August 27, 2018

While the Veil Around Her Streameth

"One sacred oath hath tied 
Our loves; one destiny our life shall guide;
Nor wild nor deep our common way divide!
Ushered thus, we haste to enter on a scene of radiant joy—
List’ning vows in ardor plighted, which alone can death destroy.

"Passing fair the bride appeareth, in her robes of snowy white,
While the veil around her streameth, like a silvery halo’s light;
And amid her hair’s rich braidings rests the pearly orange bough,
With its fragrant blossoms pressing on her pure, unclouded brow.

Bridal Fashions Plate, Winter 1847
(Image source: Claremont Colleges Digital Library

"Love’s devotion yields the future with young Hope’s resplendent beam;
And her spirit thrills with rapture, yielding to its blissful dream!"

- "Eras of Life: Marriage" by Mrs. A.F. Law, 
Godey's Lady's Book, January 1851

Last year, on this very day, my two good friends, Allison and Stephen, said their "I do's" in the wedding of the centuries!  Surrounded by family and friends, fashions from the 1840s through the 1940s, the couple share a love unbound by time.  So, on this first of many anniversaries to come, I wish them another year and lifetime of happiness, great success, joy and abundant blessings!

In celebration, with permission from the bride, today's blog post is all about the making of her hand-beaded wedding veil.  I had wanted to present a gift that would let them know how much they mean to me, and hope that this small, yet hand-and-heart-made contribution did just that.

A hand-beaded bridal veil of net and glass pearls.

The Veil Around Her Streameth

News of the engagement spread quickly through our village, and plans for the trousseau began soon after.  For me, this meant the privilege of a second foray into bridal attire - the first being for the matron of honor and our mutual friend, Ariana, several months prior.

Allison was (and is!) a gorgeous bride, with the grace and beauty reminiscent of Franz Xaver Winterhalter's portrait of Queen Victoria in her wedding dress, which was completed in 1847 as an anniversary present for Prince Albert.  In the 1840s style and tradition set by the queen, bridal veils were made from either fine lace or net and worn beneath a wreath of sweet orange blossoms.

Portrait of Queen Victoria in her wedding dress and veil from 1840,
painted by Franz Xaver Winterhalter in 1847.
The original painting is owned by the Royal Collection.
(Image in public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

For Allison's veil, we decided on an ivory cotton net with a beaded edge.  She asked for a "moderately full" look that would extend a couple inches past the waist or to around hip length, which I measured to be about 30".  After gathering a length of ivory net, dozens of matching 4mm pearls and a silver wire hair comb, I was ready to begin what would be around a 40 hour project, thinking of Allison and Stephen with each stitch.

While the saying may be that a picture is worth a thousand words, I think that a thousand stitches were worth this picture, which was shared with me on Facebook:

The moment every mother dreams of...
Pinning the veil beneath a crown of orange blossoms.
(Photograph via Facebook)

Construction Details

Having already beaded a veil previously, (see the blog post, here: Something Old, Something New - and Something Green!), I had a better idea of what to expect and improve upon this time.  The first step after taking the measurements was to draft a pattern and cut a rounded, semicircular veil.  Next, the outer edges were finished with a "pencil edge," rolling the hem with a single strand of a vintage, size 20, white floss from France and securing a glass pearl every half inch or so. 

The shape was rounded to fall elegantly around the face edge,
with the longest, center back length around 32"

Detail shot of the hem with pearls spaced every 1/2"

I quickly learned that working with net is very different than the tulle I used the first time.  The larger weave of the net, though less slippery than tulle, makes the edge harder to control and to maintain an even hem.  There were plenty of re-dos, especially when I pulled too tightly or took too big (or too little) of a stitch.  Despite all of the challenges and finicky nature of net, I admit (now) to enjoying the process and, most of all, the end result.

1/16" rolled "pencil edge" on the net.

Close up of the edge of the net.

With the beading done, finishing was pretty straight forward.  The upper, unfinished edge was gathered down and securely whip stitched to the comb until the raw edges were smooth and mostly covered by the thread.

