An Accomplished Lady Workshop

The Dutch Milliners

Step back in time with the Dutch Milliners as we transform into the Landrum sisters, proprietors and teachers at the Landrum Ladies Academy at the 2019 Jane Austen Festival hosted by the JASNA – Greater Louisville Region. 

Workshop Details

Cost: $45/ plus cost of admission 

Friday: 7:30p – 9p and Saturday 1:30p – 3p

Our workshop aims to round out the immersive experience of the Jane Austen Festival by teaching participants how to navigate polite society by making introductions and good acquaintances, demonstrating the skills and abilities needed to be considered accomplished without looking like Mary Bennet, knowing the in’s and out’s of this social hierarchy, and why all of this craziness was crucial to the success and livelihood of many unmarried women in want of a single man in possession of a good fortune. Each workshop will run for one hour and thirty minutes and both will cover the exact same material and include the same experience regardless if you choose workshop Part I or Part II.

What You’ll Learn

  • Dukes, Earls, and Esq.: Social Hierarchy during the Regency Era – A look at the
    social hierarchy of Regency era England. We will look at what exactly makes a gentleman a gentleman, how this hierarchy could effect your future, and the differences between the Gentry class and the Peerage.
  • Match Making for Success – How you could better your social standing by marriage, why money wasn’t everything, and why finishing schools became a popular tool for the daughters of the newly emerging middle class.
  • Coming Out in Society – A primer on all things proper concerning introductions, from how to introduce oneself and be presented to others, to how to properly use titles and show deference in curtsies.
  • Making Conversation – An exercise in polite conversations, including topics to discuss and topics to avoid, popular opinions of the time, and how to remain respectful and deferential during conversation.
  • An Accomplished Lady – An overview of the various skills attributed to accomplished young ladies of the time and a series of exercises to practice three of these skills.

What You’ll Get

  • Each participant will receive the aforementioned knowledge through an interactive lecture (read: Not Boring!)
  • The opportunity to make their own calling cards, necessary for making all of those important acquaintances.
  • A letter of introduction to the fine ladies of Spring Grove Cottage, securing you an invitation to their parlor for refreshments, cards, and agreeable conversation.
  • The opportunity to practice the accomplishments of art through sketching and watercolors, botany, and poetry in the creation of a ‘friendship journal’ based on several extants from the Regency era (check one out here!)- the perfect memento for your experience at the Jane Austen Festival!

 

Meet the Landrum Ladies

estherEsther Catherine Landrum was born in Chelthenham, her father the proprietor of the George Inn a well established coaching inn on the road to Bath. Coming from a genteel family she was sent to school in Bristol as a young girl where she became known as an accomplished singer and pianist. She returned home at the age of 17 after the unexpected death of her father. It was then that she begin to receive pressure from her older brother to find a suitor and settle down. After many unsuccessful attempts to marry her off he finally resigned to the fact that as long as the inn was prosperous she would not be a burden.

lydiaLydia Maria Aldridge Landrum was born in Bristol to a family with no particular fortune and only their name to recommend them. Her father inherited their meager estate and a pittance which allowed them to live in some comfort. Her aunt took pity on their family and agreed to pay for her schooling in Bristol as they could not afford the tuition for both her and her older brother. Upon returning from school she soon made the acquaintance of Thomas Landrum, a schoolmates brother and young officer in the Army. They were wed and soon she was moved to her new home in Chelthenham.

In 1812 the news came of Thomas Landrum’s death and the Landrum ladies were left with an uncertain future. Advised by their lawyer, and close family friend, the ladies agreed to sell the George Inn to Mr. E. Hughes in 1813. They received a substantial sum for the bustling inn and moved to Bristol where they later opened the Landrum Ladies Academy to teach young girls in the town and pad their modest income.

