Sunday, March 11, 2018

Hina Matsuri: The Dolls Festival

As usually happens in my life: It all began with a book.  In second grade, I discovered the books of Rumer Godden.  In particular, "Miss Happiness and Miss Flower" won my 8 year old heart.  Originally, published in 1961, with beautiful artwork by Jean Primrose, the story captured my eager dolly-centric imagination.  Like the lonely child, Nona, I too wished to learn about Japan and set about absorbing as much as possible about culture, art, and The Dolls Festival. 

On March 3rd of each year Hina Matsuri, also called Girls Day or Dolls Festival, is celebrated in Japan. It is characterized by impressive displays of dolls meant to represent the Emperor and Empress of Japan and their courtiers.  A day set aside to honour young girls, and to pray for their health and happiness, it is a traditional family celebration rather than a large public festival.

In the 40 years since I first read "Miss Happiness and Miss Flower, I have privately acknowledged the day on my calender, either by going to lunch for sushi, or honouring my dolls with flowers. With the advent of Facebook, I began sharing posts each year.  In 2015, I was ecstatic to be able to view  a full display of antique Emperor and Empress dolls and court, at the Portland Japanese Garden.

Over the years, I collected non-fiction books on Japanese culture and art, as well as children's books and other small bits and bobs.  As I displayed them around the house, I discovered I actually have a sub-collection of cat-themed items. Perhaps next year, I will host a scavenger hunt, to find them all.  Hah!
Cat-themed Japanese books, art, and candy! 

Kitsune is acting curator of my small collection of Japanese books.

Vintage silk printed robe, made for the tourist trade, post WWII Hawaii.  Gifted to me as a small child.  There is a small photograph of me wearing it circa 1975.

More bits and bobs: roll-top pencil box, musical jewelry box, dolls, sugar bowl, hand painted fan.

 This year, I decided to host a tea party, and invited several friends, and children, to my home.  I encouraged them to bring a doll or other significant childhood toy, share an uplifting story, or write a haiku to Spring.  My husband generously helped cater the event.  In preparation, we visited Uwajimaya to purchase my favourite daifuku mochi, and gyoza.   Although we have made our own sushi, we decided it would best to order a platter of sushi (maki, nigiri, and various rolls) from Momiji's Japanese Crepes and Sushi on Silverton Rd.
We also had cake and shortbread cookies on hand, for those guests that might not care for sushi.  We decided to have a sake tasting, and of course, Tea!

I would like to thank my guests, who were generous with their stories and sense of fun:
  •   Lisa of Wind Horse Antiques shared her collection of tiny bears, and brought vintage fans for guests to purchase.  
  •   Pamela wrote a hilarious Ode to Spring, and brought a Rudy Valentino, a large huggable bear that had accompanied her mother, on many visits to hospital.  
  •   Lynelle wore a gorgeous antique silk and embroidered robe. Family legend has it Fern Casford, a singer and theatre performer, traveled the  Chautauqua circuit in the 1920s with her sister, and this robe may have worn in a production of a musical, such as the Mikado.  Lynelle also shared stories of her adventurous companion,  Hedda Hoppington.  Miss Hedda, a guest in her own right, attended tea in a lovely handmade kimono, and was welcomed into the 1947 Keystone dolls house by her admirer, Monsieur Reynard.  
  •   Nicole, her husband and two sons, each brought a toy to share. Nicole has an incredible collection of vintage clothing. She organized the Petticoats to Poodle Skirts fashion show at the McClean House last month.
  •   Seleste shared the story of her childhood persistence in a colouring contest, that culminated in  her doll, Marguerite St Just. Ella shared her doll, Lilianne, as well as playing with all my toys in both the guest room and studio.

Snug in the parlour.  We had delicious food and conversable friends.

Lynelle's family heirloom silk robe

Pamela.  Her velvet flower bandeau was amazing

Boys are welcome too!   

Seleste and her daughter Ella. 
Nicole's Puppet from Prague.  Check out Nicole's floofy 50's dress fabric--it  has scenes of Paris.  J'adore!

Lynelle and Miss Hedda

Lisa's Tiny Bears
And, we were happily joined by three young people, Ella, Noah, and Riley.  Quite well mannered and intelligent, they shared their favourite playthings and ate all the cake. Hurrah!  I was thrilled to see they seemed quite at home;  At various times reading books, playing with my dolls houses and stuffed animals, or drinking copious amounts of tea.

Official Hostess Portrait. Yes, there are velvet cats on my skirt.  Hehe!

