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Today’s guest post is by Celeste Sargent who is an artist by nature, a scientist by nurture and a teacher by profession.  This is the first in a series of posts about Regency Balls.

I am not a “Janeite”

I am not a “Janeite” or at least, I have not been. Janeitism is defined as

“the self-consciously idolatrous enthusiasm for ‘Jane’ [Austen] and every detail relative to her”[1].

Like many, I first read Pride and Prejudice as a teenager and I literally couldn’t put it down. The story goes that on a school trip in Alberta I was so absorbed in the book that I missed the rest stop and, when we were stopped by a train crossing, had to use a snowy field.  Since then, I’ll admit that I’ve read all of her books many (many) times.  My personal favourite is Mansfield Park.  But my enjoyment of her books has rarely led to interest in derivatives. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies? No Thanks.  A trip to the Jane Austen Festival in Bath?  Yikes. When Miss Bingley tries to pigeon hole Elizabeth as “a great reader” who “has no pleasure in anything else.”  Elizabeth protests, saying:

“I deserve neither such praise nor such censure, … I am not a great reader, and I have pleasure in many things.”[2]

Like Elizabeth, I object strongly to being labelled. But, as it happens the many things that give me pleasure include history, drama, classical music, singing and dancing.  So it recently occurred to me that it would be a lot of fun to hold a Regency Era house concert and ball, which was a key feature in all of Jane Austen’s novels. Thus, 20 years after my first exposure, I find myself afflicted with a severe case of late-onset Janeitism.

Lively Regency Dancing circa 1805

Lively Regency Dancing circa 1805

The Spirit of the Age

I am a Baha’i and Jane Austen died in the same year that Baha’u’llah (the Founder of the Baha’i Faith) was born (1817).  The approaching 200th anniversary of these two events seems like a good enough reason to hold a ball but is there also a connection between these two individuals? English Literature (and Western thought) changed dramatically in the early 19th century from Romanticism to Realism (also called “Victorian” Literature”).  Indeed, all of humanity was changing dramatically at that time. Theologians believe that the coming of a Manifestation of God on earth releases spiritual forces that transform humanity.

“the Holy Manifestations of God are the centres of the light of reality…When the Holy Manifestation of God, Who is the sun of the world [shines] then the spiritual spring and new life appear, the power of the wonderful springtime becomes visible, and marvelous benefits are apparent.  As you have observed, at the time of the appearance of each Manifestation of God extraordinary progress has occurred in the world of minds, thoughts and spirits.”[3]

Often miss-identified as romance novels, Jane Austen’s work is actually an early example of realism. Is it possible that Jane Austen felt the gentle influence related to the re-birth of religion? Certainly Jane was influenced by her sincere Christian faith and she was in tune with the emerging zeitgeist, whatever your belief about it’s cause may be.  Her understanding of human nature and clear-sighted moral reasoning seem ahead of her time and her writing continues to appeal to modern sensibilities.  It therefore seems, if not apropos, then at least not inappropriate, to celebrate Ayyam-i-Ha this year by holding a Regency Ball.

Having a Ball

In order to recreate a house concert and ball as it would have occurred in 1817 England, I had to do a good deal of research, the fruits of which labour I share with you here (Chloë has very kindly allowed me to temporarily hijack her blog) in the 1817 Regency Ball Blog Series:

- Having a (Regency) Ball
- Ladies and Gentlemen, Regency Fashion!
- Easy P’easy Regency: From bed to ball gown in 30 minutes or less
- ‘Mary, play a reel! Nobody wants your concertos’: Regency Music and Dance

I am hoping that with a strict treatment of blogging, dressing up, dancing and reading fan fiction I can get over this late-onset case of Janeitism quickly. My friend, Melanie Kerr, who I recently discovered has chronic Janeitism, has written a Prequel to Pride and Prejudice titled “Follies Past”, which I look forward to reading as my very first fan fiction.

Disclaimer: This blog series and event is an independent, individual initiative, not associated with any institution or organization.  It does not represent the Baha’i Faith or the Baha’i Community of Vancouver.

References:

1. Johnson, Claudia L. “Austen cults and cultures.”1997

2. Austen, Jane. “Pride and Prejudice.” 1813

3. Abdu’l-Baha. “Some Answered Questions.”

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This post is contributed by Celeste Sargent as part of the 1817 Regency Ball Blog Series.

Have you been invited to a Regency Era Ball?  Has your wardrobe fallen behind on the hottest 1817 England fashion trends?  Are you unwilling to sew or buy a costume for just one evening?  Well, you could go to a thrift store and find a dress or tuxedo to modify as these people did:

How to Get a Proper Regency Look From a Thrift Store

But if you’re like me and that is still way too much time and money, here is how to make a Regency gown out of a sheet in 10 steps.  BONUS! “Men’s Regency Attire: 3 easy cravats” at the end.

10 Steps to a Regency Gown

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Step 1. Start with a single sheet (a double sheet will work, but it is bulkier), 20+ pins, 2 draw strings (approximately 1 m long), and your choice of sleeves and belt (see Step 9).

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Step 2. Fold the sheet in half to make a long cylinder (if you are using a double sheet, you will have to fold it in 3rds so it is just wider than your hips).

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Step 3. Overlap the edges to make a long, narrow cylinder and“Sew” the edges together using pins, being careful not to catch the bottom layer.

