Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Unveiling

These photographs are from this past Saturday when David, I and the boys went to the unveiling ceremony for two new statues installed in front of the Metamora Courthouse - our own Mr. Lincoln and one of his interesting clients, a Mrs. Goings. I don't have any good pictures of the statues since the ones I took came out quite dark but I hope to get some nice ones eventually. The statues are superbly lovely!
We were originally going to attend the sesquicentennial festival in a different town but when we heard of this, of course we went to the unveiling ceremony instead!

We all dressed up in honor of the day. Malachi wore a short gown for the first time and I nearly cried. My wee baby boy is getting so big. After the ceremony we headed out to the Lee Cabin to enjoy the afternoon and to take some photographs. We have been here before but it is one of the nicest places for pictures that we have around. And it is such a beautiful and restful atmosphere, there by the cabin. It almost feels like going home.

So, without further ado, here are the pictures! There is but one of Malachi since for the majority of the time we were out at the cabin he was asleep. The one of him was taken in our yard when we got home.

My Dress:This is the one I made back in June but never got around to getting any good pictures of it. The trim is inpsired by a dress from the Graceful Lady website and I really like how it came out.
I need to shorten my corset though. I didn't realize this until I wore it the other day. It needs to go down by an inch and a half and then it will give a much better line, I think.

Here is a back view. I don't understand why I'm getting those horizontal lines across the back. That seem to indicate that it is too tight but this is the same pattern I've made my others from and I've never had that issue. . .oh well!

It's a good thing its a dark, busy print. There are two small splotches of hair dye on the skirt from when I dyed my hair back in June (its all washed out now) but thankfully it is hard to tell that they are there. Another reason why I love dark prints!

Here are some of David. He finally got his sword belt in the mail so he can wear his officers sword now. He looked marvelous, if I do say so myself! What a handsome man he is, don't you think?
Now to finish his other frock coat before the end of September. Then hopefully I'll be done sewing federal stuff for him for a while. And thanks to the timer, we even got a photo of both of us in the same picture! The Boys: David and Judah loved exploring the area around the cabin and the woods beyond. But they couldn't go too far.I put Judah in a tunic outfit of Davids this time since he completely rebelled against wearing his dress! I think the time has come for Pants for Judah. The particular arrangement of his hat and exact angle of his hat brim was his own doing. He feels he alone can correctly place his hat upon his head and any attempts of mine to set it straight were in vain.They both found the outhouse fascinating. I believe the object of their fascination was the lock on the door. David went behind it to see if there was an alternate way in. Malachi by the flowers at home. Poor thing,he had just waken up from a nice nap and this was the only picture I could get before he began to wail in hunger and frustration. I'm so glad his gowns still fit him. The tucking of the skirts was a bit of a difficulty since the closer you get to skirt gathers the harder it is to place tucks! The job was at last done and although the skirts are still a bit long they are short enough where he can get around to his liking. And he will grow.So this whetted our appetite for reenacting. The boys behaved remarkably well so we are hoping for a very enjoyable fall reenacting season. Now back to sewing!



Monday, August 24, 2009

An Afternoon Dress for the Afternoon

The perfect hat never appearing (although I'm still on the keen look-out for it!) I decided to wear the 1914 dress I posted about a month or so ago yesterday when we went cemetery-walking and historical-site-visiting and grocery-shopping.

As I mentioned last year, David and I both greatly enjoy cemetery walking. We don't go on "dates" very often but when we do it is more often than not an enjoyable ramble through an old cemetery. We have great delight in looking for the oldest stones, the most intricate stones, the most worn stones, the stones with mysterious symbols and those that look as though they are not often visited.

Yesterday was a perfect afternoon for such delights. While we were thus walking David obligingly took some pictures of my dress so I can at last share the finished item with you all.

