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Today, on Jane Austen’s 235th birthday, I am recalling one of the grandest events of my lifetime. I’m not referring to my wedding, nor the days my children were born. Nothing can compare to those days, but this was a great literary event that my husband and I attended in 2007 – A Jane Austen Gala!
Playing make believe was really fun for the Jane Austen Gala. That kind of thing may not be everyone’s cup o’ tea, but I tell you this, I have not had so much fun in ages! Though it wasn’t just dressing up in costume and attending the event that I enjoyed, but the preparation, the research, the blogging, the creating, the comradery, the reading Jane Austen and watching movies based on her books, the anticipation, the date with my husband! It was not just “making believe”, it was living history. As a writer, avid reader of regency romance, and history fanatic this affair was thrilling for me and truly brought me closer in my experience to that which I have ever been to this era.
Ah, but my attendance at a Regency Ball has caused me to consider how many ladies back then, who shared the meager position of my own, would have wished for such a chance. I was blessed that despite my humble lot in life that I was able to attend such an elegant event. Elizabeth Bennett dancing. Dancing with her own Mr. Darcy.
In God’s kingdom we are not limited by economy, but are blessed by His glorious riches.
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To celebrate Jane’s birthday I’ve visited some Jane websites and now I’m going to have a cup of tea and watch something Jane Austenish like Pride and Prejudice or Lost in Austen. How are you celebrating her birthday?
On Sunday afternoon, my husband, Bradford, and I donned our Ball costumes to ready ourselves for an afternoon of sheer wonder! Our carriage (Ford Escort) delivered us to the Jane Austen Gala, held in a lovely ballroom (Public Library circa 1901) in Waterville, Maine.
Upon our entry, we were thrilled to see such a large turn out for the gala. We were greeted by some very hospitable students from the Jane Austen course at Colby College, who hosted this event. The Evening with Jane Austen Gala was the grand finale of their civic engagement course on the popular 19th century British author.
Most of the guests donned attire befitting the Regency Era (1800-1830). The costumes were so creative. Upon my word, I don’t think I have ever seen so many beautiful ladies and gentlemen gathered together in one place in all my life. Gentlemen wore top hats, coats, breaches and cravats while the ladies wore elegant empire waisted gowns with shawls and pretty hair adornments and curls.
A wonderful faire of delectable refreshments were served including meat croissants, fresh fruit, rose water cookies, gingerbread cookies, sweet buns, quiche, and more. Beverages included hot tea and coffee and Prince Regent Punch! The punch was a particular favorite of the Prince Regent, who insisted that it was served at all of his balls. I thought it was absolutely delicious and quite refreshing indeed.
There were displays set up all around the rooms adjoining the main “ball room”. The displays featured information on the famous authoress and the regency era including Jane Austen literature and novels, tea items, fashion and social history, letter writing, etc. There were also numerous handouts with information to take home, which I plan to put in my scrapbook. Movies based on her books were even projected upon the wall for entertainment. An activity was set up for those who wished to hand paint paper fans with watercolors. Many enjoyed doing so and the beautiful fans were made proper use of once dried.
Throughout the afternoon a pair of talented violinists played Regency Era country dance music, creating a delightful atmosphere for all. People gathered around to watch as the college students demonstrated how they danced in the early years of the 1800’s. Guests were invited to join in and lined up in the customary form the length of the ball room. It was much fun watching as the dancers do-se-doed and sashayed, skipped and twirled round and round. Although quite organized, the simplicity and sweet elegance of the dances masked any fault made by the novice dancers of unfamiliar moves. Everyone was looking, and nobody cared, it was just too much fun! I wonder what Jane would have thought!
A lot of hard work was put into this event and I know all of us who attended are so appreciative. It was a very pleasurable afternoon and a nice retreat into another time and place!
I have loads of pictures for you to view. Some taken by me and others by my friend, Sherry, who was also present with her young daughters.
P.S. I’d love for you to leave a comment, but if you choose not to I shall just consider the following to be so . . . “Your silence on the subject of our ball makes me suppose your curiosity too great for words.” ~ Jane Austen
Here are pictures of our costumes with accessories. The costumes were created using items that were given or loaned to us, remnant fabrics, & miscellaneous items purchased from thrift stores. For instance, the tail coat my husband wore we actually “cut away” part of it to make the tails, good thing it was an old jacket. It was lots of fun being creative. And we didn’t have to spend much at all. My dress, including accessories was less than $8.
Embroidered satin slippers, embroidered and beaded reticule with tassel, hand sewn embroidered gloves, triple strand antique faux pearl bracelet with gold flower clasp, faux pearl necklace stranded with ribbon with a smoked faceted stone.
An ankle length gold satin gown with empire waist and cap sleeves was worn by the lady, embellished with gold tulle and yellow ribbon edged with white lace. Draped over the shoulders, a lace shawl (a curtain valance), pinned with antique cameo (not shown). The double breasted tail coat is made of a rich brown wool and embellished with 19th century replica golden buttons. A breast pocket holds a handkerchief with a golden floral pattern. Beneath (not shown), a white shirt with a high collar and a brown gold buttoned waistcoat (vest) was worn. Trousers were tucked into boots, thus completing the look of a country gentleman.
A white satin cravat is tied fashionably around the neck in a bow suitable for an afternoon soiree.
The head-dressing was a millinery feat of amateur proportions. A sheer cloth of scarlet was wrapped in a sheer burgundy ribbon stamped with a gold filigree design. The fabric was twisted around, tied in the front, and wrapped around the back and secured with a knot and clips. An antique replica butterfly pin, gold tassel and burgundy plumes were added to top it off.
“By the early 1800s, the powdered wigs of the Georgian era were forever relegated from fashion, as men of the period began wearing their hair short and natural.
During the Regency era, women’s clothing as well as hairstyles were modeled after Greek and Roman styles. Women wore their hair up and fastened their buns with ornamental combs, diadems, bonnets and silk ribbons. They parted their hair in the shape of T, V, Y and U’s. Regency girls often curled their hair at the front to crown their faces with soft ringlets. Ladies also wore bonnets, hats or turbans.”Ladies of Reenacting Regency Hairstyles
I am having a wonderful time getting ready for the Jane Austen Gala. The other day I spent some time with my groovy friend and her groovy little daughters and we pooled our resources and ideas for our costumes.
Last night, I went to my Mom’s and she, being the wonderful seamstress that she is, helped with the sewing necessary to complete the costumes for both myself and my dandy husband. She sewed a beautiful ribbon in place on my simple dress to give the illusion of an empire waist. I brought some pictures of how I wanted my hubby’s wool sportcoat to be revamped and by the time she was done she had created a coat cut short, and tapered to an angle at the sides and tails in the back. Now I just need to add the 9th century replica buttons that I found to complete it and he will look quite dashing indeed. My step-dad is a good gentlemen’s clothing consultant and offered some suggestions and has lended him a pair of boots that will work out quite well.
Our friend also came over with some of her delightful treasures to share with me for the grand event. She is also a great consultant for vintage matters and had some good ideas as I was putting the finishing touches on my costume. The three of us ladies enjoyed some tea as well. So much fun!