Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Prince Edward Island Annals, Part I: Historic Charlottetown and Beaconsfield Historic House Museum

Pronvince House, Charlottetown PEI

Charlottetown, the capitol city of the province of Prince Edward Island, is known as the birthplace of the Confederation of Canada.  Throughout this year (2014), the Island is celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Charlottetown Conference, which marked the beginnings of discussions that led to the Canadian union.  During the first week of September in 1864, representatives from the British colonies of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and PEI, along with delegates from the Province of Canada (which would later be divided into present-day Quebec and Ontario) met at Province House in Charlottetown to discuss a confederation or unification of the individual provinces.  Two subsequent meetings followed over the next three years, the end result of which was the British North America Act of 1867, which formally created the autonomous union of the Dominion of Canada.
 
Pronvince House, Charlottetown PEI
Province House, Charlottetown, PEI

Province House, the center of the legislative government of Prince Edward Island, is now a National Historic Landmark operated by Parks Canada and has been restored to its 1864 appearance to commemorate its crucial formative role in initiating both the Canadian union and the peaceful achievement of Canadian independence.

Pronvince House, Charlottetown PEI
Province House, Charlottetown, PEI

Pronvince House, Charlottetown PEI
Province House, Charlottetown, PEI

The city of Charlottetown retains much of its nineteenth-century appearance, and one of its architectural crown jewels is Beaconsfield Historic House, a 25-room Italianate mansion now owned and maintained by the PEI Museum and Heritage Foundation.

Beaconsfield Historic House

Constructed in 1877 for James and Edith Peake, the elegant home sits on west side of the city on a waterfront piece of property that commands an incredible view of the city's harbor.  It is believed that its name was an homage to British Prime Minster Benjamin Disraeli, the first Earl of Beaconsfield.

Beaconsfield Historic House, Charlottetown PEI
Beaconsfield Historic House Museum, Charlottetown, PEI

Beaconsfield Historic House

Beaconsfield Historic House

Beaconsfield Historic House

Beaconsfield Historic House
Beaconsfield's elegant waterfront fa├žade.

Beaconsfield Historic House
The unrivaled view from the porch and gardens of Beaconsfield.

James Peake was a highly successful merchant and shipowner, and his wife's father (one of the "Fathers of Confederation") was named Lt. Governor of the Island a couple of years after James and Edith finished construction on Beaconsfield.  Both the family and the house thus served eminent and highly visible functions in the social world of Victorian Charlottetown, playing host to fashionably grand gatherings and parties, with guests including Princess Louise, the daughter of Queen Victoria.

Beaconsfield Historic House

Beaconsfield Historic House

Beaconsfield Historic House, Charlottetown PEI

Beaconsfield Historic House, Charlottetown PEI

Beaconsfield Historic House

Beaconsfield Historic House

Beaconsfield Historic House

As "the most luxurious and expensive private residence on the Island," Beaconsfield featured a number of modern conveniences, like running water and gas lighting,  The ceilings are decorated with elaborate plasterwork and the house's grand fireplaces, formal staircase, and stunning stained glass windows has all been painstakingly restored, providing a glimpse into the fashionable elegance and grandeur that distinguished the house to all who visited it.

Beaconsfield Historic House

Beaconsfield Historic House

Beaconsfield Historic House, Charlottetown PEI

Beaconsfield Historic House, Charlottetown PEI

Beaconsfield Historic House, Charlottetown PEI

Beaconsfield Historic House, Charlottetown PEI

Beaconsfield Historic House

Beaconsfield Historic House, Charlottetown PEI

A decline in fortune compelled the Peakes to sell the house in 1883, only five years after they had moved in.  The property was purchased by Henry Cundall, who, with his two sisters, called Beaconsfield home until the end of their lives.  Cundall obviously thought highly of his sisters and their accomplishments, for his 1916 will stipulated that the house was to be used as a residence for young professional women.  Over the years, it served as both a YWCA and a residence for nurses working at the city's hospital.  The property came into the hands of the PEI Museum and Heritage Foundation in 1973, and fully restored and opened as a museum twenty years later.

We first visited Beaconsfield the summer after the house was opened as a museum, in 1994, and made a point of returning on this trip, twenty years later.  With even more appreciation now all these years later for the house's fascinating history and its architectural beauty, we thoroughly enjoyed our tour and highly recommend a visit to anyone who might find themselves in Charlottetown in the future!


For more information on Beaconsfield, take a look at:

- PEI Museum and Heritage Foundation's Beaconsfield page for information on visiting the property.
- This fantastic historical overview by
- The City of Charlottetown's Beaconsfield's summary, which includes a picture of the Peakes and a historical picture of Beaconsfield in its Victorian heyday.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

It's Time to Celebrate!

Huzzah!  We're celebrating the one-year anniversary of our Etsy Shop!

To mark this momentous occasion, we invite you to join in the celebration!  From now through August 31st, we're offering 10% off your TOTAL PURCHASE on any in-stock items.  Simply enter the code ANNIVERSARY1 at check-out to take advantage of this super-special limited-time offer!  Please note that this offer does not include custom orders.

And no, it's never too early to begin thinking about building up your cold-weather wardrobe with a new muff or cloak!  :-)  Many of our ready-to-ship items are one-of-a-kind and made with materials that are no longer available, so if you see something you like, snap it up before it's gone forever!

Happy Shopping!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Prince Edward Island Annals

Prince Edward Island

As many of you have undoubtedly surmised from our Facebook updates, we've just concluded a 12-day tour of Prince Edward Island.  This trip was the culmination of 18 years of collective dreaming and reminiscing on behalf of the two of us and our parents.  In 1994, our family made the two-day drive up to Canada and took the ferry across the Northumberland Strait to PEI, in search of one of our literary heroes, Lucy Maud Montgomery, and the magical world she describes in her books.  As anyone who has visited PEI can attest, the island's "spirit of place" swiftly casts its spell; we fell in love and ended up visiting the two following summers as well.

After that, life got in the way, as it does, and eighteen years have passed, but in that intervening time, each of us held the special memories of those three summers in a sort of sacred place, and we always talked about going back "one day."  Last summer, we finally decided that "one day" had come at last, and with gleeful anticipation, we began planning and dreaming all over again, so grateful to be given the chance once again to return and experience our memories once more as a family.

Prince Edward Island

Much has changed on PEI in the last 18 years, and much has stayed the same, but it's still one of the most beautiful places we've ever visited.  Over the next couple of weeks, we'll share a tour of our favorite bits of the Island - LOTS of pictures, lots of history, lots of literature, lots of breathtaking landscapes and seascapes, and even a bit of fashion here and there!  So make a cup of tea, sit back, relax, and enjoy some vicarious armchair traveling as we transport you to Prince Edward Island...

Prince Edward Island

Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Great Fabric De-Stashing - Now Available on Etsy!

We've just done a massive - and I mean massive - purge of the fabric cabinet and have listed all of the de-stashed treasures in our Shop on Etsy, hoping to find someone who can give them a new home!

All of these fabrics are out of print; many are vintage, some are a bit more recent.  Some of the prints are reproductions, others strongly representative of period motifs, colors, and styles, but all quite acceptable for use in historical clothing and costumes.  Most are 18th century, with a couple of 19th century options thrown in for the fun of it.  :-)  The only reason we've decided to part with all of this is because the stash has gotten WAY out of control and needed some serious taming.  That, and we needed an excuse to buy more fabric and no excuse works better than having room in the cabinet for it!

So if you're in the mood to add something new to your stash (and help us make a bit more room in ours!), check out our new fabric department!

Here's a sample of some of the prints now newly available.  We hope you find something that captures your fancy!

https://www.etsy.com/listing/191991892/18th-century-inspired-cotton-print?ref=listing-shop-header-1

https://www.etsy.com/listing/191698150/williamsburg-18th-century-reproduction?ref=listing-shop-header-2

https://www.etsy.com/listing/192221306/winterthur-museum-18th-century?

https://www.etsy.com/listing/191459375/dar-museum-reproduction-fabric-1780-1790?ref=shop_home_active_6
 
https://www.etsy.com/listing/191893969/1860s-cotton-print-fabric-per-yd-klassic?ref=listing-shop-header-3

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Threaded Bliss

Reproduction Cotton Print Shortgown
from the collection of the Chester County Historical Society,
1780-1790

reproduction printed short gown, 1780-1790

The pattern: This shorgown is reproduced almost exactly from an extant garment in the collection of the Chester County Historical Society.  A scaled pattern and several photos are included on pages 23-25 of Sharon Burnston's Fitting and Proper.  Another photo can be seen on page 142 in Cloth and Costume 1750-1800.  Unfortunately, I can't find any pictures of it online, so you'll have to refer to these printed sources to compare mine to the original!

I made only two changes when reproducing the original.  The body of the original shortgown is fully lined in an off-white linen, with the ends of the sleeves lined in a linen printed with brown flowers.  I elected not to fully line the body of mine because the fabric is a little bit heavier than usual, and I plan to use this primarily for summer camp wear, when the least amount of fabric layers one has on, the better!  I did line/face the ends of the sleeves in a reproduction printed cotton, however.