Gathering the unfinished edge to the length of the comb.
The "silver wire hair comb" was 4.25" in length.

Secured to the comb, the next step is to bind the edge with satin ribbon.
Pliers may be necessary to work the needle through all of the layers.

Then, to prevent any snagging on the hairstyle, the edge was bound with a length of cream satin ribbon, secured by tiny whip stitches between each tooth.  If the bride preferred the comb to be visible, any number of embellishments from fabric flowers to crystals and pearls could be added.

The finished edge from the outside!

Finished edge from the inside -
which should always look as neat and tidy as the outside!

Completed Project Shots

Hand-beaded bridal veil of net and glass pearls - front.

View of the full veil - laid flat.

Detail of the back of the veil against cotton muslin -
I wanted the pearls to look as if they were floating!

Same view, laid flat on cotton muslin.

Again, this time on a black background.

And to finish this blog post, a picture of the couple -

Happy Anniversary, Stephen and Allison! 

Looking as if they had just stepped out of an 1840s fashion plate,
the perfectly-period newlyweds ❤
(Photograph by Ruby Roote, via Facebook)

August 19, 2018

She Hath Put Her Heart to School

"'What a splendid day!' said Anne, drawing a long breath.  'Isn't it good just to be alive on a day like this?  I pity the people who aren't born yet for missing it.  They may have good days, of course, but they can never have this one.  And it's splendider still to have such a lovely way to go to school by, isn't it?'" - Chapter XV, Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery

Well this summer just flew by!  One blink and it was all over...While I felt like I maintained a good balance between work in the interpretation office and around the village, catching up with friends and family, I didn't get to the sewing or blogging that I had hoped.  Nevertheless, summer was still summer with plenty of memories to cherish, and a renewed, refreshed self ready to tackle all that's in store for the upcoming school year!

Perhaps I'm on the road to Kent State University right as your reading this, or settling into Verder, my home for the fall semester, and welcoming the new roommate.  While I'm looking forward to another semester of all things costumes and textiles, the dual concentrations of my self-designed, Bachelors of Integrated Studies program, I'd also like to list my favorite places to visit on and off the main campus.  If you're new to KSU - welcome! - and if you're interested in costumes or textiles - awesome!  See you in the studios!

Here are my top seven "must dos" on and off the campus: 

(1) See the Kent State University Museum -  Located in Rockwell Hall, home to the School of Fashion Design and Merchandising, this museum of costumes, textiles and decorative arts features year-round, changing exhibits in its eight galleries.  I've been studying the images in their fabulous, online and fully digitized collection for years, but nothing comes close to seeing the extant garments up close and in person (which was one of the main reasons I chose KSU)!

The Kent State University Museum

Favorite exhibits from the past year include the permanent Fashion Timeline, which spans two centuries of historical fashions and rotates the featured garments every semester, or more:

My favorite from Fall 2017:
Evening dress of 18th-century-style silk brocade, 1840s

My favorite from Spring 2018:
Black silk faille dress trimmed with velvet and lace, early 1870s.

Another favorite from Spring 2018:
Brown silk taffeta dress with patterned velvet trim, c.1889 

The Fashions of the Forties: From World War II to the New Look exhibit, Fall 2017 semester:

Fashions of the Forties: From World War II to the New Look

Fringe Elements, which showcased exquisitely fringe-trimmed garments from around the world:

Brown plaid taffeta dress, 1850s

Pink and white silk taffeta evening dress, c.1855-1860

Gold silk dress with tiered tasseled skirt, c.1879-1880

There were two new exhibits in the Spring 2018 semester - Katharine Hepburn: Dressed for Stage and Screen and For the Birds, which is all about birds, their cultural significance and representation in Asian, European and American fashion, textiles and other decorative arts.  (No pictures, sorry!)  For sure, I'll be making a stop this week or next to see the new displays.  It's free to students, so come once, come twice, come every single day if you choose!

