the answer – well, simply admit that you don’t – it is not a crime, nobody knows everything after all. Whatever you do, do not invent the answer just to ‘save face’. I have met members of the public repeating some incredible nonsense they were  told by re-enactors – mostly untruths or sensationalized facts (such as – ‘Victorians in the corsets couldn’t walk or breathe’) – an article on the corset myths here .

One of the most ridiculous things I have heard when demonstrating some lace making at Aston Hall was by one visitor who claimed I was too old to do any sewing, etc. According to a re-enactor they had met last year, only children and very young girls were doing such fine work, and because they were working at night, they were blind by the time they were 13 – so they stopped sewing then and were married off… The image of 17th century England with every woman over 13 staggering blindly into matrimony was perhaps entertaining, but I was amazed that someone could tell something like that, (and also, that it was believed…)

And so, research, study and learn –  that’s the part I love about my job, you never stop learning! :-)

Regency Redigote A La Hussarde

Well, that is all at the moment; I will no doubt add more bits if I can think of them – feel free to suggest more points here too!

And if you would like to know about me and my work, please check out my fb page or my website :-)

Victorian riding habits – bespoke and stock items

1860s Riding Habit-4

We have recently been doing a few habits, so I thought I put a post about them together:-)

Over the winter I have been working on a  bespoke one – based on my 1885 version , but in luscious bottle green superfine wool, with  burgundy braid decoration. The colour combination worked very well and suited the client’s colouring ( and the horse’s ) well – and we were lucky enough to grab a few photos when we delivered the habit to sunny Devon.

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Another bespoke habit  for another client is  happening  too, I will post the photos as soon as the work is finished and we get some pictures.

In the meantime, let me introduce to our latest batch – somehow earlier habits, destined to become stock items.

It all happened as  I was working on a certain secret project ( details soon)- we had a horse booked for a side saddle at Historic Equitation, and the day before I found myself  ending the commission work earlier that expected – so had a few hours free, and  6 metres of some rather lovely green cloth…. the temptation was too much! I  went for the simplest look I could think of: no decoration, purely utilitarian,  roughly 1860 look -with big skirts and plain, short bodice  – based on this look.


The cloth was fantastic – it draped beautifully. W e used the habit for the shoot and for some riding, and had a short photoshoot at home too – with and without petticoat ( period solution as either  corded petticoat or turkish trousers in the same fabric ( so that when the skirt billowed at speed while riding, the legs would be modestly covered). As  you can see, the skirts are very long  to cover the legs, and although they look lovely when mounted, they are a bit of a pain while walking.  Ladies either carried the skirts, flashing the petticoat, or used buttons t o hitch them up – as  shown on this fashion plate from La Mode Illustree


btw, lots of more images on my Pinterest board 

I was wearing a corset,  white blouse and a velvet ribbon neckband,styled my hair and restyled my top hat a bit  to achieve the look:-)

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skirts on a petticoat here ( shamefully modern bridal one….)

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Once we were done with shooting, I  shared the photos and  put the habit in our online shop – and was flooded with likes, shared, questions etc – and the habit sold within 12 hours, surely  a record! not only that, there is now a queue of side saddle ladies awaiting news whether it fits the lady  who bought it – just in case she returns it….

As a business minded person, I just couldn’t  ignore this situation – and since   had a bank holiday looming ahead ( which I had hoped to leave free  to rest – silly me…), I decided to act on it.  Luckily I was picking some cloth for commissions from my wool merchant, and while at it, I picked a few lengths suitable for habits…


A very busy time with a sewing machine followed –  and I just managed  to get 2 habits done for another scheduled side saddle session – this time with lovely Jane on her Zara at a very well kept Wakes Manor Livery Yard

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I experimented with a slightly later look for these two – the first one was  based on  a fashion plate from Harper’s Bazar, 1873 ( the sitting lady)


I used the lovely soft dove grey cloth, edged with black and decorated with velvet ribbon.

Work in progress…


It is a size ( or even two) too big, but with a loosened corset it looked  well enough – sadly I didn’t have a size 14/16 model  at hand ( working on it..)
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The habit is now available in our online shop, at a discounted price -details here

The second habit was based on this one from the MET 


I liked the edge treatment and tried to emulate – I used piping and topstitching combination


and  it fitted me well  – really like the look!

