The Ladies' Tea Guild

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Gluten-free, vegan, cane sugar-free, nut-free, corn-free and soy-free roll-and-cut cookies!

Multiple allergy-friendly cuccidate!
O.k., I made the attempt yesterday to create traditional Italian cuccidate that my aunt and cousin (who are allergic to wheat, gluten, corn, milk/cream, egg, cane sugar and nuts) could eat.  I especially wanted the result to be tasty, and not weird-tasting or have a too-strange texture, and I think I can call the following recipe a success!  My relatives could already have the fruit filling from my regular cuccidate recipe: dried fruit, orange zest, spices and a little bit of honey all ground to a paste.  All I needed was the cookie dough to roll it up in.  I found several possible recipes, but this is the one I tried, from the Jules Speaks Gluten Free Blog, because the author said it could handle being rolled and cut out like regular sugar cookie dough.  I had to adjust it because my relatives couldn't tolerate all the original ingredients, and my adjustments still need a few tweaks, I think, but the result smelled good while mixing it, rolled out fairly easily (was very crumbly when I tried to form the cookies, though), smelled good while baking it, and tasted pretty good, too! 

Allergy-friendly Cut-out Cookies (adapted)
½ cup shortening or solid fat (butter, coconut oil)
1 cup palm, date or maple sugar (or 1/3 cup to ½ cup agave or honey)
½ mashed banana (or egg substitute equal to 1 egg)
1 tsp. vanilla extract or orange or lemon zest
2 ¼ cups gluten-free flour mix (if using a mix without xanthan gum, add 1 tsp gum for every cup of flour mix), plus extra for rolling
2 ¼ tsp. gluten-free baking powder
½ tsp. salt
¼ cup non-dairy milk (as needed to make the dough moist)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Gluten-free cuccidate: can it be done?

My regular cuccidate.
I love to bake traditional treats during the holidays.  So far, I've done gingerbread cake (recipe from good old Betty Crocker), nut-free fruitcake with dried fruit instead of candied fruit, cake mix cookies made with a spice cake mix and topped with cinnamon red hot candy, my great aunt's cocoa-anise cookies, and my nut-free version of cuccidate, or Sicilian fig cookies.  I bake so that I can have some good things, but not *the whole batch* and so that I will have something to give to my adult relatives (I only buy gifts for the kids).  My aunt and cousin, however, have multiple food allergies (as I do, but they have different ones than I have) and they almost never get to eat baked goods because their allergies include wheat, gluten, yeast, eggs, dairy (except they can have butter, weirdly enough), corn (both starch and syrup) and cane sugar.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas and Its Customs, from Godey's _Lady's Book_, December 1855: part 5

Furmity or Frumenty.  Image from WDict.
In many parts of Yorkshire, and other places in England, to this day, furmity (a dish made of new wheat boiled in milk) is the usual breakfast and supper on Christmas Eve.  Can this custom be related to the ancient offering of a sheaf of corn to Ceres, at the Saturnalia?
It is also common to give the women who go “a gooding,” as the phrase is (that is, visiting for alms the farm-houses in their vicinities), wheat for their Christmas furmity, though they sometimes collect sufficient to repay them for having it ground; and in return for this, and whatever else they may receive, they present their benefactors with sprigs of evergreens to deck their houses.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas and Its Customs, from Godey's _Lady's Book_, December 1855: part 4

Image from Grandma's Graphics

The burden of the angels’ song for us is not for days, but to the end of time, and every year brings us more nearly to its full fruition.  The same jubilant feeling, therefore, that hung the portals of the Roman houses with boughs indicative of victory and peace, that bound their brows with bacchanalian ivy, and their staffs with branches of the vine, may well deck Christian hearts and houses at this period; they read another myth in the bright evergreens than the immortal youth of the Boy-God (even their own), and in their practical translation of the angelic chorus—feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and letting in the light of intellect on those who sit in darkness, even the thick “darkness of ignorance;” for, with Olivia’s Clown, we believe there is no other—do honor to no fancied retrospect, no bygone golden age, but link the present days with brighter ones to come.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas and Its Customs, from Godey's _Lady's Book_, December 1855: part 3

In Ireland, the custom of burning gigantic candles still prevails amongst the Catholic community on Christmas Eve, and in the north of England it is also common.  Light at all times appears to have been used on occasions of festivity and rejoicing—from the rude bonfire to the wax-lit drawing-room; but in these candles we trace another remnant of the ancient type of the season’s rejoicings, for it was the custom of the Romans, during the festival of the Saturnalia, to present wax candles to each other.
In the yule log, or huge block of coal, which in the North answers the same purpose, and is carefully reserved for the occasion, Brand sees the counterpart of the Midsummer fires, made within doors on account of the cold weather of the winter solstace, as those in the hot seasons were kindled in the open air.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas and Its Customs, from Godey's _Lady's Book_, December 1855: part 2

