Doors Open a la COVID

Doors Open Winnipeg is usually held in May but COVID messed that up a bit. But we did have it in September with some major alterations to our usual procedures.

I helped out at the jail again. Only instead of playing a role of a person connected to the jail, I ended up being the hand sanitizer and list keeper (for contact tracing).

I wore a mish-mash of costume pieces.

1909 Olive’s hat, 1895 Walking suit shirtwaist, 1900 Widows Weeds cape, 1903 trumpet skirt, and modern mask. We made the masks work by pretending it was during the Spanish flu.

We even made the news.

Year in Review: costumes worn

I had big plans to wear all my dresses this year but that didn’t happen.  I blame my new job…not having vacation time, Shirley and I were not able to go to Saskatchewan for the Dickens Festival.  That trip alone would have had at least 4 dresses out and about.

But lets see how well I did.

1838-40 Queen V dress.  Check. That was worn at the Coco Gala.172

1845 Atessa dress was worn for Halloween.


The 1860’s  Silky Skies dress got put on for this photo but I can’t figure out where I wore it.  I wouldn’t have put all that on for a chance to try on the apron!IMG_20160807_121745

Oh, wait!  Good ol’ Facebook!  According to Facebook I wore Silky Skies to the 7 Oaks Museum.  For some reason, those photos didn’t get posted here!  I will remedy that next post!

1861 Senora dress was worn to the St Boniface Museum this year.


1872 Basque in Blue was used during Coco’s Steam Punk Tea.  200

My 1872 Lilac dream was worn to a play (I had almost forgotten about this fun event!)SAM_3652

1873 Purple Polonaise went to Little Britain Church.53

1880’s Half Grand Surprise Dress was used during the Circus themed social at Coco.


My 1880’s travel outfit was chosen for our annual ride on the Prairie Dog Central Train.


The 1882 Tea Gown finally got a real wearing during the Sunday breakfast with the artists at Coco.  I still don’t love the gown but I no longer loath it.189

My 1890’s swim suit was worn by the pool Friday night at Coco.29

My 1895 Summer Ensemble made an appearance at the Steam Punk wedding.img_20161022_130710981_hdr.jpg

1900 Widows Weeds got worn twice.  Once by myself at a celebration and fashion show at work…img_20160930_153444423

…and once by another person at the Vaughn Street Jail event last spring. (Serious nip tucking needed on the dress for this event.)



Four dresses didn’t make the cut this year: 1840’s Copper Penny, 1850’s Tea Dress, 1895 dinner gown, 1895 Walking outfit.  It is probably best that I have only one dress on the docket for 2017.  If I can’t get them all worn, then I have to slow down production.  Or I have to part with some of them (gasp!)  Trouble with that is, if I am disenchanted enough to be willing to part with one of my babies, I am disenchanted enough to feel that no one actually would want it!  Then factor in size…nah.  I’m just going to have to find more times to wear them or set my goal to “wear once every two years”.


Don’t Feed the bears

I’ve been 2 months in my new job now.  If ever there was a sign from God that I had made a good move this is it.  Shortly after my arrival, I learned that my new work space was celebrating 100 years as a hospital (the land had held a hunting lodge, hotel and mansion in various stages of its history).  It became a hospital during the first world war and is now a hybrid facility with a personal care home, rehab hospital, day hospital and some medical things like labs and x-ray facilities.   In celebration, the Costume Museum of Canada was invited to put on its Heritage Fashion Review, which has models wearing near perfect replicas of items in the collection.  (It was like God was saying “You fit here.  You belong here.”)

In spite of volunteering with the Museum for years, I haven’t actually seen the show yet.  Lucky me!  As part of my job, I had to take down, and sit with, some of the residents that are living in the personal care home section so that they could see the show.  Basically, I got paid to see a show I’ve wanted to see for years!

In honor of the show, staff were encouraged to dress up in their favorite decade from the last 100 years.  For me that would have to be the years closest to the Victorian era, obviously. But, I don’t have anything from 1916…closest I have is my 1901 widows weeds.  But, being a middle aged woman in war time, it wouldn’t be outside the realms of possibility that during a time of mourning, I pulled out my widows weeds and in the interest of frugality and war time shortages I wore it in spite of it being 15 years out of date.

The other reason it is perfect is because of the sign over the gift shop where I work.img_20160930_153303099_hdr

The gift shop is called the Dancing Bear gift shop.  I can’t find proof for this but I believe the photograph is connected to the location of my work space.  Perhaps when it was a hotel?  In addition to the gift shop there is a bar called Chad’s Bar.  It is an actual pub for the patients and residents in the building.  (The name Chad is also connected to the history of the land, I believe)  And next to the entrance to the bar is a stuffed bear.

This was my photo op!img_20160930_153444423

All in all, a good day!


Doors Open Vaughn Street Jail 2016

I’m back at the old jail for Doors Open this year.  My first year at the jail, I played the first female doctor in Manitoba, the second year I played a prostitute, last year I was a generic mourner and this year I am Cora Hind, the first female stenographer in Manitoba, the first female Agricultural Editor for the local news paper and a woman who wrote newspaper articles about the horrible conditions in the jail in an effort to help promote better conditions for the inmates. Cora was a non-traditional dresser in that she preferred masculine attire.13310579_1092582567469664_3545026685330394933_n

At this point, I am reading the paper while I wait for another actor to play her part to the crowds.

One of my dresses was used to dress the prostitute for this years event.13330877_1092582557469665_5472724140805134247_n

Now, there is a little incentive to lose about 80 more pounds.  That is what I could look like too!  Needless to say, I needed about 80 pound of pins to cinch that dress into the point that she could wear it!  My goal, this year is to wear (or have worn) all of my dresses and so I can now tick off my 1900 Widows Weeds.

You will also notice our friend Shirley was also there.  She is in the door way ready to hand out some news papers and escort the next group into the jail.  If more photos become available, I will share them with you.

Year in review: outing addition

My goal this year was to wear every dress I have made.  How can I justify making more dresses if I can’t manage to wear the ones I have already?  How did I do?

1838- 40 Green Queen V dress

I wore my Green Queen dress to the Dickens Festival.

I wore my Green Queen dress to the Dickens Festival.

1840’s Copper Penny dress.

Also worn at the Dickens Festival.

Also worn at the Dickens Festival.

1850’s Tea Dress

This is what Shirley and I wore the first night at the Dickens Festival.

This is what Shirley and I wore the first night at the Dickens Festival.  I also wore the 1870’s shawl so kinda two for one.

1860 Silky Skies dress

Dickens again. I got a lot of mileage out of this outing.

Dickens again. I got a lot of mileage out of this outing.  Two for one again as I wore the 1871 mantle with it.

1860 Sontag.  There is a miss there.  I wanted to wear it with the dress above but it was too big.  But strictly speaking it isn’t a dress so we wont count it against my goal.

1870-90 Pineapple Shawl.  I still don’t have anything to wear that with so another miss, but again, it isn’t a dress so that doesn’t count.

1872 Basque in blue.

I wore this to our Halloween event.

I wore this to our Halloween event.  I also wore my 1871 Mantle with this so it got used twice this year (after lounging in my closet for a couple of years!)

1872 Lilac Dream

All aboard! The Prairie Dog train ride.

All aboard! The Prairie Dog train ride.

1873 Polonaise

First outing with our tiny groups newest member Lottie

First outing with our tiny group’s newest member Lottie

1880’s Half Grand Surprise Dress-Doh!  This is a definite miss!  I did have plans to wear it but an event or two got cancelled because of weather and this is one of the dresses that didn’t make the cut.  It has gotten a lot of wear other years.

1880’s travel outfit-dang!  Another one that got missed.  Also due to weather.

1882 Tea Gown (aka Ugly Bag of Tea Gown).  First time ever.  That is a win right?

Me in my Tea Gown reading how to be a Victorian. It got worn but didn't see the light of day or other humans other than Shirley.

Me in my Tea Gown reading how to be a Victorian. It got worn but didn’t see the light of day or other humans other than Shirley.

1890’s swim suit

Halloween costume for work.

Halloween costume for work.

1895 dinner gown

Out for dinner.

Out for dinner.

1895 Summer Ensemble

To my favorite house museum

To my favorite house museum

1895 walking outfit

Again, at my favorite house museum.

Again, at my favorite house museum.

1900 Widows Weeds

At the old jail.

At the old jail.

So not too bad.  Two dresses that got a lot of wear in years past, didn’t get worn because of cancelled events.  I think I can justify making two more…

The plan is one like this black one.tv242colorfin

The black will be done in reds and the blue will be cream and black.  I want to use my vintage treadle machine for this one.  The challenge will be to use as many of the attachments as possible.

And the paisley material I bought at the Dickens Festival will become something like this…1840-49 dress day a Augusta AuctionsI hope to make more accessories as well and I hope they will get some use!  I also hope to wear the two dresses I didn’t get to wear this year…we have to keep it fair after all.


More photos from Doors Open

I have some more photos from various cameras of the Doors Open event I volunteered at.  As usual, it is very hard to narrow it down to just a few photos….

Fortifying ourselves before the grand opening.

Fortifying ourselves before the grand opening.

We do a group photo on the door step each morning just before allowing the first group into the jail.

Group photo on the door step each morning just before allowing the first group into the jail.

This is where Shirley and I did our "bit".  The coffin was our prop that we used to relay information about what happened to a prisoner when they died.

This is where Shirley and I did our “bit”. The coffin was our prop that we used to relay information about what happened to a prisoner when they died.

