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PSiebers
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« on: January 16, 2010, 08:24:53 PM »

Hi everyone

I am new here, first post.  I have been hanging out here for a while and learned a TON!

This summer I will participate in my fourth "handcart pioneer" 3 day trek experience as a youth chaperone.

While lurking I have learned that my "white blouse and calico skirt" just aren't going to cut it anymore!

I am an advanced seamstress and look forward to a challenge. 

So I have ordered the Laughing Moon Round Dress and I am looking at tropical weight wools- haven't chosen one yet.

In the meantime, I have had another possible thought.  As part of this experience the chaperones are encouraged to share stories of the handcart pioneers with the youth.  I am the descendant of about 18 Mormon pioneers, though most of them traveled via wagon, not handcart.  I thought however that the experience could be enhanced if I did attempt to portray one of my ancestors as much as possible. 

That being said, most of them were immigrants.  They joined the Mormon church in the 1840s and came to America specifically to get to Salt Lake City.  A handful of my ancestors are from Denmark and Scotland, but the majority are from England.

I have to assume that they didn't arrive and immediately go out and buy the latest "American fashions" and I have to assume that most American fashion was still inspired by Europe?

So, if I want to go this direction, what modifications if any would you suggest to the Laughing Moon Round dress?

(Frankly Denmark would be my first choice if anyone has any thoughts on that?)

Thank you so much!

Paula



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Paula
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« Reply #1 on: January 16, 2010, 09:07:28 PM »

Hey another Paula!  Welcome!

A few things to remember about Handcart Pioneers (most of which you probably already know)  Your span of time is 1856 to 1860. You are definitely not high fashion and despite the dates wouldn't be wearing a hoop.  Doing a search from some of the European museums may give you a better visual of work dress but if I remember right work clothes were pretty similar in the States and abroad.

Also remember that while many of the Handcart Pioneers came directly from Europe, on trains and then across the plains there were those who had to wait until their full company arrived to continue the journey.  For example the second handcart company under the direction of Daniel McArthur had half the company arrive in Iowa City on May 12th and the other half didn't get there until early June.  So while funds were limited practical clothing and dress goods would have been a priority and so you may have the opportunity to have "American" clothing.

Good luck.  I too am working on trek dresses for two adults and helping/consulting 35 young women with their clothing  Roll Eyes.  I'll be interested in your progress. Wink
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Amy D.
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« Reply #2 on: January 16, 2010, 09:16:55 PM »

I can't help much, but I just want to say that I really really really really really really want to go on one of these someday!  I was asked to help out with clothing a few years back (none of the girls listened to a single word I said, by the way) but since my 3rd child was born by cesarean just weeks before the trek... I couldn't go.  Smiley 
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PSiebers
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« Reply #3 on: January 16, 2010, 10:34:06 PM »

Wow!  I didn't expect responses already!

Thanks for the welcome.

Paula- I think that had I been one of the "fashionables" who left home "with the hoop" in the early 60s... it would not have lasted long on the trail!  I read on this board about corded petticoats, and I thought that might work?  I am so excited to find someone else who is enthused about trek clothes.  So what are you doing for your two adult dresses?  And what are you advising the young women?  When I did this three years ago I made skirts, aprons and bonnets for about 7 others besides myself.  I am going to have to keep it to myself that I supplied them with "inaccurate clothing"!   Shocked   ANd shame... those same clothes are likely going to resurface this time! 

Family folklore has it that I had a fourth great grandfather in the 7th handcart company, led by Christian Christiansen.  It was a large group of almost exclusively Danes.  My other choice is I have two fourth great grandmothers born in SC who traveled by wagon in 1847- one of them in Brigham Young's company.  This particular one was at one time a slave owner and lived on a plantation.  (I wonder if she was able to find hoop skirts in SLC a few years after she got there!)

Amy- I don't want you to think I am stalking you, but just tonight I read your post about trying to convince trek woman to wear wool.  I thought that was very funny. You will be happy to know that you converted ME!   As I stated before, this will be my third (my second as an adult).  I guess I have become a "trek enthusiast".  I am sure you will get the opportunity some day!

Is it okay to ask where you two are located?  I am in Connecticut.  Our treks are not flat and dry.  They are wet, muddy and fully of rocks.   Undecided


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Amy D.
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« Reply #4 on: January 17, 2010, 07:00:46 AM »

I'm in northeast Texas. 

I'd actually be glad, now, if I could convince women on the trek to wear 100% cotton instead of cotton/poly!  The cotton/poly stuff is the only stuff they can really find for less than $2/yd (they mostly shop at Wal-Mart) but cheaper is not always better!   Our treks are hot and usually dry, I'm sure... and I think they're at a church ranch in Oklahoma. 

My dad got to go on the trek for his stake in New Mexico a couple years ago, as the first aid guy (he's a pharmacist and former EMT).  He asked me to make him a 'bright red pioneer shirt', so I found a red cotton print and made a squares & rectangles type shirt.  Everyone loved it because he was so easy to spot when they needed him!  Wink
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SarahA
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« Reply #5 on: January 17, 2010, 08:44:07 AM »

Oh, I'd love to do a trek event! I've wanted it for years and years, but it's a bit hard coming to one, since I'm in Sweden.... We had one in my stake in -97, which was fun, but not the same as doing it where it happened in the first place. Someday I'll do it for real!

Since you had Danish ancestors as well I thought this might be interesting for you (and anyone else who might have Scandinavian roots):

There where a few differences in clothing between Scandinavia and, for example, England. In the Scandinavian countryside, for one, folk costumes were still in use in the mid 19th century, though starting to disappear. A woman from the country who wasn't a member of the higher classes, or in a clergymans family, was (depending on where in Scandinavia she lived) very likely to wear the whole costume, or wear a version of the current or 20-years-earlier fashion with a few elements of the folk costume, like aprons or head dresses. Even in town, amongst some of the lower classes, a respectable woman was never seen without an apron, even on the street or in church. I have a few paintings saved on my computer of Scandinavian women in the 1840s-1860s, if anyone should be interested.
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Jessamyn
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« Reply #6 on: January 17, 2010, 09:25:56 AM »

Genre paintings are a great place to see these differences. Sarah has put her finger on it - the European bourgousie and above wore ordinary contemporary dress with extremely minor regional differences, but the peasantry clung to quite outdated garments.

Another relatively "invisible" difference is that while cotton was king in America, Europeans used more linen, since it was a domestic product for them. Underthings were still likely to be made of linen, which I would regard as a plus in a hot trail situation!
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Paula
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« Reply #7 on: January 17, 2010, 09:52:01 AM »

Paula I just PM's you.

Jessamyn or anyone else:  I forgot about linen  Embarrassed  Which made me think about the skirt supports.  What was the common skirt support in Europe and what was it made of?   Was the everyday factory worker / small farm wife wearing numerous petticoats also? 

The Handcart Pioneers for the most part were people who could not afford their own passage to America and then their expenses to go West.  They were traveling on "borrowed" money.  But from my understanding this did not mean they were completely destitute. 

Hmm things to think about.
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PSiebers
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« Reply #8 on: January 17, 2010, 02:02:36 PM »

Amy- I have to admit- those skirts and aprons I made three years ago for the girls in our Stake were Walmart fabric!  I think however, based on how they wad up in the washer that they are 100% cotton.  Today wool is more expensive than cotton.  Would that have been the case in the 1850s?  If I were a very poor woman would cotton have been more likely than wool?

Sarah- come on over to New England/Connecticut and you can join us this June!  OUrs aren't as "legit" as some treks in the USA as our terrain is SO different.  When most Stakes do a trek they try to do 15-17 miles the first day, but on a flat trail.  On the property we use it is so hilly and rocky (big boulders) on narrow trails meant for snow mobiles we are only able to do about 5 miles- starting at 1pm and going until about 7or 8 pm.

You are a gem to actually have first hand information about Danish dress!  I would really really love to do this!  In my initial "google-ing" of Danish dress in 19th century the folk dress images kept coming up, but I thought that perhaps that was just "wishful thinking" and that perhaps that is just the way Americans like to portray them- you know, kind of stereotyping.  I am happy to know that folk dress is accurate!  My Danish ancestors were very rural and were farmers in Aasted, Hjorring.  

Perhaps since I am to wear a dress to walk in for the first two days and then change in to a Sunday dress for days three and four, I will do a Danish folk dress for Sunday and a generic work dress for the first couple of days?

Is it possible that you could send me some of your photos?  Thank you SO much!  I am so glad you peeked at this thread and responded!

