Monday, October 10, 2011

All in the Details: Eighteenth Century Accessories

I love my gowns. I really do. But the secret to eighteenth-century awesome? It's in the details. The best ensembles I've seen had great clothing as a base--but they hit awesome with a heavy inclusion of accessories.

So, I've made it a point to focus more on my accessories this year. I'm pretty pleased with the results:
A) Hat of Win. I love all my hats--my beat-up chip hat with ribbon trim (for my "I'm scraping bottom here but darn it, I shall still look nice!" campfollower look), my extra-large bergere (for pastoral whimsyness). But the Hat of Win accomplishes everything one could want in an 18th century topper--a certain je ne sais quoi of angled perfection. Plus pretty ribbons. And a large hatpin. And sun-shielding properties.

B) The basic cap underneath. I think the silk organza Snow Beast elevates the look even more. First advice for novice costumers and reenactors? Find the cap style that suits YOU. It's incredible--one person's laughable joke of a cap looks stunning on someone else. Then top it with a ribbon. It takes almost any cap from "thing you need to wear on your head" to "ladylike fashion statement."

C) Paste earrings. I have a variety of 18th century earrings (including faux pearls and simple silver), but my ornate paste ones are my favorites. In fact, I'm wearing them right now with my 21st outfit. What is paste? It's costume jewelry--cut glass set in metal, "pasted" in so to speak. Beautiful examples survive of detailed, decadent, and droolworthy paste jewelry. Plus, since it's not real stuff, I don't worry about losing it.

D) Silk kercheif. This one's practical (like the straw hat--works better than sunglasses for eliminating squinting). I hate getting sunburned. I especially hate my neck and shoulders getting sunburned. Tuck a silk kercheif in your neckline, and you don't get sunburned. Plus, it's such a lovely vanilla color in real life--matches absolutely everything.

E) "Coral" necklace. Eighteenth-century folks loved their coral. Today, of course, we know that it's a vital, living building block to an entire ecosystem, so we've knocked it off with the rampant harvesting (well, mostly knocked it off). Which is all the better, really, for authenticity sake. Why? The deep, rich red tones prized in the eighteenth century are nearly impossible to find in nature today (three guesses why...). So I've made do with a set of resin beads whose color and texture mimic natural coral.

F) Gown trim. Some might consider this part of the gown. I consider it an accessory. Why? Well, a) it's just for decoration. And b) my trims, like their 18th century forebears, can be removed and changed at will. Kind of in-depth accessorizing, but keeps the gown looking fresh. The neck and sleeves have pinked, box-pleated trim, and there's a single-layer engeageant at the sleeve hem.


Angela said...

Rowenna, I so agree with you about accessories. My biggest error is that I procrastinate getting going on a garment and then I am up against the deadline and poof! The accessories take a huge back seat to everything else and I wonder why I am disappointed in my results? The accessories! So much of 18th century woman's gown is her accessories that finish the ensemble and give her definition in terms of station and personality. I love your list of items and it has inspired me to make such a list and work on getting a nice set of things organized and/or made so that no matter what I put on for an event I can finish my outfit perfectly. Thank you for the wonderful nudge to think about it while I have down time, no events to prepare for and while I am working on UFO's that need my attention. Cheers!

Rowenna said...

Thanks, Angela! So true--plus, accessories are fun and often an easier project to find or make than a full gown. Great for a weekend project to make you feel like you got something done :)

John midlton said...

I started to conceiving about how I could complete the decreases at the top of that hat. I concluded up winging it if the time came but did address it down just in case it was awesome.

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