October 31, 2017

Sleep That Makes No Show for Dawn - 1860s Photoshoot

"A long, long sleep, a famous sleep
That makes no show for dawn
By stretch of limb or stir of lid, —
An independent one."
- Emily Dickinson, Poem 139



A Happy and Spooktacular Halloween to all!  Since I was unable to finish my fancy dress costume this year, I thought it very appropriate to finally share this long-awaited, 1860s photo shoot that Maria, sister and photographer, and I did last August, before I left for college.  All of the construction details for the dress and petticoat can be found here: Inside & Out: DNA Dress and Hoop, and the fancy dress cap here: Lace on My Clothes & Bows on My Caps.  

In the photographs, my dress is worn over a mid-19th century chemise, drawers, under-petticoat, small support pad and 90" cage with two tucked petticoats to smooth the silhouette.  A large, striped, silk cravat bow, silk belt with a mother of pear buckle, and beribboned, fancy dress cap complete the look.  




Completed Project Shots

First and foremost, I must thank my talented sister and photographer, Maria, for all her time and attention to the details!  Without her, none of these photo shoots would be possible, and for that, among many other reasons, I am overwhelmingly grateful.  Here's to her, and for allowing me to share her work!  *All photographs courtesy of Maria M.* 


Because I could not stop for Death —
He kindly stopped for me —
The Carriage held but just Ourselves —
And Immortality.





We slowly drove — He knew no haste
And I had put away
My labor and my leisure too,
For His Civility —








We passed the School, where Children strove
At Recess — in the Ring —
We passed the fields of Gazing Grain —
We passed the Setting Sun —






Or rather — He passed Us —
The Dews drew quivering and chill —
For only Gossamer, my Gown —
My Tippet — only Tulle —






We paused before a House that seemed
A Swelling of the Ground —
The Roof was scarcely visible —
The Cornice — in the Ground —






Since then — ’tis Centuries — and yet
Feels shorter than the Day
I first surmised the Horses’ Heads
Were toward Eternity —





Poem is "Because I Could Not Stop for Death" by Emily Dickinson.


Mount Hope Cemetery 

Before ending this post, I'd like to highlight and give a little background on the location of our shoot.  This may sound slightly morbid to some, but I personally find cemeteries not only historically significant, but incredibly peaceful places to walk around and collect my thoughts.  I have spent many afternoons wandering around Rochester's Mount Hope Cemetery, quietly reflecting and exploring the 200 acres and 14 miles of roads, hills and valleys, and paying respects to the 350,000 sleeping for eternity.  

The Gatehouse, 1874.

Described in the following introduction, by the Friends of Mount Hope Cemetery, the nonprofit organization devoted to the preservation, restoration and public appreciation of the culturally significant site:
"Dedicated in 1838 in Rochester NY, Mount Hope is America's first municipal Victorian cemetery.  Set in a picturesque landscape shaped by retreating glaciers, the cemetery features more than 80 mausoleums, soaring Egyptian obelisks, winged angels of mercy, a Florentine cast-iron fountain, two stone chapels in Gothic Revival style, a Moorish gazebo, and infinitely varied tombstones marking 350,000 graves across 196 acres." - The Friends of Mount Hope Cemetery

One of two chapels and original crematory, 1862.

In terms of history, Mount Hope Cemetery truly offers something for everyone.  From Rochester and Erie Canal history, to Victorian symbolism and architecture, the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, Jewish and African-American history, many notable leaders, inventors, prominent families, artists, architects, abolitionists and women's rights activists were laid to rest there.  

Perhaps among the most famous are Susan B. Anthony:


Fredrick Douglas:


Nathaniel Rochester and family: 


As well as dozens of others, including Daisy Marquis Jones, Alexander Milliner, George Washington's drummer boy, Dr. Charles T. Lunsford, the first African American physician in Rochester, the children of Buffalo Bill Cody, and William, and later Hannah Carter, the first buried on the site:


Veterans of all the major American wars are represented, including specific Civil, Spanish-American and World War I sections and a D.A.R. monument.  