My favorite photo of myself.  That fan got very beat up being used as a prop and a tool against heat stroke.

My favorite photo of myself. The fan got beat up being used as a prop & a tool against heat stroke.

My favorite photo of Shirley and myself.  Couple of boozers.  I told the crowd it was just water...wink wink.

My favorite photo of Shirley and myself. Couple of boozers. I told the crowd it was just water…wink wink.

Photo of myself with the woman who spear headed the whole drive to get people back into this old jail.

Myself with the woman who spear-headed the whole drive to get people back into this old jail.

My favorite group photo.

My favorite group photo.

It is all done for this year.  Come back next year!

It is all done for this year. Come back next year!

Note: the woman on the right side of the last photograph is a reporter for a Phillipino TV program that is viewed by the local community as well as in the Philippines.  Shirley and I were asked to send greetings to the Phillipino community.  I am a TV star…..Darling, I will have my people talk to your people…..

No broken legs

No broken legs at this weekend’s Doors Open event at the old jail but I will admit to some really sore feet!

SAM_2821Saturday was a freakishly cold day and I claim full responsibility for that.  I was afraid that being dressed in black from head to toe would be hellish in the heat so I prayed fervently for cool weather.  It worked and Shirley and I found we needed our capes and even with those we were still a mite cool. SAM_2822Sunday was normal temperatures and I was correct…it was hellish. (More pictures from Sunday to follow.)

Now I sit on my couch, my throbbing feet up, a lap top in front of me (so I can catch up on the modern world), a bowl of ice-cream to my left and a puppy to my right.  I will savor my evening in the knowledge that the tour went well: we set a new record for number of folks put through and most seemed to really enjoy the event!  Who should I play next year?

Here we go again!

My city is having its Doors Open event again.  For Doors Open, several historic buildings are being opened up to the public.  This means that buildings that usually have a fee (eg. house museums) are free and buildings that are used as office spaces are allowing non-staff and non-customers to come in and have a look around.

The site that I work at is the old jail built in the 1880’s.  The jail is basically gutted now with it being mostly empty except for some storage and a couple of office spaces.  A friend of mine has a vision of it being converted into a tourist attraction with some restoration, some history and some sort of cafe or bar.  This has been done in multiple places in Europe and even the states.  But for now, the public only has access to it during this annual weekend event.

The jail has several local historic figures connected to it as well as several groups of humanity.  My friend has arranged that amateur actors such as myself play characters in several of the gutted rooms so the tourist can imagine what it was like to work in or be incarcerated in this jail at that time.

I have played Dr. Amelia Yeomans one of the first women in Canada to hold a medical degree (second only to her daughter).Me as Dr Amelia YeomansI have played a prostitute who would have been put in jail for plying her trade.SAM_2166This evening I will be helping to set this year’s event up and practicing my role as a family member collecting the body of one of the prisoners.  The point of this role is to talk about what funerals were like back in the day and to point out that prisoners would be dying in there from diseases, violence, child-birth and hangings.  I will be wearing my mourning outfit and Shirley will also be playing a mourner in her gown.15240_568470999923421_7193027649814157401_n

Hopefully, we wont be grinning like Cheshire cats while playing our roles!  Wish us a set of broken legs please!


I was very sad to learn that one of my costume groups favorite locations is closing down due to structural issues. Kennedy House/Maple Grove Tea Room. I am glad we took advantage of it while we could.

Taken inside the house just after having tea in the tea room.

Taken inside the house just after having tea in the tea room.

We did get good news that my FAVORITE house museum is re opening! Dalnavert House.

999402Ah, the ebb and flow of trying to keep history alive!

Found my mojo and HSF 22: Men’s wear

This Christmas, I have had 4 days off of work and I’m not ashamed to tell you I spent MOST of it in my Pj’s.  This down time has given me time to truly relax and just be and lo, my mojo is back!  So yesterday,I looked at the HSF challenges that I have missed and thought “I can submit something for all of them if I craft and craft during these Christmas and New Years holidays.  Yes they will be weak but they will be something!  Incentive (do all the challenges) and motivation (sadly lacking since my Dad’s death)!  So here is the first one….

 This is very lame…a man for men’s wear!  It is also a redo of another attempt that I wasn’t very satisfied with.  (Shown here)
What the item is: Memorial jewelry in honor of my father. Victorians often wore such jewelry when in mourning…either a painting or hair samples or the initials of the deceased.
photo 1 (1)

The Challenge: Menswear.

Fabric: n/a

Pattern: n/a

Year: Victorian

Notions: jewelry findings

How historically accurate is it? Concept is correct but it is a modern photograph and modern findings that only faintly hint at Victorian style. 15% perhaps? I might wear it with my mourning costume though…who knows

Hours to complete: with shopping-1

First worn: not yet

Total cost: $15