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Then it was Jane’s turn – it fitted her well too –  and kudos to Jane who wore a corset for the first time – and not only wore it, but rode and jumped in it too ( part of  a secret video project I am currently working on..)

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 and yes, there is a corset underneath all that!

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 This habit is also available in the shop – Here

 I have enjoyed making these – and now have plans over summer to work on a few more models in a few sizes options – I already have nice berry coloured cloth and dark green twill put aside for the purpose:-). Although they are stock items,  each habit will be a little bit different, so that  each is unique – nothing worse than going into the Historical class  and finding another lady wearing the same model! And of course if you want something special there is the bespoke option with fittings (  and a different price bracket too….)

Many thanks to all involved in the project so far – greatly appreciated! And a big thank you to the photographer – images courtesy of Pitcheresque Imagery 

Some Fun on the Side

A damsel in this dress:

post updated with pictures of yet more habits!

Originally posted on A Damsel in This Dress:


Or, in other words, some of my side saddle adventures:-)

I have been riding since I was 8 –  and although I did some show jumping and cross country work in my teenage years, I was always more interested in doing things a bit differently – loved hacking and covering distance – going on  long trails was always welcome!  In the Uk, I spent a few years riding for a cavalry regiment for the English Civil War Society –  swashing my sword and firing carabines from horseback was by far much more interesting!

Image at the battle

I have tried some horseback archery and Roman riding with a group Comitatus – great fun!

Image doesnt show, but have just thrown a plumbata at a poor bloke with a big shield…

Nowadays I mostly hunt in Devon and Somerset, riding lovely thoroughbred horses blessed with amazing stamina – going up and down those hills there for 6-7 hours…

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The Petal Dress

A damsel in this dress:

#tbt – it was just over a year ago – and the petals are still holding up well!

Originally posted on A Damsel in This Dress:


Well, Spring has truly begun in the UK, and as soon as the  trees started to blossom, I was on a mission – it was time for the spring part of our seasonal collection ( following Autumn made with leaves, and the two winters; Polaris  with snowflakes and Desolation with lunaria). The sketch was done  months earlier, and I knew what I was after – a dress made with real petals – the oriental inspired look was added en route somewhere:-)


 I wanted to use real petals – but ones that wouldn’t wither and die in a day or two. The answer was The Real Petal Confetti Company – I used their petals for my wedding, over 2 years ago, and the left overs are still going strong in my cupboard. The samples were ordered, and once delivered, I experimented with different adhesives to see which ones work best…

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Georgian Ball in Bath, March 2015

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It all started innocently enough – I was approached to create a set of Georgian attire for a ball by  new customers, a lovely couple.

We discussed the designs, fabrics , fitting schedule etc, and it was all going smoothly – and then I just had to ask: what ball is it anyway?

And hearing it is the one in Bath, organized by the Bath Minuet Company, we just had to go along and buy tickets….. after all we did enjoy the Regency Ball there a lot! And Eleanor, our friend jumped at the opportunity and joined in – and commissioned a frock too. So suddenly I ended up with having  2 big commissions plus trying to get some time to make Lucas; kit – and maybe there would be just enough time to get mine sorted too – I had my pink robe anglaise, just in case I wouldn’t, but since I got some lovely brocade last November, I did hope to be able to knock something out for myself too.

Eleanor’s set was done first, as she was available for fittings early… After much deliberation on which fabrics o use, Eleanor decided on a crispy mat silk in slate – we had quite a lot of and it went very well with pink roses and gold braid, and the design was loosely based on the robe francaise worn by Mme de Pompadour.

the foundations were first – stays, and pocket hoops in silk!




then the petticoat, and draping on the francaise –  there was loads of fabric going into it!


playing with the trim…


the gown and basic trim ready, now just the roses and the stomacher


sleeve before pinking – I pined it at the last moment, as although the fabrics didn’t fray much, we wanted the edges sharp for the event:-)


decoration on the petticoat – frills, flounces and roses


and a very important moment – once the roses were out of the box, Merlin jumped in It was the very first time in the last 3 years when he actually willingly went into a box… weird moggy



The original commission that started the whole Georgian frenzy was interesting too – a suit of black satin for the gentleman, with an embroidered waistcoat, and a robe anglaise, with the cut away front ( zone front) for the lady. Plus set of undergarments for both.

