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I grew up in Colorado at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, then lived in Denmark and traveled throughout Europe before coming back to Colorado. I have two adult sons, whom I cherish. I started my writing career as a columnist and investigative reporter and eventually became the first woman editor of two different papers. Along the way, my team and I won numerous state and several national awards, including the National Journalism Award for Public Service. In 2011, I was awarded the Keeper of the Flame Lifetime Achievement Award for Journalism. Now I write historical romance and contemporary romantic suspense.

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Seductive Musings

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The story of a gown



Before I tell you about this gown, let's talk about poll results.

It turns out, my friends, that you are greedy women! I think that's fantastic! You should be!

The vast majority of you — a full 45 percent — answered "All of the above" in my Valentine's Day, indicating that you wanted world peace, chocolate & flowers, wild sex, dinner at a restaurant, lingerie and a gift card to the bookstore from your honey on Valentine's Day. Not too surprisingly, the next most popular choice was "Wild sex," chosen by 25 percent of you, while 20 percent just wanted a gift card to the bookstore. "Dinner at a restaurant" and "Chocolate & flowers" each garnered 5 percent of the vote.

So, leaving world peace out — that was a long shot anyway — who among you got what you wanted? What has he done for you lately?

And now for something completely different...

The gown in the image above is an authentic 19th-century gown. In fact, it's a very special 19th-century gown. It's Mary Todd Lincoln's inaugural gown.

It was made by my great-great aunt.

My grandmother's aunt is descended from nobility who gave up their holdings and left the Madeira Islands because they were being persecuted for being Protestant. They came to the United States during the Civil War and settled in Springfield, Illinois, where most of my family still live and where I was born.

What skills do the well-brought-up daughters of minor nobility possess? How can they make a living in this world? Well, some of them are good with the needle, as my great-great-aunt was. She was eventually chosen to make this gown, one reason my family has always felt a tie to Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln. (The other is being from Springfield, of course.)

My mother has the leftover material from the making of Mary Todd Lincoln's inaugural gown. It's on a national historic registry of significant thingys. I've seen it. I've held it. And it's funny for me to see the actual gown and know that the piece of material we have in my mother's closet was once connected to what I see in this picture and that my family had a connection, no matter how minor, to the Lincolns.

On Monday, we celebrate President's Day in honor of two truly great men, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. I just thought I'd share that personal tidbit of my own American history with you.

Don't forget to check out the new poll!

11 comments:

Barbara said...

That is amazing! How neat is that? It's a beautiful gown. I love all things historical, it's just so fasinating.

I'm hoping to bring my girls to Colonial Williamsburg one day soon.

Debbie H said...

That is so neat! I went with my sister a few Christmas back to a party called "Christmas at the Mansion" in Midland, TX. They had beautiful gowns displayed and the women were so tiny both in body size and height. I'm 5'3" and I would have towered over the ones that wore those dresses. LOL
One of my favorite things to do when on vacation is to find museums and mansions to go wander around. I love history!

Amanda said...

That is so cool!!! I love those gowns they are so beautiful!!

I have to say I wasn't surprised with the results of the poll, my honey was very good to me for valentines so I can't complain about what I got especially seeing as he watched Gone with the Wind with me!

Debbie_D said...

Yes I got my wish for Valentin's day, Wild Sex (and lots of it hehehe)
It's a beautiful dress and a wonderful link to history for your family. I can only claim that I'm descended from the Acadians in Nova Scotia and possibly from a French King's head gardener (haven't verified that one yet though). My family has traced my maternal grandfather's family baci to the 1400's. Fascinating...

Ronlyn said...

That's really cool! The gown is beautiful, can can you imagine doing all of that stitching by hand? My MIL does civil war reenactments and I've helped her with one of her gowns, as well as my mother make a couple of her historical costumes (although I can't remember why my mom was making hers) and I could never do all of that by hand. I get finger cramps just thinking about it. (I did quite a bit of costuming during my theatre degree).

And, since you asked, yes, I did get everything I wanted for Valentines Day. But I was one of the few who didn't vote for "All of the Above" so....LOL

Happy Pres. Day!

Daz said...

