Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Fashion in 1867

Because of the upcoming Dragonrose pattern for an 1867 evening dress, I wanted to explore the fashion of that year. The American Civil War period is very well-explored, and I've done a certain amount of research into the early bustle period, but in between those two, my impression has been comparatively vague.

Godey's Lady's Book, May 1867; NYPL 803309

The most common style of bodice for daywear was, as in the previous period, a front-closing one with a jewel neckline and dropped armscye. White collars were still worn: a standing collar inside the neckline, a ruffled collar also inside the neckline, and a turn-down collar with points. Cuffs were made in similar styles, and worn on two-piece coat sleeves of a moderate width; a decorative hanging oversleeve was a fashionable addition for any situation where a long sleeve was appropriate. In evening dress a broad or squared neckline was prevalent, worn with very short sleeves. Images labeled dinner dress often show a squared neckline filled in with a chemisette.

At the beginning of the year, the waistline tended to be on the high side of natural; by the end of it, it was a little higher.

Godey's Lady's Book, spring 1867; NYPL 803342

The most distinctive aspect of fashion in 1867 is the shape of the crinoline. From 1861 through 1866, the fashionable hoop skirt had a large diameter, projecting out in the back and forming something of a straight-sided cone. In 1867, the cone narrowed to a more modest circumference that ran close to the hips, sometimes flaring out into a train.

"Empress's Trail" crinoline, 1867-1869; LACMA FIC.7758.523
While there were still walking costumes with skirts held off the ground evenly, the fashionable skirt was of roughly the same cut as before - and therefore ended up trailing on the ground when worn over the new crinoline, similar to what would happen in 1876 with the collapse of the bustle.

Vertically-striped fabric and vertically-applied trim were fashionably used to accentuate the new narrowness of the skirt. The cut was usually heavily gored, the front and sides attached with minimal pleating and the center back tightly gauged. I originally dated this day gown at the Chapman Museum to 1865-1868, but in retrospect, based on the cut of the skirt and the trim, I would tighten the dates to 1866-1867.
Godey's Lady's Book, 1867; NYPL 803413
Overskirts were beginning to appear but were not very common at this point, and tended to be long.

Hats and Hairstyles

Compared to the Civil War-era styles, hair was worn somewhat high on the back of the head, without coming down onto the neck. Generally, during the day the hair was worn up in a mass with false braids and switches to increase the size; for evening dress, a few long curls might spill down onto the shoulders.

Godey's Lady's Book, 1867; NYPL 825129
Fashionable bonnets and caps likewise were higher up on the head - essentially being flat and resting atop the hairstyle.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Eating One's Words

This is so awkward.

Some time ago, I wrote a piece on the blogger at This Victorian Life. She had recently been profiled by Vox or Vice or Vulture - one of those online magazine-like sites - and the profile itself didn't seem very fair. In addition, a lot of the resulting internet chatter about the whole situation of a couple deciding to live "like Victorians" (kind of) came off to me as wrong-headed, assuming that nostalgia for history and a desire to experience the past automatically meant thinking that all aspects of the past are better than the present, including historic racism, sexism, etc., and my contrariness and defensiveness kicked in, pushing me to post a rebuttal.

Recently, the blogger and her husband took a trip to Vancouver where they attempted to visit a famous private garden, the rules of which disallow costumes and wedding dress. In a blog post, the employees who turned them away were described as cruel, rude brutes who looked down on the couple, the horrible nakedness of other patrons in modern summer clothing was highlighted, and she asked readers to write to the garden and review them poorly online. This is something I look askance at no matter what the situation, but it later turned out that the situation may have been extremely exaggerated and that the rules were posted on the internet and known ahead of time.

I would really rather be posting something interesting related to the Dragonrose Historical Pattern Kickstarter right now, and normally I would just let this pass by without bothering to write a post about it. But because I did write those earlier, praising posts and because this episode is going around the costuming world online, I feel like I need to address this issue or it may be assumed that I endorse it.

Look, I think it's important to show people that Victorian and Edwardian clothing doesn't smother you and prevent you from moving. And if you want to live without most aspects of modern technology, that's really cool. But it is not okay to look down on other people because they aren't in historical clothing, it is not okay to try to force yourself in historical clothing into a space that doesn't allow it, it is not okay to emotionally misrepresent how you were handled by a business, and it is especially not okay to sic one's fandom on a business's online reviews or customer support. It's an ugly way to behave.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Kickstarter - Fully Funded!

