Looking the Part; 3. Accessorise!

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Ok, so not everybody can afford a steel-clad jouster  on a white horse as a fashion accessory – but don’t worry, there are ways around it:-)

 So far, in our Looking the Part series, we have covered the foundation garments in Part 1, and make up and hairstyles in Part 2.  Part 3, as can be quite safely inferred from the title, will be about accessorizing – but not only…

 Please bear in mind, that I speak from a professional historical interpreter’s perspective –  these posts are offered as generic advice only and you can choose which  you may want to incorporate in your job or hobby. You can be as historically authentic or as fantasy as you want – simply choose the tips that would apply to you, and help you to create a convincing persona or character.

 And so, let us start, with a truly vital element of every costume .. shoes

1. Footwear.

 Not so much an accessory,but utterly indispensable for most folks – unless you are happy to run around barefoot in peasant gear       ( done that, great fun!).   Alas, good shoes and boots are not cheap – but it really is worth to save up for a few months and get a decent pair – and they will last you long, especially if you cover several periods, or dot need to wear them for days at a time. Most of the early footwear can have the simple advantage of lasting longer  as you can often simply get a new sole fitted to your shoe.

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  Key things to remember:

 *Wear shoes suitable to the  historical period – but also to your status,  occasion and weather: Riding boots are rarely appropriate for ballroom; court shoes will be useless on a campaign; if re-enacting medieval styles, it is a good idea to invest in pattens, if you work in a wet climate ( most of the UK then! :-). They are not only a nice accessory  that attracts public attention, they are fantastic means of saving your fancy thin leather slippers from the mud!

* If you work in costume, or at least spend a lot if time in kit, do invest in shoes that fit. Banal, yes, but somehow many of us tends to economize and usually go for cheaper pair that sort of fits,  instead of spending a few pounds more and getting a better pair, or a bespoke on. I It is simply not worth the pain – as I suppose most of re-enactors learnt the hard way!

* Before buying – do your research.  Quality providers of historical footwear will always be able to show you the sources they used for the design on the shoe. Before you decide on style, do your homework and check online, or in books, what  shapes, heels, colours were used in the given period.  Don’t go for cheap copies based on ‘general knowledge of the period’ – if you are interpreting and talking to the public, you will be surprised how often shoes are on the agenda…. Also, make sure that the workmanship is decent –   shoes that look right but are shoddily made will not be of much use. if you can, get your footwear from a recommended supplier.

 * Take care of your shoes – remove mud, use grease, or shoe polish as often as needed – that simple and obvious step will prolong the life of leather, prevent cracks etc.

  Shoe providers I have used and can recommend:

 American Duchess – doesn’t really need introduction – covering  18th to early 20th century designs, great shoes at affordable prices. Love my Victorian Tavistocks, and am saving up for a couple of more pairs. …

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Tavistocks in action

 Andy Burke – one of the top UK suppliers, great quality work – many styles available for a variety of budgets. I have my 12th century shoes from him – not the cheapest, but very comfy!

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NP HIstorical shoes – lovely work, haven’t bought any from them yet, but inspected, and admired several times at different markets

Pilgrim Shoes –  quality shoes on budget – my Tudor shoes are from her, they are great fit and have so far served me well for the last 6 years.

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  U szewca – Polish guys – my 17th century shoes and Cavalry bucket tops are form them… They do ship abroad, drop them a line! both pairs were made to measure, and are very comfortable and durable –  I still use the shoes, some 10 years later – same goes for the bucket tops ( though they recently died in our garage fire – so will be ordering a new pair)

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 2. Hats – we already covered hats while talking about hair in the Part 2 , so just a reminder – wear them! Hats, hoods, bonnets etc are not only great for completing the period look – they also serve a function  as they protect from the sun, rain, cold etc. They also help hide a bad hair day…. 🙂

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No one can see I haven’t washed my hair in 3 days! 🙂

As to obtaining the  hats etc – the same key point  apply – make sure it is appropriate for the period, status; ensure the supplier is trustworthy – if possible use recommended companies. Do your research as well….

Providers – since I make most of my own hats  ( Prior Attire ), I rarely buy them – but i have recently treated myself to a lovely hat from Sherri Light ( Farthingale HIstorical Hats) – my friends also buy from her, and I often admire her designs at the markets:-)

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bling galore!

3. Jewellery.

I am not a fan of jewellery normally – indeed the only bling I wear is my engagement and wedding ring – had that for a couple of years, the longest any of my jewellery items has survived… the reason is simple – I do a lot of sports and earnings, bracelets etc are a bit of a hindrance – or danger even when you do martial arts or horse riding.

However,  I have accumulated some historical bling over the years ( not near enough though!) and I do wear it if I re-enact a wealthy character. Not much point having clothes it for a queen and then  skimp on necklace, earrings, ouches and rings, isn’t it?   this is the area I am most deficient in, but  am slowly catching up!

