LeMode to Godeys… A Bag

It is rather fun to see how an item or story appears from one publication to the next. I’ve been amused time and time again by how the accounts of shawl production numbers evolve into more and more flattering accounts. Sometimes the subtle or not so subtle evolution takes place over a couple months, other times over years.

This week, I found myself looking at an illustration in a May 1865 Godey’s convinced I’ve seen this travel bag before. In fact I did. About a year back, or so, maybe two, Marta, I’m pretty sure it was Marta, sent me a bag from La Mode’s July 1864 edition. This one was called a “Sac-Portefeuille”. A year later, across the water, the same bag was called “A Travelling Hand-Bag.” The description gives the option of making it of leather or canvas:

Our pattern is in dark brown leather, varnished on both sides, but may also be made of drab-colored canvas, in which case a small pattern looks well worked over it in cross-stitch. The bag is cut out all in one piece, with the exception of the sides. Each part is bound with silk braid, firmly stitched, after which it is easy to sew the different parts together. The leather handles, which are finished off with tassels, are fastened to the bag by small straps put on with steel buttons. The rosette in the centre is made with stiff ribbon; a buckle of cut steel is fastened in the middle of it; a loop of silk elastic is sewn on under the rosette, and fastens to a large steel button placed on the lower half of the bag.

I do have a similar bag started in leather, which I think I will be taking apart and starting over with this version once I find it.  I also think I want to work this up in canvas.

Published in: on August 2, 2012 at 4:58 pm  Leave a Comment  

Skimming Travel Accessories

I have been reading through the Encyclopedia of Victorian Needlework reprinted from the 1882 second edition. (Thank you, Pat.) Along with the helpful explanations and definitions, there are several illustrations of travel accessories. Just about everyone screams “make me.” I need to look each of these up to see when and where they originate from to determine if they will be appropriate for my travel impression. While I do this, I’ll be looking for information who may have made this item, who may have used it, when it was used, how it was used, etc.

(My apologies for those images which refuse to load right-side up.)

 This Railway Rug, is the only non-container of the bunch. It is essentially a blanket. I need to look up the phrase to see when it came into use.

This “Travelers Wallet” is a larger case than the word “wallet” would suggest. Laying open it measures 48 inches by 23 inches. The items shown in the illustration make me think this may be for a man. But, I can easily see a parasol and shawl or fan tucked into this case.

This “Traveling Case for Wraps and Bed Linens”  seems as thought it would also be rather large. I do not know if this would be inside the trunk or larger travel bag intended for the evening. If the traveler was traveling through the night on a railcar, then she may have it with her in her larger travel bag. If she were staying at an inn, it would more likely be in a trunk.

This case for medicine is quite interesting and very tempting to make. It would make a great discussion piece. It would also be very useful to have on had with Benadryl and pepto or headache meds.

This “Luncheon Case” looks like it would be quite handy. It reminds me of the smaller lunch case from Beeton’s book.

This “Bolster case” has to be shared for its similarity to the “Dufflebag”. I suspect this illustration is later in the century, as with some of these others, but need to look into that.

This simple “Umbrella Case” would be very useful. I keep my parasols and umbrella in a simple cloth tube-shaped bag for storage. This would give a nice safe place to put a damp or wet umbrella to keep it from getting other things wet. (Do remember to take it out to dry.)

Published in: on July 29, 2012 at 2:51 pm  Leave a Comment  

Practical or Not Travel Bags

In making my list of bags and such for my travel impression, I can’t help but think about which ones were seen as the most practical by the original cast, which they made but found were not as useful as they thought, and which were purely fancy.

Let us start with a fairly standard travel bag. This one comes from one of Beeton’s books. Pulling from her description: “This pattern is of the ordinary shape of travelling-bags, but it is very prettily worked…. The embroidered part measures 14 inches in its widest part, and is 11 inches deep. The bag is lined with light brown silk, and made up with a steel clasp.” With her measurements of the embroidered section, this bag may be 20-28 inches wide and 15 to 20 deep. This is a fairly good-sized bag capable of holding the day’s necessities of travel or even the set of night-clothes suggested by some advice writers. She does indicate the sides are made of java canvas. I will have to look into this material more, but I would be concerned about how water-proof or not this material (thus bag) is.

