December 4, 2017

The Sewphisticated Guide to Gift Giving

Recently, I've received several private messages, asking for suggestions for Christmas gifts or affordable "stocking stuffers" that my historical or reenactor friends might enjoy.  While I do believe that nothing beats homemade, handmade is the other way to go for giving a memorable, one-of-a-kind gift. Whether it's big or small, costs money or time, remember that it's always the thought that counts!

And speaking of thought, consider supporting your local (or online), hard-working small businesses and artisans who could really use your support this time of year.  While I do not wish to come off as "preachy" here, I was just reminded of how important that extra sale can be to an artisan for their family and holiday season.  With that spirit, a handmade gift will mean a lot to both creator and receiver, alike, and all of your reenacting friends and families will thank you.

(Photograph courtesy of Judy J.)

So, with Christmas close upon us, and gift-giving certainly on the mind, please enjoy this sew-phisticated guide to gift giving for your historical friends:  
(Note: * indicates small businesses or individual artisans that I have purchased from in the past)

Fabric & Ribbons

One can never have too much fabric, or trim on a bonnet or cap!  Just a yard or two of a sheer cotton, linen or silk would make a pretty cap, chemisette or fichu, neckerscarf, cuff and collar set, cravat, or accessory of any kind.  Consider smaller cuts for needle books, pin cushions, and sewing pretties, or splurge on a larger length for a garment.

Altay Store (Photograph by Stephen S.)

*Burnely and Trowbridge – Cottons, silks, wools and linens.  Don't forget that they also carry neck-handkerchiefs, stockings and sewing accessories!

*William Booth, Draper - Fine fabrics, notions and accessories.

*Chestnut Bay Quilting - My near and very dear local quilt shop with a whole room dedicate to repro fabrics folks!

*Ensembles of the Past - Silks, silks and more silks.

*Renaissance Fabrics - A little bit of everything including silks, wools, linens and cottons, and anything else in between.


One should not clothe the body and neglect the head!  Make an investment that will last for years and many reenacting seasons to come.

*Anna Warden Bauersmith – Our local celebrity and accomplished milliner who is every bit as personable as she is talented.  Throughout the year, you'll find fashionable straw bonnets and winter hoods for you and your doll, pincushions - strawberries, walnuts, seashells - and sewing accessories of all kinds, patterns and books.  She is also the author of Fanciful Utility, which makes a wonderful gift, hint, hint!
Have lots of friends?  Make sure to check out Anna's buy three, get the fourth free promotion here: Pin Cushion Sale!!!  That's three pin cushions, emeries and/or ornaments for your friends, and one for yourself too!

*Timely Tresses – A one-stop-shop for ribbons, flowers, and everything bonnets!

Southern Serendipity - Beribboned hairnets (these are a definite want!), acorn earrings and flowered ornaments of all kinds. 

Virigil’s Fine Goods – They have caps...ruffly caps...need I say more?!

LBCC Historical Apothecary (Litttle Bits) - Everything, and I mean everything, you need to pamper them (or yourself)!  

Jewelry & Accessories

A beaded butterfly "trembler" for a bonnet
made by Kristen of the Victorian Needle. 

Victorian Needle - Gorgeous hand beaded work and jewelry.  Have you seen her bracelets and beaded "tremblers" - amazing!  Having met Kristen twice now, I can personally attest to the quality of her work (I simply cannot thank her enough for the beautiful butterfly!) and she's super sweet too.
Don't miss her most recent post: 85+ MORE Gift Ideas for the History Lover for more reenactor holiday gift ideas!

*Dames a la Mode – All of the reproduction jewelry and vintage ribbons!

Sign of the Grey Horse -  The site for reproduction and historically inspired jewelry, all of the proceeds go to a great cause too.

In the Long Run -  Very pretty, very affordable reproduction jewelry, get your pocketbook ready...

Creative Cockades – They're fun, historical, and a petersham rosette belt would certainly brighten up an ensemble! 


Photograph of GCV's dressmaker with Lauren of American Duchess.
(Photograph borrowed from Rhonda B.)

American Duchess – SHOES, SHOES, SHOES!  And buckles, stockings and their new book: The American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Dressmaking.

*Originals by Kay - The one-stop-shop for quality ready made clothing and fashionable accessories.  They also have fabrics, patterns, jewelry, headwear and outerwear.

*Fashions Revisited - Oh so many pretty caps, and other ready made items.  I've purchased many pairs of stockings from them at the annual 1812 Event at the Genesee Country Village & Museum.

