Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Reproducing L.M. Montgomery's Trousseau

Back on January 7th, we did a post about the wedding clothes and trousseau of L.M. Montgomery, a discussion prompted by the discovery of a pattern of Anne's wedding dress from the third Anne movie, Anne of Green Gables: The Continuing Story.  In that earlier post, we marveled that photos, a verbal description, and even swatches of some of the fabric had survived to record Montgomery's trousseau in such intimate detail.  Just imagine my surprise and delight when I discovered this post on Laurie's blog yesterday about a tailor who has just finished recreating almost the entire trousseau in honor of LMM's 100th wedding anniversary.  Talk about a historical costumer's dream project!

Smith with the reproduction trousseau.
Photo linked from the Guardian article.

In a July 4th article for PEI's Guardian, tailor Arnold Smith describes how he got the idea to bring Montgomery's trousseau back to life.  For the 100th anniversary of the publication of Anne of Green Gables back in 2008, Smith costumed Cavendish's commemorative parade and picnic, and it was during his research for that event that he stumbled across the images of the trousseau.  This past February, he began work on it and the six garments premiered a week ago to mark the milestone anniversary of LMM's wedding day.

Smith meticulously researched each of the gowns in order to reproduce them as closely as possible.  As with any true reproduction project, however, some issues had to be thoughtfully addressed.  For instance, because the photographs of the original clothing show only the front sides, he delved into turn-of-the-century issues of the Ladies Home Journal to find similar styles that could provide an idea of how the rest of each garment most likely looked.  Fabrics, too, were carefully researched and selected both for their appropriateness to the period and according to LMM's own stated preferences for color tones, as Smith describes on his blog.  And to make these pieces as close as possible to true reproductions, Smith even constructed them in Montgomery's exact size, using her own detailed description of her physical appearance and measurements (Smith's blog entry offers the full quotation from the Journals).

Smith's reproduction of LMM's favorite gown from the trousseau.
Photo by Arnold Smith, linked from his blog on the project.

What I find most interesting about this project is the fact that it enlightened Smith (and all of us seeing the physical manifestation of these gowns now) not only about the garments themselves, but also about the woman who selected and wore them, offering an innovative way into thinking about the famous author's personality, her preferences, and the social pressures under which she functioned.  "'She liked nice clothes. As an author, she was always being asked to speak, so she knew that she needed things that were classy,' he says.  But, as a minster’s wife, she could never be over the top.  'To be taken seriously she had to be both well dressed and appropriately dressed. Her trousseau reflects that,' says Smith" (Guardian article). 

From now until the end of the summer, half of the reproduction trousseau will be on view at the Green Gables Heritage Place in Cavendish, PEI, and the other half can be seen at the Leaksdale Manse in Uxbridge, Ontario, where LMM lived after her marriage and where 11 of the 22 works published during her lifetime were written.  If you can't make it to see the reproduction trousseau in person, be certain to visit Arnold Smith's blog for many more details on the project, the process, and the products, including lots of superb research and loads of pictures!  For further information, see also the Guardian article mentioned above, and this article in The Buzz.

If you're interested in reading more about LMM's original trousseau, be sure to visit our earlier post (which includes photos and a list of resources), as well as the Confederation Centre's "L.M. Montgomery's Wedding Clothes" page.  Additional photos of the trousseau can be found in The Selected Journals of L.M. Montgomery, Vol. II and in The Lucy Maud Montgomery Album, by Kevin McCabe.

Thanks again to Laurie for discovering this story and sharing it!


lahbluebonnet said...

Thank you for sharing that blog! I have it bookmarked to keep checking back!

Rebecca said...

Thank *you* for sharing this story in the first place! I wouldn't have known about it otherwise!

Isn't that blog great? I hope he continues to post about the project, even though it's finished. I'd love to hear more about the process Perhaps he can be persuaded to do some recreate the wedding gown...oooo, wouldn't that be something?!

lahbluebonnet said...

Leave comments on his blog and let him know!