I went to another murder mystery dinner a few weeks ago. As with the first one , I saw it as another excuse to sew.Fumbling through my first year of teaching has got me pretty strapped for playtime these days but I was determined to make my outfit. The theme this year was Victorian. I knew I wouldn’t worry myself with making something absolutely historically correct. I figured a lot of people would go with the steampunk style that is so popular right now so I aimed for something in between.
The Vogue 1132 vest I made a few years ago with the ruffle in the back immediately came to mind. It sort of reminds me of a bustle. The plan was to add a long skirt and badabing! I’d be victorianesk.
I found some shimmery, embossed velvety, polyester fabric from JoAnne fabrics for $3 and decided to make the Vogue vest with the flounced skirt from McCall’s 6770.
I cutout both vest and skirt but ran out of steam after sewing the skirt. It went together nicely, but took me a while.
The lazy bones in me just thought well I don’t have to have the matching skirt and vest do I? I tried the skirt on with the houndstooth vest I made a couple years ago (it needed alterations on the side seams because whatdoya know, I lost weight!) and thought hey, this looks almost Victorian.
For accessories I pulled out a little ascot I knitted from a yarn of blended angora and ramboullet fiber I handspun. The pattern is from Interweave Knits Holiday Gifts 2007.
It is still cold here in Indiana (like seriously today it snowed) so I decided to wear my favorite shawl. It is the most complicated and time consuming one I have made to date. I finished it back in 2008-2009. The yarn is a commercial millspun tencel that has a really nice, silky drape to it. The pattern is Pretty As a Peacock by Some Knitting Required.
In anticipation for spring, (we’ve got a ways to go) I decided to work on a lighter 18th century jacket to wear at Heritage events in warmer weather. My plan is to make two cotton petticoats (skirts), a jacket, and quilted jumps (waistcoat) as a starter wardrobe to wear this year.
I decided to put the patterns that I received for Christmas to use. I made the View A with the ruffles in the back from a striped cotton/linen. It was very easy to make.
The pattern instructions say to make a separate lining but I decided to try out the period technique that has the lining and fashion fabric sewn together in one step. It was super fast and easy to do.
I wonder why modern patterns don’t use the one-step lining technique. Perhaps because one would have to disassemble the entire jacket to make alterations. I figured I could solve this issue by doing French seams on the sides that way I could make common side alterations easily.
I liked this style so much that I went and found a modern version of it.
Vogue 1132 Here I come!
What better way to preserve the memory of our ancestors than to bring them back to life? Living history allows us to explore the world of the past through carrying out daily activities as people did before our time.
As a college student I would look through the pattern catalogs at the fabric store and marvel at the historic costume section. In one of my favorite courses in college, History of Costume, we studied the different articles of clothing that were worn throughout history. Up until very recently I had never seen an outfit made in a style before the 20th century in person. Nonetheless my fascination persisted.
I recently met a now dear friend who creates clothing from the 18th century using historically accurate techniques and materials. She loaned me some handmade, period clothing to wear to a reenactment called 5 Medals in New Paris, IN. The event recreates a village of a Native American chief 5 Medals who managed negotiations between the Potawatomi and the U.S government in the 1760s through 1813. Although the village was eventually destroyed by the government, it lives on through the annual reenactment in October.
I ended up packing one of my spinning wheels along with some fiber, dressing up and going on my own to meet more friends at the event. I had such a great time talking to people about the clothing and demonstrating how to spin flax and wool. People were so eager to learn about what I was doing. Meeting all of the reenactors, and listening to there interpretations of history was a lot of fun and inspired me to learn more.
Having lost my grandparents recently I could not help but reflect upon how I got to be a third generation college graduate living a relatively comfortable middleclass lifestyle. There were no other African American reenactors at the event. I was told there are very few if any in our area that portray pre-civil war characters. I understand why, who wants to be a slave, right? Although the political status of African Americans was terrible we cannot allow it to overshadow the undisputable truth that we were an incredibly talented population of people who played a crucial role in developing America. In short, there is a difference between being a slave and being an enslaved person. The creator does not make slaves. Slaves are the invention of greedy politicians. I feel I can contribute to educating the public on my ancestors by portraying a “person” that people can engage with.
I decided to take a trip to historic Williamsburg, Virginia to experience more living history and learn more about America. It was a transformational experience.
One of most memorable moments was witnessing the recitation of the Declaration of Independence. There were two African American characters standing at there gate. The female’s reaction was hope that the words would soon apply to her and the male character was her reality check that this document had nothing to do with them. Of course we all know how it turned out.
After my trip to Williamsburg I was determined to recreate my own costume so that I could portray similar characters.