A Simple 1870s Hairstyle Tutorial and a Review of Mona Lisa’s Curly Bangs Wiglet from Hair World By Jamie

Hair styling is not one of my talents, so, logically, one would assume that I might turn to wigs to make up for my skill deficit…until, of course, you hand me a wig…

Expectation:

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Sexy Pin-up.

Reality:

Captain Hook

Captain Hook.

Part of my problem is that wearing and caring for a wig still requires some level of hair competency and, frankly, I just am not a wig person. I am a hat person. A hat/bonnet/veil covers a multitude of hair sins!

She may or may not be wearing a giant plastic claw clip and three glittery butterfly barrettes underneath…

However, there are a few eras when hairdos outshone (or overshadowed) the hats. One of those eras is the 1870s. If you love fancy hair and lots of it, the 1870s is the decade for you!

The 1870s were all about big hair, big curls, big braids, and big lies. Fake hair was pretty much required for a properly full 1870s look. Most fashion-conscious women owned at least one switch of hair that wasn’t theirs. Indeed, nearly every fashionable hairstyle involved different hair extensions lie tiny curled frizzettes (fuzzy, short bangs) or even huge braids and entire chignons made of someone else’s hair:

Variety of fashionable hairstyles and the hair extensions (called switches) used to create them, circa 1867.

Ten illustrations of different types of wigs and hair pieces, Revue de la Coiffure, circa 1875

There were also all manner of Victorian hair “hacks” invented to help create the elaborate updos in vogue, not unlike all the “As Seen On TV” bun makers and curling contraptions we have today.

Hair dressing combs from Revue de la Coiffure, circa 1878
These combs were sold with instruction pamphlets so ladies and their maids could create stunning hairstyles with “less effort.” I can feel my hair knotting up just looking at them!

A later Edwardian ad for Hair Switches and Chignon Forms from a 1912 Sears, Roebuck, and Co. catalog

As my Simplicity 4244 Natural Form Era project inched closer to completion, I realized that I was going to have to do SOMETHING with my hair in order to properly top off my new 1870s outfit. Hair can really make a or break an outfit, especially a historical one. I wanted to do Simplicity 4244 proper justice, and, honestly, crazy-huge hair has always been my unattainable dream. I figured it was time to give some proper historical hairstyling a try!

I assessed my skills: I could make a high pony tail and I could curl it. Oh, and I could use one of those mesh donuts to make a smooth faux bun, like I did for the DFW Costumers Guild’s outing to Dracula:

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Confession: Christopher actually curled my hair. I just stood there and wept silently at my ineptitude.

Since then, I have learned to operate the curling iron on my own, so now I can make passable spiral curls! Huzzah! I also learned the value of sectioning hair, like parting it from side to side and dividing it to make simple braids. It all sounds so ridiculously basic writing it down, but considering I struggled to make a high “Barbie” ponytail for years, the skills many women take or granted are huge victories for me! With these few triumphs under my belt, I found inspiration in both historical and modern hair tutorials:

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“Details d’une coiffure en cheveun” hairstyle guide from 1873

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Explicación del peinado a dos cogas (Guide for a hairstyle with two rolls), circa 1866, from La Moda Elegante

Modern bridal hairstyles like this one by Ulyana Aster (especially with hair jewels), remind me of Empress Sissi’s hair.

Many of the tutorials I found were for women with thick, textured/curly, or extra-long hair. My natural hair is thin and slick, but fairly plentiful. It is all the same length and doesn’t hold curl really well, but will make a nasty knot in an instant (teasing is not my friend).

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24 hours after cowashing and air drying in the Great Texas Blow-Dryer (sweltering sunshine and western wind). It’s not a dream to style, but it is now much easier to work with than before I began cowashing and using homemade dry shampoo, which more closely mimic historical hair care methods.

With a little experimenting, I came up with an 1870s hairdo that can be done in less than 30 minutes, alone, with minimal tools and techniques. I figured there must be other ladies out there that struggle with historical hair, so I shut myself in my horribly lit bathroom for half an hour to make a photo tutorial.
My hair is below-shoulder length right now, but the method I came up with will work for shoulder length hair, too.

