Focus on Fostoria - Jul2005

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Published on 07/20/05 in the Fostoria Focus
Daughters of Union Veterans prove some fashions never go out of style
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Focus Correspondent

The age of the hoop skirt is no more. But interest in the Civil War era, including ladies fashions, is all dressed up with places to go.
And just to make the point, the local Daughters of Union Veterans, Harriet Brubaker Tent 139 put on a fashion show at Good Shepherd Home on July 14. 2005
Several members of the DUV came to Good Shepherd in full Civil War era dresses and treated residents to a fashion show accompanied by an explanation of ladies’ fashions and a few social customs of the 1860s.
Pat Day emceed the show which was held in Good Shepherd’s new activity area.
The hoop skirt raises the question — why?
“Women weren’t supposed to show any leg or ankle when they walked,” said DUV President Sue Howell. “The hoop made the dress billow out and women looked like they were floating along.”
Sue’s dress is brown with red and green flowers with a removable collar. Her particular style was called a “walking dress” and was always accessorized with white gloves. A real lady never went out without her white gloves.
A lot of clothing laid the foundation for the hoop skirt’s effect. Under the skirt, women wore white socks, pantaloons, the hoop skirt itself and one or more petticoats. The more petticoats a woman wore, the more the skirt billowed out.
Fran Haudenshield wore a yellow taffeta ball gown especially because fellow member Marilyn Stahl likes that dress. Fran’s dress had a bow in the back and pearls all the way around neckline.
Fran demonstrated the subtleties of sitting in a hoop skirt. Women in hoop skirts didn’t just sit down since that would cause the front of the dress to raise up and that would have been considered too revealing.
To sit down, they would reach behind and get ahold of one of the bones of the hoop and back up to the chair to sit down.
In addition, women were careful not to back into a wall or post since that would lift the front of the dress. To walk any distance, the dress was lifted slightly. Ladies never crossed their legs in hoop skirts since that, too, caused the front of the dress to raise up.
Certain features of the dresses offered telltale clues about a woman’s age or station in life. For instance, Fran’s ball gown had three-quarter sleeves.
Such dresses were also worn with quarter length sleeves or no sleeves. Younger, unmarried women might elect a sleeveless dress, but older women usually opted the more conservative, sleeved dresses.
Katie Day wore her green dress with an overskirt. Also known as an “apron,” the overskirt was a decorative touch. Removing it gave the dress a different look and added variety to the wardrobes of women of lesser means.
Until about the age of 16, a girl generally wore her hair down. After that, she wore her hair up underneath her hat.
The purpose of wearing the hair under the hat wasn’t just a fashion statement. It was a practical custom designed to keep a woman’s hair clean in an age when the daily bath or shower wasn’t common.
In fact, that was the origin of the practice of brushing your hair a 100 strokes each night, not to make it silky smooth, but to remove dirt. It was easier to keep hair clean than to try to wash it.
The DUV members make their own dresses, but not all of the items worn by the ladies were reproductions. Inez Pingle wore her grandmother’s bonnet and apron. Inez’s grandmother was the wife of a Civil War soldier veteran. All the work on the apron was hand-done.
Lynn Setser makes all the hats for the group. Frances Daniels’ hat had feathers, a sign you had money. If you didn’t, you decorated your hat bows or other home made decorations.
Similarly, if your dress had lace, it indicated you were well off.
The fashion show was the idea of DUV member and Good Shepherd resident Marilyn Stahl. She even handled some of the introductions. Marilyn, Pat Day and Frances Daniels are sisters.
“This is my old sister Frances,” Marilyn said. “This is my other sister Pat and I’m Marilyn, the pretty one.”
Pat said the introduction was an old story.
“That’s the way she’s introduced us for years,” she said.
Marilyn wore a cotton skirt and blouse of the kind generally worn around the house. In the same vein, Wanda Cousac had an everyday dress that could be worn with a hoop or without.
Sue Howell, president of the Harriet Brubaker Tent, opened the show with a brief description of the organization and its purpose.
The group aims to keep alive the memory and traditions of the Civil War. Harriet Brubaker was a Union Army nurse.
In addition to participating in events such as the Hayes Encampment in Fremont and the West Millgrove Memorial Day observance, the Tent purchases Christmas presents for veterans in local nursing homes as well as the children whose names are on the WFOB Giving Tree.
The DUV also contributes to the Sharing Kitchen and has recently donated to a project of the Hancock County Historical Museum to restore two Civil War flags.
So while the age of the hoop skirt is long gone, the Daughters of Union Veterans have a good time helping it pop back to life every now and then.


All dressed up
Members of the Daughters of Union Veterans held a Civil War-era fashion show July 14 at Good Shepherd Home. The DUV aims to keep alive the memory of the Civil War-era in American history. Putting on the show were, from left, Fran Haudenschild, Inez Pingle, Lynn Setser, Frances Daniels, Linda Gutierrez, Marilyn Stahl, LaVonne Hipsher, Pat Day, Katie Day, Mary Evans, Wanda Cousac and Sue Howell.