It requires but little imagination to construe the beautiful fable of the golden age, which the old Roman Saturnalia commemorated, into a prophetic myth of the universal peace and good will which the divine teaching of the Nazarite was calculated to effect upon earth, and which doubtless it will effect when the spirit of His precepts guides, in its simplicity and truth, the actions of His people.
During the continuance of this antique feast, every one interchanged presents with his neighbor; their houses were decorated with evergreens and laurel; no criminal was punished; no arms taken up; the very slaves were permitted to sit at the table with their masters, in allusion to the happy equality which was supposed to have existed during the reign of Saturn; nay, banquets were sometimes made for them, at which their masters served—a custom whose shadow still lingers with us in the yule feast once common in the baronial halls of England, and not yet quite exploded from them.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christmas and Its Customs, from Godey's _Lady's Book_, December 1855


THERE is something so congenial to human nature, so absolutely necessary to the health of mind and body, in the relaxation which festivals afford, that we do not wonder at the unwillingness which Sir Isaac Newton tells us the heathens felt to part with their holidays, on the introduction of Christianity amongst them; so that, in order to facilitate their conversion, by retaining their days of joy, Gregory, bishop of Neo Caesarea in Pontus, instituted annual festivals to saints and martyrs, corresponding as nearly as possible in date, if not in form, with those most popular amongst the Greeks and Romans.
The type of Christmas, the most honored, joyous, and beautiful of Christian holidays, existed long before Christianity, in the Saturnalia of the ancients, which took place about the hyemal solstice.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Day.

"THANKSGIVING DAY.—When shall it be? The last Thursday in November falls on the 29th.  We petition each and all the State governors to appoint that day for our national rejoicing.  Then all the land will be glad together and union among the people would be a sure pledge of heart-thankfulness to God, who has given to us, as a nation, such wonderful prosperity, such universal blessings.
The readers and friends of the “Lady’s Book,” that is, a large majority of the people of these United States, agree in our petition.  Let us have a national day of Thanksgiving on Thursday, the 29th of November."  Godey's Lady's Book, October 1855.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Another Regency recipe: Shrewsbury Cakes.

Homemade Shrewsbury Cakes.  Elizabeth Urbach.
San Jose's South Bay Ladies' Tea Guild recently enjoyed afternoon tea at their Regency Tea and costume workshop, with a menu that featured recipes from Jane Austen's lifetime.  Afternoon tea as a codified meal wasn't known in her day, but tea was a very popular beverage just the same.  It was served in the morning with breakfast, after an early dinner at 5 (as part of evening entertainment), or with a late supper (after a ball or late night party).  Antique cookbooks mention many recipes as "good to eat with tea" so these were featured for the tea guild's menu.  While some flavors are an acquired taste today, here is one item that tastes as good to our palates as it did to Jane Austen's: Shrewsbury Cakes.

“To make Shrewsberry Cakes.—Take two pounds of fine flour, put to it a pound and a quarter of butter (rub them very well) a pound and a quarter of fine sugar sifted, grate in a nutmeg, beat in three whites of eggs and two yolks, with a little rose-water, and so knead your paste with it, let it lay an hour, then make it up into cakes, prick them and lay them on papers, wet them with a feather dipt in rose-water, and grate over them a little fine sugar; bake them in a slow oven, either on tins or paper.”
-- from Project Gutenberg's English Housewifery Exemplified, by Elizabeth Moxon (1764)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

A Regency recipe: Seed Cake

Mrs. Raffald's Rich Seed Cake.  Photo: Elizabeth Urbach
This is the Georgian/Regency version of the Victorian Seed Cake recipe in an earlier post.  I made a half recipe of this cake for the South Bay Ladies' Tea Guild's Regency Tea this month.  Here is the text of the recipe as I received it: it's been slightly redacted for modern cooks.

Rich Seed Cake
Caraway seeds were enormously popular in the later eighteenth century.  This rich cake would be eaten at breakfast or afternoon tea among the gentry and middle classes.  It was thought the longer cakes were beaten the better—Mrs. Raffald recommends beating this cake for 2 hours.  Modern baking powder was not invented until the mid-nineteenth century, so the success of a cake like this lies in its very careful technique.  All ingredients and bowls must be slightly warmer than room temperature.  Assemble all the ingredients before you begin, prepare the tin and preheat the oven.