General Hairstyle Suitable for 1867-1880

You will need:

1 ponytail tie/elastic
1 smaller hair elastic
A curling iron
Hair pins, bobby pins, or a snap clip

Step 1: Brush your hair back into a smooth, high ponytail at your crown and secure it with a hair tie.

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 You can experiment with the height of your ponytail so it works best for your hair length and comfort. If you choose to wear a hat/cap/bonnet, make sure it will sit properly over the ponytail. You might need to raise/lower it accordingly.

Step 2: Divide your ponytail into two sections–top and bottom– and bundle the top section together with a hair elastic.

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The top part of your ponytail will become the twist and the bottom part will become the falling curls. Divide the hair according to your preference. Dividing it evenly in half will result in a fuller top twist. Taking only a third of the ponytail for the top will result in a fuller set of curls in the back.

Step 3: Curl the bottom section of your ponytail into ringlets.

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For best results, use a 3/4 inch or smaller curling iron. Mine is 3/4 of an inch and it is about as large as you can go for good period ringlets. Curling irons in the era were generally smaller or women would use rag curls, another option is you have the time. Here are some photos showing Late 1860s-1870s falling curls in a few different sizes and styles: large and tumbling, medium and neat, and small and tight.

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Step 4: Twist (or braid) the top section of your ponytail.

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To get a nice, pretty loop, I loosely twisted the top section. If you have fuller/longer hair, this section would look extra fancy braided. Braids were all the rage during the 1870s– the bigger, the better!

Step 5: Loosely loop the top section around the back of the ponytail and secure the end in front/underneath.

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This sounds tricky, but it’s really more complicated to type/photograph than to actually do. You just drape the twisted top section over the curls in the back, making a nice, languid loop. Then secure and hide the ends. I used a snap clip to secure mine, but a more subtle and period-correct method would be to use hairpins or bobby pins. If your hair is really long, you might even be able to loop it twice or make a bun!

And that’s the end of my basic 1870s style!

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You could stop here, or add a decorative comb or some flowers to dress it up. The style is very similar to this lady’s, especially if you separate the ringlets a bit with your fingers:

Kate Beckinsale…Is that you?!

However, I felt that my hair was a little too smooth and flat to look really 1870s-chic, so I decided to buy a hairpiece!

My first idea was to buy a fancy bun cover, like these:

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Bonus: bun covers are historically accurate! (see Figure 17)

Big braided buns are so totally 1870s that I just KNEW that if I could get one, I would look so incredibly fabulous that clouds would part, angels sing, and unicorns would frolic around me! However, I was dangerously close to my event deadline and most of these glorious chignons are only available directly from China. I couldn’t find a braided bun sold by a US seller, but I did find a large, curly one I thought might work okay and the seller advertised that their stock was shipped from the US and could arrive in 3-5 days.

lies!

LIES!

After placing my order, I got an apologetic email informing me that they actually didn’t stock my color in the US despite what the listing said, so it shipped directly from China anyway. I was miffed that I paid extra money for this style because I thought it was US stock, only to have it ship from China like the fancier, less-expensive versions I actually wanted. My order did arrive in time, though, BUT, it was nothing like the color in the picture! It was waaaaaay too dark. I think they sent me the next color down.

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The one on the left is the color I ordered (light brown). The one on the right is closer to the color I received (dark brown).

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So close, and yet so far!

So I paid more and waited longer for an item that I couldn’t use. I was disappointed to say the least– and rather heartbroken because I had invested so much hope into it, dreaming of solving my historical hair woes for good. Honestly, it is a super cute hairpiece that could have worked so well if it had been the right color!
After so much anticipation only to have my hopes dashed, I was really worried I wouldn’t find a good hairpiece in time for the event.

Still, I knew I needed something to complete my hair. I crossed my fingers and bought a little curly wiglet from Jamie’s Hair World on eBay. They assured me that they were US based (my item shipped immediately from California), and my item would arrive in a week. They were right!

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Doesn’t it look like a hairy cell phone cover? It’s about the right size and shape!

My camera sucks at capturing true colors in the awful florescent light of my room. The color is accurate to the color chart’s “Medium Golden Brown.” It is synthetic hair and is not overtly shiny. The texture is what I would call “quality Halloween wig,” not particularly soft, but not crunchy.

