Yesterday's styles in today's teaching

Jonathan Russell
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Victorian-era dressmaking makes a return to Southern Labrador

The Point Amour Lighthouse is returning to its roots in 19th-century fashion.

The provincial heritage site was visited by Linda Badcock, who creates vintage clothing, including costumes worn by interpreters at the local lighthouse, for heritage sites across the province.

She was in Southern Labrador from June 24-26 to give instruction in Victorian-era dressmaking and to help create children's clothes to be used at the provincial heritage site.

Eleven-year-old Kaitlyn Davis models a pinafore (apron) worn over dresses during the 19th century. Photo by Jonathan Russell/The Northern Pen

Point Amour -

The Point Amour Lighthouse is returning to its roots in 19th-century fashion.

The provincial heritage site was visited by Linda Badcock, who creates vintage clothing, including costumes worn by interpreters at the local lighthouse, for heritage sites across the province.

She was in Southern Labrador from June 24-26 to give instruction in Victorian-era dressmaking and to help create children's clothes to be used at the provincial heritage site.

"Clothing had to be strong and sturdy because people didn't have as much of it, it wasn't easy to come by, and you had to wash it by hand, so it had to be well-made and stand up to hard use," Badcock explained.

"Dresses were often made, for example, with piping, strengthening the seams. It was a very common feature in clothing of that time. It adds to the sturdiness."

On June 25, the group was working on chemise pieces, cotton garments worn beneath dresses, and pinafores, used basically as an apron, which children wore over their dresses to keep clean.

Badcock tries to collect fibres used during that period: cotton - low-maintenance and breathable during the summer - linen and wool.

She learned the history and design of garments over her 17 years on the job, having studied reference books, although she has no formal training in sewing or costumes.

"I guess you could call it a passion," she laughed. "It's been an interest of mine and I've learned.

L'Anse au Loup's Hazel O'Brien, one of the women sewing at the site, learned how to sew by doing.

O'Brien, originally from Middle Bay, Que., was the oldest of 12 children, and learned how to sew when she was 12-years-old.

"I know I still got a lot to learn," she laughed, adding that the styles and fabrics she learned from are similar to the work she's doing with Badcock.

"We learned about the kinds of materials that they used, different styles," O'Brien said. "It's not a lot of difference from what I learned as I was growing up; I learned the old ways. My mom taught me, I learned the old ways from her."

Badcock wondered if there was much for O'Brien to learn.

"I don't know if Hazel has learned anything because she was a cracker-jack sewer before she got here," Badcock said.

Badcock said the provincial system of sites restores the periods between 1812 to 1939.

"It's good to have a look and see what kinds of patterns were being used in fabrics at particular times," she said, adding that she uses old photographs to recreate the style for interpreters and stage performances.

The style between Labrador and Newfoundland is similar, although there are subtle differences, she added.

"Families that lived at this lighthouse relied heavily on Montreal, because it was a Canadian lighthouse, so they probably had a stronger tie with Canada than people on the Island of Newfoundland. Also, the other thing is that lightkeepers were generally perhaps the more privileged class of society than a lot of the people, because they had a salary and a predictable income, which the fishermen didn't necessarily have," she said.

The Point Amour Lighthouse is hoping to hold a fashion show mid-July to showcase the 19th-century fashion.

Geographic location: Southern Labrador, L'Anse au Loup, Island of Newfoundland Middle Bay Labrador Montreal Canada

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