A Magical Walk Through The Woods

My last two posts were aimed at sharing photos of my black wool 3/4 circle skirt and 1950s boysenberry raglan cardigan. Those posts both included a bunch of photos, all of which were taken during a magical walk through the woods, but there were many wonderful photos in addition to those that I didn’t feel needed to be added to the garment documentation posts.

Accordingly, I’ve decided to share more in this post!

Hopefully this is a nice ‘armchair’ outing into the snowy, magical woods! Welcome to the adventure!

This snow was very early–occurring on October 30. Due to that early date, there was a beautiful mix of iconic golden bronze New England leaves still on the trees as well as on the ground, mixed with the snow.

The snow was rather sticky, as you can see in the photos, so not only was it clinging to the trunks and branches, but it also clung to the leaves. The combination of slanting sunlight filtering through the trees created an incredible glow.

The snow, only a few inches deep, created a quiet hush over the woods. It provided enticing opportunities to step off the paths, something that is less likely during other seasons, when branches are full of leaves and poison ivy might be lurking in the undergrowth.

In between photos, I donned my coat and orange vest. Safety is important when it’s hunting season in the woods!

I found it quite tempting to pause and listen to stillness, admiring the majestic height of the pine trees and the beauty of the forest.

It was fascinating to see how the wooded areas bathed in shadows retained much of the snow throughout the walk, while areas that were in more direct sunlight were quite clear of snow. Look at the contrast!

The colors were so vibrant! The mix of bronze leaves on the trees and ground, green algae on the river, boysenberry sweater, and blue sky are such a contrast to the snowy scenes that we found only a mile or so back on the wooded path.

The colors look even more vibrant in this photo. I think the green branch really brings out the green in the river and pops against the purple of the sweater.

By this point in the walk my down coat was rather too warm, combined with all my other layers. The snow felt the same way, I think, as most of it had melted, leaving bare leaves and trees.

The pine trees in this part of the forest were a different variety. I’m not an expert on tree types, but these remind me more of drooping Douglas Fir trees than the very tall pine trees.

Scattered around were also many baby pine trees, pushing their way up through the snow and leaves to get their share of sunshine!

There are always many photos that don’t make the cut, but I found some of the ones from this outing to be particularly amusing, so I thought I’d share a few outtakes, too!

This is probably the most logical one. As the day warmed up the sticky snow was falling off the trees in clumps and landing everywhere… including on my head! Easy to dust off, but amusing!

Next, I have this photo, in which I believe I’m trying to keep a branch from poking me in the head. I actually love the background… this little gully is lovely, with the floating leaves and curved shape leading out to the river. But… my arms remind me of a family joke about ‘keeping the elephants’ away, which is amusing.

Lastly, my favorite outtake. The ‘what??? confusion’ face! This one just makes me laugh.

I hope you enjoyed this beautiful, snowy armchair outing!

1950s Lady’s Raglan Cardigan In Boysenberry

I finished knitting another sweater!

This is actually my fourth sweater. The first was my 1917 Knitted Sweater of Angorina, the second hasn’t been posted to the blog, and the third was my 1920 Sweater of Determination. Each sweater has been a learning experience in some way, and this one was no different!

One thing I learned with this sweater was about multiple different ways to increase and decrease symmetrically on each side of a piece (a sleeve for example). This was a rabbit hole I went down that I think was sparked by my wondering why the stitch instructions were different for the left and right side raglan armholes.

The method of increasing or decreasing is an important one made by the pattern designer because every stitch has a different look and different types of stitches may or may not look symmetrical when knit up. Also, the increase and decrease stitches have a slant to them, so it’s important that the slants are going in the correct direction. This resource clearly outlines different increase and decrease methods.

You can see the decorative symmetry of the shaping on the armsceyes in this pattern in the photo below. I love how it looks!

I also learned how to K2Tog TBL (Knit 2 Together Through The Back Loop). I’d K2Tog before, but not through the back loop. I found this explanation of K2Tog TBL to be the most helpful.

And, I learned about picking up stitches along an already finished edge, which is something I hadn’t encountered in any of the things I’ve made so far. This technique is used for the cuffs on the new sweater. I found this information and this information super helpful in terms of figuring it out and making it look nice.

