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!