Row by row in the Civil War plot.

And, finally, you'll find several of the families from the houses preserved at the Genesee Country Village & Museum: 

Rebecca A. Fitzhugh, wife of Dr. Fredrick F. Backus, of the
Livingston-Backus House (at the Genesee Country Village & Museum)

Dr. Frederick F. Backus, prominent Rochester physician and politician.

The services at Mount Hope Cemetery go beyond burials, offering many opportunities to volunteer in landscaping, gardening, and gravestone maintenance and repair.  Under the generous care of the Friends of Mount Hope Cemetery and donors, free genealogical research, public lectures and tours, and printed works, including several books and a quarterly newsletter, titled the Epitaph, are available.  So, if you're ever in Rochester, make sure to visit my favorite local cemetery and historical treasure! 


August 31, 2017

Costume Blog Writing Month: Reflection

Do my eyes deceive me or can it really be August 31st already?  Where did this month go?  It seemed like just a day ago that we were writing our introductions for the CoBloWriMo (Costume Blog Writing Month) - a fun blogging challenge offering 31 daily prompts for the month of August - and suddenly here we are at the end.  I suppose now's a good time to kick back and reflect...



CoBloWriMo, Prompt 31 - Reflection

In looking back at this month of blogging, while I was unable to be as active as I had hoped, it was such a pleasure reading others' responses and lurking on the CoBloWriMo Facebook Page.  I discovered several new costume blogs to follow, as well as enjoyed the month of posts from more familiar, favorite bloggers. 


One of the reasons I was so eager to participate was that the prompts held us somewhat accountable for daily writing and simply hitting that "publish" button.  I really liked having a guiding prompt to point us in the right direction and focus on a specific topic, while still allowing freedom for interpretation.  Sometimes just figuring out what to write about is half the battle of blogging.  

Another plus for participating that I may have mentioned before is the opportunity (and motivation) to share posts that may have otherwise gone unwritten.  Or at least work on some of those UFOs (UnFinished Objects) just sitting in the drafts queue.  My goal at the beginning had been to write at least 10 times, and, having technically responded to 11 of the challenges, including this one, I am happy with the results.  


Of the 31 daily prompts, I successfully completed the following: 

Prompt 1 - Introduce Yourself
Prompt 3 - Extant Garment (kicking off the series on extant garments that I had been wanting to write for over a year - score!)

Prompt 12 - Garment
Prompt 13 - Pro Tip

Prompt 16 - Small Project
Prompt 19 - Ornament
Prompt 23 - Made for Yourself (This post was shared by American Duchess on Facebook...squeeeee!)

Prompt 31 - Reflection, which is this post!



I did have posts planned for all 31 of the days, but I guess now this means more content to look forward to in the future...

Speaking of the future, if things get a little quiet here again, there is a reason...until the next post, let's just say, "Hello from Ohio!"  


August 26, 2017

The Crown of Women

"For the hair of a woman is her glory
It weaveth all of secret and renown
Through all chivalry and mystery and story
The glory of a woman and her crown."
- G. K. Cesterton, "The Crown of Women"

Woman seen from the back, ca. 1862,
by On├ęsipe Aguado de las Marismas.
(Image source: MET Museum, 2005.100.1)

Rather than begin a whole new blog post for today's prompt, I decided to finish the one I had started for challenge number 19 - ornament of the CoBloWriMo (Costume Blog Writing Month).  By definition, an ornament is an accessory, article, decoration or detail used to beautify the appearance of what it is added to or a part of to make it more attractive.  A great example is a decorative hair comb, much like those that were popular during the late 1850s and early 1860s when the hairstyles were worn low at the back of the head and neck.

The following image depicts a variety of mid-19th century hairstyles dressed with back combs from contemporary sources:

Victorian hair dressing with ornamental combs.
(Image source: Pinterest)

Now all I need is a similar statement piece to complete my historical updos!

