Looking Ahead: 1870 Imagines the Fashions of the Future

I’ve not done much this past year, or at least it feels that way. I am looking forward to the New Year, making plans and imagining where life will take me.

I was going through old digitized Harper Bazaar magazines from 1870 when I found this gem in the March 19th issue:

harpers-1870s-does-1890

Text:
A LOOK AHEAD
Scene – A Costumer’s   Time – 1890
LADY. “I want a Costume for a Private Fancy Dress Party I am to attend. Something Absurd or Ridiculous.”
COSTUMER. “How do you like That One?”
LADY. “That will do. But is it possible that People ever made such Frights of Themselves!”

There’s nothing like poking fun at the now through the eyes of tomorrow! For the curious, here’s two decadent, fluffy, fashionable dresses and hairstyles…published by the very same magazine only a few days before and after the cartoon lampooning them:

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Ball Gown, March 12th, 1870

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House Dress, April 2nd, 1870

Oh, the delicious, delicious irony! We still do it today (just look for “Trends we need to ditch in 2017” videos on YouTube posted by beauty gurus who were touting the same things only a few weeks ago to see what I mean). What’s really wonderful about this cartoon, though, isn’t the Punch-style biting commentary or even hypocrisy of it, but how close they got the fashion forecast! They were just a little early in their predictions, though. Here’s a dress from Harper’s Bazar/Bazaar in 1890:

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Harper’s Bazar, October 18th 1890harpers-october-1890

Harper’s Bazar, October 18th 1890

There’s a hint of a similarity, but these don’t really look much like the cartoon’s facetious forecast, does it?

But skip forward a bit into the 20th century and…

1903-harpers harpers-1903 harpers-1904Select plates from 1903 issues of Harper’s Bazar

Just to refresh our memory:

harpers-1870s-does-1890

Let’s break it down, shall we?

Tightly fitted, flared-bottom skirts?
Check!

Fashion Plate, 1902

How about some more exciting hemlines?
As you wish…

Fashion Plate, 1903

Fashion Plate, 1901

But those big, puffy cuffs? Surely nobody would…
Like meringues for your wrists!

Fashion Plate, 1902

Fashion Plate, 1903

Paired with cape-like Sailor collars?!
Mmmmmhmmmmm! Classic.

Fashion Plate 1902

Fashion Plate, 1903

Cute little empire waist jackets with asymmetrical detailing?
You know I could never deny you!

Fashion Plate, 1902

Mounds of hair topped with hats?
Oh, honey, that hat is FAR too tiny, but if you insist….

Fashion Plate, 1903

Fashion Plate, 1903

Fashion Plate, 1905

But what about the raised waist, short skirt, fluffy hemline, and cute little hats?
Well, I suppose you could wait another decade…

Fashion Plate, 1915

…of course, you’ll sacrifice the fantastic pastry puff sleeves, but, hey, we can’t all be as fabulous as an Edwardian lady fancy dress shopping for vintage 1870s clothes in 1890!

HAPPY NEW YEAR, EVERYBODY!

Find amazing FREE digitized copies of 19th and early 20th century Harper’s Bazar/Bazaar magazines here: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/000641436/Home

Hat Trick: Instant Edwardian Glamour Using a Wreath and Wide Straw Hat

The title of this post says it all! This is the easiest way to decorate a hat ever—it’s so simple I’m a little embarrassed I didn’t think of it sooner!

I love hats, but for whatever reason, I struggle to decorate them. I can never seem to get the feathers to fluff, flowers to sit just so, or bows to stand properly. However, I was wandering the cavernous aisle of the the local “At Home” (“The-Home-Store-Formerly-Known-as-Garden-Ridge”) looking at Christmas ornaments…in August…during a 105°F heat wave…

hobbylobbychristmas_tribune

Like Hobby Lobby, At Home always goes Christmas Crazy early. This photo is from an article written in August of last year.

