Category Archives: History

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.


19th century newspapers

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We had a beautiful snowfall today! Before I went outside to enjoy it, I spent a few hours inside, looking through some old newspapers.

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J. Russell’s Gazette, Commercial and Political, for Monday, July 22, 1799. Most of the ads here are from the MD/VA/PA area, Philadelphia and Washington.

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It has the usual scattering of textile, rice, coffee and tea ads.

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Not sure if that’s the Hancock of Declaration fame or not (top center of image).

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The Daily National Intelligencer, Tuesday, December 28, 1813 …

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… has this awesome advert for millinery and clothing¬†¬†…

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… and nearby, someplace to wear your new frippery.¬†I can hear Jane Austen characters squealing as I read this.

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Clothe your Lilliputians at the Lilliputian Bazaar! From the New York Daily Tribune, November 9, 1887.

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A first-class dressmaker who comes to your home and has her own machine! Cool, right?

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And from another issue of The New York Tribune, 1887, this highly amusing story. I wonder if he tried it a second time!


A new hat

I’ve been holding back my sewing appetite because I’ve had other things to do, but yesterday, I lost the fight and it resulted in a 1910s hat.

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Me doing my not-smiling thing, and my brand-new super suffragette velvet hat. I made it from a few bits of used cotton velvet, a couple pieces of canvas for stiffening/lining, and a length of narrow metal boning for the brims’ shape. I winged it; I didn’t have a pattern, and I had super luck making it, so I probably won’t be able to pull it off again. You know how those things work.

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The brim: just a loop of boning with a loop of velvet folded over.

 

 

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The sides; a wide strip of canvas folded in half lengthwise, and a somewhat wider strip of velvet pleated and sewn down to the canvas.

 

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Sides and brim, ready to be sewn together

 

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Pinning/sewing the sides to the brim.

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Inside out, sewing the top to the sides. This was later covered with a bit of that stripy material. I did completely hand-sew it, I could have used the machine on about half of it, but the rest was really better finished by hand. The visible basting stitches were an oversight that I might re-do later.

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And hat! Needs some feathers/flowers/stuff. It’s very comfy.

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It’s kind of like this purple number from The Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Click here for the item description.

And finally, yeah, I made it on a whim and I have nowhere to wear it. I’d love to make a whole suit/outfit to go with it. I have some more velvet and a lot more of the cool stripy lining material. Maybe.

 

 

 


Jazz Age Costuming!

For the Jazz Age Lawn Party in August! Yay!!

It’s a huge 1920s-themed lawn party on Governor’s Island, NYC! It’s going to be awesome! Before it happens, though,¬†I have costuming to do: possibly up to five dresses and¬†maybe some hats.

I have two 1920s dresses I’ll be drawing construction details & patterns from, and one early 1930s ensemble that I may use as well.

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My 1920s feed sack dress, with two types of lace trim – it’s made from¬†a fairly simple pattern and has a very 1920s look.

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My early 1920s cotton dress. It’s difficult to see the form and drape without a mannequin, but it’s got some great pleating details.

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My early 1930s sailor dress set Рa little more form-fitting, and so summery. Again, pretty icky without a mannequin. 

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This hat is from the 1970s and doesn’t bear much resemblance to many 1920s hats – but it does look a lot like the hats worn in the 1970s version of The Great Gatsby.¬†

So I have some pale green cloth I may use for either a whole dress or just some trim, and I have a handful of assorted old lace I might use too. I’m going to get some cloth for more dresses soon. There are a lot of straw hats out there right now that look very 1920s, so I think I’m covered for hats. I also have a great old paper parasol with a hand-painted, vaguely Asian pattern that may suit well. I’ll see how far I get before mid-August!


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!

 


A ‘Paper Dress’ … From the Late 15th Century

Yeah okay, so not entirely paper.

