Georgian Picnic at Gressenhall Farm

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 What a wonderful day it has been! We were hired by Black Knight Historical to provide costumed characters for the Georgian Picnic at Gressenhall Farm – the event commemarated the establishment of the workhouse there in the second half of 18th century  – 1767 if I remember well.

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Eleanor as one of the benefactors of the workhouse – all ready to tell the children how fortunate they were to live and work there…

It was an early morning for us, getting up at 6.30 ( not a common occurrance for me at all!), but it was worth it – after 2 hours of a nice drive we arrived at the stunning location, and the weather, for a change, was superb – sunny, but not too hot, and not too cold,only the wind being a pest – trying to blow our hats away!.

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ladies desperately clutching at their hats…

 There were about 17 of us working there, and once the clock struck 10am, the courtyard filled with Georgian characters – and the visitors.

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Lucas quickly assumed the role of the childcatcher… funny thing, the kids were not afraid at all!

  The tables were set with food ( pies, tarts, cakes, cheese, fruit etc) and  people could discuss fashionable dishes of the day and compare the menu of the loal workhouse kitchen ( boiled meat on sunday, pottage on monday, potatoes and veggies the rest of the week…)  with the extravagance of the food served to those born into the higher class of the Georgian society.

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 I prepared my basket and a rug to sit on and set on my task for the day – embellishing my bergere hat with lace, ribbon and paper flowers. As I worked, I chatted to the visitors about the realia of the day – the fashionable clothing and accessories, the customs, the entertainment – and all the aspect of the life in the second half of the 18th century.

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new hat finished!

 There was other entertainemnt as well –  the  surgeon  performing a tooth removal, very cheap and almost without pain; musicians played in the background and the storyteller kept all the little ones ( and not only) enruptures with captivating stories.

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Andy the storyteller in full swing

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tooth removal was very popular – it was difficult to get a good viewing spot!

 Muskets and guns were fired and dancing was performed at the chapel; the lucky ones even were allowed a ride in the sedan chair.

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Lucas having a go at a musket firing:-)

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 In the meantime, the museum was open for everybody to have a good look at what a life in the workhouse and on the farm looked like – and the exhibits were amazing!

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in the museum…

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supporting the poor somethimes means going through rather challenging olfactory experience

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The cafe and the gift shop were throbbing with customers and  there was a lot of smiling, relaxed people lounging on the grass listening either to the music or to the stories. needless to say, a lot of pictures were taken too!

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music al fresco – delightful!

 The premisses encompas a delightful orchard, with the apple trees in full bloom – and  a woodland playarea for the kids wioth the swings and slides looked very appealing even to me – had to be persuaded that sliding down a long tune on fancy frock may not be the best idea…

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a stroll in the orchard

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a lovely picture of Julia Barret and her daughter, Molly

 

Altogether, a great day was had by all –  and belowe find a few more pictures from the day:-)

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most of the team at the end of the day… winddblown and a bit surnburnt, but happy!

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was happy to be able to wear my silk robe anglaise – its second outing!

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suspicious looking characters…

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the place was full of lovely little nooks and crannies, with conviniently placed benches…

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a childcatcher and a lady of quality – a dangerous liason?

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apparently carrying a passenger in the sedan chair was pure enjoyment!

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an afternoon nap…

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simple, pastoral pleasures

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Julia and Molly

 

 

 more pictures on Prior Attire page – here

 The costumes ( the pink robe anglaise etc, Lucas coat etc, Eleanor’s  caraco jacket and petticoat) – also by Prior Attire

Challenge: A 1884 Evening Gown in 24 hours….

 I have been planning to make this gown for the last 8 or 10 months.  The fabrics were all stacked up in my workroom, trims waiting in drawers and the only thing i needed was time. Alas, most of my … Continue reading

Spectacular! Spectacular! Masquerade Ball 2013

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And it is done.  The Ball has taken place, and what a night it was!

