Saturday, June 27, 2015

An 18th Century Gown in a Day

In June we went to Colonial Williamsburg to see a gown made in a day at the Margaret Hunter Shop. Although they began shortly after sunrise, we didn't arrive until later in the morning. When we entered the shop we saw Mrs. Randolph in her dressing gown, patiently waiting any fitting duties she'd need to stand for as the mantua makers draped her. 

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The mantua maker and milliners on this side of the shop were sewing the silk version of the gown. Turns out they decided to actually sew two gowns that day: one of linen, which was sewn on the other side of the shop, and one of silk on this side of the shop. Since one of my good friends was sewing the silk swags for the petticoat, I visited with her! Hi! She happily greeted us when she saw us. It is always wonderful to meet up with her!

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And turns out I knew another one of the milliners too, on the far right, sitting next to my good friend on the left. She remembered me as well. We've all taken Burnley and Trowbridge classes at one time or another, together.

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The lovely gown they were creating was based on this print: a version in silk and a version in linen. I think I was told, if I remember correctly, that the style is actually called an Italian gown. Both were to be complete by sunset!

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Because we came later in the day, we had missed the initial draping. After a delightful bit of time here we went on a few jaunts through town.

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On display you can see the back of an Italian gown, that was used in the recent Italian gown workshop with Burnley and Trowbridge.  The ladies are working on the silk version of the gown...

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Mr. Anderson from the armoury arrived to share the sad news that his mother's mother had passed away and they needed funeral gloves. I think that is what he asked for. Did they have any?

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I loved watching this interaction with the 18th century people! They bring history to life!

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Here are the milliners and mantua maker working on the linen version of the gown!

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Then we went to visit the Oval Office Project and then Mr. James Madison! (details at the links) After a visit with them, we returned to the Margaret Hunter Shop. On this side of the shop was the linen gown in progress...

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While we were there Mrs. Randolph tried on her newly completed hat, based on the print shown above

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On this side the silk version of the gown was in progress.

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Preparing for a draping session...

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Meanwhile some lovelies about the shop...

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Sewing the silks...

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At this time we went to see General Lafayette, the Virginia Militia, and the Fife and Drum Corps. (details at link) When we returned, the silk work was continuing.

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By this time all the other trades had closed shop for the day. The sun was setting lower in the sky. Even though I didn't use a flash, the room was darkening a bit. Everyone was quietly working. Meanwhile Mrs. Randolph spent quite a bit of time engaging us in conversation. She remembered us from other visits so we had much news to catch up on.
At one point Mrs. Randolph asked my daughter if she'd like to read a bit of something for everyone to enjoy. This is something that was commonly done in the mantua maker trade. They often sewed bespoke gowns as a team, and while sewing someone would read literature to aloud to pass the time. This shop had recreated that experience earlier in the morning but alas, we missed that bit of historical time travel.
Shortly after 7pm, the linen gown was complete! The mantua maker in charge of the linen gown fitted Mrs. Randolph with her new linen gown, which had been sewn in a day!

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Ta da!

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Here is the friendly Orientation Interpreter, who checked passes to allow visitors into the shop that day. All the while, in between interaction with guests, she had sewn the rosettes for the silk gown.

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You can see them in her basket.

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Alas, the silk gown wasn't quite complete. However you can see the beautifully completed swag on the Margaret Hunter Shop's facebook page in the header photo.

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