The Fat Reenactress

The Fat Reenactress

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Shoe Review, Part I

Post #16                 Tuesday, April 7,20015

Because I do so many time periods, and I'm such a shoe whore (Yes, I said I was a hat whore...but I'm a shoe whore as well. Just matter what size you are, shoes and hats usually keep buy awesome ones!!) this post will probably be one of several. I'm going to try and divide them by time frame, but I may find a pair here and there that may have slipped through the cracks of photographing them all (yes...I have that many...)
I do wear a size 10 medium. Not too terribly large, but you can definitely say I don't have "petite" feet. As far as "afflictions", I don't have any corns or messed up toes. The one thing that is distinct to me though, is the fact that I really can't wear much of a heel, in real life or in period attire. I'm a flats girl (usually) all the way...unless I want to show an EPIC flip and fall....which, hey, sometimes you gotta make an entrance
But Before we go any further....just realize, this review of shoes is my own personal opinion. I know you all have your own opinions and your own favorites. That's great. But just realize, you aren't going to change my mind on what I have found as good or poor quality of shoes. I've been doing reenacting for almost 35 years and have come across MANY brands of shoes. Some work well for me....some not so much.  THIS IS JUST MY OPINION. It is NOT is not's what I have found to be best for ME. I hope my input will give you some more options to look at, and maybe some second looks on ones you've passed up.

I'll start with the "newest" time period shoes. I'll tell you where I got them (if I remember) about how much they went for (again, if my brain will let me) and how comfy they are.

fake victorian boots
fake victorian boots.

These are my finds. They actually don't button, but snap! Awesomeness! Easy to get into, modern made, and VERY comfy, even with a slight heel! I can wear these for HOURS.  I wear them for steampunk/Victorian
Because of the steampunk factor, authenticity isn't a big deal with these. The fact that I got them for around $50 a pair makes them an even better buy!  Two pairs for still under the price of a pair of the American Duchess' ones.  Because it's for steampunk, I didn't want to spend a fortune.
my cheap "edwardian" shoes these are pretty modern looking. They should be. They were $5 at Goodwill. I couldn't pass them up. They are comfy with a very tiny kitten heel. I had them a year before I made my 1913 tea gown....and found that they were THE PERFECT MATCH for this outfit. Kismet? Maybe....but $5!!!!
See? Freaky fate.
my old stand by flats.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

My favorite piece of original jewelry

post #15             Sunday April 5, 2015

Sharing with you my favorite piece of orginal jewelry. Not that I have tons of original pieces, but I've found a few pins and brooches here and there. My wedding ring is actually a small diamond ring that dates to probably the 1920's. When I had it sized up, the woman who did the work asked me about  it. I knew that the diamonds were mine cut...but I didn't realize that they don't do that style of cut anymore. She was very impressed with the ring.
My favorite piece...besides my wedding ring, would have to be the mourning piece that I picked up about a year or two ago.
original mourning piece bought from England

The seller had it dated to around 1780, but I'm thinking with the style of gown, it probably dates closer to 1790. I can't wear it with my 18th century clothes, but it's perfect for anything later, so I wear it with my Regency era clothing and my 1830's stuff. 
worn around my neck with a black ribbon for regency
 I have always wanted a mourning piece, especially after my sister passed away in  2005. Now both my parents are gone as well, so I figured this would be a nice item to wear as a remembrance to all of them.What attracted me to this right off, was not only the style of clothing she was wearing, but her pose. I was scanning through the shops on Ruby Lane for mourning pieces.  When I saw this one, I had to stop and stare....then I called Terry into the room.
J."Take a look at this!"
T. "What am I looking at?"
J. "It's a mourning piece, but tell me what you think it looks like she's doing!"
T. "Well, it LOOKS like she's giving us the finger...."
J. "YES!!!! That's what I thought too!  This pretty much is telling me it's PERFECT for me, right????"
T. "Oh yeah!!! You have GOT to get that!"

So, with Terry's permission, I got to purchase my first mourning piece!!!  Now, she really ISN'T giving anyone the finger.  I knew this, but I thought it was just fate leading her to me. If you look closely enough, you'll see some of the general indications of mourning on this painting. It has an urn and collumn that indicates loss...and she's actually pointing up to the heavens. A friend of ours told us when he saw it, that it's not very common, but is one of those indicators of our mortality.
I believe I got it for about $350....and the shop had a large print at the bottom ASK US ABOUT OUR PAYMENT PLAN!  So, I asked  about the payment plan, and Voila!!! She was mine! ALWAYS ask about payment plans if you find something you REALLY want. I didn't want to go above about $200....but 18th century jewelry of ANY sort is starting to become out of my price range. I'm so happy I got her!

