Sunday, December 27, 2015

Locust Grove Interpreters - a taste of the awesome

Trying to get myself blogging again, and the cheater easiest way is just to brag on the First Person Interpreters at Locust Grove. Ok, basically I just loved this picture so much I had to put it here.

Photo by Heather Rene of Fox and Rose Photography.

I really cannot brag on our cast enough, and this was just a wonderful example of the incredible talent and creativity everyone brings to this program. The two actors here portray Charles and Dr. John Croghan, the first generation born at Locust Grove. They were both nephews of General George Rogers Clark who spent the last years of his life at Locust Grove from 1809 to 1818. Both young men have done a great deal of research into the family and the period and trained and rehearsed tirelessly to turn that research into a natural, interactive performance for guests to Locust Grove.

Even though you can't see her, Heather also brings an amazing amount of talent as our cast photographer. I am really amazed at how she finds these little moments to bring to light.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Regency/Federal Hair Pieces, Part Two: Doin' the Do

Hulooo! So it has taken me five months, but I finally found a spare day to put this together. Many thanks to my wonderful partner (in crime and all other things) Brian Cushing for taking the pictures.

Many people have asked me how I do my hair for the Regency/Federal period, so I thought I would put together a blog post. The first part of this, where I create the hair pieces I am using, can be found here.  To be clear, this is not a period method- this is a nonperiod way of mimicking the period look since I don't want to actually cut my hair short in the front.

So, first of all, when I say I have long hair, I am seriously not kidding. It is absolutely *perfect* for doing Victorian hair, but Regency- not so much.

Honestly, the hair is driving- I'm just along for the ride.

Since I don't want to cut my hair short enough in the front for curls, I have to get creative. I used to try to wrap the front pieces around my bun, tack them down in front, and curl them, but that is time consuming, a literal pain in the arm, and requires access to an outlet.

Once I embraced hair pieces, life took a meaningful upturn.

Here are the materials you will need

  • Hair pieces on wig clips- see Part I  (you may not be able to see it, but I am storing them with the curls tightly pinned up. This not only preserves the curl but helps keep them from tangling while stored). 
  • Hair brush 
  • Bobby pins (2 pictured, many required)
  • Some kind of larger pin- I'm using roller pins, but large hair pins will do. You want at least 3 or 4 of these to anchor the base of your bun. 
  • 2 medium-sized claw clips 
  • some kind of pomade. I had been using the 'blue goop' by Bed Head, but I recently switched to this stuff (the orange one) from Got2b, which is apparently the poor girl's Bedhead.Unlike the more expensive Bed Head stuff, it goes on clear and seems to work just as well if not better. (It does smell like orange, but I'm good with that.)
  • Not pictured- a comb with a pick will be helpful when it comes to sectioning your hair. I don't usually use hair spray on my actual hair, because I have found it just tends to accentuate, rather than tame, all my flyaways. 

Before you begin, work a little pomade through your hair with your fingertips. This will help with volume in your bun and keep the braid smooth. Especially make sure to get some in what will be the front sections of your hair, because you will want that to be able to lay smoothly over the pieces when you are done. Be careful not to use too much however, as it will make your hair look lanky and could also cause it to separate rather than laying nicely in one piece

Section out the front of your hair on each side of your face, roll it up, and secure it with the clips. You want this section to go back to the middle of your head. Part of this will end up covering the clip in pieces, and the more you section out here the easier it will be to get a nice, neat bun in the back.

From there, take the remaining hair and make it into a ponytail as high as you can. Brush around the base to try and make it as smooth and as high as possible.

Then begin to braid the ponytail, while keeping it as high on your head as possible. I don't use a ponytail holder at the base, because I have found that it makes it harder to keep the hair on my head nice and smooth. Hold it straight up from your head as long as possibly to try and keep it anchored very high. I usually use a small rubber hair tie to hold it in place at the end.

You can work a little more of the pomade over the braid at this point to keep it nice and smooth.

