And the skirt was sooooo wide!

I spent a wonderful day at Masonic Village of Elizabethtown yesterday and thanks to the HistoryFashionTravelers’ newly recruited personal photographer aka Masonic Villages’ own Recreational Program Coordinator, Bianca Hemsch, I can share some pictures with you.

The audience members were so engaging and this group really knows their history!  Following my ‘historical’ talk, the fun begins with fellow seamstresses coming up to get a closer look and then we really get down to talking sewing.

Thank you Bianca for allowing me to share my passion!

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Checking hem details


Undersleeves fit many different dresses.

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Closer look at a sheer dress worn in summer.

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Oh my, they are crotchless!!!

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Checking hem details



Belt details


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Find the Paris space invaders — Paris here and there

Looking for space invaders in Paris is a great activity, for all sorts of reasons. The main reason I like it is that if forces you to look up, to take notice of your surroundings in a different way, to pay attention to parts of buildings that you would not normally look at. It’s a […]

via Find the Paris space invaders — Paris here and there

Ok… I know most of you will look at this post and think to yourselves, what the heck is she writing about now?

Where’s the history?
Where’s the fashion?
Where’s the traveler?

So the traveler in me wants desperately to go to Paris. I spend evenings practicing French with my online tutorial Babble and in an effort to sustain the dream I’ve immersed myself in French cooking – merci, Julia Child, and I drink French wine as often as I can… purely to aid in my studies of French culture.

I even have a beautiful, smart and lovely black Standard Poodle named ‘Chanel’. Yes, that’s her real name and here she is:

With all of that to my credit you can see why I love following this woman’s blog. The writing is good, her pictures are wonderful and she’s got the best inside advice for those planning a trip to the city of light.

You know the drill. Check her out here: , read her stuff and click lots of likes and follow her blog and share with others.

Then, when you’re planning your trip to Paris you’ll be well prepared.

Before I close let me know if any of you knew about this artist? Do you have any of these postings in your city? I’d love to know. I’m really fascinated by this and I just think it’s brilliant.
Share your thoughts with me…until then have fun reading about Paris.

Bon jour!

Wonderful day at Country Meadows of Frederick

I just arrived back home from a really fun day spent with a great group of women from Frederick, Maryland  and I wanted to give a big shout out to Melanie Long, Community Life Director who invited …

Source: Wonderful day at Country Meadows of Frederick

Wonderful day at Country Meadows of Frederick

I just arrived back home from a really fun day spent with a great group of women from Frederick, Maryland  and I wanted to give a big shout out to Melanie Long, Community Life Director who invited moi…. the HistoryFashionTraveler to talk fashion from the mid-19th century.

Thanks Melanie!!!

You know, I consider myself truly blessed.  Every day I get to do work I love.  Whether it’s  spending the time it takes to do the research on fashion history, designing, creating  and stitching the garments or … and this is the better part: sharing my creations  and what I’ve learned with others.

The absolute BEST part of my day however,  is not about me at all, it’s about the folks I present to, because I’m simply just a catalyst helping to start a dialogue with people about history.

I love it when audience members share stories about what their mothers or grandmothers wore ( or as in today’s discussion, what they didn’t wear) or about their own sewing experiences.

When we take the time to listen to the stories older adults tell about their ancestors, we validate that individuals life. The person telling the story.  And, isn’t that what it’s all about?

I guess that why I love history so much and by studying the past and understanding the struggles of those who came before me, I’ve realized ever so much, the impact each individual makes in the world.  Yes, that’s each and every individual.

Here are some pic’s of the day. Enjoy!Frederick 1Frederick 2 frederick 3 Frederick 4 Frederick 5 Frederick 6 Frederick 7 Frederick 8




Cuppa tea love?

Happy Monday everyone!

Each month I do postcard mailings to let people know about the program(s) I do and as a result of my last group of post cards I may have to bring along a chamber pot during the month of May.  There’s going to be lots of tea poured as I talk history in a fashionable way and that’s just fine with me.   I’m always good for a cup of tea and bring on the scones with the clotted cream….

Spring is a perfect time to share a cup of tea; its what the ladies of the 19th century did when they got together.   It was a time they could show off their baking skills, their newest china or even a new frock.