I was looking at the Christmas ornaments and vulturing around the Halloween merch hoping to catch an earlybird sale of some type. Alas, no sales on clip-on Christmas birds yet! I got a whole flock a few years ago and now I always keep my eye out for them. They are perfect for perching on late Victorian hats:

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Deprived of a deep discount on feathery friends, I was about to leave the store when I saw two giant displays of faux flowers. At Home is full of fake greenery, so I had ignored these displays on my way in. However, planted beside the plastic potted petunias was the most glorious seasonal bloom in the whole of the store: the RED LINE CLEARANCE SIGN!

A photo of a treasured red blossom of the 50% off variety.

Redline Clearance in At Home usually means either 20% or 50% off the tag price, but thanks to the brazen commercial exploitation of one of the most beloved holidays of the year and the need to fill the shelves with glitter-crusted burlap Santas before school’s even started, all summer floral was a whopping 75% off! And while I was high on the rush of sudden sales and the heady smell of ten-thousand different air freshener packets from the next display over, I was suddenly struck by the need to buy wreaths wreaths wreaths because FLOWER CROWNS:

I probably could have bought all the wreaths in the world— heaven knows my heart was screaming YAAAS GURL! YAAAS! as I thrust my arms elbow-deep into a glorious pile of polyester roses—but I am strapped for cash and really don’t have any more room to store stuff. So, I settled on a few choice pieces:

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I spent less than $20! It’s a miracle!

I found two wreaths in light, more spring-like colors, and while I was loading them into the cart, I was struck by another sudden epiphany: IF A WREATH FITS ON MY HEAD, IT WILL FIT ON A HAT!

Edwardian hats are huge, drowning in waterfalls of curled ostrich plumes, cascades of silk ribbon, and sprays of flowers. They are opulent to the maximum and, up until my fateful faux flower find, they were well beyond my hat-decorating comfort zone.

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My style is usually a bit more restrained, but looking at the piles of bargain wreaths mounded up like a magical hillside from a fairytale, I knew what needed to be done!

You see, I have this wonderfully wild 1980s straw hat:

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It’s perfectly shaped for 1900-1910, but that zebra crown isn’t the most period-looking finish. So I took one of the wreaths I’d bought on clearance…

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When choosing a wreath, it’s wise to pick one on the fuller side. The more dense/bigger the blooms, the more lush your hat will look (and the better it will hide any *ahem* idiosyncrasies).

…plopped it over the brim to hide the the crown…

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Sushi-roll hat!

…and voilà! An instant Edwardian hat, no millinery skill required!

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There was no agonizing over color scheme, no tedious arranging and rearranging of every single flower, and no waiting! It’s like the Jiffy mix of hats!

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My attempt at an autochrome-esque photo.

Another bonus? Instant restyling options! If you have only one hat, you can just switch the wreath instead of having to get a new hat base. The original full price of the wreath was $15, which is still a bargain if you consider the number of flowers you get for one price and the fact that it came pre-color coordinated!
If you are dedicated to decorating a particular hat, I recommend taking it with you so you can fit the wreath over the crown before buying it. The wreath I fell in love with as a tad too small, but by clipping the wire holding it together, I was able to resize it to fit.

IMG_0256

I used nail clippers and re-tied the ends in place with a stripped twist tie.

If you need to spread the wreath more than an inch or two, you can fill in the gap with a big ribbon bow or a matching bloom. My wreath fits snugly enough that it stays on securely, but if you are happy with your hat and want to keep it just as it is, hot gluing or sewing the wreath in place will keep it from falling off in the wind or when you bend over.

IMG_0231aresize

Edwardian Hat Trick Cost Breakdown:

Wide brimmed straw hat – $4.99, Thrift Town
Floral Wreath – $3.75, At Home (Huzzah for clearance sales!)

Total – $8.74

—– Other Hat Posts ——

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Hat Trick: Turn a Placemat into an 18th Century Hat in Three Steps

Darn string!

Flower Pots and Romanticism: The 10 Second Poke Bonnet

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Update!

Look what I found!

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Her hat looks just like mine!

