An 1860's Bonnet: Part 1

A verrry long time ago I started tearing apart a straw bonnet that didn't have the right shape, got frustrated, and didn't think about bonnets again until the beginning of this year. While gearing up for Gettysburg, I simply needed a bonnet. I've never really made a bonnet before but of course I decided to make my first a hard one.

I got bit by the drawn-bonnet-bug after seeing a grad student/friend of mine make an absolutely lovely reproduction of a bonnet she found tucked away in the hat boxes at the theater department. Her reproduction was stunning. She used a silver shot taffeta and wire frame.

From seeing her process, I became really intrigued with making one, but first I had to see whether or not a drawn bonnet would be appropriate for the American Civil War years (1860-1865). In my research (and people, feel free to correct me if I'm wrong) it seems that the drawn bonnet style was definitely more popular before the 1860s, and isn't as widespread up through 1865. That was kind of a bummer, but I dug a little deeper. I searched through fashion plates, seeing one occasionally, and would randomly come across a cute bonnet from museum sites only to find out that it's a child's bonnet or some other such nonsense.

Look how precious! But it's a child's bonnet :(
A little bit about Civil War Era Bonnets:  Bonnet styles progress like any other type of fashion, some years they're in, some years they're out, some years they're round, some years they're not. Specifically, from 1860-65 the "spoon bonnet" became popular. The "spoon" refers to the profile view of the bonnet looking like a spoon, having a gentle curved and slightly pronounced brim at the top; and from the front view it has an egg like shape, much like a spoon. Also, during these years, the caul of the bonnet was somewhat shallow and had a pretty steep grade from brim to crown. 

After having so much trouble finding an okay bonnet with the correct shape and being a drawn bonnet (that I like and want to reproduce) I was forced to use Pinterest. LE GASP! Now, I will say this with a disclaimer:
So, in essence, everything on Pinterest must be taken with a grain of salt. Pinterest can be a great search tool as there are so many photos linked with great websites. Unfortunately it is not always the case. I encourage any person who finds an intriguing photo from Pinterest to find out its original source and give said source due credit. End Rant.

The bonnet I found is from Time Traveler's Antiques. It is a drawn bonnet, which isn't altogether shocking, but the shape of it is definitely of the 1860s. You can see in the photo how high the top of the brim is, it is not round like most of the drawn bonnets from the 1850s, definitely spoon shaped. Now, the caul of the bonnet doesn't have a very steep grade, but the trimmings are concentrated at the top of the head, which also point to the 1860s.

So, this is the bonnet I am to recreate, just with a different color scheme. The next post shall be about the construction!

A new 1860's bodice!

 This year I will be attending the big 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg with our local historical society, and for such an occasion, I need some new pieces of clothing!

It looks okay, but not great.
The first piece I'm making is a new bodice for my grey "nun" dress. So, background on that is, that puppy was my first one. And though I'm proud of what I accomplished and learned through that process, the bodice is really kind of crappy. It's unlined, as I wanted it to be a sheer, the edges are all widgey, I didn't actually pattern out the sleeves, the closure doesn't line up just right, etc. So, I thought it was time to retire that bad boy and crank out a newer, prettier bodice...hopefully in time for my Civil War Fashions lecture coming up!

As with most things I do, I needed to research. Sleeve styles are always a concern for me, and since I'm doing a similar thing to what women of the time did (as in, making new bodices for existing dresses to keep up with fashions, kind of a frugal way of getting new clothing) I wanted this bodice to be of a nice new style dating from late 1862-early 1863. This means we're dealing with the emergence of the stand collar and sleeves are beginning to narrow a bit.

I landed on this beautiful piece:

1860's Afternoon Dress, American
Metropolitan Museum of Art

As always, I seem to choose pictures from the Metropolitan. This one just so happened to be perfect. My fabric is of similar color (though it is a plain sheer cotton, not a lovely printed silk)

The piping, decorative tabs and buttons, are all covered in a lovely purply-mauvy silk, and paired with that grey. *swoon* I happened to find some from that will be nice off of ebay, and it came in yesterday!

The purple is little lighter than I would have liked, but it'll work all the same
Now onto sewing!

Photo Friday

This particular picture is pretty awesome. The woman in the photo is Flora Stewart, and lore is she was a house slave in New England during the American Revolution. She died in 1868.

There's some more information on her at Nutfield Geneaology. It seems that her age is often disputed, and town records have been the subject of questioning in regards to her date of birth.

Regardless of if her age at death was 120 years old or whatever, it's still amazing to think that this woman possibly saw two world changing wars. She saw herself freed and surely witnessed the beginnings of the abolition of slavery. She also lived a huge range of fashions and styles. It's mind boggling to think someone can live so long.

Anywho, I thought this was a really cool picture and thought I'd share. Have a great weekend!

Lectures, lectures, lectures!

For the past year, I've been getting into giving presentations at various organizations and I've just scheduled two more! The next one coming up is going to be taking place next week!

For this presentation, I will be dressed in my grey dress, hopefully the new bodice, and will be speaking about Women's and Children's popular fashions from 1860-1865. We will be covering popular fashions of the time period, how to date Civil War era photos, and the dressing process that goes into achieving a fashionable silhouette with my lovely model, Kitri.

