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Three Easy Pieces ~ Makeup And The Modern Edwardian

by Amanda Storey

Tales From The Edwardian Ball

I can hardly contain my excitement. The Edwardian Ball is here again!

The Edwardian is something that everyone should experience at least once. It’s a spectacle of old-timey fashion, Edward Gorey inspired theatre, electro-swing music and dancing, coupled with an incredible abundance of performance, costumes, and art. It is truly a feast for all of your senses.

And what costumes! If you’re a professional people-watcher like me, this is your event of the year. Everyone looks amazing.

But costuming for the Ball needn’t be difficult. You can achieve a great deal through makeup alone.

This will be my 4th consecutive year attending the Ball. Each year, I’ve taken the inspiration for my outfit from a different era or personal hero—or more often, both. In every case, makeup has played as important a role in my overall look as the garment I wore. Here are my three previous Edwardian Ball looks, along with tips on how you can create them for yourself.

The author with Aaron Delachaux - Photo by Merkley???

Amanda with Aaron Delachaux. Photo by Merkley???

Marlene Dietrich

It was Aaron Delachaux, a very dear friend of mine, who first suggested I attend the Edwardian Ball. An acclaimed DJ, Delachaux has provided music for this event for years. He does an amazing job keeping everyone bouncing, kicking and Charleston-ing the night away. Knowing my affinity for all things old-timey-riffic, he was certain this party would tickle my fancy bone. How right he was!

Sadly, there seems to be no photographic evidence of my costume that first year. But I remember precisely what I wore, and how I styled myself. How could I forget, when I drew my inspiration from that timeless icon of androgyny, Marlene Dietrich?

Marlene Dietrich, my androgyny icon.

Marlene Dietrich, my androgyny icon.

Hot damn, I love a woman in a tuxedo. There is something so sexy, so powerful and utterly decadent about it. I had been wanting to rock this look for years, and the Edwardian Ball was my chance!

1920’s women in male drag. LOVE. Want to be them.

1920′s women in male drag. LOVE. Want to be them.

I wore a men’s tuxedo shirt tailored to fit me (in a pinch, you can fake this with safety pins), basic black fitted trousers and a tuxedo jacket with tails that I picked up for dirt cheap from Forever 21. I fancified my tuxedo jacket with re-purposed vintage buttons that I rescued from a hideous jacket that ended up at Goodwill.

My Steven oxfords. I love these so much that I bought a back-up pair.

My Steven oxfords. I love these so much that I bought a back-up pair.

I slicked my long hair back into a chignon and wrapped a black ribbon around the base. My makeup was stark white with EXTREME matte black smokey eyes. My cheekbones were contoured and I finished the look with a matte nude lip. I really looked and felt amazing, plus I could move and dance the night away like a real gentleman.

The Ziegfeld Girl

Ziegfeld Girls are an obsession of mine. They represent a group of chorus girls who performed in the Ziegfeld Follies. Tossing out Victorian principles of lady-likeness, the Ziegfeld Girls embraced the controversial art, fashion, music and theatre of the early 1900′s.

Ann Lee Patterson, Ziegfeld Follies chorus girl

Ann Lee Patterson, Ziegfeld Follies chorus girl

While many snubbed these women as Harlots, they gained popularity as the most beautiful women in the world and had many admirers. A Ziegfeld Girl was the absolute height of glamour. Many of them went on to marry rich men and live lavish lives. The last surviving Ziegfeld Girl was Doris Eaton Travis, who died at 106 in May 2010.

Doris Eaton Travis during her Ziegfeld Follies days. Umm… Gorgeous much?

Doris Eaton Travis during her Ziegfeld Follies days. Umm… Gorgeous much?

The romance, the decadence, the controversy… I knew I had to recreate myself as a Ziegfeld Girl for The Edwardian Ball!

When my Grandmother Sunny passed away she left me everything she owned including some amazing wardrobe. Lucky for me we were the same size. The dress I wore was an amazingly sheer, hand-painted and beaded nude chiffon. Warm brown painted feathers, leaves and rhinestones flow across the hem and up towards the bodice.

To be honest, it’s less of a dress, and more like a fancy, transparent poncho. As such, it originally came with a nude slip to wear underneath. For the Ball, I wore it with a nude leotard, nude dancer’s fishnets, and nude ballroom dancing heels.

If only I was born in 1910! Photo by Anne-Laure Alexander

Amanda, ready for her Ziegfeld audition. Photo by Anne-Laure Alexander

My makeup inspiration was drawn heavily from Doris Eaton Travis. Darkly mysterious matte smokey eyes coupled with the deepest black cherry lip. I used MAC Embark matte eyeshadow all over the lid. The cat-eye was not yet in fashion, so the shape of this eye makeup is very important. ROUNDED! The goal is to achieve a haunting, exaggerated doe-eye.

The face makeup must be flawless and lightly contoured in the hollows of the cheeks. I contour my cheekbones with MAC Harmony matte blush. I finished my makeup look with the gorgeous matte MAC Media lipstick, the deepest of deep almost black reds.