Dinner Dresses I would NEVER Wear to Dinner

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

It’s the time of year to enjoy all kinds of overindulgences, especially at the dinner table! For such feasts, wearing your loosest jeans/sweatpants and a not-white shirt (cranberry sauce stains like no other) is the modern norm. In the past, however, fancy dinners required fancy clothes! Corsets, manners, and the meals themselves– served in courses– would have made a historical dinner party a much different adventure than today’s free-for-all feasts. Women, especially those lucky enough to be rich, would often change clothes multiple times a day, switching between a morning dress, afternoon dress, and an evening dress or ball gown, depending on the occasion. As the 19th century continued, the use of occasion dresses increased to include visiting dresses, promenade dresses, walking dresses, and dinner dresses.  The heyday of the dinner dress began around 1870 and turned into a full-blown trend by 1910, so many of these wonderful, festive gowns are from those eras.

American Silk Dinner Dress, circa 1841-46

American Silk Dinner Dress, circa 1870s

Jeanne Hallée Dinner Dress, circa 1894-96

House of Worth Dinner Dress, circa 1897-1900

Rouff Dinner Dress, circa 1900-03

Dinner Dress Attributed to Callot Soeurs, circa 1908

American Silk Dinner Dress, circa 1910-12

If they are all so beautiful, why won’t I wear any of these dresses to dinner? Well, truthfully, I would love to wear all of them, but with our family track record of globs, blobs, and escapee forkfuls of buttered potatoes, it would probably be best to avoid wearing such fine dresses to any family get-togethers!

There have many Thanksgiving celebrations in late fall throughout many cultures. The first official, nation wide celebration of Thanksgiving in the United States occurred in 1863 after a declaration from President Abraham Lincoln. His hope was that a united holiday of peaceful thanks, prayer, and brotherly celebration would help calm a shattering nation. However, it was not until many years later in 1941 that F.D.R. moved Thanksgiving to the fourth Thursday of November in an effort to boost the national economy and morale.

After stuffing yourself with tasty foodstuffs, take a moment to appreciate your blessings and indulge in a smile!

My Turkey-Red 1830s Fall Outfit

Welcome, Fall!

“Fall” by Alphonse Mucha

Sorry for such a long break! I’ve had plenty excitement going on at home and at school, not to mention getting a darn pernicious cold!

“The Poor Poet” by Carl Spitzweg, 1837

Anyway, I’m back again, this time to show off my fall costume! I’ve really been loving the 1830s, especially this beautiful print gown from the Victoria and Albert Museum…

Outfit, circa 1825-35

…but I lack the time and skill needed to sew my own version. :(

So what’s a girl in my predicament to do? Cheat– pragmatically of course! My 1830s outfit was assembled from a lot of random items purchased sporadically from thrift stores, antique stores, and the ‘Bay or borrowed from my unsuspecting family members. It’s not entirely historically accurate, but hey, it’s in the spirit!

What I’m Wearing:
Turkey-red cotton 1980s dress – $25, eBay
Black stretchy sash – came with one of my work blouses
Lace sofa drape (worn as a collar) – $2.50, antique store
Victorian collar pin – My Etsy shop
Hat basket – 50 cents, charity shop
Silk scarf (worn as a hatband) – borrowed from my sister
Cotton gloves – $6, eBay
Shoes – $40, Chadwicks

Underneath it all, I’m wearing my eBay corset, a bra, five skirts, a cotton tank, and thick cotton socks because it finally decided to get chilly down in southern New Mexico! I really wish it was easier to find square-toed, early Victorian shoes. They’re really out of style at the moment except on heeled boots and pumps, whereas most 1825-1860 boots and slippers were flat-soled, like this:

Wedding Slippers, circa 1835-45

Silk Slippers, circa 1835-45

Wedding Boots, circa 1854

Boots, circa 1855-60

I bought some leather a few days ago and have cut out some soles to start my own pair of early Victorian slippers since they were famed for being moderately easily to make, and if mine fall apart after a few days (of wear or my bad stitchery, time will tell), at least that sad event will be perfectly historically accurate as well!

