The Skokloster Castle Jane Austen Ball

One of the highlights this summer was arranging the ball in Skokloster Castle. We decided last year to relocate the annual Empire/Regency ball of Stockholm to the castle, due to the Jane Austen costume exhibition.

Photograph courtesy of Johanna Blixbo.

The exhibition was also the reason why the ball turned into a larger event than what we had experienced before. It was also the first ball in the castle since the last private owner sold it to the state fifty years ago. The tickets were released in May and were sold out in only a few weeks. I took a deep breath and released additional tickets. They sold out too.

This dreamy, flattering photo was used for promoting the ball.

It was followed by a lot of ordering food, investigating the possibility of a chartered bus from town, answering countless questions, renting tables and tableware, setting up detailed schedules, hiring staff, etc. My five or six fellow organisers (long time friends and members of the historical societies  that usually arrange these events) took care of the dance programme, the musicians, and the events that took place in town on the day before and after the ball.

It was exciting to welcome old friends and new friends, many of which were fans of Jane Austen, but never had danced or even worn Regency costume before. People travelled from near and far, mainly from Sweden, but several guests came over from Finland. We even had some guests all the way from Bath.

The elegant ball-goers started to arrive after five o’clock. They had time to mingle in front of the castle and show off their Regency finery before we opened the doors:

(Beware: This is an image-heavy post. All photos by our official photographer Johanna Blixbo.)

Photo courtesy Johanna Blixbo.

Photo courtesy Johanna Blixbo.

Photo courtesy Johanna Blixbo.

Photo courtesy Johanna Blixbo.

Photo courtesy Johanna Blixbo.

Photo courtesy Johanna Blixbo.

Photo courtesy Johanna Blixbo.

Skokloster Castle Jane Austen Ball. Photo by Regencygentleman

Photo courtesy Johanna Blixbo.

Dance master Anna, and I officially opening the ball. I had so much to do up until then, so I had no time to prepare an eloquent, well-versed speech. (Or sew something new, or cut my hair…)

Photo courtesy Johanna Blixbo.

Photo courtesy Johanna Blixbo.

Our elegant guests walking through the door while the orchestra was playing:

Photo courtesy Johanna Blixbo.

Photo courtesy Johanna Blixbo.

Photo courtesy Johanna Blixbo.

Photo courtesy Johanna Blixbo.

Photo courtesy of Mari Lind Strömblad

Photo courtesy Johanna Blixbo.

The narrow gallery was the only place in the castle were we were able to dance, but it was ideal for longway country dances. We had to make sure there was enough space for one hundred and forty guests! The programme was comprised of five sets with two to four dances in every set:

Photo courtesy Johanna Blixbo.

Studying the dance programme and forming couples.

Photo courtesy Johanna Blixbo.

Photo courtesy Johanna Blixbo.

Photo courtesy Johanna Blixbo.

Photo courtesy Johanna Blixbo.

Photo courtesy Johanna Blixbo.

Photo courtesy Johanna Blixbo.

Photo courtesy Johanna Blixbo.

Photo courtesy of Johanna Blixbo.

Halfway through the dance programme it was time for dinner. Two very long tables were required. The food was ordered from a caterer in town. There was plenty of it and it was delicious!

Photo courtesy Johanna Blixbo.

Rental chairs are either terribly ugly or very expensive, so we had to use benches…

Photo courtesy Johanna Blixbo.

Photo courtesy Johanna Blixbo.

Photo courtesy Johanna Blixbo.

Photo courtesy Johanna Blixbo.

Helena, a fabulous staff member. The team certainly did a terrific job.

Photo courtesy Johanna Blixbo.

After dinner we opened the doors to the Austen exhibition on the third floor. It was a different experience, magic, even, to see the costumes in the fading light. Downstairs, there was some musical entertainment before the dance continued.

Photo courtesy Johanna Blixbo.

Photo courtesy Johanna Blixbo.

After more dancing coffee and dessert was served. We had scrumptious cake and chocolates for days after…

Photo courtesy Johanna Blixbo.

Photo courtesy Johanna Blixbo.

Photo courtesy Johanna Blixbo.

Photo courtesy Johanna Blixbo.

Photo by Regencygentleman

We wrapped up the ball after midnight by stepping outside and dancing the final Mr Beveridge´s Maggot in front of the castle: (Photos below by Jenny Björkquist.)

Photo courtesy of Jenny Björkquist.

Photo courtesy of Jenny Björkquist.

Photo courtesy of Jenny Björkquist.

The entire experience was magic. Of course it was a lot of hard work, but it was so worth it. Imagine even being paid to make this come true, and having so much fun along the way!

I think we managed to live up to the incredibly high expectations.

The big question is if Skokloster Castle is willing to host the ball next year…

 

 

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Jane Austen´s World, Part 5

Since my last post I have been frantically sewing myself a costume for a ball in a different era (1680!). The film costumes are going back to Cosprop in London in less than two weeks, so I must hurry to walk you through the exhibition. (How on earth could it take me the lenght of a summer to do it?!)

