Plimoth Jacket Memories

While this is likely to be subject of many more blog posts to come, I couldn’t let the day (or night) go by without writing at least a few words about the rather amazing memories that were recently dredged up! Why is that, you wonder?

Because of this:

plimoth jacket combined

Swoon! It’s not often that my breath is taken away by a historical costume reproduction, but in this case, I pretty much stopped breathing when the lovely interpreter & jacket model Natalie walked into the room wearing this stunning garment. And with no pun intended, I’m pretty sure you could have heard a pin drop in the room – that’s how awestruck we were.

embellishing17thcdressNow to back up and tell a bit more of the story! This past weekend, Saturday and Sunday to be specific, I celebrated my birthday in a rather fabulous way by attending the Embellishing 17th-Century Dress Conference at Plimoth Plantation. There were two full days of workshops and discussions and demos of all sorts of techniques – both English and Native – and all the teachers and presenters were fantastic. An extra bonus was getting to spend the weekend with my friend, Jenni of Historically Dressed– it’s always so much better to share costuming adventures with friends!

The workshop focused heavily on details related to the embroidered jacket project that was completed in 2009: The Plimoth Jacket – A Paradise of Silk and Gold. This 3+ year project was a tremendous effort that eventually involved over 200 volunteer stitchers, dozens of lace makers, several technical and historical experts, and thousands of yards of silk thread.

plimoth leaves

I worked on the wings of the jacket – which is pretty exciting because it means it’s easy to spot my stitching on the finished piece! My detached buttonhole stitching is still looking good nine years later ;o)

But let’s back up even earlier to when the first embroidery stitches were added to the jacket… June 2007. I  was one of about 10 stitchers who attended the first volunteer session and who had the privilege of being the inaugural embroiders on this amazing jacket. Can you tell I’m still excited about this? I hope so… because then you’d understand why when this conference was announced and included the opportunity to see the jacket… I was all in!

Sadly, it seems that most of the story and blog that traced the progress of making the jacket seems to have disappeared from the web but some traces can be found by searching the Internet Archive or doing an Google Image search.

And although I have been back to Plimoth Plantation several times since 2007, it was a huge treat to return for another does of hands-on history. And while it’s true that much of the staff has changed during the past nine years, everyone involved (then and now) went above and beyond to provide a fantastic experience. So thank you, Plimoth Plantation, Jill Hall, Tricia Wilson Nguyen, and countless others who made the jacket project a reality nearly a decade ago, and thank you also to Demetra and Dan Rosen, Kristen Haggerty, and the many other staff members who made me fall in love with 17th century costume all over again during the past few days.

P.S. If you’re keeping track, I’ve been a bit behind on my CoBloWriMo-ing due to the traveling and conference, lol! However, I thought today’s prompt – Give a progress report on your current projects – was oddly fitting even if my current project stretches back nine years! It’s also a good time to mention that the conference gave me the chance to meet and stitch with Mem of Star and Scissor… who is also the driving force behind CoBloWriMo!

P.P.S. My head is literally exploding with other non-embroidery information learned this weekend and with ideas for future costuming. So many more blog posts to follow…


Lo and behold… an actual mantua!

Corwin dress

Yet another foray into the 17th century… this time circa 1692. This costume was made for display at the Witch House in Salem, Massachusetts. The museum is the only structure in the city of Salem that has direct ties to the infamous witch trials of 1692 and was the home of the Corwin family. For those that know their history, Judge Corwin was one of the trial judges at the time and his wife, Elizabeth, also lived at the house. The mantua is displayed in the bedchamber at the museum and is intended to add to the interpretation of the wealth of the Corwins, particularly that of Elizabeth Corwin. Previously widowed, she had close ties to the Boston merchant scene, and inventories and records from the time show that she had extensive and enviable material possessions. No puritanical grays and browns for her!