Unfortunately, this is the part that can be a bit of an arm ache.

From there, twist the braid into a bun. The regency style is to have the bun very high on the head, so try to twist it around towards the front and get it as high onto your head as possible.

I usually anchor the base with a few of the larger hair pins/roller pins. Then as you go anchor the bottom of the braid to your head with bobby pins.

You will want to tuck the end of the braid under and into the center. Try to think about where it is going to end up so you can leave a space without bobby pins to tuck it into. Either pull the hair tie off or make sure that it is tucked all the way under so it does not show.

Next you will break up the front sections. This is where a comb with a pick will come in handy.

What you want to do is unroll them, then section out the bottom and roll the top back up. You will be braiding the bottom section and wrapping it back around your bun. The top section will be what covers the clips once they are in place.

When making the top section, you want to think about making it as small as possible in the front so you can get as close to the center of your forehead as possible, but at the same time you need to leave enough that it will cover the clips.

Instead of making two equal sections, I usually try to make the top wider in the back to give it more body, and narrower at the front so I can get the clips close to my part.

Once you have rolled the top bit back up into the clip, braid the bottom section. Angle it back away from your face so that it will lay neatly against your head- if you  hold it perpendicular to, or away from, your face while you are braiding, it may bunch when you try to position it back.

Angle it back away from your face in the direction it will end up laying. 

Wrap the braid around your bun and pin in place. 

Once you have done this on both sides it's a good time to take some of the pomade and smooth any flyaways on your forehead back and away from your face so they don't end up peeking out once the curls are in place.

Next, clip the curls in place. Get them as close to your center part as you can while still anchoring them securely and being sure they rest flat against your head.

I've added some slightly larger curls, done with a 1/2 inch iron and also mounted on wig clips, to the back to better frame my face. 
Since I have a rounder face, I've always found that hairstyles which frame it are more flattering. 

Next, you will unclip the top front sections, brush them out, and carefully lay them over the curls to cover the clips (this is why you want to leave a bit of the hair at the top of  your curls flat instead of curling it all the way to the clip). Keep the top section as smooth as you can, and pin it in place at the base of your head.

I use to just wrap these sections around the bun, but that ruined the lovely braided look, so lately I have been anchoring both sides at the back, then braiding them together and wrapping that last braid around the bun.

Et Voila! 

Accessorize and dress it up, like with this comb from Regency Revisited. 

In action at Locust Grove. 
Photo by Heather Rene of Fox and Rose Photography. 

So there you have it! I really recommend trying this out before you have a big event and seeing what works with your hair. Everyone's is different, and this is what worked for me. Hopefully it gives you some ideas! 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Locust Grove Interpreters

I'm having trouble getting this to post in comments, but if you want to know some of what we have been working on at Locust Grove, check this out

Photo by Heather Hiner of Fox and Rose Photography

This was a special event showcasing a wedding in 1822.You can read more on the Locust Grove Blog. 

Normally our interpreters portray members of the Clark and Croghan families and other notable Louisvillians who would have visited Locust Grove in 1816. I have been the theatrical director for this program for the last 2 1/2 years (since I moved from California to Kentucky) and I could not be more proud and blown away by what this group has done.

Locust Grove interpreters are all volunteers. The Grove holds open auditions 1-2 times per year. During the year cast members attend a series of workshops on the history of the home, period manners, games, language, clothing and physical characterization. Interpreters also bring their own research on their characters and period trades and pastimes to the program. During rehearsals we work on taking historical information and presenting it in a natural manner with our guests. Interpreters provide their own clothing after their first year, all of which must pass approval. These are some of the most trained and dedicated volunteers you will find anywhere.

In the last year, interpreters have become part of an increasing number of Locust Grove events. This group performs in extremely varied conditions, from close quarters with guests in the house, to the open air of the 55 acre grounds. Each and every time we go out there, I have seen our people rise to new heights. In it's heyday, Locust Grove was a bustling farm, with probably 60+ people living there including the enslaved workers. We may never be able to actually recapture the level of activity from the early 19th century, but our people make the place come alive in a way that gives you an idea of what that may have been like. It is truly special and I honestly cannot say enough good things about each of the people it has been my privilege to work with on this program.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

To cap or not to cap?

