Friday, March 30, 2012

The Writer's Guide to Costume: "Flapper"

Originally, this post was going to address 1920s fashion as well, but I think that will wait until later.  There is enough to discuss in just the meaning of the term!  My issue is with the tendency of people to ascribe the term "flapper" mainly to the 1920s (perhaps mentioning that it was used before then, but ignoring how frequently it was used before then) and of the simplistic description often given of the rise of the type; later I'll address the realities of 1910s and 1920s dress as compared to the image of the flapper.
In the 1920s, a new woman was born. -

"Flappers" in the 1920s was a term applied to a "new breed" of young Western women who wore short skirts, bobbed their hair, listened to jazz, and flaunted their disdain for what was then considered acceptable behavior. - Wikipedia

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Sad Story with a Happy Ending

I've been a little nervous about the dress forms for the Great, Strange, and Rarely Seen exhibition ever since I worked on the pattern for the ca. 1837 dress, which was quite small, and I got even more nervous after working on the ca. 1867 pattern (the last one I took).  The dress forms are modern (eight European size 8s, the smallest in the catalogue, and two of the larger children's forms), the dresses are historical - is this going to work out?

Yesterday, I started to dress the forms, beginning with the ca. 1800 gown as it was fairly simple.  While the form was far too large, the adjustable nature of the dress meant that I could still make it look all right, even if the shoulders weren't quite in the right place.  As I didn't have my pocket hoops with me, I decided to leave the ca. 1765 sacque for next week, and skipped ahead to the two 1920s evening dresses and the Lilly Pulitzer sheath; the former fit perfectly on the women's forms, and the latter on one of the child forms.  Trying to get the ones that needed the least amount of under-structure done first, I went for the Natural Form walking dress and the chiné print lingerie dress next.

Oh dear.  The walking dress would come nowhere near closed on either a woman form or the remaining child one, and the lingerie dress would close enough on the child one if it had its back to the wall, but all of them were to be placed in the center of the room.  In a conference, I voiced my opinion that none of the dresses not already on forms were going to be able to be displayed.

But - all was not lost.  I pointed out that the 1920s dresses had fit perfectly, and that there had been others that hadn't been quite good enough to be put in as the sole representatives of their decade, but which were certainly attractive.  It seemed likely that they would fit.  Why not change the section to focus on evening gowns of the 1920s?

And so now the main consideration is not "is this the most fantastic dress you've ever seen?" but "are the shoulders strong enough to take the weight, and will it fit on the dress forms?"  (Though all of the dresses the AIHA has are beautiful enough to be displayed in their own right.)  I think we may have tried nearly every 1920s dress in good enough shape to be displayed on the forms, and just an hour ago I finished dressing all ten forms.

It is still beautiful, and there are so many amazing things set up in the galleries, most of them from the 18th and 19th centuries (there are two portraits from the 17th!), and you should still come if you're anywhere near Albany - but you should know that there aren't any more 18th or 19th century women's garments on display.  Hopefully they will be shown sometime in the future, when there's time to borrow some suitable mannequins from another museum.

I still fully intend to clean up and post the patterns of the five dresses I did have time to take, and if it's at all possible, I also intend to take many more patterns and publish a book of them.  I don't see why I shouldn't!  That walking dress that wouldn't fit on a form is magnificent.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Robe Parée

OldRags on Tumblr recently posted an image of a "robe parée" from the Musée des Tissus de Lyon.  I could have sworn that I came across it being called out as a 19th century term on the now-vanished Historical Sewing Forum, and I wanted to look into it further to settle things in my mind as to what exactly it means.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Stays - 95% Done!

My reed came yesterday from Wm Booth, Draper!  (The reed I bought weeks earlier from has still not arrived - never order from them, I'm going to get the bank to take my money back somehow.)  This morning I spent about an hour and a half cutting it and boning the stays with two pieces back to back in each channel.

I'm especially happy with the curved channels on the side back pieces - you can see that they do pull the fabric into a three-dimensional shape.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Writer's Guide to Costume: 18th Century Gown Closures

When I was coming up with topic for my qualifying paper, one of the ones I was most enthusiastic about at first was the idea of writing a guide for authors of historical fiction - obviously they could get the same information from books like Patterns of Fashion, but sources focusing on construction or the progress of fashion history don't spell out exactly what writers need to know.  Obviously, I went in a different direction, but it just occurred to me that, hey, I could very well make the writer's guide a sporadic series here!  (Sure, it's mostly preaching to the choir, but if you mentally retitle these posts as "rants about minor issues that niggle at me" it will all make sense!)

The first issue I've got to mention, the one that comes up in nearly every book I read that describes women getting into or out of their clothes, even if they're generally well-researched, is closures on eighteenth century gowns.

The dress was a Robe a l'anglaise a la polonaise.  It was a struggle to deal with the zillion hooks-and-eyes at the back of the stiff, tight bodice.  I could understand how a maid had been indispensable.
- Coronets and Steel, Sherwood Smith

Monday, March 5, 2012

Kensington Pre-Order

As you may know, American Duchess's new line of 18th century shoes, "Kensington", are on pre-order.  I like them even more than the Devonshires: I think some of it's the red, but some of it's the pointier toe (which is odd, as I normally like very round-toed shoes).  I'm actually kind of glad that my shoes are slightly anachronistic - they tie rather than buckle - so that if it someday becomes economically feasible I can have a good reason to get a pair of these!

Late 18th Century Shift Pattern

Since I recently posted that rough draft of rather a complicated pattern, I thought I'd share my first attempt at taking a pattern.  Unfortunately, it's not as detailed and I didn't look at stitches or construction methods - but I kind of like that it's not as good, it shows my progress!

(open in a new tab to see it at full size; triple dots mean a piece is folded along that line)

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Journalistic Licence

220-year-old dress given to Rock Ford: Washington, fashion hero

I found this article through Lahbluebonnet's blog, Teacups Among the Fabric, and I didn't want to leave an essay in her comments, so here I go!

It's interesting to watch the video after reading the article - I mean, I know that journalists often write ... basically whatever they feel like after interviewing academics, but that's a pretty big difference.  Trussell, the museum worker, implies pretty heavily that the museum doesn't really believe the family's story about Washington giving the dress - she points out that it was probably originally made in the late 1770s (which I agree with; family histories often link objects to important historic events or places they don't belong with) - but the writer of the article, Knapp, states that Washington gave it to Mrs. Hand.  Knapp quotes Trussell as saying that the gown "would not have gone out of style", but she seems pretty clear in the video interview that older women might lag behind the times rather than that the gown was timeless.  (I have to wonder about the other quotes given in the article - she never uses the word "embroidery" in the video, so why would she call the brocading that at another time?)

So let this example be a warning to not take newspaper articles at face value, and to always be cautious when talking to journalists!

Seam Treatments

I took a break from doing eyelets today to try out a few seams to see if I could replicate whatever is used on the mystery seam of the sacque.