Hand Stitches in Time - Starter kits, undergarments and corded petticoats.

Barnyard Biddy - I met Jamie once, and she was very kind.  You can find reproduction winter hoods and knitted goods in her shop.

Patterns & Books

Library (Photograph by Maria M.)

*The Sewing Academy -  Everyone needs a copy of Elizabeth Stewart Clark's The Dressmaker’s Guide by their side.  You can also find patterns for young ones and cloth dolls here.

*The Old Petticoat Shop - Books, patterns, and online classes of all kinds.

*Past Patterns - A staple in historical clothing patterns.  Just make sure that if you're gifting someone a pattern, it's in their size and not yours ;)

Larkin & Smith - For all of your 18th century and stay-making needs.

*Redthreaded - Corsets, stays and custom foundation patterns.

Historic Dolls

Reproduction Dolls - The source for reproduction china head dolls and their miniature clothing and accessories.

Talbott & Co. Heritage Goods - They carry a wide variety of handmade, early to mid-19th century items, including wallpaper band boxes, marbled notebooks and cloth dolls.

*Pixie Faire - Not the most historical, but oh so fun!  Patterns of all kinds for American Girl and other 18" dolls.  Link leads to their "historically inspired" line of patterns.

Happy Holiday Shopping!

(Photograph credit: Ruby Foote, GCV&M photographer)

What's on your historical "wish list" this season?  Share your list with us, or add your favorite shop suggestion in the comments below.  We'd love to hear from you!

November 23, 2017

It's Thanksgiving Time!

It's that time of year again, my friends and dear blog readers!  Wherever you are, and however you choose to celebrate, I wish you and your loved ones a very happy and blessed Thanksgiving Day.

I recently came across this lovely, little, lyrical piece titled "Thanksgiving Time" by Langston Hughes, who's always a favorite, and thought it both fitting and proper to share today: 

When the night winds whistle through the trees 
and blow the crisp brown leaves a-crackling down,
When the autumn moon is big and yellow-orange and round,
When old Jack Frost is sparkling on the ground,
It's Thanksgiving Time!

When the pantry jars are full of mince-meat 
and the shelves are laden with sweet spices for a cake,
When the butcher man sends up a turkey nice and fat to bake,
When the stores are crammed with everything ingenious cooks can make,
It's Thanksgiving Time!

When the gales of coming winter outside your window howl,
When the air is sharp and cheery so it drives away your scowl,
When one's appetite craves turkey and will have no other fowl,
It's Thanksgiving Time!

A Happy Thanksgiving to all!

October 31, 2017

Sleep That Makes No Show for Dawn - 1860s Photoshoot

"A long, long sleep, a famous sleep
That makes no show for dawn
By stretch of limb or stir of lid, —
An independent one."
- Emily Dickinson, Poem 139

A Happy and Spooktacular Halloween to all!  Since I was unable to finish my fancy dress costume this year, I thought it very appropriate to finally share this long-awaited, 1860s photo shoot that Maria, sister and photographer, and I did last August, before I left for college.  All of the construction details for the dress and petticoat can be found here: Inside & Out: DNA Dress and Hoop, and the fancy dress cap here: Lace on My Clothes & Bows on My Caps.  

In the photographs, my dress is worn over a mid-19th century chemise, drawers, under-petticoat, small support pad and 90" cage with two tucked petticoats to smooth the silhouette.  A large, striped, silk cravat bow, silk belt with a mother of pear buckle, and beribboned, fancy dress cap complete the look.  

Completed Project Shots

First and foremost, I must thank my talented sister and photographer, Maria, for all her time and attention to the details!  Without her, none of these photo shoots would be possible, and for that, among many other reasons, I am overwhelmingly grateful.  Here's to her, and for allowing me to share her work!  *All photographs courtesy of Maria M.* 

Because I could not stop for Death —
He kindly stopped for me —
The Carriage held but just Ourselves —
And Immortality.

We slowly drove — He knew no haste
And I had put away
My labor and my leisure too,
For His Civility —

We passed the School, where Children strove
At Recess — in the Ring —
We passed the fields of Gazing Grain —
We passed the Setting Sun —

Or rather — He passed Us —
The Dews drew quivering and chill —
For only Gossamer, my Gown —
My Tippet — only Tulle —

We paused before a House that seemed
A Swelling of the Ground —
The Roof was scarcely visible —
The Cornice — in the Ground —

Since then — ’tis Centuries — and yet
Feels shorter than the Day
I first surmised the Horses’ Heads
Were toward Eternity —

Poem is "Because I Could Not Stop for Death" by Emily Dickinson.