8 oz. plain [all-purpose] flour
1 tsp. grated nutmeg
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 oz. caraway seeds
8 oz. unsalted butter, softened
8 oz. caster [granulated] sugar
4 eggs, separated, tepid

Line and grease an 8 inch diameter, 3 inch deep cake tin.  Sift the flour and spices into a bowl, and add the caraway seeds.  Make sure your mixing bowl is big enough, and slightly warm.  Cream the butter and sugar in it very thoroughly, scraping the sides of the bowl.  In a warm jug, beat the tepid yolks very well, then add to the creamed mixture gradually, beating very well after each addition.  With a scrupulously clean beater, beat the whites stiff but not dry.  Using a metal tablespoon fold the beaten whites and the flour into the creamed mixture, about a fifth at a time; fold in by slicing the spoon edge gently down the middle, lifting and turning as lightly as possible, at the same time turning the bowl slowly with your other hand.  The flour should be shaken in from a height.  Stop as soon as the mixture appears amalgamated.  Empty gently into the prepared tin and fork roughly level.  Bake in the middle of the oven at 325 degrees F for 1 ½ hours.  Cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then turn on to a wire rack and remove the papers.  The cake will be delicately crisp on the outside, and inside will have a light crumbly texture.
-- source: The Experienced Housekeeper by Elizabeth Raffald (18th century), re-printed in Food & Cooking in 18th Century Britain: History & Recipes by Jennifer Stead, English Heritage, 1985.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A delicious Victorian recipe: Seed Cake.

Mrs. Beeton's Seed Cake.
Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.
This recipe is from Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management from 1861, but it has its roots in the 18th century, at least.  The ingredient that makes it Victorian is the self-rising flour: chemical leaveners (baking soda/salaratus, cream of tartar/pearlash, baking powder) were not fully understood until well into the 19th century, and were not available to the home cook until then.  Similar recipes for seed cake exist in 17th and 18th century recipe books, but they are leavened by one of two methods: the addition of yeast and allowing the dough to rise as for bread, or the addition of beaten whole eggs or egg whites, folding them into the batter at the end.

A Very Good Seed-Cake.
1 lb. butter [soft]            1 lb. self-rising flour
6 eggs                           3/4 oz. caraway seeds
3/4 lb. sifted sugar         1 wineglass brandy [1/4 cup]
mace and nutmeg to taste [1/2 tsp. each]

Beat the butter to a cream; dredge in the flour; add the sugar, mace, nutmeg and caraway seeds, and mix these ingredients together.  Whisk the eggs, stir to them the brandy, and beat the cake again for 10 minutes.  Put it into a tin lined with buttered paper, and bake it from 1 1/2 to 2 hours.  This cake would be equally nice made with currants, and omitting the caraway seeds.

Monday, November 7, 2011

A Regency Tea, fit for Jane Austen herself.

The Republic of Pemberly.
Jane Austen, one of the most famous female authors of the western world, has many fans in the United States and England.  She kept diaries and wrote many letters, as well as her well-known novels, and her writings record her love for tea and the fact that preparing breakfast and tea for her family was part of her domestic chores every day.  She also wrote that she bought her family’s tea from Twinings in London, when she visited her wealthy older brother in town, which means the modern Jane Austen fan can drink almost the same tea she did! 

Since many recipe books were written and published during Jane Austen’s lifetime, there is a wealth of information about the kinds of food that people would enjoy with their tea.  Google Books is a really good source for these antique cookbooks, and although the recipes need some re-working for modern use, they are still capable of producing delicious results.  The South Bay Ladies’ Tea Guild is preparing to have their own Regency Tea later this month, featuring some of these period recipes:

Monday, October 31, 2011

Celebrate Halloween the Victorian way: with Parlor Amusements from Godey's Lady's Book!

Bobbing for apples. Image: http//
Of course, you could pull out the old washtub and get some apples for traditional apple-bobbing, you could hang an apple from a string and have your friends try to bite it without using their hands, or play other old-fashioned games tonight, (even if you're going out trick-or-treating), but why not create some science "magic" in your own parlor (or living room, or kitchen)?  Here are some of the safer-sounding "parlor amusements" from Godey's Lady's Book of 1855:

The magic whirlpool.—Fill a glass tumbler with water, throw upon its surface a few fragments or thin shavings of camphor, and they will instantly begin to move and acquire a motion both progressive and rotary, which will continue for a considerable time.  During these rotations, if the water be touched by any substance which is at all greasy, the floating particles will quickly dart back, and as if by a stroke of magic, be instantly deprived of their motion and vivacity.
Telling fortunes with apple peels.
Image: http//

Visible and invisible.—Write with a piece of French chalk on the looking-glass, wipe it with a handkerchief, and the characters will be invisible; breathe on it, and they will reappear; this change will take place a considerable number of times.  This is a curious fact, and at one time was considered a great secret."

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A new post (finally!): "Autumn Days" -- a poem from 1855.

Image: Nikolay Dimitrov.