The Ziegfeld look

The Ziegfeld Girl look

I have waist length hair, and that did not fit into the Ziegfeld aesthetic. I curled my hair, rolled it and pinned it into a pseudo-bob. After I secured my coif with plenty of bobby pins, I topped off my look with a vintage bronze beaded necklace that I wore as a headband. I was so comfortable all night, basically naked! My ballroom dancing shoes were awesome, a teeny heel, lots of traction and zero foot pain!

I had a blast, and I even got to introduce my then boyfriend—now fiancé—to The Edwardian Ball.

Don't judge me. This was the end of a very long night of drinking, dancing and decadent debauchery.

Don’t judge—this was taken at the end of a VERY long night of drinking, dancing, and fabulously decadent debauchery.

The Great Gatsby

I was and am still in crazy love with the dress I wore to last year’s Edwardian Ball. I was very inspired by the breezy looks of the 1970s film adaptation of The Great Gatsby. This dress was a lucky find. A vintage Geoffrey Beene yellow/black polka dot chiffon gown. The tag read $300 and the sale sign said 70%. I prayed that it would fit, and to my delight it slipped on as if it had been made for me.

Gatsby dress

I paired this gown with nude fishnets and black Mary Jane heels. Super-duper simple! I once again twisted my hair into a pseudo-bob, this time purposefully leaving pieces out to seem effortless and ethereal.

The makeup was insanely easy. I flawless-ified my skin with MAC Studio Fix Fluid in NC15, defined my cheeks with the (now sadly discontinued) Benefit Georgia Peach blush, darkened my brows with Benefit Browzing Dark and popped on one of my all-time favorite red lipsticks: Lime Crime’s “Retrofuturist”. That’s it.

Oppan Gatsby Style
This year is even more exciting than ever. My fiance, Ben Walker, was asked to design a really cool souvenir shot glass for this year’s Ball featuring his new character “The Graven Twins”. His shot glass will be for sale at the Ball—be sure to check it out!

I also surprised both of my sisters and their boyfriends by purchasing tickets for them. They’ve never seen anything like this before, and I know they will fall in love like I have. And of course I’ve been plotting my character, makeup and wardrobe for months, as well as helping my sisters do the same. I simply cannot wait to see what they—and everyone else—comes up with!

What look will you create for the Ball?

Amanda Storey

Amanda Storey

Amanda Storey is a makeup artist, model, artist and prankster with a vocabulary comparable to Oscar Wilde, if he were a sailor on shore leave. Amanda spends her days prettifying women at the Fillmore Street Benefit Cosmetics Boutique and blogging about the newest addition to her 100-plus lipstick collection. Amanda’s passion for style and fancy things is in her DNA, it’s been there since she cat-walked out of her mother’s birth canal. She uses makeup and clothes to create characters and express her ideas the same way Chuck Jones would use a pencil and paper.

An earlier version of this post originally appeared on Amanda’s blog, Fancy Face.
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Click the button below to purchase your 2014 Edwardian Ball Tickets

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Want more tips on dressing for The Edwardian Ball? Do peruse our ongoing Fashion Guide series!

How to Dress For The Edwardian Ball ~ Part III: The Gentlemen

By Amber Clisura and Aaron Muszalski

Edwardian Gents - ©2010 Neil Girling / The Blight

Part III: The Gentlemen

And now, something for the Gents.

We could spend days talking about the three-piece suit and how it revolutionized men’s attire (or, in our opinion, destroyed much of its creativity), but this isn’t a history lesson. This is practical advice on how you can use the Edwardian Ball as an opportunity to explore some of your own inherent creativity—even if it’s been lying dormant for years, or shallowly breathing through the tiny air holes of “casual fridays”.

As Amber said in her first post, men do have it a little easier when it comes to dressing for the Ball. You can always simply buy (or rent) a great suit and hat. After all, every man should have at least one good suit. Make the Edwardian Ball your excuse, and go shopping. Buy something classic, ideally in black or dark grey. You’ll look sharp and feel good.

Already have a suitable suit? Want to take it a bit further? The first—and easiest—stop on your journey is the wonderful world of accessories. For Edwardian men, this most commonly means three things: hats, mustaches, and spectacles.

©2010 Neil Girling / The Blight

Hats

When shopping for their first Edwardian Ball, many men reflexively reach for a top hat. But not everyone looks great in a standard top hat, nor is a top hat a requirement for a successful Edwardian look. What’s more important is to find a hat in a size and style that works for you.

We suggest working with an experienced haberdasher. Someone who can look at your face and help you select a hat that compliments it. While there are many fine hat shops in the Bay Area, we would recommend buying a truly special hat from one of the following stores.

If you’re new to hats, try Goorin Bros.. Most of their hats only come in S-M-L sizing so the fit may not be spectacular. However their Heritage collection is very well made (in the USA!) at the original 1885 factory. Their styles are contemporary reworkings of classic shapes.

Paul’s Hats takes hat making for men to a fantastic level. These are incredible creations, all lovingly made. At Paul’s, you’re making an investment that should last a lifetime, so don’t cheap out: buy the hat box, get the wool spray for water protection, and get a nice hat brush. If you’re not yet ready to take that leap, don’t fret—Paul’s also has some fine hats available for rental.

