Back at the costume museum

Last weekend, Shirley and I got back into the vaults at the costume museum.  We were dressing mannequins for a showing of Edwardian display.  Not my era but it did have some merits!

1912 tunic

1912 tunic

The beading and embroidery is lovely on this!

1912 tunic b

I reminds me of the dresses you start to see in the 1920s.  I wonder what was worn under it.  A white slip?  Black?  It would have been a show stopper at a party!

Photos of my “acting career”

The line up to get into the jail

The line up to get into the jail

Shirley bringing the crowd up to me

Shirley bringing the crowd up to me

Waiting for the crowd to file into the room

Waiting for the crowd to file into the room

Doin' my lines

Doin’ my lines

Had a visit with the Mac Leods!

Had a visit with the Mac Leods!

I set her to work!

I set her to work!

I was visited by boys!

I was visited by boys!

most of the crowd was interested in seeing the cells that are still in the building

most of the crowd was interested in seeing the cells that are still in the building

A little extra details were put into the cells for the prisoners who were slaighted to be executed.

A little extra details were put into the cells for the prisoners who were slated to be executed.

A shot of most of the volunteers for the the weekend.

A shot of most of the volunteers for the weekend.






My acting debut

Just a short post as I’m in a time crunch.  My acting debut as Dr Amelia Yeomans went well.  I lost count as to how many times I did my part but I did it in front of 1,650 people in groups ranging from 40-70.  I! drew a blank on my lines a few times but there was only one time where it was so bad that I couldn’t improvise and save it.  This is in spite of things like audiences that starred stoney face at me in places that others laughed, parents ignoring misbehaving children, and one person who let their cell phone ring and ring and ring….  I’ll  be hitting the stage again today.  Hopefully, I will have some photos soon.

Update!  My .15 seconds of fame! (Hope this link works)

Stage Fright!

This weekend our city will be opening the doors of a few of our older buildings to the public.  Some of the buildings, like the old jail, have been closed to the public for decades.  The old jail will be opened and some of its history will be brought to light through actors playing the parts of people who once walked the halls of this place.

I have been asked to play the part of Dr Amelia Yeomans, the second woman doctor in Winnipeg and a staunch warrior who fought for better working and living conditions for immigrants, women and children. Dr Amelia Yeomans

There is a resemblence…especially around the second chin area!

Dr Amelia fought for more humane treatments in the jail.  And she fought for women to have the right to vote.  And she seems like she would have been a REALLY nice person.  I think I would have liked her if I had met her and I also think I would have felt…I don’t know…may be inadequate or weak next to her.  She was a real mover and shaker in a time when women were expected to keep themselves and the babies quiet.

I know I feel inadequate to play her.  Mostly because I’ve never done any real acting.  Each tour group is expected to be at each character and station for 10 minutes.  So every 10 minutes I will be showing my Amelia Yeomans play for two whole days.  I will either hit my stride after a few runs at it or I will SUCK terribly and it will be a very long weekend! Wish me luck!

To read about Dr Amelia go here and here.


Victorian at Heart gets out again!

In honor of Queen Victoria’s Birthday, Victorian at Heart planned an outing.  We had considered Lower Fort Garry but the weather was just too rotten with rain, rain and more rain.  So we went to Maple Grove Tea House in Captain Kennedy’s House.  After tea we posed for some photos.945471_374847979285725_971187163_n

Shirley wore her 1860s sheer dress.


I wore one of my 1880s bustle dresses.


Mr Mac Leod and his daughter were with us!  After awhile, Mr Mac Leod had to head back to work so he left with his daughter.  Shirley and I were headed to our cars.  We looked at each other, neither of us ready to head home to modern clothes.  The rain had stopped so we decided to head to the Fort as we originally planned and go to the tea they were hosting in honor of the Queen’s birthday.


Last year, when we had gone to the tea, we had it in the basement of the governor’s house.  In later years that room had been used as a dining area for a motor club.  We were expecting more of the same.  It was a bit different this time.  The staff person who was playing the Governor came out and lightly chastised us ladies for not having our men folk with us!  It was fun playing the part  of rebellious females who insist on traveling alone.

We began the tour of the house and saw a few rooms.  When we got to the parlour we found the fireplace was all lit up.  I had never seen it lit and didn’t know the chimney was still in working order! It was cool that day so I’m glad it was lit.


As you can see, the table was set for tea.  I was very surprised to find that the admissions desk had called ahead and arranged for us to sit and have tea in the parlour just like real guests!


Shirley sat between the Governor’s wife and the Governor’s guest.


The Governor sat next to his guest and I sat between the Governor and his wife.


There was a maid that served the cake while Mrs. Colvile poured the tea.  I kept falling out of character and trying to pour my own tea and not waiting for the maid to open the door for me!  Obviously, I am nouveau riche and lacking in the social graces of the upper crust!  All in all a wonderful start to the costuming season.

Historical Sew Fortnightly: 10 Literature

I have finished my 1870-90 swim suit.  Originally, I intended to have the whole thing done for the By the Sea Challenge-I got the shoes done.  Then I hoped to finish it for the Flora and Fauna because the fabric is cotton-I got the skirt done.  Honestly, I can’t find any references to swimming in stories based in Victorian times but I NEEDED  to finish that suit last week.   Surely someone went swimming in some book somewhere!SAM_1120

The largest size of the pattern was not wide enough to fit me so I added a wide button-hole panel to the front.  That means the buttons are off to one side which looks bad.  I intend to add a second column of buttons to the other side of the panel to make it look more balanced.  I had to order the buttons from the store and they wont come in until after the challenge dead line.  Except for that one detail the suit is done.

The Challenge: Challenge 10: Literature

Fabric: 100% Cotton

Pattern: 253 Folkwear

Year: 1870-90

Notions: Buttons, thread, elastic

How historically accurate is it? 70-90%.  I used cotton and I’m not sure if they did that or if they stuck to wool.  I have no idea about the weave of the fabric and if it is correct.  I’m also not sure if my “fix” for the size was something a Victorian woman would have done.  I believe the pattern, color, silhouette and notions are pretty accurate.  I believe that it and its accessories are appropriate for beach wear and I believe that a middle to upper middle class woman would have made her own suit.  Would a 40+ year old woman go swimming?  Why not?  It was machine sewn with some hand sewing which is possible for the 1890s.

Hours to complete: @25

First worn: Today for the photo

Total cost: $50?

Ditto that!

I was going to do a cabinet card post today (my go to post when I don’t have anything new to share), but the lovely Dreamstress got my mind churning on another topic.  Costumes and Accuracy.

I wont quote back what she wrote because you can and should read the actual post.  In fact, you probably did read her post before wandering over here to read mine!  Rightly so!  I did want to share some of the  thoughts that have been running through my mind all evening since her post.

First of all…I agree with what she said totally.  And I’ve gleaned a new concept or two that will impact my choices (I hope) for future projects.  One was weave.  I really have no idea how many ways there are to create a fabric.  I understand knits.  I understand that denim is made differently from a brocade but beyond that….  I don’t know.  Perhaps, one day, I will take the time to learn different weaves for fabrics and more importantly, learn what was common during Victorian times and how to recognize if the fabrics I’m looking at are correct (or at least close enough).

Further to the topic of fabric, I was thinking about getting good fakes as far as color and pattern go.  I rely a lot on what I see in museums for what was available at the time.  Color and patterns terrify me.  I keep drifting towards plain browns for fear of picking a color that was simply not possible at the time.  I force myself buy color and pattern so I wont end up with 50 plain brown dresses and I tell myself it is a 50/50 crap shoot.  I may discover something is horribly wrong and then never be happy with the dress again (a good reason to not blow $400 on fabric for one gown) or I may stumble across an example that is a near perfect match and think I am the most gifted costumer.

