Category Archives: 25th Anniversary

April 1! 10 Honest Answers to 10 Honest Questions

It’s April’s Fool’s Day! In honor of this silly day, I decided to conduct an “interview” and give honest answers to honest questions! Warning: you might find out more than you want to know! So here goes!

Q: Why do you make historical clothing?

A: Because I do not like teaching. Wait- isn’t that supposed to be the other way around? You know, those who can’t- teach? So cliche. But seriously, I was a visual arts teacher for a while. I loved working with kids but found the educational system most frustrating. I was the only creative in the building and that was a very lonely feeling.

Q: What is your favorite time period to design from?

A: Hmm. That’s a tough one. I love the understated elegance of the Regency Period. But I also love the over-the-top styles of the Bustle Era. I am not a big fan of the 1860s/early 1870s. I guess hoops just aren’t my thing anymore.

Q: What do you love most about your job?

A: The diversity! Checking emails is like playing the lottery! Today you might be stitching together a couple stock petticoats and tomorrow you might be working for Spike Lee! (True story! Although they called instead of emailing.)

Q: What do you dislike most about your job?

A: Deadlines.

Q: I see you are celebrating 25 years in business! That’s a long time! If you could go back and change one thing from the last quarter decade, what would it be?

A: I would have taken more time off when my second child was born. Literally, the day after he came home, I brought the sewing machine in from my studio and set up a mini sewing station in my kitchen. Why? Because I had deadlines.

Q: What do you think of social media? You know because it didn’t exist 25 years ago!

A: Short Answer: Overrated. Long Answer: I think social media can be a useful way to disseminate information and share ideas with people who have common interests. But somewhere along the lines, social media has become all about money and manipulation and while I do like money, I am not willing to let the social media giants be puppeteers over my life and business. Are you?

Q: Are you hot in those clothes?

A: Why yes. I am “hot” in these clothes. Thank you for the compliment but I am happily married.

Q: Do you dress like this everyday?

A: See photo below.

Q: What advice could you give people just getting started in this field?

A: Follow your passion. Ask yourself: What makes you happy Marie Kondo? What type of lifestyle do you want to live? What are you passionate about? Now what can you do for a living (You know- because you need money to live people!) that allows you to live the life you want? Get a plan and get to it! But be prepared! Success is measured in a variety of ways. Money is NOT happiness and nothing ever happens overnight!

Q: Where do you get your design inspiration?

A: Lots of places! I look at photographs of original garments. I read books (like ones with paper…) because context is important. And, sometimes I even have the chance to get up close and personal with original collections (thank you Costume Society of America!) It might be the overall silhouette I am drawn to or simply a small detail. Sometimes I make up characters or events in my mind. Then I just work up a design in my imagination and go from there! But I always try NOT to copy other creatives’ designs and I do NOT LIKE IT when others copy mine. (Yeah, you know who you are…..)

Q: After 25 years, what keeps you going?

A: I ask myself this question EVERY DAY and even more so when I am at an ebb in my workflow. I always try to focus on the positives. I practice thankfulness- like I am thankful I do not have to sit through a one hour staff meeting in some concrete building; or I am thankful I do not have to miss my daughter’s field trip because the boss would not let me have the day off. I love getting to meet people from all over the world who share the same passions about historical fashion. I thrive on creative collaboration! In short, I am grateful I have been given a skill and talent that allows me to live the life I really want.

What to wear to an Afternoon Tea

So in case you haven’t heard- In honor of Queen Victoria’s 200th Birthday (and Maggie May Clothing’s 25th anniversary), we are hosting an authentic Victorian Era Afternoon Tea on Saturday, May 25, 2019 at the beautifully restored American Legion Hall in South Pittsburg, Tennessee! But what exactly is an Afternoon Tea anyway? And what should I wear?

Afternoon Tea for two at the Leonard Hotel in London

Unlike High Tea, which happens late into the evening hours and includes a hot dish, Afternoon Tea (or Low Tea) is reserved for an intimate gathering of friends with light refreshment including finger sandwiches, scones, and sweets. Because the length of time between lunch and supper was quite long, an intermittent course of finger foods and tea was served to stave off hunger- thus becoming what we know today as Afternoon Tea! (The term “Low Tea” has nothing to do with reduced luxury- but instead the height of the tables on which it was served!)