And of course, many excellent hats can be found at the Ball’s Vendor Bazaar.

Edwardian Ball 2011 - ©2011 Neil Girling / The Blight Edwardian Ball 2011 - ©2011 Neil Girling / The Blight Dan and Suzanne at the Edwardian Ball 2011 - ©2011 Neil Girling / The Blight
What’s the best style of hat for the ball? The one you feel best in.

Mustaches

Edward Gorey’s characters frequently feature fantastical facial hair, making mustaches a common component of many a man’s Edwardian accoutrements. (Whew!) While some men might be hirsute enough to manifest a mustache or beard overnight, others need help. That’s where a costume mustache comes in.

First, decide who you want to be. Casanova or villain? Mysterious stranger or surrealist steampunk? Do you want to create an exaggerated caricature, or go for something more realistic? There are options available in each category, so take a moment to consider your desired persona first.

©2010 Neil Girling / The Blight

With a mustache this good, you can get away with anything.

Realistic Mustaches

For a realistic mustache, you can’t do better than Kryolan Professional Make-Up. This is no Halloween Superstore, people. This is the velvet goldmine of make-up for costuming, the store where all the professional models, actors, and stylists go to make great looks happen.

Bring some reference images of the look you’re envisioning and head to Kryolan. There they will provide you with the finest in faux mustaches, beards, and mutton chops. If you ask nicely, the fine people behind the counter will even walk you through the application and removal process. Kryolan makes a quality product, which can last for years with proper care and storage.

[It’s true. I’ve had one of their mustaches for almost a decade. What? Sometimes us gals need mustaches too! -Amber]

Once you have your stuff, practice application. Now this is important fellas. Don’t wait until an hour before the ball. Go home, and try it right away, while the instructions are still fresh in your mind. Try it twice.

An important part of making fake facial hair work is to get comfortable with it. Don your ‘stache and make dinner. Have a cocktail, smoke a cigarette (if you do that sort of thing.) Basically live in that hair for a while so when you go to the ball you’re not preoccupied with your mustache. Ever see a woman constantly tugging at a really tight dress that she’s not comfortable in? Yeah, you don’t want that do you? Practice.

“The Zeppelin” by NifNaks

“The Zeppelin” by NifNaks

Character Mustaches

If, on the other hand (on the other lip?) you desire a more exaggerated, theatrical look, local crafter Nifer Kilakila of NifNaks makes one of the most amazing 100% merino wool costume mustaches money can buy. These fun mustaches are easy to pop on and off (even while you’re at the ball) and come in a variety of dramatic styles, from the bushy Zeppelin to the slender Dali. Appropriately enough, she even offers one called The Edwardian.

Spectacle Spectacular

Spectacles and monocles are an easy way to give your costume a more period look. Cheap, costume glasses can be easily ordered over the Internet, or bought in person at many Bay Area costume shops, including Costumes on Haight, and Piedmont Boutique. Monocles can also be bought, or improvised by buying a pair of John Lennon style specs, snipping off one lens, and attaching a length of jewelry chain.

Edwardian Ball Los Angeles 2011 - ©2011 Neil Girling / The Blight

For all of these accessories and more, don’t forget to browse the ball’s own Vendor Bazaar. The Bazaar is open both nights during the event, as well as during the day on Saturday.

Suit Yourself… Or Don’t

We hear you. Some of you simply don’t feel comfortable in a suit. Or perhaps you’re in the opposite situation: you wear a suit daily, and look to the Ball as an opportunity to take a break and be more expressive in your attire.

Whatever your motivations, take heart. There are plenty of ways to look great at the Ball without wearing a suit. Here are just some of the possible alternatives—including a few taken directly from the work of Edward Gorey himself!

©2010 Neil Girling / The Blight Isaac at the Edwardian Ball 2011 - Photo ©2011 Neil Girling / The Blight Edwardian Ball 2010 - Photo ©2010 Neil Girling / The Blight
Worn with (or without) a shirt, a vest offers a simple and comfortable look.

Fully Vested

Pair a stylish vest with a gray shirt for a strong, youthful look. Tip: The more spectacular the vest, the less people will notice the shirt. The more spectacular your physique, the less people will notice either.

Distractions on Haight Street is a great source for vests, as is the Ball’s Vendor Bazaar.

Big (Fake) Fur Coats

Gorey loved fur coats, both for his characters as well as in real life. He even designed his own line of them once, for Ben Kahn Furs in New York City. (Before you get too upset by this, it’s worth noting that, in the years before his death, Gorey underwent a change of heart, going so far as to open portions of his home to a family of raccoons that finally settled in the attic, something he described as “an act of penance for having once worn their fur”.  In his will, he left his entire estate to the care and welfare of animals.)

Edward Gorey in fur

Edward Gorey

These days, a fur coat look can be ethically achieved with the use of synthetic fur (sometimes called fun fur), readily available online as well as at some retail fabric stores. A yard or two of this material, cut and safety pinned to the collar of a dark topcoat, can create a strikingly Gorey-esque effect. Or you can go all the way, and make or buy a whole fun fur coat.

