Pretties from the antique & textile market

Every year early March, there’s an antique & textile market organized by the Dutch costume society. I always come home with some lovely things, and this year was no exception. So a little overview of what I got!

Full garments

I got two skirts and a sweater. The sweater is machine knitted and from Staphorst, where they wear this lovely color sweater with the traditional costume. Most these sweaters have a slight empire line, and I got one of those last year. This one has a ‘regular’ waist line though, so it was a nice addition!

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The two skirts are both petticoats. The first is cotton, in this lovely textured fabric. It’s got a couple of stains, but nothing dramatic. It’s also quite a bit too wide for me, so I plan on removing the waistband, shortening it and then re-attaching the skirt fabric to make it fit.

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The second petticoat is this lovely striped wool one. It’s pretty much flat in the front with gathers in the back, and the hem is finished with a small cord. This one will be nice as extra winter petticoat underneath a lot of things!

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Accessories

Then there’s the accessories! I found a couple of gorgeous wide collars, some chemisettes, undersleeves, a pocket and a skirt lifter.

Perhaps my favourite find was this double collar with lapels at the front. It’s of very thin white cotton, with beautiful white work.

 

The other cotton collar is a little simpler in shape, but perhaps even prettier in fabric. Very sheer, with white work embroidery and lace.

 

The third collar is a lace one of sheer embroidered tulle.

 

The two chemisettes are both of very fine cotton. The first one has a checkered pattern woven in, the second one is a bit plainer. I think both will work both with regency and Victorian stuff.

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The undersleeves are also of fine cotton, with a small dot and lace around the cuff.

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Finally, I got a pocket and a plain skirt lifter. I have a rather crude pocket I made myself, and I’ve been saying for years that I should replace it. As I haven’t yet, this seemed like a good option. The skirt lifter is a very simple one and the rubber/felt is gone so it slips, but I can replace that. Always a handy thing to have!

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Trim

Finally, I also got some lace. I didn’t look for lace very actively as I already have a fair bit, but these two pieces I couldn’t resist. They’re both very wide, and pieces long enough to trim the full underside of a skirt. Many pieces are too small, which makes them much more difficult to use, so finding 3m or more is always special.

This very wide piece came of a skirt, and I have at leats 4,5m of it

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The other piece is just a bit smaller, and 3m long.

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Femmes Fatales in the Gemeentemuseum

A week ago I finally got the chance to drop by the current fashion exhibition in the Gemeentemuseum in the Hangue. Named ‘Femmes Fatales’, it’s a tribute to female fashion designers. It was a lovely exhibition, with some beautiful pieces by both early 19th century (Chanel, Lanvin, etc) and 20th century female designers.

However, I spent most time in the first room, which was dedicated to the 18th century female dressmakers, the marchandes de modes. There was a whole range of beautiful dresses on display, so I took the opportunity to take some pictures!

The descriptions are the originals as provided by the museum.

 

Mantua, ca. 1760-65, Silk, Linen

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Robe A l’Anglaise, ca. 1780-1785. Silk, cotton

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Robe A la Francaise, ca 1790-1794, Silk

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Robe a L’Anglaise, ca. 1765-1770, Silk, Linen

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Robe A la Francaise, ca 1775-1785 Silk, linen, whalebone

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Over dress and skirt, (altered, skirt originally ca 1740-1760). Ca. 1780-1790, silk, linen, metal.

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Robe A L’Anglaise (altered). ca 1775-1799, Silk, linen, cotton

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Girl’s gown. Ca. 1770-1775, Silk, linen, whalebone

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Robe A la Franciaise (missing part replaced during conservation). Ca 1740-1760, Silk, linen

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Robe A L’anglaise, ca 1790-1794, silk, linen

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Robe A l’Anglaise (altered in 1930), ca. 1775-1780, silk, linen

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Robe a la Francaise, ca. 1780-1795, silk

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Fancy dress

“But, what are we to wear?

This is the first exclamation on receipt of an invitation to a Fancy Ball, and it is to assist in answering such questions that this volume has been compiled”

 

I was quite excited when Shari (from La Rose Soiree & La Rose Passementarie) announced that she would be holding a Victorian fancy dress ball. My first thought was excitement. The second thought is very well described by the quote above. This lovely booklet was pointed out to me by Desiree, and it’s such a treasure! It gives a thorough catalog of all types of options for fancy dress, including quite a lot of grey scale pictures, and a couple full color ones. It’s a lot of fun to read through as well!

In this post, a small selection of some of the gems inside the book.

