Wednesday, 4 December 2013

18th century Christmas ball in Finland

Sanns, J and I.
Last weekend we visited Finland to attend to an 18th century Christmas ball at Sveaborg, or Suomenlinna, a sea fortress just outside Helsinki. It was my first visit to Finland apart from Åland and my sole excuse is that I hate boat rides. I was pleasantly surprised in having a good time on the boat or way out, but going back I got sea-sick and I still get dizzy spells when the whole world heave around me. I had such a good time though, that I think I will brave the Nordic sea again. I forgot my camera, but Sanna of Rococo Atelier kindly allowed me to use some of her pics. It was a real treat to meet her again and I think you will agree that looked stunning in her new white gown! I also got to meet Merja of Before the Automobile, which was a real treat, though unfortunately she wasn’t feeling well and had to leave early. She was equally stunning in white as well and you can see her pictures here. There were a lot of very pretty and well-dressed people at the party!

Myself I opted for a simpler garb, simply because I finished this gown in August and still hasn’t had an opportunity to wear it. I used the same pattern as I did for the yellow and the white gown and the material I striped linen. I hadn’t planned to make yet another 1780’s gown so similar to these, but when I found this painting and right after found such lovely striped linen, I just couldn’t resist. I usually combine machine sewing with hand sewing, but as an experiment I made this gown completely by hand and I wanted to see how ling it would take me. I can now say that a simple gown with no decorations takes me 51 hours to make. I only worked on it on odd times here and there and very often while I was watching the telly, so I am fairly certain that it would have been a faster project, time-wise, if I had just worked on the gown and not multi-tasked. I think it turned out very pretty, but it also gave me a complete surprise. As I have used the pattern several times it really, really fits me, so I blissfully worked away feeling secure that it would fit. Well, this linen stretched… So it turned out way too large! The back fits too loosely and the shoulder straps are much too long. I need to cut them shorter and re-fit the sleeves and also make the back smaller. Very annoying and I have only myself to blame.

Having cut my hair suddenly makes hairstyling a challenge. I really need to update my wigs now, but for the ball I opted for a turban with a few curls peeking out. I think it looked fine, but the turban kept trying to escape. Next time I will put in a few stitches to keep it together and a comb to make it stay put! I also realized that I have developed a go-to makeup when it comes to the 18th century. I really like my Nun’s cream with real pearl powder. It is only slightly whitening- I can only see that effect when I’m a bit tanned, but the light reflecting particles in the pearl powder reflects the light and makes my skin look very even and nice. Rouge with Carmine suits my colouring quite well too.

But back to the party. It was held in what used to be, if I understood it correctly, the mill, but it was very atmospheric and spacey. There were plenty of good food and some vigorous dancing followed by some equally vigorous games. I had only met Sanna before, but we were about 10 guests from Sweden that I also knew. It would not have mattered if I hadn’t known anyone, though, because everyone was really nice and welcoming and I had a lot of fun. I was a little taken aback that everyone seemed to know who I was- I felt quite famous and J is still teasing me about it.

Sveaborg started to be built in 1748 as a protection of the Russians. At the time Finland belonged to Sweden and the man responsible for the project was Augustin Ehrensvärd, a Swedish military and architect. He was an interesting person who were also interested in art, botany and psychology and perhaps it was he latter interest that made him take the rather unusual decision to make sure the people who worked on the fortress had better food than builders usually got and also health care. It was a good decision because there were less accidents and deaths during the construction. It is really a very beautiful and interesting place and I hope we get to explore it better the next time we visit.

Construction of the Sveaborg fortress


Augustintytär said...

You are famous! And it was wonderful that you got to come!

And despite the linen being uncooperative, you couldn't tell. The dress looked absolutely fabulous on you!

Isis said...

Merja: You make me blush. Thank you! I guess we are all our own worst critic, but I will remake it anyway. :)

ZipZip said...

Dear Isis,
What a party that must have been. It's been great fun reading everyone's posts about it. You all are blessed to have superb locations to visit. The buildings are so light, so serenely proportioned, so beautifully painted, so fresh and lovely, and the arched brickwork in the old mill, with the uplighting on it, is just magical. And then, to be on a real island...yes, despite sea sickness. Such magic. Thank you for sharing.

Your dress is really handsome! The pictures do not make it appear too big. Stripes become you. You're so right about the makeup; you can just see it and it's handsome. Mmm, must make pearl powder. Oh, don't you hate to sacrifice pearls? Although I think I may know where to order really poor quality ones that are suitable for grinding.

Very best, and thanks for brightening what is a dreary day that will soon darken into a sleet-filled, awkward, blustery night,


An Historical Lady said...

I agree with zip zip! Thanks to all you ladies for sharing your lovely photos and descriptions of a magical evening!
You look stunning.

Isis said...

Natalie: Thank you so much! It was a really great party! The dress have a drawstring front, which makes it pretty adjustable, but what you can't see, because the shawl hides it, are that the shoulderstraps are much too long and the necklines has gaps over the shoulders which aren't very pretty. And the back, which you can't see, wrinkles a bit. But it should be easy enough to fix!

I used really cheap irregular pearls when I tried to make my own pearl powder, but I found that it is virtually identical to ready made pearl powder. I buy mine here:

Isis said...

An Historical Lady: Thank you so much!

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