Dr. Henrike Lähnemann, chair of German Studies at Newcastle University, has delivered a series of lectures looking at the use of paper in textiles. The items in question are late 15th century German dresses that once clothed religious statues. The Bodleian Library has published a short blog post about it here.
Paper has been documented as used in other pieces of clothing, too, but since until recently I’ve only studied 18th century clothing in depth, I’ve never noticed it used during another century. I’ve seen newsprint used in a banyan cap and some wallets, and paper or cardboard used in stays. I used two types of paper when I sewed myself an 18th century wallet, and it’s held up really well.
So why not? Paper isn’t too washable in the soap-and-water sense, but it was a cheap and available material, and works well as a light stiffener. Apparently, people figured that over 500 years ago, at least. Have you seen paper used in clothing from this time, or earlier? Comment below!


Exposed: A History of Lingerie

The Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC has a new exhibit which opened today at noon – Exposed: A History of Lingerie. I had a few hours today to go see it. I still had a bad taste in my mouth from the last time I went to see a FIT exhibit. I was really hoping for a better experience this time.

IMG_1418The exhibit begins with a few historic pieces such as 1880s corsets, and modern counterparts drawing on those designs, such as Rudi Geinrich creations. The rest of the gallery is a timeline of underwear, starting with rare 1770s sleeved stays and ending with a handful of 2014 pieces. The garments on display are all wonderful examples of their type. For the constricted gallery space, there’s a lot of stuff to see, though many facets of 18th/19th century lingerie (such as drawers or chemises) are not shown.

IMG_1419Since the exhibit was in the same gallery space used for RetroSpective, the clothing was poorly lit. The beautiful, flowing lace, silk and tulle were reduced to 2D shapes, seen from 4-6 feet away, tucked into the shadows. The curators could have achieved better visuals with large poster prints.

Through the gallery I saw some incorrect terminology, but nothing else stood out to me. I have a feeling that the labels are farmed out to undergraduates for grades.

I thought the most misleading thing about the exhibit was how some of the garments were displayed. You can’t understand a 1815 corset when it’s laced onto a modern form and has no busk: you’ll never know the real shape. There was also a 1890s princess slip with a corset over it, the garter straps hanging down to nothing. It was apparent that whoever dressed some of the mannequins really had no idea what he or she was doing, and had no desire to learn how do it it right.

I was moving through the 1960s pieces when a tiny old woman next to me tapped me on the arm and pointed to the 1962 pantygirdle. “I have that in my drawer” she said. Apparently, she was a lingerie designer from the late 1940s up through the 1960s, and had designed pieces that were in competition with pieces FIT had on display. She knew her stuff.

And man, was she pissed.

“That’s incorrect. And that, too. He never designed that. He never used that dart in the sixties. This isn’t his. He wasn’t known for these. That’s not a babydoll dress.”

Obviously insulted, she systematically took apart every label from 1950 through 1980, then she told me “I’m 97, I lived this.” and to the side, “I’m gonna call up Valerie and spank her.”

In my less-than-perfect opinion, this exhibit was more of the same let’s-put-the-Delphos-dress-on-display and let’s-shock-people-with-corsets. The gallery space is poor, and the exhibit isn’t very informative or accurate. In the opinion of the designer I met in the 1960s section, the exhibit was a completely incorrect view of her life and career – she’d both made and worn these garments. She had every right to be pissed.

And according to her, Valerie Steele has some explaining to do!


Clothing Forensics!

I love it when people dissect clothing and are able to tell a story from what they find. So this is pretty cool … The National Gallery of Victoria is kinda sorta doing that with some of their collection. Check it out!

 


15 Hours = eh ….

It’s taken me a while to get a picture of myself in my 15-hour gown, but here it is, at the Bedford PA Historical Society’s new 18th/19th century artisan’s show & conference, America’s Past Preserved.

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Cranberry linen overload!