The advantage of a fur coat is that you needn’t worry about anything else. Provided you don’t take it off, you could be wearing jeans and a t-shirt underneath. The drawback is, of course, that it can be extremely hot, especially in a crowded ballroom. But it’s an incredibly dramatic look, provided you’re willing to suffer a little.

Kingfish!

Emcee Kingfish reporting for duty!

Converse All-Stars

A surprising number of Gorey’s characters can be seen wearing what are clearly Converse’s iconic tennis shoe. Like Fennis, for instance.

Fennis

Fennis

Fennis’ look is easy to achieve: skinny black jeans, a black turtleneck, black or grey gloves, guyliner, and a pair of white Converse. Walk about rubbing your hands together saying things like “reaaaaaaaaaally?” and “excellent” in your best Mr. Burns voice and everyone will think that you know exactly what you’re doing.

The Deranged Cousins

For a collegiate look, similar to Marsh Maryrose’s, pick up a cheap wooden tennis racquet from Goodwill. (Or, if you’re familiar with Marsh’s story, an old shovel.) While you’re thrift shopping, find a large turtleneck sweater in white or tan. Cut out a capital letter “H” from craft felt (available at art supply, craft or fabric stores), and affix it to the sweater using a hot melt glue gun. Finish off the outfit with a pair of slim fitting jeans and your trusty Converse.

Or, for an even more sporting look, find a pair of old tweed trousers. Cut the bottoms off at mid-calf, then use safety pins to gather them at the knees. Presto! Instant knickers. Note that you’ll also need a pair of knee-high (or taller) socks as well.

The Doubtful Guest

The Doubtful Guest

Every year, the centerpiece of the ball is an adaptation, in music and performance, of one of Gorey’s tales. This year, that tale is “The Doubtful Guest”. Emulating that book’s titular character offers perhaps one of the easiest costume options of all.

Wear all black, and throw the largest scarf you can find around your neck. (In the book, the Guest’s scarf is red and white striped, but a red, black, or grey scarf will do just as well.) Once again, don a pair of white Converse. Add guyliner or, if you really want to go all-out, black your eyes with some eyeshadow or greasepaint (think skull eye holes).

Congratulations. You’re now the long-lost cousin of the Doubtful Guest. For added effect, lay down in a doorway or two and dolorously refuse to move. People will love you.

Patrick de la Esperanza from Rosin Coven - ©2010 Neil Girling / The Blight

Esperanza, in a hand-painted suit

The Paintstriped Suit

Are you the crafty type? Enjoy excuses to visit the hardware store (Yes! You can costume from the hardware store!) Here’s how you can create your own Gorey-esque “pinstripe” suit.

First, go to your local Goodwill or anywhere you’re likely to find a cheap old suit. You’re looking for something in a dark, solid color, and as well-tailored to you as you can find. When in doubt, go slimmer than you would normally go for everyday wear. If possible, avoid 100% synthetic fabrics, as they sometimes don’t take spray paint well.

Next, go to the hardware store and purchase masking tape, white spray paint and, if you’re the fussy type, a chalk line. (Latex or acrylic paints also work great, but aren’t as quick as spray paint.)

You are going to use the masking tape to create lines on your suit coat and slacks. Remember, the space in-between the tape will become your stripes, so go for something bold. This isn’t about small lines. This is about making 1/2″ stripes that add an exaggerated, hand-drawn look to your outfit.

Mask off, spray, let dry, repeat. Start with the front of the suit and use newspaper to shield the sleeves. Work in sections like painting a room. Front, then back, then one sleeve, then the other. Same with the slacks; front then back. That chalk line comes in handy if you want really straight lines. For more detailed instructions, follow this tutorial.

Miss New Orleans and Spoon at the Edwardian Ball 2011 - ©2011 Neil Girling / The Blight

Everything Is a Remix

Not satisfied with any of these options? Want to chart your own course, but not sure where to begin? Then cop a move from Picasso, who famously observed that “good artists copy, great artists steal.”

Hop onto the Interwebs and do an image search for “Gorey men”, or browse through some of the many photo galleries from past Edwardian Balls. Find an image you like and then go from there, either copying that look verbatim, or combining it with elements from other outfits or characters to create something new.

The author as “Arachnid Ghastlycrumb” — an Edwardian remix of Spider Jerusalem

The co-author as “Arachnid Ghastlycrumb” — an Edwardian remix of Spider Jerusalem

A Word on Guyliner

Edward Gorey’s characters, men and women both, often feature dark, dramatically outlined eyes. If you’re up for it, there’s really no better night of the year to give this look a try than the Edwardian. Never applied eyeliner before? Ask a girl to help.

Though it’s not for everyone, guyliner works for a lot more of you than you might think. Trust us.

Gorey Says “Relax”

In closing gentlemen, we’d like to remind you that this is all about fun. Your first foray into costuming doesn’t need to be scary. You don’t have to dress like Steven Ra$pa or a Sister of Perpetual Indulgence if that’s not your bag. Confidence and comfort never go out of style, so don’t wear something in which you feel awkward.

