Monday, April 29, 2013

Millinery Monday!

Yesterday I channeled some frustration and annoyance into making something beautiful (which is probably what should be done all the time with frustration and annoyance, it's a better method than my usual method of ice cream and tears). And what I had my sights set on was this:

Hello, beautiful...

 It's the adorably charming hat that Marianne (aka Kate Winslet) wears in Ang Lee's Sense and sensibility. This is the movie that made me fall in love with late Georgian clothing, and with Jane Austen's works. And let's be honest, Kate Winslet could wear a paper sack and look good, so this is stunning on her.

But, just because it was adorable doesn't mean it's based in history. Hollywood is notorious for taking liberties, especially with the costumes of its major stars. So I did a little digging around to find out what this little hat was all about.

Technically, it is not a hat. It is a capote. This seems to be the term for a class of close-fitting, low brimmed bonnets that were popular in the very early years of the 19th century. The word "capote" comes back in numerous ways for numerous different styles of hats, so this is a bit of an imperfect definition, but it works.

Unsurprisingly, period capotes differ a little bit from Kate Winslet's. Namely, they really come down over the eyes; this decision makes sense for Hollywood, because watching Marianne falling in love with Colonel Brandon in a true period capote would be like watching Kate Winslet emoting inside of a mailbox. Not so pretty. Here are a couple images of capotes from fashion plates, to show you what I'm talking about.

Gallery of Fashion, 1800

"Balloon Bonnet", Gallery of Fashion 1794-1798 (from Jane Austen's World)

If those look a little silly, apparently fashion commentators felt similarly, as seen in this cartoon:

"Les Invisibles" 1810
So, I took an unformed straw base, fitted it on my own head, steamed the bejeebers out of it, and this is what we got!

Fact: You will always get terrible pictures on this blog. Sorry I'm not sorry.

It's way cuter in person. Just trust me.
And look! I did papillote curls, just for the occasion!

So, I'm pretty pleased with this, especially as it's something that I have ALWAYS wanted. Now, how to trim it...any brilliant ideas, gentle readers?

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Lady Abroad (or, a springtime roadtrip)

Spring is when (to paraphrase Pa Ingalls from the Little House books) my wandering foot starts itching. Without intending it, I turned traveling into a spring tradition. It started in college, when I would take the opportunity over spring break to go visit my twin sister at her college in Wisconsin, continued through my study abroad in Ireland the spring of my senior year, and then through some springtime trips in my adulthood. I have come to interpret melting snow, chirping birds, and longer sunsets as a cue to hit the highway. This year was no different, and while plans for a trip abroad fell through, I quickly regrouped and decided to make an epic Civil War road trip to Missouri and back with my good friend Sarah last week.

Sarah and I took off in a little rental car that we christened Stephen Douglas. Our first stop on the way was the Amana Colonies. While it snowed in Minnesota, it rained the whole way down. Yuck. The cozy bed and breakfast we stayed in was a welcome respite - and since it dated back to the 1850s, it definitely fit into the road trip. I wish we would have had more time in the Amana Colonies - so many lovely things to see and shops to visit and antiquing to do, it will definitely be a return trip.

We made our way down to St. Louis, and did all the St. Louis things - we went up the arch (terrifying for a claustrophobe like yours truly), visited the City Museum, and saw the exhibit on the Civil War at the Missouri History Museum. We also spent a sunny afternoon at the botanical gardens, if only to prove to ourselves that green grass DOES exist, despite what our snowy winter has insisted.

And of course, one of the big highlights was the ball.

"And we were so admired!" Sarah (left) and self

The ball was held at a beautiful ballroom near Forest Park. Sarah and I are a bit spoiled for balls; at the balls we usually attend, all the gentlemen dance with all the ladies and take their duties seriously. We were a bit wary about what the experience would be at this ball, where we didn't know anyone. However, we were pleasantly surprised to be asked to dance many times. We made many new friends, and everyone was so delightful and friendly.

One thing I was not anticipating was that people would recognize me, either from here or discussion forums or Facebook. - I felt a little bit like a celebrity, with several people seeking me out to tell me they follow my sewing adventures. I do things because I think they are fun or I get enjoyment out of them, and I never stop to contemplate that someone might be watching - which, upon further reflection, is a bit of an ironic statement to put on a blog. Nevertheless, it was fun to meet people who also get enjoyment out of the things I do, and it was very encouraging to me.

After St. Louis, we hit the road and headed to Kansas City. All reenactors know what we were looking for there: The Steamboat Arabia Museum. The Arabia was a paddleboat which sank on the Missouri River in 1856. Long story short, the ship sank into the mud, the river changed course, and all its cargo (basically a warehouse's worth of goods) was buried under a cornfield until the 1980s when some adventurers dug it up. They continue to preserve and display all the goods that the ship was holding. As our guide pointed out, it was full of the kinds of things you throw away - pins, matches, nails, buttons - and thus they are things that you maybe wouldn't see in a museum. There were plenty of luxuries too - we got to smell some perfume (spicy floral with a hint of musk) and there was beautiful china and fabrics. Not only that, these things were in bulk - there wasn't just one pair of shoes, they had the same pair of shoes in every single size, forks and spoons and knives by the dozen, whole bolts of fabric and thousands of buttons. To say it was amazing would not accurately describe it.

Buttons, buttons, buttons!

Tinware on display
We also got plenty of antiquing done, and we visited Lawrence, Kansas, site of the famous Lawrence Massacre by Quantrill's Raiders. We did a self-guided tour of Lawrence that I highly recommend; it is always fascinating to learn about history right where it happened. And, since the Oregon Trail went through Lawrence, we got a glimpse of that, too.

And now I am home, working on sewing projects and plotting and scheming further adventures - adventures that hopefully don't leave me with a bad case of tendinitis like the one I'm nursing in my right foot at the moment. Major ouch, but totally worth it.

Me at the City Museum, a decidedly modern adventure

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A fresh start

Alright, folks, let's just get it over with. I should have kept up with this. I really should have. A blog isn't a blog without a blogger! But life swallowed me up, and as I've said elsewhere on here, sometimes you need to experience life rather than record it. Well, I've come full circle on that; one isn't a writer if one is not writing, and I've really missed the self-exploratory writing of some of my blogging ventures. So I'm going to commit to updating this here thing twice a week, and also commit to not feeling guilty if I don't or can't, and to just keep moving forward.

To sum up the last year and a half: work, travel, more work, more travel, purple sheer, pink-and-grey calico, mourning dress, empress ballgown, several shawls, kidney stone/removal surgery (let's just not even talk about that one), amazing events, finger-guns with Abe Lincoln, plenty of dancing and laughter.

I hope to catch up on all of these topics at some point, but I'm way more interested in moving forward than on trying to catch up. Rest assured, there will be picspams aplenty!

Spring is always a great time to freshen things up a bit. It's when I look forward to throwing open the windows and getting the first whiff of fresh air in my living space since last fall. So I threw up a new template here, provided by the good folks at Shabby Blogs. Isn't it darling? It reminds me of the beautiful embellishment one sees on old dressers and trunks.

So, to whit: I am back. Get ready.