The Morning After…

Part of the fun going to the the Prior Attire Ball is the morning after where we typically spend Sunday out and about inย  Bath in Victorian clothes. ๐Ÿ™‚ First, we went to breakfast at the Pump Room:

And you can “take the waters of Bath”…

Afterwards, we had to work off that breakfast so we went rowing on the Avon River:

The Scenery was marvelous although I didn’t get much of a chance to look at it since I was rowing… ๐Ÿ™‚

It was a beautiful day to go rowing- the weather was cool and crisp and my choice of outfit was perfect. Although it was a bit choppy at the start, my Boy Scout rowing techniques eventually kicked in (it’s been like 40 years) and things worked out perfectly. I’d definitely do it again! ๐Ÿ™‚

 

And Off To The Ball!

After many adventures in and around Bath, we finally reached the high point of our trip to the UK- the Prior Attire Ball! ๐Ÿ™‚ Held in the historic Bath Assembly Rooms, the ball lasts for four and a half hours and features various historic set dances as well as waltzes and polkas. In between, a buffet supper is served and there’s a bar. The Assembly Rooms were designed in 1769 and opened in 1771 and were intended as a social center for Bath’s upper crust visitors (to include royalty) who would descend on the town in droves (today, the Fashion Museum Bath is located in the basement of the Assembly Rooms). There are actually a series of rooms of which only one was used for the dancing and the others for the attendees to eat and socialize.

And here’s me…

Because we were staying in a hotel just up the street from the Assembly Rooms, it was a quick easy walk in clear whether (no threat of rain) thus we were not burdened with having to deal with taxis and all that (try stuffing people wearing ballgowns into a Prius- not fun!). Here’s Karin upon arrival:

With all the dancing and such, we didn’t have an opportunity to get many photos but trust us when we say that it was a magical evening and it was well worth the effort getting to Bath. ๐Ÿ™‚

A Day In The Country…

While we were away in England, we had the opportunity to visit The Vyne, an historic manor house located close to Basingstoke in Hampshire. Originally built between 1500 and 1520 for William Sandys, Henry VIII’s Lord Chamberlain, the house was later acquired in 1653 by Chaloner Chute, a successful barrister and remained in the Chute family until it was acquired by the National Trust. Over the years, the house has been progressively added onto and is a pastiche of various styles ranging from early Tudor through the 19th Century. One of the most interesting aspects is that the house contained a small chapel, complete with stained glass windows.ย  The day we visited, it was cold, windy, and overcast but that didn’t deter us any, we managed to get a number of very nice pictures.

First is the exterior:

This is the back side of the main house. To the left is an outbuilding.

The front of the house.

The Vyne Tudor Mansion, National Trust

Here’s a better view of the house, courtesy of the National Trust.

And now some of the interior:

And now for us… ๐Ÿ™‚

A little humor for the camera…my reaction after receiving the latest bill from Charles Worth.

Yes, it’s all mine (or so I’d like to believe)…

Karin modeling her latest creation- a late 1880s day dress.

Visiting The Vyne was one of the major high points of our visit to England and it was definitely worth braving the cold and damp. The estate provided a wonderful backdrop for picture-taking and we only wish that the weather had permitted us to get some more pictures of us outside. We would definitely love to visit again in the Spring when the all the plants are in full bloom. All in all, a special day. ๐Ÿ™‚

A Little Catch-Up…

Things have been hectic at the atelier- between receiving shipments of the fabric that we’d bought in the UK and catching up various housekeeping chores, it’s a wonder that there’s time for actual sewing… ๐Ÿ™‚ Well, after a long break, I was finally able to finish up on a few vest projects that I’d been working on for awhile. Here’s one of them:

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The above vest is constructed from a pattern made by Laughing Moon that I modified for my height. The above example is the second I’ve made using this pattern and overall, it went smoothly. The pattern is based on period originals and as with the originals, there are no short-cuts- patience and and attention to detail are critical. For materials, I used a lightweight herring bone weave dark rust-colored wool combined with a lining of black polished cotton. I’ll definitely be using this pattern in the future. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Dressing The Dandy – Late 19th Century Style In The West

Last Saturday in Tombstone, an older gentlemen wearing what could be described as “gunfighter” clothing ran up to me and exclaimed “You must be a dandy- where did you get your suit?” I was a bit taken off-guard and was at a loss for words, especially with the “dandy” part. Dandy? Hmm.. I’ve never considered myself one, what’s up with that? And while we’re at it, just what exactly is a “dandy” (or more properly, “Dude”) anyway? Roughly defined, a dandy is “…a man who gives exaggerated attention to personal appearance.” Interesting… ๐Ÿ™‚

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I was flattered (I think) but puzzled- all I was wearing was a simple sack suit that any man in an average Western town would have worn. I wasn’t trying for an extreme impression but rather I was seeking to portray an average middle class Victorian man. After thinking about this for awhile, I realize that part of the problem stems from modern perceptions of dress equate anything involving the wear of coat and tie as “formal.” Moreover, as it’s been commented on by fashion writers adย infinitum,ย in recent years male fashion has become increasingly informal and especially when it comes to the wearing of ties and suit coats.

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OK, you want “Dude,” here it is…

This move towards informality is also reflected in Old West reenacting (a pretty broad category) in that many groups tend to classify anyone wearing a sack suit or frock coat as being a “townie” and somehow not being a “true” Westerner compared to the stereotypical movie/TV image of the rough, tough cowboy who’s armed to the teeth. actually, nothing could be further from the truth. Just about anyone with a pretense of social standing dressed in a sack suit or frock coat on a daily basis to even include lawmen such as Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp, to name a few:

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Bat Masterson, 1879

Wyatt Earp c. 1870

Wyatt Earp, c. 1870

Even out in the field, lawmen could look a bit dapper…(of course, this could have been staged but I doubt it)

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Co. D, Texas Rangers c. 1888

So why the misperception? Well, let’s talk about men’s day wear and especially the near-universal sack suit. By today’s standards, the Victorian Era was exceedingly formal and this applied to all phases of dress. While much of this was more of a middle and upper class thing, the lower classes still tended to observe the same formalities, as best they could, and that was reflected in the idea of “Sunday best.” But no matter what class you were, you always attempted to show yourself at your best.

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When it came to dressing for a day in town during the late 19th Century, the most common type of daywear for men was the sack suit. The forerunner of the modern business suit, the sack suit,ย or lounge suit as it was termed in Great Britain, originated in France as theย sacqueย coat during the 1840s and took its name from the way it was cut (contrary to popular belief, the sack coat did NOT get its name from its loose fit “like a sack”). In contrast to the more elaborate frock coat whose back was constructed from four basic pieces, the sacque coat was simplified, consisting of two basic pieces. Moreover, the sack coat was designed to fit loosely.

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Sack Suit, c. 1911; Los Angeles County Museum of Art

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Sack Suit, c. 1885 – 1900; McCord Museum (M973.137.4.2)

As can be seen from the above, daily menswear tended towards the formal and semi-formal and this was the norm, even in the West (or course, there were always exceptions). In the end, it’s all a matter of perception but it’s easy to allow modern ideas about dress to cloud and distort what was historically done. Worse, is when reenactor groups further spread misinformation by using modern assumptions to base their standard/pronouncements about historical garments. I’ll be commenting more about this in future posts so until then, do your research and don’t let modern attitudes cloud your judgement. ๐Ÿ™‚