Musings of a Lady

Monday, September 21, 2015

La Coiffeur: Can a modern easy hair cut work for The Regency Era?

Unlike my friends back east and in Europe, California does not have an abundance of Regency era events or venues.  However, we do our best creating ways to exercise our love and interest in the Regency Era.  Recently, a few friends and I went to the coast and had a walk on the beach after a lovely meal at the Pelican Inn, in Muir Beach, California.  The Inn is a replica of a 18th century coaching inn and is a good setting for many eras of dining.

Creating Regency Era fashions has become an passion for me.  My trip to Bath, England for the Jane Austen Festival in 2014 was a brilliant and special trip for me.  In fact, I plan to return and attend the festival in 2016!  The biggest challenge I have had in dressing like a Regency lady, is my hair - what to do with it?  I have very fine, frizzy, curly hair, if left to its natural state.  I have, like many women of color, flat ironed and used chemicals to straighten and then curl my hair order for it to look like my sisters of European decent. As I have gotten older, I have gotten really lazy about my hair.  I want to wake up and or little to no fiddling with it but look good!   I have also learned to embrace my hair as naturally beautiful and that it doesn't need to be 'changed'.  Yet, as a historical costumer I want to 'look' period appropriate for my class and station to be depicted and yet, I need a hair style to wear day-to-day that is manageable and looks nice.  What to do?

In my recent research on the internet I found one solution.  A hair style that in the Regency Era was call the 'Titus cut'.   Look at a page from the Wilcox Hats and Headdress book - one of the first costume books I owned way back....well, way back.  The hair style on the upper right corner is called 'a la Titus'.

Wilcox's Hats and Headdress - Chapter 12 - Directoire 1795-1799
I looked for portraits to confirm that this was a style that was done and not an isolated image.  Lo and behold I found a gold-mine of images, these are my favorite:

Madame Arnault de Gorse Author : Boilly Louis Léopold (1761-1845) 

 Sophie Cahou - Constance Charpentier - 1801

Lady with short cropped hair and coral necklace, French, 1820

Carl Hummel de Bourdon, Princess Carolath-Beuthen, 1809
Portrait of a Woman 1807-10 by Gioacchino Giuseppe Serangeli

The last 3 portraits I love and have become my 'ideal' for short locks.  Although, the portrait below is one, I would dearly like to achieve!  Madame looks amazingly elegant and sophisticated!  
Jean-Laurent Mosnier. Portrait of Countess Sophia Stroganoff. 1808

I have a year to play with the possibilities in short hair styles before JAF 2016. This summer, I started playing with my hair to create a manageable style that would work for my Regency persona.   On the first attempt, a bob was the result.

This style actually looked great but was a lot of work to get the curls right and all not frizz up when there was moisture in the air.  If I slept on it I looked like a wild woman from Bedlam...Uh, no thank you.

For the jaunt to the Muir Beach, I flat ironed the front and pinned curled my fringe.  Lots of bobby pins were used to get it to stay, ouch!  It looked okay but the styling looked a bit 'wiggy' to me and a also, too matronly.  Well, I am close to 60 years old...but not going there if I an help it!  

This past weekend, I took the plunge and now I am shorn for sure!  A la Titus happened!  The late summer heat makes this style very nice.  It is easy to maintain for my mundane, non-historical lifestyle and if I work with it, I can achieve the pretty, pixie look of the Regency Era, right?

This selfie was done right after I got the cut done.  I was feeling pretty good.  Then it was, what of my head-gear that I have already would work?  So, home I went and tried on bonnets, turbans and caps.

Trial with the turban you saw in the above pictures when my hair was longer in front.

With a cap.  Mmmmm...I think I need a different style cap or just not go with caps?

Cap and bonnet.  That bonnet needs some work, too.

Indeed, I will need to work on this little project over the coming months.  I want to let it grow out a bit on the sides and front...just a bit. What do you think?  That way I can match my 'ideal' looks above.  I will also look into turbans and head-wraps which I also found in fashion illustrations of the period.  Some inspirations are: 

Guillermo Ducker. 1804 70 mm Museo del Prado

Portrait of Ekaterina Andréievna Karamzin (1780-1851) Will definitely
have to grow the front a bit.

