From rags to riches: How the group got its Victorian garb

Posted: Wednesday, November 26, 2003

In 1992, Peter Anderegg began looking for period garb for The Victorian Carolers. He called costumers throughout the country and finally found a business in Los Angeles.

"They sent me these costumes that were atrocious," Anderegg said. "Poor Cricket (Curtain) looked like she was in the Salvation Army."

"Poor people from the 1920s is what it looked like," Curtain said.

The Carolers were determined to do better in 1993. They discovered Amazon Vinegar & Pickling Works Drygoods (www.amazondrygoods.com), a Victorian-living supply store and catalog company in Davenport, Iowa. Amazon carried bonnets and dress patterns for Zouave jackets - quasi-miltary-style coats popular in England in the 1860s. Curtain was able to stitch her red costume according to the pattern. She improvised at times, using ski jacket material for the underside of her jacket.

Janet Sanbei's green dress, and another dress that the Carolers used when the group included two quartets, was made by a Sitka seamstress who had made 1867-style Victorian clothes for the town's annual Alaska Day costume ball.

"I sent her the measurements, and she sent us back perfect costumes without seeing the women," Anderegg said.

The women's clothing is mostly layers, beginning with crinolines - stiff but forgiving cloth. The skirts have no hoops.

"The problem with hoop skirts is you push up on one side and they pop up on the other," Anderegg said. "When you're strolling through Annie Kaill's and your skirt pops up, it's going to knock something off the shelf."

Anderegg found wool Pierre Cardin suits for himself and Moe during a trip to Seattle. He walked out of a music store and came across a tuxedo shop holding a sale. Original caroler Leslie Rehfield had experience spinning and weaving, and she and Anderegg dyed the suits - one red and one green - in a giant pot in her kitchen.

"What I've liked about our outfits is they aren't garishly red and green," Anderegg said. "These are sedate colors."

"It's actually not that bad," Sanbei said. "The costumes are nice and warm, so when we're outside and it's really cold, we're not freezing to death."

• Korry Keeker can be reached at korry.keeker@juneauempire.com.



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