The pattern for this sweater is a PDF download from Subversive Femme on Etsy. It is the 1950s Fitted Raglan Cardigan pictured below. The pattern was easy to download and the quality was clear and easy to read.

My cardigan (the end result) generally follows the pattern image, so that’s great! There are a few differences:

1- My understanding of the instructions created a vertical pattern that doesn’t quite match the one pictured on the orange sweater. I’m not sure if I was doing something wrong or not, but I don’t mind how mine turned out.

2- The pattern image clearly shows full length sleeves, but the instructions definitely produced ¾ sleeve sleeves with weird proportions in terms of circumferences around the arms. After making one, I puzzled for a bit, then decided to take it apart and knit a new sleeve with alterations to make it longer.

Below, you can see the comparison of the sleeves: the original sleeve that follows the directions is on the left and my altered version is on the right.

3- I made up the sweater in a bust size 38″ (the largest size included in the pattern). As much as I love my sweater, it is a bit small. I’d prefer it to be an inch or two longer in length, a bit bigger in terms of torso circumference (the buttons don’t really stay closed), and definitely bigger in the size of the armsceyes (it’s a bit tight under my arms). This makes sense, since my bust measures 40″. Someday I might make another version of this sweater and adjust the pattern to have more space in the areas where I need it.

The pattern seems to have been published by a yarn company and states quite clearly that “Correct results can only be obtained by using Lee Target in ‘Motoravia’ Double Knitting Wool.” Well, I didn’t use that… I used Red Heart With Love acrylic yarn in boysenberry, because I had a bunch of it in my stash (enough, I thought or at least hoped). It was leftover from my Deauville sweater, I liked the color, and it also seemed to be a similar weight to the Lee Target wool, which Ravelry has great information on and photos of.

I figured that if the sweater was a complete disaster I wouldn’t have spent tons of money on yarn for it. In the end, I didn’t have quite enough yarn and had to order another 6oz, but luckily I found the right yarn, in the right color, on Etsy and the skeins don’t have dye lots, so I had enough to finish the project!

Being acrylic, this cardigan is quite warm. It’s great for being outside in the cold, but I’ve found that wearing it inside can sometimes make me too warm. That’s true of most acrylic sweaters I own. I can’t count on them being part of an outfit all day, because I often take them off at some point.

This sweater took about 46 hours of knitting to make, plus another 4 ½ hours of unknitting (either to take apart the sleeve that was too short or because I’d mixed up a stitch somewhere along the way and had to go back and fix it). It was made over the course of about 10 months.

For materials, I used about 18 oz/925 yds of yarn and 7 plastic buttons that I found in a coordinating shade of deep pinky/purple, after a lengthy hunt on Etsy. The total cost of the materials was about $20, plus some shipping for the buttons and extra skein of yarn.

I had a wonderful time tromping through the woods after an early snow last October to document the new sweater and the black wool ¾ circle skirt I’m wearing with it. Despite the fit being a bit small, I’m very pleased with the cardigan and have added it into my regular wardrobe rotation even outside of a photo shoot walk.

While it’s fun to make historical things that only get worn on special outings, there’s also an added bonus when things can be worn more often for everyday life!

When The Dress No Longer Fits (Mid-20th Century Edition, Part I)

Have you ever encountered closet shrinkage?

I’ve mentioned it here on the blog before, most recently in my modern wardrobe inventory post, but it is not only confined to my modern closet. Oh no, the things in my historical closet shrink, too!

In the past, I’ve shared how I updated two mid-19th century dresses to fit again, after finding that they no longer fit the way they did when they were first made, as well as how I updated two early 19th century dresses for the same reason.

I was recently inspired to finish off not just one, but two UFO ‘this doesn’t fit anymore’ projects that fall into the closet shrinkage category. I’ve decided to post about them separately, since I have a number of photos for each, so today we’ll look at my 1953 Dot Dress and next time we’ll look at my 1940s Inspired Anne Adams Dress.

I made this dress in 2013, for an adventurous day that included brunch, fall leaves, and roller skating (all followed by a Regency ball)!

I loved (and still do) the lightweight fabric, the fun dot print, and the pink, purple, and and rust colors of the dots. I wore this dress for the next few years–to a few historical/vintage events as well as in my everyday life.

