Saturday, November 19, 2011

Of Gowns and Calashes and Favorite Things

Margaret Hunter milliner's shop, Colonial Williamsburg

Our sincere apologies for disappearing for so long!  Is it really over a month since our last post?  Between heaps and piles of work, losing power for eight days in the pre-Halloween snow storm, and too-busy schedules, we haven't had time for anything lately!  At long last, we're back - with promises to make up for missed time and then some!  We have many exciting things to share with you over the next few weeks, so thank you for your patience during our absence and keep checking back now for frequent updates!  :-)

Ashley was in Williamsburg for a workshop and conference this past week, so I tagged along for the ride (who wouldn't take advantage of any excuse she could get to go there?!).  Although I spent 90% of my time in the city's various libraries doing research and other work, I made sure to take a few hours to enjoy the stunning autumn transformation of the historic area.  Of course, I had to make a stop (fine, I admit it - two stops...) at the Margaret Hunter shop to indulge in all the new gorgeous fashionable creations on display and to chat with the ladies about their current projects.

Margaret Hunter milliner's shop, Colonial Williamsburg
A close-up of the front of "Mrs Newton's Gown," which was reproduced 
from a portrait last year by the ladies of the shop.

Before Ashley headed off to her workshop on Friday, we ventured into the shop to find Journeywoman Mrs Warren discussing this reproduction of an uncut embroidered waistcoat.  She explained how a general pattern for the waistcoat fronts and pockets would be drawn first, then the front panels, the pocket flaps, and the buttons would be embroidered with the proper cutting allowance.  The tailor would then cut the pattern and make up the waistcoat to the specifications of his client.  It is rare to find uncut pieces like this, which makes it all the more fascinating to look at and to study its production process.

Margaret Hunter milliner's shop, Colonial Williamsburg
An uncut embroidered waistcoat.  You can see the two front panels, with
the row of small flowers running up the middle that would be made into
individual covered buttons.  At the very top edge, you can see a pocket, which
would also be cut and then applied to its proper place on one of the front pieces.

Also on display around the shop were the usual array of silk gowns, covered hats, cotton prints, and muffs.

Margaret Hunter milliner's shop, Colonial Williamsburg

Margaret Hunter milliner's shop, Colonial Williamsburg

One morning a couple of days ago, I found apprentice Sarah and Miss Emma hard at work on a new green taffeta calash.  Several of the other visitors in the shop expressed curiosity about the concept and the bonnet's purpose, so Emma brought out the massive "Spruce Sportsman" black calash she modeled at the March conference and explained how it worked.  It's always so much fun to watch peoples' faces when they hear about excessive, quirky fashion trends like that for the first time!

Margaret Hunter milliner's shop, Colonial Williamsburg
Emma demonstrates one calash for the guests,
while Sarah works on a smaller green one at the table.

Ashley's reports on her workshop and the conference will be coming soon, as well as some additional fall photos from around town.  Stay tuned!

6 comments:

An Historical Lady said...

Thanks for making me feel as it I were there with you! Having been at Williamsburg for 5 days for Christmas, on our honeymoon 4 years ago, I would dearly love to go back...It was the best Christmas I ever had...
Happy Christmas wishes to both of you~
Mary
http://anhistoricallady.blogspot.com

Time Traveling in Costume said...

I still giggle every time I see Emma because I remember how silly she was at the Costume Accessories Symposium in the little scenerios they did. She's such a natural born comedian.
That "smocked" stomacher is making my fingers itch.
Val

Rebecca said...

Merry Christmas to you, too, Mary! CW at Christmas is definitely a very special place.

Val, isn't that stomacher something? I wish I knew how to do that. Is it smocked, do you think? Or just gathered? I wish I had thought to ask the milliner ladies about it.
I thought Emma was fantastic in the conference skit, too. She's got a great sense of humor and her facial expressions were so priceless! If only we could talk CW into doing another conference soon...:-)

Time Traveling in Costume said...

I'm thinking it's more gathered or pulled thread, not smocked. But smocked does describe it best. I have a couple email connections there at CW and I'll see if anyone can find out for us.
Val

Time Traveling in Costume said...

Rebecca, here is what my friend who works in CW described the pleating as..
"The stomacher has vertical whipped gathers, more or less like straight gathering lines about an inch and a quarter apart. Does that make sense? It's a really easy treatment. Plain old' gathering is very easy. The whipped gathering stays in place a bit better."
Not sure if it makes sense to me but it does tell me it's gathered.
Val

Rebecca said...

Oh wow, THANK YOU Val! This definitely makes sense, although I'm wondering if your friend might have meant horizontal, rather than vertical gathers? I'm going to have to try this out and see if it works - I've got a new gown in the works for two upcoming balls and this style stomacher would be perfect! I'll let you know how it turns out.

Thank you so much for taking the trouble to ask!