Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Harvest Pageant

Lettie's Grape Harvest Pageant Costume
All Dressed Up
At the turn of the 20th century, half the population in the U.S.  was still agrarian - living and sustaining life off agriculture.  As family life depended on farming, the harvest season was an exciting and serious time. 
Children who lived on farms left studies behind to help with the harvest, and in some cases, schools would simply close for the season.  The hard work and long hours would then be celebrated through the harvest festival.  Entire towns would have a fair, a celebration, and often schools would hold pageants for the children.  Even though through the years, better farm equipment would tip the scales towards life in the city, harvest pageants were still quite popular and a fun way for children to share and learn about agriculture.  No better example of this is remembered in present day, than young Scout dressing up as a ham in the beloved novel To Kill a Mockingbird.  Still long ago, young girls like Lettie would cross the stage in a fabulous costume and give a short speech on the product she represented.
From Betty Bonnet's Halloween Party
Lettie's Grape Harvest Pageant costume has been a year in the making.  Well, there certainly was a long gap between October and August, but I'd fully intended to make this costume last fall.  I'd had the little owls needlefelted by Patty Kascsak, and had purchased the foliage to make the grape clusters and a yard each of two colors of microsuede.  So when it came to making the costume for the harvest season, I had just about everything I needed to get started.

The pattern for the dress was a relatively simple one: A-line, short sleeves.  The question was how to attach the leaves.  At first I thought I might make this an empire dress with the longer leaves sewn in between the bodice and skirt.  Yet, after cutting a few leaves and holding them up to the mock up dress, I realized the best approach was to make this as a costume should be, and sewed the leaf ends into a waistband creating a skirt to be worn over the dress.  Another question was in the color of the underdress.  I began by using a caramel cotton, the same color as the leaves, but the leaves faded into the dress, and even resembled Daisy's indian costume!  So I chose a soft cocoa brown linen as the background for the leaf "painting".  
Chalking Out the Patterns

Patty Kascsack's Needlefelt Owl
The leaves, as I mentioned, are made from microsuede.  After drawing the six patterns I would use as leaf stencils, I decided to try chalk as a way to outline the edges for cutting.  One might think I'd have used dressmaker's chalk, but I used what I had handy, and that was chalkboard chalk.  It does remove with a cloth rubbing.  Each leaf was then machine stitched down the center to create a faux stem.  Using a thread of the same color, it blends, but gives the leaf distinction.  The bodice leaves were sewn into the neckline, then two epaulet leaves were sewn to the shoulder top to drape down the sleeve.

The grapes were painted a bright, autumn blue to best represent Sheila's illustration.  I used foliage berries for the grapes.  It was quite a task to cut the berry groupings to resemble little grape clusters, and this costume you see had the best of them.  The second costume I made for my own doll - well, the grape clusters are not quite as "delicate".  The clusters are strung from heavy silk embroidery cording.
Jester Booties and Brown Stockings
And, then we have the hat, or what I am calling a crown.  This is a buckram base crown of two half moons sewn together.  It is covered with the soft cocoa linen.  The leaves and clusters then sewn on, and lined with a gold crinkle tissue silk to finish it off, and protect Lettie's pretty mohair wig.

Then under this all, last but not least, are the jester booties.  Just when I thought I had this all done and put together, I noticed the jester boots in the illustration!  What to do, what to do?!  I began with trying them as a gaitor  that she could wear over her shoes, but the mock up in the darker bark colored microsuede didn't quite please me.  It wasn't a bad choice, but it wasn't the best I could do.  So I decided to try them as a real pull-on bootie.

The pattern is a side view pattern with the front and back edges sewn.  Then I made a foot bed or sole, and pinned this to the column of the bootie.  I actually machine stitched these two pieces together, then turned them inside out.  I mean, what's the point in sewing unless your going to learn something new each time you do it?!  Six single booties later, I had it down and made two pair.  Dark brown stockings finish the costume.  I've a feeling some other little doll in the future is going to benefit from the jester boot pattern, but these will be made from fabric, not dense microsuede, and I'll be able to hand sew the sole to the top.
I've also been working on Katy Curls.  She is simply adorable.  I will blog on her progress in a day or two.  What?  I know I said I wouldn't, but once I began playing with her, I fell in love and have now decided to keep her.
And, next will be Polly's new Halloween costume.  I'm having so much fun right now with autumn and Halloween.  I do know that summer is still officially with us until the 21rst, but there is no time like the present to prepare costumes for our girls when its time for parties.  Please enjoy the few vintage photos I found.
Bless you all for your loving support.  I am deeply touched.
Miss E. Mouse
On Stage

A Hula of Leaves
A Side View

Could have been Lettie!


Purely Victorian

Happy Autumn From Lettie!

1 comment:

  1. Oh! She looks so sweet. I may have missed her info in an earlier post. Is she a Kestner? She's a real sweetie ind your wonderful outfits are perfect for her. I specially love her little boots.
    Altogether this is a beautiful outfit and far more feminine than Scout's ham!
    My Polly is agog to see what her kiln sister will wear for Hallowe'en.