The world of Edward Gorey is all about normal men who look extraordinary… or extraordinarily weird. Whichever approach you choose, don’t stress—have fun with it.

Thanks for reading. We hope to see you all at the Ball!

Amber Clisura

Amber Clisura

Amber Clisura is not just a woman, but rather a force of style and grace. Whether it be strumming her banjolele with a merry congregation of jerks, or slapping dazzling garments on models strutting their stuff on runways in Western Europe, this woman knows where’s it at.

Born and raised in San Francisco she graduated from the California College of Arts & Crafts with a dual degree in Fine Art Textile and Fashion Design. Bored with the corporate fashion world she started her own company Doedel Design and is launching her new line Salt Clothing in March of 2013. She’s doing all of this while not wearing pants.

Aaron Muszalski is a mystery, shrouded in an enigma, and wrapped in a <div>. He still has no idea who @friscoslim is.

Photos by Neil Girling / The Blight. Illustrations by Edward Gorey.

This post is part of our Fashion Guide, a series designed to help you learn more about the many ways to dress for the Ball.

How to Dress For The Edwardian Ball ~ Part II: The Ladies

By Amber Clisura

Part II: The Ladies

I’ve said it before, and I will say it again: The Ball is about fun.

While the over-the-top amazing costumes for which the Edwardian Ball is famous send my heart soaring and my imagination reeling, there is a special place reserved in my cold, black, fashionista heart for those of you who have just begun discovering your inner costume geek: folks who took a chance, stepped out of their comfort zone, and had a passion ignited in them. People whose greatest accessory is the smile they’re wearing.

Smiles — The best accessory

Smiles — The best accessory.

It doesn’t take much — sometimes all you need to step from the familiar to the fanciful is one or two carefully selected items. That’s what we’ll focus on in this post, beginning with options for the ladies. (Don’t fret gents — We’ll get to you next, in Part III.)

Many of you gals have come to the ball before. Perhaps you’ve even bought some accessories from me, or a fascinator from Paul’s Hats, or some bloomers from Five & Diamond. But whether this is your fifth Edwardian or your first, here are some simple additions you can make to your costuming repertoire to take your outfits to the next level.

My suggestions aren’t just for the Edwardian Ball, of course. Many of these pieces will be useful for a surprising variety of fancy dress parties.

When In Doubt: A Small Hat And A Wig

Who cares what they’re wearing on Main Street or Saville Row… it’s what you wear from ear to ear – and not from head to toe — that matters.” ~ Annie, The Musical

This is going to sound so very simple, but I can’t tell you how many hairpieces I’ve purchased from beauty supply stores in Oakland. See that photo of me at the bottom of this article? That look was achieved by employing a wig and a big piece of feather boa. All I’m wearing is a white blouse, a corset and a pair of bloomers I made myself. With such a dramatic hair and hat combo, you can get away with almost anything for the rest of your outfit.

I’m not the only one who knows this either. Get a tube of e6000—the craft glue of the gods—and ANYTHING can be a hat. Piece of twig covered in spider webs from Halloween? E6000 a hairclip to that and BAM – wee hat. Bat wings out of wire and craft felt? E6000 and a hair comb – HOOHA! Wee hat.

Erin at the Edwardian Ball 2011 - ©2011 Neil Girling / The Blight Nifer Kilakila - Photo ©2008 Neil Girling / The Blight Kalico Delafay at The 2011 Edwardian Ball - ©2011 Neil Girling / The Blight
A hat is anything you say it is.

Professional Milliners

Not ready for a glue habit? Here are three professionals who’ll be happy to doff your head with their hand-made creations:

Good — Justin Credible makes an affordable wee hat and fascinator line. And Kotter Home makes a fascinator headband line that is well priced enough that you could buy two and double up on them for a bigger look. This and a nice hair fall, and you’re well on your way.

Better — A nice middleground is Blackpin Hats: a lot of the flair and finery with a little less of the old world craft work that is the hallmark of House of Nines and Dollymop Designs. Again, finding a great combination of a hairpiece and wig can build on this headband-style hat, forming the basis of many good outfits to come.

Best — I’d sell my brother for a hat from House of Nines (Sorry, bro). In their Etsy shop right now there is a hat that I’m lusting after something fierce. House of Nines hats are all hand-made, using traditional methods, materials, and fastidious care. Along with the similarly amazing Dollymop Designs, this is some of the finest millinery you can currently buy.

Tricia Roush, Owner of House of Nines

Tricia Roush, Owner of House of Nines

A Course In Corsetry

A corset can transform your whole look, providing the centerpiece for a whole outfit. Moreover, it creates the graceful, stylized waist and bustline which instantaneously embodies the bewitching women’s fashions of the Edwardian and Victorian eras.

When buying a corset, you want to think about which one you could utilize most in your costumes. Stay away from bright colors and patterns. While they will look good with one specific outfit, they might not mix and match for multiple wearings.

