Category Archives: Collecting Vintage Clothing

Super Productivity! Kinda.

So first off, an apology. I’ve been searching WordPress and my own brain for ways to do this, but I can’t figure out how to put a .pdf on a blog post. You know, for patterns. I’m stuck. So for now, I must apologize. I want to share some of the patterns I’ve taken but until I can figure out a way to get them here, un-warped and un-wonky, I can’t. ūüė¶

Other than that disappointment, I’ve been sewing like mad. Mad, I tell you! I just haven’t had the time to blog about it. Or take any nice photos.

Since early January, I’ve made:

1 1910s-1920s velvet hat (HSF Challenge #2: Blue)

1 1918 wool skirt

1 1900s cotton & lace corset cover (HSF Challenge #1: Foundations)

1 1910s linen blouse

1 1910s cotton & lace slip

1 1915-1918 wool jacket

1 silk and (oops) polyester ‚ÄúVotes for Women‚ÄĚ yellow rose brooch

1 early/mid 1920s velvet evening gown (HSF Challenge #3: Stashbusting)

1 pair 1930s wool & leather spats

1 late 1920s tennis (style) dress

… and I’ve begun an 1880s-ish corset.

And as always:

1 huge mess

3 small trash bags of scraps

1 medium sized dent in my vintage button & cloth hoard

1 $15 dent in my wallet (you read that right, BOOYAH)

All the 1917-1920 clothes I meant to make for the April HSF challenge, War & Peace, but I was so excited about them I started and finished them way too early. That¬†worked out all right in the end, though, because I wore them for a women’s suffrage play I was in, with the last-minute addition of the Votes for Women brooch.

I made all these with my 1902 Singer, which felt nice, because I was using antique/accurate tools. Yep, I know, nerdy.

And because I’ve been awful at taking photos of my work, here are just the ones I’ve photographed.¬†I’ll get pictures of everything later.

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I am in LOVE with this hat. I usually can’t find something big enough to fit my hair under, so I made it extra big. It’s got that big/loose hat thing that was going on in the teens and twenties, and I can actually put my hair up under it! Yay!

I made the blouse in the photo above from one of my dad’s worn-out 18th century shirts. It was old and threadbare, so I don’t expect the¬†blouse to hold up well. I’ve already popped a few seams¬†– the fibers just fell apart. That being said, I’m surprised at how nicely the shape came out – the pattern was roughly based on one of my modern Gap button shirts. I’m excited to make another, hopefully in a nice batiste, or something that holds up better to drawn-thread work.

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The corset cover (left) was taken right from my original (right), which is just a tad too small for me – not that I’d wear it. I made it from a thrifted tablecloth, mimicking¬†the design of triangular lace¬†appliqu√©s at the neckline. I love it – it’s comfy and even though the materials and my workmanship are awfully crude compared to the original, it’s the best I’ve ever done with a sewing machine, and I’m happy.

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This is my ’20s evening gown. I wanted it to be kind of generic so I could wear it to events. The idea was to make a semi-fitted slip and to drape the velvet on that, but halfway through planning I realized I didn’t have any cloth for the slip. Being on a frenetic sewing high I made it anyway, substituting ribbon for lining. Now it looks like the dress has interior suspenders. It works nicely considering the velvet’s heavy and hot (it was a curtain! Thanks, Laura Ashley), and a lining would just make it more uncomfortable to wear. It drapes fairly well, too, so I don’t consider it a failure. And it’s super comfy!

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The beading came out okay; it looks better hanging than flat, as above. I made the mistake of putting the beads on too tightly, which messed with the straight Deco lines of the pattern I chose. Live and learn.

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This is my late twenties tennis dress. I made it, again, from a thrifted curtain and a few pieces of red bias tape. I like it; it’s very comfy. When I wore it to work with my re-worked¬†cloche and a blazer it became very early-1930s-sportswear-ish. The dress itself is very basic; sleeveless with a V-neck and the skirt has two huge box pleats at the sides.

