Fiona is currently 12 years old, exactly the dividing line between being a child and being a woman. This has not changed since woman was born. In the 1860’s at this age, Fiona would be preparing for marriage in just a few years, and would be working alongside the women doing the same things they did in preparation. She would also pull the full load of a woman, not a child.
Interpretation of this character is challenging because as the young woman changes, so would her fashion, undergarments, behavior and life change. That is her story; how that would be the same, different, or otherwise today versus yesteryear.
On the sidewalk
Fiona’s intent is to work alongside women and other appropriate historic interpreters at select forts and museums in the western United States, notably portraying Wyoming, South Dakota, and Nebraska where she currently lives. She will depict the role and activities of a teen in that era, including describing the differences between her changing roles as child into womanhood within and without her family.
Continue below for Fiona’s character and FINISHED PROJECT
In reality, Fiona would wear a cast off corset of a older sister or mother. Our corsetierres had debate over how modern, how embellished, how structured it would be. The final decision was to follow extant examples of a lightly boned, age 12-14 corset that would be very simple in structure – more of a modesty vest than giving structure.
It is sized to fit with adjustment to lacing to Fiona’s anticipated size and development for one year; for that reason there are gussets at bust and hips to provide as her bust and hips widen which will create a narrower waist. The narrow waist being the focus of this era, and this corset being to move the organs early in life to accommodate such, this corset can be laced tighter as she grows.
Thus it is made of white couteil with couteil lining for strength in lacing and durability. Absolute correct would be gray with red trim and binding, but we are keeping it simple with some machine embroidery and white on white. Fiona will be charged with getting it sweaty and dirty so it doesn’t look so “shiny and new”.
The modification from extant is that we will had a flat and straight busk at center front so she can get in and out of it with no or minimal assistance since back lacing will stay relatively straight for the first year to accommodate her child’s straight body for awhile.
Corset Final Notes: A change of character resulting from the design of the corset
Fiona’s final fit is for a girl 12-14 years old and a bit more developed than she is at the moment. This is fine.
The addition of Fancywork – very appropriate to her era, caused us to re think her character. A western pioneer girl would most likely only have a reworked corset handed down by mother or sister; not the fancy work we have built.
The quality of the work leads us to modify the overall undergarments design to be more fancy too; the petticoat, chemise, and drawers will have some fancy work.
In Fiona’s real life, her family has married into a family from Alabama; complete with accents, deep southern history, and stories galore. Her pioneer is going to come from this heritage. Depicting 1866, just after the Civil War, Fiona’s story will be that her family was very wealthy and owned a plantation in Alabama prior to the war. It will be a family with several generations of Americans preceding the war, so that they have relatives in the West.
Upon the loss of their livelihood and all that they owned, the family picks up and moves to Nebraska where they have family already settled. They carry more than the typical family; thus Fiona may take some precious toys such as her homemade doll, extra petticoats, and some clothing other pioneer girls would not be able to take.
This is because they will travel with a caravan of known people – people who share the load and the burden of the journey. For Fiona, that is starting all over again on an exciting journey, because all she really remembers of her life was the time leading up to the war and the war and sorrow itself. She looks forward to a bright new day.
Corded & Tucked Petticoat
Antique Cameo Pin
Antique Lace Collar
An AUTHENTIC girl’s 1800’s cotton “broderie” collar is removeable, which is good, since Fiona had already outgrown it in 3 months. We will replace it with an adult version.Inset side pockets were a new invention in the 1860’s because the skirts could finally hide the bulk. Prior to that women hung pockets around their waists or underbusts. As with bodice linings and hem facings, these early pockets were made of scraps of fabric from other projects and often did not match at all.
Silk Fanchon Bonnet
Just for fun, we had made this “for ornament only” 1860’s Fanchon hat of silk with silk plaid ribbon. Faith, our tech crew member, wore it during the March fashion show!