I especially enjoyed working on the embroidery – with silver metallic tread and silk..



that frame was an amazing investment. well worth it if you are working on larger pieces


waistcoat ready


the back



and a frilly shirt

The lady’s kit consisted of a chemise, a pair of stays in silk brocade, skirt supports, skirt in silk satin, with a fringe, and a robe anglaise in striped  silk…


the stays ready


detail of the back


working on the anglaise – after a rial run with the trim we decided against it. the fabric did not lend itself well to piking and the thing frayed like hell, leaving bits of thread everywhere, especially on the white satin…


the back

with just  2 days to spare I  was pressed for time to work on Lucas kit – and our initial plan of using gold and red pinstripe silk ( breeches, waistcoat and jacket) were discarded in favour for some lovely silk taffetta I was hoarding for myself – but  it meant the colour could go with an original waistcoat Lucas already had, so less work… plus, how could I refuse my husband….

As much as I would like to spend days embroidering his jacket, making fancy buttons etc, we were pressed for time so drastic measures had to be taken – Lucas decided on a  posh modern trim instead. Looks correct and although makes the kit more of a theatre costume than re-enactment piece, for the ball it worked just fine..



And then with just  8 hours to spare, I had a go at my robe francaise.  I had just enough fabrics to get a francaise and petticoat in it, though not enough for any decoration  and I even had to piece  one sleeve and the flounces. I do love the fabric, and I was very lucky to get it at a reduced price – I payed £40 a metre instead of the usual £75 or so). The ladies at the Sudbury Silk Mill where I got it from said it was because of a fault running through the length, but since I could barely see it, i did not mind at all.


work in progress


And it turned out I had just enough some matching taffeta from my stash to work a trim – paired with a chenille braid:-)



With just a few bits left to be stitched  later on ( buttons) we were ready – and fortunately our wigs, ordered quite late from the States ( from Historical Hairdresser) arrived with a few days to spare!

The day of the ball was full of mishaps…. first  I woke up with laringitis – voice gone completely….. Then,  1 hour into the drive we realised that Lucas’ lovely waistcoat is still at home….. so had to turn back… Then Bath was clogged up with roadworks and traffic jams. Luckily we were just in time to check into the hotel, get dressed and rush to the dance practice…


Eleanor at the dance practice, minding our hats… and boots…


after the practice, waiting for transport… surprisingly enough my redingote worked quite well as an extra layer over the anglaise


Hotel elevators…. barely big enough for 2…


We had a few hours before the ball, so we finished last minute jobs, had a meal and started getting ready. 90 minutes before our carriage was supposed to arrive – and yes, carriage – we booked proper horsey transportation from Courtyard Carriages–   the company called us saying they cannot do it, giving a rather feeble excuse. considering that we booked them  with over a month before, that as a bit of a blow – so folks, if you are ever tempted to book a carriage in bath, Do NOT use them!

Still, we though, we will take a cab.  WE will need a bigger one, to accommodate all the frockage, and so a suitable vehicle was booked, using a dedicated hotel line to a cab company.

But alas – when we got into the lobby, there was not a car to be found…. finally, after 8 calls from us, the hotel etc, and lots of excused on the  side of the cab company, they sent us a car – 50 minutes after the agreed time! needless to say, we were not in the least amused – we basically missed most of the first half of the danceo not remember the name of the company, but if you are in the Travelodge Waterside, do not use the cabs line  there – the hotel staff was very helpful, and it was not their fault, it was purely that the company were managed by an incompetent prat.


Still, an hour late, we made it…..

We had a lovely time dancing, chatting, taking photos, doing more dancing and admiring the dance demonstration from the Minuet company – and so the evening went ahead smoothly ( though on my part rather quietly – still no voice – some may argue it was a blessing, especially considering the mishaps – a lot of very bad language would have otherwise occurred…)

Lucas grabbed some photos too – enjoy!

first, the results of all that stitching….