Comparatively,  here is the Pouche Pompador from the December 1864 edition of Godey’s. This is a pretty and interesting travel bag I’ve wanted to make since it showed up in Virginia Mescher’s “Traveling Tips for Ladies”. This bag is described as having the shape of a large purse. Continuing ” The bag is entirely lined, a pocket is formed on each side, and a slit is made in the centre of the bag exactly in the same way as in a purse; two rings are slipped over, and the slit is further fastened by pearl buttons and silk loops…. These pockets are very convenient to hold the numberless small articles which a lady always wishes to have by her during a journey.” It is the “small articles” that is catching me when thinking about the slit in the meeting point of the pockets. If this meeting point is narrow, the size of the items that can fit inside either pocket would be limited. I don’t know about you, but I hate digging for small items in a bag. If the meeting points are relatively wide, then larger, though not big, items may fit.  I do have an alternative idea for the openings. But, I would really like to hear from those who have made this bag to see what they find.

This next one has me thinking ‘maybe… maybe not’. A few versions of this show up in the 50s and 60s. This particular one comes from Godey’s in November of 1860. The description reads: “We direct the attention of our lady reads to a little article which will be found an extremely useful travelling companion, and which, by the exercise of female taste and industry, may be rendered no less elegant than useful. We allude to the worked plaid strap of which we furnish two illustrations; one with the plaid, and the other without. Plaid straps made of plain leather have long been used by gentlemen, and their utility is fully acknowledged by travellers. These straps are much used by ladies, who impart to them a superior degree of elegance by various kinds of ornamental work. They are available not merely for plaids or shawls, but for securing together umbrellas, parasols, and other small articles, which, in the hurry of railway travelling, changing carriages, etc. are liable to be dropped and lost. The strap from which our engraving is copied is made of Danish leather, and the ornaments are executed in beadwork, or embossing in colored silk.” Nifty? Yes. Practical? Maybe. I don’t know if I want to fuss with strapping together my parasol, umbrella, shawl, etc if there is a chance in departing one of the articles may be needed with no place to easily unstrap and restrap. I would rather take them out of a bag. Since many of the similar items are described primarily for shawls, I am concerned about keeping the shawl dry and clean. Yet this could be useful. So, it sits firmly in the maybe-maybe not category.

Now, as my battery almost runs out…. The “duffle-bag” travel bag as we’ve named it. I have to say I love this bag. But, I’ll have to say more about it later.

Published in: on July 27, 2012 at 7:11 pm  Comments (3)  

Travel Impression – New Pintrest Board

As part of my focus on a travel impression, I’ve started a new board on Pintrest for items related to this impression. As it grows, you will find a variety of travel bags including carpet bags, trunks, travel attire, and other details. Hopefully, this will be useful for some and just enjoyable for others.

(ps – I’m also in the pre-planning stages of some ‘make me happy’ clothing that may go a tad over the top.)

Published in: on July 22, 2012 at 3:58 pm  Leave a Comment  

Developing a Traveling Impression

I’ve done a little rearranging of the categories for the blog. Hopefully this will make finding what you want a little easier. In doing so, I’ve added a new long-term project – “Travel Impression”. While I’ve decided not to do many, if any events, until we get settled properly, I’ve also decided to acknowledge the theme of travel that has constantly popped up time and time again over the years and actually focus on this interesting area by developing an educational impression on travel. As I work on this, I want to share my research, planning and process with you.

