Here at Locust Grove, we host dozens of weddings each year, but we are especially excited for the wedding being held on July 18 this summer. It’s a homegrown affair, as Ann Croghan, daughter of Lucy Clark Croghan and William Croghan, marries General Thomas Jesup at her family home in 1822. This reenactment will take the place of our ever-popular Jane Austen Festival, which is on a one year hiatus, but we are excited to share the joy of the day with visitors and friends alike! Guests are invited to dress in the attire of their favorite historical period, bring a picnic lunch, and join in all the merriment! More information on the event can be found here, but of course, we’ll be covering all the preparations for the festivities here on the blog!
To that end, I’d like to introduce you to two very important people.
Meet Brandon Vigliarolo and Hannah Stoppel, two of our costumed interpreters who have stepped into the shoes of Ann Croghan and Thomas Jesup. They have been working incredibly hard already to prepare for this momentous occasion, and it only seemed right to highlight all of their wonderful work, beginning with the simply beautiful wedding dress Hannah has created.Hannah Stoppel has been interested in sewing from a young age. Growing up in Northern Michigan, she saw her grandmother, a quilter and “champion knitter” often and as Hannah says, “she was always making beautiful things. We all had quilts, sweaters, mittens that she had made. She even knit potholders out of cotton crochet thread and I will maintain to the ends of the earth that you will never find a better potholder anywhere […] When I was little, she taught me to hand sew. She didn’t sew clothing, but I was interested in garment making from the start, and she taught me what she knew.”
Hannah attended Michigan State University, where she majored in English and Creative Writing with a minor in Theatre. She moved from acting to the costuming department due to her growing interest in costume history, and starting her sophomore year, worked in the costume shop where she learned much of her sewing skills. She also learned wig-making, a trade she still practices for “her daily crust.” In Hannah’s words, “my very favorite thing about studying costumes was costume history. It fascinates me, the way it is a beautiful illustration of the world in fabric. Everything in fashion happens for a reason, even if that reason seems absurd to us looking back. Political, cultural and economic changes are all reflected in silhouette, fabric and embellishment, and like all history, one look only makes sense in the context of the looks that came before it.”
Volunteering as a costumed interpreter at Locust Grove was a natural progression for Hannah’s many skills and interests. She was “sucked to Locust Grove” when she and Brandon moved to Kentucky as she took a job at the Custom Wig Company, and attended last year’s Jane Austen Festival. Hannah and Brandon “loved the house and the property from the moment we got there. We didn’t know anyone here except people we’d met at Locust Grove, we didn’t have anything to do. Basically, we were doomed from the start, and Costumed Interpreting was the perfect place for us.”
We’re so glad to have both of you! Now, to find out more about the wedding and of course, the dress!
What is the background behind Ann’s dress and weddings of the time period?
Weddings were special and exciting of course, but they weren’t the insanity we think of today—no six months of planning, no bedazzled evening gowns, no diamond engagement ring, no two hundred guests. Most people, Thomas Jesup and Ann Croghan included, were married within a few months of their engagement. Most ordinary women would simply have worn their ‘best’ clothes. Wealthy women, like Ann Croghan, would have had a dress made for the occasion, but probably would have worn it after the wedding as well, instead of packing it away like we do today. White, silver and blue were fashionable colors for wedding dresses among the upper class. White was the most popular, but not yet the end-all-be-all wedding dress color.
How did you go about researching and designing the dress?
I started by looking at as many wedding dresses from 1820-1822 as I could find. There aren’t a lot. Since wedding dresses were usually put into the bride’s normal wardrobe after the wedding, many women’s wedding gowns wore out like any other garment, and two hundred years is a long time for any gown to survive, especially one made of fine silk. I ended up using four actual wedding gowns as my inspiration, plus a few non-wedding dresses. My main inspiration came from Mrs. Peder Hjort’s wedding dress from 1822. All of the major details of the dress came from actual wedding gowns.
