November 29, 2014

Something Old, Something New

I hope everyone had a blessed Thanksgiving!  I've been sewing up a storm to meet those fact, I have just about everything on my "actual deadline" list finished.  Except for one more fancy tucked petticoat, I am ready to dive into those college portfolio projects!  So, today I have to show a completed item from my winter to do list & the first of hopefully many past projects!

First up, pictures of the hairpiece I made for Stage's upcoming show, Little Women!

In the middle of junior year I really became serious about costuming and was searching for another theater that would give me a chance to gain more experience.  I fell right into the path of a Magical Journey Thru Stages, or simply Stages, the children's theater at the third floor of Rochester's Auditorium Theater.  After explaining my interests, the team of head costumers & parent volunteers accepted me for a trail "student costumer" position.  We clicked and I ended up staying on as the student costumer for a number of shows until the end of senior year.  During those experiences, I did everything from repairs to millinery to costuming the lead for Doctor DoLittle (2013), which I used as one of the highlights for my portfolio.

More recently, Gina & Lisa, the costumers for Little Women who I've worked with since my first show at Stages, contacted me about borrowing as well as making a fancy hairpiece.  Using the reference picture they sent me (view here), this is what I came up with:

Fancy Hair Snood for Stage's Little Women Production.

I constructed the double bow from navy taffeta, lining the outer bow with fusible interfacing.  I then added a hair clip to the back of the center velvet piece as a means of attaching.

Back of the bow with hair clip.

Decorations, including gem buttons and reinstone buckles, were hot glued for extra onstage security!  The whole project took around four hours (I swear mostly spent on the stretch velvet!) and cost around $10.  The taffeta, velvet and hair clip came from the stash, and were actually bought for the previous Stages' Sherlock Holmes millinery projects!

Sparkling decorations!

Speaking of the said stash up, the first Past Projects: three fashionable 1890s hats from Stage's production of Sherlock Holmes (2014)!

March of senior year was the month of musicals with both my High School's memorable production of Footloose & Stage's Sherlock Holmes on the same weekend!  I returned for the last time as student costumer and had the privilege of collaborating with the head costumer, Vera, her daughter, and the outstanding parent costume team.  Our inspiration came from Sidney Paget's original illustrations (view all 357, the entire collection, here: as well as the fashion of the 1890s.

In addition to other contributions, I was responsible for three fashionable hats:

One of the outfits I was responsible for Maggie's character.
(Too bad we misplaced my shirt, I really liked those jet buttons...)

The Lavender Puff Hat is made from a straw hat base with a wired brim, covered in vintage bias tape.  Trimmed with lavender taffeta, a feather spray and vintage broach.

Black Velvet & Golden Bows Hat, or, the crazy, over-the-top piece that was oh so fun to make!  At first, I'll admit I had the hardest time coming up with a piece that would fit the gold, royal purple & black color scheme for her outfit.  Though, after the triple bow, the rest just seemed to fall into place for the extravagant character.  Then, I worried about it being all too much...

The hat even has a bit of a flair at the front of the brim!

Again made from a straw hat base with a wired brim, other materials included: gold satin, black velvet, black satin ribbon, black bias tape & assorted dark purple feathers.

Go BIG bows, or go home!

Lastly, the Elegant Lady's Hat, which had a matching skirt & jacket ensemble - by far the most time-consuming and difficult, but definitely one of my most favorite pieces from the show!  

Up close & personal detail shot!

Materials included: black velvet, navy blue taffeta (used also for the Little Women hairpiece, above), black bias tape, assorted blue and black feathers & a large buckle.  The hardest part for sure was covering the base in the black velvet - I rather like how it turned out!

Next up: my new hand sewn pinner apron & 1850s undergarments - completed.  More past projects to come stay tuned, comment & subscribe for more!  Thank you for reading!  

November 26, 2014

2014 Costume Works Contest

I entered my Regency retake on the miller's daughter from Rumpelstiltskin in the 2014 Annual Halloween Costume Contest hosted by Costume Works!  I am so happy I came across the site, because it definitely is a one-stop-shop as they say for all things Halloween - there are literally thousands of inspirational costumes, so make sure to check it out!

Care to view & rate my Autumn Regency Fairy Tale entry?  

November 25, 2014

Moving Forward, Never Back

Anneliese here with your weekly, err monthly, internship report.  I sat down in front of the computer with the intention to write my last weekly internship report for MCC EBL101.  However, I just had to share the good news first...I am so excited to announce that I have been offered an internship extension until the next museum season!  I immediately and joyfully accepted!

October 30, 2014:  For the majority of my stay, I continued to make progress on the men’s wool vest, attempting the pocket welts.  So far, the welt and pocket lining are stitched to the front and cutting the pocket slit will be the next challenge.  I did, however, pick up a new tailoring skill known as prick stitching, which appears as a running stich from the outside and a whip stitch on the inside, and I can definitely see myself employing this technique to attach bodice linings in the future.

November 1, 2014:  The highly anticipated Domestic Skills Symposium!  The all-day conference at the museum had four fantastic speakers and an authentic, 19th century luncheon lined up.  I was asked to come in early, arriving a little before eight, and worked straight until six.  First thing in the morning, I jumped in to help with set up and was happy to do whatever was needed.  My time was divided between managing the village crafts table, selling various pottery, hand-dyed skeins, brooms and baskets, and helping with the cleanup.   I am so pleased that the museum’s first symposium was such a success!

Marisa made sure I had the chance to catch Susan Greene’s presentation, one of the major highlights and draw of the symposium.  Susan Green, a world renowned wealth of knowledge, has devoted her entire life to the study and collection of historical clothing.  It was such a privilege to hear her absolutely fascinating presentation, which discussed an important, unpublished history cut from her recent and life-long publication, Wearable Prints.

Hardcover addition of Susan Greene's Wearable Prints, 1760-1860,
History, Materials and Mechanics
available today on Amazon!

Her talk revolutionized my idea of pioneers and the role of calico and homespun, and I made sure to take copious amounts of notes...However, it was the very first thing that she said that stood out the most.  She stood up in front of the room and said that when researching, there are never any easy answers, and that it is practically impossible to be absolutely sure of a color by the dye (only a lab can confirm).  To hear such an expert in the field humbly say that she is still a learner was just the most inspiring, "wow" moment of the conference!

Calicos & Homespun

The term "calico" actually refers to all cotton cloth, even the prized white cottons which were India's major export.  And, the term "chintz," which refers to the colored patterns, may have originated from the Native American word "chittes."

Fabric was and still is to a certain extent telling of social class and means.  The wealthy liked to distinguish themselves with fine painted cloth from India, while the lower class "mean" people would have clothed themselves is the cheap, widespread block prints, as well as calicos and printed linens.  In fact, I was surprised at just how inexpensive these cotton prints would have been as the boom of industrialization flooded the market with yards of printed fabrics for mere cents.

That being said, the typical vision of hard-working pioneer women laboring over their spinning wheels and looms to cloth their families in "homespun" is a little known misnomer, probably resulting from the romanticism of pioneers.  Rather, most "homespun" was indeed handwoven, but in factories and sold to the masses.
The True Pioneers

The term "pioneer" refers to a hard life, where a person has to provide for all of their needs far from the comforts of civilization.

The Pioneer, a 1904 painting by Australian artist Frederick McCubbin

Pioneers did not stay poor long, as the idea is to settle in an unclaimed area to make a better life.  However, the idea that all pioneers wanted to be self-sufficient in everything is simply not true, and a product of romanticism.  They did not have to make every scrap of clothing, as there was cheap, ready-made clothing available from country stores that sold just about everything, even in the remotest of areas.  Investing in the time and labor intensive process of making cloth would have taken time better spent on other, more important jobs.  

There were plenty of reasons why pioneer women generally would not have woven their own cloth.  For starters, they would have had to be very dedicated, have all of the equipment and the working space.  And, it was a very inefficient process, especially when widespread, affordable cloth was available, taking away from more important work.  On the other hand, reasons why women could have chosen to weave their own cloth include to be self-sufficient, for patriotic reasons and, most importantly, as a means of extra income or trading purposes.  Finally, the other major reason, that still applies today, was simply for the love of threads!

If you're ever in upstate New York, make sure to visit the Susan Greene Collection at the Genesee Country Village and Museum.  With over 3000 articles of late 18th and 19th century clothing and accessories, and a focus on everyday clothing, the trip is definitely worth your wile!  And don't forget to get your copy of Susan Greene's Wearable Prints!

November 6, 2014:  At the beginning of the day, I picked up from where I left off last week on the men’s vest undertaking, and, by the end of the day, there was an end in sight for the pocket welts.  After struggling to figure out how to insert the pocket, hand stitching the pocket and overcasting the raw edges was a simple and straight forward task.  Merely reading and comprehending the directions seemed to take longer than the stitching itself.  It always amazes me how labor intensive a single article of clothing is, and that, despite the investment, the details of historical garments are just so exquisite.

November 7, 2014:  I spent a majority of the day again making progress on the wool vest.  After top stitching the last welt end, I took a moment to celebrate the finally completed pocket welts.  Cheryl made sure to tease me about that for the rest of the day, offering to keep me on for the next couple of years to stitch all of their pocket welts.

My first pocket welts - completed!

I was very happy to move onto attaching the front interfacing and preparing all of the edges for lining.  The newest skill I committed to memory was the catch or herringbone stitch.  During the last hour of the work day, we took a field trip to the local Chestnut Bay Quilting Fabric Store in Caledonia, which has an entire room full of high quality reproduction fabrics - make sure to add this stop to visit if you're ever in the area!  

November 13, 2014:  After a month-long hiatus from the Sophia Project, we pulled the wrapper out from storage and back into the costume shop.  Bevin tasked me with fixing the pocket side of the wrapper which hung unevenly and making piping for the armscyes, sleeves and neckline.  Using leftover fabric scraps, a ruler and my blue water soluble pencil (a handy tip I picked up from the village dressmaker), I marked the piping strips.  Finally, I ended up with a couple of yards each of one inch strips, standard for in-seam piping, and one and a half inch strips to allow for facing.  

Piping strips for Sophia.

During the afternoon, I pieced the fabric strips together.  I ironed a narrow edge along each strip before inserting the emerald green cotton yarn, which is serving as the piping cording.  Then, for the rest of my stay, I hand stitched rows of tiny running stitches snugly against the cords.  When I finished, I noticed that the piping barely stood out from the edge of the fabric, which I learned was characteristic of late 19th construction.

November 14, 2014:  I switched between working on the wrapper and on the wool vest.  To fix the one uneven side of the wrapper, I had to completely rip out the seam and the pocket.  The side is now basted and ready to be machine stitched back together next Thursday.  As for progress made on the vest, all of the front linings have been pinned and I am making headway on the stitching.  One vest front edge is completely lined and the other is nearly finished using the prick stitching technique for a quality appearance.

Towards the end of my stay, Bevin called and invited me along on the tour of the gallery and vault with another guest, the costumer for the movie being filmed at the museum.  The movie’s costumer, an NYU student, was very friendly and asked dozens of questions about the pieces in the Susan Greene Collection.  The collections curator, Peter Wisbey, let us study and ogle over the pieces on display and the rest of the collection housed in the vault for nearly two hours.  We had a marvelous time looking at everything from children’s clothing to dresses, bonnets and other delicate accessories from every decade – and I especially enjoyed seeing a student my own age so enthusiastic about historical clothing!

And there you have up: the final paper.  Full speed ahead!

November 16, 2014

Winter Sewing List

At the present, while working on my final paper for the internship, I am in the process of figuring out and cementing my plans for the second semester of my gap year.  For sure it will include applying to colleges, more college classes (which will make me a transfer student, rather than an incoming freshman) and...lots & lots of sewing!  So, instead of stressing about the work ahead, I am dreaming about all of the sewing projects building up on my table.  Bursts of creativity demand a new winter sewing list:

While I have hundreds of ideas and want lists floating around in my brain, rationally and realistically, only the following are immediate needs with actual deadlines:

1) One of the head costumers at Stages, which was one of the local theaters I student costumed for during high school (eventually there will be some more posts on this), contacted me the other day and asked me to make a hairpiece for Little Women - a black snood with blue velvet trim and beaded accents.  This is the reference picture she sent me:

"Navy Blue Velvet Bowknot Barrette Hair Clip Snood Net for Women" via

2) For the Preparing for the Holidays event at the village, I will be serving food at Hosmer’s Inn!  I have been instructed to bring an apron (in addition to 1850s attire) - so how about a madder-colored plaid pinner apron?

Stash fabric (3 yards)

3) For the theatrical tours during Yuletide in the Village, I am cast as Esther Chapin, one of the female shoppers in both the Altay store and Confectionery scenes!  Better get started on those lines, as well as some more must-haves for the wardrobe:
  • Another chemise & pair of drawers as mine from the past season are looking a tad worn just finished!
  • Two tucked petticoats & a plain petticoat
  • Flannel petticoat as December in upstate New York is absolutely frigid
  • Hoping to acquire - wool stockings, sontag, fingerless gloves

Historical: And the start of my new college portfolio...

1) Regency Morning Attire: a ruffly half robe, perhaps with a cross front bodice, made from a small green check cotton (stash fabric - 2 yards).  Accessories will include a frilly cap with a matching chemisette or fichu & a pocketbook filled with period-looking letters.

Inspiration: Lady's Gingham Dressing Gown c.1825-1835
(Image via:

Frilly cap inspiration.
(Image via:

Corded bonnet & chemisette from the Napoleon: The Empire of Fashion Exhibit.
(Image via:

Lady's Pocket Book or Letter Case, c. 1780-1800
(Image via:

2) 1820s Mad for Plaid Winter Outfit: Now that I've made one Regency-esque dress, I naturally want an entire wardrobe full!  How about a series of "four season" Regency dresses for my portfolio?  I have an autumn themed dress, so next it's a wintertime dress made from black cotton broadcloth with plaid trim and burgundy cotton piping.  Accessories will include a fur muff, pelerine with a fur collar, reticule and bonnet.  

Dress inspiration: tulle summer gown, c. late-1820s- early-1830s
Kerry Taylor Auctions
(Image via:,-late-1820s,-the-bodice-cuffs-209-c-859a5671cc)

Accessory set c.1820-1840
Metropolitan Museum of Art
(Image via:

3) 1830s cross front dress with those huge gigot sleeves!  I have the perfect grey cotton stash fabric (6 yards) with small polka-dots, which appear either light pink or yellow.  Accessories will include a chemisette with a large collar, sleeve supports, a round reticule & poke bonnet with gold or pink trimmings.

Grey polka-dot stash fabric (6 yards)

4) 1848 Christmas Dress - originally planned for the ghost walk last month, now to be completed for Christmas!  Additions include a cream bonnet trimmed with green silk ribbon and vintage berries & a corded petticoat (30 rows down, 30 more to go!)

Sew many ideas, sew little time...happy sewing!

When I see a pretty dress (probably on pinterest)...please, pretty please can I have it?!?
(Image via:

November 8, 2014

An Autumn Regency Fairy Tale

As all tried-and-true fairy tales begin, once upon a time...

As you may have read in my previous posts, I decided to do a Regency inspired take on the miller's daughter from Rumpelstiltskin for Halloween & the Trick-or-Treat in the Village event this year!  (View the in progress posts here: Part I, Part II & Part III)

I was also greatly inspired by Paul O. Zelinsky's stunning illustrations in his
retelling of the classic Grimm's fairy tale, Rumpelstiltskin.

Inside-Out: Worn over my 1810s strapped petticoat and silk ribbed stockings, you can read all about the details & construction of the dress here.  Accessories include a ruffly chemisette and a velvet braided hairpiece.

Completed Project Shots: 

“Sometimes fairy stories may say best what’s to be said.” ~C.S. Lewis

The other day had the most perfect autumn weather, so it was time for a photo-shoot!  (Good timing too, because it began to snow the next day.)  *All photographs courtesy of my sister - thanks a million!*

Who said that princesses don't climb trees?

Spinning straw into gold on my drop spindle.

Project Review

Year: None, Regency Inspired

Pattern: Dress of my own pattern, Chemisette started as Sense & Sensibility's Regency Underthings Pattern

Material: Gold striped cotton, black cotton broadcloth, black chiffon, white cotton, black velvet

Cost: Mostly stash fabric, yard of chiffon $4, buttons $9, 2 yards of gold rope trim $5, fake hair $12

Critique:  Well, for a non-historical gown, I'd say I'm quite proud of the construction, especially because a majority of the dress is hand sewn!  Though not exactly the design I had originally intended, I am very pleased with the result!  And, I definitely see more Regency dresses & frilly chemisettes in my future...Overall verdict I'd say is very satisfactory - though my spindle has been put away for now, I am looking forward to an occasion to bring it out again!

And she lived happily ever after...

“In a utilitarian age, of all other times, it is a matter of grave importance that fairytales should be respected.” ~Charles Dickens

November 4, 2014

Eager Beaver Intern

Guess who cast her ballot for the first time - hooray for civil liberties!  And now, what say you to another internship installment?  I think it's about time I catch up on and recap what I've been learning at the museum during the month of October...

October 9, 214:  I spent my day in the costume shop practicing hand sewn button holes, a skill I have been longing to learn for months.  I experimented with two different, period correct methods.  The first method (as illustrated in The Dressmaker's Guide) is the most common where the button hole is cut first and then secured; the second (as illustrated in the Past Patterns instructions)  includes stitching first and then cutting.  I found the first technique more agreeable and worked button holes into two linen petticoats and a pair of wool breeches.

I took a lengthy midday break for an appointment with Patricia Tice, the curator of the Susan Greene Historical Clothing Collection.  She was very generous with her time, allowing me to study three extant garments – a late 1860s wrapper, an 1875 wrapper and a late 1870s “house dress” – up close and personally.  Then, in her office, we looked at wrappers and morning dresses from other well-known online collections.  After nearly an hour of discussion, I thanked her profusely and left full of wrapper research inspiration!

Sophia's twin!  An 1865 wrapper featuring bow closures down the front opening
& a watteau pleat, from an Italian collection.  (Source:

Speaking of mid-19th century wrapper research, which I will be conducting plenty of for the research component of my final project, I came with plenty of questions and left with some very interesting information:

I've come across various terms that seem to be used synonymously with "wrapper" - dressing gown, morning dress, tea gown, etc. - do these terms refer to the same type of garment?  Interestingly, the only period term that we came up with documentation for is a "dressing gown," which seems to be synonymous with the later term, "wrapper."  Both morning dresses and tea gowns are more formal dress, which, in many cases, were meant to be seen by close guests.  Wrappers, however, according to Ms. Tice, seem to be a popular choice for maternity wear.  (Definitely something that intrigued me...)

How does one tell they are looking at a wrapper rather than say a fashionable dress?  Are there certain telltale characteristics of wrappers?  Wrappers were definitely constructed to follow the lines of fashion, as seen in the cut and trim.  However, unlike morning dresses which had boned bodices (much like the fashionable dresses), wrappers seem to be universally less structured.  Common among the examples we looked at were front openings, cut with little structure and lots of fullness, except for belts and drawstrings in the back, which made them the perfect choice for maternity wear.

What does it say about a lady if she owns a wrapper?  Is it a luxury or working garment?  Wrappers were a garment of the upper, middle class.  Seemingly a garment of luxury (as no working mother would want a train trailing in the back to trip on), materials also revealed information about class.  Cotton wrappers were probably worn by middle class ladies, while wrappers of more expensive silks were an upper class possession.

October 10, 2014:  The village dressmaker was scheduled to work Saturday, rather than Friday, this week.  So, unfortunately, instead of working with her today, I had the chance to interpret in the Dressmaker’s Shop.  The morning was quite chaotic as 400 plus energetic school children and homeschool groups were expected and the typically closed building was a very popular attraction.  Recalling what I could from the dressmaker’s presentation the last time I worked with her, I did my best to interpret the building and dressmaking profession.

As for sewing, I worked on gauging an under petticoat and whip stitching the yoke of a chemise.  In fact, working on these undergarments served as strong interpretive points which allowed me to discuss the layers that are creating my 1850s silhouette, the change in fashion throughout the 19th century, and how those changes are reflected in the clothing throughout the village.  I had an absolutely wonderful time conversing with the guests today about historical clothing and I really hope there will be similar opportunities in the future!

October 16, 2014:  Since the regular museum season is over for the year, costume returns have begun along with much-needed repairs.  In the morning,  I set to work on a recent arrival, a heavy wool over-shirt, in need of repair.  The amount of work and attention to authenticity that each piece of the collection requires continues to amaze me and, with each stitch, increases my appreciation for the costumers.  In the afternoon, Cheryl started me on a new project to chip away at while on break from Sophia.  Aside from small repairs, I have never had any practice on men’s clothing, so making an early 1800s wool vest will be a new experience.

October 17, 2014:  Since the village is closed except for special events, I will now be spending the second day of my internship also in the costuming shop.  To prepare for the upcoming domestic skills conference, Bevin has arranged a small Friday project.  I will be crafting together three swatch books, showcasing appropriate choices for reproduction cotton prints for each decade of the 19th century.  As Cheryl and Maria worked on their projects, I spent the entire day cutting out hundreds of three inch by three inch swatches from the reproduction fabrics with pinking sheers.  

October 23,2014:  I began my stay in the costume shop by helping Wilma set up racks and reorganize the interpreter’s costumes that have been returned.  Afterwards, I settled down at the cutting mat to continue working on the vest that I had started last week.  With all of the pieces finally cut out, I could begin assembling the vest.  Reading and, more importantly, understanding the directions are going to be the next challenges.  I did, however, successfully figure out diagonal basting and had fun attaching the canvas interfacing to the vest fronts.

Vest fabrics: blue & white wool blend for the front,
blue cotton for the lining, and copper polished cotton for the back.

October 24, 2014:  I continued to work on my new Friday project, assembling the hundreds of squares I cut out last week into swatch books.  The acid free method of attachment turned out to be stitching, so, I spent the rest of the day doing just that – carefully lining up each of the swatches onto a page to stitch, backstitch, stitch and repeat.  A tad tedious, definitely repetitive, but not a difficult process and, by the end of the day, I was on a roll.

Stack of fabric swatches for the next book &
one of my favorite pages from the swatch book.

I finished one entire swatch book and made decent progress on the second, which will be finished next Thursday in time for the museum's domestic symposium - which you all will be hearing about in the next internship update!