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Haverhill Workshop to Explore Victorian-Era ‘Embellishments’

Haverhill — The Victorian age brought an explosion of color and design to fashion. With the advent of sewing machines and artificial dye, along with an increase in pattern availability, being fashionable was much easier for women to do.

“It was a time when fashion was more accessible than it was before,” said Astrida Schaeffer, a costume historian and author of the book Embellishments: Constructing Victorian Detail.

Schaeffer, who has made reproduction clothing for nearly 30 years and has also served as the assistant director of the University of New Hampshire Museum of Art, will demonstrate embellishment techniques on Nov. 10, at 1 p.m., at Alumni Hall in Haverhill, in the form of a workshop on Victorian Christmas ornaments.

“This is a way to give people a taste of it and give them something they can take home and apply further,” Schaeffer said.

“I designed some hand-sized ornaments that use these techniques that let people experiment.”

While sewing machines can be used for the sort of pleat variations, ruching and embellishments Schaeffer will be teaching, the ornaments will be sewn by hand.

“By hand you can control things better in some ways,” she said. “You’re going more slowly so you have more control over the fabric.”

The use of fabric color and texture also will be taught in the workshop. “Part of what people will be exploring is the combination of textures,” Schaeffer said. “For a Christmas ornament, that makes sense.”

When gowns were designed in the Victorian era (roughly the reign of Queen Victoria, from 1837 until 1901), special attention was paid to how the texture and color of fabric looked in moving light, such as candlelight and oil lamps, Schaeffer said.

“I love the fit of the clothes. Everything is just so beautifully put together,” she said. “It really is about style and about details in a way we don’t have anymore.”

Preregistration is required for the Alumni Hall event and can be done by calling the UNH Cooperative Extension at 603-787-6944 or emailing kathleen.jablonski@unh.edu. There’s a $5 fee for supplies.

If special accommodations are needed, the extension office must be notified before 10 days prior to the event.

Following the workshop, Schaeffer will give a talk on her book, which will also be available for purchase.

Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3305.