Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Steampunk Tea Part Two: Oh, Do We Have Bustle!

It's evening three after the steampunk tea, and outside the breeze is still blowing the last bits of Autumn off the record. Yet how can I complain of a little wind, when much of the East Coast is enduring a flooded, wind-wracked, nerve-wracked sort of hell? Most of the rest of the country is thinking of you all, and praying the storm just gets itself gone.

To Rebecca up in the D.C. area, we are so glad you all made it through neatly. To cheer you up even more, as promised here are the last of the pictures of the steampunk tea.

The edibles subtly convey our state's culture. Kentuckians are especially good at tea sandwich fillings: olive nut (which is what it says, whipped into cream cheese and sometimes mayonnaise, and herbs), ham salad (which is, you guessed it: like chicken salad but with finely chopped ham instead); Benedictine (cucumbers and cream, dyed green); chicken salad, pimento cheese, and numberless other variations. Our table was loaded with a goodly assortment, and rounded out by spinach and nutmeg tarts, tiny vanilla cakes, apple tart, and red velvet cake, as velvety and as deeply truly red as always, except for the popping white of the frosting.

At this juncture my dress bodice was relatively smooth in the front, and the bustle overskirt sitting neatly, for I'd not sat down, nor been running about, as I'd do later. It is interesting to see how easily disarranged a dress can become, unless one takes careful steps to avoid that. More on that later.

However, that durn hat! So it was askew right from the get go. What shall I claim as excuse? Why, the truth. I dressed before we set up the tea things, and was in a dreadful hurry. I looked at the immense chignon hairpiece, thought of how I'd be contorting myself into frustration to attach its minute combs to the back of my skull, and discarded it. Next went the gloves, simply forgotten. The proper belt buckle was waved off as just too much effort too. Noting the minutes ticking, I flopped the hat atop the head, rummaged in the too-dark travel bag for three vicious hat pins, and finding them, hesitatingly punched them through the hat, heedless of the handsome lace, and into my hair, praying quietly that I wouldn't graze the skin, and thanking Heaven for a current tetanus shot. I wonder how many women have contracted lockjaw from contaminated hat pins in the head?

One of the party's conceits was that I'd greet everyone as they stepped off the airship, thank them for flying the Concord, and wave them into the house. In the event, only a few passengers were treated to the schtick; ah well, it's so hard not to say "Oh, hellllllo! So good to see you; I've been missing you", and offer to take their platters for them...

Our partygoers, before we tucked into afternoon tea. [Durn hat.]

Rebecca, we decided on a buffet: no formal tea seating this time, but we did balance our cups and plates without spills, so you will be proud of us. Shall I whisper that in an attempted sniff Julia plopped the lid from the lavender "elixir of life" bottle into her tea, to the sound of snorts and hoots?

Leaden outdoors as it was, with spits and spots of rain, we went outdoors anyway for playacting and to bat at a very special pinata.

Herewith, proof that Jenni and I really were after bustles worthy of balancing a dinner plate.
I could have carried a small cat, or even a small child, back there, had the steels been more numerous... [Yes, those are stewardessian golden wings on that hat.]

Pinata. What did you think it might represent, other than an airship? Jenni built it, Rebecca. It was neat. It was well built.

Hanging it from the pergola was simplicity.

Whack, whack!
Whomp. The ordinarily tough tobacco stick broke in half, then in thirds.
A tree limb was substituted. Whack!
And so it went, rounds and rounds, and the pinata held and held, until finally enough of it opened up to let fall some candy, and we called it a success.

Our teahouse proprietress Polly called us back in.

Not before I requested a back view of the dress, never having seen it, and not being able to turn myself around fast enough to catch a view.

Oh vanity, thy name is Woman. The first sight of the result had me sigh in frustration. The afternoon had not been over-kind to the overskirt. It had lost its symmetry, and the rosette at the waistline went off center. A second look many hours later brings more charitable thoughts; I look probably as real as most women do after some exercise in a big poufy complex outfit.

Here's that rosette. It was a duck to make and I'll do more of them with pleasure. In later posts will share with you how it was built: it's a close cousin to one in Harper's Bazar.

Then it was back inside for charades and a last cup tea and a nibble. The afternoon's light faded, we wished friends goodbye, and multiple hands helped Polly wash up and put everything to rights. In some ways such traditional work is as fun as a party. More time for conversation, for breathing deep, for slowing down, and Monday morning quarterbacking the event.

Oh dear, I'd write more, but small Christopher is inconsolable in his bed. He has had five days of fever, on and off and tonight he is flushed and damp. Noah has had six. We thought they were well Sunday but that was either the boys' ruse to get to see their grandparents, or perhaps Fate's poor sense of humor, for here we are again....  Tomorrow promises another doctor's visit.

It all started a week ago Monday, after I had been sick that weekend. Both boys have missed school and all of us have missed sleep. My face shows the puffiness of sleeplessness in the tea pictures. I am so glad not to have missed that tea: what a relaxing moment of fun and sanity!

Oh, dear boy, do stop crying. I've been in to comfort you three times already...no, your voice is too pitiful, here I come...

So ciao, everyone. [Oh, he has stopped the wails. Probably fallen asleep mid-sniff.]

Next up, more tidbits on the dress construction (with views of my extant 1870s dress construction for comparison), and notes on what is left to be done. Wait, it's not done? No, it's not. Critical eyes will note that the skirt flounce lacks a finish, there are no bias folds covering the trim stitching -- an almost de riguer element of early 1870s trims -- there should be rosettes at the front overskirt "wings" and at the overskirt belt, and at the neckline lace is simply tacked in to the bodice lining. Many women would have worn an ornate jabot or equally ornate and removable lace collar.




Gail said...

God-willing, I would love to sew a bustle dress for a tea party. You folks were having so much fun.

Laura Morrigan said...

What a wonderful party! I love it all, including your dress! I am determined to have a wonderful steampunk party, and a proper Ne0-Victorian wardrobe, by the time of my next birthday!

ZipZip said...

Thank you both, and welcome! We did have a great deal of fun that afternoon, and I have to say that a bustle dress, because it is so obviously unserious, invites you to be equally light-hearted and .

Very best,


Donna said...

I enjoyed the tea and all your blog postings. Thank you for sharing your creativity!

Time Traveling in Costume said...

I think its quite pretty! Bustles are not perfect symmetry. Your whole outfit turned out wonderful, and your tea sounds like a lot of fun.

Sarah Jane said...

Oh, it all looks like such fun! I had a huge smile just reading through all your activities; you have a wonderful way of sharing events through the written word!

Your gown is incredible. Wow. I am so very impressed with it! And I particularly love the view of the back - how very, very pretty!

ZipZip said...

Dear Val and Sarah,

Thank you both! Guess you're right that bustles aren't about symmetry: that's the Regency tendency in me coming out.

A real compliment, Sarah, about the way I write, for your blog is one of the very best written in the costuming world, in my opinion.