Wool Damask

For most historical costumers, finding the perfect fabric is one of the most difficult parts of getting the look right. One of the main difficulties is that many fabrics used in the past just aren’t made anymore in the same quality, or they are too expensive for a hobby seamstress. Just finding really fine linen is nearly impossible.

One of my favourite historical fabrics is wool damask. And it’s another of those fabrics which has sort of died out. It just isn’t made anymore, which is a shame, because it’s stunning.

Wollen damast, Norwich | Modemuze

 

Yes, that’s wool. Wool damask is two-toned, and pretty much always in the same color palette. So you get a lighter/darker combination, so light green with dark green, dark blue with black, or beige and brown.

Wool damask is also usually glazed. It’s treated in such a way that it gets a shiny finish, making it almost look a bit like silk damask. It would’ve been a cheaper than true silk damask, but gives the same impression. The patterns of the damask were definitely inspired by their silk counterparts.

For comparison, an 18th century silk damask:

 

And a wool damask one:

Rok van wol, lichtgroen met grote witte bloem en zoom en splitten afgezet met koord | Modemuze

 

Wool damask was used for skirts in the 18th century, and continued in traditional clothing throughout the 19th century. They were probably often also worn as petticoat under the upper skirt, as they’re a little less fancy than the silk ones.

Some of them are pretty stunning though, so I definitely think they were worn as upper skirt as well. Look how shiny!

Rok | Modemuze

 

The wool damask was used mostly in skirts, but also in men’s waistcoats and in stays. In some regional wear parts of the stays were visible at times, calling for fancy fabrics.

Korset of rijglijf van wollen damast, blauw met groene bloemen, met rijgsluiting middenvoor en een schootje van losse pandjes | Modemuze

 

The richer farmers would’ve worn wool waistcoats as well.

 

Despite the popularity in this country, the wool damask worn in the Netherlands was mostly not actually made here. Instead, this fabric was imported from England, Norwich to be exact. Interestingly enough, I’ve never really seen it in English collections though, suggesting that it was primarily an export product. Wool damask was woven on narrow looms (giving much narrower fabrics than common today), and so that the back of the fabric ‘mirrors’ the colors on the right side, as with all damask. Some more information on this fabric written by Meg Andrews is here. It became a staple of some Dutch dress, and I suspect the skirts in these well-known prints might be from wool damask:

1770s - 18th century - woman's outfit with mixed print fabrics (jacket in floral, skirt in a different floral, apron in plaid/checks, and cap in floral) - From "An album containing 90 fine water color paintings of costumes." Turin : [s.n.] , [ca.1775]. In the collection of the Bunka Fashion College in Japan. Underneath the illustration is handwritten in pencil "North Holland." - Netherlands - Dutch.

A lady from Zaandam

1770s - 18th century - woman's outfit with mixed print fabrics (jacket in floral, skirt in a different floral, apron in solid, and neckerchief either in stripes or simply showing pleats/folds) - From "An album containing 90 fine water color paintings of costumes." Turin : [s.n.] , [ca.1775]. In the collection of the Bunka Fashion College in Japan. Underneath the illustration is handwritten in pencil "Hamburgh" (I think that's what it says!) Hamburg, Germany.

A lady from Friesland

 

Some more, beautiful 18th century skirts, all from the Dutch Openluchtmuseum:

Petticoat, The Netherlands, fabric: Norwich, England, 18th century. Green silk damask woven with large flower and leaf motifs.

Rok van wollen damast, Zaanstreek, 1700-1800 | Modemuze

Rok van blauw-bruine wollen damast, West-Friesland | Modemuze

Rok van achttiende-eeuwse wollen damast, Noord-Holland | Modemuze

 

One of my more prized possessions is a black wool damask skirt, probably from the late 19th or early 20th century. This one is from the Veluwe, where these skirts were still worn as petticoats (underneath a plain black skirt) with the traditional costume. It’s constructed pretty much the same as an 18th century petticoat would be. It’s gathered at the top, with a flat front, and two side slits. It’s got one tuck in the skirt, and a velvet band a little above the hem. The bottom has got a bit of fluffy trim to protect it, and it’s got another ribbon as well as a hem facing on the inside to protect the fabric.

The full skirt, front & back:

 

A close up of the fabric, left from the outside, right the inside.

 

The top is tightly cartridge pleated to a waistband.

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Despite the age, the fabric is still very pretty. The velvet trim and hem facings clearly show wear, but the main skirt is still in very good condition. This was another reason these skirts were so popular, the wool fabric wears very well. If only they still made fabric like this today!

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Album de la Mode Illustrée – A guide

I love browsing through fashion plates for inspiration. Although not always a perfect representation of what was ‘normal’ during an era, you can get a very good idea of what was ideal. This means loads of very pretty dresses, a good look at the ideal silhouette, and a picture of a full ‘look’ including accessories.

Hat, gloves, fan, umbrella, collar. Very important for finishing a look!

 

Those who’ve been following my blog might have noticed that the most recent inspiration posts with fashion plates were all from the same series. This is a version of the Album de la Mode Illustrée, and it’s probably my favorite of all series I’ve seen. There are multiple versions of this album around, but this particular one is special because of the beautiful watercolors. It also runs from 1861 to 1895, so covers a solid part of the Victorian era.

One of the earliest plates. I have a weakness for black lace on a light fabric, so love this dress.

 

The next question is of course: where can I find them?

All fashion plates are online in high resolution, courtesy of of the Bunka Gakuen Library. You need to do some searching on the website though, and once in the album there’s no direct way to search for a certain year. There are shortcuts though, and I have found a way to find a specific year, so the rest of this post is a guide towards finding what you want from this amazing source!

Firstly, the website, which is here

To find the album, a quick way is to go to ‘fashion plates’, and then go to ‘Nineteenth century’. This will give a list of fashion plate albums, the watercolor one is the ‘Album de la Mode Illustrée’ is at the top at number 1.

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This will bring you to an overview of the plates. To get the full size picture, click on the thumbnail, you then get a slightly larger version.

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There is a larger version though, which you can get to by simply clicking on the image. Pretty details galore!

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To browse through the images, it is easiest to use the thumbnail view. You can leaf through the album using the numbers at the top.

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The only difficulty left is finding what date a plate is, as it’s not actually on the picture, and there’s no info per image.

Very pretty, but what year is this?

 

However, there’s an easy way to do it anyway, using the file numbers! As you can see in the screenshots, there’s a filename beneath each thumbnail. This filename consists of 3 numbers. Let’s take the first fashion plate, which has number 014-0001-002.jpg.

The 014 is the same for all, probably this refers to the album itself. The second number is the most interesting, as it refers to the ‘book’ in the series. Luckily for us, there’s one book per year, so this number can be used to find what year a picture is in! The last number is the number of the individual picture within that year.

So in this case, the number 1 refers to 1861. However, 1862 is missing, so the number 2 is 1863. To make it a little less confusing, I’ve made a table to look up what numbers refer to what year.

In this table, the first column is the year. The second is the number of fashion plates in the album for that year. The Start ID is the middle number in the file name. So if you have a filename with 0021 in the middle, it will be a plate from 1882.

Year Number of plates Start ID Pagenr start (all)
1861 47 0001 1
1863 49 0002 6
1864 40 0003 11
1865 48 0004 15
1866 50 0005 20
1867 49 0006 25
1868 50 0007 30
1869 50 0008 35
1870 52 0009 40
1871 52 0010 46
1872 52 0011 51
1873 52 0012 57
1874 52 0013 62
1875 52 0014 68
1876 52 0015 73
1877 52 0016 79
1878 52 0017 85
1879 52 0018 91
1880 52 0019 97
1881 52 0020 102
1882 53 0021 109
1883 52 0022 115
1884 52 0023 121
1885 52 0024 127
1886 52 0025 133
1887 52 0026 138
1888 53 0027 144
1889 52 0028 151
1890 52 0029 157
1891 52 0030 163
1892 52 0031 169
1893 53 0032 175
1894 53 0033 181
1895 50 0034 187
1896 52 0035 192

 

There’s a final column in this table, to help make the searching even easier. This number is the page number when browsing through the thumbnails, where this year begins. (After the red cover picture). The page numbers are the numbers within the red box on the screenshot below. So  for example, if you want to find plates from 1893, you need to go to page 181. As you can see below, you initially don’t see this number. Just click on ‘180’, and then the 10 pages before and after will also show up.

Just be careful to not click on the ‘Plates only’ button under the thumbnails, as this will remove the album cover/backs, and therefore mess up the page numbers.

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Have fun browsing, and one final pretty to finish up!

 

An oorijzer

A little while ago, I bought an old oorijzer online (more about what that is here).

This is what mine looks like

20180129_192446Web

 

You see them for sale regularly, but they’re generally the most ‘modern’ incarnation of an oorijzer, as worn with traditional clothing. These types of oorijzers are also generally very expensive, as there can be quite a bit of gold and silver in them.

 

FolkCostume: Costume of Fryslân or Friesland, land of the West Frisians, the Netherlands

Some of them are practically solid gold helmets.

 

The oorijzer I bought caught my interest as it was brass (so: affordable), and it was both narrow, and didn’t have any ‘attachments’ to the front. These attachments are practically always present on oorijzers from the 18th century onward. As I bought it I had some hope it’d actually be a 17th century one, but alas, it shows signs of breakage at the front. So it did have something attached to the front. I suspect this was silver of gold, and simply removed to be sold separately.

