Dressing Warm in the Winter Cold

Just before Thanksgiving, I spent the weekend at the Genesee Country Village and Museum for their Preparing for Winter event. This annual event not only gave me an opportunity to talk about how to stay warm during the cold winter months, it gave me a chance to test out my mid-nineteenth century winter layers.

Before diving into the layers I wore, let’s talk about that weekend’s weather for those of you not from the area.

This was the weekend the Buffalo, NY area was blanketed with record breaking snow coming off of Lake Erie. Some areas on the south side of Buffalo saw over four feet of snow. This bought of lake effect snow covered from Buffalo south and east to the museum, which is south-west of Rochester. Meanwhile, Rochester saw little snow.
In the historic village, it was in the mid twenties and deceptively sunny making Saturday absolutely beautiful, nearly perfect day to visit. Sunday morning as I got ready my weather app said it was 18 degrees with a windchill of 4 degrees, expecting a high of 27… and… it was Windy, very windy. The 8 mile route to the
museum was drifted over causing my 10 minute trip to take closer to 35 minutes. This was the perfect weekend to test out the layers.

I want to take a moment to talk about the physical aspects of interpreting compared to an actual living situation in the 1850s, the era I was dressed for. If I was living in this house in the 1850s, fires would have been going in each of the fireplaces for several days maintaining a level of heat within the house. The floors would have been warmer and potentially covered with a floor cloth or carpet possibly insulated with paper or straw. Other techniques would have been used to winterize the home (see previous post below.) As an interpretive space,
magical, modern heat replaces or supplements the lack of fireplace heat. The entry door is opened regularly as visitors come and go, allowing heat to escape and cold to come in. The floors are either bare wood or covered in
mats in visitor traffic areas. These are the realities of interpreting historic spaces.

Layers Work

Now, let’s talk about my layers. I have an abundance of cold weather wear accumulated from over the years. I used to participate in several other colder events including Yuletide and teaching events that would get so cold
my contacts literally froze in their case. Developing my layer preferences has been a learning curve. This event allowed me to test myself – could I still put on my 19th century only clothes and go? Overall, I was very comfortable the whole event including coming and going in the cold wind. My two cold spots are noted below.

As I was inside, I opted for basic cotton chemise and drawers. If I were to be outside for the whole of the event I may have opted for wool flannel drawers. In previous years I wore them and found them to be absolutely lovely. My corset was the same of course.

I selected wool stockings. I think the pairs I grabbed from the basket were both from Delp. I do have Woolies or Wool OTKs from Sock Dreams.

I opted to wear my elastic gusset boots due to the snow and salt. I didn’t want to damage nicer boots. I find my Sekela made balmoral boots are notably warmer than my side-lacer boots or slip-on elastic gusset boots. See my thoughts below on boots and feet.

For petticoats, I wore both a quilted petticoat and wool petticoats. The quilted petticoat is a layer of wool batting sandwiched between layers of quilt weight cotton. One wool petticoat is a balmoral style made of red wool flannel with ribbon bands. The other is a plain weave lightweight wool in a darker brown color.

My dress was a light weight wool in grey plaid. The weight is light but not quite tropical weight, similar in density to quilt cotton. I added knit wool undersleeves instead of sheer cotton ones. (see thoughts below.)

On Saturday, I wore a woven wool shawl. This was made using light weight wool fabric fringed around the edges. I didn’t wear one on Sunday.

When I went outside, I added a black wool paletot style coat edged in blue quilted silk and a black silk taffeta quilted hood. I may have added a wool scarf on Sunday, I can’t recall for sure. (If I knew where I packed them, I would also wear my Tingley rubber overshoes outside. These not only help with keeping the feet warmer and dry, they help with slipping on ice.)

Hands and Feet

In complete disclosure, I can not say my winter weather layers were a complete success. There were two cold body parts I found unsatisfactory, or interpretive mis-steps. One brings us back around to the realities of interpretive space. The other is a detail of the clothing I selected.

First, my feet. This is where the dynamic differences of living in the mid-nineteenth century and interpreting the mid-nineteenth century really showed through for me. If I were living in the mid-century I would have
removed my leather boots upon entering the house, selecting warm slippers for indoor wear, opting to keep my feet up on a small foot stool while sewing. Instead, I wore my leather boots through the day on Saturday. Even with keeping my feet off the floor, on a make-do stool (aka a log), my feet were cold. For Sunday, I decided to
bring a pair of soled slippers to change into rather than wear boots again. Even though the slippers have far less coverage, leaving about half of my foot with only wool stocking for coverage, my feet were definitely less cold on
Sunday. (The building was already about 20 degrees warmer on Sunday morning though.)

Next, my forearms. Leading up to this event, I made a new wool dress focusing on the early 1850s. I was very indecisive about the sleeves trying to decide between a funnel sleeve highlighting the fashion of the early 1850s
or a coat sleeve with the winter weather in mind. A week before the event, I needed to get sleeves on the dress. I decided on the sleeve that showed up most in 1851/1852 illustrations – a funnel sleeve. This decision resulted in cold forearms. My dress sleeves fell to mid-forearm. Saturday, I wore slim wool undersleeves made to wear
with my 1860s coat sleeves. These came to just below my elbow. While technically all of my arm was covered, draft or chill easily reached my elbow area. Cold radiated down to my forearms and hands all day. Knowing I could not do another day like that (and that I wouldn’t have time to make another pair of undersleeves… and
my ego wouldn’t let me use a modern solution,) Sunday I turned a pair of thicker cotton stockings into undersleeves. Yup. I basically cut the feet of a pair of white cotton stockings I rarely wear and put them on my arms. It worked. (I will be making new undersleeves this weekend for next weekend.)