Liebster Lauds

The infamous Liebster has come to my door! The blog world’s strangest honor is rumored to have begun in Germany some years ago and has spread like wildfire. Some claim it’s  spam, but it’s really more like a token of appreciation from fellow bloggers.
I’m so glad Cassidy over at A Most Beguiling Accomplishment deemed me worthy of the award! Thanks, Cassidy (PS, I am loving the fashion plates of cashiers you’ve been posting)!

The Liebster Laws:

(These vary from post to post, mind you)

1. Add the award icon to your blog!
2. Link to your nominator to say “thank you”
3. Nominate 5 bloggers with less than 200 followers.
4. (optional) Post 11 facts about yourself/answer 11 questions
If you have already received a Liebster, you’re not required to participate again!
 
Five Awesome Blogs I Love:
There are lots of brilliant blogs out there just waiting to be discovered!
*
 FYI: “Liebster” = “Beloved” in German, especially a boyfriend. Deserves a historical handsome gent, no?
Franz Liszt, pianist, 1811-1886
*
Blog on!

Buying an eBay Corset Part II: Historically Accurate and Off-the-Rack

Finding a Historical Victorian Corset on eBay

This article is a continuation of Part I, so check out that article first for more information.

Let’s start this off by saying I make just enough to get life done and I don’t really have time to attend tons of events anymore, so I feel guilty investing $500 in a custom corset that I will wear in public, at most, 2 times a year. For that much, I could pay rent and buy two-weeks worth of food! I am also impatient, lazy, and incredibly miserly. I don’t live in a place where corsets can be bought from a shop or ordered from a tailor. All I have right now is myself, my cats, the desert, and an internet connection. So, as every penny-pinching lady in my family has done before me, I used what I had on hand: DSL and hours of mad scrolling.

Okay, to begin, here’s what I was after:

Athletic Corset, circa 1885

“Ball’s corset company specialized in creating healthful corsets and those appropriate for active wear. This particular type of corset was flexible, made possible by the shirred elastic sections over the interior coiled wire spring system. It was designed for women to wear while participating in athletic activities such as horseback riding, while still maintaining the acceptable silhouette of the period. According to Ball’s advertising, incorporating the coiled springs into the corsets was a ‘revolution in corsets.'” -The Met

The 1880s produced the “classic” corset shape, so it is the easiest to find. I wanted a corset that was simple and functional. Ribbons, lace, and brocade are all gorgeous, but a corset is like a bra: pretty things look great alone, but can sometimes be a nuisance under clothes. I wanted something I could wear under anything without worrying about strange bumps or bright blue brocade showing through a thin gown. I stumbled across this corset in the Met and I immediately knew that this was the corset I needed. The side springs I knew I probably wouldn’t find, but most modern corsets have spiral steel boning which is more flexible and comfortable than other types of bones, including plastic. I wanted something that would give me a more period-appropriate size and shape without suffocating or stabbing me.

Criteria for my Cheap eBay Historical Corset:

Budget of $75 (including shipping)
White or cream
Satin or Cotton
Back lacing
Spiral steel bones
Overbust
Capable of reducing waist 2-3 inches
1880s in shape

LET THE SEARCH BEGIN!

Here are four tips I learned when shopping for a corset:

PICTURES LIE. It applies in life and it applies to corset buying. Live models are especially deceiving because they make the corset look like it will make you smaller and hourglassed. However, Photoshop exists and these ladies are naturally tiny. Look for photos of the corset itself if you can. The worst listings are the ones where they’ve stretched or warped the picture so you can’t even tell what shape the corset is! GAAAAAA! Also, be on the lookout for fakes.

Make sure the corset has all steel bones. Many sellers will list “steel bones,” but the piece itself will actually only have a few while the rest are plastic. Some even list steel bones, but are all plastic with a steel busk.

When you find a corset with all steel bones, make sure the listing says how many. Many are all steel boned, but only have 8 or 10 bones. If you just want the support so your gowns sit right, these are fine for that, but they will not effectively reduce your waist or give you an hourglass. A really good corset will have 16-24 spiral steel bones with a few flat steel ones in the back by the laces. You can find corsets with even more bones (up to 60!), but most are from professional corset makers…far out of my price range.

