September 27, 2016

Town Girl, Country Girl

Living in the city has its perks. Our garbage gets picked up for free(ish. Not counting taxes). We don't need special sewage or water tanks. And best of all, the library is only a walk away. Want to know what's even nicer? Living in the city, and having a barn in the backyard.

That's right guys. I am literally living on the edge. The edge of town, that is. In some ways, it's awesome. But it brings up a bittersweet identity crisis: am I a town girl or a city girl?

First, let me explain about the barn. My house was built at the time all of our great-great grandparents were young, and when it was first constructed, it was a decent carriage ride away to the center of town. So naturally, the original builders were in the country, and planning to farm. And farm they did, I'm sure. They built a marvelous little carriage barn, enough to keep a few horses, cows, and chickens, and a carriage as well, to take them into town.

Image result for carriage barn red
This is pretty similar to my barn. Minus the carriage.
There's a funny thing about towns, though. They grow. Before long, the town had reached that farmhouse, and made it become a townhouse. The farmland got parceled off to surrounding neighbors. But those farmers (or farmer's sons) held on to that little red barn.

Long story short, the barn stands today. City ordinances deny my wish to have a beautiful horse inside. But there are only a few more houses on the one side before one can follow the road into the countryside. And the country is nice.

Little stream in a meadow:

The country is lovely, in fact. Where else do you find fresh air and simple living and wildflowers? Where else do you find lush forests and nature trails? Where else, my friends, do you find herds of cows and horses, and fields of corn waiting to be harvested?
No matter how hard those urban farmers may try, the answer is nowhere.
So some days, I feel ready to pack my bags, marry a farmer, and live a simple, natural, wonderful country life.
Where else can you find the culture, elegance, and sophistication of a city? I know of no marble farms or barnyard orchestras. How could I live without access to pillared concert halls, art exhibits, and museums? I would long for the glamorous, glistening rush of city life.  I would miss the chance to glide up escalators and shop in stores with chandeliers.

La Coulee Verte, Paris:

So as you can see, I'm in a little pickle here. I've been envious of both the farm girl and city darling growing up, and now I'm pulled by the two forces as I begin planning my future. Perhaps I could give my condition the formal name of Edge-of-Town Syndrome, and classify it as "a longing to participate in both country and city life".
Now that I've huffed and puffed and ranted at you all 'till you're bored as buttons, I don't know how to end this except by stomping off in a fit of frustration. (I have no compassion on my own nerves!) But every blog post needs a happy ending, so I'll suffice it to say that whether I live in the country, city, or somewhere in between, I will be happy. Fortunately for us, God is with us, no matter where we live.:)

September 22, 2016

Getting Dressed in the 1860s

Have you ever wondered what it actually feels like to wear everything your great-great-great grandmothers wore when they were young ladies? What it feels like to walk around in these clothes in a place where no sign of modern life exists?
Ladies, I have the pleasure and honor to know!
I get to work at a historic site set in the mid-1800's, and this weekend I'm going to participate in my first full-scale reenactment. All while wearing 1860's fashion! I thought I'd share with you the process of getting the 1860's.


Chemise  Date: ca. 1856 Culture: American Medium: cotton Dimensions: [no dimensions available] Credit Line: Gift of the Misses Dorcas & Katherine Beer, 1941 Accession Number: C.I.41.125.22:

First to come on is the chemise, a loose white nightgown. If one were to dress in the 1860's for a full 24 hours, the chemise would also be one's nightgown. They're mostly pretty plain, though some have nice embroidery or lace. 


Drawers with eyelet lace trim, American or European, 1860s.:

Drawers are loose-fitting white pants that hit anywhere from your knees to mid-calf. Drawers tie or button around the waist, but there is no, er, crotch to them. Which makes any trips to the outhouse considerably easier!

Shoes and Stockings

Met Museum Date: 1855–65 Culture: French Medium: silk, leather Dimensions: Length: 9 1/2 in. (24.1 cm) Accession Number: 1978.319a, b:

Stockings could be black, white, or even striped or embroidered! They went to about the knee. Ankle boots like these were popular, as well as silk dancing slippers. It is a lot smarter to put shoes and stockings on before the corset. Although it's not impossible to do it after, it can be a lot more uncomfortable!


