Colonial Williamsburg: Accessories Head to Toe, or the Costume History Blogger Convention: Part II

So today is the second official day of the CSA Conference here at CW, but I consider it also a blogger convention.

Which is very cool.

Like....really cool.

NO! Seriously, cool.


Yesterday, I had the pleasure of meeting Susan Halloway Scott of Two Nerdy History Girls. She was ah-mazing, and lovely to talk to and allowed me to pick her brain and we had an amazing chat about blogging and all the goings on with that. Which was wonderful! I also picked her brain about being a published author, which I was just curious about in general, cause it's not everyday you meet one.

Also with yesterday was Susan North's first lecture who is currently on a leave of absence from the V&A (and their collections are CLOSED if you are wanting to get any research, you gotta wait a couple sorry) and is doing her PhD in Health and Underwear (mostly 19th century, but made me think of my MLitt dissertation...which was cool). Her talk was very academically oriented, which I enjoyed...cause I'm a nerd (Susan Scott did a summary. Click Here.)

Today, however, was ah-maz-ing. First lecture was by Linda Baumgarten, Curator of Costume and Textiles at Colonial Williamsburg, where she gave a run down over the pieces that are currently being exhibited in the museum. She had some very interesting tid bits with provenances and further information with textiles etc. Here are some bullets:

-Bright white (as bright as possible for 18th century, not optic white like we're used to) light weight accessories were considered symbols of gentility (higher class), due to the difficulties of keeping clean and pretty. You could not throw these pieces in with white sheets, towels, shifts, etc. These were the 'dry clean only'. I don't know why this was an a-ha moment for me. It was also a 'duh' moment.

- Early 18th century (late 17th too) aprons seemed to have been pleated down onto a linen tie (string) or gathered and stitched down, instead of doing the gathering from a casing around a string. Does that make sense?

- Also, this has bugged me for a while, but now I have curatorial back up, but please, When referring to 18th century neckerchiefs, neck-handkerchiefs, etc, do not call it a fichu. This terminology was used during the 19th century, not the 18th century.

....ok. I feel better now.

Then we had a great lecture by Phil Dunning, material culture researcher of Parks Canada, Ottawa, Ontario entitled: Yeomen to Merchant: Clothing and Accessories from a 1690 New England Shipwreck. He was also great. I really enjoyed the whole archeology aspect of the discussion as well as the correlation between the collection in Kalmar Sweden of a very similar ship wreck around the same time period. I took some pictures of the pieces he had from the wreck at the lecture (Sorry in advance for the quality they were taken from my phone)

28 shoes were found in the wreck site and 20 were whole in tact
Assorted fabrics scraps. Silk and Wool survived the best overall.

According to Phil, it seems that social rank was maintained on the ship despite being a Massachusetts Militia. So there were some long scraps of silk taffeta ribbon (upper left) that Phil suspects were knots of various locations (cause the mid 17th century man lurved him some knots)

Wool Scraps
The button holes survived, but the garment did not. Amazing or what?
Example of a wrapped fabric button.
Shirt Closure buckle, 'luckenbooth' (Scottish terms) Crowned hearts in others. Very common and very popular.
These, though silver these buckles (and others) were cheaply reproduced, very quickly. So they were not of the best quality, but they super popular.

Insignia ring of a fleur de lys. 

Now, I'm not 100% sure if I have this correct because Mark Hutter did a talk on men's accessories and they talked about these rings and how they were actually attached to watch chains first, and then eventually changed designs to be less 'ring' like.

So....Guess who the next talk is?

Mark Hutter and Erik Goldstein (Master Tailor and Curator of mechanical arts and numismatics (i.e. boy toys) at CW)

- 18th century terminology: Toys = Accessories.

- Virtually no hatting was done in North America, the raw materials were all exported to England for hatting.

- Cockaids were worn as military or political statements, normal, daily, civilian usage was unseen.

- Large discussion of button manufacturing and design. Too much for me to mention, but I've decided that F needs to give up airplanes and begin researching the machines used to mass produce products such as watch innards and buttons.

Beautiful watch innards.
Beautiful watch face. And Mark Hutter's face. He was in costume.
Title Slide and Mark (in costume) and Erik (playing Vanna White)

Finally we had D. Al Saguto and a great talk about shoe production from Medieval to mid 19th century.

-  Methods were circular. Roman construction methods were rediscovered and considered new during the 19th century. (nailing sole to upper.)

-Medieval sewed the top to sole. Inside out, and then flipped them the right way.

- mid 16th century discovered the best so far method of hand sewing shoes where the upper would maintain integrity if the sole was removed. Good for mending.

- Poland seem to be a bit of a trend maker in shoes.

-Political associations to shoe ties vs. buckles during the late 18th century and early-mid 19th.

Repro (Saguot) 8th Century shoe

Repro (Saguto) Roman Shoe

Medieval Repro (Saguto)

16th century shoe repro (Saugto) flipped inside out

17th Century Repro (Saguto) shoe, cut out work too.

Take a wild guess. Repro (Saguto)

Innards example (Saguto)
Repro shoe showing pin/nail example. (Saguto)

So, obviously today was great. I'm in heaven. And I'm meeting tons of wonderful people, who like to sit around a bottle of wine and chat costume history and unis post conference day. Fab-u-lous.

Now, I need to work on my presentation. Eek.

<3 <3

*Note: All images were taken by me of the presentations. All of the information I posted is related to the speakers in the 'section' I wrote about. None of this is my research. It is the speakers, and is their intellectual property. If you have any questions I will point you in the right direction. The shoe repros were done at Colonial Williamsburg by Saguto and the Journeymen and Apprentices of the Shoemaker shop (not Cobbler, btw). Collection pieces belong to the Parks Canada/Elizabeth & Mary Shipwreck research center place thing (Phil Dunning) and Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. IF I find anyone is stealing this information from this blog and pretending it is your own, I will hunt you down and beat you with a reed.


  1. I love those surviving buttonholes! Seeing them help me appreciate even more the importance of great handmade buttonholes! Everything looks fascinating but thanks for sharing the buttonholes specifically.

  2. Lahbluebonnet: You are more than welcome, I'm glad you enjoyed them! Phil's talk was OUTSTANDING. I'm really looking forward to further research that is coming from the shipwreck.

    Archeology and Textile-high. :)

  3. So fascinating! I had not realised that about fichus - not that I'd ever used it, but now I know not to!

  4. We have heard from all what a fantastic event this was. When we were in Williamsburg, we did get to see a lot in the De Witt. We wish we could have been there for this, but hope to go to another in the future~ We have heard and seen much about the shipwreck years ago. What a thrill it must have been to see these things 'in person'!


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