Category Archives: 19th Century Fashion

Old Photos

I went out into the frigid coldness, just to get out and do something, and wound up at an antique mall. Oops. I came back with a stack of 1880s-1920s photographs for very little. Huzzah! So here they are. All except one are undated, with no notes at all. So have fun imagining who these people were.

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This woman is just so fabulous – the anti-flapper. I love her (tiny!) shoes, with the added, contrasting strap, and her long necklace, a nod to one fashion of the day, and a stereotype decades later. Her hat is just too cool, too – I think it’s got a wire frame, you can make it out under the brim. She’s here to tell us that not everybody was a skinny jitterbugging flapper, and that’s awesome. This photo is dated July 4, 1923 – if she is about 60 years old here, she was a baby during the Civil War. Think of the things she saw.

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I dare you to find a photo of stronger, more independent, capable looking women. I love them – a range of ages, possibly all related, probably sometime between 1919 and 1923-ish. The two younger women have dresses to die for – look at the sitting woman’s sleeves. Ugh. Want. What I really like is the variation in fashion here. Take off those thick-rimmed glasses for the portrait? Nope. Crazy flapper eye makeup? Nope. Bobbed hair? Nah, I’m just going to wrap my 4 feet of Gibson Girl leftovers around my head in a braid (see the two younger women) – or just keep wearing my ca. 1905 poufy thing (the seated older woman). This undated photo is one of my favorites. I want to high-five them all.

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That mustache. Oh my gosh, that mustache. First came the ‘stache, then the ‘stache grew a man as a support system, so it could wear awesome ties and generally be the definition of ‘dapper’. Undated, but taken in a photography studio in Wilmington, DE.

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This poor woman looks like she’s drowning in her own dress. Mid-1890s, taken in Wilmington, DE.

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He shot the sheriff, but he didn’t shoot the deputy … haha. If I had half a chance I’d wear that jacket of his. How cool is that contrasting binding? Undated, from Wilmington, DE.

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She’s so pretty. If you look closely, you can see she has a little tiny watch pocket on the front of her dress, and a little tiny watch in it. Probably early 1890s, from Wilmington, DE.

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Probably from the 1890s – I think this might be a second photo of the poor woman who was being suffocated by her dress, above. Wilmington, DE.

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Wilmington, DE, probably 1880s-1900. This is one tough looking woman.

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Aww, a little baby, looking kind of lost propped up on that big chair. This photo’s also from Wilmington, DE, but as baby’s clothing isn’t easily date-able, I have no idea when it’s from. Sometime between the 1880s and 1910s, at the most.


My Late Reticule

I’ve recently joined The Historic Sew Fortnightly, which means I not only have deadlines for school and work, but also my hobby.

And I missed one!

I meant to submit this piece for the challenge that ended last night, but I missed it by half an hour. I would have been really lucky to get it done by then, considering that I hadn’t been a member of the group for long. Like, five days or something.

This project began when I decided to remake my little white reticule because it was a little too little. So I tried the big, pocket-shaped embroidered style popular in the late 1790s and early 1800s.

So here’s my adaptation; 100% hand sewn with linen thread and made with linen and cotton fabric, and a cotton cord for the drawstring. And probably about 2 cups of starch. Again, I used my huge embroidery vocabulary of two different stitches here. Completed, it’s about 14″ deep by 10″ wide, certainly big enough to hide an iProduct in.

For reference, here are some originals from Two Nerdy History Girls here. And some variations on the theme, from the Met, here and here.

I rushed through mine and finished it to the point of being juuust useable … but now, hey, since I missed the deadline, why not keep working on it? I’m thinking I’ll embroider the front pieces more. It could use more fancy.

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I cut two U-shaped pieces of linen, and two of cotton for the lining, and starched the bejeezus out of them because I didn’t have an embroidery hoop. I also tacked the edges together. The embroidery designs are adapted from the originals linked to above.

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I gathered a strip of linen to the edges to make the sides, and used a scrap of cotton for the drawstring casing and ruffle at the top.

 

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Close-up of the embroidery, which I like, but is super basic. And that weird circle thing in the middle of the design could have been executed wayyy better. And what the heck am I going to put inside the circle? A peacock? Maybe a basket of flowers or a cornucopia? Phhh. 

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All gathered up.

 

 


Tomorrow = 20 days

I didn’t expect to be so busy with school this month, so writing a blog post had to be delayed. But I’ve been sewing for short amounts of time every so often, and I’ve gotten a lot more done!

1) The bodiced/un-bodiced petticoat hasn’t been altered yet; I guess I got bored,

2) My printed blue cotton dress is now finished; I added hooks & eyes to the back (not my original plan, and not how the original closed, but now it’s wearable),

3) I made a nice white linen chemisette with cotton lace trim,

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I eyeballed this from the earliest, simplest, documented chemisette I could find. It’s probably most accurate for 1800-1815. The collar doesn’t really fall the way the original did. I really wanted a dorset button for the closure under the collar, but I couldn’t find my button stash at the time. If I find it I’ll upgrade from this mismatched hook & eye.

