June 23, 2016

Short Gown Studies IV: La Blanchisseuse

They that wash on Monday
Have all the week to dry;
They that wash on Tuesday
Are not so much awry;
They that wash on Wednesday
Are not so much to blame;
They that wash on Thursday,
Wash for very shame;
They that wash on Friday,
Must only wash in need;
And they that wash on Saturday,
Are lazy folks indeed.

 La Blanchisseuse, or the washerwoman.

Take a look at our first completed sewing project and photo shoot of the summer!  Early in June, Maria, my sister and photographer, agreed to photograph my newest, golden yellow short gown, intended for wear in the village down at Kieffer's Kabine.  (You'll find me interpreting there every other Saturday, so come out and say hello!)

It was hot, it was humid, and very itchy no thanks to the hordes of mosquitoes, but we persisted.  And, I can truly say that Maria's results never fail to amaze - she has such an eye for detail, composition and, best of all, is my sister.  We hope you enjoy the results!  

Washerwomen by Paul Sandby, ca.1790-1805.
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.
(Image via: Yale Center for British Art, B1977.14.5133)

Completed Project Shots

*All photographs courtesy of the one and only Maria Meck*  

Since a short gown is a garment intended for work, I though it might be fun to stage a laundress impression for the shoot.  My photographer agreed, and the picturesque location of the "dragonfly bridge" and creek at Ellison Park was selected.  

You might even recognize some of the laundry from previous short gown studies!  (Short Gown Study I, Study II, Study III

On the subject of laundry, Thomas Roscoe's The Works of Jonathan Swift: Containing Interesting and Valuable Papers, Volume 2, published in 1843, offers some interesting directions to servants.  

In Chapter XIV: Directions to the Laundress, it is suggested that: 
"If you singe the linen with the iron, rub the place with flour, chalk, or white powder; and if nothing will do, wash it so long till it be either not to be seen, or torn to rags.  
"About tearing linen in washing: -- 
"When your linen is pinned on the line, or on a hedge, and it rains, whip it off, although you tear it, &c.  But the place for hanging them is on young fruit-trees, especially in blossom; the linen cannot be torn, and the trees give them a fine smell." 
~ Excerpt from Roscoe's The Works of Jonathan Swift, Volume 2
Digitized by Google Books

There is also a fantastic article on 18th century laundry - 
Laundering Clothing in the 18th Century - that contains excerpts from letters, laundry instructions from period resources, and a very long list of washing, drying and ironing depictions.  I highly recommend it as a starting point to anyone interested in forming a laundress impression for 18th century (of course) and early 19th century reenactments.

Fun with filters!

A note on the short gown itself:  Mostly hand stitched (only the two long inside seams are machine stitched).  The box pleated trim featured on the sleeves and neckline were rolled hemmed to prevent future fraying.  Finally, a small, contrasting hem facing was applied.  (My tradition is catching on at GCV!)  

Short gown details - interior casing, hem facing & box pleated trim.

Thank you for stopping by!

June 6, 2016

2016 Summer Plans

With summer here today and gone tomorrow, I felt like writing my plans down on paper, or sharing them on the blog!

Comtesse de Ceres (sleeve detail, reverse image),
Elisabeth-Louise Vigee-LeBrun, 1784
(Image via: Pinterest

Number One - Work at the Genesee Country Village & Museum

My Goals for the 2016 Season:

(1) Research, research, research!  With all of the new buildings that I have been regularly scheduled in, being well read - not just on the buildings themselves and family biographies, but on the history of the furniture, clothing and crafts associated - is key to developing successful interpretations.  There is nothing more exciting than being able to answer just about any question thrown at you by a visitor.

In fact, I've barely been sewing this summer as I've been having so much fun compiling research (from a combination of the provided housebooks and independent findings) into interpretation binders:

I have compiled all of my interpretation notes & articles into 2" binders!
Volume 3 is entirely devoted to19th Century Fashion...

 Each building - which totals ten so far - receives its own colored divider, and then multiple tabbed sections that differ depending on the themes of that building's interpretation.  I have also started a separate binder for 19th century fashions...Devoting my days off and late nights to the quest for knowledge, I have no idea how many hours I have spent researching thus far...I may be a little very obsessed!

Yes, in case you were wondering, each page is double sided!

(2) Historical Hairstyle How-tos - In addition to the clothing, getting the hair just right is important to the look.  I don't consider myself particularly talented at hair dressing, so I'd like to work on developing better historical hair styling skills.

Here are some examples from this season:  How am I doing so far?

1800s-1820s: Part hair into two sections.  Form a high sitting ponytail with the top section (this should be fuller than the bottom section), braid it and pin into a bun.  Braid the lower section into a low, side braid, and wrap around the top section bun for a nice twisted effect.  (Also great for capturing those fly aways!  Though for my hair, it's a hopeless cause...)  Add ringlets to the front.

Here you can sort of see the low braid that trails up into the high bun...

1870s:  I've done this before for GCV's Victorian fashion show!  High braided bun with a large coronet braid (wish I also had a front view to show how high the braid stands...)  Layers of ringlets.  Some flowers or ribbons might be a nice addition to explore.

1870s-1880s:  Practically the reversal of the previous style!  I've been told the style makes me look more mature, maybe I should give full bangs a try...anyways, mid-height braided bun (should be placed higher?) with coronet braid and ringlet bangs.  

(3) And finally, to have fun & enjoy the company of my friends and co-workers!  A definite must! 

Number Two - Straw Millinery Apprenticeship TBD 

This is a secret that I've been keeping for a while...and I will not be elaborating at this time much beyond that I've always been intrigued with the craft.  How milliners of the past and present fashion straw, buckram and other natural fibers into wearable forms of art and cultural expression.  Having the chance to learn from an expert in the craft would be a dream come true, and certainly a unique skill to bring to my historical/theatre/film costume studies!  

Paris millinery shop, John James Chalon, 1822.
(Image via: Wikipedia, media file)

Number Three - Personal Sewing Growth 

An on-going goal for, let's face it, forever!  I doubt that my "to sew someday" list will ever cease to exist haha!  It's already about four pages long...

The Gold Embroideress, Vasily Tropinin, 1826.
(Image via: Pinterest

This summer I need to focus not just on dresses, but on undergarments and accessories, which will be imperative to the fashion camp that I will be teaching in July.  (More on this to follow)  Practice makes perfect!

The latest and greatest additions to my bookshelf
thanks to the prize money I received from a costume contest.

Number Four - Catching up on Blogging 

Another on-going goal...some posts to look forward to include a series on the costumes from Drowsy Chaperone, wrapping up some more Pittsburgh highlights (Art is Flowers, Flowers is Art - visiting the Phipps Conservatory), as well as a new series of posts featuring historical extant garments, TBA.

Duchesse de Talleyrand, Henri-Francois Riesener (1767-1828)
(Image via: Pinterest

And, if I ever take a break from that researching, some actual sewing should also make it on the blog!  

Cheers to a great summer all! 

June 2, 2016

Recalled to Life: Summer in Full Swing!

He opened it in the light of the coach-lamp on that side, and read—first to himself and then aloud:  "'Wait at Dover for Mam’selle.'  It’s not long, you see, guard.  Jerry, say that my answer was, RECALLED TO LIFE." 
~ A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

The morning of opening day - Saturday, May 7, 2016.

Aaaaand we're back after a long, six week hiatus!  Time flies.  I can hardly believe it's already June...where did May go?  There's certainly a lot to catch up on, and the blog post backlist is several pages long from Pittsburgh, to theatre, to sewing (yes, actual sewing!) stuff...it's a little overwhelming.  But, in the mean time, let's focus on the beginnings of the 40th anniversary celebration at Genesee Country Village and Museum!

A happy reunion!

It is such a joy to be back home and around the village and people I hold so dear.  I am so fortunate to work with such wonderful coworkers, who are really more like a second family!  

Some highlights from the month of May:  This 2016 museum season, which will be my third official season as a historical interpreter, is off to a running start! 

Rainbow villagers.

Opening weekend & Mother's Day:  

I had the opportunity to assist our expert spinner and dyer, Dawn H., both Saturday and Sunday at the dye pots behind Foster-Tufts.  Tasked with dyeing silk neckerchiefs for costuming, it was both a learning experience to work with the silk and a whole lot of fun!

Have you ever seen such brilliant colors?!

Day one involved indigo and black walnut hulls for various shades of blues and a  coppery brown befitting the chocolate themed weekend:

The results of indigo (left) and walnut hulls (right) on silk.

Black walnut hull dye in the pot. 

Day two was very colorful with cochineal and weld, natural dyes that produce reds and yellows, as well as fun with over-dyeing!

Silk neckerchiefs in cochineal.
(The purple scarf was the result of indigo & cochineal).
We also tried a yellow weld-dyed scarf in the cochineal for an apricot-colored scarf.

Silk neckerchiefs in weld.
(The green was the result of indigo & weld).

The results of the weekend were so surprisingly vibrant!  (Look for our village interpreters sporting these newly dyed scarves this season.)  

The results of four natural dyes: indigo, black walnut hulls, cochineal & weld.
(Note: the deep navy scarf was the result of indigo mixed with the walnut hulls.)

Historic Dinners at Hosmer's Inn: 

This year we are offering a Mount Vernon experience complete with a new and improved menu.  I've had the chance to play both hostess as well as tour guide again this season, and look forward to serving you!

Photograph by Ruby Foote.
(Image via: Facebook - Hosmer Inn Dinners)

A Blend of the Old & New: 

I'm a time traveler this year!  From the early-1800s down at Kieffer, to the 1830s at Foster-Tufts and Hosmer's Inn, 1850s at the D.B. Munger Confectionery, and 1870s at the Hyde and Hamilton Houses, you'll find me all over the village.  They've regularly scheduled me in mostly new (though not unfamiliar) buildings this season; but I am always up for the challenge and enjoying every minute.  Hope to see you in any of the 10 buildings and counting I interpret haha!  

A visitor turns the camera, unbeknownst to me at the time!
Photograph by Bob Cornish of Bob Cornish Photography
(Image via: Facebook)

The familiar: Foster-Tufts, home of the spinning, dyeing and cyclic life (birth, marriage, death) themes.  

Naturally dyed skeins of wool (for sale as part of our crafts-in-the-village initiative) -
Just look at those vibrant colors!

Have to love those large poke bonnets!

Berlin work pincushions.

The new: Kieffer, Hosmer, Confectionery, Hyde & Hamilton...Lots of research to be done!

I am loving the fashionable dress & hairstyles of the 1870s!
Bring on the Natural Form!
I want this hat so badly!
(Mary, you're never getting it back haha!)

Just look at that perch...best hat ever!  I am sold on the 1870s...

This is going to be a fantastic season! 

Photograph by Richard Deverell.