For my 1830's, I wear her pinned on the black ribbon to the bodice of my gown.
At the Williamsburg Milliner's conference last year.
I guess  I'm thinking of my passed loved ones because it's the holiday. I know by wearing this piece of jewelry, I'm doing my family proud...especially my sister....she woulda loved the "finger" pose. 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

An awesome Multi-use bonnet

post #14                                           Thursday April 2, 2015

Just a quick post on a bonnet I purchased during the summer of 2014. For those who know me, know that I am a Hat Whore. For those who don't know me, Hello, My name is Julie...and I'm a Hat Whore.

Now, I can make the occasional bonnet, or hat....when forced by gun point. Lydia Fast has regency bonnet workshops each year, and when I do choose to attend, she's been nice enough to find "easy" patterns for me. Although I did do a "Mother Goose" style bonnet my first time out, and while it did turn out well....I realized that I was MORE than happy to pay someone for their milinery skills. I can say I've done it, and have done a passable job at it. Now here's my money.

Always on the look out for deliciously beautiful bonnets and the ever elusive Big Ass Cap, I came across a totally perfect bonnet made by Kathleen Kannik  from Kannik's Korner, while attending the Jane Austen Event in Louisville, Ky last summer.
Terry and I at Locust Grove, Louisville, Ky

Now, the freaky fact is, I brought this outfit to wear BEFORE I found the bonnet!!! The gown actually has a green and dark blue pinstripe in it.  I was sooo pleased to find this bonnet, I decided to wear it that weekend. Not only is this perfect for Regency, but it's made very similar to the market bonnets that have gained popularity in the hobby these last 2 years. Not only are they popular for Revolutionary war, but very well documented in runaway ads. A very good read for descriptions is Don Hagist's book  Wenches Wives and Servant Girls. It's a list of runaway ads and describes what they were wearing. Market bonnets are numerous.

I was so happy to find this bonnet, I had a tear in my eye....

But the main reason why I was so happy to find this bonnet, and the color scheme it came in, was the fact that I really want to make this outfit that I found in a period image.
Isn't this SAWEEET!!!????
If and when I do make this outfit, I will definitely post about it.  I just thought this image was sooo Easter/Spring like.

Hope everyone has a wonderful Easter, and a happy Passover.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015 getting a stick in the eye....

post #13                                     Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Since I mentioned busks briefly yesterday, I thought I would expand on this subject today.  Simply put, it's a piece of wood used down the front of your stay to help keep the front of your stays straight, and reduce the strain that is put on the stay boning and fabric.It prevents the inevitable "ski slope" effect that most women get  (both thick and thin) from their bellies pushing up on the bottom of the stay, bending it forward.
 The length and size of the busk pretty much depends on how long your torso is. In other words....if you sit down, and the piece of wood spears you through " that area which you most value"....then chances are pretty good, it's too long.  Busks may be plain or carved. Some say that busks were carved by lovers and given as gifts. Romantic,yes. True? Who the heck knows.
examples of original 18th century carved busks from the Victoria and Albert Museum
Above are examples of some lengths and shapes you'll see in original busks.  Busks were made out of wood, ivory, or bone. Those that were ivory or bone could have scrimshaw/carvings on them  as well.
Example of a scrimshawed 19th century busk out of ivory
The carvings vary from flowers and hearts, similar to what we consider "folk art", to just initials or even like above, something more "risque". I've seen some very lovely wooden ones done recently that had chip carving done on them, very similar to the one below.
busk found on pinterest from  extantgowns.blogspot

Not all busks HAVE to be carved. This example, although dated 1800-1810, is a plain bone/ivory. It is also easier to date to this period because of it's length. My regency corset has a busk in it, cut specifically to my length, which is at least 4-5 inches longer than the busk I use for 18th century. Again, it is used in order to keep the front flat, and to reduce the stress on the support garment. This was DEFINITELY proven a couple of years ago when I took my busk out of it's "floating pocket" at the end of a loooong day in regency. My corset crumpled like a cheap paper bag. I could also feel all the rolls starting to come forward. Ugh. Who knew a stick held things together like that????

As to HOW these busks are attached or added, I have one word....magic.

