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Rate the dress: Green in 1865

Draped and layered 1910s dresses just aren’t doing it for you are they?  First the blue chiffon and lace frock was compared to curtains and kids dress-ups, and then last week’s pale paisley 1910s frock was given the exact same criticism (only this time you said tablecloths) by some.  And quite a few of you thought it was nice but meh.  But some of you thought it was fabulous, so it did score enough 10/10 to bring it up to a respectable 8.2 out of 10 – which is pretty much exactly what I’d give the dress!.

I’ve been doing a bit of research into 1860s fashions as a potential project for my HSF Heirlooms & Heritage challenge (not exactly a hint, because I’ve also discovered that thanks to some amazing family genealogy work I can trace a direct line of ancestors all the way back to Baldwin of Flanders in the 9th c (and, through Judith, all the way back to Charlemagne) so maybe I’ll get excited and do something early Medieval – or anywhere in between, because a lot is known about all the Sirs and Esquires that happened before you finally get a younger son who emigrates to America 800 years later), and I can across this dress.

And I think it’s fascinating:

The fabric is apparently a warp-printed moire silk taffeta, and the dress is a perfect example of the transition from the full crinoline silhouette, to the back-emphasis bustle silhouette.

Transitional styles are quite interesting: they can either be incredibly successful, combining elements of the more classic periods to create something unusual and unexpected, or they can be an awkward melding of disparate aesthetics.

How do you feel about this transitional gown?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10

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Going on a Gorilla Hunt

I love Art Deco Weekend in Napier, but I love it for the chance to dress up, and because I know so many fabulous people who go.

I’m not actually that keen on most of the official events of the weekend: generally they involve crowds, being really hot, and announcers who say things like “When this building was new it was the Roaring ’20s and all of Napier was dancing to the Charleston” while I mutter things like “Oh, for Pete’s sake!  When this building was new it was 1932, because there was this little earthquake thing in 1931 that levelled Napier, causing it to be rebuilt in Art Deco Style which is y’know, the whole reason we have this weekend – supposedly.  And ’32 is Great Depression, because the fall of ’29 put paid to the Roaring ’20s pretty effectively, all over the world.  Seriously, you’ve only been announcing this for what, 11 years?  Learn something!”

Yes, under my cap of dark gold waves and cheery smile hides the soul of a curmudgeon.  One who talks (well, mutter) in run-on sentences.  And may not say Pete.

So, not so big on the official events.

But the un-official events?  The un-official events are amazing.  Just watching the show go by.    Kids dressed up in period clothes just running around and being kids, not knowing that they are supposed to act a certain way, and looking far more authentic for it.  People who just really get into the spirit of it, and create their own street theatre.  The swing dancers setting up their own music and creating dances on the street corners.

And the most awesome of all the un-official events is the gorilla hunt.  Every year some of the dance people, just for the heck of it, and of their own initiative, rent a gorilla costume, and dress up in safari gear, and the Great White Hunters (tongue very firmly in cheek) hunt the gorilla through the crowds.  There are Tarzan moments, and King Kong moments, and slapstick moments, and it is hilarious, and fabulous, and most un-official and definitely the best thing to happen all weekend!

And this year I got to participate – oh, the joy!

My safari outfit was very thrown together – I found out I was participating less than 10 minutes before I got in the car to go to Napier.  So in a great rush I grabbed my pith helmet from the back of the closet (what do you mean?  Don’t you have a pith helmet sitting in the back of your closet, just in case you need to go on safari at last minute?) and shoved my Goldilocks blouse in my bag (it’s got green on it, close enough for a safari) and added a greenish-brown belt.

Not bad for last minute:

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The deal with the hunt is that the ‘Great White Hunters’ are 1), very, very, dumb (VERY), and 2) very, very British (VERY).

We say “Oh, I say” a lot.  And “Splendid!”  And “Jolly Good Shot Old Chap” (I do an excellent terrifically over the top grand dame accent)

The gorilla, for the record, is not dumb at all.

Because I didn’t have a ‘gun’ I acted as a beater.  With a parasol.  And a handbag.  Because, of course.

First, the Great White Hunters survey the jungle, looking for signs of their prey:

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Over there!