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The book starts with recommendations on what costumes to wear depending on your coloring and age.

Brunettes could choose, for instance, Autumn, Diana, Fire or Spanish dress, while fair women are more suited to Day, Fairy, Moonlight, Rainbow or Swiss dress. Sisters could go together, and choose costumes such as Salt and Fresh water, Music and Paintings or Oranges and Lemons. Similarly, husband and wife could do Kings and Queens, or Night and Day.

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It also gives some general guidelines, such that: “It is uncomfortable to dance without gloves, so consistency yields to convenience”. And hair styling advice, such that: “With regard to Powdering, it is best, if possible, not to have recourse to wigs, they are heavy and unbecoming. It is far better to powder the hair itself…” 

 

 

Then it’s on to the specific costumes! In alphabetical order, as they are in the book, a favourite for each letter.

 

A: Aquarium: Fashionable evening dress of blue and green tulle, trimmed with marine plants and ornamented with fish and shells, the octopus on one side of the skirt; veil of green tulle; hair floating on shoulders. Bodice trimmed with seaweed and coral; ornaments, silver fish and coral.

B: Butterfly: Short white satin skirt, covered with clouds of brown, pink and blue tulle. Flight of butterflies all over it. Wings of blue gauze, and the antennae in the head-dress. White silk stockings and white shoes. Butterfly on each.

C: Chess: Front breadth, squares of black and white silk, black band at edge of skirt, row of red ribbon above. Black silk train piped with red, caught up with check ribbon, and bordered with checks. Sleeves of black and white squares to wrist, black cuffs piped with red. V-shaped black bodice, with ruff. Coronet of chessmen, larger pieces in front, the same for ornaments, all made of wood.

D: Dresden China: Under this name almost any poudre character may be worn, with or without a saque. It is generally thus rendered: Quilted short skirt, high-heeled shoes and clocked stockings; chintz or brocaded bunched up tunic; muslin apron; low bodice; short sleeves with ruffles; coloured stomacher laced across; bow of ribbon or black velvet around neck; straw hat or muslin cap; powdered hair. A newer rendering has bows of ribbons and flowers on the shoulders, with a tiny china figure in the centre; a satin chapeau bras with mroe flowers springing from centre; crook and high-heeled shoes.

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E: Eve: Dress of white India muslin, trimmed with apples, leaves and blossom; fig-leaves for pockets; out of one peeps a serpent’s head with emerald eyes, out of the other falls a triplet of white lilies; a wreath of small apples, flowers and leaves, necklace, a serpent of gold and silver enamel in red and blue.

F: Fairy: Short tulle diaphanous dress, with low full bodice, covered with silver spangles; silver belt at waist; wings of gauze on wire attached to back; hair floating; a silver circlet on the head. Or, for a Fairy queen; a crown, the wand, to be carried in hand, becoming a sceptre. Stars should be introduced on the dress and on the satin shoes.

G: the Gloaming: Dress of grey tulle, or muslin, or gauze over satin, made as an ordinary evening dress, or in classic fashion; a veil of the same material; fireflies imprisoned int he tulle; bat fastened on one shoulder, an owl on the other; silver and smoked pearl ornaments.

H: the Hornet: Short black or brown dress of velvet or satin; boots to match; tunic pointed back and front, with gold stripes; satin bodice of black or brown with gold gauze wings; cap of velvet with eyes and antennae of insect

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I: Ice maiden: White gauze dress; pointed tulle cap and veil fastened with wreath of icicles or ice-flowers spangled with powdered glass; long gloves; bracelets and chains of icicles; girdle of falling icicles made of glass.

J: Joan of Arc: White painted cashmere skirt; a suit of armour, with helmet and plume, mailed feet, gloves; red cloak at shoulder. The sout of armour may be of silver, burnished steel or what is called scale armour. But it can also be made by cutting out in strong brown paper the vaious pieces required, copied from any illustrated history, …, pated over with silvered paper. Round the edges inside strips of linen should be pasted to strengthen them, so that tapes may be sewn in with which to tie them on…

L: Lorelei: Dress of watered silk, shot with silver, draped with green, and caught up with water lilies, coral and diamonds; veil to match; sometimes soft muslin is draped in classic fashion; the hair flowing; a coronet of silver on the head; an old fashioned lyre carried in the hand.

M: Magpie. The front of skirt is striped black and white satin plaited; the bodice cut in one with long side revers of black, lined and turned back with white ruching to the hem of the skirt, opening down back to show full plaited skirt. The black bodice bordered with white; low striped vest; magpie on the shoulder and in hair; which may be powdered or not, or half powdered.

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N: Needles and pins: This dress is after the mother Hubbard order. A quilted skirt, with chintz train; low black velvet bodice, fichu; powdered hair; cap and pointed velvet hat. In front of the dress every kind of needle and pin is inserted. Pins forming the motto “Needles and pins, needles and pins; when a man marries his troubles begin,” on the train.

O: October: … with trimmings of leaves variegated with all the rich reds and browns of the autumn tints. A classic cream dress would show such trimmings to advantage. Or, an evening dress of cream and gold satin introducing acorns, with the leaves applied to dress and head-dress

P: Planets: White satin short skirt, bordered with a blue silk band and dotted with silver stars; white gauze over-skirt and plaited low bodice bespangled with stars; long wing-like sleeves to match; blue satin Swiss belt cut in points, a star on each; blue coronet with stars; long veil with stars; necklace and bracelets of the same.

Q: Quicksilver. Fashionable black evening dress made of tulle, and trimmed with silver.

R: Ruben’s wife: Yellow and brown silk and violet velvet, the skirt of the velvet touching the ground; the bodice a low square with square ruff, lace edged; the hair in curls; the bodice, which has a broad rounded point, has jewels in front of a yellow stomacher; the sleeves have an upper puff of violet, an elbow puff slashed with brown and yellow, puffs of yellow to wrist, with turn-back cuffs; the colours are blended into the trimmings on the skirt mixed with jewels; a feather fan is carried in the hand; a large-brimmed, low-crowned hat, turned up on one side with ostrich plumes and jewel

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S: Sunbeam: White tulle dress, flounced to waist, each flounce edged with rows of gold braid; a large sash round the waist with gold fringe, a gold chatelaine bag at side; head-dress, veil of gold tissue, enveloping the figure and glittering at every moment; ornament, gold.

T:  Twenty-four o’clock: New clock dial on chest and forehead, with hours from one to twenty-four; at back of head a pendulum swinging; short costume of black and white satin.

U: Universe: Short blue and white dress made of cashmere or soft silk in classic fashion, or in gauze or twill as an evening gown, with stars and spheres for ornaments; star-spangled veil.

V: Vandyke: Full plain skirt; muslin apron; edged with pointed lace; godice with revers; sleeves to wrist; hair in curls

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W: Witch: Short quilted skirt of red satin, with cats and lizards in black velvet; gold satin panier tunic; black velvet bodice laced over an old-gold crepe bodice; small cat on right shoulder, a broom in the hand, with owl; tall pointed velvet cap; shoes with buckles

Y: New Year: Radiant young girl in heyday of youth wearing plain long full satin skirt, with hours in silver round it; silver cord about waist; bodice full; pendent sleeves from elbow, caught up with roses; wreath of roses and veil in hair.

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To close:

“There are few occasions when a woman has a better opportunity of showing her charms to advantage than at a Fancy Ball.”

5 year Anniversary

My blog turns 5 today!

Five years ago, I seriously started with historical costuming. This was in the summer of 2013. Then, in November, I decided to also start a blog. To keep track of my own progress, share what I learned along the way, and provide a platform to interact with other costumers.

My first ‘big’ project, worn for a ball this summer:

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I’ve learned so much since then, made costumes I could only dream of at first, and have gotten to know a lot of people through this hobby. I have noticed as well that some of the activity which used to be in blogs has now moved to Facebook and Instagram. I love those as well, for sharing in groups, and quick progress images, but I’ve never considered giving up on the blog. I’ve learned so much from reading blogs by others, and the written medium just gives more opportunity to explain choices and steps taken, which I think is very valuable.

And my last project, at a salon this autumn:

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Picture by Martijn van Huffelen

 

For this post, 5 things I’ve learned in the past 5 years, in no particular order

  • There’s no absolutes in history. There’s ‘rarely seen’, and ‘no evidence of’, but it’s nearly impossible to know something was never done, unless it involved stuff that wasn’t invented yet (sewing machines, polyester). There seem to be exceptions to practically every ‘rule’. This does not mean, however, that some ways of doing things were not way more common, or are not better supported by evidence, and just a ‘you don’t know for sure it was never done’ is not a good historical reason for doing something in a certain way (although ‘I really like it this way’ might be all you need to do it). And, the knowledge we have is constantly shifting. We learn more, as a community and in fashion history as a science, all the time.
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A rare example of a girl’s dress in very rough silk. Don’t take this as evidence that raw silk was used often, but it does show that it was, at least on some occasions. (from the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum)

 

  • Be aware of your own bias. You always take your knowledge and ideas with you when researching. When I was looking for the ‘corset elastique’ I automatically interpreted everything similar as undergarment, because of the term ‘corset’. And in doing so, I disregarded the image showing this garment on top of a dress, until someone pointed it out to me. Knowing more about historical fashion can be a blessing, but it also means you take your ideas of ‘the way it was done’ with you when looking at things. And when doing research, it’s best to try to be as aware of that as possible.
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The ‘corset elastique’. Named a ‘corset’ in contemporary sources, but it might very well be an outer garment as well!

