Thursday, December 28, 2017

Two Refashioned Silk Dresses

Photograph by Laura Wulf @Massachusetts Historical Society
Exhibit Teaser: Two refashioned silk dresses will be featured in the forthcoming exhibition at the Massachusetts Historical Society ( ‘Fashioning the New England Family’ which opens October 2018. The lush, emerald green dress on the left began as Spitalfields silk damask wedding dress, worn by Rebecca Tailer [Byles] for her Boston wedding to Reverend Mather Byles, in 1747. It was altered, clumsily, c.1830s-40s, most likely for a costume or fancy dress event. Her matching shoes are extant and will also be on view.

Photograph by Laura Wulf @Massachusetts Historical Society
Unfortunately, we do not know who made or wore the well-constructed pale green silk dress on the right. It shows the hand of a skilled dressmaker and most likely has a New England connection. Examination by costume historian and mannequin maker, Astrida Schaeffer, revealed the possibility that the original c1830s dress was replete with popular pouf sleeves, which were painstakingly remade for the 1840s.

Photograph by Laura Wulf @Massachusetts Historical Society
Photograph by Laura Wulf @Massachusetts Historical Society
Guest Curator, Kimberly Alexander, Ph.D.
MHS Curator, Anne Bentley
Photographer, Laura Wulf

Both dresses are shown on custom mannequins made by Astrida Schaeffer of Schaeffer Arts. (

Monday, December 11, 2017

Young Hannah Haines Diary: "I will never be vaccinated again" 1897-1912

Photo of the young diarist,  Hannah Wiswall Haines Webb  with her mother. Hannah was an only child, and was evidently doted on by parents and family alike.  

A recent donation to the Newmarket, NH Historical Society is the diary of young girl, Hannah Haines Webb (b. 1889), written sporadically in the 1890s through the early 1900s. In it, she worries about illness - measles, mumps, smallpox and whooping cough; the pain and recovery of inoculation, and the  death of her cat. Hannah also makes mention of a 'sleepover' and the several weddings she attended. To her diary, she divulged her savings in a tin box of $3.45 (which was separate from her bank account). Her diary opens around in the late 1890s and the last entry in her short diary was to record a wedding in 1912.
"Romeo was killed by a dog..." Diary entry, c. 1901-1902
"I will never be vaccinated again. I have two ugly scars on my left arm and always
will." March 3 1904, age 15. She was first vaccinated in 1901 at age 12.
This note was tucked away in the back pocket of the diary, with detailed descriptions of how to return it to its owner.
The diary is in the collection of the Newmarket Historical Society. The author thanks John Carmichael and the Board for permission to share the diary.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Holiday Gift Ideas for the Historically Minded

Jeff and I gathered a short list of holiday items for the historically-minded shopper. This year, we are highlighting books by women authors and businesses owned and run by women.  Please note that we are patrons of these vendors and authors and accept no gifts or advertising.

American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Dressmaking:

An Agreeable Tyrant, by Alden O’Brien, et al for the DAR:

I, Eliza Hamilton, by Susan Holloway Scott

The Turncoat (and other novels of the American Revolution), by Donna Thorland


Dames a la Mode: Dames a la Mode creates reproduction 18th and 19th Century jewelry, specializing in Georgian Collet Necklaces and Paste Jewelry.

Sign of the Gray Horse: Kimberly Walters sells reproduction and historically inspired jewelry for her four rescued and one adopted Colonial Williamsburg horse.

Burnley and Trowbridge: B & T Company specializes in historically accurate fabrics, notions, patterns, research material and related items.  Catering to Historic Sites, Museums, Educational Facilities, Re-enactors, Theater & Screen since 1982. 

Specialty Items

Marie Antoinette Street Wear, custom made contemporary clothing with an 18th century aesthetic.

Chawton House Mittens (pattern download)

HatsPeriod are makers of fine period style hats with a range of ladies millinery modelled from 18th, 19th and early 20th century designs, and for the gentlemen, smoking hats similar to those worn throughout the 19th and early 20th century. Hats from earlier periods can be made to special order.

Fashionable Frolick:

Sign of the Golden Scissors:

Friday, October 13, 2017

More Red Georgian Shoes

Red silk satin pumps, possibly worn in New Hampshire, c. 1780s
Moffatt-Ladd House and Garden, Colonial Dames, Portsmouth, New Hampshire 
These vibrant red pumps were probably made in London and are similar in style to shoes by London shoemakers, Chamberlain and Son, from the same time period. Red continued to be a popular color for women's shoes, even wedding shoes, throughout the 18th century. [1] Buckles were needed for fastening the lachets or straps.  They are lined with linen and feature the minute stitches at heel indicating the work of a skilled cordwainer. The shoes are on the large side and wide, indicating a custom or bespoke order. The architectonic, balanced color scheme and smooth surface is indicative of the Neoclassical influence, as 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. 

Unfortunately, both the maker and wearer are currently unknown. I will be discussing theses shoes and other Georgian, Regency and Victorian examples of footwear at the Moffatt-Ladd Harvesting History event, October 21.  (For information

1. I will discuss many examples of red Georgian shoes in my forthcoming book, "Georgian Shoe Stories from Early America" Johns Hopkins University Press, 2018.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Textile Collages Take Center Stage in 'Encore Encapsulation' Installation by Lily Zane

“Everything a Circle” conveys the tedium and tiresome redundancy of woman’s handwork that so often adorns textiles throughout the ages — and how women enrich lives one small loop, stitch and quilt square at a time.
- Lily Zane
Textile artist and designer, Lily Zane, is a friend and colleague whose work never ceases to inspire me. She is taking part in New York Textile Month and has created “The Encore Encapsulations Interactive Exhibit” which “explores the relationship of artisanal textiles of past and present and our relationship to them. The intricate Encore Encapsulation textile collages are layered with an audio and visual component which demonstrate the ritual, functionality, adornment and our intimate relationship between what we own and what little we know about this stuff we call fabric. Our aim in examining the past and outlining the importance of the maker; we gain a greater understanding of the products we consume and live with and the importance of preserving our rich and diversified textile traditions and keeping them alive and vital.”

One of Lily’s collages which speaks to me and my love of textiles is entitled “A 
Woman’s Work is Never Done.”

 Check out Lily’s work September 26,27, 28 2017 @ Dave White Studio 873 Broadway Suite 605 / Dial 036 for entry NY, NY 10003

Click here for more images and exhibition details.