I Left Without Saying Thank You

I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth, although at times it seems like as if I have. Life got weird, then kinda crazy. Something had to give and, sadly, it was my historical sewing and this blog. I’m still pulling things back together but I am well and still standing, more or less, and moving forward.

But enough about me. You all are the ones that matter – the readers and followers who provided insightful feedback, answered questions, helped with technical details, set me straight when I was in error and generally cheered me on through mistakes and miscalculations as I pushed my boundaries and tried new things. I loved sharing my journey and adventures with you and I miss it awfully.

I struggled with the final decision to retire the blog. It was hard. Really hard. I still get teary-eyed when I think of it. And here it is, almost two years since the last post and high time I formally say goodbye. And send a heartfelt thank you to each and every one who shared a bit of their time with me in this crazy thing called life.

The blog will remain up for the foreseeable future, since it appears to be of help to others interested in historical dress and costuming. It pleases me to see my odd ramblings are still of some use. And to add a general disclaimer: none of the garments or accessories on this site are available for sale. They are either extant, historic items privately owned by individuals or museums, or they are reproductions owned by their makers. So no, they cannot be purchased. (At least not from me.)

Comments, just so you’ll know, will not receive a response unless issues of copyright are involved. I’ve had original works and designs stolen, so I know what it feels like and I uphold copyright laws to the best of my ability. As always, if you see a conflict please do let me know so I can rectify the situation.

As for me, I fumbled around a while trying to find my way and am back to hand sewing and quilting. They, and knitting, are still happy places. My love of fabric and fiber will not fade and I’ve been thinking of using my massive stash of historic reproduction prints to make historical hand-pieced quilts. So another adventure commences.

Thanks again to one and all. I miss the sharing and the laughs. But it is time for a new direction. Here’s wishing you many, many fruitful hours of passionate creativity.

May you needles stay sharp and your seam ripper close at hand,

Susan (who now is in rather serious need of a handkerchief)

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Your Weekend Wow!

You rise in the morning and, after a little yawn and a bit of a stretch, it’s time to go down to breakfast. It’s not necessary to dress fully for the day…not yet. One only needs to pop on something appropriate for the family, morning table and household duties until the social day begins. Something a bit like this.

Natural Form era (1877-1882) morning dress from Augusta Auctions, which provided this description: 1-piece, princess lines, trimmed w/ cream bobbin lace, low bustle back, CF thread-covered buttons, side pockets, trained & ruffled skirt, Back 32 inches, Waist 25 inches, Center Front Length 57″, Center Back Length 70 inches.

Sold at auction in 2014 for $210 USD. (Yes, really.) All photos by Augusta Auctions.

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Your Weekend Wow!

When it comes to plaid, I’m hopeless. I love it – the bigger and the bolder, the better. So how could I resist this stroke of 1830’s brilliance? Despite a sleeve shape that tends to annoy my eye, it’s a visual knockout. Don’t know that I’d ever wear something like this, but what fun!

Silk dress. 1830, British. Accession number: 1971.47.1a, b. The Met Museum.

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The Evolution of the 1850’s Tiered Ruffle Gown

Crinolines on an Omnibus by Charles Vernier, 1850s.

Crinolines on an Omnibus by Charles Vernier, 1850s.

“I’ve been inspired by some recent froofy 1850s tiered dresses … probably not [for] Costume College as hoops can be bothersome in a crowded room or classroom.” – Val L.

When I started this adventure in learning about historical fashion a few years ago I had three distinct fashion allergies: hoops, ruffles and bows. Heavens, how that has changed. Now I see dresses and fashion plates featuring one, two or sometimes all three and think “I’d like to make that one.” This is a dangerous passion.

But Val’s comment above, made in reference to a recent post on Victorian summer dresses, is valid…not every venue is suitable for a hooped skirt. Luckily, hoops didn’t become The Fashion until the mid-1850s. (The generally agreed upon date seems to be 1856, although in Paris, where all things fashion come early and with no small amount of impact, they seem to have appeared a few years sooner.)

So, can Val have her froofy 1850s tiered dress and not wipe out an entire room of Costume College attendees? Yes!

Stiffened petticoats appeared in the 1830s in response to the need to support increasing skirt circumferences. They were made of horsehair and linen. The name “crinoline” was invented by one of the fabric’s manufacturers who combined the word crinis (hair) and linum (flax).