While a 15-hour, $5 dress is pretty great, there are so many obvious problems …

1) I went for a late 18th century round gown / apron front setup. I kept the waistline low because I’ve seen other American dresses with this sort of configuration. On me, I think it’s very unflattering and doesn’t lend itself to much flexibility. I couldn’t get the apron front to stay in place, either – you can see my stays showing at the waistline where the apron front has sagged. No matter how tightly I tied it, it kept sagging. I’m just going to give up on it now …

2) The front of the bodice overlaps more on the bottom than on the top. When I pin it together, it doesn’t line up straight. That, and the front seems to come down too low, so it creases where the apron front sits and looks icky.

3) The sleeves turned out huge! They’re puffy in the back and too wide everywhere else. I added way too much selvage when I cut them, and I cut them over my awful 1740s chemise which has huge bulky sleeves – a bad move, but it’s the only chemise I have right now, save my 1790-1820 chemise. Soooo … a new chemise needs to be in the works for the next event …

4) When I made this gown, I also made a 1780s/90s cap to wear with it, but as soon as I put it on, it screamed Amish. I have absolutely nothing against the Amish, how they live or or what they wear, but whenever I dress in 18th century clothing, I get called Amish. In all honesty I’m tired of having to explain myself to 50% of the people I come in contact with, so avoiding all triggers sounded like a good idea. Oh well. I’m saving the cap to wear with something more obviously Empire/Regency, so maybe I won’t get so many “oooh look at the Amish girl!” stage-whispered comments.

This brings me to a thought I’ve been having for a while. When I make 18th century clothing, I have to find a middle ground – I have to come up with something as accurate as my skills and research can produce, but also something that the general public interprets as 18th century. The general public is always a mixed bag. There will be knowledgeable people out there who understand my issues with my red dress, and know that it’s probably not super accurate in its current state. Then, there will be people who think I’m Amish, or from the Renaissance, or a Civil War reenactor, or some just weirdo (the latter is probably the most truthful statement). Often I’m the only woman in 18th century clothing at these events, so I can’t fall back on other reenactors bolstering the 18th century theme. I have to come up with something super evocative of “ye olde coloniale period”, while staying as period correct as I can. It limits my wardrobe, but it helps the public – you don’t want confused guests. People get embarrassed enough when I explain that I’m wearing stays.

Okay, sidetrack’s over.

Solutions:

Skirt: remove the apron front and make it an open-front gown. Wider time period, more wardrobe options¬† … and this alteration is very easy. Also, since my shoes are Burnley & Trowbridge’s women’s red walking shoes, making the gown an open front will result in less than 98% red, which was kind of overkill. I mean, red’s awesome, but really.

Bodice: re-sew the front and take it in a little. Another simple fix.

Sleeves: I am going to take them off completely, trim them down, and put them back on. A little more complicated, but it’s going to be worth it. Then I’ll see about making a late 18th century chemise.

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I got to wear my new Goose Bay Workshops chatelaine to this event. I wore it with a large ivory notebook and a bodkin, also from Goose Bay Workshops, and a pair of scissors without a case … yeah, another upcoming project. They’re razor sharp and pointy so it was really kind of stupid to wear them without a case, but they’re so useful to have I just went with it. It was better carrying them on the chatelaine than throwing them in my pocket, which I have done before, and which was very stupid.

I also wore my new brass sleeve buttons with my chemise. I got those from Goose Bay Workshops as well. I have a pair in oval and octagonal, and though I love the octagonal ones, the ovals fit in the chemise buttonholes so that’s what I went with. They were really nice, much nicer than the old tape ties I had worn before. I want to see if I can get a pattern scratched or engraved into them, I just have to think of a design.

And yeah, I do work for Goose Bay Workshops. I’m the webmaster/helper extraordinaire. That would explain why I have so many of GBW’s items, and why the GBW table is behind me in the first picture. That being said, this blog isn’t the place for me to sell or advertise GBW items, and I won’t. I will be pointing out if I’m wearing a GBW piece, though, just as I’ll point out my Burnley & Trowbridge items, or the awesome, beautiful chatelaine I wore the second day of the Bedford show, made by the super talented David Hughes. Pictures to come. Eventually. You know me.