The only other change I made was to eliminate the two sets of pleats on either side of the front of the shortgown, which were used to help tailor the shape a bit in front.  This is a feature that you don't normally see on shortgowns, so I felt completely justified in omitting it.  Because of the weight of the fabric, I found that these pleats just added some awkward-looking, unnecessary bulk to my stomach area just below the waistline where they flared out.  This being hardly desirable, and since such pleats aren't at all necessary to shaping the garment, and especially considering that it will always be worn under an apron to hold it in place, I instead simply followed the curve of the neckline of the original and the fit worked out beautifully.

reproduction printed short gown, 1780-1790

Construction details: I started out by scaling up the pattern of the original and cutting out the basic outline.  Because the shortgown is cut from a single piece of fabric, and because the pattern of this fabric has a defined direction, I followed the original in choosing to have the design "upside down" in the front and "rightside up" in the back.

reproduction printed short gown, 1780-1790
Cutting out the basic outline from a single piece of fabric folded into quarters.

I then double-checked that the original neckline shape would work on my body and, once concluding that it would, I carefully cut it out in both the front and back.  The sleeve facings were then pieced on, as per the original.

reproduction printed short gown, 1780-1790
The turned-back sleeve facings in a contrasting fabric,
a feature copied directly from the original.

Because I elected not to line my shortgown, the two side seams are finished with tiny flat-felled seams, a feature I copied from an unlined extant shortgown from the same collection, found on pages 20-22 in Fitting and Proper.

reproduction printed short gown, 1780-1790
Matched stripes in the side seams!

reproduction printed short gown, 1780-1790
The interior side seam, flat-felled to protect it from wear.

Next, the back pleats were set in and top-stitched, just as in the original, and the sleeve facings folded under and slipstitched down into place inside.

reproduction printed short gown, 1780-1790
Back of the shortgown...

reproduction printed short gown, 1780-1790
...with two sets of pleats top-stitched into place.

reproduction printed short gown, 1780-1790
Back pleating detail.

Finally, the neckline, center front, and hem edges were finished with a narrow hem.  A facing strip covers the raw edge of the center-back where the pleats are turned in, another detail copied from the unlined shortgown.

reproduction printed short gown, 1780-1790
A facing strip covers the interior back neckline and helps secure the back pleats.

reproduction printed short gown, 1780-1790

reproduction printed short gown, 1780-1790
The interior of the unlined shortgown.

Further construction details on this shortgown can be found in Claudia Kidwell's article, "Short Gowns," which appeared in Dress: The Journal of the Costume Society of America, volume 4 (1978), pp. 30-65.

reproduction printed short gown, 1780-1790

The fabric: Duran Textiles reproduced the original textile in the document size and colorway (they call it "Daisy"), and when I discovered that Wm Booth, Draper was adding it to their stock, of course I just had to take advantage of the opportunity and use it to do a true reproduction piece.  The print itself is lovely and I always appreciate access to true reproduction textiles.  It is a little pricey, but since I only needed a 1.25 yards, it ended up being quite reasonable.

reproduction printed short gown, 1780-1790

The sleeves of the original shortgown were lined in linen printed with a simple, stylized pattern of brown flowers.  Luckily, I had a small piece of a reproduction brown print (on cotton) done by Windham several years ago, which was a perfect approximation for this project.  I love the way it looks against the stripes of the primary textile.

reproduction printed short gown, 1780-1790

Finishing the look: I apologize that the "model" pictures for this project aren't very interesting!  I wore this for the first time a couple of days ago when doing a cooking demonstration at a local state park, and we were so busy talking and working all day long that I didn't have a chance to get any pictures taken until the very end of the day.  As soon as I get some more exciting "pretty" shots, I'll be sure to add them!

reproduction printed short gown, 1780-1790

For the school program, I paired the shortgown with a brown linen petticoat and a blue/yellow/natural cross-barred linen apron - the perfect outfit to wear while working around fire, soot, grease, and dirt all day long in the heat of a sunny late-spring day!  It's worn, as always, over my fully-boned stays, a shift, and a linen underpetticoat.  Forgive all the wrinkles - that's what happens after 6 hours of hard work bending and lifting and working over a fire!  :-)

reproduction printed short gown, 1780-1790
 
If you'd like to see larger versions of any of the pictures, just click on them to access the full size.  Additional photos can be found in this project's flickr set.