Paula
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PSiebers
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« Reply #9 on: January 17, 2010, 02:09:31 PM »

Jessamyn-  SO would linen be king even for the peasants and/or a farmer's wife?

For those following the Mormon LDS Trek- I am probably just late to the scene on this, but I found a book on my shelf that I have never read (one of many) called LDS Women's Voices.  It's a compilation of journals of LDS women 1830-1880.  THere was a photo in there of Eliza R. Snow wearing a fan dress with the same sleeves as the LM Round dress.  It's very similar.  I may try to mimic it.

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SarahA
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« Reply #10 on: January 17, 2010, 04:29:41 PM »

Paula, that would be nice, but it's a bit too expensive going over the pond for just a short event... Perhaps I'll wait a few years and attend Heidi's Oregon Trail thing - now that would be something!  Grin.

Linen was definitely king in Scandinavia at that time. Cotton had to be imported, where expensive, and so only sparingly used by the rural community, and when used, in a place where it'd be seen, not as underwear. Flax for making linen was on the other hand grown everywhere.

Wool also would have been much more common then cotton. Sheep was common in the countryside, and wool was often spun and woven at home, just like linen. Where I was born (pretty much as south in Sweden as you could possibly go - close to Denmark, you can see it when you look across the sea) the farmers women wore several petticoats, all in thick, often fulled, wool. This was however a transitional period, and Denmark was in some respects a little more up to date than Sweden. Folk costumes where however slowly giving way to more fashionable, up to date, clothes in most of Scandinavia.

Regarding Danish folk costumes: I'm Swedish, so this has not been my area of study, I've only picked up a little as I studied other things. What I write seem to be true for all the Scandinavian costumes, but I might not have all the information.
 Copying a folk costume is tricky though, since they were often quite different depending on in which region you lived. Not all regions had costumes either, so this is an area that takes a lot of time and research (researching and making my own, I would know...). The materials often have to be custom made as well - expensive. It'd be much easier (and economical) portraying a small town woman, then you can wear tolerably fashionable clothes, a little plain and perhaps a little outdated, with linen underwear and a wool dress. 

As for skirt support amongst the non-rural Scandinavians, they where the same as in the rest of Europe, with numerous starched petticoats and later crinolines and cages. I don't know if corded petticoats were used, I haven't found any evidence for it, sadly enough. There might be one lying forgotten in a museum somewhere.... we won't know until the museums have digitalized their collections, which sadly don't seem to be a priority at the moment.

Corsets where sometimes made at home, by women not able to afford buying one. I've seen one example in a book that buttoned up the front... interesting. By most rural people (at least in Sweden) corsets and hats/bonnets where not acceptable to wear. It was considered as vain, putting yourself above your station, thinking you where better than the rest of them... no girl would expose herself to the disdain of the whole county by doing that, and no parents would have permitted it.
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PSiebers
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« Reply #11 on: January 17, 2010, 05:52:34 PM »

Sarah-

Yea!  I can then justify not wearing a corset as I attempt a Danish look!  (Sorry, I have done my reading on here and I know that corsets are the cornerstone of fashion in the 19th century America.  But I was not looking foward to adding that layer!)

When you say "fulled wool" I am assuming you mean washed in hot water and shrunk and therefore kind of thick... not like the tropical weight wovens that are spoken of in high regard here?

I don't want to take a lot of your time, but if you could point me in the right direction for researching a regional dress for the area of Hjorring (far north tip of Denmark) I woudl most appreciate it.  If I could get a good visual I would make an attempt at copying it.  Likely not completely accurate, but fun to do and wear none the less.

(I just sent you my email address).


« Last Edit: January 17, 2010, 05:55:57 PM by PSiebers » Logged
Elizabeth
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« Reply #12 on: January 17, 2010, 06:13:18 PM »

Let's make the clarification between a fashion corset (meant to give a very fashionable shape) and supportive undergarments in general: in circles where fashion corsets may be "not the done thing" for social reasons, there's still the supportive version, meant to control the torso, support and back and bust, and distribute the weight of clothing--particularly those petticoats.

Even if you're not up for a fashion corset, you'll need something supportive (minimal boning, but reinforced with cording or quilting) to really be comfortable in the mid-century layers.

Fulled wool has a tightened weave, but may not be any heavier than a tropical-weight. It has more to do with the snugness of weave and density of cloth, rather than thickness or heavy weight. There are some mid-century fulled broadcloths that weigh very little, but will hold a cut edge without *any* fraying, because they are so tightly woven and fulled.