SO SO SO SO SO cool!!!!

Christi said...

The dress is amazing. Where is it displayed? I know there is a museum in DC across from Ford's Theater, is it there? or in the Smithsonian? Thank you for sharing that cool tidbit about your ancestors too.

Linda A. said...

A stunning gown and a fascinating bit of family history. I once took a clothing history course and stepped into a 150-year-old Victorian gown. I'm only four foot ten so the length was right, but no way would it have ever closed around me. To think some women had their lower ribs removed so they could lace into those dresses - with the risk of surgery in those days! Is the piece of fabric you have still in good shape?

alba said...

Pamela what an amazing link to someone in history
The gown is stunning.
I'm sorry I missed the pole on V-Day I spent the day with my DH on your side of the pond (Port Huron)It has one of the prettiest downtown shopping areas close to the border.
thanks for the treat I am almost finished Morgans book although I am slowing down I hate for it to end (Big Sigh)
Congrats to the winners.
cherrio the noo....Ann

Hi, Barbara — I would love to see Colonial Williamsburg, too. That's where my Kenleigh/Blakewell stories start. Your girls will really enjoy it! I wish my parents had taken us on more trips when we were little, but what can you do with four kids???

The dress is pretty isn't it? I wish I had a closet full of such gowns! I swear I'd wear them to work!

Hi, Debbie — How fun to see an exhibit like that! I've seen some in a textile museum in Denmark, some of which were made with gold thread. The preservation of those gowns was tricky because the gold endured while the fabric aged, and the thread threatened to cut the dresses apart. And they WERE short. Think how big I would have seemed. I'm 5-10! They'd think I was a Viking or a man with breasts in a really fantastic Baroque wig.

Hi, Amanda — I'm so glad your honey was good to you on Valentine's Day. He's a good guy to watch GWTW, but then think of all the stupid movies men make us watch. They might as well all be called, "Drive Fast and Blow Things Up."

Hi, Debbie D — Interesting that you have real Cajun going on in your family tree. I do mention the Acadians and their terrible plight in UNTAMED. An act of "ethnic cleansing" on the part of the British. And really cool that you can trace your family so far back! I know on my mother's father's side that we can go back to 1610 when the second wave ships landed at Jamestown. That's when my first Anglo ancestors arrived. The Cherokee ones were already here, obviously.

Hi, Ronlyn — I thought the same thing the first time I saw it. And, actually, while I was posting this, I was trying to imaging doing all that piping. YIKES! I quilt, and that takes ages, but a gown like this??? The fabric is very thick, lush velvet (I've held our scrap), so it would have taken some energy to sew.
As for V-Day, I'm fairly certain I know how YOU voted. LOL!

Hi, Daz — Thanks so much! It's really fun to have a historical connection to something real like this.

Hi, Christi — You know, I'm actually not sure where it's displayed. The Smithsonian, I think. Then again, maybe it's in Springfield. I've been both places. We used to visit Lincoln's Tomb and Lincoln's Home every summer when we went to visit my grandparents. The bed in his bedroom seemed so high off the floor to a little kids. :-)

Hi, Linda A — I think if there were two of you, I could wear you as earrings. I'm a whole foot taller! I always wanted to be petite and dainty. No such luck. Fun that you got to try that dress on. That would be so fantastic! I got to wear my mother's wedding gown -- when I was 9. She's only 5-4. Yes, the fabric we have is in very good shape. It's still very soft and shiny. It's fun to hold it and look at this photo. Kind of a "wow" moment.

Hi, Alba — Are you finished with Untamed yet? Sorry that it ends! There are some extras on this blog (deleted scenes), and "The Ballad of Morgan MacKinnon" is on my Web site on the Fun Stuff & Extras page. It sounds like you had a really wonderful Valentine's Day! I'm glad you had a great trip. I've never been to Port Huron.

OK, so I want to make sure that EVERYONE understands that when I ask how you feel about the hero taking "matters" into his own hands, I'm asking about self-pleasuring. I'm not talking about him being assertive. LOL! I just want to make SURE!

People got to wear so much cooler clothes in those days, although I suppose if we had to stuff ourselves into corsets we'd hate it.

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