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For more information on the Jane Austen Festival and how to purchase tickets for the event and workshop please visit http://jasnalouisville.com/2019-jane-austen-festival-info

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Get Organized: Utilizing the Airtable App for Living History and Costuming

The Spring Collection

If you follow us on Instagram then you’ve probably seen us talk about the app and website called Airtable. If you haven’t, Airtable is basically a spreadsheet that also works as a database, so not only can you input information into an easy to read platform, you can organize it in a bazillion different ways to make it work for you! I’m low key obsessed, ok maybe not so low key lol.

I was first introduced to Airtable last summer when working with Molly Cooper of the 1st WAC Separate BN, she’s the queen of organization! It wasn’t love at first sight, but I did see the usefulness of the program at the time. I started setting up my first database to help me plan out projects and stay on top of them – something my UFO pile would love me to do. I planned about three projects and then forgot about it. Between the holidays and the general feelings of meh after The Season I kind of just wasn’t feeling it and the Airtable app just wasn’t working for me with the magic and wonder that Molly insisted it had for her.

Fast forward to this January, I had a slew of projects lined up in my head in multiple time periods. Add on to that the normal day to day things I have to remember between keeping the children alive, schooled, and the house from catching on fire. I was mentally fried and project pieces and deadlines were beginning to slip through the cracks. Thanks mom brain. I decided to sit down and force myself to make this Airtable app work the way I wanted it to.

First I decided I needed a database just for my sewing projects, something where I could easily see all of my planned projects, which time period they were for, which stage they were in, and what their deadline and priority level was. I started using the “Simple Project Tracker” database template in the app and then began customizing the fields.

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Simple Project Tracker template
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The modified template for my sewing projects

I left the first column (name) the same, copied the ‘Stage’ column and used it to create the ‘Time Period’ column, changing the options to 18th century, early 19th century, mid 19th century, and WWII. I kept the ‘Deadline’, ‘Priority’, ‘Photos’, and ‘Notes’ sections the same, just shuffled them a bit more to my liking. I also kept the ‘Tasks’ column which is a neat little way to connect to another spreadsheet all within the same database. Above you can see what the database looked like as the Simple Project Tracker template and what mine looks like now. Since Hayley and I use the same database for all of our reenacting stuff I copied my customized spreadsheet and just updated the name to differentiate between them, it now sits as the second tab in the Sewing Projects database with the Tasks spreadsheet as the third tab. The ‘Tasks’ spreadsheet is linked to both of the individual tables for our projects. As we enter tasks into our entries they generate here in the table. Below you can see what the ‘Tasks’ spreadsheet looks like, I only changed a couple of things on this spreadsheet.

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The ‘Tasks’ spreadsheet

I love that I can easily track each stage of my projects – no more forgetting to order swatches for weeks at a time. I also love the option of being able to attach photos or other media which is great for tracking inspiration for costumes. I’ve also found that there’s something superbly satisfying about getting to check off a box while in the midst of a project. Things like gowns and jackets and kids clothes (basically anything that isn’t a cap) seem to take forever and I’m definitely an instant gratification kind of person.

 

Now the next database was even more fun to create! I started with the Camping Trip Planner template and quickly started to customize the fields in the first spreadsheet. You can see below how much I changed things! We wanted to use this database as an easy way to organize the events we were attending and keep track of what exactly we were doing at said events since we tend to switch things up a lot. We kept the first column the same but then added a ‘Date’, ‘Prior Attendance, and ‘Registration’ field. I handle all of the administrative stuff so not overbooking us, ensuring we’re registered before deadlines, and have a general idea of what the event is about is something is something that can make my life easier. The next fields handle ‘Interpretation’, ‘Persona’, ‘Research’, and ‘Gear Needed’. The ‘Gear Needed’ field links to the existing ‘Packing List’ spreadsheet which currently needs some work. The ‘Persona’ field is linked to another spreadsheet that details all of those important things you need to keep straight when you do first person interpretation. The ‘Research’ field utilized the existing ‘Link’ field and is where we attach any research or resources related to the event and our interpretation.

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Camping Trip Planning template
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Newly customized and ready to go!

Ok so the last little bit I’m going to show you is a detail of the Clothing and Accessories spreadsheet. I kind of figured the Persona and Gear and Kit spreadsheets you could figure out on your own or eliminate entirely, but this one is neat. So I struggle with wanting to make a new outfit for every event. It’s just my thing and it needs to stop. I also struggle with remembering what all I have tucked away in storage, out of sight out of mind. So the weeks leading up to an event I inevitably forget what all I own and try to crank something out – enter this spreadsheet! This one tracks all of my outfits and the interchangeable pieces, like petticoats and caps, and all of those fun accessories. I can even go in and link an outfit to a persona so no more scrambling trying to remember if my cotton print gown is appropriate for a particular date/event or social class because its all right there! I can even electronically “pack” my clothing for an event by linking it right to the event spreadsheet! Voila! When I have 1000 other things to remember this one is going to save me from a mental breakdown and keep me in good graces with my hubby if I’m not buying fabric and sewing into the wee hours before an event. Below is an example of my fabulous table which is desperately in need of being updated – I meant to do it when I put all of my stuff away but you know, forgot.

clothing

 

So there you have it folks! This is just an overview of what I’ve done with the Airtable app and how it works for me. As a note all of the images are views from the Airtable website whereas the mobile app has a slightly different layout. If you want more pictures or details on how I set up the other spreadsheets just let me know and I’d be glad to help! I hope this inspires you to get organized and take control of that UFO pile – or at least organize it a little lol.

-Brittany

Historical Sew Monthly: March 2019

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I feel like I’m cheating with March’s challenge of  “Sewing Kit” but honestly my sewing kit is a bit sparse so there weren’t many tools to choose from. The challenge calls for you to make something with your favorite tool or gadget from your sewing kit or make something for your historical sewing kit, like a housewife or pinball. 9EC540EE-2833-4CB6-8497-2CC1E3143468Since I have my historical sewing kit in order already, I turned to my favorite tool: the Bohin needle, a French company in business since 1833 and manufacturing needles since 1860. In this day and age it can be difficult to find sewing tools and notions that are produced by manufacturers that are focused on quality and not quantity and cheap labor. I love these needles, they glide like through fabric like butter; yes even that tough K&P wool doesn’t stand a chance with these and I gladly pay to have these little fellows shipped to my door from Burnley & Trowbridge.

 

For this challenge I am entering my Barbara Johnson fine white muslin apron which was all completed by hand, using period techniques, and my favorite french needles. This post will be short and sweet since I’ve already detailed the project in this post here, so let’s get down to business.

The Challenge: Fine white ruffled apron

Material: Fine cotton muslin “mull”

Pattern: None, self drafted based partly on the American Duchess Guide to Sewing

Year: 1780s

Notions: Thread and beeswax

How historically accurate is it? Nothing will ever be 100% accurate so let’s put this at a close 95% accurate.

Hours to complete: Honestly not as long as I thought, I didn’t keep track very well because I was sick but realistically maybe 6-8 hours.

First worn: Hasn’t been worn yet but fingers crossed we’ll have a photo shoot in a couple of weeks. If the weather doesn’t cooperate then it will make its debut at the Crabill Homestead event the last weekend of April. 

Total cost: About $36 in fabric between the apron and the handkerchief

Historical Sew Monthly: February 2019

 

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I’m a horrible blogger. I repeat, I am a horrible blogger. As you can tell from the title this post is all about the February HSM challenge, I actually did complete this in February, I just suck at blogging – in case those in the back didn’t hear me the first time. February’s HSM challenge was “Linen/Linens” as in make something out of linen or as in the other use of the word, underclothes. After the 1850 Winter Evening event at Cobblestone Farm, for which I made the last HSM challenge, I had already fallen in love with this new time period and volunteered my children to come with me for the next event at this beautiful site, the Spring Fling to be held on Sunday May 5th. This meant not only would I need another dress suitable for the warm weather, but my three boys would all need full outfits. GULP. That’s a lot of sewing! I’m probably crazy.

I started researching little boys clothes for the 1850s knowing that my youngest (just turned 4 at the end of February) would still be in frocks I decided to start there as information and patterns seemed readily available and easy enough to understand. I dug into Pinterest to look at extant frocks in museums and darling little boys in daguerreotypes (pro tip: center parted hair indicates a girl, side part a boy) and read as much as I could from amazing sites like Elizabeth Stewart Clark’s The Sewing Academy and the blog by Romantic History. I settled on the pattern the Elizabeth puts out, seeing as it seemed the most well researched and with a lot of bang for your buck in terms of everything you could produce with it.

Knowing that every time period requires the use of proper undergarments in order to achieve the look you want, I began drafting up a bodiced petticoat for my little Bug. To be honest this was one of the easiest little garments to make…ever. I measured the munchkin and using the bodice pattern I cut straight into my white linen, no time for mock-ups it’s a simple garment who has time for that lol. Once the bodice was sewn up and was semi-wearable I fitted on the Bug and realized hes actually a lot tinier than said bodice. Facepalm. Not wanting to make another and realizing eventually he will grow I made two vertical tucks at the center back closure of the bodice to take in the extra – when he outgrows it simply remove the tucks!

With the crisis averted I moved onto the skirts. I did some crazy maths and calculated how long the skirts should be and how many panels I wanted. I began sewing them up, hemming and working on the two tucks I had accounted for. I hastily gauged the skirts – no dread and terror this time- and was proud to have finished the petticoat in less than a day. I tricked my little guy into putting it on and SURPRISE I did the math wrong and his skirt was longer than I wanted. GRR.

So now I had to fudge another set of tucks while the skirt was attached to the bodice, what a pain. I managed to finagle it more quickly than I was expecting and decided to give everything a nice pressing – seriously is there anything more satisfying than freshly pressed tucks on a petticoat? **Note that the following images do not depict a satisfyingly pressed tucked petticoat**

With how quickly I put this together I immediately cut out a sweet frock for him and had it finished in another day. Seriously, this thing is darling. I decided to go with a lightweight cotton plaid/check because 1. it was on clearance 2. it’s always dreadfully hot during the summer events and 3. I saw a lot of boys wearing plaids and checks in dags. Once the gown was finished we sat down together and looked at how some frocks were trimmed – plain frocks are no fun and my little man isn’t afraid to be EXTRA. He really enjoyed the sash and belt look on a few extants so we went with that using some scrap brown worsted wool I had from another project. We decided to use that same wool for contrast piping and for a sweet little dagged trim on the sleeves. I think it really gives the frock a more masculine feel.

I’m really excited about the finished project and I can hardly wait for the event next month. I definitely think he’s going to be irresistible to photographers.

PS. Enjoy some photos of him in his adorable outfit, I couldn’t resist sharing them.

 

The Challenge: 1850s linen bodiced petticoat for a child

Material: White linen

Pattern: The Sewing Academy 220: Little Boys Wardrobe and Romantic History tutorial

Year: 1840-1850s

Notions: Metal hooks and eyes, beeswax, and thread

How historically accurate is it? It’s mostly machine sewn and it seems that cotton was a more popular choice for undergarments in the mid 19th century so I will say its 75% accurate.

Hours to complete: Total was probably less than 4 hours

First worn: Aside from pictures for this post and Instagram last month it hasn’t been officially worn yet

Total cost: $25 for pattern, linen fabric was from the stash

Historical Sew Monthly: January 2019

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Ok, so I think by now we all understand how bad I am at keeping up with blogging. To be honest though, if I blogged as much as I wanted I probably wouldn’t get half as much sewing done as I’d like to. Vicious circle. Anyways, for the second year in a row I am casually participating in the Historical Sew Monthly challenge hosted by the lovely Dreamstress. If you’ve never heard of the HSM challenge definitely check it out, I love seeing all the cool projects people turn out to fit the challenge themes! This year I managed to inadvertently knock out the first two challenges with little effort as they fit right in with my  sewing plans. #score!

The first challenge of the year was “Dressed to the Nines” and costumers were encouraged to create something fancy to be “dressed to the nines” or create something from a year ending in 9 (like 1849), or incorporate the number 9 into the design elements, like 9 buttons. This was perfect as I need to whip together a dress for an event in February that was set in 1850.

I decided to start planning my project by perusing Pinterest for some inspiration. I was still really new to this period and learning exactly what shapes and details were appropriate was daunting, fortunately they had photography! During a random search I came across this dress and then this fashion plate and finally this dag.

Hmm, look at all that blue changeable silk! Funny thing is I have an entire bolt of that very same fabric sitting in my sewing room – sometimes things are meant to be!

So with the fabric decided upon I began looking at elements I liked in these dresses, namely the tightly gathered bodice front and the tight sleeves, and chose the Truly Victorian pattern 454 German Day Dress to work with. I had heard many great things about the Truly Victorian patterns and figured I couldn’t go wrong with them especially when working in unfamiliar territory. I really enjoyed working with the TV pattern, but not going to lie the sizing chart was crazy. I might just be really unproportional but I had to fudge some numbers to get to a size that made sense. I really had my doubts about the fit when sewing up the mock-up but amazingly the crazy maths and head scratching worked! I had to make zero adjustments! Seriously when does that ever happen, especially on an unfamiliar pattern in a new time period? Truly Victorian patterns I AM SOLD!!

After whizzing through the mock-up I whipped together the bodice in no time – seriously flat lining is my new favorite thing, WHY AREN’T WE USING THIS MORE OFTEN???

With one week before the event all I had to do was gauge the skirts and attach them – cue terror and dread.

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Holy Crap I can gauge skirts!

Pleating skirts is second nature for me, when it comes to knife pleats that is, but throwing in a new technique like gauging (or cartridge pleating) and you have me shaking in my boots. I don’t do well with change. I think I spent more time researching how to gauge skirts than I did actually gauging them. Not even joking.

The week of the event and after 2 cups of coffee, 4 pep talks, and like 7 internet tutorials I finally bit the bullet and gauged the darn skirts. It took me approximately the entire season of BBC’s The Living and The Dead (I don’t suggest watching this before spending an evening in a dark and haunted Victorian home) to finish the skirts and attach them to the bodice, essentially making the thing.

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Ta-Da! Ignore my shrinking dress form, that girls got problems

The day of the event we met up early to do a mini photo shoot, because that’s what you do when you make a new thing you’re proud of right?

The event was focused on recreating some of the activities that would occur around a house during a winter evening in 1850. The 1850s girl gang decided to reenact a parlor scene by taking tea, reading and discussing current events. We took advantage of the gorgeous candlelight to snap a few haunting images. Overall the event and the gown were a huge success.

HSM challenge #1 = Accomplished!

The Challenge: “Dressed to the Nines” an 1849 day dress

Material: Blue and black changeable silk, black silk, and green cotton twill lining

Pattern: Truly Victorian #454 German Day Dress

Year: 1849

Notions: Metal hooks and eyes, beeswax, cotton cord, blue linen thread, and blue silk thread.

How historically accurate is it? The pattern is based off of an original tailors guide written c. 1843 and the fabric and styling matches extant gowns and those seen in fashion plates and daguerreotypes, however the gown is mostly machine sewn (its an antique machine if that helps recoup points), so I will call it 90% accurate.

Hours to complete: I’m terrible at tracking hours but from mock-up to finished product there is probably 24 hours of labor involved.

First worn: Saturday February 9th, for the Winter Evening event at Cobblestone Farm in Ann Arbor, MI.

Total cost: Less than $25, fabric and almost all notions came from stash. Pattern and cording were the only purchases.

From Book to Barbara Pt. III

The last time we updated you on the Barbara Johnson gown the project was still in the fitting stages with a muslin mock-up. I’m excited to report that over the past couple of weeks, in between other sewing projects, I have finally finished the c. 1781 red and white chintz gown that may have been in the style that Barbara Johnson had made for herself when she purchased the original fabric and lovingly pasted the swatch into her album.

If you recall in the last update I shared with you some of the details of gowns in a

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The half Dress of the year 1782. Anne Frankland Lewis.

handful of fashion plates dating to 1780-1783 to reference for this gown. As I worked with the lovely printed fabric I instantly knew that I wanted long sleeves to fully show off the beautiful print and the changing style seen over the early 1780s. I also knew right away that I wanted full gown skirts that could be stylishly “rucked up” or worn down long on the ground almost like a train, as seen in the watercolor by Anne Frankland Lewis for the “Half Dress of Year, 1782”.

I first cut the bodice pieces and began construction on them right away using the 18th century techniques I learned through the Burnley & Trowbridge YouTube channel and the Larkin & Smith patterns. Once the bodice was basically finished I cut the petticoat panels, opting to use only 2 yards to ensure I’d have nice full gown skirts like I had originally planned. I next cut my sleeves from the 1 yard remnant from which I cut the bodice. Having forgotten that I had wanted to have long sleeves I put aside the rest of the fabric almost a full 4 yards for the gown skirts. It was at that point I realized I’d have to do some piecing to get the sleeve length I wanted.

I pieced in the top of one upper sleeve cap, thinking it would be more easily disguised

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Pieced sleeve cap with tiny stitches

with the shoulder pleats and less likely to be at a stress point than if I tried to hide it in the underarm piece. The sleeves were made using two pieces, upper and under arm, and were self drafted using directions from the American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Dressmaking. I was so surprised at how easily they went into the armscye and how comfortable they are to wear. I fitted the bodice really so the underarm is right up in my armpit, but not digging in, and yet I have a full range of motion! I love it!

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Ready for the gown skirts!

After the sleeves were set it only took me a couple of hours to pleat the gown skirts and attach them to the bodice. I managed to save myself some time by using the selvage edge for the hem (plus the other selvage side provides a nice and sturdy side to attach to the bodice) and only had to narrow hem the sides of the skirts. Go me for working smarter, not harder. So shes finished and completely wearable as is, but I can’t help to think that Barbara would have some stylish all white accessories to pair with this new gown and let’s be honest, I’m a glutton for punishment.

I decided that I really wanted an all white ruffly apron and handkerchief as seen in several of the early 1780s fashion plates to pair with this gown. I ordered the sheer cotton muslin “mull” from Burnley & Trowbridge and have already cut out the apron, handkerchief, and SIX YARDS of ruffle fabric. SO MANY RUFFLES.

I also can’t imagine Barbara Johnson wouldn’t have an updated cap or pretty silk hat so a new cap is in the planning stages – toss up between organdy or silk gauze, and a straw hat is currently being covered in white silk taffeta, to be trimmed with white moire silk ribbons and white silk gauze. Nothing says the 1780s like white frothy confections on top of the head!

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Accessory Goals = ALL THE RUFFLES, also cute doggo!

Authenticity and Attitudes

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We’ve received a great response to the 18th century reenacting survey , which we posted about last week, and already people are asking more questions about the themes presented and are beginning to come to their own conclusions. We love it! Its getting people talking and not only is it getting them reflecting on their own experiences, but many are beginning to consider how others in the hobby may perceive them and their actions, whether intentional or not.

Some great observations about authenticity and attitudes have been made that may account for the feelings of bullying and cliquey behavior, not discounting peoples feelings at all but simply trying to make sense of the big picture – is this an issue of true bullying or more of an issue of unwanted criticism or poorly worded, yet well meant advice? The truth is we’ll probably never know (unless of course we do a more in depth survey on bullying, but we’ll save that for another day) but there are some things we can do now to help change these perceptions of bullying and cliques within the hobby. Below are several suggestions that were presented in response to our prompt on “how to be accessible and build a stronger community”

  • Be the unofficial welcome wagon for events. Take your posse around to every camp, introduce yourself and invite them to stop by your camp sometime for refreshments.
  • If you’re a more experienced participant go out of your way to greet new faces at events. Being the newbie can be intimidating and a friendly face can make the difference between someone really enjoying the event or hating it.
  • Don’t give criticism unless specifically asked, pay compliments instead.
  • Try sharing your favorite resources freely and encourage others to get as excited about them as you are. Show the process behind the research instead of quoting the hard and fast rules.
  • Welcome interpretations and views that may differ from yours. Its ok to agree to disagree sometimes.
  • Don’t be afraid to call out obvious bullying.
  • Be thoughtful about the words you use when communicating online. Its easy to misconstrue text, to avoid misunderstandings and further problems be thoughtful and consider how someone else may read into what you’re typing.

What other ideas might you add to our list?

 

 

18th Century Reenactor Survey Results

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‘The Studious Fair’ Lewis Walpole Library 

Inspired partly by a survey recently conducted by the 1st WAC separate battalion living history group, in an effort to create a better environment for female reenactors in the WWII community, and partly by our own feelings of unhappiness within the 18th century reenactor community we decided to conduct our own survey using the ever handy Google Forms app.

Our goal was to get a better understanding of what the general perception was of the 18th century reenacting community with some specific focus on identifying the strengths and weaknesses of the community of women and non military/civilian interpreters. We had 230 participants from across the US, Canada, and parts of Europe respond and have compiled the data to the best of our ability identifying trends as noted.

18th Century Reenactor Survey Analysis 

The results were eyeopening, to say the least, and they validated a lot of the feelings held by several female and civilian reenactors I am acquainted with. In the next few days we will be posting prompts, here and on our Facebook page, that coincide with the data in an attempt to work towards correcting the issues identified through the survey. Ultimately we hope this will be used as a tool to open up dialog in the community and enact positive changes to create an inclusive environment for all participants.

 

The Pinterest Gown of Craziness

IMG_4418There are times when I feel like I’m in a sewing funk and can’t stomach to make just another plain ol’ robe a l’anglaise so I turn to Pinterest for some inspiration. That’s where crazy ideas come from, Pinterest. I know you’ve seen that meme floating around about eating salads out of mason jars, that’s what Pinterest does to you! It just puts these ideas into your head and you’re like,

“Yeah let’s do that! It’ll be so easy and I’ve never seen anyone do that before so it’ll be way cool!”

but really it’s totally crazy.  Oh and we can’t talk about Pinterest without mentioning the unwritten rule: Pinterest projects can go one of two ways, you either knock it out of the park or it becomes a dreaded Pinterest fail. 

The Challenge 

So a group of costuming peeps are heading to the Valentine Theater next month to hear the Toledo Symphony Orchestra for Mozart’s birthday and I needed something new and appropriate for the symphony. The challenge is it has to be a stash busting project because holidays mean spending my money on other people instead of buying myself more pretties to hoard away. It also has to be something amazing and right around the 1780s, just because. 

The Solution

B877E2DE-62B8-432C-973B-B270B247CFC3Digging through my stash was sad, there really isn’t a lot left that would be appropriate for an 18th century upper class evening wear ensemble that hasn’t already been earmarked for another project. Aside from bits and pieces of silk from various projects the only useable length of fabric I have is a navy blue silk saree embroidered with gold thread in a basic polka dot and club motif, so it’ll have to do! I have roughly 4 1/2 yards of the plain blue embroidered fabric with a small panel of blue and gold striped that is a little over a yard, so gonna have to get creative here ie. head on over to Pinterest. 

 

60FB3AF4-15CC-4CA9-8A93-0B6B36D71F0EI just start typing in really random and vague search terms like “1780s fashion plate” in hopes of finding a rabbit hole to fall down that will lead me to “the look”, whatever that may be. I don’t even know how long it took but once I found it I knew it was “the one”. A striped bodice with big ruffly white sleeves and this plain skirt trimmed with more stripes and ruffles, hmm this fits the bill it’s visually interesting, something I’ve never seen done before, and it uses stripes! 

So now we have a plan and we have a bodice mock up already in place – I cut two when first working on the one for the Barbara Johnson gown, time to start cutting up some silk 😬

-Brittany

From Book to Barbara Pt. II

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Things are beginning to take shape with Barbara Johnson’s “red and white chintz gown” based on the description from her album of swatches currently located at the V&A Museum. I worked with Jess, of Penny River Costumes, to come up with an idea of what type of gown  Barbara might have been describing in the early 1780s when she first pasted in this pretty printed swatch. 

 

Three fashion plates dating to 1781-1783.

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Is that a shaped sleeve I see?

Based on fashion plates and extant gowns dating approximately to the same decade, we think Barbara most likely had her mantua maker make her a robe a l’anglaise with a low cut “v” shaped back piece, sometimes referred to as an “Italian Gown” with a coordinating petticoat. Sleeve length during the decade seemed to vary and could be anywhere from the elbow to the wrist. They also could be trimmed, left plain, or with a set of fine white sleeve ruffles. The fashion plate Barbara carefully placed on the page accompanying her “red and white chintz” swatch appears to have a gown with sleeves just past the elbow, perhaps a shaped sleeve which had started to rise in popularity?

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Ignore the lumps and bubbles 😑

Now knowing what type of gown I needed to recreate it was time to begin drafting a pattern and creating a mock-up of the bodice. To create the pattern I decided to work from an existing gown that I finished earlier in the year that features the same deep “V” shape in the bodice back and fits perfectly over my false rump.

The blue silk Levite gown was franken-patterned using the Wingeo Levite pattern, the fashionable gown pattern from Larkin and Smith, and my standard bodice sloper. Combining these three patterns I was easily able to create that desirable 1780s back, having done it once already I’m hoping the mock up process will go quickly this time around.

First, I cut out my lining pieces for the bodice back and fronts using the Larkin and Smith Fashionable gown back and my bodice sloper. I’m always up for shortcuts so I’m going to use my lining as my mock up just to save some time. Even though I’ve made gowns from these particular pattern pieces countless times I always start with fitting my lining EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. no matter how many times I’ve made that particular gown. It never fails that if I skip this step something will go terribly wonky for some unexpected reason. 

1. Uncut side, too low at the waist and hips.

2. Center back nicely trimmed to fit over false rump without any wrinkling at the waist.

3. Detail of one side trimmed out over  rump at hips.

As you can see here I have my mock-up sewn together and mounted on the dressform with one side cut and pinned into the shape I’m looking for. Now I just have to do the same for the other side. Is this method historically accurate? Meh, I can’t vouch for that but it works for me and that’s all that matters right now. 

For the back, I added length to the Fashionable Gown back pattern piece, just guesstimating how much to add to make the dramatic point. I’ve trimmed it away a little starting at the center back point to gradually sit just over the hips at the side back, this smooths out any wrinkles at the waist. Once the back is cut and looks even

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Time to fix up the fronts!

I move onto the fronts. For this part I used my basic sloper for a center front closing bodice and cut the hips out slightly higher, just enough to accommodate the extra padding provided by the false rump. The center fronts are pinned closed and trimmed and then the bottom is shaped to meet with the cut-out sides. Once I’m done trimming I spin the form around to double check for any wrinkles or bubbles. What’s left should smooth out with the weight of the skirts and the extra stability of the fashion fabric. One of the curses of working with soft, buttery linens is its ability to wrinkle, bubble and stretch without that added foundation.

Now it’s time to try it on over my stays and fix any fitting issues! This process usually takes a couple tries so I was going to save this for another post but surprisingly enough it only took one fitting this time. I just need to trim a little under the arms to release just a bit of that wrinkling and it should be just about perfect!

Ps. Ignore the crappy fitting selfies, tiny bathrooms and stays making selfies difficult.

-Brittany