A common myth or 'reeanctorism' I hear in the Regency/Federal period is that 'all married women always wore caps'. I think there is this idea that as soon as the nuptial festivities are over, a committee of very dour matrons show up with the local minister for the awful capping ceremony, wherein the young bride's once pretty locks are shorn in the back, and the cap is surgically installed on her head. Like, that's it, it's over, YOU'VE BEEN CAPPED.

There are a couple of things about this that I feel need to be cleared up. For starters, this seems to sometimes come with the idea that wearing a cap makes you 'old' and caps have to be ugly. Please see below for several images on how this is inaccurate and caps can be very lovely.

However it is also simply not true to say that all married women always wore caps. As evidence, I give you the following sampling of  images from Britain and America (you can easily find more if you look around, trust me, I held back).

First, a couple of American examples:

Mrs. John Norton, born Sara Low 1818 

oil on canvas Speed Art Museum 1971.1.6.2


Mrs. Ann Booth Gwathmey c. 1820 

Filson Historical Society 2010.2.4


And here are a couple of beauties from across the pond:

Mrs. Mary Fisher 1816

And, my personal favorite, two kids and no cap!

Lydia Elizabeth Hoare (1786–1856), Lady Acland

Now, don't get me wrong- caps are great! There are some amazing caps out there I just drool over.

For example, this lovely lady from America 

Lucy Price Weisiger 1820
Kentucky Historical Society 2010.54.9

And this stunning British beauty 

Mrs Catherine Morey 1814-15

Several stunning extant examples also survive from this period, such as  this amazing rouched goodness from the Met 

1812 American, linen 

And OMFG are you *kidding* me with this amazing craziness?!

1810s American, Cotton 

Unmarried women also wore caps, famously including Jane Austen, so it may simply be better to say that older women were more likely to do so (which is not to say that younger ladies cannot wear caps as well). As with many things, if you are looking for a hard and fast rule you may end up leading yourself astray. Caps are an *option*, and a lovely one at that, but they are not a requirement.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Regency/Federal Hair Pieces, Part One: Making the Pieces

Edit: You can now find part two of this showing how to work these into long hair here.

This post includes hot and sharp things: please use caution and common sense. If you cannot be trusted with hot and/or sharp things, maybe go do something else instead of suing me because you are burned and bleeding. 

Several people have asked me about how I do my hair for the Regency/Federal era, so I thought I'd dust off the old blog and explain. This post will show you how to create the hair pieces I have been using. For the sake of keeping it short(ish), I will write a separate post soon on how I work them into my hair.

In action at Locust Grove.
Photo by Fox & Rose Photography.

My hair comes down past my waist. Before a recent cut, it was below my butt. And while I love it dearly, it is actually too long in the front for perfect little Regency ringlets. I used to try wrapping the front parts around a bun in the back and then pinning them in place and curling them. That worked alright, but it was very time consuming and the curls didn't always do great in high humidity. It was also impractical if I didn't start the day with an outlet handy, and let's face it, some of the coolest places to sleep just don't always have electricity!

Since it is so long, I would have trouble fitting it all under a wig. Wigs also add to the heat factor, which is the last thing I need in a Kentucky summer, so pieces I can tuck into my hair are the best way to go for me. (If you are interested in doing a full wig, you can see a wonderful tutorial from the Bohemian Bell here.)

To begin with, you will need the following

  • Hair scissors 
  • wig clips
  •  needle and thread (the thread won't show but you should still find a color that doesn't stand out from your natural hair color, I'm a brunette and I'm just using some black here)
  •  curling iron- dont' use your best one (I'll explain below). For  the curls right around your face I recommend a 3/8 barrel. I also use a 1/2 inch for some larger ones in the back. 
  •  hairspray
  •  (not pictured) roller pins/ bobby pins 
  • Fake hair (or human hair)

Now, I know some people taught the benefits of using human hair, and you can totally use that if you want to. Personally, I am uncomfortable with it, so I use this stuff. The following instructions should work for either. Make sure whatever you get says that it can take a curl.

This stuff holds a curl well, and is very cheap. This package was $6.99 and it is going to last me a good long time, since I only go through a few inches at a time. You can usually find this or something similar at ethnic hair store wherever you live. You can also search for it on Amazon.

It can leave a little bit of residue on your curling iron. This wipes off pretty easily while still warm, but this is why I don't recommend using anything extremely expensive or fancy (I got mine on Amazon for $20 or so). Please do a test strip on your iron and use caution and common sense.

It comes in different lengths. This stuff was 10 inches, which is a little long for what I needed, so I took off 2-3 inches. When you take length off the bottom, try to layer it a little instead of just chopping right across to create a blunt end. What you want is something that will fit nicely into the bottom of a curl. I haven't tried this, but someone who knew what they were doing with a razor blade could probably create a nice effect. Again, please use caution and common sense and don't sue me. (Trust me, I'm a teacher, you're not going to get much. )

For these pieces, you want a piece about 3-4 inches wide which will give you 3-4 curls. I usually double it over to give more volume, so I would cut an 8 inch piece. It is held together at the top with a nylon weft so it shouldn't fray when you cut it (human hair should be similar). Double it over and sew the two lengths together on the weft so you have one nice secure piece.

Prepped and ready to curl. 

Now it is time to start curling! I do this on my ironing board (SO much easier than trying to do it on your own head!!!).

The next two steps can be done in either order, depending on what you are comfortable with and what kind of hair you are using. I have heard from folks using human hair that it may be easier to sew the clips to the weft first, since human hair may not hold a curl as well the first few times it is set. Personally, I like to make sure I have gotten the curls the way I want them before I bother sewing on the clips.

The instructions that come with this 'hair' are as follows

The directions tell you to hold the 'hair' on the iron for 2-3 seconds. Personally, I have found that I need to hold it on a hot iron for at least a full minute for the curl to take. I recommend you try a few experimental pieces with your iron first to get a feel for how long you need.

You will want to leave at least an inch of uncurled hair near the base. This will be covered with your own hair to hide the base and clips you will be using.

Gently remove the curl and slide it off the iron. Be very careful to keep the curl's shape as you go. Once you have eased it off, it is still not completely set. Don't let it fall or bounce around. Gently gather up the curl with two roller pins or bobby pins to keep its shape and spray with hairspray.

As you go, trim away any fly-aways with your hair scissors. Since this isn't your hair (or anyone's!) you can be pretty liberal about trimming and sculpting. These should last you awhile, but even if you trim so much that you eventually can't use them anymore, the materials in one set cost less than a dollar, so trim away!

Repeat for the rest of the hair. Once you are done, you will want to let it sit overnight with the pins to set the curl. You can also just leave the pins in until you are ready to wear the curls- this will be a good way to keep them neat and tidy wherever they are stored.

Now it is time for your wig clips. These are fantastic little things. Since they are made of spring steel, you can slide them in where you want them, then just press down for them to snap closed and they hold very well.  They have little holes in the top that makes it very easy to sew them to the nylon weft. 

You can do this while they are still setting, but be sure that the hairspray has dried or your hands will get all sticky.

Finished piece- back view with wig clips stitched in place. 
You don't need to match the thread exactly but make sure it doesn't contrast. 

Close up of the stitching. 

And that should be it! Be sure to store them someplace they won't get smooshed. Storing them with the pins in is best to keep them tidy.  The best part is, you can do all this way ahead of time, and when you wake up at an event with no outlet, you can just take them out and snap them into place!

Finished piece -front view.

Stay tuned for Part Two, where I will show you how I work them into my hair.

**Thank you to Melissa Alexander for her proofreading and for sharing her experiences**