The other day while reading Barchester Towers, I came across this characterization of Mrs. Stanhope, the indolent wife of an absentee clergyman:
The structure of her attire was always elaborate and yet never over-laboured. She was rich in apparel but not bedizened with finery; her ornaments were costly, rare, and such as could not fail to attract notice, but they did not look as though worn with that purpose. She well knew the great architectural secret of decorating her constructions, and never descended to construct a decoration. But when we have said that Mrs. Stanhope knew how to dress and used her knowledge daily, we have said all. Other purpose in life she had none.
Ouch! A fit match for a husband who takes his job so seriously that he delegates it to a lesser-ranking clergyman and spends his life abroad, collecting butterflies and a salary for the work he's not doing! But the part of the quote that intrigued me was the bit about the "great architectural secret", which sounded like a quote.
As you may recall from my post about ball gowns, I was looking forward to the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, mostly for the clothes! I said then of Ms. Markle's dress that I hoped I would "either love of hate it. The worst would be boring." As the date neared, I remembered that Royal weddings in England are generally an excuse for fantastic hats and fascinators, and I got excited about those, too.
So the day came, and I gussied myself up with fantastic fifties hat and floral dress, and co-hosted a tea party for other Anglo-philes! We shared the savory course at the table, then loaded up our tea-plates and moved to the TV to watch the recording!
My old lunch bag made of oilcloth (a kind of lightweight vinyl) served me well for about a year, but even good things must come to an end! In this case, oil from my hands disintegrated the vinyl grips, while occasional heavy lunches took out the bottom corners. So I came home from work one day, shook my head, and pulled it apart to make a new one!
An upcoming murder-mystery dinner, set in the year 1919, offers me an opportunity to pursue several desirable ends, viz. to dress my friend, to use up some stash, and to practice draping!
Dressing my friend is like dressing my sister... when I care about someone, I want to dress them! I think of Proverbs 31: 21: "When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet." "Scarlet" is not a reference to color in this verse, but to the fine woolen cloth called scarlet in the Middle Ages, which was often dyed scarlet in color, but not necessarily. So the Proverbs 31 woman isn't just dressing her family in red, she's dressing her family warmly as a sign of her love and a product of her industry. Wrapping people in nice clothes is such a potent signifier, isn't it?
Of course, if I can also use up some of my stash and reclaim my room, all the better! And I do need practice draping clothes on a dress form.
One day I looked at my undergarments and said to myself, "Self," says I, "I need a new petticoat...!"
I have several serviceable slips, one crinoline, and a vintage nylon petticoat, already. The vintage one is a joy to wear, a soft apricot color with a delightful froth of ruffles around my knees, but it's also torn and mended in many places, and is too long for a lot of my skirts. (Luckily, I know how to make it work.) The crinoline does its job, but without the lovely ruffles and softness I like. What's needed is something like the vintage one, but shorter, to wear with my shorter skirts. And I do have a stash that needs busting!
So I dig around in my whites and pull out some white sheer curtain fabric, white lace from a wedding gown skirt, and white nylon tricot from an old nightgown.
Quilting, dressmaking, and history plied with the needle...
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