Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Victorian’

Here are the beautiful photos from Highland Park. One could not ask for a better backdrop than the voluptuously, lacy lilacs.

I tied a sash around the waist, which was unnecessary. But I thought it jaunty, and have lost a few pounds unintentionally from when I did the bodice fitting. I never tight lace for fittings, so tying the corset looser was not an option. I hoped the sash would compensate for the looser fit, and it is pretty.

The photos were taken by the incomparable Annette Dragon. She does incredible work!

Read Full Post »

20090511_0001

Dress Front with sleeves pinned on

The underskirt is 99% finished. Hah! All that remains are some extra hooks for closure. The back portion of the underskirt I trimmed differently then the front portion, which was common for the period. I was rather sick of rigid, straight up and down pleats, so I took a long piece of doubled over 16.5″ wide plum silk (8 inches when folded and turned), and pleated it in on itself  4 times every 8 inches. 8 seemed to be something of a magic number with the underskirt, because lots of things ended up being done in 8s. I don’t think there is any significance to this.

20090511_0002I have some sleeves, though they are not lined, sewed in, finished off, or decorated. They are pinned on for the photos. I used the plaid because I had a good amount of it left over and hated to waist it. It’s not one of those fabrics that you can coordinate with a lot of other things. It’s demanding stylistically, but wonderful, wonderful to work with. As far as fabric goes, I can safely say it’s the best I have worked with. It ranks a 10 in texture liveliness, personality, color, and ease to work with. I bought it on e-bay, and basically based the entire dress around it.

The sleeves are made in two pieces, so they have a slight natural bend at the end. I cut a big circle, then a hole in the middle, and ever so slightly gathered it into the bottom of the arms at the 4 cardinal points of the sleeve hole. I think I’ll sew plum pleating to the inside – if I have time – and I will trim where the circle meets the sleeve with a bow and such.

The side view looks so much better when worn, primarily because the dummy bends to the right and back, and because it has no derriere. Absolutely none.

20090511_0003I’m sewing some antique lace to the inside of the collar. It looks authentic because it is real antique, probably late 1800 lace. There was exactly the right amount.

The back bow will be basted, because there isn’t much on earth that looks more stupid than a screwed up out of place bow moving around a dress, or moving around anything for that matter.

This dress would not have been worn in high summer, but this time of year is perfect for it. It would have been a walking dress, worn to parks. I like to think it’s Parisian. Who else but a French woman would wear purple plaid silk?

20090511_0004

I wish so much I could let everyone feel the dress! It feels fantastic with all of that silk, and the rustle is so inspiring! What the previous red and black bustle dress did for drama, this one does for texture and tactility. You just want to touch it!

She will embark on her maiden voyage in less than 48 hours… no more posts for a couple of days. Back to work.

Read Full Post »

I’ve postponed finishing the skirt, primarily because I can’t make up my mind yet about how to allocate resources. In the meantime, i have started the ever so particular polonaise. Below are shots of the plaid pinned to the interliner, which is then loosely pinned to the dummy.

I changed the design. There will be a heavily pleated panel extending from the mid-back bodice (under the ‘V’), which will probably be poufed. From the side back bodice panels, I am sewing two side panels. You’ll just have to wait and see what it looks like.

Side Bodice

Side Bodice

Back center bodice

Back center bodice

20090325_0011

Side from a distance

20090325_0012

Back from a distance

Read Full Post »

The Back

The Back

Here are drawings of what I plan to do. The drawings were quickly done, but they get the point across. It will look like a purple plaid frothy puff with lots of bows! What would be better for spring?

The Front

The Front

I wrestled for a while with my plans for the seaming. The plaid poses some curious problems, foremost being that the lightest colored, lilac stripes – which I want to be vertical – run horizontal across the bolt. Where I had expected no problems with creating a long train, as I had planned to do, I realize that to cut the back panel all in one piece I would need to make the white stripe horizontal, and this draw the eye wide. So, I came up with a solution and can now proceed.
The sashes are a recent addition. First, they will cover up some of the seaming I’ll need to do. Second, I think they are so Tissot. Third, they add froth. I am shooting for as much froth as possible, without making the waist and body disappear. When it comes to making a purple plaid silk dress, the more froth the better.

