Lectures and Presentations
Layer by Layer How Women Dressed in the 1860s presented November 2, 2003 at the annual Victorian Tea by the Stamford Historical Society and Jane Sabatelli
Surrounded by Victorian furnishings and period clothing in her traveling boudoir, Civil War re-enactor Jane Sabatelli greeted members of the audience and quickly transported them back in time to the 1860s.
Demurely dressed in an authentic white cotton dressing gown and wearing a lace day cap, she proceeded to demonstrate how a woman of means would have dressed for an afternoon social event, such as the tea party which followed her presentation.
Whether disappearing behind a folding screen or peering into her floor length mirror to adjust a button or bow, Jane kept up a steady stream of conversation, filled with educational and entertaining information. Clothing, customs and etiquette were discussed as she continued to put on layer upon layer of undergarments and a blouse—then called a ‘waist.’ Finally, an elaborate two-piece dress (a reproduction which she had made herself) went over the hooped skirt and petticoat. A matching bonnet, crocheted purse, mitts and gloves, completed her outfit. Now properly dressed in a traveling mantle and carrying a parasol, Mrs. Sabatelli was ready to venture forth to the tea.
The tea table, in true Victorian fashion, was groaning with a delectable assortment of tea sandwiches, scones, shortbread, gingerbread, molasses cookies, lemon bars, madeleines, spice and lemon tea cakes, and a buttermilk pound cake. Tea was served in fine china cups and saucers loaned for the occasion by Historical Society members. Jane floated effortlessly around the tea table in her seemingly buoyant hoop skirt—just as ladies did in the 1860s.
Margaret Bowen, November 2003
Photos © Nancy Louth, Stamford Historical Society (1)