A Cream Tea Service for two

A less extensive version of Afternoon Tea is know as Cream Tea which consists of just scones and cream. On special occasions, a final course of champagne was served during Afternoon Tea, thus becoming a Royal Tea service.

Royal Tea Service includes champagne and is reserved for special occasions!

Regardless of whether you are attending an Afternoon Tea/Low Tea, a Cream Tea, or a Royal Tea, mode of dress is always semi-formal. Historically, being invited to attend Tea meant one would dress in Sunday best out of respect for the hostess. Long ago, before the emerging informalities ushered in by the post modern world, people “dressed for occasion.” Formality was part of the cultural norm and how one dressed, behaved, and spoke was directly tied to moral character and one’s upbringing. This is still a pervasive theme in America’s Southern culture today.

So this sounds like lots of fun… but what should I wear?

Full Historical

Queen Victoria was born on May 24, 1819. This is the period we call The Regency Era (or The Georgian Period depending on where you live). This is the time period we often associate with Jane Austen (d.1817). It is known as The Era of Good Feelings. It is the same year Thomas Jefferson founded the University of Virginia, Alabama became the 22nd state, and Spain ceded Florida.

The Regency Period is recognized by its long, sleek, Greek and Roman inspired silhouettes. Free-flowing cotton gowns pulled in just below the bust were popular during this period. Simple, straight-forward gowns were offset by elaborate accessories! Short waisted jackets, shawls, bonnets, jewelry, hats, and parasols were all the rage!

Volare Digital Capture
“Court Dress of Lady Worsley Holmes worn at the first Drawing Room of George IV”
La Belle Assemblée,July 1820 
A lovely roller printed cotton gown c. 1820s

Men’s dress consisted of a set of close fitting trousers, shirt, waistcoat (sometimes 2!), cravat, and jacket. Accessories such as tall hats, walking sticks, and boutonnieres were very fashionable.

Image courtesy the V&A

When Victoria became Queen in 1837, she ushered in a new time period called the Victorian Era. This period lasted until her death in 1901. The clothing of this era consisted of corsets, tightly fitted bodies, full skirts, and (later on) bustles. The use of accessories did not diminish. Shawls, jewelry, and parasols were often used. Gloves became an important accessory during this period and were worn during formal and semi-formal occasions.

Dress c. 1840 Fashion Museum, Bath
Dress c. 1870s Kent State University
Dress c. 1890s House of Worth

Men’s fashions did not change considerably as time progressed and a respectable gentleman never went out without his trousers, shirt, waistcoat, cravat (later on necktie), and jacket. Even working class men wore all these garments. Hats, walking sticks, and umbrellas were typical accessories.

Prince Bertie

Victorian-Inspired

In the modern world, the term “Victorian” has come to be associated with “old fashioned” clothing that has a romantic flair. Long flowing skirts, lots and lots of lace, sheer fabrics, large hats, floral prints, pastel colors, high heeled boots- these are all images that come to mind. This is thanks to the Neo- Victorian revival that happened in the 1980s. This fashion trend has its foundations in the 19th century Victorian period and thus are all perfectly suitable for Queen Victoria’s Tea.

Dresses c. 1986 Laura Ashley
1980s Laura Ashley dress!

Hats! Hats! Hats!

If there is one garment that is “Oh- So British,” it is the hat! Large hats, small hats, fascinators, tiaras, capotes, outrageous hats! You name it! They wear it! And oh how they wear it with style!

Kate Middleton in a lovely Victorian inspired hat. Understated elegance is a signature of British style.
WINDSOR, ENGLAND – MAY 19: (L-R)Abigail Spencer and Priyanka Chopra arrive at the wedding of Prince Harry to Ms Meghan Markle at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle on May 19, 2018 in Windsor, England. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

With that being said, we would prefer to avoid Gothic, Lolita, and Steampunk for this event. These are 21st century styles that (while I love) just do not quite fit the atmosphere we would like to create for this particular event!

Left= Neo-Victorian YES!/Right=Gothic NO!
Left= Neo-Victorian YES!/Right=Gothic No!

You can read more about the fashions of The Regency Era and The Victorian Era on our Fashion History pages! More about the event.