Summer School Sewing

I mentioned Fancy Dress in my last post. This is a tradition at the Bellydance Summer School I go to, and it never fails to amaze me how creative and industrious my fellow dancers are, when it comes to Fancy Dress night. In the olden days the theme would be announced *at* summer school, two days before the party, and there would be a mad dash around the charity shops and other shops of Tring* to try and cobble something amazing together. One year I went as Raquel Welch in One Million Years BC and made myself a bikini out of a couple of shammy leathers (the theme was film legends), one year the theme was Bin bags, and everyone made their costume out of bin bags- the local greengrocers were astonished to find their entire stock of bin bags was depleted in two days. And I pity anyone in Tring who needed to buy bin bags later on that week, because we’d bought the lot! Nowadays we get told the theme in advance, but the rules are no professional fancy dress hire- that would be cheating.

This year the theme was Historical Costume Dramas. I went along thinking I was going to have to duck out of doing fancy dress- I hadn’t had time to think of something and put a costume together. But once I was there, one of my fellow dancers referred to a new costume of mine, and that mention triggered an idea… The costume is my Flag costume, made for me by Eman Zaki of Cairo, and made in the colours of the French tricolore as a way of honouring my mother, and my French heritage. I realised that I could use that as the basis for a costume as Marianne – the emblem of France and the personification of Liberty and Reason. If anyone insisted I had to link it to a specific Historical Costume Drama, I would say it was Les Miserables!

The costume was going to take care of the actual dress. But Marianne is always depicted wearing a Phrygian cap/bonnet. which is sort of like a slouchy and short dunces cap, which has fallen forwards or to the side. I did have the thought of possibly putting together an actual tricolor flag to wrap about my person, but sensibly remembered that I was going to have to do all that sewing *by hand*, and in the immortal words of Shirley Conran, life’s too short to stuff a mushroom. But the Cap of Liberty, that I could do in the time I had available. This entailed me bunking off school for the Wednesday morning, to come home and check the post, pick up the Flag costume, and nip into town to buy the doings for my cap.

I had to do all the sewing by hand but I’m pretty gosh darn proud that I managed to produce a recognisable Phrygian cap, and be recognisable as a character (admittedly mostly by the French contingent of bellydancers present!).  I am stonkingly proud of my tricolor cockades! I am having to pinch a facebook photo, as I didn’t actually take any myself, so I’ve blurred out poor Juliet’s face (she had a cardboard balcony but had put it to one side at this moment. She’s really pretty so it seems a terrible shame to blur her out). But here is a rear view of my Marianne:

Marianne's back view

Liberté! Egalité! Chardonné!

And here’s an after-the-event close up of my Creation of Liberty.

It does have a touch of the gnome about it!

It does have a touch of the gnome about it!

I will confess, I had awful visions of being perceived not as the Embodiment of the Republique, but as a smurf! The gnome-like hat, the blue colour. You have to admit, my costume could be perceived that way! But thankfully nobody actually commented in those terms, so all was well.

My next project to work on is the Sew Weekly Reunion make. I need to get myself to Fabricland, because the fabric choices here are too limited and too expensive. I won’t feel the inspiration until I’ve found the right fabric. There’s a possibility that I can do that tomorrow afternoon, but it depends how easily I can get away from the dance demo I’m doing in Sunbury.



* Which is where Summer School was held for a very long time- it’s a tiny little country town. But this year we were in a new venue, a rather swanky public school**.

** For anyone non-British reading this: in the UK, public schools are private schools. Yeah, go figure!


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