Category Archives: Uncategorized

More Old Photos

I’ve been liking my growing collection of old photographs. They take up less space than clothing, haha.

Here’s half of my finds from yesterday – I went to flea markets and antique stores and came back with a nice collection! Only one was dated or inscribed, so the rest are kind of speculation.

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Here’s the oldest of the bunch – while I have a lot of photos that might be from the 1870s, she’s definitely that old. Her hair is awesome, her dress is pretty cool – and look at her smile. I feel like she’s genuinely happy.


I like the spontaneity of this pose. I’m thinking this is between 1910-1914.


Another 1900ish picture. This photo is so striking. She looks proud and confident and she’s such a beautiful Gibson Girl model. She’s also not super skinny, which is always nice to see because it helps dispel the people-were-smaller-back-then myth. I’m a little confused with the front waistline of her dress. it looks like a raw edge tucked into a waistband, and coming loose. The cloth looks pilled and ravely too.


This is my only inscribed/dated photo from this batch: “To Anna with love, 1918”. This woman is now known to me as Lady Spock. But check out her hair.


Lady Spock’s putzy matted hair. When you really want that new short look, but you just can’t bring yourself to cut anything … here are 1,309 hair pins.


I think this is a really interesting photo. I’m half wondering if this is the woman from two pictures up. She’s beautiful and very Gibson-Girl-esque. I bought this photo because of her kind of risqué-looking dress – or is it a dress? It looks a lot like lingerie – and this on her shoulder …


It’s a jeweled gecko. I’m assuming it’s a pin, like a brooch, but there’s not clothing for it to attach to here. She just balanced it there.

The Ladies’ World, September 1907: A Selection


I like the seaside color scheme of navy, white and coral.


I love her outfit; so jaunty.


All this frufru and fluffiness and corsetry exists UNDER a dress …


Reusing old clothing by dyeing it. I’m wondering if the neon blaze-orange ink is a subliminal plug for the dye too.


Tie dyeing in 1907! 



Fashions for November 1907. Click on the image for a larger picture with more detail. And check it out in the upper right corner … it’s the G-D waist again!



How to properly fit a skirt.

Plus Feathers!

I wanted my next post to be patterns, but I’m so excited about my new 1910s – early 20s hat, I had to share it. I added feathers, because frufru is awesome. I found the feathers already attached together in some sort of flower arrangement feather-duster-like pouf at a craft store – the closest I’m going to come to one of those awful Victorian let’s-just-stick-half-a-dead-bird-here decorations.


The feathers are brown, dark with peacock iridescence, and there are a few very skinny tan ones at the back. I love how they look against the navy velvet.


This hat is my entry for the Historic Sew Fortnightly’s Challenge #2, Blue.

The original I based mine on, from LACMA.

The original I based mine on, from LACMA.

See my original blog post about sewing this hat here.

So Yeah … Writing …

I’ve been away.

(“Thank you, Captain Obvious.” “You’re welcome, Lieutenant Sarcasm.”)

Away, right now, means moving and finals week, with a side of holidays thrown in. The upshot is that I probably won’t be writing again until after Christmas or so.

In the meantime, I’m SUPER EXCITED to hear that the Historic Sew Fortnightly is continuing into 2015 with a monthly schedule, so I’m waking up the grey matter to figure out a project for the first challenge. More to come.

I finished by dad’s black and white waistcoat, but still have to write about how that did or didn’t work out. More to come.

I’ve received a lot of Victorian/Edwardian clothing that I can’t wait to take my camera to and show off here, and get some input on what’s what. It includes purses, a hat, underclothing, dresses, skirts and shirtwaists, all dating from about 1840-60 (still figuring out that date) up to maybe 1910. I very, very much want to reproduce some of it for my own wardrobe. More to come.

So yeah. Happy Holidays, everybody, and I’ll be back soon! 😀

Reticule, Part 2

Over the past few days the reticule has become fancier, and I think it can get even more fancy: I still have areas that are asking to be filled with designs. I haven’t lined it yet because I keep going back and adding stuff.