(Eliza Snow wore corsets--fashionably boned ones, though she was quite slender in my opinion. Smiley Her clothing followed prevailing fashions--those fan fronts were a hip, trendy thing, you know, and hung on for awhile, too. As you see later pictures of her, she moved right along the fashion continuum, too.)
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PSiebers
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« Reply #13 on: January 17, 2010, 10:59:41 PM »

Elizabeth

Okay, so talk to me.   Wink

My hesitation with the corset is adding another layer for a fairly physically couple of days in a very hot and wet (it will either be 100% humidity or raining, it's New England) weather.

I hear you on the differences in corsets.  Here is my reality- a small frame and chesty.  (32D- is it okay to say that here?)

Correct me as I know I am just starting this venture, but from what I have seen the corsets come to mid breast and I am going to need some serious support.  Really, it can be comfortable?  I am truly willing to listen to suggestions.... and I will continue to read the corset threads on here.

Thanks for your help!

Paula
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SarahA
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« Reply #14 on: January 18, 2010, 02:45:08 AM »

The fulled wool I meant here, for folk costumes, are usually thick and quite heavy... And them being that, they were in some areas sewn to the bodice, so the weight was at the shoulders, and where I come from, the bodice had a padded roll sewn to the bottom, to hang the skirts on - again the weight would go on the shoulders. You don't want that weight on your waist or hips (same with linen or cotton petticoats), it hurts, unless you're protected by a corset. Bodices worn with folk costumes were in most areas rather tight, so they gave some support.

I'm afraid I have no idea how to find out what the costumes looked like in Hjorring. Researching folk costumes takes years and years, since the information is so hard to find. I still think the safest, more economical and less frustrating (research-wise) thing would be to go with the current fashion of the time, as worn by the lower orders. Wear a kerchief instead of a sunbonnet, and you'll look outlandish enough Smiley

I sent you a lot of pictures, by the way.
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« Reply #15 on: January 18, 2010, 07:04:07 AM »


Really, it can be comfortable?  I am truly willing to listen to suggestions.... and I will continue to read the corset threads on here.


REALLY, REALLY, they ARE comfortable IF they are fit to YOU! I'm also a D-cup and I find that a corset gives better support than any sports bra out there! I also know that a poorly fitting corset CAN be a torture device, so get help on here when you're doing the mock-up of your corset (if you decide to make one yourself).  Its not suggested on here that you buy a ready-made corset, as it could very likely not fit you and then become the torture device! You want your first corset wearing experience to be pleasant! There are many good corset makers out there who are willing to make them for a fee.  No matter how you get one--if it fits you right--you WILL be glad that you've got a corset once you've got it on Wink
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Elizabeth
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« Reply #16 on: January 18, 2010, 12:00:14 PM »

A couple of trains of thought on corsets and LDS Trekking...

For those who are not familiar, LDS handcart treks are recreated for 2-3 days usually, and are done as a hopefully spiritual experience, rather than a full-out living history experience. There are no spectators, and the participants are often teens with adult leaders. The level of interest in historic dressing ranges from Enthusiastic to My Parents Are Making Me Go, and everything in between. Smiley

Consequently, some of the things I'll mention here do *not* apply to regular living history settings, where full-on accuracy is highly desirable.

Paula, I'd look at going with "average working class English" clothing, rather than things that are particularly unique. The fabrics will be more readily available, and you'll look like the majority of 40s/50s church emigrants. The dress pattern you've mentioned, with some petticoats, will be comfortable, and appropriate. Headwear, still look at a sunbonnet (quilted, corded, or slat), since a kerchief alone will not provide the weather protection you may need. Given you'll be in moist settings (very different from the original emigrants on their trek!), I'd look at a quilted or corded sunbonnet, as those will retain stiffness in the brim even when damp, where a slat bonnet will wilt.

Corset-wise: I'll echo that yes, you can get very good support with a corset or corded stay, even for heavier busts. I'm working with a G cup (stands for GOOD GRAVY), but I can recall back to my D-cup days, and yes, the support is actually pretty darn comfortable. Smiley So, support-wise, you'd be entirely okay.

