Monday, January 28, 2013

Some Other Pretty Stuff to Look At

So, I've been doing historical costuming for multiple years now, although I have only recently started documenting the process. I thought that maybe I would post some of my other creations, so that you can just see some other things that I've made, and ask any questions/discuss similar things. So, here are a few of my other projects!

This is a pair of gloves that I recreated from a pair of 1770's Quaker mitts from the book Fitting and Proper. I am hoping to embroider them someday soon, but for now they are just plain white. They come up to my elbow, and have an opening for the thumb and the fingers. This is my sixth try, as the first couple mock-ups didn't work out that well. However, I am really happy with them, and I wear them often!

This is the best picture I have of my cape, although hopefully I will have another excuse to put it on and take more pictures soon! This was in Williamsburg, posing with my favorite Founding Father, Thomas Jefferson. The cape is dark gray felt with a silk lining, hood, and collar, as well as a silver clasp (I'll post pictures of it later, it's really beautiful). The purple dress under my cape is not historically accurate, but was my first step into historical costuming, and as it is easier to wash than my other things, it was what I chose to wear for a rainy day. My bonnet was made by someone else, but is historically accurate.

Finally, my dress! This dress is Civil War era, and is my pride and joy. It took four months to make, but was totally worth it. It's blue silk, purple velvet, and over a hundred yards of trim with 72 hand-sewn rosettes.

Just the skirt...
...a close-up on one of the panels (six hand-sew rosettes and a covered button, with three different trims)...
...the back...
...with TJ...
...with another TJ...
...and with accessories!

The nice thing about this dress is the versatility of it. Technically, it is 1860's. However, depending on what type of hoops and underskirts I wear with it, I don't look that out of place in other time periods. I used Simplicity pattern 2881 for this dress, and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a nice Civil War era dress to make. Happy sewing!

Monday, January 21, 2013

An Overview on Historical Fashion - Part 3!

The final part of this overview, the accessories!

We have accessories today, and so did people in colonial times! By now, you've probably picked up on the trend: expensive materials like lace or silk were only for the gentry class, linen was for the lower classes; the less you needed to work, the more clothes and accessories you would have. With that in mind, here are just a few more accessories that were seen in the 1700's and 1800's!

Mitts - keeping skin pale and ladies modest!
A fairly commonplace set of mitts
Dyed and embroidered mitts
Another view of the above mitts

Muffs - for use in the winter, usually stuffed with wool or cotton and lined with fur.

Fans - for waving away unpleasant smells and for expressing yourself (Princess Diaries, anyone?)

A brise fan
An ivory fan - for the wealthy only!
A painted wooden fan - much more affordable
Paintings like this on commonplace items are typical of the colonial period.
An assortment of fans

Parasols - for style and keeping the sun off.

Reticule Purses - coming from the style of the pocket, a little drawstring purse that became popular in the early 1800's, when dresses lost many of their layers.

Capes - for keeping warm in the winter!


Hair - for those who couldn't afford anything else, tucking hair into a bun and covering it with a mob cap was the way to go. However, for the truly affluent, wigs were in style. You could choose to simply have pre-styled extensions added on for you, although the truly rich shaved their heads and wore wigs. These would be styled by the wigmaker, as well as being serviced and cleaned by her. Curls were very popular, as well as ornamentation like flowers, fruit, combs, feathers, pearls, etc., with the most lavish customers having ships in full sail with working miniature cannons or birdcages with live birds inside! (think Marie Antoinette)

The hair would come from animals like goats, yaks, and horses for cheaper wigs, but also from humans for the more expensive ones. Girls in Europe and Asia (not America, as the climate was deemed unsuitable for good hair) would be raised to sell their hair, with the following qualifications: it must have never been dyed or bleached, it must be kept clean, and it must be longer than 16 inches.

Hair extensions in the window of Williamsburg's wigmaker's shop.

I've covered pretty much everything you need to know for an introduction to colonial women's costuming, but if there's anything I missed, or anything you would like to know more about, please leave a comment, and I will try to do another post with more information!

If you're simply curious about historical costuming, I can recommend a few resources. Personally, I love podcasts, because I can learn while I'm driving, or as I fall asleep. My two favorite sources are Colonial Williamsburg podcasts, especially the ones on historic trades. I also enjoy How Stuff Works - Stuff You Missed in History Class, which has a lot of episodes on historical figures and events, as well as some really interesting ones on historical undergarments (the best is Bloomers and Beyond).

I would also recommend checking out Colonial Williamsburg's website, They have many pages on costuming and textiles, including a game called "Dress the Part", which allows you to see how an outfit is built.

Finally, just start googling things! If there's something that you're interested in, google it, and I'm sure you'll find something that helps answer your question. I've stumbled across many blogs that way, as well as quite a few books. Right now, the book that I have been particularly captivated with is called Fitting and Proper, by Sharon Ann Brunston. It's a collection of 18th century clothing from the collection of the Chester County Historical Society, accompanied by scaled down tracings if you want to replicate anything.

Hopefully this post was helpful, and I hope that you can enjoy costuming as much as I do! Please feel free to comment with any questions at all, or any suggestions for future posts. :)