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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Frustration or portrait of a lady

Yes gentle reader, I am frustrated. 
I cannot, for love nor money, find my camera download cable.  It's been missing for a month or more.  I remember thinking, I'll just put that in XYZ so I can find it again.  AARRRGGGH!  
I have ransacked the place but cannot remember where XYZ was!  I have now ordered a new cable but it will only be delivered in a couple of weeks. sigh.
And you know as well as I do that the day after it arrives I will find my original download cable. It's a given.
But in the meantime I have no way of uploading any of my photos to this blog which is why I am FRUSTRATED!
And I have taken some nifty pics lately that I wanted to share with you but they will have to wait.
My latest project - yes another one - involves painting.
Ages ago I bought an old oval wooden picture frame at a flea market because it was lovely and even better it was $6. When I recently decided to dig it out, I couldn't find it either because I'd put it somewhere safe.  Further ransacking found it and I decided since it was oval it needed to hold a portrait. 
I have done many pencil, charcoal and conte crayon portraits over the years and any of those media would look nice in this frame but something inside me said it had to be a painted portrait.  An 18th century painted portrait to be exact. Yep, in spite of not having even attempted to paint the human face since the mid 70s, a painted portrait it had to be.
So I dragged out the paints and brushes and then thought about the canvas.  And after searching online I realised there were no canvases of the right dimensions for my frame.  And yes it had to be a canvas.  So I went in search of a canvas board - I have canvases of all types and sizes but finding one I could cut into the requisite sized oval proved... yep you guessed it, FRUSTRATING. Ok to cut a long story short, I did find one eventually, just like I eventually found an exacto knife (albeit not the sharpest) and I eventually cut the oval shape out of the canvas board.  Yes I also cut myself.  So you'll have realised by now that I was really committed to the whole idea of a painted portrait. I mean any sensible soul would have given up when they couldn't find the darn frame in the beginning.  Give up?  Never!
Then came the composition.  I wanted a lady with big hair facing to the left of the frame. So I trawled the web for images that might inspire me. Most of them seemed to be looking the other way, naturally!
Eventually I found settled on one. Aha the moment had arrived for me to pick up a brush and load it with paint.  Holy dooley! Which is when I realised I couldn't remember where to start. hahahahahha
But I started anyway.  With predictable results.  Bloody hell!  I had a blue background with some grey blocked in for the hair and this orthotic pink shape which was meant to be a face! hahahahha  I couldn't stop laughing. After a severe talking to, I cleaned the brushes and resolved to get out my painting books and just look at them for a while.  And you guessed it, I couldn't find my books.  
Thankyou God for YouTube.  I looked up the brand of paints I use and lo and behold they had a portrait tutorial - hallelujah!  And watching it I remembered so many things. Blocking in shapes, proportions, transitions, layering, glazes. Doing it however is another matter.
So a few days later, I sat down again and while the tonality is a bit all over the shop, I have painted a recognisably human face. I'm nowhere near finished but she's coming along.  
And when I get the damned camera cable I'll be able to show you the results! In the meantime enjoy these lovely portraits from that era.

Monday, December 19, 2011

DIY fly fringing

If you've marvelled at fly fringing on the elaborate clothing of the 1750s to 1770s and would like to add some to your own costumes check out Quaintrellelife for a tutorial.
Fly fringing has that delicate, fragile, spring flower look and the fringing on these sleeves must have been incredibly labour intensive. The effect however is delightful.
Viv has studied photographs and worked out how to produce the desired effect. There are also some links you can follow up if you don't already have many of the books mentioned. 
Will I give it a go?  Probably not as I have far too many UFOs (unfinished objects) including the dress, the hat, the stomacher and the walking stick.  I need to find a shop that sells time!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Baroque dance

Yes I have been flitting from topic to topic lately.  I like lots of variety and so I constantly trawl the web looking for interesting18th century and other historical information.
For some time I've been watching YouTube videos of Baroque Dance, which looks rather delightful. 
What is Baroque Dance you ask? 
Well from what I've gathered, basically it's the theatrical and social dances of the European upper classes from mid 17th century to mid 18th century.  Stylistically it's French (think Louis IVX performing his ballets etc) and the theatrical strand morphed over time into our ballet. Feel free to correct me if I am wrong.
Some of the performers are obviously professionals - their movements are effortless and I'd imagine like ballet it would take many years of practice - especially in those dresses.  Others are less professional and some movements are frankly amusing to my 21st century eyes. 
So if you like baroque music and feel like escaping into another world for a little while trip off to YouTube and type in 'baroque dance' to watch some of the videos. 
I also want to know where they get their shoes!