Now with 78% more leaves! It’s like a folk-art weeping willow, but also like a vase full of seaweed. I added linen tassels to the drawstring ends too.


I think the biggest problem is that the big chunky designs are on the flat areas, and the detailed embroidery is lost in the folds at the top. I think I can compensate by putting something detailed inside those circles.


Next to an original turn-of-the-century linen purse. An illustration of how popular this simple style was. 

Saint Savina’s Cote

I want to make an easy-to-wear, late Medieval/early Renaissance dress to wear to Renaissance fairs, and since I’m at The Met a few times a month, I decided to go check out their Medieval & Renaissance art.

So here’s a depiction of Saint Savina, 1510-1520, France. It seems that artists of that time didn’t worry too much about the saints & Holy Family wearing historically accurate clothing, but would put them in medieval fashions, adding picturesque drapery. These medieval artists created a sartorial look for Christian icons, and it has become so accepted that nowadays, most nativity scenes have the Holy Family wearing some form of medieval clothing plus drapery.

The label for this statue reads that in Troyes, Saint Savina was depicted as a ‘youthful pilgrim’, with a characteristic staff, hat and bag. Maybe her appearance was based off of other pilgrims, or a stereotypical image of a pilgrim at the time. She’s also a saint, so she holds a gospel and a palm frond that symbolizes her martyrdom.

The long drapery is probably artistic license, but I think the bodice of the gown underneath is fairly contemporary. I’m assuming it’s a variation on the cote or cotte (sometimes called a cotehardie), a tightly-fitted gown worn underneath the looser robe, and over a chemise. It’s tightly fitted at the torso and has fairly narrow sleeves. The skirt is long with a decorated hem.

There’s some paint left on this statue, mostly red and a great blue-teal kind of color, which the cote was painted with.


This cote has

1) a square, decorated neckline bound with a separate pice of cloth

2) no waist seam; the skirt flares from bodice pieces

3) either it’s lined with the lining turned over the outer edge, or the edges are bound

4) and the bodice is closed with about seven pins!


That hat …


A pretty utilitarian-looking shoe surrounded by reasonably impractical drapery.


That great bag.

Now about those pins. The entire outfit seems, to me, to be a mix of practical clothing suitable for walking (a simple gown, plain shoes, a staff and a bag) and possibly exaggerated, possibly classically-inspired drapery. Which category do the pins fall into? I’m assuming they’re listed under the more practical heading.

I’m reminded of a good reenacting saying, though – be the common person, not the exception to the rule. If I have to go out of my way to try to explain this cote’s different front, is it really what most women wore, or is it an exception to the rule? I think lacing is probably the way to go for my own cote.

Wandering the Metropolitan Museum

When the guard says photos are okay, I’m in heaven.


The Triumph of Fame from The Triumphs, Brussels, 1502-1504, wool and silk. The plaque says that this tapestry, or one very similar to it, was purchased by Isabella, queen of Castile and Aragon in 1504. It shows Fame conquering Death and the Fates with Christian imagery and long wavy hair.

Check these details out.


Don’t they look like sunglasses?


Proving that men have been doing that super unfortunate sandals-over-socks thing for a long time now.


Supposedly these women are the Fates, all getting trampled by goodliness and virtue. The one in the front is wearing a dress that I LOVE – but the thing that’s really getting to me is her hair.

2 copy

I think I remember wearing this when I was 5.

A New Pair of Stays for Market Fair

Well, I wasn’t able to sew a whole bunch of things for the Market Fair on November 2, but I was able to squeeze out two wearable items. First, I made a new set of pockets which I’m pleased with.

New pockets made in linen diaper weave. The cloth was trimmed from a waistcoat that was updated from c. 1720 to c. 1760.

New pockets made in linen diaper weave. The cloth was trimmed from a waistcoat that was updated from c. 1720 to c. 1760.

