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and life along the winding road

Monday, January 27, 2014

Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker by Jennifer Chiaverini

Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker by Jennifer Chiaverini follows Elizabeth Keckley, a former slave who bought freedom for both her and her son. She was an accomplished seamstress and after being recommended by many satisfied patrons became Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker. As Elizabeth was often at the White House fitting Mrs. Lincoln for dresses and dressing her for state occasions, she was privy to many an important conversation.

I admire authors who write an historical novel, following a person or family through a dramatic event in history. Through Elizabeth's eyes, we see how the Civil War was viewed by those in Washington. Families were split and Mrs. Lincoln's was not exempt. Her brother, three half brothers and three brothers-in-law were serving in the Confederate Army.

Spread throughout the story were little facts that I had not known about. For instance there were three railroad stations in Baltimore at the time, but a city ordinance prevented trains from travelling through the city. In order to get from one station to another, the trains were uncoupled and towed by horses to another station. This proved disastrous for the 6th Massachusetts Infantry.

Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker was well written showing Elizabeth as a strong and courageous woman and accomplished seamstress who, in spite of many obstacles, managed to be a woman of independent means.

Some of the terminology was confusing to me though and I've looked up a few of the descriptions:

Wrapper - House Dress
Mantua Maker - Dress Pattern Maker
Modiste - Dressmaker
Moire-Antique - Usually taffeta material with a pattern like woodgrain
Morning Robe - The morning robe would be worn for breakfast with the family or while writing correspondence or doing light work at home.
Levee - A reception held by a person of distinction
Frontispiece of Behind the Scenes, Or, Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in the White House by Elizabeth Keckley


Joanne said...

you find the most interesting books. I've always liked the Civil War era and this sounds like a winner

Mason Canyon said...

This sounds like a fascinating story. The terminology you listed is so interesting. I had heard the term 'morning robe' before but never knew what it really meant.

LindyLou Mac said...

This sounds really fascinating and you certainly learnt as you read. If my TBR list was not toppling it is certainly one I would consider.