I look quite grim in some of these photos. I almost always go automatically into "look like you are from the 1860's" mode when someone is taking pictures. So that often means not smiling. So excuse that, if you will. This is one of those items that would go well on a list that begins "You Know You Are a Reenactor When. . ."
I like the finished dress although there are a few things I would change on it if I were to make it over and that I will definitely change on my next one from this pattern. The first is the neckline. It was too wide for my shoulders so I had to take a little tuck on each side of the neck so it would not gape open in an unbecoming and immodest manner. I also think the bodice is a tad long. There is too much puff at the waist and it obscures for the most part the pretty satin sash which is actually quite wide. This also obscures my waist which makes me look horrendously Fat. Thank you, wide hips. Not that my waist is terribly small by any means, but its smaller than my hips! I think a period corset would help the overall look a lot. That, and shortening the bodice. My hair really isn't long enough to up that well so I parted down my whole head and each side I divided into three shanks. Starting with the shanks on the top of my head, I twisted them upwards and draped them across the top of my head and pinned them in place. I repeated this for the remaining shanks and pinned in a silk flower at the end. Ta da. Not period correct but at least old fashioned looking. The shawl is likewise a modern one that my mother in law gave me. But since this is not a totally period outfit anyway (just "inspired-by") I thought there was no harm in wearing it. Wearing a shawl makes one feel so lady like.
I wore my black Civil War boots but would eventually like to get some high heeled cream colored "granny boots" to wear with it instead. But that will be after Malachi is old enough to walk on his own. I just can't wear anything high heeled while I have to carry him about. And so, that is all! What kind of a hat would you all suggest for this dress? I do hope I can find one eventually!

Have a lovely afternoon! You are cordially invited to go cemetery-walking with David and I the next fine afternoon we have. We shall all don long gowns and shall feature much lace and flowers and ribbons and search for the queerest old stones imaginable and wonder about the olden people and what their lives must have been like.



Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Dressing the Part, Post Two: Undergarments

Ladies undergarments of the mid-19th century might seem overwhelming at first. I know I was overwhelmed - it seemed like so much more than I was used to! But every garment has a purpose and function and without one there is a deficiency in the overall look and behavior of the final outfit. Each piece is necessary to the final look. As Mrs. Clark has said, proper undergarments are the foundation of our mid-19th century wardrobe. They really do give you the proper appearance if made and fitted as they should be.

These are the undergarments I wear for reenactments and living histories. There aren’t *all* the possible undergarments but these are the ones that work best for me and give me the look I want.

Step 1: Chemise and Stockings.
The chemise is the first garment I put on when I am dressing for an 1860’s scenario. The chemise is made of white cotton and is very loosely fitted. Mrs. Clark has a pattern for a free chemise on her website. Mine is a pattern I came up with myself - basically a fitted short yolk with a very wide, shallow neckline and a full gathered body portion. The sleeves are set in with gussets for ease of movement. All seams are felled for a clean finish and for durability. The chemise absorbs your body sweats/oils to keep your dress clean and should be changed daily. I’m also wearing my beautiful mustard-and-black striped stockings. These were made from the Kanniks Korner pattern and were cut from an old cotton knit dress that became too hideous to wear in public. They are saggy in this picture because I’m not wearing my garters and so they kept creeping down. They should be a little higher in the leg but I had to work with the dress I was using and it wasn’t long enough to make the stockings any longer. Chemise and stockings. Really I could almost get by with wearing this in public today as a modern “artistic” outfit, don’t you think? :)

Step 2: Drawers and Corset.
My drawers go on next. They are made from Mrs. Clarks free pattern and feature tucks and cotton lace at the hem. They are a tad long, I think. I must have miscalculated my tucks but I didn’t feel like shortening them once I had the tucks in and the waistband on. They are roomy and have a split seam - the crutch seam is left open, instead of being sewn shut - and are gathered to a fitted waistband. It seems to be a matter of personal preference if you wear your drawers beneath your chemise or if you tuck your chemise into your drawers and wear them on the outside, or even if you wear drawers at all! I prefer to wear mine beneath my chemise as it seems more sanitary, but that’s just me.
The corset goes on next. Mine is newly finished (yay!) and was made from the Laughing Moon Dore Corset pattern. This is a shaped seam corset and is very easy to sew because it does not have gussets. The corset is made from a sturdy herringbone weave white cotton twill with an embroidered pink linen decorative layer on the outside. Bias bone casings are sewn to the inside and the bones were simply slipped in. Since I use this corset to nurse Malachi I used hooks to close the front instead of using a busk. This is more flexible and it is easier to nurse in. The back laces up with handmade eyelets - I cannot get metal eyelets to go in the right way so I just handsew my eyelets. Right now I’m using shoelaces to lace it up but cotton corset laces, available online from corset companies, would be better. The corset supports the bust and provides a consistent shape for the fitted dresses that are worn over them. I do not tight lace and wearing a corset is not uncomfortable as long as it is made to fit you.

After this layer some women wear what they call a “modesty petticoat” which is a shorter, narrower cotton petticoat. It is meant to keep your personal areas from any accidental view if the wind blows your hoopskirt up or if you bend over and it exposes what is underneath. I do not wear a modesty petticoat because my chemise basically serves the same function and I don’t think it is necessary. I’ve been reenacting for over ten years and have never had an accident yet.

Step 3: Cage or Skirt Support
Over the corset you put on your skirt support whether that be a hoopskirt, a cage, or plain or stiffened petticoats. I wear a 7-rung cage from a kit available from Originals-by-Kay. This has a slight back thrust and a modest circumference. It is a good size and style for the 1860’s scenarios and reenactments I attend. I heartily recommend this cage! The only trouble I had with it was the rivets popping out or coming loose but I have replaced most of the tape and rivets that originally came with the kit with plain white cotton strips with little pockets sewn in. It works very well now.

Step 4: Petticoats
Over the cage/hoop/skirt support you wear petticoats to give further volume and softness to your skirts. In this picture I’m just wearing one petticoat but ideally I should have at least two. You can get by with just one but I really prefer the look of having at least two. These petticoats can be plain or fancied up with lace or white work or tucks.

These are all the undergarments I wear. Some ladies wear corset covers but I have not found a need to have one. As long as the lining of your dress is sufficient to keep your corset lines from showing through then I don’t really think a corset cover is necessary.

Seasonal undergarments can include flannel and quilted petticoats for warmth and flannel drawers.

Now, if David will be so willing and kind to take pictures when he gets home from work I will do a final post on the dress. I never got any decent pictures of my most recent cotton gown (The dark blue print) so if David is willing then I will try to get those up tonight!


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Dressing the Part, Post One: Hair

With my Civil War passion-flame burning quite brightly and steadily as of late (how long it will last, no one knows) I pulled out my corset that I made a few months ago and actually fixed and finished it. I had been wearing it with no binding on the top or bottom edge and the last time I wore it I experienced horrible pinching pains at the waist on the sides but I think I have that fixed now. It's done! Now I can go on and make my sheer dress.

I decided to do a post, or rather, a series of posts, on the layers that go into an 1860's impression. Since I like to do my hair before I put any of my repro clothes on (its difficult to do your hair once you are fully dressed) I figured I'd start with that.

1860's hairstyles can be quite elaborate, requiring skill and knowledge in the area of Ratts and Fake Hair. However it can also be simple and this is perhaps the simplest adult hairstyle you can do. It works for hair as short as shoulder length if you use a hairpiece and for hair any length longer than that. It is also very quick to put up, no more than 5 minutes.
Step 1: Brush or comb out your hair. Yes. I am a Freaky Poufy Hair Monster. If I put styling gel in my har while it's still damp it curls up nicely with low frizz factor but hey, you gotta do what you gotta do for a good 1860's look. For me that means leaving out the styling gel and brushing my Freaky Poufy Hair so it is manageable.
Step 2: Part your hair down the middle. I always have trouble with this. My hair almost always parts slightly to the side instead of exactly in the middle. To make a straight part use a sharp pointy object and run it down your scalp. I used some old bandage scissors since they were in the drawer I opened but a knitting needle is ideal. Or just eyeball it and part. This is easier for some than for others. Step 3: Now part you hair again from ear to ear, across the top of your head. Make sure this part is pretty straight, too. I've done my hair at an event and due to seeing pictures after the event realized this part was NOT straight and it looked awful. So make it straight! :)Step 4: Grasp you back hair in a medium high ponytail and wind it into a bun. I usually just twist this length of hair and roll it up like a cinnamon bun. You could also braid this part and wind it into a bun but my hair isn't long enough for that yet. If your bun is really small you can do what I did when my hair was shorter. Get a fake shank of cheap hair at Sally's Beauty Supply in a color that matches your own. Braid a length of it and wind it around your small, real bun. It looks fantastic. Nothing makes you feel like a gorgeous, real 186o's lady than a beautiful hairstyle!Step 5: Return to your front hair. Grasp one section on one side of your head and twist it, starting at about ear level. Wind this twisted shank around your back bun and pin into place. Repeat for the other side. My twists are pretty pathetic looking because my hair is not very long or thick in the front (my bangs have never grown all the way out to meet the rest of my hair) but there are some period solutions for making this section appear thicker by utilizing fake hair. I just go with the pathetic looking twists. It's easier and more comfortable (fake hair is scratchy).
There you go!

Front View:
Side View:
If you have little wispies that fly away no matter how much you smooth and comb your hair then you can use pomade to keep your hair nicely in place. It also gives your hair a shiny look that you often see in period photographs. There are places online you can get pomade but for now I just use a jar I got at the empire of Wal Mart for a few dollars. It works really well. This is the kind I use:
Now that your hair is nicely done up you can top it off with a lovely pleated ribbon hairnet or you can leave it perfectly plain. On to the underclothes in the next post!


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Sewing CW Stuff

Something is wrong with the USB cable and I can't load pictures on to the computer right now. I will have to have David look at it when he gets home! So, alas, this will be a picture-less post.

Thank you all for your very kind comments. I am excited about making this home reflect us and our personalities. We decided on a color scheme which is a pale sage-ish green, a creamy pale almond color and slightly darker, warmer, golden almond color. Perhaps a slightly darker sage green will work its way in there too. Accent colors; deep pink, golden brown and blue. We'll see how it all works. We thought of many colors but these are really the only ones we feel truly comfortable with. We like a serene, restful enviroment and these colors really play up that feeling for us. Isn't it amazing how much "mood" is in a color?

I have the electric blue bedroom painted a medium almond color. The paint was already here when we moved and the electric blue just had to be covered! For now we have our computer and the sewing things set up in here. The wood-floor bedroom needs new windows and I need to redo the plaster in a few spots before we can paint it and move our things in.

I am violently in the mood for sewing Civil War things. For the longest time I have been sick of it but all-of-a-sudden I'm back in the mood. I don't know why - perhaps it is the time of year. Late summer is the beginning of all the glorious and beautiful reenactments here and it is necessary to be ready for them! Malachi needs his long gowns shortened, if they still fit him, and both boys needs tunics and Judah needs short trousers made. And they all need coats and Malachi needs a hood.

For myself I want to make up my lovely gray and pink sheer plaid. This weekend is a reenactment we had hoped to go to but we are not going to be able to make it. However, next weekend the town nearest us has its 150th celebration so we are all going to dress up and go to that. I want to have my sheer finished in time for it and can't wait to start!

So Civil War-ish things will probably dominate my sewing posts during the next few weeks! Fall is nearly here - my favorite season - and 1860's styles are just the thing for it.