You’ve already “heard” my rant on costumers who look down their nose at folks who choose to use synthetic fibers for costumes.  As I commented on Dreamstress’ post, I have laid a silk next to a fake and could not tell the difference…until I looked at the price.  If you have to set it on fire before you can tell if it is real or synthetic it is a good fake.  For me this is a hobby and not a career.  I’m not spending tons of money for a hobby when 95% of the people in the world could not tell the difference and 4% would have to set me on fire to know for sure. The 1% that could tell at a glance are not worth the money.

One day I will hand sew a whole costume, more as an exercise to prove to myself that I can be that disciplined and to learn what it feels like to do that task.  But for my purposes, at this time, I don’t feel I need to hand sew when no one will be looking close enough to see machine stitches.

My goal is not to create a counterfeit Victorian gown that will totally fool 95% of the world into believing it is a well-preserved dress from that era and force the other 5% to rely on chemical testing, x-rays and microscopic analysis to discover the fake!  Nor is my goal to get a museum to display my dress as a reproduction.  My goal is to feel pretty.  I kind of think of myself as more of a theatrical costumer than a museum curator or reenacted. My goal is to pretend for a few hours that I am a rich Victorian lady.  In reality I’m an actress, or more accurately, an 8-year-old in a middle-aged woman’s body and I am playing dress up with my other 8-year-old friends.  I want to have my “audience” suspend reality and allow themselves to imagine for just a moment I have stepped forward in time. They will not know enough/care enough/ get close enough to see the inaccuracies.

Besides, if I have car keys in my bag, deodorant on my body, fillings in my teeth and plastic boning in my dress I cannot be 100% accurate and I am not willing to leave the keys in the car, smell au natural, knock out my fillings and kill a whale for the sake of being authentic.  So why kill myself and wipe out my bank account trying to achieve the impossible.  I want to know what makes my dress different from a real Victorian dress so I can be more knowledgable about the time I am interested in.  I think it is a good thing to know that they didn’t have polyester blends and that they didn’t have sewing machines in 1840.  These are facts and facts are good.  Knowledge is good.  And one way to gain knowledge is to make a mistake.  Maybe I will discover that my Copper Penny dress is too vibrant a color for that era.  “Ooops.  I made a mistake.  I learned from that mistake.  Thank God I didn’t spend $40 a meter on real silk”.

And just like the Dreamstress says, you can hand sew a dress.  You can use only real silk.  You can use the perfect pattern and under garments.  And it can look more inaccurate than a machine sewn poly blend because the dyes available at that time did not make that color.

To put it short and sweet, my costume philosophy is “have fun learning and playing dress up.”

Mother’s Day Victorian Fashion Show and Tea

Last Saturday, Shirley and I put on a Victorian Fashion Show for our seniors in the nursing home that we work in.  It went very well and I do think our ladies loved it!  Here are some photos from the event.IMG_1178 - CopyI am doing a co-workers hair up.  I didn’t have permission to use her face so I blocked it out.  But I will tell you she REALLY suits the 1860s styles!IMG_1198Coco Worker is wearing one of Shirley’s dresses.  You’ve seen it before here and here.

IMG_1210 - CopyOur teen volunteer wore my dress based on an 1895 fashion plate.  I hate it when someone else looks better in your dress than you do!IMG_1227Here is Shirley’s new dress!  Isn’t it divine!

IMG_1229Another co-worker wore a dress made by Shirley and worn on Dominion day.

MOTHERS DAY TEA 030 - CopyThis is my new dress. The skirt is what I contributed to the Sew Fortnightly Challenge 11 Squares and RectanglesSAM_1102

This front view was taken at an earlier date and did not include the lace collar that I made and added on.

Busy weekend and no photos to show for it!

Saturday, we held a Victorian Fashion Show and Tea for my seniors living in the nursing home I work in.  It was in honor of Mother’s Day.   Shirley and I had made all the costumes and we had several models showing them off.  I hoped to have some photos to share with you today but I may have to wait a few days for that.  My mom came to see me at work and to see my dresses.  I was very proud.  The nice thing was she brought me an antique cameo that PERFECTLY matched the dress I was modeling.


Good thing I was being a good Victorian and I wasn’t wearing a ton of make up.  I “misted up” and it would have run!  Isn’t it just perfect!