TEXARKANA, Ark. — If you have ever fancied yourself a woman who'd look smashing in a frilly blouse and corset, you might attend "How to be an Edwardian Lady" at the P.J. Ahern House.
Starting at 1 p.m. Saturday, the Texarkana Museums System aims to educate women in the refined etiquette required to be socially successful during the Edwardian era, which followed the long reign of Queen Victoria.
"I'm kind of describing it as an interactive living history tour," said Jamie Simmons, curator at the Museums System. It's a tour through this 1905 Classical Revival Home, but it will provide a glimpse into how the home operated during the Edwardian era.
During this hands-on class in middle class and upper class Edwardian ways, attendees will learn about hairstyling, dress, proper meal etiquette and more. Participants receive an etiquette guide. They also get a calling card to personalize and an ever-important fan.
Also working on this event is the TMS's Burgandy Farris, the development administrator on staff who will perform the part of Mrs. Ahern as attendees are guided through the home.
In a statement about the event, Farris said of her character, "Mrs. Ahern was originally from Washington, D.C. so she would have had very formal social training from an early age. Etiquette would have been a tool she learned to use well."
As people come in, they'll be greeted and learn about those calling cards. "One of the most important functions as far as society and etiquette goes, most important functions for a woman, is to know how to pay calls and receive calls properly. A big part of that was the calling card itself," Simmons said.
Calling cards will be collected after they're made, then presented to Mrs. Ahern. "That's where we step into 1905 and interact with Mrs. Ahern," the curator said.
Each room back then possessed a particular function, rather than the more free-form usage of rooms now in favor.
"At this time it was very compartmentalized," Simmons said. "Each room had a purpose, and that purpose was the only reason you had that room."
The tour will lead participants through these rooms as etiquette is taught. "It is a class, of sorts," Simmons said. For instance, in the bedrooms, they'll learn about Edwardian clothing and what was proper for a young married woman like Mrs. Ahern to wear.
"We're going to do an actual demonstration of how to put your hair in an Edwardian hairstyle, talk about makeup, things like that," Simmons said. What was an Edwardian hairstyle?
"It was very full and poofy," the curator explained. It was similar to a pompadour. This was achieved by saving the hair from one's hairbrush. It was placed in a special dish called the hair receiver.
"You collected the hair and you created what they called a ratt," Simmons said. You'd tuck that ratt of your hair back into the hair remaining on your head to poof it out. This was an industrious way to reuse the hair that came out.
"It's a great way to recycle," Simmons said.
The precise Edwardian era dated from 1901 to 1910, the reign of King Edward VII. "In the broader sense, from a social sense, it was really 1900 up to World War I, so it was slightly broader than that," she said. Think of it as the Downton Abbey era.
Etiquette during this time was very strict, and Simmons would argue that these rules were even stricter than the Victorian era. However, that changed radically with WWI, she said. For Mrs. Ahern back in 1905, though, following social etiquette was essential.
"As a young married woman, her role for her family, in her relationship with her husband, was to be the face of the family. She was who took care of all their societal obligations, which was very important not only for your personal standing in the community but also for her husband's business standing," Simmons said.
(Tickets: $25, or $20 for TMS members. More info: email [email protected] or call 903-793-4831. Registration and ticket purchase: TexarkanaMuseums.org/events or find the Facebook event page. The P.J. Ahern Home is located at 403 Laurel St.)