Monday, December 17, 2012

The "Dickens Christmas Doll"

I am, as usual, very behind in posting. Drat!  Well, as I mentioned in my first Christmas post, December is a busy month for time travel.  I wrapped the holiday season up this weekend with a day as Ellen Emerson for the Orchard House Christmas program, and I am greatly looking forward to going home to see my family next weekend!

Anyway, while I haven't quite made it to a real post yet, here is a quick snap from caroling before Fezziwig's Ball!  I wore a bonnet I made several years ago, based on a description of an original (which will get it's own post eventually), my fur cape, and my tartan ballgown.  While Antonia was taking this picture she also decided I was the "Dickens Christmas Doll," so here I am, as a Madame Alexander.

by the town Christmas tree

in front of the hall

bonnet profile
I hope everyone else is perfectly prepared for the holidays! Or, if you've just finished, that you had a lovely Hanukkah.  (We celebrate both, so I am full of latkes and preparing for holiday food round two!)

Monday, December 10, 2012

Christmas in the Regency

During the Regency era Christmas in America was very different from the way we celebrate today, but that certainly didn't stop us from having a wonderful holiday celebration with the resident 1812 Marines at the Commandant's house last weekend!

There were treats and punch (it was a party, after all), and in addition to dancing we also played Blind Man's Bluff. The U.S.S. Constitution also celebrated its annual tree lighting, but we didn't go down to the docks.  It was decorated quite nicely, though!  The Constitution's facebook page has pictures.

getting ready to light the tree on board
after our performance
posing as if we are about to dance--there would be more people in a real set, though!

In my plum velvet spencer and dress from this summer--I plan to have some new ones soon...
After the party was over we took some silly photos to make a poster for our upcoming season of regency events, which are all going to be fabulous!  We tried all sorts of "scenes":

whispering by the fireplace?

or chatting in the chair?
 Ultimately, it was dancing (of course), for the win!

Regency waltz hold and my rudimentary Photoshop skills
The boys were great sports about being our Darcy and Bingley for the shots, and I am pretty pleased with the final card!  The back has information about our upcoming events, which you can find here and here!

December is a very busy time of year, but I couldn't imagine the holidays any other way!

P.S. Happy Hanukkah, to those who will also be lighting candles tonight!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

It's That Time of Year...

...when my weekends are booked solid with HOLIDAY MERRIMENT!

Today I went out to hang with my family and start some of our traditions--including baking a million cookies for the Winter Party at the Commandant's House tomorrow and sewing my stays for said event.  Hooray!  I'll have much more to share as the month progresses of December throughout the 19th century (or the modern version of it anyway), but tonight I am going to bang out these stays while watching White Christmas, which is one of my favorite movies.

Also, to start off right, it snowed today!  So here's a clip from White Christmas in honor of the great New England tradition.

Also, here are the cookies I'll be bringing to the party tomorrow!

They are Dolley Madison's sugar cookies, First Lady from 1801-18017.  They are quite cake-like in consistency, and the cinnamon is a nice change.  All in all, not what we expect in a sugar cookie but quite nice!

(Adapted from the Jane Austen Centre, Bath UK)

2c. butter
3/4 c. milk
4 c. sugar
10 eggs, separated and beaten (yolks to a custard color, whites "stiffly")
1 tsp. cinnamon
flour to suit

Preheat oven to 375 F.  Beat egg whites stiffly.  In a separate bowl, cream butter and sugar.  Add egg yolks and cinnamon.  Fold in beaten egg whites, then add milk.  Add flour about a cup at a time until the dough reaches a consistency where it will stay in lump up spooned onto the cookie sheet (or however firm you like).  Spoon (I use a melon baller) into 1/4-inch balls and back for 10 minutes.

One thing that always throws me off with this is that the cookies will not change color as they bake.  To make sure they are done, lightly tap the top.  They should be spongy but firm.

Enjoy, and Happy December!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Science Fashion

Happy Thanksgiving (belatedly) to all! I had a great time hanging out with my family, and my aunt accompanied me to JoAnn Fabrics for an adventure on "black" Friday!