The mantua is made of silk damask (the color is to die for… cameras just don’t do it justice!) mounted on a linen bodice lining and all the finishing was done by hand. This was actually completed a few years ago but I do have a vague recollection of machine sewing some of the long skirt seams. Then again with the extensive skirt draping… I may have ended up hand sewing it all. Guess I’ll have to go visit again and double check! The petticoat is silk taffeta pleated to a linen tape at the waist and the sleeve ruffles are hand sewn of fine white linen.

This is still one of my all-time favorite projects and one I’d love to make a copy of for my own wardrobe!

Folkways at Salem Pioneer Village

HPIM2503A two month sewing spree culminated in finishing enough pieces for the cast and guide to be fully clothed for their first performance at Salem’s Pioneer Village on June 2, 2007. For information about the village, visit Salem Preservation, Inc., the current leaseholder, and learn more about their preservation efforts to bring life back into the village. For additional information about History Alive!, the professional acting department at Gordon College, please visit their site.

Salem Preservation, Inc.

Gordon College

The following pictures will highlight the clothing of the actors & guides as seen during their opening day performance on June 2. At the left, is Nick, our tour guide for the two hour tour. The buildings of Pioneer Village can be seen in the background.

Nick is wearing a claret colored wool doublet laced with a woven grey tape. One of the more fashionable ensembles, his sleeves and the back of his doublet are split open to reveal his fine white linen shirt beneath. His breeches are of matching claret colored wool and are tied closed below the knee with the same grey tape used for lace on the doublet. Both the breeches & doublet close with hooks & eyes.

HPIM2510Here is Tori, portraying a servant of a widow in town. She is washing herbs in the spring in preparation for the next meal.Her boned jacket and plain petticoat reflect her lower social status as compared to some of the others in the village. Both are wool and the petticoat fabric was hand-dyed to achieve that shade of blue. The petticoat is cartridge pleated to a waistband, which closes with hooks & eyes. Her jacket has a lacing placket on the inside and uses hooks & eyes to close the outer layer. The hem of the jacket and the ends of the sleeves are also bound with brown woolen tape. The sleeves tie shut below the elbow. The jacket construction is very interesting – only four main body pieces (2 front, 2 back) but an additional seven gores were handsewn in place at the  lower edges to give enough fullness to fit nicely over the hips. This is one of my favorite pieces.
HPIM2525Next you can see Trisha, another villager – a rather simple girl among the townsfolk. She is wearing a plain grey woolen jacket and matching petticoat. Her jacket bodice is boned and laces closed at the back. Her wider cut neckline & deep center front are based upon examples from the early 1640s. Black woolen tape is used for lacing trim along the front seams as well as outlining the hem of her jacket skirts and sleeves. All of the garments, except petticoats, are fully lined and the majority of the stitching was done by hand. A few interior seams were done by machine but due to the construction methods required for clothing of this period, even many of the hidden seams were done by hand out of necessity. Trisha’s clothing was also made of hand-dyed wool. The wool was a natural cream color to start with and was dyed until reaching the soft grey that you see in the images. The dyeing and drying of the wool was one of the longest steps in the process. With all the wet weather we’ve had – some of the fabrics took nearly 4 days to dry!
HPIM2552 Her simple ways (and too much whispering) having gotten her into a spot of trouble, Trisha’s character was forced to wear a slate round her neck which described her behavior. David, portraying the minister of the village, looks on with her as the others continue their games. David’s clothing is identical to Nick’s in style and cut, but is made of somber black wool as befitting his station. His doublet and breeches have no fashionable slashing and he even wears black stockings to maintain his dignified appearance. Once again, his breeches and doublet close with hooks and eyes. The legs of the breeches close with black woven tape that has been stitched to the hem and left loose to tie at the outside of the leg.