Lots of hair!
Many thanks to Allison for her hairdressing talents and the picture.


Prompt 19 - Ornament

When I was studying some of extant garments in the Point Park costume collection, I came across a plastic bag of what turned out to be eight, decorative hair combs at the bottom of one of the costume boxes.  At the time, and still not knowing much about dating hair ornaments, all I was able to do was jot down their dimensions and snap a few pictures.  I am hoping that through sharing them today, the experts out there will be able to shed some light on the specifics.

A bag of decorative hair combs that I found in the Point Park collection.


Comb Number One

The first comb that I pulled out unfortunately was in two pieces and missing a tooth.  About seven inches at its widest, this comb with its spiraled details would have been quite the statement piece in its time.  Notice the numbers written on the back of this comb as well as those to come, this was a deaccessioned item from another collection and probably a donation to the university.  

Front of the comb with a unique, spiraled edge.

Back of the comb.


Comb Number Two

The second comb is just as lovely and even more intricate than the first.  The curve of its delicately carved top extends into the four teeth of the comb.  From top to bottom, it measures about 6.5 inches.  This also appears to be a deaccessioned collection piece probably donated to the university.

Front of the comb.

Back of the comb.


Comb Number Three

This comb is fun and in perfect condition! 

Front of the comb, notice the gentle curve from side to side.

Back of the comb.


Comb Four

Another wavy-shaped comb with a gentle curve from side to side.  This one, sadly, appears to be missing four parts or whole teeth.  You'll also notice two former accession numbers this time.  

Front of the comb.

Back of the comb.  Notice the two, different accession numbers.


Comb Number Five & Six

These two combs appear more functional and utilitarian than decorative in purpose.  The first, (on the left) rounded comb has a tag identifying it as 1860s to 1870s.  The second, "u-shaped" accessory (on the right) looks more like a large hair pin to me.

Comb fronts.



Comb Number Seven

I am labeling the comb with the five teeth at the bottom of the picture as number seven.  Unfortunately, it appears that I only snapped the one picture of it.  From side to side, it's a little over five inches in width and has a slight arch.  The discoloration on the left most tooth is actually a former museum's accession number.

Front of comb number seven (on the bottom).


Comb Number Eight

Last but not least, this comb is an interesting piece.  It is missing four teeth, and the metallic plating is flaking off.  Also a little over five inches at its widest, it probably was quite a grand hair ornament in its time.   

Front of the comb.

Detail shot.  Notice the flaking silver plating.

Back of the comb.

One of my favorite parts of participating in the CoBloWriMo (Costume Blog Writing Month) has definitely been the opportunity (and motivation) to share posts that may have otherwise gone unwritten.  I'm not really sure when I would have written about these combs, had it not been for the perfect, timely "ornament" prompt.  Again, if anyone can contribute any more information and dating for the combs above, please feel free to leave a comment in the box below.  You're also welcome to reach out to us through our Facebook page, where your "likes" and "follows" keep us going.  We appreciate your time and thank you for reading!  

August 23, 2017

Inside & Out: DNA Dress and Hoop Petticoat

Today's post is all about the making of the DNA dress, a striped, 1860s cotton day dress, and over-hoop petticoat.  This also is the perfect project for prompt number 23 - made for yourself for the CoBloWriMo (Costume Blog Writing Month).

The DNA Dress!


The Inspiration

Two years ago, I bought this fabric on a whim from a destash on Facebook.  At the time, I was in need of a mid-century work dress, and the fabric just spoke to me, demanding to be made into my first 1860s day dress.  I finally started and finished the project this past May.  (Maria, the sister and photographer, and I did do a photo shoot for this dress, which I have been meaning to share for months...stay tuned!)

The fabric design resembled the double helix...and the DNA dress was born!

