Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Sheer Voile Empire Gown

Last summer, I had visions of a white embroidered Regency gown for our homeschool history presentation scheduled for the autumn. I used to do lots of embroidery when I was growing up and I hoped to refresh my skills with a gown. However one day I was at JoAnn where I found 8 yards of sheer lavender voile, 100% cotton. Voile is perfect for Empire gowns!
Photobucket

With my coupon I could get this for $5 a yard. What a great price when I am on a small budget with costumes to make for myself and my kids. But lavender is not my color, pretty as it is. Yet I recalled a gown I had seen at the Hillwood Estate and Museum that feaatured a striped gown from the Empire of Fashion collection. Perhaps I could duplicate the bodice?

Long story short I used a basic pattern from Period Impressions, which didn't quite match the gown I was trying to recreate from Napoleon and the Empire of Fashion. I made a great many tweakingss and realize this is probably less than best for a historically accurate gown.
Photobucket

I also made many alterations to the skirt to try to match the historic gown.
Photobucket

Finding trim for my gown was a challenge. For the waistline I chose pearls, which is historically accurate. Of all the pearl trims I found, a single row of them looked best against the stripes.
Photobucket

After applying trim to the neckline and sleeves...

Photobucket




I trimmed the gown in organdy trim after seeing this fashion plate of a pink gown, Ackermann's Repository 1813, Series 1 Vol 10, November Issue. (Also there are many other lovelies to enjoy here!)

Photobucket

Then came the bows for the skirt, matching many extant gowns.

Photobucket

Here the sheer delight of these gowns is revealed! This is very period and I read an entire history of it Napoleon and the Empire of Fashion. Early on that's about all the ladies wore and all was truely revealed. From Vincent Cronin's book, Napoleon Bonaparte, I learned that Napoleon was quite upset with these sheer gowns revealing all and insisted on decency, knowing that morals enhanced a stabilized nation. He strongly encouraging his wife, Josephine, and his sisters to cover up. This along with Napoleon stabilizing France to allow for fashion were two of his main contributions to Empire fashion. He did not decide on fashion trends. He was an emperor with a country that he wanted to make successful. So he encouraged experts in their fields to do their job, all of which he had a great interest and appreciation for. Josephine though set the pace for fashion. If she wore it, the other ladies wanted to wear it too. However he did encourage silk. The Kyoto Costume Institute informs us that the cotton industry was so successful, that it was hurting the silk industry in Lyons, damaging the French economy. Therefore in 1811 Napoleon "issued an imperial decree that men and women must wear silk clothes at public ceremonies." -Kyoto Costume Institute

One of the characteristics of my gown was the sheerness requiring a solid white to be worn underneath, which I did with a bodiced petticoat. With these sheer gowns, fashion could go two ways. One was that the top layer could be a sheer white, allowing the beauty of a solid silk color to peek from underneath. There are many adorable fashion examples of this, including my simpler yellow gown with sheer white overlay I made two years ago. Or the reverse would be a sheer color on top, like here, which would be underlayered with a solid white. That is what I wore for this gown, hence the need for my bodice pettticoat, linked below.

Photobucket

Finally I had everything ready for a history presentation. I think it all looked better on the bed than on me.

Photobucket

The purple of my gown became a historical storyline when I studied Napoleon. I learned from the Cronin book that after Napoleon was exiled, the Bonapartists wore the color purple to covertly show their support of him. My daughter is wearing her purple gown from 4 years ago, from the Simplicity pattern. I thought it still fit her but to my surprise it was much too small We did our best at the last minute. Her gown was made in all the purple teenage 21st century lushness that she craved at the time.


Photobucket

This is one of my daughter's best angles, due to her gown mishap.

Photobucket

For the photo shoot of my gown my husband and son had great fun in telling me where and how to stand so they could take lots of pictures...

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

I don't think there is any floor shot of the train, but it was long enough to be a train, yet short enough not to cause any hindrance in walking. I might even be able to dance in it. I read that in the Regency Era, the ladies who wore trains simply did not dance because it is impossible to dance with trains.I think I read somewhere that there might have been a fastening to hook up a train, as was common later in the century up through today, for dancing. In my research I noticed some lovely Empire trains that simply hooked over the shoulder so the Empress could easily slip out of the train to dance.