I tend to avoid JoAnn for most of my shopping, because in general I find it to be way overpriced.  However, last Friday all Simplicity and Butterick patterns were 99 cents, and that is hard to beat!  I went looking for a specific pattern for an upcoming project and failed spectacularly, but I was able to pick up a couple of the Butterick vintage reproductions for a different project I've got simmering on the back-burner.

I picked up B5748, which has two circle-skirt dresses (they place it c.1960), one with a super cute bow,

pattern illustration for B5748
and B5813, c.1956, which has cute collared dresses in both circle- and pencil-skirt varieties.

I want to make some new work clothes, and I'm drawing inspiration from one of my favorite shows as a kid: The Magic School Bus.

For those of you who weren't raised on PBS in the '90s, The Magic School Bus is about an elementary school class taught by Miss Frizzle, who (teamed up with the class pet, a lizard named Liz, and their flying/shape-changing/time-travelling school bus) gives the kids hands-on exposure to the natural and social sciences.  I still use the lessons from the episodes about color, chemistry, and sound waves, because they were fun and stuck with me.

If you've got some time, here is the episode "The Busasaurus," because dinosaurs are awesome.

  How is science television for kids fashionable?  Well, Miss Frizzle had quite the wardrobe.  In fact, she had a dress (with matching earrings and shoes!) in a print to match the scientific lesson of the day.

Miss Frizzle's dinosaur dress, because clearly I am on a roll.
another one...learning about energy, I think
In a perfect world, I would get science-themed fabric printed with awesome things.  Spoonflower has a bunch, but I can't afford circle-skirt dresses at $18/yard.  Instead, this project is on the list of "somedays," and next time I spot dinosaur (or other fabulously scientific) fabric, this is what I will make.

Ok fine...and one more.  Miss Frizzle teaches archaeology!

Hooray for science sewing!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Romanticisation and Revival: Sir Scott, King George IV, and the Rise of Tartan

When King George IV visited Edinburgh in 1822, he was greeted by a sea of tartan, bagpipes, and Highland dress.  One Edinburgh citizen wrote of the occasion that, "Sir Walter Scott has ridiculously made us appear to be a nation of Highlanders, and the bagpipe and the tartan are the order of the day" (Cheape, p50).

The Procession of King George IV Entering Princes Street, Edinburgh, August 1822, by William Turner--notice the high number of men in Highland dress
King George IV was the first monarch to visit Scotland in 171 years when he arrived in 1822, and the visit attracted quite a bit of attention.  When he arrived in Edinburgh, George was greeted by "a great spectacle of pageantry and ceremony" organized by Sir Walter Scott, author of the wildly popular novel Waverly (Edinburgh Museums).  Waverley, published anonymously in 1814, is set in the Scottish Highlands during the Jacobite uprising in 1745.  The three-volume novel was followed by a several other works set primarily in Scotland and published over the five years.  These are all collectively known as the "Scottish Novels", and were wildly popular throughout Europe and the United States.  In fact, the king himself was a huge fan, and Scott was invited to dine with him in 1815 just so George could "meet the author of Waverley."

tartan costume most likely designed for the ceremony during the king's visit in 1822 (courtesy of the National Galleries of Scotland)

The novels presented a romanticised version of life in the Scottish Highlands in the 18th century, and the impression was devoured by the public. (After all, it was the Romantic Era!)  This built on the popularity of the 1760 epic poem Ossian by James Macpherson, who claimed that he had compiled ancient Scottish Gaelic sources and translated them--in actuality, he wrote it.

An illustration from The Heart of Midlothian, 1818, by Sir Walter Scott
So before the king ever planned his trip north, there was a certain idea of Scotland in the public imagination.  It should come as no surprise, therefore, that Scott's organized welcome for the monarch embraced the romanticism he had helped to design--including lots and lots of tartan.  During the next two decades tartan appeared up more and more in fashion, and also certain patterns started to be associated with particular clans, based on the publication of books on "clan tartans" that originated from the samples collected by the Highland Society of London (see my last post for more about this).  There are also several mentions in descriptions of fancy dress balls of ladies and gentlemen attending as "highlanders."  This cultural appropriation would continue throughout the mid-century, but more on that later...on to the clothes!