‘Tis Autumn time! the summer flowers
Have faded ‘neath its golden feet;
The birds have left their shady bowers,
And winds chime mournfully and sweet;
The maple boughs, whose folded leaves
Have whispered through the summer days
Like bright-winged birds, around the eaves
Are flitting in the sun’s pale rays;
I hear their rustling low and sweet,
As if an angel floated o’er;
They seem to me like friends I meet,
And love, then part forever more.

The dreamy lull of limpid streams;
The azure haze that floats above,
Enshroud earth as mysterious dreams,
O’er all our spirits softly move.
Spirit of dreams! oh, I would bless
Thy soft luxurious charms for aye,
And fold thee in my soul’s caress,
Now and forever till I die!
Oh, chide me not! the low wind rhymes,
Full many a plaintive trembling lay,
And I could listen to her hymns,
Till I had breathed my life away.
-- published in the October 1855 issue of Godey's Lady's Book

Monday, October 10, 2011

100 years of voting rights for California women!

South Bay Ladies' Tea Guild celebrating the Woman's
Suffrage Centennial at Satori Tea Bar!
San Jose joins the rest of California in celebrating an important milestone: the centennial anniversary of women being granted the vote in California!  In 1911 the Women’s Suffrage Amendment was finally passed by both houses of the California Legislature, and it was signed into law on October 10, 1911 by the governor, under the eye of Clara Foltz, the first female lawyer on the Pacific coast of North America, who lived and practiced in San Jose.

The work began in 1840, when Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, along with other female American delegates to the World Anti-Slavery Convention in London, were not allowed to sit in the convention hall and participate, because of their gender.  They realized the many similarities between the conditions of racial slavery and gender inequality, and resolved to address the issue on their return to the U.S.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Celebrate 100 years of California women's right to vote!

Chicago Woman's Suffrage parade marching
costume, 1916.  Library of Congress.
California was one of the early western states that paved the way for the national amendment, and California's woman's suffrage amendment was passed on October 10, 1911 after many years of work and education on the part of the state's suffrage supporters.  This wonderful centennial anniversary is being marked all over the state throughout 2011, and the celebrations are especially numerous this month, the anniversary month of the event.  The South Bay Ladies' Tea Guild will be celebrating in San Jose this coming weekend!  Gentlemen and well-behaved children welcome to attend. 

Date: Sat., October 8; noon march, tea at 1 p.m.
Location: march from the Knox-Goodrich Building @ 1st and S. Santa Clara St.; tea at Satori Tea Bar in San Pedro Square.
Cost: $7 per person (for a "Votes for Women" sash and to pay our re-enactor); pay for your own tea and refreshments.
Suggested Costume: day dress from the 1840s through 1911, "suffragettes."

Saturday, September 24, 2011

"Indian Summer" is here!

image from 
How did the Victorians survive hot weather, wearing 3 or more layers of clothing year-round?  They had their ways, which are just as helpful now as in 1852.  Unsurprisingly, Godey's Lady's Book has suggestions that are useful for this time of year.  Here is one tip for making cut flowers last longer:

“To Preserve Flowers in Water.—Mix a little carbonate of soda with the water, and it will preserve the flowers for a fortnight.”

Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11: memorial events in the Bay Area

Everyone over the age of 15 remembers the horrific events of September 11, 2001.  The United States was affected in a way we have not been since the bombing of Pearl Harbor, but the attack that happened 10 years ago came from an enemy we were not actively at war with, and for religious, more than political, reasons.  There are many lessons that we are still learning from the events of September 11th, and while the 10-year anniversary marks a time period that has seen some advances in security, there is still a long way to go in the cause of safety and freedom.

Many people blame all religions for the war, but the real culprit is selfishness, the devaluing of human life, and the desire for power at all cost, which can be expressed through atheism as well as organized (or dis-organized) religion.  Many people also blame God for the tragedy, but if you or I went out and robbed a bank today, would we have the right to blame it on God and weasel out of taking responsibility for our own actions?  God has given everyone the same choice; it's the ultimate "equal opportunity."

Every minute of every day, we all face the same choice again and again: to know what is good and to do it, or to have it our own way.  We are in the middle of a world where the overwhelming majority choose their own way instead of the right way, and this is the anniversary of one dramatic, wide-reaching consequence, which has sucked innocent people into its whirlpool of torment.  God allows us our own way, but He also allows the natural consequences to occur because He is fair.  He is not sitting up on a cloud with a thunderbolt in His hand, just waiting to punish people.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Making strawberry ice cream the Victorian way: without a freezer!

image from
I got 3 pints of strawberries at the farmer's market last week, and they've been sitting in the fridge since I brought the home!  A bunch of great strawberries that will go bad if I don't do something with them *right now* is a great motivator to get into the kitchen!  But the house is too hot to make jam, and berries this ripe shouldn't be cooked (much) anyway, I think.  Ice cream sounds good, but I don't have an ice cream maker.  There is a popular recipe for making ice cream without a machine, but it involves cooking an egg custard, and taking the mixture out of the freezer to stir it around every 30 minutes for 2 to 3 hours.  I think I have a better idea (although it will make more of a semifreddo instead of a soft ice cream texture)!

