Go Big When You Go Home

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heading north

A year after moving, Virginia feels like home, even as I continue to experience accent-based misunderstandings and yearn for different apples. But if home is where the heart is, my home is split between the place where my kid grew up and goes to college, and where I live now. After having all vacations cancelled (thanks, Fairfax County Jury System), we scheduled one for the end of the summer, a chance to visit friends, antique (and buy a new school wardrobe for a college sophomore).

You can never have enough eagles or feathers.

The trip hinged on the Militia Days event at Old Sturbridge Village, with Drunk Tailor mustering as a member of the Oxford Light Infantry or “Ollies.” The OLI has a ridiculously shiny and ornamented shako, which contributes to the appeal of the impression. The early Federal-era militia units certainly appeal to me, with gold buttons, chain, tassels, and plenty of eagles everywhere. There’s a lot of visual myth-making to unpack there, and the fact that the muster re-enacts a sham battle makes it ever so much more so wonderful and New England. This is meta-enacting (or re-re-enacting), and I am all for it.

A new time period meant a new dress. And a new bonnet. And new hair– that last complicated by the new summer haircut. (I had a wool gown from the Turkey Shoot several years ago, but wool in August at Sturbridge is possible but not recommended.) So, what to wear? I remembered some lightweight chintz gowns in the Kyoto Costume Institute collections, and happily there’s one on their website (my copy of the book is still in storage). While I prefer the audacity of many of the reproduction cotton prints, the hand of the quilting cottons is often heavier than I want, so I ordered a print from India– one that has been used for many other dresses in different time periods.

The pattern is a straight-up version of the Past Patterns Lowell Mill Operative’s gown. The first 1830 gown I made was from the State Historical Society of Wisconsin pattern, which did not fit as well over the collar bones; the Past Patterns neckline resolves well and fits like a dream– the only change I would make the next time around is to make the back pieces smaller. I had way more overlap than I really needed, but otherwise, I was lucky that this required no adjustments to fit pretty well. Every now and then, it’s nice to have a break from drafting my own patterns and fighting with fit.