Back From Pennsylvania…

I completely admit that this post is bit tardy, considering that I attended this event back in April, so I apologize for the lateness of this post…enjoy!


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Recently I took a break from the usual round of activities to travel back east to Newville, Pennsylvania to attend the Great War Association’s (GWA) Spring 2017 battle event. For those of you who may not know, the GWA is an umbrella organization for First World War reenacting that draws reenactors from all over the nation (and even Canada) and they sponsor two events yearly at their site in Newville, one in the Spring and one in the Fall. Events typically draw anywhere from 300 to over 600 reenactors (Fall is typically the better attended event). The site itself is a small-scale recreation of a First World War battlefield complete with shell craters, trenches, bunkers, and even burnt-out buildings- it’s truly a “reenactor’s reenactment”.

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Here I am looking all heroic and all…

I’ve been involved in the First World War reenacting for over 20 years and I have always meant to participate in a GWA event but, as usual, life usually got in the way until this Spring when I decided that I needed a small break from the usual so off I went. The logistics of getting there was interesting to work out, especially since I’d never been there before, but in the end it all worked out. I found that flying into Baltimore was the most practical- there are cheap non-stop flights available on Southwest Airlines and rental cars are easy to arrange at affordable prices (of course, it’s even cheaper if you’re traveling with others). Finally, I was able to get a couple of good motel rates for before and after the event itself- it pays to book early. 🙂

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We three Bavarians…

Weather-wise, Pennsylvania presented a bit of a contrast to what I am used to in Southern California- it was warm and humid  during the day (and really warm when the sun would come out) combined with the occasional shower. At night, the temperature would drop almost 20 to 30 degrees and on the last night of the event, it was freezing. In many ways, this mirrored the actual Western Front experience although we only had to “endure” for two days.

So, what’s the clothing tie-in? I thought  you’d never ask…well, in contrast to what I normally deal in, the order of the day is wool…lots of wool in shades of feldgrau and steingrau. Below is feldgrau as defined by the RAL color standard (RAL is the German color standard that was initially developed in 1927 and is the equivalent of the American Federal Color Standard System). Below is the RAL standard for feldgrau:

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And for steingrau:

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Of course, color standards are only an approximation and especially since it was developed after the First World War. Here’s an approximation of what feldgrau often looked like:

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Needless to say, the subject of color is very subjective so the above is just to give a general idea.

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Me coming out of the rain. Lack of sleep caught up with me…and yes, the wool does repel water (to a point)

As to the uniform itself, I am wearing the 1915 (1916 pattern for Bavarians) pattern coat, or bluse, which was a wartime simplification of the basic tunic. For trousers, I am wearing the prewar 1907 pattern. As for comfort, well things can get itchy sometimes and definitely hot in warmer weather but in cold weather, it serves its purpose very well.

Overall, it was a fun and exciting trip and I am looking forward to returning in the Fall. 🙂

Back To The Rancho- Lily Absinthe Goes Picnicking

Well, this is from over a month ago and it’s only now that I’m posting this…yes, life got in the way but I figure that better late than never! Picnicking in period dress has always been a favorite pastime for us (and it provides an excuse to wear our period fashions) and provides a nice break from the fast pace of the modern world. As many of you no doubt know, 2017 has been a year of tremendous change for us and it’s easy to lose sight of what we truly like to do. So anyway, here’s just a little recap from our latest excursion to Rancho Camulos. Enjoy!


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This past Sunday, we decided to take a break and go to a picnic at our favorite spot-Rancho Camulos in Piru, California, one of the last surviving examples of a Californio rancho. The theme, of course, was Victorian and it gave us a wonderful opportunity to relax in period attire in an historic location. Established by Ygnacio Del Valle in 1853, Rancho Camulos was once part of a 48,000 acre Mexican land grant deeded to Ygnacio’s father Antonio Del Valle in 1839. Also, most notably, Rancho Camulos is also the purported setting for Helen Jackson Hunt’s famous book Ramona.

