The Ladies' Tea Guild

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Historical Sew Monthly -- Procrastination (how appropriate!): A pre-Gold Rush California day dress

Version 1.0 of the California day dress ca. 1838.
The Challenge: Procrastination (January 2016), Out of Your Comfort Zone (June 2015), and Stashbusting (March 2015).  I didn't realize it until last month, but I neglected to publish the blog post in 2015 for the Out Of My Comfort Zone and Stashbusting Challenges, which were part of the original reason for this dress being made!  7 months is quite a procrastination, although I still don't consider this dress finished ...

California history, especially domestic history, has been a major passion and research topic for me for the past 15 years or so.  Part of my research has involved re-creating typical daily outfits for California women, from the early Spanish settlement period in the late 18th century, to the early 19th century Rancho period on the eve of the Gold Rush.  Unfortunately, comparatively little of the European, English, and North American fashion information from that time is widely applicable to California during the same period, due to the distance – both physical and cultural – between the people of California and those in the rest of the Western world before the Gold Rush. 

_Mexicains_ by Emile Louis Vernier, ca. 1850.
 New York Public Library Digital Collection.
Beginning in the 1760s, Spain established frontier settlements in California, but all contact with Spain ceased between 1810 and 1824 during the Mexican War for Independence; when the fighting ended, California's settlers benefited from the free trade that resulted.  Trade with England and the United States enabled the people, now calling themselves Californios, to enjoy many of the products and luxuries that had long been available to more settled parts of the former Spanish empire, with closer ties to Europe.  Even now, however, shipments did not usually include fashion magazines or any ready-made articles of women's attire, unless specifically mail-ordered.  Almost no non-Hispanic women arrived in California to influence the local fashions during this time.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

The new year approaches!

clipart from Webweaver.nu
Well, Christmas Day has come and gone, and I don't know about you, but I'm never ready for it to be over!  It's always a let-down to me, when all the preparation and holiday spirit is finished after one day; I much prefer the older tradition of 12 Days of Christmas!  It's not like there's not enough treats to last at least half that long, plus, I always run out of time to make all the things I wanted to make, and then I have the week between Christmas and New Year off from work, with some actual time to make things ... and no celebrations to make them for!  Thankfully, my family is spread out over the United States, and so we always end up having more than one Christmas celebration anyway, trying to see as many people as possible.  This year, I'm going to think of the whole time until January 4 (when I go back to work) as the Christmas season, still, and try to get in as much cooking and sewing as possible.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Holiday catch-up.

Thanksgiving Day--The Dinner
_Harper's Weekly_, November 1858
Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!  I hope you had a wonderful day, whether you spent it with family, or had a "Friendsgiving" with good friends instead of relatives!  I'm still adjusting to the new living situation and job, and unfortunately, one of the things that comes with working with children, is getting sick!  Everything my kids get, I get.  I'm currently in the middle of the second bug that I've caught since the beginning of the school year; the earlier sickness started out as a cold and turned into a tonsil infection which kept me away from work for over a week!  This one seems more like a bad cold, and I'm hoping it won't turn into anything worse (fingers crossed!) but it's hung around all week and really put a damper on my holiday baking!  Time for lots of tea and hot/sour soup ...

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Back from the San Francisco International Tea Festival!

Ferry Building Marketplace, San Francisco.
Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.
 Today was the 4th annual San Francisco International Tea Festival, at the Ferry Building in San Francisco, and it was a fun day, although I did wish there was more to the festival than 15 to 20 vendors and 5 lectures.  I did get to taste some really interesting teas, and purchased one of them, a Taiwanese black tea with a really interesting cinnamon-spice aroma and flavor -- and no actual cinnamon or flavoring had been added!  I'll write a follow-up post about my impressions of some of the teas I tasted, later.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Changes, good and bad

Image by Joy Coffman.
Wikimedia Commons.
Well, I haven't fallen entirely off the face of the planet, but it feels like it.  Some dramatic changes have occurred, including the changing of my career (for the present), and moving to another house.  I have left the history museum where I worked for 14 years, and I'm currently working at an elementary school while I plan for graduate school, which is what I had planned to do before beginning work at the museum.  I'm working more hours than I used to work, which is both a good thing and a bad thing: I'm glad for the extra wages, but I am so exhausted that I have very little energy, even on weekends, and none during the week, for sewing and cooking like I used to.  I hear that my energy level will change as I get used to it, but we'll see.  I am so behind on my writing, sewing, and historic cooking!  The new living situation doesn't allow for much, if any, cooking, unfortunately.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Clothing the Californio, part 4 -- the Gold Rush era.


Governor Don Pio Pico, his wife, and nieces, ca. 1850,
San Diego Historical Society.
By the time California entered the United States in 1850, the social and political climate of the state was radically changing.  Hispanic immigrants from Mexico, Central and South America, entered California and headed to the gold mines, bringing their own culture with them.  Non-Hispanic immigrants to the state no longer acclimated themselves to California's previous culture, and they competed with the Californios for land, status, resources, and political clout.  Many Californio women married non-Hispanic men during this time period not only because the newcomers were different and exciting, but because to do so helped secure their property (an English-speaking man to manage their affairs as local law became much more English and American in influence) and social status.  During this time, Californio families began to identify themselves with Spanish European culture, in opposition to the non-Californio residents' characterization of all Hispanic people as Mexican and therefore "non-white", as well as to avoid association with the political and social unrest happening in the Republic of Mexico.  Californios began to wear the same styles and garments that other Americans wore, and look just as Victorian as someone from the East Coast during the same time period.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Clothing the Californio, part 3 -- the Mexican period.

Working-class man and women in California.
Monterey State Historic Park.  Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.
After 1824, under Mexican law, the central government basically ignored California, but the Californios were given free trade and loosened domestic business regulations; when the Missions were secularized, some people received large grants of good Mission land from the government, and were able to become self-sufficient and even begin to accumulate wealth.  They used their wealth (in hides and tallow) to purchase manufactured goods that were brought to California on international trade ships every few weeks or so, on average, but most ranch owners didn't live in aristocratic style until much later.  Many of the Native people who had been part of the Mission system stayed on the land and became the servants of the wealthier ranch owners, but by the 1830s, this state of society was still really new and changing.  Americans, English, and other non-Hispanic immigrants began to arrive in small numbers at this time, and generally adopted Californio fashions, taking Spanish names and joining the Catholic Church, as well as becoming Mexican citizens, purchasing rancho land, or marrying into land-owning families and inheriting it.

Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast,
Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,
And, while the bubbling and loud-hissing urn
Throws up a steamy column, and the cups
That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each,
So let us welcome peaceful evening in.
-- William Cowper (1731-1800)
"The Winter Evening" (Book Four), _The Task_ (1784)