 

  • Studying originals is invaluable. Learning from other historical costumers has helped me so much, especially when just starting out, because this can teach you things about the process of dressmaking that you just cannot get from a picture of a finished garment. But at the end of the day, only the study of originals can truly bring our knowledge forward. There’s a number of things ‘common’ in the historical costuming community, which are so simply because of that 1 existing pattern, or because ‘everyone does it this way’. That’s not an evil, but studying originals is the only place to really bring ‘new’ knowledge into the community. (This is why I love the new Patterns of Fashion book so much, for instance!).
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Patterns of Fashion 5 is such a lovely book because of how much it teaches you about originals and how they were made. Much more than you could ever get from looking at pictures only

 

  • Costuming connects people. Making garments is pretty much a solitary business, and I definitely enjoy that aspect of it. However, there’s also something wonderful about chatting to other people who have the same crazy hobby as you do, and who are as excited as you are by the same things. (Drooling over original garments, or fabrics, or admiring hand-stitched trim is just so much better together with people who ‘get’ it). I’ve been attending more events this past year, a number either alone, or with people I did not know that well beforehand. I haven’t regretted a second of it, and am looking forward to meeting more people at future events.
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A picture from our second Victorian ‘picnic’. We’ll definitely be doing more of these in the future.

 

  • Never compare yourself to others. In skill, materials, speed or output. I sew as a hobby, and that means the nr. 1 rule is: only do it if you enjoy it. Of course, you sometimes have to get that tricky thing done before getting to the good part. But I have a rule with myself that if I really don’t feel like sewing, that’s perfectly fine too. This is my hobby, and I do it for me, and me alone. And at the end of the day, it’s the process that counts, much more than the end result. Looking at what others produces can be so inspiring, and I love it for precisely that reason, because it excites me to start sewing myself. But it should never feel like a race, because it’s not.
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It took me about 2 months to pleat this skirt. Not because it was so difficult, but because life was busy, and I didn’t feel like it. And that’s okay too, and I know I wouldn’t love the finished product as much if I’d forced myself through it.

Patterns of Fashion 5

A Dutch version of this blog is out today at ModeMuze.nl!

History

Janet Arnold is a household name for everyone who’s interested in the construction of historical clothing. In the 70’s and 80’s, she published several books with detailed patterns of existing garments. This Patterns of Fashion series is still one of the most used when it comes to recreating historical clothing. Part 1 is about women’s fashion from 1660 to 1860, part two about women’s clothing from 1860 to 1940, and part 3 women’s and men’s clothing from 1560 to 1620.

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My copies of Patterns of Fashion 1 and 2

 

Janet Arnold passed away in 1998, leaving her work, in a way, unfinished. She had multiple further Patterns of Fashion books planned, and in 2008 part 4 was published, about linen undergarments and accessories from 1540 to 1660. This book was planned by her, and finished by Jenny Tiramani and Santina M. Levey.

However, there was a lot more material. From her legacy, the London School of Historical dress was founded in 2012, also housing her collection. This includes her pictures of originals, and the patterns she’d taken. And, end of this October, the latest book in the series will be published. Patterns of Fashion 5 is about ‘structural’ women’s garments from 1595 to 1795. Bodies, stays, hoops and rums. From the material and legacy of Janet Arnold, but supplemented thanks to modern techniques and new research, by Jenni Tiramani and Luca Costigliolio, with the assistance of Sebastien Passot, Armelle Lucas and Johannes Pietsch. In color, with detailed photographs, x-rays and patterns including all the different layers of the objects.

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Patterns of Fashion 5

 

I had the pleasure of receiving my copy early at the Structuring Fashion conference in Munich, so in the rest of this blog, an overview of what to expect from the book! The pictures below present a small selection of the objects which can be found in the book.

Content

The book starts with an extensive introduction, with a lot of information and new research using primary sources. It includes a description of the different types of materials which were used. Very useful, as words don’t always mean the same thing now, and some materials aren’t produced anymore. It also includes a description of how fashion evolved, and how these garments were made historically. It’s definitely recommended to actually read the full introduction, despite the temptation to only look at the pretty pictures, as it contains a wealth of information.

1640-60 Stitched stays & stomacher in crimson satin. Filmer collection, Gallery of costume, Platt hall, Manchester City Galleries 2003.109/2

 

Because the book does contain a lot of pretty pictures. A number of objects has the well-known drawings as found in the earlier books. But every object is also photographed extensively. When possible mounted, to see the object in shape. And with a whole number of detail shots giving more information about construction. The inside, bits where the lining is coming off, close-ups of eyelets, etc. Every object also has an artwork accompanying it, in which you can see this type of object being worn in context. One of the highlights for me are the x-ray pictures. A number of objects have these, and they really show the true inside. How many layers of fabric it has, which way the seam allowances are folded, where the boning is placed, and where the metal

1650-80 Stitched stays & stomacher in Pink watered silk grosgrain. Victoria & Albert Museum London V&A: T.14&A-1951

 

And now the patterns, because that’s what it’s all about in the end. All patterns are drawn on the familiar inch-grid, including a legend with cm, and the rulers in the end of the book. New in this book is that the patterns were drawn larger, and then scaled down to make them more precise. Also new is that many of the layers are shown individually. For some of the stays, the strength layer is not cut the same as the outer layer, and the lining might be different still. This makes it very difficult to get to the pattern of the inside layer. This is one of the places where the x-rays come in handy. The patterns also show very clearly how the object is stiffened. From baleen boning (sometimes including information on thickness), to steel, wood, extra layers of linen, leather and paper. They also include pictures of how exactly all those layers are put together. For the hoops the layers are a bit less relevant, but these also include information on how hoops are attached to achieve the end result.

1740-50 Short hoop in striped linen. Victorian & Albert Museum, London T425-1990

 

The book finished with a chapter on how to recreate the garments in the book. It includes a number of pictures of replicas made by the School of Historical dress, so you can see some of the more fragile objects mounted as well. One personal favourite bit is the description (based on a primary source) on how to draw the patterns for stays. Very interesting if you want to make them yourself! It even includes a list of where to get materials, and what to use instead of baleen. The chapter ends with a list of terms, with historical terms and their translations in English, French, German, Spanish and Italian, and sometimes Swedish or Dutch.

1720-30 Smooth-covered stomacher in embroidered linen. Museum of Fine arts, Boston, 43.1906

 

It’s really a beautiful book, and highly recommended for everyone who wishes to know more about these garments. With a lot of new knowledge, filled with beautiful patterns, and details of original garments. The book can only be ordered via the School of Historical dress (ISBN: 978 0 993174421). Edit per 20-11-2018: The copies are back in stock, but as they’re such a small team, they are only putting up the next 100 copies for sale once they’ve processed the previous. So if you see an ‘out of stock’, just keep checking their website! It’s well worth the wait.

Also, the ladies from American Duchess made a wonderful podcast with an interview with Jenni Tiramani, which I thoroughly recommend if you want to learn more about how this book came about. (Part I and II).

C.1740-1760 Stitched Stays in blue silk damask. Museum of Fine arts, Boston 43.561

 

 

 

Late 1830’s sleeve inspiration

I mentioned some of my plans in my last post. By now, the 1780’s project has been done (iteration 1, at least), and I will wear it next weekend. Expect more posts after that, because then I’ll actually have proper pictures of the whole thing, dress and hat.

It also means I’ve been slowly shifting focus onto the 1830’s project. Just a quick disclaimer; I don’t know if I’ll actually be able to finish this before the January deadline, because I also have a lot of other (non-sewing) stuff going on. But I’ll very probably start it nonetheless.

For my first 1830’s project, I’ve actually chosen a dress from later in the decade. And that means it also doesn’t have the huge sleeves the 1830’s are so famous for. I didn’t do that because I don’t like large sleeves, because they’re really fun. I made that choice, because in the latter half of the 1830’s, you get sleeves which basically start with the same amount of fabric, but where the sleeves are then pleated and smocked in various ways to make a relatively narrow sleeve out of all that fabric.

And I just really love this style of intricate sleeve. So, in this post, some inspiration pictures of 1830’s sleeves you might not have considered typically 1830’s huge, but which are very pretty!

This dress started my love for the sleeves in this era. Three rows of tiny pleats, with strips of fabric in-between, and piping, of course. I found this picture ages back, and for a long time, it was one of the few 1830’s dresses I truly found pretty and inspiring. The craziness eventually grew on me, but I still love this dress.

