Friday, April 6, 2018

Suffragette Tea tickets

Our Suffragette Tea will be held at the Elkridge Furnace Inn on Sunday November 4, 2018 from 11 am - 2 pm.

5745 Furnace Avenue
Elkridge, MD 21075

Your ticket includes a 4 course tea, taxes and gratuity.

Tickets have sold out!  If you need to cancel or wish to be placed on the waiting list,  email Vicki at

There will be no cancellations after October 31.

Edwardian/Suffragette attire is encouraged but not required.  If you would like suggestions on how to dress, see this post.

If you are interested in purchasing a Votes for Women sash to wear, order from T.H. Clothiers and use the code Votestea10 for 10% off and indicate if you want your sash delivered  via mail or if you want to pick it up at the tea.

Our Tentative menu is below.  Note--changes may be made due to availability.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

So you want to be a Suffragette!

 2018 is the 100 year anniversary of the end of The Great War (World War I) and the final battle in the struggle for women's suffrage.  United states women got a boost in their efforts in 1918 when President Woodrow Wilson changed his mind and decided to support women in their effort to obtain the right to vote.  In earlier years, President Wilson had been somewhat lukewarm toward the cause but protests reached a peak in 1917 when women picketed the White House, were arrested, jailed and went on a hunger strike.  Wilson was horrified to learn that the jailed suffragists were being force-fed so he finally stepped up to champion their cause.  The Suffragists believed that Wilson and the country had a debt to pay after asking them to support sending their sons and husbands to war and also working to support the war here at the home front.  On September 30, 1918 President Wilson gave a speech to Congress which included the following:
This war could not have been fought, either by the other nations engaged or by America, if it had not been for the services of women – services rendered in every sphere – not merely in the fields of effort in which we have been accustomed to see them work, but wherever men have worked and upon the very skirts and edges of the battle itself. We shall not only be distrusted but shall deserve to be distrusted if we do not enfranchise them with the fullest possible enfranchisement, as it is now certain that the other great free nations will enfranchise them … The executive tasks of this war rest upon me. I ask that you lighten them and place in my hands instruments, spiritual instruments, which I do not now possess, which I sorely need, and which I have daily to apologize for not being able to employ.
Wilson's words on that day failed to sway the necessary votes to pass the amendment.  The bill died in the Senate and it would be another year before Congress finally passed the 19th amendment giving women the right to vote.

We are celebrating 100 years by having a Suffragette Tea this November and we will be dressing as Suffragettes from 1918.  What does that look like?  Well, for those of you who don't do historical costuming--particularly from this time period, you're in luck.  This is an easy one to do on a dime--possibly even with things you already have or can find at your local thrift store!

Let's first look at what women wore.  I like starting with the underpinnings as that is what gives each era it's easily identifiable silhouette.  In my research I've found that the underwear of 1918 isn't that different than later 20th century shape wear.  WWI brought many changes--one being the end of the corset.  The first decade of the 20th century held on to some of the traditions of the 1890's in terms of fashion.  The corsets of that era gave us the pigeon breast or S-look seen in pictures of the Gibson girls.  As we move past the Titanic era, (1912 - 1914), we start seeing under the bust corsets that are constructed much like the open bottom girdles of the 1950's and 60's.  These corsets were still worn over a chemise with a corset cover over them though the closer we got to the 1920's the more we started seeing some early brassieres.  Here are some examples of underwear from 1918:

Note the under bust corset over the chemise.  The chemise is snug to offer a little support.

Here we have an early brassiere ca. 1918.  You can see that it is not terribly structured.

So how can you get this look in modern times?  Given that the corset doesn't change the basic shape that much--basically just pulls in the waist a bit and firms things up, your modern day shape wear can offer the same look.  Basically, these garments just get rid of muffin top and the jiggles we all have.  Simple shape wear, bike shorts etc. with a not terribly supportive bra would probably give you a similar appearance.  Since this time period is so similar to later periods, my advice is do what you are comfortable with.  The fit of the outer garments is loose enough where your underpinnings won't change it that much.

Next up:  Main garments --frocks, skirts, blouses (known as shirtwaists).
We've moved past the skinny floor length skirts of the first decade.  Skirts are getting shorter.  Bodices have a "blousy" look to them.  They have armholes that are close to the body as in they aren't oversized like modern tops but they aren't fitted through the bodice.  There are a variety of collar styles which include shawl collars, sailor collars, simple found collars and plain round necklines. Frocks of this period still have a waistline which will drop and become much less fitted when we get into the 1920's.  A lot of frocks have shorter over skirts and 2 piece dresses are also common.  Skirts and blouses as well as matching skirts and jackets are also popular.

Delineator May 1918

Delineator July 1918

Sears Catalog 1918

Sears Catalog 1918

Sears Catalog 1917

1917 Pattern book




Silk dress 1918


 1918 Wool Suit

1918 Wool Suit
My advice for costuming on a shoe string?  Find or make a basic skirt with an A-line shape that hits between your ankle and mid calf.  You could do one that buttons in the front or is plain.  A nice striped silk or cotton as well as a wool would work.  The main thing here is that the skirt sit at the waistline or above.  Low waisted garments didn't appear for several more years.  A white blouse with a higher neckline--even a men's wear shirt with a cravat--would be perfect.  Make a fabric sash or wear a fabric/leather belt and you're good to go!