A little back story – Last fall I had the opportunity to develop an impression of a woman traveling across NY in the 1830s using rail, canal and stage. Two weeks ago, while talking with Bevin about the linen plaid recently added to my stash, she suggested a travel dress to expand on last fall. That was a combination of a ‘light-bulb moment’ and a ‘duh moment’. I felt like that answer should have been staring me in the face. Back when I started CW reenacting, we often used travel as a significant portion of our interpretation (we had the luxury of our events being village, home or train based.) Since then aspects of travel have always been of passing interest to me. Developing a travel impression is an excellent way of bringing together many material culture pieces as well as aspects of social and regional history.

So… Step 1 – Make a list. How I love t0-do lists.

Travel impression

            (1850, 1830, 1840, 1860)
Develop files on (arrange research and fill in the gaps)
Travel images
Types/Time/Instances of Travel
            Cold weather travel
            Hot weather travel
            Long-distance & over-night travel
            Rail, canal, stage, private (carriage, wagon)
What a woman traveler would have had
 List – Acquire & make (note the advantages and disadvantages of each.)
Types of luggage
            Bonnet trunks
            Bonnet boxes
Types of bags
            Large carpet bags
            Small carpet bags
            Travel bags
            Small bags
Travel attire – Differences between travel attire and everyday attire
Safety while traveling
Coming soon … Step 2 – The items to make list and the items to acquire list
Published in: on June 20, 2012 at 5:11 pm  Leave a Comment  

Trunks in a Shop

We saw several trunks a moment ago. I’ll come back and add a little about each. For now, can you guess which I want?






Published in: on June 17, 2012 at 1:07 pm  Comments (2)  

Travel (research) Reflections

I’ve been working on an 1830s travel program for GCVM. In the process I’ve learned a few things about travel, as well as a few other things I would like to share.

First, I have a big challenge going from an 1850s and 60s ‘mindset’ to an 1830s ‘mindset’. I am such a visual person, I need the aid of photographs and paintings to help me develop that mental picture. I also find I really need maps, detailed maps to aid in this visual. Another aspect is that I’ve spent my time from college on focusing on the time frame between approx 1848 and 1865 often obsessing right down to the minute detail. This amount of time can not compare to June, July and August.

In terms of clothing, the guide books I focused on suggested a dress to have sleeves that were not tight to prevent sweating. I altered my dress to have deeper armscyes and looser sleeves, especially through the upper arm. I find this aspect of the dress to be exceptionally comfortable. I have full movement of my arms comfortably. I believe even in exceptionally hot and humid weather, the sleeve will do well with not sticking or bunching against the skin. I do think the armscye is rather noticable in the front. This also throws off my attempt at a 30s sleeve since the change from the upper part of my sleeve, which is loosely fitted around my larger upper arms, to the larger lower sleeve is minimal. (I’ll see if I can get a good photo of that.)

When it came to the bodice, I couldn’t see how the back closing dresses of the 30s could possibly work for a woman who was supposed to be traveling alone. With several nights at inns and with rough travel, she would need a comfortable front closing dress. I opted for a cross-over bodice closing at the waist in the front. I fully admit, now that it is done it feels far more like a 50s bodice than a 30s. While sitting the neckline sits just above the drop of my shoulder but when standing it does not have the wider neckline of the time. If I were to have been working on a later 50s or 60s version, I definitally would have opted for a sacque & petti or sacque and dress combination in a seasonall appropriate material, ie linen or wool.

The weekend before the session run-through I learned the challenges of soot. I found out to late that my straw bonnet got smooshed while being stored in the car. (FYI – Hot, humid cars are not a good place to store bonnets.) Instead of the straw, I wore my white sheer cotton drawn bonnet. The material was a magnet for the soot coming from the steam engine. Before I knew it my white bonnet was speckled with little black spots. These little black spots do not come off. Of course, upon learning this first hand, I needed to include it in my discussion.