I looked at a variety of extant garments and other period sources for inspiration.  Taking a cue from similar striped dresses, I played up the directional print as much as possible.  This marvelous day dress from the Graceful Lady has coat sleeves, a contrasting horizontal waistband, and self-trim at the cuffs:

Civil War Era cotton day dress.
(Image source: The Graceful Lady)

Another extant example that I liked was this simple calico work dress.  It too has a horizontal waistband for contrast.  

Calico work dress, 1860s.
(Image source: Old Sacramento Living History Program)

Back waist detail of the calico work dress, 1860s.
(Image source: Old Sacramento Living History Program)

In my design, I also added a cap sleeve to echo the horizontal waistband.  One of my favorite parts of this project was seeing the 2D costume rendering become a 3D garment.  Nothing is more satisfying than that! 

Costume rendering of ink, watercolor and watercolor pencil.

Completed dress, accessorized with a white collar and large silk bow.


The Dress

Constructing the dress was not without its own challenges, but I am overly pleased that it no longer felt difficult.  For the pattern, I used the most recent version of my bodice block along with the coat sleeves from Laughing Moon's Pattern #111 - Ladies' Early 1860's Day Dress.  The cap sleeves were drafted following the directions in The Dressmaker’s Guide, an absolute must-have sewing resource, and the skirt was made from four, 45" ripped panels.  The interior seams are machine stitched, with hand stitched finishings, facings, and gauging. 

Rather than dealing with the usual, three-piece back and curved seams, I tried a one-piece back with a 1/8" curved tuck detail, which was then basted to the lining.  

A one piece back with 1/8" curved tuck details.

The front-opening bodice is fully flat lined with cotton muslin, while the coat sleeves are unlined.  A piped facing finishes the neckline and is also applied at the armscyes.  Each front side has two darts and 11 metal hooks (9 on the bodice, 2 on the waistband) with corresponding thread eyes for closures.  

The bodice closes with 11 metal hooks and thread eyes.

To keep the neckline neat and tidy, a white collar whip stitched to a twill tape band is basted at the neck.


Another of my favorite features is the accessories, especially the large, striped silk cravat! 

The large, silk cravat bow completes the look.

To play with the directional fabric, I cut the cap sleeves and waistband horizontally, and the coat sleeves, bodice and skirt vertically.  The cap sleeves are lined with the same cotton as the hem facing to give them more body, while the coat sleeves are finished with a generous, cotton muslin facing. 

Playing with stripes!
Notice the piping at the armscye and cap sleeve details. 

The cap sleeves are lined with a dark cotton.

The coat sleeves are finished with a hem facing.

Lastly, the skirt was balanced for a 90" hoop and gauged by hand.  In addition to the fabric waistband, I added a heavy duty 1" twill tape band at the waist, and whipped the pleats through all three layers.  I was concerned about the weight of four panels on the bodice, but in the future would not add the twill tape again.  A wide, dark cotton hem facing protects the skirt from dirt.

Detail of the gauged skirt interior with a heavy duty 1" twill tape
added to the waistband for stability.  

Hand-stitched hem facing.


The Petticoat 

Previously, I was just using my 1850s petticoats over the 90" cage crinoline, however, they were neither wide nor long enough to do the job properly.  So, I made an over-the-hoop, 180" cotton muslin petticoat.  The skirt is balanced and gauged to fit the waistband.  It features a deep hem and two 1/2" tucks, and closes with a single button.  

The 180" petticoat is gauged to a 25" waistband.

The full petticoat features a deep hem and two 1/2" tucks.

In the future, I should really make a second hoop petticoat, though for right now, I am still cheating with an earlier one underneath...the next petticoat will have a lot more tucks.  I am seeing either three sets of five tucks, or three sets of three tucks depending on how patient I am feeling.  But for the time being, I am content with the one.  


Completed Project Shots

The petticoat is shown worn over a Regency shift, mid-century drawers, corset, under-petticoat, small support, and 90" cage crinoline. 





And finally, one picture of the completed DNA dress ensemble taken at the Genesee Country Village & Museum.  Make sure to follow us for the full photo shoot of this project coming either later this month or the next!