Review of the Historical Fashion Flip-Up Book “Fashion Through the Ages: From Overcoats to Petticoats”

Subuculas, Stays, and Slips!

I like going to Half-Price Books. They have all sorts of out of print and hard to find books, plus a great antique/collectible section! Their Fashion selection, however, is sometimes seriously lacking. I spent one day frantically trying to find the Fashion section after they apparently moved it. I was looking for a copy of The Tudor Tailor, so I asked the front desk after searching through the Art section, the Craft section, the History section, and even the Collectibles section (where books like Fashion in Detail had appeared before) to no avail. Turns out they had no clue where to put fashion books, historical or otherwise, so they stuck them in the “Salf-Help” category! They had very few historical fashion books of any type, but just before I gave up hope, I found this book:

IMG_0457

“Fashion Through the Ages: From Overcoats to Petticoats”
by Margaret Knight with awesome illustrations by Kim Dalziel

Inside, there were stylish illustrations of historical fashions from ancient Rome to the 1960s, all with nifty flip-up clothing layers! At $5, I had to have it!

Inside, there are there are 28 thick cardstock pages that detail fashions for men, women, and male and female children in chronolgical order from earliest to latest fashion, starting with the Roman Empire (27 BC to 467 AD), then the Middle Ages (500-1500), the Fifteenth Century/Early Renaissance, Sixteenth Century/High Renaissance, Seventeenth Century, Eighteenth Century, Nineteenth Century, 1901-1920, the 1920s, the 1930s, the 1940s-50s (combined), and the 1960s.

IMG_0464

Besides the illustrations, each category included a generously-sized foldout describing the changes in fashion and society during the era. Along the edges of the pages are additional fashion tidbits, like hairstyles, hats, and other information not included on the main feature of the book: the flip-up clothing layers.

Each figure has at least one fancy flip up/open/down piece that reveals information about the layer. For example, the “1635” man’s doublet/coat folds open to reveal his shirt beneath and a brief description of it:

IMG_0466

And the “1750s” woman has a layer for her gown and a separate one for her petticoats which both lift to reveal her shift, stays, and panniers underneath:

IMG_0468

The adults clothing has more details than the children’s clothing, but the children’s clothing flip-ups do contain bits of information about popular children’s clothing colors and fabrics.

That’s the basic description of the book. Now, for the review!

This such a cool idea! I love the illustrations and the discovery with each turn of the page and lift of a flap. Children and adults alike are curious about the “weird” clothing our ancestors used to wear and this book is a fun way to explore the basics without feeling like an intruder (how many times have you as a reenactor, cosplayer, costumer, or vintage-lover faced that awkward question or unwelcome groping hand?). The basics are all contained in this book, so it acts as a jumping off point for multiple eras without the intimidating immensity of a fashion encyclopedia.

The illustrations are well-balanced with the double-sided flaps containing the detailed text portion so it’s neither too child-like nor too text-heavy. The colors are well-thought-out and suit the general mood of the chosen eras (lighter colors for Rococo, earthy colors for the Middle Ages, and, of course, bright primary colors for the 1960s).

IMG_0489

There are a few places where I was disappointed, however. The sections, especially for the earlier fashions, are very broad– some covering 500 years or more! I admit that I am not a scholar of the nuances of these earlier eras, so I am not as disgruntled as, say, an expert in the 1340s would be. For example, the Tudor era (1485-1558) is almost entirely skipped, save for Elizabeth I’s reign.

I can excuse some generalizations because this is designed as a children’s book meant to present the very basics of fashion history in an entertaining and quick manner. In a world when most folks know Medieval fashion only from the Lord of the Rings movies, learning even the most basic real Medieval fashion concepts can be confusing to a beginner. The layers and undergarments, which is the main purpose of this book’s illustrations, are all pretty well-covered (ha ha!) despite the broad time swathes. For the most part, petticoats, garters, stockings, stays, and shifts are introduced in the eras they should be.

There was one era, though, which I thought was done a huge disservice: the 19th Century.

IMG_0470

Since this is a book about layers and showcasing the mysterious underwear worn beneath them, it would seem natural to include the many different types of undergarments in the 19th century. It was, after all, probably the most exciting, underwear-centric time in history! There were the short Regency stays and slips, the long stays and crazy-huge sleeve-puffers of the 1830s, the steel-busked corsets and hoop skirts in the 1850s and 1860s, the advent of the bustle in the 1870s and its construction ingenuity in the 1880s!

bustle centaur

Were they centaurs? They must have been centaurs.

Yet, the book dedicates only one section to the entire century and only illustrates the 1810s at the very beginning and the 1850s in the middle– with no children’s outfits to boot! So many shapes that I was bewildered by as a curious child (and even as an adult) are skipped over. The bustle is relegated to a few notes in the top right corner. I would not be as disappointed if the 20th Century decades weren’t given their own sections and illustrations despite the relatively uneventful underwear and layers involved. The 20th Century pages have fewer flaps, and there is little change to the undergarments after the 1920s. The most exciting bit is probably the corset and bullet bra on the 1940s/50s woman:

IMG_0483

The copy of the book I bought was preowned, but despite that, many of the flaps in the later eras had never been touched even though the flaps of the earlier styles, particularly the Roman, Medieval, and Victorian eras, were more “worn in” from use. Whatever person(s) had the book before me was clearly less interested by the modern era! The underpinnings of the 1400s were far more mysterious than the 1940s, at least in this case. In a few decades, perhaps the 20th Century sections will seem more exciting since they will be more distant from the now.

With that said, this book is all about layers and undergarments, so you are literally undressing the illustrations layer by layer down to their skivvies. Some folks might not be particularly comfortable with this, especially since the Middle Ages allows you to see under the lady’s chemise to see her stockings and she’s nude (of course) underneath:

IMG_0476

The illustration is not heavily detailed, but she does have curves denoting her breasts, a little belly button, and the tiniest V where are thighs meet her trunk. Being nude under her shift is historically accurate, but you can easily paste down her shift to make her more modest if you are concerned about it. The children’s layers are not as detailed, so they don’t go down that far and neither do most of the men’s outfits, though the 1960s keeps the playing field even:

IMG_0488

The fashions are Euro/Anglocentric (the author worked for the Victoria and Albert Museum), some of the terms are out of date (the book was written in 1998), the corset/stays/bodies information retains a slightly sensationalized tone, and the 1590s woman is wearing inaccurate pantaloons, but at that point, I’m letting my current knowledge outpace the level this book is intended for.

