Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Star Wars at the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra

 It's become a tradition to go with Benjamin to the annual end-of-year Star Wars performance at the Cincinnati orchestra. Each year the historic 1878 Music Hall hosts a showing of one of the Star Wars films and the score is played live by the orchestra! Some guests dress up in Star Wars themed clothing for the performance and it has been fun to join in and experience the emotional unity of a fan-filled crowd as great moments cross the screen. 

This year we were inspired by the Lars family depicted in the recent tv series 'Kenobi' and Benjamin chose to dress as Young Luke Skywalker in a tunic, turtleneck, trousers and the brown jedi robe I made for his older brother many Halloweens ago. From exploring the theory of the clothing of the Star Wars universe further over the last several years it seems that robes of this kind are quite common among rural or working class civilians and not specifically a jedi fashion. Uncle Lars can be seen wearing a similar hooded robe in his various appearance throughout the Star Wars films. 

I chose to make a new costume for the occasion and put together an interpretation of Beru Lars outfit from Attack of the Clones; mostly because I had material on hand similar enough in appearance to the film costume that it would be recognizable. 

I made three new clothing pieces for this costume; the blue pleated shirt, the white over-tunic and the brown skirt. I also made a quick leather belt to hold a pouch for necessities. 

The blue shirt was made from a heavyish piece of wool blend fabric that has a coarse texture and visible weave. It started out more of a grey-blue but I dyed the length in some indigo RIT before cutting the shirt out and sewing it together. Due to the small amount of fabric I had I made fewer pleats than the shirt Beru wears in the films but I am happy with how it came out and with the interest the pleats give to an otherwise nondescript piece of clothing. I mean to eventually take detailed pictures of each garment but so far just took pictures of the shirt, so here they are so you can see how it is cut and worn:

The tunic was made using my Vietnam ao ba ba pattern; this is cut with the fold at the top of the shoulder and the side and underarm seams are cut as one. Sleeve extensions are sewn on to create enough length for the sleeves. I finished the V neck opening with a 2 inch collar all around and the sleeve hems were cut on the selvedge so did not need to be hemmed. 

The wrap skirt Beru wears is interesting and it took me a little while to figure out how it was cut. The skirt has a center front triangular gore and the rest of the skirt is a slightly flared rectangle cut to fit the waist measurement at the top and wider at the bottom to allow room for walking. There is a small underlap piece sewn to one side of the skirt opening and the triangular gore sewn to the other. I used a nice quality grey-brown wool I had on hand for the skirt and lined it fully to help it hang better. The waist, hem and front openings are finished with a facing of the wool and the skirt closes with a button closure at the waist. 

Beru's hairstyle is a braided bun at the back with two smaller side buns. This style reminds me of some Victorian era hairstyles and was a fun look that was comfortable to wear. 

We had such a fun evening at Music Hall with fellow fans and Benjamin was recognized by many as Young Luke which both pleased and embarassed him. His favorite moment was meeting and getting his picture taken with Darth Vadar, whom he called "Father". I love seeing his excitement and am happy he still enjoys dressing up! He is looking forward to the next performance at the end of this year and is already busy thinking about a new costume!

Much love,


Friday, February 10, 2023

Roman Era Briton Common Woman

Back in November I had the opportunity to present a historical impression to a few classes of middle schoolers. I thought a lot about what I would cover and planned to present about Bronze Age Britian but at the last minute I changed my mind and went with Roman-era Britian and what a day in the life of a common woman may have looked like in that first century AD. 

I did this so I could bring a big basket of Bronze Age clothes in case any of the kids wanted to dress up and show their classmates what an earlier period outfit looked like. Since the majority of prehistory garments from this area of the world are made of simple rectangles and are tied, pinned and draped to fit the clothes I brought fit a wide variety of people. To my surprise and joy the kids loved dressing up, fastening on necklaces, wearing a cloak, playing the drum I brought and passing around the baby doll I brought to demonstrate what a baby from that period may have worn. 

For my own outfit, I made a new dress based on the Gallic Coat, a fascinating garment that was discovered almost perfectly preserved in a grave of the 1st century at Martres-de-Veyre. 

This garment, while not found precisely in the area I was portraying, is one of our best examples of the kind of clothing a common person probably wore throughout this part of Europe during the 1st century AD. I found a great article on recreating this coat on Scribd. This type of garment is cut as two rectangles with a hemmed slit left open for a neck opening. Two rectangular sleeves are attached, forming a T shaped garment. It is possible that the original garment had very slightly shaped sloping shoulder seams that were likely created by increasing the seam allowance at the shoulders rather than cutting the rectangular panels to slope at the shoulders. 

For my dress, I used a plaid wool flannel fabric in shades of blue and green. It is documented that celtic people in Britian used checks in this period and colors for dying their fibers. This is in contrast to the earlier Bronze Age clothing that was likely not dyed and relied instead of the natural color of sheeps wool (in this period the sheep utilized for their wool had brown hair) to create patterns in fabrics that were woven as checks or stripes. 

I also made wool sewn stockings based on the stockings from the same grave at Matres-de-Veyre. 

For both the dress and the stockings I used 2 ply wool yarn, waxed, to hand sew and fell the seams with a short running stitch and closely spaced slip stitches. 

Since it was getting near winter at the time I made a hood based on the Orkney Hood, dating from a bit later (the earliest possible estimated dating is from around 250 AD). 

The hood is made of one piece of material that is cut to shape and the hem is finished with a fringed band. My version has just one band with separate, applied fringe. The original hood was made with two bands of tablet woven material with the fringe incorporated into the woven bands. It is probable that the original hood was made for a child or a small person and appears to have been constructed out of recycled materials that originally came from different garments. 

My hood is made of heavy herringbone wool and is, like the dress and stockings, unlined and sewn with felled seams in 2 ply wool. The fringe is grey wool yarn looped and knotted just above the hem of the band. This hood is incredibly warm! 

I accessorized with a small leather belt pouch, a braided linen belt and my leather shoes that I made for my Bronze Age impression last summer. I used twill tape to tie up my stockings above the curve of the calf to keep them from slipping down. 

 The twill tape is linen and may not be accurate to this period but it is likely woven bands of wool would have been used as garters in much the same way. Underneath the dress I wore a long sleeved linen T shaped shorter tunic as an undergarment. It is rare to find evidence of hemp textiles from this period since the material deteriorates so quickly, although some evidence does exist, generally as fibers preserved inside bracelets or behind brooches or pins. 

For my cloak, I dyed a black and white wool skirt I bought at the thrift store in blue and wore it pinned around my shoulders. The cloak is rectangular, as one unpieced panel (the original skirt was pleated and made as a wrap skirt). The selvedges finish off two of the edges and I left the other two edges unhemmed and frayed into a slight fringe. 

I brought different foodstuffs that could have been available to Britons in this period, at this time of year - smoked meat (in this case, pork) fried and wrapped in wool. Dried plums, hazelnuts and bread made of oat and rye flour with a little salt and water and baked as small cakes. 

The story to go along with my impression is that I was a woman traveling from my village to visit my sister, who had just had her first child earlier in the year. I had had to wait til this time (November) to visit her as before then I had been busy helping my family and village with preparations for winter, including food harvest and preservation. 

But now, that was finally accomplished and I could spare some time to bring my sister some gifts from our household and meet my new nephew or niece. 

It was really fun dressing my daughters life like baby doll and bringing the doll in to incorporate into my impression. It was the most popular thing ever at the demonstration that day and everyone wanted a chance to hold the baby. I was a little surprised the middle schoolers were so enthusiastic about the doll but it was a very pleasant surprise! We decided the baby was a girl and her name was Hyfryd - a Welsh word meaning lovely or delightful. 

Much love,


Tuesday, October 25, 2022

An 1880's Wash Dress

I made this dress about a month ago to wear to a local Sorghum festival, held at a wonderful historic farm and celebrating Appalachian crafts, culture and, of course, sorghum! The first weekend of October saw plenty of visitors to the farm where they could observe the processing of sorghum and enjoy food items made with the resulting sweet syrup. Different heritage artisans and crafters had demonstrations throughout the days. I went on Sunday, since Saturdays weather was less than ideal and I didn't want to risk damaging the cabinet to my treadle machine. 

The festival focuses on the mid 1860's - 1940 period. My demonstration was that of using the treadle machine and as I researched more into the history of sewing machines and their use in more rural and less affluent areas I got really excited about talking about this topic. I brought three dresses with me to show the evolution of the use of the sewing machine in the construction of home-sewn clothing; an 1860's dress that has a little machine sewing with a lot of hand finishing; an 1890's two piece dress that shows a more equal division of machine and hand sewing, and finally a 1930's dress that is mostly all machine sewn. 

I intended to wear my 1890's dress to this event since I had not yet had an opportunity to wear it but decided I would rather have it available for people to see its interior construction, as that is the most interesting part! So, I made this dress to wear instead and whipped it up quickly over a three day period. It helps that I've had a dress like this planned for a few years - I already had the sketched design, bodice pattern and fabric folded and set aside - so in the end it was just a matter of cutting it out and sewing it together. Which I did, of course, using my treadle sewing machine. 😅

Over the past few years since I got my great great great grandmothers machine I have used it very often. At this point, I use it the majority of the time. I still have my electric one that I will sometimes use but the treadle seems to offer far better control, makes a better stitch and is much easier to clean and maintain. 

By the 1880's, the use of a sewing machine for clothing was common across all classes. There are some things that necessarily have to be done by  hand, like buttonholes, but nearly everything else can be, and often was, sewn on the machine, especially for everyday clothing that was washed frequently. 

My bodice is cut in the late Victorian style, with the center back, side back, undearm and front pieces. The shoulder join is just at the top of the shoulder and the sleeve head is fitted with very little ease into the armscye. I used the 1880's sleeve pattern from Kay's Housekeeping Dress for my sleeves and they worked very well. These sleeves have a few pleats at the back of the arm, just at the elbow, to allow for flexibility of movement. Despite being slim fitting sleeves they are easy to wear and quite comfortable.

The skirt is cut with a front gore, two side gores and a straight rectangular back panel, as per an 1883 diagram in Frances Grimbles wonderful book Fashions of the Gilded Age, Volume 1. The skirt has an offset, or dogleg, closure and fastens with a hook at the side waist.  The skirt is hemmed with a separate bias cut facing of scrap fabric that is about 5" wide. The bodice closes down the center front with white china buttons. The skirt is gathered along the raw top edge by machine and hand stitched with a back stitch with heavy thread to the bodice. 

Marna Jean Davis blog post on wash dresses was an invaluable aid to me as I made this dress. I also found her publication No Lady of Leisure extremely interesting and very helpful as this book examines the everyday styles of working class ladies and how their clothing combined the basic fashionable silhouettes of the era with practical fabric, construction and styles. 

I used a mid weight cotton for my dress. This was a piece I picked up from an antique shop awhile ago and unfortunately there are some fade lines where the fabric was folded for so long. I put the worst of these sections in the back of the skirt so hopefully it isn't as noticeable. The bodice is flat lined in white cotton and the rest of the dress is unlined. 

I had so much fun at the festival and I really enjoyed wearing this dress. I wore it with my 1880's chemise, my generic Victorian corset and the petticoats I made to go with my 1890s dress (as the cut really doesn't change over these decades, I figured the petticoats would work fine for a little earlier than the 90s). I also wore my black shoes from NJ Sekela. They are a little early in style for 1880's but I love these shoes so much and they go with everything! It was really chilly that day so I also wore my yellow quilted Victorian hood and a shawl I crocheted a few years ago. They aren't specifically 1880s but they worked. 

If ever a Victorian style is wearable for everyday life, I think the 1880's and this wash dress style would be. I felt exactly how I always imagined I'd feel in the world of Laura Ingalls and I rode that high feeling of childish joy with great delight. 😂

Much love,


Thursday, August 18, 2022

Spring Civil War Weekend

 We attended a small 1860's event in mid May. We day tripped and only stayed a few hours but it was fun and it was good to see friends again! Here are a few pictures from the day. I made a new 1860's dress for this event out of some black cotton poplin and I made Anne (who does not like to wear dresses) some side buttoning trousers that she paired with a white shirt and jacket I originally made for Judah quite a few years ago. I also made my oldest son, David, a new waistcoat out of black cotton denim. That was the only new sewing required but I think Benjamin will need a new outfit before next time, whenever that may be. Judah and Malachi did not attend with us as they had other plans at the time. 

These next pictures are from my phone and so they are lower quality. I do tend to pull out my phone far more frequently than my big camera as it is so much more convenient! 

Now, this weekend a few of us will be attending another 1860's day event at the boyhood home of Ulysses Grant. I hope to get some good pictures of the events of the day, including the reenactment of the surrender between Ulysses Grant and Robert E. Lee.