Monday, July 9, 2012

Jehossee Rides Again: Part Three

Dressed to Thrill!

This is my "serious" face. I generally make it as I stand next to strange men in khakis. My mother appears to be sneaking a peek at her watch, but don't be fooled. She is, in fact, dead. We propped her up for the picture to evade police questioning.

The Hallowed and Venerable Last Meeting of the Confederate Cabinet event was fairly well attended and included short speeches by several local historians and the lovely curator of the Springs and White family papers and antiques, Ann Evans. The afternoon also included mid-19th century food prepared by interpreters and a demonstration of canon and arms by a branch of a local Confederate reenactor group, and readings by the descendants of former slaves that lived and worked on the land prior to the Civil War. My role was to follow Ann on the scheduled home tours that day and give short descriptions of the clothing depicted in each room and answer any related questions.

In true form, I have almost no pictures of the talks that I gave, the people who attended, the activities in the yard or anything else that one may generally be inclined to photograph for posterity. What I DO have is this:

My Mother in her Big Blue dress assaulting my Emergency Back-Up Mother, Nancy. This was just before we brought out the Antebellum kiddy pool full of Jello.

More whining about clothes:

I had intended to make a new Civil War-era dress for myself for this event. The one that I'm wearing in the top picture is a couple of years old and has never been finished. I like it, but it needs some love. I even went so far as to BUY the bloody fabric to make a new dress. But then came Mom, and Mom took priority.

My Mother's dress was an adventure unto itself. She has forgotten more about sewing than I will ever know, so I have great respect for her skills. However, those skills were not employed in the making of her dress. Mom isn't really "into" stuff like this*, so concessions were necessary in order to get her out in mid-century drag. She insisted on picking out fabric (polyester lavender motel curtain quality stuff) and trim (black cotton balls which were impervious to scissors yet somehow managed to piss black fluff all over my house), neither of which could ultimately be used. (This I discovered after completing about 80% of the motel lavender dress, at which point most of the seams frayed out, ruining the entirety of what I'd finished.)

*Direct Mom quote: "I think it's nice you aren't embarrassed to look like that."

Thus followed a last-minute trip to Hanc*ck's for some blue slightly-less-sleazy-but-still polyester motel curtain fabric. Actually, I do like the blue. It's crisp and light-weight and most of all, it refused to fray. I didn't use a pattern for my mother's dress. It's based off of a June 1865 "Promenade" costume from Godey's and was draped on Headless June with a great deal of optimism. It's very fashion-forward for the year we were meant to depict but my Mother had dreams of wearing a bustle skirt with "a big straw hat like Scarlett" so this was a moral victory. The skirt is 3 panels of fabric pleated onto a band, leaving the front flat and the bulk of fabric in the back to reflect the elliptical silhouette of the mid-'60's. The Swiss-waist style belt is stitched on top of the skirt band and is a part of the dress. It closes with three industrial strength hook and eyes in the back center. The "shirt" she's wearing was draped onto her at the single prior fitting we managed before the big day, and it is a hot mess. The jacket was particularly stressful because I didn't know until the day of the event if it would fit at all.

The brown flashes lining the sleeves are fragments of a reproduction cotton fabric. I liked the contrast. You could only really see it when she did her Prince Valiant pose (here) or engaged in fisticuffs (above).

But it did! Mostly! Sort of!

The Jehossee clothing was supposed to come down the day following the event, but I was asked to leave it up for a few more days...

and then a few more days...

And then another week or so. Ultimately, it stayed up for a month. But I got to visit lots. I've been volunteering at the Homestead for most of the summer, cataloging the vintage and antique clothing that belonged to several generations of the Homestead's inhabitants. It has been a massive task, which I will whine about in more detail later. Excelsior!


  1. I was laughing out loud on reading your description of making your mother's dress. I too have made something for my mom to wear to the Victorian Festival in Port Townsend, WA, and it had to have a cap over it because she also refused to wear that funny stuff. But she loves playing dress-up too. She used to sew herself and drafted and draped all her own patterns. I feel honored that I can now repay her for all the pretty dresses she made me as a little girl. I hope you both have the same fun.
    BTW, I like your dress.

  2. Thank you! I feel much the same about my mom. I think back to every time I got to proudly wear one of her creations to school and it makes me feel like I have a legacy to earn. Your mom sounds like fun. And I LOVE your blog, by the way.