11 October 2006 - 8:45 AM
After seeing a photo in one of today's newspapers of a woman who dons 'period costume' to show off her 350-year old farmhouse, I feel compelled to offer a few pointers on wearing period costume:
1. Make it period costume, not a 'quasi-Victorian dress made out of grandmother's old Battenburg lace table linens.' If you simply must make a dress out of those linens, then make something fabulous. And consider dyeing them a better colour than tea-stain ecru, especially if tea-stain ecru doesn't flatter your complexion.
2. Wear the appropriate undergarments. Nothing's going to ruin the look of that authentic 1880s afternoon dress faster than a modern bra and panties. Get yourself a good corset and learn to love it.
3. A close runner up to the title of 'most likely to ruin the look' is your hair. Dress your hair appropriately, or wear the period-appropriate hat, or invest in a good wig if you can afford it. (Nota bene: a good wig. Not a $10 polyester special from the Halloween store).
4. Posture, and not just 'stand up straight!' either. Take a look at some art showing people wearing the kind of clothes you are wearing and check out how they stand, what kind of gestures they make. Practice in front of a mirror. Resist the urge to cross your arms over your chest and look defensive about your funny clothes.
5. Better to go without jewellry than wear huge modern earrings that overwhelm your dress. The same goes for makeup.
These rules don't apply if you're using vintage styles as part of your modern look, of course. If you're doing that, you likely don't want to look like you just walked off the set for 'The Age of Innocence.' (And I suspect if you're wearing vintage styles as part of your look, you're deliberately avoiding a costumey effect, anyway). But if you're going to wear period costume, well, have some respect for the period. And the costume.