Dear Constant Reader,
I know I’m very late with this missive, but I also know you forgive me.
A couple of weeks ago I ventured to lovely Charleston, South Carolina for Costume-Con, the annual gathering of the International Costumers Guild and a mecca for all things costume-y. You might remember that I attended last year in Toronto.
Last year I was solo, but this year I was part of a group of fabulously talented costumers, putting together an entry for the Historical Masquerade. It’s a particularly challenging competition and we only added to the difficulty by living far enough apart that the first time all nine members of the group were together was Friday night. I never thought I’d say this, but thank goodness for Facebook — it’s how we communicated and shared our progress. More about our specific costumes later.
The first costume-related event of the weekend was an unofficial one. A couple of us grabbed our mermaid tails (or monofins, depending on the progress of building said tail) and went down to the pool for a swim. Rae’s tail is really gorgeous, but has a *lot* of drag. Mine is better for swimming, but is not as stunning. We’ve got plans to make new ones that suit our needs more.
The event had the theme of “Buccaneers, Belles, and Bootleggers”, all things for which Charleston has been famous (or infamous) and the Friday Night Social was a Speakeasy. I put on a 1920’s-style dress, after carefully pining the shoulders so they didn’t accidentally break away. Yeah, I originally made it for stage.
It was nice to see/meet all the members of our costume group. I spent most of the evening admiring outfits — there were vintage gowns and recreations and stunning outfits that nothing to do with the theme at all. I was please to see a lovely reproduction of of Cyd Charisse’s green costume from Singing in the Rain walking around as I had admired it on display in Toronto. The libations at the bar were uninteresting to say the least, but the refreshments included some southern specialties (pulled pork, crab dip, and peach cobbler).
I managed to stay awake for the Single Pattern Competition where the contestants get creative with a pre-selected pattern. I should have entered — all the patterns were from Folkwear, which I love, and none that I had made before. By the way, the dress I’m wearing for the social was made from one of their patterns. Hopefully I inspired someone, who had given up that pattern because of the weird cut of the skirt, to try again because of my successful results.
Saturday I was at loose ends for most of the day as all my roommates prepared for the SF&F Masquerade that night. I browsed the vendors (sadly, that didn’t take too long as there were only two), Miss Lizzie’s Traveling Fashion Show, the Guest of Honor’s display, the doll competition, and the quilt display.
It seemed a crime not to leave the hotel and see the actual city of Charleston (we were technically in North Charleston), so I called a cab and sped off toward adventure. Okay, really I had done a little research and found a restaurant with good reviews, serving local cuisine. I was deliberately early so I could walk around and see some of the city. Sadly, I wasn’t really near anything famous or historic, but I did see some nifty architecture. Doubly sadly, I had forgotten to change into flats and ended up with some epic blisters.
Dinner, however, at The Hominy Grill, was fabulous. I had she-crab soup (pictured), which if I’d known how good it was going to be, I probably would have had a bowl and made that dinner. Instead, I had a Nasty Biscuit — a biscuit (naturally) with a slab of fried chicken, cheddar, and sausage gravy. And there were boiled peanuts too, something I’ve always heard about but never tried. I was going to pass on dessert, although the buttermilk pie sounded intriguing, but the waitress sold me on their chocolate pudding. I’m so glad she did.
I was back at the hotel in plenty of time to dress and attend the Science Fiction and Fantasy Masquerade. (Photo by Leslie Johnston). And see my roommate win various awards.
Sunday was a busy day. We had to rehearse our presentation (and none of us were available at the same time), which we did by the elevators on our floor to (I hope) the amusement of the cleaning staff. We had a tech rehearsal on the stage. And we met with the judges to have our costumes examined minutely for their workmanship. This is really important for many historical costumes as there are often underlayers, structural garments, or interior finishes which one cannot see from stage. There was also frantic work to help one member of group actually finish sewing her costume before the pre-judging.
Eventually there was nothing left to do but get ready and here’s the result:
(Photo here and below by Ken Warren)
Our concept was what if the Victoria’s Secret fashion show was actually Victorian. Each of us chose a 19th century inspiration for our fantasical undergarments: Egyptomania, a Tiffany lamp, Van Gogh’s Starry Night, a Faberge egg, flowers, and Queen Victoria’s coronation. We also had one inspired directly by the modern fashion show — The Million Dollar Corset. Also, a showgirl who turned our title cards, and our celebrity host, John Philip Sousa. Note the wings and other absurd accessories on the models.
I made the chemise and bloomer, corset, and mantle (as much as it might have been fun to have wings, we needed a few wingless costumes and I volunteered, knowing my luggage would be restricted by flying). The crown structure was made by Rae Bradbury-Enslin and rhinestoned by me. I’m really happy with how it all came out, especially the corset. It’s cream brocade, bound with white satin, and the pattern on the brocade is picked out in varying shades of gold rhinestones. It was a pain to bone, with lots of tiny boning channels to sew, but worth it. Expect to see parts of this costume incorporated in a new burlesque act.
Judging is done in three categories: documentation, workmanship, and presentation. I’m pleased to say that we won a recognition for the attractiveness of our documentation (that was all due to Rae’s hard work). Several members of the group received awards for workmanship, particularly Bill who won Best in Class in the Master Division for his flawless (that’s what the judges said!) recreation of John Phillip Sousa’s outfit. And in presentation…
And because it wasn’t like Rae had enough to do wrangling all of us and making the documentation beautiful, she also made T-shirts:
As much as I wanted to stay up and celebrate with the others, morning and my flight back to Boston was going to come way too early…