The last few days before the ball ( 27th April) were manic – i only had about a day and a half to get my dress sorted ( a separate post on that here..)  and deal with the last minute issues, problems, cancellations etc.

But all was sorted in time and by 1pm we were on the move, driving first to our hotel in Slough, even managing a short nap there, and then by 4 we were at the beautiful Heatherden Hall – a part of Pinewood Studios.

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outside, at 4 pm

Inside, the team from Corporate Events already laid up our oak dancefloor, covering the entire ballroom.

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flooring sorted!

We had a quick chat with Paul, our DJ on the day ( also from Corporate Events), about the music, preferences, set up etc –  and with the music working  we simply had to have a go on the dance floor ! we decided to go through our  tango routine, but the stress was making it more of a free style improvisation rather than our proper routine! At that point our photographer, Paul Mockford and his assistant Jason arrived – and without much ado filmed the thing! you can see it here

After that sneaky footage the boys got started on setting their photo studio in the Pools room, and we had a chat with the resident staff who was to care for us in the evening, headed by  the competent Ivona. after that all that was to do was getting ready. Sarah and Lizzie, providing the beauty saloon services, were ready at 5, and the ladies who secured their make up and hairstyling slots were arriving on time  – the rest of the guests were to start arriving at 6.

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Sarah and Lizzie hard at work…

By then I was already dresses, make up and hair sorted ( more or less) and helping other ladies to get dressed – the facilities were great as we had the whole of the Conservatory and the PIne room just for ladies.  during various lacing, arranging and pinning, i talked to our dance teacher, Charlotte Ewart, going through the last bits of information on the dances to be taught.

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getting ready… the atmosphere was great as everybody was helping everybody else:-)

The weather wasnt perfect – but luckily by 6 it has stopped raining and the guests started arriving on the red carpet. Soon the gardens, patio and the bar, where the welcome drinks were served,  were throbbing with people dressed in their finest..

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the bar…

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having fun on the patio

The gardens, with their bridges, sculptures and the labirinth-like hedges were a popular destination for strolling and taking photos…

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  Then, at 8 the dancing started. We begun with the traditional Polish dance, Polonaise – it is a promenade dance, easy to follow and it is still the dance that opens every Prom Ball in Poland..

I led with Chris , our musician ( Blast from the Past) and Lucas followed with Charlotte.   Our fears that people would be reluctant to dance were quickly dispelled –  the dancefloor was packed full as we processed to the polonaise from Eugene Onegin

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Lucas and Charlotte

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polonaise in full swing…

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leading with Chris

After the polonaise Charlotte  guided us through the Duke of Kent waltz, proper waltz hold and steps, aend even a few polkas. Polkas were a killer, leaving us completely breathless!  all to lovely live music from Sophie and Chris.

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a polka

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one of the waltzes…

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us having a go at a polka

some people preferred a more passive participation though, simply enjoying the view. Some took it very easy indeed!

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taking it easy to the next level…

 After the lesson the DJ took over and more waltzes, quicksteps, and more waltzes following for another hour. The dance floor emptied a bit as at the same time food was served and most folks made their way to the pools room to partake in the buffet.

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The food was delicious – alas so delicious that some people went to get seconds and thirds – and as a consequence a few folks  who were still dancing, us including arrived to see empty plates – or half full plates being carried back to the kitchen as people piled more food than they could eat… a bit of a lesson on human nature here, so the food issue is one to be seriously addressed in the future, if i decide to organize another ball. As it was, I was lucky enough to get a bite of a tiramisu Sarah managed to secure for me…

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At the same time the photography team had their hands full – people were having their photos taken, printed and mounted in one go!

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Paul Mockford at work!

After a few more waltzes ( lots of improvisation on our part – but there were a few good couples who could really whirl around!) music gradually changed to a more modern tracks, including music from Moulin Rouge  and a fully eclectic mix of rock, tango ( again, lots of improvisation  and silliness here on our part!) and other dance tunes. The Prince Charming theme went down a treat – many thanks to whoever requested it!  some gilrs chose to take the log skirts off and boogie around in shorter numbers, but the majority danced the night away in their finery!