I also started on a huge undertaking that I’ve been dreaming of for years – a new pair of stays, handsewn with metal (not plastic!!!) boning. I’ve always wanted pink stays, so I scraped together all the leftover bits from the frump dress / pinner apron project and got peachy-colored ones.

Close enough.

I only had two short sleeves and a bit of the bodice of the dress left, so I pieced the crap out of it and I actually finished the stays with that tiny amount of cloth. Here’s the pieciest piece:

This was half a day's careful work. I have about an ounce of scrap cloth left from this project, and it's all thready bits trimmed off the edges.

This was half a day’s careful work – ten pieced of scraps to form one pattern piece. I have about an ounce of scrap cloth left from this project, and it’s all thready bits trimmed off the edges. Everything else was used.

These are my old corded jumps that I based my new stays on.

I based the stays on two American originals from the 1740s-60s. I found that stays from this time are differentiated from earlier and later ones by two factors: the height of the stays in the front (higher than later stays, lower than earlier ones) and that most of the boning is more vertical than later, angled boning.

All the pieces in line, before all of them were boned.

All the pieces in line, before all of them were boned. I eventually shaped the top line differently.

The front four pieces from the inside, sewn together. I meant to make the front lace up originally, but I threw that idea out - too many eyelets.

The front four pieces from the inside, sewn together. I meant to make the front lace up originally, but I threw that idea out – too many eyelets.

The progress on my stays had to be interrupted because of work, so on the day before the Market Fair, they were in three pieces and none of the edges were bound. They also needed to be re-fitted because I had forgotten that those old corded stays stretched when I laced them up, and fresh new metal-boned stays weren’t going to stretch all that much. So I worked all day, and got enough done to wear them. I wasn’t able to bind the entire lower part of them, but I did get the upper edges done, and the eyelets in, and the whole thing pretty much fitted. The lining had to wait.

The stays from the front - the upper chest fits a little funny, but otherwise they are so much more comfortable than my corded jumps.

The stays from the front – the upper chest fits a little funny, but otherwise they are so much more comfortable than my corded jumps. It’s because of the tabs on the bottom – no more bones digging into my waist, yay! That being said, these stays don’t give me a lot of waist anyway. I’m kind of tubular.


The side. I see now that the boning directly under my arm is too vertical; it makes the waist of the stays stand out from the body. Lessons for next time.

Final analysis: I’m not as pleased with the stays as I thought I would be. They still fit a little funny around the upper bust and waist. I think it’s because of the direction of the boning, and because they come up a little higher in the front than I’m used to. I’ll take a closer look at that later.

In the end, I went to the Market Fair with some stuff to demonstrate with, and I was able to dress two of my sisters, myself and my dad. It was a perfect sunny fall day. I had a table full of repro clothing and my sewing kit out, and I worked on a new stomacher for an early gown that I haven’t made yet (…). I spoke about what people wore, how clothes were made, who made them, and the issues facing re-enactors and living historians in reproducing 18th century clothes. I scared a bunch of little boys when I taught them that 18th century boys their age wore gowns like girls. I met some great people who were doing wonderful work creating their own clothing. I had such a good time that I forgot to get a picture of my table or any of us! Oh well, next time. : D

Market Fair Preparations

With an event (the Market Fair in Dover, DE) in early November coming up, I’m under the gun. I need to clothe 2-4 people c.1770 from my meager stash of costuming, and I need extra clothes to display and to demonstrate with. So now comes the big push: I need to finish *all* my sewing projects and complete a handful of new ones within three weeks.

First up was reworking a checked linen shirt for my dad. I had made the collar too small when I finished the shirt. Instead of making a whole new collar (which would mean I’d have to sew another buttonhole … I hate buttonholes … ) I took the collar off, cut it in half, and added a piece to the center back.

Widening a shirt collar. I took it off and cut it in half, then added a strip down the back & re-attached it.

Widening the shirt collar: the original cut in half, and the addition about to be added. Also the iProduct playing Mozart – you’ve gotta have that atmosphere.