Photobucket

Photobucket

My husband wanted to showcase my jewelry here but I think all the photos hide my bracelet. Jewelry of the Regency Era, at least in France, would be an entire ensemble which I duplicated with my collection of pearls. A week after I wore this I finally found an ensemble of cameos that I shall showcase in a separate post. The hairstyling was even copied from fashion plates.

Photobucket

Here I'm holding violets (aka cut apart hydrangeas-another theater trick). Violets were another Bonapartist secret symbol, according to Cronin's book.

Photobucket

Photobucket

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Research Rescue Squad CW EFT

A couple of weeks ago we got to see the live premier of the newest Colonial Williamsburg Electronic Field Trip, Research Rescue Squad. Set entirely in the 21st century, the Research Rescue Squad was available to students across the nation who'd Skype for tips on conducting research for their school assignments. However some trouble started with kooky characters like "Verde," who is the synester sidekick to "Dubious Sources." Verde plants false information in libraries, tricks innocent students into stealing resources for her to destroy, while Dubious Sources hacks the Research Rescue Squad website bringing a diabolical end to all research.

Meanwhile we learn how to identify valid sources from dubious sources...in real life, by checking for documentation. We also reviewed the difference between a primary resource and a secondary resource. A primary resource is something from that time in history, whether it's a newspaper account, a painting, a chair, a letter, a recipe, a journal entry...anything that was part of the lives of the people of the past. A secondary resource is something about the past, like a book written last year about the 18th century, a history textbook, or even an interview with a historian.

Over the years of doing CW EFTs my kids have learned the value of research, how to find credible sources and the difference between primary and secondary sources. Learning along with the EFTs has fueled my kids' love of learning too!
As you can tell the CW EFT's are great! Homeschoolers can subscribe at affordable prices through Homeschool Buyer's Co-op. There is a live EFT broadcast each month of the schoolyear, October through April. All of the EFTs (including videos, lesson plans, message board, computer games, etc) are available 24/7 through the end of the summer.

Monday, January 28, 2013

A Simple Napoleonic Dinner

"If you want to eat well, dine with the Second Consul; if you want to eat a lot, visit with the Third Consul; if you want to eat quickly, dine with me."-Napoleon Bonaparte
Photobucket

Napoleon would never have been an Iron Chef judge, however his Second Consul would most certainly have been a frequent judge. A master of cuisine, the Second Consul gave frequent dinner parties as one might expect in the French Empire. The dinner menu might consist of truffle pate, partridges roasted on one side and grilled on the other, and vanilla souffle. One evening a guest mistakenly asked a question 0f the Second Consul. (gasp) "'Ssh!' said Cambaceres (the Second Consul) sternly, helping himself to more pate, 'we can't concentrate.'" (Napoleon Bonaparte by Vincent Cronin, p 184) (Parenthetical remarks are my additions.)

In contrast, Napoleon, ate simply, quickly and most often alone or with the Empress. One dish he liked, according to both legend and apparently Cronin's research, was Chicken Marengo. After the 1800 Battle of Marengo in northern Italy, when Napoleon defeated the Austrians, his chef prepared dinner with whatever could be scavenged from the locals (which I'm sure is what they did while on every campaign). Napoleon liked this dish of chicken, eggs, tomatoes, and crayfish so much that it was often served in the Tulleries. This story is the Cronin version. While researching on-line I found many accounts that said the legend is that Napoleon thus asked for this dinner to be made for him after every battle. That part I would indeed think to be false and merely legend, because I'm sure the cook often has to scavenge. I doubt that all of these ingredients were found everywhere else that Napoleon fought, like the German states and even Russia. After battle I doubt that the troops and even the general were too picky. They just wanted to eat!

