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19th Century Festival Brings Victorian Fashion, Martial Arts to Park Slope

PARK SLOPE — Hang on to your hoop skirts — Park Slope is going back in time.

The Old Stone House on Fifth Avenue and Third Street will host the 19th Century Extravaganza this weekend, a festival designed to transport visitors to 1800s New York, with corseted ladies and top-hatted gentlemen in period garb and hands-on demonstrations of Victorian era pastimes.

"The idea is to create an immersive historical environment where people can learn at their own pace aspects of 19th century life in New York City," said Samuel Sobek of the New York Nineteenth Century Society, the group that organizes the event.

Visitors can participate in a variety of bygone activities, such as an outdoor drawing session where an instructor will teach 19th century art techniques and a live model will pose in a vintage costume. Period music will be performed and there will be tastings of home-brewed beer and a model flying machine contest.

A fashion show will have models outfitted in "steampunk" styles, an aesthetic movement drawing on 19th century design with a science-fiction twist, and "Lolita" outfits, a Japanese trend inspired by frilly girls dresses, Sobek said.

One of the most popular sessions last year was the demonstration of "bartitsu," the martial art used by Sherlock Holmes. Participants will have to sign a waiver if they want to take a crack at bartitsu, but Sobek said he's not expecting any injuries.

The fighting technique was designed for ladies and gentlemen to defend themselves against street crime, Sobek said.

"It's an indigenous Western martial art that uses objects the well-to-do have on hand to defend themselves, like canes and umbrellas," Sobek said.

The 19th Century Extravaganza runs from noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday April 28 at the Old Stone House on Fifth Avenue and Third Street. It's free and open to the public.