Laces should always be in the back. Check out the picture of the laces to determine if it is properly laced or not. First, check what it’s laced with. Shoestring laces are generally stronger and more discreet than ribbon laces. Second, check how it is laced. If it ties with a bow at the top or bottom, either the manufacturer knows nothing about how a corset functions or it’s just for looks. Either way, skip it. Look for laces that are knotted at the bottom and have long tying loops in the middle of the back. Why the middle? Well, if you want your waist to be smallest, it makes sense to have the pulling ends where you want to pull in the most!

After a few hours of searching and a few days of arguing with my wallet, here’s the one I settled on:

Satin Corset, circa 2012

It’s satin, fully boned with 20 spirals, 6 flats, and has a steel busk and grommets in the back. It is cotton lined as well with sturdy cotton waist tape and a modesty panel (I removed it). Most corsets advertise a 4 inch reduction in waist size, but fall short. This one actually gets you down 3 inches– more on that later! The size charts you find in most listings will list natural waist sizes next to the corset size, for example a 22 inch corset will fit a natural waist between 26 and 27 inches (usually considered a size s-xs). Measurements, however, vary from seller to seller, so check those charts closely! For example, the chart for this particular corset listing looks like this:

I have a 28 inch waist. Do you see the quandary? According to their chart, I would fit in anything from a medium to an xsmall! I decided to go with the average, a small. If you are looking to reduce your waist at all, make sure your natural waist measurement falls in the middle or top of your size bracket. For example if you have a 30 inch natural waist and they suggest a large for 30 inch to 34 inch waists, go down a size.  However, trouble again arose when I tried to select a size from the drop-down menu:

According to this new menu, a 28 inch waist was actually the very upper limit of the small’s capacity! This is the hardest part of buying an off-the-rack corset online: measurements. However, I opted to go with the small. I paid $59.95 for my corset, well under my budget. I was a little miffed that I found a similar one at a Chinese wholesaler later, but Glamorous Corset Boutique on eBay was stateside so I didn’t have to mess with customs, plus they shipped super fast and free so I received it in the mail in just 4 days! Would I buy from them again? Yes.

After getting my new corset in the mail,  it was time for the moment of truth: the initial try-on. Prior experience in theater had educated me that the first time you try on a fresh corset, you will need help lacing it because the garment has not yet molded to your body. My sister agreed to help me and much stereotypical tugging and pulling occurred.

You can lace yourself up by tightening the consecutive “rungs” of your corset from top to middle then bottom to middle, but it’s fun to have someone else to giggle with as you hold onto a doorway! For those of you who have never laced before, it’s important that you don’t try to lace your corset as tight as you can right away. If you lace too tight too quickly, you’ll experience all the problems we’ve come to associate with corsets: shortness of breath, back pain, bruises, chafing, and sore ribs. If you lace slowly, however, your corset will bother you no more than your bra– sometimes less! For example, we laced 28 inch me down only to 27.5 inches. That may not seem like much, but remember a corset and a liner/chemise adds thickness over your body, so my waist was actually down to about 27 inches. That’s quite enough for the first fitting. I pranced around the house freely in it. Here I am after three days of wearing it at 26 inches:

I know, I know, tied at the front, but the strings get really long and I have a rambunctious small kitten that kept following me around attacking my corset strings as they slithered behind me! Also, you can see how the hips are a little too big.

It’s important to wear your corset for a few hours a day to get used to it before tightening it further. How tightly you can lace your corset depends on your body type, especially your fat-to-muscle ratio. I highly recommend reading the Dreamstress article “What Size Should Your Corset Be and How Tightly Should You Lace It?” for more information. It’s an amazing post and answers almost all the questions you might have about the general function and fitting of corsets!

Click to visit the Dreamstress blog

Eventually, I got this corset to close fully at 25 inches: the perfect waist size for wearing extant or reproduction Victorian pieces. I am rather “squishy,” so wearing a corset actually feels great!

My waist at 25 inches. That makes my measurements 36-25-35.

