The Genteel Fashionista’s Dialogue: A Humorous Timeline of Fashion

In the Classic Style of Historical Fashion Satire and in the Spirit of Congenial Camaraderie, I Present to You the Product of an Overly-Active Brain in the Form of a Fashion Timeline in which there is much Over-Generalization, a Single Expletive, and a Dearth of Illustrations:

THE GENTEEL FASHIONISTA’S DIALOGUE

The Genteel Fashionista Dialog

1770s – Let’s flaunt how wealthy we are with lots of delicate, expensive fabric and wall-like skirts so wide we need special doors, furniture, and houses built just to accommodate them! Pass the hair powder and Pomeranians!

1780s – Thanks to new technological advances and the start of the Industrial Revolution, I am enjoying my emerging merchant-class lifestyle! However, panniers get in the way when I try to navigate city living. High hats and hair, though, I can do. Also, I am strangely beguiled by these cork rumps….

1790s – The peasants are pissed. Maybe big hair, big hats, and big butts weren’t the way to go. Plus, there’s a bunch of cool Greco-Roman stuff in style. Let’s ditch ridged stays and huge skirts for the more refined Empire look…YIKES! A PIKE!

1800s – What a mess that was! Now that the bloodshed is over, I can safely wear white again. These fine, diaphanous fabrics are really expensive and the white makes my spendy imported shawls really pop! I feel on top of the world again!

1810s – Slim sleeves and silhouettes make me look like every other belle at the ball. Some fancy hem trims and puffier sleeves will make me stand out!

1820s – MORE TRIMS! MORE SLEEVES!
Also, maybe some petticoats to help show off ALL THESE HEM TRIMS better.

1830s – F*ck yeah, giant sleeves! Also, I’ve got a pretty hot bod. Those old Regency sacks hide all my hotness, so let’s go back to natural waistlines and open up the neckline for some shoulder action. I am ready for some romancin’!

1840s – Hmmm…maybe I went a little too crazy with the sleeves, low necklines, and bonnets the size of a serving platter. But I like having a waistline again. Let’s see just how much waistline we can get. Longer! I NEED LOOOOONGER!

1850s – Thanks to my corset, my waist is looking better than ever! However, I’m beginning to miss big sleeves. Every belle needs bell sleeves. I could layer them, like those exotic Asian pagoda roofs I saw in a book once. Speaking of roofs, these stacks of petticoats are getting tough to walk in. Maybe I need some rafters…

1856 – HELLO STEEL HOOPED CAGED CRINOLINE, MY NEW BEST FRIEND.

1860s – These hoops are awesome! Now I can display yards and yards of expensive fabric easily again and everyone has to clear the sidewalk to let me through, like Moses parting the sea. Bonus points for getting the sofa all to myself! Let’s see just how big these hoops can go.

1870s – I’ll admit that I might have gone overboard with the hoops, but now that I’ve turned them into a bustle, I can hug people again and the sidewalks of town are cleaner than ever! The sewing machine makes adding trims to my trim’s trim so easy, too!

1875 – The bustle’s poofs and swags are hiding my hot bod again. :(

1878 – This princess line gown shows off my naturally-enhanced-by-a-corset form perfectly. I’ll never hide my glorious bum under a bustle again! What a folly!

1882 – Well, a little padding back there couldn’t hurt…

1885 – HELLO BUSTLES, MY OLD FRIEND.
I’m sorry I ever doubted you!

1890s – Okay, I’ll admit that the bustle thing got out of hand, but I have learned the error of my ways. Let’s go back to the classic combo of tons of petticoats and huge sleeves.

1900s – I have given up big sleeves in favor of something new: tons of lace and s-bend corsets! They say a puffy breast makes my waist look tinier, but in reality, it makes me look like I am careening forward towards social, industrial, and technological progress, just like a new-fangled motorcar draped in an heirloom tablecloth!

1910s – Rushing towards progress is hard to do in full skirts. A slimmer skirt line is in order. Should I go hobble skirt to display my fashion prowess or skirt suit to further the march towards women’s independence? Either way, it will need more decorative buttons.

