Black and Blue

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Unlike some of my earlier posts, this Black and Blue refers to a different kind of historical effect: the purely aesthetic. (Yes, it is a departure for me. Moving below the Mason-Dixon line has been curious, as my encounters at the bank regularly make me wonder if I have stumbled into the Invasion of the Body Snatchers or Pleasantville. Surely real humans aren’t this nice! I thought the people of Rhode Island were just fine, but maybe my standards were warped by growing up in a Major Midwestern City.) In any case, times change and so do people. Onward, to the aesthetic!

First, there was the new waistcoat. That should be enough to refresh an outfit, right?
Wrong.

The armscye sits way back over the shoulder blades

The set of the armscye didn’t coordinate with the white gown I made two summers ago, so a new item would be in order. I thought this would be the case in the muslin, but when I basted up the blue silk (selected because I had enough material to make a waistcoat and a cap), it was clear something new would have to go underneath.

The original waistcoat’s date of ca. 1797 helped narrow down my choices, and a 1799 fashion plate helped as well. Blue over white: pretty snazzy. I sketched up the plan for the white wrap-front gown, re-imagined that when I got batiste after asking for voile, and figured I’d be fine. A blue silk cap trimmed in black wool lace or gold silk cord still seemed like a good solution.


But the fashion plate showed a black hat or bonnet, and whilst trolling Etsy with a Manhattan in hand, searching for an 1830s-appropriate buckle, I took a look at one of my favorite shops, just to see.

Reader, I saw.

The “overly honest milliner” confessed that this style would not flatter everyone. Challenge accepted! In truth, though, I have a small head, and having cut my hair short for the summer, can (must) wear a slightly different kind of headware. I’ve also tried on enough of Anna’s millinery to know what will and won’t work for me, so I was pretty certain this bonnet would suit me well.

I trimmed it with some blue silk double-faced satin ribbon recovered from a failed bonnet attempt of several years ago, and then cast about for something else. Something different. Wednesday found me steaming feathers– as you do– while Drunk Tailor pulled KP duty. I hid the feather quills (more or less) with a ribbon rosette, and the considered fastening. Many early-nineteenth century bonnets don’t tie under the chin, and in any case, I didn’t have enough ribbon left to pull that off.

Parking lot selfie, with sweat, curls, and feathers. I like the way the feathers contrast with the curls.

The solution? Another rosette. On the feather side, I stitched the straight tail of the ribbon to the bonnet. The second rosette attached to the ribbon, which I then ran under my chin and pinned. Bonnet secured, more or less, though the feathers necessitate caution when exiting a vehicle.