The Great Dickens Christmas Fair Missive
Great Dickens Christmas Fair 2016 - October Missive #5
~ The Great Costume Missive ~
Notes from your Missive Maven:
Hello!Better late than never . . . .
It's The Annual Great Costume Missive!
(from Liz Martin, please direct any questions to the email addresses listed below)
Entertainment Director, Missive & Social Media Maven
|In This Missive|
|Fastrack Schedule ~This is NOT the APPROVALS Schedule|
|Costume Guidelines are on the Website|
|Why do we have costume approval?|
|The Quick and Dirty List of What to Wear|
|What is this thing called costume approval? ?|
|How does it work? New things at costume approval|
|Some General Notes|
|Fabric and Pattern Selection|
|Rentals and Alterations/Costume Fixes|
(from Liz Martin)
I'm not going to lie, I mostly just copied last year's missive. I
promise that next year's missive will be All Brand New!
There are a few things that I would like to address for opening day of workshops:
remember that the people who are working fastrack are VOLUNTEERS, just
like you! And we have new helpers this year. While a lot of
time has been put in to create this database, it is STILL a work in
We think that everything is up to date, hopefully! However- Please be patient.
Also, there is no correlation between the Eventbrite registration and the information we need for costume approval/fastrack.
table: Will open after the morning meeting. It will be located inside
the cafeteria (where we gather for the morning meeting) to the far left
as you come in.
Approvals will begin after lunch.
The Costume Class:
Costume Class: Is a 2 hour class. Because of the morning meeting
on the first Saturday, it is split by the lunch break. If enough of the
class would prefer, I am willing to teach thru the lunch hour to enable
people to squeeze in another class. Juliana will take a vote on it when
she starts the class.
Fastrack Schedule ~This is NOT the APPROVALS Schedule
1. In Pacifica 10 AM - 4 PM both weekends
2. Dress Rehearsal Weekend at Cow Palace 8 AM - 4 PM
Dickens Open Weekends
November 19 + 20: 8 AM - 12 PM, then 4 PM - 5PM
November 25, 26, 27: 8 AM - 12 PM, then 4 PM - 5PM
December 3: 8 AM - 12 PM (Saturday morning only)
December 4: appointment only
December 10 + 11: appointment only
December 17: appointment only
December 18: Closing day NO Fastrack
The approvals schedule will be posted in a later missive.
Costume Guidelines are on the Website
Why do we have costume approval?
have costume approval so that there is a cohesive overall look to the
fair. All participants in the fair (cast members, employees, vendors,
volunteers, doormice, helper cats) must receive costume approval prior
to opening (or before receiving their pass): registration forms must be
stamped with costume approval in order to receive a gate pass.
Yes, we will be doing approvals at the Cow Palace Opening weekend.
is because of this attention to detail that The Great Dickens Fair has
the ability to transport our patrons to our own version of Mr. Dickens'
London and has become the premier holiday attraction in the Bay Area!!
you wear really does matter. The costumes are the biggest part of the
scenery ~ and a huge part of creating the magic! Please,
please make sure that you are always fully dressed in costume whenever
you are in the public view.
the fair's costume director, it is my privilege to facilitate the
fashions of London. We ask that our participants/vendors wear
clothing that would lead the casual observer to believe that they have
just stepped back in time to Christmas Eve in London somewhere between
the years 1842-1863. It
is my job to help you create an ensemble that immediately conveys to
the patrons your station/occupation/class/cast here in London.
The Quick and Dirty List of What to Wear
We have posted a checklist that you can download on the missive site under "Participant Costume Guidelines"
- Corsets: highly suggested - mid 19th century styles, over the bust
- Hoops or Crinolines: the circumference of your hoop should be no more than 95" - 110". Corded petticoats
are wonderful for giving the correct line without the fullness of a
hoop. Remember, the poor women of London did not wear hoops. They would
have had multiple petticoats or a corded petticoat. A crinoline is
defined here as a petticoat with multiple layers or ruffles.