Whitney, Bonnie and Sue at the Edwardian Ball 2011 - ©2011 Neil Girling / The Blight

Happiness is the sublime moment when you get out of your corsets at night.” ~ Joyce Grenfell

Underbust or overbust? While sweet-heart, overbust, Victorian, or Alexandria corsets are all lovely, an underbust or waist cincher style is going to be more versatile. You can wear this style under dresses, over dresses, with skirts, bloomers, knickers, and so forth, making it a good starter style. Something you can play with for a while, as you get a better idea of what you want in a more expensive corset.

Here are three excellent starter corsets. I’ve owned or worn all of them, and they are great.

Good — The Little Black Corset. This is the cocktail dress of corsets, the easiest of easy. Lovely cashmere wool lays cleanly and smoothly over the steel boning. A lifetime gaurentee and solid construction make this $99.00 purchase well worth it as starter corset. Just don’t expect it to be the most comfortable corset in the world.

Better — The Silver Medal of Corsets. So the funny thing here is that I have this corset in three different colorways. It is the “Better” corset quality even though many of these corsets are cheaper than the Timeless Trends folks. All of their corsets have a built in modesty panel so your back, dress, shirt etc will be hidden through the lacing of the corset. The reason for the cheaper price? Polyester fabrics and made overseas.

Best — Dark Garden RTW FTW! I have worn Dark Garden’s RTW (Ready To Wear) corset for costume loans, fashion galas, and a myriad of other events through the years. I have been corseted down to 25” in their RTW corsets and have NEVER felt better. The RTW really are a fantastic investment, a one of a kind hand-made-in-San Francisco corset. It’s not to your measure (for that you’ll need to order one of Dark Garden’s made to order pieces), but it is unquestionably still a remarkable corset.

©2011 Neil Girling / The Blight

Hustle Your Bustle

Finally, you’ll need a skirt to go with your corset, to give your outfit a long, sweeping line. If you choose to fashion a makeshift bustle with your skirt, the classic curves your corset creates will be beautifully emphasized.

My favorite skirt look is the bustle look of the Late Victorian/Early Edwardian era. This sort of skirt can be worn to Dickens Fair or the Edwardian Ball, and as you get more and more comfortable, out to other cocktail-style events. It isn’t overly dramatic and can be layered or worn in many different ways.

1889 Ladies

One easy and practical way to get this look is by layering two separate skirts together: one casual, and one more costumey . For example, a nice maxi skirt in a solid color can be worn casually. By adding a second, fancier piece to wear over it, such as this adorable little bustle skirt, you have a cute Edwardian skirt all for about $110.

If you’d like to build on this look, add a nicely tailored men’s shirt. The collar on a men’s shirt going to be higher and larger, mimicking an Edwardian style collar. Then replace the white buttons with black buttons, or just paint them over. This adds a graphic look to the outfit, suggestive of the characters in Gorey’s books.

Another great way to put some hustle in your bustle is by visiting the Ball’s Vendor Bazaar. The Bazaar is open both during the event, as well as during the day on Saturday. A number of vendors will be offering bustles and skirts, many of which are hand-crafted, like the colorful creations of KrakenWhip.

That’s it for now — See you again in Part III, The Men!

Amber Clisura

Amber Clisura

Amber Clisura is not just a woman, but rather a force of style and grace. Whether it be strumming her banjolele with a merry congregation of jerks, or slapping dazzling garments on models strutting their stuff on runways in Western Europe, this woman knows where’s it at.

Born and raised in San Francisco she graduated from the California College of Arts & Crafts with a dual degree in Fine Art Textile and Fashion Design. Bored with the corporate fashion world she started her own company Doedel Design and is launching her new line Salt Clothing in March of 2013. She’s doing all of this while not wearing pants.

Photos by Neil Girling / The Blight

This post is part of our Fashion Guide, a series designed to help you learn more about the many ways to dress for the Ball.

 

Share Your Tales - Win Tickets to the Edwardian Worlds Faire

Have a memorable story from the Ball? Share it with us, and you could win tickets to the Edwardian!

How to Dress For The Edwardian Ball ~ Part I

By Amber Clisura

Erica Mulkey at the Edwardian Ball 2011 - Photo ©2011 Neil Girling / The Blight

To take my work seriously would be the height of folly.” ~ Edward Gorey

Looking through the countless photographs of people in their Edwardian Ball finery, it’s easy to get intimidated. Hell, I’m a professional fashion designer and even I’m regularly overawed by what I see. But while I very much appreciate the amazing, over-the-top creations that the Edwardian Ball inspires each year, I’m here to remind you all that, despite appearances, the Edwardian Ball is, at its heart, about fun.

It’s about dressing in something other than jeans and a t-shirt (the only real dress code rule of the ball) for one night, and it’s about being artful. And that’s where I come in. I’ve written this series of posts to help you, the newly initiated, find your right groove, costume, and attitude. To help you understand that anything is allowed as long as you believe it is allowed.

Remember: The Edwardian Ball is a place to let yourself have fun and we’re all here for you to make that happen.

He and Miss Skrim-Pshaw

“He and Miss Skrim-Pshaw mentioned a great many people who had done things in their conversation” — Illustration by Edward Gorey, 1965

Edward Who?