Hooray! After just a few days, Dragonrose Historical Patterns has been fully funded and then some. I must give a great big thank-you to everyone who supported us, either for a preordered pattern or without reward, and another big thank-you to Lauren of American Duchess for sharing a link for us on Facebook.

Look, it really is a Pingat!
Our total is still climbing. Julie and I discussed it, and decided to add a few stretch goals.

$3,400 - We're already almost to this one (and may hit it while I'm typing). When we hit it, we can purchase a module to allow us to create standard-sized, preprinted patterns, in addition to our custom-sized patterns for individuals.

$13,500 - I know, it sounds like a lot! It is a lot! But the extra $11,000 would allow us to buy a 72" Ioline Flex-Jet E commercial printer, which would let us print Dragonrose patterns much more cheaply and therefore sell them to you more cheaply. We would also be able to sell them to distributors wholesale, allowing you to buy them from any of your preferred dealers.

In addition, this stretch goal will allow us to give every donor a second pattern at no charge. If you ordered the bodice pattern? You will be able to choose another bodice pattern at any time down the line, from any time period. If you buy the pattern for the whole gown? You will be able to get a free gown pattern when we have more offerings.

We've also added another reward tier. For $100, you can reserve a copy of any other full-gown pattern that we should produce. This is perfect for those of you who do want a pattern of a provenanced garment in a museum, but just don't have much use for the 1860s. And as with the other rewards, if we hit our second stretch goal, you will get a second voucher for a full pattern of your choice.

The beautiful bow
So please consider contributing if you haven't yet! We need your help to become the company we know we can be, and to bring patterns of more beautiful and/or unusual garments from museum collections to your sewing rooms. If you can't contribute, we would really appreciate it if you could share the Kickstarter with your friends on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or any other social media site - or even word of mouth!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Kickstarter - Dragonrose Historical Patterns

This is finally happening!

Julie (or should I link here?) and I have been tossing around these plans for starting a line of historical patterns for a long time. I'm not quite sure how long. I've been merrily taking pattern after pattern for a couple of years so that once the infrastructure is in place, we can start putting them into the computer program and working on the grading, making test samples, etc. But first we need the computer program and associated modules, hence the Kickstarter.

Our first pattern, which we're making available for pre-order as the basis for the Kickstarter, is for the 1867 pink evening gown by Emile Pingat in the collection of the Albany Institute of History and Art.

Evening dress, Pingat, ca. 1867; AIHA 1972.95.2
Julie actually made the first version of the pattern and took it to the Costume Society of America conference in Cleveland this year, where it won the CSA Designer Showcase. (I'm going to be making my own soon as well.)

Dragonrose Historical Patterns will produce patterns that are custom-sized to your measurements, rather than only standard sizes made to fit idealized bodies. (It's the program module for this function that the Kickstarter is funding.) This will be a huge time-, energy-, and frustration-saver for those sewing at home.

So far, we are only working on this specific pattern. However! I will cautiously make no promises about which specific patterns will come later, but I can tell you that I have in my binder:
  • an early 1910s shirtwaist
  • a simple white linen dress of the same period
  • the gown I wore to Julie's Hallowedding (ca. 1872)
  • a slightly later bustle gown with a cuirass bodice, ca. 1875
  • an envelope chemise from the 1910s or 1920s
  • an unboned Double Vee corset waist, 1890s
  • a mid-1840s fan-front silk dress
  • and that's not including the many interesting garments I know of in various museums but haven't had the time to pattern yet!
I am really looking forward to creating patterns that are as authentic as possible - based on specific historical garments, or maybe two combined for variety in such a way that which parts belong to which are clearly marked - and, just as importantly, are tested and double-checked so that you don't end up with instructions that can't be parsed or seam allowances that don't match up.

So if you're interested in this venture, please consider supporting Dragonrose Patterns! And please let us know your thoughts on this particular pattern, the line as a whole, or what you'd like to see in the future.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Running the Show

This past weekend was the first reenactment that I've actually been in charge of. (Some of you may pause to chuckle.)

At last year's Civil War Weekend at Robert Moses State Park in Massena, I attended with the director of the museum as a kind of deputy - running errands that needed to be run, taking pictures so we would have something new to use in publicity next year, and so on. This year, it was all on my shoulders - the preparation leading up to the day, and the on-site work during the reenactment.