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prince charming walk….

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girls having fun!

And so the evening continued – dancing, drinking, chatting in a relaxing manner.

As far ars the costumes are concerned – I was hugely impressed!  I must admit that I dreaded  seeing those cheap fancy dress rental pieces, but I shouldn’t have worried. tTe garments were absolutely divine, in most cased hand made by the participants or by few skillful costumiers present at the ball – Felicity Westmacott, Denise Piggin or Christina Dettmers to name just a few – and of course I had a hand in making a few of the costumes too…..:-) ( historical and bridal)

The range was astounding – from pure blown out fantasy, through fashion corsetry to authentic Georgian, Victorian or Edwardian or Tudor garments. Steampunk was very much in evidence as well – in short a true feast for the eyes!  just a few picture s here, more can be founf on fb – link here

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best hat ever!

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The fun ended at about 12.30 when the bar closed, and we saw the last of the guests off just after 1am…

Absolutely knackered, we made our way to the hotel when at last, hungry as we were, we shared a left over bagel… 🙂

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after party bagel… yum! and after paerty look, not so yum…

Altogether, a successful night, with the food issue to be addressed at any future events. Feedback so far was good, so  many thanks to all of you who contributed to the fantastic atmosphere at the ball – and thank you for those who let me use their photos…

another blog on the ball, written by one of the guests, can be found here

and if you fancy another ball – this year;s event is coming soon!  Check out our Victorian Ball

and some of the feedback received on our pages – many, many thanks for it, i was really down because the food situation, and the feebback received did raise my spirits a great deal!:

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Thank you for a truly spectacular evening! We all had a fantastic time! Really appreciate all the time and effort you went to to make it such an incredible event! ♥
great evaning Izabela! Thank you for all the hard work. It ran so smoothly, a testament to your great planning!

What a lovely night! I got to dance to The Sound of Music- Edelweiss and NIN- Closer all in one night… As always I am blown away by the talent that surrounded me. The dresses and coats, the skirts and corsets, waistcoats and pantaloons, each of them were beautifully constructed and many of them by the very people wearing them. It inspires me 🙂 Thanks to everyone who came for making it such a friendly evening, it was a pleasure meeting you, and thank you to the Prior Attire team for putting together a truly Spectacular! Spectacular! event 🙂

We are all amazing. What a beautiful evening.
Thank you Izabella for a great night, and thankyou to all for their fabulous costumes, makeup, masks and headpieces, I so enjoyed looking at all the creativity. As you might have guessed, the kit did get finished, and got some really nice comments from other guests.
We had a lovely evening. Thanks for all your work in putting together such a lovely event in a stunning venue!

A Spectacular-Spectacular masked ball

our masquerade ball through the eyes of one of the guests!

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I’ve been meaning to blog about this gorgeous event for a week now, but after an unfortunate formatting disaster, I needed a mourning period to recover from the loss of some rather lovely images. All is not lost however, and I can still share some of this spectacular event, that made me feel like a princess for a day.

The masked ball took place at Heatherden Hall at Pinewood Studios, and was organised by Izabella from Prior Attire, who makes the most exquisite costumes. Her own dress was made in two days just before the ball and she made quite a few of the other guest’s outfits, with amazing attention to detail. You can see her in the image below

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I didn’t have the bucks or the time to get myself such a fabulous gown, but in true Cinderella fashion, managed to clobber together an outfit from a lucky…

View original post 309 more words

Some Fun on the Side

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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!

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at the battle

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

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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 sometimes is by no means a mean feat!

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at the meet – immaculately turned out and clean. 7 hours later, at the end of the day – not so much…

But I have always wanted to give a side saddle a go – to canter through the fields as a real lady would, all style and elegance. Well,  in the recent years SS seems to have been enjoying a come back – and so an opportunity arose one winter, a few years ago, when I was introduced to Michelle who hunts sidesaddle on Exmoor.

