V280: Our First Day in Colonial Williamsburg

Carriage tour in the morning

Today my mumsies and I enjoyed our first full day in the 18th century, touring the Governor’s Palace, poking our heads in shops, taking a carriage ride, and enjoying a nice dinner at the Kings Arms Tavern.

Mom and me in the Governor’s Palace.

It was nice weather, though toasty in the sun.  I saw many lovely people I knew, and met many new lovely people.

One of the shops we stuck our heads in – the Shoemaker’s.  Fascinating!

I wore the Parisian gown, though it snuck through as English textile today, not French (shhhh! don’t tell anyone!).  For the day it was a la polonaise with a walking-length skirt, that ridiculous froofy hat, and a neckerchief.  For evening, no hat, no neckerchief, and a full-length taffeta petticoat, with the skirt of the gown worn down.

Day vs. Evening with the same gown.

I tried a big hairstyle based on some portraits and fashion plates for the late 1770s.  I thought it came out decently well, and hey, I finally got to make use of one of those little craft store birds, so I’m happy. 🙂

Hair.  The cadogan loop in back is surprisingly hard to create – anybody have any tips?  My rolls weren’t perfectly symmetrical either, but what the hey…practice! Tomorrow is another day, another pouf 🙂

Tomorrow is supposed to be cold and rainy.  I suspect I will be off buying mitts first thing in the morning, but I do love a chilly day in costume…it really takes the edge off stacking on all the layers. 🙂  Until then!…


  • Anne Elizabeth

    October 7, 2012 at 10:43 AM

    You were absolutely beautiful! Great job on the hair (I struggle with the loop myself and will wait alongside for advice…), and I could just steal your hat!
    It's super interesting what a difference the petticoat lengths make – two totally serperate looks.
    You're so lucky your mum joined you! My late mother could never imagine getting into costumes.
    Have fun!

    • Lauren Stowell

      October 9, 2012 at 11:22 PM

      I'm not sure my mom really enjoys costuming, but she's a sport and will get dressed up and play. 🙂 The hat was really easy to make – I used a straw craft hat from Michaels and just sortof piled things onto it until it looked silly enough, hehe

  • Anonymous

    October 7, 2012 at 1:53 PM

    You two looked lovely! And the gown is very versatile! I actually prefer if the day is a bit chilly when in costume. All those layers can't be dreadfully hot! But, here is a tip that worked for me for hot days. If you are wearing a hat that will be securely attached to your head, you can slip and ice pack in there. If you can keep your brains cool, you generally feel better all over. I haven't tried this but I will one day. I've thought that if you need a hair ratt anyway, wouldn't a small gel ice pack work?

  • Unknown

    October 7, 2012 at 5:17 PM

    Wow! The pictures are great!
    I love the one with your profile, you look so beautiful in the 18th century look!
    It´s great that you can change the look of the dress so easily!
    I´m looking forward to more pictures from your trip=)

  • Duchess Milianda

    October 8, 2012 at 11:26 AM

    These photos are amazing and you are truly stunning!

    It's nice to sometimes forget the trials we have today and pretend to go back to a mythical and beautiful time, dressed like this!

  • AuntieNan

    October 9, 2012 at 3:50 PM

    Oh my gosh the gown two ways — GREAT idea, and I bet those authentic gals did that kind of thing a lot, as they probably had to "pack lite…"
    Your Mom looks like she stepped out of a Merchant Ivory flick!
    Thought the Cadogan loop thingy looked great, too! I've cheated for stage use and encased one in the most barely-there hairnet I could find (one that matched the hair color), which couldn't be seen, except up close of course. It might just work, especially if you are encountering a windy day!
    Your poofs and rolls!! How did you do them so perfectly in the back?? WOW.
    Keep these photos coming,
    Best, Nancy N

    • Lauren Stowell

      October 9, 2012 at 11:26 PM

      Ah, a hair net! I noticed the wigs in the wigmaker's shop all had hairnets on them. I should have asked about them, if they were intended to stay on or were there just for storing the wigs. It makes perfect sense for the loop – the one I wore was hairsprayed and temporary color sprayed (for the "powder") rather aggressively and was sortof stuck together in that position, but I wore it very high up so it didn't brush the back of the dress, which would have destroyed it. I wonder how women in the 18th c. accomplished the loop…hrm…

  • Unknown

    October 10, 2012 at 1:03 AM

    Do you have a tutorial on getting your hair into this style? I started attempting something last night (before seeing this) and I gave up after about 10 minutes and just went online and bought a wig. Is it maybe possible to have too much hair accomplish this 🙂

    • Lauren Stowell

      October 10, 2012 at 3:42 AM

      I started to photograph the makings of this hairstyle, but I don't have a complete set of photos, so I'll have to do it again. I think it *is* possible to have hair that is too long to wield into this style. My hair is chin length and could be longer, so I think there is a sweet spot.

      I start with curling the hair – rag-curled it this time – then teased it all up. In the middle of the top of my head I stacked two bump-its and two long spongy rat rolls you can buy at the beauty supply (sometimes they come in donut shapes), and took some of the hair behind it, teased up, and pulled it over the structures, towards the front. The front of the hair then went up and over towards the back – that's the pouf.

      The mullet that's left at the back was divided length-wise, like for pigtails, and formed into two rolls on each side, using hair rats to give the rolls body. False rolls were pinned on top of the stacks of rolls on each side (you could add as many as you like), and a false hank of ponytail hair made up the cadogan loop.

      The whole thing was sculpted with very strong pomade, and sprayed to death with hairspray as well as white spray-on color, like you buy for Halloween. It gives a nice powdered look, and also acts as pretty intense hairspray.

      I know this will be much easier to follow with pictures – I will put together a tutorial when I get back. 🙂

  • Joni

    October 15, 2012 at 6:55 PM

    Love these pictures! My husband has decided that we need to go back to Colonial Williamsburg for spring break, now that the kids are old enough (we hope!) to learn from it. And I realized that if I don't make myself an outfit, I will die!! I'm an obsessive historical sewer but only for dolls – I've never made anything for myself – but I could literally not fall asleep last night dreaming of the possibility of stays, and pocket hoops, and a striped robe a polonaise… and shoes!

    Anyway, I love your blog, I've been reading it for ages, and as much as I would love to pester you with questions, I will just ask you one: Is there anything I should know about attending Colonial Williamsburg in costume? Their website is pretty vague (and I'm guessing the costumes they rent are not that nice!) but they do have costumes to rent for adults and not just kids so I guess it is okay?

  • sam b

    January 14, 2018 at 4:31 AM

    After reading a little about Japanese hairstyles of period courtesans and geisha, I'm wondering if Georgian ladies (or their hairdressers) also used wax to make the loops hold their shape. It's also my best guess for the gravity-defying styles of the 1830's, but I'm wondering if some hair-colored wire mesh or stiff netting could be hidden in the loops to help give them more body.

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