Saturday, August 29, 2015

French and Indian War Event at Crown Point

My living history hobby began in the 1860s but transitioned back to the 18th century. Then it suddenly jumped forward to the 1940s. Today I find myself attending more 20th century events but I always seem to find my way back to my favorite time period. I have a deep love for the mid 18th century for a number of reasons. I find the history fascinating, it's when America  as a country was really born after all. The clothing is intriguing and enjoyable to both wear and to create. But it was through 18th century living history that I met my husband Cori. We have both made so many life long friends through our crazy hobby.

Photos in this post photos courtesy of Kris Jarrett Photography and Media Production. Thanks Kris! (Kris is also the talented man who took out wedding photos which you can see here and here.)

And who doesn't love a man in a kilt? Cori's main impression for the French and Indian War period is a soldier of the 78th Frasier's Highlanders. This particular regiment, with an impressive record, was formed mostly of former Jacobites. They served with distinction at the Siege of Louisbourg in 1758 and again on the Plains of Abraham when the British finally captured Quebec in 1759.

This summer we had the chance to visit one of our favorite locations, Crown Point, for a French and Indian War event. It's right on the shore of Lake Champlain. We were only able to stay for the day but it's also one of our favorite places to camp. After visiting with friends we headed into the old fort for some photos.

Originally the site of the French built Fort St. Frederic, the area was taken over by the British who began building their own fortifications around 1759. The site served as a major base of operations for British forces for the remainder of the the French and Indian Wars. It was also the end point of the famous Crown Point Military Road, which was built through what is now Vermont. Crown Point was occupied by General John Burgoyne's army in 1777 after American forces evacuated Fort Ticonderoga to Mount Independence. The barracks are mostly in ruins today due to fire.

It's was very windy! You can see we needed to hold onto our hats!

I wore my favorite gown. I've posted a few times about this gown, here and here. I also wore my linen and yellow silk mitts.

 And a few silly ones. Because these describe us perfectly. :)

"I'm not touching you!"
Yup, this is us. :)

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Behind the Seams - 1920s Black Silk Robe de Style

As promised here the second, of what I hope to become many, Behind the Seams blog posts. This series of posts will examine in detail some of the vintage and antique items I have collected, or in some cases been gifted, over the years. My goal with these posts is to show you the nitty gritty details not often shown on other blogs or even museum website. How many times have you looked at an image of a vintage or antique garment and wondered "How did they make that?" "What does the back of the garment look like?" "What does the inside look like?" "How are the seams/hems etc. finished?"  I could go on!

One of the reasons I love "old stuff" is the attention to detail and the quality of the materials used. As a vintage sewing and historical costumer I know how difficult it can be to find just the right material for a project. Cost of course is a big road block. Many fabrics and trims, for example, that were common place 50, 100, or even 200 years ago are virtual unheard of now. Try finding calimanco at your local fabric store! Even the most simple garments were beautifully made because they were made to last too! Not something that can be said about most clothing sold today.

So here we go. Today's post is all about this black silk taffeta dress from the 1920s. The style is known as a "robe de style." I talked briefly about the robe de style in this post way back. Beautiful examples can be found in museums all over the world. (Ex. here, here and here.)

If you have not seen Katherine's stunning robe de style please do so! She also has a blog post here about making the small hoop to wear under the dress.

I've made two robe de style dresses using this pattern from the page Dress Making Research. The first is certainly nothing to brag about. It was an awfully poly thing made as a Halloween costume. It looks fine in pictures but I never really liked the look or feel of it. The second I helped make for a friend. We used cotton but did not include any kind of hoops or pockets. Those are something that can always be added.


Black Silk Taffete Robe de Style with Scallop Hem
The Details
Length shoulder to hem -
Across shoulders - and width between shoulder straps -
Under arm to under arm -
Under arm to drop waist -
Shoulder to drop waist -
Drop waist to hem -
Width at hem -
 10 Scallops at hem
7 rows of shirring at each hip
15 rows of cording, each cord is 1/8"
9 of snaps at side, and 2 at left shoulder

Simple design with nice details. It's made of silk taffeta and void of trim except cording and shirring. The cording appears to be cotton but it's very difficult to tell. No evidence of hoops or pockets but the dress most likely would have been worn with some kind of hoop underneath to give the skirt shape. The neck, arm holes, and scallop hem are all bound with strips of bias fabric. There is a single piece of piping at waist. The dress closes at the left side and shoulder with small metal snaps. Thread appears reddish brown in areas.

This dress does need a little repair work but nothing too major. 

Monday, August 10, 2015

WWII WAVES Aviation Mechanic


Today's post is a bit over due but no less fun and exciting! I want to share with you some really fun photos my friend Neal took of me at the Mid Atlantic Air Museum's WWII weekend this spring. This was, hands down, THE MOST FUN I've had taking pictures ever!! Why exactly? Not only is Neal an amazing photographer and awesome to work with, I got to shoot next to and ON a real WWII plane! Yes, I got to climb on one of the planes and even had the chance to sit in the cockpit. So much fun! The planes pictured here are an FM-2 Wildcat and a Chance Vought F4U Corsair (with the checkered nose). The Wildcat was the main U.S. Navy and Marine Corps fighter at the start of World War II. It was used in all the major battles, including Wake Island, Guadalcanal, and Midway, until the Hellcat came along in 1943. The Wildcat is best known for its contribution to the Battle of Midway. Greg Shelton's Wildcat dates from 1944 and did see action in the Pacific although I don't know any specifics. The Corsair was used by the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marines, Fleet Air Arm and the Royal New Zealand Air Force, as well as the French Navy Aeronavale and other, smaller, air forces until the 1960s. It was one of the most capable carrier-based fighter-bomber of World War II. Many Japanese pilots regarded it as one of the most formidable US fighters of the war. These two amazing aircraft were parked next to us all weekend. (You can see a few more pictures of them here and here.)