"Strawberry Ice Cream.--Mix one pound of strawberry juice, strained and sweetened, with one pint of whipped cream; if to be frozen in a mould, add a little isinglass, melted and strained.  If to be eaten in glasses, isinglass is not necessary."  From The Good Housekeeper, by Lydia Maria Child, 1841.

Now, I am not going to do this exactly as Mrs. Child directs (I can't leave well enough alone).  I'm not using isinglass (a kind of gelatin) for one thing.  I'm also not using strained strawberry juice; I'm going to mash the strawberries with the sugar, and fold them into the whipped cream.  Then I'm going to line a baking dish with plastic wrap, pour the mixture in, and just freeze it.  I also inherited some fancy Jello-molds from my grandma so I may line some of them with plastic and make little molded ice creams for fun!  

Monday, August 29, 2011

A tea-related contest put on by Oregon Chai.

Photo: Elizabeth Urbach
This post has been sponsored by Oregon Chai.

There is a new Facebook contest happening, called Chai-brary, which highlights reading and enjoying chai as the "ideal Me Time moment."

One lucky entry will receive $1,000 to buy whatever is needed to make their reading more enjoyable. We’re also giving 1,000 runners up a $5 Amazon gift card, and all entrants will receive $1 toward any Oregon Chai product just for entering. 

also ...

Additionally, one tweet will be selected every week during the sweepstakes to receive a free Oregon Chai Tea Latte Concentrate. Please feel free to tweet often from August 25 to Tuesday, September 6 at 5 p.m. CT for your chance to win!"  Tweet #Chaibrary to @OregonChai
 to participate. 

Sounds like an interesting contest, with some fun prizes.  Let us know if you win! 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A picnic with the Pre-Raphaelites.

Pre-Raphaelite Tea Picnic table.
Photo: Elizabeth and Virginia Urbach
The South Bay Ladies' Tea Guild enjoyed almost perfect weather and surroundings at the Pre-Raphaelite Tea Picnic and Artistic Salon.  The popular Japanese Friendship Garden was full of families -- and even a wedding party taking photos -- but the Guild was fortunate in securing a shady picnic table near the back entrance to the garden (and more importantly, near the restrooms!).
another view of the table.
Photo: Elizabeth and Virginia Urbach

The table was set with a green cloth, with a bunch of roses for a centerpiece, and fresh rose petals scattered around.  Plain white plates and clear glasses, along with a few colorful platters, were the serving and eating utensils, with the addition of fly-proof food covers!  Five lovely ladies attended in colorful summer dress, three of them in costume appropriate to the theme and occasion.  The artistic and literary world was represented by two antique books -- one full of poetry and quotations -- as well as period fashion illustrations and a book about traditions and customs from the past that should be brought back into style.  This is the menu:

Pomegranite tea punch
The ladies in attendance. 
Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.
Blueberry scones
Homemade Meyer lemon curd
Homemade fig jam
Imported Devon cream

Pear-cardamom chutney and water crackers
Cucumber sandwiches with fresh mint and rose petals
Chicken salad sandwiches with garden tomatoes
Pastry bunches filled with spinach and cheese

Brown sugar spice cookies
Sugared raspberries and cream

It was a relaxing afternoon tea in the garden, a perfect way to spend a late-summer day! 

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Displaying my grandma's wedding dress.

The dress on display at History Park. 
Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.
I was allowed to put my grandma's wedding dress on display this weekend for a special event at the museum where I work.  In preparation for the event, I had to design the exhibit, arrange for items like a dress form and other display props,  and do my own set up and take down.  I also discovered that the gown and veil needed some TLC. before it would survive the display!  Even though they were only made in 1945 (and there are many things from the '40s that are in such good condition they can still be used), the gown and veil were literally falling apart in places.  I researched what it would take to restore them and found that I had neither the tools nor the money to do so properly ($80 per yard museum-quality silk crepeline for a support lining, anyone?).  The rayon satin of the gown, and the nylon (or rayon?) net of the veil were badly ripped in places, and the gown fabric was literally breaking off into bits at the edges of the torn areas.  The best I could do was to baste strips of well-washed cotton muslin from seam to seam across the torn areas, to take pressure off of the fabric, and then baste the edges of the tears to the muslin.
Ca. 1945 wedding cake topper made of icing sugar.
Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Re-creating Pre-Raphaelite costume.