Dress, 1837-1840, V&A T.184-1931

 

Then, of course, there’s the dress I’m planning on recreating. With the same narrow gathers at the top, but than a wider band around the sleeve with a rosette.

Ensemble ca. 1836, MET museum 1988.105.5a–d

 

There seems to’ve been a bit of a thing with gold colored silk dresses in this era, if you look at the MET collection, as they have a lot. This one also features the typical small pleats, but finishes off the bottom one with a bit of lovely trim. (And look at those tiny gathers at the wrists!

Dress, silk, probably American

Dress ca. 1836, MET 1973.226

 

There’s endless variations on the theme, and all are just a little different. This one has very narrow pleats, finished off with a bit of ruffle.

Evening dress, silk, wool, cotton, British

Evening dress ca. 1835, MET 1984.89

 

This dress actually keeps up the gathering all through-out the sleeve. It has tiny cartridge gathers at the top, and then after that bands to gather the volume down in different places.

Dress, silk, American

Dress ca. 1835, MET 13.49.22a, b

 

The previous dresses are all in silk, but the trend was definitely applied to cotton dresses as well. More difficult to see, due to the prints, but it’s all in the details!

This one is actually quite similar to the palest gold dress above, but with two rows of pleats before the gathered ruffle.

Dress, cotton, American

Dress 1837–39, MET C.I.38.23.2

 

Most dresses feature long pleats, but this one has gathers instead. You can almost see where the gathers have been stitched down in places to keep them in shape.

Dress, cotton, British

Drss ca. 1837, MET  1983.241.1

 

A bit more difficult to see because of the angle, but the cut of this bodice is so pretty it deserves a spot. The sleeves seem to have two rows of pleats and bands inbetween.

Ensemble, cotton, American

Ensemble ca. 1837, MET C.I.56.27.1a, b

 

Most of these dresses were from the MET, simply because they have the best pictures, but to finish off, a Dutch example. I’ve had the pleasure to see this dress in person, and admire the sleeves.

Wedding dress of wool with woven silk stripes, 1836. Gemeentemuseum Den Haag 1018228

 

The ‘Corset Elastique’, mystery garment, and about Regency short stays

A mystery item

A little while back I was leafing through a book by the Gemeentemuseum in the Hague, ‘Romantische Mode’, which accompanied their exhibition on 19th century fashion a while back.

And in a chapter on silhouette I stumbled on an item I hadn’t really noticed before, namely this garment, labeled as ‘small corset (korsetje) 1800-1825’.

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Gemeentemuseum Den Haag. Thanks to the museum for providing me with a High-res image, as it doesn’t have an online page. Click for full scale.

 

I was intrigued, as it seemed to be a type of Regency short stays I’d never seen before. Particularly the high center front, and the gathers. So I went online, and did some searching, went down the rabbit hole, and found some more interesting things.

Such that the ‘typical’ regency short stays I always thought of don’t seem to exist.

That this was obviously a transitional period, as several existent stays represent unique styles.

And that they had stretchy garments in the Regency period, way before the spandex corsets of the early 19th century came onto the scene.

Yes, really.

The type of garment shown above includes metal coils, making it stretchy. They even seem to have had a name, the ‘corset elastique’. This explains the gathers, which initially confused me.

 

Then I posted this post, got some more feedback on this garment, and stuff got more complicated. So this is the revised post with my findings and thoughts!

 

Short stays

First, let’s start with a bit of an overview on short stays.

I was familiar mostly with reproductions of short stays. My own pair is made with the Sense & Sensibility pattern, and that seems the predominant type of short stays made. The main characteristics of that pattern are: short, front lacing only, with bust gussets.

20140427_202240 (450x600)

My own short stays.

 

However, when searching, I couldn’t find any examples of short stays which is actually like my own recreation. The most similar I could find is this one:

Couldn’t find a source for this though.

 

The main difference from mine is the length. Though shorter, this still goes down a bit, and has tabs. It’s similar to the one seen in this fashion plate:

regency

 

Similar to the one above is this pair, the main difference being the lack of front lacing, and wrap around ties.

 

It doesn’t have front lacing, and the straps go around and tie in the front, but it does have the bust gussets, and it’s short.

