Category Archives: Vintage Garments: The Real Thing

High Neck or Open Necked Options for Women, 1917

Butterick waists [i.e., blouses] from February 1917, Delineator, p. 51

After 1912, fashion permitted respectable women to expose their necks in the daytime, but not every woman felt comfortable with the change.

Butterick waists [blouses) from August 1917 occasionally included a high-necked one. Delineator, p. 47.

A vintage lingerie blouse (or “waist”), probably late 1890’s. That high collar wouldn’t give much relief from the heat in spite of the blouse’s sheer fabric.

These waist (blouse) patterns from Ladies’ Home Journal, July 1917, all have open necks. In July, a blouse like this must have been wonderfully cool compared to the fashions of the 1890’s.

By 1917, when most blouses had open collars, V-necks, or other necklines that bared the throat and part of the sternum, Butterick patterns often still included an optional high-necked version. That’s my excuse for showing these seven outfits from 1917 in all their colorful glory.

These look like dresses, but they are waist and skirt combinations. Butterick patterns from February 1917. Delineator.

The two at left use chiffon and other sheer fabrics; 8928 has a low draped neckline filled with skin-toned lace.

Butterick waist patterns 8927 and 8919. From 1917. In January, Butterick evening waist 8901 was very similar to 8927, but was shown without a blouse under it.

Butterick waist 8919 with skirt 8928. Delineator, Feb. 1917. The alternate view shows a high-necked variation without the cowl neckline of the color illustration.

Although I’m focusing on blouses, skirt 8928 was also illustrated (twice) with an evening bodice:

Skirt 8928 with “evening bodice” 8956. Delineator, editorial illustration, Feb. 1917.

Butterick evening coat 8727 shown with a “gown” that is really a blouse (No. 8956) and separate skirt (No. 8928 again.) Delineator, Feb. 1917. [That waist looks shockingly bare to me!]

Butterick waist patterns 8927, 8919, and 8923. February 1917. The designs at left and right have contrast collars and a wrapped “surplice” bodice.

Butterick waist 8927 with skirt 8949. February 1917, Delineator. This one does not offer a high necked version. It is a “jumper model” in the American sense — a sleeveless garment worn over a blouse.

Butterick waist 8923 with skirt 8936. Delineator, February 1917. This blouse waist has a high-necked variation, shown with a dark collar.

A “French lining” fit the body closely and supported draped effects. In this period, as in the 19th century, the closure of the lining did not always line up with the closures on the outer garment, which could be very complex.

These are dresses, not waist and skirt combinations. Delineator, Feb. 1917 page 52. No. 8942 looks like a coat, but it’s a dress.

A closer look at the necklines and the hats. 1917.

Butterick dress pattern 8929, from 1917. It has a tabard (panel) hanging front and back, and unusual “organ-pipe” pleats at the sides of the skirt. “High or open neck could be used.”

Butterick dress pattern 8942, from 1917. The vest front is “equally well adapted to a high or the open throat.” There are at least three sleeve and cuff variations.

Butterick dress 8933, from February 1917, has a surplice (wrapped) bodice. The illustrations show several sleeve variations and a high buttoned neck, worn without the cape collar. [That blue taffeta is beautifully rendered by the illustrator.]

Butterick dress 8947, with skirt and bodice variations, including a high-necked version. 1917. The cross-over belt is very characteristic of 1917. You can see how it ties in the back. “The lower part of the redingote has two different outlines, and it is joined to the long body.”

The hats of 1917 were pretty extreme. [And some were pretty, while some were extreme.]

 

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, Hairstyles, Shirts and Blouses, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing, World War I

Stylish Coats for Women, December 1917

A fur-collared coat from Butterick’s Delineator magazine, December 1917. Butterick coat pattern 9535 had a convertible collar, a criss-cross belt, and gathered pockets — all frequently seen in patterns from 1917.

Sketches of coats from three top Paris designers: Beer, Poiret, and Jenny. Delineator, December 1917.

Paris designs were converted into Butterick patterns in spite of the war in France. This was the year of convertible collars that could come right up to the chin when buttoned, or spread over the shoulders like a shawl when unbuttoned. The hats are pretty spectacular, [or hilarious] too.

