Archive for 2009

>Dressgasm of the Day: 1780s-90s Pink Silk

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My knowledge of eighteenth century fashion is not as extensive as my knowledge of nineteenth century fashion but I am still learning. This dress appears to have come from the later part of the century after the stomacher and panniers had largely gone out of fashion. The material appears to be silk for both the gown and the petticoat. There are delicate pink roses scattered over the fabric, giving the appearance of nature in a time when getting back to the natural way of living was becoming fashionable once more. Three-quarter length sleeves were common and fashionable as well. What makes this dress interesting to me is the crisscrossed strips of pink silk over the bodice, under the neck kerchief.

There are several differences between the way women dressed in the eighteenth century as opposed to the nineteenth century, although they may look quite similar to the untrained eye. Women of the nineteenth century would rather die than have their petticoats exposed, for example. It would be like you walking around in public in your underwear. In the eighteenth century, however, the petticoat was considered an important part of the ensemble. It was worn under the gown, as you see above, and was not thought of as part of the underclothing.

Another marked difference in fashion between the two centuries was the use of stays rather than corsets. A corset, used in the nineteenth century, was the foundation piece to a woman’s look and it was designed to give her a highly desirable hourglass shape. Women of the previous century wore stays, which were shaped like hard undershirts and were designed to push up the bust, give upright posture and give the illusion of the waist being narrow by coming to a point. Another difference between shapes of the different centuries was the use of panniers versus hoops. Panniers were worn in the eighteenth century and designed to give the hips a wide, square appearance. By the last decades of the century, however, panniers were given up by the majority of women in favor of a more natural silhouette (except those at royal courts). The natural silhouette lasted through the first few decades of the nineteenth century until more and more petticoats were needed to give the fullness the skirts required for fashion. In the 1850s, a cage crinoline was used to eliminate some of the petticoat weight and give the huge bell shape.

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>Dressgasm of the Day: 1860s Purple Silk

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Today’s dressgasm is this lovely rich, deep purple dress from the early 1860s. I know very little about this dress or where it came from but I believe the fabric is silk moiré with deep burgundy trim looping around the shoulders and bust, and edging the simple pagoda sleeves. It appears that the bodice is hook and eye front closure. The cut and design of the dress is rather simple and universal among daytime clothing for women of the period, but it is the fabulous silk moiré that makes this piece outstanding.

The types of fabric available to people in the nineteenth century were much more limited than today. I generally divide the four major fabric groups into cotton, linen, silk and wool. These fabrics were often blended together for appearances, cost effectiveness or sturdiness.

Silk was the most expensive of these fabrics and there were several types such as moiré, watermark and taffeta. I see taffeta far more often than other types of silk. Silk in general was a sign of style and wealth, and every woman no matter her economic class aspired to own a “silk,” which was how they referred to these dresses. This dress, made of silk moiré, was most likely worn by a woman of decent wealth. My interpretation is she either had it designed in a simple style to let the fabric take center stage, or she had saved the money to buy her “silk” and couldn’t afford much embellishment. Victorians, by definition, decorated and embellished everything that would hold still within an inch of its life, so I find this dress fascinating in its simplicity. It speaks to me more because the woman who wore it didn’t overdo it. I imagine her to be unselfish, lacking vanity and being thankful for the life she led that allowed her to afford such a stunning piece of rich purple silk moiré.

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>Validation and Tommy the Ghost

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I tell people about themselves for a living. I use the term “spiritual intuitive” rather than “psychic” because the word psychic has such negative connotations that even I cringe when I hear people say, “I’m psychic!” An 800 number, I am not. I have had various abilities since I was a toddler but I was never able to accept what I am until my early 20s.

