1810 Demeter Masquerade Costume


I had begun planning my evening wear for the Jane Austen Ball at the beautiful Pendennis Club well before I even had my tickets purchased. Cart before horse? Maybe just a bit, but as soon as I found out that it was a masquerade ball my choice in fabrics and the fashion plate inspo somehow worked magically together to become the perfect base for a Greek Goddess costume! Yay, because really how often does that happen?


After a refresher in Greek Mythology I settled on Demeter since I had a pretty green dupatta to use as the overdress and it really worked for the whole fertility and agriculture thing she was known for. Obviously I needed some sort of pretty diadem, wreath, hair piece thing to play up the whole Greek Goddess thing so I began searching for some inspo on Pinterest and Etsy. I didn’t want to do just a plain gold laurel wreath — I needed something with some real wow factor. That’s when I found some awesome images of her in ancient art, and even a few early 18th century pieces, wearing a crown with wheat and poppies — both symbols that she was associated with, again the whole harvest thing.

I dug around on Etsy determined to find some things to put together my own bejeweled crown of wheat. I started with a base of golden leaves which I wired and wrapped on a gold plated headband. Next I found some sprays of wheat made from beautiful glass beads — plain clear beads and then multi-color browns just like actual wheat. I added them to the crown along with some sprays of wired pearls in various sizes. The last piece to find were bejeweled poppies. I scoured, and I mean scoured, the internet but could not find a thing, at least a thing that fell within my price range for this project. I resorted to making my own — because why not? I’m already DIYing an entire tiara thingy whats a few extra pieces. I found some sprays of red paste stones and when wrapped around an onyx bead that had been wired to a stem they looked perfect. Finally Demeter had a headdress fit for a Goddess.

I did an impromptu photo shoot at the edge of the beautiful wheat field behind our house, just in the nick of time since they took in the field just the very next day. After seeing it all put together I couldn’t wait to show it off at the ball.


Obviously when it came time for the ball I couldn’t resist taking a bajillion pictures, especially with the beautiful columns.


Merveilleuses and Incroyables


For day two of the Jane Austen Festival I obviously had to make another thing — its a problem, I know. Hayley had fairly quickly decided upon an Incroyable look based on this print and an extant spencer.

I flipped through fashion plates for inspiration and eventually settled on a Merveilleus inspired look with a white petticoat and some kind of spencer on top. I started out with a self drafted spencer pattern made from a pretty chartreuse silk “harvested” from an old silk top that just never quite looked right on me. I piped the back diamond shape with some fuchsia silk and worked towards some adorable globe sleeves with contrasting bands of fuchsia. I got as far as putting one sleeve one when I kind of just fell out of love with the look — the sleeves, man they aren’t doing it for me.

So now with minimal time to shop, plan, and construct something to go on top of the white petticoat I searched Pinterest for some inspo. I loved the looks of white gowns with short hemlines and all of the ruffles! Ruffles on ruffles and delicate, feminine looks just seemed the perfect contrast to Hayley’s more masculine look. I dug in my stash to retrieve a blue crossbar fabric perfect a simple, close fitting spencer bodice. I used a pattern taken from an extant in the Nordiska Museet and then altered the fun sleeves on the Laughing Moon pattern #129 to fit tightly around my arms.


I topped the look off by recovering and trimming my Timely Tresses bonnet to mimic a delicate percale bonnet using the leftover pleated gauze from my Mary Shelley ensemble — I have plans to attempt an actual drawn percale bonnet this winter. I trimmed it with some vintage figured rayon ribbon and a big ole flower and called it a look.


Hayley’s look consisted of a highly tailored spencer jacket with a standing collar and lapels, mimicking a man’s jacket. When paired with her fun black and white striped cotton voile gown, ruffed chemisette and a bold green silk printed cravat from Virginia Scarves the Incroyable look was really beginning to take shape. The piece de resistance was her beautiful custom fur felt top hat trimmed with a black silk band and black ostrich feathers and green pheasant feathers. Can you say incredible?


Mary Shelley does the Jane Austen Festival


When someone mentions Regency fashion one typically envisions pretty and demure young ladies flitting about in sheer white gowns tied neatly with pastel colored sashes ala your grandma’s nightgown. However, when I think of Regency fashion my mind immediately wanders to the unusual, the ridiculous, and the under represented, especially when I have the freedom of not having to actually represent anyone at all, just simply to make a thing.

