‘The Victorian Lady’ examines fashions of the Guilded Age
By Annie Gentile - ReminderNews
East Windsor - posted Thu., May. 2, 2013
“This is how I make my living - wearing 115-year-old underwear.” With that one statement, Kandie Carle, a.k.a. “The Victorian Lady,” clued-in attendees at her hour-long performance that this was not going to be your typical church fundraiser.
On Sunday, April 28, Grace Episcopal Church of Broad Brook welcomed Kandie Carle and her one-woman show. A seasoned singer, dancer and actress, Carle mixed humor, history and interesting facts into an interactive performance that educated her audience about how women dressed, how they behaved, and how they lived their daily lives during the Gilded Age of the 1890s.
The one-hour program was followed by a light lunch and tea and included raffle prizes, with a portion of the proceeds to be donated to the Five-Corner Cupboard Food Pantry.
“We’re a small church and we look to have fundraisers where we can invite the community,” said Grace Episcopal Church events coordinator Linda Sunderland. “It’s a little bit for fun, a little bit for outreach, and a little bit for charity.”
Sunderland added that it can be hard to find a reasonable venue for fundraising activities such as Carle’s show, but the German Club on Depot Street where they held the event worked well for them.
Carle began her presentation in what might have passed as skimpy attire for the 1890s-era woman - a slip and “drawers” - then walked through the various items of clothing a woman of that time would need to don to be presentable in public. Attendees learned the difference between “drawers” (an undergarment) and “bloomers” (an outer garment worn when riding a bicycle or for sporting events). She also made it abundantly clear that when it comes to dress, grooming and household chores, today’s modern women have it a lot easier than women of the 1890s.
“Here’s your washing machine,” said Carle, showing her hands. “Here’s your iron,” she said, holding up a heavyweight iron actually made of real iron. “There’s a reason they’re used as doorstops now.”
While curling irons were a common device for managing hairstyles, there were no electric cords and plugs to heat them up. Rather, women would use hurricane candles or other heating methods of the day. “It was not an exact science,” she said. “Have you ever smelled burnt hair?”
There was also no such thing as mousse or hairspray. “But they did tend to use a great deal of lard,” Carle said. For those who made a face at hearing that information, she suggested they take a look at the ingredients in modern-day lanolin. “Lanolin is just a pretty little word for sheep grease,” she said.
When Carle got to the stage of dress where she pulled out a corset, there could be heard a collective groan from the women in the audience. However, Carle explained that corsets were not just for women, but for men also and for girls and boys from as early as 6 years of age. The smallest corsets were to help children to sit up straight and develop a good carriage, Carle said. Women’s corsets would accentuate an hourglass shape, popular in the day, while men’s corsets would try to create the image of a broad chest and narrow waist.
Carle’s completed outfit included a fancifully flowered hat, typically decorated at a milliner’s, a parasol for protecting one’s face from the sun, and a handbag for carrying items as a case filled with calling cards - useful in those pre-telephone days - a vial of smelling salts, and a change purse.
Besides the Gilded Age, Carle also offers programs that look at fashion, home life and etiquette during the Civil War and Edwardian periods, as well as a one-woman show about the life of Elizabeth Keckly, former slave and dressmaker to Mary Todd Lincoln. More information can be found on her website at www.kandiecarle.com.
Grace Episcopal Church is located at 44 Ellington Road in Broad Brook. Sunday service is at 9 a.m. followed by a coffee hour. The church also holds a Wednesday morning prayer service at 7 a.m. All are welcome to attend.