Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Ladies and Gentlemen of the 1860s Day 4

A new day, new originals.

My pictures of the originals can be found on Flicker.

The first session on Sunday was Extraordinary Inducements: Why the East Went West presented by Elizabeth Stewart Clark. I was a bit disappointed in this session; I was expecting more on the reasons people emigrated. It seemed to me to be more a history lesson on the events going on in the US in the mid-19th century. It was an enjoyable session and Liz is a great presenter, but I think more diaries, letters, etc. illustrating people's reasons for going west would have better related to the topic title.

The last session of the conference was Susan Lyons Hughes speaking on What Every Reenactor Should Know About Life Before "The War". In this session, Susan emphasized the importance of understanding and having knowledge before the Civil War. It is important for our interpretations to understand the people living during the war just didn't crop up with no past. They had a knowledge of things that happened prior to 1861. A great session!

Before concluding the conference, Carolann announced that Genteel Arts would publish a historic journal focusing on the civilian side of living history. This will not be a monthly magazine, but rather a scholarly journal and Susan Lyons Hughes will be the editor. She also announced that the conference would undergo some changes but did not elaborate on this. Perhaps in a couple of months we will know what she has in store.

So ends another conference. This one was hard to leave for some reason. But other exciting living history events are on the horizon and the next conference is only a year away.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Ladies and Gentlemen of the 1860s Conference Day 3

The conference starts early on the next two days, but there is tons of information to get out. First thing, of course, is breakfast. Meals from Saturday breakfast to Sunday breakfast are included in the conference cost. The conference starts precisely at 8:00; Carolann keeps everything on schedule. Saturday is the day we get to see the conference fabric. Speakers and presenters are sent the same fabric, one for women and one for men. Faculty are told to make a garment with the fabric; generally, women make dresses and men make or have made vests. Unfortunately, I didn't get very good pictures this year.

It's always fun to see the different ways the ladies use the fabric. As you see, some decided the fabric was 1840s rather than 60s. Another used the fabric for a wrapper. You can see additional photos here.

Following the dress and vest presentations, the first sessions begin. The sessions are broken out into two tracks: track A geared more for women and track B geared more for men. I usually attend track A; however, I get the handouts for all sessions so I at least have all the information. If you would like to see the topics for Track B, visit the Genteel Arts website.

The first session on track A was K. Krewer's Accessories after the Fact: A Complete Toilet from Boots to Bonnets. I really love K's presentations. They are always well researched and packed full of photos. And she puts these photos and the handout on a CD for the participants! Her presentation this year went over everything: headwear, gloves, outerwear, shoes, aprons, stockings, etc. Great presentation.

After the break Virginia Mescher presented Celebrations! Holidays 19th Century Style. Unfortunately, I had been feeling kind of puny since arriving in Pennsylvania, so I went back to my room and rested a bit. I was sorry to miss Virginia's talk but did feel a bit better after resting.

After lunch we heard Jessica Craig talk on Love Me, Love my Dog or Cat or Bird or Fish: Mid-19th Century Domestic Pets. This was Jessica's first time to speak at the conference and she did a wonderful job. Her presentation included many period images of pets. So many cute animals. Her handouts included a breakdown of the different dog breeds and when introduced into America. She also introduced us to Schmitty, a little stuffed dog, named in honor of Carolann and Don. Schmitty was there to model the knitted dog coat and muzzle.

The last talk of the day was Carolann Schmitt's Basque-ing in Beauty: Bodices that Extend Below the Waistline. She began by sharing a history of the style and how it became a fashion. Again lots of period images. Her handouts included definitions, a description of the fabrics and trimmings used with the style and then period descriptions of basques in fashion.

A new set of originals were on display all day on Saturday.

Again, you can see the pictures I took of the originals on Flicker.

Saturday night is the dinner and ball. This is the chance for us to wear period dresses. This year, I decided not to take my period stuff to save luggage space. There were many beautiful dresses this year.

After dinner, of course, is the ball. Smash the Windows provides the music.

More pictures are also on Flicker.

Time to call it a night.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Update to Day 1

How could I forget my trip to PA Fabric Outlet!! Didn't buy any fabric but did find the necessary buttons for Steamboat dress.

I got the belt buckle at the conference marketplace later in the weekend. I can really kick myself as I didn't look for ribbon for my bonnet. I was so set on the buttons for the dress that I forgot all about the ribbon.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the 1860s Conference Day 2

Friday. Started the day with a hands-on examination of original bonnets from the collection of Janine and Phillip Whiteman. This was such a great experience. She had dress bonnets as well as sun bonnets. And a few parasols.

To get that close to original bonnets and be able to photograph them and manipulate them and see exactly how things are put together...just fantastic!

One of the most exciting things was seeing not just one, but two bonnets made from fabric I have in my stash! I found the fabric in Oklahoma on the way back from an event in Missouri and have had it stashed away for quite awhile. More pictures are available on Flicker.