20180129_192951Web

Damage on the ends, Something was attached here…

Oorijzer gedragen door vrouw of meisje in Axelse streekdracht. Zilveren beugel met roodgouden krullen. De krullen hebben 4 windingen. 1899 #Axel

An example of an oorijzer of silver, with golden tips.

 

As mine doesn’t have a maker’s mark, it’s practically impossible to determine the age. The example above is made in 1899, while the one below is from 1640. See the difficulty? The basic shape stayed almost exactly the same in some areas of the country.  Dating happens based on the maker’s mark, and the attachments to the front, both of which are missing.

vroeg oorijzer met vogelkopuiteinde, ca. 1640 17de eeuws oorijzertje van metaal. Bodemvondst uit Rotterdam. Smal beugeltje dat om het achterhoofd sluit, boven de oren met een knik naar voren valt, zodat de uiteinden op de wangen rusten. In de uiteinden drie gaatjes en twee aangesoldeerde bewerkte stukken met een oogje. #ZuidHolland #Rijnmond

An early oorijzer from ca. 1640.

 

Nevertheless, I’m quite happy with my oorijzer. Without the attachments at the front, it really does look and work like a late 16th/early 17th century one would. It has got the little holes on the ends (for pinning your cap in place). Most of the 16th century oorijzers don’t have that second feature, but other than that they actually look really similar to mine. Plus, the holes come into play in the 17th century at some point, as the previous one shows.

Oorijzer, vermoedelijk laatste kwart 16de eeuw

1575-1600

 

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A slightly clearer view of the tips, including three little holes for the pins.

 

Most oorijzers of that period don’t really show, only maybe sometimes the ends. They’re very much useful items at this point in time, they serve to keep your headwear in place.

This is a rare period view of an oorijzer without a cap.

 

This invisibility also means I could use mine for the same purpose! Many of the different types of headwear in the Netherlands in this era require an oorijzer to look good. As I now own one, that opens up new possibilities. I don’t have any concrete plans, but I definitely want to make something to wear my oorijzer with some day!

To end this post, some lovely images depicting women wearing oorijzers with different caps. No, you mostly cannot see them, but look for how the cap sits very closely to the cheekbones, sometimes almost pressing into the cheeks? That effect is nearly impossible to achieve without an oorijzer. As we know they were worn widely during this era, I feel safe to say that they are in fact wearing one.

A simple black coif.

Reynier Hals, Woman with Needlework, ca. 1665. Frans Hals Museum #franshalsmuseum #haarlem #art

 

And a simple white coif, this time you see the oorijzer sticking out.

File:Wenceslas Hollar - Young Negress 2.jpg  another 1640s image that gets to live here for now...

 

A more complex cap.

Detail of the painting of Lady Governors of the St. Elisabeth Hospital at Haarlem, 1641.  By Johannes Cornelisz. Verspronck. Frans Hals Museum Haarlem.

 

In this one, the compression in the cheeks is very visible. You cannot see the oorijzer, but you see the earrings. These would commonly be attached to the oorijzer instead of the ears, as you cannot see those.

The Ultimate One Pattern Piece Project: Elizabethan Coif | The ...

 

Somewhat more fancy still. No oorijzer visible, but the cap is hugging the head.

Portrait of a Young Woman | Royal Collection Trust

 

I have many, many more examples on my pinterest here.

 

Dutch quilted petticoats

As it’s almost Christmas, something winter-themed for today, namely 18th century quilted petticoats!

When looking through the Dutch collections, I noticed a couple of skirts with very similar stitching patterns. You have to look carefully, but they’re all just slightly different. All of these are also in different museum collections! Apparently, this was a popular design.

Below is one of the best photographed of the lot. Clicking will bring you to the museum page, where you can zoom in to see the details.

 

Quilted petticoats were very popular during the 18th century all over Europe. They gave more volume to a skirt than a ‘regular’ petticoat due to their thickness. They were also nice and warm due to the wool inner layer. Although they went out of fashion at the end of the 18th century, some regional costumes in both the Netherlands and France kept them. This might be one of the reasons so many of them survive in the Netherlands. Another possible reason might be that there were some Dutch regions where the jacket/petticoat combination was worn more than full gowns, even for the middle upper classes. More use for pretty skirts!

Very similar to the first one! But this one has a small yoke at the top.

 

 

Many existing petticoats are of silk satin, with a wool inner layer and lined in linen. You see linen, cotton and wool examples as well though. The stitching is incredible to see up close, I’ve seen some originals and the workmanship is amazing. These petticoats would’ve often been made by specialist stitchers, a newspaper from Friesland mentions the move of such a professional lady in 1762 (https://www.modemuze.nl/blog/winterwarme-rokken-0).

Nope, it’s not the same! See the little singular diamonds in the bottom pattern? Those aren’t there in the other ones.

 

 

I know that at least in some of the examples, the technique used was different from what we’d call ‘quilting’ nowadays. Instead of a layer of wool or flannel put between the outer and inner layer, wool threads were pulled through the stitched channels afterwards. This technique is called matelassé in French, and ‘Zaans stikwerk’ in Dutch, after the region where it was found a lot. I suspect that in these petticoats, the bottom part might be matelassé work.

Yet another one! This one is display with a chintz jacket, showing how it could be worn.

 

Chintz in the Fries museum – How chintz was worn

My second post about the exhibition ‘Sits – katoen in bloei’ (Chintz – cotton in bloom) in the Fries Museum! My first post was about color and patterns, and before that I wrote this post, which has more terminology and history about the fabric.

In this post I’ll try to go into the specific chintz garments which were on display. What garments were made of chintz; how where they worn and in what context.

Also: all my pictures of the exhibition are now online on my pinterest board and facebook page, so to see everything you can go there! I took too many images for even two blog posts. For this post; click on the image for the full view.

Chintz on chintz

Most jackets and skirt combinations in the exhibition were made of 2 different chintz fabrics. A while back I posted a promotion image for the exhibition on Facebook with such a combination, and it sparked a question from some people. Were (chintz) print-on-print combinations really a thing?

This is the skirt from the promotion image, here worn with another chintz jacket.

 

Now I know that Dutch 18th century clothing, especially middle class (/small town/countryside), was quite colorful. There are a number of prints which show combinations of chintz with striped skirts, and ton-sur-ton skirts like this, this or this (same-color pattern & ground), and checkered or patterned aprons, checkered kerchiefs or with chintz sunhats. So different prints together is definitely seen. However, I couldn’t find any clear examples paintings showing a chintz skirt combined with a chintz jacket. This print might be. But then again, either jacket or skirt might also be silk, or a simpler European cotton or linen print, it’s difficult to see. The only example I could find which clearly shows chintz on chintz is  a doll. But given that the petticoat and skirt were often inter-changeable in the 18th century depending on the fancy of the wearer, this might be an example of skirts being mixed up. All in all, I wouldn’t take that as enough evidence that it was commonly done.

Even though I still think it’s very pretty

 

So, in the end, I decided to ask the fashion curator of the Fries museum, and of this exhibition. She gave a presentation about the exhibition at the meeting of the Dutch costume society, and I approached her afterwards. Her answer: it was probably not common to wear a chintz skirt with a different chintz jacket. Mostly, chintz jackets would’ve been worn on top of the same chintz fabric skirt, or on top of a silk or wool skirt. Many chintz skirts would’ve been worn as underskirt (which you could still see when lifting the skirts a bit), however, she had also seen chintz skirt which were clearly meant as top skirt. In this case, if not worn with a same-chintz jacket, they would’ve probably been worn with a solid color jacket. This is not saying that you’d absolutely never would see a chintz jacket on a chintz petticoat, but it probably wasn’t the common way of wearing it. Similarly, the ‘onderst’ worn to fill in the neckline (see a section below for more info) was often made of chintz. With a chintz jacket, however, a solid (white) onderst was most likely worn, the chintz ondersts being worn with solid color jackets.

Girl’s combination of skirt and jacket.

 

In the case of this exhibition, she choose to display the chintz skirts and jackets together, as this was an exhibition specifically about chintz, and those are the items you want on display. Something I completely understand, as there’s only so much space, and you want to show as much as possible without cluttering. The only exception was this lovely combination of a chintz jacket with a corded quilted silk petticoat.

 

 

Oost-indisch bont

The apron in the image above is interesting. It is made of what we’d call ‘oost-indisch bont’ in Dutch, which would roughly translate to ‘east-indian motley’. It is a cotton fabric originally from India, and just as chintz, it was taken to the Netherlands by the east-indian trading company (hence the name). It was used mostly for aprons and kerchiefs, and just like chintz, it stuck around in many traditional costumes in the Netherlands. It’s funny how I’d now consider it a very typically Dutch fabric, while it actually came from Asia.

Another example of oost-indisch bont, here in apron and kerchief.

 

 

Onderst

I mentioned the ‘onderst’ before. This was the name given in Friesland, in most of the Netherlands we’d call this a ‘kraplap’, or ‘kroplap’, in Zeeland they’d say ‘beuk’, and I’ve heard ‘halsje’ in Noord-Holland. It’s an interesting garment because it doesn’t seem to have an international equivalent, at least in the 18th century. It’s very like a partlet, or a chemisette. But the term ‘partlet’ I’ve only ever heard for the 16th and early 17th century, and chemisette is a typically 19th century term. I believe that the 16th century partlet stuck around in the Netherlands well into the 17th, and eventually the 18th century. The image below shows a girl in ‘undress'(full dress would have a jacket on top) clearly wearing a partlet, this painting is from ca. 1665, so quite ‘late’ for a partlet.

