Kategoriarkiv: Clothing

A Visit to Löfstad Castle

A while ago, I wrote about exploring Händelö, the first stop on Kerstin’s and my 4-day summer séjour.  What other places did we visit?

Day1. Löfstad Castle

Löfstad Castle
Löfstad Castle

Our second stop, after Händelö, is Löfstad Castle. This castle, built in the 1600s, has been privately owned until it was bequeathed by the last owner, Emilie Piper (1857-1926), to the House of Nobility (Riddarhuset) and Östergötland’s Museum. It is now open to the public.

“I don’t think we can find any link between Augusta and Löfstad Castle. It is so close to Norrköping, but Augusta would not have moved in the same circles,” Kerstin concludes.

I understand why.  The owners were the count and chamberlain Charles Piper and his wife. And when we catch the first glimpse of the castle, I am stunned. This is a totally different world. This is how the very wealthy, old noble families lived in the 1800s.

But we have also decided to visit the castle for another reason. Today is the first day of Löfstad Castle’s historical fashion exhibition – a collaboration between the museum and a friend of ours who creates fantastic Victorian clothes under the name La Belle Epoque.

We park the car and walk up to the ticket office.

“Are you here to guide?” one of the girls in the office asks as we enter the office. Sometimes we forget that we are wearing 1840s dresses.

“Oh no,” Kerstin explains,“ we are here to see the exhibition.

La Belle Epoque Wedding Gown
La Belle Epoque Wedding Gown

The real guide shows up and our small group of 4 or 5 visitors is lead into the castle. It is an amazing tour of rooms, frozen in time from when Emelie Piper would have gotten dressed in her bedroom, with her clothes laid out or hung for us to view and ponder. There are older clothes as well. And there are telltale portraits where the clothes will reveal the time period of when the person was painted. I am always looking for Kashmir shawls in painting.

“Look,” Kerstin exclaims, “on the piano!”

It is pretty dark in the room, but I see it. The piano is draped with a large Kashmir shawl. That is what people did once the long shawls were not fashionable any more – they put them on their pianos.

It is exciting to see that someone in the Piper family once owned one of these beautiful shawls and I tell the guide and the group what I have learned about them.

The La Belle Epoque dresses, made by our friend, are also stunning – especially a beautiful wedding gown. Emilie Piper didn’t marry; if she had, this could have been her wedding gown.

After the tour, we walk around the rose gardens, look at the old carriages, and have lunch in the outdoor garden café.

And then we head for the next stops – Stora Gålstad and Ekeby, two places tied to Augusta’s early childhood.

Dressed for Travelling, Hiking, and a Visit to the Opera

Packing for the trip through Germany

I really dread packing. My suitcase always seems too small and my clothes inevitably weigh too much. And then I throw in things that I might need and would regret if I hadn’t brought along. The luggage scale is my enemy.

Packing for our trip in Germany was a different challenge. We would be travelling by train and there were no limitations to weight or size, except for the fact that we would have to manage our luggage between trains and hotels. Augusta would probably have packed her outfits in a trunk. Porters and maybe “Lohnbediente” (servants for hire) would have taken care of the luggage.  I imagine that she would have carried a small bag with her on the train, in addition to a reticule or a small purse.

The first thing I did was to buy a new suitcase with a matching bag in an antique-looking paisley pattern.  I was not going to travel with my home-made carpet bag and hat boxes. And definitely, no trunks!

So what kind of clothes did I bring?

  1. One brown wool dress for hiking and inclement weather
  2. One green-and-yellow checkered heavy cotton dress for travelling
  3. Two skirts with white blouses and cardigans – all in thin cotton – for sunny weather
  4. One silk ball-gown for the opera visit and Kerstin’s birthday dinner
  5. One green wool pelerine (short cape covering the shoulders)
  6. Five shawls, three pairs of gloves, and three white collars
  7. Two bonnets and a cotton lace cap
  8. Two petticoats
  9. Pantaloons and silk stockings
  10. Walking shoes and shoes for the opera visit
  11. Emergency jeans, t-shirts, and a puffer jacket, just in case….

In addition, I brought a hand fan, an umbrella, a parasol, opera glasses, a reticule, an embroidered purse, jewelry, hat pins, and hair ribbons.

And then there were guide books, reading material, a diary, and a sketch book; wool for knitting, protein bars for days we might not easily find allergy-suitable food, and emergency kits. Not to mention, lots of safety pins.

And of course, what Augusta could not have dreamt of: iPhones, chargers, and extra batteries.

For the record, I didn’t bring my laced corset even though I spent a lot of time making one. I figured, no one would know and it isn’t a very comfortable piece of clothing.