This is a picture taken of me last year - I wore the same secondhand dress this time, but with all the new underthings I've made for the HSM, so you do not actually see each rung in the hoop, even when the wind blows. I also have a new bonnet: a straw Flora Francine form from Timely Tresses, trimmed with ribbon from Bulldog and Baum. New pictures ... someday, if someone else took a picture of me and I find it!

It was definitely an experience. You really don't realize how much goes on in the months leading up to an event until you live through it: permits, sending the insurance information a half-dozen times and having to keep getting other people to tweak the wording, arranging for hay and firewood, getting numbers so you know how many people to expect, writing press releases, arranging for new catering for the dinner when the original provider takes ill two days before ... There is so much wrangling to do over email and over the phone. And then on the day(s), there are waivers to get signed, speakers to hurry along, and events to emcee because you forgot that nobody else was booked in to do it. And all along the way, you notice or are told about the things you forgot to address or addressed incorrectly, which can't be fixed for this event.

Closing Ceremonies
While working on this completely exhausted me - I'm an introvert, and over a long enough period of time simple socialization becomes heavy emotional labor - it has left me with a lot more confidence in my abilities. Now I will never forget who I should contact first if the caterer drops out, what order dinner and camps closing should be in, which speakers cannot go first because they run long, and so on. Next year I will make different mistakes, but I certainly won't make these (and I'll never print a folded single-sheet program on a long-edge bind ever again). And I actually feel like I could run any kind of reenactment now!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

HSM 2016 Challenge #5: Holes

Sorry, I've pretty much given up on trying to get a good background in a photo in this apartment.
The Challenge: #5, Holes - how would a corset function without the eyelets to lace it together?

Fabric/Materials: Off-white cotton twill from my corset stash and heavy white twill tape. Originally I was going to cover it with satin, but in the end I'm glad I decided to make this a wearable mockup, as the pattern needs a little tweaking.

Pattern: Based on this corset patent applied for by Mina Sebille, with some alterations and boning arrangement based on this corset at the Victoria & Albert Museum. I've been using one of your standard ungored, shaped-pieces corsets for a few years, and while it's been working well, it doesn't have enough hip spring to give me waist reduction. I figured a corset that had a separate hip piece would help me get the flare I needed. Which it does, to some extent! At least, I'm not getting much more reduction, but I am also not getting that lower back pain from the corset being too tight.

Year: The patent is dated 1863! Very specific.

Notions: A busk, of course, two-piece metal eyelets, and German plastic whalebone. And a corset lace.

How historically accurate is it? Quite. The boning is the least accurate thing about it, as it's plastic - but when in the channels, it does give a feel quite like actual baleen (and you can cut it down when you accidentally sew the channels too thin, which is excellent). I'm not quite sure about the fit - I worry I'm getting too much outward projection and uplift at the bust, but then, as long as I'm not getting that horizontal crease out from the armpit it probably does fit well enough there. I'll just have to remember to pad any bodices I make to wear with this to smooth out that area.

First to be worn: Civil War Weekend, July 30-31

Total cost: Unknown at this point, I've had some of these parts around for a long time.

It's interesting to wear a corset without side boning, and it definitely makes me see how the engineering is really about the cut of the fabric rather than the strength of the boning.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Liebster Blog Award!

I was nominated for the Liebster Blog Award back in January by Nessa of Sewing Empire, but I completely forgot about it! However, I've found it again just in time for CoBloWriMo, or Costume Blog Writing Month, which I'm attempting to participate in to at least some degree.

The rules, as you may know, are to answer the interview questions set to you, list eleven bloggers with fewer than 200 followers* to receive the award (and notify them of their nomination), and come up with eleven questions for them to answer. It's interesting, though, how memes change - when I went back in my blog to get the URL from when I uploaded the graphic years ago, I found that the interview aspect wasn't a part of it then, apparently.

* I'm treating this as a guideline, because hardly anybody seems to have follower counts anymore

Nessa's questions:

What is your favourite fabric color / pattern you enjoy working with the most?

Blue. It's my favorite color and I gravitate toward it for my regular clothing (right now I'm wearing a blue t-shirt and blue sweater, not as part of a coordinated outfit but simply because of the laws of probability), so I also tend to gravitate to it for historical sewing. Blue linen is a good bet for many eras, and if you make most of your things in the blue family they all go together, see?

What is your most favorite place / space (be it a room, building, holiday destination etc.)?

Edinburgh might be my favorite city. I did my junior spring semester there in undergrad, and it really clicked with me - the city center is very historical and very walkable, the climate is temperate, and it's humid all the time which makes my hair curly. When the air is cool and damp, the sky is overcast and low, and it feels like it's absolutely capable of raining and yet it doesn't, I call it an "Edinburgh day" and get sort of homesick for it.

