18th century, 18th century clothes, 18th century clothing, Clothing, living history, Making Things, millinery, Museums, Van Cortlandt House Museum
Last Saturday, I enjoyed a beautiful late summer afternoon on the lawn at Van Cortlandt House Museum in the Bronx. Built in 1748 for Frederick Van Cortlandt and his family, the house served as Washington’s headquarters in 1776, and again in 1783.
It’s an idyllic site, and waking up to the sound of cricket bats and Canada geese, a visitor could be fooled into thinking you were not in the Bronx at all. Mist rose above the cricket pitch when I woke up, a large flock of geese picking at the grass. It was Netherland come to life, men beating bats on their cleats and laughing. I’m really grateful to Mrs M. for the place to sleep and chance for adventure.
This trip was a remarkable cultural experience for me, and one I really needed. Growing up on the north side of Chicago, I was used to urban density and scale, so after two years in Northern Virginia suburbs, a dose of urban life was welcome. It was all the more welcome because instead of spending my time judged by cats, I got to play with dogs (and earned a sore bicep for all the stick and giraffe throwing I did for one). The trip to Stew Leonard’s was remarkable, after the tame mercantile experiences of tiny Rhode Island, and even Wegman’s paled in comparison. It was a good set up for thinking about mercantile enterprises, impulse purchases, and the ways merchants (including milliners) and shop owners needed to keep customers coming back, tempting them with new goods. (Or, in the case of Stew Leonard’s, singing cows and/or milk cartons.)
I managed, somehow, to finish a red silk satin quilted petticoat in time (lined with red “stuff” from Burley and Trowbridge, it was not too bed-covering like until the late afternoon) to dress up the Nancy Dawson dress. I didn’t manage to locate my sleeve ruffles in time ( stitched on a garment ) but in other regards, I was pleased with how this turned out.
Dressing my clothes up– that is, moving them up the social ladder– can be a challenge, but good accessories make a big difference. Eventually I will get a finer apron made, one with a ruffle, but for now, that has to wait.
I have a trip to Philadelphia to make, bottles to label, and receipts to write. Elizabeth Weed returns to Carpenters Hall this weekend as part of the Occupied Philadelphia programming.