18th century clothes, common dress, dress, fashion, John Brown House Museum, maids, servants, What Cheer Day, widows
but that’s fine, actually. I like to get dirty. The red Virginia cloth dress is now clay-splashed, and while it was made especially for the “People of 1763” event, it may no longer work. Fine for cherry-sellers, fine for hand-bill hawkers, it will not do for a lady’s maid, and I don’t especially want to clean it. Hope I can get my stays wrangled back into shape and that my cross-barred gown fits…but if not, I’ll be a recently promoted lady’s maid.
My other upcoming role as a maid will be at the John Brown House Museum, on October 5. This has required quite a bit of thinking and stewing about appropriate clothing and realistic background. I finally settled on a black-and-brown combination of petticoat and open robe, with the style of the open robe based on Paul Sandby drawings and extant garments, but determined by the scant three and a quarter yards of brown worsted that I was able to find.
The bodice back is based on the 1795-97 cross-front gown from Museum of Costume in Bath shown in The Cut of Women’s Clothes. The front is meant to be transitional: a little bit of gathering at the neck, but not a great deal, with the edges still pinning closed. The sleeves are long and slim, and will button at the wrist once I’ve gotten the length worked out.
The skirt will pleat, with fullness centered on the back triangle and decreasing to the front. For the black petticoat, I used the double inverted box pleat of the 1790s open robe in Costume in Detail. As you might imagine or just plain hope, they work! I’ve also made a small pad to help lift the skirt in the back and create the right profile; I’m thinking of adding buttons and loops so that it can migrate from gown to gown.