I used to get hurt when people would say I was a freak or a fraud or whatever but in recent years I have come to not care. People will say what they will. I could look at the most hard-nosed skeptic and tell him what color, brand and size his underwear is and he would still say I went through his dresser to pull the wool over his eyes. That’s just how skeptical people are wired. They don’t have any desire to be open-minded and very rarely are they open to admitting the possibility that they might be wrong. I can’t waste my time worrying about people like that because for every one skeptic, there are ten or twenty people that I have helped and who do understand what I do. Faith and skepticism is part of the balance in the universe. It’s the same for any job. We would all like to be recognized and appreciated for our work but not everybody is going to think we’re doing a good job. There are always critics no matter what we do.

Sometimes, though, a moment of validation comes that tells me in a loud, clear voice that I am doing good work and I am helping people. I know I am but the validation helps. A client came to me a few months ago looking for guidance about where she was supposed to live. There were several places and nobody was telling her anything, which was why she asked me what I thought. I told her the circumstances of my intuitive impressions and I told her that if she didn’t like the end result of what I saw, there were steps that she could take to change her future path, as we all can do. I sent her the reading and never heard much from her after that, which is fairly common when intuitives complete work for clients. Tonight she came to me out of the blue again and told me that what I had told her in her reading was just how it turned out. She told me that I was right in my predictions and thanked me for the help I gave her. Rarely do I second-guess the readings I give people but sometimes it’s nice to hear positive feedback that makes an impact on the course of people’s lives.

One soul I have not been able to help though. I live in Atlanta, which is one of the most actively haunted cities in the country. During the Civil War, almost every Confederate soldier passed through this city one way or another and there was a lot of fighting in this area as my ancestor, General Sherman, brought the war to the doorstep of the South. A lot of soldiers were killed around here and just about every block has some kind of legend or whispers among the residents about the “other” residents. It’s common. The history of Georgia still very much permeates the atmosphere here even if some choose to deny it, ignore it or label it with archaic terms like “demonic activity.”

The cul-de-sac where I live is on the edge of a wooded area and a creek runs behind my house just inside the treeline. We have a Confederate soldier who seems to occupy the area around the creek and sometimes wanders up into our cul-de-sac, in our houses, and so on. I have lived in this house on and off for three years and I have known about our resident soldier from day one. I keep wanting to call him Tommy, as did my friend when she was here, but I don’t know if that’s really his name or not. He wears a butternut frock coat (long tan coat to you non-reenactors) and he has an extremely empty, hollow, blank, shell-shocked expression on his face. He fades out from the knees down so the few times we do see him, we never see his feet.

Everybody in this house is aware of Tommy. My uncle and his partner are generally non-believers and my uncle is very phobic of death in general, so for him to admit that he knows we have the spirit of a soldier around here lends credibility to it. We have all seen Tommy at one point or another. My grandmother saw him walk by the bedroom window outside and she doesn’t understand the Civil War, so all she could tell me was, “like Sherlock Holmes.” I have seen Tommy from the living room as I was looking up at the third floor landing and he ducked from one room to the other.

Tommy knocks on doors and windows and when we look, nobody is there. Just the other night, he knocked on a wall while we were eating dinner and we all heard it. It wasn’t an interior sound like pipes banging inside the wall or animals. It was exterior, just like somebody was standing there going knock, knock, knock, knock, etc., on the wall. I live in the basement apartment and there have been several times when there is nobody home upstairs but the sound of a man walking around will happen so clear that my mother will go upstairs to see if anybody came home early. The other day we were all standing around talking about installing new windows and the television turned on by itself. You have to turn on the television and cable separately and they both came on as if someone had done it with the remote control. My uncle looked at the television and said, “I’m out of here,” and he went upstairs right away. The television doesn’t do that and the electricity has been checked in the last month because of the flood and there were no problems.

I can’t reach Tommy. I don’t know what’s holding him here or why he won’t acknowledge people in any way besides knocking, walking and manipulating electronics. Normally when I come across a soldier still stuck here, I can get him to let go and move on, but I’m going on four years here with Tommy and I haven’t made any direct contact. He’s lost. He probably doesn’t understand what happened to him or even what year it is. My heart hurts for him.

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