Monday, September 23, 2013

A JASNA Syracuse "Mantua-Maker"

Your Regional Coordinator writes:

The 2013 JASNA Annual General Meeting in Minneapolis, “Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice...Timeless,” is now only a few days away--and I decided this year that I would commission a new gown for the occasion. “Old Gold” (the Indian-made frock that I purchased many years ago at the Erie Boulevard Salvation Army in Syracuse, because of its vague resemblance to a Regency ball gown) is finally ready for retirement.

But where, you might ask, would I find a "mantua-maker" (the Regency term for a dressmaker) for a bespoke ball gown in the Syracuse Region? The JASNA New York Metropolitan Region, of course, has its own talented mantua-maker: Maureen O'Connor, whose work has recently received much-deserved praise in Deborah Yaffe's book Among the Janeites. But is such another seamstress to be found here in the wilds of Upstate?

The answer is yes! JASNA Syracuse member Sandra Stevens draws inspiration from fashion plates of the period, chooses exquisite materials, does meticulous work, and consults her clients’ preferences throughout the process of creating a gown. And Sandra does millinery as well. Here, her daughter Mimi wears a complete Stevens ensemble at the fashion show conducted by Lisa Brown at the Colgate Bookstore in March 2012.

Below, your RC and her mantua-maker proudly show off the new gown. Although I’m memorizing a few of Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s lines in readiness for the banquet and ball in Minneapolis--since I suppose Lady Catherine is the Pride and Prejudice character I most resemble in this costume--I am certainly the opposite of “most seriously displeased.” In fact, I’m “most seriously pleased”!

Sandra can be contacted at sndrstvns at

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