If you're in the area, I hope to see you there!

Pinterest Addiction: Cocoa Hair Mask

Unlike a lot of professional internet surfettes, I don't have a tumblr or a twitter. I don't do video posts/blogs. I don't have a Wordpress blog. BUT I do have a Pinterest, which can be quite bedazzling to behold.

I have to limit my time on the blasted thing, because I spend more time looking at pins to do than actually doing them. I've decided that I should try to do at least one pin a week.

Some background on this particular post... I've been dying to change up my hair lately. I'm growing it out, but it's reached the dreaded "half point" where it's not really long, not really medium length, and lacks any interest. There was a point where I was ready to chop it for a pixie cut and dye it Christina Hendricks Red, but then I remembered that I need to have it long and "natural" colored for Gettysburg.

Such a pretty color!!!!
I mulled on the ideas of cutting and dying for a week now and I've decided I won't cut it until after Gettysburg, and red is really hard to make convincing. Sigh. Stuck with my hair as is.
I trimmed the dead ends, and then came across a pin regarding naturally darkening your hair with cocoa. O.O I think I can handle that!

This is the pin I ran across... it calls for regular cocoa, but of course, in my infinite wisdom (note: sarcasm) I changed it a little bit. I'd like to darken the ends of my hair or darken it all to a deeper shade. Soooo this was the recipe I ended up concocting:

1/2 c. Natural Yogurt (I used Chobani)
1/3 c. Black/Dark Cocoa
3 Tbs Regular Cocoa
2 tsp  Apple Cider Vinegar
1 tsp  Honey
1 tsp  Olive Oil
Plastic Wrap or a Shower Cap

Mix all the ingredients together and apply to wet hair. Secure hair in a bun, cover with plastic wrap or shower cap and let sit for 1-3 hours.
According to the original post/recipe, the yogurt is supposed to open up the hair so it can accept the darker color, and the vinegar acts as a mordant to lock the color in.

that's pretty dang dark.

I kind of panicked after I mixed up the recipe. It's SUPER dark and I was feeling kind of like Anne Shirley.... "He said it would turn my hair a beautiful raven black--he positively assured me that it would."

 *cue nervousness* So here's my hair before I put on the stuff:

You can see it's kinda blah as a cut, and I don't want a blanket color for it, I'd just like to liven it up a bit and darken the ends.

Now, I didn't realize this was going to be a paste when I started this project. I figured it would be more like a watery solution to comb through the hair, so I doubled the recipe as I always do (my hair is both thick and long-ish). In order to get this stuff to get to all of the hair, I had to wet my hair to begin with, then apply the paste. Make sure you're naked and in the bathtub, with the shower curtain drawn.... the stuff gets EVERYWHERE.

It feels pretty weird, I gotta say.
Real fun, real fun.
I put my hair in a top-knot and covered it with plastic wrap. Make sure to keep a damp washrag with you to wipe off any that decides to run down your face or neck. I was sweating with the plastic wrap on my head, which led to some drizzles.

I left it on for 3 hours then washed my hair like normal. I had to scrub my shower after it was washed out, because it looks like I had massacred a chocolate bunny. Thankfully it didn't stain my tub, which was my biggest concern. I blow dried my hair, then went to bed because it was late, but managed a picture the next morning.

Morning face! Yay!
Slightly off color view of hair.
So what did I think of this whole thing?
Well, my hair was REALLY shiny, which was nice. But it wasn't as soft and had a tendency to tangle more than the oil, vinegar, and honey rinses I have done in the past.

Did it do what I wanted it to?
No. I was after this mask to darken my hair, and it did the opposite. The ends of my hair are now a little brighter and almost reddish in color. I can see it working great for someone who's hair is real brown, but my hair is a brown black, so fading into a reddy-brown isn't what I had in mind. The second picture above is closer to the color of the ends than the picture before it.

Would I do this again?
Nope. I wanted darker, and got lighter. I may go back to the coffee soaks I did in high school, they actually did darken my hair really well.

Marietta Civil War Field Day 2013

A couple weeks ago, I participated in an annual event put on by Campus Martius and The Castle. This event is much like the Civil War Days I used to participate in at my local Jr High; except this one is much bigger. Around 300 students were there throughout the course of the day.

The event calls in local schools to walk through a living history camp on the riverfront and each presenter talks to school groups about certain aspects of the American Civil War.

 I participated in the event with staff from the Athens County Historical Society and Museum. Curator, Jessica Cyders, and Administrator, Laura Farrell, also presented with me. Jessica is representing a Vivandiere, Laura a women for the Sanitary Commission, and I am in a state of "half-mourning."

Laura, Jessica, and myself

  Our presentations included information on women on the battlefield, women on the homefront, and the practice of mourning in mid-Victorian society. The students were very responsive and especially enjoyed the bloodied bandaged we handed out for them to wear during their drills that they participated in later in the day.

We really enjoyed ourselves and hope to do it again next year!

1885-1887 Corset is done!!