Reynier Hals, Woman with Needlework, ca. 1665. Frans Hals Museum #franshalsmuseum #haarlem #art

It’s very difficult to still find images of the 18th century equivalent though, which might have several reasons. There’s not as many paintings of lower classes in the Netherlands in this century, and this item was most likely worn primarily in the countryside and smaller towns. Another reason is that it was generally covered by one or even two kerchiefs, which make it nearly invisible in the paintings and prints which do exist. However, we know for sure that they were worn, because there are many existent examples, and they show up in doll’s clothes and inventory lists frequently. The 18th century onderst was typically made with a front and back rectangle, sewn together at the shoulder seams and a ‘hole’ for the head (I’ve never seen any with a slit in front). It was attached by putting tapes from the front through loops in the back. Many would’ve been white, with or without lace (see the pictures of jackets at the beginning of this post), but there are also many chintz examples. They had a whole wall filled with them at the exhibition. Click for the full-size version and to read the text below.

Kraplappen, or 'onderst' as called in Friesland. Worn as a partlet or chemisette, this was a typical clothing item for Dutch women in smaller cities or on the countryside.

 

Sun hats

There was also a display of a number of different sunhats on display. These hats are made of straw, but have a chintz lining which extends around to the top to form a border (I think +- 10cm wide? Couldn’t see the top on these). They’re made of the most beautiful fabrics.

Loved this one. Look at the bird and the insects!

 

These sunhats are a little different in shape than the better known round straw bergere hats. These ones might even be larger (although I haven’t seen a bergere in person, so estimating based on portraits), but the main difference is that the hole head is at the back. This creates a large shape only in front of the head. This shape has everything to do with the lace head dresses popular in Friesland in the 18th century. The lace caps started modest, but as fashion does, changed to rather extreme proportions. These caps are called a ‘Duitse muts’ nowadays, and they had one gorgeous example on display. This was my first time seeing one in person!

Look at all that lace!

 

The cap is worn on top of an under cap and an oorijzer, which would’ve helped keeping the cap in place on the head. The front is kept up by a wire running through the lace around the edge. The exhibition also had a little booklet showing a woman wearing both a cap like this and a chintz sunhat. The only thing which isn’t depicted correctly are the ribbons hanging loose. In real life, you have to hold on to those ribbons continuously because otherwise the hat would fall forwards. Although the wire in the cap is strong enough to keep up the lace, it wouldn’t be able to support the full straw hat!

 

 

Hindeloopen

The exhibition also had a large number of items from Hindeloopen, a town which nowadays is known for the chintz in it’s traditional costume. Although not worn daily since the 19th century, the town still keeps the costume alive. The chintz parts are the jackets, which is either long, called ‘wentke’, or short, called ‘kassakijntje (from cassaquin I believe).

For mourning. I love how you can see the faint outlines where the wax was folded and the indigo seeped through in this fabric.

 

The kassakijntjes were a little harder to photograph as they were further away on a wall, but here are three lovely examples. The construction seems the same as for the wentke, just shorter.

 

 

To finish off, another wentke, this time for out of mourning. It should be noted that this costume contains many other bits and pieces to form a full outfit. These items would never be worn with ‘regular’ 18th century fashion.

I love the top-stitching on all of these. All wentkes I saw had it, and it’s so neatly done.

 

Chintz in the 19th century

Chintz as fabric for clothing is very much an 18th century thing. However, it keeps very well, and as fabric was expensive, re-use was extremely common. Especially for the middle and lower classes, this meant that just because something was a bit old fashioned, didn’t mean it wouldn’t be worn anymore. We therefore also see jackets with a high waistline, worn in the early 19th century, in reused chintz.

This jacket below belonged to a lady on her marriage, and accounts show she had two other identically cut jackets. The other two were of fine muslin, this one is remade from a chintz skirt. This probably would’ve been more of a working jacket as the fabric was more old fashioned. But also more practical than the fine, thin cottons so popular at the time.

 

Another great example of re-use is the early 19th century girl’s jacket below. It is made of 76 different pieces of chintz fabric. Talk about piecing!

 

Unusual jackets

The two ensembles I started off this post with both had gorgeous chintz jackets. Because both are a bit unusual I wanted to show them in more detail.

The green jacket has a very interesting front closure of zig-zags, leaving little dimond cut-outs to show off the stomacher underneath. The zig-zags close with hooks and eyes center front.

 

I’d seen the green jacket in pictures before I went tot he exhibition, and it was one of the things I was most looking forward to seeing. It was stunning in person, but I think my favorite jacket was actually the other one I showed before, this red one. The color is so stunning in person. We know that this jacket was worn in the province of Noord-Holland.

 

This jacket is a bit unusual in several ways. Firstly, it laces in the front instead of closing with hooks and eyes. Practically all fancy jackets in this museum close with hooks and eyes. Front-lacing jackets exist, but these were all worn as under-jackets or for very informal occasions. This red jacket, however, is too fancy for that, it was almost certainly worn as a top jacket.

The other unusual thing is the neckline, 18th century necklines are generally square, this one is almost v-shaped. Additionally, it has a collar-like shape around the neckline. I’d never seen this before, and I commented on this during my talk to the curator of the exhibition. She confirmed it was unusual, but also referred to a portrait of a girl in a blue chintz jacket which also shows a collar like shape. I’d seen this portrait before but hadn’t noticed the collar, but it’s definitely there! It’s pointed instead of round, but it also shows a neckline in a (shallower) v. I’m taking this to mean that these type of collars weren’t unheard of, and I personally think the style is very pretty. If anyone’s ever seen any other examples of this style I’d love to see!

A final thing I noticed about this jacket are little white thread loops on the collar. The curator didn’t know for sure what these were for either. One possible explanation might be to tie a kerchief of fichu in place? As before, if anyone has any idea of their purpose I’d love to know!

 

 

 

Chintz in the Fries museum – color & pattern

Last weekend I finally got a chance to visit the current exhibition on chintz in the Fries museum, ‘Sits – Katoen in bloei’, or ‘Chintz – Cotton in bloom’. It was stunning! I had to force myself to look at one thing at a time, because as soon as I turned around I’d see so much more loveliness. We went on Friday and saw the exhibition, and then enjoyed a lovely day with talks on Saturday, organized by the Dutch costume society. This included a very interesting talk by the curator of the exhibition Gieneke Arnolli, and we took the opportunity to visit again after her talk and see some things we’d missed first time! (To all my Dutch readers: it’s definitely recommended, I’d go again for a 3rd if I lived closer by. It’s running until September 11th)

Purple chintz bed/wall hanging in the back (India, 1700-1725). Three jacket/skirt combinations in the front.

Seriously, I could look at this all day

Because I love chintz (see this post for a very extensive history and background), I’m going to split my blog about the exhibition into two parts. I’ve learned some more things, and because I now have loads of photos of the lovely chintz items I can illustrate this post with! Click the image for a larger version. I’ll also work on uploading all my images and link to those in the next post, as there’s way too much for even two blog posts.

For this first post: a little more about the use of color in chintz, and the various patterns.

The colors and patterns or chintz are made on bleached cotton, making white the first color you see in chintz. Lines are made in a black/dark brown color. Aside from this, the main colors are often made with meekrap (red) and indigo (blue), and you see shades of red and blue a lot. Additionally, purple sometimes occurs, as well as yellow and green.

Chintz coupon with flower and tree motifs. Collection page: https://www.modemuze.nl/collecties/coupon-van-sits-met-motieven-op-witte-grond-contouren-zwart-en-rood

Beautiful wall-hanging with tree patterns and a wide array of colors.

Nowadays, we think of chintz mainly having a white ground, with colored flowers and leafs. But that’s quite a western view on chintz. Many chintzes for the Asian market were made with a read ground. In contrast, the English (and I believe also the American) market greatly favored white-ground chintz, and you barely see any colored grounds. Although the majority of Dutch chintz also has a white ground,  In the Netherlands, you see a relatively high amount of chintzes with colored ground. Mostly red, but also blue, green, purple, dark brown and even ‘spotted’ ground. I personally love these, and the museum had some lovely examples.

Girl's ensemble of red ground chintz jacket and chintz skirt. Fabric jacket: India, 1725-1775, jacket ca. 1760.

Young girl’s jacket in red ground chintz.

Girl's cotton dress (1700-1750), closing at the back. The petticoat is embroidered with silk on cotton in chintz-inspired flowers.

Dark brown ground on a girl’s dress

Pair of chintz sleeves with a blue ground. Cotton made in India 1700-1750, sleeves worn ca. 1760.

Blue ground sleeves

Chintz jacket, roses on a spotted ground (Fabric India, 1775-1790). Lovely pleats in the back, and a very low front. You can see the ground is made with tiny little dots instead of a full color. Collection page: https://www.modemuze.nl/collecties/sitsen-vrouwenjak-met-motieven-op-beige-grond-en-contouren-zwart-en-rood-0

Spotted ground on a jacket. This shows the pleats in the back

 

 

 

 

 

Interesting to note is that the colored ground chintz is mostly used for blankets/spreads, sleeves, baby caps and jackets. Skirts of chintz are most commonly white. All the sunhat linings in this exhibition were also with a white ground. For the kraplappen (I’ll go into their use in the next post!), you see mostly white but also some red.

Close-up of chintz fabric of an 18th century skirt.

Detail of a skirt.

Detail of kraplap, or onderst in chintz.

Detail of a kraplap, Indian chintz with a white ground.

