A couple months back I received an invitation to buy tickets to Highclere Castle's Vintage Garden Party. There was no passing this up! My husband and I have loved watching Downton Abbey for years, so naturally, we had to go!
It was a lovely event. Completely worth the trip! Costumes were optional, but almost everyone was dressed for the period, which really added to the atmosphere. Lots of other attendees traveled from outside of the UK. The States, France, Sweden... Tents were set up for lunch and drinks. A brass band played. There were antique cars, croquet and some carnival games. There was even a carousel! And of course, touring the house in costume was quite a treat!
My husband wore his outfit from Goldfield, adding a summery, straw hat we bought in London at Bates hatters the day before. I had originally planned to wear my dress from Goldfield Days as well, but then I considered the weather. The event ran two days in a row, and the day before we went, it rained like crazy. We lucked out and got beautiful bright sunshine.
To account for potential weather (and to be honest, being from the desert, anything below eighty degrees gets kind of chilly for me), I chose a more tailored dress in a lightweight wool fabric. The pattern I used was the 1911 Ladies Dress with Two Collar Options from the Vintage Pattern Lending Library, which is a reproduction of a 1911 McCall pattern.
It went together beautifully! I kept making mock-ups, assuming the period pattern would need a little toying with. But no, I ended up not making any adjustments! It was amazing! The only thing I did was shorten the train. Miraculously, everything fit together and fit me! This never happens. It was great! And a good looking dress, too!
I accessorized with a lace chemisette, which was part of the pattern, a new hat, gloves, and an antique/vintage, crochet bag I found on eBay. It was pretty rank when it arrived, but after a soak in Coldwater Tide and some Shout it brightened back to white.
The hat was an interesting problem to solve. I wanted an impressive hat, but also needed to travel with it and I was already maxed out on carry-on luggage. So, I found a travel hat on Zappos, which can be squished down and smashed and pops right back. The shape was good and the material looked like straw. I added trim from the dress fabric. I'm not usually so matchy, but I think it made the outfit look very custom in the end, so it was a win.
Speaking of win... There was a costume contest! It was mentioned in the invitation, but worded in such a way as I thought you actually had to dress as one of the characters to be entered. So I was quite surprised when a gentleman came up and handed me a finalist card!
When it was time for the Judging, Lord Carnarvon gave away the "Best Lord Grantham" prize and I think Lady Carnarvon presented "Best Hat".
There was also "Best Downstairs".
And then came "Best Upstairs". And...
I won!!! I was so excited! I've never done a costume contest! Squee!!!
All in all, it was a lovely event and a wonderful day. I hope they continue it in future years, and I hope we can go again some day.
And so on to a little about the construction. It was a simple dress to put together. I got to play a little with pad stitching the collar, with was fun. I added a waist tape, which wasn't explicitly instructed in the pattern, but is consistent with the period, and helps the blouson bodice stay in place, as it is otherwise unlined. The outfit was worn over the same undergarments as the last couple Edwardian outfits. The Princess slip came in very handy again, as the wool was so sheer, the corset's busk and grommets would have shown through.
One of the better finishing touches was making up the chemisette with insertion lace. I basted rows of lace to a paper pattern and then whipped them together, finishing the edges with lace, as well. I closed the back with snaps and simple pinned the chemisette to the dress under the collar. I loved the lace, with it's zig zag pattern!
Next up... something that's not Edwardian! Though it has been fun these last few months, I'm ready for something different. Cheers!