If you would like to learn more about Hina Matsuri, please explore these links below:


Monday, February 12, 2018

Chasseurs Brittaniques, Revisited: A Reading List

Dear Readers, 
Today we have a follow up guest post from Le Chevalier de Valois, on his Chasseurs Brittaniques project. 

Mt. Angel Public Library had a Summer Reading program. I figured this was a good time to do some reading in support of my Chasseurs Brittaniques project.

This is not my entire summer reading list, just the ones that pertain in someway to the Chasseurs specifically or British light infantry in general.

Bianchi, Didier French Military Small Arms
Chartrand, Rene Spanish Guerillas in the Peninsular War 1808-14
Field, Andrew W. Talavera: Wellington's First Victory in Spain
Field, Andrew W. Prelude to Waterloo: Quatre Bras: The French Perspective
Field, Andrew W. Waterloo: The French Perspective
Fosten, Bryan Wellington's Infantry (2)
Griffith, Paddy French Napoleonic Infantry Tactics 1792-1815
Haythornwaite, Philip British Napoleonic Infantry Tactics 1792-1815
Haythornwaite, Philip British Light Infantry & Rifle Tactics of the Napoleonic Wars
Nichols, Alistair Wellington's Mongrel Regiment
Rosworth, Charles The Arte of Defence on Foot, with the Broadsword and Sabre
Wilkinson, Frederick Antique Firearms
Wilkinson-Latham, Robert and Christopher A Blandford Encyclopedia in Colour: Infantry Uniforms

For Chasseurs Brittaniques research Wellington's Mongrel Regiment is a must read. The British Light Infantry & Rifle Tactics was very well written with excellent pictures and diagrams.

~Le Chevalier.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Chasseurs Brittaniques, Revisted.

Dear Readers,
Today we have a guest post from Le Chevalier de Valois.   You may read Part one of the Chasseurs Brittaniques series here.

Several years ago I became interested in the Chasseurs Brittaniques after researching the Armée de Condé for a 1790's impression. The Armée de Condé was one of several royalist counter revolutionary forces opposing the French Revoulution. By 1800 the Armée de Condé was under Russian pay and in 1801 switched to British pay and was renamed the Chasseurs Brittaniques.

The Chasseurs were intended to be light infantry, but when they were issued redcoats in 1803 they were equipped as a line regiment.
The differences in line vs. light equipment include some uniform differences and differences in how the companies are laid out.

As part of my blackpowder shooting pursuits I want to have a proper uniform to go with each of my military guns. I have a replica British Baker rifle and wanted to do a uniform, but not the 60th or 95th Rifles. I came across a variety of pictures that showed Chasseurs equipped with Bakers and with black straps/belts. That seemed odd given that they were equipped as a line regiment. However, in 1812 two companies were added to the Chasseurs, both of these were equipped as light infantry (somewhant oddly with black straps/belts) and some of them were equipped with Baker Rifles.

So I had started pursuing a Chasseurs uniform several years ago. I already had the Baker Rifle kit and am still improving it. I purchased a shako and fitted it for light infantry. Then I lost momentum and the project was shelved.

Fast forward to May of this year. A new Chasseurs Brittaniques reenactment group appeared on Facebook. They are based out of France and were doing straight Napoleonic British reenactment and decided that since they were French they ought to do Chasseurs. There are five of them. We started talking and I got motivated again. I want to do the Light Infantry uniform with my Baker, so I will be 11th Company. Now I have purchased hand made replica buttons from a craftsman in Italy and am awaiting my uniform from another craftsman in Australia. The French Chasseurs have already nicknamed me Private AmNord ("AmNord" is a French contraction for "Amérique du Nord" aka North America).

~Le Chevalier. 

Chasseurs Brittaniques Facebook:

Chasseurs Brittaniques Wiki:

Armée de Condé Wiki:

Sunday, February 4, 2018

When Your Bustle Is Like a Tea Tray

Happy February,
I missed posting last week, as we were out of town.  But I am back with another Past Project Post!

Back in 2015, I had the grand idea that I would finally make myself a Late Victorian Gown. Or, rather I succumbed to the idea, in an effort to have more costumed events to attend here in the Pacific Northwest.  I readily admit, I do not care for Victorian women's fashion.  It appears utterly uncomfortable, with tight corseting, cumbersome skirts, layers of undergarments, and regimented rules of form and etiquette that defined what a woman wore, and how she wore it, according to class and station.  Not to mention the burning question: How does one sit, with a bum like a tea tray??

