From Book to Barbara: The Jewelry and Finished Look


It wasn’t enough for me to just recreate the gown Barbara Johnson could have made with her red and white chintz fabric sometime in 1781. I really wanted to bring her to life through this project. Adding the all white accessories was simple enough, but it was only a piece of the puzzle and still didn’t give us the whole picture of who Barbara Johnson was.

As I began to work on cutting the apron and handkerchief and hemming the miles, and miles, of ruffles for both I began to think about what else Barbara might have worn with this gown. That’s when Kim Walters of At the Sign of the Gray Horse and I began talking about jewelry and watches. You see in real life I am not a jewelry person at all, the only thing I ever really wear is my wedding band, and at events it’s usually even more difficult for me to work jewelry into the equation. I pretty much go sans jewelry except maybe a simple coral necklace or drop earrings every once in awhile, they’re safe pieces and easy to spot in portraits, everything else I just don’t know enough about to feel comfortable donning.

I started chatting with Kim and immediately knew that I needed at least earrings. The fluff from the full ruffled handkerchief would obscure a necklace so it seemed silly to even be wearing one. I brought up earrings and she immediately suggested elongated drop pearls, which I just so happened to have on my wish list. Through her study of portraits and prints she has been able to kind of narrow down the trends through the decades. She says, “That doesn’t mean they didn’t wear other things – we just aren’t seeing it in portraits…” Pearls just happened to be a classic that remained popular through the centuries.

Once the earrings were settled she brought up my poor watch-less watch strings and suggested her reproduction gold case pocket watch. It would perfectly complement the gold in the pearl earrings and right around the 1780s we begin to see watch strings and watches become commonplace in fashion plates and portraits.

Harman_BlennerhassettEarrings – Check! Watch – Check! I think all that was needed to round out the work was a pretty little portrait miniature of one of my historical boyfriends. Having based my persona partly on the Blennerhasset family which settled in southern Ohio at the end of the 18th century I thought it would only be fitting to have my beau Harman Blennerhasset’s portrait miniature recreated.


And now the final reveal :




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