Sunday, November 8, 2015

The Wind of Change Part II

September 2014

September was an eventful month it brought my European Reenactment debut and a very unexpected surprise.
Less than 2 weeks after moving to Germany I took the train to the nearby romantic town of Weimar to join the  Reisegesellschaft Weimarer Salon. Its an annual event where a group of lovely empire enthusiasts meet in the city of Goethe and Schiller for a weekend of  period diversions and pleasant  company, with everyone all dressed at the height of regency fashion of course!

At the Krims Krakow house museum.
I was so happy to be invited and it was such a magical adventure. I finally got to meet some friends who I had been in contact with online for quite a while but had never met in person.

Sabine and Kerstin at Tiefurt Park

We had a lovely picnic at the park.
And I was lucky to meet and make many more new friends, everyone was so sweet and welcoming to me, I was really touched. I could have not imagined a more perfect start to my new European reenactment life than this event.

Mie getting naughty

Inside Tiefurt palace
Brigitte, Svenja and Simone inside Tiefurt palace

With Goethe and Schiller
Alessandra looking period perfect! Never mind the bicyclist outside....

Kerstin and I
The locations where beautiful and perfect and I got to see so many lovely things, like original clothing from the period enchanting parks and adorably little country chateaus. the weather was sunny and bright and of course the company was superb!

Group photo

The view from below

Dressed for the evening salon
On the train back to Zwickau I started feeling really nauseous I shrugged it off as a sign of exhaustion. But when it hadn't gone away several days later it got kind of suspicious. So on September 10th, the day after my birthday I took a pregnancy test, just to make sure. I wasn't expecting it to be positive, but it was!  It was a huge surprise, and quite a shock really because after I had my thyroid removed I was told that getting pregnant naturally would be difficult for me. And since I already had a child and didn't care to deal with any sort of medical intervention to have another I happily resigned myself to being the mother of an only child. But as it  goes in life things always happen when you least expect them. And after giving away all of Charlotte's baby and toddler things a mere 2 weeks or so ago I found myself newly pregnant. The day I sold Charlotte's Crib I had even joked that there went my birth control, and apparently I was right, how's that for irony?!
A week later,still a bit in shock from the recent discovery of my new surprise pregnancy I again packed my costume bags and headed to France for a very special reenactment event.

 I was one of a handful of lucky reenactors worldwide to have been invited to join in the Imperial Jubilee in Rueil-Malmaison. 

A massive event held for the French public in the Parisian suburb of Rueil Malmaison, formerly the home of Napoleon and Josephine, and yes I mean the emperor and Empress of France! The event had been held once before in 2012 but this year it was dedicated to Empress Josephine in honor of the 200 year anniversary of her death in 1814. I was lucky enough to have met the event organizers Cristina Barreto and Martin Lancaster at the Spencerville heritage festival in 2013, and was blown away and beyond excited when they invited me to participate in the event later that year. At that point I didn't even plan to move to Germany yet and was going to travel all the way from Pittsburgh to go to the event. So I had been preparing for this for close to a year, quietly, because all participants where sworn to secrecy, we where not allowed to tell anyone outside of the group of invited people about it. Not telling anyone was really hard for me, because of course I wanted to shout it from the rooftops. I wanted to tell everyone I met, hey guess what, I got invited to go France to play dress up at Josephine's country retreat, with a bunch of people who I've admired from afar and secretly envied while drooling over amazing event pictures for ages, and now I'm going to be one of them! I kept mum though outside of a small circle of close friends that is... 

But really being invited blew my mind! Of course I had  grand plans for my new imperial wardrobe. Jane fest appropriate clothing just wont do at the imperial court! I had dreams of hand embroidered Indian muslin gowns and gold encrusted silks. 

Working on my Malmaison wardrobe at my in laws house.
And had I not been suddenly distracted by a transatlantic move these things may have become reality. Instead I managed to make 3 new gowns for  Malmaison, all within the month before the event, sewing at my in laws house after selling our house and then on a cheapo sewing machine bought at Ikea (because my good sewing machine was in a shipping container on a boat somewhere at the time) in our still mostly empty apartment in Zwickau. In the end I had to rely on beautiful fabrics instead of stunning embellishments to make a statement. 

My white gown in progress, with my suitcase still half packed beside it!
I was lucky to find a sheer white hand embroidered cotton sari online and turned it into a classic consulate style gown with a train. Then I had 2 lengths of gorgeous silk taffeta from Mood fabrics in NYC, a yellow one I had gotten the summer before and a really stunning changeable silk that looks orange in pictures but is actually red shot with gold when seen in person,that I got on my quick visit to New York in August to get our German passports.
The yellow silk was turned into a ball/evening gown loosely based on this purple one from the Barreto Lancaster collection. 

