Tag Archives: 18th century research

Jumps 2.0

I had nothing going on this past weekend, so I cranked out my new jumps.

I machine-sewed them, which went against my new habit of hand sewing everything … but I wanted to spend more time fitting and experimenting with a new pattern then putzing with hand sewing. I’m reacting against my last stays experience: I spent a looong time hand sewing those and they came out very well made, but don’t fit so well.

I saved the pattern for these, so I’ll make a second, hand-sewn pair later. I want to make the second pair in white cotton and embroider them, like the original. Mine are made from about 1.5 yards of bulky cotton/linen canvas in a drab tan/olive color. I used steel boning and some nice waxed cotton cord for the stay lace.

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The plan, based on a pair of 1780s-90s jumps at Colonial Williamsburg, probably worn by Ann Van Rensselaer in New York. These jumps aren’t on the CW website anymore (!?!?!) but they’re in What Clothes Reveal, by Linda Baumgarten, page 211. 

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“cut here”

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The front part boned, and the back part chalked out.

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Ironing the ends over to sew the back pieces in.

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Handmade eyelets in between ugly machine-sewn channels. 

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On my desk, almost finished!

So right now they’re pretty much finished. They went together very quickly, and the design is flattering and doesn’t use up a huge amount of materials. I’ll see if I can get some nicer pictures of them soon.

 

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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!


On My Bookshelf: The Mode in Costume, 1942

IMG_1462I have a difficult time appreciating older costume books. I’ve been kind of scarred by Earle and McClellan. When I got this book, a first edition of The Mode in Costume, I wasn’t expecting much, and the book really delivered for a while …

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So where do we start on this black gown … neckline, sleeves, waistline, skirt cut … The francaise next to it is pretty much okay, though. Any book that uses Earle as a source, however, is going to be kinda-sorta okay in some places, and hideously awful in others.

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Oh gawd!!! Nooo! Nooooooooo!

It’s one of those here’s-what-everybody-everywhere-wore-since-the-dawn-of-time books, and you can never expect these books to have enough detail to satisfy a moderate interest, or to have thorough enough research to build upon. I flipped from Egypt to 1800s Europe in a few minutes and didn’t see anything that really caught my attention – until I realized that the clothing in the book went right up to the date of publication. There’s no way the authors could have gotten their own clothing wrong.

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Just that line of cigarette smoke screams 1930s-1940s.

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And here we see the entire male wardrobe for the movie Casablanca …

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Huzzah, authors! I mean, these are gorgeous. For fun (because I don’t know what the rest of society deems fun) I went back and read the forward.

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Yes, it’s a statement of the state of the fashion industry at an incredibly turbulent time. I’d always heard fashion professors say that 1930s fashions ‘fossilized’ through the 1940s until Dior’s New Look came in, but I never knew that people acknowledged this during the war. The forward also notes the opportunities American designers had during France’s occupation, without naming anybody.

So do I like this book at all? Kind of. If you’re doing historical clothing research from before 1900, don’t you dare use this book. Really. If you want an overview of 1910-1940 clothing in France and the USA, it’s a start. If you want to know what people thought of fashion history in the 1940s, and what inspired costuming, go for this one. For the history of fashion history, it’s pretty awesome.


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!


Kinda Excited …

I’ve been working a lot on my clothing collection lately. Not the collection of stuff I’m making; my collection of vintage/antique clothes. I’ve been cataloging every piece on my other WordPress blog, which I’m kinda sorta proud of … it’s got over 80 posts now! With a few notable exceptions, most of the women’s clothing I have in that collection isn’t really reproduce-able, like jeans and constructed purses.

But that’s going to change in a week or so. Coming up, I have two women’s dresses and a girl’s dress, all dating from between about 1900-late twenties. Yeah, excitement. I’ll be adding them to my blog with tons of pictures, patterns, and construction tips. Eventually I want to reproduce the two women’s dresses, which will be a lot of fun.

That, and I’ve decided to finally get to work on my new 18th century dress. I’m going to make it from some linen I bought a while back that I had to re-dye over it’s original rabid watermelon color. I have a deadline; early April – my next event, but I also want to see how quickly I can sew a dress by hand. I want to break my old record of two days.

That, and I’m thinking really hard about picking up a dress form so I can actually see some of this clothing worn, and (gasp!) maybe be able to drape dresses, finally!

So I’m going to go get my costume movies in line (I’ve gotta watch something while I sew!) and get to work!


Documenting Female Names in America, 1640-1820

After attending a play in which I noticed the characters’ names didn’t sound too 18th century-ish, I went home and Googled common 18th century names. I was a little surprised when I didn’t find anything.

So I decided to do some research myself. I began to document the birth year, location of birth, name, and class of women born in America from 1640 to 1820, just to see what names it would turn up.

The current result is a database of 1,676 women, mostly from Virginia or Delaware, from 1750-1820. The information was mainly collected from cemetery records and runaway advertisements. I listed women from all walks of life. If I could not find a specific year of birth, I estimated to a decade based on other information (children, average life span for that class and time). Given that, there’s a chance that a little of this data is about 10 years off the mark. I tried to collect enough names to average these discrepancies out.

The eventual goal of this research is to create a database for each colony/state, showing the most popular names for the area, and for each decade. Because most of my data is from Virginia, however, it currently drowns out whatever the other areas produced. Hopefully in the future I will be able to collect data from other colonies/states and even things out.

So for a few posts I’ll share some facts I discovered from my data.

This project has documented some names that I didn’t really expect to be so old, such as Emmeline, Cecily, Ellen, Edith, Deborah, Daphne, Cynthia, Courtney, Candace, Ariana, Amey, Laura, Mayble, Natalie, and Rhoda.

Here are the thirteen most common names for the 180 years I studied. I grouped similar names together for this, but once I get more data, I may separate them and see which versions were popular for what years.

1)  Mary – 181 counts, most popular between 1810 – 1819.

2)  Elizabeth/Elisabeth – 133, most popular between 1810 – 1819.

3)  Sarah/Sara – 122, most popular between 1810 – 1819.

4) Anne/Ann/Annie/Anna – 120, most popular in the 1770s.

5) Hannah/Hanna – 59, most popular between 1750 – 1759.

6) Margaret/Margareta/Margaretta – 58, most popular between 1810 – 1819.

7) Jane – 44, most popular between 1800 – 1809.

8) Betsey/Betsy – 37, most popular in the 1750s.

9) Rebecca/Rebeckah and Martha are tied at 35 each, the former most popular between 1800 – 1809, the latter in the 1770s.

10) Lucy and Catherine/Catharine are both tied at 28 counts, the former most popular in the 1750s, the latter between 1800 – 1809.

11) Nancy – 22, most popular between 1760 – 1779.

My apologies, that’s a whole bunch of very dry statistics! The funny thing is, some names that seem iconic for the 18th century don’t seem so common. For instance, I counted only four Abigails, no Georgiannas, and only nine Charlottes out of almost 1,700 women. Names that sound very 17th century (Margaret, Margareta and Margaretta) seem to have been popular in the early 19th century, and that seems to be a trend: names that were popular around 1680-1720 were used again between 1780 and 1820.

I’ll have some more breakdowns of this research in future posts – I’m still trying to wrangle these numbers into Excel to make some charts! Enjoy!