So if you want posh, get your bling – and bear in mind that items like  surface decoration, pater nosters, pomanders, decorative hat pins or tiaras count as well!

Provider I have used in the past – Gemmus – lovely work! Peterborough Heritage Festival 2013

4. other stuff.

And there we have a number of not only decorative  but also useful items:

* fans – look great,  useful in hot weather and  perfect for demonstrating the secret language of the fan…..

* walking sticks –   great accessory – looks fantastic, provides support when your legs are tired, and can be used as a weapon… 🙂

*gloves – in many periods a must – but also keep your hands warm ( and clean).

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excuse modern skates…. Muff however, correct! 🙂

*muffs – fantastic for colder weather

*shawls

* bags, purses,pouches, reticules-  you name it.  Look period,  are practical ( make sure they are big enough for a hankie, car keys and a mobile phone 🙂

* umbrellas and parasols

*belts, girdles etc – goes without saying really 🙂

*keys ( chatelaines)

*tools –  medieval scissors hanging from the belt, a viking needle case, etc –  range of styles and options through the ages, depending on the profession represented!

* weaponry  ( mostly for men in this case, but not always)!

* no doubt many others….

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accessories galore – fans, shawls, hat, tiara, earrings, necklace, gloves, reticules…. oh, and shoes….

a good accessory is not only great for the look and comfort – but they also serve an additional purse – a perfect conversational gambit, essential when dealing with members of the public.

 

hope you have enjoyed the mini series –  and hope it may be useful to at least some 🙂

One final remark –   a perfect frock, on perfect underwear, impeccable hair and all the accessories  required will count for nothing if your behaviour is not suitable to the portrayed persona. If it is a social event, closed to the public – hell, free rein! but if you are working at a living history event, do mind your manners – and mannerism of the era too! Queens rarely ran around  barefooted with flowing tresses, chased by scantily clad youths; ladies  rarely swore; gentlemen treated ladies with respect ( at least in public!); servants did not treat their betters  as equals – and so on and so forth.   It is impossible to be 100% authentic in your behavior, language, mien etc – but we can at least try and eliminate the most obvious things! 🙂

Robe a la Francaise in yellow brocade

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 There comes a time in every costumer’s life when you just cannot put it off any longer – you need to have a go at the sack back, or robe a la francaise. I have been meaning to play around with it for quite some time, but was waiting for the opportunity to arise – and for the right fabric to turn up. And then, in 2011,  I snatched a bolt of silk brocade in bright yellow, with lovely 18th century pattern in white. Not my favourite colour, but the pattern was simply too good to miss.

 And so, the French adventure started…

 I already had stays, in linen,  fully boned, based on the ones in KCI, but I needed structural support…

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linen stays, handsewn…

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stays in action..

  I used the pattern for pocket hoops from the Corset’s and Crinolines, and it it was easy to run a pair of them in no time at all – the instructions were simple and easy to follow.

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pocket hoop fabric ready for assembly

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ta dah!

Now for the frock itself. I followed the pattern from Janet Arnold,  Patterns of fashion 1 ; the one with comperes front, ( buttoned up)

the petticoat was first: the construction was pretty straightforward, though the flounces were a pain – the fabric frayed like mad….

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trim in the making…

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more trim on the petticoat…

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the skirt…. 🙂

  Then it was time to address the main article – the robe itself.  Again, the pattern is simple, as is the principle – the difficult part was lack of an assistant who would be able to pleat  and pin the thing on me… had to improvise with a dummy.

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pinning away…

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the front…

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sleeves taking shape…. the bodice part and sleeves are made in linen.

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the front part….

And there it is! 🙂 my first attempt- a few things i can improve upon, but happy with the first go result.

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 and worn  on me – here on the set of Horrible HIstories

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Horrible Histories set – you can just about spot me in the back…

We also used the frock for an 18th century themed bridal photoshoot  in Harrowden Hall- a mix of 18th century frocks and modern styles – alas models turned up to be 3 sizes smaller than requested, so the frocks are not displayed at their best – but still Mockford Photography and Pitcheresque Imagery  managed to get a few good shots!

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the three frocks  we used – from the left – polonaise en fourreau, robe francaise, robe anglaise

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the Anglaise in dusty pink

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and the polonaise in brocade. made a bit to big ( the shoot was 5 days after my shoulder operation, so made it a tab bigger so that i could squeeze my dressing into the sleeve:-)

 The Yellow francaise ended up, very appropriately, in Paris – and is now living  a rich and meaningful life, mostly being used for side saddle riding – shown below as a masquerade attire, on the day when we delivered int to Paris, on its new owner – Anne-Beatrice:-)

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  Now, I still have some more of that fabric – am tempted to make a caraco jacket in it…. 🙂

Quirky outfit for Christmas

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Christmas 2013 was supposed to be a bit different.  Well, at least stress free.  So a decision has been made,  we are not doing it.  No tree, presents, food etc, no last minute decisions who is doing what and where and when, no last minute family travelling plans. instead, we made plans to go to London. Not far, we can get a nice hotel for our airmiles, just pure relaxation.