Gown from the Barreto-Lancaster collection
I dint have time to do the sleeve and bust embellishments so a bit of velvet ribbon trim and paper flowers had to do. And I still haven't gotten around to making the lace ruff to go with it. 

My yellow silk. hung from parts of Lottie's bed.
Like many of my gowns that have come before it's a work in progress. Unfortunately I don't have any pictures of me wearing this gown at Malmaison, because I didn't take many pictures and apparently the photographers where not interested in me that night, but I wore it again 2 months later so hold on for some nice pictures of it later on.
The red and gold shot silk became an evening gown to be worn at court. I really wanted the look of one of the elaborate court gowns from the period with its shining gold embroidery on a rich silk ground.
Court gown from the Barreto-Lancaster collection
 Well I had the silk but I dint have the time and energy to do the embroidery myself and not the money to pay for it to be done by someone else. So I opted for gold embroidery applique to get the look without the hundreds of hours spent embroidering the thing. 

The net dupatta before I took my scissors to it.

I Bought a vintage net dupatta with hand done gold embroidery on it and painstakingly cut out all the gold work and sewed it onto the finished gown. The gown itself is very simple just a flat fronted generic 1810's gown with puff sleeves and a moderate train. 

I  based my gown on this one, its a random Pinterest image so I don't know anything about the actual garment but I liked the gold work design.

It's the sumptuous appliqued gold embroidery that really makes it striking. One day I'm going to get one of those full blown hand embroidered court gowns with a massive train but for now I'm  quite happy with the knock off version.

The finished product worn at Malmaison
The event itself was really quite exhausting. The trip from east Germany to Paris alone took most of a day by train bus and taxi, and anyone who thinks that all the participants just flounced of to France on a paid vacation to play dress up in magnificent locations couldn't lie further from the truth.

Yes it was amazing, yes the locations and pageantry where glorious and dazzling, yes the pictures look spectacular. but it turns out it was also a lot of hard work

The town of Malmaison did this kind of illumination with images of empress Josephine one several buildings at night.
All of us reenactors where basically hired actors to entertain the public for a couple of days. The event was 3 days packed with galas, dinner parties, fireworks, parades and even a theater piece. 

This is the only picture of myself from the theater piece, no idea whats going on with my face here!
Svenja before going on stage, in an amazing outfit made by Cristina Barreto
It meant early mornings and late nights spent getting dressed getting your hair done, wearing stays and flimsy pointy not too comfortable shoes all day, helping out with last minute preparations and sewing, lots and lots of standing around waiting, looking pretty for the public.

Last minute sewing before the event, it was a group effort to get everything done in time.
 I really felt like a lady in waiting must have felt like 200 years ago. A life spent in luxurious surroundings. with very little to do but wait until you are called upon for some task or another.

All ladies dressed in white for the parade
Josephine's Ladies in waiting, waiting...
The day was bright and sunny, and I manged to break my parasol.
The Emperor and Empress amongst their court.
That being said, it was still a totally awesome experience! Exhaustion, swollen feet, and the onset of all day morning sickness on my part non withstanding, it was still one of the most marvelous things I've been honored to be part of in my entire life. I made many new friends, got to see several of my new friends from Weimar and met up with old friends from America too!

A fancy evening gala dinner at the palace.

An evening spent at court
The ladies of Napoleons court all flock around Mr. Pinsent
I'm forever grateful for the invitation, and would do it again in a heart beat. though preferably not while newly pregnant. Thankfully  my new condition flew entirely under the radar in all the busy confusion only one person noticed that I was looking a bit wane and wasn't my usual chipper self. This event wasn't about me and my baby news after all, besides I find the whole grand baby announcement stuff silly anyway,so I only told only one person.

One more thing happened in September that's noteworthy. I was invited to join in the Vernet Merveilleuse & Incroyables project. Now if you are an avid costumer you have probably heard of this. If not here's a link to the projects facebook page. Vernet Project

It's basically a bunch of dedicated costumers who will each spend 2015 recreating one of Vernet's fashion prints as closely to the original as possible. And blogging about it. Well Ive got a fashion print Ive got a blog, now I just need to put them both together.... I may not do much blogging about the project having a small baby and all is rather distracting. but I promise to do my best to turn out a lovely fashion print recreation and do a big reveal blog in December. but who knows perhaps i will get bitten by the blogging bug or something, but don't bank on it!

October 2014
I didn't do any costumey things in  October, But we did some travel as a family that month. Lottie had 2 weeks of fall break so we took the opportunity to spend a couple of days in the lovely city of Dresden, which is only about an hour and  half drive from Zwickau.

