Quirky outfit for Christmas


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!


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 🙂


Suave…. 🙂


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.


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:


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


I was ready.

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


the jacket and skirt….


the jacket on ‘the dark side’

Imageand with the breeches


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:-)



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


Victorian Christmas at Holkham Hall 2013


Ooops, we did it again:-). And yes, indeed Prior Attire was again hired to provide costumed interpretation at this stunning venue.  It was our fourth time at Holkham Hall, and a third Christmas ( previous events are covered here), and each of the events was organised by Black Knight Historical, employing a range of Victorian characters and interpreters –  visitors were greeted  on the gate by  period characters,  in the kitchens maids, cook and housekeeper were busy preparing Christmas dishes, whereas upstairs  a variety of genteel folk would entertain the visitors with tales about the house, Victorian customs, etiquette and  current fashions.

  Outside, there was a lot of entertainments –  swings, carousels, carriage rides, Christmas market, stalls with food, mulled wine, and a lovely restaurant.


One Sunday we managed to snatch a ride and arrived at the house in style despite the strong wind.


in the compound at the end of the day

The house interiors were simply stunning. You will probably recognize the Hall from the film The Duchess, and I bet Georgiana would appreciate its festive decor.  Each year the decorations in every room are different, and theme changes every year too. This time it was the Fairy land – a very whimsical, Lewis Carol-like wonderland , with live Fairies, footmen dressed as animals etc.

We spent 2 weekends working in those sumptuous surroundings –  and although the interacting with about 1000 visitors a day is not for the fainthearted ( or those with laryngitis), it was great fun to meet so many interesting people and talk on so many fascinating topics. The most popular were: Victorian toys and their manufacture,  dress and clothing  ( especially children’s items)  Victorian Christmas traditions ( which carols were sung, Christmas cards, food,) pastimes and etiquette – as always the language of the fan was a popular theme; Victorian technology and inventions, railway,  electricity; social structure, manners and dancing –  so a very wide choice of topics! I realized that apart from good old English, I also talked in French, Spanish and even managed a bit of Mandarin! very exciting.

Alas, since we were working and in character all the time when visitors were around, we couldn’t take any photos  during working hours – but we did snap a lot before the Hall was open to the public – so enjoy the small virtual tour below!


very jolly!


the gigantic Christmas tree in the front room


trying to talk our way into the Santa’s grotto… failed miserably, the guard was to diligent…


stunning tree in the Faery bedroomImage


someone has had too many mince pies, it seems…


High Octave ( hope i remember the name well) gave several amazing performances


there was also something less conventional to unwrap on Christmas day…


the whole South Dining room was converted into a paradise for gingerbread men…


gingerbread folk having fun in a bubble bath


or skating….


there was a wooded Winter Wonderland with moving animals…


including a bowing unicorn



and those who wanted to snatch a mince pie suffered for it…LJP_9392

In the evenings we stayed in the cottage and relaxed, saving our vocal cords….



or worked on clothes – fabric arriving late meant Eleanor’s new frock was being finished on Saturday evening….

But all was done in time and the next morning lovely photos of Eleanor in her new finery were taken




and finally wearing her reversible dolman on the other side…


Lucas at work…


alas, i wasn’t allowed to unpack any of the prezzies….

  Well,  all those above were just a taste of the attractions – we are already wondering what new and different visual feast will  Lady Coke be preparing for the next year  – no doubt  something equally spectacular!  If you live nearby, make sure you visit – it truly is an unforgettable experience! The house is open to visitors not only during Christmas – so do check their events diary!

Many thanks to Black Knight Historical and the Holkham Hall Team for all their hard work!


Victorian Christmas at Holkham Hall


 For the last two years we were lucky enough to be working at Holkham Hall during their spectacular Christmas events – again organized by  Black Knight Historical .  The venue, located on Norfolk coast, nearby a lovely beach is simply stupendous – indeed it has been used in a few film productions ( The Duchess was, I believe, one of the most recent ones). The Coke family still lives there and it is a real privilage to be able to work in such lavish environment – our favoirite room was the  South Dining Room.


The room set up for Christmas dinner.

 In the 2011 we spent a weekend  there – and since it was just a few months after our Victorian Wedding, we assumed roles of a newly wed couple on their visiting round. Our task was to interact with the visitors, chatting about  Victorian wedding customs, fashions and dances. We were also scheduled to do a short public talk about Victorian dances and do a Vienesse waltz demonstration.



the Christmas tree in the upper hall

There were lots of interesting things happening around the venue: the kitchens were busy preparing festive food ( lovely stuff by  4and20 Blackbirds), and at noon Her Majesty Queen Victoria ( eve from  Live’n History ) arrived in style.



 The Queen had a good look around the Hall, and then sat down to tea – and to spend some time chatting with the children.


Her Majesty, Eleanor as the MIstress of the Robes and two brave girls asking for a position at court no doubt!


Altogether two very busy days, in great company and fantastic surroundings. So when we were approached to participate in the 2012 event, for two weekends, we did not hesitate!

 One thing was clear – I needed more frocks! My wedding gown, worn already on several occassions  needed a rest – and I now had a perfect excuse to make some new  Victorian  outfits!  I have decided to wear my 1885 Riding habit on one day, and make a warm 1877 polonaise and a walking dress for the other days.

 The polonaise was based on a fashion plate from Harpers Bazar and I made once before – for one of my bridesmaids. this time i wanted to make one in wool, with decorative border.


1877 promenade dress in wool

 the other outfit was also based on a fashion plate from the same book.


autumn costume,1883

 This time the whole of the house was open and the decor was absolutely amazing. the rooms were transformed – and one corridor was made into a lovely winter’s paradise, complete with moving animals!


the wintery paradise


close up

 There was a different Christmas tree in every room – my favourite was the one made from the antlers shed by the stags from the local deer park.


unusual tree!


 A different room was set up for the feast, all being prepared by a  an army of servants in the kitchen, and the laying of the table supervised by a dashing butler.


the maids


 The yard and the museum were alive with entertainment, Victorian market, photographers carriage rides and storytellers – a little paradice for the kids! Inside the little ones could visit  The Green Man ( the Victorian Santa!). The entrance was guarded – we all felt extra safe with sucha  sentinel!


 Each room had different interpreters entertaining the public. Lucas, Eleanor and I were in the South Dining room; my role was to talk about the secret language of the fan, Victorian ettiquette, manners and customs. What we did talk about ranged from fans to railways, toys manutacture, corsetry and post cards – absolutely everything, so we had an extremely interesting time – and we talked to  over a couple of thousands people each weekend!


antique fans at the ready!

 altogheter an action packed  4 days were had – and we did enjoy wearing our new frocks! Here’s Eleanor, resplended in silk taffeta


Eleanor in her new mouring gown, 1885

  and my promenade dress, which turned out very christmassy and very cosy! – more pictures here


1877 polonaise

 Am very happy at how wellthe welking outfit turned out – called now The grape dress due to the pattern and the colour of the silks. again, more pictures on my page, here.


the grape dress

  and , just a few silly pictures of what was happening after hours…


some were naughty and needed a bit of discipline


the boys being up to no good no doubt


corsets? what corsets, all I need is a bit of exercise to keep my waist trim! as if…


   And the good news is – we are back for the Victorian Christmas 2013!!!!