A 19th Century Winter Wonderland Adventure

Friends and I have been talking about going away for a historical winter outing for years to a particular establishment remembered from childhood outings. Nestlenook Farm, in Jackson, New Hampshire, boasts a variety of winter activities all in one place! There are sleigh rides (with real horses and actual runners, if there is enough snow!), a three acre skating pond, and snowshoeing trails.

I grew up in a different part of the country, so I hadn’t ever been Nestlenook Farm, but I have fond memories of going into the mountains with my family and best childhood friend to have winter adventures. My memories are of a man called Happy Jack who ran a small business driving draft horses pulling real sleighs through the woods to a hill that was perfect for snow tubing. He’d drop you off for the day, allow the kids to tire themselves out tubing, sledding, and hanging out by the fire pits, and then he’d return to take you back through the woods. It was very exciting!

This past winter I was able to experience all of this fun, but in 19th century clothes! We were worried there wouldn’t be snow. But not only was there snow on the ground, we also had a magical day of snow lightly falling while we took part in the various activities! We could not have asked for more picturesque weather!

We bundled up in our various 19th century (and hidden modern) warm layers, outerwear, accessories, and blankets for our sleigh ride. The sleigh trail circles the ice skating pond and there’s a lovely lookout where the sleigh drivers will pause to take a photo. Ours kindly took many photos, anticipating that we might accidentally make silly faces in some of them.

Now that’s a real smile! It was difficult not to smile, with good company, an obliging sleigh driver, the sound of the horses’ bells jingling, and snow lightly falling!

I opted to wear my American Duchess carriage boots. How could I not? A sleigh is just a carriage with runners, right? Photo documentation of both the boots and the sleigh on actual runners was essential.

In addition to shoes, the rest of my outfit for the day consisted of modern ski base layers, my 1880s yellow corset and 1903 super silk petticoat, 1895 ice skating ensemble, matching faux fur hat and muff set (made for 1917 but with the ability to be used for lots of periods), and my 1855 wool cape because the other layers weren’t quite enough to be warm in the sleigh.

Following the sleigh ride, we went ice skating!

I’ve done a middling amount of outdoor ice skating since moving to the Northeast, but I can say with certainty that I’ve never been ice skating with accumulated snow on the ice. I wasn’t sure if it would be difficult to skate through, so I had to try it! It’s not bad, actually, if it’s only a few inches deep. (When I tried to skate through drifts that were more than about 6″ high I found the dramatic decrease in my momentum to be startling as it threw off my balance. But it was still fun to go flying through drifts!)

A few inches of snow on the ice sort of helps stabilize you (unless it obscures obstacles and trips you up!). That’s what happened to me here. There was uneven ice that caused me to do a super plop as my feet went right out from underneath me. This was the aftermath, as I caught my breath before getting up again.

There weren’t all that many people skating, so it was easy to find areas for nice photos. Skating made me warm enough that I didn’t mind taking off the cape for some ice-skating-outfit-only photos. How could I not, when this outfit was made just for this?

It may not be winter anymore (yay, spring is here!), but it’s fun to revisit this exciting adventure by including it here on the blog. Thanks for enjoying it with me!

An Outing At The Lippitt House Museum

I’m quite slow in posting about this, but better late than never, right?

In 2019, a friend and I had the opportunity to visit the Lippitt House Museum in Providence, RI  in historical clothing. The historic house, completed in 1865, is the former home of Rhode Island Governor Henry Lippitt and his family. (You can learn more about the house and the family here, on the Preserve Rhode Island website.)

Neither of us had been to this particular location before, so it was all new and beautiful! We were given a tour of the house by knowledgable docents who were tickled to see us in our historical clothes and kindly let us take photos of ourselves in the spaces.

This incredible house boasts marvelous details, from the advanced heating and plumbing systems to the intricate wood floor patterns, painted ceilings, and jaw dropping wallpaper. There are so many bits to see and admire!

The exterior of the house and the garden area boast their own lovely views.

If you’re ever in Rhode Island and haven’t had the chance to visit, I highly suggest it! Tours in 2022 open in May.