Bodice and skirt: Fabric in both the bodice and skirt match,
long sleeves or mid-arm length with white undersleeves, no zippers
jacket and blouse: Full bell shaped skirt, a Zouave jacket (bolero)
which is worn with a white, front buttoning blouse (garibaldi) with a
peter pan collar or just a plain neck band.
- Colors: We
are going for jewel tones, NO BLACK please, (unless Mr. Dickens wrote
you dressed all in black). Plaids are wonderful, again in the
darker jewel tones, & patterned cotton fabrics are also acceptable
- (Please let me see the swatch BEFORE you start sewing!) Adding a
petticoat over your hoops will keep you from committing that dreaded
fashion faux pas of hoop lines showing!
- NO BUSTLES. Nuf said.
headwear: day caps. Made of lace and adorned with all sorts of
ribbons and bows they are the ideal item to cover your hair while
indoors. An extra bonus is that they fit nicely under your bonnet - no
need to remove them when you sally forth on the streets of London.
- Bonnet - made of felt, covered buckram, or straw. Trimmed with lace, trimmed with ribbons, natural looking silk flowers, lace
- Outerwear: A cape or shawl works nicely to show that you are outside, and along with gloves, a scarf and a bonnet. Please - no top hats on women - of ANY size.
What is the deal with Bonnets anyway? Yes,
the ladies of this time did wear hats. Bonnets are one of the
quickest ways to convey that we are in fact portraying another time and
place to the patrons. It sets you, the participants, apart from
the customers and it helps to further the illusion of being in another
time period. Bonnets do not have to encase the head or give the feeling
- Pants: natural
waistline/period style is preferred and requested; in wool,
heavy cotton, or corduroy. They can be either plaid, striped or
plain. Pant legs should be tapered in and no cuffs. Front is
flat - no pleats.
- Suspenders - no belt. In fact - removal of your belt loops will make us very happy!
- Vest/waistcoat: Can
have a collar or not, no points in the front (straight across), single
or double breasted, should button fairly high on the chest, does not
generally match either the pants or the jacket - plaids, brocades &
stripes are wonderful. There should be no shirt showing between
the bottom of the vest and your pants!
Check out this link for more info:
- Jacket: Choice
of Frock, morning, or tail coat . Alternate is a Sack suit ( it is
possible to convert a modern jacket to a sack coat jacket.
Does not always have to match the pants, however, in the case of a sack suit, all 3 pieces would/can match.
- Shirt: for laborers/lower class it can be striped or colored,
clerks and those in the middle/rising/upper class wear white,
either with a standing collar or a detachable, stiff collar. Note that
a modern shirt with the collar turned up only approximates this look;
the points should be no longer than 3". Also be sure to get a shirt
that fits properly. You should be able to button the collar button.
- Cravat: all men should be wearing some form of a cravat.
- Outer wear: Capes, overcoats or shawls are perfect for men.
- Gloves, scarf, and a HAT (top hat, bowler, or soft newsboy style)
- period looking, Half boots with elastic sides are correct as well as
the lace up boot. Zippers can be worn if you are not on a stage. NO LACE UP MODERN STYLE DRESS SHOES. Go for comfortable with good socks.
What is this thing called costume approval? ?
goal, as always, are to make approvals as stress-free as possible and
to work with each of you to create the most AWESOMELY populated
London our customers have ever seen.
So how does this translate to you, the performer/employee?
approval is the easiest way for myself and my minions, I mean staff, to
get a look at your costume prior to opening day. It's a sort of mass
Here's how it works:
cast members (who have had their picture taken in the last 2 years AND
are still in the same cast as the previous year) go to the fast track
line in the cafeteria. You do not need to be in costume.
sure that your registration form is filled out completely. It
should be signed by your director, and if needed, have their mark on
the costume approval line.
