Easy (Post-) Edwardian: How to Put Together a Thrifted WWI Day Dress

Dressing Like Great-Grandma!

One of my favorite hobbies is scouring the local thrift stores for “no-sew” costume pieces that save me both time and money–plus recycling is good for the planet! One of the easiest eras to thrift shop for is 1910-1920 and I’ve written a few posts about taking advantage of 1970s maxi dresses, modern a-line skirts, and 1980s secretary blouses to create on-the-fly costumes. Imagine my delight when, a few weeks ago, I discovered a new thrift shop item to add to my hunt-for list: 1980s and 1990s dresses!

If you would believe it, late 1980s/early 1990s fashion is actually rather similar to late 1910s fashion.

1980s

1990s

Now, before you spit tea all over your screen, let me clarify a few stipulations.

While the 1980s and 1990s were full of crazy bright color, oddly-placed cut-outs, and head-to-toe acid-wash denim, they also saw the rise of the more conservative ankle-length jumper dress or pinafore (depending on your local dialect):

Simplicity 9764, 1980s
(Now, by the way, better known as an actual historical costume pattern for hoopskirts!)

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Vogue 1584, 1980s

jumperdressMcCalls 7812

McCall’s 7812, 1990s

McCall’s 6782, 1990s

Add a baggy collared shirt and a few additional classic late 1980s/early 1990s accessories– lace-up heels and a round brim hat or raspberry beret (which, in 1915, had actual berries)–and you suddenly realize that much more than your boots look like granny’s:

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Fashion plate, April 1915

May 1918 fashion plate

Fashion plate, circa 1915

Fashion Plate, July 1915

Autochrome by Heinrich Kühn, circa 1912 (looks more 1914-1915 to me, though)
Seriously, this could be me and my sister hanging out with my mom and one of her friends at the park.

Loose fit, natural (or slightly dropped) waistline, ankle length skirts, funky straps, fun button placement…yup! Our great-grandmothers made it cool long before Molly Ringwald and Laura Ashley!

So while I was at Goodwill a few weeks back, I was very excited to find a promising jumper dress of my own:

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Ah, memories of my school days!

 Since I’m already addicted to secretary blouses and hats, I had a great (if slightly stained) collared shirt and straw sunhat ready to go!

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Don’t I look like I should be heading out to Sunday Meeting for a potluck? I feel very much like I should have a basket of eggs, but I didn’t trust myself to set the self timer, run into position, and avoid walking all over the cat while carrying fragile, goo-filled things.

To liven up my hat, I tied a vintage silk necktie around the brim:

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Since the polka-dot dress is just slightly too large and by WWI corsets were mostly tubular (as I already am below the bust), I’m not wearing any sort of corset or waistshaper underneath! My dress would benefit from being taken in for a slightly tighter fit at the waist just for flattery’s sake, but it works okay as-is. An outfit like this is a great option if you have an event but don’t want to wear a corset all day.

Also: POCKETS!

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Awesomeness x 1000!

1995 Does 1915 Outfit Breakdown

Jumper dress – $6.99, Goodwill
Silk Blouse – $4.59, Goodwill
Hat – $3.99, Thrift Town
Silk Tie – $1.25, Goodwill

Total: $16.82
(and not a lick of time spent sewing!)

The shoes are from Oak Tree Farms and are the most expensive pair of shoes I own! I think I paid around $120 for them on eBay. You could just as easily wear a pair of inexpensive mary jane shoes (like my favorite T-straps, Jean by Angel Steps), pointed-toe pumps, or some oxford-style heels.

If you follow my Facebook page, you know of my new addiction to BeFunky, a free photo editing website. It’s great for making your digital photos look “old fashioned” and artsy! I had fun trying to mimic the two main types of photography during the 1910s…

Classic Black and White…

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…and the dreamy early color photo process, Autochrome!

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 Not exact, but close enough! :)

If you make an Easy Edwardian outfit of your own, I’d love to see it! Send me pictures on Facebook either through private message or as a post on my wall.

—-More Edwardian Costume Adventures—-

Edwardian On a Budget – Original Post
Easy Edwardian for under $10 (1900-1910)
More Easy Edwardian (1913-1914)
Butterick 6093 (the 1912 dress)  Version #1 and Version #2

3 Dollar Store Products for the Penny-Pinching Costumer

No need to pop tags cuz there ain’t none!

I thought dollar stores had disappeared. After all, inflation is a real life issue. Even many of ye olde quarter machines at the local grocery stores raised cheap plastic snakes and keychains from 25 cents to 50 cents (and even 75 or a dollar!). Could you even buy something cool for a dollar anymore, much less something useful?