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We also decided to take the occasion to model one of our newest designs, a simple picnic dress constructed in a light cotton sheer in a pale turquoise blue:

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And of course, we took the opportunity to relax…

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The weather was perfect and it was easy to lose all sense of time, relaxing in the cool ocean breezes underneath shady trees. The time was all too short. 🙂

Going To Bath…

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In the spirit of adventure, have decided to indulge our more adventurous side so in April 2018, we’ll be travelling to Bath, England to partake in a Victorian era ball (with the time frame of the early to mid-1870s). Sponsored by Prior Attire, a reproduction garment maker in England, the ball is scheduled for April 28, 2018 with some subsidiary events the day after. So, we’ll be spending three days in Bath and four days in London and we’re excited and hard at work drawing up our “hit lists” of places we absolutely have to go see. Naturally, fashion will be one of major interests and there will be plenty of opportunities… 🙂

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We’ve already bought tickets to the ball and secured excellent airfares on Air New Zealand so things are falling into place nicely. Stay tuned for more! 🙂

Charles Frederick Worth & Early Haute Couture

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Costume College was busy for me this year. Besides delving into the world of Paul Poiret, I also delved into the world of haute couture during the later 19th and early 20th Centuries, an ambitious topic to say the least- one could easily go on for days and barely scratch the surface. 🙂 Fashion  history has always been fascinating and even more so when one makes little discoveries that link the world of the past with today and the research process never fails to disclose tiny nuggets of useful information.

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In many respects, the world of haute couture, as we know it today, got it’s start in Paris largely through the efforts of one man- Charles Frederick Worth. Moreover, he was able to capitalize on a series of trends that had been developing for quite some time. Specifically, going back to reign of Louis XIV, royal patronage driven by the consolidation of the monarchy as the supreme ruling power in France combined with France’s growth as an economic, military, and cultural power served as a catalyst for the development of the textile industry and the needle trades. All the right elements were in place and over the next 300 years a thriving garment began to develop, spurred by patronage both by the Crown and nobility (as they sought to remain in good graces with the King).

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By the mid-19th Century, industrialization served to further spur the growth of the textile and needle trades (can you say sewing machine?) and the ground was fertile for a man like Charles Worth. Worth transformed a relatively decentralized industry composed of many individual dressmakers working in small establishments into a large-scale industry employing hundreds, if not thousands. Worth consolidated fabric procurement with production (before this, it was customary for clients to bring their own fabrics to the dressmaker). Also, for marketing, he employed the technique of having his clients choose from a series of sample models, modeled by an army of pretty young women; the client would make a selection and a custom garment would be created. The model was intended to give the client an idea of the final product- often, the fabrics and trim would vary to the individual client.

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What also makes Worth unique is that in 1860 he was able to secure the patronage of the Empress Eugénie and this cemented his reputation; as the center of the French court, the Empress set the styles and naturally everyone of importance wanted to emulate her.

With the demise of the Napoleon III and the Second Empire, Worth was forced to seek expanded markets- no longer did he have a guaranteed client base founded on royal patronage- so he was forced to seek a wider client base. Worth was ultimately successful in this endeavor and by the time he died in 1895, he had clients on all seven continents.

In many ways, the demise of the Empress’s patronage was the best thing for both Worth and haute couture in general in that it pushed couture out to a wider audience and stimulated greater design/style creativity- styles were not determined by the whim of a few people but rather transferred the power to the designers (and ultimately their clients). It also helped couture to reach a wider audience and facilitate the diffusion of fashion.

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House of Worth, Ballgown,, 1898; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.1324a, b)

 

Of course, Worth wasn’t the only couturier- there were many others. Some of Worth’s leading contemporaries were Jacques Doucet, Emile Pingat, John Redfern, and Jeanne Paquin- all fascinating as designers. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of information out there on many of these designers and they’ve become almost forgotten.

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Jacques Doucet

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John Redfern

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An early portrait of Emile Pingat; Courtesy of Jacques Noel

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Jeanne Paquin

The above is only a very broad sketch of the topics that I covered in my presentation and I felt that it went pretty well. For the future, I may narrow my focus a bit but nevertheless, it wasn’t bad for a first outing. Stay tuned for more… 🙂