The Ladies' Tea Guild

Thursday, November 12, 2009

San Francisco's Great Dickens Christmas Fair is getting ready to open!

Cathy Decker. From Englishwomen's Domestic Magazine, ca. 1865.
Despite rumors of the Cow Palace being sold to a developer, and the Dickens Fair having to move, it appears that Dickens will come back to the Cow Palace this year, the same as ever! Traditionally opening the weekend after Thanksgiving, the Dickens Fair runs 6 weekends, to the weekend before Christmas. My friends in the GBACG and I are getting our costumes in gear to attend the Dickens Fair appropriately dressed! What about you? It's not too hard to pull together a reasonably historically accurate mid-Victorian costume, although you do have to do some research so you know what to look for. Too many women just choose a long skirt and white blouse, cover it with bows and lace, and think that they have the right look!

Clothing worn during Dickens’ career openly displayed the wearer’s wealth and social standing, and often their occupation, in a way that is unfamiliar to us today. Because of the difficulty and expense of creating such high-fashion clothing today, it is recommended that women and girls assembling a mid-Victorian costume dress in a manner more appropriate to the middle and lower classes of the day. It is possible to rent suitable costumes, and also to buy complete costumes from specialty dressmakers through mail order or the Internet. The least expensive option is to put together a costume from thrift store finds, if you know what to look for, but be prepared to look through the offerings of more than one store and, especially, you should be willing to make a few alterations with needle and thread, fabric glue, hot glue, or iron-on fabric tape.

General tips: Middle and lower class women and girls imitated elements of upper class fashions, as much as their budget, occupation, and leisure time would allow. Their dresses were made of simpler fabrics like wool and cotton, in solid colors, stripes, checks, or plaids. The colors they wore were mainly muted, rather than bright or true colors, as the brighter tones were created with expensive chemical dyes. Dark colors were stylish and practical, and women coordinated, rather than perfectly matched, their accessories to their dresses. Look for neutral or muted colors in natural fabrics.

The Great Dickens Christmas Fair
The Greater Bay Area Costumer's Guild (GBACG)

1 comment:

Adrienne said...

Thank you for your kind mention of our Fair! We'd be very happy to extend a discount to any of your members for a group of 15 or more, perhaps for our special discount Discovery Day for Foodies & Swillers on December 12? More information can be found here:
Adrienne Biggs, publicist
31st annual Great Dickens Christmas Fair
on Twitter @dickensfair

Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast,
Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,
And, while the bubbling and loud-hissing urn
Throws up a steamy column, and the cups
That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each,
So let us welcome peaceful evening in.
-- William Cowper (1731-1800)
"The Winter Evening" (Book Four), _The Task_ (1784)