Although I haven't been posting much lately, I've been hard at work behind the scenes working on a new outfit that combines history with a bit of fantasy. This new Regency fairy outfit was a welcome diversion from more serious sewing, and it also happens to kill 3 birds with one stone for the Historical Sew Fortnightly challenges. The leaf overbodice was made for the "flora and fauna" challenge, the turban was made for the "squares, rectangles, and triangles" challenge, and the gown, and really the overall look, was made for the "literature" challenge.
The inspiration for this costume comes from the book Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, which is a bit of a cross between Jane Austen and Harry Potter. The story is set in Regency period England, and it intertwines real historical figures and events with a hearty dose of magic and fairies. The antagonist of the tale is a fairy known only as "the gentleman with the thistle-down hair". He is quite mad and somewhat sinister, and he has a nasty habit of enchanting humans and forcing them to attend nightly balls at his kingdom called "Lost Hope". The balls are filled with elegant, but melancholy and slightly unhinged characters. One fairy woman at the enchanted ball is described like this: "She was dressed in a gown the color of a winter sunset and carried a delicate, glittering fan strung with something which might have been crystal beads - but which more resembled frost upon leaves and the fragile pendants of ice that hang from twigs."
The dress for this costume is made with the Past Patterns Lewis and Clark pattern. Everything went together great, but if you make this pattern yourself, I'll warn you to check the size carefully before you begin. I had to go down 2 sizes from what the measurement chart said I should use. I also raised the waistline in back by two inches to make it look more like the high-backed styles of the 1790's, and I changed up the pleating and tucks on the skirt a little. The dress is made with cotton lawn and it is lined with linen, and this is the first time all year that I've bought fabric for a costume project. But luckily, the fabric for this dress was under $20, so I don't feel too guilty about it. I hand-sewed most of the dress and made it without any fantasy modifications because I wanted it to work for both this fairy outfit and for other more authentic historical styles as well.
here). I loved the way these little bodices can dress up and change the look of a simple dress. The bodice is made from some really unique fabric that was originally a table runner. My husband gave it to me as a gift a few years ago to use for costuming - he knows me so well! It has velvety preserved leaves glued onto a fabric backing, and it is surprisingly durable. It handles sort of like thin leather, and best of all - it smells like fresh cut grass. :) I bound the edges with burlap ribbon, and I made cord out of the burlap threads to accent the seamlines.
The turban is just a long rectangular piece of undyed raw silk that has a lovely striated pattern to it. I wrapped it in a method similar to the video tutorial that I posted here. The only change is that I covered the crown of my head with the tail of the fabric first so I wouldn't have to worry about fixing my hair. The turban is decorated with a few turkey feathers and a sprig of pine needles.
I was always intrigued by my mental image of "the gentleman with the thistle-down hair", so I decided to do something similar with my costume. The "lady with the Spanish moss hair" doesn't have quite the same poetic ring to it, but I think it is still a fun little finishing touch for the outfit. I tried using real moss first, but it was too delicate to hold up to very much handling, so I found some artificial moss and stitched it to a headband to create an easy mossy 'do.
Although the fairies in Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell are not described as having wings, the book does mention that they can change their appearance at will to appear more human or more animalistic. My old paper moth wings matched the colors of the outfit so well that I decided to go ahead and wear them to finish off the fairy look.
Here are a few of my favorite photos, and you can see the rest on flickr.