Red and Black Victorian Walking Gown – Ensemble


I made this striking gown to sell in my Etsy shop, but as soon as my daughter Shara saw it,  it became hers. I would say it has “attitude”.  She looked so stunning in it that I had to give it to her, and in retrospect, perhaps I made it for her without realizing that I was doing so!  Shara and her husband like to do a little Steam Punk once in a while and this gown lends itself  to that, as well as to a strictly Victorian look. Shara therefore considers it a pretty versatile addition to have in her historical wardrobe.SLR_2_5600-2 It did look wonderfully festive when it was worn to the Victorian Christmas at the O’Dell House Museum.

For accessories, I bought a plain black, buckled, ladies felted top hat to go with it. I decorated it with red lace, black french netting, a few cocky feathers, a black net train and a big red rose. It also has a black parasol and matching reticule. Shara also wears netted black crocheted gloves, and a black beaded choker. Black brocade Victorian style booties complete this ensemble.

IMG_0014-002This Victorian walking gown consists of a polonaise and a walking skirt. I find it has a French feeling to it and  I also like it as a riding habit. The skirt, which is made from a black embroidered taffeta, has one large ruffle and is trimmed in black and red venise laces and satin ribbon. It is slightly trained at the back.

SLR_2_5437-002The polonaise, is made in a rich blood red and black shot striped taffeta and is fully lined and boned. It incorporates both the bodice and the over-skirt and has a nice large bustle, as well as a pleated basque at the back.  It is trimmed with matching black venise lace, tulle lace at the neckline and sleeves, and  ruched black satin ribbon. I had about a half yard of a very long, red, 8 inch venise lace, which matched the red of the taffeta exactly, so I added that to the front of the polonaise as well. I find it really stands out against the black of the skirt. This bodice closes at the front with black satin fabric self made buttons.

I’m planning to make a variation of this ensemble again as it is so striking. I have more of the striped taffeta, not only in the red but in a blue as well.

Don’t forget to click on the pictures to get the full size and effect!SLR_4_2486-002


A Victorian Christmas at the O’Dell House Museum

SLR_2_5614-003The O’Dell House Museum is situated at 136 – George Street, in the beautiful and historic town of Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia. This very interesting Victorian house Museum, circa 1869, is now owned and operated by the Annapolis Heritage Society. Graced with beautiful period furnishings, art, photographs, and history, as well as a Genealogy Centre and Archives, this is a pretty special place.4460170492_4bb3e7fd52_z-001

Each year, “A Victorian Christmas” is hosted here, an event that is held over a period of two weekends in late November and/or early December. Two Christmases ago, Man The Capstan decided to attend. (yes I know this blog was a long time in coming, but better late then never), and did we ever enjoy it! For this outing, we donned…what else…but our Victorian bustle gowns! Our Royal Navy Captain and Marine Major, altered slightly, the way they wore their uniforms. The beauty of them is that they can be worn in several differing ways, which really helps when using them for different time periods.

SLR_2_5637-001The ambience, warmth, and beautiful period Christmas decor of the O’ Dell house, make this event well worth attending. The heritage society does a wonderful job of it, spending days collecting Christmas greenery from the surrounding woods, and then countless hours more in decorating the house with these natural treasures.

photo_1272856_resize-001Boughs, wreaths and bouquets of evergreen, holly, boxwood, moss and pine cones fill the house, adorning each doorway, staircase and mantle. Delightful touches such fruit pyramids on the dining table and sideboard, and dried floral bouquets brighten each corner of the house. An old fashioned Christmas tree with homemade and antique ornaments graces the lovely parlour. The golden flicker of candlelight, the fragrance of evergreen, and scents of baking and apple cider assail your senses as you enter. There is much laughter and conversation, and singing of the  traditional carols. You really feel as though you have stepped back in time! What a treat! The crew of Man The Capstan truly appreciated the efforts made and were definitely in our element.SLR_2_5624-001

Once a thriving Tavern and Inn, the O’Dell House was owned and built by Corey O’Dell in the 1860s. Corey who was born in St. John, New Brunswick on June 27, 1827, arrived in Nova Scotia in about 1849. He was a Pony Express Driver for the Kentville-Victoria Beach part of the Halifax-Victoria Beach run. This service was short lived and he returned to New Brunswick the following year.

He came back to Nova Scotia in the late 1850s with his wife and family to live in Annapolis Royal. There he purchased the property where the O’Dell house now stands. The house has fourteen rooms, including the tavern, which later became a grocery store, six bedrooms, dining room, front parlour and kitchen. It is situated near the waterfront, a short distance from the wharves in an ideal location for trade. Corey died March 14, 1887, a wealthy man.

SLR_2_5650-001The O’Dell House Museum and the Genealogy Centre are open year round.

The open hours for the O’Dell House Museum and the Genealogy Centre are:

Summer (from late May to early September):
Every day – 9 am to 5 pm
Monday to Saturday – 1 pm to 4 pm
(weather permitting; a call ahead is advised). Closed Sundays.

Admission for the O’Dell House Museum and the Genealogy Centre is by donation; the suggested amount is $3.00.

