Monday, November 7, 2016

Meet Laura Peterson, Louise Godey's Best Friend

November, to me, is one of the gentlest months of the year.  Oh, I know.  So many people are thinking ahead to the holidays, the madness, the dinners with family and decisions of gift giving in the upcoming season of Christmas.  But, for me, the early morning sun, darkness by five o'clock pm, the leaves changing from reds and golds to rusts and browns as they loose the trees and drift to ground - this is a quiet and soft, dreamy time of year.  I can't think of anywhere I'd rather be than creating in my studio with colors and styles representing the season, for some special little doll. 

Meet Laura Peterson.  She is Louise Godey's best friend.  She is the same size and Lawton body as Louise.  Fourteen inches, wood and porcelain.  Laura is yet another Lawton rescue reborn and I've so many design plans for her. 

Laura's family are the Peterson's of Peterson's Magazine, or  Peterson's Ladies' National Magazine, founded in January 1842. Charles Jacobs Peterson and George Rex were partners at the Saturday Evening Post when they decided that a new women's journal was needed to compete with Godey's Lady's Book.  It was issued at a lesser price as an alternative to Godey's, and featured just as lovely fashion plates from France. 

Both American publishers claimed to be the first to present the latest styles from France, and to be in direct communication with Paris via its own correspondent, all the while blatantly issuing unauthorized engravings of French fashion plates.  This is why you see French writing on the engravings.  I found it very interesting that the engravings issued by Godey's had such a different look to them than those of Peterson's.  Different artists perhaps, but when researching Laura's background, I found Peterson's to be quite beautiful and softer in appearance.  The settings are quite different, and below you'll find three examples of them.

I wanted Laura's first gown to be quite different than anything I'd done for Louise.  It was my intention, after making two little fall fashions for Petite Chiffonette and Lily (see below at bottom of page), to make a large one like Lily's for Laura.  It was also my intent that Louise would share her dolls with Laura, and Lily would become Laura's doll.  But, you know how girls are with their dolls.  Of course they can play dolls together, but Laura would need an accessory with her debut gown, and so a doll was procured from the pile for her.

Laura's gown is silk taffeta in wine and gold stripes.  It has bias piping on the neckline, shoulders at the sleeve, and piping at the waist.  It also boasts lappets (new for me) with piping all around them.  The skirt is finished with a bias stripe, and the bodice with bows at the shoulders.

Let us begin with the blouse, or chemise.  I wanted to make her something she could wear beneath many of her gowns or skirts, so I put a little more effort into this.  The chemise is pleated across the entire front to the end of the shoulders.  The high neck band is trimmed in delicate lace.  The full sleeves have wrist bands that are trimmed in the same sweet lace as the collar.  While you cannot see the back, tiny mother of pearl shank buttons close it with thread loops. 

Laura is wearing the Lawton wig that once belonged to the original doll Louise is from.  However, I tied it up and back with a black ribbon like the children in the illustrations of La Mode Illustree.  I was wondering how I would be able to share the details of the bodice with those long sausage curls falling down over her shoulders, and this style took care of that.

I like piping.  I think the first time I really enlisted it as a decorative trim was with Sterling and Amethyst's light blue sailor outfits.  The piping itself is not difficult to make, but takes up an extraordinary amount of fabric since you have to cut it from the bias of the cloth.  If you wish to have a long uninterrupted piece, you have to take it further from the edge of the fabric, rendering that section just about unusable for anything else.  Then there's the tedium of pinning it to the section you wish to apply it to - like six little squares.  Pin it, turn it, pin it, sew it, lay the other square to the back, pin it and sew over the stitching on the reverse side as close to the piping as possible.  Then turn the little square inside out.  Six times.  Lappets.  Lappets can also end in points, which is lovely.  Often they are edged, but I had to try using the piping this way.

As to their origin, its only my guess.  They "feel" Renaissance to me.  Spain?  Italy?  France?  I've no idea, but fashions of yesteryears repeated themselves in historical fashion design as they do today.  They are not a design I would employ often, but I will do them again.  They have a royal feel to them. 

The final design to the gown was in the bias strip along the hem of the skirt.  It was an afterthought at best.  I design as I go along and when something needs a bit more, I just try things.  The bias strip was just that.  It is hand sewn on with the ladder stitch, top and bottom.  It echoes the slants in the piping and pulls the look together.  Two bows are fashioned over the narrow shoulders to dress the bodice up a bit. 

At last we come to Laura's little doll.  Laura's doll is a family heirloom from the mid 18th century.  These wooden dolls were used as fashion mannequins sent from Europe to show ladies in the states what the latest fashions were.  Wooden dolls could also have been Queen Anne dolls.  I am not an expert on these dolls by any stretch, but wooden dolls have been around for a very long time.  I'll be on the hunt for an appropriate porcelain doll, and until then, the heirloom doll will be her favorite.

As for Laura's doll, this one started out as Elizabeth's "fashion" doll from the Revolutionary War time period.  Elizabeth was Felicity's English, and best friend, from American Girl when it was Pleasant Company.  I simply undressed her and made her a gown from the scraps of Laura's.  Or should I say that Laura's seamstress made the family heirloom doll a new dress at Laura's request?

It is doubtful that I will make more gowns like this for Laura's doll, but you never know.  It was no piece of cake.  I'm watching Season Two Outlander right now on Blu-Ray, and Claire's gowns in France are so inspiring.

While writing this journal, I thought of a name for Laura's doll.  Isabelle.  I'll probably be sewing for Laura through the end of the year to establish a minimal wardrobe for her.  The funny thing is, now that Louise has a friend and so does Petite Chiffonette, I'll have to make four coordinating costumes at a time.  Why do I do this to myself?  At least this seamstress is busily employed by the Godey's and Peterson's.  Rival publishing families, but the girls don't mind a bit. 

One last note.  Finally, after all this time, I found and signed up for a class in needle felting.  There are some techniques I need to observe in order to do it myself, and needle felting was one of them.  November 18th.  The class is for a piece of pumpkin pie.  How apropos!  Won't they be surprised when I make a doll sized one instead?

Miss E. Mouse



1 comment:

  1. LA lovely little pair. How tall is Laura's little doll? I have NO IDEA how you manage such fine work on a tiny doll. As my eye sight gets worse and the MS takes more and more of my dexterity I am moving up to larger dolls but have a passion for the tiny ones.
    My sweet Polly Pratt has come out to play and I would dearly love a Daisy, though she is a dream at the oment Thank you for leading me to Connie Zink's wonderful work, back in 2012! I just wish Polly could hope to have lovely garments of the quality that yours wears, but she's a good natured little soul and puts up with my efforts.
    I don't always comment, but look forward to your posts. Always something new and fascinating to read. Thank you!
    Jenni xxx