This next photo is from 2016–the last time I could squeeze into the dress and actually close the zipper.

After that, I had to accept that the dress no longer fit. My shape had changed and it just wasn’t feasible. I was sad!

Fast forward to 2019, and I had the courage to decide to remake the dress, somehow, to make it fit. I got started by cutting straight down the front, stopping just short of the waistband, to see how much I needed to adapt the bodice…

It was rather a lot! I ran out of inspiration… and let the dress hang in my closet until recently.

I had thought I would just be able to add a piece to the front, somehow, and that would be enough. But when I started really looking at things again, I realized that the dress needed more than that to really do it justice. The side darts needed to be let out, the underarms need to be raised and filled in, the waist was still very tight, and there was the bust issue.

Oh, and I had minimal scraps for these alterations, partly because I’d used some of the larger ones to make ice skate soakers in 2015. (I’m not saying I shouldn’t have used my scraps to make a second project that brings me joy, but… the alterations would have been easier if I’d had wider scraps to work with!)

The front needed to have more more space created, about 3″ worth, but I had no scraps both wide enough and long enough to make a straight panel without seams. So I decided to get creative with a straight panel, adding tucks to it so I could hide seams within the tucks. I was inspired by the dotted dress Miss Hero Holliday wears in this wardrobe roundup post.

Here’s what my pieced piece looked like before pleating (lots of P’s!).

After a fair bit of complicated math (I’m pretty sure I made it more complicated than it needed to be), I was able to achieve a dress front that looks like this.

Essentially, I added princess seams. It was complicated to figure out, because I had cut straight down to figure out what was needed and I needed to add as much as 3″ at the bust while adding nothing at the waist, while actually adding in the panel that was 3″ wide from top to bottom. That means that I basically created a curve on the old center front line that was filled in with the straight pleated panel.

While being worn, it looks like this.

On the inside, I carefully bound all the raw edges in pink hug snug, just as I had when I first made the dress. However, I realized when trying on the altered dress that the pleats just opened up instead of staying put.

Oops.

This seems like it should have been an obvious problem from the beginning, but my brain missed it until I tried on the dress with the pleats in place.

So I had to figure out how to hold the pleats in place. The middle ones are held by the bits of grosgrain ribbon, while the side ones are invisibly tacked in place under the fold.

In addition to the front pleated panel, I also let out the side darts, which helped to create bust space and also raised the armhole a little bit as well. When I put the bias binding back on after doing all the other alterations I maxed out my meager seam allowance, which also raised the armhole up a bit.

You can just barely see my old stitch line on the side dart (on the top left side of the photo below). (You can compare this updated inside view to the original inside view in this post showing the original construction.)

And as you can see in both the photo above and the one below, I added a piece at the side seam, both above the waistband and in the waistband. There’s also a little crescent of added fabric on the back armhole (on the right sides of these photos), that fills in the raised underarm area.

I was very careful to re-finish the insides of the dress as nicely as I had the first time. That includes binding all the raw edges in hug snug (sometimes piecing in little pieces to do so) as well as adding pieces of bias to finish the new, wider neckline.

I decided to put in the zipper by hand this time around, as my first attempt on this dress with a machine sewn lapped zipper was a bit clunky where it went over the waistband.

All of these steps definitely added a bit of time to the alterations, but it makes me happy to still have lovely finished insides even after altering the dress.

The underarm area looks like this on the outside now. The busy print really helps to hide all my piecing seams! You can just make out some old stitch lines (like the one to the left of the zipper), but they’re not noticeable when the dress is being worn, thankfully.

I’m so pleased that I can wear this dress again! It actually fits better now than it did the first time, imagine that!

I wouldn’t have been able to make these alterations happen if I hadn’t kept my scraps!

I’m so grateful to all those seamstresses from the past few hundred years who have shown me that piecing is ok and making do/repairing/altering to keep getting wear out of clothes is ok, too! It’s a wonderful benefit of making my own clothes and knowing how to sew.

Welcome back, dotty dress!

1950s Queen Of Hearts

At the same sale that I purchased the base of my 1950s super-petticoat and the hat that I refashioned into a 1930s style I also purchased a rather sad 1980s style evening dress. I liked the brocade fabric and had an idea that I could remake the dress into a cocktail length 1950s style dress by removing the sleeves, changing the neckline, and shortening the hem.