"Miranda: The Tempest"
by Waterhouse
According to Consuelo Rockliff-Stein, one of the founders of The Ladies’ Tea and Rhetoric Society, “Artistic gowns ... were never intended to be exact replicas of the clothing worn by models in Pre-Raphaelite paintings, nor were they intended to replicate clothing of the classical and medieval eras. These gowns borrowed design elements from all these sources, but were distinctly Victorian in overall effect.”  This led to vaguely historic-looking clothing, mixing elements from totally different periods in the same garment.  “Medieval”
"Venetian Ladies Listen To The Seranade"
by Frank C. Cowper
sleeves, “Elizabethan” ruffs and “Grecian” drapery could be found on the same dress.  The Watteau-back dress, a princess-line dress that had a fitted bodicein front, but a large section of loosely-pleated fabric from the shoulders to the floor in back, was inspired by 18th century French sacques, and was one way that Pre-Raphaelite ideas were absorbed into mainstream fashion.  It became a favorite look for the “tea gown”, which became popular in the 1880s as informal daytime social dress. 

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Pre-Raphaelite dress as pseudo-historic costume

"Gather Ye Rosebuds While Ye May"
by Waterhouse.  Wikiped
If the Pre-Raphaelite woman chose a historically-inspired style, there were two main time periods and cultures that were popular choices: classical Greece/Rome, and 15th century Medieval Europe.  The Pre-Raphaelite "standard" of female beauty was an amalgamation of the various Classical Greek and Roman goddesses and nymphs, especially the Venus de Milo.  Since their ideal of beauty wore draperies without corset, hoop, bustle or petticoats underneath, the Pre-Raphaelites reasoned, so should the modern woman!
"Sapphires" by Art Moore.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Pre-Raphaelite dress as modified Reform Dress.

Morris and Burne-Jones families. ca. 1874.
Pre-Raphaelite dress generally took two forms: modified contemporary fashion, or historically-inspired styles.  If choosing modified contemporary fashion, gowns would be styled according to the dictates of Reform Dress or "Rational Costume," which advocated comfort and freedom of movement, fabric breathability, and natural fibers and colors in an effort to promote greater health. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Pre-Raphaelite and Aesthetic Dress: the background

Amelia Bloomer ca. 1850s.  Wikipedia.
During the 19th century there were many and varied reform movements that involved women.  Women supported and led those movements that dealt with things that were important to their everyday lives, like food, clothing, and education, which connected them to the larger Woman’s Suffrage reform movement, as well as the trend towards national and international religious, political and economic reform.  There was also a growing sense of distaste with the quality and style of things produced by the Industrial Revolution factory system, and the un-healthy living conditions it created. 

When the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was founded in 1848, the dress reform movement was just beginning, with Amelia Bloomer and other women daringly adopting Turkish trousers and shorter (ankle- to calf-length) skirts.  Many of their innovative designs and ideas were lost on the public who, with the help of the media, spent more time staring at and lampooning them than listening to them.  Early designs were almost all condemned as being not only ugly, but indecent because they involved masculine trousers.  The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood secured a nominally higher level of respect from the public for their designs, because they first appeared in romantic and dramatic pieces of art.  When the women who were part of the movement began to wear similar styles at home and in public, they attracted stares and comments, but escaped the kind of insults that earlier dress reformers received, because of their status as “eccentric artists” and their prominence in the art circles.  The famous artist William Morris said, “no dress can be beautiful that is stiff; drapery is essential,” and the Pre-Raphaelites took that statement to heart. 

To be continued ...

Friday, July 22, 2011

How to make a gored skirt from the late 1860s.

Petit Courier des Dames, 1868.  Cathy Decker.
Pre-Raphaelite costume tips are forthcoming, but in the mean time, let's have a snippet of useful information about 1860s fashion.  Everyone is familiar with the fan-shaped hooped skirt, wide sleeves and narrow flounces of the 1850s and the bell-shaped hooped skirt, coat sleeves and wide flounces of the early 1860s.  However, there is a transitional style that came in after 1865, leading into the bustle of the 1870s, which I find very attractive.  It was called the "Empire" fashion and was named after the Second French Empire (which began with the crowning of Emperor Louis Napoleon (descendant of Napoleon Bonaparte) and Empress Eugenie at that time) and the fact that the style was thought of as an "exact copy" of the fashions of France during the time of Napoleon Bonaparte.
La Mode Illustree, 1867.  Tara Maginnis.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Join the South Bay Ladies' Tea Guild for the Pre-Raphaelite Picnic!

"Bower Meadow" by Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
Pre-Raphaelite Tea Picnic: join us at the Japanese Friendship Garden in San Jose for an Artistic Salon, Victorian style!  Please come prepared to participate by reading a favorite Victorian poem or an excerpt from a period novel, showing a piece of Victorian artwork, singing or playing a Victorian song, or some other historical entertainment (family-friendly, please!).  Gentlemen and older children welcome!  Bring your camera so you can take atmospheric and artistic photos in the garden.

    Date: Saturday, August 20, 2011. Time TBA.
    Location: Japanese Friendship Garden picnic area, Kelley Park, Senter Rd. and Alma St., San Jose.
    Cost: $20 (Tea Guild members) /$25 (non-members)
    Suggested costume: Victorian or Edwardian day dress, Artistic, Reform or Aesthetic costume.

Please R.S.V.P and send payment by Thursday, August 18!  E-mail the Guild at southbayladiesteaguild (at) yahoo (dot) com for more information and to R.S.V.P.  Payment can be made by PayPal, or you can send a check (e-mail for the address).  To qualify for the Member price you must be a paid member of the South Bay Ladies' Tea Guild; membership information is available in the links at the top left of this page.  We look forward to seeing you!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Back from the parade!

Here we are, waiting ...
No, we didn't just get back today, it's taken me this long to get the photos up!  We had a great time walking in the parade and are planning to do it again next year.  Lots of people asked about the South Bay Ladies' Tea Guild and the Greater Bay Area Costumers' Guild as we walked through town, so hopefully we'll get a few more people to look us up and join in the fun! 

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy 4th of July!

Clipart from
It looks like Independence Day will be a scorcher in much of the U.S.A., so be sure to have plenty of iced tea and lemonade around!  Have a barbecue and avoid heating up the house.  Ice cream and popsicles are good, too.  Here are some recipes that sound good for the 4th of July:

Strawberry Lemon Iced Tea
Blueberry Lemonade
Dried Cherry Scones with clotted cream
Roasted Red Pepper Tapenade Crostini
Cold Strawberry Soup 
Mini Apple Tarts
Strawberry Shortcake
Blueberry Cream Cheese tarts

If you want, you can add a few antique recipes to your menu, according to what the Founding Fathers and Mothers might have enjoyed.  There's even an old recipe for Independence Cake, but it sounds like it makes a huge amount ...

Independence Cake
Twenty pounds of flour, fifteen pounds of sugar, ten pounds of butter, four dozen eggs, one quart of wine, one quart of brandy, one ounce of nutmeg; cinnamon, cloves, mace of each three ounces, two pounds citron, currants and raisins, five pounds each, one quart of yeast, when baked frost with loaf sugar, dress with boxwood and gold leaf.
-- from American Cookery by Amelia Simmons, 1814. Rare Books Exhibit from the Richard L. D. & Marjorie J. Morse Dept. of Special Collections, Kansas State University Libraries.

The main thing is to keep cool and stay safe while you celebrate the great nation that America still is!  Our ideals are worth celebrating!

“Review of Haagen Dazs Sweet Chai Latte ice cream”
"Tea history: what type of tea did American founders drink?"
"Tea with the Founders: an 18th century style tea menu"

Thursday, June 30, 2011

"How to be Handsome," from 1891.

Photo: Linda Bigelow. ca. 1891.
Where is the woman who would not be beautiful? If such there be—but no, she does not exist. From that memorable day when the Queen of Sheba made a formal call on the late lamented King Solomon until the recent advent of the Jersey Lily, the power of beauty has controlled the fate of dynasties and the lives of men. How to be beautiful, and consequently powerful, is a question of far greater importance to the feminine mind than predestination or any other abstract subject. If women are to govern, control, manage, influence, and retain the adoration of husbands, fathers, brothers, lovers, or even cousins, they must look their prettiest at all times. All women cannot have good features, but they can look well, and it is possible to a great extent to correct deformity and develop much of the figure. The first step to good looks is good health, and the first element of health is cleanliness. Keep clean—wash freely, bathe regularly. All the skin wants is leave to act, and it takes care of itself."
-- from The Every Day Cook and Recipe Book, 1891. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Godey tells us why we should wear real flowers instead of fake ones.

La Mode Illustree, 1867.
“Natural Ornaments.

‘The month of roses’ reminds us how few ladies make use of the most charming of all ornaments for the hair and dress, natural flowers.  They load themselves with impossible clusters of muslin roses and jessamine, with dangling pendants of glass and wax, called jet and coral by courtesy; they flash bugles and spangles into your eyes with every turn of the head, while the pendant wreaths of the Spicra Reevsi, and the graceful racemes of the laburnum and the ‘bleeding heart’, or the perfumed cups of the valley lily, are perishing, unnoticed, in the lawn and garden.
But they fade so soon?
A little experience and judgment will teach you how many blossoms will outlast the evening, and what foliage will shade them most effectively.
They are only suited to young girls?
from Lise's Garden clipart
Some of them may seem more appropriate for maidenhood, it is true; but must the young wife forego the tuft of snowy hawthorn, or the crimson petals of rose and carnation?  the glossy ivy leaf, and the fragrant tips of the arbor vitae and ground laurel?  A single spray of rosebuds, a branch of golden-hued laburnum, or snowy acacia, is far more effective as an ornament, if tastefully disposed, than all the stiff, glittering, hollow, gaudy baubles that one could find at Bordman’s or Crenange’s.  Try it for your next party, and do not ask your intimate female friend, or your showy neighbor, with her diamond spray, what the effect is, but depend on the judgment of your husband or lover.” 
-- from Godey's Lady's Book, June 1860.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Beauty tips from "Aunt Deborah", Civil War-style.