Okay, so it's NOT magic. For my regency corset, it has a sleeve, or pocket, built into the front of the garment. I made my regency corset in one of the Burnley and Trowbridge workshops. In fact, you can see a blog write up about my regency corset posted earlier. (post #2 from 2014)  Here's an interior shot as a reminder.

not only do you see my busk in it's casing...but also my "bossom buddies".

For 18th century, you could also add a pocket to simply slide the busk down into. This works well with back closing stay....not front ones. (no place to put the pocket).  Or you could do what I usually do....just let pressure and gravity keep the bugger in place by sliding it in between my stay and my shift. My stays are usually laced tight enough that the busk stays pretty much in place. When I sit or bend, it WILL shift, but you WANT it to. Same goes for putting a pocket into your stay. Keep the top open, or have a slit near the top, as my regency one has. What this does, is it gives the busk some "floating"  room. if you stitch the bugger into the garment, your entire garment tends to ride up when you sit, or shift when the busk shifts (and it WILL shift)  It WILL work it's way upward by the end of the day...but if it's "free wheeling" can just push the bugger back down again. All you fluffy gals...this is NORMAL. If you are built like me, bigger waist and belly than boobies....well....guess what wins out in the age old game of push and shove. Yup. Belly bumps this baby up. You just have to push it back down. It's our lot in life. Live with it....or stitch it in and have the whole garment ride up.
Another option, if you are completely afraid of standing up and having your busk just "fall thru the cracks" to actually have a hole drilled into the busk top (some have it in bottom too) and stitch a string or ribbon into your stay, then this ribbon/string gets threaded thru the hole and tied into place.
example of hole in the busk of a rare 18th century busk dated 1777.

Plain busks may be found at Little Bits, LBCC on etsy, and also at Wm. Booth, draper. I got my extra long busk from Burnley and Trowbridge as I stated earlier, during one of their awesome workshops. I'm not sure if they sell them but it's always good to ask. Worse that can be heard is "no". I do have about 3 or 4 carved ones I'm going to be selling, of  different lengths. I've had them for awhile because no one seemed to know what the HECK these things were. At the few shows I set up at, they were always the Question of the Day.

So! Now you know!!!

Oh! And when in doubt, they are always a good double for a tongue depressor!!
Me and my sweetie, after a LOOOOOONG Jane Austen day!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Leather stays....the Lower class option

post #12                                       Tues. March 31, 2015

Well, since I didn't get my Historic Sew Fortnightly project done (heck, I didn't even touch it today) I figured I'd share with you an alternative to the fully boned stays for 18th century.  For lower class impressions ...and I mean LOWER class, working class, dirt poor.... leather stays are a good alternative.

A view of my stays at the end of a loooong school day presentation. (2 days down!)
Here's a view of my leather stays. I want to state that you probably wouldn't be showing your leather (or proper) stays in public. Even in lower/working classes, a work garment would be worn over your support garment, whether it's a jacket, bedgown, or a plain work gown. Hopefully you can see in the picture that the leather stays are scored in a pattern very similar to the channels of boning in stitched stays. This allows the leather to bend and form to your body. This particular set has no shoulder straps, and lace in the back as well as in the front. You might be able to see the busk I have tucked behind the lacings up front. This piece of wood goes a long way in keeping the stays well formed. One problem with being fluffy is where my weight is...which is a large belly pooch. If I didn't have the busk to push down on my fluff, the leather would tend to flair up, making almost a ski slope effect. My boned stays do the same, so you will never see me wearing a support garment without the busk included. It's such a simple item....a flat piece of wood...but it really does help in the overall shaping. Not only does it prevent the ski slope effect at the bottom of the stay, but it also takes some of the strain off the garment itself. I found this out when I pulled the long busk out of my regency corset after a VERY long day....and the fabric immediately began to buckle under the...ummm...pressure of my fluff trying to escape it's confines....picture the very large Stay puff Marshmellow Man at the end of Ghostbusters. Yeah, kinda like that.

There are references in Peter Kalm's Travels in North America, where he was riding his horse along the countryside, outside of Philadelphia, and saw women working in the fields in just their loosely laced stays. Remember....they are doing HEAVY manual labor in the fields, thus the removal of the top layer and the loose lacings. But also remember....they are not in a "social" setting where they are expecting to see others. They are working, away from most eyes. I believe that Peter Kalm  remarks on this because it IS a peculiar sight to him.

Here are some photos of me wearing my leather stays underneath my working class outfits.
faded working gown with skirts cut shorter
packed and ready to follow the army'
selling used goods and stockings as a street monger

You can see in each of the above, that the leather stays do support, and do give you the lines that are similar to the fully boned stays. They are comfortable for the most part, but can get somewhat hot....or that may be the perimenopausal me talking....