 Until I realized I have nothing to wear….

 Yep, alas, as far as modern clothing is concerned, my wardrobe is rather limited. I buy sports clothing and  occasionally casual clothing, but  apart from a few old dresses ( I don’t think I bought a dress, top or trousers in the last 2 years…), there was nothing suitable to parade about in the posh London hotel.  True, I can take a few Victorian/Steampunk bits, they would work, but since it was Christmas, I wanted to have something special.

 So a project was born – and after a short rummage in the garage I emerged with a few lengths of nice corduroy fabric and a vague idea of what can be made out of it.

 The most important bits to have in mind were – Original, quirky – but wearable, comfortable and suitable for sightseeing in winter.

 Then a ripple jacket pattern caught my eye – and that was really it.  A smart 1895 bodice, can be paired with a skirt – and would look smart, quirky but not too weird.

 December temperatures in London were a bit of a problem – but seeing i have enough fabric, i decided to make the jacket reversible. it worked, sort of, though a major pain, as the jacket still has seams boned, so making it was a bit tricky.

 Skirt was easy – 4 panels, and a waistband, plus a contrasting binding.

 And since i still had some fabric left, and had a few hours left before we were due to leave,  I decided  to make a pair of breeches – just in case it would be either too cold or we wanted to do something more energetic.

 Monday 23, we were packed, with half finished gear –  buttons to sew on etc. I also managed to cram an old hat into the suitcase, plus some fabric straps – may just be able to make a matching headgear!

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How long are we staying in London? Are you sure it is only 3 nights?

 The hotel was indeed a tad posh (Crowne Plaza near St.James’ park  ), but our weird clothes met with applause – the first day, after a nice sauna we set off to a Mexican restaurant, braving the gale force winds and rain – wrapped rather nicely in long Victorian skirt and coat, Lucas sporting his  Regency Great coat 🙂

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Suave…. 🙂

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getting ready 🙂

Next day saw us walking around and looking for quirky bits at Camden town. In the evening, after  a lovely Christmas Eve dinner at Zizzi and a stroll over to the Westminster, it was time to finish my outfit.

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Big Ben! 🙂

Buttons were sewn on and it was time to work on the hat.The base was this: a modern I wore for a friend’s wedding:

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 a few hours work with leftover fabric, feathers etc, I ended up with this:

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I was ready.

  On Christmas day we had a brief photo session with the new attire – the hotel’s lounge and courtyard was ideal!

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the jacket and skirt….

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the jacket on ‘the dark side’

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perfect for taming elephants,,,,

  and after the session off we went –  on our bikes! the Barclay bike scheme means you can get public bikes for pennies and cycle around London – so we spent Christmas days enjoying a leisurely ride through the Royal Parks – Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, then after a short walk ( just for a change) back on bikes again, heading towards Chinatown for our Christmas meal –  crispy duck and noodles:-)

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the Serpentine

  Funny thing, it was not the jacket or the  trews that attracted the most attention – it was the hat! very amusing.

 A very nice break – though badly marred by the Boxing day ‘adventure’ – we got to the train station to discover that when we were sold return tickets nobody bothered to tell us the trains actually don’t run on that day….  so getting back to Bedford was a bit complicated – and costly. well, you cannot have everything!

 Rather pleased with the  result of the costuming experiment too; the jacket was warm and cozy ( though turned out a tad too big)- and am now tempted to make something proper from the 1890ties….  will see….. 🙂

 needless to say, clothing by Prior Attire,

 photography by Pitcheresque Imagery

Saving Savile Row Coat

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 Last autumn I was asked  to repair an old hunting coat for a friend. I don’t usually do repairs – especially if the items were not made by me, but it was a favour and I agreed. The coat arrived in the post a few days later and I must say it was only then that I realized the scope of the necessary repairs. After a few long phone conversations with the owner we agreed on what could be done. The jacket is vintage and very much damaged – the repairs were to prolong its life, but preserve as much as possible out of the original. Not an easy task.  Still – the jacket was quality – after all, it turned out it was made in Savile Row, and the quality of the original workmanship showed.  So worth a try…

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Working on the jacket was not the most pleasant task ( I did have to air it for a few days first..), but it turned out to be very rewarding – not only because an old and tattered thing was given a new(ish) life, but also because taking bits apart revealed the secrets of the Savile Row tailors – so very educational!

