Riversdale "House Party" Follow-up
I promised to follow-up on my "Regency Ladies' Weekend" at Riversdale House, so here goes! First off, I had a wonderful time--even while forced to suffer the indignity of sleeping on the floor. In addition to fellow romance authors Sally MacKenzie and Janet Mullany (that's Janet, Sally, and me in the photo below), the other ladies in attendance included aspiring authors, period reenactors, costumers, and food 'interpreters'.
The food we ate all weekend was, for the most part, period food prepared over an open hearth. And it was delicious! Particularly delightful was a sweet potato pie with a particularly unusual taste, which turned out to be rosewater! Accompaniments often included pickled vegetables, olives, almonds, and cheese. Also delicious was a brandy/champagne punch served during our night of dancing/entertainments.
One activity I especially enjoyed was period games. We learned some card games--Sept (or "Seven") and Faro--and the dice games Newmarket and Hazard (an early version of modern-day Craps). Both Faro and Hazard are betting games, and the instructor passed around several period ladies' gaming pieces--what ladies would have used for 'betting chips.' Every lady would come to a party with her own, and some were very elaborate--discs of ivory or mother-of-pearl, some intricately carved with either a design or perhaps the lady's monogram.
But what struck me the most about the weekend--thanks to wearing period clothing and underclothes--was how "restrictive" it was to be a lady. For starters, it was impossible to dress or undress without assistance. Even with my stays loosely laced, the wooden busk up the front enforced good posture at all times, even while eating. At one point during the weekend, I donned my chemise, stays, stockings, and gown before putting on my slippers. BIG mistake! It was nearly impossible to put on my shoes once I was dressed. If I were to drop something to the floor, the only way to retrieve it was to bend at the knees rather than at the waist. Also, during one activity, I was asked to read aloud from a period novel (Jane Austen's NORTHANGER ABBEY). Between my stays and the very long passages, I nearly found myself gasping for air between sentences. By the end of one afternoon, I found myself feeling claustrophic in my stays--even though they were fairly loose--and had to have a friend quickly unlace me. It was definitely something that would take some getting used to wearing.
Still, it was a wonderful experience, and one I hope to revisit next year.