Between sessions I visited the Marketplace. This is always a fun part of the conference. There are vendors selling reproductions, antiques, supplies, accessories, fabrics and some ready mades. Brian Merrick was there with his leather pieces. He has developed a new piece, a lady's period hand bag. I had asked him to recreate one I had found, but the hardware could not be found. He ended up reproducing one another person suggested to him. I bought this one.

After lunch I attended Carolann's session on "The Rules Say..." Refuting Misinformation and Placing Guidelines in Context. The handout contains an extensive bibliography of research sources; I mean huge, over 15 pages. The session and handouts also examined several myths such as fabrics had no more than than two colors, a black dress or bonnet indicates mourning, all southerners wore homespun, and my favorite it took years for fashions to get from France to the US. The main message was to consider the context of "the rules" and then work toward correcting some of these, gently and with research.

Although I only attended these two workshops, there were several others offered. To see a complete list of workshops and sessions, visit the Genteel Arts website.

The conference officially began at 7:00. The first session was presented by Elizabeth Stewart Clark of The Sewing Academy. Elizabeth's topic was "Second Hand Plumage: The Used Clothing Trade." This was very interesting. I had never thought about this before. She not only covered the actual sale of used clothing, but also the reconditioning of clothing and the criminal element attached to clothing resale. The handout is quite extensive with a great bibliography.

The second session of the night "Boat Rides into History: the 'Arabia' and the 'Bertrand'" was presented by Nicky Hughes. Nicky's presentations are always entertaining; his focus is on "stuff" and how to properly and authentically use "stuff" in our impressions. This presentation included tons of slides of the artifacts on display at the Arabia Steamboat Museum, the Steamboat Bertrand Museum and of bottles from the recovery of the wreck of the Independence. I have been to the Arabia but not the Bertrand and really enjoyed seeing all the slides of "stuff".

Friday also starts the displays of originals.

The display of originals is one of the most popular aspects of this conference. While we don't get hands-on examination of the originals on display it is great to be able to see them up close. There were many different styles of dresses. There were also men's and children's clothing, undergarments, dolls, bonnets, hats, and outer garments. You can see the pictures I took of the originals here.

End of Friday. 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Ladies and Gentlemen of the 1860s Conference: Day 1

My original plan for Thursday was to arrive around 7:00 in the evening; however, my friend had a change of plan at work so I took an early train and arrived at the conference Thursday morning. Our room was ready so I was able to get right in and leave my things. I had not planned to take a workshop on Thursday but was able to get a last minute seat for the afternoon in Moving With the Times presented by Kelly and Robin Dorman.

This workshop went over the ideal and the reality of physically maneuvering our modern bodies in the 19th century manner. They also went over the etiquette of introductions. I really enjoyed this class. I knew there were rules about introductions but really never understood them. The best part of the class was putting our new knowledge to use. Robin and Kelly came up with scenarios where we all took on different personas and then acted out different situations that required introductions.

This was great fun. I was assigned as a Mr. McCarthy, an importer. A table mate was my 16 year old son. We were meeting the widow of a gentleman I had done business with and their 24 year old son. One of the rules for gentleman is do not recognize a woman on the street if she does not recognize you first. So our first attempt the widow did not recognize me and I walked past. The rest of the room thought this quite funny thinking I was intentionally ignoring her. So we then received additional instruction and proceeded with the exercise.

Another exercise dealt with a lesson on how to walk taught at period finishing schools. It required a pattern worked out on the floor and one was to walk between the spokes of the floor placing the ball of the little toe, followed by the heel and then the rest of the foot. It was intended to keep the skirts from swinging too much. Kelly demonstrated this and it really did keep her skirts fairly motionless.

The final exercise with play with a shuttlecock and battledore. This was so fun! Rather than compete against each other and hitting the birdie between two people, the goal is to see how long you can keep the shuttlecock off the ground by bouncing it off the battledore. The Dormans made the set they brought and Kelly will blog about the construction when she has a chance after the conference. 

Thursday night I attended the social. There was cake for the 20th anniversary of the conference, punch, snacks and a bar. During the evening individuals or groups performed period appropriate skits, songs, and readings or played music. This is always a lot of fun. There are several very talented individuals that attend this conference. Some individuals attended in their wrappers.Usually a "parade" of wrappers is held after the entertainment, but not this year...except for one:

Polly Steenhagen's Bubble Wrapper! Her son gave her 30 yards of bubble wrap while she was laid up and she made a wrapper. That is wrapping paper under the bubble wrap down the front. And it fits her! This was just too hilarious!

Thursday was fun. The conference officially started Friday, but first more workshops.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Chester County Clothing of the 1800s

March is conference month. When I travel to conference I usually add on a couple of days to visit with my friend in West Chester. She happens to live just a couple of blocks from the Chester County Historical Society's museum. The current exhibit is Chester County Clothing of the 1800s.

I had heard about the exhibit from a curator the last time I was there; at that time it was contingent on funding and I'm so glad that it happened. The exhibit is rather small; it covers the early 19th Century up to the turn of the 20th century. Unfortunately, there are only a few examples of 1860s garments; but the displays are wonderful and the 1870s dresses are beautiful. This exhibit is well worth the trip if you get a chance. Here are a few highlights; additional photos can be found on Flicker.