Phew!  That was a long post, but I was too excited about my care-free cut and the challenge to make it work for my favorite historical clothing era.  My hair cut will work for the 1920's, early 30's and then in the early 1950's but for other eras, I will need to figure out appropriate wigs.  I am not a great lover of wearing wigs but wigs are so much more realistic now and manageable.  As I play and figure this hair-styling out I will share in future posts.  Feedback and support is always welcome.  Cheers.

Up next: (and not necessarily in this order)
Regency accessories - reticule, work bag, ladies cap
Surplice front Spencer
Two piece Regency gown (petticoat and long skirt caraco)

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Le Modiste: A modern turn of events

Hello, I am back, again.  This last weekend I attended a Guinness Book of Records rally to get the most Rosie the Riveter Look-Alikes in one place at one time.  In the US there is a standing record of 776 Rosie's.  Well, yesterday I am very proud to announce that in Richmond, California we had a record of 1083 Rosies!  It was an amazing rally and it was literally 10 min walking distance from my home! A bunch of gals (all dear new and old friends - one was here from Italy!) and a couple of gents dressed as workers, came over to my place and we walked over to the rally, in our Rosie outfits.

The famous, 'We can do it',  poster was the frame work that we had to work within for our outfits. Although historically all Rosie's wore different things depending on where they worked.  Many wore pants and a shirt that they had in their wardrobes.  But the requirement for this count was dark blue top and bottom, the famous polk-a-dot red/white scarf, and the red socks and work boots.

I didn't have period coveralls and though I could have bought a modern version, I decided I could get more use out of a pair of pants and a shirt.  I repurchased the Rosie the Riveter, Folkwear Pattern.  I had this long time ago when I had a 21 inch waist...hahahahah!  Moving forward, I needed a new pattern to work with. 

I made the trousers (without the bib) and the shirt but, made the shirt with long sleeves I could roll up.  The outfit came out pretty nice.  The polk-a-dot scarf and the red sox came from the Home Front Museum   An this is how it turned out:

It was a lot of fun.  The day was hot as Hades!  After the count, we all went back to my place for cool drinks and lots of girlie chatting!  What a blast we had.  Cheers to all my girl friends, I am blessed with their friendship!

Next up:

  • Regency Outing at Muir Beach and the Pelican Inn (what shall I wear? Something new?  Or pull out my beauties from my Bath trip?)
  • Gatsby Summer Picnic - really need something new.  20's or 30's?
  • Finish my 18th century riding habit started, what 2 years ago?  Yikes! 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Lost my Way and now I am found...

Humbly, I ask everyone of my readers to a accept my apologies for the long silence.  November of last year was my last post and a lot has happened since then.  My distraction was my family and we have been through a roller coaster ride!  The ride was a wild one! As we all know, when life gets into an infinite loop of mishaps, traumas, trials and tribulations, you just have to go with the flow and learn to let go with out regrets.  Unfortunately, I had to let go of blogging...though the neglect buzzed like angry bees in the back of my mind.  Sigh.

Well, I finally got off the infinite loop of negativity, was able to count my blessings and shout out my gratitudes!  Things with my family are okay and settling down.  Becoming the parents of my parents has been hard, sad and yet, my own strength and resiliency is keeping my family moving on a new path and journey in time.  Thank God, for family friends and neighbors!  It is true that it takes a 'village' to support someone in a crisis and I am blessed with a fabulous 'village' of friends, family and just good folk.

My first post back and I am going to say - I finished a UFO (unfinished object)!  In the midst of chaos I found solace in needlework.  The peace and quiet of my own space, the needle and thread to cloth was where I felt happier, more focused and able to breath.  The 'object' was a chemisette that I wanted to make and wear to Bath, England, last year but didn't finish the embroidery in time.  Now, the embroidery is done as is the construction of the chemisette. It is now ready for Bath, 2016, of course I will be going again.  I will miss this year's festival, but 2016, here I come!

