Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas in Colonial Williamsburg: White Silk & Fashionable Dolls at the Milliner's Shop

Wednesday, December 28, 2011
Susan reporting:

Because the Margaret Hunter Millinery Shop is one of the TNHG's favorite places in Colonial Williamsburg, I HAVE to include them in our holiday tour. The shop presents several different historic trades of the 18th c under its roof: the milliner, who sold many small imported and locally made goods (think of a modern store specializing in accessories); the tailor, who custom-made men's clothing; and the mantua-maker, who custom-made women's clothing. (Check out their Facebook page here.)

The shop's outdoor holiday wreath, left, reflects their trades. In addition to three modern-style cloth dolls, there are smaller versions of the shop's wares pinned to the wreath, including tiny pockets, muffs, and hats. (Click on the photo to enlarge and see the details.) For comparison, here's the shop's wreath from 2010, decorated with 18th c style fabrics.

Inside the shop is another holiday tradition. Each year a miniature version of the shop, right, complete to the smallest detail, is set up in one of the corner display cupboards. Replicas of 18th c fashion dolls that would have once worn samples of the latest styles now inhabit the shop. This year one of them has stopped by the shop for a new gown, and is standing in her stays and petticoat while the mantua-maker drapes and pins the gown on her (wooden) body. Click here for more about the mantua-maker's dolls.

But the doll isn't the only one with a new gown for the holidays. When Emma, right, one of the mantua-maker's assistants, learned that she was scheduled to work on Christmas, she decided to make herself a new jacket and petticoat of white silk in honor of the day. I saw her gathering and stitching the ruffled trim in the shop on Christmas Eve, working under deadline like a true 18th c seamstress would have done. And like her 18th c counterpart, she finished on time, too – here she is on Christmas Day!

All photographs copyright 2011 Susan Holloway Scott.


nightsmusic said...

The miniature is fascinating. And what a lovely white silk. I admit, I'm partial to last year's wreath, but this one is very cute.

Keri said...

What a beautiful dress! I sew but I'm so slow at it; I can't imagine making something so complicated in such a short amount of time!

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