I also had this dress in mind. I love the massive decorative butt bow and this remade dress seemed like a great opportunity to put the idea to use. The red had to wrap around the waist as well as making the bow, in order to cover up the original gold waistband, but I had a remnant of cherry silk in my stash that was nicely complimentary in terms of color and just the right size for the job!

From the front I feel generally ok about the dress, but from the back, I love it! Plus, that’s two things checked off the to-do list: I remade the 1980s dress into a wearable 1950s style and I put the butt bow inspiration into action. Plus the fact that I used up a fabric from the stash, which is a bonus!

But why the Queen of Hearts? I decided this was a dress I wanted to wear to an Alice In Wonderland themed event that I recently attended so I had to fit the dress into the theme. I decided on the idea of an elegant 1950s historical nod to Queen Elizabeth in The Crown (which I might have been watching right around the time I was looking for inspiration…). Aloof queen looks are totally my jam, so that works really well.

As long as I was going with a queen look, I decided that a royal order sash would be an easy way to say royalty and hearts all at the same time while also being easy to remove from the dress itself. I did some royal order sash research and decided I liked a sash with a narrow border of a contrasting color. Of course, mine needed to be made in Queen of Hearts colors: black, red, and gold seemed perfect. I pinned heart appliqués behind my shoulder brooch and on the bow to play up the Queen of Hearts theme.

It was fun to accessorize the dress and sash with long gloves, red drop earrings, a tiara, and my silver American Duchess Seaburys (the gold brocade fabric that makes up the back of the shoes complimented the gold brocade dress very nicely!). I think I like the butt bow with the sash even better than the butt bow by itself!

To make the sash, I googled ‘royal order sash’ and looked at lots of images to decide on a design. Mine is made of two rectangles, with an angled shoulder seam and tucks behind the bow loops for shaping. It’s made of red polyester with woven-in tiny black stripes and edged with sheer gold ribbon. For more detailed sash making information, Gina posted very detailed tutorial for making royal sashes that would probably be quite useful if you’re thinking of making one for yourself.

I’ll leave you with this silly shot of the Queen of Hearts with a flamingo. Croquet, anyone?

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1950s Super-Petticoat

This is a follow-up to my previous post, in which I shared more about this dress and the masquerade event I wore it to last year. While that post was about the dress itself, this one is about the petticoat that I wore under the dress.

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In order to help my dress achieve such a perfect 1950s silhouette, I put together a super-petticoat. It started with an organza petticoat from eBay, which I had worn before but been disappointed in. It just wasn’t big enough! Also, the elastic waistband was a bit tight for comfort.

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Layers of the super-petti: tulle, organza, and lining.

To upgrade the petticoat, I took off the waistband, replacing it with a yoke of cotton (inspired by Lily, who has done similar things to her petticoats) finished at the top with bias tape. I cut off the tulle ruffles from a full length bridal-type petticoat that I’d purchased for $5 due to its sad condition (a few rips in the tulle, a broken zipper–easily cut off and discarded) and attached those to the yoke over the organza.

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The top of the yoke with tulle attached.

And ta da! Super-petticoat!

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The finished super-petti!

This is the same petticoat I wore to the Tiki Party I posted about last year as well. It’s funny how the shape and weight of the skirt over the petticoat produces different silhouettes: a cupcake shape with the bubble dot skirt on top at the Tiki Party and a more angled silhouette with this heavier 1950s dress. But of course the super fluffy-ness of the petticoat is what allows the 1950s dress to maintain a nice shape even with the heavier black dress on top of it. I’m very pleased!

Masquerade! Paper Faces On Parade…

Masquerade!
Hide your face so the world will never find you!
Masquerade!
Every face a different shade…
Masquerade!
Look around there’s another mask behind you!

I’ve always wanted to attend a masquerade. This wasn’t quite the masquerade of The Phantom Of The Opera, not having sweeping orchestral music and head-to-toe colorful costumes, but it was nonetheless fun and a bit surreal in the masks-plus-fabulous-location-ness (I think a bit of a surreal experience is what makes a masquerade a unique experience, so this is entirely a positive description here).