Mount Hope Cemetery 

Before ending this post, I'd like to highlight and give a little background on the location of our shoot.  This may sound slightly morbid to some, but I personally find cemeteries not only historically significant, but incredibly peaceful places to walk around and collect my thoughts.  I have spent many afternoons wandering around Rochester's Mount Hope Cemetery, quietly reflecting and exploring the 200 acres and 14 miles of roads, hills and valleys, and paying respects to the 350,000 sleeping for eternity.  

The Gatehouse, 1874.

Described in the following introduction, by the Friends of Mount Hope Cemetery, the nonprofit organization devoted to the preservation, restoration and public appreciation of the culturally significant site:
"Dedicated in 1838 in Rochester NY, Mount Hope is America's first municipal Victorian cemetery.  Set in a picturesque landscape shaped by retreating glaciers, the cemetery features more than 80 mausoleums, soaring Egyptian obelisks, winged angels of mercy, a Florentine cast-iron fountain, two stone chapels in Gothic Revival style, a Moorish gazebo, and infinitely varied tombstones marking 350,000 graves across 196 acres." - The Friends of Mount Hope Cemetery

One of two chapels and original crematory, 1862.

In terms of history, Mount Hope Cemetery truly offers something for everyone.  From Rochester and Erie Canal history, to Victorian symbolism and architecture, the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, Jewish and African-American history, many notable leaders, inventors, prominent families, artists, architects, abolitionists and women's rights activists were laid to rest there.  

Perhaps among the most famous are Susan B. Anthony:

Fredrick Douglas:

Nathaniel Rochester and family: 

As well as dozens of others, including Daisy Marquis Jones, Alexander Milliner, George Washington's drummer boy, Dr. Charles T. Lunsford, the first African American physician in Rochester, the children of Buffalo Bill Cody, and William, and later Hannah Carter, the first buried on the site:

Veterans of all the major American wars are represented, including specific Civil, Spanish-American and World War I sections and a D.A.R. monument.  

Row by row in the Civil War plot.

And, finally, you'll find several of the families from the houses preserved at the Genesee Country Village & Museum: 

Rebecca A. Fitzhugh, wife of Dr. Fredrick F. Backus, of the
Livingston-Backus House (at the Genesee Country Village & Museum)

Dr. Frederick F. Backus, prominent Rochester physician and politician.

The services at Mount Hope Cemetery go beyond burials, offering many opportunities to volunteer in landscaping, gardening, and gravestone maintenance and repair.  Under the generous care of the Friends of Mount Hope Cemetery and donors, free genealogical research, public lectures and tours, and printed works, including several books and a quarterly newsletter, titled the Epitaph, are available.  So, if you're ever in Rochester, make sure to visit my favorite local cemetery and historical treasure! 

August 31, 2017

Costume Blog Writing Month: Reflection

Do my eyes deceive me or can it really be August 31st already?  Where did this month go?  It seemed like just a day ago that we were writing our introductions for the CoBloWriMo (Costume Blog Writing Month) - a fun blogging challenge offering 31 daily prompts for the month of August - and suddenly here we are at the end.  I suppose now's a good time to kick back and reflect...

CoBloWriMo, Prompt 31 - Reflection

In looking back at this month of blogging, while I was unable to be as active as I had hoped, it was such a pleasure reading others' responses and lurking on the CoBloWriMo Facebook Page.  I discovered several new costume blogs to follow, as well as enjoyed the month of posts from more familiar, favorite bloggers. 

One of the reasons I was so eager to participate was that the prompts held us somewhat accountable for daily writing and simply hitting that "publish" button.  I really liked having a guiding prompt to point us in the right direction and focus on a specific topic, while still allowing freedom for interpretation.  Sometimes just figuring out what to write about is half the battle of blogging.  

Another plus for participating that I may have mentioned before is the opportunity (and motivation) to share posts that may have otherwise gone unwritten.  Or at least work on some of those UFOs (UnFinished Objects) just sitting in the drafts queue.  My goal at the beginning had been to write at least 10 times, and, having technically responded to 11 of the challenges, including this one, I am happy with the results.  

Of the 31 daily prompts, I successfully completed the following: 

Prompt 1 - Introduce Yourself
Prompt 3 - Extant Garment (kicking off the series on extant garments that I had been wanting to write for over a year - score!)