The cost of leather stays are just a bit cheaper than regular cloth stays, but not by too much, unless you know someone who does leather work. I got mine years ago from Weeping Heart Trade company, and absolutely love them. I am pleased that they lace up the front and back in that when I do gain weight, I can distribute the weight gain evenly between the lacings so one gap isn't so big. I do have a problem with front lacings in that I'm anal about getting them to lace straight, to be smooth under my clothing. Since I am more of an eggplant shape, my bust is smaller than my my back lacings will always look like an upside down V.

One last perk of having leather can use them for Steampunk! :)

I can't tell you how many people asked me if they were wood! The coloration definitely gave them a wood effect.
the flamingo whisperer
So, here's an alternative for those of you wanting to portray lower working class, poor. In fact, rather than going without, you would see leather stays in use.

Hope this helps and gives you a cheaper alternative, especially if you are on an adventure to lose weight, and don't want to invest all the time and effort into stitched fabric stays. Just remember, these would NOT be worn with upper class gowns!!! (Greg Hudson from Weeping Heart told me that....looked at me and then said "pffft....look who I'm telling!"   I'll take that as a compliment.)

Monday, March 30, 2015

Historical Sew Fortnightly challenge #1 and #2

post #11                                          Monday, March  30, 2015

Alrighty!!! Since I seem to be on a blogging spurt, I might as well catch up...and record...some of my sewing for the 2015 year. Might as well do it here as well as in my little notebook, where I just write what I made and for who, so I can go back at the end of the year and see if I was actually productive, or just felt like it. Some years I look at that list and think "slacker! Why did it FEEL like I sewed alot?" those are usually the years I tried making something new....and took extra time doing it, as well as learning a few new curse words as well. My mother would be so proud. It would bring a tear to her eye if she only knew that I too sit at the sewing machine and cry....and then yell out "THIS SUCKS!!!". Oh yes, my mother taught me well. I STILL remember the first 18th c. "ballgown" my mother  made me....out of a REALLY slippery green polyester. I also learned from her, to wait until the last sewmeintothedamndressasmyfriendswaitatthedoor last minute. As I left, I hear her mutter "I NEVER want to see that fabric again"....only to have her make my younger sister an 18th c. "ballgown" two years later.....this time with an honest to goodness pattern (she made mine from drafting pieces onto brown paper bags from the Distaff Sketchbook...only to find that a pattern piece was missing from the bodice. Ah....good times, good times)  Unfortunately....when she and my sister brought the fabric they picked home, we found it to be the EXACT SAME FABRIC as the green horror dress, but in peach. Yeah. I stayed out of the house while she sewed on that one.

But anyway...I'm waxing nostalgic.

My mother, at my wedding, about 2 months before she passed away.
What I've decided to do is to loosely follow the Historical Sew Fortnightly challenge. I'm not really doing it for the chance of my posts being seen, but rather, to get me motivated into sewing, and getting rid of some of the fabric that is building up in my house. So far, I have been able to use stashed fabric for Jan, Feb. and for March. The challenges just happen to work well with what I have, and what I'm thinking of sewing at the moment. Let's hope the momentum keeps going!
I don't have the little icon on my page stating that I'm taking part in the sewing challenge...again, STILL trying to figure out not only the computer, but how to add to my blog, etc. Just remember...I'm 47 years old...the last paper I wrote in college....I typed it on a typewriter!! I went back for a few classes a few years back, and had to contact the friggin' instructor to let them know that I had my paper DONE...I just didn't know how to print it out!!! She sympathized....and said she heard her computer laughing at her whenever she walked by it.

So! anyway! For January:

The Challenge:Foundations

Fabric: 100% white cotton fabric, poly/cotton eyelet trim

Pattern:  None. based loosely on my 18th c. petticoats

Year: 1830's underpetticoat

Notions: poly/cotton eyelet trim, thread, cotton tape

How historically accurate is it? about 30% ?   Completely machine sewn.

Hours to complete: about 2 hours tops....pleating of the trim took the most time

First worn:not yet. Hopefully in May

Total cost:    maybe $10 for the eyelet trim....white cotton was in my stash, cotton cord in my stash (I have about 400 yards of it!!!)
close up of the pleated trim

1830's under petticoat . about 4 yards of fabric pleated onto a waistband
 For February:

What the item is:Blue Linen petticoat

The Challenge: #2  blue

Fabric: 100% linen fabric, 100% cotton twill tape

Pattern:  none. based on original 18th c. petticoats

Year:  last half of the 18th century

Notions: thread, cotton twill tape

How historically accurate is it? 90% ish.....machine done interior seams, rest hand finished

Hours to complete: about five hours....handwork on hem is tedious.