A Capstan Christmas

A Merry Capstan Christmas

First off, Merry Christmas! We here at Man the Capstan hope everyone is having a warm, healthy and happy holiday. Here at Admiralty House, the entire crew assembled to celebrate the holiday season. Shara and Tim arrived sometime Christmas Eve day, and having gotten off of work at around noon, I was able to spend two days eating, drinking, and generally having a good time with them and our parents. An ideal Christmas!

It has been two months since our last Capstan update, and that is terribly unfortunate. Sometimes life moves pretty quick out here, and as this is an extracurricular hobby, it often takes second place to the more important stuff—like work, school, family, etcetera! As for myself, school has been absolutely hectic. Being in my fourth year of a history degree, I’ve existed within a textbook for the better part of the semester (the other part was in class!) Working part-time just serves to exacerbate everything. I imagine that with a second semester already beginning to rear its ugly head, the chaos will most certainly resume.

Captain Edward Martin

All in all, however, the Capstan crew have been busy, especially Shara and Tim. It is no secret that they are expecting a child soon (her due date is very very close), and a great deal of free time has been spent preparing for that special event.

In spite of all this, however, the Capstan project remains on course and proceeds undeterred!

With 95% of all the uniforms complete, the only remaining task is the outfitting of each reproduction with the small, yet incredibly significant accessories; items like sword belts, weapons, pistols, parasols, footwear, sashes, crossbelts, leather goods, and so on and so forth. By virtue of their peculiarity, these items can sometimes be quite costly. While certainly not necessary to the completion of the project, they do tend to add a degree of quality, beauty and authenticity. For this reason we continue to look for additional items to add to the costumes.

And what better time than Christmas? Christmas Day unveiled an assortment of accessories to be used by members of the crew, which has had the effect of generating a great deal of enthusiasm for the project.

Steve's new officer sash

Our Royal Marine, Steve, received a number of very important items for his uniform. Perhaps the most poignant was the sword—forged overseas, and bearing a practical, yet elegant appearance, the blade sits in a real metal scabbard with welded hanging rings. The grip is bound in black leather and what seems to be a brass cord. The actual hilt itself is solid brass. Gifted along with the blade were two black leather hangers, that can be affixed to any belt and worn at the side in the proper fashion. The Marine also received the symbolic  sash of an officer—a ten-foot length of maroon silk that ties around and off at the hip, accompanied with two tassels to finish off the addition. Many officers in the Marines (and quite a few other services, such as the infantry and artillery) wore these sashes as an indicator of rank and station. To accent such an accessory, the Marine also received a replica English pistol (the blunderbuss variety), stamped 1760. The pistol was manufactured in Spain, and has the weight, appearance and feel of the real thing. Like any good British officer, the pistol looks excellent tucked into the maroon sash—at the ready, just in case.

The brass guard on Tim's sword

Tim, one of our naval officers, also received a few items for his uniform. Like Steve, he received a sword, hangers and a pistol. The sword, however, is markedly different. Though the same in length and shape, Tim’s sword is adorned with a different grip. The hilt itself, still solid brass, features a wood grip (which looks quite classy with the brass). The hilt also has a more elaborate brass guard, giving it a unique character when compared to Steve’s sword (which has a standard brass guard). Tim also received a pistol, though quite different from Steve’s. Stamped 1780, the replica is intended to illustrate a more modern device than the blunderbuss variety, featuring a more complicated flintlock mechanism, and a smoother, narrower and longer barrel. It’s larger and heavier than the Marine’s blunderbuss, which suits the naval uniform quite well.

The Royal Navy belt buckle

The first naval uniform created—the one I have the pleasure of wearing—received a few extras as well. Just like Tim, I received an English pistol (in fact, it’s identical to Tim’s, as they were part of a duelling set). The pistol is fortunate enough to tuck into a brand new sword belt, an item I’ve been trying to find and purchase for many months! The belt is of an incredible quality. Featuring a gold-plated brass buckle and fittings, black buff leather (handstitched), this item is absolutely stunning. The belt itself is regulation, seeing current and past use in the contemporary Royal Navy. The belt was purchased from a company in Saddleworth, England, called Military Matters. If you are ever in need of a belt, and you can find one there, do not hesitate—you will not be disappointed.

The first Man the Capstan! Exhibit Insight features the belt, in stunning 720p resolution. It may take a moment to load on a slow connection, in which case you may wish to navigate to the video (by clicking on the embedded player), and watch the normal quality version.

Captain William Marinus

The ladies also received a welcome gift! Johanna stumbled upon a pair of pistols online that would be perfect for the ladies here at Man the Capstan. Significantly smaller than the aforementioned English pistols, these smaller flintlock firearms feature a replica ivory, engraved grip and a shortened barrel (all the more convenient to stow-away for emergency purposes!)  These items were a real hit, and will be fun to add along as the crew heads out in costume.

Excitement is growing as more work is done on the reproductions. There are still some items that are needed, including about ten metres of gold lace that is still on backorder. There is no question, however, that the uniforms and gowns are wearable and presentable. Tall Ships 2009 looms ahead, though I am sure we will find an excuse far sooner than that to head on out again!

For more videos of Man the Capstan, be sure to head on over to our new YouTube Channel (subscribe!)—you’ll find an assortment of videos, with more on the way!

Marching (in step, no less!)