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Step 3. (If you are using a double sheet, you will have to pin the bottom and top edges of the overlap as well)

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Step 4. Tie the first draw string around the middle of the sheet, keeping it loose and easy to untie.

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Step 5. Fold the sheet in half OVER the draw string by pulling the thin edge of the sheet down over the thick edge. You should have a double layered cylinder. (adjust the size by folding it more or less.  Top crease above the bust and bottom around ankles)

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Step 6A. Step into the middle of the cylinder, with the seam at the back, and tie the draw string tightly ABOVE the bust.

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Step 6B. OR, secure the draw string BELOW the bust.

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Step 6B. then fold the top layer of fabric up over the bust to the desired neckline.

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Step 6B. Pin crease to bra at desired neckline (FRONT).

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Step 6B. Pin crease to bra at desired neckline (BACK)

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Step 7. Arrange the fabric so it falls smooth and flat in the front and sides and bunches in the back (the double sheet is a lot bulkier in the back).

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Step 8A. Tie the second draw string around the outside of everything under the bust.

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Step 8B. Tie the second draw string over the top of everything under the bust.

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Step 9A. Add your choice of sleeves and belt

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Step 9B. Add your choice of sleeves and belt

Step 9.  Add your choice of sleeves, and decorations.  The regency had a diversity of necklines (U, V, square, scoop) and sleeves (cap, puff, short, med, long).  In addition, women often wore a chemise (a light, white collared shirt) under a dress to cover the chest and/or shoulders.  Here are some different combinations using:

  • blouses
  • wrap around shirts
  • sports bra
  • wire edged ribbon
  • scarf

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Step 10.  Accessorize with flat shoes, a shawl (long rectangle of coloured fabric like a long Pashmina, often of Indian silk), a reticule (a fabric purse with a draw string), a fan, and/or long gloves.

Step 10. Accessorize with flat shoes, a shawl (long rectangle of coloured fabric like a long Pashmina, often of Indian silk), a reticule (a fabric purse with a draw string), a fan, and/or long gloves.


Men’s Regency Attire: 3 easy Cravats

1)Start with a white collared shirt (not a tuxedo shirt) and piece of white linen (in this case I used Jersey because that’s what I had). The cravat should be about 4-6 inches wide and 1.5-2 meters long.

2). Pop the collar and wrap the cravat around the neck a few times, finish up with the style of your choice.  Here’s three fun options: bow, scarf or knot.

3) Finish up your outfit with dress pants, dress shoes, and a vest. (WARNING: It is best to avoid a jacket.  The tailcoat was extremely time-specific.  It had a VERY short waist and puffed shoulders, which are hard to find or imitate)

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Well, I finally had three spare hours and got around to doing this silly thing I wished for awhile ago.

Nerd alert!

Here it is:

Lyrics:

There’s a way to carry many tomes

Millions of them are lying around in our homes.

We call them e-readers or tablets or just phones;

We all are readers, though we live in different zones.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll read an ebook.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll take another look.

All the bookstores are online now, don’t you know?

If you’re buying books, there’s just no place to go.

But if you’ve got a Kindle or an iPad or a Nook,

It’s not a problem; you know where you can look.

Download an ebook; you’ll figure it out somehow.

Upload an ebook; we’re all just authors now.

So if Amazon’s two-day shipping just won’t cut it

Just buy an ebook, because… instant gratification!

Maybe tomorrow we’ll see that print’s not dead…

Until tomorrow we’ll read ebooks instead.

Maybe tomorrow we’ll see that print’s not dead…

Until tomorrow we’ll read ebooks instead.
O, this code! It never seems to end.

This so-called “e-production” drives me ‘round the bend!

Unzip an EPUB from a conversion house and it’s a mess,
So then manually tweak the XHTML and the CSS.

Maybe tomorrow formatting issues will settle down…

Until tomorrow we’ll just keep truckin’ on.

So if you travel or commute or you’re a bibliophile

E-read an ebook; it’ll e-make you e-smile.

Maybe tomorrow we’ll all use EPUB 3…

Until tomorrow, we’ll have to wait and see.

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This year, we welcomed this large clownfish and this small tyrannosaurus rex into our family holiday visiting time.  feesh-and-dinosaur-by-the-fireside

Things started well.

The fish, known as Feesh, spent his hours browsing the various bookshelves of the house, and made a pleasant fireside companion. He didn’t even mind the other guest—a mischievous monkey.

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The dinosaur, decked in his holiday neckwear, was an animated conversationalist and a polite dinner guest.

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But he let a little too loose, and began to feel deflated, and drowned his sorrows.

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Feesh, meanwhile, gave up on our party and simply gazed longingly out the window, as if hoping to sneak away into the night.

By the end of the evening, T-Rex had collapsed entirely, and found himself wallowing in the corner, being consoled by a patient polar bear.

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The next morning found T-Rex sleeping it off, and we hope the new day will be as a breath of fresh air (or fifty) to him.

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As for Feesh, well, we hope he is looking at the silver linings in the great aquarium that is the world. As we all ought to do.

Happy Gregorian new year, humans.

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Check out this elegant, vegan, purposefully error-rife cake that my coworkers got for me today. Ha!

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Another editor friend noted how impressive it would have been if a bottle of red icing had been included in the gift, so that I could have used proper proofreader’s marks on the cake. Brilliant! Next time.

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