If you’re not in the area, you can check out a mini virtual tour of the house on the website, here, and perhaps you’ll be inspired to visit or donate to a historic house in your own local area.

1837 Blue Cotton Print Dress #1

I was on a bit of a 1830s tear back in 2020, when I made my 1834 yellow print dress followed up with a coordinating 1838 yellow print bodice and 1836 chemisette. But in fact there was even more than that, because I also made an 1835-1840 (let’s just call is 1837) blue cotton print dress for friend at the same time!

You can spot this dress in the photos from my 1830s Woods Walk blog post from 2021. The fabric for was a bargain at the the local discount fabric shop–only $3 per yard! It’s not technically a reproduction historical print, but the colors, motifs, and details (such as little dots for texture in the design) have the right look to me.

In terms of a pattern, I used my 1834 yellow print bodice as a starting point for this new blue dress, so the two bodices are very similar aside from size. The skirt of the blue dress is made in exactly the same way as the yellow dress (I blogged about that construction process in detail here).

The big different is the sleeves!

After trying a few silly sleeve shapes, we settled on giant elbow height puffs that are set off at the top and bottom with pleats and feature a bit of embroidery and corded bands to hold the pleats in place.

Here’s a view of the pleats and corded bands at the top of the sleeve. This dress has similar pleats.

And here are the pleats at the sleeve cuffs. These are held in place with a subtle bit of embroidery. This extant dress has a similar treatment, as does this one (and it has a matching pelerine!).

The sleeve puffs are supported by separate interior puffs that tie in. I used the method outlined in my 1830s Sleeve Puff Tutorial to make them.

In addition to the base dress, we decided to go all in on the 1830s aesthetic and create a matching fabric pelerine for this ensemble.

I looked at images of pelerines to determine what the shape and edges should be. We decided on a simple but flattering shape (as much as a matching fabric piece can be!) without extra difficulty in the form of scalloped or dagged edges, ruffles, etc. This is the finished shape we decided on.

Cording helps to define the edge and a similarly colored grey/blue cotton lining finishes off all of the raw edges. This was great, as the pelerine could be almost entirely made by machine!

On our woods walk, my usual photographer friend (who blogs at Plaid Petticoats) enjoyed taking a few photos with her Petzval camera lens, which creates the swirled background in the next two photos (you can read more about the Petzval lens in this Plaid Petticoats blog post). I can’t decide whether I like the color or black and white version better, so I’m including both!

So why is the title of this post include the #1? Well… because I enjoyed the effect of the fabric so much that I purchased additional yardage for myself and started making an additional dress for myself, too! What an excellent excuse to try out further 1830s sleeve variations!

Blue dress #2 has been cut out for quite awhile (a year, I think?). However, I’ve been busy and other things have been a priority, so the dress is 0% done in terms of being assembled. Someday…!

 

1838 Yellow Bodice Construction Details (HSM #4)

Last year, I made a yellow cotton print 1834 dress (there are tons of details about it in this past post). The yardage leftover after that project wasn’t enough for another full dress, but it was enough for another bodice, and I’d been caught up in 1830s fever!

There are so many ridiculous sleeves to explore! Accordingly, I decided to make a second 1830s bodice with different sleeves. I finished the new 1838 bodice earlier this year and over the summer I was able to wear it with my recently finished chemisette.

The 1834 dress was made in two parts, a skirt and separate bodice, so that it was easy to make a second bodice and save yardage on the skirt.

Construction Overview

First, the construction details of the new 1838 bodice, starting with the HSM facts, because this bodice fits Challenge #4:

The Costumer’s New LookGive an old costume a new look, either by creating a new accessory or piece which expands or changes the aesthetic and use of an outfit, re-fashioning something into a costume item, or re-making an old costume.

Fabric/Materials:Approximately 2.5 yds reproduction print cotton and 1 yd of muslin.

Pattern: The pattern for this bodice is based on patterns contained in Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion 1 and Norah Waugh’s The Cut of Women’s Clothes, as well as sleeve information fromThe Workwoman’s Guide.

Year: 1838.