Coats for young or small women show how the convertible collar looked when fastened, as on the three at left, or unfastened, as on the far right. Butterick 9556, 9535, 9533, and 9531, December 1917.

Alternate views of Butterick coat 9556 show it with the collar undone. Delineator, page 76, Dec. 1917.

Coat 9556 “is made with the large collar shown on all the newest winter coats and it buttons up snugly at the front for cold weather…. It is as good-looking and becoming for young girls as for women.” This pattern was available for bust measure 32″ through 46.”

Coat 9556 was also illustrated in color on a different page:

Butterick coat pattern 9556, page 68, Delineator, Dec. 1917.

Left, coat 9556 again; right, coat 9535. That X-shaped belt also appeared on dresses in the nineteen teens.

Description of coat 9535 from Delineator, page 76, Dec. 1917. On page 69 another description said, “There is the large cape collar that plays such a strong part on all the coats of the season.”

Butterick coat 9535, shown with its collar open. Notice its belt — very “1917” — and the peculiar gathered pockets. This is the same coat illustrated in color at the top of this post.

A fur-collared version of Butterick 9535,  December 1917.

Left, coat 9533; right, coat 9531. December 1917.

Butterick 9533 has one enormous, decorative buckle at the back. One version is 7/8 length, and has huge optional pockets.

Coat 9533 was sized for busts 32 to 44 inches. The straight silhouette “is youthful looking for the older woman….”

Since coat 9531 was illustrated with the collar open on page 76, its alternate view shows the collar closed. Cuffs could be gathered or turn-back. Clothes from this period often have a higher waist in back than in front.

Coat 9531, like the others, has a large cape collar and “deep armholes for comfort and wearableness.”

Coat 9567 was illustrated as worn by a young woman or teen (but, no, that’s not actually her graduation cap.) This was not an era for women who worried, “Does this coat make me look fat?” [See the coat by Paul Poiret pictured earlier.] I find the clothes of this period extremely unattractive.

Butterick coat 9567, with its “new type of convertible collar” is “an excellent coat for a young girl;” the pattern was available from bust 32″ to 44.”

butterick Coat 9567 could have decorative buttons on the front; those on the back are for fastening the collar. Imagine that wide rectangle of collar pulled up and buttoned at the front of the throat. Like this:

Coat 9567 was illustrated again on page 70 of the same issue:

Here, coat 9567 is shown with pairs of buttons all the way down the side fronts. From left, Butterick coat 9567; coat 9490 with skirt 9545; and coat 9501. Delineator, Dec. 1917, page 70.

Coat 9501, seen at the far right above, was shown in color in November:

Butterick coats 9485 and 9501, November 1917, Delineator.

Editorial illustration, Delineator, November 1917. This looks like coat pattern 9485, although these editorial sketches introducing the fashion pages never gave the pattern numbers.

All of these coat patterns appeared late in 1917, but similar styles could still be purchased in 1921.

These coats appeared in the Sears catalog in 1921. The plain one, at right, has another kind of cross-over belt. From Everyday Fashions of the Twenties by Stella Blum.

A strange belt also appears on this vintage coat:

A light weight vintage coat from the WW I era. The checked fabric looks like linen. One side of the belt twists around to button to the other side. (One button is on the back of the belt, so it has to twist, unlike this one.)

The cape collar is trimmed with non-functional buttons, which match the blue band on the collar.

A blurry photo of the vintage coat circa 1917 to 1921. It looks home-made.

If I wanted to select an era when fashion was really inexplicable, it would be this one.

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/dot-age-17-about-1918828.jpg?w=346&h=500

My aunt Dot, age 18, proudly posing in her fashionable coat. Circa 1917-18. A glimpse of her thin ankles reminds me that she was petite — not chubby — underneath that colossal wool cocoon.

This was also the era of the tonneau, or barrel, skirt. What were they thinking?