I hemmed the skirt and turned the waist band today, which didn’t take very long. In fact, it was almost nothing, so I’m not bothering with pictures.

Read Full Post »

Bustle Portion of the skirt is attached to the top of the 3 panel train

Bustle Portion of the skirt is attached to the top of the 3 panel train

I made some small progress on the underskirt today.

The train is gathered and sewn into the cotton tape. The idea is that more cotton tape will be used to do more rigging in the future. But I decided that I wanted to cover the rigging with a darted panel. So the darted panel was sewn to the cotton tape as well. I will sew more rigging when I’m ready to attach the whole thing to a waist band.

An Apron is sewn onto the front 3 panels. It's gathered at the sides.

An Apron is sewn onto the front 3 panels. It's gathered at the sides.

I cut the apron and trimmed it with a pleated flounce. The apron is then sewn to the front panels.

The front panels and back panels are still not attached to each other, but I’m basically ready to sew them all together then insert the whole contraption into the waistband. Maybe tomorrow?

A friend wants to take photos of me and the new dress, so I have a deadline for completion: a week and change. Should be fun.

Read Full Post »

Front Panel

I started cutting into the gown fabric today after making the pattern pieces and a mock up of muslin. I will document here how to construct a dress. I couldn’t work on it too intensely today, so everything is all basic.

Here is a shot of the front panel pinned to the dummy.  Understand, this is the base skirt. It will be adnored with puffs, pleats, scallops, and an apron that is also adorned. I’ll get to the apron later.

Front panel with wedge-shaped side panels

Side Panels attached to the front panel

There will be an attached back train of modest size.  It is made up of three panels of the silk, sewn together. I gathered the train into a piece of sturdy cotton tape. Right now, it’s just pinned to the tape. The train is not yet sewn to the front panels for reasons that will become clear later. Basically, it’s being held on the dummy by friction.

Keep in mind, that the three train panels are something like 7 feet across, all of which needed to be gathered into the 19″ piece of cotton tape. There is a lot of stuff going on there, and things are not as simple as they appear.

Back train attached pinned to front panels

A rather wide apron will be attached going across the three front panels and sewn into the seams above the train. The cotton tape that holds the train will be held to the waistband with rigging, and two purple panels that cover the rigging.

The Brown dress in the middle is the inspiration for my Polonaise design. Coming soon.

The Brown dress in the middle is the inspiration for my Polonaise design. Coming soon.

To the right is the 1874 Godey fashion print that is the closest thing to what I have in mind for the back of the polonaise. Of course, it’s brown and not plaid. 

The proposed underskirt will be much more elaborate than the one shown on the brown Polonaise in the 1874 print. Also, the front of the Polonaise will be shorter, which will allow for a lovely apron. But I really liked the long train effect on the brown polonaise.

I am already in love with my grape-popsicle colored silk. It’s so soft, so sturdy, an so easy to work with. It rustles and drapes like a dream, and the color is just so Victorian.

Read Full Post »

Think Victorian women outspent Victorian men on personal consumables?  Think again.

It has been a common misconception that the Victorian American woman was a little more than fond of retail therapy and large scale personal consumption. Much of the basis for this misconception has been that the little data that has been analyzed has been approached from the standpoint that those buying the consumable goods are those consuming them. Add to that the contrasting images of males and females we have culturally assumed for the Victorian era (women in large poufy dresses and Parisian hats, compared with the austere, polished and serious patriarch from the male fashion plates) and we have a nice historical myth. But  just because Victorian women purchased more goods, does not mean they consumed them.

victorian_postcard_2

Big Spender

Consumer Society in America has an article that claims that according to the 1890 census, men consumed 2.5 times more on clothing than women. And that’s not all. Though men’s clothes were at the top of list ($446M), liquor and alcohol came second ($290M). Then footwear ($274M) and tobacco ($197M).  Compare the almost $200M spent on tobacco with the $183M American women in 1890 spent on women’s clothing. Further down the list are perfumes and cosmetics, sporting goods, billard table materials ($2.8M!), and some other androgenous cosumables such as pocketbooks and watches that were likely consumed more by men.