During that same event I found reason to question the wearing of white petticoats during railroad travel. With the second day’s weather being so wet, the soot gathered on the landing and steps of each car. While the front of my skirts could be controlled to avoid much of the layer of black, sticky soot mud, the backs could not. My inner petticoat, that directly over my cage, became black with soot a good foot up the inside. I should mention these are petticoats that get cleaned once a season due to the time involved in the starching and ironing. While I was able to wash most of the soot out with a good soak and wash in oxyclean, I am not certain when a traveler would have the time to have her petticoats washed. She certainly wouldn’t be able to on a regular basis during the journey even if washing services were available at the inns she stayed at. Would she go about in blackened petticoats? Would she opt for petticoats of a different color? I don’t know.

Boots, shoes and slippers. The wearing of stout leather boots certainly makes sense to any of us who have stood at the edge of a giant puddle while wearing something pretty on our feet. Some authors (I’ll double-check who if you need me to) suggest packing a pair of slippers in your travel bag, the one you carry with you. initially, when I read this years back I thought is was a nice idea. I didn’t think much beyond that. I think I figured out why these are so important. I’ve found if one sits too long in tight stockings, held snug at the knee, and tight boots, that the feet and ankles tend to swell. If on longer railroad or packet boat trips, one is able to remove her boots and loosen her stockings, there will be significantly more comfort. Now of course the question is, how does a woman do this while maintaining all decency? In the case of a woman staying in a ladies’ car, this would not be a big challenge. But what about a woman traveling in combined company?

 Oh back to bonnets. There is a good reason why guide books suggest traveling hoods. When you need to rest your head due to a long journey, or a weather induced migraine in my case, a bonnet is exceptionally uncomfortable to lean you head against a seat or side of the rail car. I suppose the same would be true on a stage. So, I really understand the suggestion of a hood. But, my quandary is what we are seeing in images. Most of them show women in bonnets with traveling veils. So, do you board in your bonnet then change to you hood when you need to rest? The challenge I see there is where to put the bonnet. Do you have your band box with you? Is there even room for it to be carried with you? If you opt to wear your hood, do you, and if so, how do you attach a veil to a traveling hood? There are items like a bonnet shade or ugly intended for use with a bonnet during travel. These would suggest wearing the bonnet for the duration of travel, at least during non-rest times. At the same time, there are a great number of hoods. (But, these are more mid-century rather than the earlier 30s which I don’t know as well.)

Relatively random reflections on this process. Maybe in September I’ll have reflections on a scripted presentation style program verse an interactive student focused one.

Published in: on August 26, 2011 at 11:35 am  Leave a Comment  

Railroad travels – Arcade reflections

This past weekend was quite the roller coaster event for me. I wasn’t sure how to write about it as my perspective changed so often. So, instead of something inspiring or thematic, I’m just going to share some reflections. (warning I do get a bit venty and even catty)

This Arcade and Attica Railroad event was one of my favorite events from the very beginning of Civil War reenacting. The event primarily takes place on a series of train rides where visitors ride out through the country on a vintage train. Reenactors interact with the visitors who are quite the captive audience. Over the years this interaction has ranged from improvisational first person to scripted first person to third person instructional. Each version has its own benefits and draw-backs.

This year we had a good deal of trouble deciding if we were going because we have so many real-life challenges with still being unemployed since our move back to New York and not having our own home to really prep, plan and pack properly. My big motivator was taking my little sister to an event after so many years. But, truly money was tight, more like non-existent. After lots of figuring, vehicle swapping and back-n-forth, we were going. Thursday night was a quick pack and attempt at sleep… 3 hours for me since I have these pre-planning issues. Next came the sardine style packing of a van with three stops of having to pick up gear and a sister that had to go. Having never packed a van before, this was quite the experience in space. (I’m still not certain any vehicle will ever beat the little Shadow I used to have for size of vehicle to packing space.)