While all of the tartans from my previous post (and so many more!) can all be used for 1820s-1830s tartan sewing, the most popular color sets seem to be purple and red in addition to the already-present blue and green.

walking dress from La Belle Assemble, 1822
evening dress in Mackenzie tartan, 1822

the Mackenzie tartan, version from the 1842 sample. via the Scottish Register of Tartans

dress with tartan bow, 1827-1830

tartan skirts with bias ruffles, Costumes Pariesiens 1826

"Portrait of Lady in Plaid," 1830s

tartan apron, far left, 1830s

tartan dress (under cloak) and matching bonnet, Le Journal des Modes 1826 

silk dress, 1830 (I don't think this is tartan, just plaid)

turban in Dress Stuart tartan, 1820-1835
silk dress in Clan Chattan tartan, c.1832. *Scanned from Tartan, owned by National Museum of Scotland

the Clan Chattan tartan sett, as recorded in the Registry.  Dated 1816
If you can push your Regency fashion dates to 1822, all the tartans can be yours to wear.  Personally? I'm still stuck on the plumed hats in some of the earlier plates.  How totally fab!


Notes taken in "Gaelic Language and Culture" and "Modern Scottish History" Fall 2010, University of Edinburgh

The University of Edinburgh Walter Scott Archives

Tartan, by Hugh Cheape

Scottish Register of Tartans

National Museum of Scotland

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Saturday Morning Cartoons

Happy Saturday!

I am trying to jam as much by-myself get-things-done stuff into today as possible (some of which will make it up here soon), because after this weekend I'm booked solid through New Years for balls, gigs, and the Orchard House holiday program.  So of course, I've got superheroes in the background.

I happened upon this and thought it was adorable enough to share.  Hooray for Batman!

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Spirit of Waterloo: Tartan in Regency Fashion

A little while ago I did a post meant as an introduction to my love of tartan.  Originally that plaid obsession was supposed to stay in the 1860s, where Queen Victoria put it (a post on that later!), but it has bled into just about every period I do.  Oops.

As lately I've been all about building a Regency wardrobe, it shouldn't come as a surprise that I jumped at the chance to make Regency tartan.  In particular, I am in love with these two fashion plates:

Feb. 1801

Paris fashions after Waterloo, 1815.  Please excuse the blur--I scanned this from the book The Costume of Scotland, by John Dunbar
They are both of a similar style, although from 14 years apart: the actual plaid part is an overdress with no sleeves and a "v" neckline.  Overall I like the second plate better (and it's within my target range of 1810-1815 for Regency sewing), because I am fond of chemisettes, but the hat from the first image really does it for me.  If I end up buying a light wool plaid to make something like this, I will aim for enough fabric for an overdress and hat, which I can then mix and match.

But was tartan really popular during the 18-teens? or are these images unique?

As I discussed here and here, the wearing of Highland dress was banned after the Jacobite uprising (the Act of Proscription, 1747, can be read in full here).  The act was officially repealed in 1782, but for at least two or three decades before that the enforcement of the law had dropped off.  In fact, even before the repeal the Highland Society of London was founded in 1778, which strove to preserve the art of tartan weaving as well as preserve the already dwindling Gaelic language and culture of the Scottish highlands.  The society also maintained a philanthropic branch which aided expatriots and worked to promote economic and agricultural growth in the highlands.  The society was instrumental in the repeal of the Dress Act, and was the first group to collect tartan patterns specifically from the clans, which they kept in The Collection of Certified Tartans--the beginnings of the modern governmental board.

Diploma of the Highland Society of London, designed by Benjamin West 1805
In the 1750s tartan was also re-adopted into military uniforms.  The Scottish Highlands were a popular area for recruitment during the earlier Seven Years' War as a way of combating remaining negative feelings towards the British crown and because Highland men were tough.  As a way to encourage recruitment, these regiments wore a militarized version of highland dress (allowed by the Act of Proscription due to an exception for military use).

