Saturday, July 27, 2013

A wool adventure

Ever since the Athenaeum I've been suffering from sewing burnout.  I just haven't wanted to do anything except sit and watch Supernatural and feel mopey about not being in 1860.
But no more - I've found a cure!  FABRIC SHOPPING!
I left intending to buy lining for my 1840s ballgown and came back with that, and some really lovely wavy repro 1860s cotton print for a new camp dress.  I can't start it, however, until I finish what I already have on my plate, so I buckled down, put on John Adams and worked until midnight finishing this baby.

And, like most of mine, it's waaaay too long.
My wool/silk blend middle class dress!  And I still need a collar for it (the one I planned on using was too short.)
Yeah, pay no mind to the hem malfunction...

It's just my usual darted bodice base with sleeves filched off of one of Elizabeth's Simplicity patterns.  I didn't have instructions or anything, so I just... wung it?  Winged it?  Whatever.  It hangs a bit strangely, but I think that the pleats are a great addition.

 I intend to put some sort of gimp or velvet decoration, but I haven't decided yet.  If anybody has an idea of what I should use don't hesitate to say!

And now, the deet shots...

 My first time sewing the closure so that the eyes were encased in the bodice itself, which made things a heck of a lot nearer looking because it eliminated awko gaps.
 The dress itself is a mixture of hand and machine sewing, and all the finishing is done by hand.  It's lined with a thick-weave white cotton, except for the sleeves, which are unlined.
One of the kind ladies at the Sewing Academy told me that it didn't matter how it looked on the inside so long as it looks nice on the outside...  Well, here's that in action!

Coming soon (ish)!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

A Week in the Confederacy

 Warning: here be a picture-heavy post!

Spending a week in the Athenaeum Rectory Girl's school was actually a pretty wonderful experience for me.  Other than a few instances which I'll brush on later it was a week of fun, art and new friends, as well as heat and mosquitoes.  But the last two can hardly be helped!
 We drove into Nashville the day before and stayed at a lovely bed and breakfast with a very amusing bathtub (amusing to C, at least, who thought that the shower nozzle was a phone at first!)  That's where we got our first taste of the distinctly Southern brand of congeniality which I felt so much of during the trip.  The proprietor just cared so much about our comfort..
The next day we made our way to Columbia.  We had to get there early so mama could catch her plane back to Chi-town, so we had quite a lot of time to kill while in costume.
(We also got in trouble for going off campus to get cheese sandwiches.  In our defense, they told us it was alright to go on a walk, but they didn't mention not to leave the yard...)
At the back porch! Ignore my petticoat, darp.

 The house was an absolutely darling 1830s mansion filled with lovely, original artifacts.

 Our host family was as new to all of this as we were, and being that they just moved in, gave us the use of several of their huge rooms to occupy.  And of course, we made quite a mess of them.
And this at the beginning of the week, too!

It was usually between 80 and 90 degrees, though the building was air conditioned, so I got a good deal of use from my sheer.  Even though it did get its fair amount of tears and stains, sigh.
Carriage rides!

Dem ankles!
 We had four or five classes per day, such as needlework, crochet (which I learned that I'm terrible at,) singing, art, penmanship, etiquette and domestic work.

Kate's dress... I can't even... /jaw drops/
Sara being a cutie, per usual
Look at all of my neat little 'e's, hah!
On one of the days we took a brief tour of the cemetery plots where the original family was interred, though it was too hot to stay for very long.