Friday, December 16, 2011

City of Vice

I'm always on the look out for good 18th century movies and TV series and recently I discovered a couple I had somehow missed.
I've now exhausted Garrow's Law (an excellent tale based on a pioneering 18th century barrister) and moved on to City of Vice - the story of Henry Fielding, author, magistrate and founder of London's first police force - the Bow Street Runners. 
Along with his blind half brother and fellow magistrate John Fielding, Henry tells the story of vice and violence that is the gin soaked world depicted in Hogarth's Rake's and Harlot's Progress.
But Hogarth's images are tame by comparison.  
It's a pretty gritty dramatisation of the brothels, child prostitution, molly houses, treatment meted out to homosexuals, arranged marriages and violent gangs that ruled the streets and the establishment of the Bow Street Runners to bring some kind of order to this anarchy. 
It's absolutely fascinating. Even when I have to look away.
It also reminds me that I am very fortunate to live now. I am thankful for the police and our system of law enforcement. We all complain at times but it's come a remarkably long way from its humble beginnings.
If you haven't come across City of Vice and Garrow's Law - they are both well worth watching.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


I do enjoy a nice cup of tea, particularly from a nice china teacup. So I am indebted to the Duchess of Bedford for inventing afternoon tea, which became so popular in the 18th century that all sorts of other tea occasions were invented. 
So now we have morning tea, Devonshire tea, high tea, picnic tea and on it goes.
And so many varieties of the tea itself. 
My long time favourite is Taylors of Harrogate Yorkshire Gold, but I've also recently discovered Wedgwood English Breakfast which I really enjoy.
I gather the term 'high tea' once meant a rather more robust repast including meat dishes but over time the term has come to be associated with more elegant and dainty repasts.
I enjoy making tea, it's is a very meditative 
process. And while I have been known to have my tea with a buttered pikelet, a red velvet white chocolate pattycake or even a macaron, my favourite accompaniment will always be a freshly baked buttered scone. Another wonderful thing about tea is that there is so much paraphenalia required: china teacups, teapots, silverware and table linen, that it feeds my collecting habit.  But that's another post! 

Monday, November 21, 2011

DIY 18th century shoe article

While searching for 18th century shoe buckles - original and reproductions - I found a great article by Loren Dearborn at "Your wardrobe unlocked" outlining the steps to creating your own 18th century style shoes out of modern shoes.
Since I like a bit of DIY I might have to try this just for the hell of it.  You know, when I get through the alarmingly long list of things on my To Do list! In the meantime check out the article.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Walking stick citing

I've been reading Amanda Foreman's "Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire" and lo and behold, a walking stick reference caught my eye.  
James Hare, a friend of Georgiana's wrote a satire on life at Chatsworth called "A Rational Day in the Country" in which he mentioned the ladies walking outside "with the help of a long Pole with a spike in the end of it (to throw over their shoulders or stick into any gentleman's foot who has the honour of accompanying them)...  Bearing in mind the satire, I must admit I hadn't thought of shouldering my walking stick. However I am sure one can do it in a genteel fashion and hopefully not poke someone's eye out.
Not that I particularly wish to emulate the Cavendish ladies. Far too tiresome what with the strangling of the English language and all.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Étui anyone

I've had a very long love affair with these gorgeous indispensible adjuncts to a ladies attire in the 18th and 19th centuries: the étui or necessaire.
I first read about them as a teenager and was captivated by their variety, delightful decoration and dainty tiny-ness.
Dating from the 1720s these tiny cases generally contained items used daily such as tiny folding scissors, needles, thimbles, bodkins, tweezers, nail files, little folding knives, spoons, hairpins, makeup pencils and even tiny vials of perfume.
They were most often carried in pockets, although I believe some were suspended from chatelaines - another delightful accessory. 
While they were mostly the possession of women, there are examples around of those carried by doctors, engineers and draughtmen. I recently saw an engineer's étui or pocket drawing case on eBay complete with brass instruments and boxwood rulers in shagreen from the early 1800s.
Étuis were made of a wide variety of materials including gold, silver, ivory, mother of pearl, agate, tortoise shell, wood, leather and shagreen (shark or ray skin). I've even seen one set inside a large hinged walnut shell. I wish now I had bought it. 
Some are decorated with etched designs and some in gorgeous enamels as you can see in these photos.
Even the shapes are delightful.  The tapering enamel ones are my favourites and I would love to own one. Others were much more elaborate rococco affairs.  
A trawl through eBay came up with a variety including a number from the Palais Royal - these items are always of beautiful quality. 
I've seen larger cases from the late 1800s described as étui although they look much more like the modern dressing case or manicure set.
You can still buy little sewing cases which serve a similar purpose today as the étui. I have two tiny modern ones - hinged boxes containing sewing items.

