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 … Continue reading

Middle class, middle century – 1650-60 bodice and Blickling Hall Spring Faire

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 Another event and and yet again  I had to refresh my wardrobe – this time just augmenting my mid 17th century stuff. We were hired to provide interpreting services at a multi-period event at Blickling Hall – again, organized by Black Knight Historical. I was portraying  a lacemaker, whereas Lucas was delving into the realm of the alchemy, astrology and early science. The event was to be a 3 days one, so although I had some of my old kit, I though that getting another bodice would  not go amiss, especially if the temperatures are high…

 I set my hear on a bodice based on the pattern in Norah Waugh book.  materials were olive wool and mustard linen lining, with plain linen foundation.

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the innards, boned with reed

 

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‘have time to completely hand stitch the thing, but at least managed to finish the insides 😉

 

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sewing on the ribbon…

 

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foundation and top layer ready, now the lining

 

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lining in, finishing touches – eyelets n the cuffs, worked with a silk thread

 

Altogether I was very please with how the pattern worked – and it was relatively easy to put the things together – the most troublesome part was getting all the layers in the armhole working correctly – there are 4 layers: sleeve, oversleeve, the wing, and the bodice – so rather a lot!

I wore the bodice without stays, but found it was not boned sufficiently to support my bosom or my back ( 7 hours sitting  and making lace does make your back ache,…), but when worn over a bodiced petticoat, it  worked great!

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getting ready – lacing the bodiced petti

I even had time to make a matching skirt ( a simple affair- rectangular piece of fabric cartridge pleated to the waistband). With the  existing items, i found it was fun to mix and match the set so it was different every day:-)

day 1 – just my old set…  petticoat, a wool skirt, linen apron, and a woolen bodice

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day 2 –  the new bodice, on unbodiced petticoat, laced with green silk ribbon

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 and day 3 – bodiced petticoat,  2 wool skirt – but a different skirt on top 🙂 bodice laced with black this time, and I added plain linen cuffs

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mixing and matching was great fun – I also need to get a few more collars, neckerchiefs and cuffs as they will change the look of the outfit  too 🙂

 The hat was from Mike the Hat, btw :-), i simply added an antique silk ribbon to it, and a buckle. The cuffs, neckerchief, the coif, forecloth etc were all made according to Janet Arnold book ( Patterns of fashion 4)

 The event in itself was very interesting – we tested  our tent for the first time after the fire – we had to get bits replaced, including all the poles and the structure held – and didn’t  leak over the first rainy night and the thunderstorm on saturday…

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 outside was wet – but inside we spent 3 lovely nights, dry and warm on our wooden bed with fur and wool covers, listening to either the rain or the hooting of very active owls:-)

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after the wet beginning, the weather was fine – warm, sunny and  perfect for being outside, enjoying the fantastic surroundings, during the day we were both busy ( we were told there was on average over a 1000 people visiting each day!),  but even from our tent we could see the falconry display, shows, arming the knight and equestrian shows. after the public was gone, we took photos – and walked around  the grounds – a truly fantastic place!

a few pictures from the event:

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Lucas by day, drafting astrology charts, advising his patients and educating the young …

 

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and being dashing after hours…

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hard at work…

 

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Eve was telling the future using her magical crystal ball in her dark mysterious tent – but we managed to lure her out into the sun for a few photos – here she is wearing a Prior Attire outfit too 🙂

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Tudor kitchen was feeding the participant lavish meals…

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Eleanor looks like setting up a shop to flog the armour…

 

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horses were provided by Steamhorse

 

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the organizer, praying up for some smashing weather no doubt – successfully so too!

 

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Graham looking a bit scary….

 

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 and that’s all folks! more photos on Lucas’ photography page – Pitcheresque Imagery.

 and if you ever are in Norfolk, do visit the hall – it is well worth it! Blickling Hall

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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! 🙂

Looking the Part 2. Make up and Hair

  Right, now you have that perfect dress and silhouette, supported by all the correct underwear (as covered in part 1 here), the next step is the face and hair.  It is not much, you may think, but do not … Continue reading

Candlelight Nights in Aston Hall

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 Aston Hall hosts  Candlelit tours for 6 nights in November – and this year  Prior Attire was there for a ride!  The working team was put together by the industrious Black Knight Historical, and each evening we were there, from 6 to 9 ( or later), performing our roles – people from the household,  circa 1640, preparing for Christmas. each of us had a station, props, agreed talks etc, and we entertained the visitors – chatting about the life during the English Civil War,  Christmas customs, food, clothes etc.

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Lucas sporting his new kit made especially for the occasion

 I was sat with Gini, in the gallery, working diligently on my bobbin lace, whereas Gini was sewing away, trying to see something in the candlelight – fortunately  our loupes de dentellieres ( water lens)  were a great help – and they did attract a lot of attention too!

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 A bit further on, Lucas was in his element, as a physician – a bit of naturalist, early scientist and some astronomy thrown together, the talk was all about horoscopes, symptoms, humours, cures, bloodletting and urine sampling – great fun:-)

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what ails you, madam? let me know your date and time of birth and i shall soon come up with the best cure!

Other characters included kitchen staff, servants, soldiers, musicians,nobles, scribes etc – and  Lucas managed to run around and take a few shots before the public came in one day… enjoy!

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young recruit…

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musicians, in Elizabethan gear, cannot keep up with the fashions:-)

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Gini and Andy, as house servants – Gini as a sempstress and Andy getting the greenery ready for decoration the house, here caught just before leaving for their posts

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no one was idle…

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looking pensive…

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Julia and Molly – and Molly was a firm favourite with the public!

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Ian keeping an eye on everything:-)

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The 6 nights were  full of work, talk and enjoyment – for both us and the public:-) the Hall was superb and attracted huge crowds – there were a few good thousands people going through the building over the duration of the event!

Many thanks to Black Knight Historical for providing us with the opportunity to work there for 6 magical evenings!