Today concludes our three-part feature of Juliette. This woman is an amazement to me. She has an entire room in her house full of fun costumes she has made. It was clearly hard for her to pick just three for our three-part feature.
We decided to stick within a color theme of light pinks and blues. We also thought it would be fun to travel through time. It’s crazy how much fashion changed in less than 100 years.
We started with the Civil War era, moved on to the late 1890’s and are concluding with this lovely gown from the Victorian/Edwardian Era. Think the beginning of Downton Abbey. She entirely re-did this entire dress and made it her own.
All of our three-part features conclude with a Q&A. Here is her’s:
Name: Juliette Tebeau Bezold
Location: Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky area
Occupation: Interior Designer at GBBN Architects
In her spare time, she’s a part of the Ohio Renaissance Festival, the Old West Festival, the Wandering Minstrel Theatre Troupe and the Horehounds Burlesque, an offshoot of the Wandering Minstrels. She and her husband have also traveled all over for vintage dance weeks and weekends.
How long have you been into costuming?
I can barely remember not being into costuming. When I was six, my mom took me to my first musical, which was Oklahoma. By seven I was in my first musical. I was a royal child in The King and I. And so at that point on from the age of seven, I was completely obsessed with period costumes. With hoop skirts and corsets in particular because of Anna in The King and I.
When did you start making your own costumes?
I made my first first costume properly sewn on a sewing machine when I was 13.
That’s so neat that you’re a working professional and then do this on the side. Do your coworkers find it interesting at all?
Yes they do, actually. I was walking in the Reds Opening Day Parade with the group from the Old West Festival and so I changed into my costume at the office since I work downtown. Everyone thought that was pretty funny and I took a picture there at my cubicle.
So what got you into history and costuming?
It all goes back when I was seven and I was in The King and I. That was a turning point in my life. I became obsessed with costumes from that point on. I wanted a hoop skirt, I wanted a corset. I made my first communion in the same weekend as the play, so I saved all my first communion money and all my birthday money, and my mother took me to a second hand bridal salon and bought me a hoop skirt and a second hand size three bridal gown. She cut it down for me and I played with that thing until it was ribbons. I still have it for her (daughter) to play with one day.
So at the time it was the pure wonderment of it all?
Honestly for me, it’s a little more than that. It’s about how the costume transforms you. How it makes you feel. Like I’m someone prettier or richer. It’s that character and becoming someone else. I mean why does any woman put on a face that’s not hers? I feel in my costumes more special than in anything else.
So it’s just fun getting to be someone else?
Yes. And it’s also just being a part of history. Like with The King and I, Anna Leonowens was a real person. I had my mother track down the two-inch book Anna and the King of Siam so I could read it because I was so fascinated that she was a real person. From that point on, I just read the pages of the Encyclopedia over and over again about Queen Elizabeth, Mary Queen of Scotts, Marie Antoinette … all these famous women who had beautiful dresses who I became obsessed with but also had really interesting stories and lives. I think that’s why I love the Renaissance Era so much because I was fascinated from that age.
It’s a way you connected with women and women throughout history.
Exactly. And before the Internet and before people with quirky obsessions had a way to connect with each other, theatre was the only outlet for that. So I got into theatre because it was the only way I could express my desire to make costumes and portray women throughout history.
Do you ever give thought to the role women had throughout these time periods and how that’s changed?
Oh absolutely! And it’s interesting because I feel that a lot of my sewing skills and talent is just intrinsic and a part of me. I feel that that has just come to me from an ancestor. My great grandfather was a tailor. He was a man, not a woman, but that was his profession. He immigrated from Poland in the early 1900’s and he died when I was six months old. I feel that my sewing ability just came. It’s just a part of me that I need to express. I do think about women as I make my costumes. All that I can do on a machine, they had to do by hand. Really the tailor’s skill was a man’s job. The famous dress designers of the Victorian Era were men. There were female houses, but it was still a man’s world.
What does being a woman mean to you?
What does being a woman mean to me? Women create. Men can create too, but it’s part of what convinces me that God must be a woman because I think it’s just part of me to create. If you look at women throughout history, we were the ones creating the home, creating the hearth, creating the food and creating life. To me, it’s all interrelated and I can’t not make things. It is so much a part of who I am. I often think as I’m making things like this is … I guess God’s the word I have for it. But if that’s the divine to create, then it’s in God’s image and therefore all interrelated.
Anything else you want to add?
I will say that I love making the under garments just as much as I love making the dresses. I love corsetry, and working with steal and leather. It’s empowering. That actually is a point I would like to make is there’s this myth that corsets were somehow something that enslaved women. That they were painful or it was part of what kept women down. I want to not dispel that myth. That is not true. There’s no historical evidence that women ever had their ribs removed. There was a large amount of Victorian Era fetish writing or Victorian porn, if you want to take it at that. That’s where a lot of these things about removed ribs or 13-inch waits came from.
In reality, you ordered a corset from a catalog by it’s actual measurement. So if you ordered a 16-inch corset, it might measure 16 inches, but when you put it on and laced it, it might give you a 20-inch waist because you wanted to have a gap in the back. A lot of these things are myths. I can tell you right now that they are not uncomfortable. My corset takes off four-five inches off my natural waist. I sing and dance, sometimes simultaneously. I couldn’t do that if I couldn’t breathe. Women did all their daily chores in them. It was their foundation garment. Without a corset, you’d be unsupported. It would have been uncomfortable.
Yeah, because they didn’t make bras back then.
Exactly! There were no bras back then. The pretty housemaid corset, which was a model that was pretty popular in England, sold tens of thousands of units. Housemaids wanted it because they were the pretty housemaid in it. And if you were a housemaid, you were doing hard physical labor. I just want to dispel the myth that corsets are uncomfortable or an oppressive garment. That is not the case. Corsets were something that made you feel as beautiful back then as a beautiful matching bra and panty set would make you feel today.
Today I’m linking up with: