One of the things I love about my Facebook page All Things Jane Austen is that I meet people from all over the world without leaving my home. This time I met Ashley Robbins. An American Janeite from Florida who loves to dress up and dance ECD. She also hopes to meet Janeites in… South Korea!
Here is her story:
Tell us a bit about you!
My name is Ashley Elizabeth Robbins and I have been an avid reader since I started reading at 4 years of age. At eight years old I was introduced to British Classical literature, Jane Eyre, Great Expectations, and Pride & Prejudice to start with. They were gifted to me as a birthday present (they were the thickest books I had ever read) and after consuming them I continued to be obsessed with literature. Goodbye Nancy Drew! Growing up I was always buried in a book. I would be depressed for weeks suffering with Tess of D’Uberville or sailing over the seas on an adventure. Reading was a sense of escape for me. Though my vocabulary was vast I was an introvert with mostly fictional friends also I suffered from social anxiety being around others made me extremely anxious and nervous. I was home-schooled and kept to myself mostly until I became enrolled in college during my high school years. I ended up surrounding myself with like minded individuals by creating a college book club which allowed me to come out of my shell and encouraged me to share my love of literature and create friendships.
Do you love dressing up because of Jane or the Regency period?
I do so love dressing up in Regency attire due to my love of Jane Austen! She is my favorite author! Actually, I first started dressing up in period attire every week while I attended English Country dance lessons. No one did this and it wasn’t required or expected, but my dance partners loved it and encouraged me. I even started making/ designing my own outfits it was a gateway that introduced me to the cosplay scene! I started to dress up like my favorite fictional characters from novels, to comic books, then to Movie & TV show characters to even video game characters and to eventually creating my own characters and personas within the steampunk community. I needed places to wear my outfits and wasn’t finding many events to wear them to. Most were to conventions which I couldn’t always afford to travel to, so I started locally just cos-playing to movie theaters. I’ve hosted tea parties of all kinds including the period from the 1920-1950’s. A fond memory is gathering a group to dress up to the premier of Pride & Prejudice and Zombies. The theater actually allowed me to bring my sword prop, and we had such fun posing and acting in character.
What’s your favorite novel?
My favorite novel is Pride & Prejudice. I am simply in love with all of Austen’s works but that one has a special place in my heart! I am a helpless romantic! I have so many other favorites as well, such as Jane Eyre, and The Scarlet Pimpernell, and also Anne Of Green Gables they are at the very top of my list. Fitzwilliam Darcy for sure is my first fictional crush! Sir Percy Blakeney follows as a close second though!
How did you fall in love with English Country Dance?
I don’t remember exactly how I discovered English Country Dancing, but in 2012 while residing in Florida I found a local group that met every week to learn English Country Dance and decided to join them regularly(I needed no encouragement even though I was the youngest member I loved every minute of it! It brought memories of my favorite fictional characters to life and I imagined myself dancing as they would have). I had been dancing only 6 months before getting invited to attend my first Ball. I haven’t regretted it since!
Do your friends (or anyone) criticize your hobby or think you’re crazy for dressing up?
For the most part I rarely get criticized. Comments have been made that “dress up is for children”, or “Are you really going to dress like that in public?” I have gotten weird looks from time to time but mostly curious ones. My friends however are all mostly involved in my hobby. Everyone mostly compliments me on my attire asks me for photos or inquires how they can join in on the fun. Hence my group of friends grew rather quickly! If your friends have a problem with you surround yourself with those that encourage you to do what you love! I do know that I enjoy it immensely! I have been dancing for almost 8 years but after moving to South Korea 2 years ago I didn’t think I would be any good since I haven’t been able to continue dancing there. Having visited Florida not too long ago I surprised myself by remembering all the calls and dances and it was like I had never left! My close dance caller friend/instructor actually asked me to start a dance group in South Korea because she thinks I’m a great dancer, and I think I will just do that since I miss it terribly.
What does Jane Austen mean to you?
I feel like Jane Austen was there for me to escape into a realm when I was younger and now as an adult she has shaped my life into an adventure and it has been an amazing experience meeting the people that have influenced my life greatly. She allowed me to find the confidence to bridge a sort of connection with others and I have had the privilege of befriending and making lasting memories all over the world all because I was able to share my love of her works. I am currently an extrovert, an event planner, traveling the world living in South Korea taking everyday as an adventure just like Jane says “If adventure will not befall a young lady in her own village, she must seek them abroad”.
If you would like to write to Ashley send her an email: firstname.lastname@example.org
That’s all for now. If you have a good story to tell us about how Jane Austen changed your life and would like to share it here just send me a message on my Facebook page facebook.com/allthingsjaneausten or a DM on Instagram @allthingsja_2012
Rita L. Watts