Godey fashion plate, 1860.  The Costumer's Manifesto.
I dare say many ladies will set me down for a very plain and old-fashiond person, when I say that, for cleansing and softening the skin, the most simple and the most useful articles are soft water and soap, followed by the use of a coarse cloth.  Rain-water is the best, but most water may be rendered sufficiently soft by putting into it a small pinch of the washing or bleaching powders now so much in use.  Soap, in addition to a proper proportion of alkali, should contain so much oily matter as may mechanically soften the skin and promote its smoothness.  I will furnish a receipt or two for the manufacture of suitable soap, or wash-balls, though good almond or Castile soap will generally answer the purpose.  The process will be rendered still more easy and pleasant, if lukewarm water be used instead of cold, but a final rinsing in cold water will be an improvement. 
-- from Godey's Lady' Book, February 1860. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Dress up and walk in the parade on the 4th of July!

This is for San Jose, CA-area residents only: A friend of mine told me that the people who are organizing the Rose, White & Blue 4th of July parade in San Jose were looking for more groups to participate, and suggested a group of costumers. I think it's a great idea so I'm getting together some friends from my tea guild and various other groups to dress up and walk in the parade.

Monday, June 13, 2011

New costume finished: 1849 day dress.

Photo: Virginia Urbach.
This is a costume I've had on my "to do" list for quite a while.  Although I don't really have a favorite period of history, I do have a few favorite fashion history periods, and the late 1840s are one of those favorite periods.  Other people think the 1840s are boring because the styles are comparatively plain, but my taste runs to the simple, and I find the fashion of other parts of the Victorian era way too over-decorated.  I think the 1840s are elegant, and the styles flattering to almost everyone's figure: petticoats add softness to people who are too thin, and conceal hip, butt, and stomach bulk for the rest of us, and corsets control and smooth out the lumps and bumps everyone else has, plus make you stand up straight, which makes you look thinner anyway.  It's not about having an 18-inch waist (we all know teeny-tiny teenage girls who are that small naturally), but smoothing out the figure and above all, *optical illusion*!  I look like a blob in my regular clothing, but in a corset and petticoats, I have an hourglass figure.  It's like a magic trick!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

It's Iced Tea Month -- despite the rain!

Moroccan Mint tea by Nicolas Mailfait.
June is Iced Tea Month here in the United States, and while the recent rain reminds us that it's technically still spring, the month of June can experience temperatures high enough here in the Santa Clara Valley to make iced tea really refreshing.  While cold tea, served with or without ice in the glass, has been a familiar drink in the United States since the middle of the 1800s, especially in the warm Southern states, “iced” tea is generally agreed to have been “invented” – at least formally introduced – to Americans at the 1906 World’s Fair in St. Louis, Missouri.  Iced tea became a sensation and has remained a popular warm-weather beverage ever since then. 

Friday, May 27, 2011

Potato Flour Muffins -- a vintage gluten-free recipe.

Here is a vintage recipe from 1929 for gluten-free muffins!

Potato Flour Muffins
3 eggs
2 tablespoons sugar
¾ cup potato flour, or potato starch
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons ice water

Separate the eggs and beat the whites until stiff and dry.  Beat the yolks until thick and lemon colored, then fold them into the whites.  Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together and fold into the egg mixture.  Lastly add the ice water and fold until well mixed.  Bake in greased muffin tins at 375 degrees for 20 minutes.  Makes 12 muffins.
-- from Magic Chef Cooking, ca. 1929.

Potato starch and potato flour can be found more easily than ever these days, not just at Whole Foods, but even at Target!  My local Target store now has a grocery section including a small baking supply aisle, with several gluten-free products. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Cheery little May baskets!

Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.
Making Victorian-inspired items can require a lot of skill and time, not to mention money, but if you choose the right project, you can make something that's inexpensive and cute, in practically no time!  Well, if you consider 30 minutes "no time" ... Here's what you need to make a Victorian-ish May basket to hang on your doorknob:

an assortment of silk flowers
one sheet of fancy scrap-booking paper
12 inches or so of baby ribbon or other narrow ribbon
hole punch
wire cutters or sturdy craft scissors
roll of floral tape
Scotch tape/regular clear tape
ruler or compass (remember those from math class?)

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)