David Hough invented the cage crinoline and he earned a U.S. patent in 1846. By 1850 “crinoline” evolved to mean the rigid supporting structure itself. The next leap forward in design came in 1858, when W.S. Thompson developed an eye fastener so that the steel hoops could be hung with vertical tape…the familiar cage crinoline shape we recognize today. At that point, manufacturers were able to incorporate petticoat layers over the crinoline under-structure and the results were wildly successful. These “adjustable bustle and skirt” models were patented by Douglas & Sherwood in 1858:

Of course, tiered ruffles weren’t new in the 1850s. The 1840s saw plenty of tiered ruffles, albeit confined to the shape created by layers of petticoats (usually three) over a corded petticoat.

The 1850s saw changes to bodice shape and style, as well as underpinnings for the skirts. Mimi Matthews, who writes primarily on topics regarding the 19th century, gives an excellent guide to the evolution of general fashion during the 1850s in her blog article here.

So, when it comes to a froofy tiered 1850’s dress, cage crinolines aren’t necessarily required as long as you stick with a bodice appropriate for the earlier years. I don’t know about Val, but that is great news for me given my previous attempt at making a cage crinoline (which, as you may recall, ended in utter frustration).

Here are a few examples of tiered styles from the early 1850s – no hoops required!

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And here are styles from 1855, just as the cage crinoline was poised to become the definitive fashion necessity:

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And here are three more examples of tiered ruffle gowns of the period, dated only “1850s” (although I’d wager the center plate is from later in the decade, given the bodice on that fabulous plaid gown and the hair styles):

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Lastly, a gorgeous example – one of my favorites: a gown dated from 1855 (photos courtesy of Kent State University) which I was going to save for a Weekend Wow but, since I missed this weekend and we’re on the subject…

Dress ca. 1855 From the Kent State University Museum (fripperiesandfobs) - front

Dress ca. 1855 From the Kent State University Museum (fripperiesandfobs) - side

Dress ca. 1855 From the Kent State University Museum (fripperiesandfobs) - side back

Dress ca. 1855 From the Kent State University Museum (fripperiesandfobs) - back

Your Weekend Wow!

Today, a sparkling evening gown from the House of Worth. I chose this dress for two reasons: 1) it’s made for someone who had a “normal” figure and 2) the museum provided lots of photos which show construction details in clear close-ups, which is rare. The last one, which shows how the sequins were applied onto the fine gauze/net, blows my mind. This is another gown that must have been stunning in the muted light of evening parties. All  photos courtesy of The Met Museum (www.metmuseum.org). I wish they were in crisper black and white and not so sepia in tone, but so it goes.

Evening dress, House of Worth (French, 1858–1956), 1906. Silk and cotton. Accession number: C.I.50.1.4a, b.

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Your Weekend Wow!

I can’t imagine wearing these, but they are simply wonderful – in every sense of the word.

Woman’s bobbin lace glove. Milan, Italy, about 1650–1700. Linen bobbin lace. Double ruffle along top and half one side of glove. Remains of faded stiff pink ribbon bows (trimming). Dimensions: 39 x 20 cm (15 3/8 x 7 7/8 in.). Museum of Fine Arts,  Boston.

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And another fine example of linen bobbin lace gloves, also Italian.

Bobbin lace gloves, Italian (Milan), 18th C.

Bobbin lace gloves, Italian (Milan), 18th C. (Source unknown.)

More Victorian Summer Dresses!

This one is for Deb and everyone else who loves an Early Bustle Era summer dress. I’ve been meaning to post this all week, but things got a little crazy. Better late than never!

Summer dress ca. 1869 From 'Impressionism and Fashion' at the Musee d’Orsay.

Summer dress ca. 1869 From “Impressionism and Fashion” at the Musée d’Orsay.

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Summer dress, 1872-74 From the Musée du Costume et de la Dentelle via BrusselsLife.

Summer dress, 1872-74 From the Musée du Costume et de la Dentelle via BrusselsLife.

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Summer dress, French, ca. 1872. White cotton batiste in small floral print, silk ribbon. Photo Stephan Klonk. Art Library, National Museums of Berlin, via Europeana Fashion. (Very similar to the first dress, but different.)

Summer dress, French, ca. 1872. White cotton batiste in small floral print, silk ribbon. Photo Stephan Klonk. Art Library, National Museums of Berlin, via Europeana Fashion. (Very similar to the first dress, but different.)

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A blue and white striped gauze summer gown, circa 1870, the bodice with square neckline, flounced sleeves, peplum trimmed with blue satin, blue ribbon belt with later added bow.