 

 

 

In contrast, the town of Hindeloopen uses a lot of red ground in their traditional costume.

Details of a red ground chintz (India, ca. 1750) wentke from Hindeloopen. Collection page: https://www.modemuze.nl/collecties/sitsen-hindeloper-wentke-vrouwenjas-motieven-op-rode-grond-contouren-zwart-onderdeel-van

Detail of a Wentke from Hindeloopen. This might’ve been the prettiest fabric in the exhibition.

 

Traditionally, chintz practically always included white (either as ground or detail color), black (mostly lines), and both red and blue as main colors. However, in the Netherlands we also have a number of two-colored chintz. White-black, white-blue and white-red. These were probably specifically made for the Dutch market, and especially in Hindeloopen worn for very specific occasions.

Hindeloopen had a very specific mourning tradition, with up to 7 stages of mourning. Although chintz wasn’t worn for the heaviest stage (all black), the black-white chintz comes into play for the ‘slightly-less heavy’ stages.

Details of Wentke from Hindeloopen for heavy mourning.

Back of a Wentke for heavier mourning.

 

In an even lighter mourning stage, blue would enter the scene, and you get gorgeous white-blue ensembles for light mourning. As ‘out-of-mourning’ dress was mostly red, this relatively light-colored combo of white-blue would still clearly signal mourning.

Wentke from Hindeloopen for light mourning. Cotton painted in India, 1750-1800.

Wentke for lighter mourning.

 

Finally, you see red-white chintz in Hindeloopen as well. This was called ‘milk & blood’ chintz, and was worn by the bride.

Jacket from Hindeloopen, kassakijntje (cassaquin). White-and red chintz was called 'melk & bloed', or 'milk & blood' chintz and in Hindeloopen was worn by the bride. Collection page: https://www.modemuze.nl/collecties/sitsen-hindelooper-kassakijntje-met-motieven-op-witte-grond-contour-rood

Milk & blood chintz on a kassekijntje, or cassaquin from Hindeloopen

 

 

Something else I’d never seen before this exhibition was the use of gold. This was usually reserved for the Indian upper class instead of export, and therefore very rare in European chintz. Nevertheless, the museum had a couple of sleeves and a spread with leaf gold on display.

Sleeves form Hindeloopen, showing rare chintz with leaf gold (India, 1700-1750). Usually meant for the Indian royalty, this chintz was rare in Europe.

Detail of sleeves from Hindeloopen with leaf gold.

 

 

Although not really a color, something very specific about chintz is it’s glaze. I’ve seen a lot of reproduction patterns which feel like chintz, but don’t have this shine. It’s gorgeous though, and definitely best experienced in person. Although some chintz has lost some of it’s shine (it can wash off), the museum had a piece of a roll which is still in an amazing condition.

Piece of two-tone chintz still on the roll and in very good condition. The angle of the picture makes it catch the light.

 

 

Pattern wise, all chintz has flower inspired patterns. Originally, these were very stylized and oriental in appearance. However, the European marked also started to influence Indian makers. Although it’s exoticism was a big draw of chintz, you do see it becoming just a little more European in style as well. From very large, asymmetrical patterns and stylized flowers, you start to see more geometrical patterns and more natural flowers.

Detail of chintz kraplap or onderst.

Indian chintz, flat flowers and asymmetrical placing.

Two chintz jackets made of the same fabric (India, 1775-1800). The naturalness of the roses shows how the Indian fabric printers were influenced by European taste. Chintz made in India, but for the European market. Collection page: https://www.modemuze.nl/collecties/sitsen-vrouwenjak-met-roosmotieven-op-witte-grond-en-contouren-zwart-en-rood

Back of a jacket. Chintz made in India, but the rose motif is distinctly more European looking.

 

 

 

Additionally, you also get European cotton prints imitating Indian chintz. Some is of high quality, but most of the time the European prints are just a little less in quality.

Ensemble of informal jacket and skirt. Jackets like these were most likely worn as 'undress', informal wear. The sleeves are of higher quality Indian chintz, the main part of the jacket of european cotton. Jacket: 1740-1770. Collection page:https://www.modemuze.nl/collecties/informeel-vrouwenjak-met-rijgsluiting-lijf-van-bedrukt-katoen-en-mouwen-van-indiase-sits

Detail of an informal jacket. The sleeves are made of higher quality Indian chintz, while the body is European cotton print, which would’ve been cheaper.

 

 

And despite the flower theme, you get other motifs as well! Little insects and birds show up in chintz, but every now and then you get other patterns. On blankets you see heraldry, but also more animals and people. There was a skirt with hunting scenes. And one of the skirts had a very unusual border of ships of the West-Indian Company.

Details of a chintz skirt with hunting scenes along the border. Fabric has the stamp of the United East Indian Company, 1750-1775.

Detail of a skirt border showing hunting scenes amid the flowers.

Chintz jacket, early 19th century. Remade from older fabric (India, 1700-1750). Fabric details

Exotic bird on a jacket (re-made from skirt fabric).

18th century skirt (Dutch cotton print, 1775-1800) with an unusual border with WIC (West-Indian Trading company) ships. The front is flat, the side and back are pleated to the waistband. Collection page: https://www.modemuze.nl/collecties/sitsen-vrouwenrok-motieven-op-witte-grond-contouren-zwart-en-rood-1

Unusual skirt border, showing ships of the West-Indian Trading company.

 

 

 

That was it for today, in the next post I’ll go into the different items of clothing (jackets, skirts, etc), some particularities of the items and how they might’ve been worn. I’ll also include a link to all my pictures in that post, as I have way more than fit into a blog!

Chintz

This post has been a while in the making! I’ve been wanting to write a terminology post about chintz for a while, but I wanted to do it right and include a bit of the history, how it was used and how it was made. That made it a bit longer than I’d originally envisioned, so be ready for a rather extensive overview! (If you don’t like those, feel free to just look at the pictures, chintz is very pretty!)

Chintz is a name referring to cotton fabric or paper with flower patterns. In this post, I’ll give some information on the historical fabric. It’s one of my favorite patterns, it’s often used in historical (mainly 18th century) dress and in Dutch folk costume. I’ll try go give a brief overview of the history of chintz, it’s characteristics, patterns and how it’s used in fashion. My focus will be on chintz in the Netherlands and traded by the East-Indian Trading company, but I’ll also try to give some more global information.

A short definition

Lets start with a brief section on the term ‘Chintz’ I’m using. In Dutch, we call this fabric ‘Sits’, and it refers to the glazed cotton painted and/or printed with flowered patterns, originally coming from India. This post is about what the Dutch would call ‘sits’. The translation in English is the term ‘chintz’. In time the English term chintz has evolved and become the name of many different types of flower patterns as well as the original patterns. It’s also sometimes used for basic plain cotton. I’ll focus on the Dutch meaning for ‘sits’ or chintz in this post. Most of those chintzes are 17th or 18th century, maybe early 19th century. All later chintz fabrics are based on these historical patterns. They were originally Indian, but when chintz gained popularity it was also produced in Europe. I’ll start off with some images, to clarify what I’m talking about.

 

This is Indian chintz:

BK-BR-328b

Part of a kids blanket, quilted, ca. 1725 – ca. 1750. Made in India. Collection Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

 

Stylized flower patterns. The most typical version is of blue and red flowers on a pale background. There are different colors as well though. This is also Indian chintz:

BK-1971-118b

Detail of Palempore of chintz with tree pattern , ca. 1725 – ca. 1750, India. Collection Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

 

These two examples are typical for the type of floral patterns. The chintz below is much more ‘European looking’, but still also made in India (very probably for the European market though). As you can see, it has a much later date, indicating how the chintz became more ‘European’ and evolved with fashion.

Chintz, ca. 1775, India. Collection Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

Chintz, ca. 1775, India. Collection Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

 

The following image is of a pattern also often named chintz (in English, it wouldn’t be ‘sits’ in Dutch), but which is much more modern than Indian chintzes. To my eye, it’s also much more English, and there’s generally a lot more roses and pink in these more modern fabrics. This is not what this post’ll be about. A good indication if a chintz is Indian or Indian-inspired is to look at colors. Original chintz was mostly white, blue and red. The reason for this is that the white cotton was dyed with natural dyes, which were mostly red and blue, with some yellow. All other colors were a mix of those. Greens and purples you see, although they are rare. Orange and pink are almost nonexistant. Another cue is the flower style, original chintz flowers were very stylized and almost ‘flat’. They became a little less stylized as time went on, but nothing as life-like as the image below.

Modern ‘Chintz’. This is not what I’ll be talking about.

 

The rise & fall in western Europe

Chintz was brought to the Netherlands by the VOC, the East-Indian Trading company. They started around 1600, but chintz didn’t really start to play a role in Europe until about 1675. It initially gained popularity as an interior fabric, later also as dress fabric.  Chintz was imported most notably from Bengalen, Ceylon, Coromandel and Suratte, the latter two being the most important. Some chintz was probably also traded into the Netherlands via England. Indian chintz was copied from the very start, but especially in the beginning these copies weren’t very good. The Indians had a way of binding the color to the cotton to make the fabrics keep their color after washing, and they hand-painted the fabrics. Early European copies didn’t keep their color well, and were block-printed instead of painted. Nevertheless, many companies started making imitations of chintz, and started trying to copy the process to keep the colors, getting more successful as they went.