 

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, Coats, Hats, Vintage Accessories, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing, Vintage patterns, vintage photographs, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes, World War I

Some (Surprising) Smocked Vintage Garments

This vintage blouse uses hand smocking to control fullness at the shoulders, waist, and sleeves. Probably before 1920’s.

I’ve already shared some 1940’s patterns for smocked blouses, but I keep finding more examples of smocking.

Butterick smocked blouse pattern 4456, Butterick Fashion News flyer, March 1948.

It’s very similar to this pattern from McCall:

McCall smocked blouse pattern 1136 from 1944.

But those forties’ blouses have a peasant influence; they are based on smocked ethnic clothing.

An embroidered ethnic blouse with smocked neckline.

An ethnic peasant blouse with hand-smocked neckline and wrists.

An ethnic flavor was also very popular in the nineteen twenties.

This earlier blouse, however, bares little resemblance to “peasant” styles.

Vintage smocked blouse made of sheer fabric with woven stripes.

The collar covers much of the smocking across the shoulders. So-called “Armistice” blouses are usually short-wasted in back.

I flipped the collar up to show the hand smocking on the back of this blouse. It seems a shame to hide all that work!

I had forgotten about this vintage blouse — it is probably from the “teens.” It uses the stripes woven into the fabric as the grid for smocking, and uses smocking instead of machine-stitched tucks to control the fullness at shoulders, sleeves, and waist.

Detail of smocked shoulder.

The back waist is elegant, although the blouse would look better after ironing. (But smocking makes ironing more difficult.)

The sleeves have a smocked area near the wrist, creating a modest frill.

Smocking in the wrist area. There is a narrow dark stripe in the fabric next to each tightly woven white stripe.

I believe this is called honeycomb smocking:

McCall smocking pattern 441, from 1936.

Using striped fabric as a base for smocking produces interesting effects; this image from A-Z of Smocking, by Sue Gardner, shows how the stripes become part of the grid:

Striped fabric can be smocked in ways the either preserve the stripe, as here, or turn them into a “solid” color. Both effects are pictured in the book A-Z of Smocking, reviewed below. Image reproduced for purpose of review example only. Do NOT copy.

I found another — to me, unexpected — use of smocking on a black silk apron from an era when most older women were almost perpetually in mourning.

A black silk apron with a smocked bib. It’s shown over an unrelated turn-of-the-century blouse.

Perhaps this apron was worn for nothing more taxing than a little hand sewing — or pouring tea.

About the A-Z of Smocking, by Sue Gardner:

Cover of A-Z of Smocking, 2016 edition, by Sue Gardner.

I was fascinated by the many smocking patterns I found in 1940’s McCall catalogs, so I wanted to learn more about this old technique for fabric modification. If you want to find beautifully illustrated, step-by-step smocking instructions, this book couldn’t be clearer. If you are a beginner with an interest in the history of smocking, this may not be quite what you are looking for.

The text can be this brief because the illustrations are so informative and well organized.  Photo from A-Z of Smocking for purpose of review. Do Not Copy.

There is a whole series of A-Z books from Search Press. It’s my fault that I assumed “A-Z” meant “from beginning to end;” instead, it means that the book is organized in alphabetical order, so a lavishly illustrated section on “Honeycomb” smocking comes before an equally fine section on “Trellis” smocking. And an advanced technique, like smocking with Beads, appears before the basic stitches, because it begins with “B.”

On the other hand, because the book is illustrated with step-by-step photos instead of line drawings, it couldn’t be clearer:

A typical section from A-Z of Smocking will have at least two pages of careful and very clear instructional photos like this for every technique covered. Do Not Copy Image.

It even explained (and illustrated the steps to using) a machine that gathers the fabric for you. But the topics I was looking for — about the history of smocking, why it was used for work clothes, which stitches were stretchable and used for the wrist area, for example, were hard to find.

This is the entire passage about Traditional Smocking. No illustrations. A-Z of Smocking is not a history book. Do Not Copy This Image.

Some of the oldest smocking techniques — sometimes called English smocking from its use on shepherd’s smocks — depend on first gathering the fabric with several rows of identically spaced stitches, and then stabilizing them with the decorative smocking stitches. When I read that, in combination with seeing the many stitching examples, I realized that a smocking grid looks a lot like the grid used for cartridge pleating, which had been used to gather fabric in garments for centuries.