The exhibition ends in the spirit of a Jane Austen novel: with a wedding reception. Three couples are lined up in the grand salon: Elinor and Edward, Marianne and Brandon, and Elizabeth and Darcy.

Jane Austen film costumes, Skokloster castle

Skokloster Castle

The painted baroque ceiling is stunning.

First, Jenny Beavan´s beautiful costumes from Sense and Sensibility (1995). The story ends with the wedding between Marianne and Brandon. The other couple to walk out to the cheering wedding party outside the church is Elinor and Edward. Despite all those unexpressed feelings between Elinor Dashwood and Edward Ferrars (superb acting by Thompson and Grant!) they end up getting married. Elinor is elegant in a printed muslin roundgown with a velvet spencer and a bonnet. Edward is dressed in black and white: black tailcoat, waistcoat, breeches and stockings. White linen shirt and cravat, and shoes with buckles. Nothing extravagant or avantgarde here, rather conservative and suitable for a country clergyman. They will settle in the parsonage on the Delaford estate and live sensibly – although comfortably – on 900 pounds per annum.

Costumes from Sense and Sensibility 1995. Skokloster castle.

The Ferrars, Elinor and Edward. Sense and Sensibility, 1995. Costume designer: Jenny Beavan and John Bright.

Emma Thompson and Hugh Grant as Elinor and Edward in Sense and Sensibility, 1995. This is of course the final scene outside the village church. Most people probably think it is a double wedding, but it is not. Elinor and Edward are already married and are acting as officiant/best man and matron of honour. (Explained by Emma Thompson in her film diaries.)

Costumes from Sense and Sensibility 1995. Skokloster castle.

Costumes from Sense and Sensibility 1995. Skokloster castle.

Costumes from Sense and Sensibility 1995. Skokloster castle.

Nice details on Elinor´s velvet spencer. The bows could be vintage. The roundgown has a delicate bobbin lace along the neckline and sleeves.

Sense and Sensibility 1995. Exhibition in Skokloster castle.

The bow in the back is never seen on screen but is a nice touch.

Sense and Sensibility 1995. Exhibition in Skokloster castle.

Costumes from Sense and Sensibility 1995. Skokloster castle.

The back, when we dressed the mannequin.

Have you noticed that Elinor is wearing this gown twice? It is first seen in one of the London scenes when the girls find themselves in a pickle, and Brandon turns up to help them. Emma Thompson in Sense and Sensibility, 1995.

Costumes from Sense and Sensibility 1995. Skokloster castle.

Elinor´s bonnet with all the trimmings.

Sense and Sensibility, 1995

Elinor and Edward in Sense and Sensibility, 1995.

Costumes from Sense and Sensibility 1995. Skokloster castle.

Edward´s suit. Very late eighteenth century, The restricted light makes it difficult to photograph black wool.

Nice silk buttons on Edward´s coat.

 

Costumes from Sense and Sensibility 1995. Skokloster castle.

Elinor´s gown has a long train. This is still the 1790´s.

Costumes from Sense and Sensibility 1995. Skokloster castle.

Costumes from Sense and Sensibility 1995. Skokloster castle.

The table is ready for the wedding breakfast.

Marianne´s story is different. She falls passionately in love, gets her heart broken, and finds (a different sort of) love again. Dashing Willoughby is forced to marry another girl but loyal Colonel Brandon has been around throughout the story, and turns out to have qualities that go beyond the age gap. (In the beginning of the story Marianne finds Brandon a boring old man, he is at least 35!) This has been discussed for two centuries by now. Is she attracted to his quiet, gentemanlike manner? His interest in poetry and music? Or is it his estate Delaford and his fortune? Anyway, Marianne is fitted out in a magnificent gown in gold embroidered silk and tulle with a long train. The scene is over in a few seconds, so blink and you miss it.

Marianne and Colonel Brandon: Kate Winslet and Alan Rickman in Sense and Sensibility, 1995.

Colonel Brandon chooses to marry in his regimentals. He is transformed from an ‘old man in flannel waistcoat’ to a dashing husband. Earlier we were told that Brandon served in India, where ‘the air was full of spices’… Film scenes are seldom shot in sequence, so the wedding scene was Alan Rickman´s first day on set.

Costumes from Sense and Sensibility 1995. Skokloster castle.

Wedding costumes, worn by Kate Winslet and Alan Rickman as Marianne and Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility, 1995. Photo courtesy Jens Mohr.

Sense and Sensibilty 1995. Costume exhibit in Skokloster Castle.

Marianne´s gown and Colonel Brandon´s regimentals. The uniform consists of a red wool jacket with short tails, green cuffs and centre front. The jacket has gold trim and gold buttons, and a gold epaulette. White pantaloons and black hessian boots. A black silk stock and a deep red sash. (The sash was re-tied to the right after this picture was taken.)

Costumes from Sense and Sensibility 1995. Skokloster castle.

The open robe is in cream net fabric with straw worked standing collar and a long train bordered with open work straw braid and heavy gold and silver beading. The underdress is a cream gauze over silk, studded with tiny silver stars.

Costumes from Sense and Sensibility 1995. Skokloster castle.