This was the beginning of the embroidery way back in the spring of 2014.
The finished piece this June 2015
A few details

Closer detail.

Now that it is done,  I am very happy and ready to make another...something different.  Must do some research.

At this time, I do not have any deadlines.  I have garments for various events coming up, so I can just use this free time to work on 'wish-list' projects.  My goal is to continue to create Regency era garments as close to Historically Authentic as I can, including the hand sewing.  When I return to Bath or attend any national or local Regency era events, I will be well and properly clothed.

I am also, during my summer vacation, want to revive my interest in period foods and preparations of said foods.  I hope to be blogging about that soon.

Thank you again for your patience and hanging in there with me.  I appreciate you all.


Saturday, November 29, 2014

Happy Holidays!

Dear readers, I hope that this post will find you well and happy.  I hope that your holiday season has begun with great cheer and a sure light of love, hope and joy abounds.

I haven't been very productive since I got back from my wonderful trip to Bath for the Jane Austen Festival.  However, my energy is returning and I am itching to get back into the swing of things.  In the meantime, I am getting ready for the holidays and my main plan is to Make it, Love it and Share it! (I have stolen a phrase from the Mollie Makes folk).  I want to do homemade Christmas giving and sharing, so check out my 'arty' blog for the first post on arts 'n' crafts project I started this Thanksgiving weekend.

Oh, there is something special I want to share with you all and hope that you don't mind this plug for a friend of mine.  While I was in Bath, UK in September, another group of friends were participating in a commemorative program for Josephine Bonaparte at Malmaison, in France.  Coincidently, another friend was also there beginning work on a film about Napoleon.  This is an independent film (an Indy) and it is going to prove to be an interesting piece.  Jesse Handsher is one of the producers and directors for the film. For those of you interested in the period surrounding the rise and fall of Napoleon, you may be want to follow how this film develops until its premiere.  Here is a bit about both filmmakers and what the film is about:

Jesse Handsher is an American filmmaker with a production company ( based in San Francisco.  He most recently produced and directed the sponsored web series CASUALTIES OF THE GRIDIRON, which was nominated for an Emmy Award in the category of Best Sports Documentary Series.
Olivier Roland is a Belgian filmmaker who spent 15 years living in Los Angeles, working in film production and earning his PhD from the University of Southern California. His dissertation about the creation of filmmaking and its effects on the human body has recently been published.
Roland and Handsher conceived of this film last summer while enjoying Belgium's finest export, Trappist beer. They started with the premise of looking at the world of war reenactment, the motivations behind the participants' obsession with the hobby, and what these individuals are really after. After extensive research, the filmmakers found this story of the two Napoleons who are both striving to play Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo 200 year Reenactment.
It is all too, exciting with the celebration of the battle of Waterloo in Belgium this summer (2015). I am actually considering going there in June.  Anyway, of course film making is not an inexpensive venture.  Jesse and Olivier are still in the midst of fundraising for the film's production.  There is a special matching 10k grant up for grabs that will help them a lot.  There is only 3 days left to match the grant.  If you can, please go to the website and look over the filming information and how to donate, if you are so inclined.  As fellow historians, it is really cool to see re-enactments being planned for documentation and in an exciting and thrilling way.  Any contribution will help them take the next steps to make this soon to be awesome adventure a reality.  Cheers!

Thank you for letting me put in this plug for Jesse and his partner, Olivier.  Happy Holidays!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Madame has returned! A journey well traveled!

It is already October.  How did that happen?  Time flies when you are busy and having fun?  In my case this is so true.  Dear readers, I have actually completed one of my bucket list items!  Yes, I did. I have wanted to go to the Jane Austin Festival in Bath, England for several years now and I have done it!  With a group of like minded friends, we sewed our hearts out and made it to the festival and had one of the best times, ever!  The taste to travel is now burning very brightly, for me.  And, I can honestly say that Regency is my top favorite period to sew for, dress up in and play.