Pearls, Girls and well, Tiaras!

There has been precious little in the way of 18th century fun lately, but I did go to the Vintage Fashion Fair - which is full of vintage girly delights.  
In fact they even had some vintage boy stuff which was good to see. 
The stall with vintage jewellery components always claims my attention for a good hour or so, so I made a beeline for that one and stocked up on lots of bits and bobs as you can see in this photo. I loved the vintage pearls and Czech glass beads.
This time around they also had hair ornaments and tiaras.  
Ok, a tiara was not on my list but faced with a reasonably priced tiara what would you do?
So I bought one!  I think it has a bit of russian influence.  Can't think where I'll wear it but you know it's just the sort of thing you don't think you'll want and then WHAMO you get an invite that requires one. Well I hope so anyway! Of course I can always sit in the lounge wearing said tiara, watching Elizabeth simper at Ross Poldark.  
I also scored some pieces of old raffia which I thought I might fashion into fascinators, a couple of 60s era aprons for gifts and a 60s sewing pattern. 
A good evening in all.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Normal service resumes

Apologies for the lack of posts for the past month. My life suddenly got very, very busy.
The major project I've been working on (for work) for the past three years is finally coming to fruition which has entailed a lot of effort. It goes live on Sunday so keeping fingers crossed it goes well.
On top of that, I've been having some renovations done (they should finish this coming Saturday but had a botched start entailing a strongly worded email to the company) and my family all arrived at the same time for a fortnight (they've all gone now).  Crikey it's been busy.
The worst part is virtually nothing 18th century related. I mean, really, how am I supposed to survive that? 
True I did get to the craft fair and to the collectibles fair but I did not go beserk.
So what have you all been up to?  I shall go and read some blogs now and find out.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Authenticity and otherwise

When I started looking at getting myself an 18th century wardrobe I was all for authenticity.  My plan was to have a quasi 18th century dress I could wear while I was getting my outfit together.
But I have been questioning that for a little while now and have found some rather persuasive reasons for settling for 'something like'.
No. 1  I live in a warm climate so getting myself dressed up in multiple layers of clothing is something I could only contemplate for a few months a year in the midst of winter, if at all (Queensland isn't exactly known for cold winters).
No. 2  There aren't many places to wear 18th century garb around here.  So I'm likely to be sitting in the lounge room watching Poldark on video (with the airconditioning on).  Not that that is a bad thing.  But most persuasive of all...
No. 3  A recent health scare made me rethink my plans to squash my generous upper assets in a corset. Health first, last and always.
While wearing 'something like' may make me a target for those who like authenticity I am unlikely to run across many of them in my loungeroom while watching Ross Poldark smoulder at Elizabeth.
Yes it would be nice to be authentic but it's not everything.


Yes it's that time of year again. Lord I love spring. It's actually unseasonably hot here at the moment but I'm not complaining. It's heaven.
Apologies for my lack of posts lately.  Work and health sometimes conspire to leave me little time for much else and I needed to get into spring cleaning.  I've been going through cupboards and boxes and taking loads to the thrift shop again. There is still heaps to do but it's good to see some progress.
Accordingly I haven't done anything costume related or even 18th century related which is a little dismal.
I did however get to a vintage fashion fair  and a collectors market and found not one but two 50s dresses which fitted me (AMAZING). I just need to get belts for both.  My finds included:
  • three gorgeous vintage hats in orange, pink and cream
  •  a heap of amazing 20s millinary feathers (it was hard choosing between all the gorgeous things on offer)
  • a number  of lovely damask table cloths (see how I cleverly glossed over the actual number I came home with)  and
  • some empty pocket watch cases with which I plan to do something crafty.
You may in fact be wondering if I have brought as much stuff back into the house as I took out of it but on balance the house is emptier! Yay!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Happy happy joy joy

Wow. I've found some more people who like costuming. In fact there is a whole bunch of them. The Australian Costumers Guild. OK not a whole bunch of 18th century obsessives but hey they like costumes. So if there are any Aussies reading this YOU ARE NOT ALONE!  Take yourself off to their website and check it all out.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