1920s – Corsets and curves have been incumbent for too long! I vote for President Bob Haircut and Senator Cloche! Drop waists from the ballot and pass the mascara! The world is ready to finally revel in the glory of my knees!

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Here is 160 years worth of fashion plates!
See if you can spot the trends:

1770s fashion plates

1780s fashion plates

1790s fashion plates

1800s fashion plates

1810s fashion plates

1820s fashion plates

1830s fashion plates

1840s fashion plates

1850s fashion plates

1860s fashion plates

1870s fashion plates

1880s fashion plates

1890s fashion plates

1900s fashion plates

1910s fashion plates

1920s fashion plates

Georgian Picnic 2014: Adventures in Cold Weather Regency

Freezes, Failures, and Fun Times!

Once again, November rolled around, bringing with it the panic that I had absolutely nothing to wear to the DFW Costumers Guild’s Georgian picnic! I, like so many, fall into the “new event, new dress!” frenzy. This is frequently– nay, inescapably–accompanied by extreme procrastination. Sure, you know about the event months in advance, but sewing for it? Pffft! If your dress isn’t still in pieces at 2 am the night before the event, you are a better person than I!
As an added bonus, this year’s weather decided that it had been too generous last year (temperatures had hovered in the upper 70s) and we deserved to be punished for our indulgences. The forecast called for wind, rain, fog, clouds, and freezing temperatures. Were we deterred? Almost. Did we sway? Heck no! We thrive on challenges!

I decided to give myself even more of a hard time by choosing to make Regency outfits for Chris and I. Neither of us are really built for the era, but I had been meaning to give Simplicity 4055 a try after picking it up during the 99 cent pattern sale. Regency isn’t exactly known for being cold-hardy, either, but I already had the sheet to make the dress, so it was pretty much decided.

My original plan was to make Chris a tailcoat. It’s the signature garment for Regency men, and is high-cut in front with long, swooping tails that reach the knees in the back. He’d worn breeches without complaint last year, so I felt that he shouldn’t have to wear them again this year, especially in light of the poor forecast. I decided to attempt recreating this fashion plate for him:

Classic regency, but with loose trousers. Lots of Regency trousers tend to look like 1980s leather leggings that would make even David Bowie a tad self conscious.

Jenni of Historically Dressed was similarly inspired by this handsome design. The classic blue tailcoat was just what Chris needed to look the part of a Regency picnicker. I thought I could easily make the perfect tailcoat out of McCalls 7003:

An easy job, right? Just cut away the front panel and leave off the pockets.
Nope, nope. and nope. The instructions are easy to follow, but it’s made of way more pieces than it needs thanks to the waist-seam design. I thought the waist seam would come in handy when determining where to cut the coat front, but it turns out that it was way too high on Chris. Unfortunately, I didn’t want to bother him with pin-filled hours of fitting time, so I wung it. As always, bad plan. I made an XXL because Chris is a size 52 and all of his coats are too short in the sleeves and bind across his thick, wide shoulders. The “finished” coat was, shockingly, too large in the shoulders and too long in the sleeves:

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Taken Friday night after I finished the waistcoat. I was hoping I could pin the coat into submission, but there was no saving it. *sigh* Such a waste…

While it did look very close to the inspiration drawing–including the too-long sleeves and puff shoulders– it just didn’t flatter him at all! In addition, my cotton duck didn’t want to play nice with the lining and I accidentally ironed one corner of the velvet. So, basically, the coat was a fail. I’d wasted four days on it, so I was deep into Wednesday with absolutely nothing to show for it! Humph!

I toyed with the idea of using this tutorial to fudge a tailcoat out of a suit coat and even bought a jacket to try it out on, but never got around to it (I plan to try it out later). Instead, Chris and I shifted gears. He was never crazy about the tailcoat idea anyhow and he was going to need his heavy wool coat. It just so happened that right next to the blue tailcoat fashion plate on Historically Dressed there is a fashion plate of a jaunty gent wearing a big brown coat, sans tailcoat underneath! Perfect.

Fashion Plate, circa 1813
Bonus points for the waistcoat matching my dress fabric!

I returned to my trusty ol’ Simplicity 4923’s vest pattern and just chopped it off at the waistline marking. I made a size XL/50 (the largest size Simplicity patterns for in men’s), and ended up having to add an extra two inches on each side to fit around his arms. The pattern actually runs a bit small, which is unusual for modern costume patterns from the Big 3. The good news is the waistcoat will pretty much carry through the majority of the 19th century. Men’s clothes became pretty standardized in the 19th century and the coat/waistcoat/trousers combo has remained with us ever since. I love multitasking pieces!
To add a bit of bling, I made him a “watch fob” out of some charms I got at the Lobby of Hobbies for half price. He doesn’t actually have a watch to attach it to, but the trousers we found at the thrift shop had a fob pocket, so I couldn’t resist. It was fashionable to have fob charms in the Regency era and poorer folks wishing to imitate richer folks would sometimes wear watch fobs without a watch attached to them. Historical posers? I am all about historical posing! Especially when the result looks so darn fancy:

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Dapper photo courtesy of Jen from Festive Attyre.

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Christopher’s Regency Outfit Breakdown

2 yards striped cotton fabric – $4, Walmart
2 yards cotton muslin for lining – $??, remnant of mysterious origins
2 covered button kits – $4.98, Hobby Lobby
Creamy cotton dress shirt – $3.99, Thrift Town
Light khaki trousers – $3.99, Thrift Town
Suspenders – $1.99, Thrift Town
Gauze scarf for cravat – $5, Walmart
Fob charms – $5.76, Hobby Lobby
Felt top hat – $22.39, eBay

Total: $52.10

 Friday night is a blur, but I did get my dress done in time! I used Simplicity 4055, which is a commercialized version of a Sense and Sensibility pattern. Remember when I said Regency isn’t the best suited for my body? Most of that stems from the fact that I have a very low set bust and the ideal Regency bustline was almost at shoulder level!

Fashion Plate, circa 1813

Even stays only bring me up to the height which most women achieve with just a regular bra. You can modify the dress pattern to fit a modern bustline, but as low as my bustline is, the dress looked much more Edwardian than Regency and would require way too many pattern tweaks to fit right. So, to get the girls up to an acceptably shelf-like position, I sliced and diced a modern balconette bra and used my underbust corset to push everything up.

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I felt like this lady:

Fashion Plate, circa 1802

 The sensation of presenting two grapefruits on a platter means you’re doing it right, and once I hoisted everything up as high as it could physically go, I only needed to add two inches to the bottom of the bodice front to get it to fit.
Now, I’ve heard Simplicity 4055 View B described as a “Regency turtleneck.” That’s an uncannily apt description. Even after shaving an inch off the neckline, when I pull the drawstring up to gather the bodice, the neckline rises to my collarbone. I opted to forgo the waistline drawstring in favor of gathering, which gave me a little more control over how the fabric lay over the bust.

dress

Photo courtesy of Festive Attyre

I used a very worn second-hand sheet for the fashion fabric. The lining fabric is actually nicer than the fashion fabric, yet I loved the stripe and drape of the ratty old sheet. It was labelled as a full size sheet by the thrift shop, but it turns out it was only a twin! Despite the shortage of fabric and one-way design, I was able to squeeze the pattern into it. I ended up having to sew a seam in the center front since I couldn’t cut the bodice on the fold. Thankfully, the gathers hide it. I also set the sleeves in “backwards.” When I sewed them together, they ended up (whether by design or my poor sewing) with a slight curve down the seamed side. If I put them on the way I was supposed to, the sleeves curved backward! So, I just flipped them, and it seems to be working just fine. Otherwise, the pattern was very straight forward. It goes together quickly. I got mine done in about five hours after I put my mind to it.
I accessorized with a string of coral beads, a vintage velvet beret, a shawl made from two Walmart scarves sewn together (inspired by Jen’s Regency Shawl Hack), vintage gloves, and leather kitten heels I found at Goodwill.

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I also pinned the portrait miniature I painted of Christopher in his 1730s outfit from last year’s picnic to my dress using a straight pin (and didn’t get poked once!):

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Photo courtesy of Festive Attyre

To keep out the chill, I borrowed Jay’s idea for making cloaks out of polar fleece and made myself and Becky slapdash capelets. Not the most attractive of garments, but they definitely did their job!

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While it didn’t rain on our picnic, it was overcast and windy and everyone was huddled up in coats, shawls, cloaks, and spencers.

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becky

Photo courtesy of Festive Attyre

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georgianpicnic2014

Photo courtesy of Festive Attyre

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Photo courtesy of Festive Attyre

Still, we had a good time and when we finally grew tired of the chill, we trooped over to La Madeline for coffee, quiches, and warmth!
I decided to get a few more pictures of my outfit later in less-chill surroundings a home with tamer hair and a bit of makeup:

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Lizzie’s Regency Outfit Breakdown

Worn out full/twin size striped poly/cotton sheet – $1.99, Thrift Town
White cotton sheet for lining – $1.99, Thrift Town
Linen tape for drawstring – $1.99, Hobby Lobby
1 yard polar fleece – $2.97, Walmart
2 scarves for shawl – $10, Walmart
Coral necklace – $6.50, eBay
Vintage velvet beret – $4.99, Thrift Town
Vintage embroidered gloves – $3, Veteran’s Thrift Store
Leather kitten heels – $7.99, Goodwill

Total: $39.43

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On an entirely different note, I got a job! Huzzah!
I am going to be working at the city library part-time as an aid. I start training today, and I’m so nervous I can barely type! My father jokingly called it my “Hobby Lobby fund.” I don’t know my schedule yet, so I don’t know how much it will cut into my blogging time. If things get sparse around here, just know that I am busy encouraging literacy elsewhere!

Popular Historic Clothing Motifs: Stripes

Striped Clothing

Robe à la Française, circa 1775-80

Robe à la Française, circa 1778-85

Waistcoat, circa 1785

Visiting Dress, circa 1822

Ball Gown, circa 1828

Morning Dress, circa 1837

Smoking jacket, circa 1837

Visiting Dress, 1865

Depret Dress, circa 1867-69

Afternoon Dress, circa 1878-80

House of Worth Walking Dress, circa 1885

Striped Accessories

Pair of Man’s Hose, circa 1640

French Silk Slippers, circa 1835-1850

Silk Velvet Scarf, circa 1840-50

Stockings, circa 1880-90

Hat, circa 1890

Parasol, circa 1900-1910

Faberge Cigarette Case, circa 1899-1908

Another timeless design, stripes can be anything from the boldest black and white, to gentle white ribbons woven into a cream background. High-contrast stripes alone or embellished with florals were exceptionally popular in the 18th century and surged again in popularity beginning in the 1860s. By the turn of the 20th century, black and white stripes had become almost an obsession, appearing on everything from evening gowns to picture frames. I have chosen pieces here that display stripes as the key element of the design, but small doses of stripes are found on many pieces, often as repeating bands of trim around a hem or woven into ribbons on bonnets.

With and Without: How Wearing a Corset Affects You and Your Clothes

How Wearing a Corset Affects You and Your Clothes

An Outdated, Incorrect Diagram of a Corset's Effect

We’ve all heard the horror stories and seen the illustrations of how our corsets supposedly squish our bodies, but what about the ways in which they affect our appearance?

A corset’s most obvious effect is the reduction of the waist. The amount of reduction today’s fetish corsets achieve (up to 10″) is actually far past the historical norm even if the proportions are not. For example, “The Corset: Questions of Pressure and Displacement,” a study preformed by Robert L. Dickinson for The New York Medical Journal in 1887, sought to calculate the force of the pressure exerted on the body by the average corset and that pressure’s effect on the health of the wearer. It is an excellent article with lots of numbers for those of you who, like me, like to know a bit more about the math and science side of history!

In his study, Dr. Robert Dickinson states that, “Six inches difference between the circumference of the waist over the corset and the waist with the corset removed is the greatest difference I have measured. Five and a half and five I have met with once each. The least difference is in those cases where the measurement with and without is the same. The average contraction of the 52 cases given in the table is 2½ inches. The maximum there is 4½ inches, the minimum 1 inch.”

Note that the doctor encountered cases in which the with and without corset measurements were the same. How can that be? If  you aren’t reducing your waist measurement, why bother wearing a corset at all?

Measurements without a corset (left): 36″ x 28″ x 35″
Measurements with a corset (right): 35″ x 28″ x 35″

The photo above shows me in the same dress without and with a corset. Notice how much more smoothly my dress fits with a corset and how the bust is higher and slightly reduced, yet my waist measurement remained constant. The corset not only adds its own thickness, but rounds out the waist, a subtle, yet important factor to consider.

The oval on the left is a cross section of a 36 inch waist without a corset and the one on the right is taken in 3 inches with a corset. The shapes are to scale (remember: slight math nerd).

For many people, the human body looks skinnier from a side angle than from the front. The corset draws in the sides of the body, thinning the front view while making the waist more circular and increasing the thickness of the body. So I look smaller from the front even though my actual size hasn’t changed.

So why did/do we wear corsets? The answer lies in that fact that corsets act as more than just a measurement reducer. In fact, there are other effects a corset has on the figure that are just as important as its waist reducing properties, especially when it comes to determining historical health and beauty ideals.

Before and After, Spencer Corset Ad from 1941
Pre-20th century ladies aren’t the only ones who benefit from steel and whalebone. Until the 1970s, girdles were still essential for girls to get the nip and lift they needed.

One of the major features of a corset aside from its reduction capabilities is its rigidity and support. Further into his report, Dr. Dickinson mentions that one of the participants in his study only wears a corset to go out and works without a corset at home. He notes that because of this, her abdominal muscles have remained strong while other ladies, whose muscles have the corset to do the work for them, have weak “paunchy” abs (which I have gained even without wearing a corset. *sigh*).

The nudes of the era that feature soft, doughy forms were appreciated because most of the women, once freed from their corsets, sprang back to their natural size, but with soft bellies and low, fleshy hips. Today we consider tight, toned bodies sensual and untoned bodies casual, quite the opposite of yesteryear. However, if we looked toned everyday in society and kept our natural jiggle hidden except in the most intimate of settings, our ideas of sensuality might also reverse.

“Nana” by Edouard Manet, 1887

In a world without underwires and Spanx, the female body would quickly succumb to gravity. One of the main functions of a corset is to support the breasts. If you are like me and have boobs much too large for your frame, you know the hazards of going braless: stretch marks, painful jiggle, and general sag. It’s not fun; it’s not pretty; and the darn things can get in your way! A corset holds them up and back, like a levee lest those girlies runneth over while you’re doing laundry, cooking, or being jolted around by a runaway quarterhorse. It also provides shape to the chest which is more telling of an era’s trends than the size of the waist reduction. Thus we get Regency’s high breasts; the Romantic period’s large, wide breasts; the soft, rounded Civil War breasts, the high mono-boob of the bustle era, and the pendulous pigeon-breasts of the Edwardian era. Most misconceptions about frumpy 19th century fashions come from trying to wear the styles without the right foundation garment. A late Victorian gown just isn’t the same without its corset companion.

Besides its effect on the natural state of the body, the corset had an equally vital role in fashion development. Without it, none of the fashionable trends we’ve come to love would be possible. Again in his report, Dr. Dickinson describes what happens when a woman tries to wear the popular fashions from 1887:

“In the woman who wears no corsets the many layers of bands about the waist on which heavy skirts drag are sufficient to cause considerable constriction” – Dr. Robert Dickinson

A corset is essential…ESSENTIAL…to wearing any period gown not only to achieve the desired silhouette, but because some historical dresses are HEAVY. I have a simple 1870s wool gown with no extra buttons, beading, or trims besides a plaid capelet. There are the obligatory bones inside the bodice to further support the shape and all told, the thing weighs 6 pounds 5 ounces. That’s without the cage, petticoat, slip, and underskirt. If it had all the bells and whistles of high fashion like draping fringe, bows, and miles of ruffles, the weight increases dramatically– up to 15 or 16 pounds! Other styles, like the mounds of petticoats from the 1850s, would actually bruise your hips from the weight. A corset offers protection from the weight of a gown in addition to giving the fabric the smooth support it needs to keep from straining and sagging.

Court Dress, circa 1775
 An 18th century silhouette relies on stays to give the torso a cone shape and to flatten the front of the bust upward.

The corset is undoubtedly one of the most intriguing pieces of clothing ever devised. It is both functional and fascinating, crossing the realm between necessity and vanity. The daily fashions of the 2010s rely on exercise, good genes, and diet to achieve our ideal body shape, but the corset still lingers in spite of the changing times. Will it ever leave us?  Well, with the ability to give me a neatly defined waist where otherwise I have none, I don’t think my spiral steels will be leaving my closet anytime soon!

Happy Costuming! :)

For even more information about corsets and how they physically affect your body, I highly recommend visiting Lucy’s Corsetry. She is considered one of the leading authorities on modern corsetry and discusses everything from medical issues and myths to making your own!

From Conventions to Curators: Historical Gothic Victorian Fashion

A.K.A. My Museum Shopping List!

Gothic Victorian (sometimes called neo-Victorian) is a modern fashion movement that reinterprets certain aspects and fashion facets of Victorian culture, putting a twist on the old style. Seeing beautiful fashions revived in new ways makes me excited, both as a historian and as an avid fan of dressing up! I am, however, terribly picky and pragmatic and if I’m going to invest in a dress, I want to be able to wear it as much as possible: museum-wise and convention-wise.

In my years of costume research, I’ve discovered that there are plenty of extant, real Victorian gowns that would work just as beautifully in a Victorian parlor as they would in Dracula’s castle!

Gothic Victorian

Gothic Victorian,a sub-genre of goth or gothic style, flirts with the darker side of life. It dwells on tragic romance, the mysteries of the human mind, and the fantasy world of nightmares. The most mainstream examples can be found in Edgar Allen Poe’s tales, almost everything Tim Burton has created over the years, and the unique poetry of Emily Dickinson. Everything may seem black, grey, and red all over, but Gothic Victorian embraces the beauty of the sad and the fun of antique fetishes. It takes inspiration from the Victorian period, but doesn’t adhere very strictly to it, mixing in modern necklines with puffed crinoline skirts. Not all Gothic Vicotiran fashion is dark. Clothing is sometimes white, pink, or soft blue to display a ghostly or innocent soul. Gothic Victorian lets you explore the two sides of you personality you usually have to hide– your romantic side and your wicked side– all while looking amazing!

The hallmarks of Gothic Victorian fashion are:

Favorite time period: 1850 onwards (and some medieval, renaissance, and baroque influences)
Bustles, hobbles, and full skirts
Corsets and cinchers
Trench coats, boleros, and military jackets
Parasols
Hats, especially top hats (often tiny)
Tall boots and high heels
Bones, roses, spiders, crystals, and blood
Stripes and plaid
Parasols, gauntlets, and gloves
Curiosities and mementos mori
Heavy ornamentation and layers
Often used colors include black, red, and jewel tones
Often used materials include satin, beads, velvet, and lace

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Period Fashions and Accessories with Gothic Style

American Silk Dress, circa 1870

Dinner Dress, circa 1880

Parasol with Ivory Handle, circa 1870

Day Dress, circa 1885

Gold Brooch, circa 1890

Evening Dress, circa 1885

American Silk Dress, circa 1879

Fetish Boots, circa 1900

Silk Dress, circa 1869

Mme. Uoll Gross Ensemble, circa 1885

Evening Hat, circa 1888

Evening Dress, circa 1881

Ball Gown, circa 1875

Gothic Victorianism is known for it’s fascination with love and death. Victorians had symbols for nearly everything, including snakes for eternal love and anchors for loyalty and hope. They also had elaborate mourning procedures that involved symbolic items such as veils and mourning jewelry. Sentimental and mourning jewelry hold a special place in my heart. Pieces are often made from human hair woven into brooches, necklaces, bracelets and more. The tradition of weaving hair into jewelry began in the 17th century with Stuart Crystals and grew throughout the 18th and 19th centuries until the Edwardian era. Mementos mori (“Remember your mortality”) have been around since ancient times, but became especially popular during the 15th century. Gothic Victorians still employ updated versions of mementos mori, including skulls, angels, crosses, and relics.

Mementos Mori and Sentimental Jewelry

Rosary Bead, circa 16th or 19th century

Stuart Crystal Ring, circa 1728

Hair brooch, circa 1842

Jet Necklace, circa 1875

Hair Comb, circa 1851

Stuart Crystal Ring, circa 1686

Stock/Stick Pin, early 19th century
(this pin is rumored to have belonged to Napoleon I)

Bracelet, circa 1886

Snake bracelet, circa 1870

Mourning Ring, circa 1661

The “gothic” part of Gothic Victorian refers to it’s use of what I like to call the “harmonious grotesque.” There’s always something a little unsettling about gothic fashion, but that little twinge of dystopic strangeness really enhances the allure! I love Gothic Victorian style, especially how dark, yet appealing it is. It’s perfect for those of us who love being romantic, but can’t stand being saccharine. It’s bittersweet and beautiful!

Bonus:

AWESOME CORSET!

Corset, circa 1890

Sexy, hot-pink satin corset…and it’s historical! :)

Recreating Shoes from 1500-1910

So you have the dress, the hat, and the jewelry, but no outfit is complete without shoes! What shoes should you choose to go with your period costume? You don’t want to get caught wearing a Victorian boot with a Renaissance gown or a pair of platforms with a Southern Belle dress! This brief guide provides a look into the shoe fashions of the most popular, upper-class costuming eras from the 14th to early 20th centuries. The best source for discovering period-appropriate shoes is to look at paintings from the era or originals. Humans are creative creatures, so there are many varieties and styles that were made in the period, but aren’t necessarily common, so if you find a period shoe that doesn’t quite fit the “norm,” it’s okay! Flat-soled Mary Janes have been in style since ancient times, and when in doubt, black leather or velvet flatters any foot no matter what era it’s in! High heel styles remained pretty much the same after about 1840, so if you can find a Louis or chunky stacked heel between 1cm and 4cm tall with the right toe-box shape, you’re set!

Note: The vamp of the shoe is the part that goes over the top of your toes and foot. The toe box is the part surrounding your toes, usually in a rounded, pointed, or square shape. To learn more about shoes and to understand what a toe box, vamp, etc. are, take a gander at this handy diagram:

 Quick Guide

1500-1650 – Leather and velvet chopines or decorated flats

1650-1790 – Louis heels, high vamps, buckles, fancy mules

1790-1830 – Pointed flats, flat/low-heeled ankle boots

1830-1870 – Low-heels, square toed, button ankle boots and pumps

1870-1900 – Medium-heels, high-top boots, high-vamp heels

1900-1910 – Medium-heeled boots, low-vamp heels

 1500-1650

Make Your Own Tutorial by Francis Classe

Custom by WithNowhere2Go

Vintage by StarletsVintage

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1650 – 1790

New by americanduchess

 Vintage by MetropolisNYCVintage

Vintage by kathrynebordeaux

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1790-1830

Vintage by whitedovenycvintage

Vintage by threadechoes

Vintage by DearGoldenVintage

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1830-1870

Period Antique by badgirlvintage

New by  fugawee.com


Vintage by mystiquevintage

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1870-1900

Period Antique by nickiefrye

Vintage by kenaione

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1900-1910

Period Antique by charlesvintage

Vintage by ChicasVintage

Vintage by sandyscoollectibles

Tips and Tricks:

Dancing and formal shoes can be decorated with a myriad of shoe clips and rosettes to make them fancier. It’s a good way to dress up a basic black shoe, especially if you match the rosette or clip to your dress!

Stockings are just as important as the shoes you are wearing. Patterned knee or thigh-high stockings in opaque colors enhance any footwear!

For further information, check out Shoes! The History of the Heel from 1500-1910