Two sleeves, displaying a quality difference. Left is early 17th century chintz with a much finer pattern than the right, made around 1800. Fries museum

 

The copying happened in different European countries, but not all of them were happy with this popularity. In 1681, France banned both importing cotton and printing it to protect their silk industry. England followed in 1700 with a ban on importing chintz, and in 1721 a ban on printing cotton, again to protect it’s own linen, wool & silk industries. The English did keep trading in chintz, however, and still made printed cotton for export. Given the bans in England and France, it’s not surprising that cotton printing flourished in the Netherlands from that time.

This started changing around 1750, when the economy in the Netherlands started to fail. The bans in France were lifted in 1759, giving rise to a flourishing cotton print industry. One of the most well-known chintz factories, Oberkampf, was located near Versailles in Jouy-en-Josas. This town still gives it’s name to the famous toile-de-jouy fabrics.

Cotton printed fabric. This sample was made by Oberkampf around 1800. These type of fabrics are still known as toile-de-jouy, after it’s original place of creation. V&A. (We wouldn’t call this chintz though, because it lacks the stylized flower patterns)

Chintz fabric by Oberkampf, 1770–75, MET museum

 

England held on to the bans a little longer, lifting them in 1774, finally allowing printing pure cotton fabrics. New printing techniques meant they also caught up to the Netherlands quite quickly, where innovation stayed behind.

English made chintz, early 19th century. V&A

 

The chintz trading and factories disappear almost entirely in the Netherlands between 1785 and 1815. Archives show 80 chintz-shops in Amsterdam in 1742, 117 shops in 1767, but sharply falling numbers between 1771 and 1776, even more companies fail in the 1780’s. The VOC officially ceased to exist in 1800, after almost a century of decline and growing debt. Changing fashions eventually meant the end of the chintz fabrics. Even though printed cotton was there to stay, the Indian(inspired) flower fabrics went away. Several regional Dutch costumes held on to chintz a lot longer though, some surviving until today.

Interiors

A lot of chintz was not used for clothing, but for home decorations. Curtains, wall hangings and chair coverings are all seen, but bedspreads and blankets seem most popular of all. It seems that using chintz in your interior caught on a little earlier than in clothing.

Schloss Hoff, in Austria, built in 1725

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor ollhouse of Petronella Dunois

Dollhouse of Petronella Dunois, ca. 1676. Rijksmuseum. The red room has chintz walls

 

Clothing

Chintz was also often used in clothing. All existing chintz clothing is from the 18th century, when it reached it’s peak in popularity. It was already worn in the 17th century though, as shown by the girl portrait below. This is one of the earliest depictions of chintz being worn.

Emanuel de Witte - Portrait of a Family in an Interior - WGA25820.jpg

Emanuel de Witte, 1678

 

Despite it’s popularity, chintz never really was used much by the upper class for their best clothes. These fashions were very much influenced by the French court (even in the Netherlands), and employed very rich fabrics. Silks most commonly, often embroidered with silver & gold thread. Nevertheless, chintz was worn by the upper classes. Initially, you mostly see it used in ‘undress’. These were clothes worn at home, for non-official occasions or items such as dressing gowns. So it were the type of clothes not many see, but also the ones for less official occasions. This probably also explains why you don’t see many portraits of high-class women wearing chintz, they owned it (records of property show this quite clearly), but didn’t wear it for such a formal thing as having your portrait painted.

What we in Dutch call a ‘Japonese gown’. A dressing gown for a man, strongly influenced by Japanese kimonos. At this point in time (early 18th century), the Dutch were the only ones allowed to trade with Japan. Fries museum

 photo BK-14656b_zpsgcdleajb.jpg

A rare example of a chintz Francaise, many more skirts and jackets exist than gowns, Francaises are even rarer. This was probably an (upper) middle class gown. An upper class woman would’ve been more likely to use silk. Rijksmuseum, ca 1780

 

As chintz gained popularity in the highest classes, the higher middle class followed, as did the lower middle class. The lowest classes didn’t own much chintz. For the middle class, chintz would’ve been much more valuable and you therefore do see it on prints/paintings of middle class women. There wasn’t much difference between city and country wear in this.

Girl from Sneek (city in Friesland) in her wedding clothes. Tragically, she died in childbirth age 16.

 

Although we see a lot of chintz dressing gowns for men in the higher circles, it seems that for daily wear chintz was by far most commonly worn by women. Baby clothes are very common at the moment in museums, probably also because little fabric was needed, so jackets and skirts could easily be re-made into baby clothes when necessary. Because you could wash chintz well without it fading, it was very suitable.

Baby Jacket, probably re-made from a skirt.

 

By far more jackets exist nowadays than full gowns. Skirts of chintz have also survived a lot. You do see a bit more skirts, dresses and capes with the richer classes than with the middle class, where jackets are more common (Again, we know this from inventory lists). Probably because jackets require less fabric. You also often see border patterns on skirts, indicating that fabric was specifically made for skirts.

rok:

Chintz skirt

Chintz jacket on white fond, Dutch, 1810-1820. From www.rijksmuseum.nl #Friesland #Hindeloopen:

Jacket. Fries Museum

 

Aside from gowns, jackets & skirts, you also see chintz in powder capes, or as lining of sun hats.

Cape, tot iets over heup, boord en geschulpte kraag katoen sits zwart/bruin; beschilderd bloem + takje veelkleurig; voerin: wol bruin/groen; garnering: lint zijde lichtbruin:

Short chintz cape. ModeMuseum Provincie Antwerpen

zonhoed:

The lining of a sun hat, the top would be straw. This particular shape was worn over a huge lace cap in the  province of Friesland.

 

Records show that chintz was worn throughout the Netherlands, but you do see it most often in the Northwest, around the coast. This makes sense, as they are either closer to Amsterdam (the founding city of the VOC), or have their own trading ports. This is also why a lot of existent chintz is in museums in these regions.

Activiteiten sitsen - Activiteiten - Te zien en te doen - Fries Museum:

Chintz jacket & skirt in the Fries Museum, in the north of the country

 

Regional costume

When chintz started to go out of fashion, it was also in these regions in the north-west that it was kept most. During the 18th century, we know that specific regional clothing was worn in certain areas. This could be either only be a specific form of headdress, or influence more items. Chintz survived in several regional costumes much longer than it did in regular fashion. Most well known is the Frisian town of Hindeloopen, which had grown wealthy from trade. The Hindeloopen costume was worn daily by women until the 2nd half of the 19th century, but has been kept alive by an active community. The society of Aald Hielpen still wear their costume for special occasions and events. The most well-known item of the Hindeloopen costume is the Wentke, a long coat of chintz worn by the women.

Titel:Sitsen Hindeloper bruidswentke, vrouwenjas, motieven op witte grond, contouren rood  Vervaardiger: onbekend  Soort object:wentke; borstrok; jas  Vervaardigingsdatum: 1750 - 1774  Vervaardiging plaats:India  Afmeting: hoogte: 135.5 cm, hoogte: 129.0 cm, breedte: 39.0 cm, wijdte: 56.0 cm, wijdte: 192.0 cm, sits  Materiaal:katoen, linnen  Techniek: sits:

Hindelooper bridal costume.

Coat (Wentke) #Friesland #Hindeloopen:

Back of a Wentke. Red patterns were most common, blue was worn for mourning.

 

Indian chintz survives up to today in the costume of Bunschoten-Spakenburg, which is still worn daily by a group of women. They wear an item called a ‘kraplap’ over the shoulders, made of heavily starched cotton. It can be made in all types of patterns, but the most valued are the ones from original Indian chintz. Because the kraplap has grown in size over the centuries, the original kraplappen don’t have enough fabric. If you’re lucky enough to find 2 of the same fabric, they are very carefully pieced together. These are the most valuable of kraplapen, and very coveted.

Handbeschilderde kraplap, Spakenburg

 

Process

Chintz is a cotton fabric, with the colors being applied after weaving (as opposed to brocade for instance, where the pattern is woven in with the cloth). How exactly the colors were applied depends on location and time. Below a rough overview, as I’m not a chemist, nor an expert on dying. Be aware that the exact substances used could differ.

Original Indian chintz was mostly hand painted, sometimes block printed with smaller wooden blocks. This chintz had a very specific process to apply the different colors. Base colors were blue, red and yellow. Green and purple exist in chintzes as well, but would always be made by applying blue/yellow and blue/red on top of each other. The very special thing about Indian chintz was that it held its colors really well. This was due to the dying process used, some which weren’t discovered yet in Europe when chintz was first imported.

The first step (after bleaching and preparing the cotton) were the black outlines. These were painted directly on the fabric. After the black, the red would be applied. The red dye wouldn’t actually be applied to the fabric though. Instead, everything which would have to turn red was treated with mordant, a chemical substance which would later bind the color to the fabric. If there would be a ‘white’ area within the red, this would first be treated with wax before the mordant was applied. After applying the mordant (once or twice for lighter or brighter red), the cloth is dried and washed and rinsed. The mordant has now set, and only then the whole cloth is put into a dye bath, where only the parts treated with mordant will change color. After dying, the whole cloth can be bleached a bit again, because the white might’ve changed a bit to yellow. The next step would be to apply the blue, painting with indigo. For indigo, everything which does not need to be blue would be covered in wax. The wax-covered cloth would then in its entirety be put into the indigo dye. After dying, the cloth would be boiled to remove the wax again. After the blue, some fabrics would be treated with red again for brighter colors. Lastly, the yellow would be painted on, on top of the blue where you’d want green. This yellow tends to be a bit less well washable than the blue and red though.