Digressions about masquerades aside, back in November of last year I had the good fortune to attend such an event myself. The theme was 1960s, but I had recently acquired a 1950s dress that fit me so perfectly that it just HAD to be worn, so I opted to be a bit old fashioned for the theme of the party.

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The event was held in a very nice downtown hotel. We had a series of rooms including the ballroom, its foyer, and a parlor-type space far enough away from the music to easily chat and lounge. It was quite elegant feeling!

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Usually I don’t wear vintage or historical garments. I’d prefer to use them for study and don’t want to damage them. But I made an exception in this case and did my best to be gentle with the dress. I carefully mended it before wearing and then again after, as the delicate lace was pulling apart at the seams under the arms when I received the dress as well as after wearing it. My second version of the mend was to put gussets under the arms, using a tiny bit of leftover fabric I had from shortening the sleeves (I wanted to do this during the pre-wearing mend, but ran out of time). I think the sleeves were full length on the original owner, but they came down to an awkward mid-forearm length on me, so I shortened them to be a nice 3/4 length. I know! It was a hard decision to make, changing the dress, but I think it is in keeping with the period the dress is from and it allowed me to better fix the underarm problem, so I’ve come to terms with the choice.

Here’s a slightly clearer view of the bodice. The lace is backed by nude net and there is a silk faille band around the waist. The entire skirt is faille with an overlay of the same lace and horsehair around the hem for stiffening.

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For my hair, I decided it was go big or go home, so I used my largest bun form (part of the base of my Versailles hairstyle) to create a giant poof-bun-thing on top of my head that’s a nod to the 1960s beehive. I think it was balanced out well by the feathers on my mask. Plus, in general I’m pretty good at making big hair work.

I put the mask on a stick so that it wouldn’t irritate my face and so that something like an elastic wouldn’t squash my huge hair. A bonus is that I could peek out from behind it, as in this picture.

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With this ensemble, I wore the same sparkly earrings I wore to Versailles and my silver American Duchess Seaburys with silver rhinestone shoe clips to make the ensemble even more bling-y!

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The event included food and dancing and chatting. I had a great time that was even better than I was expecting, though I think that was due to being tired after a long week of work and not really sure if the event would be a hit or not.

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My friends and I did lots of silly 1960s dances–the monkey, the swim, etc. (Are these really 1960s? I don’t know for sure, but in my mind they are…) These pictures of my dancing in the lobby are some of my favorite, partly because swishing around in my 1950s dress was so much fun!

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Tiki Bubble Dots

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On a recent Saturday evening, I was to be found with the usual suspects at a local tiki themed restaurant. We were wearing, of course, 1950s and 1960s tiki-party themed clothing. What else would you wear, really?

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I took the outing as a sign that I needed to complete a revamped petticoat. There will be more on that later, as I haven’t taken pictures yet and I’ll be wearing it again soon. I will say simply that I am quite pleased with the shape I achieved!

The revamped petticoat was needed to puff out my Bubble Dot Skirt (which I’d made and posted about this summer) into a nicely full 1950s shape. I wore it with a 1950s fifties inspired cardigan, espadrilles, a super hair bun, some tropical flowers, and a down coat (not pictured, obviously) to stay warm outside!

We had lots of fun. The restaurant is intense in its decor. We were seated in a ship, including furled sails and rigging. There were fountains and volcanoes and thatched roofs and all sorts of other interesting things.

And it was a great excuse to wear a full petticoat with my Bubble Dot skirt! Now I’m thinking I need a less full one to wear with it on normal days. Something to make it A-line but not be obtrusively large and obvious. (This desire is also sparked by watching The Crown. Some of the skirts are so understated but perfectly A-line!) Do you have any ideas?

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Summer Dots

In June, I went to a picnic in the Boston Public Garden. As it was an open era event, I decided to wear my 1953 dot dress because it is easy and cool to wear in the summer heat.

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I took a long time styling my hair to look like this image from 1954. It’s quite a feat to tame the frizz and there was a moment of woe and frustration, but I didn’t have time to start again, so I continued on and was happy with the end result despite the angst in the middle of the process. Looking effortless is so much work!