Enter Dollar Tree! When I walk through those automatic doors and smell the aroma of $1 potpourri, I feel alive! There are no price tags on the shelves. Every item in sight (except some smaller items) is $1! That box of brillo pads? $1. That potato masher? $1. Rolls of Christmas wrap? $1. A set of child-sized “spaceman” armor? $1! In fact they have a whole section for “Dress-Up and Pretend Play” filled with fairy wings and foam swords. None of it is super high-quailty, but for $1, it’s a kid’s dream come true!


I’ve never actually won a pageant in my life. These are all from Dollar Tree!

But that’s besides the point. Dollar Tree as cheap, awesome stuff for costuming, but it’s not all cheesy kid’s stuff. If you can pry yourself away from the wall of $1 gift bags, there are some great hidden gems.

1:  Stockings

I used to ignore this section of the store because socks are important daily-wear goods that need to be durable. There’s no way a $1 pair of socks could be any good. Boy was I wrong! I found my favorite pair of ivory knee-high stockings at a Dollar Tree a few years ago and they are still kickin’!

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They also sell sheer black trouser socks which are a classy addition to a dark colored ensemble. I found them especially handy to complete my 1880s evening gown. Black stockings have always been fancy, but in the past they were expensive. Now, they’re cheap! Woot!

2: Hair Accessories

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Being hair illiterate, I love those mesh donuts that you slip over a ponytail to make a fat bun! Walmart sells single donuts in a pack with a few bobby pins and a hair tie for about $3, but at the Dollar Tree, I found the donut by itself for $1, a pack of 20 bobby pins for $1, and an enormous pack of hair ties for $1. So for the same price, I got extra bobby pins and hair ties! Plus, Dollar Tree has cute, tiny hairbrushes that fit perfectly in a travel bag or pocket. I’m notorious for forgetting my brush when I travel or losing it along the way, but with these cheap ones, I don’t have to worry about it.

2: Make-up

Me, 20 minutes before the event begins…

I’m not a make-up maven. I love playing with the stuff and I wear it regularly to work, but I’m not buying $20 lipsticks or even $20 foundations. I usually buy my everyday powders/concealer/etc. from mainstream brands like CoverGirl. However, I found a tube of “Light #1” BB cream hanging in the Dollar Tree personal care aisle one day and I thought it might work well for pale 18th and 19th century looks. It was awesome!

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This is my face with nothing on it but the BB cream on the left.
It may look stark compared to the un-covered half of my face, but my face is very ruddy compared to my body. Putting on the pale BB cream actually makes my face match the rest of me! I apply it over my lips as well so when I apply lipstick, it blends in rather than having a very sharp, modern outline.

It gives a very pale, dewy finish that reminds me of Korean make-up more than the powdery matte look most Americans strive for. The dewy look is in line with the makeup our ancestors wore, so it’s perfect for historical applications! You can see it at work in the photo of me showing off my black stockings above. Since I am shiny enough on my own, I sometimes tone it down to more modern tastes with a little pure white eyeshadow (also a Dollar Tree find) to mattefy the look.

selfie circa 1715

For Georgian Picnic I wore the BB cream with the white eyeshadow (which is very translucent) all over.

I haven’t tried it for daily wear yet because it’s  less-concealing than a brand-name BB cream and a bit on the greasy side, but I do like how hydrating it is. It makes my skin feel soft even after I take it off. Plus, it stays put–seriously stays put–especially if set with a powder. I wore it all day and it hardly moved! Susanna has a wonderful full breakdown of the ingredients and application on YouTube. Dollar Tree often stocks ELF brand products, too, which are cheap on their own, but at the Dollar Tree, they are even cheaper! I adore their brushes and lipstains.

Dollar Tree also stocks lots of holiday decorations for cheaps which can work out perfectly for decorating hats and making themed costumes of all sorts, but these three things are my costuming staples for almost any outfit.

Holla for the Dolla Tree!

regency holla

Easy Edwardian: Thrifted Turn of the 20th Century Costume for under $10

Practicing What You Preach

Eons and eons ago, I wrote “Costuming on a Budget: Edwardian Edition,” a post about how to put together an Edwardian outfit using existing garments like 1970s maxi dresses and blouses. It’s one of the most popular posts on my blog, so I thought I’d revisit the concept and show an example.

Vintage from the late 1900s is a boon for cash-strapped costumers everywhere looking to costume the early 1900s! I’m a HUGE fan of the 1960s, 70s, and 80s as sources for clothing and costumes. Garments from those eras are usually made of synthetic materials, specifically polyester, which works well from a costumer’s standpoint. It’s not always the best texture or particularly comfortable, but it can mimic nearly every type of fabric weave and finish you can imagine cheaply. Its also fairly colorfast, easy to care for, and best of all, mass-produced, so there’s a wide variety to choose from.

Late 1970s and 1980s clothing is especially wonderful because of the diverse fashion trends (from hippies to disco to power suits) and resurgence of long-ignored historical shapes (ah, balloon sleeves!). It’s usually pretty easy to find 80s stuff among the crowded racks at local thrift stores. I am addicted to thrifting old secretary blouses! They are infinitely useful for 1890 to modern day costuming. You can be anything from a Titanic passenger to a 1930s reporter and beyond with a good secretary blouse!

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One of my favorite 1980s blouses done up Edwardian working-class style.

Recently, I discovered another wonderful costuming source in my local charity shop. Finding blouses is simple. Finding suitable skirts, however, can be a challenge, especially for the 1890s-1910. Full, ankle-to-floor length skirts haven’t been in style for over 100 years…except in formal wear. While browsing the dresses rack, I discovered the joy of two-piece prom, bridesmaid, and mother-of-the-bride dresses. Two piece prom dresses were more of a 1990s and 2000s thing and most current formals are gauzy one-pieces. What’s considered old-fashioned, though, shows up in thrift stores in droves.

This is a lovely Watters mother-of-the-bride gown, in case you are curious.

The perfect skirt is a full-length, a-line, with fitted hips and full hem in a satin fabric that isn’t overtly shiny. With that list of must-haves, finding the perfect skirt would seem nigh impossible, but lo and behold I came across a lonely formal skirt that perfectly fit that description!

skirt

Now, add in one of my (many) secretary blouses, and voilà, a middle-class Edwardian lady’s outfit!

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Marion the Librarian!

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I always end up looking so shrewd in all my photos…

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The blouse and skirt are both polyester, but they look pretty nice, even close up. I can also wad them up and stash them without them getting too wrinkly!

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To get the skirt to fit around my corseted waist, I had to take it in. Not wanting to dismantle the whole thing or disturb the lovely invisible zipper, I just folded under an inch on each side of the closure to create a fat box pleat. Then a tacked it down by hand (it was too thick for the machine). If you find a skirt in your size, this project is completely no-sew!

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Easy Edwardian Overview

1980s secretary blouse – $4.19, Goodwill
1990s formal skirt – $5.49, Goodwill

Total: $9.68

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This photo also reveals the extent of my expansive professional photo studio, complete with  fuzzy cat toy!

Under everything, I wore my underbust corset, a sports bra, a nude stretchy top (the blouse is quite sheer), my multi-tasking t-strap shoes, and a petticoat I made from a sheet for my 1890s dresses. While this look can be achieved easily without a corset and petticoats, wearing both instantly improves the look. I could further enhance my looks with a hat and gloves for outdoor wear. I’d like a nice, long strand of coral beads for a necklace to compliment the skirt. However, how plain or complex you want your look to be is up to you and your means!

Find of the Month: Stuart Crystal Breeches Button!!!!!

September 2012

I’m crazy for Stuart Crystals. They’re tiny, old, glittery, sentimental masterpieces: all my favorite characteristics of an object! However, I never dreamed I would ever be able to hold one, much less own one. Besides the fact that they are exceptionally old, they’re fairly scarce since they were only made in England between the 1650s and 1730s. All these factors add up to one well-deserved, but hefty price tag!

Going broke for Baroque!

There was no way I could afford one of these beauties, not without winning the lottery or selling vital organs, or so I told myself.

I was scanning the internet for a set of Victorian button for the Gabby dress when I found this:

OMG! OMG! Was it, maybe? Yes? Could it…?!

It was listed for $40. The seller called it a “18th century rock crystal breeches button” and only listed the dimensions (1/2 inch), but I had to have it. When I bought it, I thought it was empty–no hair, no cypher, no colored foiling. When it arrived, it was scratched, yet underneath you could see that it actually did have a little trefoil cypher inside which you can just barely make it out in the original scan!

Stuart Crystal Breeches Button, circa 1690-1700

Cut Collet Detail

Silver back of the Button

Trefoil Cypher (off-center)

For being over 300 years old, it is in remarkable shape. It has lots of surface scratches and has lost pretty much all of it’s foil color, but I love it–squealing like a giddy school girl– love it!

I am beyond thrilled to own this tiny piece of British history.

:D

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!

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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

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Antique Blouse by MsTips

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Vintage Blouse by heightofvintage

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Long Skirt

Vintage by GORvintage 

Vintage Skirt by moonandsoda

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Boots

Antique Boots by ArtifactVintage

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

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Accessories

Vintage Hat by snapitupvintage

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Vintage Necktie by pineapplemint

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Vintage Belt by ccdoodle

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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

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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

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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

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The Original:

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The Vintage:

 Vintage by myliltreasureboxx

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The Original:

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The Vintage:

Vintage by LoveCharles

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And you can’t forget shoes!

The Original:

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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.

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UPDATE!

See this tutorial in action:

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

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

Easy (Post-) Edwardian: How to Put Together a Trifted WWI Day Dress
Using  1990s “Pinafores / Jumpers”