Before I show you how it looks on, here’s the main listing picture:

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Mullet madness!

The picture does not lie. You can make a pretty darn sexy mullet with it:

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This is fresh out of the package with no fluffing or styling which is why I call it my “curl loaf.”

While it might seem hideously wrong for the period, this wiglet is perfect for late Victorian hairstyles. Victorians loved big, curly bangs just as much as party girls in the 1980s! According to an article from 1894, full, curly bangs like this were called “Titus” bangs and were available as hairpieces just like mine (see Figure 31). If the Jamie’s wig model above just curled her “party in the back,” she’d be a dead ringer for the Victorian Goddess of Curly Bangs, actress Sarah Bernhardt!

If you collect Victorian Photographs on Pinterest, I can guarantee you that, at some point, you have seen or even pinned a photograph of Ms. Bernhardt. If by some miracle you haven’t, this webpage is full of her photos and portraits. Go forth and adore!

Rawr!

So despite its dubious appearance, the reason I chose this little wiglet is that it’s extremely versatile. Besides being worn as bangs, the pictures also show it styled as a curly chignon:

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And I decided to place mine at the top of my head to give my otherwise flat hair the tall, voluminous look of classic 1870s hair.

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Unlike many hairpieces which have only a few basic color choices, Jamie’s Hair World offers this hairpiece in over 20 hair colors! My hair does this funky natural ombre thing–brown at the roots that lightens to strawberry blonde– so I didn’t quite know which color would work best for me. Since I was going to wear this nearer to my roots, I chose the Medium Golden Brown. It was a good match!

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It’s super easy to put on. You just snap the little bottom combs open and clip them shut into your hair. Mine stayed perfectly in place through a whole evening in theater under my heavy tiara and didn’t budge all day in the blustery Texas wind at the Cowgirl Museum.

As I said, I’m not very adept at working with hair or wigs, so the addition of a small hat instantly hides any of my styling shortcomings and completes the look.

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This wiglet is quick, easy, and works exactly as I wanted it to. The color match was true to life as were the product pictures. As a bonus, I caught mine on sale for $15, though it is currently priced at $18 including shipping, a little more expensive than other hairpieces directly from China, but the color choices, quality assurance, and quick domestic shipping are wonderful perks. The styling and texture are very convincing in real life even with my lack of styling skills. Overall, I would give this Mona Lisa Wiglet from Hair World by Jamie a very satisfying 4.5 out of 5 rating! The perfect hairpiece for beginners!

brushes rating

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?!

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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!

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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…

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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…

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POCKETS!

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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…

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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!

A Brief Plot Summary of My Thesis: The Ephemeral Museum

There and Gone

Postcard, circa 1968 (eBay)

Postcard, circa 1968
This postcard was found on eBay. The auction for it ended on Dec 11, 2012 10:45:59 PST, so by the time you see this, it will be gone or the auction page relocated to a new url. This link will survive for 90 days before it will be deleted from the eBay servers.

The most comprehensive museum in the world is not the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Louvre or any other brick and mortar complex. That glory goes to the Internet: the most comprehensive museum of human culture ever devised. You can “google” for almost any information, artifact, or opinion and receive informational responses in minutes. Images uploaded onto now-dead websites can be “dug up” with a few easy-to-learn computer tricks and “preserved” on multiple computers belonging to a wide range of folks around the globe. Of all the websites archiving information, the best artifact database system in the world is the plethora of auction/storefront websites like eBay, Etsy, and Ruby Lane. These sites are ever-changing and chock full of amazing artifacts in their rawest forms. Here is an exceptionally small sampling of iconic historical items found on these sites gleaned from only the one hour’s worth of browsing:

Embroidered Waistcoat, circa 1770-90 (Etsy)

Embroidered Waistcoat, circa 1770-90 (Etsy)

Black Dot Paste Buckle, circa 1780-1800 (eBay UK)

Memorial Ring for Elizabeth Cox, circa 1818 (Etsy)

Silk Jacket, circa 1866-73 (Ebay)

Silk Day Dress, circa 1869-1874 (Ebay)

Straw Bonnet with Silk Ribbons, circa 1875-1885 (Etsy)

Silk Velvet Dinner Dress, circa 1880 (Ebay)

Leather Lattice Button Boots, circa 1860-1870 (Etsy)

Mythological Shell Cameo, 19th to early 20th century (Ruby Lane)

Wedding Dress and Photo, circa 1920 (Etsy)

Leather Peep-Toe Heels, circa 1940 (Etsy)

Halter Dress with Bow, circa 1955-60 (Etsy)

Mini Dress, circa 1960 (Ebay)

Wedding Dress, circa 1960 (Etsy)

1970s shoes

Platform Shoes, circa 1970 (Etsy)

All of these item photos are linked to their current listings, but in 90 days, the eBay listing links will become defunct while Etsy listings may last for a year or more even after the item sells. How long Ruby Lane listings last is dependent upon the individual sellers.

With such a wealth of human culture changing hands in the span of a 3 day auction, these websites have become the most ephemeral museum in existence. Every trip through the thousands of pages yields a fresh exhibit crammed with items that are often untouched by the restorer’s hand and newly discovered after years of lying in a trunk, forgotten. Unlike a physical museum that keeps objects for years–carefully archived and cared for–an item in the “museum of the internet” can disappear from the public view faster than you can say “Buy it now!” The sales pages and images may vanish after only a few days, leaving nothing but residual code and memories of an amazing item that is now, once again, out of reach.

Frustration

There are a few wonderful websites that are dedicated to preserving the information found on the internet. One of these precious few is Isabella’s “All the Pretty Dresses,” which archives exemplary examples of antique clothing found on internet sales websites.  No doubt you’ve come across a fair share of “Golly, I wish I had the money to buy and save that dress!” listings in your lifetime or even watched an item only to find that it ended an hour ago, before you could get a bid in. Hopefully the gowns themselves went to caring bidders, but what about the information?

Embroidered Button, circa 1740-1780 or 1860-1890 (Etsy)
“It’s taken me a lot of research, this beastie! Though replications are still made by hobbyists today and there was a resurgence of this style as a hobby in the early 1900s, the fact that this one has a wood mould (bone was used after the late 18th century) and is rather large, I’m concluding it is from the mid 1700s or earlier.” – faginsdaughter, Etsy seller

The information, you see, is just as valuable as the artifact itself. The goal of a museum shouldn’t be to squirrel away expensive artifacts so that no one can see or study them. The goal of a museum is quite the opposite: to educate, save, and preserve so that cultural items can be shared with posterity. Collecting and archiving isn’t about owning the the item; it’s about sharing the knowledge contained in the item. With so many rare and wonderful artifacts passing through our servers each day, as history lovers, museum workers, or caring hobbyists, aren’t we responsible for the preservation of such knowledge no matter where we find it?

Mother of Pearl Buttons in Box, circa 1880-1910 (Ruby Lane) 

Combing through such a large swathe of internet for relevant artifacts is a huge task that would take a coordinated team of people to complete. There’s a massive amount of raw data to process. How do you decide what’s worthy of archiving? I am an obsessive history hoarder and would want to archive as much as possible, but even a “real” museum has parameters to follow when it comes to collecting. Not every twisted old Victorian boot or 1950s bow-covered prom dress needs to be meticulously archived, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore such items all together. Designers and name brands are important, but exceptions and common goods are important, too.

International Flags Windbreaker, circa 1985-95 (Ebay)

An all-too-common 1980s windbreaker jacket in hideous colors may not seem worthwhile to us because many of us have clear memories of wearing them, but what about our children? I was born too late to witness the Gunne Sax trend of the 1970s first hand, but my mother remembers coveting one in a store window.  Yet, as time passes, fewer and fewer Gunne Sax dresses will survive.

Maxi Dress, circa 1970-80 (Etsy)

Imagine that disappearance factor multiplied for 1950s cat-eye glasses (now 60 years old), or 1920s beaded collars (80 years), or 1890s watch fobs (120 years). Every generation sees our contemporary common goods become scarcer until that item becomes a mysterious object from a bygone era.

Bobbin Winder/Thread Holder with Pincushion, circa 1870-1930 (Ruby Lane)

Thousands of these cultural items are passing through our internet portals each day. We’re generating tons of archival information. If only we could document it all!

Dying Dyes: What You See Isn’t Always What Was

Fugitive Dyes

Here’s the word of the day: Fugitive. No, not a criminal on the run, but fugitive dyes. They’re shifty like crooks, escape their bounds, bleed, run, and time can rob them of their colors. They can be hiding anywhere: in your closets or the collections of even the most secure museums.

Fugitive dyes are unstable. Made from pigments that are not light or color fast, they can fade even if they are well taken care of. One of the most famous examples is this black mourning dress worn by Queen Victoria on the day of her accession to the throne:

Queen Victoria’s Privy Council Dress, circa 1837

That’s a black dress?!
Well, not anymore, but it was.

Originally, this dress was a deep, shimmering black, but the fugitive dye has aged poorly. Black dyes have been historically notorious for fading, usually to this rusty brown. Some black dyes also fade to blue or even purple, depending on the dye used. These changes can be tracked using chromatography, the science of pigments and coloration. You can actually watch the changes at home if you cut a strip of coffee filter paper and make a fat dot at the bottom of the strip with a washable black marker. Put about 1/2 inch of water in the bottom of a glass and dip the end of the coffee filter with the dot into the water. As the paper soaks up the water, it will travel up the fibers through the marker spot, carrying pigment particles with it. Depending on the marker, the hazy streak that forms above the dot will be orange, blue, or purple.

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Click here to check out more detail instructions on how to do your own chromatography experiment at home (the kids love to make butterflies with it).

Black isn’t the only fugitive dye. Many natural or early chemical dyes are prone to color changes and fading. Another excellent example of a non-black fugitive dye is in this beautiful 1860s silk gown (which recently sold on eBay):

Silk Dress, circa 1860-70

Buttonhole Detail on 1860s Silk Dress

The bright violet buttonholes look out of place on this sienna-brown dress, but they give a big clue to the original color: a gorgeous, soft lavender. Indeed, this rustic gown was once a flashy purple. There are a few spots of original color visible in the folds of the skirt, as well as vestiges of it along the hem. The most startling remains of the color can be found in the armpits, which, I will admit, upon first viewing appeared to be bleached. But as the seller pointed out and examination of the photos confirmed, the light purple “stains” are actually well-preserved patches of the otherwise degraded dye!

Area of Preserved Fugitive Dye on 1860s Silk Dress

Lavender, like black, is a color known to be especially prone to discoloration, though almost any color can be achieved with fugitive dyes. Most fugitive fabric dyes fade to differing shades of tan, especially natural dyes, but fugitive dyes are not limited to very old garments. Many modern handmade rugs and vintage garments (like this 1940s cotton tablecloth) are affected. The effects of fugitive color are not limited to dyes and fabrics, but are exceptionally common in paintings. Artists love to experiment with pigments and even common colors, such as indigo and red lake are prone to fading. One of the best examples is this painting by Robert Campin:

“Virgin and Child before a Firescreen” by Robert Campin, circa 1425-30

 Though her flowing robe appears to be a light blue-tinted white, the fabric was originally intended to be a rich purple. It is common practice for painters to layer washes of pigment to build deep, dimensional colors. In this painting, the underlying wash of red lake has faded, leaving behind only the consecutive layers used for shadowing. The other red pigments in the painting are made of different (considered then to be lower-quality) pigments that have, ironically, remained colorfast through the centuries.

Modern artists may opt to use fugitive colors’ transitory properties to their advantage, creating works of art that are meant to fade and change. However, if the piece was meant to last, fugitive dyes are a major challenge. There are many factors (chemical reactions, water, etc.) that can cause dyes to change color, but light is the most common. UV radiation is especially harmful, but even incandescent and florescent lighting can wreck havoc on unstable colors. Humidity-controlled darkness is the safest place to store most pieces.

For more information about and examples of fugitive dyes, check out these articles:

“The Fugitive Color” on Artist Daily

“The Fast and the Fugitive” on Grackle & Son

“A Safflower Frock Coat” on Reconstructing History

“Collecting Historical Tablecloths” on The Vintage Table

“c. 1910 Silk Dress” on Adventures of a Costumer

“The Weeping Dress” by Martha L. McDonald

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

Buying an eBay Corset Part I

Quantity over quality? Guilty.
Easy over hard? Guilty.

Let’s face it. Corsets are scary…to sew, that is. If you are someone who has neither the skill nor time to sew one, but you have a costume that needs one, what are you to do?

As always, Skeptical Nell is skeptical.

(This is going to be a long article because I want you guys to get as much info as I can, so be sure to check out PART II!)

As a skilled eBayer, I had bought many “corsets” off the auction site for Halloween costumes and Christmas presents. There are thousands of cheap, Chinese corsets out there in so many pretty colors, fabrics, and trims that anyone can find something to fall in love with. I have bought four of these lovelies for myself over the course of 5 years:

1) faux-leather map print underbust corset ($15)

2) a real leather corset with a zip front and full straps ($60)

3) A “Renaissance” corset vest/coat/bodice ($36)

4) A full-steel overbust corset ($60)

What did all three of these have in common? None of them fit. Yup. Not a singe one.

Note: Definitely not me or my sister.

The map corset was too large, even though it was a small and according to the listing measurements, I should have only been about to squeeze into a medium. However, I love the dang thing and gave it to my sister who fits in it perfectly and makes it look 10 times better than I ever did. It’s comfy and doesn’t achieve any cinch whatsoever because it is all plastic boning except for the steel busk. It’s great for everyday shenanigans, though, because it’s darn cute! I originally bought it for use in an overly-complicated allegorical costume (“All the world’s a stage/ and all the men and women merely players.” Get it? Get it? I’m in a map corset [world], a red cape [stage], and ballet shoes [players]! Still don’t get it? Neither did anyone else), but discovered it looks best over a t-shirt with jeans. Would I buy this kind of corset again? Heck yes! These little cheap corsets are perfect for plays, character costumes, and feeling great. Just bear in mind that they probably will not cinch you down to the same size as the model in the picture.
BTW, many of these “corsets” come with a matching “thong” as a bonus. Really?!

The second corset was of excellent quality, heavy leather, obviously designed with devious dominatrix activities in mind. I wore this one to a large Halloween party as part of a Silk Spectre-ish get-up. The leather did get a little warm by the end of the night, but it was soft and did not chafe. It was very nicely made and looked great, however the listing measurements lied again and it was too large, both length and circumference wise. It had a full-coverage back which controls the inevitable “back roll” you get if you are slightly squishy and you lace your corset tightly, but the back of this one was way too lengthy, even on my oddly long torso. The back was properly laced, too, with the pulling ends in the center, but I had to undo all that hard work in order to lace it sewing style just to get it small enough to wear. Lesson learned: order a LEAST a size down! Would I buy this kind of corset again? Yes, but I’d make double sure of the measurements and contact the seller for all the details before buying (most sellers have improved their listings since then, but it’s generally good policy to be the annoying customer that asks too many questions before making a purchase like this).

The third “corset” wasn’t really a corset. It’s more of a modern take on a Renaissance bodice with a 19th century tail coat thrown in for good measure. It looks awesome! It’s heavy brocade and has five plastic bones for structure, plus a ribbon-threaded front lacing. Again, it doesn’t pull in my waist even though it turned out to be too small! I can lace it up, but it is very tube shaped while I have lots of curves up top with small hips. It looks great from behind, though, and has become a staple for casual faire and Shakespearean events. The company I bought it from is, sadly, out of business now, but you can find similar designs on Etsy and eBay. My $35 was a steal and they are much more expensive now. Would I buy this type of corset again? Sure, but the one I have is good enough for now. You really only need one since it’s so versatile.

All these corsets are fun, but what if you are looking for something historical? Something that will actually pull your waist in and function as a legitimate undergarment?

I’ll explain all of that in Part II!

Late to the Ball: An Antique Dress Find

1930s/1940s Party Dress

I am addicted to ebay. Seriously. It’s a giant, perpetual estate sale that knows no borders! My latest treasure? This 75 year old party gown– snatched up for only $45! It’s bias-cut (my favorite!) and has sleeves that would make the 1890s proud! The little flower pattern is flocked and most of the seams are tight, but the red and lavender flowers will need to be pressed and there is obvious fading. It’s also missing one button, so there is a little work to be done. I hope to get it all fixed soon and have better photos of it for you later– more projects to add to my to-do list!

Now if only there were time machines so I could go back to high school and wear this to prom. I think I would have had much more fun!