I was asked to portray Ann back in January, and I started collecting research then. In February, once I had found everything I wanted, I started sketching the design, mainly using Mrs. Hjort’s dress, but pulling in details I liked better from other gowns. When it came to the whole wedding outfit, I found fashion plates from Costume Parisien from the early ‘20s, and was able to pull together the rest of the outfit—most importantly the hairstyles and headdress, which instead of the bonnets fashionable earlier in the Regency, was a veil attached to a lacy base that fit around the elaborate hairdo.
What kinds of materials did you use and where did you get them?
If we’re being honest, the Croghans were very wealthy, and Ann’s dress was probably silk. But I am not very wealthy, so mine is made of fine, sheer cotton. It’s a perfectly period material, but not necessarily what she would have worn. The dress has two layers. The inner layer is a very lightweight blue cotton from Mood Fabrics, the outer layer is sheer Swiss dot, which another interpreter, Melissa Alexander, had massive amounts of and was willing to sell me for very cheap, which was awesome, since I was already planning to use Swiss dot in order to have some extra textural interest. In the end, the most expensive part of the dress is probably the lace, which is a beautiful French cotton edging. You just can’t skimp on lace.
How long did it take to research, design, and make the dress?
Research and design was about two months, although it was a pretty on-and-off thing. I wasn’t sitting down for hours every night. The dress was entirely hand sewn, since we thought it would be interesting and fun to make the dress as it would have been made in 1822. It took 97 hours, and that’s only the hours I spent. I managed to bribe other people to help me with the construction, and I’d estimate they spent another 25 hours. So well over 100 hours all-together.
What was the best part about making the dress?
Well, altering a pattern that significantly and having it all come together without too many hitches is a really great feeling. In terms of the process though, what’s not to love about throwing a big tea party with tons of snacks, and having some of your favorite people come over and eat and chat while you con them into helping you sew this big insane project that you agreed to do?
What was your least favorite part of the project?
I always budget time for a project carefully and give myself goals to reach every day. Thirteen handsewn pintucks were not kind to my hyper-organized schedule. I’m thrilled with how they look, though.
What do you want people to know about historical dressmaking?
When it comes to doing research: trust, but verify. Other people can be great sources of information, but you never know how good their research was, or where they might be making assumptions.
Also, I can’t emphasize enough, the importance of correct undergarments. No matter how beautifully constructed your outer garments are, nothing will ever look right without the right foundation. People who aren’t experts might not be able to put their finger on what’s wrong, but everything will look off. It makes an incredible difference.
How can people learn more about historical clothing?
As with all history, first-hand resources are always best—extant garments, magazines, paintings, drawings and other artifacts from the actual period. Many museums have their collections photographed and up online, but always take date ranges and ensembles with a pinch of salt.
There are lots of books that give an overview of fashion history, and these are a great starting resource, because how can you look at an extant garment and determine an approximate date without knowing the basic characteristics of an era? I really love my copy of the Smithsonian’s book Fashion: The Definitive History of Costume and Style.
If you’re looking specifically for the Regency and/or early Romantic, the entire run of the magazine known as Ackermann’s Repository, which was published from 1809-1829 is online at archive.org. There are fashion plates with descriptions in each monthly issue, and often a more detailed article on current fashions of the day.
What are you looking forward to regarding the historical picnic? Namely, are you excited and why?
I love English Country Dancing, so I’m very excited for the ball, especially since I’ve been so busy lately that I haven’t had a chance to dance in a while! The Kentucky Shakespeare Co. are awesome, so seeing them read selections from one of my favorite authors will be a treat. I also can’t wait to see people’s costumes. I hope there are tons of different eras! Any day that I get to hang out in costume at Locust Grove is a good day!
Hannah, your work is beautiful, and we can’t wait to see it in person on July 18! You can find more on Hannah’s on blog here. Stop by again soon for more updates on wedding preparations!