First worn: not yet. don't know when

Total cost: about $3 for the tape. Fabric was a gift from a friend and has  been in my stash, FOREVA.

blue linen petticoat. OOOOH....AHHHHH.

I know, not the most entertaining blog entry....but something I needed to do to keep motivated. I'm hoping to get my March project done make it under the wire for the "deadline"...but again, I'm just loosely using this as a motivation to keep me sewing, so if it's not done by the end of March, I'll still post it here and in the facebook album that the Historical Sew Fortnightly has. It just won't be "highlighted". I'm cool with that. Hope this gets you all motivated!!!!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

A cap kit review....

Post #  10                                         Sunday, March 29th, 2015

favorite sewing shirt right now.
If you're like are forever on the look out for THE cap. The most awesome cap in the world, that will highlight your best features, bring ooohs and aaaaahhhhs whenever you wear it, stay on your head....and cover up your "hair sins"....i.e. bed head, short hair....or just plain greasy second event day hair. (add to that the hot flashes from being perimenopausal....and you have a whole other ick factor that the perfect cap can assist in hiding). In other are on the same quest as search of the PERFECT big ass cap.

This is not it.   

It's not a bad's just not THE big ass cap. What it a cap that is awesome in itself. A cap that will stay on your head, thanks to the drawstring in back....and maybe a couple of strategically placed pins.  A cap that will cover ick hair....and a cap that will give you a very "period correct " look.

Full confession. I HATE sewing. GASP!!! right????? I do...I hate the whole process....I ESPECIALLY hate cutting out. Terry has learned, if he wants something made by me....he has to cut it out. He does very well. He lays out the pattern pieces, calls me in to check to make sure the grain is correct (it always is...he's anal that way) and then give him the okay to cut out. Makes the process a LITTLE easier to take. What I DO love is the end result. I love seeing the finished product.
This is why, the new Larkin and Smith patterns/kits offered through At the Sign of the Golden Scissors (yes...I still need to learn how to link) are all sorts of awesomeness!!!!! Not only are the pattern pieces already cut out....but you are given a kit that has everything you will need to put it together, less the sewing needle. You even get beeswax!!! You will get a kit that has a booklet, with step by step instructions on how to put it together.
with the instructions

comes with the wax and the thread needed

Separate pattern pieces being hemmed
Hallie told me it takes her about six hours to put one together. It is all hand stitched...there really isn't any point at which you can machine stitch....but you really don't want to do machine work on this. It sits right next to your while your lover is staring deep into your eyes....he can see all the hand work you put into your cap. (yeah....right. You'll be lucky if they notice your hair is on fire, right?)  BUT....other women will notice.   And knowing you did it all by hand will put that extra lift into your step. You will feel more confident, more comes with a really pretty colored silk ribbon....that makes any woman feel pretty, right?

close up of the whip gathers. Not bad for my first time

pinning the pleated ruffle

pleated ruffle attached to the band with a butt stitch (heeeheee...she  said "butt")

I took about 2 or 3 evenings to finish this. I took my time,  and sewed while watching TV. It's a really great hand project. It's great in that it's almost an instant gratification project. Something pretty that you can see forming in a relatively short period of time.  Hallie includes the different weight threads needed to work on these caps. I ordered this one in the organdy and was VERY happy with the weight and the look it gives. Terry looked at it when we took pictures and even he noticed that the weight/type of fabric makes a huge difference in the appearance. This really does have a middling to upper class appeal to it. The kit I ordered was the "Spring" cap. I was so hapy with the results, I ordered the Wheatley cap kit in the fine linen. I'll post that when I'm finished.Here are some photos of it on my head.
glasses sort of detract from the  cap

top view....showing my "bumpit" of hair

, with a quick fake bun added to fill out the back
side view

I highly recommend getting a kit from Larkin and Smith....I hear that they are also producing a shift kit and a covered hat kit as well. I'll definitely have to look into these items as well. I hope this inspires you to try something new! Can't go wrong with a kit! Half the work is already done!!  Good luck, and let me know how your experiences are with the cap kits!!

One cool part about the caps? I have short hair. I used two hair pieces to fill out the cap. It will definitely be cooler than wearing a wig
showing how short my hair is