The tying technique is also seen in this fashion plate:

1810 chemise & stays

 

Another pair which has seen various reproduction is this garment in the Kyoto costume institute. However, I recently found that someone had looked at this in more detail, and that it’s most probably something very different, namely later 19th century posture improvers. The boning goes in the back, to support the back and keep the shoulders back. The original ‘letter’ can be found here, and is by collector and underwear expert Anton Priymak. I’m keeping this in this post because I hadn’t seen this ‘correction’ before, and because this image is still floating around as Regency stays. (Close-ups reveal machine stitching, so even if it turns out not to posture improvers, it’s definitely not Regency)

Opaska-biustonosz; początek XIX wieku [The Kyoto Costume Institute, Japonia]

Posture Improver, KCI (not regency…)

 

To wrap-up, there are not actually all that many ‘short stays’ out there. The vast majority of what has survived are ‘longer’ stays.

 

When looking for information, I also stumbled on some wonderful posts by ‘Kleidung um 1800‘, who did some in-depth research on stays of the very early 19th century, including on ‘short stays’. She looked at period descriptions naming ‘short stays’, and actually made some of them following period instructions! She noted that many of those actually look more like ‘longer’ stays, but are just quite light-weight and with a little boning. I won’t be repeating her findings here, so I’ll just refer to some of her posts, about the period ‘short’ stays, and another pair without lacing.

 

The ‘corset elastique’

So where does that leave us with the garment that started the whole search?

Well, surprisingly to me, I actually found a number of examples of the ‘corset elastique’, similar to my original find. These examples are all really short, shorter even than my find, have front closing, and they all include metal springs.

This pair from the MET was the first one I found. And it’s strikingly similar to the one from the Gemeentemuseum. The gathered front, the high center front boning, front lacing. The main difference is the existence of sheer cups. This is the only pair I found with cups. Given how sheer the fabric is, this was probably mostly for control or decoration.

 

The high-resolution image also allows you to see the metal coil which has escaped from the bottom. This was the first ‘aha’ moment. The coils explain the gathers.

This was the first image, and the one most similar to my own find, but I found more.

These two examples show the same gathering around metal coils, though they don’t have the high center-front of the other two. They are also both in color.

This example has crossed straps in the back (follow the link for more pictures), and the straps attach with small buckles.

 

The final example is also straight across, and has a slightly different type of front closure.

 

This museum also gives the corset it’s name, the corset à élastique. And searching by that name, I actually found another example, this time in a fashion plate, from the Journal des Dames et des Modes. Looking closely, you see the three straps in the front, with little stripes, exactly like the previous example. And it’s got the crossed straps from the third one.

 

And here I thought I was done, but of course, history is always more complicated than you’d think! Sabine, from Kleiding um 1800, pointed out to me that she’d seen these three garments shown above, but interpreted them as outer wear, to wear on top of a dress. (She made one by the way, which is wonderful)

This is supported, firstly, by the fashion plate below, which shows a very similar garment worn over an outfit.

 

It also makes sense given the darker colors of the last two items, as most dresses in this period were sheer and white, and most underwear would also be white. Of course, history is always good at exceptions.

 

The fact that all of them are made of silk could also point in the direction of outerwear, although again, at least until the late 18th century, I could find exceptions:

 

So if they are outerwear, what’s up with the fashion plate from the Rijksmuseum, clearly showing them as underwear? One reason for this might be that fashion magazines copied from one-another, and might have mis-interpreted it. Again, thanks to Sabine for this theory.

It might also be the case that, because of how much fashion was transitioning, that people actually wore these in various versions as outer or underwear. To me, the boning and metal coils seem to point in the direction of shaping the body. Something that most other ‘bodice-type’ garments of this era that I’ve seen don’t do. It makes more sense to me that they were, at some point at least, also meant as supportive garments, but that’s purely my own theory.

Most I know of look more like this. No boning/structure involved, as it’s worn on top of undergarments, that isn’t necessary.

c. 1800 American bodice

MET museum

 

Just a quick note on terminology, I’ve seen the term ‘corset’ (in French!) refer to garments clearly worn on top of a dress in this era. So just the fact that they called it a ‘corset’, does not mean it’s underwear.

1798

Description: Turban a la Gulnaire. Corset et jupon a la Lisbeth.

 

In this light, it is, however, interesting to point out some other versions of the ‘corset elastique’. Firstly, this late 18th century pair of stays: (the left one)

Kyoto Costume Institute

 

This pair actually seems to have the metal springs as well, but in the side. I couldn’t find a picture of the front, unfortunately, so it’s difficult to say what’s going on there. But this, at least, seems to prove that the metal springs were, in some cases, used in supportive underwear.

