Halloween may be a long way behind us, but there are a few upcoming occasions that people are dressing to the nines for.
With the Victorian Streetwalk in Saratoga Springs and the Victorian Stroll in Troy, people will be dressing in styles reminiscent of the 1800s and early 1900s.
“A lot of people are going to go in full costume,” said, Helen Porter head draper and designer at The Costumer. While some opt for a simpler hat and cape combo, others look to transform themselves from head to toe.
Photos from a past Victorian Streetwalk in Saratoga Springs.
This is especially true for the Troy Victorian Stroll, which takes place on Sunday, said Porter.
“We can do anything from a chimney sweep to a rich person going out to dinner,” Porter said.
Indeed, one can easily get lost in the store’s voluminous costume collection. Nearly every year, right around this time, customers come in to rent some of the rich jewel-toned evening dresses or a cutaway jacket with velvet buttons and a plaid tie.
During the Victorian era, women wore corsets and hoop skirts and crinoline cages. But that’s not usually what Costumer customers are looking for.
“Most of our customers are [looking] for comfort,” Porter said,“We try to get the silhouette as close as we can and get the [Victorian] flavor without going too extreme.”
The main concern for many people is that they’re going to overheat in the costume.
“We’re not used to dressing like they did. We wear what they would have considered underwear. We don’t get dressed in the morning with bloomers and four petticoats, a corset and then a dress and a coat,” Porter said.
Instead, the Costumer focuses on costumes with manageable bustles and intricately draping.
“Victorian dress [had] a lot of bustling and swagging. They took volumes and volumes of fabric and pinned and pleated it up and made all these interesting designs with it,” Porter said.
One of their popular dresses available to rent this year is a rich blue velvet with swag details on the sides and gold-colored trim.
As far as suits and ties go, people are opting for a cutaway jacket, which is reminiscent of the earlier Victorian era, or a frock coat, which almost resembles a modern-day overcoat. A deep red, almost oxblood colored cutaway jacket with velvet buttons is a favorite among the designers there. Porter recommends adding in a bit of plaid to the Victorian looks, both because plaid was popular at the time and because it can make any look pop.
When customers rent a costume, which costs between $50-70, it comes with Victorian-era accessories. These tend to be more extensive than our modern-day accessories; think pocket watches, jewelry, gloves, hats, bonnets, drawstring bags and more. At the Costumer’s Central Avenue location, the accessories selection is extensive, with a room dedicated to their collection of top hats, bonnets, derbies, bowlers, etc. Though the Schenectady location focuses on rentals rather than accessories, there are still key Victorian accessories to choose from.
The Costumer has been supplying these sorts of costumes for years said Porter and they’ve seen an increased interest in steampunk styles, which share elements of the costumes seen during the Streetwalk and Stroll.
“We’re seeing a huge increase in people doing the steampunk inspired events,” said owner Bonnie Johnsen, “It’s getting very popular.”
Porter and Johnsen have noticed that the people who are interested in steampunk are also often interested in getting dressed up for Victorian-era events, like the one in Troy on Sunday.
From 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, people will be roaming the streets of downtown Troy with capes, top hats, and plenty of bustles to celebrate the 36th Victorian Stroll.
There are over 100 performances scheduled across the city and lots of shops to pop into. Organized by the Rensselaer County Regional Chamber of Commerce, the event draws in thousands.
Prior to that, the Victorian Streetwalk is scheduled to take over Saratoga Springs. Starting around 5 p.m. on Thursday, Broadway will be shut down and the cars will be replaced with people shopping, singing, and greeting Santa and Mrs. Claus, who set the tone with their own Victorian attire.
In its 32nd year, the Streetwalk remains a holiday tradition in Saratoga Springs.
“It’s a magical night,” said Tonya Pellegrini. As the director of marketing and promotions for the Saratoga Springs Downtown Business Association, she's helped to organize the Streetwalk for the past few years.
On average, it draws around 15,000 people, some of whom follow suit with Santa and don their own Victorian garb.
“A lot of our performers dress up and a lot of parents dress their children up,” Pellegrini said.
Performers like those in The National Museum of Dance School of the Arts are often dressed up and are out and about in the crowd. There’s also plenty of caroling to be had and music from the CBA Marching Band, the Burnt Hills Oratorio Society, the Flying Fingers Fiddlers, and others.
Victorian Santa and Mrs. Claus will also be greeting people, after their arrival via carriage ride.
“His cottage is adorable and right in the center of town,” Pellegrini said.
The evening also includes a tree lighting ceremony with Mayor Meg Kelly, starting around 5:30 p.m.
The Victorian Streetwalk, which runs in conjunction with the Festival of Trees at the Saratoga Springs City Center, is free to attend. Because Broadway will be shut down, there are satellite parking areas, which CDTA buses will be shuttling attendees to and from throughout the evening. For more information on parking and the entertainment schedule, visit saratogaspringsdowntown.com.