Do you have a favorite TV show or movie? If yes, which?

I don't know if I have a favorite ... I really love Scandal and Game of Thrones, though. Maya & Marty has only just started, but it's wonderful.

Is there something you like to collect (fabric, ribbons, buttons, cups etc.)?

As a legitimate collection, no - I don't have the space. But there are a handful of things that I unintentionally collect:
  • antique clothing: I've mostly bought these pieces because they happened to stroll by at a very reasonable price, or I was given them. Natalie Ferguson very generously gave me her collection not long ago, and I hope to write about some of the wonderful pieces in it this month as well.
  • academic texts on the eighteenth century/colonial period/early Industrial Revolution.
  • small potted plants that can survive in my north-facing windows.
If you could travel to one of your sewing era(s), which one would you like to visit most? Is there a specific date/place you would go?

I would really like to visit the 1890s/1900s. As you know, I have a kind of nostalgia/anemoia/mono no aware feeling that currently is focusing on the turn of the century. When you read period texts, it's clear that they felt a lot like us about their world: that it was fast-paced and modern, with social customs changing and technology adding both opportunity and complexity.

(George M! uses actual turn-of-the-century George M. Cohan songs.)

At the same time, I have a fascination with the late Middle Ages/early Tudor period that I can't really explain. I'd like to visit a totally pre-industrial time as well.

What is your favorite novel / author?

My go-to comfort reads are the Pagan Chronicles, by Catherine Jinks. They follow Pagan Kidrouk, a Christian Arab in the 12th-13th century, as he becomes a squire to make some quick money, then follows his knight back to France and then into a monastery (and then one last book is centered on his daughter). I'm sure their historical accuracy is iffy - from what I've read elsewhere, the idea of a united, widespread Cathar heresy is now generally considered by historians to have been exaggerated/fabricated for political purposes - but they're tremendously entertaining stories with a well-drawn protagonist.

Do you have a favorite museum you would like to visit or go to visit time and again?

I would really like to visit the Victoria & Albert Museum. I've been to London twice in my life and never knew it was there!

Which is the absolute dream fabric or notion you would really like to work with, cost notwithstanding?

I would really love to have a bolt of good silk satin in a period-accurate weight/hand to make a replica of a particular pink satin gown and petticoat held by the New York State Historical Association. And I guess I would need another length of contrasting satin to make the trim.

Is there a new sewing or crafting skill you would like to learn this year?

It's unlikely to happen, but I would really like to improve my bobbin lace skills. I understand how it's done, but I haven't done it anywhere near enough to be able to make lace that could be used in sewing. A couple of years ago I bought an antique roller pillow at an auction in order to get better and be able to make lengths of lace, but it hasn't happened yet.

Which sewing / dressmaking task do you enjoy / eschew the most?

My least favorite sewing job is setting in zippers. It's never really that bad, but I hate doing it and always put it off for days. I might enjoy hemming the most? Because once you take out the last pin and tie off your thread, you can shake out the dress and put it on!

Where is your favorite place to sew or craft?

Although I prefer hand-sewing, I love to work at my machine.

My nominees: (If you've done it before, you can always do it again! What is this but a chance to interview each other?)

- Rowenna of Hyaline Prosaic
- L. R. Stern of Plaid Petticoats
- Bianca of Closet Historian
- Gina of Beauty from Ashes
- Amanda of A Dedicated Follower of Fashion
- Emily of Emily's Vintage Visions
- Avante Garbe
- Nora of A Baronet's Daughter Designs
- Kitty Calash
- The Pragmatic Costumer
- Gabriela of Pour la Victoire

My questions:

- What is the history mystery (including but not limited to historical fashion) that you would most like to solve?
- What is the period or area of historical dress that you first began to concentrate on?
- Do you belong to a costuming or reenacting group?
- What is an area that you fancy studying or sewing that you do not currently do?
- Is there a particular technique that you'd like to learn, but haven't had the time or a project to do it in?
- What would you make if time and budget (and event) were of no concern?
- Is there a particular museum exhibition you'd like to go back in time or travel across the world to see?
- What's your favorite reference book or fashion history text?
- If you could design your perfect historical reenactment event, what would it be like and where?
- What motivates you in your historical recreation and/or public education?
- Do you like reading historical and/or classic fiction? (For the latter, I include any old books, whether or not they're critically esteemed.)