Friday, January 7, 2011

Sewing for the Literary-Minded

Just before Christmas, while doing a little online holiday shopping, I discovered that the Sullivan Films shop offers for sale a pattern from Anne of Green Gables: The Continuing Story movie. It is Anne's wedding dress, a simple yet elegant gown inspired by a 1916 Canadian catalog wedding dress (because, if you recall, Anne's hurried wedding in the film necessitated the purchase of something pre-made).

My version of this dress will not be for a wedding; instead, I'm thinking perhaps either black (the sheer sleeves would look so pretty!) or a pastel color to make it a pretty springy outfit. With a hat, of course. Must have a hat.

I emailed the company to inquire if there were currently any plans to release any other patterns of costumes from the two earlier films, but they replied in the negative. Perhaps if we bombard them with inquiries so that they know there's plenty of interest, we can stir something up! I know I, for one, would love to get my hands on a pattern for Anne's "Gibson Girl" dress from Anne of Avonlea (er, Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel, if you prefer!), or that gorgeous gown she wears to the opera on her visit to Boston, or...well, I'd be happy with whatever they could offer!

Because of the timeline shift in the first Anne film, Kevin Sullivan had to bring the third up to the period of World War I. In the movie world, then, Anne and Gilbert don't marry until 1915, while in the book (Anne's House of Dreams), their wedding takes place around 1890, and it is not until the eighth volume in the series (Rilla of Ingleside) that L.M. Montgomery reaches the war years, by which time the main character has become Anne and Gilbert's youngest daughter.

Lucy Maud Montgomery (Anne's creator) and Ewan Macdonald were married on 5 July 1911, closer in date to the movie Anne and Gilbert than their original literary counterparts. We visited Prince Edward Island several times back in the mid-90s, and saw LMM's wedding gown on display at her birthplace in New London, and also visited the parlor room where she was married at her cousins the Campbells' home at Park Corner. Descendants of LMM still own the Park Corner property and permit wedding ceremonies to be conducted before the very same fireplace where LMM stood on her wedding day (and yes, all of the original furniture is still there, too). All three years we visited the house, there were couples having wedding pictures taken on the grounds.

LMM's wedding gown on display at the LMM Birthplace. 
Photo linked from Reverand Sam's flickr photostream.

LMM recorded in her journal that "my wedding dress was of white-silk crepe de soie with tunic of chiffon and pearl bead trimming - and of course the tulle veil and orange blossom wreath."  She also wore "Ewan's present - a necklace of of amethysts and pearls.  My bouquet was of white roses and lilies of the valley" (The Selected Journals of L.M. Montgomery, Vol II, pgs. 64-7).  Interestingly, these same materials - white silk de soie with a chiffon overdress decorated with bead trimming - were also used to create Anne's movie wedding dress, though in a much more "modern" style.

Photograph of LMM's wedding gown.  The gown is
the property of the LMM Birthplace.  The photo is
copyrighted by the LMM Institute.

The gown was made by Margaret Bulman of New Glasgow, PEI.  We visited well before the age of digital cameras, and the photos we have are so badly lit you can't make out what's in them, so I've had to link to online images instead.

Montgomery also wrote about the enjoyment she and her Park Corner cousins derived from the arrival of her trousseau, which the hard-earned funds from her newly-published novels had enabled her to order all the way from Toronto and Montreal. She modelled them proudly as her cousin snapped photographs, and later inserted the photos into one of her scrapbooks. Swatches of some of the fabrics were also carefully saved there, along with some flowers from her bouquet. Click here for a brief but very neat little video from the L.M. Montgomery Institute showing the scrapbook page.  I remember seeing some of LMM's scrapbooks on display at her New London Birthplace and at the PEI Confederation Centre of the Arts, but I don't recall seeing this particular one. Guess I'll just have to go back again!

Some of the photos are below, and she described the outfits thus in her journal: "My trousseau, which I had made mainly in Toronto and Montreal, began to arrive and we were all interested in that.  My things were pretty...These are snaps the girls took of some of my dresses.  My suit was of steel gray cloth, with gray chiffon blouse and gray hat trimmed with a wreath of tiny rosebuds.  My long wrap was of gray broadcloth.  Besides the dresses 'illustrated' I had a linen dress, a pink muslin, one of white embroidery, and several odd waists" (The Selected Journals of L.M. Montgomery, Vol II, pgs. 64-6).  If only they had survived as well as the wedding gown!

More images of the trousseau can be see in The Selected Journals of L.M. Montgomery, Vol. II, pg. 65.

For further information on all of these items, visit the Confederation Centre's "L.M. Montgomery's Wedding Clothes" page.  The page is part of a larger project based on a recent exhibit of LMM's scrapbooks, called "Picturing a Canadian Life: L.M. Montgomery's Personal Scrapbooks and Book Covers."  If you're interested in taking a closer look at some of the scrapbooks (which intriguingly contain many swatches and fashion clippings), check out Imagining Anne: The Island Scrapbooks of L.M. Montgomery, the book that accompanies the exhibit.  Further information on the life and writings of L.M. Montgomery can be found through the L.M. Montgomery Institute.


Jenni said...

Lovely pictures! The late 'teens' era have always been one of my favorites for fashion. What a great pattern!

lahbluebonnet said...

Wow, what a wealth of information! I checked all the links! My copy of the pattern will be wonderful for when we study WWI era again. I wasn't able to find any patterns the last time we studied that era.