 What to wear?

Getting dresses in the 1840s took time and one would need help with dresses that had hooks and eyes for closure in the back. One would also need help with braiding and putting up the hair in the style of the times.

Every morning, Kerstin and I picked clothing based on the weather. If it was going to rain or be chilly, the wool dress with a shawl was perfect. For train travelling, I preferred the green-and-yellow checkered cotton dress with the green pelerine. And on a few sunny days in Lubeck, I did have use for my cotton skirts.

So what did I learn?

Shawls are great!

The wool pelerine was very useful when it was drizzling and cold.

Bonnets are great when it is windy and cold.

Fingerless gloves are beautiful and perfect when using an iPhone.

Dupioni (silk), which we used in our ball gowns, is a great fabric – it is very light and it doesn’t wrinkle. Why aren’t more clothes made of this beautiful material?

Walking around in cotton pantaloons (I even bought a pair of flannel pajama paints from H&M – same thing really) under 2 starched petticoats and a dress or a skirt is great! With the layering, you are never too hot or cold. And I loved the rustling sound of the starched petticoats when walking!

One evening, when we had to find a restaurant in Berlin and it was raining, we decided to just put on jeans – returning to present time! There were four revelations: 1. Getting dressed took less than a minute, 2. Walking didn’t make any rustling sound, 3. You almost felt indecent not wearing a full length skirt and no head covering, and 4. You became invisible – you looked like the rest of the people on the sidewalks and no one took any notice of you.

What will I incorporate in my 2017 every-day wardrobe?

Definitely lots of shawls. Fingerless gloves. Clothes made of wool and silk. And when at home, definitely pajama pants!

Album of the wardrobe

The green-and-yellow checkered heavy cotton dress:
The brown wool dress:
The cotton skirts:
The dupioni-silk, ball gown worn at Semperoper in Dresden:
Gloves and a few accessories:
Shawls and bonnets

The Irish Gloves

Fingerless, Irish Crochet Lace Gloves
Fingerless, Irish Crochet Lace Gloves

During Augusta’s time, women in her circles would have worn gloves. Men also wore gloves – all the time. There were lots of etiquette rules about when you could take them off, how to take them off, and what to do with them when eating.

Fashion dictated the length, material, and color of the gloves.

And then there were fingerless gloves. Fingerless gloves were often knitted or crocheted, and light or white in color. They allowed the woman to write and embroider without having to remove her gloves. Another advantage was that she could wear and display any expensive rings she might have, while still being modest and elegant.

Eureka! Fingerless gloves would be perfect for texting – Kerstin and I could be modest and elegant and display our rings AND we could use our iPhones without having to remove our gloves according to some complicated etiquette rules!

What you need for your iPhone
What you need for your iPhone

Margie, my longtime friend and kindred spirit – always up for creative projects – had invited me over to her house for doing creative art. And, she had already done research on the kind of gloves I might need for Augusta’s Journey.

– Did you know that during the Irish Potato Famine, the women of Ireland resorted to producing beautiful crochet lace in order to help their families, and that Queen Victoria’s interest in the Irish crocheted lace made it fashionable in England?

I had no idea! I had only admired the interesting, 3-dimensional characteristics of Irish crochet.

Would any Irish crocheted lace have reached Sweden in the 1850s? Maybe.

Would I like to get a pair of such, fingerless gloves? Of course; I would love too!!!

Next week, Margie presented me with these beautiful, well-fitting, white lace gloves. She had even embellished them with 3-dimensional little Irish roses – all made in Irish Crochet! What a gift!

Little Irish Roses
Little Irish Roses

It will be great on the trip – I will be very fashionable while taking pictures with my iPhone. I might even be able to write a real letter with a quill pen without having to take them off!

Thanks Margie!


The Travel Wardrobe

When Kerstin and I started Augusta’s Journey, we decided that in order to get into character of a wealthy 1840s girl (or to be honest, her mother), we should construct garments based on historical records and wear them when we follow in Augusta’s footsteps. We would need a travel wardrobe!

For our first leg of this journey, the cruise on Göta Canal, we made 3 different dresses each, and bonnets to match. And of course we also made petticoats, corsets, hat boxes, carpet bags, and parasols.

In a couple of weeks, we are embarking on our German journey, and we realized that this would necessitate new outfits suitable for traveling by train and hiking in national parks. And as Augusta visited the opera in both Berlin and Dresden, we would also have to make ball gowns suitable for going to the opera.