- New participants are required to take the 2 hour costume class before going thru approval.
do an overall look of your appearance . We may offer ways that you can
change or better your costume. These are not optional. Please correct
the things that we ask.
- Relax. We are all on the same side.
How does it work? New things at costume approval
New Workshop Approval Protocols
multiple lines worked very well last year. We will be continuing this
practice. Please read this very carefully! And be patient with
us. We are doing our best to make approvals go faster and smoother.
IF you have questions about what to wear or want to go over items, please DO NOT GET IN LINE! Please
attend the costume workshop and ask your questions there. If you still
have questions you can make an appointment to see Liz in the afternoon.
Appointments can be made at the FASTRACK station.
First year participants must attend the costume workshop before getting costume approval.
Are you a member of Fezziwig"s or Other Books? Please
have your costume signed off (some sort of directorial mark) on
your registration form by your directors BEFORE coming thru costume
approval. Your costume must be finished to receive final costume
approval. We will not sign off on your costume if this step is omitted.
There will be 3 lines: New participants/Returning Participants with new costumes, Returning participants, and FASTRACK!
- New participants/Returning Participants with new costumes: If
you are new to the fair or have a new costume, this is the line to be
in. You should be fully dressed with hat, bonnet, shoes,
outerwear, etc. First year participants must have taken the costume
workshop BEFORE they go thru costume approval.
- Returning participants who did not have their picture taken in the last 3 years: You
have worn your costume for the last 3 years (or longer). You should be
fully dressed with hat, bonnet, shoes, outerwear, etc. You need to have
your costume approved, afterwards please join the fastrack line to have
your picture taken.
You have submitted a current picture to your director or had your
picture taken in the last three years and have not received a
note from Liz saying that you not approved. We will have a list - by
cast - and will stamp you quickly. You do not need to wear your costume.
Who are you in London?
You will be asked to who you are playing along with group/director/booth owner & what station they hold in London.
Please do not give us your entire back-story.
approval crew will do our very best to get you through the approval
process quickly and easily. Please be patient with us and we will in
turn be patient with you.
you have multiple costumes please be prepared to show us all of them -
on your body! This includes your street costume as well as your
What do we look for?
do a head to toe scan. Part of the approval process is to not only see
that the colors and styles that you have chosen are correct but also
look at the overall fit of your costume. Therefore do not be surprised
if you go away with suggestions and a few safety pins in your outfit!
the men: Do your pants come up high enough - above the natural
waistline? Does your waistcoat overlap the waistband of your
pants? Or is there (shudder) "gap-osis"? I encourage all of our
male participants to consider investing in a pair of pants and a
waistcoat that are period correct. ? Are you wearing suspenders? Are
the belt loops removed from your pants? What kind of shoes are you
wearing? No modern dress shoes. Is there enough room for insoles.
- For the women:
Silhouette first. We are going for a full, pleated or
gathered skirt that is attached to a waistband. Think of an
upside down "U" rather than the straight lines of an "A".
your shoes look right? Is there enough room for insoles? Please keep
the heels to no more than 2". The Cow Palace is a very hard cement
floor and it can be brutal.
cap and then a bonnet. A day cap is a bit of fluff - usually lace and
often ribbon trimmed that was worn under the bonnet and kept the top of
the head covered when the bonnet is removed. If you work in a
shop you should be wearing a day cap or a mop cap.
Some General Notes:
Add some Victorian bling - and I don't mean glittery fabric.
Victorian women loved to add décor to their clothing: ribbons, fabric
roses, trim - and this can be done at any class level. Just
remember what your character's financial means are and go from there.
And no, having a "wealthy patron" will not automatically get you the
ability to wear a lot of expensive floof on your dress!
the men - add a watch chain and hang a fob from it. A sprig of holly in
your hatband allows even the most serious of our London denizens to
acknowledge the season. Let your waistcoats be colorful - it is
Christmas you know!
do develop a morning checklist and go over it each day before you leave
your home. I strongly encourage both men and women to have duplicates
for those items worn closest to the skin (shirts/blouses, chemises,
drawers/bloomers) as well as an extra pair of socks. That way you can
make it through the weekend without taking anything home to wash.