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Charm Magazine, 1954

Picnicking! I plopped down to eat and then didn’t move much until picture time.

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I love how the pictures turned out! I purchased a new parasol to use this summer for 1920s events, but it matched this dress very nicely so I brought it along to the picnic. Raspberry is one of my favorite colors.

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There was a crowd of people watching the picnic most of the day, but we managed to get a lot of pictures without them. Yay! I don’t mind being gawked at (I’m rather used to it actually) but I do usually like images that don’t have modern dressed people in the background better.

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The palms remind me of Florida, and this picture’s story in my head is that I’m on vacation there in the 1950s.

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I may look composed in these pictures, but when I run out of pre-thought pose ideas chaos ensures. I often start waving my arms around wildly, talking (producing odd faces when captured as a picture), and flinging my legs around. Here’s an example. There are a a range of caption ideas that pop into my head here: ‘hi-ya!’ and ‘at the bat’ most often.

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I hope you’re enjoying your summer, too! It’s so nice that the days are long and there are lovely days for sitting in the park or other outdoor activities!

1950 Baroness Christmas Dress!

Success! I not only finished my 1950 Baroness Christmas dress the weekend after Thanksgiving, but we also managed to line up our schedules and go see The Boston Ballet’s Nutcracker at the beautiful Boston Opera House, where we took pictures! There were brass bands playing outside and carolers in silver down coats on our walk to the theatre. It was all very festive. And, of course, there was The Nutcracker with a live orchestra.

As you might be expecting, I wore my Christmas dress and took pictures for Edelweiss Patterns’ Virtual Christmas Dress Party. The original inspiration image is in this post. The dress is made from rayon and lined with polyester. I made an attempt to do a 50s stylized up-do, too, though I don’t have any close up head shots… but without further ado, here it is:

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There were a few changes from the original, like adding a slit behind the front drape for ease of movement, adding a self fabric belt over the waist seam, and not quite making the pleats across the front deep enough to read once the bow was attached. I’m quite pleased, however, and love how festive the dress is! (And it’s quite formal, with that low back…)

Our group was very well balanced in having two greens and two reds, and three hats, and four  gloves (two pairs, you know)… (It sounds like One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish or The Twelve Days of Christmas, doesn’t it?)

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3 hats!
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5 of us in 1950s inspired Christmas outfits!
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Merry Christmas!

 

Virtual Christmas Dress Party

Katrina, of the blog Edelweiss Patterns, has put together a Christmas Dress Blog Party. The short version is that anyone who wants to make a holiday dress and participate can share pictures and links on Katrina’s blog right before Christmas at the online party. Here’s the link to the full description.

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I have to say that I’m not a make-a-dress-every-holiday sort of person. I’m also not a wear-a-fancy-dress-for-Christmas-dinner kind of person. I don’t go to many holiday parties except historically clothed ones and for Christmas dinner I wear something nice, but then soon change into comfy clothes for lounging in front of the fire and playing board games (mmm, favorite holiday pastimes!).

This year, however, I’ve already started a dress that I’d been intending to wear to a Christmas party, which works out wonderfully! Unfortunately, the party I’d been planning to attend changed locations, making it impossible for me and my friends to be there, so we’re trying to find a date to do our own holiday-themed outing instead (if it works out there will definitely be pictures!). Regardless, my dress is well on its way to completion–hopefully I can finish it off over this Thanksgiving weekend–and I will get pictures somewhere even if our holiday outing doesn’t work out. It will be perfect for the Christmas Dress Blog Party!

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Here’s my inspiration: Vogue #588 from 1950, in the COPA at URI. (Click through to COPA to see an image of the pattern pieces.)

My dress is red sheer rayon with a slight textured stripe. I call it the Baroness dress because it reminds me of a mashup of the style of dresses worn by the Baroness in The Sound of Music (see below), despite the fact that the inspiration pattern is a bit later than the movie. It’s a fun coincidence, because Katrina particularly loves The Sound of Music, as you might guess by the title of her blog and pattern line, but I promise, it was the Baroness dress in my head long before Katrina posted about the virtual dress party!

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The Baroness by the lake. Hip bow inspiration. And red.
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The Baroness in an evening gown. Evening dress inspiration in general.

And, happy Thanksgiving!