Prompt 12 - Garment
Prompt 13 - Pro Tip

Prompt 16 - Small Project
Prompt 19 - Ornament
Prompt 23 - Made for Yourself (This post was shared by American Duchess on Facebook...squeeeee!)

Prompt 31 - Reflection, which is this post!

I did have posts planned for all 31 of the days, but I guess now this means more content to look forward to in the future...

Speaking of the future, if things get a little quiet here again, there is a reason...until the next post, let's just say, "Hello from Ohio!"  

August 26, 2017

The Crown of Women

"For the hair of a woman is her glory
It weaveth all of secret and renown
Through all chivalry and mystery and story
The glory of a woman and her crown."
- G. K. Cesterton, "The Crown of Women"

Woman seen from the back, ca. 1862,
by On├ęsipe Aguado de las Marismas.
(Image source: MET Museum, 2005.100.1)

Rather than begin a whole new blog post for today's prompt, I decided to finish the one I had started for challenge number 19 - ornament of the CoBloWriMo (Costume Blog Writing Month).  By definition, an ornament is an accessory, article, decoration or detail used to beautify the appearance of what it is added to or a part of to make it more attractive.  A great example is a decorative hair comb, much like those that were popular during the late 1850s and early 1860s when the hairstyles were worn low at the back of the head and neck.

The following image depicts a variety of mid-19th century hairstyles dressed with back combs from contemporary sources:

Victorian hair dressing with ornamental combs.
(Image source: Pinterest)

Now all I need is a similar statement piece to complete my historical updos!

Lots of hair!
Many thanks to Allison for her hairdressing talents and the picture.

Prompt 19 - Ornament

When I was studying some of extant garments in the Point Park costume collection, I came across a plastic bag of what turned out to be eight, decorative hair combs at the bottom of one of the costume boxes.  At the time, and still not knowing much about dating hair ornaments, all I was able to do was jot down their dimensions and snap a few pictures.  I am hoping that through sharing them today, the experts out there will be able to shed some light on the specifics.

A bag of decorative hair combs that I found in the Point Park collection.

Comb Number One

The first comb that I pulled out unfortunately was in two pieces and missing a tooth.  About seven inches at its widest, this comb with its spiraled details would have been quite the statement piece in its time.  Notice the numbers written on the back of this comb as well as those to come, this was a deaccessioned item from another collection and probably a donation to the university.  

Front of the comb with a unique, spiraled edge.

Back of the comb.

Comb Number Two

The second comb is just as lovely and even more intricate than the first.  The curve of its delicately carved top extends into the four teeth of the comb.  From top to bottom, it measures about 6.5 inches.  This also appears to be a deaccessioned collection piece probably donated to the university.

Front of the comb.

Back of the comb.

Comb Number Three

This comb is fun and in perfect condition! 

Front of the comb, notice the gentle curve from side to side.

Back of the comb.

Comb Four

Another wavy-shaped comb with a gentle curve from side to side.  This one, sadly, appears to be missing four parts or whole teeth.  You'll also notice two former accession numbers this time.  

Front of the comb.

Back of the comb.  Notice the two, different accession numbers.

Comb Number Five & Six

These two combs appear more functional and utilitarian than decorative in purpose.  The first, (on the left) rounded comb has a tag identifying it as 1860s to 1870s.  The second, "u-shaped" accessory (on the right) looks more like a large hair pin to me.

Comb fronts.

Comb Number Seven

I am labeling the comb with the five teeth at the bottom of the picture as number seven.  Unfortunately, it appears that I only snapped the one picture of it.  From side to side, it's a little over five inches in width and has a slight arch.  The discoloration on the left most tooth is actually a former museum's accession number.

Front of comb number seven (on the bottom).

Comb Number Eight

Last but not least, this comb is an interesting piece.  It is missing four teeth, and the metallic plating is flaking off.  Also a little over five inches at its widest, it probably was quite a grand hair ornament in its time.   

Front of the comb.

Detail shot.  Notice the flaking silver plating.

Back of the comb.

One of my favorite parts of participating in the CoBloWriMo (Costume Blog Writing Month) has definitely been the opportunity (and motivation) to share posts that may have otherwise gone unwritten.  I'm not really sure when I would have written about these combs, had it not been for the perfect, timely "ornament" prompt.  Again, if anyone can contribute any more information and dating for the combs above, please feel free to leave a comment in the box below.  You're also welcome to reach out to us through our Facebook page, where your "likes" and "follows" keep us going.  We appreciate your time and thank you for reading!