4) I’ve gotten about halfway done with that 1760s waistcoat I began a little while back,

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It’s wrinkly and saggy on my tiny hanger, but look at that wool. It’s black with a white diaper pattern woven in, and it’s gorgeous. The rest of the waistcoat is made from some of the nicest linen I’ve ever found. I’m really excited for how it’s turning out!

5) because I wanted a cool hat, I made a small, green linen calash,

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I dyed linen green, and I chucked a spool of linen thread in the dye too – but of course it didn’t take color so well, so I had to Sharpie the thread darker later. And I didn’t take enough photos of the process, but the body of the calash is basically a rectangle with a number of metal bones running through it, and the ends of that are gathered to a binding. The back is a teardrop shape, boned, and the calash body is gathered to that.

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Finished! It’s not perfect but it’s cool. It turned out a little too small; the ridges touch the top of my head. I also made it too long, so I had to add thread stops inside to keep it from extending fully. Right now it has icky polyester ribbons, but I want to get some nice silk ones for it soon.

6) and because I don’t know when to stop, I decided that I need a nice comfy pair of half-boned 1780s stays. They’d be better for the events I do, which involve setting up displays and then sitting for hours on end – something my fully boned 1740s/60s stays aren’t so nice for. I haven’t taken scissors to cloth yet, though, I’m still thinking about how to do those. Later.

 

And finally, a tiny life hack. I needed to shape and pad out this mannequin a lot to photograph my 1880s bodice, and my epiphany was to use old shoulder pads. I pinned them to the mannequin making sure the pin heads were flush. They really helped puff out the tails. I’m thinking of making some ‘for real’, with nice cotton and fiberfill.

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Finished and … not so finished

It’s done! The un-bodiced, bodiced petticoat. Could use a good ironing.

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But as I look at it, I see a mistake. I should have concentrated the gathers further to the back. Right now I think they’re going to be under my arms, which will make the dress over them wrinkle and bulge.

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Sigh. So I’ll try it on tomorrow and see if I can make it work. If not, I’ll rip the sides of the waistband out and re-sew it. Yayyy.


Excessive Fru-fru of the 1890s

In the late 19th century, women wore boas, made from lace, silk, and/or feathers. I guess it’s been obvious for others, but for me, I didn’t realize that these existed until recently – existed in reality, that is, and not as a part of polyester can-can costumes for Halloween. *gak*

This is one of my great-grandmothers, Elise. This picture was taken around 1896, in NYC. Elise is wearing a white boa, with flower-like lace ruffles at the shoulders and lengths of narrow tapes at each end. The color of her boa matches the shirt she’s wearing.

Wide shoulders were hugely fashionable during the mid-1890s, and it’s a little surprising to see that Elise is wearing a shirtwaist that doesn’t have gigot/leg-of-mutton sleeves – rather, she’s wearing the ‘bishop’ type sleeve, with fullness at the lower arm and wrist. It’s a nice visual reminder that not everybody wore massively puffed sleeves during this decade. That being said, her boa is placed around her shoulders, with the ruffle exactly where leg-of-mutton sleeves would begin. Visually, the boa is creating a similar silhouette.

Boas from the late 19th century seem to usually be the long, feathery type.

The image above is from England, and is dated 1892.

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The feather boa above is from The Metropolitan Museum of Art. So fluffy. The Met has handfuls of feather boas from this decade, in crazy colors like black, red, black, blue, black, pink, and black. I think they may have some in black, too.

Above: the Met has this boa too, which looks pretty similar to Elise’s boa, except it’s just the floofy part. This is the closest thing I’ve ever seen to Elise’s boa.

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And then there’s Mary, another of my great-grandmothers. She also lived in NYC, in Greenwich Village, in the 1890s. Her hairstyle, a bun with a curly puff of hair at the front, seem to have been most popular in the late 1880s and early 1890s. So I’m guessing that this picture was taken between 1888-1895.

In this picture she’s wearing a colored shirtwaist with little circular black appliqués on the folded collar, and what looks like either a boa (made from the same appliqués, maybe lace) or some sort of decoration on the front of her shirtwaist. Because it was the 1890s, and floofy, fluffy, fru-fru-y clothing was totally in.

I’m not entirely sure what Mary is wearing here; a boa or just a fancy shirtwaist. If she’s wearing a boa, it matches her shirt (like Elise’s) – but more than that, it is identical to the decoration on the collar. Maybe she had a boa specifically for a certain shirtwaist? I can believe that – if any decade had shirtwaists with matching boas, it would have been the 1890s, right?

 


When in Rome …

I’ve seen a lot recently about Regency and Empire clothing, and so here’s my addition: this past weekend, I decided that I was going to finally finish my late 1790s-1800 outfit. Here’s what I got done in a three-day weekend:

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Shoes! A dress! And a real live corset! Yay! But no stockings yet.

Shoes:

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I came across these awesomely ridiculous pointy-toe 1980s shoes a few months ago, and have wanted to remake them into 1790s shoes since then. My inspiration were mainly the blue and black shoes second from the the top of American Duchess’s blog post, here, which suited the toe and heel shape as well as giving me a bold design to disguise all the faded marks on the toe.

