The Festival is held every year to celebrate the Victorian history of this small town along the Puget Sound. When the plans for a train coming through fell through in the 1890s, commerce died and the city was almost abandoned. But the remaining Victorian-style buildings along Water Street, and many Victorian homes in the area were left behind.
The Port Townsend Historical Society began this Festival in an effort to bring its Victorian heritage back to life. In the past the events have mainly been indoors, due to inclement weather, and focused on lectures and demonstrations of the town’s history. Over the years, in a change of hands, these events have evolved but one has remained, the fashion show. I have been proud to participate in the fashion show since 2012, and was requested to take it over in 2017 when the previous director retired. With my contacts in the various costume groups in the area, and with the help of Mara Perry, Agnes Gawne, Patricia Francisco, and Julie & Terry Cheetham, of the Puget Sound Costume Guild, we helped raise the bar on the show, and are now considered the biggest draw of the Festival. This year the Festival’s director, Jason Pageau, even tried something different instead of lectures and demonstrations. He set it up as a meet and greet: a social hour the night before, and a garden party the next day. This was due to feedback where people wanted more interaction and less lectures.
The Festival’s theme this year was “The Social Season”, which gave me the inspiration for our fashion show theme, “Victorians in High Society”. My ideas were to show all the fancy dresses and clothing of high society. Except with losing some models in the week preceding, we had to add in some day wear, and a wonderful tea gown.On Friday night, we attended the Social Hour and were introduced to the “Governor” (Jason Pageau) and his wife, using calling cards we were each given. Beverages and snacks were provided.
The next day was supposed to be a Garden Party in the grass area next to the American Legion Hall, but the weather was being iffy, so they moved it indoors to be a Conservatory Party. Mostly this was just chatting with everyone and a lively introduction to the Language of the Fan was given by Tracy Wirta and Agnes Gawne, which turned into kind of a comedy.
See the papered up windows on the right of this photo? That’s the new location of District Fabrics that has just moved to Port Townsend. It’s next to Pippa’s Real Tea shop on Water Street. Sadly, the grand opening was delayed so I didn’t get to visit before I left Washington.
These are my backstage photos I took as we were waiting to go on.
Agnes Gawne was again our narrator, and we have her model her beautiful dresses too. She wore her copy of an 1820s dress in black velvet from a museum collection. The details were amazing up close.
Mara Perry came out again wearing her 1890s evening dress. She loves her big puffy sleeves. We both are fans of those.
Every year I hope to have a nice group shot of us but I realize that with our size group, that’s a bit hard. So, sections is all we can hope for.
Tracy Wirta let us know the Port Townsend newspaper, The Leader, had taken photos and our show made the front page with a full page inside of more photos. They were really cute and made us look like paper dolls. She sent us copies of the paper to keep.
The next day a bunch of us met in the Fort Worden park for our annual photo shoot at the barracks and along the water front. I only brought two costumes with me this year and wore my 1870s Red Plaid polonaise but added a new hat for it that I made the week before I flew up to Washington. I used a straw-hat base that I bent up the back, covered the crown in black silk taffeta, and added black lace and ribbons I had. Then basted on some sprigs of white antique berries on both sides from my stash.
Later along the beach we all took photos of each other. I like doing candid ones. I love how these look like paintings.