New American Duchess leather shoes on pre-sale now

Yes she's done it again. Similar to the original American Duchess silk Georgiana style shoes, the Devonshires are a leather 18th century shoe based on museum examples from the 1760s through 1780s. They're made of top-grade dyable leather, with a beautiful, smooth Italian leather sole for dancing, and are hard-wearing, water- and mud-proof, for even the toughest of outdoor re-enactments.
Pre-Order the Devonshires through August 10, and get the special $100 price. We're only making 200 of these shoes, so don't miss the chance to own one of only a couple hundred pair on the planet!
So rip on over to to order. 

Monday, August 1, 2011


I don't know why but I'd not imagined there was anyone of the name Polignac still around. It's certainly an historic name and while I knew Yolande Martine Gabrielle de Polastron, Duchesse de Polignac had escaped revolutionary France I didn't really consider it further as she had died not long after Marie-Antoinette (reportedly of grief).
But then a chance reference to one of the Grimaldis turned up the information that their names are in fact Grimaldi-Polignac. She is in fact the great great great great grandmother of Princess Caroline, Prince Albert and Princess Stephanie of Monaco. So they are all Counts and Countesses of Polignac. Whodathunkit? 

Monday, July 18, 2011

The 18th Century Blog: Letters To The Past; The Love For History

The 18th Century Blog: Letters To The Past; The Love For History: "One of the great history blogs I frequent ' The Love For History ' has come up with a new quirky idea! Have you ever wanted to write a let..."

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Really, really, really disappointed

I missed out on this wonderful pair of silver and paste (glass) shoe buckles on eBay.  I resisted them a month or so back when they were on 'Buy It Now' and regretted it so when they were listed again I went ahead and bid.  But I got gazumped. 
These buckles reek 'rococco' to me. They made my heart melt. 
I could see myself with them on my American Duchess shoes, or if they proved too big, with one on my hat. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

Ooooo a wig pin!

Have you ever heard of a wig pin? 
Not a hair pin such as you'd use to secure your wig but a decorative type thing.
I certainly imagined 18th century women would put decorations of all kinds in their hair but haven't see anything that was described as a wig pin before.
In this case an antique English silver paste wig pin from around 1750 according to the description.  And the design is said to represent a stylised comet!  I'm glad the description made that clear because my first instinct was a wrench which is not something I'd imagine in a ladies wig.  (Although I do have a small stick pin which is a jewelled wrench. Yeah don't ask!)
By the by, the paste mentioned is actually ground glass packed into a mould and melted to form little glass jewels. So 'paste' jewellery equals glass!  And I am a bit taken with paste jewellery. But that's another post, so back to the wig pin!
It certainly isn't constucted like any hair pin I've seen. The shaft is thicker for one thing so it doesn't look like a stick pin you might put in your clothes or even a hat pin.
It could however be placed in a button hole and secured by the projecting top end as well as the bottom of the shaft.
After some Google searching I came across an item on Isis Wardrobe blog about an item she bought on eBay also described as a wig pin. But I have to agree with her. It looks more like a hat pin.  And it's very different from this little comet pin. 
If you can shed any light on historical wig pins I would LOVE to hear from you! So don't be shy!
If you are the owner and would like me to take the picture down please email me and I'll oblige.

Sunday, July 3, 2011


It is supremely annoying when one knows one has ostrich feathers but one cannot find them.  This may be because one has 'stuff' all over the place and needs a much better method of organisation.
However one did retrieve a single feather from a hair ornament previously worn to a posh 'do' and then bought some more.  Yes alright I bought some more.  Because I could not wait, I was not interested in being patient and looking for the aforementioned feathers which I will of course find now that I have purchased some more.  I expect I could go on being annoyed or I could be thankful that:
a. I could afford to buy more feathers and
b. there was a shop within cooee which actually had ostrich feathers for sale. 
So yes I am thankful for those things and will now set about determining how to trim my bergère hat which may or may not feature the feathers.  But of course I will need the ostrich feathers at some point because this is the 18th century after all.  And I love hats.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Patience and a sombrero makeover

I've been wanting to make an 18th century hat for a while but balked a bit at the price plus postage of those nice hat blanks I've seen online. I figured I could find an ordinary straw hat and have a play around with it. However in true form, while I was looking I couldn't find anything even remotely suitable. It was only when I stopped looking that one turned up! 
I found this large brimmed sombrero at the charity shop on Saturday for $4. 