The minister’s falling bands were the only the accessory piece that was made for the program. Made of lightweight white linen for the neck band and exquisitely fine white linen for the falling bands – this piece sports some fine handsewn details. And better yet, it provides the perfect finish to the minister’s ensemble.I should mention that while this page is focusing on the clothing – the entire program was absolutely captivating! When we arrived (Audrey was nice enough to join me for the afternoon outing) we had some time to walk about the village before the tour began. We then returned to the entrance for the 1:30 tour to begin. Nick did a fabulous job setting the scene for both what we would be seeing staged by the actors, as well as the history of both the museum and the town of Salem itself. I was most impressed by his professionalism and his knowledge – not to mention his willingness to wear funny clothes while sharing it!And the actors themselves – I can’t say enough good things! The tour we were on lasted about two hours and although the first 20 minutes or so was Nick speaking with us – the remaining time was well used by the others. Their engaging stories wound around the tour and did a great job of involving the gathered visitors. I hadn’t been sure what to expect in terms of theatre vs. living history – but I think they nailed it perfectly! In many cases I was left wondering if something I had just seen or heard was scripted or just improvised. The actors played the roles perfectly – but more than that, they truly captured the spirit of Salem village life in 1640.  The village will be open again the first Saturday of July, August & September – and I highly recommend it to anyone who can make the visit!But back to the costumes….
HPIM2526This is Liz, who was portraying a widow in the town. Her mission seemed to be to find a proper wife for her son – much to the disappointment of a few of the girls in town who might be considered less than proper candidates!In any case, Liz’s clothing was comprised of three separate pieces: a boned jacket with tabs, open petticoat and under petticoat. Her boned jacket laces closed at the center back and is made up of a beautiful navy woolen with a soft hand. An open petticoat of matching wool hooks to the jacket to keep it in place. Her black under petticoat in this case was borrowed, a grey one will complete the ensemble. Her sleeves are full length, and have the characteristic fullness at the back of the arm, tapering down to the wrist. Both cartridge and knife pleats were in use during this period but knife pleats were chosen for this ensemble. All of the petticoats made for this program were cartridge pleated before being attached to their waistbands.

The constable character was played by Joseph, seen in the image below. As an older member of the village, his clothing is more typical of a slightly earlier period. Made from deep brown wool, his doublet has a high waist and deep basques, or skirts. Epaulettes were added at the top of each sleeve and the doublet bears a standing collar that is shorter than that worn by the other men.
HPIM2546Like the others, his doublet also closes with hooks and eyes. His breeches are much fuller, again this in keeping with a more old-fashioned style. They close below the knee with a hook and eye on the outside of each leg. Because of the high-waisted style of this doublet, the breeches also hook to the inside of the doublet to help keep everything looking neat. This also prevents the shirt from peaking out at near the waist.This was the only photograph that I was able to take of Joseph – so there are a few others in the background as a result. As a kudos to the program, (and hopefully history museums in general) the two young girls in modern dress couldn’t get enough of the village and its villagers… even after three hours!
HPIM2508And last, but certainly not least, is Anne – portraying a vain young woman of Salem who is trying to repent and be welcomed more openly to the town and church. She wears a woolen gown of lavender with a matching petticoat worn beneath. This is another wool that was hand-dyed to achieve just the right color.

Her gown laces up the center front and the entire bodice is boned to provide the proper silhouette of the period. For reasons of cost, as well as ease of care and cleaning, plastic boning was used for the boned jackets and bodices. Her gown has very full sleeves that are shaped by pleats at the back of the shoulder and again at the lower edge. A wide band forms a cuff at the lower end of the sleeve, larger than her arm and typical of the period. Her bodice style is similar to Trisha’s jacket and is in keeping with a 1640 silhouette. Gowns were less common than jackets, but were in use in the colonies at the time. I’m hoping to do more research into probate inventories of the time… but that’s one of many things on my to-do list!

A wide band of lilac colored silk is tied around her waist with a rosette formed to the side. This is another nod to fashionable styles and the vanity of the character being portrayed.And that sums up the costumes used for the Folkways program at Pioneer Village. There are three more ensembles, two male and one female that will be used at a later date.  A few have yet to be finished but will wrapped up over the next week. In addition, all of the women will be receiving new shifts as well, so there will be some changes to the necklines of the clothing. Here is one final picture, taken at the dress rehearsal the evening before, of all the cast members except for Anne.  The village people look great, wouldn’t you say?