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Kelly and Glen in their finery

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then Eleanor…

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Georgian Ball - Bath March 2015-21 Lucas…

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and me:-)

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And a few group shots too…

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here discussing programme for our Victorian ball with our dance master – Stuart Marsden


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and a few of the dance demo

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and some outtakes….

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my usual face…

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all together, it was a success and we will gladly come back again:-)

The next day saw us at the Assembly Rooms, meeting with Stuart and the  caterers and discussing our Victorian ball in May –  so looking forward to  it too!







The Spanish Death Ride, Valencia 2008

COMUNIDAD/// Cabalgata de homenaje a Jaume I   A bit of a blast from the past – but I stumbled upon the pictures and realised tat I hadn’t blogged about this ‘traumatic experience’ yet; ( mostly because back then I did not have a blog…) Anyway, the story…  The event was set up to re-create the famous civic parade that took place in 1428,celebrating the visit of king James I. Griffin Historical  were  given the mammoth task of organizing  it and supplying riders and ground crew. Over 80 riders and support crew were flown from different parts of Europe – England, the Netherlands, Poland,  etc – and the cavalcade itself  counted over twelve hundred people in total, all in medieval gear… We arrived the day before the event  – most of us were picked up at the airport and deposited in two major hostels in Valencia’s Old Town.  Many of us knew one another quite well – from past events, jousting circle, and other historical and equestrian backgrounds, ( I also brought a friend from my  ECW regiment – not everybody had medieval kit, but many people shared what they had in order to get the look). We just had time enough to go for a walk, admire some fireworks and visit a few tapas bars… DSC00722 DSC00731


practicing before the event…. on little wooden horses…

The next morning we all breakfasted, assembled  and were briefed, then the kit was sorted out – we put on our hose, chemises, doublets, boots etc… And since I was a bloke for this event,  Griff  placed me in a nice padded gambeson, hiding my womanly flesh, and I got a nice piece of headgear too…. DSC00738   Can you see that it is a woman hiding in there? :-) DSC00737 A perfect disguise… Then  it was time to do some dry training, (not mounted). The  folks who were to ride in full armour had arrived a few days earlier and practiced with the horses, so they had a vague idea of what to expect – there were 15 fully harnessed knights, quite a sight! The rest of us were blissfully ignorant, but we had fun discovering our duties… Like marching up in down the training grounds, with long pikes, practicing formations… n796310536_4391791_2308   After hours of that, we had a quick break ( siesta!) and  then it was time….. In the centre a huge tent was erected – huge to house about 100 horses and people…. and that’s where we waited…   n1127359090_30157280_7190   and waited some more…. n1127359090_30157278_6584   …and then suddenly it was time to meet the horses and mount up.   Yeeesss, about that…….


After initial panic, we were shown the proper mounts…

It turned out that quite a few of the supplied mounts that were brought in were supplied by third parties – from outside of the town. Indeed , as I learnt later, many of them were seeing a town for the first time ever – and it was quite evident. They were lovely horses – many of them stallions, many spooked by the unfamiliar surroundings. It didn’t help that many of the riders were beginners, too – since all we had to do was to sit and walk,  no trotting or cantering,  Griff’s team had to match their abilities to the horses. As it happened, I was busy helping people to mount up, and when the time arrived  for me to get a pony, there were only two left in the tent – a nice chestnut and a lovely gray. There were three people standing next to the chestnut, and none with the gray – good, I thought! so I grabbed the handsome beast and led him out.  Only to learn the reason why he was left alone –  once outside, he completely freaked out, rearing and panicking, impossible to mount up. Nicky, ( who was doing a sterling job of organizing the mounting chaos and helping folks out), just looked and told me to forget it, he won’t do, sorry, I will have to walk. Well, I didn’t fly all the way there to just to walk! In the end, Nick led the horse toward me, standing on a mounting block, and I sort of jumped on en route… and then the fireworks started… After a few hairy moments  of dancing, prancing etc, the horse calmed down and was ok :-) n1127359090_30157286_9053   Everybody was mounted and we slowly started making progress towards the start of the cavalcade… the steps first though… 2   In the meantime, the weather took a turn for the worse – it started to rain… As a result, ( I think), we were not given any pikes to hold; ( I was very grateful for that, the moment I saw the narrow alleys and slippery cobbles)… Immediately after we started,  problems started to pop up –  there is no Health and Safety over there, it seems – the public was just next to us, next to the slipping, kicking, biting stallions, and bless them, ( the public, not particularly the stallions), they were fearless, especially the kids. Everybody wanted to pat the horses…  Our ground crew, both Griff’s staff and local folk were a great help – trying to calm don panicked horses, shield the public from the riders, and calm down the riders who suddenly decided that it wasn’t their idea of fun and wanted off, now. My horse was doing OK, despite shying and prancing a bit, he wasn’t rearing and bit my  support crew bloke only once – So I felt reasonably safe on board. The bloke in question, a weathered chap of about 60, named Jose was not only helpful, but talkative and  so we struck a conversation in my halting Spanish.  He was the source of my information about where the horses came from, ( mostly farms and gypsy encampments, according to him), and  about the festival.


