Too young

My cabinet card collection has many photographs of folks that I assume to be married and they appear to be May/December kind of relationships.  In this card, the couple seems to be closer in age but seriously too young to be married.  They look to be in their late teens.  Gads!  I love Victorian dresses but some of their life style features are a bit much!

With the bangs and the big sleeves, I put this rather plain dress in the late 80's or early 90's.

With the bangs and the big sleeves, I put this rather plain dress in the late 80’s or early 90’s.

More is more?

I finished the over skirt for Lilac Dream.



Now is the time to decide what, if any, trim will be added to the over skirt.SAM_2678

At first I liked it with nothing but I rather like the lace. With some fancy foot work I can get a lot of the ties done with the same lace.

In the modern world, less is more, but in the 1870’s they seemed to live by a MORE is more philosophy. So let’s try more. I made a pile of bows and still have 3 left. SAM_2679Hmmm.  That doesn’t seem quite right. Asymmetry bothers my modern mind.SAM_2680Nope.  Not the asymmetry that is off.SAM_2681Nope.

Let us try the more is more theory again.SAM_2682I don’t hate it…more?SAM_2683

Gads! I don’t know!  I think I need to walk away from it for a bit and let it marinate in my mind for a bit.

There is also the issue of the contrasting side panels that I am having a love/hate relationship with.  I have to love them…they are there because I ran out of the floral fabric. Maybe they need something…more….SAM_2676

Pardon me ma’am your hoops are showing

One of the things that costumers like to achieve is a smooth skirt which is achieved with enough petticoats over the hoops.  The hundred dollar question is “was the lumpy look truly inauthentic?”

Today, a woman may go for a popular look but not quite pull it off.  It doesn’t fit right. She can only afford a poorly made knock off.  It doesn’t suit her age/build/style/coloring….  I’d like to argue that this happened 150 years ago as well.

This carte de visite shows a woman (likely from the 1850-60’s) whose hoops are plainly visible under the skirt. It can sometimes be said that nearby furniture pushed the skirt over, causing the hoops to appear but I don’t believe this is the case in this photo.  I think this is a case of not enough petticoats to hide them.


So, if you ever look back at your costume photos and see hoops, don’t think yourself (or any other costume enthusiast) inauthentic.  Victorians weren’t all perfect Victorians so how can we expect ourselves to be?

I wont freeze to death now!

I love capes!  They whip up so fast!  I used Truly Victorians 1890’s cape pattern TV590.  I decided against the tall collar-it looked to regal for mourning…and then I threw on some bling.  Go figure.


So for Historical Sew Fortnightly:

The Challenge: 20 Outerwear

Fabric: some mysterious, light sucking poly something, a poly something velvet, and a cotton lining.

Pattern: TV590

Year: The pattern is 1890’s but I’m using it with a 1900 dress.  Plausible.  My winter coats can last 10 years.

Notions: a fancy metal hook, a beaded ribbon and thread.

How historically accurate is it? 80%?  I’m middle-aged so I would be more worried about being warm than being au courant – especially in mourning.  It is all machine sewn but that is more than plausible for 1900.  Synthetic fibers are also plausible but I have no idea what those fibers are or when they were invented.  I did not research how hard-line they were in 1900 for types of fibers used for mourning.  The cape would perhaps be considered half mourning because of the beading. (The dress could be considered second mourning because there is some fabric trim on it.)  My hat probably needs a veil, which can be worn thrown back over the hat to make it a second mourning hat. But, some of those rules of mourning relaxed after the Queen died in 1901.  I think I will eventually add a veil but, I haven’t any in my stash now and finding a black veil material without spiders on it will be a bit of a challenge for a month or two.

Hours to complete: @10

First worn: not yet…I hope this Saturday

Total cost: Nothing.  Everything was left overs from other projects.

First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes Wanda and the baby carriage.

Last week, in my “If I was born 100 years earlier, what would I wear” series, I looked at the wedding dress I would have worn as a 20-year-old in 1884.  Possibly, my parents would have been dreadfully relieved that I was not left “on the shelf” as 20 years old would have been pushing it.  In modern reality, I was married at 25.  Another reality is I held off on having children a couple of years because I could.  There were no real birth control options-and certainly none that I know of that would have been SAFE and controllable by ME in 1884 so likely by 1885 I would have needed this maternity dress:

If anyone knows where this originally came from please let me know. I found it on Pintrest

It is a bit hard to see with a front view but the mannequin has a baby bump.  I wish I had a side and back view to show you.



Well, that explains it…

I think I know what is going on with those stupid pop up ads.  I don’t like it but I guess I’ll have to live with it.  Here is what I found on WordPress’ help section.

