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I have set my sights on being at Van Cortlandt House Museum’s Second Annual History and Culture Fair on Saturday, September 21. This is a bit of a stretch: It’s farther than Philadelphia, where I’m scheduled to be the following weekend at the Museum of the American Revolution– and I want tweak that impression and its material culture a bit, too. Still: setting up a ca. 1777-1780 milliner and mantua maker or merchant display has been on my to-do wish list for years, and I’m pretty sure I can pull this off as long as I modify/upgrade items already in my closet.

There are enough images to provide good inspiration and ways to start accessorizing.

Several prints  from the British Museum provide guidance.

It’s clear– as I knew already– that my accessory game requires major upping. But this is solvable! It’s not ideal, being in a situation where I can’t buy new fabric, and I don’t have the time to make up the fabric I do already have in the garment styles I need. This is no time to start a new patterning project!

So this means making accessories to upgrade a gown and petticoat already on hand and known to fit (though they should be fit-tested once again before committing!).

Which dress? Why, Nancy Dawson, of course. She’s the brightest and most stylish gown I have. Thankfully, I have upgraded my cap collection, and could even– probably– manage a new cap in the time allotted.

So what do I need? A well-decorated, possibly floofier cap, a LBB (™) of the kind worn in “The Rival Milleners”, a breast knot or bow, a new fine silk or cotton apron, and some kind of sleeve treatment.

The maid in the back of “A Morning Visit,” carrying in the tea tray, demonstrates the more understated upgrades I think I will be able to manage in the time I have. In a year, a trimmed silk gown can happen. In a month, it cannot.

The main upgrade I’d like to make is to add a red silk quilted petticoat, since they appear in so many prints with cotton print gowns, including a print of Nancy Dawson herself.

Miss Nancy Dawson, aquatint print. Victoria and Albert Museum. E.4968-1968

I almost assuredly have red silk in my stash: the question is, can I find it, back it, and quilt it in time? Probably not. So there are choices to be made, like the sensible one of simply upgrading sleeve finish and apron and adding bow knots.

Those are just the upgrades I hope to make to my personal kit! I need a dome top trunk (underway; I need the one I have for Elizabeth Weed), and there are inventory items to make that have been on the list for a while.

All of this has to get done while I’m splitting my 55-60 hour weeks between commissions and a retail gig (which I am trying to streamline!).

Once again, I start down the path of madness. Won’t you join me? I think it’ll be a blast!