Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Jane Austen Festival: Day 1

The Jane Austen Festival: Day 1

Dear readers (if there are any), I recently returned from the Jane Austen festival in Bath, England where I had a wonderful time immersing myself in Regency culture. I plan to share my experience with you in a series of blog posts. Yes, there will be pictures! If you recognize yourself in my photos, give me an e-mail telling me your name. (aupoohbear [at] hotmail [dot] com)

Friday September 13th 
This evening there was a pre-festival gathering. Since this was my first time attending the festival, I decided to make it to the gathering despite extreme jet lag. I met many wonderful Janeites from around the world, including a long-time online friend from Austria and her very own Mr. Darcy (or more like Henry Tilney because he likes to tease). Some people attended in costume and I loved seeing the clothing up close and hearing about who made their own costumes. It was pouring rain this evening and everyone crossed their fingers for better weather for the morning. I retired early, feeling as if I could star in Pride, Prejudice and Zombies.

Saturday September 14
The day dawned bright and sunny and only a little chilly. It was the perfect weather for a promenade! About 600 people in Regency dress gathered to walk through the streets of Bath to the Parade Gardens in the city center. The variety of costumes were amazing! There were not just ladies, but gentlemen, children and even a few babies in period correct dress! The wide variety of styles was incredible to see. Some of the dresses were exquisite while others resembled more closely costumes. I especially liked seeing how everyone accessorized their outfit to make it unique. No two outfits were exactly the same. At the lovely Parade Gardens some young ladies demonstrated the country dances Jane Austen would have learned as a girl. They dated back centuries before Jane Austen's lifetime. They looked fun and energetic- just the thing for youthful energy. The ladies flirted with the military men and tried to secure a partner for the ball - very much like Lydia Bennet in Pride and Prejudice. I saw the site of the Lower Assembly Rooms where Catherine Morland first met Henry Tilney in Northanger Abbey. It was amazing to immerse myself in the world of Jane Austen's novels for the morning. In the afternoon, there was a Regency Market at Guildhall with vendors selling bonnets, ribbons, trim, jewelry and even a talented lady cutting silhouettes. The young ladies danced again. Downstairs there was a Pride and Prejudice play – a comedy with two actors in one act. They played Mr. and Mrs. Bennet retelling the story and reenacting certain key events like… Mr. Darcy in his wet shirt! Mr. B had a Mr. D puppet and Mrs. B sprayed the puppet with water. It was very funny and everyone laughed. I think everyone got the joke. 

In the evening there was a Regency fashion show back at Guildhall. Act One took us on a journey back through time through the decades of readers with their Pride and Prejudice books. Then they had people in different Regency style outfits and some vignettes reflecting Pride and Prejudice like Lydia flirting with the officers, Mr. Darcy in his wet shirt, Mrs. Bennet in her nightgown and cap weeping over Lydia’s running off with Wickham. It ended with a wedding dress which apparently is tradition for runway fashion shows. The dress was inspired by the character of Elizabeth Bennet. It’s not historical but not entirely modern. It’s a blend. For my first ever runway show, it was quite enjoyable. If there had been such a thing in Regency times, I'm sure all the ladies and dandies would have loved seeing the latest fashions modeled on the catwalk!

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