Now I’m working on a new era: the mid-late Victorian. I’m starting with a basic corset based on an 1880s example, and I’m hoping that, for now, I can get away with the 1860s with it, too. After that comes all the rest of the underpinnings and gowns and hats and shoes and stuff, which will be … challenging. I have one long-term project, a 1900-1920s beaded purse which will take me a year, conservatively, to bead fully. It’s about 40% done right now, and I’m slowly working away at it. Good stuff!


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.


To (let it) be or not to (let it) be?

That’s always the question.

I have had a second tea gown hanging in storage for a few months now. It’s a little older than my first, and a little larger, too. It’s also been remade more times than my first one. I think it was made around 1900, remade in the early teens, and then re-remade sometime in the last few decades.

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I am hoping to get some better pictures this weekend, so stay tuned, I guess.

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The first incarnation had a longer, flared skirt (I can tell because the seams inside have been re-sewn, and the selvages show the original taper was much wider), and puffier sleeves (the insides of the arms have three ingenious horizontal tucks that persuade the puff to be larger and fuller to the back of the arm). The second incarnation had a narrower skirt, then, and the sleeves were a little longer and less poofy. The third incarnation just added snaps down the back and an ugly black ribbon through the lace at the neckline, creating a drawstring. 

I really do like that this dress has so much to tell. It’s been worn by two or three people in the last 100+ years, each leaving a mark. I would love to retain all that information, but then again, I’d love to repair the dress as well.

So to what point do I restore it? Do I even try? I’ve already removed the drawstring and I’m considering taking the snaps out. I can’t re-flare and lengthen the skirt, so it’s not going back to 1900. I could put the tucks back in the sleeves, but it won’t be complete without the longer skirt.¬†

Without a provenance, all this dress has is the story of alteration after alteration, owner after owner, for a hundred years.¬†I may just wash it, repair the damage at the front (there’s a large tear, but it doesn’t show because it’s inside a pleat) and see how I feel about it.¬†


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 appliqu√©s on the folded collar, and what looks like either a boa (made from the same appliqu√©s, 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?

 


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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Packing the Collection

One of the things that kept me from collecting antique clothing early on was that I didn’t know how to store it. I remember passing up an 1870s bustle dress for $25 because of this reason.

Yes. I am kicking myself for that one.

I’ve been doing some research since then. It’s still daunting to store old clothing, but there are ways to do it. Here’s my basic battle plan.

1) Plastic Boxes

Check out any museum storage company like Talas or Gaylords, and you’ll see corrugated plastic storage boxes. They fold together, have loose-fitting lids, and seem very simple for the high price tag – especially since you can use ordinary¬†plastic tubs. It’s not as simple as going to WalMart and buying any tub, however.

If a plastic is marked #2, #4, or #5, it’s “safe” meaning it doesn’t degrade under UV rays or leech too much icky stuff. Museum storage boxes are usually made from either #5 (which is polypropylene) or a mixture of polypropylene and polyethylene.

Clear (not tinted) Sterilite tubs are made from polypropylene (#5) and are acid-free, which makes them a good choice. The Container Store carries a line of clear polypropylene tubs as well, which are just as good. Rubbermaid tubs are a different story. The Rubbermaid website doesn’t quite say what theirs are made of.

Avoid Dresser Drawer Syndrome; use shallow tubs for storing flat clothing. It’s easier to find things, keeps less weight on the pieces on the bottom and creates fewer creases.

Clothing needs some air circulation. I have no real solution for this, but I sometimes leave tub lids slightly off. I put small desiccant packs directly in the tub, in case any excess moisture is sealed in when I close the lid. It helps to pack clothing in paper; crumpled, it keeps the layers of cloth separated and allows a little air to move. I also try to check the clothing regularly.

2) Padded Hangers

There are a billion tutorials on building your own padded hangers out on the internets, so I’m just here to say “do it”. Padded hangers are incredible for supporting clothing, they keep the insides of the garment apart for better air circulation, and they reduce creasing and wrinkling. So just do it, unless the garment isn’t stable enough for hanging. That’s an educated decision that will have to be made multiple times for each garment. Because the passage of time. And because gravity.

