This year I made my first visit to Jane Austen Fest in Louisville, Kentucky. If Louisville has a specific connection with Jane Austen, I can not say, but they put on the largest Jane Austen event in North America. The festival is held on the grounds of Locust Grove, a Georgian mansion and estate built in 1790. It provides a lovely, shady and picturesque backdrop for the event.
Janefest includes two full days on site, an evening of early bird shopping, high tea service and a ball. If one attended all events and evenings, three outfits plus a ball gown would be required. At the minimum, you could get by with two dresses if you do not attend the ball nor dress up on the Friday shopping night (many do not). At the time I decided to go, I had only two Regency dress and one was a ballgown. I’d also worn them both to a couple of events last year. Clearly, a new dress had to be made!
I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do. I don’t really stash Regency appropriate fabrics, although I’m loving the ease of the Regency so much I’m starting to. Previously I found two panels of Target Shabby Chic Voile curtains at a thrift shop. These curtains have proven very popular with historical costumers. They were in very good condition if a bit dingy. I picked them up with the Regency in mind so I set to soaking them in Orvus Paste while I figured out what to sew.
A friend of mine recently did some massive destashing due to a move to Manhattan. One of the pieces she gave me was a good length of (I assume) embroidered upholstery trim. The blue gray classical style embroidery had also put her in a Regency state of mind. I thought it would go great with the curtains, but it was far too heavy to use as trim. I decided to use it as the front apron of the dress and sewed it together to create fabric for the dress sleeves. It turned out to be a smart and pretty move because with only two curtain panels, I was a little too short of fabric for sleeves anyway.
I used Laughing Moon #126 with the ballgown puff. It was a little bit of a fuss to figure out how long to cut the skirt pieces since the curtains have an embroidered hem. But, hey no hemming needed!
I used Festive Attyre’s Regency Shawl Hack and two pashminas to make a trip hazard shawl for swanning about.
I didn’t have a reticule either so I made the one from La Mode Bagatelle. The fabric is a remnant of a kimono bolt.
With the short sleeves, I technically made a ballgown. But as this event is held outside, in July, in the mid-south, most people aren’t too picky about exposed arms as a concession to weather. I wasn’t really sure what I was going to do with my hair or head beyond hoping I could buy a bonnet, ribbons or something once I got there.
Once on site I bought an adorable bonnet from Shocking Bad Hats. It was an great stylistic match to my new dress and will also look great, if a bit matchy, with my blue burnout stripe lawn dress. I had a great time swanning around dragging my wrap behind me but so many people kept telling that my shawl was on the ground that I finally picked it up. Don’t these people look at fashion plates? Who cares if it gets dirty? Fashion!
I had to beat off an unsavory gentleman to boot! They will let anyone into this festival!
So that was my new dress! On to look two!
With this year being the 200th anniversary of the death of Jane Austen, many people were planning mourning looks for the big mourning procession that happened on Saturday. I only really had plans for one new dress and mourning was never a serious consideration for that. But my ballgown from last year was made from a lavender and black sari!
I felt like I could somehow make this half mourning appropriate so I posted about it to a Facebook group to get some crowd sourcing ideas. The two most popular suggestions were to add sleeves and a black fichu.
The fichu was easy. I found a piece of vintage embroidered net on etsy for $14. It wasn’t the biggest piece of fabric so I tacked it into the neckline to keep it in place versus trying to make it into a triangle.
While looking for the solid silk I used for the apron front I found a leftover piece of the sari that I didn’t remember that I had. It was perfect for sleeves, which I also tacked in.
I topped the outfit off with my black and silver bonnet hack, the vintage style sunglasses I got for the Gatsby picnic, black vintage gloves, black and silver lion earrings from Dames a la Mode and an antique french jet pendant.
I was really surprised how much the dress sombered up. I thought that the silver trim at the neckline would bring too much bling. I really enjoyed wearing this. I felt very Lady Catherine de Burgh or Caroline Bingley, ultra fashionable but ready with a withering putdown at the expense of the dearly departed. I think the sunglasses helped.
And despite what everyone had been saying about the heat, sun and silk, I was actually as, if not more, comfortable in this outfit than the short sleeved one.
What I was missing though was a proper Regency chemise, something I sewed as soon as I got home. Kentucky heat and a lack of a proper chemise just will not do!
I just become more and more enchanted with Regency fashion. Next year is the 10th anniversary of the festival so I’ll just have to attend again!