I love how this particular corset draws you into a gentle hourglass without jabbing you– praise the corset gods for flexible, spiral steel bones! For historical waist reduction, aim to reduce your waist about 2-3 inches. Keep in mind that as you wear your corset, it will stretch and mold to your individual body, so you shouldn’t share corsets with someone else.

No matter how many pictures of bare-skinned models you see, if you corset without a liner, you will get rope burns on your back.

Corset Burn. It doesn’t hurt during, but afterwards…..yikes!

I use a regular $3 cotton tank from Walmart as my liner/chemise. Many corsets come with a “modesty panel” flap sewn on one side to protect your back, but I remove mine. Unless they are also boned and floating (not sewn in), these flaps will crumple and get in your way. It is much, much better to wear a separate garment underneath you corset instead. I like modern cotton tank tops with some Spandex in them. These will hug your body and not wrinkle up. Wrinkles are the worst! I also like full-stretch tanks from Rue21 and the like for the same reason. They bunch even less than cotton, but you will sweat more. Which brings me to the next reason to always wear a liner: hygiene. Corsets should never be washed in a machine and shouldn’t even be hand washed if you can avoid it. Water will corrode the steel bones. A liner is easy to change and wash. Wear one!

The biggest challenge for me is “the Girls.” I am very top heavy and they are not…well, I hate to admit it, but they are neither firm nor perky. Victorian gowns (and many modern clothes) have a higher bust level than mine, so it’s impossible to fill out a dress properly without extra support. In addition to my new overbust corset, I like to wear a bra underneath. It’s not very historically accurate, but it’s in the spirit of these:

Bust Enhancers and Cover, circa 1890

The only issue with the corset I chose is that it’s made for someone with a B cup, so my 34 DDs runneth over at times, but a tight chemise/shirt or a bra keeps them in check. The hips also wrinkle a little because my 35 inch hips are Barbie-tiny, but 1870s-1890s gowns have full skirts fluffed out with petticoats anyways, so you cannot tell. Also, it means that I have no problems sitting or even riding a bike, which, by the way, I totally did:

1 hour after that first photo of me: Sweatier, but very pleased. Proof that a good liner will save your day (and your corset)!

It’s good to exercise if you plan on wearing a corset for long periods of time. Since the bones in the corset are doing all the work fighting gravity, your abs go on vacation.

In addition to being exciting, relatively simple, and cheap, buying an off-the-rack, mail order corset is super historically accurate!

This corset advertisement is from the 1897 Sears, Roebuck, and Co. mail order catalog. I have a Sears catalog from 1902 that still has the same kind of listing, just different styles of corsets since the fashionable shape began to change. Both catalogs feature a whole section of corsets ladies can send for by mail. At the top of the section is always a fitting guide that offers the same advice we follow today! Most Victorian ladies were on a budget, so buying the best, most fitted corset was out of their reach. It’s quite historically accurate for your corset to be a little wrinkled in spots, or even for the top edge to be visible under your dress if you are wearing everyday clothes, so don’t worry if your eBay corset doesn’t fit like a glove. For example, this photograph from my collection shows a young lady with the same fit problem I have:

I am very happy with my current corset! I’m giving up my press-on nail habit for the next year to save for my next corseting adventure.

Goodbye, perfect nails. Hello, perfect waist!

I’m going to finish my “Teacher Dress” soon, so you can see the corset in action. :)

Here’s a handy-dandy list of things to look for in a good corset and why.

16-24 Spiral Steel Bones
A steel-boned corset is weighty and will pull you in comfortably.
Cotton Lining
Helps keep you comfortable and strengthens the corset.
Waist Tape
Keeps the seams from pulling and helps compress the waist.
Center-back Cinching
You want to tie your corset at the waist, not the top or bottom.
Strong Busk
A wide busk will not deform or twist. Always loosen your corset as much as possible when clasping and unclasping the busk.
4 to 5 inches smaller than your natural waist
Allow extra space to lace it tighter than your natural waist.

Happy Corsetting!

Find of the Month!

June 2012

I visited an amazing antique store north of El Paso, TX. I wanted to buy everything inside, but I’m on a budget, so I restrained myself. However, I could not resist these “instant relatives.” I have a huge soft spot for old Victorian photographs, especially small cards and tintypes. My favorite aspect of old photographs is that they are infinitely magnifiable! Digital pictures eventually get down to a pixelated blur, but the zoom-in factor of traditional film prints is limited only by the texture of the paper. I like to use a jewelry loupe to get a closer look.

I chose four photographs out of the hundreds that were in the mangled box: three cartes de visite and one tintype. Judging by the clothing styles, the time period of my assortment ranges from 1855 to 1890. I tried to get some photos through the loupe for you, so you can see a few of the more interesting details, the results are kind of mixed because my camera skills are a tad out of practice, but in reality, looking at photographs through a loupe opens up a whole new world of details!

Photograph #1: Sad Tintype Child, a.k.a. “Little Poppet”
Dates to about 1855-1865, sized about 1/4 of a plate (3.5″ x 4.125″)

Photographs of children are some of my favorites! This one is so bittersweet. If you can take your eyes off of that chubby-cheeked little face for a moment, you’ll notice mum’s or dad’s hand peeking in on the left. Another thing I found interesting is how worn the prop chair on the right is. It looks like it has already been through 100 years of wear; the velvet is quite torn. I tried to get a good picture of the lace on the hem of the child’s dress, but tintypes are wicked reflective and I could not get the shot. Under 10x magnification, though, you can see that the wide lace is meshed and the trim lace is crocheted.

Photograph #2: London Beauty, a.k.a. “Clara or Chloe”
Dates to about 1860-1865, carte de visite

She looks so saucy! I know a lot of old photos have scowling folk in them because wait times were atrocious, but this young lady is arching that eyebrow like she means business! The silhouette and styling of her dress dates this photo to about 1864.  Her simple gown is accented by thin horizontal stripes woven into the fabric and a dark bolero jacket pinned shut with a lover’s knot brooch much like this one:

 One of the reasons why I picked this photograph is that she’s wearing jewelry. Often, I find Victorian or vintage jewelry and say “Oh! How beautiful,” but I am at a loss to how to wear it fashionably. Old photographs are perfect for providing answers!

Photograph #3: Another English Beauty, a.k.a. “Sarah”
Dates to about 1865-1870, carte de visite

I love finding cards with a photographer’s information on the back. Sometimes I get the itch to send off for more prints, just because they say “Copies can always be had!” But I refrain….

This carte de visite dates from just after Clara/Chloe’s photo. You’ll notice how Sarah’s gown is beginning to sweep back and a little bustle is beginning to peak that back of the skirt. I’ve always had difficulty with this transitional period for some odd reason because it always seems that costumers skip this stage and go straight to shelf-bustles. This more swooping, softer style of dress was only popular between 1866 and 1868. The beauty of this photograph (besides pretty Sarah herself) is the puckered seams on her skirts. You can almost hear the fabric rustling!

This was taken through my loupe, creating that vignette-look around the edges. This lovely young lady did her hair very nicely for her photo. You can see that she not only curled and shaped it, but also added in a string of big beads and a tiny, flat bow!

Photograph #4: The Fashionista, a.k.a. “Miss Jewel-ia”
Dates to about 1878-1882, carte de visite

This is Julia, or rather “Jewel-ia” as my sister and I have decided to call her. Look at all her pretties! These days we still follow the tradition of dressing up in our best for a professional portrait, a tradition as old as portraits themselves. Julia did the same thing, raiding her jewelry box for her favorite bobbles and gems! Besides her huge pearly necklace, small earrings, multiple finger rings, and a punched-design scatter pin, she’s wearing the holy grail of my historical jewelry research: matching bracelets.

I have seen them in boxes, in paintings and fashion drawings, not to mention written about in papers, but I have never found a photograph that so clearly shows a matching pair of bracelets being worn! Golly, I was so excited when I first found her! I think I frightened a few nearby shoppers with my squeal of triumph…

I’m going to make Find of the Month a regular thing from now on, but I haven’t decided if I want to put it here on the blog or on the Facebook page. I don’t know which way is more suitable. What do you think?