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In progress. I had to move the mid-foot seam back to the heel a little, since I couldn’t get my needle through the layers at the ball of the foot.

They were so much easier to remake than other shoes because I didn’t have to cover the toe, and because of the the sling-back design. I sewed leather to the heel, then folded it up and sewed it to the slingback. Pretty simple. I painted the toe and heel with nail polish (which looks like patent leather when it’s dried) and tacked a silk ruffle and bow to the front of each, and voila!

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They’re not perfect, but I’m pretty pleased. The paint job is a bit crude. They’re certainly garish enough.

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They really need binding around the top edge and down the seam at the back of the heel, but right now my fingers hurt from trying to sew these things, so binding will come later. Another thing I’d like to do is paint the front of the heel brown, to look a little more like a sole.

Corset:

I started this corset almost two years ago! I didn’t have a pattern for it; I drafted it by wrapping the cotton around me and marking where I thought darts would be nice. Then I ran out of thread, wound up busy with work and school, lost interest and/or forgot about it.

So, this weekend, I picked it up again and finished it in a few hours. Booyah. It’s not super accurate, but it’s 100% hand sewn and gives the correct shape though it doesn’t have a busk yet. It’s corded a little, and it’s got four pieces of boning – that’s it. It’s a bit too long to sit comfortably in. I think I can take the front up a little, but I’m just so pleased that it’s finally wearable that I don’t want to sew it anymore.

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I had an awful, awful experience when I was sewing this corset. I was holding a mug of hot coffee when I sat on the couch, and accidentally sat on the corset, and accidentally sat on a HUGE steel pin I had holding the busk channel together. It was traumatizing, and I know I’ve watched that scene in an old cartoon somewhere. I wound up with coffee scalds on my legs and a welt that made sitting a little uncomfortable for a day. I will never sit on a couch without checking first again …

Dress:

My goal was to make an unlined, very light dress. I’ve seen a few Regency and Empire gowns, and am always struck at how deconstructed they are compared to 1770s and 80s clothing. So I avoided my 1812 dress pattern with puffy lined sleeves, and started from scratch: no pattern, no lining, and 100% hand sewing. I draped it on myself, which went better than I expected.

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The air conditioning dial and me.

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It needs a little more Grecian Bend for the late 1790s. I’m getting there.

My design inspiration was mainly this dress, with the sleeves de-poofed a little because I wanted to go for a slightly earlier look. I’ve seen a lot of neoclassical gowns that close with two tiny ties or drawstrings in the back, but that doesn’t work well if you line the bodice and have bulky machine seams. I had to line the back of my bodice to help hold the weight of the skirt. Then the back didn’t quite close. Nothing uglier than corset laces sticking out of the bodice.

I came up with a kind-of solution that I’ve seen on one original: an inner flap to cover the crack where the bodice sides didn’t meet. Since this new solution doesn’t completely work (every time I move my arms it pops open again) I’ll add a third tie in the center and that should fix things. I hope.

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Ew! Still ugly!

Reticule:

Still in progress, but so far I’m super happy with the effect of the hand-sewn linen embroidery on linen. I’m going to make it a flat-bottomed bag shape, gathered with a drawstring at the top, and lined in cream silk.

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Beginnings.

And now, since I can’t seem to find a living history group in the NYC metro area, the first time I may get to wear these will be in January or February. Boo.

But, on a better note, I have two awesome costumey events coming up in the summer & fall, so I’ll be sewing for those soon. Yay!

 


An Edwardian bib-front … skirt?

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I got this piece over the past weekend, and I’m not 100% sure about it.

I’m 80% sure it’s from between 1900-1910. There are no tags or marks of a tag, which would be helpful in dating it. I can tell it was sewn with a treadle sewing machine. It’s made with the correct techniques and materials, but it’s sooooo new-looking. Like, made-yesterday new. Was it?

I’m most puzzled about the bib front. It’s made without hooks or any remnants of straps or suspenders for the bib, and though there are no pin-strain marks I’m guessing it was pinned (I looped a piece of black thread over the shoulders of my dress form so I wouldn’t have to pin into my 1890s silk shirtwaist). The bib is cut as one with the front of the skirt and the lace insets, so it’s not added on in any way.

Has anybody ever seen a petticoat/skirt like this before?

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I’m baaack!

I finally got WordPress working again, after it was glitchy for over a week. This past week, my 4-year old MacBook decided it was time to start acting geriatric and have a little meltdown, but it looks like it’s gotten over itself for the time being. Yay, I now have computing abilities again!!

So, STUFF has been happening. My awesome mom picked up a few things for my collection: a 1890s shirtwaist, a turn-of-the-century baby dress, a 1950s purse, a 1890s girl’s dress, and three 1960s dresses. How cool is that? I’m working on the first two items, which I’ve been able to look at. I’m getting around to writing detailed blog post on those, but until then here’s the shirtwaist, paired with my 1850s-1870s Quaker bonnet.

10455822_10203984176273056_703664233068884189_nThe kitchen turned out to be the best-lit room in the house … yeah whatever. And yeah, the two pieces are decades apart; I’m just so excited to have vaguely similar pieces to almost make into kind-of outfits that they’re close enough for my brain right now!