My corset turned out wonderfully and is by far the most comfortable corset I've worn. This corset was meant to be as close as possible to the original, but of course there are some compromises I had to make based on my budget and my location (where there are absolutely NO good fabric stores around)

Finding antique lace is always challenging, especially when you want to actually use the corset. I managed to pick up some pretty lace from a local vintage store called Athens Underground. It wasn't exactly what I was looking for, but it'll do until I find something closer.

So delicate!
The pieces were relatively easy to put together, the busk being the easiest part of all (I didn't believe it would be)

In progress pic: Busk just put in!
I added the binding to the edges and then lightly tacked the antique lace along the top of the corset. She's so comfortable!!

Specifics Please!

Total Cost: $ 45
Cost of Materials Breakdown:
                 $15 Busk
                 $15 Steel Boning
                 $ 7  Antique Lace
                 $ 4  Khakis
                 $ 3  Grommets
                 $ 1  Embroidery Thread
                 $ 0  Twine  (already in my stash)

Shown here with newly made chemise
More on that in a later post!

Measurements fully closed:
                Bust:      34.5''
                Waist:    23''  (was intended to be 19-20... more on that later)
                Hips:     35''

What was the hardest part of the project?
                 Using a pair of khakis as the only fabric proved difficult for cutting and caused a lot of stress.
I had also never put in a busk before, though it's far easier than it looks/sounds.

Look at dat bust curvature!
What needs improvement?
                Beings this is the first real corset I've made (the other ones I had another seamstress build for me) this project was a giant adventure. I knew the basic procedure but had never done it before.
                Seams: Because of all the fabric, I had a hard time sewing through the layers. Next time I will probably seam it on my treadle.
                Lacing: I forgot to put an extra layer of fabric in the grommeted panel, which has caused a couple of the grommets to loosen and fall out upon long-term wear. An extra strong layer of fabric would eliminate the problem.
                Measurements: If you examine my version versus the original, you'll notice the front panel is a little wider in mine. I believe that this, added with the general widging of fabrics during seaming, caused the waistline to expand from its intended measurement.
                General Laments: If you looked at my version, you can see that somehow the left side (our right) of the corset's front closure, at the busk, is longer on both the top and bottom. I have no clue how this happened. Secondly, the cups at the bust gently flare toward the top instead of cupping back in. This works fine for earlier (pre-1870s) corsets, but during this time period a very smooth, curved bustline was desired. Thirdly, I'd love to find a busk that has such wide set closures as the original. Lastly, I would probably add a lot of more cording, as in the original, than I did for my version. I stayed on the safe side instead of going with my gut.

Complete with a proper 1880s gut!

What do you like the most about it?
I love that it looks so close to the original. The embroidery was a stroke of luck to get it to match so well. Same with the khakis acting as the fabric. It's also an extremely comfortable corset. I have worn it for more than 8 hours at a time, and I was just as comfortable as when I put it on. My hope is to make another one, built for hard use rather than just being pretty. I want this one to actually close at a 19'' waist and have it lined in sturdy drill or coutil. I'll probably do embroidery for my practical one, too, because... why not?!

Close up of tambour-ish embroidery

I graduated!

I'm not sure how many of you still read my blog, since I've not been posting as of late... but the latest announcement in the Brooks' home is Devin and I have graduated from Ohio University!

hooray! to be graduated!!! (and isn't he cute???)
I am now on a search for proper employment. Until I find a job, I hope to update my blog with my latest projects and the new ones coming up. I hope to continue "Photo Fridays" but if anyone has any suggestions on post topics or  would like me to post on things you'd like to hear about, please comment! Feedback is nice :)

Thank you so much for those of you who have remained readers of my blog! I sincerely apologize but hope to do better now that I have time to do so!

Have a great day!!!!

Easter Times.

Hello everyone! Again, sorry I've not been posting. I've been really busy as of late. I recently got news that I WILL be graduating in a few weeks, so I'm trying to get prepared for life after college. Stuff like, Am I going to go to grad school? Where will I work? Where will I live? and the like.

Anywho, I wanted to share a few Easter videos from me and my family. We are from Ohio and yes, and we like to shoot stuff.

My parents, my brother and his girlfriend dyed a bunch of Easter eggs, then we shot them.

The victims.
Melissa aiming up!

And that's me shootin'!

And Melissa shootin'!

And Devin Shootin'!

I hope you all had a wonderful Easter Weekend! and I hope to start posting again soon!!!

Photo Friday

This is a beautiful ad from Vogue, 1955. It's currently for sale on RubyLane for $15. I LOVE LOVE LOVE this bathing suit. I'm a sucker for sage green and I love the bloomers... though I'm not sure how well they would work in real life. I'd probably look like I was wearing a diaper, but I might just test that theory and let y'all know.

Happy Friday Everyone!

Photo Friday

This is a lovely picture of Queen Alexandra in 1884. She's wearing an absolutely stunning seaside dress and looks somewhat forlorn. I can't imagine how she could be in such a wonderful outfit. I especially love the subtle detail of the cuffs.

As you can see, the picture has a "LIFE" watermark on it... I found this beauty on Old Rags (A tumblr page)