Shoes are also easy for this period.  The main thing you want to look for is a chunkier heel.  You see both rounded and pointed toes.  Here are some period examples:

 1918 Black leather Mary Janes
1918 Pumps
1918 Leather Oxfords

French silk pumps 1918

1918 Leather boots

Hats are the next accessory you don't want to be without.  Your local thrift store is your best bet here as this is the time of year they're putting out the straw hats for spring.  You can keep the hat as straw, cover it with satin or velvet then add whatever level of trim you would like.  The most prominent feature is the rounded crown.  You can easily reblock a straw hat with a squared off crown.  Simply wet the straw and shape it over a mixing bowl that's about the right size until it dries. Trim is quite varied on hats of this period. You see wide bands with bows, flowers, feathers and netting.  Here are some period examples:
1918 Straw hat

1918 fabric covered, timmed hat

1917 velvet hat

Velvet hat 1918

Outing hat 1918

Here's the haul I got at the thrift store yesterday--all half price!  For less than $10 I got 4 hats.  Some will be reblocked, cut up and redone into Regency bonnets but one of them will be my 1918 hat. 

My other find was these pumps with the perfect shaped heel.

And of course, no Suffragette outfit is complete without a sash!
You can purchase an authentic Votes for Women sash from T.H. Clothiers here.

For those of you who would enjoy the challenge of making an authentic outfit from this period, I recommend the following patterns:
Corset:  Truly Victorian Late Edwardian Corset
Chemise:  Wearing History 1917 Chemise   (Note--this is also available as a downloadable pattern from their etsy shop.
Corset cover:  Both Wearing History and Truly Victorian have patterns for corset covers.
Wearing History has a WWI suit pattern that is multisized.  I believe Butterick patterns has something from this period as well.
Past Patterns has a number of patterns from this time period, many of which are reprints of antiques.

Celebrate the right of women to vote!  We earned it!

Thursday, January 25, 2018

1770 Middlin' Gown of Irish Stuff

I had the pleasure of participating in an 18th century immersion weekend this past weekend at Historic London Town.  The weekend was meant to show life at London Town in the year 1770.  The centerpiece of  London Town is the William Brown House which was a tavern in the 18th century.  Rooms in the tavern were used for some participants to sleep in and the main room was used to conduct ciphering classes and a needlework school.  There was a 2nd room in which tavern games were set up for the travelers.  Two indentured servants were at the tavern, keeping house and serving meals.  There are also 2 small wooden structures that were used.  The larger of the two, the carpenter's shop, was used for a fairly large group of tailors.  There is a 2nd room in the carpenter's shop that was used for an 18th century dance session, since one of the tailor's was also a fiddler.  The Lord Mayor's Tenement is a small wood house with open windows and a brick hearth.  There is a bed chamber off of the main room with the hearth.  Meals were cooked over the hearth.  Several of us were set up in the bed chamber sewing.  I portrayed Elizabeth Ferguson, an actual London Town resident.  Elizabeth was the wife of Alexander Ferguson who owned a booming tailor business from 1740 until his death in 1770.  The Fergusons also owned an ordinary in the town.  

Here is an ad from a 1767 Maryland Gazette for Alexander Ferguson's Tailor shop.  He is advertising that he has added a stay-making business.  While stays were worn by women, it was men who typically were stay-makers.  Stay making involved more than just sewing--bones for the stays had to be made from whalebone, wood or reed which was quite labor intensive.

Alexander Ferguson died in 1770.  His wife, Elizabeth, continued the stay-making business and she continued to run the ordinary.  Her son Andrew ran the tailoring business.

There seem to be no portraits of Elizabeth Ferguson so I had to use what information I could find to come up with an impression for her.  Her husband's inventory was quite extensive, showing that they were pretty well off.  They owned 6 properties.  Mr. Ferguson had a lot of fine fabric as part of his tailor business.  The Fergusons were older--at least in their 50's--and they were Scottish immigrants.  I picture them being practical, hard working people.  While Elizabeth could probably afford some finery--as a working woman, I picture her dressed in a simple wool gown made of a finer quality fabric.  I had 2 yards of this brown wool/silk Irish "stuff" (worsted) that I had bought to line a bedgown.  I pulled it out and decided it was just too nice to use for lining so I bought 2 more yards to make a basic stomacher gown.  I also bought the bright indigo worsted for a petticoat.

I went about making my usual stomacher gown pattern, making a reversible stomacher--one side being plain and one side having 3 horizontal strips.   I also made a 1760's cuff to give this gown an earlier style.

I wore the gown with a plain linsey woolsey neck handkerchief, a simple lappet cap and a finer linen apron accented with my pinball and watch.  This seemed to be fine enough, yet practical enough for someone like Elizabeth Ferguson to wear while working.

For Sunday church, I switched out the stomacher and dressed the gown up with tambour work accessories (apron and neck handkerchief), a round eared cap, and a nicer 2 inch wide silk ribbon on my cap and gown front.

I was really happy with this gown.  I like having a simple gown that is made out of really fine fabric.  The hand stitching shows up nicely on the pleats in back and it just gives a nice tailored look--fitting for an older woman, a tailor's widow.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

2018 Costuming Goals

A few projects being planned for 2018--sketches are made and fabric is purchased

Lady Hodges' gown, cap and accessories.  I have gold shot silk in the same color for this.

Striped gown from the Met.  I've drafted the bodice pattern and have a maroon and white striped fabric with the same scale of stripe.

Pet en l'air.  I have a yellow, pink and green striped taffeta for this one.

Two chintz sacques.  One will be similar to this one and one will be plainer with just simple robings and a compere front.

Brown long sleeved round gown

1760's riding habit.  Still working on the design.  Have madder red wool for this one.

Mrs. Izzard's silk cap

Large blue silk bonnet:

Green calash lined with pink:

Silk dimity regency cap.

Other projects:  tow linen shift, two regency gowns from the sketches in Costume in Detail, Black velvet mantel.