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Michelle on her Joseph, all elegance – and me on Zeberdee, warmly wrapped up agains one of the coldest winds ever – more of a wild west hussy than a lady…!

The first lesson went well, and I rode a few times under Michelle’s tutelage – but alas, it turned out to be pure torture! my right knee was in agony after about 20 minutes. and so I thought that my wonky knees were not really designed for side saddle.  I didnt know much about it then and it wasnt till I met Becca Holland, currely working at Audley End House, who suggested that maybe the saddle was just too short for me.  Michelle is petite – me – not so much!

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the first time…

Spirits were raised and i was determined to give it another go. As i just got engaged at that time, i wanted to ride side saddle after the ceremony – so I also had another excuse to learn the skill!

The first lesson was a success – the saddle was bigger and I was really comfortable in it – no knee problems! The mount, lovely, grumpy Henry, was gentle and understanding, and Becca is simply a superb teacher…

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still a bit insecure…

I also discovered that turning to your left can end up badly – my first fall was even captured on the camera ( almost, before hubby turned it off and rushed to rescue – unnecessarily asmy bowler hat was made of sturdy stuff an survived the impact… )video here .

but after a few more tips, I was much more confident and the canter/trot transitions were coming along nicely  

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yupee! cantering on a very sleepy Henry, it seems…

After that lesson weather worsened and all I was able to do is to plod around on the frozen grounds, modeling my growing collection of habits.

Here at a show and tell event,  sporting a 1785 riding habit in wool – double wool vest , wool skirt and jackets meant I was not frozen!

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out in style… with becca keeping an eye over me:-)

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Audley End in its wintery glory

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and a view of the habit, getting ready in the stables:-)

  And another one,  this time 1910 habit…

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wool habit and lovely Jack at the ready

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close up of the habit

But then the spring came and we started training more – and after a few more lessons, and no more falls, I was allowed to go outside and play in a bigger field.

Soon it was time to try something else – jumping! and to make sure I do it properly i was asked to do it without a bridle…video of the first very awkward jump here

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bridless…

As my jumping progressed, we started to add toys – at one lesson i did a lot of jumping and throwing speers at boars – at another i was piercing balloons with a sabre – endless fun!

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our toys…

In the end, i was able to do Becca’s favourite trick – jumping over a table and snatchign a glass of champagne  while flying over – here is my practice run!

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table…

We also included a dress rehearsal before my wedding – just making sure if the Victorian undergarments worked. they did – though I must say we naver had so much audience as when doing the dress rehearsal training!

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and a bit more ladylike trot around…

Alas for my wedding henry had an injured tendon, so I was using one of the hunters – poor boy had a saddle only once before, but luckily it fitted, and  despite the owner’s fretting we were able to canter away just after the ceremony! vids here and here

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cantering away, with my new husband!

Since then another habit was made… this time 1885, in blue wool, with elaborate frogging

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a new habit and a new boy – Jimmy!

We have also had the pleasure to witness the first side saddle point to point since 1921 –  a few piccies here…

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Becca flying over the fences on a borrowed pony

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the winner, Susan Oakes and Lizzie Harris – not competetive at all… 🙂

This spring i hope to continue the training so that next season I am able to do some hunting  aside – fingers crossed.

in the meantime, have a look at Beccas Video: How to ride Sidesaddle like a Victorian Lady

or visit the blog of  the Flying foxes – http://flyingfoxes.org.uk/tag/side-saddle/

 

following huge interest in the habits: they are made by me! check www.priorattire.co.uk or our facebook page🙂

 

 

there are also articles how to make them available on amazon:

the 18th century one

the 1810 one..

and the most asked for, the blue , 1885 habit

 

04/2014 update – a few more  habits and ss adventures happened:-)

a nice training session at Thurleigh Equestrian Centre, sporting my blue habit…

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and a Steampunk shoot too  ( from the Steampunk Amazones Collection)

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 Then a green habit for a customer – love the colour choice here! 🙂

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and the newest, 1860(ish) habit – a stock item the shop:-)

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