Thursday, November 8, 2012

A Cornucopia of Garments

Polly's dress in pink.
The cornucopia, or horn of plenty, is widely known as a symbol of abundance and nourishment.  A large horn-shaped containter, it overflows with the abundance of good things.  Originating in classic antiquity, it has continued as a symbol in Western art and is particulary associated with Thanksgiving.  

The cornucopia seems to be well represented on Victorian postcards, and in fanciful illustrations, but how many of us ever really used one as a Thanksgiving Day table centerpiece or festive decoration for autumn?  The horn of plenty has always intrigued me, and I went on a long and vigilant search to find just the right little cornucopia to enhance Polly Pratt's Thanksgiving Day Outfit.

Polly's dress in autumn peach.
When I set out to make her a holiday dress, finding an appropriate garment to respresent Thanksgiving wasn't easy.  From the existing paper doll pages that I own, there were none!  But, I love plaid and this little pink dress with its round white collar and cuffs, seemed to say "Thanksgiving" to me.  I was also intrigued with a small sunbonnet variation that a friend of mine, Arlene Hayes, had made, so I set out to make a pilgrim hat based upon the sunbonnet.  When I was just five years old, we made pilgrim hats and collars in kindergarten, and had a parade.  I wore both, everyday for a month my mother once told me.  I even have a photograph of myself (somewhere!) on a swingset wearing this costume.  So naturally Polly needed a pilgrim hat so she could march in the parade.

Sheila's Illustration
A few months ago I began trying to find an exact match to this pink plaid, and came up rather empty-pawed.  I did retain two of my purchases however.  One was an autumn-peach perfect plaid, and the other a modern wobbly plaid, but in the right shade of pink.  The autumn hues would need ivory accents, but the pink could easily retain the white accents of the illustration.  Not knowing which I'd like best, I made two.  One of each, just to see how they would turn out.  Included would be a sunbonnet/pilgrim hat, a cornucopia and of course, the little blue book she holds, which I fashioned with a real leather cover.

The bonnet mock-up as a sunbonnet
The dresses, remarkably, made up rather quickly, but there are details to the construction of the pockets and turned up cuffs that could only be detected from personal, close examination.  I never do anything easy.  The bonnet is a redrawn-redraft of the Bleuette sunbonnet.  Its a far cry from how the original French pattern was supposed to be made, but I'll be darned if I could figure out how they intended it to be made.  So I made my own.

The bonnet mock-up

While making Polly's Thanksgiving Day outfit, I became interested in the paper dolls of Berta and Elmer Hader, who drew their paper dolls in the early 1920's.  The little girls were often wearing such bonnets, so this became of equal importance to me (the designing of one), since I may make a few outfits from their illustrations.

Berta and Elmer Hader's Paper Doll
Today I began the long and tedious process to make Lettie Lane's autumn outfit.  Currently, as I am just in the design process, I am a bit stumped by the coat, or rather how to design the pattern, but I know it will come to me in a day or two.  There are many components to this one, and one of them is a pair of gloves.  I'm going to try a pair.  No, they will not have fingers, but I will try to make them with a thumb.  I have to TRY!  They are represented in the illustration, and Lettie's hands will get cold when the November winds begin to blow.

As this year is coming to a close, and I reflect back on what I have done so far, it certainly can be considered a Cornucopia of Garments.  A wealth of abundance. 

I may not post again until the ensemble is complete, and so I will wish you all a cornucopia of wishes, and a Happy Thanksgiving.

Miss E. Mouse

Lettie's Autumn Stroll Outfit


  1. Being a stickler for detail, and persistent in the pursuit of perfection, has really paid off, the autumn dress and bonnet are truly wonderful.

    1. Norma, its so good to hear from you. Write to me sometime!!