The article states that the numbers are accurate, since the census did purposefully divide men and women’s clothing into two separate categories. What this does not include are clothing items made at home, in which case women were producing what they consumed. Men would have been more likely to buy more of their clothes off the rack, rather than relying on a wife or female member of the family to produce them at home.

But, as the article continues, even if the clothing items are entirely removed from equation, the consumption of men and women becomes basically identical. If, for example, the census numbers missed a third of female consumption on clothing, that would still only put women at about 44%, claims the article. So the assumption that Victorian consumerism was highly skewed towards the feminine is entirely wrong.

corset1889advertisement

Appealing to Feminine Frugality

Though this is just a theoretical scenario, could it be possible that women were better at keeping their clothes in good shape? With all that liquor and tobacco being consumed, there were bound to be some casualties (think clothes with cigar holes, sloppy eating). Also, I believe that women’s clothing, particularly those in the middle class, was more designated into functional categories. She had house dresses, visiting dresses, walking dresses, perhaps a formal dress. Though this is just a theory, perhaps feminine ritual resulted in women dressing appropriately for the purpose. Other factors entering into the equation could be that women had more structure to their clothes – such as boning – that preserved their clothing from wear.

There is also the possibility of price discrimination across genders. Men were the income earners. Their image was important. Women, on the other hand, did not earn income, and were usually dependent on a male family member for spending money. Women in 2009 will spend more money than a man on their clothing and hair because they likely perceive a financial benefit resulting therefrom: better job, richer boyfriend. She may be on the dating or job market for years, whereas a Victorian women could be married before she was 20.

In any case and for whatever reason, unless there were a lot of women running around in men’s clothes, drinking copious amounts of  alcohol and smoking cigars (a la Lilian Russell), women were not the big consumers of the Victorian era.

Read Full Post »

1840s silhouette

1840s silhouette

After consuming a significant number of books on scientific advances in the 1840s, I wonder why, in such a highly charged atmosphere of innovation and energy, their clothes and hairstyles were so dreadful.As much as I enjoy championing the champion-less, I would take up the cause of this decade begrudgingly, and only out of a desire to understand the physical aspects in which all these advancements took place. For fashion-wise, the decade was invidiously dowdy.

Scientifically and philosophically it yielded an extraordinary number of innovations and divergences in thought:

  • John Stuart Mill writes, Principles of Political Economy, in 1844
  • Start of the Computer Revolution with Charles Babbage and Ada Byron Lovelace
  • First Publication of The Economist, 1843
  • Marx & Engels write the Communist Manifesto, in 1848
  • First convention for Women’s Rights held in 1848
  • First use of general anesthesia in an operation in 1844
  • First telegraph sent, starting a Communication Revolution
  • The Political ‘Revolution of 1848′
  • Darwin’s preparation of his theory of Natural Selection

But the women’s clothes were awful. The fashions of this decade were the prudes of the prudish nineteenth century. Alison Gernsheim writes: “Never before or since has Western women’s costume expressed respectability, acquiescence and dependence to such a degree as in the 1840s, the most static decade of nineteenth century fashion.” And, I am inclined to agree with her. One would need to go back to the fifteenth century – and very arguably not even then – to find a decade of fashion so hell-bent of stifling what our genetic disposition would urge us to find attractive.

Sick faces encased in poke bonnets or drooping, plastered hair

Perhaps, besides the Europe-wide famine, this was one of the reasons for the explosion in thought. It is difficult to imagine the female visage inspiring contentment and distraction for mankind when framed by such severely parted, drooping hair and visible only when her view is straight-forward on due to her deep-brimmed poke bonnet. Those wretched bonnets made the sideways glance in the park or the passing look on the street impossible. The sullen, sick faces of the fashion plates, stuffed into stovepipe-like contraptions or sad, plastered hair were little improved by a lame spattering of dinky lace and fake flowers. And the bodices! Their cut made the youthful and sinewy matronly, the tall and willowy gangly and angular, and the well-busted top heavy and immobile. The constriction of the skirts, pancake-like flattening and dropping of the bosom, all-over covering of the skin, and face-blocking unflattering hair emphasized that idea that women were indeed forbidden fruit, but not in a good way. Mystery was abandoned for sanctimonious righteousness, boring rigidity, and the stifling doctrinal tightness of fear and disapproval.

The fashions of the 1840s were a blight upon the eyes of men and an encasement for the expression of women. In 1839, the year before the plunge into this mirthless decade, Honore de Balzac bent minds into viewing fashion as “sort of a symbolic language,” and that “to be proficient in the science, every woman walks about with a placard on which her leading qualities are advertised.” It is sad to imagine that the language of fashion would be one so without poetry and voiced with a clipped, monotone lack of ingenuity and spirit. Clothing can be not only a sounding board, as Honore suggested, it can also be an entombment. Is it any wonder that George Sand dressed like a man?!

1847 Portrait of Lola Montez painted for the King of Bavaria

1847 Portrait of Lola Montez painted for the King of Bavaria

It is easy to imagine the lascivious and romantic beauties of their days, the Josephines in high waisted Empire clothes, lounging on chaises and eating strawberries, or the Marie d’Agoults attracting the young Liszts in their exaggerated puffed-sleeved of the 1830s showing off their little waist and luminescent faces with dangly earrings in the candlelight. Or perhaps the era of the hoop that was to follow in the 1850s and 60s. Though it is not my favorite period, it had more redeeming qualities than the 40s. It was when below the waist was just too large and festooned to be ignored and the bosom generously framed and available for visual consumption.

But the 1840s? Even Lola Montez – the courtesan who was rumored to have seduced the King of Bavaria by wrestling her way into his study, sliding her hips onto his desk, and cutting her bodice open with a rough pair of scissors without so much of an introduction – looks dowdy and prudish in the fashion of the time. Though the particulars of the story are exaggerated, Ms. Montez’s quick temper and overpowering lustiness were infamous. But in her high-necked black gown with her flat conical bodice, It is hard to imagine her irreverential gall and hedonism inspiring the discontent among the masses that led to the downfall of her royal lover and the end of her career as a mistress of state. Though to her credit, the decision of Ms. Montez to not rely on her fashionable clothes to capture the Wittelsbach King – and eventually a title – was a demonstration of good strategy.

The western world of the 1840s must have been a rather detestable place: cold weather, potato famines, cranky men and bad clothes. Is it any wonder that so many were disenchanted with their institutions?

Read Full Post »

I decided to re-examine the back of the gown today. If there were a detachable train, I thought, there would need to be a method to attach it’s sides to the dress so the train didn’t fly up like a superman cape. Lo and behold, I found the method. There are a series of small thread loops going down the side directly below the last button.

It’s absolutely maddening to have in one’s mind how the train was constructed, but not have it exist anymore. I can make a pretty good guess as to what it looked like:

  • made of the olive silk and lined in the base fabric
  • trimmed at the hem with the three rows of pleating
  • attached to the dress at the top with rather large button holes. The holes would have been cut out of some rather stiff material, and it would have been buttoned onto the holes on the right side of the fabric
  • had a series of metal hooks down the sides that attached to our thread loops

The train option would have made this gown for a wealthy woman who received guests ceremoniously. When I get around to it, I will post a drawing of what the dress probably looked like avec train.

Read Full Post »

The Skirt Exterior

 

Skirt Front

Skirt Front

This is the fun part… Since the skirt is asymmetrical with overlapping pieces and numerous interconnected layers, I will go clockwise around the skirt with the descriptions/explanations.

