Forty-two essays, one book review, and seven days from today, I'm going to a Jane Austen shindig in our nation's capital. (My exquisite husband will be accompanying me: he's going to pretend he's read those novels, he says.) The shindig is extensive and elaborate and mainly, indeed, entirely appears to revolve around getting dressed up and pretending you are Lizzy. I don't know how much of four days' worth of dancing, embroidering, card playing, swordfighting etc I'll be able to cope with. But as long as I can manage a couple of days that's probably enough: the main purpose of the visit is to meet and get to know some Austen / costume enthusiasts, and to invite them to be interviewed about how they see the relationship between the re-enactor suite of activities, and the novel-reader set of experiences. Stephanie's work on medievalism and Gothic in Australian culture amply demonstrates that there's a great deal more to this kind of reworking than the eccentricities that meet the eye.
In the spirit of disposing of the last few lingering shreds in my soul of cool and scholarly disdain for the reading practices of the hoi polloi, I am going to do two things quite frightening to me: dress up in Jane Austen clothes, and attempt to dance. In other words, I'm joining in, and I hope this will cure me once and for all of using words like freaks in my conversation to describe Regency re-enactors. (I managed not to call them freaks or weirdos on the ethics application, though, so I'm getting better.) I'm uncertain which to be more scared about, the dancing or the gowning, and that's good thing because it means I can alternately fixate on whichever is temporarily less anxiety-inducing.
Dancing is particularly hard for me because I have severe left-right confusion and can't follow spoken directions; nor can I imitate the movements of somebody who is facing me. Yes, I AM aware that this makes me Mr Collins. And thanks to Lost In Austen, this means that whenever I go the wrong way or tread on somebody's feet I'll be picturing Mr C. sniffing his fingers.
Not much can be done about that now, but, ladies (and gentlemen if you are interested in these things) you could help me decide what to do about the gown. Here's the pattern I've got:
I need to decide whether to do the long sleeves or the short, and the high neck or the low.
For an evening dress it should really be short sleeves / low neck. But vanity whispers in my ear that this is the combo that makes you look more like 'the fat girls with short noses that so disturbed [Austen] at the 1st. Ball' than is strictly necessary. There is also the 'expensively & nakedly dress'd' judgment Austen intimidatingly passed on some poor woman of her acquaintance. But neither do I specially want to dress up as a Mormon wife. I also wonder how much trimming and of what kind to put on the dress. Too much is Mrs Elton angling most awfully for compliments. Not enough is, well, Anne De Bourgh. If only Trinny and Susannah were here to decide for me. The fabric I've got is the most plausible Regency-esque stuff I could find for $5/m. It's a sort of Wedgwood blue silk with matt/satin stripes. (I intended to do white - 'a woman can never be too fine while she is all in white', [Edmund Bertram, whose ideas about clothes are certainly not as impeccable as Henry Tilney's] - but I couldn't find any white material that looked sufficiently unmodern). I got a bit of soft old gold rumpled silk that could be a sash and some teal ribbons that could go around the hem. Both would be overkill, so it's one or the other. Opinions sought, especially with links to pictures.