I’m working on some new summer frocks to show off and talk about starting in May and I’m pretty excited about them.  The additions to my mid-19 century wardrobe are moving on to the 1870’s and 1880’s.    You know what that means….. bring on the lobster bustle!

Until then, I’ll have to go easy on the scones;  I won’t be able to remove my corset until the end of the 19th century.Lady with tea cups

I’ll leave you with a laugh for the rest of the week.  Here’s a crazy picture I found of a lady serving tea?     Sorry, I couldn’t resist….    take care.




50 years is a lot of stitches

I’ve been doing talks and sharing the garments I sew for quite some time. It started when I was asked to do a presentation at a local Church that was having a Spring Tea for the women of thei…

Source: 50 years is a lot of stitches

50 years is a lot of stitches

I’ve been doing talks and sharing the garments I sew for quite some time. It started when I was asked to do a presentation at a local Church that was having a Spring Tea for the women of their congregation and as they say “one thing lead to another”. Before I knew it I started getting phone calls from someone, who knew someone, who was a guest at an event I spoke at and would I please come to their (fill in the blank)?

I’ve presented at all kinds of venues: schools, Churches, Senior Centers, Retirement Communities, I’ve even done a birthday party for a woman who turned 80 years young. She got a real kick out of the corset and crinoline.

I really love what I do: I relish the research, love the sewing, and I completely enjoy meeting new people and sharing what I’ve discovered about the history of fashion.

Last week I was having a conversation about what I do for a living and in describing it I mentioned how I’ve been sewing for 50 years. Yup, that’s right, half a century! I know…. it’s been a really long time.

When I was about seven years old my Grandma Lee was on one of her visits to us and she was mending a loose hem on a pair of slacks. In those days women wore slacks not pants. Also, jeans were called dungarees. I kind of like that word dungarees, I think it sounds exotic now, but back then I thought it so old-fashioned…… but I digress, Back to the hemming of the slacks.

If you’ve read my blog post on Influences you’ll already know how much I loved my Grandma Lee and I was simply star struck at anything she did, so when she threaded that needle and taught me how to take tiny invisible stitches in the hem of those slacks, I absorbed her tutelage like rain on a parched summer lawn.

When the mending lesson was over she found some scraps of fabric in my mother’s stash and gave me needle and thread and a pair of sewing scissors and put me to work making a dress for a small doll I had.

I wish I still had the doll and the wardrobe I fashioned for her. I laugh when I think of it and I’d love to tell you it was simply divinely chic but really…. it was pretty awful. The cotton fabric was a pale pink and I remember using navy blue thread and the stitches were just all over the place.

That’s ok, every artist has their beginning.

Before I wrap up this posting I want to shout out a big THANK YOU to two groups of ladies I spoke to this week.

Monday, I was with a wonderful group of Red Hat Ladies who call themselves the Pheasant Feathers, isn’t that great? They reside at Pheasant Hill Retirement Community, north of Harrisburg and each one was decked out in the required club colors of red and purple. They are my inspiration for my next dress…. definitely red and purple or maybe purple with red trim. Whichever I choose, you can count on my headwear having a Pheasant feather embellishment.

Thursday, found me at Country Meadows – the Leader Heights campus where I spoke to a nice group of mostly women, (but there were a few men this time). They asked lots of questions during my talk which I really like.

Country Meadows at Leader Heights talking fashion.

Country Meadows at Leader Heights talking fashion.

We discussed how dress styles repeat throughout history and the influence of military uniforms on the designs of ladies wear. I’ll have to get busy and write about those topics.
Meanwhile, I’ve got dungarees to mend.

The Sheer Dress.


When I speak to groups of people, I like to have folks ask questions as we go along and not just save them for the end.  Mainly, because I find I learn best during a conversation, not during a lecture and I know from experience I’m not alone.

Did you notice I said “I learn best”? It’s true; I like the give and take of actually conversations with my audience members because inevitably I leave with something I didn’t know when I arrived. Some of my best teachers have been those who were good listeners, and that’s what I strive for when I’m passing on my knowledge of historical fashion.

My theory is: want to be a good teacher, be a good listener.