Therefore we had Chicken Marengo for dinner. I used Mario Batali's recipe, which I thought was fun for two reasons. One because he is Italian himself, like this dish's origin. Also he is/was (?) an Iron Chef whom I'm sure the Second Consul would have hired in a heartbeat. There is a funny video of the recipe at the link, where Batali and Michael Symon demonstrate the cooking. I included baby lobster (a small inexpensive package) since I couldn't find crayfish. By the way, even in the 1500's when the Spaniards first discovered the San Antonio River, they ate crayfish from the river. Crayfish is easily obtainable in many fresh waters.
Photobucket

For dessert we made the traditional Mille-Feuille, or Napoleon, with about 17 layers. This photo lured me to try this luscious looking dessert. Here is the actual recipe that includes the making of homemade pastry dough of the photographed version previously linked, which all the reviewers, even those from Russia, say is quite authentic. It's also simpler to make than it looks, but it is time consuming to make the dough. After that it is quick. However we wanted to do the more traditional decorating, which looks like this one pictured here. This is exactly how our Napoleon's were decorated (with the swirls) when we had some at the Hillwood Estate and Museum last May. Ours came out rather well, but the decorating, as easy as it is, hardened on me before I could complete the swirls with a mere swipe of the toothpick. My recipe was altered and therefore wrong. My son took this picture to showcase the many layers. The white icing on top is not discernable in this photo. The dark chocolate is the part that hardened and cracked up for some reason instead of making those swirls.
Photobucket

However everyone liked the dessert and all marveled how much better the homemade custard tasted as opposed to the box version. (That should never be a surprise. Right, Second Consul?) My daughter helped make this dessert and she was in awe with how well it all worked.

I now have quite a collection of Napoleon recipes (with highly stacked layers of 10+, which my son says represents Napoleon's many battles), some with homemade pastry (the version we made), and others made with frozen pastry dough and yet another with phyllo. I'm out to conquer the Napoleon because these, when done perfectly, are so tasty and pretty, yet rather simple to make.

I thought all that labor yielded so few Napoleons, after baking about 17 layers of pastry dough, that I was initially disappointed. They didn't quite fill a small baking sheet. However, like Napoleon, they lasted forever! Everytime I needed my large oval baking dish, I had to remember that the Napoleons were in it. Later I needed my smaller dish, couldn't find it...and found the last batch of Napoleons in that. But I had my giant dish back, though I didn't need that one anymore. It seemed every time I looked for one of my baking dishes, the Napoleons had been moved in there by someone sneaky. I was beginning to feel that Napoleon, himself, was taking over my ktichen!

To round out the meal I served rosemary bread, even though I think I read that bread wasn't a big hit with Napoleon. However he loved potatoes and I did consider throwing some fingerlings into the pot to cook with the rest of the Marengo while we put on our costumes. However the addition of potatoes would have negated it as a traditional Marengo. Since I needed simplicity due to donning costumes and performing, I served the bread.

Not to forget Thomas Jefferson, I pretended our dinner was held at Monticello, which was fun because my son portrayed Meriweather Lewis, who was Jefferson's cousin.
Photobucket
For the kids I bought sparlking grape juice for their drink to toast the Lewis and Clark Expedition as well as Napoleon.
Photobucket
For the adults, I bought a Virginia wine from a winery located between Monticello and our house! It's a blackberry wine which was quite tasty. I also added it to the Marengo...which probably negated the effect. Napoleon probably wouldn't have liked it. Wonder what the Second Consul would have thought?

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Meeting Henry Clay

I haven't mentioned him much but Henry Clay is another important figure in American history. In fact, when we sat down to lunch the afternoon before our Napoleonic history presentation, I had a last minute idea. We had been so busy putting together last minute details for the presentation, that my husband got lunch for us. He wanted fried chicken so he went to Kentucky Fried Chicken for take out.

As we sat at the lunch table, surrounded by fried chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, biscuits and coleslaw, I wondered how I could start a history discussion. Then my eyes fell on the box of chicken, that said, "Kentucky." =o

I announced that we had been busy making Napoleon's for dessert in honor of him. Now we were having a lunch in honor of another early 19th century person....a certain young upstart.

Everyone looked at me quizzically.

Me: I said the hint is in the food. He came from the same region this food represents.

Kids: Davy Crockett!

Me: No, he was from the state this food is from.

Kids-Who's from Kentucky?

Me: He was an upstart.

Son-Andrew Jackson!

Me: No.

Son: But he was an upstart.

Me: But he's not from Kentucky. Besides he might be an upstart in battle but not in his mouth.

Eventually they came up with Henry Clay of Kentucky and we became quite vocal about him!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Smithsonian, Transportation, and Napoleon

A couple of weeks ago we studied about John Quincy Adams, whose remarkable career was lackluster in his presidency, according to the historian we read. Although Quincy was highly educated and experienced, with an impressive resume, his Congress worked against him, dismantling his vision for America, which included transportation improvements. Much of his efforts finally came to fruition, after his presidency. Quincy's greatest influence was before and after his presidency, some of which I've previously blogged about, like his work in Congress after the presidency.

After reading about Quincy in To The Best of My Ability, about the terms of each of the presidents, we read a book on the Erie Canal which resulted from the work of New York's Governor DeWitt Clinton. When my kids were younger we took them to this canal in Rome, NY where we road an 1820's canal boat pulled by mules! My husband yelled out, "Can we sing that song about a mule named Sal?" The canal boat man led us in song and explained the words, "Low bridge, everybody down!" When they went under a bridge, you'd better lay down so you don't get whacked! It was amazing back then that the elite dressed in fine clothes to ride atop the canal boats. They were quite a sensation creating many a social event...after they were finally built.

The planning process involved a trip to Europe to study the engineering of their canals. Then the work of digging took years, causing disgruntled critics who lost hope to call it "Clinton's Ditch." Finally it was finished and it worked! It revolutionized America. We read about Andrew Jackson and Ulysses S. Grant who were thrilled to ride the canal in its early years.

The exodus west increased.

Then the railroad came to town, giving stiff competition to the canals. We got to see one of the very first locamotives in America at the Smithsonian last weekend. The John Bull locamotive was made in England and shipped to America in 1831, during President Jackson's term. In many of our books, while reading about Jackson and Grant, we read of their excitement when they got to travel on the railroad! Jackson was the first president to ride the railroad.

The John Bull locamotive arrived in pieces, waiting to be assembled, which no one knew how to do. Using know-how from canal boats, the locamotive was assembled and tested on a short track. Napoleon Bonaparte's nephew, Napoleon-Lucien-Charles-Murat attended festivities for this steam powered marvel. You might have met his mother recently, at our Napoleonic history presentation! His mother was Caroline Bonaparte Murat who financed the excavations of Pompeii! Murat's wife got to ride the locamotive, becoming the first woman in America to have an opportunity to ride steam power such as this!

In 1981, the Smithsonian took the John Bull to a length of track in Virginia to see if she still had some get-up-and-go. At the link is a movie of the smooth and gorgeous run of the 150 year old engine.

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

I loved the wood on the locamotive. It's the most beautiful engine I've ever seen.

Photobucket

It is displayed on an actual length of track from the first iron railroad bridge in America from 1845.

Photobucket

A fun movie to watch with the kids, when learning about 1820's transportation, is Davy Crockett and the River Pirates with Fess Parker. The King of the Wild Frontier meets the King of the Mississippi, Mike Fink, in a race to New Orleans. Then they joined forces to combat river pirates. The boats they use look much like a canal boat and operating one is not easy, which is hilariously showcased in the movie. Meanwhile travel on the Mississippi was another doorway to the west, which the Americans, French and British all battled over throughout the history of the New World. Transportation is a great unit for kids to study, and seeing some of it at the Smithsonian was great!

Friday, January 25, 2013

18th Century Black Wool Short Cloak

I completely handsewed this 100% broadcloth wool. I used a Kannik Korner pattern, dated 1750-1800. Then I covered it in blue silk tafetta with ruffles for my daughter to wear in Colonial Williamsburg. One day while petting a CW horse, he slobbered all over the tafetta. We came home, I put the cloak in the UFO basket to give it new life, yet all it did was sit there. Then the latest HSF challenge, UFO came up! Since I'm awfully cold on chilly Virginia spring and autumn mornings, I decided to take off the tafetta and fix this so I could wear it alone as a black wool short cloak, or even wear it as an additional layer under my long red cloak on a blustery  winter day!



