My Ghosts of Dickens Fairs Past

This year will be my first visit to Dickens Fair in San Francisco in many years, and I’m *excited.*

I’ve been to Dickens many times, and even worked it as a member of Tavistock House, back in college, so I thought it would be fun to do a little timelines of my costumes, from my mortifying first attempt to this year’s 1830s silk plaid gown.

My First Dickens – 2004

Ah, the heady days of being an art student, just getting interested in historical costuming, making so many n00b decisions….memories. 2004 was the first year I went to Dickens, just as patron with my school friend Grayson. I threw together a “dress” from whatever I had laying around – some gag-worthy yellow and green faux taffeta with a chenille strip (lol), a pattern for a c. 2003 mini-blazer, no corset (of course!), an old bed sheet with a crochet edge…

The Horror! The Horror!

We went, we had fun, I wore the mother of all gold satin bonnets. I knocked things over in the shops; a couple of ladies made fun of my bonnet ‘Mean Girls” style (I didn’t realize it until quite some time later). All in all it was a great first experience, though, and I knew I wanted to be more involved.

Tavistock House – 2005-2006

For my second year at Dickens, and with a whole year of historical costuming experience under my belt, I made a new and much more “proper” outfit. This dress was made of upholstery jacquard (which was totes the thing to do back then) in a pretty, Christmassy plaid. I used what is now Simplicity EA440001 Print-On-Demand, which is a great pattern. I also made my first corset, though my hoop skirt was still made from grosgrain craft ribbon and sprinkler tubing.

I was also working the fair this year as a member of Dickens’ household at Tavistock House. It was really quite lovely – we sat around and talked, read, performed the eating of food, interacted with Dickens, talked with guests. I felt very pretty in my dress and truly I wore it for several years to many events, along with a velvet and fur capelet I struggled through (I still struggle with velvet and fur, lol).

—- I moved away from the Bay Area in late 2009. Facebook Memories told me that I went to Dickens in 2009 but I have zero recollection of this except that I bought a car and drove back to Reno in a snowstorm —–

 London With Friends – 2012

A few years later I went to Dickens with my bestie Maggie. We both no longer lived in the Bay Area, but we decided to visit our buds Chrissy and Curtis and see old acquaintances at the fair. I had a plaid skirt made from that lovely “Homespuns” fabric you can get at Joanns (I still love that stuff), but I’d never made the intended bodice.

I didn’t have enough fabric for the bodice, so I pieced in velvet to make up the collar and cuffs. I needed to fill the neckline but instead of making a simple chemisette I wore an entire dress shirt underneath, which was quite bulky! I also didn’t have time to make a bonnet, so I wore one my mom made years before.

I didn’t really like this costume. I felt quite plain and boring, especially next to Maggie, who was frocked out in a gorgeous 1840s ensemble. This was one of those moments that defined my preferences for historic dress.

The Gigot Girl Gang – 2018

It’s been 6 years since I’ve been to Dickens Fair. Time flies! This year a large group of us are attending in slightly-anachronistic early 1830s. Eye-popping plaids, stripes, and searing colors are at the ready. Bonnets and hats bedecked with plumes and ribbons are standing by. I am very proud of my ensemble this year and I feel the gravitational pull of the early 1830s sucking me in to making and exploring more of this brief period.

From our dress rehearsal – Abby and I have never been quite so wide, oh my! Our “getting dressed” video is coming soon!

I’m excited to spend the day at this fair with friends old and new, friends who have been going for years and friends who have never been. Don’t worry, we’ll take pictures!

Leave a Reply

Discover more from American Duchess Blog

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading