Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Jehossee Installation: Part Two


Sorry for the occasionally poor picture quality! I really wanted to finish this entry, but I don't have access to all of my personal photos yet. Consequently, some of these pictures are... "borrowed." They will be replaced in the near future. In the meanwhile, no, it's not your monitor. Squint with enthusiasm!

 From left to right: cotton roller-print dress for an 8-12 year old slave girl from the Aiken's Charleston home; Henrietta Aiken's plaid silk bodice and skirt trimmed; an antique chemise, c. 1855-1870 inscribed "Belle Canting"; a muslin chemise on a linen cord, meant to represent a plain variation of the shift a slave may have worn; cotton sateen pantalettes.

I was interviewed by a Highly Respected Local News Source* last week as part of the ongoing small-town fanfare and relentless opportunities for self-ridicule that keep coming my way these days. It was pretty awesome. I've been in the paper before, but always as a gaping bystander to a horrific accident, or a gaping bystander to a carnival freak, or a gaping bystander to a parade of carnival freaks that lead to a horrific accident. So this was new. Mainly because I knew that there would be cameras in advance.

*the only newspaper in town.

The story came out this week. It is a very nice little piece complete with pictures of the exhibit and an online video clip of me rambling incessantly about chemises, flopping my hands around like oxygen deprived fish and occasionally, opening my eyes.

Yes. So this is what I look like when I have been given time to prepare AND pose. 
Photographer: "Just act naturally!" 
Me: "Hurrrrrrr!! Chemise."

Where did we leave off? Let's see... I moaned about the Cranky Ladies and... well, that was pretty much it. Onward and upward!

Everything was set up on the first day, except Harriet's dress. There were several reasons for this, all of which revolved around the fact that the bloody thing wasn't done yet. Luckily, I finished it in time and set it up hours before the reception on my own dress form, Headless June.

 Harriet's blue silk taffeta striped dress, derived in style from an 1849 fashion plate reproduced in C. Willett Cunnington's English Women's Clothing in the Nineteenth Century. The chemisette and sleeve inserts are antique originals from my own collection.

The obvious advantage to using Headless June was that I knew the dress would fit, and that there was almost no chance of needing a tetanus shot before the evening was out. Damn you, Jangles...

The exhibit was comprised primarily of the garments I made, liberally seasoned with surviving extant artifacts and garments, and informative placards.  The total list of items ultimately included over 30 handmade garments, augmented by an antique chemise, quilted petticoat and quilted vest and the chemisette and sleeve inserts displayed with Harriet's gown. Additionally, I filled two cases with reproduction and antique shoes and  stockings, and a small collection of 1840's women's periodicals.

 This was taken right before I filled the cases and walls with insipid little informative signs. So imagine this, only more cluttered. From the top moving clock-wise we have an 1849 "Godey's Lady's Book," an 1847 "Sharpe's London Magazine," an 1846 "Ladies Wreath," and a single May, 1850 issue of Godey's.

 Overall, the experience has been really good. I have been genuinely shocked at the level of interest that people have expressed, both as fellow costume enthusiasts and local history buffs. Is the exhibit perfect? No. But it's better than I ever could have expected. And it may have a life outside of this first showing. A few of the local historic sites have contacted me about setting up parts of the exhibit for smaller events throughout the summer. 

 People milling around, trying to act like this isn't THE GREATEST THING THEY'VE EVER SEEN IN THEIR WHOLE LIVES, EVER.

Numerous people have suggested that it would be wise for me to build my eventual master's thesis upon the Jehossee project. I can certainly see the wisdom in doing that... in theory. But I really think that it is time to move on.

Hopefully to something even more conversationally awkward! 

If you have waaaaay too much time on your hands and are interested in a) stalking me or b) hearing what a public school education and at least two personality disorders can do for your public speaking skills, check here or here.


  1. The exhibition looks fantastic (and you do too). Great job!

    I should probably be grateful that my own dress form issues don't involve sharp, rusty metal.

    1. Congratulations on YOUR collection! I know I sound like a kid in a candy store, but I really can't wait to see pictures and patterns.

      The advantage, (if there is one), to using these wretched dress forms is that I can't possibly break them or make them worse. And as I read your post I reflected on the fact that I really should be grateful that mine were so old. I was terrified the night before set-up that nothing would fit, as most of the dresses were draped on Headless June. (And naturally, I didn't bother checking BEFORE I spent half a year sewing clothes...) But the forms had small proportions and didn't give me many fitting issues, even if they did piss metal shavings everywhere.

  2. Wow, I really enjoyed reading through your posts. Congratulations on this wonderful exhibit. I wish that I could visit it.

    1. Thank you! Welcome to Fight Club, Lacy.