I hear many comments pertaining to the layers of clothing women wore under their dresses during the mid- 19th century.  One of the reasons the hoop skirt was developed was to save women from having to wear so many layers.  It was a brilliant invention for the time.

As the style developed showcasing wider skirts, prior to wearing the actual ‘cage’ crinoline, ladies would achieve the look by layering their petticoats, sometimes wearing up to 6 or 7 at one time.  Crazier things we’ve done for the sake of fashion.

“ Can you imagine what it was like during the heat of summer”?  This statement/question is mentioned at every talk I do.  I’ve been listening and now I’m providing an answer for it: the sheer dress.DSC_0097


During this past #blizzard2016 as the snow flew for hours on end, I spent my days happily working in my studio on the newest edition to my wardrobe.  Pictured here is a sheer dress I made from the most wonderful fabric. Its 100% cotton, as it should be, and I simply fell in love with the color. I love the color orange.

What I really love about this fabric is the way it was woven.  It’s very sheer but the threads of the darker stripes are actually raised similar to a bouclé.  It also has a subtle sheen to it lending an elegant dimension to the dress its self. The antique jet glass buttons convey a delicacy as does the simple silk ribbon tied to the waist.DSC_0093

Just like we do today, women would wear sheer dresses during the hot summer season, but unlike today they would still be modestly covered up by wearing proper underpinnings.

The pattern I used to make this dress featured a bodice lining. The bodice lining has boning sewn in to maintain the fitted lines of the corset, which naturally was also sported.  A flounced petticoat layered over a hoopskirt would be worn to give body to the skirt of the dress.DSC_0069 (1)

Notice that although sheer fabric is used, the garment still has long sleeves gathered at the wrists.  A woman could be permitted to drop dead from heat exhaustion, just as long as she was modestly dressed during the event.DSC_0096



I’m really pleased with this dress and I’m excited to share it with my next group of ‘conversationalists’ talking about what to wear during the mid-19th century.










After an unusually mild autumn and early winter the northern winds have picked up speed and are bringing quite the chill in the air. We are enjoying a nippy 21 degrees here on the farm today; that’s without considering the effect of the wind chill factor. No complaints here, everyone including our four footed family members are snug in their woolies.

My home is a log house which was built in 1790. Most people are surprised when they come to the house and discover that, when they see the only two walls of exposed log which is in the library. The exterior of the house was clad in wood siding, called Dutch siding, sometime in the early part of the 1800’s and then later the interior walls were cover in lath and plaster to “modernize’ the house. We guestimate this may have been in the latter part of the 19th century.

In 1850 a kitchen addition was built alongside the main part of the log structure. This feature was a bonus of its time enabling women to prepare meals during the colder parts of the year indoors. There is a small building called a summer house or some call it a summer kitchen located in the rear garden and that’s where all cooking would have taken place during the sweltering heat of summer.

I think living in an old home makes me slightly more aware of the changing seasons, especially the weather extremes. Maybe the rattle of the old windows with their wavy hand blown glass, helps me to imagine what life was like for the residents who lived here a century or more ago; mostly I think of the women.

A day like today would defiantly have been a sontag kind of day.

A sontag is a garment which was usually knitted or crocheted and worn like a shawl but different in that it is fastened around the waist. I’ve included some photographs here of examples of sontags.

It was really a very practical and fashionable addition to a woman’s wardrobe and instructions to make them were included in popular periodicals including Godey’s and Peterson’s magazines.Sontag, Petersons

sontag, Pic 1860's

This is a nice example of a sontag. I love the tassels in the front. Pic found on Pinterest.

I rather like sontags and I don’t know why they went out of fashion. They’re great because unlike the sweaters, which were introduced later in the century, they didn’t have sleeves and so they free up your arms, say, for doing chores like baking bread, or scrubbing the floor or butchering a hen for Sunday dinner. That can be really messy and who needs sleeves and cuffs dangling in the way?

Sontags go by another name too which is kind of nice …. Sometimes they’re referred to as a bosom friend or bosom buddy. Prior to the 20th century women didn’t have ‘breasts’ they had instead a ‘bosom’. I’ll write more about that when I post about underpinnings, specifically regarding corsets. Anyway, breast buddy really doesn’t have the same ring to it.