Image result for 1860s corset

The misconceptions end here. Corsets aren't unbearably comfortable if you know how to wear them right, and they don't have to turn you into an hourglass. In the 1860s, making your waist tiny wasn't necessarily the primary goal. Corsets do, however, make a big difference in how your whole outfit looks. You can definitely tell when someone is wearing modern underwear instead of a corset under a period dress. 
Corsets of the 1860s often had metal hooks like you can see in front and tied with laces in the back or on the sides. The cloth was a heavy, canvas-like material, and had there were busks, or flat sticks of whale bone or steel. Both are flexible and aren't uncomfortable unless they poke all the way through the canvas and into your skin. Yes, personal experience!


Ca.1860, and NOT by Eugene Atget. This has been passed around labelled "The Crinoline Shop, by Eugéne Atge, 1880," but that is obviously wrong. Eugéne Atget (note the final T) was born in 1857 and did not start taking photographs until the late 1880s, nor his famous street scenes until the end of the century. This image is clearly between 1860 and 1864 by the fashions - but it does appear to be French.:

Here comes the fun part: the hoopskirt. You can see one hanging in the upper left corner or the photograph, and the women are all wearing hoops under their dresses. Hoopskirts are a series of cloth-covered, concentric metal rings that you tie around your waist. Some people think this must be really heavy, but it isn't at all! It's the opposite of heavy; bouncy, light, and airy! 


Petticoat  Date: 1855–65 Culture: American Medium: cotton Dimensions: Length at CB: 41 1/2 in. (105.4 cm) Credit Line: Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Mrs. Edward Haynes, 1950 Accession Number: 2009.300.768  This artwork is not on display:

Before the hoopskirt was invented, women who wanted full skirts had to put on as many petticoats as they could muster (or afford!). But even after the hoopskirt became popular, petticoats were still essential, both for modesty's sake and to make sure the gaps between rings didn't show through the dress. Petticoats were often made out of white cotton, and could have fancy pleats and eyelets. Mine, alas, do not. 
After I finish putting my petticoats on, I feel pretty cool. It feels and looks cool to have a big, airy skirt with layers that swish around, and a snug corset and pretty chemise. :) But as I cannot hop off to the 19th century in my underwear, I must put one more thing on...


Mariquinha Junqueira, wifer of Counsrlor Junqueira. Brazil 1860.:

The world of 1860s dresses and gowns is large and varied, but on a basic level, they all cover the silhouette created by the corset and hoopskirt. And they are all gorgeous. :) Most button or hook up the front all the way to the neck. Ballgowns show a bit more skin. I sadly do not own one. :( You can see some accessories in the picture: a scalloped collar, a brooch, earings, a bracelet, and a fan.  And that, my friends, is how one gets dressed in the 1860s! 

Now for the answers to two questions I'm sure some of you are thinking:
a. Is it hot?
If I'm in the direct sun for a lengthy amount of time, yes. However, the layers are all cotton, and the hoopskirt allows air to circulate. Remember that when one is covered head to toe, they are not getting direct sunlight on the skin. That's why people in the desert cover up! The simple answer to this question is that I'm never much warmer than the modern person standing next to me. 
b. Is it fun to twirl?
Yes. :)

Does this post change your thoughts on 1860s fashion?
Did you have any questions to someone who is by no means an expert but an avid amateur? 
If you had the chance. in which era would you dress in all the layers?

September 15, 2016

Vintage Fun: 1850s

In past Vintage fun posts, I mentioned how much the 1830s and 40s were overlooked as decades, and I wasn't joking! But the 1850s were also a decade without a lot of action. There was, however, a lot of building tension. The 1850s in America was basically a giant prequel to the Civil War. As for the rest of the world, it was the industrial revolution. And in the world of fashion, some interesting things were going on...
Litchfield Ledger, 1850s dress owned by Jane M. Wadhams Stevens, hometown Goshen CT; moved to New Marlboro MA when married to Henry Ward Stevens in 1845.:
A cheerful yellow frock. :)
The most noticeable change in fashion was skirt volume. As in they got bigger. A lot bigger. Before 1854 women who wanted full skirts just piled on the petticoats. But then a new invention came out: the hoopskirt. The hoopskirt changed the tiered style skirt of the early 1850s, and made popular one large, smooth skirt. 

Beautiful!!    Henrik Olrik 1859:

Necklines in the 1850s went out around the shoulders, especially for fancy and evening dress. Here we have a lovely painting of a bride and bridesmaid. I noticed that the bridesmaid's bodice looks a lot like the fan-front dresses of the 1840s. (If you'd like to see what that looks like, click here). 