 First, the coat before:

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the innards…

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the hem was worn threadbare, falling apart. the lining of the skirt part of the jacket was not in a bad shape, salvageable.

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Shoulder – lining in pieces, showing a nicely stitched padding

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pockets – lining needed replacement

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armpits….

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buttonholes….

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hem at the front

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upper back of the jacket…

 There was a lot to be done… and difficult to see where to start – but after putting all the jobs on the list, some sort of order started to emerge.

 The list of things to be done:

 * buttonholes reinforced

  *pocket flaps relined and edges reinforced

* hem tidied ( trimmed and folded anew, taking 1 inch of the jacket length as agreed with the owner

 *collar reinforced at the back

*repair the underarms 0 outside and inside lining

 *lining – cut away damaged bits, patch up with similar fabric. preserve all original bits that can still work

 and the work in progress..

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buttonholes first

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unpicking and trimming the hem

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working on the front bottom part – revealing the layers of the original construction. most of it was handstitched

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machine stitching securing some of the layers of linen lnterlining

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working on the lining

 And the results….

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breast pocket looking a bit more presentable

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lining patched, repaired and stitched back in place

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pocket re-lined…

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and edges tidied

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and collar outside tidied and protected with cotton tape

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altogether – not too bad for the first repair job! 🙂

 It was a struggle, but i have learnt a lot ( i am not a tailor and haven’t got a clue about modern clothes  tailoring and construction techniques, so that was definitely  something new for me. Plus, I hope the owner will enjoy a few more seasons in her old trusted friend of a jacket:-)

Regency Christmas at Aston: dress project and event

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 Not so long since we were at Aston Hall doing 17th century event, we were asked by Black Knight Historical to  join the forces yet again – this time for filming a short feature film for the NBC. Sounded great,  a nice job, interesting subject ( celebration of Christmas in circa 1820 as described by Washington Irving  – yes the same bloke who wrote Sleepy Hollow) – but no frock!  My only other Regency outfit was a riding habit ( as can be seen here), and that was not really suitable indoor. So, a new frock was  needed- and hardly much time left to make one, let alone spending ages deciding on fabrics etc – I had to make do with whatever I had available.

 A brief research and looking at the 1820 images ( lots of them now on my Pinterest board) decided on the style – an after a brief dither between a black velvet winter gown and a dusty rose satin, satin emerged a winner -mostly because it looked great with some lace I had available.

The next Stitch and Bitch session at Julia’s from Sew Curvy was the designated time for making a frock and a simple petticoat.

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petticoat hem detail

Petticoat ready, I was working on the gown  mock up – and Julia was fine tuning her latest corset pattern…

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girls just wanna have fun!

The day flew by, trying on different corset toiles, stitching the frock, chatting etc. at the end of the day the basic frock was ready – just sleeves, lace and the closure was needed!

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  Julia made a lot of progress on her toiles too 🙂

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 At that point it was time to go home, eat something, have a cuppa or a drink and sit on a sofa chatting and doing some hand stitching – attaching all that lace onto the frock!

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Next day was just finishing our project – and getting a bit silly too- there was a tire swing in the yard, it would be a crime not to test the new dress on it…

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wheeeee!

   We just about had time for some more corset fun trying out the toiles – and I had a go at that too!

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Fit perfected:-)

and then it was time for me to zoom off home – driving through some superb English countryside, in lovely November weather.

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Stunning autumnal colours!

  At home,  I finished the interior seams of the frock,  borrowed some suitable jewels, and we were ready to rock – all sorted for the filming.

We arrived at Aston Hall in plenty of time to change from our casuals into  the finery –  there were 6 of us, 4 in Regency gear and our musicians in somewhat earlier attire.

 As the film crew was busy setting the lights, checking sound etc, we sneaked out for a little shoot outside – the results below…

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with Ian from BKH

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sneaking around…. hoping to catch Darcy emerging from the lake no doubt..

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no such luck – he was fully dressed….

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still, we did have some fun!

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the team: Ian, Tee, me, Kindra and Gini

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Ian trying to’do’ a Mr. Collins. Scary…

 Then it was time to do the job – we danced ( the Duke of Kent waltz will never be the same without a cameraman sitting on the floor trying to film upwards, between the couples…), we played games, we talked, we sang, we listened to the music – all the things that a Regency family would be doing during the festive season – and all of that was filmed.

 We had a short break for a slice of pizza ( alas the local pizzeria was pretty awful – it was difficult to eat more than 1 slice…), and after finalizing the filming, drove back home…

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pizza delivery… Regency style.

 The result, nicely edited, can be viewed here:

http://www.today.com/video/today/53914632/

  Altogether, a very pleasant experience, and I now have one more frock in my wardrobe – so a double win!:-)