If you are interested in making your own sontag I’m including pictures here of a really nice one from my Fall 2012 issue of Jane Austen Knits magazine. I’ve started this and I’ll be happy to post pictures when I’ve finished.  In the magazine it’s referred to as A Sensible Shawl and I especially like the fancy Van Dyke border which the article states is an adaptation from The Knitter’s Companion series written by Mrs. Mee and Ms. Austin which was written throughout the 1800’s.


Pattern to knit from Jane Austin Knits magazine. Fall 2012

Pattern to knit from Jane Austin Knits magazine. Fall 2012

Sontag to knit back
I’ll have to do some research on that series, until then, stay warm.


One of the most frequent questions I’m asked is how I became interested in historical fashion and it’s pretty easy for me to answer… my Grandmother started it all.

I was born in San Francisco. My mother came to stay with her in-laws while my father was away for work, a decision they both agreed on since my mother was eight months pregnant and would otherwise be alone when the time came for my grand entrance to the world.

My grandparents were lovely people. Both were artists; the walls of their home were covered with the most wonderful paintings elegantly framed and some lighted, enhancing the rich oils layered onto canvases. The home itself was sublime. A nod to the quiet pale San Francisco fog, the upholstery wrapped in fabric the color of cream. Sheer elegance.

John and Leona Lee Leone, Hoover Dam

John and Leona Lee Leone, Hoover Dam

As far as Grandmothers go she was by no means typical. I think people would have referred to her as a ‘young grandmother’ not in terms of her age but just by the way she presented herself to the world.

Her true Irish heritage disclosed when she walked into a room. You noticed the red hair first, followed by the pale complexion with a dispersion of freckles, a hint to her sassy sense of humor hidden further by her refined style. She dressed grandly, even to walk her beloved silver poodle who she named Jocko, a gift to her from my grandfather to celebrate my birth. I know…. Doesn’t everyone gift a new puppy when they become a grandparent for the first time? Sounds crazy, but actually it was perfectly logical. I would not grow up in San Francisco, but rather spend many years living throughout the world and I think my grandfather knew how sad it was for her to see me go and so Jocko was the salve to help sooth her heart.

It didn’t matter to her if we called home a small village in a foreign country halfway around the world, she would come for visits and I was thrilled. Retrieving her from the airport was an event.

Those were the days when people dressed to travel. Picture what we would now refer to as the ‘Mad Men’ era, when men wore suits more often than not and women wouldn’t have been caught dead with a handbag not matching their shoes. I can still see her this day, descending the stairs which had been rolled up to the exit door on the side of the fuselage of a Pan American airplane parked on the tarmac and then walking toward us.

1st in a long line of influential women. My grandmother.

1st in a long line of influential women. My grandmother.

If it were a windy day she would have her hair contained beneath a silk scarf and when she hugged me my cheek would be tickled by the fur trim on the collar of her coat which was infused with the fragrance of Chanel No5.

When I was a little girl I loved to help her unpack her luggage, each piece part of a matching set marked beneath the handle with her triple L monogram. LLL. She had the most wonderful clothes and she talked about clothing with me often. I was a seven year old that knew you had to hand wash a cashmere sweater. Woolite, cold water, gently squeeze out the water, and then lay flat to dry.

She talked of fabrics, silks, wool, rayon, pima cotton for blouses in summer. Using the outer line of my dungarees as an example she taught me a French seam. She was a seamstress, not just a shopper and that made all the difference in her wardrobe. She understood construction techniques and loved the workmanship that went into beautiful clothing. My grandmother taught me that couture was not about a label, not about fashion, but all about style and the way garments fit.

I think the most remarkable thing about my grandmother’s style was that although her look was considered classic she always stayed current.

When I was a teenager I lived with my family in northern Japan and it had been several years since I had seen my Grandparents. This time we flew to San Francisco to visit them. My Grandmother took one look at me, pulled me aside and proclaimed I was dowdy and not at all hip (this was in the early 70’s) and she was going to help me recover from fashion neglect. She did, with the help of her Singer sewing machine and I, right alongside her, was transformed.