In Europe, most chintzes were printed instead of hand painted, with large printing blocks. To be able to use the mordants with blocks, it had to be thickened as opposed to the very thin mordant used for painting. Another difference was that in Europe, some techniques existed enabling the printers to directly dye blue with the indigo, without having to use the wax method. For yellow, Europeans mostly used a mordant again, as opposed to the direct dye used in India.

These fabrics below were made when an interest in chintz began to rise again in the early 20th century and show the process. Collection of the V&A

Chintz process samplesChintz process samplesChintz process samplesChintz process samplesChintz process samplesChintz process samplesChintz process samples

 

As a final step, most chintz was glazed by applying pressure to the cloth. Many of the reproductions I’ve seen of chintz miss this glaze, but it is very apparent on most originals! That shine to the fabric is also one of the things which gives it it’s luxurious appearance.

 

More pictures: If you want to see more examples of chintz clothing, like the red chintz gown below, I’ve got a pinterest board on chintz here.

Japon. Het japonlijf heeft een vierkante hals. Twee platte plooien lopen over de schouder langs de voorpanden en verdwijnen in de rok. Het lijfje heeft vestpanden die gesloten worden met haken en ogen met overdwars een split even in de taille. Vanaf de hals middenachter een brede aangehechte platte plooi die puntig toeloopt en in één stuk is geknipt met de rok. De mouwen zijn glad en uit één stuk tot op de elleboog en hebben een geplooid elleboogstukje...1780 - 1785:

Red chintz Anglaise, Museum Rotterdam

 

Sources

My main source for all of the above information is the book ‘Sits, oost-west relaties in Textiel’ (‘Chintz, east-west relations in textile’, see reference below). This is also my only source, which is not very good practice when it comes to research. I’ve found it to be the only Dutch book about chintz to exist at the moment of writing. In English literature there’re a couple more books, but not many. (I’m making a wish-list!) I personally suspected more to be available when I went looking, especially because chintz is still quite well known in the Netherlands due to it’s importance in regional costume. All books on regional costume seem to refer to this one source. Having said this, the book was written by scholars, and is based for the most part on primary sources. This means that the information comes from inventories of the V.O.C., from inventories of 17th and 18th century shops and homes, from letters and from 18th century books (for instance on fabric-printing). The list of sources used in the book is extensive, and each chapter was researched and written by another author. Given all of this, I trust this source enough to use it as my only reference. As it’s never been re-printed and only available second-hand, nor has been translated to English, I felt free to share the information and images. Good news though; a new publication has recently come out! With a new exhibition on chintz, a new book has been written. I’ll definitely write a post once I’ve visited the exhibit.

The book:

Sits, Oost-West relaties in Textiel

By the Rijksdienst Beeldende Kunst (National service Visual arts) , the Hague, together with the Rijksmuseum voor Volkskunde (State museum of Anthropology), Nationaal Openlucht Museum Arnhem (Open air museum), Groninger Museum, and the Gemeentemuseum the Hague.

On the occasion of the exhibition ‘Sits, Oost-west Relaties in Textiel’.

Published in 1987, no reprints

Authors:

Christian Jorg – V.O.C. in India

Frits Scholten – A journey of chintz in 1701-1702

Judith H. Hofenk de Graaff – The technique of chintz and cotton printing

Ebeltje Hartkamp-Jonxis – Chintz and cotton printing, trade and make in the Netherlands

Frits Scholten – The interior ‘in the Indian manner’

Mary C. de Jong – Chintz and the printed neglige clothing of the higher orders

Hanneke van Zuthem – Farmers and Citizens in cotton

Ebeltje Hartkamp-J0nxis –  Motives on chintz and printed cotton

Depot visit – Gemeentemuseum Den Haag

The website ModeMuze brings together the fashion collections of several large Dutch museums. Aside from having an online collection of the items, they also write blog posts about items, and organize a lot of events! I went to one of them recently, where we got the chance to see some items in the Gemeentemuseum in the Hague up close, presented by the fashion curator Madelief Hohé.

In this post some pictures of the visit, as well as some of my own observations. This is a selection of the items, I’ll post these and some more on my Facebook page for who’s interested!

 

We saw a lot of 18th century things. Let’s start with this gorgeous blue silk Anglaise. Below is the museum’s picture, click to go to the collection page.

 

These are my pictures. This is a shot of the lining of the bodice. You can see the bodice was lined in linen, while the skirt is unlined. You can also see the stitching lines from the back, where the folded silk was stitched to the (unfolded) lining. You can also see the skirt is cartridge pleated onto the bodice, leaving quite a large allowance.

foto van Atelier Nostalgia.

A shot of the top of the bodice lining, also showing the robing (pleat over the shoulder). What I also liked was the little blue wool tapes attached to the shoulder corners for extra protection of the silk fabric. The little cord you see was in the neckline. Although the front closed with hooks & eyes, there was a little tunnel at the top for a cord to pull the dress close to the body.

foto van Atelier Nostalgia.

The dress closed center front, the center front flaps attached to the robings on either side. On top of the center front panels, these little horizontal strips ran, with the pleats on top, as you can see in the bottom left corner. They were lined as well, and closed with hooks & eyes. As you can see in the official museum image, the fichu would be worn on top of the dress, but underneath these flaps. I’ve seen this a lot on other Dutch jackets and gowns, so I believe this was most common in the Netherlands. The curator also mentioned that comparisons of collections show a relatively high amount of blue dresses in Dutch museums, which this is a gorgeous example of!

foto van Atelier Nostalgia.

The back of the dress! You can see the folded back pleats run into the skirt. They were very narrow. The back is heavily pleated with tiny pleats. If you look closely you can see that the threads running through the cartridge pleats actually extend a bit below the bodice to keep the pleats in place.

foto van Atelier Nostalgia.

An inside picture of the hem. The fabric was folded over for the hem, and on parts of the skirt this blue wool tape was attached to protect the fabric. I found it particularly interesting that it wasn’t actually attached all the way around on this particular dress!

foto van Atelier Nostalgia.

 

On to the next item, a stunning pair of stays in light blue. I couldn’t find an official, full image of these. The stays were continuously boned, but the stitching was covered both back and front. The tabs were covered separately, as you also often see in linings. The stays weren’t bound, as they were covered completely I think this wouldn’t have been needed.

foto van Atelier Nostalgia.

A view of the linen lining, stopping just before the eyelets. Again, the tabs are covered separately.

foto van Atelier Nostalgia.

The top, showing off the eyelets. I also love how tiny the tape is which covers the seams. It was super thin.

foto van Atelier Nostalgia.

 

More 18th century! This was a chintz jacket, below is the inventory picture, again, click the link for the official page.

My pictures. This one shows the back, and how the sleeves were actually cut on. I hadn’t seen this on 18th century garments before.

foto van Atelier Nostalgia.

The ‘skirt’ part of the jacket layed open (again, the jacket is on its back on the table). The whole jacket was lined in wool. I love how extremely wide it is. You can also see the deep pleat at the center back.

foto van Atelier Nostalgia.

The center front closed with hooks and eyes, but again also had a cord running through the neckline, you can see a tiny bit of gathering at the top. You can also see the stitches where the hooks & eyes are attached if you look carefully.

foto van Atelier Nostalgia.

The back pleat of the jacket, with a little stitching to protect the seam from ripping.

foto van Atelier Nostalgia.

 

Next up are two 18th century skirts, neither of which I could find a good full picture for.

First is a petticoat, made with matelasse, or ‘zaans stikwerk’. It’s quilted in a way, but through the little channels small cords would also be drawn to create the 3d effect.

foto van Atelier Nostalgia.

Showing the inside and hem. Again, a wool tape was attached on the inside. I found it interesting how the tape actually extends a couple of mm from the silk hem.

foto van Atelier Nostalgia.

The top of the petticoat wasn’t quilted, as this wouldn’t be seen anyway. Probably also to reduce some bulk. This is the front of the petticoat, which isn’t pleated.

foto van Atelier Nostalgia.

The back, however, is pleated to the waistband!

foto van Atelier Nostalgia.

 

Another skirt, this time in a glazed wool damask. Such a stunning fabric! The skirt is pleated to the waistband.

foto van Atelier Nostalgia.

A close-up of the fabric.

foto van Atelier Nostalgia.

The inside, showing the selvages are used for the main seams. No tape covering the hem this time, instead a narrow cord is stitched to the hem to protect it. You still see this method being used in some skirts of traditional Dutch costume!

foto van Atelier Nostalgia.

 

As a final step, we take a big leap from the 18th century to the 1840s. It’s the dress on the left of this image. Click the link for the official page.

This image shows that the center front point of the bodice isn’t actually attached to the skirt all the way. It’s definitely boned though! The point is finished with thin piping, and look how prettily the lines are matched!

foto van Atelier Nostalgia.

A slightly odd image, but it shows that the boning center front doesn’t actually extends all the way up, only to the fold in the fabric.

foto van Atelier Nostalgia.

This is the center back closure. The skirt is heavily pleated onto the bodice and actually consists of 2 layers! The top one is silk, and forms the top of the 2 flounces. The bottom layer is made of netting, but the bottom edge of the skirt is silk again to form the bottom flounce. Less need for the expensive silk! I also liked how there’s a small modesty placket beneath the eleyets, and how there’s a hook & eye closure at the bottom (& top, not in this image).

foto van Atelier Nostalgia.

