Wednesday, May 29, 2013

May 29th, 1783

Mme de Vergennes is returned to court, being one of those who are loathe to leave Versailles I think she is unhappy that Madame Elizabeth spends much of her day at Montreuil now. That will soon be rectified though as the court goes to Saint Cloud shortly to escape the heat of summer, which will doubtless soon be upon us.

Thierry and I will not accompany them, fleeing instead home to Auvergne tomorrow where, God willing, we may stay for sometime, and perhaps begin our own family. The problem of the second marriage will be solved when Maman, my brothers, Msr. Poisson, and Christine join us at my home Portaberaud, in Riom, for a small ceremony. The fact that Thierry may now sign as the Marquis de Mercoeur is of great advantage to us.

My poor friend, Christine, will be most unwilling to leave; but though we will host a full gathering of friends in Saint-Saturnin I think, she must return to Sweden to her aunt and uncle who have at last insisted on a match for her. She was ill in Rome when the word reached her that her sister is once again pregnant, and that her family expects her to come home to marry a much older Count. She will be his third wife, so it is to be a marriage of little convenience to her unless he gives her the freedom to travel and experiment as she prefers to do. Having grown children of his own I cannot imagine he will need her home very much, so there is hope.

Christine reminds me as I write this that her Count also has younger children, so it is likely that she is intended to mother them; a prospect about which she is rather grim. Having arrived three days ago, Christine will journey with us to Auvergne, which is in some ways defiance and in other ways a reward for her consent. We must make the next weeks seem long for I do not know after when I shall see my dear friend again. Perhaps we shall have to visit her in Sweden.

My step-father has had much to say of my match. His words, even as read through the lens of my mother's letters, are full of vitriol. We have never much cared for each other, and I suspect that he is disappointed that I have not raised the family's fortunes more. My brothers, though, are very well. Andre, having broken his ill-advised engagement to that actress is now a clerk in Riom, which pleased Maman greatly as now she may see him often. He speaks of reform often, she writes, but sinks into melancholy when no one takes any heed of his ideas. Mattieu is to enter the army, and a commission has been purchased for him at great expense, to which I did contribute, but not as great a sum as was desired.

I will see them all soon, in any case, and must prepare by saying a final farewell to l'Hotel de Sully where I have lived so tumultuously these last few years. It has been a refuge for me and a prison, and I am so glad in my heart to be returning to my beloved Auvergne with my husband.

Olympe, Comtesse

Friday, May 17, 2013

Inspiring Blogger Award

Many thanks to the ever-intriguing Sandra, better known as A Traveller in Time, whose blog (Possessions of a lady) I encourage you to check out. She was kind enough to give me a Very Inspiring Blogger Award, and I must now do the following:-

To accept the award, one must:
1. Display the award and link back to the person who nominated you. 
2. State 7 facts about yourself. 
3. Nominate 15 bloggers for the award. 
4. Notify the winners.

 Goodness, I don't have 15 blogs that I follow that have not already received this award at some point! I, like Sandra, must apologize for being rather lax in my posting and in not posting about this sooner, but I knew it would take some time to track down suitable recipients, given the above criteria; and I, like her, will have to settle for nominating fewer than 15 blogs.

The Facts
1. I am still working on becoming fluent in French, but can generally read most things and make myself understood.
2. I have visited every continent except Africa, Australia, and Antarctica, and would love to visit all of them (except for Antarctica).
3. I am working on a research-based book involving the psychology of clothing under specific circumstances.
4. My husband is descended from french nobility, but as far as I can tell I come from peasants no matter how far back you go.
5. I lived abroad as a child, and would love to do so again.
6. I sing to my dog, all the time, about her,'s weird.
7. I don't have any children of my own, but I sometimes feel like I have 65 because of my students whom I love dearly.

1. Adventures of a Costumer
2. Costume Historian
3. Costumes, Cats, and the 18th Century
4. Diary of a Mantua Maker
5. Idle Hands
6. Idlewild Illustre
7. Isis' Wardrobe
8. Munich Rococo
9. The Costumer's Closet
10. The Fashionable Past

I was surprised to find that the above-mentioned blogs do not already have this award and it gives me great pleasure to recognize them for their beautiful and interesting posts.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Quilted Petticoat Complete

The quilted petticoat is complete! Please forgive the lack of good photos. There has been a lot of rain lately which doesn't make for good lighting and I lack a proper photography set-up at present. The side view is probably my favorite, though it does show off my lack of foresight in not wearing another petticoat over the panniers underneath.

There were, naturally, other issues which I'll have to remember for next time; I didn't adjust the placement of the ruffle to account for the amount of fullness of the skirt over the supports, so it seems like it curves up at the sides a bit. I also think that next time, rather than a drawstring waist (for which I did find documentation), I will use a waistband and ties closure.

The whole thing is worn with my linen, handsewn chemise with the drawstring neckline, stays designed by me and built by the talented American Duchess, stockings and shoes (also by American Duchess), pocket hoops, and a rump pad. The pink fabric at the top is silk, and used, as in extant versions, to keep the quilted fabric from creating undesirable bulk at the waist. I liked the look of the ruffle at the bottom in this example...

so I used the same light buttery yellow fabric as the stays to make it, and hand-tacked the top part of the ruffle to maintain placement.Over all, I'm pleased; now onto finishing the mantelet!
Petticoat fabric on the bottom with supplies for the mantelet in-progress

Thursday, May 9, 2013

A Quilted Mystery

These seem, for all the world, to be a pair of quilted breeches made from an old petticoat. The questions surrounding it abound for me, and if you have answers to any of them, please, do chime in.

The very small fall-front would seem to indicate that they were for a woman, rather than a man, and if so were they made for the sake of warmth? Decency? Comfort? Or, going completely crazy with the imagination, so that a woman might pass as a man? We know that at least one man did spend a long time passing as a woman, and gender-bending adventure has a long history in literature. What about in real life?

In more mundane questions; what dimensions does it take? Why was it made from an old petticoat? Was the staining the reason it was re-cut, and does that provide any clues as to it's use (surely something pre-stained would be worn under petticoats)?

I just love all of the questions this one item provides.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

A Hint Of Things to Come

As a professor I find that during the regular school year my time is consumed far beyond the 9-5 quota with grading, designing, stitching, planning, meetings and the like. As a costume professional my summers tend to be equally chock-full of sewing, wardrobe work, designing, traveling, and prepping for the year to come.

This year I'm taking a break. I get 15 weeks of prepping for the coming year, organizing my stock, researching and writing...and not too much else! This, of course, means that there will be more time for sewing things that I WANT to sew, rather than those things I NEED to sew.

So, as a sneak peek at things to come, I give you the first photo (from an odd angle, admittedly) of my new quilted petticoat. Details to come shortly.

Friday, May 3, 2013


No answers to last week's trivia, again. The clue was:-

"The scientist, Emilie du Chatelet, is known as much for her relationship with Voltaire as she is for her work in the field of physics; but the famous couple once found themselves in a spot of trouble when in the middle of a card game he told Emilie that he suspected some of the other players of cheating. They didn't think anyone else would understand their conversation, as they were speaking what language, not much in use at the court of France?"

The answer was:- English! Unfortunately for the couple they weren't the only ones who spoke it, someone else did as well, and they were forced to flee court rather than suffer the violence offered by those who were offended by Voltaire's comment.

I've got a good one for you today!

This father and grandfather of two famous authors rose from a slave to a revered General in Revolutionary-era France, only to find himself betrayed and forgotten; yet lives on in the guise of at least one well-known character.

Bon chance!