Despite each of the places we needed to stop on Friday and a detour, we still managed to make good time arriving at the park in day time and good weather. Shortly after we arrived some good friends arrived as well. The guys were able to get their camp layed out and start setting it up. Beth and I needed to wait for Rob to make the run from work with the tentage. It was nice because it gave us time to figure out what we were going to do and to have fun catching up. We were a bit silly, taking the chairs and laying out our camp plan with them. With the weather report calling for heavy rain and thunderstorms, this was the perfect opportunity to use a set up I’ve been wanting to do for years. We faced the two large tents in towards each other with the fly running in between. When Chrissy and Kim arrived they set their tents adjacent to ours in the same set up. With the children along for the weekend this was a very nice set-up. I was a little sad when I saw my old tent arrive with Chrissy. Seeing it was a quick flash-back to working on the uprights and ridge with Dad. My teary-eyedness over that should give you a good idea of my emotional and overly stressed state going into this weekend.

 I admit it. I am quite particular in how things are set up.  Setting up the interior of the tent was the beginning of my “I wish I had ___ from storage”. We were able to find and get out of storage one barn-board box. Besides that everything else was in carpet bags or the one band box for bonnets. For a weekend guaranteed to be wet, this was a challenge. (Check out my post last week on wet events to see some of those things I would normally want.) In hind-sight the one item I really would have wanted out of everything was one more box or trunk to work with. I far prefer to have clothing neatly packed in a trunk where it can be dry and layer in order of need. That is one box/trunk. The other, which we did have, was filled with a combination of food stuffs and toiletries. In a completely organized system these would of course be separate. This need for better organization started me thinking about the advertising box I used to used for food. Somehow it kept cool inside. It had wheels underneath that kept it just enough off the ground to help against ants. I can’t picture at all where that box is. I’m hoping it is buried somewhere in storage that I just haven’t seen it.

With the air turning cold and the lack of sleep the night before, I turn in rather early. Well, I should say I attempted to turn in early. Here is part of my roller coaster. I have the worst time trying to sleep sometimes. This time was just awful. I just couldn’t get to sleep. I tried counting. Didn’t work. I tried counting backwards. Didn’t work. I was still awake long after the park became quite. Ugh. Then came the morning bugle. I just pleaded with myself – please more sleep. But, that was mote. As soon as my bladder woke up, the rest of me had to wake up. Ugh. I’m certain I made little sense to anyone that morning.

Once dressed I felt a bit more myself, though an exhausted self. It was off to the train. Elizabeth and I had a lovely walk into town with Bevin and Chris Lynn. This morning walk was quite enjoyable as long as I was still in the shade. As soon as I hit the sun at the depot I could feel that odd feeling again. So, inside we went to head to the train. Train cars are full of shade.

How pleased was I when I saw the improvements at the train station and the new paint for the cars inside and out. The inside of the depot felt more open than the years before. I can’t pin-point what it was inside. It was just great. The cars looked beautiful. Outside they had a new coat of green. Inside, most had a new coat of a burgundy that was quite comfortable. Some of the cars even had carpet. I don’t know if the carpet is authentic. But, from a comfortability, esthetic and safety standpoint, it is great.

Now we come to the 2 hours that pressed my buttons. Really pressed my buttons. Ready for a vent and stump?

Please, please, please do not talk about something you know absolutely nothing about! If you don’t know, say you don’t know when asked. If you don’t know, don’t pretend you do know. For about 20 or 30 minutes I listened to a bunch of ladies at the other end of the car go on and on as if they had never heard the work carpet before, insinuating that carpet did not exist in the mid-19th century. There was absolutely no need to comment on the new carpet at all. If the carpet is an anachronism, simply do not mention it. If it is something appropriate to the scene but you don’t know about it, do not dwell on it. To make this inappropriate form of ‘interpretation’ worse, this was all done with some of the worst southern accents I’ve heard in a long time. This is another situation where if you can’t do it, don’t do it. You sound ridiculous. As the train got going this screechy attempt at an accent went through a variety of over-the-top story-lines trying to pull other reenactors and spectators in. This was the absolute low point of my whole experience this event as I tried so very hard to bite my tongue. Then came the “why are you in your underwear” approach. Have I ever mentioned how I hate this and think it is completely inappropriate? I do. I think it is a waste of time. There are so many, far better ways to bring the spectators in. I was extremely glad when that first train ride was over.