Edward Gorey (1925-2000) was an American writer and artist noted for his playfully macabre illustrated books, including “The Epiplectic Bicycle”, “The Doubtful Guest”, and of course his infamous abecedaria, “The Gashlycrumb Tinies”. Many people also know Gorey from the animated intro sequence to the enduringly popular public television series “Mystery”.

Gorey’s stories are a fabulous hunting ground for ideas on how to dress. Not only because they are fantastical drawings but because of the span of time and space in which these drawings take place. Anywhere from 1850s to the 1920s means it can be corsets or flappers, Edwardian or Gatsby, Victorian or Fantasy, and let’s not forget you could always be a bug.

This diversity means you don’t need to find a perfectly period-accurate hoop skirt just to have a good time and “fit in”. This is San Francisco darlings… everyone fits in somehow.

The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence - ©2010 Neil Girling / The Blight

Tactical Costuming

Let’s start with the easiest way first. This is for the person who doesn’t really want to go headlong into the costume world. You want the tactical strike. You are the Delta Force of costuming. So to you I say: Costume rental. Not just for Halloween anymore.

There are cavalcades of shops in the San Francisco Bay Area that do costume rentals. Do some Google searches for the time period you want (Victorian, Gatsby, Edwardian etc.) print out a few pages (get a few screen shots) and say: “Make me look like this please and thank you.” Easy. Peasy. This will also allow you to grow into the next stage rather easily. Because let me tell you, it’s a slippery slope. You rent one day and the next thing you know you’re buying a Dark Garden corset and a hat by House of Nines.
Edwardian Ball 2011 - ©2011 Neil Girling / The Blight
The next stage is the “I’d like to have some fun costumes in my wardrobe but how do I shop for something other than at Bloomingdale’s?” (Delta Forcers, join me in the next paragraph…)

Wear What You Own

To those who have no costume rentals but want to start growing their costume repertoire. Have you been to a fancy wedding? Christmas party for work? Cocktail party? Bar Mitzvah? Well you’re halfway there. Go, get those clothes and put them on for Friday night. Friday night is fancy, but it’s not THE BALL (dum-dum-DUM!).

By dressing up in your Sunday best you will feel comfortable because they are your clothes and you’ll still fit in to the overall theme of “This is a fancy dress party.” Friday night is the night where people can dry run their ideas, their costumes, and ramp up for the big night. There are plenty of people who will be over the top, and there will be plenty of people who are doing what you’re doing—gathering ideas.
Paul's Hats at the Edwardian Ball 2011 - ©2011 Neil Girling / The Blight

The Vendor Bazaar Is Your Friend

This is the magic right here: You know what the ball has in droves? Vendors. A whole floor of them. Hats, pants, dresses, jewelry, corsets, buttons, watches, gloves, new, vintage, handmade, and the list goes on. Come dressed in your own clothes, or your Delta Force costume, and then look at what people are wearing.

Seriously, take pictures! There is nothing that people who are all dressed up love more than having their picture taken.

Sidle on up next to them and smile. If you like someone’s hairstyle, take a photo. Someone’s shoes? SNAP IT! Want to know where they got those shoes? ASK! I’m serious. Don’t have fear. Fear is the enemy of fun. This is your research night. So open a notes app on your phone and go to town.

Edwardian Ball 2011 - ©2011 Neil Girling / The BlightHow do they do it? Ask them and find out!

The vendors are all on one floor so go downstairs and try on everything! Figure out what you like best. Want a hat most of all? Great! Create an outfit around that object. The Ball is about FUN. Not fashion. Don’t take it too seriously.

The vendors are here to help you be fabulous. Find one you like and tell them what you’re looking for in an outfit. Any vendor will have another friend at the ball (or five) that will be able to move you from booth to booth to get you exactly what you need in the price range you can afford.

Suit & ‘Stache — Two Tips For The Mens

Men, you have it kind of easy. Find a great suit (or rent one) and throw on a mustache. You’re done. We can go into more detail about the fun you can have later, but for now – let’s employ the K.I.S.S. mantra that runs my life; Keep It Simple Sir.

2010 Edwardian Ball - Photo ©2010 Neil Girling / The Blight Edwardian Ball 2010 - ©2010 Neil Girling / The Blight Danger Ranger and Dusty at the Edwardian Ball 2011 - Photo ©2011 Neil Girling / The BlightKeep It Simple, Sir: Every man looks dashing in basic black formalwear

For a theatrical flourish, add a woolen mustacheFor a theatrical flourish, add a woolen mustache

These two techniques are great to start off the beginner. But what about the next stage? Maybe you went last year and you want to level up for this year! Well stay tuned and we can lead you through some things that you can do for your costuming style that will bring more and more to your bag of tricks to use at the Ball, for other fancy dress occasions, or maybe just for your everyday life.

That’s it for now — See you soon in Part II.

Amber Clisura

Amber Clisura

Amber Clisura is not just a woman, but rather a force of style and grace. Whether it be strumming her banjolele with a merry congregation of jerks, or slapping dazzling garments on models strutting their stuff on runways in Western Europe, this woman knows where’s it at.

Born and raised in San Francisco she graduated from the California College of Arts & Crafts with a dual degree in Fine Art Textile and Fashion Design. Bored with the corporate fashion world she started her own company Doedel Design and is launching her new line Salt Clothing in March of 2013. She’s doing all of this while not wearing pants.