But I started my research, and decided I would accept the challenge.  It would eventually take me an entire year to complete the project.
I was originally attracted to the Natural Form (1877-82);  I loved the look of the Age of Innocence, specifically Winona Ryder's archery dress.   It seemed less artificial or contrived compared to later styles. I had heard good things about the Truly Victorian patterns.  Unfortunately, when it came time to place my order for the patterns, the cost made me pause. The average price per pattern is $16.50, and each pattern piece is sold separately: Cuirass, underskirt, overskirt, various undergarments.  This makes them interchangeable, but not budget-friendly.  I reluctantly put the project on hold.
Hearing of my dilemma, a friend suggested the Burda #7880 "History 1888" pattern.

It is more costume-y, but at $5.99 on sale, I reasoned that I would most likely be wearing it for neo-victorian or steampunk events, rather than any serious historical re-enactment.  And, I thought I might be able to alter it to suit my taste.  As a bonus, it came with a bustle pad.  This was a good alternative for me, as I did not think I could manage to make (or wear) a cage bustle. I wanted a nice walking dress, suitable for park promenades or teas.

I am most familiar with English Regency and French Empire fashions. In comparison, fashion of the later half of the nineteenth century is somewhat mysterious and daunting.  Looking at the inside of extant garments, they seem to be marvels of engineering.  I have already noted my prejudice towards Victorian women's fashions, so I did a lot of preliminary research to gauge the differences in fit and tailoring methods.  I went to my usual tomes "Fashion: A History from the 18th to the 20th Century", "The Cut of Women's Clothes", "Costume in Detail 1730-1930", and "20,000 Years of Fashion" to get some late Victorian visual basics.  Then, I moved onto online museum collections.  10 years ago, there were not the many museum collections available online. These have proved invaluable to my learning curve in the last 5 years or so.   I am also very grateful to those more talented costumers on various personal blogs, for sharing their fearless forays (and sometimes failures) into such fascinating artistic territory (of all eras).

For visual guidance of period garments, I came to rely most heavily on "Nineteenth-Century Fashion in Detail", by Lucy Johnston, and Alison Gersnsheim's "Victorian and Edwardian Fashion, A Photographic Survey". 
I had my heart set on a striped ensemble like this, but with a burgundy underskirt instead of silver grey.

I also found this alleged extant gown online.  Regrettably, the website is no longer available, so I cannot confirm it is truly from the Mid-1880s.  I believe this may be in a private collection, and the original post noted it was reworked from a more capacious 1860s gown. 
Dress ca.1885-87. Striped silk taffeta from ca. 1866, when dress started as cage crinoline gown.. Photos courtesy of corsets and crinolines

Alas, the project came to a screeching halt, when I realised I had inadvertently purchased two different dye lots of the burgundy/beige pinstripe fabric.  This meant three, of the seven, yards were unusable.  I was not willing to give up the stripes, so.....
Finished skirts.  Someday, I will have to adjust the waistbands. Again. 

I had to redesign the entire ensemble to compensate. This is when the challenge officially moved into "franken-project" status.  This is when a art project becomes so convoluted and entirely off-track (i.e. Alice Falls Down The Rabbit Hole),  as to take on a life of its own.  In retrospect, in actual time I believe I spent nine months researching and designing, but only three months sewing.

To my dismay the solid burgundy, meant to be the top skirt draperies, was no longer available. I settled with just the back bustle portion being solid coloured, in favour of the jacket.  I went through my stash to find a suitable lining for the drapery lining as I did not want to use stark white.  I ended up using a bronze cotton. Then, I found a fashion plate that had a reversed colour scheme on which to base the redesigned jacket.

 Although I decided to make up the two skirts as outlined in the Burda pattern, I made the brilliant decision to entirely revise the "bodice" into a jacket with faux waistcoat.  I based it on the extant gown below.  I was tempted by the asymmetrical skirts, but again was denied by the lack of available yardage.  I decided to leave well enough alone.

Page 26-27 Nineteenth Century Fashion in Detail. Paris 1885

Apparently, sizing issues with commercial patterns are well known. But I had yet to experience it on such an irritating scale. --Please allow me to digress a moment to praise both "La Mode Bagetelle" and "Sense & Sensibilities: Elegant Ladies Closet" patterns.  I highly recommend them for Regency impressions, and they do not make one yell in despair-- This apparent common knowledge did not stop me from being entirely vexed, the smallest bodice size in the Burda pattern was still 2 sizes too big for me.  As well, the waist bands of the skirts are still too large, even after taking them in several inches.  I finally gave up, and just moved over the hook and eyes.  And, while having two separate skirts is not uncommon, I find it fiddle-y to wear.  The over skirt drapery is looped up and attached with ties to the underskirt. FYI another costumer friend suggested lining the top draperies with tulle to keep it fluffy even after sitting. I wish I had  know this tidbit before.
I substantially altered the bodice pattern, creating a muslin toile that I later used as the jacket lining.  I did trace the revised pattern pieces should I lose my mind, and decide to use this pattern again.  Not bloody likely.

