Monday, 12 September 2011
Maria Manning - The Killer of Black Satin
I must be nuts!
To make things just a little more difficult for myself, the only doll I wanted to make right now was the scandalous Victorian Murderer Maria Manning.
Maria and her husband were convicted and hung in 1849 for the murder of Patrick O'Connor - Maria's Lover!
She had been in a relationship with both O'Connor and Manning when both proposed to her. She had to choose between the already rich customs officer and loan shark O'Connor, and the poor Manning who had told her he would soon be coming into a large inheritance. She chose the later, and soon found that the inheritance would never come, and she was stuck living a poor life without any of the extravagances she wanted.
She began her affair with O'Connor shortly after; some say with her husbands knowledge. He was a frequent visitor to their home, and one night when invited to dinner, Maria shot him in the back of the head, Manning battered him around the skull to make sure he was dead, and the couple buried him in a pre-prepared grave beneath the kitchen flagstones, covering the body with quicklime.
She was a heartless, cold , and calculating woman who dammed the court as her sentence was read after trying to blame the whole murder on her weak, pathetic husband. As she walked to the gallows, ironically passing over her own grave site as she did so just as O'Connor must have walked over his in the kitchen, she held her head high and walked with a firm step. She chose to wear a fashionable black satin gown with black lace veil to her hanging. And as there was so much publicity and scandal surrounding the case, it being reported in every newspaper and journal throughout the country, the popularity of wearing black satin suddenly declined, and it didn't come back into fashion for 30 years.
Two of Maria's petticoats are just finished. So along with her baggy bloomers and long scoop necked chemise and corset Maria now wears an under-petticoat of green cotton to protect her legs from the stiff coarse calico fabric of her corded petticoat.
As the two women were living during the same period, Maria's corded petticoat is constructed in the same way as I made one for my Mary Shelley. Just on a smaller scale as Maria is quite a bit smaller than Mary is. Each cord has been individually tucked into the calico and hand sewn into place, with the next cord folded in very close to the first with some gaps left between groups of rows to give some flexibility. When all the cords were in I then sewed a panel of calico to the back of the cording panel to stop them curling up and to keep them in the right shape. A real full-sized corded petticoat would have hundreds of lines of cording sewn into it to create the support needed to keep the voluminous skirts held out in the fashionable bell shape. And I really can't imagine having to hand sew one of these garments for myself as women did then. It must have taken months to complete, and must have been very tough on the fingers. I have a hole in my finger after just sewing in 21 cords, and remember having many small injuries after finishing Mary Shelley's larger corded petticoat.
Now I'm on to the next layer to help create bulk and soften the shape of Maria's skirts - a dark red flounced petticoat. I know that women during the 1840's would have worn any number of petticoats, from six to thirty in varying layers of plain, flounced, corded and ones stuffed with horse hair. But Maria's size is limiting me to how many I can get away with in her costume. After this next flounced layer I think there will only be room for one more plain one, and then her underskirt and gown. I'm looking forward to sewing in the nice floaty black sating I have ready for her. But that low scooped neckline is going to be a real challenge :)