But for most of our free time we hung out in the double parlor and goofed around and sang Disney songs and sewed - the hours spent there were the most enjoyable of the trip for me.
Archangel et Jocelyn's peace sign
Church - the best place to goof off.
Speaking of church, we went to church service every single day.  For me as an agnostic that was pretty unusual, but by the end of the week I'd memorized the Te Deum and the Lord's Prayer and knew when to stand up and sit down and kneel on the little pillow or read out of our rad 1860s repro bible.  It was quite a cultural experience!
Graces in the yard
During the tea
On the last day, before graduation, we visited Rippavilla, a gorgeous antebellum plantation.  And just as if they knew my heart better than I knew my own, they brought us there to see an antique show.  SO much love.
I didn't have too much time to take pictures... :c
And then graduation and commencement, which were both wonderful despite my dress being exceedingly low cut (wearing a different corset than I drafted it over, erp.)  My harp piece went off without a hitch and nobody tripped over the church stairs off of the dias.
The lovely Ms. Flautt!
Yeah, Janet Jackson moment waiting to happen on my part.
 And all the menfolk were attentive. And kind.  And tall.  And I would have climbed them like a tree had I the chance.  No lie.

As for the political part, it played a seemingly minor role.  Mr. Orman's class on 'current events' was mostly factual with a few amusing gems like 'the North was settled by English puritans who didn't like to have any fun, the South was settled by brave nat'listic Scots-Irish Braveheart people.'  But when the etiquette teacher read an excerpt from the Diary of Virginia Clay I nearly cracked a tooth grinding them so hard.  It was an excerpt regarding James Hammond's plantation, which I HAVE read factual records of and it is NOT a little slaveocratic heaven like it was portrayed as.  But in the part that she read Clay talks about how the happy little negro savages live in their happy little negro homes with their honky-tonk little negro culture, isn't it so cute! what would those savages do without us white people?
I mean, read any excerpt you want about life, art and culture in the 1860s.  But read a section so drenched in racism and upholding that to be right, to demonstrate that slavery was a positive good(?!?) and I won't be able to take you seriously.  At all.

But that was really the only problem that I had.  I didn't much mind being walked around the ballroom by handsome, attentive men, if only because it was a change from the usual grunts back home.  So there's that.
All in all, I'd do it again.  I made a lot of new friends, and I feel like I'm in a little sisterhood of belles, and like Andrew Jackson I'm a huge sucker for secretive societies.  All in all, a lovely time for a northerner down South!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

On the eve of embarking

Well... Tomorrow I finally hit the road to get to the place I've been preparing to go to for a year.  It's been a wild scramble on my part, ironing, sewing and buttonholing, reading up and saving up.  And with luck it'll all come to fruition next week!
I've seen the preview videos of Southern Belle, and as a northern Illi girl (heck, we have Abe Lincoln on our license plates) I can't say that I'm particularly endeared to the underlying racist/misogynistic undertones that the documentary implies the Rectory has.  I suppose that I'll just have to bear that in mind when I go... Yes, Lincoln was racist (but he still did more than 99% of the population to end the horrors of slavery) and yes, free blacks did own slaves (almost always for the purpose of manumission or reuniting families,) and the list continues.  Just got to keep that in mind and keep my mouth shut.
I've been doing a bit of research, on my part, as to the revisionist nature of the 'southern belle' image.  Even the very wealthiest plantation women didn't sit around drinking tea - they, by most accounts, ended up being the plantation manager in their husband's frequent absences.  It was hard work, and many women were miserable and lonely.  And above all, southern women showed a remarkable LACK of the so-called 'virtues' - they spoke their mind, took control and did other such 'unbecoming' things that the instructors were telling the students not to do.
But maybe I'm just overthinking this, you know.  I watched half of GWTW on a 9 hour layover and it sickened me (and bored me near to tears,) but there are those that want to reenact that sort of life, that gentility that never existed.  And hey, who am I to tell the kid at Disneyland that Mickey Mouse is just some guy in a suit?  So I'll have their tea and eat their crumpets and do their bowing (I'm gonna have calves of steel by the end of the week) and try not to think too deeply about the 1890s revisionist lense.
In the interem, HAPPY 4TH!
 Ian found this vintage linen 40s dress and got it with me in mind.  And it fits like a glove!  Paired it with very farby stockings, flats, my straw boater and my pin from Fashion, Impressionism and Modernity (which I went to with C! Twice! And if you look on page 13 of the catolog you'll see my name mentioned in the credits! :D)
Have a happy Independence day and don't put your eye out with a sparkler!
P.S: expect the mother of all picture posts once I get back..