(2) Visit the many libraries on campus!  I recommend the 12-story University Library, which is open 24 hours to students on weekdays, the Fashion Library, which has thousands of historical costume and fashion books to pursue, and the Performing Arts Library.

The textile section is located on the 7th floor of the University Library

The stacks in the Fashion Library...
Never have I ever seen so many books on historical clothing!

(3) Spend some quality time in the studios!  The campus is full of fashion, costume, dye and textile studios for the majors and minors to work.  If you're like me, plan to never see the sun and drink lots of coffee on those late nights...

(4) Attend a free lecture!  There's always something going on, and I mean always.  Most, if not all of the colleges (and some clubs) invite visiting speakers, artists and professionals for workshops throughout the year.  I had the opportunity to attend a few of the lectures, including the award-winning costume designer, Paul Tazewell of Broadway's Hamilton, and costume conservator, Cara Varnell, whose incredible career has included corporate, private, museum and archival collections all over the world.

(5) Catch a theatrical production, concert or dance!  Again, free to all students, there's almost always a production - be it a stage play, one-acts, musical or dance - in the works at the School of Theatre and Dance.  The School of Music also offers nearly 200 orchestra, band, choir, chamber and world music concerts and recitals each year.  So, if you're looking for something to do in the evening, stop by the box office in the Center for the Performing Arts or online.

Outside the Roe Green Center for the Performing Arts

(6) Explore the campus - It's HUGE, like a city within a campus!  Very pretty too, especially at the front of campus with the older, historic buildings.  There's also a lot of art installations, including my favorite pathway which is lined in bookshelves with bench-style alcoves, a seasonal waterfall fountain, and a giant brain!  Be on the look out for black squirrels...

My favorite of the art installations

(7) Head downtown, or off the campus for a while - There's a great local cafe a few blocks away called Scribbles, a historic cemetery (if you find that peaceful or are morbid like me), and the neatest, kettle-hole bog with a half-mile boardwalk. 

Tom S. Cooperrider-Kent Bog
State Nature Preserve

If you're able to drive, Kent is near many other museums and big cities, including Hale Farm, Cleveland and Pittsburgh, to name a few.  After discovering that Greenfield Village is only about a three-hours drive as the crow flies, I'll be dragging some friends to see it with me! 

So with that said, I hope any new or prospective students may find these suggestions helpful.  I know (from experience haha) that it can be difficult to find an institution that supports such obscure, niche-specific interests like historical costume construction and textile production, but the opportunities are out there!  If you're thinking about majoring in a similar area of study, feel free to drop a line - I'm always happy to chat about our shared passions.

Here's to a fantastic fall semester!

August 17, 2018

Inside Victoria's Closet: A Look at GCV&M's Current Exhibit

Today's blog post is all about the current exhibit - Victoria's Closet: Fashions of the 1840s - at the Genesee Country Village & Museum, home to the Susan Greene Costume Collection.  This is a post that I have been waiting to write for some time, and, having seen the exhibit in person (finally!), I am so excited to share both a preview of the highlights and a bit of the behind-the-scenes fun.

Victoria's Closet, Fashions of the 1840s
Genesee Country Village & Museum

In a word, Victoria's Closet is phenomenal - it's truly fit for a queen!  Patricia Tice, curator of the John L. Wehle Gallery and Susan Greene Costume Collection, could not have envisioned a more brilliant and timely idea, combining fashions and photography with all the splendor of a Queen and the warmth among family.  It's every BBC Victoria fan's dream - just think of all of those amazing costumes in season two!  Plus, what could be more perfect than an entire gallery full of 1840's fashions?!

From start to finish, I was just in awe of the creative talents, research and attention to detail that went into the making of this and every GCV&M exhibit.  I have such respect for the dedicated gallery staff - Patricia, Elizabeth, Darlene, Brandon - and their team of volunteers who brought Victoria's Closet to life, which opened to the public for the first time on May 12, 2018.  So, if you haven't already, make sure to plan your visit to see Victoria's Closet: Fashions of the 1840s and prepare to be amazed!

