About

Dutifully studying (Mrs.) Beaton's Book of Needlework, printed in 1870.

Dutifully studying my 1870 edition of (Mrs.) Beaton’s Book of Needlework while wearing Regency clothing. Yup, that’s how my mind works.

Hi! I’m Susan, the woman behind Lady Constance and the one usually sewing and sweating to meet a deadline. Want to know about me? Here it is in a nutshell:

Social, cultural, and fashion history nut. Lover of “off-the-wall” trivia. Knitter, seamstress and fervent fabric fondler. Color and texture junkie. (Should spies with nefarious intent ever want to crack me, no interrogation is necessary – just lock me up in a fabric store blindfolded with heavy gloves glued to my hands. I give myself four hours – tops.)

Writer of short stories and children’s fiction. I love letting my imagination romp about. Julia Child going to the moon to get more bananas for Elvis’ peanut butter sandwiches? Why not?

Novice hat-maker; more like hat decorator, truth be told.

Journal des Dames, 1876.

Journal des Dames, 1876.

Survivor of corset-making. Just barely.

I learned how to use a sewing machine when I was eight years old. Mom didn’t sew much. As a result, I’m mostly self-taught, which explains a lot of what you’ll see in my posts.

Sewing room often confused with fabric shop.

User of said room often just plain confused.

 

Member:

Somewhere In Time, Unlimited (SITU) Seattle

Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA)

The Victorian Society in America (VSA)

Costumer’s Guild West,Inc

Oregon Regency Society, Puget Sound Chapter

Vintage Fashion Guild hopeful. Someday. Maybe. If I am really, really good and nice to animals and small children.

Sienna, Italy: lunching on the Piazza Del Campo

Sienna, Italy: lunching on the Piazza Del Campo

18 thoughts on “About

  1. Susan – Greetings from Ann Arbor, Michigan. Where are you? I am midway through a little historical fiction project around a Civil War widow from Gettysburg and would like to tackle the details of her wedding day. Here’s the deal. She marries her childhood sweetheart at 18 on Jan 23, 1855, so I’m writing that the event happens in her parents’ farmhouse. Both families are somewhat wealthy, and they’ve a bright future ahead of them as a well-to-do family. I’ve been told she likely wore dark wool (her mother cared about clothes and Hettie herself was one of the early owners of a sewing machine.) Can you help me with some details?
    1) What her gown might look like — how many pieces, buttons or ribbon or what do you think? No veil or flowers, I’m assuming.
    2) How she got dressed from underwear up — how long did it take a woman in 1855 to get ready for her wedding? 🙂
    3) What her trousseau might have looked like
    Someone counseled me that she was transitioning from a teenager with shorter skirts to a bride with a floor-length wardrobe, also that there weren’t a lot of items she’d leave home with to become a bride in that year so not a particularly bulging trunk.
    Hettie’s young husband, George, went off to fight for the Union cause in the sixth year of their married life. Within two years he was dead in perhaps the worst of the military prisons, Andersonville, Georgia. Her life went downhill from there, and she died at 80 in her daughter’s home 100 miles away without a penny to her name. I see her as typical of women who lose everything because of a man’s war.
    Can you help? I’d be ever so grateful for your counsel. I loved discovering your site. Charlotte DeVries

    • Hi, Charlotte! I’d love to help but things are a bit hectic at the moment. I do have some resources I can look into, through, so let me nose around a bit. I hope you don’t mind if I get back to you in bits and pieces.

    • If you have access to Pinterest, this link will show what wedding gowns looked like in the mid 1850’s. Queen Victoria started the rage for white wedding dresses at her own wedding in 1847. If your heroine is from a family of wealth she may have chosen white or off white/winter white to show her status. But wedding dresses came in all manner of colors. They were mostly solids colors, to help showcase the trim and flowers. It’s cold in January in her location, so she may have chosen a dress made of very fine wool instead of silk. She may very well have worn a headdress of wax and paper flowers and a veil. Some examples are on the Pinterest page. And unless there was a pressing reason, if she had wealth she would have had the dress made for her.
      1855 wedding ensemble

  2. Maybe you could answer a question. What would be appropriate to wear to an afternoon tea civil war style?? And what is just a day dress? They kind of look the same to me.

    • Hi Stacie – I’m not very knowledgeable yet when it comes to the ins and outs of dressing for Civil War style events, but I’ll do my best. In general, a day dress is just that – a dress work for everyday around the house: writing letters, managing the house staff, etc. Going out in public is a sartorial step up, since one would wish to be seen in better clothing. The same thing happens if you are receiving guests in your home; you would put on a receiving outfit to look a little nicer. Making the effort was an acknowledgement of your understanding of society and proper etiquette.

      So, in the most basic terms, a tea dress is a very nice day dress: made of nicer and better quality fabric, nicer lace and trims, nicer jewellery, nicer accessories (hats, gloves, parasols…).

      My #1 “go to” resource for questions like this is Pinterest. It is a visual collection of people’s interests, organized into “boards” and holds a ton of information. You can browse any time and there is no cost if you decide to sign up and start your own visual collections. I just now went to Pinterest, searched for “Civil War tea gowns” and got a ton of images. The trick is sorting through the genuine garments and those that are newly-made for for sale. Use the genuine pieces from museums or collections as your guide.

      Jennifer Rosbrugh at Historical Sewing.com (www.historicalsewing.com) has tons of information about period dress, including a lot of detail. She’s also great about answering questions.

      I also got a lot of help from Donna at Abraham’s Lady (www.abrahamslady.com). She’s located in Gettysburg and lives all things Civil War. She’s very good with how to avoid common mistakes and she has a lot of information on her website.

      Good luck with your Civil War tea dress!

      And if anyone can suggest good resources for Stacie, feel free to add them to the comments. 🙂

  3. You are welcome. And sharing the learning experience with others is what makes blogging worth-while for everyone. That is why I enjoy reading your blog so much. 🙂

  4. What a delightful surprise! Thank you!! I am very honored to have your nomination. I love writing and sharing what I learn. If I never made mistakes, I’d never learn a thing. And, as you can see, I am leaning a lot! 😉

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s