I use unbleached cotton muslin, thick plastic hangers (WalMart), and fiberfill. I get fiberfill at WalMart by buying cheap pillows for a few dollars apiece. It’s¬†cheaper than the craft isle and it’s the same stuff(ing). Also comes in a handy storage bag. And another life hack: throw the pillow in the washing machine before you use it.¬†Voila, clean fiberfill.

Another great thing to do is to add supports to the garment itself to keep stress off the shoulders. Carefully sew white (or unbleached) cotton loops to the bottom curve of an arms eye seam or at a waistline seam; sewing through all the layers of fabric. Make the loops short enough to just support the weight of the garment when they are placed over a hanger.

5 3) Garment Bags

Garment bags are so easy! Buy unbleached cotton muslin, and cut a width that’s five or so¬†inches wider than a hanger’s width. Fold it in half and sew up the tube, then just sew the top together, leaving a small hole in the center. I like to use the woven edges¬†for the lower hemline and the upper seam, and for the vertical seam I use the cut edges. It saves time sewing them up.

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Homemade custom garment bags: a large one for a 1930s sailor dress, and a small one for a 1920s swimsuit. I try to save muslin this way.

Some clothing can’t handle the friction and pulling that putting a garment bag on creates, so these can also be made to button up the front. Instead of the vertical seam, hem each cut edge. Add loops or buttonholes to one side and buttons to the other. Just make sure there’s an overlap so you can’t see much of the garment inside. It all needs to be covered.

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If I’m keeping one piece in the same bag for a while, I tack tags on the bag so I don’t have to open it to see what’s inside.

4) Humidity Control

I went on Amamzon.com and bought a gallon of orange-indicating desiccant beads. They’re much safer than the blue-indicating variety, and on Amazon, they’re many times cheaper than museum storage companies.

Talas offers a great system of desiccant beads in little tins that look like Altoids¬†containers with holes in the lids – I didn’t want to use actual Altoids containers for fear that they would rust, so I bought some food-storage plastic containers. Being meant for food storage means they are (or should) be made from a stable plastic like polypropylene. I dumped a handful of beads into those, punched some holes in the lids, and snapped the lids on. They work great, and don’t rust.

5)  Support (Hose)

Use cheap stockings (tights, hose, whatever you call them; the thin nylon things), stuffed with fiberfill, for temporary support. Like, if you’re trying to bulk out a little dress form, or if you’re working on a more permanent storage support but need a temporary one immediately. I went to WalMart recently and picked up a bunch of short knee-high type stockings for $.33 each. Stuffed and wadded into balls, they’re been great for keeping the toes of shoes¬†supported. They also make good shoulder supports for those tops with puffed sleeves – pin them onto your dress form. Just remember, the fibers in the stockings will break down after a while. Try not to use them for long.

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1972 Converse which have been pretty much destroyed. Stockings stuffed with fiberfill have helped get them back into a normal shape after having been flattened. It would be silly to use a good support in these before they’re cleaned, so I’m using the disposable stockings and fiberfill for now.

6) A Note of Importance

One note about cotton muslin: WASH IT FIRST. Also AIR DRY it. Fabric comes coated in a sizing, like¬†starch, for a better hand. I’ve gotten chemical burns from washing¬†cheap cotton and getting the sizing on my hands. Not all sizing is this bad, but this is not stuff you want touching your antique clothing.

So wash your cotton, and if it smells like anything other than fresh water or¬†your detergent when it comes out, wash it again. The best bet is to wash the cotton with soap¬†meant for washing antique clothing, but if you’re on a budget like I am, just make sure to get all the sizing out of the cotton with your own detergent. Air drying means you won’t be putting additional softeners and perfumes in it, which can transfer to the clothing.

7,854.413 1/3) Random Linky Links

Museum Textiles Services: a company that does archival storage consulting. They have some tips for storing textiles on this page and this page.

Talas: while they’re still kinda expensive, they’re a little cheaper than some other companies.

Gaylord: they carry everything you never thought you needed. I love to browse this site and drool over shelving and tissue paper. Please tell me I’m not the only person who does this.

 

 

 


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!