Living The Sweet Life: Grandpa Clive Justice Gown

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Grandpa Clive Justice Gown

About fifteen years ago, I went to visit Grandma on my husband's side of the family in Victoria, BC. The plan was to visit over the weekend and go to The Empress Hotel for afternoon tea. It would the perfect spot to reminisce about her life and family which is what we liked to do. Sunday afternoon we went up into the attic and found this - I could hardly contain my excitement when she gave it to me. I was in heaven - this is right up my alley! My son's Great Grandfather was christened in this very dress, in Africa, during the Bore War in around 1899-1902. The original outfit was the dress, the shoes, a slip, a wool christening cape and coat.
This is a lovely close up of the one shoe I have. It's made out of a hide of some sort because if you look really close it's a short fur. On the front a delicate, pleated silk ribbon flower.

This is the bodice with it's wonderful tucks, lace and embroidery. The gown is made of 100% silk, that's soft and light - it floats when it's moved, and is simply exquisite.
So the story goes, Grandma said her mother-in-law, "couldn't boil water" - her words not mine. The Justice clan was quite well to do with servants and all and Grandma had not lived a privileged life. Love prevailed and Grandma and Grandpa happily lived their life on their farm in Salt Spring Island, BC with their five little boys raising turkeys. It was not an easy life and Grandma used the words "made due" more than once but they were in love and happy. So, remember the wool christening coat I mentioned? Grandma cut it up one winter, altered it, hemmed it up and used as a coat for one of her little boys - you can just imagine what her mother in law would have thought of that!
So this is the coat, see the hemline, it's been hemmed and let down. The same thing on the cuff of the sleeve. Don't you think the elaborate embroidery and ruffled eyelet collar is just the right touch for a little boy running around a turkey farm? That's what makes a real heirloom - the stories that are hidden within their creases.

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