Cincinnati circa 1850s. "Unidentified woman, half length portrait, seated with arm on table." Sixth-plate daguerreotype by James Presley Ball:

This is a woman with a story. If only we knew what it was! I love her jewelry and printed dress. Her big puffy sleeves are called bishop sleeves. 

Evening dress Date: 1850s Culture: French Medium: silk Dimensions: Length (from shoulder): 55 3/8 in. (140.7 cm) Credit Line: Gift of Mrs. Stirling S. Adams, 1978 Accession Number: 1978.310.1:

This gorgeous silk gown is a great example of an 1850s ballgown. Imagine being one of the first women to own a hoopskirt, and wearing it under this dress to a dance! How fun! :)

c. 1850, cotton, American:

I've noticed a couple things about the 1850s just from pins and such. One is that the color palette is very pretty; a lot of pastels and beautiful prints. Another is how the waists on the bodices vary from rather high (like this one) to low and pointed, like dresses from the 40s. 

May 1850, La Mode:

Last but not least, we have this lovely print. Both ladies have undersleeves (the white poofs) under their pagoda sleeves. 

Do you like 1850s fashion?
Which dress is your favorite?
Any decade in fashion you'd like me to cover next?

September 6, 2016

My Town

I live in a rather peculiar place, folks. Some would consider the gathering of houses and businesses surrounding me a city. Others would say a small town, and for those living in LA or New York, I'm living in The Middle of Nowhere, USA.
It's a nice place, this town. We have parks and schools and churches. We have an early 1900's main street, where 100 year-old buildings hold bookstores, cafes, and a music shop. We have tennis courts and basketball hoops. We even have a lovely little water park.

Image result for historic downtown
(This isn't the town I live in, but it's similar)
In the winter, everything freezes. My town has snow days. It has barrels of sand at every street corner so people can melt the ice off their sidewalks. The river and pond freeze over, and welcome people to whiz around on the sleek, icy surface. We have a sledding hill, and even a ski hill, so that people can breath the frigid air with joy.

Image result for sledding hill

The summer is just as nice. This town has farmer's markets. It has band concerts in the park. People come for the 50 cent cake, and stay into the twilight for the fireflies and German polkas. We have patriotic parades. And that sledding hill? We cover it in picnic blankets and watch fireworks for the Fourth of July.

Image result for farmers markets

Just when it's time to head back to school, everything in this town halts for the county fair. Young and old spend a weekend together to see the cows and chickens, and the county's best jam. It is only when the last funnel cake has been devoured, and the last Ferris Wheel ride been taken, when school is allowed to start. Then the football games begin, and students come in hordes to cheer for their team in the nippy October air. Farmer's markets switch from tomatoes and strawberries to apples and pumpkins and gourds. And then this town has Okoberfest, eating its weight in brats and sauerkraut in the name of celebrating its German heritage.

Image result for fair produce

In this town, we have a library, funded by Carnegie himself. We have an art center, and a town museum. We have dozens of murals, and little wooden containers around town full of free books for the taking. We have little concerts, and little art exhibits. But we have them, all the same.

Image result for flags from street lamps
(Again, not the town I live in.)
This town does not have an orchestra. It doesn't have a Macy's or a Kohl's. The tallest part of our skyline is the church steeple. It's a peculiar place I live in, but a wonderful one. It's a place I'm proud to call my town.

September 1, 2016

Our Planet is Getting Colder...

but I'm not about to go on some rant about global warming or global cooling. Our planet (more specifically, my hemisphere) is getting cooler, because we are tilting farther and farther away from the sun...
it's fall, people. And I'm celebrating.

8 Reasons Why I Love Fall

1. I can use blankets again. And sweaters, and fuzzy socks, and cute scarves...




3.  It's finally cool enough to drink tea...and bake yummy, spicy desserts


4. I'm reminded how beautiful creation is

Autumn House <3:

5. Like, really, really beautiful

Autumn Path, Ukraine | by Irina Yuzkova:

6. I can go pick apples and pumpkins


7. Football season begins

Yeah, it's not my most favorite thing about fall, but what can I say? I'm an American, and my football team happens to be the best. :)

8. Between the smells, the sights, and the tastes of fall, I get a burst of creativity, causing me to change my header

Fall daydreaming.:

So as lovely as summer is...


Fall is just fine, too.

Do you prefer summer or fall?
What are your favorite things about fall?