The fall dresses should be in fine wool and dark, fall colors. Kerstin soon found beautiful fabrics in Sweden and sent me pictures. I found nothing in Lincoln, because as Joanne Fabrics told me “we don’t stock any wool or silk fabrics”. So I scoured the local thrift stores for large pieces of clothing with a fabric label of 100% wool. The first one I found was a dark green women’s suit jacket for $1. That would make a fantastic pelerine. And then I also found 3 yards of checkered orange and green cotton for $5. What I had in mind was something like the outfit of Emilie Bronte in BBCs series To Walk Invisible: The Bronte Sisters. The Bronte sisters were contemporary with Augusta and the similarities between their world and Augusta’s warrants a blog entry just by itself.

Emile Bronte in To Walk Invisible: The Bronte Sisters
Emile Bronte in To Walk Invisible: The Bronte Sisters

Anyway, I cut up the jacket. The wool fabric was just enough for the pelerine after I had done some little patchwork of pieces. The lining of the jacket was also just enough for making a matching bonnet. The checkered fabric would not be enough for a full dress, which usually requires 5 yards. But it would be enough for one with short sleeves and not quite as wide a skirt. In the end, I was satisfied with the outfit. The only problem I foresee is having short sleeves in October! Maybe I can find a thin cardigan to wear over it.

Having made one outfit, I realized that I would need to make two more – I would have to resort to ordering fabric online. A heavy package containing 5 meters of brown, twill wool fabric arrived last week. That would be enough for one dress. I would still need to figure out one more dress or skirt.

In the meanwhile, I started on the ball gown. First you need to figure out the pattern – then make a test dress in cheap cotton – and then, finally make the gown in silk. Figuring out the pattern took several days – I actually used sturdy paper towel that I could stitch together and try. The benefit was that I didn’t have to buy special paper and I could then reuse the paper towel pieces in the kitchen. I then purchased $2.97/yard clearance cotton fabric from Walmart and made a prototype ball gown. That took another week. Will I ever use this one?

And last Friday, I started on my silk fabric that I bought last fall in the Gold Souk area of Deira, Dubai. It is ox blood color and will have black lace. I am hoping to finish it this week so I can make my wool dresses.

So what I have I learned?

  1. The best places for cheap fabric, lace, and spools of thread are thrift stores or charity shops. And the best place for safety pins are dollar stores.
  2. Paper towel is great for making and testing patterns – you could sew a whole outfit just of paper towel!
  3. Zip ties or duct tie straps make good substitutes for whale bone, and buckram is also a very useful material for clothing construction.
  4. Hand sewing takes less time than one thinks, and you make fewer mistakes than when you use a sewing machine. Undoing mistakes take a lot of time and is frustrating.
  5. Making bias tape is quicker than going around trying to find bias tape of the right color.

Finally, and most importantly (at least to my husband)

  1. It is easier to find pins on the floor if they have the colorful heads.

Exactly a month until we travel in Germany

Dresden Opera House
Dresden Opera House

In exactly a month, on the 28th of September, Kerstin and I will be boarding an early morning train at Stockholm Central station to trace Augusta’s journey though Germany. Obviously, there will be no steam engines and no hustle and bustle on the platform; no carriers of large trunks and no women in elegant Victorian attire – except for us! We will be there, dressed in our fall dresses, capes, and bonnets – a la mode of 1847 – mingling with morning commuters.

The train ride south is the start of our 2-week, European journey. We are going to travel like two sisters would have traveled in 1847, and with Augusta’s diary as our guide book.

But before we take off on this exciting journey, we have to finish our wardrobe. We need outfits for all kinds of weather and for opera visits and mountain hiking – all the things Augusta did on her journey.

The Wooden Bastei Bridge in 1826
The Wooden Bastei Bridge in Saxon Switzerland

We have no idea what clothes she brought or how she packed. So far, I have made one fall dress with a matching wool pelerine (short cape) and bonnet, and a ball gown in fine muslin (aka Walmart $4 cotton). I have 2 weeks to make a silk ball gown and 2 more dresses! But how wonderful it will be to hike in Saxon Switzerland National Park, in a dress with several layers of petticoats. And I am hoping for brilliant fall colors.

The journey has been planned in detail and we are going to visit all the churches, palaces, and museums that Augusta described. Besides hiking, we will take a steam boat on River Elbe and a steam-engine train in Dresden. And we hope to get tickets to the opera as well.

We are looking forward to meeting a lot of interesting and interested people on our journey. That is something we experienced when we did the Göta Canal cruise – you make new friends along the way.

Our time table looks like this:

Time Table

If you happen to be in the surroundings – let us know! Maybe we can have a cup of caffe or a glace together.

But rest assure – we will be uploading pictures and blogging during our journey!