December 29, 2017

A Winter's Walk - 1860s(ish) Photoshoot

The air is silent save where stirs
A bugling breeze among the firs;
The virgin world in white array
Waits for the bridegroom kiss of day.

It is - too cold outside!  But Maria, the sister and photographer, and I bundled up to brave the cold, on Christmas Eve no less.  A little ways away there's a lovely, family-owned and operated Christmas tree farm: the Freckleton's Tree Farm that we stopped by for a winter's walk and photographs.  We chatted with the owner and retired professor, Mr. Freckleton, for a good half hour, and he could not have been more friendly and kind.  He even sent us on our way with a recommended reading list.  So, if you live in the area, make sure to visit them next year to pick out your perfect Christmas tree!  

If you've been following us on Facebook, you may also be wondering about the other Christmas project that I had been working on...It's been placed on hold for now (perhaps 'till next December?), and, instead, I had fun pulling together this outfit from the closet.  It's a combination of mid-19th century and vintage items with a maybe-not-so-period skirt - the "ish" in the title - but was warm and oh so fun to twirl in.  Also, it gave me the opportunity to wear my 1860s sacque coat for the first time.  Made from a forest green wool with a fully quilted, silk interior, and trimmed with black silk bias strips, you can read all about the past project here: Forest Green Sacque Coat.  

The Inspiration 

I blame the hat and this picture entirely: 

Ice Skating Attire, from the Palmetto Soldiers Relief Society
(Image via: Pinterest)

As soon as I laid eyes on those furry hats, I knew exactly what I'd wear!  I paired the forest green sacque coat (hiding a white body or shirt that I made years ago and will never see the camera!) with two 18th-century style petticoats (red fabric? and brown linen).  These were worn over a mid-19th century chemise, striped stockings, drawers, corset, under-petticoat, large bum roll, and red, flannel petticoat for warmth.  Then, the vintage fur collar, hat and hatpin, gloves, and me-made muff completed the historical skating inspired look.  [Please note: this outfit was historically inspired, and not intended to be historically accurate]

Winter walking ready!

Here are several other images that served as inspiration:

Detail from a painting
(Image via: Ruby Lane Vintage, Pinterest)

Winter fantasy featured on the Dreamstress' "Rate the Dress"
(Image via: The Dreamstress)
You'll notice in several of the pictures later that I draped a brown scarf over my hat to match the ice skater on the left (above).  

Skating ensemble, c.1863–67
(Image source: The MET)

Someday I'd love to make a proper skating ensemble...

Central Park, Winter - The Skating Pond, c.1862
 Painting by Charles Parsons, Lithographed by Lyman W. Atwater
(Image source: The MET)

Completed Project Shots

A million thanks to Maria, my sister and photographer, for all her time and talents.  Without her, and her willingness to freeze with me, none of these photo shoots would be possible. *All photographs courtesy of Maria M.* 

The air is silent save where stirs
A bugling breeze among the firs;
The virgin world in white array
Waits for the bridegroom kiss of day;
All heaven blooms rarely in the east
Where skies are silvery and fleeced,
And o'er the orient hills made glad
The morning comes in wonder clad;
Oh, 'tis a time most fit to see
How beautiful the dawn can be!

Wide, sparkling fields snow-vestured lie
Beneath a blue, unshadowed sky;
A glistening splendor crowns the woods
And bosky, whistling solitudes;
In hemlock glen and reedy mere
The tang of frost is sharp and clear;
Life hath a jollity and zest,
A poignancy made manifest;
Laughter and courage have their way
At noontide of a winter's day.

Faint music rings in wold and dell,
The tinkling of a distant bell,
Where homestead lights with friendly glow
Glimmer across the drifted snow;
Beyond a valley dim and far
Lit by an occidental star,
Tall pines the marge of day beset
Like many a slender minaret,
Whence priest-like winds on crystal air
Summon the reverent world to prayer.

Poem is "A Winter Day" by Lucy Maud Montgomery.

Bonus: Outtakes of me twirling around in the snow!

Happy Holidays! 

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! 

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