Thursday, April 12, 2012

Painted Devonshires...i.e., tax procrastination!

Alright, I am mostly done with my taxes, but as always happens with something boring, I started itching to do a quick project that wouldn't take as long as the new en fourreau I've been planning. With Angelus leather paints from Dharma, I had previously painted my American Duchess Devonshires a pretty sort of maize-yellow (ok it was a little more mustardy than anticipated).
 So pretty, but I'm always tweaking...

But ever since I saw Caroline's ridiculously gorgeous painted silk shoes, I have been dreaming about doing a little bit more to my yellow Devvies. So I was flipping through What Clothes Reveal by Linda Baumgarten and spied an adorable pair (page 19) of yellow (possibly more ivory, it's hard to tell because it depends on the lighting in the pictures) brocaded silk with blue trim, and fell in love!
 Sorry, terrible scan of the photo from the book but you get the idea
Much better photo cropped from this one at CW's website

Previously, the shoes had been coated with the Angelus leather finish because they were ready to be worn, so when I made up my mind to re-paint, I took the leather preparer/deglazer to them, which is fascinating stuff -- technically you could take off every coat of paint on the shoes and get right back down to the white leather every time you felt like having a totally different pair! 

I managed with just a few of the Angelus colors: white, yellow, champagne and sapphire, mixing to get the shades I wanted, and spent the last two nights painting away while watching the first season of Game of Thrones.

Not gonna lie...they spent last night beside my bed so I could see them when I woke up, haha. Are they exact copies of the brocade CW shoes? Nope! I couldn't see every angle in the photos and had to guess at a lot, and took rather a lot of artistic license with the flowers because really, plants are NOT my forte (I mostly paint medieval illuminations).  Also, the shine of the leather will always give the shoes away as not being fabric, but I am thinking about getting the matte leather finish (I had satin finish before) to see if it will cut back on the shine a bit.  Unfortunately, these shoes are WAY too fancy to go with any of my current gowns...guess I'll have to make a new one! Drat ;)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

18th Century Vacation Part 1: Gowns, Waistcoats and Sundry

I'm not sure if I should put all these pictures under a cut...I don't think it's like LJ that stretches out the "Friends" page since my blogger dashboard only ever shows a fraction of people's posts. If the layout is a problem for someone and I need to cut it, please let me know! I will not at all be offended! Maybe just a little ;)

In advance, I would like to apologize profusely for the sad quality of the photos...Coming across these items was the farthest thing on my mind that day and the only camera with me was my iphone, which is PITIFUL in low light. Plus I was shaking a little bit like a child with a Halloween night sugar high.

All these items come from the Old Exchange in Charleston, SC, and I didn't see any signs prohibiting photography or online sharing of images, so I'm hopefully not breaking any laws!

I highly recommend reading the history of the building on their website if you're curious: I probably should have because then I would've learned that "Charles Town" was the fourth-largest and purportedly wealthiest city in colonial America. Holy cow, NO idea. Anyway, super cool that pirates and signers of the Declaration alike were kept prisoner in the was incredible to press my hands against the very brick they had walked and sat on. And the ball room where George Washington danced...anyway, I may make a separate post on architecture/gardens later. 

On to the artifacts! I'll reiterate some of the labels so you don't have to squint, but I THINK you should be able to click on pictures to get them larger (Edit: NOPE. Apparently they're not ALL clickable. I've got them up on my Flickr though if it's easier to see.) If you'd like to use them elsewhere (even with the wretched quality) please ask me first :)

Knitted Mitts

"Lace fichu and cuffs, origin unknown" (uh oh, "fichu." Hallie Larkin would have something to say about that...)

Lace that appeared in a portrait in 1759

"Memorandum File" just looks like a stitched wallet to me but of course I couldn't see the inside. It's cute...I like it better than flamestitch.

"Wedding fan 18th century owned by Elizabeth Allen Deas." GORGEOUS. 

"Huguenot Relic - Ladies' silver stomacher." This was looked like doily of metalwork and spangles, and I guess would have been sewn onto an actual stomacher.


Ugh, the stitching of young girls back then makes me feel woefully inadequate.