Enter my Mary Shelley inspired ensemble for Friday evening at the Jane Austen Festival in Louisville, KY. I honestly don’t remember how it became the Mary Shelley gown, having its humble roots in a super cool fashion plate depicting a woman in a black bodiced petticoat with these weird sleeves and gorgeous long gloves.


I chose a pretty black cotton muslin for the bodiced petticoat and using the Laughing Moon pattern #126 I quickly whipped it together. I was then tasked with figuring out what the heck those weird sleeves were all about.

With no visible canezou or chemisette* to be in possession of the sleeves it had to be one of two things: sleeves added on to the bodiced petticoat itself or pleated shift sleeves like these seen on an extant in the V&A Museum. FBDEEE5A-AB8D-432B-9175-A5D100545B26 Not being entirely certain what they were I attempted to mimic the pleated sleeve look with a pair of  pleated gauze sleeves which I tacked onto my short shift sleeves.

I next turned to making a reticule. Now, anyone who knows me knows I am not a fan of the tiny little reticules often seen dangling daintily at the wrists of others. I like big purses in real life and big bags in my historical costuming. I started with a scrap of cotton muslin leftover from the petticoat and with its 9″ by 7″ measurements it was just the perfect size to carry my fan, phone, wallet, meds, gloves, and even a little bottle of water if needed — perfect for JAF. Only problem was a plain black bag was decidedly boring compared to the many examples in museums. I jazzed it up with some embroidery (an anatomical correct human heart in green silk) and voila it was now a Gothic Mary Shelley inspired look!


To top off the ensemble I retrimmed my straw capote from Virgil’s Fine Goods with some black grosgrain ribbon and added a beautiful antique veil for a fun touch – because bonnet veils are awesome but also help keep annoying bugs from your face.


Unfortunately I didn’t get a single picture of me in this costume at the actual festival, but I did manage to do a mini photo shoot prior to the event — and afterwards promptly shortened the hem and added the pleated sleeves and bonnet veil.

*Upon closer inspection and adjustment of the screen setting you can faintly make out a high neckline of a sheer chemisette under the black petticoat, which is the most likely explanation for where the sleeves are coming from.


From Book to Barbara: The Jewelry and Finished Look


It wasn’t enough for me to just recreate the gown Barbara Johnson could have made with her red and white chintz fabric sometime in 1781. I really wanted to bring her to life through this project. Adding the all white accessories was simple enough, but it was only a piece of the puzzle and still didn’t give us the whole picture of who Barbara Johnson was.

As I began to work on cutting the apron and handkerchief and hemming the miles, and miles, of ruffles for both I began to think about what else Barbara might have worn with this gown. That’s when Kim Walters of At the Sign of the Gray Horse and I began talking about jewelry and watches. You see in real life I am not a jewelry person at all, the only thing I ever really wear is my wedding band, and at events it’s usually even more difficult for me to work jewelry into the equation. I pretty much go sans jewelry except maybe a simple coral necklace or drop earrings every once in awhile, they’re safe pieces and easy to spot in portraits, everything else I just don’t know enough about to feel comfortable donning.

I started chatting with Kim and immediately knew that I needed at least earrings. The fluff from the full ruffled handkerchief would obscure a necklace so it seemed silly to even be wearing one. I brought up earrings and she immediately suggested elongated drop pearls, which I just so happened to have on my wish list. Through her study of portraits and prints she has been able to kind of narrow down the trends through the decades. She says, “That doesn’t mean they didn’t wear other things – we just aren’t seeing it in portraits…” Pearls just happened to be a classic that remained popular through the centuries.

Once the earrings were settled she brought up my poor watch-less watch strings and suggested her reproduction gold case pocket watch. It would perfectly complement the gold in the pearl earrings and right around the 1780s we begin to see watch strings and watches become commonplace in fashion plates and portraits.

Harman_BlennerhassettEarrings – Check! Watch – Check! I think all that was needed to round out the work was a pretty little portrait miniature of one of my historical boyfriends. Having based my persona partly on the Blennerhasset family which settled in southern Ohio at the end of the 18th century I thought it would only be fitting to have my beau Harman Blennerhasset’s portrait miniature recreated.


And now the final reveal :