The base skirt is gold/tan cotton, the top of which can be seen at the waist. The base skirt is gathered into the waistband and sewn by hand.

The olive apron is sewed to the base skirt on a diagonal. At first I thought this may have been a repair for a ripping apron, but that is not the case as the top of the apron is the edge of the fabric and could not have continued.

The Silk Tassels, hem pleating, and verticle pleating

The Silk Tassels, hem pleating, and verticle pleating

The apron is pleated into the side, which I shall show later. I am shamefully responsible for the spot o the lower middle apron, when I dropped some food on it as a girl. I have made no attempt to clean it, but am looking into some methods.

The gold tassels are made of silk, and sew to the bottom of three gold silk strips. The strips are back with olive silk and hand basted to the skirt. The skirt has a series of verticle pleats between the gold strips.

The entire hem is covered in three rows of very tight pleating.

20081104_0007

Side of the skirt where the apron is gathered.

To the left is the apron draping I was talking about. The Apron is cut like a long scarf, where it’s sewn to the base skirt in the front on the diagonal. It is gathered on the side, and the gathers are covered in jet and glass bead work.

20081104_0026

Photo of the beading, showing the gathering of the apron.

The gathering is sewn to a side/back panel, which is edged in gold silk rope. So, the scarf-like apron holds it is place. More on this later.

20081104_00052To the left is a shot of the back of the skirt showing the beadwork. There is another panel, also edged in gold silk braid show here. It is basted down close to the beadwork. In the beadwork photo, you can see the gold braid in the upper left hand corner. You can also see how the apron-scarf overlaps the panel.

20081104_0006To the right is a shot of the bottom of the scarf-apron,  which overlaps the largest back panel, and is gathered and billowed near the hem. The bottom is edged in the gold silk. In the photo, you can see where the panel ends on the right hand side and gives way to the 2 rows of pleating. You can also see the gold braid along the bottom, and the gold silk that trims the end of the apron-scarf.

20081104_00011Confused? I made a drawing. If you look closely, you will see that the scarf-like apron, the right back panel (panel #1) and left back panel (panel #2) are all basted together under the beading, and at the bottom gathering of the scarf-like apron (lower right corner of the drawing). It was indeed meant to be worn with a bustle, because without a bustle, the basting locations don’t work. But it was not meant to be worn with a bustle the size of what I made.

Onto the left side…

20081104_0030
20081104_0025

The left side is much simpler than the right. The apron is gathered underneath the back left panel, which itself is gathered over the location. The back left panel then straightens out and is trimmed with gold braid.

As I mentioned before, the pleating at the hem goes all the way around the bottom, even when it is covered up by the two back panels.

The Underside & Lost Train

The olive silk never touches the waistband. All pieces are sewn onto the base fabric. Under the apron, panels of olive silk and the gold strips with the tassels are sewn to the base fabric about 8 inches below the waist. The distance between the olive front panels and where the apron is sewn varies because the apron is sewn on a diagonal.

20081104_0035The Bustle area has rigging: two strips of black cotton tape. Loose threads on the base fabric (the gold fabric in the pictures) suggest that the base fabric was once basted at points to the rigging. It was NOT basted to the olive silk panels, probably because the stitching would be visible since the panels are not lined and there would be nothing by visible fabric to grab on to.

Do you see the white porcelein buttons? There are five: three on the base fabric, and two on the olive silk. The fabric underneath them is gathered, probably to strengthen the fabric to hold the weight of whatever the buttons were buttoning. What do I think they were for? A detachable train. Where is it now? It very likely no longer exists.

20081104_0036

My guess is that the train would have had the 3 layers of pleats that we see on the bottom of the hem. The idea of it having a train makes the design make much more sense. The back panels are remarkably flimsy, being unlined, and merely interfaced with mitering. It seems remarkably insubstantial compared to the busy front, and this was a time period in which the fashion was to have your back be far more complex than your front. If the back panels and so forth were just the covering to hide the train attachment mechanism, then it makes sense. It explains why the back panels are only basted together and not basted towards the front of the skirt. If a train were to be attached, it would need the extra room to spread out. Another possibility is that the two side panels were basted together as they are later, perhaps after the train was ruined.

If I were to sew a train for this gown, I would interface the top with some stiff fabric, and then button the train right side of the fabric to right side of the other fabric, so the buttons would never be seen.

20081104_0037And the Hem…

Under the pleating, the hem is trimmed with a stiff fabric. I believe it is a heavy, dense wool. There is no lining to the dress, which is not surprising. The base fabric of the gown performs the same function.

Other Examples?

In all of my searching, so far, I have yet to find another skirt quite like this one, which is more than baffling. The front is typical, but the arrangements of the overlaying back panels, the sweeping scarf-like apron, and the possibility of a train are mysterious indeed.

If any of my readers have any more information on this dress, its function, or its construction, I would very, very much appreciate it if you could comment. Thank you!

To part, I will throw in a couple of photos of the bodice and skirt together:

20081104_004720081104_004620081104_00441


 

Read Full Post »

Bodice Interior

 

 

Interior of the bodice.

Interior of the bodice.

The bodice is interlined with gold-colored silk with a slight herringbone pattern. The exterior seams are piped with olive satin piping and interfaced in olive satin. The interior seams are finished off with gold whipstiching. A piece of wool tape is attached to the seam excess on the inside (see middle of bodice inside photo) that holds the side back panels together, relieving tension on the waist. The bodice pieces are machine sewed with very tiny stitches, but some of the work, including the seam finishing and the bone casings, is obviously done by hand.

Curiously enough, it looks as though they fit the bodice the same way that I fit mine: by basting it together, pinning, and then making the final stitches. Where the two side back pieces are joined to the side fronts, it looks as though they originally had the bodice fit loser in the area between the waist and the bust as there is some very rough stitching that doesn’t match the other stitches on the seam excess that was not removed. It is not a refitting, the seam excess was cut to coordinate with the final stitches. Also, it is very roughly done. There is similar stitching on the seam excess on the front seams as well, though it’s not so obvious. I had to lift the bone casings to view it. There is no such stitching on the center back seams and the seams joining the center back panels to the side back panels, suggesting that there was a decision to not fit at that section. The back was meant to be very straight.

 

The bone casing is attached to the seam excess

bone casings attached to the seam excess

There are 6 bones, attached to the seam excess along the front darts and between the front and back pieces. They aren’t very long. The dart bones do not go all the way to the top of the dart. They start an inch and a half below the waist, and end an inch and a half below the top of the dart. The side bone goes a little longer. The start two inches above the bottom of the bodice, and end two inched below the arm hole.

I have a correction to make about the front, as I made an error in my previous post. The front is cut in one piece with two darts on each side. It is not two pieces on each side with 1 dart. I suppose the dress maker could get away with fewer pieces on the front since our wearer was not so buxom.

An interior tab closes at the waist with 3 hooks and eyes

Another curious device employed to relieve tension across the waist and on the buttons was a waist tab sewn to the seam excess of the front dart extending across the bone casings. That would have kept it rigid and unmoving. It closes across the waist with four hooks and eyes, and removes pressure from the buttons. In other words, what really closes the bodice and takes the pressure of the closure is this little tab. The buttons just hold the bodice fronts in place. I remember that also from wearing the dress when I was a little girl.

I had photos of the armholes, but they didn’t come out very well. They are finished off with a tape made of brushed yellow/cream-colored cotton. The same cotton is used as the lining material for the arms, whose seams are finished off with whipstitching. The two pieced arms are gathered very slightly at the top, around The bottom of the arms, where the olive pleating is attached, is lined in olive silk. The lace is attached at the top of the lining, where the top row of pleating starts.

 

 

Read Full Post »

Here are the photos taken by Annette Dragon in Mount Hope Cemetery. I just selected a few. They were all so beautiful, it was hard to choose. My favorites were the ones of the gown in motion, particularly from behind.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 29 other followers