Art Deco Gorilla Hunt thedreamstress.com3(the hunter pointing in a different direction was the not-British and not-nearly-so-dumb member of our group.  When our roles were explained he inadvertently created an actual dumb-British-Great-White-Hunter moment.  “This is Jack.  He’s going to be smart and tell us where the gorilla is, but we’re going to pretend we can’t understand him because of his French accent.”  “Oh, can you do a good fake French accent”  “Errrr….no?”  “Then why are you playing the role, man!?!”  “Because I’m French”  “………………….oh, Jacques!”)

With a bit of assistance, we finally manage to catch the gorilla:

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And convey it home, to the adulation of the natives, in their picturesque costumes of fringed dresses and feather boas.

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But Oh NO!  What’s this?  It’s escaped!

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We must catch it before it goes on rampage!

(or whatever it is gorillas do.  The hunters were a little vague on the finer points of gorilla etiquette.  And gorilla everything.  We may have though it had tentacles.)

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We inquired if the natives had seen any sign of a gorilla:

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No gorilla here!

We looked high and low for it, to no avail:

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We stopped to watch a festival of the peculiar native dancing, with all odd moves, like swing-outs and sugar pushes, but didn’t see a gorilla:

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We searched, and searched, travelling through the jungle, and across the savannah:

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We even stumbled across the film set for Tarzan, and asked the director, but he hadn’t seen a gorilla…

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All the while we were hampered by the foreign hunter in our group, who kept babbling on in some peculiar tongue (we think it was Scottish) and saying ‘oooh!’ (think about it) all the time and demanding water.  I have no idea why he was so thirsty….

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Finally he got frustrated and started threatening to leave and telling us au revoir, or something that sounds like that.

And why was he going on about water?

It’s not like we would find the gorilla at the watering hole (look it up in French) or anything…

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Working on the Wearing History 1916 Suit

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been plugging away on the Wearing History 1916 Suit.  It’s going pretty slowly, because I’ve got a lot else on, but progress is being made.

For one thing, the skirt is done!

Actually, it’s been done for over a week, but I’ve been too busy/sick to blog about it, and haven’t managed to wear it or take proper photos yet.

If you are making the full suit, the Wearing History pattern prints out at a whopping 100 A4 pages of pattern pieces – plus instructions.

Worth it though: look how fabulous it is!

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For my fabric, I polled people on The Dreamstress FB page on fabric choices, and settled on a lightweight worsted wool in black with charcoal stripes (the other options were a black & white rayon check and a brown linen).

Then I settled down to tape pages together.  And tape.  And tape.

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I rather like taping print-at-home patterns.  It’s quite meditative, and you get into a rhythm.  Here is how I do it, if you are interested.

Felicity was also interested:

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She sat on a chair and watched the whole process very intently.  And then chased all the balls of scraps that I made at the end with great delight.

Then it was time for cutting, which required lots of concentration thanks to the rather elaborate stripe pattern in the fabric:

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Felicity also assisted with cutting out, because she’s a good cat like that:

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And besides, what black wool suit wouldn’t be complete without a liberal helping of cat hairs?

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I started on the skirt first, because I knew that would go quicker, and it’s always nice to feel that you’ve finished something.

Plus, if only the skirt got done, at least I could wear it with a blouse and have a full outfit!

The skirt construction was pretty basic, though (as the pattern warns) you do need to be experienced, be familiar with period sewing techniques, and use a bit of creative thinking.

The only really interesting part is the interior belt, which allows the skirt to sit 3 inches above the natural waist.  It sort-of gets sewn to the completely finished skirt, to hold it up.

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To make mine stiff enough, I supported it with a horsehair backing, and a length of vintage belting.

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Then the only thing to do was to make the curved decorative outer belt – also supported with horsehair for  a bit of body.

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Does anyone else get excited about notching?  I love doing it and always want to make it SO perfect.

And it’s done!

And while it hasn’t been worn by me, it has been worn, by a lovely model at the Museum of Wellington City & Sea’s ‘The Home Front’ night.

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(with, I must confess, a wacking great pleat taken in at the back, because all the models were tiny 16 year olds!)

I’m hoping to do a proper photoshoot with the skirt this weekend.  Quite fitting, as it’s Anzac weekend.

And there are more photos of the event coming soon!