Want to know more? Check out these previous posts:

Published in: on December 7, 2022 at 1:05 am  Comments (3)  

Shop “Closes” for Christmas

I will “close” my Etsy shop for physical items on December 9th. I do not ship during the last two weeks before Christmas, which are dangerously busy for packages, out of care for postal workers and packages.

My last shipping day will be Saturday, December 10th.

Electronic items, including e-books, e-pattern, and In Details, will still be available

Published in: on December 3, 2022 at 5:49 pm  Leave a Comment  

Fancy Work Friday: Parasol Pin Keep & Pen Wiper

I am going to pair up two favorite projects from lockdown for this week’s Fancy Work Friday: The Parasol Pen Wipe and Pin Cushion

Materials for both the Pen Wiper (PW) and Pin Keep (PK):
2 parasol handles (1 for each project)
Tight, densely fulled heavy weight wool (PW)
Sead beads (PW)
Ribbon (PW)
Silk taffeta – solid or a small design (PK)
Tight, fulled medium weight wool, preferably light color (PK)
Embroidery floss (PK)

Pin Keep

Pen Wiper

For the Pen Wiper, cut 1 and a half circles of the densely fulled wool with a pinked edge:

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Here are some of the period directions for making parasol accessories:

Published in: on December 2, 2022 at 6:05 am  Leave a Comment  

Shop “Closes” for Christmas

I will “close” my Etsy shop for physical items on December 9th. I do not ship during the last two weeks before Christmas, which are dangerously busy for packages, out of care for postal workers and packages.

My last shipping day will be Saturday, December 10th.

Electronic items, including e-books, e-pattern, and In Details, will still be available

Published in: on November 28, 2022 at 8:56 am  Leave a Comment  

Tappered Crown 1860s Hat

I’m running out of things to say about new hats. I feel like the descriptions are likely getting boring to people who have been following for a long while sorry about that.

I could call this a procrastination hat. I had several things on my to do list during this week’s Thanksgiving recess. Then Clara got sick and my brain couldn’t focus. So, I sewed straw, which is generally good for my mind. Meanwhile, other things were procrastinated.

This is the fashionable tapered crown hat common during the 1860s. It is a 21.5″ crown, suitable for an average size head.

Remember, coupon code MILLINERY110 will give you $40 off purchases of $150, bringing these hats down to $110 each.

Published in: on November 26, 2022 at 4:18 pm  Leave a Comment  

Child’s Country Hat

Last night, I listened to the last part of a Straw hank and shortly before midnight I was holding the cutest country hat. This is a smaller hat, suitable for a child’s head. It is inches 18.5 around the inside of the crown and 9 inches across the brim.

This hat falls under the $110 sales price already. But, if you combine it with a couple holiday Exclusives items, you can save $40 with coupon code MILLINERY110.

Published in: on November 24, 2022 at 1:49 pm  Leave a Comment  

Shop “Closes” for Christmas

I will “close” my Etsy shop for physical items on December 9th. I do not ship during the last two weeks before Christmas, which are dangerously busy for packages, out of care for postal workers and packages.

My last shipping day will be Saturday, December 10th.

Electronic items, including e-books, e-pattern, and In Details, will still be available

Published in: on November 21, 2022 at 4:32 pm  Leave a Comment  

Millinery Sale!!!!

All Millinery $110

With coupon code: MILLINERY110

(Technically, the code takes $40 off the $150 price. Sale runs from November21st through November 30th.)

Important: I currently plan to ship on Wednesdays and Saturdays. I will “close” my Etsy shop for physical items on December 9th. I do not ship during those very busy weeks out of care for postal workers and packages.

Published in: on November 21, 2022 at 12:05 am  Leave a Comment  

Pairings Sale!

Save when you purchase in Pairs!

Save 25% on a Pairing of In Detail publications. Put 2 In Detail publications in your cart to receive the discount. 

Save 25% on a Pairing Patterns & Publications.  Pick 2 e-patterns or e-publications to receive the discount. 

Save 20% on Pairings of Holiday Exclusives – For the duration of Thanksgiving Recess – (Nov 19th through Nov 27th) pick 2 Holiday Exclusives items to receive the discount.

I decided to have a little fun with this year’s Holiday Sale. We could all use a good pairing. While I can’t offer you a chocolate and wine pairing, I can offer you a Pairings Sale! I’ve divided my Etsy shop into groups, each with their own Pairings Sale Discount.

Save 25% on a Pairing of In Details starting November 11th
Save 25% on a Pairing of E-publications & E-patterns starting November 18th
Save 20% on a Pairing of Holiday Exclusives during Thanksgiving Recess

Important: I currently plan to ship on Wednesdays and Saturdays. I will “close” my Etsy shop for physical items on December 9th. I do not ship during those very busy weeks out of care for postal workers and packages.

Published in: on November 19, 2022 at 6:05 am  Leave a Comment  

Chapeau Cloche

It has been far too long since I made this style hat. The Chapeau Cloche is a country or sea-side hat featured in Godey’s Lady’s Book, in 1862. This a low crown and dome curved brim, made of straw or leghorn.

Published in: on November 14, 2022 at 5:49 pm  Leave a Comment