First of all I unpicked some of the crown to see how good the straw was - I wasn't sure how well it would stand up to being unpicked and resewn. It turned out to be fine. So I cut off the tall crown and proceeded to sew a flat piece for the new low crown.
Fortunately I had some milliner's needles bought for just such a project. I took my time and sprayed the straw with water and put a weight on it to make it nice and flat.  I also turn the main part inside out because the brim was a bit floppy. Then once my little round flat piece was the size I needed I pinned it into place on the open crown.
Have I ever sewn a hat before - no. Was it hard? No. 
Sewing the new flat panel in was the most fiddly.  It just took a little time and I even reused the thread I unpicked from the hat. It was still strong so it went back into the hat. Ultimate recycling!  
Now instead of paying around $40, I have a 24 inch wide low crowned straw hat for $4 and it's ready for styling. 
I'm going through my stash for suitable trimmings and I'll post on that shortly!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

An embarrassment of pool cues

It's amazing isn't it. About a month ago I got tired of waiting to find an old pool cue to make my 18th century walking stick and went off and bought a brand new one.  But today I went to the markets and found not one but three old cues, of various sizes and colours $12.  Well come on, I couldn't leave them there, could I?!?

I also dug out one of the lovely wooden bottle stoppers I'd bought years ago. I think it might end up on one of the cues. It has a shape that reminds me of the onion cupolas of St Basil's in Moscow. Which brings me to these delightful walking canes of Catherine the Great. You can just see the hole under the jewelled head through which a ribbon was passed. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Problems with leaving comments - the joys of Blogger

I am feeling just a little tetchy.  When I try to leave comments on any blog - yes even my own, Blogger is sending me in a continual loop where I have to sign in, enter the authentication letters etc and when I hit send, hey presto I have to log in on Blogger again. Aaarrrgh  Until I can work out why this pesky thing is happening please forgive me if I don't respond to your comments online.  It feels like Groundhog Day!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

More books, more wonderful reading

Since my local libraries are light on for books about 18th century clothing I am a regular purchaser of books.

Among the latest to arrive is "Costume Close-up, Clothing Construction and Pattern 1750 - 1790" by Linda Baumgarten and John Watson with Florine Carr (published by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation).  I love the pictures of the insides of garments because I can see how they were put together and the types of stitches that were used.  I like that I can see where bits of fabric were pieced together to save cost and that sometimes edges weren't even, much like things I've made. It makes those people far more real to me, because the only real difference between us is time.  My only wish is that all the pictures were in colour rather than just a few.

The next book is "The Art of Dress, Clothes through history 1500 - 1914" by Jane Ashelford (published by the National Trust). I like the marriage of information from extant garments and portraits in this book. I like the snippets from people's letters, I liked finding out that even wealthy ladies went from shop to shop all over London to find the right fabric for a new dress - something I can relate to. Home sewing in Australia has been in decline for 20 to 30 years with a resulting drop in the number of fabric shops around Brisbane. I'm not a fan of Spotlight and that means trekking from one side of town to the other to the few shops that are still around.  I miss the fabric shops of my teens - they were wonderful even in my small town.

And if you want blisteringly good colour pictures with close-ups and less text there is "Fashioning fashion, European dress in detail 1700 - 1915" by Sharon Sadako Takeda and Kaye Durland Spilker (published by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art).  It covers quite a range of attire and the photos are sumptuous!

Saturday, June 4, 2011


Yes I know it's one of the seven deadlies but I do envy people who live in areas where there are lots of reenactment and living history groups. You folk in the US and UK seem to have heaps of lovely events to attend. Even the folk in Sweden seem to have lovely events in gorgeous locations.
In my part of the world (Australia) pretty much unless you are into medieval there isn't a whole lot.  Nothing against medieval but it's not me. (I liked it quite a lot when I was younger but I've matured into rococco!) 

One day I hope I find enough 18th century enthusiasts around here to have an 18th century event. Doesn't have to be large, just something to dress up for and amuse ourselves.
I guess I'd better just stop whinging and remember I live in a wonderful climate and enjoy it. Tomorrow I will be puttering around my herb garden or sewing my 'quasi' dress.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Patched and powdered

What's not to like about this indecently gorgeous little mother of pearl patch box WITH brush and tiny hinged compartments?

Well only the price which is out of my league. le sigh

This is the first one I've ever seen like this.  

