Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Book Review: The Dress Detective

The Dress Detective by Ingrid Mida and Alexandra Kim.

The Dress Detective, as subtitled, is "a practical guide to object-based research in fashion".  After a short introduction to material culture research applied to garments (with descriptions of six important researchers in the field, including the great Janet Arnold), the book goes on to explain a method for investigating garment artifacts. The bulk of the work is a series of case studies which walk through this process with seven original garments from the 19th through 21st century.  The appendix has a series of worksheets to prompt one's own research.

The method consists of three phases: observation, reflection and interpretation.  The first is very straightforward: the reader is are prompted to consider what material a study garment is made of, how it has been constructed, if it is labelled, how it has been worn or altered, and what information is already known about the garment.  The reflection portion deals with the reader/researcher's personal responses to the garment, as well as prompting one to consider the context in which it was made and used.  The interpretation section is highly individualized, as it is about relating the content of the first two phases to the unique research question being addressed.

I think this book offers an interesting way of organizing observations/research into original garments.  Someone with extensive experience analyzing garments may enjoy this book, but is unlikely to find it new and informative.  On the other hand, I think it that it will be very useful to people who are just starting to look at original garments or who want help organizing their thoughts and approach.  The case studies include lovely detail shots of the garments being investigated.  While they do an excellent job of illustrating concepts, the the content is too diffuse for this book to stand out as a visual resource.

Stars: 4.5

Difficulty: Amateur costume researchers and beginning material culture students are most likely to benefit from this book.

Accuracy: Highest. Original garments, and guidance for primary source research.

Strongest Impression: It's a nicely thorough material culture research guide. The pictures are deliciously detailed, but the more useful for suggesting details to look for that in providing them.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Cream Pie

Receipt #251, Cream Pie, from The Improved Housewife (Boston, 20th ed. 1855).

Cream Pie with nutmeg and raisins, from an 1855 recipe.
Cream pie: fresh out of the oven, and slightly out of focus.

Another off-season treat for the sewing party. I improvised (ie, didn't measure) a puff-paste for the crust, then made up the filling with 5 eggs, 2 cups of cream, 1/3 cup of sugar, 1/3 cup of raisins, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp mace, and about 1/3-1/2 of a nutmeg (freshly grated).  The flavor and sweetness worked well at these proportions, and the amount of filling very neatly filled the pie pan (it threatened to slosh, but did not). I cooked it for about 50 minutes at 350F; the pie was still a bit wobbly at that point, but solidified nicely at it cooled.

The raisins, about which I was skeptical, actually added a nice flavor/texture to the pie..  I found the texture somewhat unappealing (not soggy, but sufficiently reminiscent for my taste buds to rebel), but everyone else in the party loved it. I will definitely by making this receipt again for events.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Chocolate Cream

I revisited Mrs. Beeton's chocolate cream receipt a few weeks back (it previously appeared at the CLT dinner in 2014).  It makes up very quickly--basically just the time needed to melt the chocolate and incorporate it into the cream/eggs, I usually improvise a double-boiler with a saucepan of hot water and a metal mixing bowl, and substitute 1 packet of gelatin for the 1/2 oz of isinglass.

Chocolate Cream, 1861 receipt from Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management
The guests got to it before I could take a picture.
The remainder didn't last much longer.

The chocolate cream is quite rich, and (despite the gelatin) has a texture closer to a frozen custard than a jelly or aspic.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Knit-Along, Week "2"

Somewhat belatedly.
Nineteenth century pence jug knit along, two weeks in.
Two steps down, three to go!

The stringing took a couple months longer than it should have.

Friday, October 6, 2017


Reproduction newspapers and magazine, Puget Sound, October 1855.
The news of the day, October 5, 1855.

Open page of reproduction issue of Harper's New Monthly Magazine, August 1855.
I hand-bound the Harper's in nine pamphlets of 16 pages each
(four pieces of paper, printed two pages to a side),
with the cover glued at the spine.

I'm rather proud of these, though there's still improvements to be made.  October 5, 1855 editions of the Pioneer and Democrat (Olympia), and Puget Sound Courier (Steilacoom). The former explicitly announces the arrival of the August issue of Harper's Magazine, via express from San Francisco, so I decided to give the Tolmies a copy as well.  Still working on cleaning up a Godey's, so it won't be appearing at Candlelight tonight.