The pattern does not indicate boning is to be used.  However, extant garments used boning, even though women were also wearing corsets underneath.  I used heavy duty zip ties, and laid them along the curved seams, making bone cases such as those seen on page 169 of "Nineteeth-Century Fashion in Detail".
Here is the finished jacket.  It closes with hook and eyes.  I used antique lace on the collar and cuffs. The brooch is actually a dress clip. It did not want to stay "clipped" when I actually wore the ensemble, so I will have to come up with other accessory embellishments.

 I dearly wished for a silly chapeau to go with this equally ridiculous and vexing garment.  I used the Truly Victorian pattern, and it was the most fun I had with this project.  It went together easily, and is my favourite part of the whole franken-project. 
The finished tall crowned hat. It is perfectly obnoxious!
Mini Tea-Tray Bum
At the Deepwood Estate, with my friend Lynelle.  She was clever and used the Truly Victorian pattern. Be like Lynelle.

 The moral of the story is: all the careful research, planning, and design are wasted when one stubbornly uses an inferior pattern. I spent more precious creative time, cursing and tearing my hair, than I saved in the initial "frugal" investment of $5.99. 
For undergarments, I have the Folkwear pattern camisole and drawers. A proper uptight victorian would wear a petticoat for additional modesty.  I opted out, as I lined the base skirt in muslin. I reckon the two skirts must weigh at least 10 pounds.  I made up the Burda bustle pad as directed and added lots of ruffles,  which essentially turns my skirts into a giant pincushion.  I am wearing a lightly boned modern "fashion" corset.  This is a less accurate alternative, but more comfortable.  It provides a smooth foundation, in addition to the jacket boning, but otherwise there is no waist reduction.
It is interesting to note the difference between my modern impression verses historical fit in the photographs below.  As a stylish 1880s woman, my current 26 inch waist would probably be cinched down to 22, and my jacket tailored much more tightly through the bosom and arms.

I wore the ensemble twice in 2016, and will make a third presentation  later this month. I was kindly asked to model at a fashion show & tea, hosted by the West Linn Historical Society.  I will write a future post on my accessories, as I plan to break out some treasures from my antique collection.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

A Hat Tutorial

Happy Sunday,
I am quite enamoured with the soft puffed crown hats favoured between 1800-1805.  In reviewing the evolution of the style over a number of years, it is appears to be a smaller version of the wide brimmed Lunardi or "Balloon" hat that was all the rage, following the inaugural balloon ascent of Vincenzo Lunardi, in 1783.   After searching the internet for a pattern, to no avail, I determined to make my own version.  I used a brown velvet remnant purchased  from Daisy Kingdom umpteen years ago.  The lining is period reproduction fabric from a quilt shop The Pine Needle.  I used this same fabric to make a spencer back in 2012.  Completed in 2013, this particular chapeau was meant to go with my Kyoto redingote.  I based my version on the fashion plate below (Courtesy of Ebay). 

Make hat band to fit. Lining, Fashion fabric, and interlining if desired.
Step 2, Optional: add piping
Step 3, Prepare Brim. Two parts fashion fabric, interlining (crinoline or buckram).  Wire Interlining.  If adding piped Trim, only to fashion fabric.
Step 4, Test sizing.  Bast to stabilize.
Step 5, Prepare Crown. Fashion Fabric and interlining (crinoline).
Step 6. Add hat band to crown lining.
Step 7a, add brim to Band.  Test for fit.
Step 7b, add crown to hat brim.  Test for Fit.

Step 8, add lining.
Completed interior
Side, shape brim as desired
Front, shape brim as desired.
Trim. Four sided bows, with button and satin ties.
Edit: Brim is 2 inches, not counting seam allowance. I used a renaissance flat cap as a base. It can really be suited to your taste. The crown is adapted from a modern beret, approximately 15 inches across (without seam allowance). Depending on your head size, adjust as necessary. If you want an earlier impression, use the beret from La Mode Bagetelle and as deep a brim as desired. The crinoline interlining gives the crown some foundation, so the pouf does not collapse. You may wish to double layer the interlining. After 1805, the crown becomes more rigid, like a half ball shape.