Illustration from the section on cartridge pleating in The Costume Technician’s Handbook, by Rosemary Ingham and Liz Covey. Do Not Copy Image.

If you’ve examined mid-nineteenth century dresses, or made Renaissance costumes, this technique for gathering fabrics evenly and stitching them to armholes, yokes, or waists will be very familiar.

Attaching cartridge pleated fabric — e.g., a skirt — to a waistband. From The Costume Technician’s Handbook. Do Not Copy Image.

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2015/07/close-v005-cf-detail-500.jpg?w=500&h=382

Cartridge pleats produce tightly controlled gathers in this 19th century fan-fronted dress.

Typical cartridge pleated skirt, stitched to bodice binding. Inside of dress showing extra fabric at CF. You can also see that the front opening is boned.

Typical cartridge pleated skirt, stitched to bodice binding. Inside of dress showing extra fabric at CF. You can also see that the front opening is boned.

For me, this links two very useful books: The Costume Technician’s Handbook, which I cannot recommend frequently enough (the techniques are not limited to costumes,) and the A-Z of Smocking, which I would eagerly buy if I had a practical (rather than academic) interest in smocking.

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Filed under 1830s -1860s fashions, 1870s to 1900s fashions, 1900s to 1920s, Late Victorian fashions, Resources for Costumers, Shirts and Blouses, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing, Vintage patterns, World War I

A Mystery Corset: 1820’s ?

NOTE: I thought this post was published on Sept. 16, 2017; I even received helpful  comments and updated it — but it’s not listed as published on my dashboard — so, forgive me if you received two notifications on it. Mysterious, indeed. I added links and categories in October, 2017.

This corset is stiffened by many rows of parallel channels. A busk can be inserted in the center. Parallel rows of diagonal cording flatten the midriff, which, to me,  suggests a date after the 1810s.

When I first saw this corset in a collection that was being readied for sale, I was fascinated by its beauty and its fine state of preservation. At first, I couldn’t believe it was not a reproduction.

Detail of front of corset. It was so small it looked like it would fit a child, but no child would have a bust like this.

I couldn’t believe my eyes, so I took a few quick photos and sought advice, but the collection was sold before I realized that I needed more pictures. I can’t even find detailed notes — just the letter I wrote asking for advice — so apparently I never had a chance to return to this garment, or to photograph several other intriguing corsets.

Back detail of the corset near shoulder.

I believe it was completely hand stitched with shiny brown thread. The stitching is so regular that it looks, at first, like it was done by a machine; however, I believe it is perfectly spaced back-stitching, with visible starts, stops, and knots on the inside of the corset. [Update: it is not back-stitched; Cynthia Baxter suggested that is was stitched with a running stitch, and then stitched on the opposite side with running stitches using the same holes. I have seen this technique used by shoemakers and leather workers, so it makes sense for a corset.]

Inside of the corset. An occasional thread knot implies hand stitching.

The state of the fabric, except for a few spots, was remarkable — if it is as old as I think it is (before 1840.)  It could have been collected anywhere.

Channel stitching, detail of right midriff front. The busk channel is at right of photo.

Detail of front of corset.  The midriff area is stitched from below the bust to just below the natural waist. I think the channels hold cording.  I do wish I’d had time  to photograph the inside!

The corset has a dropped shoulder in the back, tiny close-fitting bound armholes, and an extended shoulder line.

In general, the collection did not include many items of this rarity and quality. However, the collection did include a fine 18th century man’s vest, as well as this dress, from early in the 1800’s.

An early 19th century dress from the same collection as the mystery corset. The chemise under it is unrelated.

Empire dress, early 1800’s, with wool embroidery at hem in three shades of brown.

The corset worn under a dress like this created a very high bust, but a woman’s waist and hips didn’t need to be re-shaped.

Back to the mystery corset: I only took one photo of the back, with a gigantic, modern black lace obscuring the eyelets.

