I was really excited this week when my order from Jas. Townsend & Son showed up in my mailbox way ahead of schedule. I settled on a bedgown and petticoat, and I’m very pleased with how they turned out. As you can see in the picture, the petticoat is the same fabric as the gown I would have loved to get, but can’t afford. But this is almost as good, and won’t require those really expensive stays. I still have to wash them to remove any sizing and to soften the fabric, then hem the petticoat. I ordered it unfinished so I could adjust the length to the shoes I purchase.
I’d already bought the shift, which goes under everything—with nothing beneath except stockings! A bit breezy, I’d think, but that was the custom. I also already purchased the nice white, fashionably clocked, thigh-length stockings shown to the right, and now just need the slippers to match. I’m lusting after the lovely ones from Burnley & Trowbridge shown below, and joy of all joys, they do come in red! Which, of course, is what I’ll order as soon as I’ve saved up my pennies.
I had decided on the lappet cap, shown next. I like it fairly well, but I’m thinking I may substitute the country cap below, instead. Thankfully they’re not expensive. I was going to buy a straw hat to go on top when outdoors, but I’m going to save the money and not worry about it. My friend who invited me to the event told me that her costume is a work in progress, which makes me feel better. I can always add accessories if I end up doing this on a somewhat regular basis. Adding a shortgown a different color that coordinates with my petticoat would be a lovely choice, too, for multi-day events, and then maybe a second petticoat in a solid color to layer underneath with the print petticoat looped up over it for a nice contrasting effect. And a fichu around the neck . . . Well, nobody ever accused me of not being obsessive!
Next week I’m going to order a set of replica silver pins to close my bedgown down the front for a slightly more formal look, instead of tying it shut with an apron, as was common. And I’ve also decided to buy a set of pockets, which are tied on beneath the petticoat and reached through the petticoat’s side slits. That way I won’t need a reticule for essentials, which could be a pain to carry around at events. Thankfully these pieces are all inexpensive. I might need to make another field trip down to Pierceton, where the shop is located, just to pick through what they have. They’re only about an hour away from where I’m spending the summer in northern Indiana.
Thankfully this outfit will allow me to go without stays, although I’d like to try them at some point as I’ve heard are actually comfortable when properly fitted. That is, as long as you don’t lace them to the point of misery to make your waist smaller. Unlike Civil War days, that wasn’t the idea in the 18th century. They were to provide support for the back and bosom and to create the conical shape, pointed in the front, that was the height of fashion at the time. Very sensible, I say.
Once I have all the pieces ready, I’ll have my husband take a picture of me all geared up. I’ve tried everything on, of course, but I can’t wait to see the full effect when everything is in place as it should be! What fun!!!
John Adams - the HBO series
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