here I am, on my pretty gray pony – he did turn out ok in the end:-)

For me the cavalcade was proving fairly uneventful – stressful, yes, but not nerve wracking. Others were not so lucky… The rain meant the ground was very, very slippery – be prepared, some disturbing photos below.  Just let me say that none of the horses were injured in their falls, ( a miracle, surely!) and the riders escaped mostly  unscathed too :-) 1223576377137 1223576377227 1223623987888   It does look awful –  but all the horses who fell, did get up and continued the parade. They did not even panic, bless them. Apart from a couple incidents like these, it  all went fine… 0070 0035 0022 1223576308746 COMUNIDAD/// Cabalgata de homenaje a Jaume I 1223580919773__t3a3889 1223581828964__t3a4029   The cavalcade was cut about an hour short due to the deteriorating weather conditions, so we missed the fireworks (just as well), and made our way back to the tent, where we dismounted, (many with an audible sight of relief!) We thanked our mounts and left them with their carers/owners… Duty done, time to party  – well, at least food was first on the agenda, we were starved! There was some entertainment too:


Armour makes a great drumming instrument…. for many drummers it seems!


a tad wet… I got even wetter later ( if that was possible) bu disappearing into a flooded manhole – only my reflexes saved me from disappearing for good – but fortunately i managed to spread my arm s wide and grab the edges, and the guys dragged me out. next day we wet to see what it was – it turned out there were some serious roadworks going there, and during the day the site was covered by planks… i guess the food carried off the plans and there was no indication that the street was dug up, especially when you are going knee deep in rainwater….

In in the meantime the weather turned to be of the ‘tropical downpour’ variety… n796310536_4391797_4264   We had to make our way back to the hostels – needless to say we were drenched…. DSC00739   The hostels were flooded too, but nothing we couldn’t deal with :-) but all evening party plans, ( we were going to hit a salsa club or two),  were cancelled. The city was flooded too, the streets turned into rivers, cars being swept away – and so hostel based entertainment had to suffice, ( chatting mostly and reliving the experiences of the day). The next  day dawned clear and most of the flooded drained away overnight – so I ended up on a romantic walk around the old town, then back to the hostel to check out. Our flight  was in the evening , so  our small party had some time for sightseeing –  we ended up admiring the town, drying our  clothes,  eating, resting, buying Valencian lace (me, mostly…), and socializing.  The flight back was uneventful – though  there were some scenes of distress at the weighting in of the luggage – water soaked gambeson weighs much, much more than a dry one…. Some paid up the price, some wore theirs on the flight…   The whole event was, well, ‘interesting’ is a mild way of putting it! It was stressful,  exhilarating, scary,  and fun –  and I would do it again!  Alas,  it  was a one off, it seems. Still, that 2 hours of a walking taught me a lot about horse riding, dealing with stress, wet surfaces, public etc – so some learning took  place :-)   Hope you enjoyed reading the bit – I enjoyed re-living it again!   P.S. the pictures of the cavalcade were taken off the news websites shortly after the event – if any of you know the sources, photographers etc, I would appreciate help with tracing them back :-)