Accessories for the Passage to India

As it is in modern times, accessories in history were of great importance. This did not apply to just the ladies, but also to the gentlemen.  As we are creating these costumes, we are finding that it is the accessories that have the greatest cost.

Ladies attired in cotton chintz dresses and properly accessorized

Ladies attired in cotton chintz dresses and quite properly accessorized

A lady, for example, required footwear, underpinnings, jewelery, gloves, headgear and other accessories.  A “proper” lady, in many eras of history, would not have left her home without her head covered, and morning hats or caps differed vastly from evening ones.

Comfortable flat footwear

Comfortable flat footwear

A lady’s underpinnings could include a chemise, a corset, stays, petticoats, bloomers, hoops, panniers, pockets and stockings—often all at once.  She would not go out without gloves, and footwear could range from slippers to sturdy boots.  She might have worn a shawl, cape or a coat and carry a reticule.  Her jewelry would be carefully chosen to match her outfit, and might be simple or extravagant depending on whether it was worn during the day or in the evening.  It would surely include a necklace, bracelet, earrings, possibly a brooch and certainly a ring or two.  She might wear hair decorations, would never be without a fan, and in the day would most likely have had her parasol handy to protect her porcelain white skin from the sun, and heaven forbid, a tan.

Very pretty pearl, pink coral and shell clasp necklace

Very pretty pearl, pink coral and shell clasp necklace

So when I thought about how I would accessorize the Passage to India, I had to take a few important things into account. I needed to focus on minimizing our costs, whether I would accessorize for the day or evening, and whether it would be for the indoors or outdoors.  I also had to do a little research to familiarize myself with the accessories of that time period.  I decided to start from the inside, with intentions to work my way out.

For historical underpinnings I’ve opted for a four hoop under skirt rather than the panniers.  It will give me the fullness I want since the skirts of the gown are fairly wide and I want the round look, not the square one that panniers give.  I’ve also got myself a handy dandy pocket made of muslin and grosgrain ribbon which simply ties around the waist and can be accessed through the side slits in the petticoat. Great to carry a bit of cash, ID, lipstick and so on.  The pocket means I can go without a reticule and is really quite unnoticeable, as it’s under the skirts.

The Pocket

The Pocket

I have decided on a pair of lace fingerless gloves, since I will be out of doors but I don’t want the restriction of gloves on my fingers.  I found myself a nice pair of flats for my feet, (I don’t want to sacrifice comfort in that department) and will wear a shawl if the day is cool.  I’ll have my ivory parasol to shield me from the modern sun’s harmful rays, and my vintage ivory fan in hand.

Pink and Ivory Accessories

Pink and Ivory Accessories

I will wear a pearl and pink coral necklace and bracelet, pearl earrings.  I want to  wear my lovely antique shell cameo brooch, if I can secure it to my dress properly so I won’t fear of  losing it. Pearl, coral and shell jewelery was very popular at the time, especially for day wear.  It was arriving—as were fine fabrics, tea and other trade goods—on board the ships coming in from the east.

My beautiful antique Cameo brooch

My beautiful antique Cameo brooch

Lastly, and very importantly, I’ll have to look for a hat. Since I have decided to be a proper lady, I must have my head covered.  Now, I don’t really like myself in a hat and it doesn’t do a thing for the “do” but I’ll have to see what I can come up with.

Well, I think I have it almost in hand!

Phew, I hope I can carry all that stuff, I don’t suppose I’ll have any room to go shopping…unless I bring one of the servants that is…


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