During the Napoleonic Wars in the early 19th century, these Highland regiments played a large role and were well-known by their tartan uniforms, which had developed into a standardized set by 1812.

Illustration of Grenadiers from the 42nd and 92nd Highlanders during Waterloo, 1812

"Mac Mhic Alasdair," by Henry Raeburn, 1812.  Portrait of Colonel Alasdair MacDonnell of Glengarry, wearing a fabulous ensemble meant to show his heritage as leader of Gaelic society

These uniforms were similar to more traditional British military dress in that the color of facings and jacket details varied based on the regiment.  The standardized kilt was of the "'Government Pattern,' a dark tartan of green, blue, and black in which distinguishing lines of red, white and yellow were added for different regiments" (Tartan by Hugh Cheape, p44).  This tartan was adopted into women's fashion during the period as well; wearing military-inspired items was a common occurrence during the regency, and there are many other examples of this besides the wearing of tartan.

a cartoon portrait by John Kay, in which the ladies are wearing feminized versions of the West Lowland Fencibles uniform, 1795 (courtesy of the British Museum)

While there are several tartans in the modern Register of Tartans dated to this period, they share some traits: they tend to be dark-colored, with mostly blue and green--similar to the tartans in standard military dress for the Highland regiments.

Registered tartan of the 92nd (Gordon Highlanders) Regiment, as recorded 1819
Black Watch tartan, originally dated 1725
Sir Etienne Tache, date unkown. Noted that the owner fought in the War of 1812

tartan of the 42nd Highlanders, dated 1797

This is just an assortment of the ones I like--you can find all of them in the Register of Tartans, and several more of my selections on my Pinterest board.

But did women really wear tartan?  We know from the 1801 fashion plate that plaid was present to some degree in women's fashion, and certainly tartan was quite popular by 1815.

fashion plate 1814, plaid shawl and plaid ribbon-trimmed bonnet

tartan-themed opera dress (and hat!) in Ackerman's Repository, 1814 
Day dresses for June, 1802. The one on the right is plaid!
"Portrait of a Lady, Half-Length, in a Plumed Dress and a Tartan Shawl" by Sir Henry Raeburn, c. 1756-1823
tartan walking dress, 1811
So the final verdict? Yes, women wore plaid--and even tartan--in the 18-teens.  There are enough examples (not all of which are collected here, obviously) to justify a tartan ensemble, especially if you are British, or hanging out with a British reenacting regiment at your next 1812 event.  Too bad all the guys I know are going American with their
For those on the other side?  A tartan ribbon at the waist, on a hat (or a tartan bonnet!), or a piece of outerwear (shawl, spencer) are perfectly acceptable.

I will certainly be keeping an eye out for navy blue/hunter green-based tartans at the fabric store...


Scottish Register of Tartans (see the link above)

Costume of Scotland, by John Dunbar (1981)

Tartan, by Hugh Cheape (1995)

The National Museum of Scotland

The British Museum

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Hairy Goals

I don't have any excuse to make or wear an 1830s dress--it's not a time period I do, they're totally ridiculous, I would wear it once and it would sit in my closet--but there's something about hair from the period roughly from 1825-1836 that I love.  Someday, I want hair as ridiculous as this.
In the beginning of the 19th century the fashion was for high hair on women, often with little curls framing the face.  Somewhere after that, though, everything got a little bit...magnified.  Hair and accessories shot from the top of the head in multiple directions, braids defied gravity, and clumps of curls added inches at the temples.  They are, essentially, completely ridiculous hair fashions.

And I love them.

While I may never have an excuse to wear my hair in quite this ridiculous a manner, here are some examples of the fabulous hair of the late 1820s-1830s.

Fashion plate from Costume Parisienne, 1830
Hair accessories, 1830s

Portrait, 1831
Caroline von Holnstein, 1834

Townsend's Monthly, 1830

Eugenie Hortense Auguste Napoleon de Beauharnais, 1826
Aren't they fun?