Notions: 2 ½ yds narrow cotton yarn for cording, about 10 hooks and loops, and thread..

How historically accurate is it?: 90%. The pattern, construction methods, and fabric are all quite good. Inside seams are sewn by machine.

Hours to complete: 22.

First worn: August 2021.

Total cost: Approximately $15.

Construction Details

The back of this bodice is made just like the 1834 bodice, with piping in the side back seams. The armsceyes and neck are also finished with piping.

The main difference in the bodice (aside from the sleeves, which we’ll get to shortly) is the front, which has a deep V shape.

I looked at extant garments to see how this style was constructed. There are a collection of pertinent ones on my Pinterest board for this sewing project. The main inspiration for my observations was this garment, featured on All The Pretty Dresses blog (and included on my Pinterest board).

What I saw is that instead of being flatlined (as with the yellow and muslin layers of the back pieces), the lining was stitched separately from the gathered front panels. The muslin provides a fitted shape for the yellow exterior layer. There is a photo of the inside of the bodice of the extant bodice that shows this very clearly.

For my dress, the piping that finishes the back neck continues around the muslin to finish the edge. The yellow exterior pieces of the V edges (which are cut on the straight of grain) are simply pressed under twice.

Here is a closeup of the armhole of my bodice from the inside. The muslin front edge and exterior yellow layer are on the right of the photo. You can also see the ties that hold the sleeve puffs in place.

In addition to those details, the photo below also shows the hooks that are used to attach this bodice to the skirt.

Ok, but the sleeves are the star of the show here, so let’s discuss them! Being from 1838, they still use a lot of fabric (a yard each), but the fullness is pleated to force the puff down to the elbow level.

Here’s a closeup of the completed sleeve. The pleats are held in place by two bands of double piping that are hand sewn in place.
To make the double piping I machine sewed the cord into one side of my bias and hand sewed it into the other, then pressed the bias in half and attached it through all the layers. In my sample below I didn’t bother to put the machine stitching on the under side, but on the dress the machine stitching is not visible.

Before the piping was added, the pleats were machine basted in place. My machine basting wasn’t exactly where the piping ended up, so I removed the basting anywhere it showed.

Backing up some more in the process, below is one of the sleeves with the pleats pinned in place. I did this while the sleeves were flat, before I sewed up the inseams.

There’s no pattern for the pleats… it was just a matter of knowing what dimensions I wanted to end up with for my top edge and bicep and then eyeballing it. The pleats vary in depth on the inside, even though the outside is pretty even at ¼”. Part of this is due to the fact that the pleats have to angle in order to create an armsceye that keeps a curve up in the middle. Figuring it out is a great mind puzzle!

Below is the sleve before being pleated, etc. Between being over a yard high and also being cut on the bias you can see why each sleeve takes a yard of fabric!

After pleating and sewing the inseam the sleeves had this shape (below is my mockup sleeve). I really wanted an exaggerated elbow puff, so this isn’t quite the shape I wanted to end up with. To get the shape I wanted, I took horizontal tucks about halfway down the sleeve. This keeps the forearm relatively unwrinkled while creating lots of elbow puff. The tucks are lost in the pattern of the finished dress.

Could I have altered my pattern to not have to take tucks? Sure! I’d probably change the curve of the sleeve inseam to do that. But… I’d already cut my pieces. And adapting sleeve shapes to adjust for changes in styles seemed very appropriate and in the spirit of what 1830s ladies might have done.

So for a bit more sleeve information… These sleeves have an opening at the cuff to allow for the tight fit of the forearm. The openings are finished with self fabric facings and then the hem is turned up.

Here’s what that looks like on the inside.

And that’s it for construction!

Here’s a bonus photo of the dress with a quince tree. I’ve heard of quinces but never encountered them before.

They sort of look like pears!

I’m very pleased with this cross front bodice and the sleeves that go with them. I appreciate their minute detail even though they were definitely the most time consuming part of this bodice!