Friday, May 27, 2011

18th century walking sticks 101

I've been trawling the web for details of 18th century walking sticks and there isn't much around so I've collated some information from several sites (listed below). 
They were variously made of rattan or bamboo in addition to polished woods of various kinds.
Lengths seem to vary and I've seen measurements from 110 cm to 134 cm.  Other measurements include "up to the lowest rib, later (esp. for ladies) even reaching almost to the shoulder". 
Mine looks like being around 127 cm which is somewhere in between so hopefully I will be fashionable.
The handles were highly decorative and frequently extravagant being made of beaten gold or silver, ivory, tortoiseshell as well as precious and semi-precious stones. 
Being taller than the modern walking stick they were designed to be held beneath the handle so that you could show off your highly desirable and costly accessory to great effect.

Links and quotes said:
"Walking Sticks originally only served as a kind of sword substitute for men, but with the budding Polonaise fashion (c. 1770) women started to use them as well." said:
"With a stick always in the hand, one strolled, discussed and flirted, first in the gardens of the Tuileries, Versailles and Fontainbleau, and later on in the century in the less ordered, semi-wild English-style landscaped grounds. Not to be outdone by the gentlemen, fashion-conscious ladies also carried sticks because of the very high heels of the time and out of enjoyment of fashionable accessories.
In the mid-18th century Saxony's prime minister, Heinrich Graf von Brühl, possessed 300 sticks to go with 300 suits, together with just as many snuffboxes which he carried in turn. The French Revolution officially did away with court fashion. For a short time.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

With brass knobs!

I trotted off to the local hardware yesterday and found some door knobs for the handle of my walking stick.  One's brass and the other wood.  I needed to pick one that felt comfortable under my hand and that I could fit easily to the end of the pool cue, and I didn't want to have to alter it much (filing those grooves was finicky enough).

I've chosen a nice jarrah shade of woodstain because it matched the wooden knob and some satin buffing oil rather than varnish because I don't want it to have a super shiny lacquered look.  I'd like it to be a little more understated - well, as understated as it can be given I'm leaning towards the brass knob. It feels nicer to rest my hand on and I usually go for comfort. 

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Walking the walk

I got the bug and decided I needed one of those tall walking sticks you see in 18th century prints. They look excessively elegant and posh so obviously I need one.
I read on someone's blog that pool cues made good walking sticks so I've been looking around for an old one to recycle but got tired of waiting and tripped off to Amart All Sports and $15 later I had my blank. 
It was painted with gloss black paint so I've stripped that off even in all the little cross hatched grooves on the grip.  What a nightmare. Thank goodness for the set of little needle files my darling Dad gave me years ago. The triangular one was  perfect for the little grooves but it took hours. Good thing I'm mad.
Since it's a blond wood I want to get some wood stain and darken it up, maybe with a golden maple colour.  But first I want to find the right sort of knob for the top.  I have some turned wooden bottle sealers so I might see if one of them works.  If not, I will just look for the right sort of door knob and stain to match.
I also have a nice piece of bamboo from one of my Dad's really old fishing rods which may get turned into another one. 
I'll post updates as it progresses and if any of you have made your own I'd love to hear about it!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Royal wedding

I don't know about you, but I will certainly be ensconced in front of the TV for the royal wedding. I like a good royal event and hope and pray it all goes off safely.
And it's not just the wedding dress. I love seeing all the hats and outfits of the guests as well. Westminster Abbey is such an amazing church - I crawled all over it when I was there. Couldn't get enough! And I will be playing spot the famous person in the Abbey!
I don't have a favourite in terms of royal weddings but there are some I've enjoyed more than others.
I remember Princess Anne's because I loved the medieval sleeves on her gown.
Though I wasn't alive when Grace Kelly married I think her ensemble is one of the classiest and most divine I've seen.
I enjoyed Prince Andrew's wedding to Sarah Ferguson - they seemed so happy and in love and it was sad it all ended so unhappily.  I loved the train of Sarah's dress with Andrew's inital on it.
And I really enjoyed the wedding of Prince Felipe of Spain and Letizia Ortiz. I particularly loved when he gave his bride a tissue during the ceremony. The cathedral they were married in was just amazing.
So I'll be brewing up the Yorkshire Gold tea and buttering the scones and watching THE LOT!
Have a lovely time Will and Kate!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Quasi 18th century sleeve flounces