So much work went into this gown!

Costumes from Sense and Sensibility 1995. Skokloster castle.

The net overdress with straw embroidery. This type of work was popular in the eighteenth century and several garments survive in museum collections.

Costumes from Sense and Sensibility 1995. Skokloster castle.

Marianne´s bonnet is a delicate veil and flowers on a wire frame.

A young Kate Winslet wearing the costume. Sense and Sensibility, 1995.

Costumes from Sense and Sensibility 1995. Skokloster castle.

Not the best picture, but here is a view of the back.

It took me some time to adjust the linen shirt collar and the black neck stock. This is how they should look.

Costumes from Sense and Sensibility 1995. Skokloster castle.

Epaulette on Colonel Brandon´s uniform.

Brandon´s black Hessian boots.

The final wedding clothes are from Pride and Prejudice, 1995. A spoiler alert is superfluous since we all know that Lizzy and Darcy end up marrying. Now, that IS a double wedding in the adaptation. (The weddings are mentioned only briefly in the novel.) Jane and Lizzy, the oldest Bennet girls, marry Bingley and Darcy. Dinah Collins designed the costumes.

A double wedding: Charles Bingley and Jane Bennet, Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet. Pride and Prejudice, 1995. The familiar faces behind them look very solemn, but most of them, except miss Bingley,  are extremely thrilled.

Pride and Prejudice 1995. Costume exhbition in Skokloster castle.

Elizabeth´s and Darcy´s wedding costumes, Pride and Prejudice, 1995.

Pride and Prejudice 1995. Costume exhbition in Skokloster castle.

Lizzy is wearing a lace edged, v-necked silk pelisse over a striped silk dress. Darcy´s attire is correct morning wear: navy tailcoat, cream silk waistcoat, white moleskin pantaloons, and shoes (pumps).

Pride and Prejudice 1995. Costume exhbition in Skokloster castle.

Pride and Prejudice 1995. Costume exhbition in Skokloster castle.

Decorative enamel buttons. A snap button keeps the little ‘belt’ in position.

Pride and Prejudice, 1995. Costume exhibit in Skokloster castle.

This is how it works: The pelisse and dress are partially sewn together. The striped skirt fastens with hooks and eyes to the gathered/pleated bodice.

Pride and Prejudice, 1995. Costume exhibit in Skokloster castle.

Pride and Prejudice, 1995. Costume exhibit in Skokloster Castle.

The enamel buttons are decorative as the bodice has hooks and eyes. There is a supportive under-bodice with a draw-string.

Pride and Prejudice, 1995. Costume exhibit in Skokloster castle.

Machine seams…

Pride and Prejudice 1995. Costume exhbition in Skokloster castle.

Gathered sleeves on Lizzy´s pelisse.

Pride and Prejudice, 1995. Costume exhibit in Skokloster castle.

The fine lace continues around the back. The width of the skirt is gathered in two deep pleats.

Pride and Prejudice 1995. Costume exhbition in Skokloster castle.

Lizzy´s bonnet. It was created by milliner Louise Macdonald.

Publicity still of Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, 1995.

Pride and Prejudice 1995. Costume exhbition in Skokloster castle.

Darcy´s morning suit.

Pride and Prejudice 1995. Costume exhbition in Skokloster castle.

Darcy´s silk waistcoat and cravat. The linen shirt has a ruffle. (It is a challenge to tie a decent cravat when the mannequin lacks any type of neck…)

Pride and Prejudice 1995. Costume exhbition in Skokloster castle.

M-notch lapel.

Pride and Prejudice, 1995. Costume exhibit in Skokloster castle.

Darcy´s moleskin pantaloons. The fall and the waist buttons with two metal buttons respectively.

Pride and Prejudice, 1995. Costume exhibit in Skokloster castle.

Darcy´s watch fob with heart-shaped pendant.

Pride and Prejudice 1995. Costume exhbition in Skokloster castle.

Would you know it: There is no watch! A safety pin holds the fob (ribbon) to the waistcoat. Movie magic…

This costume is often seen in a set of publicity stills. Different pendant on watch fob, though. Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle in Pride and Prejudice, 1995. (Early still with a different wig on Ehle.)

Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth in Pride and Prejudice, 1995. Darcy is wearing a grey cloak in many pictures. I suppose there were several takes.

‘Three daughters married!’ A winter wedding requires an abundance of swan feathers. Alison Steadman as mrs Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, 1995.

It has been a privilege to study these famous costumes in detail. Of course they didn´t know it back in the 1990´s, but today they are regarded as relics in the Austen-Regency-costuming community. Not everything is historically accurate, but the astounding work they did back then continue to inspire us. Is there a particular costume that you were inspired by? Out of the ones above I´d pick Darcy´s outfit any day! Elinor´s clothes may not look very special, but they are extremely well made, so I have a soft spot for them. But why choose at all?

Regencygentleman

Looking a bit grumpy because the show´s near the end… This particular day I had a couple of guided tours and acyually managed to tie a decent knot.

Next post will be about some of the costumes I made for the staff and visitors to this exhibition. And I ought to post some pictures from the ball…