ohio village

What’s in my bag: 1890s

It’s that time of year. Time to break out the corset, pin up my hair, and go about in my best Gibson Girl style (which, admittedly, isn’t very good. I’ve never been able to master that updo).

Opening day at the village is tomorrow, and it’s time to sort through my basket. I thought I’d show you some of the things I carry with me when I’m at the village.

For those just wandering in off the internet, I volunteer every summer (and sometimes through the winter) at the Ohio History Center, in the Ohio Village. I spend about one day a week or every two weeks, depending on my schedule, playing the role of a suffragette and writer in 1898.

My character, Charlotte Brown, is a working class woman who earns most of her living by writing fiction or journalistic pieces for the local paper (much to the editor’s chagrin).

Most of the things I carry aren’t actually meant to see the light of day, but we’ll get to that in a minute. First, we have the basket.

My mom found this at a flea market and gave it to me when I mentioned my old basket was getting rather beat up, and was too small to hold my notebook or a change of clothes. The liner is a handkerchief I embroidered several years ago, with a beaded edging. It’s got a lid and a handle that folds down, both of which are fantastic.

20170526_163849The basket is actually a promo from Ivory Soap when they had their 125 anniversary back in 2005. Unfortunately, while Ivory was around at the time, I’ve had to get creative in covering up the very non-period text. There’s more writing on the inside of the lid (with the date of 2005), so I make sure to keep it closed when visitors come in, and usually set my book or my embroidery on top of the lid.


Here’s an overview of the contents:


From the left, we have my reticule, notebook and pencil (usually there’s a fountain pen, too, but I haven’t decided which one I’m carrying this year yet), my book, a change of clothes, watch, museum ID, nice handkerchief (I also carry a plain one which get used on anything that might stain), my gloves, tea, letter writing supplies, eyeglass case, and my embroidery project.

My reticule is the same one I’ve been using for years. I crocheted it back when we were still doing the 1860s, and happily it still matches my outfit. I keep the stuff that isn’t meant to see daylight in here, but that I still need to have with me–inhaler, chapstick, allergy meds, wallet, etc.

The notebook is just a faux leather sketchbook I got at Michaels. In the heat of summer, we often have several hours of downtime–perfect for working on my latest manuscript.

I’m a little ashamed at how long it’s taken me to finish reading Penelope’s Progress. It’s a fictional travel journal published in 1898, and that plaid may just be my favorite book cover ever. It’s quite good, but since I only read it at the village I haven’t gotten very far.

My change of clothes is usually museum tee shirt and leggings or shorts and a pair of flip flops–easy to pack, lightweight, and good when I overheat from wearing a corset and petticoats in 98 degree heat and 100% humidity.

I recently inherited a huge collection of embroidered handkerchiefs from my grandma–all hers in the 1950s and 1960s. Some of them are appropriate for 1898 roleplay, but others I’ve set aside to wear with my 1950s garb.

Even when it’s 98 degrees with 100% humidity, gloves are still necessary when a lady goes calling. Eventually, I’ll get a pair of white crocheted gloves for summer, but that hasn’t happened.


20170526_163414I’ve mentioned before that we can write letters to other “residents.” While wax seals aren’t really period correct (the postal system was well established by that point, and stamps were in regular use), a lot of our letters are delivered by “special messenger” (children of patrons), and everyone gets a kick out of seeing my fleur de lis on their letters.

You might notice a distinct lack of knitting/crochet here. I usually do have a project I take, but right now all of my WIPs are very obviously not period correct.

The last things I carry are my embroidery project (in lieu of knitting) and a sewing kit. I’m making a cover for the basket lid. It will be gloriously subversive, in 1898 fashion.

Obviously, this sewing kit (in its very non-period tin) doesn’t leave the basket, but it has everything I need and I sneak out a few pieces in between patrons as needed.


Well, that’s pretty much it. Eventually I’ll show you an updated version of my costume, and the new outfit I’m working on. It needs a visit from our costume guru at the village first, though.


Winners of the book giveaway have been notified. Prizes will be shipping out this weekend. Thanks to everyone who entered!