An 1836 Chemisette (HSM #3)

The third challenge for the Historical Sew Monthly 2021 is ‘small is beautiful’. Little things can make a big difference to the finished look.  Make something small but perfect. My entry for this challenge is an 1830s chemisette to fill in the neckline of my 1838 bodice (the sister of the 1834 dress I posted details about last year).

Just the facts:

Fabric/Materials: Approximately ½ yd of silky cotton voile from Dharma Trading.

Pattern: Adapted from Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion 1, with adjustments for fit and style.

Year: 1836.

Notions: 1 ½ yds ¼” white cotton twill tape, 1 metal hook, 1 cameo button and thread.

How historically accurate is it?: 90%. The pattern, construction methods, and fabric are all quite good. It is entirely hand sewn. The most modern element is the plastic cameo button.

Hours to complete: 19 ¾.

First worn: August 2021.

Total cost: Approximately $5 for the fabric/shipping (though it is leftover from another project), $1 for the twill tape, and $1 for the button = approximately $7.

The chemisette pattern shape was based on this fashion plate from 1836.

Without a body in it, the chemisette looks like this. It is entirely hand sewn, with small rolled hems and drawstring channels on the bottom edges.

The shoulder seams are sewn with French seams to encase the raw edges. The collar is attached with a flat felled seam for the same reason.

The gathered ruffle on the edge is hemmed on all sides with a tiny rolled hem and then whip gathered to the hemmed collar edge. I haven’t tried whip gathers before and this seemed like it would be a fun project to try them out.

On the underside of the ruffle the whip stitches are more visible.

The inspiration fashion plate doesn’t show the back of the chemisette, so I had to decide on what I wanted. After looking at extant collars and chemisettes, I settled on a rounded point that extends just under halfway down the back.

On a body, it looks like this.

The final touch is a hook and thread loop to close the collar, with the decorative cameo button on top. The plastic is obviously not correct for the 1830s, but it does have the benefit of being lightweight! I was worried that if I used a metal brooch (not that I have one, but if I did…) it would pull the collar down or out.

And that’s it! There was no rushing with this project. I took my time and enjoyed the hours of tiny hems and whip stitching.

An 1890s Outing To Save A Munbax

It’s been awfully quiet here on the blog for awhile. Life has been busy, but the real reason for my lack of posts is that I upgraded my computer. That’s a good thing overall, but it has created multiple issues with storing/moving/accessing my photos as well as needing a new program to edit/watermark/organize them and I’ve only recently found a solution that fits my workflow and needs.

I’ve been sitting on these photos from an event in 2018, thinking that they would be fun to share, but never actually getting to it. But now is the time!  Save The Munbax was a live, interactive game created by Green Door Labs that created a magical, wizarding world set in the 1890s. As guests, we solved puzzles, interacted with magical plants and potions in classes, and followed different trails to attempt to save the rare Northern Crested Dimmoth Munbax from extinction. You can read more about Save The Munbax here.

Since this fantastic world was set in the 1890s, I decided to give my 1899 Elusive Blue Gown a night out of the closet. With no dancing involved it was a great opportunity to wear the trained skirt!

I wanted to make my 1890s outfit a bit more magical and quirky, so I pulled a few accessories together that aren’t my usual for an 1890s dress. For one thing, I wore my subtle-Harry-Potter time-turner necklace, picked up on my trip to trip the Wizarding World Of Harry Potter at Universal Studios in 2018.

I also wore my 1811 Turban Fillet instead of my usual feathers and sparkly hair accessories. Despite not being made to match my 1899 dress, it is actually made from the same fabric since I have an 1811 evening gown made from this elusive blue fabric.


The final bit of quirk was my shoes. I thought silly shoes would be fun, so I wore my 1814 Vernet shoes. The turned up toes and fur weren’t really visible, but I enjoyed knowing that they were there.

I attended this event with Plaid Petticoats, who was also dressed up in her 1890s best, including a cape!

We had fun exploring the different rooms, solving the puzzles, and exclaiming at different oddities.

We enjoyed the floating candles in the stairwell and used them as a backdrop for some our photos and also to give my pygmy puff a subtle chance to pop out of my reticule.

In the end, the guests were able to solve the mysteries necessary to save the Munbax and we were even rewarded with a glimpse of one!

1880s Blush Duchess Satin Corset

In 2015 and 2016, I posted a ‘project journal’ series of blog posts about making a yellow duchess satin c. 1880 Steam Molded Corset (this link will take you to the whole series, which includes specific posts about the plan, inspiration, mockups and patterning, the final pattern, construction, steaming, and finished garment photo shoot). Late last year, I made another one as a commission for a friend, this time in a blush pink duchess satin I picked up at the fabric store with no particular purpose, but thinking it would be really good for this specific use (in fact, I mention this exact idea in the fabric stash additions post where I shared about the purchase of this fabric in 2020).

Having already figured it out once, I used my old blog posts as a guide for making the new corset. This post is intended to document the new corset and the changes and updates I made from the yellow one.

To start, I adjusted the pattern I’d developed for size as well as some of the boning patterns to accomodate the adjusted seam lines and to simplify some of the boning patterns, especially in the back. The yellow corset has a whole bunch of bones… It’s great and based directly off my inspiration image, but time consuming and unnecessary for this purpose.

Once I had a solid pattern, I cut out all my pieces: one layer of silk satin for the exterior and two layers of white coutil for the inner layers. For the most part, the layers for each piece are exactly the same, but there are some differences at front and back panels.

Below are the front panels, where I’ve intentionally cut the coutil to be smaller than the silk. This allows for the seam allowances to be less bulky and therefore more crisp as they fold inward around the busk. The piece on the left is for the proper left side of the corset while the two other pieces are both for the proper right side of the corset. I’ll show how these pieces are put together later in this post.

Next are the back panels, again showing that all of the layers are not cut to be exactly the same. The cut edge of the narrowest coutil layer provides a crisp edge over which to turn the other piece of coutil for the back edge. It also creates 3 layers of coutil where the grommets will be while allowing the silk to fold under the outermost edge of the coutil for a crisp line there as well.

You can see in both of the above images that I machine flat lined the layers for each piece together on almost every edge (some were strategically left alone).

Next, I prepared the center back grommet areas. The silk only seam allowance was crisply turned back over the straight cut edge of the coutil, then the coutil was crisply pressed back over the narrower layer of coutil. You can see the folds opened on the right and the resulting crisp panel on the left.

These were very carefully pinned in place (duchess satin does not hide pin marks!) and then the channels were stitched. I made sure to make them wide enough to not struggle when putting in bones (the last corset had boning channels that were a bit narrow for the bones and it was terribly hard to put them in!).

I used an edge stitch foot to get the lines of stitching right along the folds. Edge stitch feet are magical! I discovered mine while making masks last summer and have since started using it for all kinds of projects–any time I need to stitch close to the edge of a fold! My machine, which is pretty basic, came with one (though I hadn’t used it in, oh… 12 years???). I encourage you to it out if you haven’t before!

Here you can see the exterior of the grommet panels on the left and the interior on the right.

Later, I added size 0 silver grommets. Skipping ahead in construction, here’s a finished image of the corset, showing the finished grommets in place.

After preparing the grommet area, I assembled each side of the corset. No photos of that here, since I did this in the same way as my last corset: grading my seams, binding them with ⅝” cotton twill tape, and then stitching these down to create channels for the bones. (My original construction post has detailed pictures and explanation of this method. The part of the post discussing this also has some images showing the many bones on the back of that yellow corset that I mentioned earlier.)

Next, I put in the busk, starting with the socket side, which is the proper right side of the corset. I used a different method on this corset than on my yellow one. Further inspection of originals shows a seam that the busk sockets are pushed through, rather than reinforced holes without a seam, so that’s what I wanted to do!

This is where I used the two pieces I cut. In the photo below you can see that the two pieces are pinned together (pin heads are on the underside, in case you’re wondering) and I’ve marked small lines where the sockets will land on the seam. This allows me to leave openings in the seam for each socket. The openings need to be snug, but not too tight. The seam is sewn just outside of the coutil, so that the layers fold crisply. As you can see, my seam allowance is uneven. I left the side of the silk that will be visible as the busk is pulled on a little wider to make a solid facing even after years of use.

Here is the finished seam, pressed open. If you look carefully you can see the gaps in the seam that I left for the sockets of the busk. My ruler at the bottom shows the scale. (This photo also shows some of the finished seam allowances and boning channels on the other seams, as well.)

Now the socket half of the busk is pushed into place. The single layer of silk seam allowance is pressed over the cut edge of the coutil and the whole thing is carefully pinned in place. I made sure that the busk is quite snug, so that it can’t shift in any direction.

To do this, I started with pinning the inside, to ensure that the silk is perfectly wrapped under the busk–no gaps or bubbles there! Then, I very carefully pinned from the outside. As you can see, I only pushed the pins through the silk once (they come up through the coutil again, but not through the satin) to minimize holes.

After that, some very careful stitching with a zipper foot was in order. I curved my stitching around the top and bottom of the busk (a detail from extant garments). It’s tricky to make the curves look nice, but it’s a small detail that helps elevate the finished garment, I think.

On the inside, it looks like this. I was able to keep the stitching a consistent distance from the fold in the silk due to my careful pinning. I’ll admit that this turned out better than my yellow corset! The yellow corset has a few bubbles and variation in the width of the turned under seam allowance.

Here is the busk from the side. You can see the seam and the snug openings, with solid back stitching, which leave space for the sockets to push through.

Ok, on to the stud side of the busk! This is the proper left side. Here, you can see the marks I’ve made to show where the studs will poke through and where the edge of the busk will fall. It is intentionally set back from the cut edge of the coutil.

One thing I was very careful about was poking my holes for the studs, because I found that on my yellow corset the silk pulled where I used an awl to make the holes. No one but me would probably see this, but I wanted to do better with this corset. I believe I used very sharp snips to cut small holes rather than using an awl to push the fibers apart. This is fiddly work, because a hole too big can’t be saved and will fray and cause the stud to move around, but it produced better end results, I think.

After making my holes and getting all the studs through, I carefully pinned and then stitched around the busk just like I did on the socket side.

Ta da! Busk!

Next up was binding the top and bottom edges. I used almost the same method as on my last corset. To quote myself:

The bottom binding is bias strips cut 1″ wide. I stitched them first to the right side of the corset with ⅛” seam allowance on my bias, trimmed my corset seam allowance to just about ⅛”, folded the bias over the edge, turned the raw edge under on the wrong side, [basted the seam allowance in place on the inside instead of hand whip stitching the bias down on the inside (slow, but a more effective method than pinning in this case)], then turned the corset back to the right side and topstitched very close to the edge of the first fold. This narrow topstitched binding seems to be common on late 19th century extant corsets and looks very tidy.

Below you can see the bias turned to the inside, pinned, and being basted in place. On the right are finished edges from the inside and outside.

This corset is boned with spiral steel for the bulk of the seams and flat steel on either side of the grommets.

I usually apply the bottom binding first, then put in my bones, and then bind the top. It’s a bit trickier sometimes to bind the corset after the bones are in, and if the top will have decorative lace then it can help hide any struggles that occur. (Thankfully, I learned from my last experience and made a test sample of the boning channel width that was perfect, so it was relatively easy to bone this corset!)

At this point the corset was basically done! The only things left were to add ivory beading lace and ribbon around the top and silk flossing along the bottom of the boning channels.

I was excited that I had all of the necessary materials in the stash, including the silk thread in the perfect ivory color.

I’m very pleased with the end result. It takes all the struggles and things I learned along the way with my yellow corset and perfects them, creating crisper folds and finishes and a comfortable garment with a great silhouette.

There’s no trickery in the next photo, this corset holds its shape with no support other than what is built in!

1830s Woods Walk

My 1830s apple picking adventure last fall was followed by a ramble through the woods for exercise and to get more photos. I shared a bunch of the photos in the construction posts for my 1834 dress (here and here), but even after that there were still a bunch of lovely photos I wanted to share. At that point, I decided to take a break and post about other topics since I’d posted a few blog posts in a row about 1830s things and so the photos from the woods have been patiently waiting to have their moment to shine. Today is the day! I bring you an 1830s armchair ramble through the woods!

On our way to the wooded area, we stopped to take advantage of this stone wall and gate.

The main gate to the wooded area is similar, though with bricks instead of stones and with animal sculptures to delight visitors. My usual photographer friend (who blogs at Plaid Petticoats) enjoyed taking a few photos with her Petzval camera lens, which creates the swirled background in the next two photos (you can read more about the Petzval lens in this Plaid Petticoats blog post).

Just past the main entrance to the wooded area is a little bridge spanning a lovely bit of water. It looks like a pond, but I think it might actually be connected to the nearby river.

Around the bend is one of my favorite vistas, a grand line of pine trees bordered on one side by a small meadow. It’s a magnificent and playful place to stop for photos.

Continuing towards the river is a path along one side of the meadow. Thankfully, the grass on the path is maintained and easy to walk through.

This group photo uses the Petzval lens to make a glorious twinkling arch of greenery out of the dwindling afternoon sunlight.

Along the way to the river are small bits of interest. Enterprising greenery in unique shapes and more watchful animal statues.

Near the river we stopped for more photos. The drooping trees made dramatic backgrounds for us.

I love the next photo. It captures the reflection of the golden leaves in a way that almost looks like a painting, in juxtaposition with the oak leaves and branches on the far side.

Thanks for joining me on this autumnal walk through the woods. I find outings like this are wonderful moments for reflection and appreciating the natural beauty of the seasons.

 

 

Early & Mid 19th Century Commission For NSCDA-MA

I find great joy in the pursuit of researching and making historical clothing. Here on the blog, I post most often about the garments I make for myself, but I rarely post about commissions to make custom historical garments for private individuals, museums, historical institutions, etc. Today’s post is different from the usual in that I’m going to share a commission project with you!

This commission came about through the kindness of Myrthe, who blogs at Atelier Nostalgia. (And how fitting, that we were just communicating about how wonderful it is to connect with people who love historical clothes from around the world!) The commission was from the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America (NSCDA-MA).

The NSCDA-MA owns the beautiful William Hickling Prescott House in Boston, which was built in 1808 and upgraded throughout the 19th century. The NSCDA-MA website (linked above) shares many more details about the various owners of the house and its architecture. In addition to the house itself, the NSCDA-MA also holds a wonderful collection of historical clothing, some items of which have been used for display purposes throughout the house (though most of the garments are in storage and only available for research visits by appointment). Unfortunately, historical garments are often not suited to permanent display as they can be made of delicate fabrics that can be damaged by light, dust, and gravity, just to name a few possible problems. The NSCDA-MA was looking for custom made historical dresses to display instead of the extant historic garments and I was very excited to work with them to make that goal a reality!

The commission involved two dresses: one from about 1810 and one from about 1845. The two dresses haven’t been mounted yet and aren’t available to visit due to ongoing closures, but I hope to eventually go see them in one of the glorious rooms of the house. For now we’ll have to make do with flat photos that were taken for my own archival purposes.

The c. 1810 dress was inspired by a few different dresses, including this c. 1810 cotton dress held by The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The goal was to merge the inspiration dresses into one dress with a repeated pattern on cotton, an adjustable drawstring neck, and long sleeves. In order to support the silhouette and provide opacity I also made a bodiced petticoat to go with the dress. Below are front and back views.

Unlike the first dress, the c. 1845 dress was inspired by this specific c. 1848 silk dress held by The Met. The goal was to keep the details of The Met inspiration dress but make the new dress proportional to the measurements of the form that would be wearing it. The dress includes extra structure to help the bodice keep its shape even without a corset underneath. Below are a full length front view and a close up of the bodice.

I had lots of fun finding trimmings for this dress that recalled the original. In the case of the tassels, I combined sections of the fringe with tassel tops and vintage passementerie buttons in order to get the right look and create tassels. Below, a closeup of tassel parts and the final result.

The designs of each dress were settled on with much collaboration to determine fabrics, trimmings, style details, and more. Both patterns were individually created to fit the requirements and specifications for each dress. Both dresses use a mixture of machine sewing/modern methods on the interiors and hand finishing on the exteriors. This speeds up construction and provides the necessary foundation for the dresses even without a full set of supportive undergarments.

I love projects like this! It’s so wonderful to collaborate with others who appreciate the minute details of historical clothing while also making garments that can be used to help interpret history to the public. These sorts of projects are often initiated through word of mouth suggestions, so please reach out if you know of museums, historic sites, historical societies, etc. who are looking for this type of collaboration!

Over The Creek And Through The Woods, In A Bustle!

Long before winter had arrived, I had a vision for getting atmospheric winter woodland photos of my recently posted about 1884 Wool Plaid Dress and 1885 Wool Mantle. (The links are to previous posts about these garments that have tons of inspiration, patterning, construction, and finishing details–check them out if you want to see more details up close or learn about how these garments were made.) I was joined in my plans by a friend (who blogs at Plaid Petticoats) who also had a winter-y bustle dress that, like my ensemble, needed to be appropriately documented and photographed. In this post, I’d like to take you with us on our photographic ramble to show you some of the beautiful winter sights that didn’t make it into the detailed construction posts.

We began our adventure with photos at a local ruined estate called Bancroft’s Castle. We’ve walked up the long, steep hill to this location multiple times in modern clothes, but wanted to prove it was possible in corsets, bustles, and snow, as well as having the wonderful setting for some of our photos.

Bancroft’s Castle was built in the early 20th century but destroyed by fire within a few decades. Now, the only parts left standing are the stone walls and fireplaces. The site is open to the public and often quite crowded, but in the freezing temperatures we had it pretty much to ourselves. I love this photo, which captures the ruined walls, open levels, and stark trees. Even the iron fence seems to suit the mood!

There are lots of other photos with Bancroft’s Castle as the background in my details posts about my dress and mantle, if you want to see more.

After taking advantage of the different sections of the castle, we moved on to a path along the nearby river .The path meanders across fields, up and down hills, along the river, through the woods… and more!

It was a beautiful, sunny, very cold day. There was relatively new snow that covered everything. Being just a few inches, it was not deep enough to be a hassle to walk through in a long skirt.

The open field trekking felt very much in the spirit of adventuring women of the late nineteenth century, though it was made slightly easier by the fact that we could follow existing tracks rather than having to blaze our own trail.

After crossing the fields, we arrived in the woods along the river. The bare trees made wonderful views for musing as they stood in the snow.

The river is large enough to not freeze over entirely, though the shallow edges were covered with ice. I appreciated the bands of interest provided in this view. Snow, bare shrubs, ice, wonderfully reflective water, grey trees, green pines, and very blue sky.

In particular, I was struck by these trees with their curved trunks artfully reflected in the river. The bursting silhouette of the trees is fun all on its own but even more pleasant to look at when joined by the reflection. It feels exuberant, despite the bare branches.

The wooded area was soon interrupted by a stand of pine trees. I could easily envision them being foreboding, in an Anne of Green Gables way, but they were also bathed in golden sunlight which brought a certain magic that was cheery and bright.

It was a great place to stop and take photos. I love the next one for the depth, but if you look carefully you can also see that both bustle ensembles made it into the shot, which amuses me.

A bit of post-production on the part of my Plaid Petticoats friend produced this Harry Potter patronus image. Her dress is Slytherin inspired!

After the stand of pine trees was a small creek that fed into the main river. We looked into going around it, but of course finding the end wasn’t really feasible and the other side had a river. So… It was over the creek time!

Other trekkers had laid logs and branches across the creek to create a makeshift bridge. With the help of the ‘bridge’ we made it across with no problems!

After that it was easy going along the river and then back through the woods and fields. Both of our dresses were none the worse for wear, though part of my hem facing had been pulled loose on a branch and then collected quite a bit of snow inside. Getting all the snow out was a bit challenging, but it was easy to resew the hem once the more difficult task was completed.

I had a great time tromping about in my dress–proving that climbing hills and scrambling down ravines and across creeks is completely do-able in a bustle!