The Regency Ball
It’s no secret that I’m an Austenphile. After all, it is a truth universally acknowledged that any woman of good taste must be in want of a Mr. Darcy…and if Mr. Darcy isn’t available then a well-dressed replicate will do.
When I heard that the Jane Austen Society of Utah was holding a Regency Ball and a group of our friends was interested in going, I was instantly on board. Unfortunately, because I only learned of this event two weeks beforehand, I had to sort out our costumes in a hurry. Thankfully, since Jason and I dressed as Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet for Halloween a couple of years ago, I had already made most of what we needed but some quick stitching was still necessary. I had run out of time that Halloween and, consequently, hadn’t gotten around to making the authentic (circa 1790-1830) shirt that I had planned on sewing for Jason. He had had to manage with an obscured pirate blouse. And his waistcoat, another actual pattern from the late 1700s, had turned out undersized even though I had added 3 or 4 inches to its length. (Those Georgian gentlemen must have been puny things like me.) Since I wanted Jason to look perfect for the Regency Ball, I was determined to get that historically accurate shirt done and a new longer waistcoat made for him. Also, being a woman, I felt compelled to accessorize my costume a bit and an Austen style purse, known as a reticule, which could hold all of my girly stuff during the party, was just the thing so I added one of those to my sew list.
Two weeks isn’t much time to sew a shirt, vest, and purse but it’s doable. Then again, these weren’t your run-of-the-mill clothing items. Because I was using actual 1700s patterns, the instructions were horrendously hard to decipher and follow. Plus, the designs for these articles incorporated a whole lot of extra pieces that didn’t seem to serve any purpose. I ended up completely disregarding the instructions for the waistcoat and just doing my own thing. The shirt’s directions weren’t as awful so I did use them for the most part, even though they called for an absurd number of gussets to be stitched into peculiar places. (Before this experience I didn’t even know what a gusset was.) I also had to make my Princess Peach outfit for our polar plunge in the middle of all of this. (Insert curse word of choice here.) Talk about sewing to near insanity! Everything turned out splendidly though so I have no lasting complaints. Oddly, Jason’s unembellished shirt, with its simple details, was my favorite out of everything I created. Those gussets and strange pieces combined to make something that could have come straight out of Pride and Prejudice.
And the ball? Fantastic! Most of our night was spent dancing with only a short intermission for dinner. I love moving my feet so I didn’t grow weary of skipping, spinning, and galloping even after four hours. The meticulous costumes and ubiquitous curtseying successfully made me feel like I had been transported to a time long-gone when a bow to honor your partner was customary before a tune began. We were taught many dances from the Regency Period but we moved through them quite quickly so I’m not entirely sure how much of that footwork my tootsies retained. However, I definitely remember the steps to my favorite dance, the reel, which involve a whole lot of whirling and dosadoing. I’m a twirly kind of girly!
All the members of our group put substantial effort into their attire. Amber made terrific costumes for her and Jeremy. Simone and Abigail bravely sewed their dresses but decided to send their husbands to the costumer’s. And Jason and I looked pretty bona fide adorned in our useless gussets. The work I put into our clothes did not go unnoticed. We were runners-up for best couple out of the roughly 200 people present. It made me feel a little better about all that manic stitching.
It was a perfect evening filled with frills and twirls. My feet were throbbing by the end of the night but I enjoyed every minute of the ball regardless. It provided an excellent excuse to get dolled up and then get down. The setting may not have been as plush as the halls of Pemberley but I felt immersed in that classic grandeur all the same. Plus, my late model Mr. Darcy was definitely handsome enough to tempt me. I hope we can attend this event again next year. You might want to consider joining us. After all, any savage can dance.