Use the what to wear list as your checklist.
in the 19th century liked to be thought of as fragile ladies. They
aimed always to look pale which was achieved by staying inside and out
of the harsh sun. Rouge was rarely used and lipstick unheard of,
make-up in general was frowned upon in. Actresses or "those women down
at Sal's" used make up such as powder and lipstick but a lady would
only admit to pinching her cheeks for a flush of natural glow.
Both men and women - Please use makeup. Naturally.
No heavy eye make-up. The Dickens Fair is aglow with unnatural
lighting to emulate perpetual twilight. This makes many people
look sallow or can wash out your features. Foundation, a little
mascara, a touch of natural color on the cheeks and lips and a light
application of eyebrow pencil will go a long way in making you look
better in the streets. The mineral make-up that goes on like a powder
is wonderful and very natural looking. Do remember, with any
foundation, to touch up your make-up mid-way thru the day. If you are
on stage, please use appropriate stage makeup. Consult with your
Director at dress rehearsal to find the best look for you.
Fabric and Pattern Selection
Remember, the years that the Dickens Fair covers are 1842 - 1863.
rich jewel toned colors are the trend this season; they can be in
plaids, patterned or stripes as well as plain fabric. Dark colors were
worn for practical reasons as well: the streets of London were filthy,
not to mention the soot in the air.
This is a fabulous book to have as part of your library to help you identify period correct prints:
Dating Fabrics: A Color Guide 1800-1960 by Eileen Jahnke Trestain
Or to look on-line at
do not choose modern fluorescent colors, pastels, or modern fabric
designs. Wool, gabardine, velvet, and brocade are wonderful, but not
lightweight fabrics like madras, cotton flannel, or seersucker. If you
have any questions after reading the additional info on the Dickens
website, please feel free to contact us by email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
are welcome to send scanned swatches of fabric, sketches, or snaps of
out-of-print patterns for approval or advice. If you have construction
questions, those are welcome as well. Swatches should really be sent
snail mail - it's too difficult to judge from the image.
Please email me and let me know the swatch is coming.
They can be mailed to:
2431 Lucas Ave
Places to buy patterns, fabric and trim
Brick & Mortar shops
Britex - use your pass for a 20% discount!
146 Geary St, San Francisco, CA 94108
Fabrics-R- Us - San Jose
Discount Fabrics: Berkeley and San Francisco
3006 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley, CA 94702
2170 Cesar Chavez St, San Francisco, CA 94107
432 Clement St, San Francisco, CA 94118
Stone Mountain & Daughter - Berkeley
Lacis - Berkeley
Rentals and Alterations/Costume Fixes
Back by popular demand, the costume department will once again be offering a limited number of garments for rental. Do not plan on renting your entire costume for the run of fair.
outfits, as well as single items, will be available on a daily or
weekend basis. Individuals that are new to the fair and
lack costume pieces will be given first priority.
also can do small alterations for a nominal fee. The fees will be
posted in an upcoming missive and at the costume shop. Please
keep in mind that your emergency may not be the only one we are dealing
with! Please include your measurements, character and cast.
This service will not be available until dress rehearsal weekend at the Cow Palace.
missive is not meant to be the end all in costuming information, though
I am sure it seems like it! It is difficult to cover all classes,
occupations and casts in one email or even on the website. Again,
please email me with any questions. It's just the costume department's
way of touching base with all of you and letting you know what our
expectations will be at workshops.
I look forward to working with each and every one of you.
See you in London!
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~For specific questions regarding performing at the Fair, please email Cat Taylor
If your group would like to perform at the Fair for just one day (school caroling groups, etc.)
please email Robert Young
For specific questions regarding vending at the Fair please email Vendors
For specific questions the beverage department please email Beverage
For questions regarding costumes, please email Costumes