We sometimes display advertisements on your blog to help pay the bills. This keeps free features free! We only run them in limited places, and we do not show ads to logged-in readers, which means only a very small percentage of your page views will actually contain ads. To eliminate ads on your blog entirely, you can purchase the No-Ads Upgrade for a single blog (per year).

So apparently, I’m the only one on my blog site who will be tormented with this crap…but I’m to cheap to cough up the cash to make them stop.  It does feel a hair like extortion, though….makes me think of the guy with the heavy accent and the nostrils that point towards his left ear that vows the store owner wont be robbed if he pays the protection fee.  Ok, slight exaggeration there….  I don’t like it but I don’t have to play their game.  No cursor will drift over those dumb red lines…no sireee Bob!

Anyway, on with the show.  Last week I shared what I might have worn as a 16-year-old in 1880.  By 1884 I would have been 20 and, surely, married.  So lets look at a wedding dress.  In my dreams I am well off so a white dress would have been feasible.  Just look at that lace at the neck edge.

1884 wedding dress from the met

Love it!

Made of silk and cotton

And now the smashing, grand train for the walk down the aisle.

Isn’t that divine!

I’m just not sure about the poof on the side.  Is it supposed to be there…the whole asymmetry thing…or is it just laying funny after being in a box for decades?  If I made this dress I wouldn’t do that poof thing.  I also wouldn’t do it in ivory for three reasons 1) I look better in pure white than ivory, 2) for sure the meal at the costume event would be tomato based and I’d end up dumping it on my ivory/white dress and 3) it would look too much like a wedding dress and some how a 47-year-old Victorian bride in white seems…well…off.  I don’t think they would have considered it dignified-even if she was still virginal.

More from medical advice from the 1880s

I’ve been reading a bit more from my 1886 medical book.  I have a few excerpts for you.  Let’s see if you can discern why this next bit made me clap my hand to my forehead and say “Duh!”

The London Medical Times relates a curious experiment, tried in Russia, upon some murderers, showing the force of imagination.  they were placed, without knowing it, in four beds where four persons had died of cholera.  They did not take the disease.  They were then told they were to sleep in beds where some persons had died of malignant cholera, but the beds were in fact new, and had not been used at all.  Nevertheless, three of them died of the disease within four hours.

For your enlightenment, you can read this page on cholera, but the important fact is cholera needs a few hours to five days to incubate.  The book does not say how long between these beds the criminals went.  I suspect they didn’t die of imagined cholera but a longer than expected reaction to being exposed to the contaminated beds!

Here is a sign that they may not have understood allergies either.  He was writing how some people would think one medicine did not work but if the doctor lied and gave it a different name and/or a different form, there would be a different reaction.

I knew a lady who could not take powdered rhubarb without it producing a disease of the skin (like a rash), and that a moments after she had swallowed it, and yet she could take it in the form of an infusion without producing the effect.

As per Wikipedia an infusion is: the outcome of steeping plants that have desired chemical compounds or flavors in a solvent such as water or oil or alcohol.  In this lady’s case, the chemical compounds of the rhubarb wasn’t the problem but the structure of the rhubarb that she was allergic to.  Another explanation may lie in the fact that many people with food allergies can’t eat the raw or unprocessed version but can eat it if it has been cooked.  The chemical break down of the cooking process alters the allergen.

Here is a couple of quotes to illustrate the idea that doctors would over prescribe medication to the point of causing more damage than good.  That doesn’t happen today thank God 😉

The epitaph of an Italian count,…. “I was well-I wished to be better. Took physic and died.”

The Emperor Adrian deliberately prepared the following as an inscription for his tomb: “It was the multitude of physicians that killed the emperor.”

And finally, is this the first description of “burn out”?

I do not know that this disease has ever been described before by any medical writer.  I allude to that wear and tear, or state of body and mind, intermediate between that of sickness and health, but nearer the former than the latter, to which I am unable to give a satisfactory name, although it is hourly felt by tens of thousands in the world.  It is not curable by physic, although it makes much work for the doctors, and in the end, by dosing and drugging, a profitable business for the grave-digger.  It is that wear and tear of the living machine, mental and corporeal, which results from over-strenuous labor, or exertion of the intellectual faculties, or rather corporeal powers – for rest assured that vivid excitement, and tempestuous mental emotion, can not last long without destroying the physical fabric…..

Now, because I can’t stand having a posting without a photo I want to show you one of the little surprises I found inside the book…a bonus prize if you will.This really old and crumbling book mark was in the book.  I have no idea how old it is but it is old.  I imagine some young girl (American?) made it for a parent.  I have to figure out how to store it so it doesn’t get any more damaged.

Random excerpts from Dr Gunns home medical book.

Random excerpts from Dr Gunn’s home medical book:

This got me wondering, if this isn’t one of the reasons why I got blue at the end of my 6 week medical leave from work….

“Without exercise of body and mind, there can be no happiness or health.  There is nothing like business (work), for enabling us to get through our weary existence.  The intellect can not sustain its sunshine flight long; the flagging wings drop to the earth.  Pleasure palls, and idleness gathers rags.  But,business gets over the hours without counting them.  We may be very tired at the end, still it has brought the day to a close sooner than any thing else.” (pg 12 of the introduction)

Still true today….

“And I may as well tell you here, as anywhere else, for it is the truth, that much medicine is taken, and many ineffectual attempt made, to cure diseases which have their origin in a disordered mind.” (pg 15 of the Remarks Chapter)

This photo was taken in the Pharmacy of the Urban Gallery in the Museum of Man and Nature.

Now we get to the weird stuff.  Can this possibly be true?

Dr Gunn was discussing the power of the mind in healing.  He relates a story of a French physician who wanted to test this idea so he received permission to experiment on a condemned prisoner.  The prisoner was the son of “distinguished parents.” The prisoner was told that in respect for his parents, he was being given the option to die in a more dignified manner than hanging.  The prisoner accepted the offer.

“At the time appointed the physicians repaired to the prison, and the criminal being extended on a table, his eyes were then securely bound, and he was slightly pricked, near the principal veins of the lags and arms, with the point of a pin.  At the corners of the table were placed four little fountains or basins, filled with warm water, from which poured several streams, falling into tubs placed on the floor to receive the water.  The poor criminal, thinking it was his blood that trickled down his arms and legs into the tubs, became weaker and fainter by degrees….(The scene) had so extraordinary an effect on the brain of the patient, that all his vital energies were soon gone, although a very strong man, weighing one hundred and ninety-five pounds, and he was dead in one hour and forty minutes, without having lost a single drop of blood.” (pg 16 & 17 of the Remarks Chapter)

Well, that was far-fetched (but fun reading)!  No references were cited so I have no idea of Dr Gunn’s “sources” for this.

Next week we have another story shared by Dr Gunn that had me saying to myself “Well, Duh!”  It was a sure sign that Dr Gunn was a man of his times!




Home medical book from 1866

A few weeks ago, I was at a flea market and saw a book.  A home medical book from 1866.  The vendor was asking more money than I had with me and I was sure he wouldn’t take what I had so I went off and bought some cabinet cards and a book on Queen Victoria instead.  But, I spent all of the next week thinking about that medical book.  I had a bit more money on hand last weekend so I went back to the vendor, praying it was still there.  It was, and he was willing to sell it for less than his asking price (he actually sold it for the amount of money I had on me the weekend before….go figure!)

Gunn’s New Family Physician or Home Book of Health. Nursing the sick, physiology, physical culture, and sanitary economy.

It is a bit of what my son calls a tome….

It is a whopper of a book isn’t it! It has a really nice cover on it. I think it will be my new coffee table book.

The book was at one time owned by this fellow…..

The property of Albert Henry.

I wondered a lot about this Albert.  Was Henry his last name or his second name?  Was he interested in medicine as a career or just as knowledge?  Was he the original owner from the 1860s or did he find this in a flea market in, say, the early 1900s and then wrote in it (horrors)?

This drawing of the writer is at the beginning of the book.

Dr Gunn was a doctor who wanted to demystify medicine.  His goal was not to replace doctors but to make the general populace more “consumer savvy” and less likely to be taken in by quacks and snake oil salesmen.  Dr Gunn wasn’t just a doctor of the body.  He was a devote Christian, it seems, and wanted to share his faith with his readers. His introduction was basically a “sermon” about where God fits into a person’s health.  The gist of it was, if a Christian were ill, he/she needed to think of it as God using it as a means to draw the believer closer to himself and to cause more reliance on God.  It could also be the means that God uses to bring the believer home to him (ie death).  If the reader was not a Christian then illness was a means for God to point out sins and hopefully get the patient to rethink the error of his/her ways. Heavy drinking was used as one example for this.  Heavy drinking is a “sin” and a sign of being out of relationship with God and this, this and that are illness caused by that drinking and lack of relationship.  I got the sense that Gunn felt that no matter what medical treatments were prescribed for what ever illness, the patient’s primary concern needed to be figuring out what God was trying to tell them.

Next week I hope to share Gunn’s views on the power of the mind in healing.  We, to this day, believe that positive thoughts aid in getting better faster.  If you think you will suffer horribly after a knee replacement, you will be slow  to get moving and slow to see progress.  If you think things will get better the minute the last stitch is put in, you will get moving faster and perceive your pain to be tolerable, temporary and worth it.  Gunn’s views are not too far off from that.  The interesting thing is the stories he tells to illustrate that power of the mind.  They are pretty “far out”!