Back of corset, with a modern black shoelace holding it closed.

Were the holes hand worked or were they metal grommets?  In my ignorance, grommets would have been a red flag to me; if there were metal grommets, I would have assumed that the corset was a reproduction or had been altered to be worn in modern times. But — I would have been mistaken. This English corset from the Museum at FIT is dated 1815. It has metal grommets down the back.

I looked online for Regency Era reproduction patterns; I didn’t find any pattern for this corset. A yahoo search turns up several images of Regency Era corsets. Click here.

There’s a nice overview of early 19th century corsets at Jessamyn’s Regency Costume Companion. Click here.

A Regency style corset made by sidneyeileen.com has similarities to our mystery corset.

A corset (1830 to 1840) in the Los Angeles County Museum has a similar high waisted (but not Empire) silhouette.

This corded corset, with a channel for a front busk, is at the Metropolitan Museum: it is described as 1820’s. The waist is a little above the wearer’s natural waist. The front straps are spaced as far apart as possible.

Corset from the 1820’s in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum.

corset met 1815 to 1825

I was going to leave it at that, but couldn’t resist trying to relate the shape of the corset to the clothing that would have been worn over it.

All the following fashion plates are from the online Casey Collection of Fashion Plates at the Los Angeles County Museum.

1800 fashion plate from Ladies’ Museum, in the Casey Collection. The early 1800’s corset pushes the breasts up to a rather unnatural position, high on the chest.

The neckline of our corset is too high for these fashions — and it does not push the breasts up this high.

Detail of front of corset. It was so small it looked like it would fit a child, but no child would have a bust like this.

Early in the 1800’s, the Empire waist was very high and the dress was often gathered in the front. The fullness moved to the back a few years later, which would call for a smoother midriff area. By 1811, the waist was moving lower:

April 1811, fashion plate from La Belle Assemblee, Casey Collection. A ball dress.

However, not every woman immediately adopted the lower waist, as this mourning evening dress from 1818 shows:

Evening dress for a woman in mourning, 1818. From British Ladies’ Magazine, December 1818. in Casey Collection.

The mourning dress and the Parisian evening dress below might have been seen at the same ball, although one has a much lower waist.

A high bust and a descending waist line, from La Belle Assemblee, January 1820.

These dresses from 1822 show a high bust with a lower, fitted waist, which is still above the natural waistline.

1822: a plate from the Ladies’ Monthly Museum, October 1822. Casey Collection. The shape of the midriff is becoming important, no longer concealed by fullness in the dress.

Bodices from La Belle Assemblee, December 1822. Casey Collection. The trend for wider shoulders and a narrow below-the-bust area is beginning. Belts accent the waist, which is still higher than nature designed.

Fashion plates from 1825 show higher necklines and lower waists, with a widening (and highly decorated) hem.

January 1825, Petit Courrier des Dames. Casey Collection.

February 1825, Petit Courrier des Dames, Casey Collection. The silhouette is wider at top and hem, emphasizing a tiny waist.

November 1825, Ladies’ Magazine. Casey Collection.

By 1829, a tiny waist, rather than a high, full bust, is the focus of fashion:

September 1829, La Belle Assemblee. Casey Collection.

April 1830, La Mode. Sleeves are enormous, the shoulder is widened and extended over the upper arm; a woman is wider everywhere — except her waist. Casey Collection.

So:  where does our mystery corset belong?

High neckline, relatively natural bust, flat midriff, slightly dropped shoulders.

Back of corset, with a modern black shoelace holding it closed. Notice the line of the shoulders.

I can imagine it being worn under this dress — but that’s only my guess.

Dress from the late 1820’s; Metropolitan Museum.

 

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Filed under 1800s-1830s, Corsets, Costumes for the 19th century, Foundation Garments, lingerie and underwear, Underthings, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc, Underwear and lingerie, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing

The Glamour of Spanish Combs and Embroidered Shawls

Detail: wrapped in a Spanish shawl; advertisement in Delineator, October 1924.

Imagine that you need to advertise a fine product, but one not known for excitement. Your ad needs to be eye-catching, beautiful, and hint at luxury — and it has to appeal to women. P.S. Sex appeal won’t hurt.

Spanish combs and embroidered shawls in a full-color ad, Delineator, October 1924.

Spanish comb and fringe in a colorful ad from July, 1924. Delineator.

The gorgeous illustrations are by E. Trumbull:

Illustration by E. Trumbull, 1924.

Once Rudolph Valentino tangoed his way into the hearts of women in Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse  (1921) — followed with Blood and Sand (1922),  A Sainted Devil (1924) and perhaps before that, “Spanish” shawls — many probably imported from China– were a Twenties’ craze.

Click here for another vintage Illustration of a lady in a shawl wearing a Spanish comb in her hair.

This shawl is vintage, and had a crisp rather than silky feel to it:

Vintage embroidered shawl. The long silk fringe adds movement.

So many of these shawls were used as decor, rather than clothing, that I’ve heard them called “piano shawls.”

Click for an exotic comb and shawl combination from a 1926 film of  Carmen. Pola Negri‘s 1923 film The Spanish Dancer may have contributed to the fashion for spit curls. (My mother had one right in the center of her forehead in the 1920’s.)

The twenties’ fad for Spanish shawls and combs extended to spit curls.

Butterick offered its version of a “costume for a Spanish dancer” in 1924 and again (twice) in 1925.

Butterick 5625 is a “Spanish dancer’s costume” for Halloween. Delineator, November 1924.

It showed up again in February (for masquerade parties?) and in October of 1925.

Butterick 5625, “Spanish dancer costume.” These illustrations are from 1925. Note the spit curls.

Have you guessed what those glamorous paintings by Trumbull were advertising?

Detail of ad for Standard Plumbing Fixtures. Oct. 1924.

Ad for Standard Plumbing Fixtures, Delineator, July 1924. Comb, fringe, and spit curl. The bathtub and sink are shown, but not the toilet.

Ole! (Lampshade optional.) Ad from 1924.

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Filed under 1920s, Hairstyles, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Vintage Accessories, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing

Cloth Bonnets for Sun or Indoors

A vintage sunbonnet, which shows signs of wear.

I know next to nothing about millinery. However, a recent conversation with Linda Rahner about sunbonnets reminded me that I photographed several from a collection that has since been sold. The same collection had Victorian cloth bonnets which may have been made to be worn alone indoors, or under a hat, and it seems logical that their construction would inspire the cloth bonnets used for sun protection. So here are a few sunbonnets and — perhaps — some of their antecedents.
[Tip: If you ever try to search for sunbonnets online, be sure to limit your search by adding “-sue -baby.” Otherwise, Sunbonnet Sue quilts will dominate your results…. ]

This American photo from the late twenties or early 1930’s shows a woman, on the left, wearing a sunbonnet; on the right, her daughter wears trousers.

It's the 1930s. The woman on far right is wearing trousers. Her mother, far left, wears a sunbonnet.

Trying to date vintage sunbonnets must be a nightmare, because sunbonnets are still being made and sold. The needs of re-enactors, docents at historic sites, and participants in local history days have resulted in many commercial patterns for sunbonnets.

I’m pretty sure this one is “the real thing,”  because it is almost worn out.

A threadbare sunbonnet in grayish brown cloth. Its brim is stiffened with padding and diagonal machine quilting and sticks out quite a way to shade the face.

A close up of the worn sunbonnet. Some white selvedge shows in the ruffle.

Back of the worn brownish sunbonnet. The neck cover is not very long. I have no idea about its date except that it’s machine stitched.

This checked gingham sunbonnet is in very good condition — which makes me wonder if it was really worn for working outdoors.

This sunbonnet is made from striking fabric, so perhaps a reader can identify when it was probably made. It does appear to have been worn more than once. It is stiffened with padding and parallel rows of stitches.

Even this blurred photo shows that it would give the back of your neck good protection.

The rickrack trim on this blue sunbonnet makes me think it may be from the 1930’s — but other opinions are welcome!

This crisp sunbonnet is made of blue chambray and trimmed with rickrack. Perhaps it was a gift — “too good to wear” for yardwork.

