Last year, friends and I decided to treat ourselves to a historical weekend away. With a number of bustle (1870s and 1880s) and 1890s dresses languishing in our closets, the chosen theme was the Gilded Age. We planned a very busy weekend of parlour games, afternoon tea and amusements, informal dance practice, and a formal ball.
Regular blog readers already saw a hint of this event in my last post, When The Dress No Longer Fits (1896 Evening Gown), but I have a few more posts to share, as well. Today’s post captures some of the amusing highlights from the various weekend activities.
To start, a behind the scenes shot of partially completed hair for my 1875 dress (which you can see in the photo after the one below). The photo below also shows off My Favorite Winter Things Skirt! Yes, I continue to wear this during the winter. The penguins, polar bears, and foxes participating in winter activities–skiing, ice skating, sledding, etc–continues to bring me amusement and joy.
And here, a still of theatre-adjacent people trying to create an amusing atmosphere while not making absolutely ridiculous faces. It brings me such joy to have well dressed friends!
Friends who also enjoy creative pursuits, such as creating homemade tabletop croquet! Not only is this absolutely adorable, but it’s also playable!
Our afternoon amusements also included a stereoscope.
Here is another view of the lovely ensembles at the ball.
I wore my 1896 dress, as you can see in the photo below. This is a classic for us. Moose pose!
And, to wrap it up, this is the bronze 1896 skirt after being stepped out of. The canvas is so stiff it literally stands up on its own, a fact which I’ve found to be amusing ever since I first made this over 10 years ago.
Thanks for joining me in the adventure!
There are more photos to come… a selection of outfit portraits and better-than-my-backyard documentation of my 1875 Reception Ensemble.
Way back in 2012, I made a Bronze and Pink 1893 evening gown. The original construction information can be found in the original post. I updated it in 2013 (documented in this past post) and continued to wear it for a number of years. Then my shape changed, and in 2016 I made my 1899 Elusive Blue dress, which was a fun new thing to wear from a similar period.
And so, my 1893 dress languished in the closet. For an event last year, however, I decided to pull it out instead of wearing the Elusive Blue dress. Below, successful re-wearing of my now-eleven-year-old 1893 dress.
After initially trying the dress on, it was clear that my change in shape meant that the original dress would no longer fit, but I decided to persevere and update the dress to make it wearable again. This involved:
Adding a panel to the back to extend the circumference of the bodice (saving fabric extras pays off!)
Adjusting the circumference of the pink sash to match the new width in the bodice
The skirt closure didn’t need an adjustment, as I had originally made it with two sets of hooks and bars and was able to simply hook the closure on the looser bar for the updated wearing
Below, a photo of the updated dress from the back, where the additional back panel is visible.
While the dress was wearable and I was pleased with my updated accessories, I was not as pleased with the dress as I was when I first made it, nor was I as happy with it as I am with my 1899 dress. I’d like to update it a bit more some day and see if it brings me more joy for a future wearing. Specifically:
I’d like to add net and gold sequin trim to the back neckline to help add interest and distract from the added panel (the original in Patterns of Fashion is unadorned and makes an elegant V, as mine originally did, but I like the plain look less with the size adjustment)
The tall section of canvas I’d added to them hem of the skirt when I originally made the dress made sense at the time to add stiffness, but over the years I’ve realized that it’s also heavy and actually reduces the size of the silhouette. I think I’d like to remove the canvas (or drastically reduce its height)
I’d want to wear my chemise tucked lower! I’m sad that it’s poking out in the photos
Despite some quibbles, I am pleased overall with the fact that I was able to update this dress to make it fit again.
It’s 2023 now, so that alone is an indication that is post is belated. It will seem even more belated when I share that this event happened in Summer of 2022. Better late than never, though, and I am actually quite excited to share my adventures at this event hosted by the Greater Boston Vintage Society.
To start, a short post sharing some outfits and a brief overview of the weekend’s events. The next post I’ll devote to Newport mansion tour highlights.
The Newport Weekend is a recurring event that takes place in Newport, Rhode Island. In 2022, participants could choose to attend for a single day or stay overnight in the dorms at Salve Regina University. I chose to stay overnight, which allowed for a lengthier stay and therefore more adventures.
On Saturday, I wore my 1925 Blue Coral Dress, a tried and true favorite for hot summer days. Being made of opaque lightweight cotton that doesn’t show wrinkles, it’s an excellent choice for lounging, picnicking, dancing, and being swept about in the occasional breeze. With this dress I wore my Royal Vintage/American Duchess Ginger shoes and 1920s Wide Brim Hat. It’s been awhile since I wore any of these things and the hat, in particular. The large brim is dramatic and enjoyable!
These photos were taken inside and outside the Fairlawn Estate at Salve Regina, which was built in 1852-1853. You can read more about it at the Salve Regina Library site, here.
After various hijinks and shenanigans during the day, I changed into my 1950 Baroness Dress for the evening ball, which I accessorized with sparkly silver jewelry and my silver American Duchess Seabury shoes. I love the dramatic color and massive bow feature on this dress! It was fun to get it out of the closet and wear it again!
Sunday had a bit of picnicking as well as Newport mansion tours. It’s been years since I toured The Breakers, pictured below, so that was fun to do again. The immense expense of Newport ‘cottages’ is jaw dropping, every time. I also chose to visit some of the other mansions that I haven’t visited before. I’ll share photos of those in a separate post.
For now, here’s an outfit photo as though I’m ‘visiting’ The Breakers. I wore my 1930s vintage-inspired Plum Pants with Pointed Pockets, paired with a modern blouse and my Gingers, again. I’ll admit that it was a lot of walking for heels, even comfortable ones… but, they go so well with my outfit that I couldn’t resist!
And that was the weekend! It was fun to see old friends, meet new acquaintances, and make new memories with everyone. Plus, fabulous locations and historical clothes!
Finally, a break from stay-related blog posts! (Slow sewing progress is being made, but not enough to post about…)
In the meantime, I have an armchair peep into a lovely birthday outing with friends on a gorgeous autumn afternoon.
The location of the outing is Roseland Cottage, in Woodstock, Connecticut.
Built in 1846 in the newly fashionable Gothic Revival style, Roseland Cottage was the summer home of Henry and Lucy Bowen and their young family. While the house is instantly recognizable for its pink exterior, Roseland Cottage has an equally colorful interior, featuring elaborate wall coverings, heavily patterned carpets, and stained glass, much of which survives unchanged from the Victorian era. The house is a National Historic Landmark. (from the Historic New England website)
We made special arrangements with the staff to picnic and croquet on the lawn in mid-19th century clothing, followed by a house tour. Some of us had seen the house before, but the details never cease to amaze and hold our interest. If you’re ever in the area, I highly recommend a visit!
The grounds of the house are well maintained and provided an excellent area to set up croquet.
We enjoyed serious croquet as well as a few silly rounds of our own invention. The shadows made for fun photos, too!
The day was sunny and beautiful. There was a slight bit of chill to the air, but it was quite comfortable in full length sleeves and long dresses.
One zealous croquet ball whacked me in the ankle and caused a small scene. Thankfully, it wasn’t too bad after the initial pain wore off (no bruises or anything worse!)
The gardens are maintained with the same plan and variety of plants that would have been evident in the 19th century. They were in full color during our visit!
I greatly enjoy this photo, which was completely unintentional. I just started running around because it was fun, and then was told to go back and do it again because the photo opportunity was so exciting. So I suppose in a way it was intentional?
Croquet was followed by a house tour, during which the staff invited us to remain in historical clothes and take photos. This was my favorite! There’s a little built-in seat with a bay window in one room. It was well suited to sitting in hoops. Looking for friends arriving, perhaps?
An exciting, beautiful day! Thanks for enjoying it with me!
Genevieve, the name I gave to my most recently constructed mid-19th century sewing project back in 2019, was only able to be worn once before all events ceased. So when friends and I decided to gather for a private ball earlier this spring, I knew that of the multiple ball gowns from this period in my closet Genevieve was the one I most wanted to wear.
I was having such a lovely time dancing that I didn’t take any photos of that activity, and the dress had already been documented, so I didn’t take photos specifically for that purpose, either. Refreshments, however, were definitely worth taking photos of, because we decided to cut our cake with a sword.
Why? Because it is amusing! We had been at a ball a number of years ago in which no one had a knife, but someone did have a sword! We used it at that time and it’s been a running joke ever since. In this case, we did have knives… but swords are far more dramatic!
The beautiful and delicious cake was made for us by a local bakery, Dolce Amar. Friends contributed flowers and vessels to add to our springtime theme.
If you’re interested in learning more about Genevieve, my 1863 apricot silk dress, I documented the creation of the dress in nine separate blog posts over the course of 2019. All of those posts can be viewed here in the project journal for the dress.
I recently attended a casual picnic with friends that we decided would be vintage-inspired in terms of dress code. I thought it would be a great opportunity to bring out my 1953 Dot Dress!
This dress has a story… being made in 2013 and worn for a few years, then retired in 2016 due to closet shrinkage, and altered in 2020 so I could wear it again. You can read all about these stages of the dress here, in a past blog post from when I altered the dress in 2020.
For this wearing, I chose to do my hair in a similar fashion to what I did in 2016, the last wearing of this dress before its hiatus in the closet. I enjoy the hair scarf with this dress for vintage looks.
I like this dress, so I’m pleased that my alterations mean I can wear it again! Not only for vintage things, but also in real life (without the big petticoat). The unusual color combination in the dots is fun to match with various cardigans… cinnamon/rust, pale peach, and plum… Turns out all the colors of the dots are food related!
The day of the picnic proved to be glorious… bright blue sky, skidding clouds, and a comfortable temperature. Our picnic featured catching up, an elegant game of croquet, and a round of ‘speed croquet’ in which everyone starts at the same time and no one takes turns!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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…!
The theme recommendation for the evening soiree at Gatsby On The Isles earlier this year was a masquerade. I took that to heart and decided to adapt an existing dress in my closet to make it fancy dress. (It turns out that the majority of people who attended didn’t adhere to the guidelines, so I was a bit out of place, but I enjoyed my fancy dress regardless!)
My requirements for this outfit were: to use a dress as a base that was already in my closet, to not cost much, to not take much time, and to have the elements of fancy dress be easily reversible.
I looked through my 20th Century Fancy Dress Pinterest board and settled on the image below as my inspiration. (Unfortunately, I can’t find a source for the image that isn’t Pinterest. If anyone has information, please share.)
I thought the idea of stars would work well with my 1926 Silver Lace Robe de Style. I briefly considered creating the stars myself and then I remembered that I didn’t want this too take too much time and I started researching purchasable stars. I wanted something nice looking but not costly, remember, and I also wanted to stay away from glitter–the shedding! Ugh! While considering various metallic and cardboard style stars I realized that: 1- those may not travel well (I didn’t want bent stars!) and 2- they probably wouldn’t be comfortable to wear. So I started researching felt stars!
I decided on these felt stars. They were a good size, I liked the color, and they weren’t supposed to be too stiff. Not being stiff would be more comfortable to wear and also easier to sew through! I’d considered making garlands of the stars but I figured they would get tangled, so instead I opted to sew the stars directly onto the lace.
I started by placing the stars in a line diagonally across the top of the dress. The goal was to capture the feeling of my inspiration but didn’t feel the need to add as many stars as the drawing has, so I stopped with the one line. I liked the stars hanging from the hem, so I did those next–one star per each dip in the pattern of the lace.
After that I didn’t have many stars left! I used a scrap of metallic knit fabric to make a veil and put a star on each corner. The veil is a square, with one corner turned under, gathered, and stitched to a hair comb.
I also used some black felt scraps to cut a few stars by hand to accent the star at the waist. I thought this might tie in the metallic knit veil and also draw attention to the grey stars on the grey dress!
I added some sparkly shoe clips, pearl bracelets, and sparkly stars for my hair (reused from my 1885 Night Sky Fancy Dress) and the outfit was complete! It pays off to reuse themes for fancy dress, I guess!
I was inspired to make a dress! That seems like quite an accomplishment these days as I’ve been so busy with other things that I haven’t made much for myself this year.
It was summer, you see, and I knew that Gatsby On The Isles was coming up. (I’ve attended in the past, check out the past posts from 2019, 2018, and 2016.)
I have plenty of dresses (and let’s be honest, not many of them have been worn in the last two years or so), but I also had fabric that was waiting to be turned into a dress… So it didn’t take too much self-convincing to decide that the fabric ought to be turned into a dress, right now!
My first idea was to create something like the dress on the bottom right (#2346) in next image, but after making a mockup I realized that I didn’t have enough yardage of my proposed fabric.
I’d bought the fabric thinking I’d make a rather simple 1920s dress, but the dress I’d been pursuing wasn’t quite that–and the length was longer than I had yardage for. So it was back to Pinterest to find another idea. I settled on using the green dress below, another one I’d been eyeing for years, as my inspiration.
My bodice pattern was adapted from my 1925 Blue Coral Dress, to get the general size, in combination with my late 18th century shift, to get the cut on sleeves. The skirt is just a tube made from what was leftover after that. I wanted to get two full widths of 45″ but didn’t have enough, so the skirt is one full width and two additional sections.
I wanted to match the pattern perfectly at the seams, but that ate up too many inches of my circumference so I settled on not matching them–and frankly, you can’t tell! I spent a lot of time making perfect pleats (the print on the fabric makes that pretty easy, actually), but of course they smoothed out as soon as I wore the dress. Oh well!
The dress qualifies for the Historical Sew Monthly Challenge #2
The Roaring 20s: Make something from the 20s (any century) or that somehow incorporates a number in the 20s..
Just the facts:
Fabric/Materials: 2 yds green cotton and 1 yd of teal cotton.
Pattern: Created by me.
How historically accurate is it?: 95%. The pattern and construction methods are quite good. The fabrics are a bit stiffer than those that I think would have been used 90 years ago.
Hours to complete: Perhaps 12? I didn’t keep track.
First worn: August 2021.
Total cost: Approximately $9.
This dress is mostly machine sewn. The goal was to entirely machine sew the dress, including attaching and top stitching the trim, but then as I was reaching the end of the sewing process I realized there were a few things that would look nicer with a bit of hand sewing.
Why is this Egyptomaina inspired?
Well, ancient Egypt was all the rage in Europe and America in the 1920s, particularly after Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon discovered the tomb of the Pharaoh Tutankhamun in 1922. Egyptian motifs were used in Art Deco design elements for furnishings, jewelry, and clothing. So, while not exactly Egyptian… the colors and patterns in my fabrics remind me of Egyptian things: the Nile river, lapis lazuli, the Egyptian lotus flower, and the tops of many ancient Egyptian columns, for example.
Obelisks were often erected in pairs at the entrances to ancient Egyptian temples, so given the Egyptian association of my dress, I wanted to try and get a photo of my dress with the obelisk on the island. The photo is not quite just me and the obelisk, but it will do. (The problem is that the obelisk is so tall that if you’re close to it you can’t tell what it is… but being far enough away to get the full height means that other elements make their way into the photo, too!)
There are lots of additional photos from tromping around looking for good photo opportunities for this dress, so you’ll be seeing more of it and my accompanying adventures in more posts soon!