Waistcoat belonging to unknown

Waistcoat belonging to Henry Laurens

Waistcoat belonging to General William Moultrie

Waistcoat belonging to Thomas Sumpter

And my favorites...the two gowns. It must just have been my backwoods ignorance to be surprised that both were sacques...with such a thriving international port to both the Indies and England, clearly they were a lot more cosmopolitan than I first thought! It probably should not have been such a shock to me because in my area where French colonial wills exist from 1720-50, anywhere where a silk gown was mentioned, I'm guessing it would probably have been a sacque. Again, sorry for the poor quality, the phone camera and the glare off the glass cases were not helping.

First gown, a "Dove's Neck Brocade Dress" notable for the silk supposedly having been produced in South Carolina:

Is this "fly fringe"? It's very pretty trim.

The stomacher opened down the it "compere" even if it doesn't have buttons?

 Closeup of the sleeve ruffle, and you can see the pleating at the hip just beyond it, I'm assuming to help the gown smooth over panniers or pocket hoops.

The sleeve cap/shoulder

Sorry, very poor shot of the mother would NOT let me get down on the floor and shimmy under the case to take a picture. What do you mean, polite people don't do that in a museum? Dang.

Gown #2, a "Yellow Brocade Dress":

Close-up of self-fabric trim on sleeve

Probably linen lining from what I could see of it, and I really liked the serpentine trim. 

View of the stomacher

And the woefully inadequate back-view. Very pretty gown...wish it was in good enough shape for them to put on a mannequin but the silk had so many tiny shreds in it that I'm sure they didn't want to put that much strain on it.

What do you think? Did they do a decent job dating these items? I wasn't sure about some of the wording or dates on a few labels but I'm too amateur to do any disputing. It was just lovely to have a chance to be so close to all this and I'd go back in a heartbeat if I got the chance...with a better camera.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Teaser: A Surprisingly 18th-Century Vacation

Recently my parents decided to take a cruise, their first, and they graciously offered to let me come along. Who passes up a free cruise?! Well, maybe not quite free since I paid in many, many hours of driving, constantly letting my father commandeer my iPhone to check his work e-mail, and helping them not get lost on the boat which was a daily occurrence. It was kind of like babysitting large toddlers, bless them (I am totally exaggerating. We had a wonderful time!). I saw my first actual sunny beach, and we got back yesterday. I haven't the time just now, but I'll have to make a couple of longer posts to squeeze all the best pictures in and I think they'll be worth looking at.

The nicest surprise came from our stay in Charleston, SC, where the ship was docked. I had NO IDEA what a colonially intact area it was, particularly the tip of the peninsula, which was chock full of BEAUTIFUL 18th century houses, cobblestone streets, and tiny gardens. We only had time to tour one house and it was stunning inside.

One of the many glorious exteriors of the Charleston houses

 I was definitely not allowed to take pictures in this house but I cheated. I couldn't help it. Can't you just see a woman in a rustling silk sacque gown sitting down to play that harp while a man in embroidered satin waistcoat reads in the chair?

We also toured the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon, where several signers of the Declaration of Independence were held prisoner, and George Washington gave an address from the porch of the building. I was beside myself with 18thc happiness, until we got into a room I had been going to skip altogether because it didn't look very interesting. 

Good thing my mother convinced me to glance around. The first thing I saw was an embroidered waistcoat. Then another. And a fan. And a pincushion. And then a, TWO gowns. I really thought I was going to die right then and there because I was separated from genuine extant 18thc gowns by nothing but glass. You have to understand...I live in the boringly un-18th-century Midwest, and if the St. Louis Art Museum has any 18th century textiles, they are keeping them tightly under wraps. Certainly coming across gowns on a cruise vacation was the farthest thing from my thoughts! 

Oh yeah. I took pictures from every possible angle. You will see them ALL. The thing that surprised me most was that they were BOTH sacque-backs, worn by women of Charleston...I would have figured on en fourreau for sure, if not "quarter back". That was a big shocker.

 So I'll do a couple of posts when I get time, one on the architecture and gardens we went through, and another full post on the clothing and accessories from the Old Exchange.

And this is...oh sorry, that's not Charleston. I am a horrible person but I just had to rub it in that I was in the Bahamas and we went to the most incredible deserted beach that several of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies used in filming. Miles and MILES of barely knee-deep crystal blue water. I'd live as a bum on that beach if I could have stayed.

More to come!