Friday, March 25, 2011

Questions from a Lady Attending the Dance

Photo by Steven Sandrbook Photography. View Steven's album at
In Part 2 of our English Country Dance feature, we look at ways to solve your worries over what to wear to the event, whether it be in Palmerston North on 8 April 2011, or some other costume occasion. If you missed the invitation video last week, you can view it here.

Where can I find a modest dress?
Beg, borrow, buy, hire, or make one. Some of these girls made their gowns from furnishing fabric available from stores like Moreland Fabrics for a couple of dollars a meter. Other girls borrowed from the girls who make them.
Photo by Steven Sandrbook Photography. View Steven's album at
Some wore a plain tee shirt under a regular evening gown. In several instances, the tee blended so well with the dress that I didn't realize it was there until I was editing the video footage. That's surprising, because I notice these things.
Narelle's heirloom skirt with an embroidered cotton peasant blouse with satin waist tie was a two-piece outfit that was simple, cool, and practical if not quite vintage elegance. "And the hair and feet let me down. I'll work on that for next time."

Danielle looked charming in a gown created by Charmagne.
Some girls used a straight-across camisole to fill the gap. Others pinned or tied a shawl around their shoulders. And some ladies wore everyday tidy dress. Wear whatever modest outfit you feel comfortable in, come enjoy the dance, and while you're there network with others who can help you find or create your own dream gown for the next event.
The children take a colouring break while they get up steam for the next reel.
What do I wear on my feet?
Surprisingly, the acceptable mode is whatever's comfortable. You can be elegant in dainty heeled slippers, you can be pretty and practical in ballet pumps, or you can be carefree in bare feet. Yes, it's true--many people start the evening looking proper but very soon demonstrate they'll not allow discomfort to spoil their fun.

Charmagne told me of a country dance event she attended in the USA hosted by two magnificently gowned ladies. She was astonished to glimpse tennis shoes below their hooped skirts. The ladies assured her that they had tried the trendy totter-toes look but their feet had been agony the next day. Trainers kept them comfortable all evening and most people didn't even see their feet.
This young lady was absolutely enchanting.

Charmagne Smith, our beautiful caller for Palmerston North events. Charmagne is an expert and prolific seamstress.
Where can I get gloves and a fan?
If you are attending the Palmerston North event, Charmagne will have a selection of gloves and fans available for you to borrow for the evening, but first in, first served. If you desire your own beautifully elegant accessories, try these sources.
  1. Ask your grandmother or an older lady in your community. I've discovered that many women, even those you can't imagine being young and elegant, still have their wedding gloves tucked away somewhere.
  2. Hunt around at garage sales.
  3. Hire from the local play theatre or costume hire centre.
  4. Spotlight stocks white, black, and red satin gloves of several lengths.
  5. 123+ stocks white, black, and red matte gloves for only $3.50 a pair. See Autumn Addendum for more details [coming soon].
  6. Browse online auction sites for new or used items. My best finds on were the following.

Best TradeMe Buy: Search key words: Wrist Satin Gloves

These one-size-fits-most wrist gloves will be fine for slender hands as well as wider. Remember, they are supposed to be a firm fit. Most gloves are made of a stretch fabric, so you shouldn't need to worry about busting seams. If you desire long gloves and have slender arms, you may have to reduce the width (with needle and thread) to prevent the top gaping above your elbow or drooping below it.

Best TradeMe Buy: Search key words: Asian Silk Folding Fans -- seller in Lower Hutt -- seller in Palmerston North

I bought 5 fans from the Lower Hutt dealer. The product price was attractive, but the postage and packaging wasn't -- they charged NZ$6 and gave the delicate fans no padding whatsoever. I recommend you check with the seller that they will be taking adequate precautions to protect your purchase.

If these auctions have expired by the time you view them, page down to the seller's name, click on it, and search their auction list for another auction of the same type. If you can't see one, make an inquiry (on any auction). They may not have got around to relisting it, or may be in the process of reordering stock.

Why would I need gloves or a fan?
The room and the dancers get very warm. Under such conditions, wafting your own private coolant on yourself is deeply satisfying.  Gloves allow you to keep your perspiration to yourself. You're also protected from anyone else's generous spirit. If you don't mind hot air and sticky hands, you'll be just fine without gloves or a fan.

I asked a young lady who reminded me of Jane Bennett, "How do you manage to look as serene at supper as you did when you first arrived?"  She replied sedately, "Practice."

Part of the fun of events like this is that you get to practice being feminine, looking elegant, behaving gracefully. When we hear an instrument produce beautiful music, we know it's the result of many hours of private practice and public performance. This formula applies to being a lady. Can we expect to present ourselves as a glorious melody if we don't practice?

This is a chance for you to practice. Come join us at the English Country Dance!
To find out event details, follow the instructions on the invitation in Part 1 of this feature.

Next week: What do I do with my hair?

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