My quasi 18th century dress is coming along. Sort of. If there is a way to do something wrong (or ack-ta-kac as my family say) I am probably going to find it. Messing about with the pattern didn't help but hells bells I am still enjoying it. 
I've hit a bit of a bump in the road with the bodice part so while I am letting solutions germinate in my little grey cells I am getting on with the sleeves and in particular the sleeve flounces.
Aside from the long seams I've been hand sewing the rest, not from any purist motives (hardly since my dress is in no way authentic to 18th century patterns) but because I quite like handsewing. I find it rather meditative.
And as to trims, well some time ago I got all dye happy and dyed some lace in different colours including one which didn't turn out the way I'd planned (big surprise there). It just didn't suit the project I was working on.
However it turns out to be PERFECT for 'Le Quasi'. The smaller trim is some recycled lace from a thrift shop. It wasn't actually cheap as that particular shop has prices more akin to standard retail but it was for a good cause and I like recycling and upcycling things.
So here is a work in progress photo of the flounces. I really like the way they are shaping up!

So what 18th century frocks do you have?

I'd love to know what lovely 18th century wear my readers have. 
I pore over books, blogs and websites devouring images of real and painted dresses and would love to know what you wear, or what 18th century dress you would like to own.
What comes up trumps for you?
A robe à la française with a lovely sacque back?
A robe anglaise?
A polonaise?
Come on and let us all have a wee orgy of dressiness!
And feel free to be detailed. What kind of material, colour and trim. Include links to images if you have some you are passionate about.

Tell me, tell me do!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Finds and ramblings

Yes yes, I know this isn't even remotely 18th century.  I mean it's a collapsible top hat.  But I've always been fascinated by them and there it was, at "The Way We Wear" sale, lying in wait for me.
It's actually a mite too small but I can perch it on my noggin and swagger about a bit and pretend I am off riding my lovely mare Dulcify whose alter ego is Lucifer. OK I just made up the bit about a horse but hey I'm channelling Auntie Mame!  
Getting hold of 18th century goodies is difficult and even reproductions, good ones, is a tad difficult. Especially the kinds of things I like.  
So in between I get my kicks from other periods and therefore my little dreams can get pretty anachronistic.
Therefore in this dream I have a lovely red riding habit, English of course, much like this one of Lady Worsley's.
And I will wear my very delapidated top hat with a few large fluffy ostrich feathers because I can!
Do any of you have a riding habit like this one? 
I must say it's very fetching. I particularly like the cut away in the front with the waistcoat showing.

And I love the costume Helen Mirren wore in the final scenes of the 
Madness of King George which is predominantly blue with a bit of red and white.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

18th century silk slippers to die for!

If you're in the market for ladies 18th century silk shoes with a dashing Louis heel you're in luck!

Head on over to the American Duchess blog and check out the American Duchess "Georgiana" style which will be available for pre-order on 1 April - no, it's not an April Fool's Day joke.   And you get a nifty discount for pre-ordering!

They can be ordered natural white or custom dyed or you can get them dyed by your local shoe shop. And there is an assortment of gorgeous shoe buckles and shoe clips!

I can't wait. I so want those shoes!  So spread the word!

American Duchess has to pre-sell a minimum 100 pairs of shoes in order to run the style.  If there aren't enough orders, everyone who has ordered will unfortunately be refunded 100% and there will be no pretty silk shoes.  

So tell your costume mad friends and let's order up a bunch! Visit for full details!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Quasi 18th century gown - the material

Yes well, haven't done too much more but thought I would show you the material I'm using.  As mentioned previously I'm recycling some old drapes. Well it was actually one long drape that wandered up and down over one window then did a large swoop and then up and down over another window. It was actually cotton quilting material I really liked and bought on special years ago.
Being on special I went crazy and bought about ten metres.  And it's come in handy as something to practice on while getting back into sewing actual clothes as opposed to crafty things.