Now, lets move on.


The train runs were running longer than expected. Sadly, this meant missing our lunch plans. We needed to roll right into the second train. This was a much better experience as we traveled with Bevin and Chris. Okay, so we spent most of the time catching up. It was nice. At the turn-around point where the engine moves to the other end of the train, I was able to get some photos of my sister’s dress I made the week prior.

By the time the train got back to the depot after 3, we were starving for lunch. Warning, farby moment. We went next door to the Chinese restaurant and devoured some veggie lomein. It was so good. But, it came back to bite me. About half way back to camp as we walked in the heat and sun my stomach started yelling at me and my temp went right up. Now, I’m really not sure if this was the quick late eating or me. I’ve discovered this year that about the same time each afternoon at an event my body revolts with this odd heavy exhausted over-heating feeling. I really do not like it both for the feeling and the way it pulls me out of doing anything. I don’t know if it my weight gain or my undetermined health thing or just getting older. What ever it is, I don’t like it. Upon getting back to camp, off came everything down to my underpinnings as I layed down on the cot with an ice cold cloth trying to bring my temperature back down and get the stomach and head under control.

After a little laying down and some lovely ibuprofen and berry flavored tums, I found I was quite comfortable in my pink dress. I am so glad I stumble across that ridiculously cheap, $1/yd fabric that arrived surprisingly lovely. This dress is so light weight. Any lighter and it would have to be a sheer. This began a very enjoyable, relaxed evening with old friends. This was a must needed evening. While my sister played with the other kids on the park’s playground, we adults hung out and talked then all gathered around the fire well into the night.

While I still didn’t sleep deeply that night it was far more restful. That was until morning when a certain bungler decided to do more than the few notes of good morning, opting instead to go on, and on, and on, and on. Later, we shot said bugler.

Sunday was the rain day. It was a heavy rain with thunder. The tent arrangement proved itself useful. A bucket or large pot was needed between the flies to catch the center run-off. It filled rather quickly. With the rain, we opted to drive up to the depot.

This second day of train rides were nice despite my on coming migraine in the afternoon due to the combination of air pressure and me. (yes, that earlier low point out ranks a migraine on a train.) The cool air and moist air was so comfortable. It is much easier to add a layer in the form of a shawl or coat than to try to keep cool. The one downside is the mess caused by wet soot from the steam engine. I have soot in such odd places including half way up the inside of the back of my petticoats from going down the stairs. Luckily, the rain decided to move on by the later afternoon for us to pack up.

I think we all headed home very tired, very hungry and rather damp.

All in all – It was a great weekend even with the heat, rain, stomach aches, and migraine.

I did learn a few things this weekend. My red carpet bag does resist water nicely. Traveling hoods do make much more sense than bonnets, especially for longer trips where one may want to rest one’s head. White sheer drawn bonnets are a very bad choice as the soot will stain the bonnet with black spots. Over shoes are very important for the soot and mud (covering Bevin’s boots). The sleeve alterations suggested in many travel guides or advice guides are very comfortable. Sheers and dresses with trim will get damaged. (observation of dresses.) The suggestions for simple dresses with resistant fabric (those which dirt and soot can be dusted from) are very important.

Looking back on some of the photos, I’ve discovered something disturbing. Since making this dress for the Fort Stanton event this past year, I’ve altered my corset. It now sits a bit lower allowing my bust to sit lower. But now…. I have this baggy issue. I do believe with the aid of gravity I have reached the age where I need bust pads for some of my dresses. This will help smooth out the transition from my shoulder to my bust.

I do have some additional posts either from requests or inspiration over the weekend I will hopefully get to soon without forgetting about them.

Published in: on August 15, 2011 at 3:23 pm  Comments (4)