Another signal in this direction are these sketches from the ‘ Histoire naturelle, de la femme, suive D un traite D’ygiene’, by Lacroix, 1803. Foundations revealed have an article on the corset elastique describing these in more detail, the thing in the middle is a busk, which extends longer than the stays.

 

Brassiere1808b - Brassiere - Wikimedia CommonsImage:Brassiere1808c.gif

 

And then a very helpful comment by Anna-Carin pointed me in the direction of a little book by J.S. Bernhardt, published in 1810/1811, on stays. And she pointed out that there was a pattern in this book, which was remarkably like the corset elastiques shown!

JS Bernhardt corset elastique

Plate VII, Figure E.

 

The description of this garment (page 95 & 96 in the book) clearly refers to the corset being ‘elastic’, calling the metal coils ‘gesponnene Draht’, instructing they should be two ‘Zoll’ shorter than the pattern panel. This ruching removes the need for a gusset in panel D (as the bottom automatically becomes gathered), and the shortness means no tabs are necessary over the hips either.

 

Conclusions?

So, conclusions? There seems to be at least some types of underwear which used metal springs to make the garment stretchy. They are called ‘corset elastique’ (at least in French). Similarly, there is a garment meant to wear on top of a dress, also called a ‘corset elastique’, which also has these metal springs. It’s quite difficult to tell what existent garments were meant as which, although the colored ones at least seam to point in the direction of outer wear.

As to my original garment, it’s still a bit unclear. I’d interpreted it as underwear, also because of the chapter of the book it was in, and because it was termed ‘corset’, and it was white. It is, however, made of silk, which was uncommon for undergarments. Looks wise, it seems similar to both garments which were probably meant as outer wear, and a pattern for underwear. At this point, I’ve listed what I could find, and will leave further interpretations up tot he reader. If anyone has any further information, I’d love to know! (Many thanks to everyone who has already chimed in!)

Inspiration – Victorian summer dresses

It’s been unusually warm and dry here in the Netherlands (and in most of Europe, I believe). That’s gotten me thinking of light, summer style dresses. I don’t have any at the moment, all of mine are either silk, velvet or wool. So one of these might have to go onto the (long) list of things I want to make one day…

Last year I did a post on summer dresses of the period just before the Victorian age, so for this post, let’s look at some Victorian examples!

These dresses are all made of very light cotton. They protect the skin from the sun, and the white is relatively cool. The cotton is rather thin, and breathes well. Of course, a fashionable lady would still seek out the shade, and wear a bonnet and parasol as well to protect from the sun.

Some crinoline styles. In this era, flowers on white seem tho have been quite popular!

COTTON DRESS with STRAWBERRY PRINT, 1863

 

I particularly like the pin-tucks on this bodice.

.....

 

Some nice stripy contrast!

Day dress, late 1860′s From the John Bright Historic Costume Collection

 

PRINTED DIMITY DAY DRESS, 1860s 1-piece, white, windowpane-woven w/ small red flower print, self fabric belt, trained skirt.

 

Organza dress ca. 1865. Bodice has muslin foundation trimmed in needlelace accented with bows. Time Travelers Estate Sales

 

Some solid white, as we’re moving into the bustle era.

Dress, ca. 1870

 

But dots are nice too!

Day dress, American (attrib.), ca. 1873-77. White cotton printed with red circles. Bodice: fitted over hips, ruffled edge, long sleeves. Skirt: bustle with white cotton and red trim. Overskirt: as draped apron. Kent State Univ. Museum

Two afternoon dresses in printed cotton, ca. 1875. Part of the Jacoba de Jonge collection, which is now owned by the Mode Museum in Antwerp. Filep Motwary blog

 

And, to finish, two more solid white dresses from the 1880’s this time

Dress, European, ca. 1885. Cotton plain weave with cotton cutwork embroidery (broderie anglaise) & cotton needle lace. Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Rebecca Thelin/Flickr, and thecourtesanblue/Flickr

Dress ca. 1885 via The Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

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.

Untitled-1

 

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.

Untitled-3

 

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

Untitled-4

 

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.

Untitled-2

 

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.

Untitled-2

 

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

 

Spring pastels

Spring is slowly coming, the first flowers are popping up. Meanwhile the weather is still rather rainy and grey, however. So although I’m not always a big fan of pastel and fluffyness (especially at the same time), right now is a good time for it.

The Album de la Mode Illustree has a version with lovely watercolor fashion plates, so I picked some of my favourites from the most frilly examples. Ranging from the 1860s to 1890’s. If you don’t like fluff, now might be a good time to stop reading.