The top of the back closure. Pretty lace at the top, and the neckline was finished in piping even tinier than around the bottom of the bodice. This was 1mm wide at the most! I also love how there is a small bit of flossing at the top of the bones in the back.

foto van Atelier Nostalgia.

Final image, showing the side back seam & sleeve insert, which is again piped. You can see how the seam isn’t a ‘normal’ seam. I was wondering how this was done, and the day after the visit saw a great blog post by the Fashionable past. She does it by cutting the fabric ‘bigger’ than necessary to the sides, folding the fabric over and stitching it down to create the effect of a seam. I suspect that on this dress though, the side back was actually cut separately instead. See how the lines match up perfectly? You can’t get that if you fold the fabric, it would shift slightly.

foto van Atelier Nostalgia.

Getting an (almost) historical look the easier way – or: how to cheat to most effect

A question which seems to pop-up a lot with historical costuming is ‘Where do I begin?’. The proper answer to this question is to 1. pick a time period, and 2. start with the underwear. There’s a good article at Historical Sewing about this topic.

But what if you’re not sure if it’s worth all that effort, or if you’re a slow sewer, or a bit scared of having to make a corset? Sewing undergarments can take quite some time and effort, my Edwardian outfit has 7 different pieces in the undergarments. I know that when I started, I didn’t want to have to spend months creating items before I could finally start on a dress. After all, if I’d loose interest half-way it’d be for nothing (nowhere to wear them without outer garments after all). And I’m not a particularly quick seamstress, nor do I have a lot of time.

So what if you’d want to take a first step into historical costuming, but you don’t want to first build a wardrobe of undergarments? Should you just not start at all? There are some people who might say so, but I’d personally say: just go for it your own way. There are some ways to still get close to a historical silhouette, without getting all the layers correct. Of course, having proper underwear will always be better, but a first try doesn’t need to be perfect, and it just might get you excited about doing more! For my own very first historical dress, I cheated and went right into dress-making, skipping underwear. The result wasn’t perfect, and I don’t think I’ll wear that dress again now my standards have risen, but it did get me excited. It gave me the confidence to continue and try to make the next one better. Sometimes, that’s more important than getting it 100% right the first time.

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My first regency dress, worn on top of modern undergarments. There’s many things I’d do different now, but this dress did get me started, and excited to continue to learn and get better!

 

So how do you go about still having a reasonably correct silhouette without all the correct underwear? Firstly, by carefully picking a period and style which could work for your body type. Unfortunately, some body types will work better than others, and for some people some undergarments will always be necessary. But there’s a lot of history to choose from! A second option is to still create some undergarments, but only the most crucial ones. Some are more defining to the silhouette than others, and for some you can limit the difference by picking the correct materials for your outer outfit. Finally, there’s always the option to buy some parts of the outfit. Especially for beginning seamstresses this might be an option for corsets. In the rest of this post, I’ll try to give some tips on what to look out for, and where you can cheat a little without looking absolutely wrong. Again a slight disclaimer: you’ll always look better with all the correct undergarments! These are tips to get you closer to correct silhouette while cheating a little, but there’s nothing that’ll beat the real thing. If it’s okay for you to don’t be 100% right if that means you get to save time/money: read on.

 

1. Pick the correct period/style for your body shape, and you might be able to avoid underwear entirely.

The easiest style if one wishes to avoid foundation garments is to go medieval. There are certain periods in history where the cut of your kirtle (under-dress) basically provided all the support needed. Because most over-dresses still show the kirtle (for example in the sleeves), you’d need to make one anyway. The trick, however, is to cut the kirtle so that it follows your shape and supports the bust.

a woman wearing a green tunic, with a sleeveless reddish surcote layered over it:

A kirtle and overdress. You won’t need anything below the green kirtle to get the right shape.

 

For anything between, say 1550 and the end of the 18th century, the torso-shape is quite specific. This is usually achieved with stays, or boned under-bodices with a petticoat. For the 17th century, one can get away with heavily boning the bodice, but skirt supports/petticoats are always necessary in this period. Not such a great era to start if you want to avoid underwear!

My favorite Queen of them all was Queen Elizabeth 1 - The later years of Elizabeth's reign are sometimes referred to as a Golden Age.:

One of the most extreme examples; but can you imagine this without the underwear? I’d be incredibly sad…

 

For my first costume, I went with a regency dress. Regency is a relatively forgiving silhouette, as you don’t necessarily need any hoops/petticoats etc. to support the skirt. A petticoat will help with the flow of your skirt, but is not crucial. The bust-line of Regency is very high though. Because I’m pretty small up top, this works for my body type. If your larger, a very good push-up bra might get you into the right direction, but it will work less well.

 

L'Art de vivre au temps de Josephine.:

Slinky dresses means petticoats are not essential. Do keep in mind that the chest is meant to be pushed up and to the sides. Easier to cheat if you’re smaller chested.

 

From the late 1820s to the 1840s, skirts become fuller and petticoats are again an absolute necessity. From the 1850s to the 1880s, this turns into crinolines and bustles, which usually need an additional petticoat as well. Corsets are worn throughout this period, but if you’re petite you might be able to get away with only boning the bodice. There’s no getting around the big skirts though. Nothing looks as sad as a bustle-skirt worn without proper support. The only exception is a very brief span around 1880, where the bustle nearly disappears, often called the natural form period. Ladies did still wear slight bum-pads, and petticoats do a lot to help the shape, but with the correct fabric/pattern you might be able to do without. Do try to pick patterns/shapes suitable for this period though, if you get a pattern meant for a later/earlier period your skirt will look very sad!

Revue de la Mode 1881:

Around 1880 the bustle nearly disappeared for a bit, for this skirt shape you might be able to get away not using any support. The only way to get the bodice shape like this is to be petite & bone the bodice. Otherwise a corset is necessary.

 

Although I needed a lot of help to get a proper Edwardian shape, this is already more forgiving than the previous era’s. The key to a proper Edwardian silhouette is that the bust is at it’s natural point (which, by the way, is lower than it’d be with a modern bra on!), and there’s a strong hourglass shape. If you have a natural hourglass shape, this might work for you! Go without a bra, or wear one with the straps very long so it’s low, lower than you’d normally be comfortable with. To control the mid-section, a high-waisted skirt might help, as these are boned. Be careful though not to put too much stress on the closure though. A lot of loose blouses were worn, so these disguise a lot! Try to avoid slinky evening dresses if you’re skimping on underwear, those won’t work without a proper corset. If you’re the straight and slim type, Edwardian is not the best choice. I personally need quite a bit of help achieving the curvy look.

1898-1908 Women's day wear: The trumpet shape skirts and shirtwaist were popular in the early 1900s.. This shows women's change in society. (Denny P.):

A loose blouse can disguise the lack of a corset. If you’re smaller chested like me though, you’ll need a little help filling up the blouse, and it’s not as suitable.

 

The 1910s  saw a distinct change from the Edwardian silhouette. From hourglass, the ideal went to straight and flat. Although corsets and petticoats were still worn in the 1910s, you might be able to skip these if you have a slimmer shape.

Ladies Home Journal (March, 1913):

Straighter shapes for 1913

 

From the 1920s we get into underwear which is more like what we wear today. Because that’s also generally where we go from historical to vintage, I’ll not go into those.

So, a summary of what period is most forgiving for what body shape. Where can you get away with leaving out all underwear?

  • Small bust (everyone): Regency
  • Small bust & petite: Natural form 1880 (do bone the bodice & pick the right skirt shapes!) or 1910’s (again: bone the bodice!)
  • Hourglass (bigger hip/breast size, smaller waist size): Edwardian. Don’t wear a modern bra, and wearing a high skirt with boning can help with the waist definition.
  • Everyone: Medieval

If you don’t want to go Medieval, but don’t fit into the other categories, don’t despair! You might not get away with leaving out underwear entirely, but for some periods you still might be able to take some shortcuts. This brings us to options 2 & 3:

2. Skip some undergarments

Some types of undergarments are more important than others. In general, chemises, drawers and corset-covers don’t add hugely to the silhouette, so could be skipped. So:

  • First tip: skip on chemises, drawers and corset covers. Wear a slip-dress or tank top instead. Not as nice as a linen/cotton base layer, but it won’t show in the silhouette.

 

Chemise Date: early 1870s Culture: American or European:

A chemise keeps your corset clean, but a tank top can go a long way too. Cotton/linen is always nicer than polyester though!

 

The rest is a bit more complicated, and depends both on the period and the fabric of your outfit. So let’s go over corsets, skirt-support and petticoats.

Corsets were worn continually from about 1700 to the 1910’s. Before that, heavily boned bodices or under-dresses took the support role. In the 18th century, stays (as corsets were called) functioned to give the body a conical shape. There’s no real getting around this, I wouldn’t recommend wearing an 18th century dress without stays. A rounded bust-line is very wrong for this period.

The Chocolate Pot - Pastels - Jean-Etienne Liotard - c. 1745:

The straight front, as seen from the side, is very 18th century. You’ll need stays to get the conical shape.

 

For Regency, the bust-line becomes higher, pushed up and separated. A good bra can provide some of the lift-effect, but tends to squish everything together which is not ideal. It’s a lot less noticeable though, especially if you have a smaller chest you might get away with not wearing stays.

Lady with coral necklace, French, 1820:

Lift and separate. You’ll not be able to get it this extreme without proper stays, but if you’re more petite the lift is possible with a bra.