These photos were taken Sunday morning, the last day of the event. I talked with the Wildcat owner and pilot, Greg Shelton, earlier in the day and told him what I wanted to do. He very graciously said yes and allowed me to climb on his plane. Another pilot, and WWII re-enactor, was on hand when Neal and I started shooting. Thorne, seen sitting on the wing of the plane, is part of a living history group that portrays WWII pilots. Neal did an awesome job with the coloring of these photos!
Chance Vought F4U Corsair. This plane is part of the Commemorative Air Force.
Photo by Neal Howland. Please do not copy.

Photo by Neal Howland. Please do not copy.

Photo by Neal Howland. Please do not copy.

So, to back up a little bit....
Creating my WWII WAVE aviation mechanic persona, where do I really start?  .... Well, to be honest what started as a last minute, thrown together "oh crap it's going to rain at the event and I need something I can wear and not care if I get totally soaked!!" outfit for Reading, turned into something really awesome. It made for a really memorable event. As I mentioned in this post, I put a lot of thought into what clothing I wanted to take with me. I've been reenacting now for, oh I don't know, close to 15 years. And in that time I've learned many, many things. I've been to events where it's been blistering hot, miserably cold, and yes, wet and rainy. I remember more then once camping miles from home and having it POUR! (Anyone remember the 250th event at Fort Ticonderoga? Yeah, that kind of rain.) I have learned it's always a good idea to pack something extra to wear just in case the weather gods don't want to play nice. For this event that meant a pair of modern Navy dungarees and button down shirt. But then ....

The Research
I've been collecting WWII WAVES items for a while now and am slowly putting together a full uniform that fits. In my research I can across some really neat photos of WAVES at work, including mechanics working on planes. For those of you who are not familiar with them, the WAVES - Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service - was a branch of the U.S. Navy formed in 1942. WAVES served state side during the war fulfilling a number of different jobs, including mechanical work. Here are a few of the photos my portrayal are based on.

WAVES study aircraft mechanics at Naval Air Station, Lakehurst, New Jersey, during World War II. Source
WAVES aircraft mechanics working on the port outboard engine (a Pratt & Whitney R-2000) of a Naval Air Transport Service R5D at Naval Air Station, Oakland, California, circa mid-1945. Source
Seaman 1st Class Billy Ikard (left) and Seaman 1st Class Barbara A. Patterson move a battery cart into position next to a Naval Air Transport Service R5D-1 (Bureau # 39170), circa mid-1945. Both WAVES are assigned to Naval Air Transport Squadron Four at Naval Air Station, Oakland, California. Source

Work uniforms for WAVES varied depending on the job. Early in the war WAVES mechanics and machinists wore a one-piece aviation coverall was made of cotton material in a medium blue color shade. It was similar to the coveralls worn by all aviation mechanics at the time. In 1944,  the aviation coveralls were replaced with the navy blue denim slacks and blue cotton chambray shirts. Wearing of the regulation men's dungaree trousers and chambray shirt was optional.  This is the look I decided to go with as it was the easiest for me to replicate.

My original plan was to wear a modern U.S. Navy women's long sleeved chambray work shirt with the sleeves rolled up. Most images I've seen short the short sleeve shirt but I've seen a few with long sleeves clearly rolled up past the elbow. When shopping at the vendors at Reading I found an original WWII women's chambray shirt in my size!! A rare find, score! The pants I'm wearing in these photos actually belong to Cori. They are men's modern Navy surplus but are very similar to those issued during the war. My cap is an original WAVE war issued cap. It's named and matches one of my uniforms. My research photos show this type of cap being worn, with either the blue or white crown, as well as a small red baseball style cap.

Improvements I'd like to make to this impression include different shoes, the ones I wore are modern and not correct for the period, and a different pair of pants. Cori didn't need his for this event but it would be good to have my own pair. I noticed, while looking through original images, that most of the WAVES are working on a SNJ training plane. There were at least two at the airshow these year. Next year I want to see if I can track down one of the pilots and ask permission to recreate a few of those images.

Outfit Details
WWII U.S. Navy Chambray Shirt - purchased from a vendor at the MAAM's airshow
WAVE Cap - ummm ebay I think
U.S. Navy Dungarees - 1970s surplus, local Army/Navy surplus store
1940s USMC Sweetheart Bracelet - Brimfield Antique Fair

And just for fun, a few outtakes from the photo shoot. This first one makes me laugh. Thorn was surprised when I actually started cleaning the plane.

Oh, just chillin' with the flyboys. :)

Friday, August 7, 2015

Fashion Do's and Dont's from 1943

It's been a long time since my last Great Hair Fridays post! Today I want to share with you all some images from an awesome little booklet I own. This Fashion Do's and Dont's for Head and Face booklet by Colette is from 1943 and has 48 pages designed to help you look your best!

If you enjoy vintage fashion from the 1940's you'll find these images really useful. The graphics are absolutely priceless. On the surface, this book in 1943 was to help a any woman achieve beauty through choosing the right make-up, hats, glasses, accessories, etc. suited to her type. Today this little book is a treasure-trove and reveals the fantastic LOOK of the 1940’s with lots of cool illustrations.

This book covers ALL the possible physical features and "flaws" one could have and what to do with them. On my list of projects for waaaaay down the road, I'd like to reproduce this booklet so other can enjoy it in its entirety!

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