In the spirit of tricks and treats and costumes, I present you with a fun, quick blurb of a recent outing I had that involved costuming – and a few treats!
I came across Jane Austen Night at The Woodlands thanks to the modern wonders of Facebook events. I wasn’t familiar with The Woodlands prior to our Facebook introduction. It’s in an area of Philadelphia that I don’t think I’ve been to before, and it’s hidden away in the middle of a cemetery. But when I saw that there was an event based around Jane Austen and period costumes at a historical house, I was in!
The Woodlands was built in 1787-92 by William Hamilton and not only boasted an impressive mansion, but was a model of contemporary English landscape garden techniques. In 1840, local investors purchased the estate to transform the grounds into one of the first large, rural cemeteries in America. I plan to return to The Woodlands on a non-event evening in order to learn more about the house itself and
The theme of the night was based around Jane Austen’s Emma. The Woodlands set up a giant screen to show the 1996 version of Emma, starring Gwyneth Paltrow, and Clueless, starring Alicia Silverstone. Now, first I have to admit that despite being a Jane Austen fan, I have never read Emma, nor had I seen any of the screen adaptations. My second confession is this: I never realized that Clueless is a modern take on Emma. Watching both movies back to back was so fun to match and compare the characters and story lines!
As for the costumes, there were two categories: Regency or 90s. My first instinct was of course to go full Regency, who could resist the classic empire-waist dress, complete with slippers and jacket?! My wallet could, for one. Unfortunately I’m not handy enough with a sewing machine to whip up a dress, and my wallet couldn’t afford any of the drool-worthy frocks on Etsy. As I fretted and time grew shorter, I realized that if I was going to dress, it was going to have to be the 90s.
Putting together a 90s-era costume was super easy since a lot of the staples of that look are back in right now. Choker necklaces are everywhere, slip dresses are coming back, and combat boots are readily available. I also found this slightly disconcerting, as my teenage years were in the 90s, and I remember these styles the first time they came around. The look was still a bit too old for me at the time, so even though I poured over my Delia’s catalog (remember them!!) every month, I never really got to wear this style at the time. So I choose to look on the bright side and took it as a chance to do something I always wanted to do instead of being depressed that I’m now old enough that several eras of my childhood have come back around….
So dressed in my boots, slip dress over white baby t-shirt, and denim jacket, off I went. With the addition of some butterfly clips to my hair (making sure to leave some tendrils around my face, of course!), I entered the 90s division of the costume contest. And was totally shocked to win first place! I brought home an amazing box stuffed full of fabulous 90s snacks.
Thanks to The Woodlands for a fabulous event and awesome prize pack, and thanks to my friend Lauren who often gets dragged into my adventures! Stay tuned for my next Halloween installment, where I return to The Woodlands for their Wicked Women of The Woodlands Halloween Tour, where we’ll “meet” some of the most wicked women buried at The Woodlands and learn what it took to be a “wicked woman” in Victorian times!