I have had a lovely holiday (apart from the sudden and violent encounter with a bee, in which more than one individual lost their composure) and, as stated above, I’m back with a question.
If you could wear the clothing of any place and period in history, what would it be?
Myself, I can think of three periods I am particularly fond of, all from the Britain of my ancestors.
First (at least chronologically), the early medieval period, once circumstances permitted clothing to be more than purely practical, but before they reached the degree of elaboration which says nothing but I Have Way Too Much Free Time.
Secondly, the Regency era (looks good on most figures), and lastly, the 1930s (elegant, but works with curves).
As you may have noticed, I tend to shy away from eras which had women heavily corseted (delightful as the resulting appearance may be), and nothing on earth would persuade me into an Edwardian S-bend corset.
What about you? Which era, and from what part of the world? What would you wear if you could, and if you can, why don’t you? (Or do you?) And what about you, gentlemen? Your views welcomed!
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that when you rely on a simple solution, you will find at the last moment it won’t work. Last weekend, I hosted a Pride and Prejudice marathon for a few friends – the BBC miniseries with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth, naturally – and I thought I’d dress up a bit.
Not being the kind of wonder-woman who can whip up a full historical outfit in a day or two (while writing a best-selling self-help book and raising a tankful of orphaned cuttlefish), I decided to wear the Empire-est clothes in my regular wardrobe, and Regencify the accessories.
Being in possession of a bonnet, my thoughts naturally turned first to that – but no sensible Regency woman would wear a bonnet indoors, in her own home. What she would wear, especially if she was a respectable married woman such as myself, is a cap. White, lacy, frilly – you get the idea.
Actually, even unmarried ladies of A Certain Age would wear caps – going bareheaded was a sign of being in the market for a husband. And from the Regency point of view, I am a lady of A Certain Age already, having passed the grand old age of twenty-seven. Jane Austen herself took up wearing them at about that age, “and they save me a world of torment as to hairdressing,” she wrote in a letter.
The classic cap-cheat is, of course, to simply plop a large round doily on one’s head. Nothing could be easier! Until one reaches the charity shop and finds there are no large round doilies to be seen. Clearly, there has been a lot of dressing up going on in these parts lately.
Desperation drove me to purchase a large rectangular doily, rejecting the genre/gender-bending little-old-lady yarmulke look suggested by the small round doilies on offer. Like Lydia Bennet, I would have to tear it apart when I got home and see if I could make it up any better.
After one or two false starts, I found a simple, suitable solution. The moral of the story: do not be abashed by staring at your reflection with a doily over your head. You look a fool; it will pass.
I pinned the two short ends together and sewed it up into a tube which would fit over my head. Then I realized my mistake and unpicked nearly half the seam.
I then turned it right-way out and ran a ribbon (all right, a shoelace, but I’ve replaced it with a ribbon) through the doily at the end-of-seam line, pulled it tight and tied a bow.
Now I had a sort of lace beanie with an enormous frill hanging off the top – a frill nearly as large as the cap itself.
This I arranged over the cap, and voila! a lacy cap with two rows of scalloped edging, and a bit of ribbon dripping down the back.
It’s so soft and comfortable I find I keep putting it on – as Jane Austen noted in her letter, it’s just the thing for a bad hair day.
What are your secrets for wardrobe short-cuts? Please share!
And remember: dressing up is not just for fancy dress parties, Hallowe’en, or cosplaying at ComicCon. Dressing up is for eccentrics.
“Look here, I have bought this bonnet. I do not think it is very pretty; but I thought I might as well buy it as not. I shall pull it to pieces as soon as I get home, and see if I can make it up any better… there were two or three much uglier in the shop; and when I have bought some prettier-coloured satin to trim it with fresh, I think it will be very tolerable.”
Lydia Bennet, from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen