Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Lincoln Dance at David Davis Mansion

~ Photos contained herein by both the talented Jackie and the decidedly un-talented Myself ~

Here in central Illinois, there are very many historic sites that have to do with, in one way or another, perhaps the most famous man in American Civil War history – Abraham Lincoln.

Most people I know who are resident of this area are heartily sick of Abraham Lincoln, but there is no doubt that his name connected to a site draws tourists – which means money – so of course, the State does all it can to aid and abet this commercialization of Mr. Lincoln’s name.  So we are accustomed to seeing his name associated with everything from restaurants to shops to streets and to towns, which often as not can boast no other claim to Mr. Lincoln than being part of the state that he once lived in. But if the name is merely there, People come. So we are a Lincoln speckled state. We are the picnic table beneath the tree inhabited by dozens of feathered creatures, and he is the bird droppings thereon.  

This past weekend saw The Lincoln Festival in a nearby city. It was terribly hot, so the boys and I did not go out during the day but in the evening we dropped them off with their grandma and David and I, as well as our dear friends Jackie and Peter (who are, to offset any doubts upon the subject, NOT “a couple”) went to the David Davis mansion to enjoy a fun evening at the outdoor dance held on the lawn.

Despite the heat, a good time was had by all, I think. The music was excellent, the companionship very fine and the Vendor of Sodas a popular figure and the goods thereof of unquestionable quality.

To make the evening more pleasant, free rides in a fancy horse-drawn carriage were available and David and I enjoyed a leisurely trip around the grounds.

David was very upset with me because he could not sit next to me, but I assured him it was more proper for him to sit across from me rather than crunch himself up on the bones of my hoopskirt, which, when spread out, covered the entire seat I was sitting upon. He therefore sat across from me and tried to look pained and annoyed, but I think he just looked sweaty and uncomfortable.

Jackie and Peter enjoyed dancing. This was Jackie’s first time coming out to an event and I am so glad she had a good time! You either love or hate reenacting and I’m glad she did not hate it. The purple gown I made several years ago for my mother in law worked nicely for her and now that she has got her feet wet, so to speak, we can work on making her a gown of her own.

I wore the gray ballgown I made earlier this spring and it was nice and cool to wear during the sultry summer evening. Peter was cool and confident in his cotton vest and shirt although we do have to work on getting him some proper trousers and a coat of some kind made. Peter even met a girl, which pleased me greatly, although I do not think anything especially interesting came of the meeting.

Dear Female Readers, if any of you are looking for a trustworthy, loyal man consider our friend Peter – we are on a hunt for a Wife for him. Despite his rather odd sense of humour and his tendency to sarcasm and his obvious delight in anything to do with computers and his ability to create horrific faces for picture-takers on a whim, he is really a very nice boy and has been a fantastic and faithful friend to me these past 10 years. 

The dances were fun and the callers fantastic. I so enjoy dances where the callers give out the dance instructions in simple, easy to understand steps. It is so nice when the spectating public can join in and everyone knows what they are supposed to do. I have been to some dances where the dances are not called and only a select few, who knows the dances well, can actually perform. It is more interesting to watch perhaps, but not nearly as fun. We had tons of couples dancing together under the tent and a good time of laughter and conversation was had by everyone. The lady below made her gown from Truly Victorian patterns and we quickly dubbed her the "Cupcake Lady", meaning no offense by the somewhat un-elegant term, but great appreciation for the frills and ruffles and flowers and the whole beautiful effect it all had together. She looks like Cinderella!! Or a fashion plate!

David enjoyed the company of Mr. Jebb, a young reenacting friend of ours and a fine gentleman.

This fine gentleman consented to waltz with me and was honest enough to tell me I am a terrible waltzer, which fact pleased me greatly and did much to increase my respect of this certain young man. (the fact he was honest, not so much the fact, also as firmly established, that I do not waltz well).

With such fine friends is it any wonder the evening passed too quickly?

We went to Steak and Shake for supper and Mr. Jebb accompanied our little party. There was no lack of humour and wit in the conversation that flowed between Mr. Jebb and David at our table and I am afraid I gave way to a few unladylike snorts and bellows after some especially shocking or hilarious statement made by the gentlemen mentioned above.  

We did agree that Mr. Jebb very much resembles Sherman of the infamous March to the Sea. 

Our evening concluded, we returned home. Mr. Lincoln, thank you for making the David Davis mansion popular by benefit of your name and for, in some supernatural or spiritual sense, being the host of the festival held to honor you, to give the participants a very good time indeed.


Monday, July 11, 2011

The Jane Austen Festival at Locust Grove

David, Malachi and I arrived back in Illinois yesterday evening, having extended our 4.5-hour drive from Louisville to nearly 8 hours, due to our stopping at several fascinating antique malls and flea markets on the way home and very nearly being prevented from leaving a small southern Indiana town due to having parked in the route of their parade, which yesterday kicked off the start of their annual county fair. At any rate, we are back. We have now been immersed in the world of early-1800's living history and we love it.
The historic setting of Locust Grove was, I thought, quite a perfect spot for a Jane Austen gala. The house reminded me of what I had always imagined the Bennett family to live in and the grounds expansive, well tended and beautiful with a "prettyish wilderness" in various locations, perfect for strolling.
We arrived early on Saturday morning and spent the first bit of our visit enjoying a witty play about the life of Jane Austen, and her stories. It was very enjoyable, although, unfortunately, pictures were not allowed during the presentation. Rest assured that it was extremely entertaining! Here David poses with a gentleman he was conversing with on our way to the play.
After the play David visited the Doctor, who, apparently, refers to himself *as* The Doctor and even has a blue box, although I do not know if he refers to it as the tardis or not. Here, he speaks to Malachi.
In passing, Malachi was quite a popular figure at the event. It seems almost everyone who went past us made a comment on how cute he looked and wanted to take a picture of him. Malachi did not care, did not notice, and often made very dismal faces for those who wanted to preserve his image via digital camera. His one great love at the event was his set of black skeleton keys which we purchased from one of the merchants shortly after our arrival. He then spent much of the remainder of his time trying to fit the keys into various cracks or holes he would discover and when he was upset, he displayed his feelings by casting his keys repeatedly upon the ground.
There were very many pretty ladies about, and not very many gentleman. However, the gentlemen who were there were all very dashing indeed. This particular lady is a particularly dear companion of the aforementioned Doctor and was kind enough to consent to a photo outside The Doctor's abode. Her posture, her bearing, her clothing, her manner and her conversation were all so very charming.
The inside of the house was beautifully furnished and restored. We were cautioned to not even touch the wallpaper since it has been reproduced from the actual, original paper that was used in the late 18th century.
There were two stories to the house as well as a comfortable attic that was divided into several rooms and a hall, accessible by a wide stair.
Who would not love to live in a house such as this? The thing that intrigued me the most were the beautiful draperies on the windows as well as the bold, black and white floor cloth laid in the hall and held down by tacks. I most definitely want to make a floor cloth now.
I loved this sweet little bed in this cheerful, very comfortably arranged bedroom. And look! A closet! Tall windows!
Over the course of the day we had the very great pleasure of making the acquaintance of many lovely people. It was such a joy to finally meet in person several ladies whom I have known on the internet.
In some ways, the festival, and the late 18th/early 19th century reenactors we met who were there, seemed a lot more eager to meet and converse and please and be pleased than many 1860's reenactors. Why so? I have no idea, yet there the fact is. Is it because everyone was striving to be elegant and genteel? Because we all had a common love for Jane Austen that made us into a sort of Jane-Austen-loving family?
Not everyone there was devoted exclusively to Jane Austen, though. We met many people who are involved with 1812 events and who invited us to come out to the events - which we would love to do! It seems there are quite a few 1812 events in Indiana.
David was invited to be part of an infantry unit and it was also suggested that he become a member of the state congress (in the reenacting world, of course, not the modern one). I do believe David had a very fine time walking about in his linen coat and weilding his walking stick. He informed me that five women asked him if they could have their pictures taken with him, and one lady saw him and cried out, "You are my hero!" which, I am sure, did little to cultivate humility in his mind and did much to cultivate the braggart air with which he began to walk about.
He did look very well, though, I thought. It struck me how funny it is how married couple's feelings can change over the course of six years. David and I will be married six years this fall and when we were first married both he and I were extremely jealous of anyone else who bestowed attention upon the other. In fact, at one of the first dances we went to after our marriage David actually pulled me out of the dance line when he saw I was dancing with another gentleman.
Now, I enjoy seeing him be admired by others, as he does me - perhaps we are grown to have such complete trust and faith in our mutual affection that we no longer jealously guard each other from the smiles and conversation of others? It is so much more pleasant this way. It is so pleasant to have so many ways we look at each other - as a spouse, a romantic partner, a friend, a companion to joke around with and tease, someone to share your moods, your joys, your sorrows, and to cheer you on and enjoy seeing the success of the other, in whatever way. . .marriage has turned out to be, as we were told, not all walks-in-the-moonlight and hugs and kisses and candlelight dinners. The friendship aspect of our relationship is just as, if not more, important than our romantic relationship. It is lovely having a best friend who is also your husband. It is a blessing from the Lord.
One of the highlights of the festival was being able to meet the lovely Jenni of Living with Jane as well as her husband. Aren't they a fine looking couple?!
And the beautiful Natalie of A Frolic through Time - I tried not to stare at her in too-worshipful-admiration, keeping in mind to the commandment to have no other gods before The Lord, but my goodness!! She COULD be a goddess if one were inclined to pagan practices. She looked positively regal.
The gardens were a source of beauty and delight for Mr. Munchkin. Towards late afternoon he began to grow very tired so we walked through the garden and found a tree under which I spread his little quilt. He lay down for a few minutes while I watched the passers-by and was bitten, to my later discovery, all up and down my legs and backside by some sort of insect that leaves large, red, itchy, painful welts.
I didn't know it at the time though, so drank in the beauty of the scenes before me whilst the tiny vampires were feasting away upon my blood. Ignorance is bliss.
We left in late afternoon - I do so hope to come back next year. I even found some beautiful sheer printed cotton in a light pink color at a flea market on the way home that will be perfect for a day dress - I want one with elbow sleeves and tucks, in the style I was originally going to make my ballgown. There was 5 yards crumpled up on a shelf towards the back of the building the flea market was in so I smoothed and folded it and we asked the owner of the booth how much the fabric was. She had no idea she even had fabric on that shelf and told me I could have it for $1. I was like, heck yeah! So, if that is not A Sign That We Should Return, then I don't know what is.
The ball was held later that evening in a superb room in downtown Louisville. Malachi was not agreeable to being left with anyone so David and I could dance together, so Mr. Munchkin and I had fun taking pictures, conversing with people and David was available to dance with partnerless ladies. We both enjoyed ourselves tremendously.
One lady was so adorable - I asked her if she needed a partner for a certain dance and she acknowledged that yes, she did. I told her to take David and she said, "Thank you, I will." and swooped right down upon his arm and led him off! Gentlemen, if you are reading this, please consider coming out next year and being willing to dance! There is nothing quite so heartbreaking as a lady who has spent a great deal of time and effort to get her gown and accessories just right so she can go to a ball, and, when arriving, finding no one willing to dance with her. My boys will, all three of them, be taught to always dance with a variety of ladies at balls - it is so sad to see gentlemen who DO attend balls only dance with the one woman they came with the entire night. In the period, that kind of behavior would have been shockingly rude and led to scandalous rumours! 
There was an abundance of elegant satins, whispery silks, flowing sheer cottons and flowers, ribbons, feathers, pearls and jewels. Bright eyes, radiant smiles, pink cheeks and little slippered feet.
The refreshments set out for the intermission were all that could be desired. Tiny cookies, nuts, chocolate-dipped fruit and cream puffs, little tarts that tasted of some kind of fish, cubes of cheese and ice cold, ruby red punch and water flavored with orange peels delighted the palate and the eyes.
After the intermission our little guy was growing very sleepy so we left the gaity of the ball room, slipped down the stairs and out into the dusky night. It was very warm and very humid and it seemed like a fog or haze hung over the streets as we went back to our hotel. Malachi was asleep before we left the street our car was parked on and he stayed asleep while I carried him in to the hotel and up to our room and put him in his bed. Poor darling. He was *so* good and only a few times deliberately disobeyed me. Soon he will be old enough to dance with ladies at balls. Hopefully he will have outgrown his flirtatious streak by then.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

White Ballgown - Finished!

Thank you for all your amazing compliments on my white ballgown. I am so pleased you all like it - I must admit, I do too. ;) It's a wonderful thrill to see a gown finally come into existence that you have dreamed about for many years.

David took some pics of the finished dress tonight - well, almost finished. I have about 6" more of ruching to make and apply to the back of the skirt hem. I thought I had hemmed enough ruching strips, but I guess not. I was a little bit short. I am so utterly sick of hemming little white strips but enough for 6" shouldn't be too bad to do.

After seeing the pictures David took, I have to say, I am now thinking that yes, he was right, and the neckline is too low. : / Hm. What looks like one thing in front of our dimly-lit bedroom mirror where I fit things, may look totally different outside. I, erm, look like I may pop out of my dress at any minute.

I assure you, I did bounce around and jump energetically up and down whilst outside to prove to David that yes, I stay securely in place and nothing is jarred loose with even the most acrobatic movements that are becoming to a lady.

I guess it's historically okay. . .I mean, we've all seen worse, right? I've seen plates where it looks like the nipples of the breast are resting exactly at the same level as the neckline, and mine are definitely below my neckline. It's not like I'm wearing no underwear and damping the dress on top of it! But, it just feels a bit indecent.

I really do like the finished dress though. It was so fun to make and to see it come together. Of course, now that I have worn it outside it already has a dusty mark around the hem so I will need to clean it before packing it away for the weekend. White dresses can be SO impractical! But that's what makes them so feminine and charming!

For the ball, I have my pearl necklace David gave me for Christmas that I may wear. I have a little green pendant that looks adorable hung in the middle of the string of pearls that goes well with the trim on the dress too. I need to make sure pearl necklace + pendant is okay. . .oh, and I have some long gloves but they are the shiny satin gloves from David's Bridal. David also got those for me, and was very proud of himself for doing so, poor sweet man. I think I WILL wear them though, to make him happy and let him know I appreciate the fact he thought of me!


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

White Ballgown - Progress

With only two and a half more days until we leave for Kentucky, I am very pleased that the majority of my work is done. My ballgown is completely finished except for trim. As I am still considering what trim to put on it, that is fine.

Right now is just a very basic, white, regency gown. I adore it. :) I have always wanted a sheer white, short sleeved, low-necked gown and this is it!

David is of the opinion that the neck is too low, though. It covers my stays and shift, but that is about it. I am thinking of adding a small ruffle to the neckline and also at the sleeve bands, and, possibly, the skirt hem to dress it up a bit as well as add a bit more height to the neckline, so as to make David more comfortable. ;)

And then the fun of ribbons and bows and such. I have several shades of green ribbon as well as some pretty, teeny little greenish-white-with-palest-pink flowers to use. I decided to go with a ruched bodice, quite last minute! I was originally going to do a drawstring neckline and make what would be an 1806 version of the late 18th century chemise dress. I came across several plates depicting this ruched bodice though, and I loved it, so I went with it. That's always fun. Live flexibly and go with the flow. :)