Inside the Victoria's Closet Exhibit

In this exhibit, you literally and figuratively step into Victoria's closet.  Greeted by the gallery doors, dressed as if they belong to a wardrobe, you enter a magical world, the Narnia of 1840s fashions...

The entrance to the exhibit

There's something for everyone here - men's, women's and children's fashions are all represented in case after case of fully dressed and posed figures:

Dresses for every occasion, including three wedding dresses:

There's a real intimacy to this exhibit.  Not only in the ins and outs of dress, but in the glimpse of a young queen and her family's life.  Excerpts from Victoria's diary and personal letters accompany many of the extant garments, and eye-catching infographics on the royal family members, the silhouettes and trends of fashion line the walls.  The exhibit's design and integration of information is just as exquisite as the clothing. 

A rainbow of children's clothing!

In addition to the larger cases, there are standing cases along the center walkways with bonnets, caps, shoes, accessories and ornaments of every type.  Make sure to open the 32 study drawers for even more extant treasures! 

Undergarments for the entire family: 

Quilted and corded petticoats

And finally, this may have been my favorite dress of the exhibit:  

Just look at that stunning fabric and the 22" waist!

After viewing the galleries, make sure to stop by the "fashion photo op!"  (a.k.a. where education meets entertainment WIN)  Here you can "dress up" and have your picture taken at the photo-op booth, which is behind a giant picture frame! 

Clothing and accessories for the "fashion photo op"
There are even corded petticoats - wow!

The photo-op booth 

There's even a carriage and several fully dressed forms in the entrance hall that provide a stylish backdrop for the "fashion photo op."  Don't miss the dalmatian advertising the other, fantastic exhibit - Working Like a Dog!  

Behind-the-Scenes Bonus

And now, for something a little different...At the end of last summer, in preparation for the exhibit, I had the chance to participate in a secret project...the making of, err rather modeling for mannequins!

Modeling for mannequins!
(Photograph by Ruby Foote, GCV&M photographer)

When Patricia and her sister, Elizabeth, asked, I was so happy to say "yes" to such a neat project!  Working for a living history museum, one never knows what they'll be asked to do next, and that's all part of the fun.  This time, I laced up (or rather down to 22"-23") to be wrapped in layers and layers of duct tape.  These "duct tape dummies" (made over a t-shirt and plastic wrap to protect exposed skin) of my corseted measurements could then be covered in archival safe materials and used for adjustable mannequins.

After a few afternoons of Elizabeth patiently wrapping me, we probably ended up with at least ten or so torsos:

Getting taped!
(Photograph by Ruby Foote)

Each duct tape torso had to be carefully cut off
using the t-shirt underneath to keep the shape.
(Photograph by Ruby Foote)

We also attempted a few arms in a bent position over stocking material, though these were much more difficult to cut off:

Cutting off my "arm" in progress
(Photograph by Ruby Foote)

Our official museum photographer, Ruby, stopped by one of the duct taping sessions and graciously captured all of the in-progress pictures for this blog post - a million thanks to you, Ruby! :) 

Here's a competed torso with two arms:   

A "duct tape dummy" of me!
(Photograph by Ruby Foote)

So, the mannequins went from looking something like this:

Wow, I have boxy ribs apparently...

To being stuffed, taking in or padding out certain areas as needed:

Looking at some of the dress options for the exhibit 

Then, after being covered in acid free and archival safe materials, assembled and dressed to exhibit ready:

One of the final forms in the exhibit -
from duct tape to a fully dressed and accessorized mannequin!

Seeing the exhibit (and all of the me-sized extant dresses haha!) makes me want to sew an 1840s dress or fronts, bias cut sleeves, ombré roller prints, what's there not to love?!  Thank you so much, Patricia and Elizabeth, for allowing me to be a part of your behind-the-scenes fun and for creating such an inspirational, must-see costume exhibit! 

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