Thursday, May 21, 2015

You are invited to a costume tea and dancing….

I, Sarah Wentworth Macpheadris extend an invitation to you and your friends for a special afternoon at
the MacPheadris-Warner House, Portsmouth, NH.
Saturday 13 June, from 11-3:00.
Period costume encouraged.
In your finest 18th, 19th or early 20th century attire, do come and celebrate my forthcoming wedding with an afternoon of tea and entertainment. My dear Mr. Jaffrey will not be on hand to greet you and sends his regrets. In lieu of his delightful repartee,
from 2 PM to 3 PM, the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society (RSCDS) Boston Chapter, quite well-known in these parts, will demonstrate the latest in fashionable Scottish dance. All will be welcome to join in the gaiety.
If you do not partake in dance, please feel free to join in a spirited croquet match on our lawn.

I live in one of the finest early-Georgian brick houses in New England, c. 1716. I would not be too bold as to add that we are also among the best appointed in these northerly climes - our gardens are delightful, our murals powerful and our smalt chamber the envy of many. Declared a National Historic Landmark in 1960, we are well situated in downtown Portsmouth, near the mighty Piscataqua (and rather close to Maine).

Light refreshments will be served. The party is on our annual free admission day, but donations are always most welcomed. RSVP to Jeffrey Hopper, Warner House Steward at by 10 June. For additional information find us on Facebook or 

Our friends Master and Mistress Spencer have lovely images at

Friday, May 15, 2015

Inspired by Eliza Pinckney's Indigo: Madame Magar’s Studio

I recently had the opportunity to visit Charleston and the Charleston Museum for their launch of the “Pinckney Project.” The “Project” is an initiative dedicated to raising funds to conserve one of Eliza Lucas Pinckney’s surviving dresses. Pinckney (1722-1793) was an 18th century Renaissance mind and citizen of the world, who experimented with sericulture. [1] Her work with indigo in South Carolina generated a potentially lucrative opportunity for Great Britain to expand the indigo market and challenge French production in the world market.

In addition to seeing her elegant pale blue shoes (Read on..) and her salmon-hued silk damask dress (More..), I had the good fortune to meet Leigh Magar, who joined the event featuring “Madame Magar's Makeshift Studio.” So inspired is she by Eliza Pinckney and indigo, that she has planted the crop herself and is experimenting with various natural dyes. 
She uses not only indigo, but also tea and tobacco on her lovely hand sewn textiles and clothing.  I was captivated by Madame Magar’s indigo bodices and summer shifts.

Madame Magar is generously assisting with raising funds in support of the gown and its conservation. For example, a striking quilted indigo piece is underway for a forthcoming auction. 

You can follow her work via Facebook ( You can follow the Charleston Museum and the Pinckney Project via Facebook (, Instagram and Tumblr.

1. There are numerous online and print resources available for the study of Eliza Pinckney.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Cherry Red Silk Pumps, c. 1780s

Who wore these vibrant red pumps in the later years of the 18th century? The shoes are in the collection of the Moffatt-Ladd House, Portsmouth, NH ( Although the original owner of these bright beauties is not currently known, it is likely that they were worn in New Hampshire. They are similar to stylish shoes being produced by the London cordwainers, Chamberlain and Son at roughly the same time. While they may have been made in Great Britain, they certainly could have come from a Boston or Lynn shoemaker as well. They feature a white leather-clad heel of about two inches and are lined in linen. Buckles were needed for fastening the lachets.  

Chamberlain & Sons, silk shoes from the collection of the Portsmouth Historical Society

These shoes are on the large side (about a size 9 US) and wide, indicating perhaps a bespoke (custom) order. The heels exhibit some wear and the shoes have losses to the white trim bindings. The architectonic, balanced color scheme and smooth surface is indicative of the growing Neoclassical influence. Women's shoes moved away from the heavy embroidery and richly decorated silk brocades found earlier in the 18th century, associated with the Rococo style.

The curatorial team at Moffatt-Ladd may well come up with additional information, as these shoes were recently donated (winter 2015). They are currently on view (through June 5, 2015) at “Cosmopolitan Consumption: New England Shoe Stories, 1750-1850” at the Portsmouth Athenaeum.

The author thanks Barbara McLean Ward, Ph.D., Director & Curator and Cheryl Cullimore, of the Moffatt-Ladd House, and Astrida Schaeffer, of SchaefferArts, for their generous assistance.