According to Amazon, this book is for ages 5-7 years, but I believe that’s way too young for this book: not because of the revealing nature of it (the whole point of the book is to reveal the hidden parts of fashion), but because this book has a lot of text and details that a younger child might not appreciate. However, for a 7-14 year old, this book would be a really fun, informative introduction to the world of historical fashion! I would have loved a book like this as a tween and I still appreciate it even though I no longer need it. For $5 or even $15, this book would make a great gift to a budding historical fashionista. The quality of the book itself is very high (great paper, wonderful layout, etc.) and it will answer many questions, prompt new questions, and encourage further research.

Overall rating:

Great fun for a fashion history newbie!

Advertisements

Let’s Try This Again: A (Better Fitting But Still Imperfect) Edwardian Dress from Butterick 6093

Cotton Candy Colored Edwardian Barbie!

IMG_0235

Butterick 9063 is based off of general fashion trends from 1912 (some possible period inspirations can be seen here). The construction is pretty straight forward and modernized, so Butterick calls this an “Easy” pattern. It’s simple exterior hides a slightly more complex garment, and after phutzing with it for a while now, I would call it more “advanced beginner.” My first version was very enlightening (and very blue):

IMG_0191

I made a lot of mistakes with my first version— chief among them being choosing the wrong size! However, it turned out pretty cute for a first try. My sister liked it and was bummed that it wouldn’t fit either of us. We share similar measurements even though our body types are quite different, so I decided to make another mockup attempt which, if it fit better, Amelia could have. I had a few more inexpensive cotton sheets lying around, so I let her pick one she liked. Laura, the queen of Shear Madness, had sent me a lovely embroidered dupatta which I though would make a good accent for collars and cuffs. A thrifted cotton shirt donated some UFO-shaped fabric buttons for a final touch:

IMG_0305

Amelia decided she liked the contrasting pop coral pink against the teal and while the single-sided collar is snazzy and all, maybe a symmetrical collar setup would suit her better…?

So I plotted:

Amelia Pink Dress Design

And together, we settled on a triangular collar similar to my first dress attempt, but this time on both sides of the neckline (the design on the left).

Previously, my dress had been much to small, especially in the hips. I could barely sit! If you ever tackle B6093 for yourself, pay close attention to your hip measurement and how much ease you’ll need to sit down otherwise:

With thoughts of wardrobe disasters floating in my head, I thought it might behoove me to cut the pattern according to the size chart on the back of the envelope. According to the chart, the best option for Amelia and I would be a size 16. However, the finished waist size would have been 34.5″– a whopping 4.5 inches of ease in what should be the most fitted part of the dress! Remembering how the size 12 waist was too small and knowing that the size 16 waist would be much too huge, I cut the hips a size 16 and tapered the waist down to a size 14. The fullness of the bodice in my first version seemed like enough to me, so I cut the bodice pieces out in the same size as before: 12.

That’s a lot of numbers. Unfortunately, they don’t all come in one envelope, either. However, I had raided Hancock fabrics during a pattern sale, so I had both size selections. After working with this pattern now for a second time, I have learned that mixing and matching pattern numbers in key areas is the way to go for a better fit. The way the dress is constructed means that most size adjustments need to be made on the sides of the pattern pieces rather than in the middle (like, say, slicing something for a FBA). Making post-construction alterations are also very tricky because of the side zipper and because the loose-fitting bodice is gathered to a tight, darted skirt, meaning you can’t let it out or take it in without taking the entire dress apart.

Thus, I prayed that 12b+14w+16h=excellent!

I didn’t take many progress shots, except this shot of me testing the fit on DumDum since Amelia is in far-off Colorado and thus unavailable for fittings:

IMG_0452

This is also right before I put the sleeves on. Seriously, the sleeves in this pattern confound me! As you may recall (and if you don’t, it’ll be fairly obvious in the picture below), my previous dress suffered from a case of muffin top sleeve caps:

IMG_0148

It’s like rabbit ears or plate armor…..or GAGA!

If you happen to be an extraterrestrial/pop star with shoulder protrusions, this is the pattern for you! However, if you are an average human attempting to mimic Edwardian fashion, the shoulders poofs are maddening. No one else who has made this pattern ended up with lumpy shoulders, but I ran into the exact same problem again with Amelia’s dress. Even with TWO rows of ease stitching, the sleeve cap was well over an inch too tall. I ended up just sewing further down the sleeve cap to achieve a smooth shoulder line. I can only conclude that I am either an idiot or cursed by some vengeful pattern witch.

IMG_0523

It always seems I must turn to sleeve voodoo to get things to work. Perhaps it is coming back to haunt me now?

In between tackling the sleevils and adding the collar buttons, I took on a temporary second job (just for this month). Lack of freetime notwithstanding, I finally got Amelia’s cotton candy Edwardian Barbie dress done!

IMG_0507

If the skirt looks a bit long, you’d be right. Amelia is much taller than I am. She wasn’t available for fittings, so I was pretty liberal with the addition just in case she wants to wear heels. I’m actually wearing my tallest pair of platforms (5″) underneath and it still puddles! I also took advantage of the sheet’s already finished hem, so hopefully she won’t need to hem it up (if you do, I’m sorry, Minnie!).

IMG_0461

The color of the cotton sheet really varies in photographs depending on the light. Sometimes it photographs as  as blush rose, other times, orange shrimp. It’s kinda funky.

IMG_0514

The pretty lace dickey is an antique, and unfortunately, not quite strong enough/big enough for wearing. It does make a nice dummy cover, though!

IMG_0517

I pleated the back instead of gathering it in this version to help combat the awkward back-poof I got with the first dress.

IMG_0516

I decided the skirt looked to plain and, well, bedsheet-like without some sort of accent, so I fudged an applique made from the dupatta scraps.