Photos by John Adams and Neil Girling / The Blight

This post is part of our Fashion Guide, a series designed to help you learn more about the many ways to dress for the Ball.

 

Share Your Tales - Win Tickets to the Edwardian Worlds Faire

Have a memorable story from the Ball? Share it with us, and you could win tickets to the Edwardian!

Tales From The Edwardian Ball ~ A Splintering Turn of Events

Tales From The Edwardian Ball
At a heady and glorious Edwardian Ball, a lone Steampunk finds himself in one of the rare corners that might lend some solitude, the other corners being filled with excitement, bustling with activity, with performances, dancing, artistic creations, with fine goods and apparel for sale, and of course all the costumed revelers having the most fabulous evening imaginable.

Edwardian Ball dance floor - ©2012 Marco Sanchez

He stands back, taking it all in, and muses aloud to himself, “Ah yes, the Edwardian Ball. Truly, this is what Steampunk is all about. The top hats and spats! The skirts with bustles! The glorification of antiquated technology! Why, all one has to do is simply glue a gear on it, and —”

The Steampunk was unable to finish his thought, as he received a left hook in the jaw from a young(ish) Haute Goth woman with fresh color-coordinated felted extensions and gravity-defying heeled shoes. Her tightly-laced and grommeted corset heaved as she yelled at him, “No! No it’s not! The Edwardian Ball is for us! It’s an evening of darkness and macabre! Tragic black dress required!”

Edwardian Ball 2011 - Photo ©2011 Neil Girling / The Blight

She continued to pummel him and shout expletives while he used his trusty bowler hat to defend himself. Two passing New Romantics noticed the commotion, and decided to air their grievances at the lack of representation to their phyle by unleashing fists of laced-glove fury. Soon a latex-fetish couple joined in with their paddle and cat-o-nine, and a Retro-Futurist Cyber-Electropunk began zapping people with his tesla-powerd multi-functional inter-dimensional mono-eyescope.

A gaggle of rambunctious Lollygoths joined in the fray, ganging up on an unsuspecting Neo-Elizabethan accompanied by a Neo-Incroyable. Passing Pirates and Poets pummeled people with aplomb. It all began to really get out of hand when the Tweed Riders and Gearheads squared off, but fortunately a sizable group of tenderhearted leather daddies was able to restore some semblance of calm to the situation, dispensing gratuitous chest-hairy hugs and smiles, reminding everyone to be tolerant, by force if necessary.

Dark Garden at the 2008 Edwardian Ball - Photo ©2008 Dave Golden

The melee dispersed; sore, bruised, unsatisfied, many with a still-hungry look in their eye. An uneasy peace was established between the phyles, for now.

When did the Edwardian Ball become a magnet for such fractured and vapid conflict between subcultures? Is there any hope of healing this schism? Am I completely making up all this hostility? Actually yes.

Vau De Vire - ©2010 Neil Girling / The Blight

But I have certainly noticed a tendency for everything that might once have been simply historic costume fun or genuine vintage-inspired art has become labelled as “Steampunk,” which all self-respecting goths, retro-future hipsters, and other unspecified subcultures then have to turn their nose up at. We declare how sick we are of Steampunk, or how much we used to really like Steampunk, back in the day, before all the douchebags ruined it.

I, for one, love historical costumes and decor in their own right. I see no need to attach a current (or ongoing) subculture to getting all gussied up in Victorian or Edwardian finery. It just looks cool. Clothes were made better and much, much fancier in those long-bygone eras, and I really enjoy celebrating and invoking the style, elegance, and sophistication that we in civilized cultures once wore on our sleeve.

© Neil Girling / The Blight

That’s not to say that modern style and subcultures are devoid of style and elegance at all – quite the opposite. I will unabashedly proclaim that I absolutely love Steampunk, always have, and no douchebags have ruined it for me at all. Well-done Goth, Punk, and New Wave fashion still gives me goosebumps after all these years, and even the vibrant Mission and Lower-Haight Hipsters are worth sharing a PBR with if they’ve got a sense of panache.

What it boils down to is that the Edwardian Ball is one of the most stylish events in San Francisco. I don’t give a damn what subculture or subgenre you identify with; every year I look forward to seeing what my neighbors and cohorts wear, create, fabricate, assemble, build, and present, and every year I am so impressed. More than that – I am inspired and proud to be a part of it.

See you at The Ball!

Joseph Hren

Joseph Hren is an artist and rascal. He makes music and makes fun of you. He can often be found drunk and passed out covered in Sharpie tats given by his friends. He has a Facebook page that isn’t really kept up well, and tweets sporadically as @horseradish13.

Photos by Dave Golden and Neil Girling / The Blight

Want to learn more about the many ways to dress for the Ball? Read our Fashion Guide series!

 

Share Your Tales - Win Tickets to the Edwardian Worlds Faire

This post is part of a series showcasing the fabulous diversity of The Edwardian Ball. Have an Edwardian Tale of your own? Share it with us, and you could win tickets to the Edwardian!