The finished shirt, with the collar and back of the body both pieced. If I had been more careful, I could have lined the checks up and made the seams almost invisible.

The finished shirt, with the collar and back of the body both pieced. If I had been more careful, I could have lined the checks up and made the seams almost invisible. More on me and my accuracy in sewing later.

Except for the button rings, this shirt is 100% linen, and 100% handmade. It feels sooooo good.

Except for the button rings, this shirt is 100% linen, and it’s 100% hand sewn. It feels sooooo good. And looks sooooo bad all wrinkled and droopy.

My second project was for myself. I have needed a muff for a while because my hands get cold easily, so I made one from a leftover bit of wool from my red wool cloak. I also made a cover for it, to make it a little more versatile. It was a nice project because it wasn’t difficult sewing, and it took only an hour to get the actual muff done. The cover took a little longer.

The muff, with the cotton and silk cover on. It'll look better in context. I hope.

The muff, with the chintz and silk cover on. It’ll look better in context. I hope. And yeah, I know how to sew a straight line, I was just making this up as I went / too lazy / not caffeinated enough to do it.

So what’s next? I have a mental list of things I want to make, but I’m not sure how many I will be able to actually finish. I’d love to make a small child’s set of clothes, with a pudding cap and stays, to demonstrate with. I really need to get a few more petticoats, short gowns or jackets, chemises and shoes (eek!) made. A pair of stays or jumps to demonstrate with would really make me happy, but I probably won’t be able to do that in time. We’ll see how much I am able to do before the end of the month!

An 18th Century Outfit on a Budget, part one

or, How to be Broke in 2013 and Look Broke c. 1760

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Note my awesome 18th century Howard Johnson accommodations.

About a year ago, after reading about the secondhand clothing trade in the 18th century, I decided to make an outfit from recycled clothes.

That, and I’m a broke ex-college student, and it was easier to do this than buy yard goods.

I decided on portraying the 1760s-70s, but I dated my clothing between 1730-50, with remakes around 1760-70. I did this because I have read about so many clothes being remade and reworked decades after their original creation, and I extrapolated that secondhand clothing may have had a high percentage of older stuff that was then reworked. I mean, look at thrift shops – it’s all 1980s-1990s stuff, here in 2013. That’s already 2-3 decades, and we don’t usually rework the stuff like people did in the 18th century!

I’m still not sure how prevalent the secondhand clothing trade was in America. Apparently it was huge in England, but I haven’t found much information about it on my side of the puddle. At the least, I can assume that clothes were handed down through families.

I also decided that, just as thrift shop or hand-me-down clothing often doesn’t match or coordinate, that my outfit would not coordinate at all. So I have linen, silk, cotton and wool; floral, cross-barred and striped clothes, and over 11 different colors. Yay. The pieces are also tailored a little ‘off’, so they don’t fit me perfectly – as if they were originally designed for somebody else.

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The 1760 cell-phone selfie.


It’s made out of light brown wool that I salvaged from a moth-eaten wool skirt I found in a thrift shop. The lining is  three different types of linen – all different weights and colors (all natural or white, though). It’s all hand sewn with linen thread. The whole thing is pieced and tight in the shoulders because I had to really ration the fabric. The green robing and cuffs cover where I ran out of brown wool.

For the most part, I took the color scheme from early English gowns, and the front design from some later English clothes. My story is that the front was updated. It also explains the short skirts, which are actually short because I didn’t have that much wool.

I did have to stick with England on the jacket, and not America, simply because I found more information from England.

The front is made of three strips of wool, sewn on one end and closing with hooks and eyes on the other. I don’t know how accurate this is, but the end result looks like the caraco I based it on. I went with three straps because it distributed the strain a little more evenly. In the above pictures, the top strap needs to be angled a little more.

I copied the rust-and-green color scheme from a handful of 1720s-40s jackets and gowns.


One of my color scheme inspiration pieces.
William Hogarth, The Fountaine Family, detail. 1730. Image courtesy of

A later example of the same color scheme, this time from America. Anne Catherine Green, 1769, by Charles Wilson Peale. The National portrait Gallery.