IMG_0467

The waistline of this dress really benefits from a belt or corsage to cover the awkward join where the faux wrap front meets. The pattern includes a belt, but I opted to add a little bow at the corner. It’s made from an antique stamped steel buckle that is handily dated on the back!

IMG_0474

I added a pin back so it can be moved if Amelia wants to wear a belt or wear it on her shoulder or something of that sort. I paired it with a cheap gauze scarf from Walmart as an impromptu sash with moderate success.

IMG_0509

Despite my (in my opinion) clever patterning, the dress still ended up larger than expected! It’s not horribly baggy, but I’m afraid that on my slim sister, it might look like she’s wallowing in a duvet. Ah, well! I have to send it off to see. If nothing else, it will make a passable Halloween frock!

Candy Colored Edwardian Dress Stats:

Queen-sized cotton sateen flat sheet – $3.99, Thrift Town
1 yard cotton fabric (to line collar and applique) – FREE! (Thanks, Nana!)
Embroidered teal georgette dupatta – FREE! (Thanks, Laura!)
22″ invisible zipper – $2.49, Hancock Fabrics
Thrifted white shirt (for buttons) – $4.59, Goodwill
Antique stamped steel buckle – $6.18, eBay
Invisible zipper foot – $11, Joann Fabrics
(Okay, so not part of the dress, per say, but very much needed!)

Total: $28.25
$17.25 if you don’t count the zipper foot. :P

___________

UPDATE!

Some of Butterick’s possible inspirations directly from the Delineator, Butterick’s ladies’ magazine!

Butterick 6093 Inspirations

From left to right:
Oct. 1912: Cross-over bodice with squared collar (from view A of B6093) and the lacy, squared cuffs with long button closure (View B)
August 1912 and September 1912: Brief fashion for single-sided curved revers/lapels/collars. The Aug. 1912 dress on the right has the lace overlay and single-sided wrap of View B.
Oct. 1912 again: Illustration of sleeves fashions including the lacy, squared cuffs with long button closure (this seems to have been a brief trend in fall/winter ’12)
Nov. 1912: THE SKIRT! This is the exact skirt design of View A in B6093 consisting of a tri-pleated/tucked wrapped overskirt and bow-bedecked belt!
April 1912: Another curved, single-sided lapel like View B (also paired with a square collar as in View A) and the possible inspiration for the lace overlay used in the promotional pictures. It is from a Bedell’s Fashion Book ad for Easter and Spring dress styles.
Sept. 1911: Shows an older dress (left) transformed into the newer fashion (right) with a single-sided lapel and wrapped overskirt (and lovely contrasting underskirt!)

Here’s the amazing link to scanned issues of the Delineator (Thanks again, Terri!) where you can find these images and so much more: http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/000545715

Butterick 6093: Hiccups, Mixups, and a Mockup

My Too-Tight 1912

So this project began as many of mine do: a challenge. Back in August of 2014 (yes, it HAS been that long!), Butterick released two 1912 patterns in their Retro line, B6108 and B6093.

Butterick’s Retro line is made up of re-released/reworked patterns pulled from the Butterick archives. Most dresses are from the 1930s-1950s, carefully chosen to appeal both to the vintage loving crowd and modern seamstresses. So when Butterick boldly threw two 1912 patterns into the mix, the modern sewing community was less than impressed. One blogger even called them “the latest innovation in birth control!” And, judging by the release pictures, I can understand the confusion:

I actually like the styling of this one and the coat looks very well made, but I can see how with long line paired with such gloriously wide lapels would intimidate the modern fashion palette.

Again, nicely made, but the model is a bit overwhelmed by it (and the hair). Again, it’s not exactly to modern tastes.

1912 isn’t exactly a fashionable year by modern standards (and that polyester lace doesn’t help matters), but to the costuming community, the patterns held potential. B6108 was instantly a favorite and while the long-sleeved example dress frightened folks at first, once people realized that B6093 had a short-sleeved, lace-less option, the patterns flew off the shelves!

For a while, I couldn’t find them anywhere because they were bought up almost as quickly as craft stores put them on the shelves. However, earlier this year, I finally hit a pattern sale at the right time and snatched up a copy for myself. The cover bears the line drawing of both design options. Universally preferred View A lady in green on the left appears in her large, fashionable hat while the poor line model for View B casts down her eyes as though even she knew no one liked her.

IMG_0235

“God, Francis! I told the ladies you were going to be fabulous. I vouched for you, and you show up with handkerchiefs stuffed in your cuffs and only one lapel! Take your stupid little purse and go!”

Poor View B! I felt like it was getting way more hate than it deserved, so I decided to do a little research to find which original pattern Butterick based it off of. I contacted the company hoping that they would have more information, but they sent only a very vague reply: “These patterns are inspired by vintage patterns from Butterick in that year. Beyond that it would take some digging to get more answers from you.

I didn’t press them much further, but turned to my usual Googling method and found out that the lacy cuffs were a brief fad around 1912:

View F in this Sears Catalog ad has the same squared lace cuffs.

And the single-sided lapel? That was a larger trend that was popular throughout the 1910s, especially in 1911 and 1912:

The Delineator, 1911
The Delineator was one of Butterick’s pattern advertising magazines and I wish there full issues to comb through on the web so that I might see if there is either of the B6093 designs in them! How awesome would that be?! But, alas…

The Delineator, November 1911

Day and walking dresses, from 1912, “De Gracieuse”

Silk Dress, circa 1911-1915 (the seller dates it to 1915, but it looks earlier)

Donaldson’s of Minneapolis Evening Gown, circa 1914
This gown is from the Glenbow Museum website which has a tendency to not hyperlink well, so I am including the item number here: C-4600. This is one of those gowns that is dangerous to wear–I might drool all over it!

However, the illustration that most caught my attention was this one:

Mode Illustree, November 5th, 1911
From a now-defunct eBay auction, sadly. But at least the image survived!

I liked everything about it and it looked like a perfect candidate for transforming View A from shamed to acclaimed!

Aside from the single lapel, this dress design has fan of lace that stands out from one side of the collar. Perhaps this was what the designers were trying to emulate in their design? Having an asymmetrical lace drape was popular and could be bought pre-manufactured to add to your dress.

The American Dressmaker, April 1912

collar with side ruffle

Collars with side ruffles in the Sears, Roebuck, and Company catalog from 1912 (see the whole thing here!)

Here’s the dress plan I came up with:

1912dressdesign1

I planned to use some nice faux silk and a sari I had to make a nice dinner dress (I love dinner dresses), but I ran into a few hiccups along the way.

First, I couldn’t find a nice faux silk I liked at a price I could afford. Also, I decided that a nice cotton sateen would be better and more breathable. However, I failed to find that either. I usually find lots of cotton sateen sheets at the local thrift shop, but I failed to find ANY for nearly a month! So I settled for a plain deep blue cotton sheet. Turns out, that sheet would be both a blessing and a curse. I did luck into a 100% silk shirt that I plan to use to make a dickey…at some point…

IMG_0062

I cut out the pattern a few months ago, but then life happened and I hit a major sewing slump. By the time I picked the project back up, I realized I’d cut the dress a size too small! This pattern really does run true-to-size, so according to my measurements, I needed a 14 or 16. I’m between sizes thanks to my large bust, so I usually cut a 14 and do a full bust adjustment. This pattern, however, is designed to fit very loosely up top, so the bust size is more flexible. I should have cut a size 14, but instead, I cut a size 12! Guess I was in Simplicity rather than Butterick mode that day. Both companies follow different sizing charts and I fit a size 12 in Simplicity patterns. Oops! So I shifted focus from making a full dress to just creating a wearable (if I lose 5-10 pounds) mockup. Using the cheap cotton sheet worked to my advantage because I didn’t worry about wasting materials and it was easy to sew.

IMG_0074

B6093 has a curved, semi-circlar collar/lapel. My inspiration image and most of the period fashions I found have triangular lapel shapes, so I tucked and folded the pattern tissue until I got a shape I like. Folding the tissue rather than cutting it is a great technique because you can make alterations to this particular cutting without damaging the original pattern. That way, you (or someone else) can go back to the original design in the future.

Otherwise, I pretty much made the dress directly from the pattern. I did opt to mix it up a bit and use the short sleeves from View B to match my inspiration dress, but I followed the directions pretty much to the letter.

Butterick lists this pattern as an “Easy” design.

NO. FALSE.

Easy, to me, is something like a drawstring skirt or Simplicity’s Jiffy pattern line from the 1950s, 60s, and 70s (only 2 pattern pieces? Sign me up!). The Easy designation on this pattern is really a misnomer. While B9063 isn’t difficult, it’s definitely not Easy unless you have prior sewing experience. It has set-in sleeves, hand-tacked facing (for this mockup, I cheated and used iron on hem tape. Worked like a charm!), interfacing, lining, collars, sewn-in pleats, and an invisible side zipper all of which can be–and in my case, were–finicky.

When I got about 3/4 done (and got distracted with secretary dresses), I discovered that when I put the wrap top together, it gaped–a LOT: a whole two cups worth, and we’re not talking bra sizes…

ohmy

Ah, the flattering pictures I suffer for costume science!

Patterns are drafted for a B cup. I have DDD/F breasts, so usually I have to do a FBA to get my girlies to fit. Dresses in 1912 still had fairly full tops and are meant to skim over the breasts, not fit to them. Hence, this pattern has a ton of design ease built in (over 7 inches!). It is designed to be worn over a dickey or blouse to keep it appropriately modest, but this much gaping, even over a blouse, would be far too much! Turns out that you must fiddle with the amount of cross-over to get it to lay properly. In my case, that meant closing the V up a bit, subtracting bodice length, and fiddling with the distribution of the gathers in the front to keep my “two scoops” contained!

The invisible side zipper scared me, but it turned out okay considering that I don’t own a zipper foot. Indeed, I own an invisible zipper foot–which would be just the tool for the job if it wasn’t for that fact that it was invisible because it didn’t exist.
I own a very basic Singer “Simple” machine. It works great! But, it did not come with a zipper foot. It came with a button hole attachment and even a button attachment, but no zipper foot. What sort of weird logic is that? Most Easy and Beginner patterns out there require zippers, not buttons, so I don’t know why Singer chose to include button attachments with their beginner level machine. Ah, challenges!

So I sewed that sucker in without a zipper foot! YEEHAW!

IMG_0247

It is definitely not invisible, but it works! A raging success, considering I just jammed it under the regular presser foot and prayed.

Speaking of jamming and praying, with the help of my Rago 821 waist nipper, I was able to stuff my size 14/16 body into this size 12 dress to get few photos!

IMG_0140

I love the 821 because it does a good job of smoothing from underbust to hips like the columnar corsets of the time did.

IMG_0192

Here, you can see how blousy the top is. If I had the B cup bust this pattern was designed for, the flounce would be for even front-to-back. As it is, when I make a “real” dress out of this pattern, I will pleat the back rather than gather.

IMG_0191

Ah, those little sleeve crowns! They are from the sleeve head being too tall at the top. Otherwise, the silhouette is very flattering on my body type. The Edwardian era is gold for inverted triangle body shapes!

IMG_0148

The pattern has a very long, open kick-pleat on the side seam. It’s not historically appropriate, so I just added a gore made of the sari fabric to fill it in! It’s a nice little accent piece now.

IMG_0162

Sitting in this dress was a trick. While the top is very loose, the skirt is very slim. I don’t have huge hips by any means, but the skirt was far too tight even though I have the recommended hip measurement for a size 12 (36″). If you have a large derriere or thighs, going up a size or two in the hips would be prudent!

Here’s the dress on my more-to-size sewing dummy:

IMG_0233

I think I did a pretty bang up job of nailing the inspiration image. I have the trim for the bottom saved if I ever lose fit into this dress and want some more pizzazz.

IMG_0218

IMG_0229

My dress form has a longer torso than me, so the dress hangs better on it. If you are short waisted, you may want to shorten the top of the skirt so the hips fall in the correct place.

IMG_0220

I haven’t made the dickey yet, so I tucked some antique lace into the neckline.

IMG_0224

I added the little rosette from the drawing by cutting motifs from the sari scraps and mounting them on a pinback.

 Despite my stumbles, this pattern went together quickly. It took about a week of sewing 2 hours a day, so 14 hours? Was it Easy? No. Is it suitable for a beginner? I’d say yes. It uses basic techniques and combines them to form an interesting, pleasant-looking design. If you’ve had a bit of sewing practice and are ready for a more complex project, this is a good candidate. I am not a serious seamstress and made a lot of errors from the start, so I wouldn’t say that my experience is what you should expect. If you have the right tools (*cough* zipper foot *cough*) and pay careful attention to sizing, then this pattern will go together very nicely. I certainly like my mistake-filled mockup and look forward to fixing the mistakes in a future dress!

IMG_0183

Dress Stats:

Butterick 6093 – $1.99, Hancocks or Joanns…I don’t remember
Full sized cotton flat sheet – $2.99, Thrift Town
Sari – $22.49, eBay (I still have the bulk of the sari left over since I only used the first yard. So, like $5 worth?)
Pinback – $0.79, Hoby Lobby
1 22″ “invisible” zipper – $4.43, Walmart
Iron-on hem tape – leftovers from a $1.49 roll so free-ish

Total: $16.69

________

See my latest version and updated review!

img_0002

Belle of the Ball: Lily Elsie Inspired Edwardian Event Make-up

Reverse Tweezing: Making Those Brows Beautifully BOLD!

I have lots of projects in various stages of “go” scattered throughout my apartment right now, but the sewing bug just refuses to bite. So, instead of sewing, I have been dallying about, doing boring modern-person stuff like working, cleaning, and other such business. One of the projects that has fallen by the wayside is an Edwardian evening gown. I have the fabric, but have yet to choose a pattern. Instead of getting my rear in gear, I decided to play with make-up instead which, while not sewing related, is one of the first costuming-related activities I’ve done in almost 2 months. So, here’s a mini-tutorial for an Edwardian evening make-up look to go along with a (in my case, not-yet-materialized) ballgown.

I’ve talked about make-up and costuming before in “Saving Face: A Brief History Cosmetics and How to Wear Them with Historical Costumes,” which focused on getting a natural look for historical costumes that would show up well in modern photographs. Victorian and Edwardian women generally did not wear much makeup, but there were exceptions. One of the Edwardian era’s most famous beauties was Lily Elsie. Even if her name sounds unfamiliar, you are probably very familiar with Lily’s many beautiful publicity photos:

Lily Elsie was one of the era’s great actresses. Since actors and actresses needed to be seen clearly at great distances (and be beautiful for publicity portraits like those above), they wore heavier makeup than the average Edwardian woman. Lily’s signature was her dark, luscious eyebrows and rosebud lips. Doesn’t she look just like the dainty bisque dolls of the era?

Kestner Doll, circa 1895-1900

Heinrich Handwerck Doll, 1890-1900

The cosmetic stylings of Lily and her fellow Edwardian starlets marked the beginning of a new, heavier, youth-driven fashion trend that eventually developed into the iconic flapper look of the 1920s. She was, however, one of the last big-browed beauties of the age before the pencil-thin eyebrows took over. Here she is 10 years later, around 1927, her iconic eyebrows still glorious, but tweezed into submission–much closer to our modern arched shape:

You’ll notice that the altered shape of her eyebrows dramatically changed her appearance and makes her look much more fashionable to our eyes. We are used to this eyebrow shape and many of us ladies carefully groom an angled arch into our brows. During the 19th century and first decades of the 20th century, however, thick, evenly-full brows were the coveted shape. During the Edwardian era, cosmetics began to loose much of their taboo and for evenings, a woman might take some notes from the famous female faces of the stage– filling in her brows and giving herself rosy lips for glamorous special events like visiting the opera or going to a ball.

______

The following make-up look is inspired by Lily Elsie’s many lovely photographs.  I specifically wanted something that would look good in the conditions of a modern Victorian-style indoor ball. I haven’t gotten to attend a formal ball yet, but it’s always good to practice a look just in case I ever get a chance! I aimed to recreate Lily’s style, but tone it down for the average woman and use makeup I already had on hand. This is not a strictly historical method, nor is it meant to be worn with every day, average Edwardian clothing. The heavy style is made to be worn for glamorous, low-light, nighttime events.

______

The goal:

Creamy skin, dramatic dark eyebrows, full lashes, plump cheeks, and rosebud lips

The tools:

 IMG_0080

Wet n Wild Matte Lipstick in “Stoplight Red”
ELF Lip Stain in “Nude Nectar”
Revlon Eyeshadow in “Satin Cocoa”
L’Oreal True Match Liquid Foundation in “Alabaster (C1)”
Not pictured: Cover Girl Professional Mascara in Brown

The ideal Edwardian woman had pale, bright, clear skin. I am definitely pale by modern standards, but with a smattering of splotchy freckles, a bit of a tan from wandering outside looking for fossils, and lots of redness from acne, my skin is far from the creamy porcelain ideal. So, I chose a liquid foundation to even everything out:

IMG_0003

If my foundation choice looks far too light for my face, you’d be right. However, it matches the rest of my skin tone, particularly my décolletage, which evening gowns reveal quite a lot of, so it’s important to match. I placed a dot of the exact same foundation on the collar bone (in the lower right of the picture) for comparison. Also, you probably can barely tell, but I’ve already completely covered and blended the foundation into the right side of my face! I really like this foundation because it doesn’t make me break out, it covers really well even without concealer, and it stays put. It is on the heavy side (for me at least), so a little goes a long way!

Next I filled in my brows with the powder eyeshadow. I’ve pretty much let my eyebrows grow naturally over the years because they are so light, but they have been tweezed into more of an arch than an arc at the ends. To get the full, even look, I concentrated powder application from the center back and filled in a little under the arch. This is key to getting an old-fashioned look. Its amazing how just a few millimeters of extra thickness can completely change the timeline of your brows! I chose a dark fill color to match the roots of my hair, but a lighter color closer to my natural brow color would also work. I just really envy those big, bold brows, though!

IMG_0017

Sorry I don’t have an “in progress” comparison shot for this. I didn’t think to do one. :(
A light touch of mascara helped fill in my lashline to match my naturally blonde eyelashes to my new, darker brows.

I used the lip stain to give my lips some natural tint, but I think I could have gone a little heavier. However, if you go too heavy, it starts to look too much like lipstick and looks more 1950s than Edwardian.

Though I just finished hiding my redness under the foundation, rosy cheeks really help bring the look together. Unlike modern  blush which is applied diagonally up and across the top of the cheek, Edwardian blush focused on the rounded apple directly in front. To find your apples just smile!

IMG_0084

I have a very fleshy face with lots of plumpness in the lower front, so I basically end up rouging the whole front of my face! Your apples may vary in size and shape. Here, I used my hand to find where the majority of the fullness was so I didn’t end up applying too much.

Since Edwardians would have used rouge instead of the wide variety of blushes we have now, I approximated the effect with my favorite faux-rouge: cheap matte red lipstick! I dabbed a bit on my finger then tamped it lightly onto my cheeks before blending it with a clean finger.

IMG_0082

I keep a stick of matte red lipstick just for “historical” use. It can also be used in the same manor as lip rouge in lieu of the lip stain. A little goes a long way!

Here’s the completed look:

IMG_0056

Taa-dah!

This makeup look is, like my previous one, designed to photograph well under different lighting situations using a digital camera. The look does dramatically change depending on the light!

Here are some examples of the same make-up with different camera settings and lighting conditions:

IMG_0052

“Soft White” Florescent

IMG_0047

“Normal” Florescent lighting (that typical office-esque blue/green)

IMG_0042

Combination of “Soft White” Florescent and Incandescent

IMG_0046

Low light without Flash

IMG_0044

Low light with Flash

IMG_0018

B&W Filter

______

So do I look like Lily? Well…no. I don’t have her naturally dainty facial structure. But did I nail the porcelain doll look?

Bahr & Proschild Doll, circa 1870-1890

IMG_0036

Maybe a bit too well!
;)

______

*

Find of the Month: Large Edwardian Day Dress

December 2012

Okay. Confession time. I’m not a huge collector of Edwardian clothing. It’s not really my style–all those dangly fronts and long-but-not-long-enough/short-but-not-short-enough sleeves just don’t jive with my normal aesthetic– so I rarely browse through Edwardian clothing. HOWEVER, I love nautical/military/anything with buttons. And late Edwardian fashion was all about those things!

Also, how can you say no to a 100 year-old black dress for $25?!

134_3226

Edwardian Day Dress, circa 1910-14

Check it out! This gem of a dress was made for a stout woman, comparatively speaking. It’s so hard to find extant clothing in larger sizes. 22 inch waists are little a dime a dozen, but a 32 inch waist? Priceless!

134_3228

Measurements: 40″-32″-50″
I had to pad the booty of my dress form because it’s even flatter in the rear than I am. Still didn’t get the hips quite right…

134_3261

Size comp shot! This dress was made for a woman a tad bit shorter than me (about 5′ 4″). Also, you can see the extent of my “professional photo studio.”
P.S. I’m wearing my Rago waist nipper. Super pleased with it!

The dress is silk which is, sadly, ripping to shreds in the unlined skirt. The bodice has faired better since it is lined with black cotton. There are glittery black glass buttons on both the bodice and on the skirt. Plus…

134_3233

POCKETS!

134_3243

The dress has a very plain back. The bodice back was all done in one piece and the skirt has small, pleated gores for walking ease. The dress is in sorry shape right now. I need to re-attach most of the trim (the thread tacking it down crumbles at a touch) and the hooks and eyes are held on only be loose threads and some kind of voodoo…

134_3235 134_3252 134_3254 134_3256

I have high hopes for it, though. I may make all the conservationists angry and fix this lovely up well enough to wear again! Can’t you just see it with some American Duchess Gibsons?

American Duchess “Gibson” Heels for 1900-1920…Coming soon!

Queen Alexandra and all her Edwardian Jewels

Dazzle me, Darling!

The Edwardian Period officially lasted from 1901 and the coronation of King Edward VII and lasted until his death in 1910. However, the timeline for Edwardian fashion is debatable. I believe the Edwardian fashion era extends not only to the beginning of WWI in 1917, but also stretches back to the 1890s, when Alexandra became fashion’s royal guide and the wild, artistic abandon of the Gay Nineties lay the foundation for the Flappers movement 50 years later (Art Nouveau, traditionally associated with Edwardianism, began around 1890, too!).

After the death of Queen Victoria’s husband, Albert,  in 1861, Victoria began to withdraw from the public life.  She had been a fashion icon for years, so her withdrawal left a large inspirational void. In 1863, Queen Victoria’s son, Edward, had married Alexandra of Denmark. Alexandra was beautiful, fashionable and charming: the perfect candidate for fashion’s next muse. Alexandra rocked the tight-laced corset and bustled train of the 1870s and 1880s, covering herself with lace and wearing plenty jewels, including glittering tiaras befitting of her royal status. This picture of her was taken in 1889:

Va-va-voom! Look at those curves– and those gems!  It wasn’t just fashion and the monarchy that was changing. Jewelry during the Edwardian era was much different than the Victorian jewelry before it. Victorian styling favored ornate, heavy designs with large stones and lots of goldwork. Turn of the century jewelry was much lighter, brighter, and happier as European and American cultures flourished. People wanted to have a good time: going to the opera, cheering at cheap theaters, visiting carnivals, traveling the world, and generally indulging in joyous frivolity. Jewelry reflected this optimistic attitude.  Platinum, which had originally been dismissed by Europeans as an inferior metal and was rarely used in jewelry before 1860, was growing in popularity as the skills and technology to work with this difficult metal developed. Platinum, it turns out, looks absolutely fantastic with diamonds and does not tarnish like silver.

It became the most fashionable metal to wear during the Edwardian era, topping even gold as the fashion favorite. Platinum is not as soft as gold and could be shaped into increasingly delicate filigree patterns that were more air than metal. Lace and bows, so popular on dresses, also became fashionable to wear as jewelry.

Edwardian fashion developed a long, languid silhouette– the early stages of what we call “flapper” fashion today. Long strands of pearls, glass beads, or delicate chains that hung to the waist became a staple in every lady’s wardrobe. Often a brooch or watch would be pinned off to the side and the long chain draped over it, accenting another favorite trend: asymmetry and idealized natural forms.

Popular Motifs and Materials in Edwardian Jewelry

I’ve already covered the most iconic motif and material of the Edwardian era– diamonds and platinum filigree– but there are plenty of other designs to tickle your fancy and brighten up your outfit!

Pearls and Gold

History’s favorite gem, pearls never go out of style! Gold was still widely used in the Edwardian world even as platinum exploded in popularity. Gold jewelry became lighter and lacier alongside its silvery competition and was still the most popular metal for long drop necklaces called lavaliers.

Flowers and Enamel

Edwardians loved flowers, especially pansies, roses, dahlias, and daisies. They wore them everywhere they could: tucked into their sashes, pinned to their necklines, spilling from their hats, and blooming on their brooches, bracelets, necklaces and earrings.

Enameling masters like the world-renowned House of Faberge revived the popularity of enameling on jewelry, especially realistic florals and miniatures. You’ll notice the back of this locket– one of the most common pieces of Edwardian jewelry– has a pattern of wavy lines engraved under the enamel background. This technique is called “guilloché” and became very popular again in the 1950s, so you can find inexpensive vintage pieces pretty easily!

Hearts and Turquoise

Hearts are another timeless motif. One of the most popular charms and brooch styles during the Edwardian period was a puffy heart paved with seed pearls, diamonds, garnets, or turquoise cabs. Turquoise was rapidly rising in popularity after remaining an obscure gemstone throughout much of the European world. Most Victorian turquoise was Persian in origin, preferred for it’s uniform blue color. Turquoise from the American Southwest gained popularity late in the era as train lines to New Mexico and Arizona introduced tourists to Native American jewelers, but such jewels were treated more like curiosities rather than fashionable accessories until the 1920s.

Romanticized Bohemian Style and Garnets

The bohemian movement as we know it began in the late 19th century with the alternative lifestyles of the era’s blooming artistic and intellectual population. The name began as a term for Romani Gypsies and was made famous by the association with the roaringly popular opera La Bohème beginning in 1896. More traditional Edwardians may have initially frowned on the non-traditional lifestyles of the bohemians, but the culture’s ornate fashion was infinitely mysterious and fascinated the general public.  The perfect gemstones for this trend are aptly named “Bohemian Garnets,” mined in what we now call the Czech Republic (Czechoslovakia). These seductive, wine-colored garnets were often rose-cut and set in the popular pavé style, covering the surface so that the back metal was nearly invisible.

Animals and Insects

Animals are always popular motifs, but their use in jewelry changes during the Edwardian period. Realism with stylized accents replaced the old fashion for more stereotypical animal designs. Dogs, always popular in jewelry, are joined by cats and birds as popular motifs (it’s so rare to find cats in jewelry before 1890 because they were still shaking off their negative reputation). The bird became the most popular animal to depict because of it’s graceful beauty, but also because it was adopted by feminist writers as a symbol of Women’s Suffrage.

Insects had been popular since the 18th century. A craze for natural specimen collecting began around 1800 and became a world-wide hobby for Victorians. By 1900, the trend for collecting butterflies from the jungles and beetles from the Egyptian desert for display was beginning to wane, but insects blossomed as a fashion statement. Spindly spiders, jewel scarabs, delicate butterflies, and elegant wasps (they called tight corsets wasp waists for a reason!) were huge favorites.

Feathers and Haircombs/Tiaras

Alexandra of Denmark’s signature tiaras soon became a favorite piece of jewelry for America’s royalty– wealthy industrialists– to copy. Many of these tiaras, including this one, were fitted with clips or rings in the back to hold an abundance of feathers, especially peacock feathers (Here’s another tiara from the period that still has its feathers). Birds were the quintessential Edwardian motif, so it makes sense that feathers would be popular, too. Just look at their hats!

Circles, Diamonds, and Arts and Crafts

The Edwardian era was the heyday of the circle. Art Nouveau designs were based entirely on the curve as the perfect creation of nature, shunning straight lines as the construct of man. However, by the time of the Titanic in 1912, Art Nouveau was beginning to give way to the Arts and Crafts. The naturalistic, flowing forms of the 1900s were beginning to shift towards geometric designs and stylized lines that would soon morph into snazzy Art Deco. The Arts and Crafts style is the bridge between Art Nouveau and Art Deco. It still emphasized being handmade with care and skill, but unlike Art Nouveau, it embraced straight, architectural lines.

All these gems and jewels are definitely upper-class, but machines made mass-produced jewelry of similar style but of inexpensive materials available to the public. Sterling silver or pot metal plated with rhodium was used in place of platinum and gold electroplating and gilding was done over brass to give the glow of gold without the high cost. Many of these pieces are still inexpensive today, perfect for those of us who want museum pieces but don’t have $2,000 dollars to spend on this beautiful brooch:

But (here comes the shameless self-promotion) I have a gilded  Edwardian enamel pin that I wore in a production of The Miracle Worker listed on Etsy for 98% less:

There is plenty of Edwardian or Edwardian revival jewelry available on Etsy, Ebay, at flea markets, consignment shops, or even in your mom’s jewelry box! One of my jewelry standbys is a long string of interesting beads. I usually just go to the bead shop, find a 32 inch strand of beads and wear them straight out of the store– after paying, of course! : )

This is the companion article to Costuming on a Budget: Edwardian Edition

I’m really looking forward to seeing all the costumes people will be sporting this spring! between the anniversary of the Titanic, vintage wedding season, Civil War reenactments, and Renaissance fair, there’s plenty of history to get excited about this season. If you go to an event this spring and have a blog entry about it, feel free to post it in the comments. I’d love to see what everyone’s been working on!

Costuming on a Budget: Edwardian Edition

Edwardian made Easier

Even if you don’t think pouter pigeon dresses flatter your figure, you can flatter your budget by using a few tricks to save on your Edwardian costumes. The 100th anniversary of the Titanic is on April 14th-15th and if you are going to an event but haven’t made or bought an outfit yet, there’s still time! I haven’t done a vintage-meet-seamstress article in a while and since I myself have procrastinated on my Edwardian costuming efforts, this article is just a tad self-remedial. :)

If you are costuming for a Titanic event, your costume inspiration will come from the very end of the Belle Epoque era. The Belle Epoque era, from 1895 to 1914, emphasized the rich and privileged life, focusing on the very upper cusp of society. Ornamentation literally dripped from every surface of ball gowns: beads, pearls, glass gems, gold bullion, silk tassels, velvet drapes…the list goes on and on! If it was beautiful and expensive, it could be added to a dress. Compared to late Victorian fashions that focused on flared skirts and structured bodices, fashionable ladies in the early 20th century turned to a languid tube shape, reminiscent of Regency fashions from 100 years earlier, but with a major change. Instead of placing the bust as high as possible on the chest and placing the waist line just below it, Edwardian fashion in the 1910s placed the waistband around the ribs or waist. Bodices and blouses weren’t fitted tightly in front. They often puffed around the waistband or featured swaths of gauze that rounded out the breast. From 1900-1910, this style puffed out larger and larger, making for a rather heavy, matronly silhouette by today’s standards, but it was meant to emphasize the smallness of the waist (sometimes as small as 14 inches around!).

By 1912, the puff had shrunk down to a less structured looseness and was more naturally fitted to the body. Asymmetry was all the rage, with a dash of Oriental influence and Art Nouveau thrown into the mix! While day gowns became much more business like, evening gowns were often made of more beads and sequins than fabric. If you love My Fair Lady, this is the era for you! You could truly wear a neat little shirtwaist and skirt by day:

And be a sparkling princess by night!

Of course, that’s two entirely separate class levels and lifestyles, but the beauty of costuming is that, with the right amount of work, treasure hunting, and styling skills, you can wear anything you desire regardless of assumed social station– you can be who you want to be!

___

The Simple Edwardian Lady

You will need:

A shirtwaist or blouse in a light color
An undershirt or slip (because you don’t want to show off too much!)
A long, fitted skirt
Boot and stockings
Optional: Belt, tie, scarf, hat, etc.

It really is that simple! Just tuck a frilly white blouse into a fitted skirt, making sure to give it that trendy little poof around the waist. You can still find period shirtwaists in wearable condition on ebay or antique stores, but vintage blouses from the 1970s are your best friends! Most of the blouses are pretty sheer, so a slip or a tank top with a little lace on the edges is invaluable. If you have trouble finding a long, high-waisted skirt, a wide belt is an stylish fix.

Shirtwaist/Blouse

Antique Shirtwaist by FancyLuckyVintage

*

Antique Blouse by MsTips

*

Vintage Blouse by heightofvintage

*

Long Skirt

Vintage by GORvintage 

Vintage Skirt by moonandsoda

*

Boots

Antique Boots by ArtifactVintage

*

New Boots by Funtasma at Sears (also in a classy leather-brown)

*

Accessories

Vintage Hat by snapitupvintage

*

Vintage Necktie by pineapplemint

*

Vintage Belt by ccdoodle

*

______

Of course, if you’re going to an Edwardian dinner or tea as a wealthy heiress, you are going to need a fancier dress. If you aren’t handy with a needle to sew yourself one, there are plenty of seamstresses who can craft an exceptional custom gown exactly as you please!

Custom Gown by MattiOnline

*

If you aren’t just playing the part of a wealthy heiress and actually are one, you (lucky ducky) can probably find an original dress from the period, like this:

Antique by AntiqueDress

*

Wearing antique garments is a tricky business, but there are plenty of Edwardian-era patterns available that mimic the look.

I haven’t got oodles of spare cash to spend on an authentic gown (some day!), but I’ve got a trick up my sleeve. Well, maybe not so much a trick– more like a method. Fashion works in circles, so what goes out of fashion eventually comes back into fashion, just slightly modified. Edwardian fashions themselves refashioned Regency style to match a more modern aesthetic which in turn was revived by one of the greatest eras for vintage clothing junkies like me: Hello 1960s and 70s!

This photo was taken in 1971. Pretty darn similar to the Edwardian dresses, right? Not exact, but amazingly similar (there was even a brand called “Young Edwardian” that competed with Gunne Sax). The only thing missing is some fuss and fluff around the shoulders, like some lace or netting. If you learn to spot the Edwardian sillohuette and characteristics, you can find a plethora of vintage pieces that will blend fairly well with your friends’ costumes. For example, here’s an original Edwardian gown from the Metropolitan Museum of Art:

And here’s a vintage 1970s/1980s dress that bears a surprising resemblence:

Vintage Dress by KarlaBVintage

It’s not a perfect match, but if you’re in a bind time and budget-wise, these kind of match-ups are a godsend! Vintage pieces are still easier to find than period pieces, can stand more wear, and are available in more realistic sizes for those of us who have not benefited from years of corset training.

The Original:

The Vintage:

Vintage Dress by bohemiennes

*

The Original:

*

The Vintage:

 Vintage by myliltreasureboxx

*

The Original:

*

The Vintage:

Vintage by LoveCharles

*

And you can’t forget shoes!

The Original:

*

The New

Astoria Shoes by American Duchess 

Tips and Tricks:

One of the keys to the basic 1912 gown is a squared neckline with lacy sleeves. If you find a strapless gown with the right waist height and fit, you can take two swathes of lace (curtains and old scarves work wonderfully) and attach them over the shoulders.

Find a dress with a great top, but it’s too short? Underskirts to the rescue!

Late Edwardian ball gowns were all about vertical beading, texture, and drapes. To glam up a dress with a plain skirt, tie a shimmery shawl around your waist and let the wide ends trail to the floor. You can also fold a light shawl, scarf, or fabric yardage in half over a piece of satin rope and tie the rope around your waist in a long bow so the fabric trails gracefully off to your side.

Hats! Think big, feathery, and flowery! Sometimes all a gown needs to go from 1970 to 1907 is a Gibson girl pouf and an outrageously fancy hat.

_________

UPDATE!

See this tutorial in action:

IMG_0815

Easy Edwardian: Thrifted Turn of the 20th Century Outfit for Under $10
Using Vintage Blouses and Formal Skirts

IMG_0104

A Brief Trip to 1914: More Easy {Late} Edwardian Costuming on a Budget
Using Vintage Elastic-waist Dresses