Photobucket


I decided to let my dress form, which has my latest silk 18th century gown (in the works) model the cloak.

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

Now for the HSF details!

HSF  2013

The Challenge: UFO

Fabric: black wool

Pattern: Kannik Korner

Year:1750-1800

Notions: grosgrain ribbon

How historically accurate is it? Highly accurate. 100% handsewn

Hours to complete: About 3

First worn: Next trip to Colonial Williamsburg

Total cost: Free, stash project

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Development of the Presidency at the Smithsonian

After seeing the First Ladies' Exhibit where we saw their Inaugral gowns, and visiting with the Mount Rushmore Presidents, we finished out the day at the Presidents' Exhibit at the Smithsonian. We had an hour to try to take it all in, which none of us achieved. The exhibit focused on how the presidency developed through each president, especially since no nation in the world had ever been led by a president before.

The office of president today first developed because of one man...

"{Presidential powers would not} have been so great had not many of the members cast their eyes toward General Washington as President; and shaped their ideas of the Powers to be given to a President, by their opinions of their Virtue."-Constitutional Convention Delegate Pierce Butler (South Carolina)

We were greeted by a carriage that the President might ride in during his parade to the White House after the Oath of Office at the Capitol.

Photobucket

These hand painted shoes and kid gloves were worn by Clara Stewart to President William McKinley's inaugural ceremony in 1901.
Photobucket

The Presidential Cabinet began with 4 under President Washington, none of whom were specified in the Constitution.

President Washington set the stage to step down from office, and peacefully transfer power to another elected official (John Adams).

"Your Union ought to be considered as a main prop of your liberty, the love of the one ought to endear to you the preserfation of the other."-President Washington's Farewell Address

Whereas in Britain where the powers are divided between the Prime Minister, who actually runs the nation, and the reigning monarch, who is the ceremonial representative, the President of the United States serves as both. Here are some moccasins that some Native Americans presented to President Grant at a peace conference in the 1870's.

Photobucket

Many presidents were elected because of their battlefield success like George Washington, William Henry Harrison, Ulysses S. Grant, Theodore Roosevelt, and Dwight D. Eisenhower. In our lifetimes we recall the call of the people for Norman Schwarzkopf and Colin Powell to run for president after their success in the Persian Gulf War. Here is a 19th century bandana featuring William Henry Harrison at the Battle of Tippecanoe
Photobucket



And here is a rendering from Harrison's inauguration...
Photobucket

By the way, Harrison died shortly after becoming president. In the wintery weather he gave the longest speech ever and caught pneumonia. He should have taken a cue from Washington who gave the shortest speech ever.

There was a section on home life, at the White House, which was fun. There was a cute wall quiz about which child was who. The one I liked the best was the story of the siblings who brought the horse upstairs since their brother was too sick to go outside to play. Can you imagine whose children did that? Theordore Roosevelts!

Grace Coolidge was considered one of the most gracious and popular hostesses of the White House. Here is her chiffon velvet evening dress that she wore as first lady. This dress also has a detachable train, which is unfortunately not on display.

Photobucket

And her shoes...
Photobucket

As hostess, the first lady might order new china. Here were some of the most unique and unexpected...

Photobucket

Underneath the duck-y plate is one with impressions of oyster shells. They are actually scooped out and oyster shells could be placed on it. Then next to it is a snowshoe. I would have guessed this was from Theodore Roosevelt's administration but actually it's the choice of First Lady Lucy Webb Hayes 1877-1881.

Photobucket

These were the choice of First Lady Julia Dent Grant, 1869-1877.

Photobucket

These are the choice of First Lady Sarah Childress Polk, 1845-1849.

Photobucket

These plates with sprays of bue flowers, were the choice of First Lady Abigail Adams, 1797-1801.

Photobucket

The last I got to see of the exhibit, before being ushered out for an inaugural party that was to be held at the Smithsonian, was of the deaths of the presidents. The last words of President William McKinley, who was assassinated, was, "Good-bye. Goodbye all. It's God's way. His will, not ours, be done. Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee."

Photobucket

This was one o the drums used at the funeral of President John F. Kennedy.