A blue and white striped gauze summer gown, circa 1870, the bodice with square neckline, flounced sleeves, peplum trimmed with blue satin, blue ribbon belt with later added bow.

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Dress, 1872. Light blue cotton, broderie anglaise, grosgrain ribbon in light gray silk. (Too bad they didn't display it with a proper bustle.)

Dress, 1872. Light blue cotton, broderie anglaise, grosgrain ribbon in light gray silk. (Too bad they didn’t display it with a proper bustle.)

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 Organdy American, 1870s. (Apologies for the it blurry photo, it was the only one I found.)

Organdy American, 1870s. (Apologies for the it blurry photo, it was the only one I found.)

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Day dress ca. 1869. From the Galleria del Costume di Palazzo Pitti via Europeana Fashion.

Day dress ca. 1869. From the Galleria del Costume di Palazzo Pitti via Europeana Fashion.

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Summer tea gown. (No other information or source material available.)

Summer tea gown. (No other information or source material available.)

Your Weekend Wow!

I’ve been out of commission for a couple of weeks and haven’t been able to do much of anything, including staying on top on my dear blog. Happily, things are getting back to normal and I’ll be able to catch up soon.

Meanwhile, it’s summer and up here in the Northern Hemisphere it is hot, hot, hot. So this delicate, sheer dress caught my eye as a perfect antidote to layer upon layer of silk and cotton. It’s just so very…summery!

Dress, French, ca. 1872. Cotton and porcelain (I assume they are referring to the buttons). Photos and information from The Met, metmuseum.org.

Here are the Met’s description and comments:

The 1870s was a period of marked romanticism and whimsy in fashionable dress. Much like the picturesque paintings of Renoir that depict such confectionary creations, both day and evening gowns were highly ornamented and often executed in delicate, feminine textiles. Though eveningwear was marked by décolleté necklines and lavish silk satins and taffetas, day dresses were made more modest with austere fabrics like cotton or wool. While many women owned walking and traveling dresses which afforded slightly greater moveability, also quite common was the summer day dress that was to be worn to an afternoon tea or reception.

This garment, emblematic of warm weather day dresses of the period with its sheer printed cotton and delicate lace trim, is a particularly pristine example, and notable for its clear revival of eighteenth–century aesthetic sensibilites. The late nineteenth century, abetted by the luxury and progress of the Industrial Age, recalled distinctly, both in its textiles and in the etiquette that surrounded fashionable dress, the notorious material excesses of the third quarter of the eighteenth century. The wealthy classes of the late–nineteenth–century showed a particular respect for the formalities of fashion. While their garments were not nearly as ornamental and their entertaining circles not as elitist, the decorative effects of late nineteenth century afternoon reception dresses such as this one unarguably echoed the lavishness of the eighteenth–century gown, most notably here in the sleeve and neckline.

Your Weekend Wow!

OK, enough with the embroidery fetish already. This weekend’s dress is one you’ve probably seen before, but I simply adore it and have from the first time I saw it. I love the changeable silk and every single meticulous detail. It is in my heart and always will be.

This 1840’s green changeable silk dress was acquired from the Tasha Tudor Historic Costume Collection and was later offered at auction by Augusta Auctions, where it fetched $18,400.00 USD. I may not be able to “play” at that level, but I can surely lust after it from afar.

Here is the auction catalog description. All photos courtesy of Augusta Auctions, Inc.

Ribbed silk taffeta woven with light green and gold in opposing directions, collarless deep V neckline, long fitted sleeves, ruffled caps laced with tassled cords, sleeves lace with cord above wrists, fitted bodice ending in shallow center front point, pleated, ruffled and cord trimmed fabric radiates from center bodice point to shoulders, full gathered skirt trimmed with two vertical rows of self fabric bows down center front, piped seams, full glazed linen lining, (minor spots) excellent.

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Your Weekend Wow!

I’m still feeling the love for embroidery that summer always brings out in me. This one is especially eye-catching with a dramatic use of bold color on black. And it’s from the 1940’s which is fashion era I like but about which I rarely post. I love the clean lines and that subtle little ruffle of netting at the front neckline. It’s from The Met and, again, the information is skimpy.

American 1940’s Cocktail Dress by Hattie Carnegie, Inc. Silk. Length: 36 in. (91.4 cm). Accession number: 1994.153. All photos courtesy of metmuseum.org.

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1940's Cocktail Dress, Hattie Carnegie, Inc.

1940's dress, embroidery detail