Hello Is Too Often a Formality

As few people really care to be inundated with my historical ramblings, I figured I would create a separate outlet that would be entirely optional for those who know me. For those acquainted with me, you know several things to be solid fact. One of those truths, is that I am a tremendous, self professed, inoperable nerd. Not the sort that ever could have tolerated being shoved in a locker, but one of those closet cases with endless scraps of utterly useless information.

That being said, one of my passions is living history. It was inevitable that one day I would be wholly ensnared in that realm and I must say, I thoroughly enjoy it. It's not necessarily something that I can explain, loquacious as I am known to be. Always have I been mesmerized by history. For as long as I can recall. Even as a child, I would enter an historic location and immediately become hypnotized by the essence yet thriving. It is no different now, and my heart is glad for it. The draw is undeniable and I do succumb.

View you these postings with an open heart and open mind. They are meant merely as a conveyance of my passion for history, connections and experiences.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Tip Time! Vulcanite Jewelry and You.

In the realm of reenacting, you come across many resources to better your craft. Or at least, you should be trying to come across many resources to better your craft! Diaries, letters, memoirs, biographies, authentic period handbooks and guides, official battle reports, reenacting websites and blogs, and above all- fellow reenactors. Let's not put all our eggs in the wikipedia basket. (I recently had to make some edits on Sandie's page. Kate Corbin was listed as his second wife *obnoxious scoffing noises*, well, it had to be rectified! Anyway, I digress.)

For my own part, I would like to post this evening about Vulcanite. Vulcanite, also known as Ebonite is a popular material in mourning jewelry. It is composed of hardened rubber and was more cost effective than jet, or even "French Jet" which is actually just black glass. Here, I will impart something I wish someone had told me as soon as I purchased my vulcanite mourning piece. Keep it in a box!!!! For the love of grits, do not leave it exposed to sunlight. Even leaving it on a harmless table in your unsuspecting living room can cause damage. The sunlight will oxidize the material turning it from blackish to a rusty color.

Fear not. As I said, reenacting (if you're blessed) provides great resources and one such resource of mine is a fantastic friend with clever web searching skills! Horridly dismayed by my innocent error, I mentioned it in passing to my friend who provided me with a link to redemption! If your vulcanite piece becomes discolored due to sun exposure, very carefully clean it with Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. I was skeptical at first, but exercising great caution by wetting the sponge just a bit and then wringing it before gently scrubbing, I got to work. Be soft. Be careful. Be ginger. To my astonishment, it cleaned the piece right up. Ah, but the finishing touch. I applied vegetable oil to a paper towel and gently glazed the piece, allowing the glaze to soak in overnight. GOR-GEOUS. The incredible sheen on the piece restored it to a far better condition than I purchased it in. The piece is estimated to be from the late 1860's-1870's. A pretty, yet peculiar find.

Now... should the unthinkable happen... say... you're taking photos of a delicate piece such as vulcanite and it drops onto the floor breaking off a section- you do not need to be disconsolately sobbing on the ground as if you truly ARE a widow. (Though I would hardly blame you.) I was told by an appraiser upon purchasing the piece that super glue is ill advised (should I be looking to convert it into a brooch) but was told regular old Kindergartner tested, teacher approved Elmer's Glue would do just fine. It holds well enough and does not incur further damage to the vulcanite piece.

If you're too nervous to try this solution on your own precious piece, I completely understand. Do more homework and if you come across a better resource than this blog, that's awesome. You need to be comfortable and content with any action you take regarding treasures you've acquired.

Hopefully, you found this helpful. My best advice regarding vulcanite is to treat it like a Mogwai. (You know, Gizmo from Gremlins).
1. Don't get it wet (it'll smell bad)
2. Don't expose it to sunlight (it will kill it)
3. And don't feed it after midnight

Yours in historical reveling,

Belle Von Saxony

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Mourning Belles Are Tolling

Behold the newest creation from 'Belle Von Saxony'! This is my mourning dress for Remembrance Day. Some of you are already aware that this very dress was simply the bane of my existence. Honestly, it was the Murphy's Law of dresses. Whatever could go wrong DID go wrong, about seven times. I battled it out though, cursed, tantrumed, thrust forth a determined chin and kept on. I completed the dress on Halloween. (For the exception of the collar, which I must still acquire on my next flight to Gettysburg).*

Mourning dresses are not meant to be very frivolous, as they are worn by those who are grieving. As such, there is not much razzel dazzel to this latest culmination of guesswork, luck and fabric. It is black cotton with black velvet trim on the bodice skirt and pagoda sleeves. (Big fan of the pagoda, right here. Although they do you no favors when you are trying to maneuver around a table of herb bottles and tonics).

Initially, I wanted to add this fantastic black velvet and braid trim to the bodice. Just a touch of it around the bosom. Well, not like around around, that would be really weird- not to mention WAY off from being period correct. However, when I donned the dress fully for the first time, in a very strange "Levys" kind of way- something decided for me that the bodice should NOT have the very pretty trim. Maybe it will eventually...

The dress is accessorized with black fancy undersleeves with black glass buttons that match the buttons down the bodice. (By coincidence, actually, not design). It should be noted that a few of these photos are missing the undersleeves and another key accessory because halfway through I remembered, 'Oh my, I'm not quite dressed!' Though difficult to see in most shots, I am also sporting a "French Jet" mourning brooch at the collar line. It's mid Victorian and gorgeous. That particular piece haunted me until I finally went back to the antique shop and purchased it.

You may note the locket my persona is clutching in the photos. The image therein is very near and dear to my heart. It is a handsome photo of Lt. Colonel A.S "Sandie" Pendleton. There is no feigned anguish upon my visage, it is genuine sorrow- reflecting upon Sandie's tragic death. He fell at Fisher's Hill September 22nd, 1864, going on to his Savior the following day.

The finishing and fetching touch of the ensemble is the Virginia mourning cockade, a very thoughtful and fitting gift from my very dear friend General Ewell. I feel it draws the whole outfit together and serves a beautiful purpose.

Come Remembrance Day, I will be with my Dixie Roses representing the widows of fallen soldiers during the Civil War. It is a privilege to honor those stalwart women who endured such hardships and loss. Many of these widows did not marry again, choosing to remain in mourning for the rest of their lives. Others, found love once more and set aside their weeping veils. I feel confident speaking for the rest of the ladies of our group in declaring heartfelt pride in showing our appreciation and reverence for the soldiers who have passed. We're not just wearing black on behalf of our personas. We don it for those who have served, those who have sacrificed and those who have fallen.