On the 18th of April I travelled to Canberra, Australia, for the annual Regency event, the Jane Austen Festival!
The Festival began with a casual evening of eating, last minute sewing and chatting at the Director’s house. I also got the opportunity to peruse some old dancing books, gaze at beautiful paintings of ballroom dancers and handle some extant garments.
On Friday the day began at St Johns Church with a dancing session to learn the basics of the Country Dance. In the next session I also learnt the rudiments of the Cotillion and the Quadrille. The Cotillion was the forerunner of the Quadrille and, as I have done a lot of Quadrille dancing in Australian Colonial dancing, it was interesting to find out how the dance had developed.
In the next session I had my first proper millinery lesson, making a late Regency bonnet out of buckram and wire. I am really excited about finishing this project now that I am home, as then I will be able to extend my previously meagre hat-making skills to the much more complicated Victorian hats!
Later in the afternoon I managed to view some more extant garments; a cotton day dress, a bib-front silk ballgown, a spencer, and chemise. I find examining the construction techniques of dresses of this era fascinating and I wished that I had more time to take some notes.
For my last workshop of the afternoon I learnt to make Dorset Buttons. I have been wanting to learn this technique for a while and I am really pleased with my first attempt!
The evening session – the “Dinner with Darcy” Variety night – began with a lovely traditional English roast dinner. We were entertained with delightfully humorous Regency-themed plays and lovely opera-style singing. A fashion parade, truly a feast for the eyes, illustrated the main shifts of fashion from 1780 through to 1820 and even featured one of my own garments! There were even some fancy French dances beautifully performed for us. The night finished with a fine British sing-a-long, featuring The British Grenadiers, Greensleeves, and Rule Britannia.
Saturday began with some more dancing workshops to teach the Essentials for Capital Dancing for the coming ball that night, and I also managed to learn some Finishing Dances that were often danced to conclude a Regency evening.
Over lunch we were able to view a company of Grenadiers loading (or pretending to load…) and firing their muskets! They also did a demonstration of how bayonets were attached to the end of the musket in order to use the firearm as a hand-to-hand combat weapon.
I spent the afternoon running a Chemisette Making workshop and then learnt how to make Death Head buttons, which are discs of wood or horn wrapped in thread. Whilst my example is fairly plain, different coloured threads can be used to create a contrast in the weaving pattern and the result can be extremely decorative. I am planning to use this new skill to adorn an eighteenth century frock coat for my husband.
I also managed to view a study table of extant examples of Regency accessories during the course of the afternoon, examining coin purses, reticules, fans, jewellery boxes, and shoes.
In the evening we all donned our ballgowns and jewels and attended the Grand Napoleonic Ball, dancing until midnight! It was great to see a completely full hall of enthusiastic dancers and costumers. Aside from a quick trip upstairs for a photo shoot, I think I danced every dance and I was VERY stiff and sore the next morning!
On Sunday we met at the historic grounds of Lanyon Homestead for a “Picnic at Pemberley”. We were all conducted on a tour of the homestead, gardens and outbuildings, and then had a lovely lunch and a horse and carriage ride. The day was gloriously sunny and provided me with the perfect occasion to use my new parasol!
The afternoon was spent back at St Johns Church with a Country Fayre, including various stalls, maypole dancing, a fencing display, more dancing and a concert.
The Jane Austen Cotillion Ball was held in the evening and was a great conclusion to the festival. The entrants in the 1813 Costume Competition paraded in their garments and the winners were announced – a three-way win of which I was one! There was also a Regency Gentleman’s Costume Competition this year, with entrants falling under the sub-categories of Mr Darcy, Mr Wickham, Colonel Fitzwilliam or Mr Collins. As part of the competition, the entrants had to pretend to be single, and the “Mr Collins” entry was particularly entertaining!
I really have loved attending this festival over the last two years, and I would highly recommend it! It is full of friendly people who are all eager to try new things and learn from each other. This year we even had visitors from as far as France and America! The festival also offers a great opportunity for people who are interested in learning about a variety of topics relevant to the Regency era, such as history, fashion, dancing, sewing, Regency entertainments and even war. My only lament is that there is not enough time to do all the things I want to do. Even so, I am looking forward to next year already!
My Regency Journey: The Destination – a post on the Jane Austen Festival (Australia) for 2012
Sources and Relevant Links
Jane Austen Festival Australia – website
More photos of JAFA online – from The Canberra Times
A report on the Today Show about this years JAFA – (I am on TV!!! If you can’t see me, I am to the very right of screen in the dancing scenes, with my back to the camera.)
Another person’s Impression of the 2013 Jane Austen Festival Australia – by the Tailor’s Apprentice