A later example of the same color scheme, this time from America. Anne Catherine Green, 1769, by Charles Wilson Peale. The National Portrait Gallery.

petticoat and jacket VA

The outfit I based my jacket front construction on.
Petticoat and caraco in cotton chintz, England 1770-80. The Victoria & Albert Museum.

1760s ensemble, England. The Kyoto Costume Intstitute

A stomacher similar to the caraco above.
1760s ensemble, England. The Kyoto Costume Institute


This is an apron my mom made probably 20 years ago. It’s been remade once, darned & patched. As a sutler I dust & polish our products at events with this apron, so it gets pretty dirty.


I go back and forth on how accurate this cross-barred skirt is. It’s a very thick cotton. It’s old, probably 20+ years. I remade the waist and I re-hemmed it,  but I’m thinking of replacing it with a wool skirt.


You can’t see them in the above pictures, but I’m wearing corded jumps. I made them based on Beth Gilgun’s pattern in Tidings from the 18th Century. She dated it to c. 1740-ish, as I recall. They’re made from two layers of canvas with jute cording in the channels instead of boning.

The inspiration for these came from a newspaper advertisement from mid-century America. The owner of a shop was selling corded stays for women. Almost ten years ago, when I made these, I hadn’t learned about good research practices yet, and I forgot to note where I had found this pertinent bit of information. I don’t know where it came from anymore.

They were very supportive when new, but that was almost ten years ago now. Now they bulge and fold in awkward places and make weird horizontal creases. I’d love to replace them with leather jumps someday (there’s a pair in Colonial Williamsburg‘s DeWitt Wallace Collection).


I made these mules from a few layers of leather, a block of wood, and a little wool and linen. They don’t exist anymore because they didn’t come out so great – I decided I could make them better by taking them apart, but never got around to putting them back together.

For the one event I wore them at, however, they worked fine because they were better than nothing: my old shoes had betrayed me and fallen apart after 13 years of wear (how dare they), and my new shoes had not arrived yet.

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If I am ever able to make a better pair, I’ll blog about it. Until then, RIP Ugly Mules.


I wear an old pair of striped stockings with patched heels with this outfit.

My cap is based on a few paintings from mid-18th century America, and the patterns in Fitting and Proper by Sharon Ann Burnston. It came out pretty well – starching and ironing makes a world of difference. I decorated it with a little silk ribbon from Burnley & Trowbridge.

The kerchief was bought from Burnley & Trowbridge. Can’t say much about it other than I really like it.


It’s probably 20+ years old, cotton, full of holes, worn to tissue, and has been remade about twice. I like it because it’s thin and comfy, but the cut and construction are not accurate. I had to retire it recently when a day at the Maryland Renaissance Fair caused it to turn blue (I wore it underneath a freshly dyed gown, and got caught in a monsoon).

So … it’s now New Chemise Time. I began with Sharon Ann Burnston’s online shift how-to (check it out!).

I’m still in the process of finishing the chemise, hence the ‘part one’ of the title of this post.


The total price of this whole thing is less than $50.00, but that’s because I had a lot of the materials already, and I own a lot of hand-me-down costume pieces.

Small bits of wool and linen can be bought for cheap at thrift shops, but linen thread is more difficult to come by and usually costs $7.00 a spool. Hypothetically you could sew interior seams with any type of thread, and just do the topstitching with linen – the point is to hand sew; it makes a huge difference.

Cotton is easier to come by; it’s often cheap enough as yard goods. I’ve even used sheets as long as they’re 100% cotton. Often the weave is not perfect, and very few prints work.

Dyeing fabric can freshen it up, and will give you some more color options. Block printing, if you can get it to work, is an awesome way to make your outfit stand out – I’ve tried this before, to some degree of success.

There have been some great blogs on remaking modern shoes by covering them with 18th-century type cloth (link below brings you to Wear When Why’s post about this process). I’ve got a pair of heels that I’ll be trying this with soon.