March 24, 2012
I would never have thought six years ago when I attended this fashion show in Port Townsend during their Victorian Festival, that I would ever be in it. I have memories of seeing some beautiful antique gowns in that show.
During the last year I was asked by a couple members of the Seattle-based costume guild, SITU, if I would join them in the fashion show at the 2012 Festival. After contacting the coordinator, JoAnn, about being in it, I received an enthusiastic YES! The hard part was deciding what costumes, and how many. After deciding on three, I shipped those, including the simple gown I made for my Mom, up to her house just before I flew up there.
The show was held in a beautiful old church, as it has in the past, and we had a very large dressing room. Once there, clothes were thrown everywhere as we all marked our territory for dressing. In one corner there was a pretty screen and a light green wall which turned out to be the perfect spot for some photos of our gowns. I was not disappointed. Again this year there were some gorgeous antique ones being worn, along with a collection of antique beaded handbags that were brought for the models to carry. I learned that the smaller the beads, the older it is.
And the fun part of this is I met some ladies whom I was friends with on Facebook but had never met in person. I’d already met Joan and Sharon, of SITU, at Costume College last year.
Later it dawned on me that I also was a Friend of Julie Ann on Facebook. Julie Ann and I chattered away about antique gowns and her collection, and later I learned her name, and had a duh moment. She was wearing this blue wool Edwardian cape with exquisite soutache work on it. I’d sure like to get into her closet.
And then I met this young lady, Jean, who I learned was also Norwegian like me. We had a wonderful time comparing our antique hats. She was wearing her 1875 great(?)grandmother’s cape and hat, and was proudly carrying a photo of her great(?)grandmother wearing them. When I looked through my previous album of 2006 when I last attended the show, she was there too. And she says she’ll be there again next year.
These are some of the gowns I was able to photograph before we had to run out to the stage. I saw a couple others that I was dying to see more of and photograph but with us rushing back and forth, it never happened.
This one was taken of me by Julie Ann and shows another of the pretty antique gowns.
Most of the models were only wearing one outfit. Some were wearing two. I was the only one wearing three. Am I crazy? I started making myself laugh as I exited the door to head back to the dressing room ripping open my bodice and pulling off my hat and wig. I must have looked crazy.
On entering the church we each walked down the side aisle up to the stage as JoAnn introduced us, and began describing our gowns. The dark woods and colors inside the church and the lighting are perfect for showing us off to our best advantage, although we did have a podium in the center of the stage we would have to walk back and forth past so each side of the room could see us. Each time I walked in and the audience saw me, I heard oohs and aahs, which is what makes all of this worth it. It does my heart good and makes me want to keep going with it.
My first costume was my Bloomer gown. Then my 1885 Best Black Bustle gown. I had a lot of questions coming from the audience about it, like what patterns did I use, and how much fabric it needed. And lastly was my 1898 La Belle Époque gown. There was enough time between changes of each but I still worked up a sweat trying to get hooked up into each one.
As I changed, we had the issue of one earring not wanting to disconnect from my ear, with three different ladies trying to unhook it, and one bead bouncing off onto the floor and chasing it. At some point I grabbed what I thought were my glasses off the piano in the dressing room, and later put them on to find I couldn’t see, and they felt odd. They looked like mine. But they weren’t. So it was a mad rush to find just who’s they were. With my last gown I was supposed to change out of my boots and into a dressy pair of shoes. But I forgot. So I hope the toes of my boots didn’t stick out too much.
I’m sorry I didn’t get to see everyone else’s gowns as much, but that’s the drawback of being in the fashion show. I learned they brought in $360 in donations so I think we did a good job.
Later that day after the show I went up the hill to see “Shaping Up”, a corset presentation by a local, Sarah A. Chrisman, who stood in front of her audience in a body suit and corset, with a tiny 22 inch waist. Her purpose was to dispel the myths of corsets and wearing them. She started out as a disbeliever in them, and after being convinced by her husband to start wearing one, she now wears one all the time with historical clothing that she makes, or by repairing badly damaged antique clothing. Both she and her husband live in a Victorian house and dress historical most of the time now. I was so intrigued, I bought her handmade book, Waisted Curves: My Transformation into a Victorian Lady, which tells her story. I was pleased that she tries so hard to correct the myths of corsets but repeated the myths of Bloomers, although she was referring to later versions than mine. It was funny while she was talking and mentioned Bloomers, a couple people in her audience pointed to me and said, “Like her?” If you’re interested in her book, or more about her, check out her website. http://www.chrismancollection.weebly.com/