Our group wore Regency clothing 24/7 during the whole week there.  We hosted evening soirees at our home, We took day trips to Lyme Regis and to Chawton, in the name of Jane Austen. We were able to visit her home in Chawton- feel her presence, and, see the spot where silly Louisa jumped to high and addled her brain in Persuasion on the Cobb in Lyme! Needless to say, I am thrilled with my experiences and hope you will forgive me for not writing and sharing as I went along.  Here are some images highlighting the trip:

My traveling companions in front our abode: 20 Vineyard, Bath.

The first event was a promenade through the streets of Bath to the Parade Grounds.  
The JAF 2014, broke the Guinness Book of Records for the most people in one place, dressed in Regency fashion at one time.  Tennessee, had 491 in July of 2014.  JAF had 550!  I am afraid, we helped the British win this one.  Oops.

Standing near Jane Austen's writing table.  So thrilling!

Our trip had some quiet moments where we could melt into the background and feel transported.

Sitting a window seat with my dear friend, at Chawton.  Perhaps,
Jane and her sister, Cassandra sat here in a quiet moment?

Lyme Regis was a fun trip to the sea with our gentlemen dressed in Navy style clothing.  The sea was relatively calm that day but the town and its coastline were picturesque.

My yellow pelisse and Minerva Hat.  Note to self: more curls in front?

The Roman baths in Bath are a destination for any Jane Austen journey.  We had tea in the pump rooms one day and went to a masked ball on another evening!
Yes, I tasted the waters!  They have cleaned it up a bit - so a description?
Have you ever, had a sip of water from a garden hose that has sat in the sun all day?
That is what it tasted and smelled like.
Roman baths - one of them.  There are several.
Waiting to enter the Baths for the pre-ball gathering.
One of sisters - together in the Roman baths corridors sipping Champagne.

This second image is not mine but belongs to Owen Benson Visuals.

Image by Patrick Gaul.

Another image by Owen Benson.
My trip including meeting the most wonderful people.  I got to meet Noora of the blog:  Shadow of My Hand.  That was a unexpected treat. Not only is she talented but believably kind and a lot of fun to be with!  

There are so many more pictures and anecdotes that I just don't know where to continue!  This is just an effort to share some highlights with you and also to reboot my blogging which I have shamelessly neglected.  Did I have a good reason?  Excuses?  Oh, yes, but no more.  I am back, dear readers and I hope to be sharing a lot more.  What more?

Yes, now that I have the Regency bug, I have worn the wardrobe I created for the trip, I want to revisit the garments, make some adjustments and work on accessories.  I was seriously lacking in accessories.  Yes, I had some things to make it all work for the trip but I have some gaps I want to fill.  And, there are a few more garments I want to make - by hand, as I don't have a deadline anymore.

Thank you for your patience.  I am back and hoping to blog more often.  Cheers.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Still Alive and Kicking...

Hello, dear friends.  I am so sorry I have been 'away' and not posting.  My summer vacation is now over and I am back in the classroom as of yesterday.  The summer was interesting.  I was sewing furiously for my up and coming trip to Bath, England in Sept (Yikes!  That is coming up fast!)   I was also dealing with family drama.  My father has Parkinson's and at nearly 89, he is beginning to develop dementia, so I have had to be there for my father and my mother - his care giver.  It has been a long emotional summer of joy and sadness, learning and sharing, hoping and praying.

I hope to get you all some updates on the Regency wardrobe soon.  Thank you for your patience and your loyalty to come back and check to see if I am still posting.  I hope to be able to start posting again ASAP.  So, check back in a couple of weeks, there will be some news!  Cheers.

Yours truly,


Friday, June 27, 2014

Le Modiste: Update on the Regency outerwear

Let's see where was I?  Oh, yes.  I have made and nearly finished a spencer.  I have also started another pelisse.  I seem to be on a roll - smile.  The spencer is made of a deep midnight blue cotton twill and I have lined it in silk and made some of the details in the silk as well.  My inspiration is:
Woman's Spencer Jacket and Petticoat | LACMA Collections


A spencer by American Duchess.