 

After a brief transitional period, Victorian corsets with an hourglass shape came into play around 1830-1840. These can make a big difference in shape, and are most important for smoothing out the surface and keeping the bust in place. (No, it’s not necessarily a small waist!). If you’re petite with a small chest, if might be possible to skip the corset, provided you take care to bone your bodice well. This way, the bodice provides the smoothing and structural effect. (Be careful of the weight of your skirts if you do this, normally a corset supports the weight. Without a corset, the waistband of your skirt could cut into your hips depending on the weight).

Faces of the Victorian Era                                                                                                                                                      More:

Contrary to popular belief, the corset is more important as a base to smooth out the figure than as a waist-reducer. If you’re petite, you can approach this shape by heavily boning the bodice. Otherwise, you’ll need a corset. (See how there’s no clear underbust line? That’s what you’re going for)

 

In the Edwardian period, corsets change to leave the bust mostly in the natural place. For slinky dresses you’ll need a corset, but for loose blouses you might get away without. In the 1910s we’re back to a straight figure. This might work if you’re petite and bone the bodice.

Ha!! And this is just her UNDERWEAR! Edwardian lady in underwear, corset with attached garters.:

See how low the bust is here? If you have an hourglass shape and wear a loose blouse you can get a similar effect without a corset.

 

So, in summary, when could you skimp on a corset/stays without looking absolutely wrong? (Focused on 1700-1910, as that’s when they were worn)

  • 18th century: Always wear stays, no way around it.
  • Regency: Wearing a good bra can go a long way. It won’t give you a perfect silhouette, but if you’re smaller chested it can work.
  • Victorian: If you’re petite you might get away with only heavily boning your bodice and wearing a push-up bra. I won’t recommend this for anyone above a B cup, or those who prefer some tummy control. Do be careful of heavy skirts though, as they might dig into your hips/waist without a corset.
  • Edwardian: If you don’t need too much tummy control you could go without corset. It’s best to choose a blouse/skirt option as they’re loose fitted trough the bust, evening dresses will look bad without a corset. 
  • 1910s: If you’re petite and bone the bodice you can get away without a corset. Corsets were generally underbust anyway, but the goal is to get the midsection as flat as possible.

So, onto skirt supports & petticoats!

Nearly all periods from the 1500’s to the 1920’s see some type of skirt support. These make sure the skirts hold the correct shape. They’re also absolutely essential to getting the correct silhouette. For 1500-1800 this is usually a wide skirt with extra width from the hips (depending on the period). In the 18th century, there’s also a period where panniers were worn to widen the hips. But even without those, hip-pads and bun-pads and extra petticoats were worn throughout the period to support the skirt. These can’t be skipped.

Journal des Luxus, February 1792. And just FYI, I'm officially calling dibs on this one!:

Approaching the end of the 18th century, skirts have never been slimmer than this. But see how big her but still looks? That shape can only be achieved with a little help.

 

Regency is more forgiving, as it only occasionally saw a small bum-pad. Most dresses will work without anything underneath.

Muslin Dresses about 1800 Hamburg Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe:

Unless your fabric is sheer like these, you won’t need a petticoat, the shape is correct without one.

 

From the 1820’s to the 1840’s, structured petticoats are again necessary. After this, there’s the era of crinolines and bustles. Needless to say, any dress from the 1850’s to 1880’s absolutely needs support in some form.

ANTIQUE-ROYALS:

Imagine a dress like this without hoops, it’d be very sad, and dragging on the floor…

 

The only slight exception is 1880, around which the bustle had shrunk to nearly nothing. This ‘natural form’ period can deal with only a slight bum-pad, no extra steel contraptions needed. From the 1890’s on, only petticoats were worn.

Paquin evening dress ca. 1895  From the Kunstgewerbemuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin via Europeana Fashion Fripperies and Fobs:

Dresses like these only had minimal skirt supports, but definitely need a couple of petticoats to keep it in shape.

 

Petticoats were also worn almost always, and are often necessary to make the skirt fuller. Aside from regency and the 1910s, I can’t think of any period after 1500 where you can forgo with a petticoat. If you really don’t want to make one, you can, however, closely consider your outer fabric. If your outer fabric is stiffer and thicker, it will need a petticoat less. Basically, because it will stand out on itself more. Very thick wool you might get away with. Thin cotton, not so much. If you’re wearing a hoop and skirt without a petticoat, always check very well if the hoops aren’t visible! I’ve seen a lot of outfits with great potential ruined by hoop-lines showing through, so be careful.

So, in summary, when could you skimp on skirt supports without looking absolutely wrong?

  • Anything between 1500 and 1800: You’ll need some skirt support. If you’re doing lower class and you have wide hips in ratio to your waist you might be able to wear a thick woolen skirt without petticoat. That’s the only exception I can think of however, and it’d need to be heavily pleated to the waistband to stand out.
  • Regency: you can get away without a petticoat unless your fabric is sheer or super-thin. Now they liked those fabrics in this era, so you’d need to go to the slightly thicker cottons or stiffer silks.
  • 1820-1845: No crinoline cages in this era, just petticoats, which are essential for the shape. No cheating here, alas.
  • 1850-1890: The era of crinolines and bustles (Except for the short natural form period, I’ll go into that below). You’ll always need something to support your skirt, be it crinoline or bustle depending on the period, you won’t be able to do without. If your dress fabric is very thick (think heavy wool/velvet), you might be able to forgo a petticoat. Be careful though, if crinoline hoops/bustle bones show through the fabric you really need a petticoat (or 2, depending on your fabric). Bones showing through can ruin the look.
  • 1880, Natural form: A brief era without big bustles. In the slimmest years you could get away without any skirt support. Only if you’re not wearing a train though, those do need support of a petticoat!
  • 1890’s & Edwardian: If your skirt fabric is heavy (say; heavier wool) you might get away without a petticoat. Flounces at the bottom can help to have your skirt stand out. Lighter fabrics (ie cotton) will need a petticoat though. My own Edwardian skirt was light weight wool and looked loads better with a petticoat.
  • 1910s: Very slim skirt silhouette means a petticoat is not essential!

If you want do do an era for which you’ll really need a corset, but are afraid to make one, there’s still option nr. 3:

3. Buy foundation pieces

This especially holds for corsets, as they’re generally the most difficult and time-consuming piece of underwear to make. This doesn’t mean they’re impossible though! There’s a lot of good patterns out there, so no need to be scared. If you do want to buy one, it’s important to do your research well. Corsets are very form-fitting, so they need to fit you really well. A good fitting corset can be tight, but should not be uncomfortable and definitely not painful! So check the sizing well. I personally cannot get away with an off-the-rack corset, because I have a large hip-spring. There’s a big difference between my waist size and hip size, and as a result nearly all pre-made corsets are too small in the hips for my waist, and shift upwards. Because all bodies are different, a lot of people cannot find a corset with fits them well off-the-rack. In that case, there are a lot of corsetiers who make custom corsets, but this will, of course, show in the price. Also check how suitable your corset if for the period you’re aiming for. Most modern corsets are reasonably similar to Victorian corsets in shape, but there are differences. Most notably, most Victorian corsets are mid-bust instead of high-bust. A high bustline can show underneath a dress. And obviously, if you’re aiming for 18th century, don’t wear a Victorian corset underneath, look for stays instead.

Clermont State Historic Site: Is it Really Necessary? Of Corset is!:

Nice infographic on corset shapes, by Clermont State Historical. Pick the right shape for the right period!

Vintage spring

Spring is finally here! Well, theoretically, the weather here has turned grey again after the sun of last week. But we’ll just ignore the rain and focus on the calendar! So I figured it’d be time for something a little spring themed. I’ve been looking a lot at vintage sewing pattern covers. They’re a great example of fashion from a period. I always preferred the 1950s above the 40s and 30s, but they’ve been calling to me lately. Although I still love the wide-skirt silhouette, you see a lot of interesting detail in seaming and patterning in 40s and 30s dresses. 50s tends to be a bit more clean-cut, which makes dress patterns slightly less interesting. I love circle skirts, but pattern wise once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.

So, for this post, a focus on 30s and 40s vintage dresses! I love the pastel tones with these dresses, and figured pastel blue would be perfect for a spring theme.

1930s with a nice waistline treatment. I really like how the blue dotted fabric is sheer at the top. Not entirely sure about the hat it’s been paired with though…

30s 40s red floral white dot sheer print swing war era  McCall 9653 Vintage 1930s Sewing Pattern Dress by studioGpatterns, $28.50:

I love these styles, they seem very comfortable yet fun at the same time. I think I prefer the one in the middle, with pintucks and lace detail.

-z36qVAdeWA.jpg (751×1024):

Clean lines for a sophisticated look. The little details are what makes this period. I love how the overlap on the neckline features a round edge.

1930s McCall 3344 Misses Flared Skirt DAY DRESS womens vintage sewing pattern by mbchills:

Another lovely grey-blue pattern. Also, this has a bow on the back, which is just perfect.

1940s Misses Short Sleeve Dress:

A lot of 1940s dresses feature buttons all along the front. You can see the skirt starting to widen at the bottom, but the top is still pleated for a closer fit.

Fashion Frocks 1940 | Flickr - Photo Sharing!:

Lovely zigzag trims on this one. And again; a bow in the back! The bodice is fairly simple construction wise, signalling we’re getting on in time.

1940s Misses Dress Vintage Sewing Pattern day dress casual floral red white pink blue war era WWII color illustration fashion style house wife looks:

A slightly darker blue. I love how they provide different detail/style options on this pattern. Exactly what home-sewing is all about! (Also, I’d love for patterns to be 15cts again 😉 )

lovely dress: