I have no idea where 2015 went! I blinked and it was gone. It is my goal to add several dress diary entries, a few tutorials, and several excerpts from period documents in the upcoming months.

In the meantime here’s a quick snippet from Letters to Country Girls by Jane Grey 1858, regarding the virtues of simple dress.

“Avoid those materials that are meant to look like something else than what they are-calicoes that look like de laines, &c. Imitations are generally humbugs. It is best for every thing to be what it looks like, and look like what it is.

The less trimmings you put on the better. A rich dress does not require it; and on a cheap one, it looks “I would if I could”. What is more ridiculous than a low priced dress spattered with ruffles, folds, buttons, gimp, and cord? Much trimming is an unmistakeable sign of an empty head. You know there are things of which we say “ That will always look well”- meaning that it has some real merit apart from all the whims of fashion. Well, always get that kind of article, make it without any fandangoes, take care of it, and you will always be well dressed. Many a farmer’s daughter lays out as much for dress as should make her look like a countess, and never has one good article. Most likely you have given as much for a gay cashmere dress with fringe, gimp, buttons, and cord to trim it as would have bought a good French merino or silk. Your gay dress soon looked fady, or old fashioned- the other you might have had for twenty years, and it would always have been lady-like. A cheap calico made plain and neat looks lady-like, while a parcel of cheap trimmings puts one in mind of an Indian’s glass beads, besides keeping the wearer for ever fixing, fitting and sewing.”

Hot Cocoa


INGREDIENTS – Allow 2 teaspoonfuls of the prepared cocoa to 1 breakfast-cup; boiling milk and boiling water.

Mode.—Put the cocoa into a breakfast-cup, pour over it sufficient cold milk to make it into a smooth paste; then add equal quantities of boiling milk and boiling water, and stir all well together. Care must be taken not to allow the milk to get burnt, as it will entirely spoil the flavour of the preparation. The above directions are usually given for making the prepared cocoa. The rock cocoa, or that bought in a solid piece, should be scraped, and made in the same manner, taking care to rub down all the lumps before the boiling liquid is added.

Sufficient—2 teaspoonfuls of prepared cocoa for 1 breakfast-cup, or 1/4 oz. of the rock cocoa for the same quantity.

– Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management, Isabella Beeton, 1861

An Amusing Anecdote From 1860 On The Subject of Etiquette- Table Etiquette

Dinner party, c. 1860. source: Michael and Ariane Batterberry's Fashion: The Mirror of History, 1982.

Dinner party, c. 1860. source: Michael and Ariane Batterberry’s Fashion: The Mirror of History, 1982.

From The Gentlemen’s Book of Etiquette, and Manual of Politeness by Cecil Hartley, 1860


“However, let us go to dinner, and I will soon tell you whether you are a well-bred man or not; and here let me premise that what is good manners for a small dinner is good manners for a large one, and vice versâ. Now, the first thing you do is to sit down. Stop, sir! pray do not cram yourself into the table in that way; no, nor sit a yard from it, like that. How graceless, inconvenient, and in the way of conversation! Why, dear me! you are positively putting your elbows on the table, and now you have got your hands fumbling about with the spoons and forks, and now you are nearly knocking my new hock glasses over. Can’t you take your hands down, sir? Didn’t you learn that in the nursery? Didn’t your mamma say to you, ‘Never put your hands above the table except to carve or eat?’ Oh! but come, no nonsense, sit up, if you please. I can’t have your fine head of hair forming a side dish on my table; you must not bury your face in the plate, you came to show it, and it ought to be alive. Well, but there is no occasion to throw your head back like that, you look like an alderman, sir, after dinner. Pray, don’t lounge in that sleepy way. You are here to eat, drink, and be merry. You can sleep when you get home.

“Well, then, I suppose you can see your napkin. Got none, indeed! Very likely, in my house. You may be sure that I never sit down to a meal without napkins. I don’t want to make my tablecloths unfit for use, and I don’t want to make my trousers unwearable. Well, now, we are all seated, you can unfold it on your knees; no, no; don’t tuck it into your waistcoat like an alderman; and what! what on earth do you mean by wiping your forehead with it? Do you take it for a towel? Well, never mind, I am consoled that you did not go farther, and use it as a pocket-handkerchief. So talk away to the lady on your right, and wait till soup is handed to you. By the way, that waiting is the most important part of table manners, and, as much as possible, you should avoid asking for anything or helping yourself from the table. Your soup you eat with a spoon—I don’t know what else you could eat it with—but then it must be one of good size. Yes, that will do, but I beg you will not make that odious noise in drinking your soup. It is louder than a dog lapping water, and a cat would be quite genteel to it. Then you need not scrape up the plate in that way, nor even tilt it to get the last drop. I shall be happy to send you some more; but I must just remark, that it is not the custom to take two helpings of soup, and it is liable to keep other people waiting, which, once for all, is a selfish and intolerable habit. But don’t you hear the servant offering you sherry? I wish you would attend, for my servants have quite enough to do, and can’t wait all the evening while you finish that very mild story to Miss Goggles. Come, leave that decanter alone. I had the wine put on the table to fill up; the servants will hand it directly, or, as we are a small party, I will tell you to help yourself; but, pray, do not be so officious. (There, I have sent him some turbot to keep him quiet. I declare he cannot make up his mind.) You are keeping my servant again, sir. Will you, or will you not, do turbot? Don’t examine it in that way; it is quite fresh, I assure you; take or decline it. Ah, you take it, but that is no reason why you should take up a knife too. Fish, I repeat must never be touched with a knife. Take a fork in the right and a small piece of bread in the left hand. Good, but—? Oh! that is atrocious; of course you must not swallow the bones, but you should rather do so than spit them out in that way. Put up your napkin like this, and land the said bone on your plate. Don’t rub your head in the sauce, my good man, nor go progging about after the shrimps or oysters therein. Oh! how horrid! I declare your mouth was wide open and full of fish. Small pieces, I beseech you; and once for all, whatever you eat, keep your mouth shut, and never attempt to talk with it full.

“So now you have got a pâté. Surely you are not taking two on your plate. There is plenty of dinner to come, and one is quite enough. Oh! dear me, you are incorrigible. What! a knife to cut that light, brittle pastry? No, nor fingers, never. Nor a spoon—almost as bad. Take your fork, sir, your fork; and, now you have eaten, oblige me by wiping your mouth and moustache with your napkin, for there is a bit of the pastry hanging to the latter, and looking very disagreeable. Well, you can refuse a dish if you like. There is no positive necessity for you to take venison if you don’t want it. But, at any rate, do not be in that terrific hurry. You are not going off by the next train. Wait for the sauce and wait for vegetables; but whether you eat them or not, do not begin before everybody else. Surely you must take my table for that of a railway refreshment-room, for you have finished before the person I helped first. Fast eating is bad for the digestion, my good sir, and not very good manners either. What! are you trying to eat meat with a fork alone? Oh! it is sweetbread, I beg your pardon, you are quite right. Let me give you a rule,—Everything that can be cut without a knife, should be cut with a fork alone. Eat your vegetables, therefore, with a fork. No, there is no necessity to take a spoon for peas; a fork in the right hand will do. What! did I really see you put your knife into your mouth? Then I must give you up. Once for all, and ever, the knife is to cut, not to help with. Pray, do not munch in that noisy manner; chew your food well, but softly. Eat slowly. Have you not heard that Napoleon lost the battle of Leipsic by eating too fast? It is a fact though. His haste caused indigestion, which made him incapable of attending to the details of the battle. You see you are the last person eating at table. Sir, I will not allow you to speak to my servants in that way. If they are so remiss as to oblige you to ask for anything, do it gently, and in a low tone, and thank a servant just as much as you would his master. Ten to one he is as good a man; and because he is your inferior in position, is the very reason you should treat him courteously. Oh! it is of no use to ask me to take wine; far from pacifying me, it will only make me more angry, for I tell you the custom is quite gone out, except in a few country villages, and at a mess-table. Nor need you ask the lady to do so. However, there is this consolation, if you should ask any one to take wine with you, he or she cannot refuse, so you have your own way. Perhaps next you will be asking me to hob and nob, or trinquer in the French fashion with arms encircled. Ah! you don’t know, perhaps, that when a lady trinques in that way with you, you have a right to finish off with a kiss. Very likely, indeed! But it is the custom in familiar circles in France, but then we are not Frenchmen. Will you attend to your lady, sir? You did not come merely to eat, but to make yourself agreeable. Don’t sit as glum as the Memnon at Thebes; talk and be pleasant. Now, you have some pudding. No knife—no, no. A spoon if you like, but better still, a fork. Yes, ice requires a spoon; there is a small one handed you, take that.

“Say ‘no.’ This is the fourth time wine has been handed to you, and I am sure you have had enough. Decline this time if you please. Decline that dish too. Are you going to eat of everything that is handed? I pity you if you do. No, you must not ask for more cheese, and you must eat it with your fork. Break the rusk with your fingers. Good. You are drinking a glass of old port. Do not quaff it down at a gulp in that way. Never drink a whole glassful of anything at once.

“Well, here is the wine and dessert. Take whichever wine you like, but remember you must keep to that, and not change about. Before you go up stairs I will allow you a glass of sherry after your claret, but otherwise drink of one wine only. You don’t mean to say you are helping yourself to wine before the ladies. At least, offer it to the one next to you, and then pass it on, gently, not with a push like that. Do not drink so fast; you will hurry me in passing the decanters, if I see that your glass is empty. You need not eat dessert till the ladies are gone, but offer them whatever is nearest to you. And now they are gone, draw your chair near mine, and I will try and talk more pleasantly to you. You will come out admirably at your next dinner with all my teaching. What! you are excited, you are talking loud to the colonel. Nonsense. Come and talk easily to me or to your nearest neighbor. There, don’t drink any more wine, for I see you are getting romantic. You oblige me to make a move. You have had enough of those walnuts; you are keeping me, my dear sir. So now to coffee [one cup] and tea, which I beg you will not pour into your saucer to cool. Well, the dinner has done you good, and me too. Let us be amiable to the ladies, but not too much so.”

An Amusing Anecdote From 1860 On The Subject of Etiquette

From The Ladies’ Book of Etiquette, and Manual of Politeness by Florence Hartley, 1860


A lady’s conduct is never so entirely at the mercy of critics, because never so public, as when she is in the street. Her dress, carriage, walk, will all be exposed to notice; every passer-by will look at her, if it is only for one glance; every unlady-like action will be marked; and in no position will a dignified, lady-like deportment be more certain to command respect.

Let me start with you upon your promenade, my friend, and I will soon decide your place upon the list of well-bred ladies.

First, your dress. Not that scarlet shawl, with a green dress, I beg, and—oh! spare my nerves!—you are not so insane as to put on a blue bonnet. That’s right. If you wish to wear the green dress, don a black shawl, and—that white bonnet will do very well. One rule you must lay down with regard to a walking dress. It must never be conspicuous. Let the material be rich, if you will; the set of each garment faultless; have collar and sleeves snowy white, and wear neatly-fitting, whole, clean gloves and boots. Every detail may be scrupulously attended to, but let the whole effect be quiet and modest. Wear a little of one bright color, if you will, but not more than one. Let each part of the dress harmonize with all the rest; avoid the extreme of fashion, and let the dress suit you. If you are short and plump, do not wear flounces, because they are fashionable, and avoid large plaids, even if they are the very latest style. If tall and slight, do not add to the length of your figure by long stripes, a little mantilla, and a caricature of a bonnet, with long, streaming ribbons. A large, round face will never look well, staring from a tiny, delicate bonnet; nor will a long, thin one stand the test much better. Wear what is becoming to yourself, and only bow to fashion enough to avoid eccentricity. To have everything in the extreme of fashion, is a sure mark of vulgarity.

Wear no jewelry in the street excepting your watch and brooch. Jewelry is only suited for full evening dress, when all the other details unite to set it off. If it is real, it is too valuable to risk losing in the street, and if it is not real, no lady should wear it. Mock jewelry is utterly detestable.

What are you doing? Sucking the head of your parasol! Have you not breakfasted? Take that piece of ivory from your mouth! To suck it is unlady-like, and let me tell you, excessively unbecoming. Rosy lips and pearly teeth can be put to a better use.

Why did you not dress before you came out? It is a mark of ill-breeding to draw your gloves on in the street. Now your bonnet-strings, and now—your collar! Pray arrange your dress before you leave the house! Nothing looks worse than to see a lady fussing over her dress in the street. Take a few moments more in your dressing-room, and so arrange your dress that you will not need to think of it again whilst you are out.

Do not walk so fast! you are not chasing anybody! Walk slowly, gracefully! Oh, do not drag one foot after the other as if you were fast asleep—set down the foot lightly, but at the same time firmly; now, carry your head up, not so; you hang it down as if you feared to look any one in the face! Nay, that is the other extreme! Now you look like a drill-major, on parade! So! that is the medium. Erect, yet, at the same time, easy and elegant.

Now, my friend, do not swing your arms. You don’t know what to do with them? Your parasol takes one hand; hold your dress up a little with the other. Not so! No lady should raise her dress above the ankle.

Take care! don’t drag your dress through that mud-puddle! Worse and worse! If you take hold of your dress on both sides, in that way, and drag it up so high, you will be set down as a raw country girl. So. Raise it just above the boot, all round, easily, letting it fall again in the old folds. Don’t shake it down; it will fall back of itself.

Stop! don’t you see there is a carriage coming? Do you want to be thrown down by the horses? You can run across? Very lady-like indeed! Surely nothing can be more ungraceful than to see a lady shuffle and run across a street. Wait until the way is clear and then walk slowly across.

Do not try to raise your skirts. It is better to soil them. (You were very foolish to wear white skirts this muddy day.) They are easily washed, and you cannot raise all. You will surely be awkward in making the attempt, and probably fail, in spite of your efforts. True, they will be badly soiled, and you expose this when you raise the dress, but the state of the streets must be seen by all who see your share of the dirt, and they will apologize for your untidy appearance in a language distinctly understood.

Don’t hold your parasol so close to your face, nor so low down. You cannot see your way clear, and you will run against somebody. Always hold an umbrella or parasol so that it will clear your bonnet, and leave the space before your face open, that you may see your way clearly.


Ladies and Gentlemen of the 1860s Conference 2014: Day 1

I flew in to Harrisburg late Wednesday night and spent all day Thursday and Friday in workshops.

Thursday I attended Maggie Koenig’s Pattern Play class. So much fun!

Maggie walked us through the process of using a basic bodice pattern to create patterns for collars, cuffs, chemisettes, and other accessories. I enjoyed this class very much, but apparently the late hours the night before were very much evident on my face for poor Maggie had to ask if she was putting me to sleep 😦 I assure you she was not, and I hope to take classes with her again!


In the afternoon, I took the Bonnet Veils workshop with Carolann Schmidt. Wow! We spent the first half of the class learning about the use and styles of bonnet veils with lots of originals to look at, and made our very own veil in the second half. I need to go back and re-do mine as the lace edging just wasn’t lying smoothly for me, but I see several of these in my future.

Pictures from the bonnet veil class can be found here.

More on Friday’s workshops coming soon.

First Completed Sewing Project of 2014

ImageI started this coat back in 2011, but got stymied on the sleeves and collar, so it has sat in a corner waiting for me to come back and finish it. I finally got around to it, in time to wear it back East for the 2014 Ladies and Gentlemen of the 1860s Conference, and can I tell you, I’m so glad I did! It was quite cold for this thoroughly acclimatized transplant to the PacNW. I had completely forgotten how cold Eastern winters really are.

Details on the coat:

pattern: Vogue 8346 princess-seam winter coat

Materials: black wool outerwear fabric with a gaberdine weave, pink poly-mix quilted lining

modifications: added internal breast pocket with zipper, redrafted sleeve and collar patterns, raised armscye for better fit

Stay tuned for posts about the conference and my evening gown adventures.