So far my spencer is working out deliciously well.  I played with the sleeves a bit and decided to attach the Van Dyke cap sleeve to a band over the upper, silk, puff sleeve.  The buttons will be single breasted.  The cuffs have tab closure and they will have covered buttons.  I may permanently close the cuff opening since it is big enough to get my hand through.  Here are some progress pictures:

The sleeve to your left, is with out the band. The right with the band.  I liked the right.

Attaching the cap sleeve to band.
Back detail in progress.

Making the button detail.  I bought balsa wood discs to cover.
Back detail with buttons covered in silk. (Mmmm...didn't realize Carmel has left his furry mark).

At this point the blue spencer just needs the button holes and the buttons attached to be done!  I, of course, have started multi-tasking.  A new outer garment is in full swing.  I found a yellow faille with a damask and embroidered rose pattern.  This pelisse is being made for fashion and practicality, but the color is to make my Mother happy.  She is always on me about my colors.  I wear, black, grey, brown or dark blue for everyday.  My Regency wardrobe at this point is headed in that direction much to her chagrin.  She liked the minty celadon pelisse and as I pulled out black fabric, a silver grey for new dresses, she groaned.  Yes, I like to please my mother from time to time, but I also thought it would be cool to have a bright yellow like these period inspirations: 

There is something really jolly and fun about the color yellow but so hard to work with if you don't have the right yellow or the coloring for it.  I am lucky to have found a good yellow and I do have the 'coloring' to handle certain yellows.  I did have a hard time getting a good picture of the fabric.  For some reason the yellow's intensity faded in certain lights.  It is a rich, egg yoke color or for you artist types, a nice yellow ochre.

The fabric - can you see the damask roses in the same thread color b/w the pink-green roses?

This fabric is a modern blend - yep, not period but here is where practicality comes into the picture.  I chose it because I wanted to have a pelisse I could throw on if it is raining.  I know that wool is okay in the rain but if I get mud on it, etc, I won't have time to get it cleaned properly on the trip.  So, this yellow one I will wear no matter what, it will be a fashionable piece, but if it is wet outside and gets muddy or other icky thing - I can throw it in the wash and not worry about it.

My construction inspirations are these pelisses and redingotes:

I like the capelet detailing on the 1790's Redingote above.  The picture below is from Rocking Horse Farm Patterns and I liked the closed cape and standing collar but in the end opted for the flat collar and capelet as in the 1790's example.

This lovely 1806 also had a capelet that was gathered a bit in the back.  I started with a full circle pattern that I draped. It was toooo ripply for me, so I cut it down and although a little wonky (my opinion) it worked out to meet the design expectations I had from the  1790's example.

Capelet and collar attached.
At this point I need to add the waistband and skirt.  I tried to find an appropriate green trim for this garment but just couldn't find something I liked.  I did have a pretty green bias tape but I only had a couple of yards and being of a vintage variety I couldn't find a match anywhere.  I was really frustrated.  I let the garment sit a a day or two and while I was out the other day, ran into a pretty chocolate silk.  Yummy!  It worked!  So, the detailing will be in chocolate.  The question is should I decorate the capelet in a similar way as the 1790's example?  Or leave it plain?  I had made up the capelet before I decided to trim with the chocolate silk...yes, that is the way I operate sometimes...after the fact. Sigh.  What do you all think?  I was thinking of putting chocolate trim at the wrists of the sleeves and maybe some detailing at the back and the buttons.  Any feed back would be fabulous.

Okay, onward.  Lots to do.  I wanted to give an up date and check in with everyone.  I hope everyone is having fun this summer and enjoying fine weather.  We have our usual June gloom (fog in the mornings) but the days are fine and lovely.  

Next up:
Finish both Spencer and Pelisse.
Take a hat making workshop from Lynn McMasters using her new pattern:
Preparing to make two ball gowns.