Bow-phobia

My youngest sister is one heck of a seamstress. She apprenticed with a historic costumer who is detail oriented and a precision fanatic. She has made some spectacular garments. Her wedding was Civil War and the gown she made was a knockout.

She was the one who whetted my appetite for this whole historically correct garment thing. I’d always admired historic pieces and wondered what it would be like to dress in the clothing of the different times. She made wonderful replicas. I am an experienced sewer. Why not make a few things for myself? Why not, indeed.

My little town’s annual Victorian Heritage Festival was coming up in a few months, so the first project was Victorian all the way. She decided to come up for the festival and join the fun. After a few chats we decided on 1870’s fashion. I had to decide what to make. I wanted to keep it simple. She, of course, already knew what she was going to wear and had half of it done while I was still searching.

I looked through historic photos, online galleries, museum collections, and more fashion plates that I thought existed. Eventually I noticed a trend.

Bows and ruffles. Everywhere. Big and little, front and back., necklines and sleeves and hemlines. Bustles with Big Butt Bows. Hats with bows. Parasols with ruffles and bows. OMG. I was stepping into Bow-Land and Ruffle-Land. One small problem.

I hate bows. And ruffles. Haven’t worn them since I was 12. I grew up a tall, super skinny kid. Dressing in ruffles and bows made me look like someone stapled too much fluff on a telephone pole. I wear ruffles and people stare. It’s just not me…the one who likes casual, simple lines.

While whining about the whole bow and ruffle thing to my sister one day (“I don’t do bows!) and she said “Well, you’d better get over it now because when you’re dressing Victorian, you can run but you can’t hide.”

Now I’ve surrendered to Victorian style. I’ve learned to embrace my Inner Ruffle and appreciate a bow’s mastery of camouflage.

The fashion of the 1870s is reflected in the large bustle skirt of Ella Merriweather's gown worn during her wedding to Charles Post in 1874. Amanda Voisard / The Washington Post

The fashion of the 1870s is reflected in the large bustle skirt of Ella Merriweather’s gown worn during her wedding to Charles Post in 1874. Amanda Voisard / The Washington Post

Is my butt really that big? Heavens, no! It’s all the bows!!

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