In praise of Olive Matthews (1887-1979)

I've been reading "Understanding Fashion History" by Valerie Cumming which is not about the many and varied styles of clothing throughout history but how collections are formed and used and how that history is taught in our colleges and universities.
Collecting, preserving and storing historical items is an expensive and complex business and vies for budget allocations against not only historical artworks and furniture but also more modern collections. It must be a nightmare jugging what museums and galleries should keep and what they cannot reasonably maintain.  And how do these collections begin anyway?  Quite often it begins with a significant donation of objects.
So who was Olive Matthews and how does this relate to her?
Well Olive was an only child brought up by a strict father in London (her mother died when she was two years old).  
Her early interest in costume seems to have been sparked by some family items including a printed handkerchief c1774 featuring playwrights and actors that belonged to her ancestress Susanna Pearce and embroidered with Susanna's name. 
Fascinated by the 18th century (how could I not love her) Olive wanted to collect 18th century furniture but realising her father would not approve determined instead to collect clothing and items which could "easily be hidden in cupboards and boxes". 
Over a 40 year period Olive would collect more than 4000 items mostly from the period c1740 to c1840, finding things at markets and occasionally through dealers. The collection includes clothing and textiles, accessories, needlework tools (yum), toys and some furniture. 
Not wanting to see her collection split up and realising that large museums like the V&A would not accept it in its entirety, Olive with the help of a friend, set up a trust which administers the collection which is displayed at the Chertsey Museum in Surrey, UK to this day.
I have so much admiration for Olive.  She could easily have been thwarted in her ambition to collect items from the 18th century but she wasn't.  She could have just enjoyed those items throughout her life and left their ultimate disposal to someone after her death but she didn't.  She safeguarded it for the future.  For people like you and me. So we could enjoy it, study it, appreciate the construction and learn from it.
Bless you Olive. One day I will get to Chertsey Museum and see your wonderful collection.
You can check out the Chertsey Museum website at

Friday, March 11, 2011

Book review: Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution

I know this book by Caroline Weber came out five years ago and you have all probably already read it. I'm playing catch up with my reading.
I'm seriously impressed with this book.  I learnt so much more about Marie Antoinette herself and the context in which she lived. 
This is no light weight picture book. In fact there are remarkably few pictures but they all contribute to understanding how Marie Antoinette used dress to define her role, to escape, to challenge perceptions and how that in turn contributed to the tragedy that overtook her.
This books treats Marie Antoinette with a seriousness that is a revelation. I'm glad I ordered it, it's certainly worth the asking price.
Don't you just love this equestrian portrait of her in trousers by Louis Auguste Brun de Versoix.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Quasi 18th century gown

One day I will have the 18th century ensemble I dream of.  Not only will I have a hedgehog wig and American Duchess satin slippers, I will also have appropriate stays and a sacque. Good things are worth waiting for but it all takes time.

So while I am waiting for my stays, being somewhat impatient to play, I decided to make a quasi 18th century gown I can wear with modern undergarments. 

Yes, yes, this will no doubt cause shudders to many of you who are involved with re-enacting but sometimes half a loaf will do - especially since I don't know of anyone else in my area who is obsessed with the 18th century.  And realistically, the climate here in my part of Australia is not terribly conducive to getting dressed up in anything involving sleeves let alone stays.

I am using Simplicity pattern 3723 as a basis but being me, I decided I wanted the look of a Robe a la Francaise sans sacque back.

This is not only foolhardy, it's actually hysterical since I haven't sewn a garment involving a pattern since last millenia when 'one' was a lot slimmer.  And while I prefer handsewing, I have pulled the machine out for this one.  But wait it gets worse. Being an inveterate recycler, the material I am using is from some old drapes.

After much altering, pinning and tacking, unpicking and tacking, more unpicking and tacking and some slightly salty language I have managed to put the main pieces together and they seem to fit me.  I have a separate skirt to go underneath and have to work out how I am going to approximate the stomacher. 

I am not sure the finished article will ever feature here, but it's certainly an adventure.  Already I can see the skirt needs more volume so I am am tossing up whether to add another piece in at the back.  Ah the joys of a 'great idea'!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The thoughtful dresser

While peering through the shelves at the local library for their copy of Carl Kohler's "The History of Costume", I pulled out Linda Grant's book "The Thoughtful Dresser".
I've just finished reading it and it did make me think.
It made me re-evaluate my ideas about clothes and fashion. And why we choose what we wear. And how. It made me think about the impact of fashion, of clothes, of social movements, of history and what they mean to us. 
I have been through stages in my life when I honestly didn't care what I threw on and other times when it was all about being practical but there are times and more and more recently when I've been paying a whole lot more attention to what I wear.  To what my clothes say about me. To what I want my clothes to say about me.
While it was thought provoking it was also easy to read. And it touched me. It made me laugh and cry, ultimately at the same time.
So thankyou Linda Grant. It was a fascinating read. It opened my mind, even the bits I didn't agree with!
I highly recommend it!
And Linda, I'm heading for Armani!
You can check out Linda's blog at