At the Zwinger Palace
The weather was kind of dreary but the trip was really nice. Dresden is one of Germany's most beautiful cities with absolutely incredible baroque architecture.  Even more amazing is the fact that most of it is a recreation. The city center was pretty much entirely destroyed by allied bombers in 1945 and was with a few exceptions mostly rebuilt to look exactly as it did before the war

The Frauenkirche after the war
The Frauenkirche now. It was finally rebuilt in 2005

The entire space surrounding the church  is entirely comprised of reconstructions of the original baroque buildings

The Semper Oper. Dresdens famous opera house

There is so much to see and do in Dresden and even tough we spent 4 days there we dint manage to see and do it all. Good thing its so close so we can return again and again.
After Dresden,Lottie and I headed to my Hometown in the wonderful Sate of Hessen for a couple of days, to Welcome my mother back to Germany. After my fathers death and us moving to Germany she decided there wasn't much keeping her in America. So she sold her big house in Atlanta and bought a nice little  condo one town over from the village I grew up in, to be closer to my siblings and I. She seems quite content to be back, and I'm ever so happy for her! 

November 2014
 The gray and dreary November weather and my continued all day nausea didn't keep us from some more travel.
First we took a spontaneous trip to Holland as a family, which had the added benefit that I got to go to a historic Regency Dinner and Ball at Hodson Huis in Haarlem. 

One of the many canals in Haarlem
 We only spent the weekend in Holland, but We really loved it. I had spent many childhood vacations in the Netherlands but its been probably 25 years since then and I had forgotten how absolutely adorable the cities and countryside are.

The Dutch love bikes, they even have bikes to transport the whole family!
And the people are just wonderful. We slept at a a little bed and breakfast in Zandvoort an Zee a little beach resort right outside of Haarlem, that way we got to to to the beach in November. Even if it was just for a short walk.

Sand sculptures in Zandvoort an Zee
The north sea
 Then we took the train into Haarlem for the day. we walked around old town, admired the charming architecture and narrow cobbled streets, marveled at the thousands of bicycles everywhere, ate some delicious cheese and had the yummiest afternoon high tea. After that we headed back to our B&B for me to get ready for the ball.

 The ball was held at Hodson Huis a city palais built in the 1790's. It was such a beautiful backdrop for this event. The interior rooms are still in original condition with their elaborately painted and stuccoed walls and woodwork.
My gown matched the sofa!
With Svenja and Corina one of the organizers.

 It was like taking a trip back in time for the evening. I didn't do any dancing, and my stomach didn't let me eat much either, despite an impressive array of delicacies. but there was plenty to do otherwise. There was a room set up for gambling and card games. 

At the gaming tables
A lady who cut really amazingly detailed silhouettes, a professional photographer, a musical performance and of course there where plenty of lovely people to mingle and gossip with.

I had my silhouette cut.
 I'm so happy I decided to go despite feeling rather poorly. Besides looking at the pictures from that night it seems that for the first and last time in my life I had that elusive pregnancy glow!

This is quite possibly my favorite picture of myself , ever!
The lovely ladies of Stitching Reverence who organized the ball really did an outstanding job!
Aside from me being just enchanted by the ball, my family really enjoyed Holland, we plan to come back for a longer trip sometime soon!

Svenja and I match the decor. And what lovely decor it is!

At  the end of the month we headed back to my hometown to have Thanksgiving dinner with my family. Germans don't really do Thanksgiving, at least not the turkey and pumpkin pie kind of thing they do in America, but since we are a German/American family my mom decided to make a traditional thanksgiving dinner, for the family. It was really nice. My brothers and sister came and I think Bryan was happy to get some American food for a change too!

December 2014

In December. We found out that we where probably going to have a girl
It's a girl, well maybe...

We decorated the apartment for the holidays, but spent Christmas with my mom, and New Years with my old School Friend Gabi.

Our Christmas tree

I made new years Tiramisu
It was my first Christmas in Germany since moving to America 16 years ago so it was nice to have my siblings there. Lottie got way to many presents and I gained way too much weight.

My sister got roped into assembling toys with Charlotte

Bryan making fondue on christmas eve, he misunderstood that the booze was supposed to go in the pot.

The day after Christmas it snowed  heavily, so we had an almost white Christmas. And Lottie got to build a snowman with her aunt.

Fun in the snow with Tante (aunt ) Andrea

Well that's it for 2014 and part two, what a whirlwind year it was!
At this point I would also like to say a big thank you to the lovely talented photographers Luc Morel, Yanina Belova and Steven Vroom who allowed me to use their photos in this post!
Stay tuned for part 3 of the continuing saga of my crazy life.