However, it does take time to get a corset pattern fitting well (whether you'll be adding steel bones or cording/quilting for support), and I would *not* recommend a trek experience as your first outing in a corset. You'd want to have it finished a good three months ahead of time, so you can test it out in active settings, make adjustments as needed, etc. It's like never going hiking in brand new boots... you want your gear and your body to have a chance to figure it out before you head into the full-on experience.

One other aspect that non-LDS people might not be aware of is that a portion of adult LDS people wear an undergarment with religious significance (similar in significance to a Jewish tallith and yarmulke). That undergarment is available in different fibers; for trekking, I highly, highly recommend going with the all-cotton versions. The upper portion of the undergarment will stand in for a chemise very neatly. The lower portion can stand in for drawers, though for people trekking in the American west, I do recommend making split drawers to go over, as they come down to mid-calf and protect the legs a bit more in the sagebrush. If the one-piece undergarments are not available in all-cotton (availability varies a bit), then I'd go with the two-piece, and either use a non-period means of bust support (such as a sports bra), or wear stays with the lower undergarment over the top.

Ultimately, the decision to use a stay/corset or not has to be individual. Many of us are not physically up to a 15 to 17 mile hike each day, three days running, and adding the additional physical stress of not being used to corseted movement could be too much to dive into. With proper lead time, it can be done entirely safely, however. That lead time involves physical activity in a corset/stay, weeks of additional hydration, etc... conditioning the body for the stresses it will encounter. Since you won't be in a hoop, you wouldn't absolutely need additional drawers for modesty--your skirt and petticoat will keep you very modest all the way through.

Does that help a bit? (I'll be back on-line tonight...)
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Elizabeth
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« Reply #17 on: January 18, 2010, 09:09:18 PM »

Paula, yes, a corset can be comfortable.  I used to wear one every single day and I dreaded taking it off at night!  My corset helped so much in my daily life working in period clothes I would never be without one.  It gave BETTER support than my bras do.  I could jump up and down all day and the girls won't budge.  It acts as a bra and a back support in one.  As long as you're getting one that is made properly for you and not a standard off the rack corset, you shouldn't feel any discomfort. 

My sister is the same size you are (Yes, really, there are more of you out there!) and I'm just one size smaller.  It is possible to get a good fit.  Give it a shot, and if you don't make a corset for yourself, find someone who will ACTUALLY make one to your size and not make minor modifications to a standard corset.  Your specialized shape is going to need a specialized corset.

And of course, as Elizabeth said, don't wear your corset for the first time on the trek!  You need to learn how to put it on, lace it up comfortably and move around in it to work out all the kinks.  The first time you put on a corset you may feel a little overwhelmed by all the laces and hardware, but it's not as scary as it seems.  After a couple of tries at lacing it, you'll get the knack and be doing it like a pro in no time.

Give it a try and you may never want to go back to your bra again!
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PSiebers
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« Reply #18 on: January 18, 2010, 11:07:01 PM »

Elizabeth and Heidi

Thank you for explaining that so well- the part about that additional layer.  You explained trek and its purpose perfectly.

As I said to "the other Paula", most people don't give their dress for trek much thought until a few days before.  And many of the adults will simply run to the thrift store and buy the first full, long skirt they can find.  So the attire really runs the gamut.

I certainly have time... five months!  So I am up for the challenge.  Based on the fact that it is a trek and I am kind of curvy- can anyone reccommend a corset pattern I should try?  I did do some reading about hip gussets and I am thinking that might be a good thing?  If you are saying I can accomplish the support I need without boning, I think that would be my preference.  I'll get it made and give it a shot... why not?

Just giggling about your comment and not needing drawers since there won't be a hoop.  Someone recently sent me a photo of the last time I did trek.  They caught me sitting on the grass "adjusting" my skirts.  It's a full on shot of everything under there.  Fortunately I was wearing drawers (though I didn't know to call them that).  I think I would reccomend to anyone doing this experience to wear something under your skirts... unless of course you are used to being in a dress all day and are more ladylike than myself.   Wink



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Elizabeth
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« Reply #19 on: January 19, 2010, 09:06:33 AM »

Hee hee... yep, it takes some getting used to a different way of moving. Smiley

Paula S, if you'd like to email me a snapshot of you in fairly close-fitted modern clothes, I can be more helpful in recommending a pattern shape to start with. You ccan send it to my hotmail account, which allows larger picture file attachments: elizabethstewartclark@hotmail.com
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