Thursday, March 17, 2011

"Costume Accessories: Head to Toe" Colonial Williamsburg/CSA Symposium

Day Four

Muffs, mitts, caps, fringe, cloaks, and other pretties made by the CW milliners.

The lectures having ended Tuesday evening, Wednesday was the designated optional programs bridge-day between the Sunday-Tuesday accessories symposium and the Thursday-Friday conference on the use of costumes in the interpretation of historic sites.  There were a number of costume- and textile-related tours to choose from in the morning, while the afternoon sessions were set aside to attend one of four workshops.

My first program was a behind-the-scenes tour of the costume collection and the new Fashion Accessories from Head to Toe exhibition, let by none other than Linda Baumgarten herself.  Talk about star-struck and the opportunity of a lifetime!  :-)  First, she took us into the costume storage facilities, which house closets full (and I mean FULL) of hanging original gowns and petticoats and formal jackets, with drawers of breeches and waistcoats in between.  Linda had pulled an incredible gown out for us to see, along with a frock coat.  After about fifteen minutes of drooling and sighing, we headed upstairs where Linda gave us an overview of the challenges she faced and the pleasant surprises she encountered in mounting the accessories exhibit.  She explained some curator's techniques to displaying antique items without damaging them, and also shared some of the secrets revealed by the items themselves as she studied them closely prior to mounting them.  What a special treat this tour was!

A fabulous 1800ish bonnet made by the CW milliners that was
featured in the fashion show on Tuesday afternoon.

The second tour I chose was of the textiles storage facility.  Kimberly Smith Ivey, associate curator of textiles and historic interiors, led us around the state-of-the-art room filled with rows upon rows of drawers full of gowns, jackets, aprons, breeches, waistcoats, dolls, samplers, sewing implements and accessories, quilts, bed hangings, chair covers, and rolls of fabrics, along with buttons and jewelry.  For an hour, we got to explore this plethora of treasures.  We divided into several smaller groups, each group heading towards the items in which they were most interested, and from our corner with the gowns and jackets, we periodically heard from elsewhere in the room gasps and squeals and sighs (meanwhile often exuding plenty of our own!).  It was probably the happiest roomful of people I've ever been around!

A velvet-trimmed silk satin muff made by the CW milliners.

After lunch, Ashley headed to a button workshop (which I'll leave to her more capable hands to describe!), while I scurried off to one on silk muffs, led by Janea Whitacre.  Scattered across a table was a pile (oh, glorious pile!) overflowing with muffs, mitts, caps, bonnets, cloaks, mantles, and fringe.  After explaining the evolution of the style and shape of the fashionable muff across the century, we selected our fabric and trims and got to work.  Three and a half hours later, we had all finished or mostly-finished them.  Of course, there being a big difference between finished and mostly finished, I will refrain from sharing my mostly-finished muff until it's completely done.  I selected a pretty springy-minty green silk, perfect for those cool yet bright spring days.  As soon as it's done, I promise to share lots of pictures!

The Spruce Sportsman muff, made by the CW milliners and featured
 in Tuesday's fashion show and in the accessories exhibit video
at the DeWitt Wallace.

A precious miniature muff, measuring only about 4.5".

Today began the "Reconstructed Visitable Past" conference, with a 9 to 5 day chock-full of back-to-back talks.  But that will have to wait until tomorrow!  Two posts in one day is more than enough for exhausted me!


lahbluebonnet said...

Wow, wow, wow! Even though I don't know the other options, I'd have made the same choice of tours and class as you did! My imagination is soaring!

Time Traveling in Costume said...

I was there too, and took the Behind the Scenes tour with Linda, and then took the muff making workshop. I just posted in my blog about my muff, which I just finished.
It was an amazing week! I wasn't in the second portion of the conference tho.

Rebecca said...

Haahaa, Val! I just saw your post and commented! I didn't recognize you from your blog (I'm terrible at recognizing faces!), or I would have said hello! I *love* your finished muff, it came out beautifully. One of these days, I'll get around to finishing mine...:-)