Although costumes for the Pemberley ball are not required, I'm sure some of you would like to come in one anyway and are wondering how to put one together on a student's budget. As someone who has bought, constructed, and altered several Regency costumes before (five ladies' gowns, and two gentlemen's including our illustrious president, to be precise), I'd like to give you some tips for putting together a fabulous look without using up your life savings.
For the ladies, really all you need is the gown. That's all anyone will see. A basic starting point for that can be found courtesy of the Jane Austen Centre here. If you want to buy your own, my best suggestion to you is to look on E-bay. One particularly reasonable vendor is Wendy's Doll closet: most dresses run between $40-80. They ship very quickly, usually within a week, and are of excellent quality even though the pictures online are not particularly impressive. The only drawback is that are completely unadorned, but all they really need is a sash, which you don't even have to sew on, and that only costs a few dollars for ribbon. If you're more ambitious you can also add beading and trim to suit your fancy. Really, all you have to do is put your hair up in a bun. If you want to leave out your bangs, be sure to part them down the center if you really want to be period-correct.
For you gentlemen, there is a really good guides for MacGuyver-ing a look together from secondhand items. It can be found here. There are also good instructions for tying a cravat here. Do this so that you will not face the scorn of Sir Percy Blakney, the Scarlet Pimpernel, "Odd's Fish, m'dear! The man can't even tie his own cravat!" Remember that most tasteful cravats in Jane Austen's time were white.For those of you looking for a tailcoat and a waistcoat, I got tailcoats for two of my gentlemen friends from an E-bay vendor called Monkeysuits. In both cases I was able to get them used tailcoats in their exact sizes and in excellent condition for only $20, and waistcoats run about $10, and recieved both items within three days of ordering them. For the waistcoats, the higher they button, the more period-correct they will look. One last word about tailcoats: darker colors were more fashionable for that time period, so given the choice between black or gray, the two most common colors you can find, go with the black. For pants, long pants will work in a pinch, but if you want to go for knee breeches, a good trick is to get a pair of women's capris or petal-pushers as long as they're relatively plain and not denim. Then you just stick a pair of white knee socks with them, and you're done.
Well, that's about it. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to drop me a line.
Take care and God bless,
The Pemberley Society
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