Little girls continued to wear variations on sunbonnets in the 1940s.

My friend’s collection also included some white bonnets, definitely vintage, which I am utterly unqualified to date. However, some have long back flaps (like sunbonnets;) some have been stiffened with parallel rows of cording or quilting; and the basic coif shape goes back a long, long way. If you recognize the period for any of these, feel free to share your knowledge:

The simplest white bonnet or house cap:

One piece of fabric forms the front; another is gathered into a back. The stripes are woven into the cloth. The seam between the front and back is piped.

The front has a single ruffle trimmed with lace framing the face.

A closer view of the lace and fabric. Is it machine lace?  The ruffle is actually pleated into place rather than gathered.

Here’s a close up of the fabric — badly mended in one spot:

The fabric looks like linen to me. A hole was badly mended.

There is a drawstring in the back casing (and a French seam.)

Like the front, the back is trimmed with a single ruffle.

A more complex cap or bonnet looks similar from the front:

The front of this bonnet or cap is very simple . . .

But from the side, it’s another story:

Parallel rows of cording stiffen this cap. It also has a long flap in back, pleated rather than gathered.

A closer view of the cording.

The cording appears to be hand stitched.

I just discovered that a similar bonnet was illustrated in Godey’s Lady’s Magazine in 1857.

Is a cap like that one the ancestor of those sunbonnets?

This one — perhaps a house cap? — is too elaborate for farm work:

Definitely meant to be seen, this bonnet has ruffles and cording everywhere — even running down its back.

The be-ruffled bonnet seen from the front. If it was intended to be starched, what a nightmare to iron!

This is the ruffled bonnet seen from the rear. It has a long neck flap, too.

For all I know, one or more of those is really a night-cap….

It’s not quite fair to judge this last masterpiece (and it is one!) without starch, but, since starch attracts insects, it was washed thoroughly before being put into storage. Try to imagine the hand-embroidered lace freshly ironed and standing crisply away from the face:

A front view. The ties are very long.

A closer look at the hand-embroidered cutwork lace.

The same hat viewed from above; in addition to the long ties that go under the chin, there are ties ending in a bow on top.

A close up of the quilting which stiffens the brim.

A very chic cap or bonnet in profile — I’ll go out on a limb and say “probably late 1830s.”

The voluminous crown suggests that it was made to be worn over a hairstyle like this one:

Fashion plate from La Mode, Sept. 1838. The Casey Collection.

Back view of a tulle bonnet trimmed with marabou, The Lady’s Magazine, Feb. 1837. Casey Collection.

An assortment of bonnets from World of Fashion, Nov. 1838. Casey Collection.

An earlier cloth bonnet or coif can be seen in The Bonnet Maker, Costumes d’ouvrieres parisiennes, by Galatine, 1824. (Zoom in to see the details of her embroidered bonnet, and the corded bonnets in her hand.)

I no longer own my Godey’s  or Harper’s fashion plate anthologies, so I present all these photos for the enjoyment of those who do. Happy hunting.

P.S. If you have never visited the Casey Collection of Fashion Plates, there’s a link in my “Sites with Great Information” sidebar.

 

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Filed under 1800s-1830s, 1830s -1860s fashions, 1860s -1870s fashions, 1870s to 1900s fashions, 1900s to 1920s, 1930s, Early Victorian fashions, Hairstyles, Hats, Hats, Mid-Victorian fashions, Uniforms and Work Clothes, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing

Mystery Dresses

This vintage dress has been altered and patched. It raises many questions.

The patches on this faded dress hint at a life of hardship. If I had photographed the back, dating it might be possible — but a poor woman might not have had access to current fashions. It’s a mystery to me.

Many collectors are interested in the beauty of vintage dresses. But the woman who collected these dresses saw them as windows into women’s lives. Sadly, neither dress had documentation, so we don’t know anything about the women who made them, wore them, patched them, and tried to make them last a few more months or years. I’m sharing them because such dresses rarely survive to be collected — they end in the rag bag, not a museum. I don’t have the expertise even to date them securely (and how I wish I had had time to take more pictures!) Comments and conjectures about them are very welcome.

A mystery dress circa 1930?

Back of red dotted dress with a puzzling insert at the waist.

Here’s the front again:

Is this a late twenties dress, lengthened as much as possible for the 1930s? Or is it a thirties dress, lengthened and altered for a new wearer?

It is very long, suggesting early 1930s. There’s no fading to mark a previously shorter hem line, but this hem is as skimpy as possible. Was it a hand-me-down from a shorter woman?

A tiny rolled hem.

This dress was home-made, and not by a very accomplished seamstress. Here’s the sheer collar:

The rolled hem on this collar is machine stitched, but quite uneven.

Maintaining even tension around the curve of a soft, sheer material isn’t easy.

Someone who worked on this dress didn’t cut perfectly on grain, so the skirt sags towards its right side. You can see that the vertical pattern of dots on the front of the dress lined up originally. Was there always a waist seam? It doesn’t look like it.

The slightest sag at the waist seam (the dots don’t line up evenly) affects the hang of the skirt. Did this happen originally, or when the wide piece was inserted? Was the front of this dress one piece from shoulder to hem before it was altered?

The pattern of dots isn’t straight because the skirt is off grain at the waist.

There are seams in the back of the dress:

Vertical back seams suggest that the dress always had a waist seam in back — or do they? I’m asking….

Again, this pattern matching is not the work of an experienced dressmaker. On the other hand, I once bought cheap  printed flannel plaid for a nightgown and discovered that it was printed off grain, so it was possible to make perfectly matched seams on one side but not on the other. Maybe it was hard to fold this material for cutting and make the dots line up.

Aside from the question of why this dress has a wide band inserted at the waist, it’s clear that the person doing the alterations had barely enough material for the band — not enough to match the dots and line them up inconspicuously. In fact, the stripes on the dress run vertically and those on the band run horizontally. It’s made from scraps.

Scraps were also needed for alterations to the armholes. Either they tore while the dress was being worn, or they had to be enlarged for a different wearer:

On each side, the armhole was made larger and a patch was placed underneath. The repairs to the sheer ruffle are not symmetrical. Did one side tear?

Presumably there wasn’t enough fabric to match the pattern — or the person making the alternations wasn’t skilled enough to try (these are very large patches, secured with another line of large hand stitches.

I’m not belittling the people who made and altered this dress. I’m suggesting that they did not have the luxury of perfectionism. They had to make do with what they had, and I think that whoever owned this dress, new or second-hand, had to wear it and hold her head high. Poverty limits choices.

Another mystery dress, probably 19th century (?)

The front of a long dress with fitted bodice and many patches.

Perhaps the most striking thing about this dress is that the patches accumulated over time. It appears to be patched with scraps of the original fabric, but the dress, the large patch, and the smaller patch are not faded equally. The fabric is lightweight, so the cream colored bodice lining contributes to the impression of fading there, but not on the sleeves.

How I wish I had had a mannequin available, and the time to photograph the back and the interior structure. The back seams would tell us something about the date when it was made. The waist seems to be cartridge pleated, but, again, I have no photo of the construction. The shoulders don’t look dropped, but it’s hard to tell on a big, padded coat hanger!

The neckline is crudely done, using fabric that matches the band on the skirt.

The hem is very worn, and the fabric at the shoulders is faded and worn through in one place.

It is possible to see two bust darts on the left side of the bodice (on its right, they are hidden by a patch.)

You can see characteristic Victorian bust darts which are not covered by the dark patch.

But the dress is a mystery as to date, especially because, if it was made and worn by a rural woman, she could have been using a much older dress as her only guide. Machine stitched or hand stitched? Or both? I don’t know.

Someone may recognize the fabric, or be able to date the dress from old photographs — for me, it’s a nagging mystery — and I wish I knew about the woman who wore it. To me, the dress says that she was strong and brave while enduring years of hardship.

 

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Filed under 1860s -1870s fashions, 1870s to 1900s fashions, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, Dresses, Late Victorian fashions, Musings, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing