Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Springtime and a Christening in Atlanta

On a chilly spring Sunday morning my little nephew Tommy was christened in Atlanta. He was quite sunny about it, what with smiling family and church members all about him. After the happy event we all trooped back to his house for an indoor picnic. Who cares if the air smelled like snow? The boys still wanted to run about the front yard in their shirtsleeves.

Our dear friend Debbie, also a professional photographer, captured the day.

Tommy is christened.

Noah points at his cousins and friends, who are running about just beyond the camera lens.

Tommy leads Noah out to play.

Christopher being Christopher.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

About Hobble Skirts

Those of us who love Edwardian fashion are often curious about hobble skirts. Their cut seems so modern and so antiquely confining at the same time.

The blog Edwardian Promenade has written up a fine, brief history titled, no surprise here, The Hobble Skirt.

Photo: La Soiree Toscane: Robe d'apres-midi de Doueille. 1913. NYPL image no. 824734.

After reading the article, I made my way to a favorite research resource, The New York Times site, and entered "hobble skirt" into its search engine. Turns out, the paper and the public were fascinated by the fad, too:

"'THE HOBBLE 'IS THE LATEST FREAK IN WOMAN'S FASHIONS; Skirts Are So Tight Around the Ankle That Locomotion Is Seriously Impeded and Speed Is Impossible" read one headline on June 12, 1910.

Freakish accidents and falls soon followed:

"INJURED IN "HOBBLE" SKIRT.; Mrs. E. Van Cutzen, While Alighting from Runabout, Falls on Pavement." August 5, 1910. Mrs. Van Cutzen belonged to the fashionable set, apparently, for she fell out of her electric runabout car in front of the casino in Newport, Rhode Island. Troubles continued: "Hobble skirt caused her death" read another headline, dated September 1, 1911.

There were those writers who praised the skirts as a method of instilling grace into what the writer considered the undignified striding about of American women."Walking in Hobble Skirts", published in 1912, reads more like a polemic than anything else.

The Parisian fashion world's claim that the fashion was American, and not their own design? Read this article by a non-plussed reporter: "HOBBLE SKIRT IS AMERICAN.; So Paris Man Dressmakers Declare After It Breaks Parislenne's Leg." August 14, 1910.

Photo: "Mother, you stand like last year." 1912. NYPL image no. 817969. In this image, two willowy daughters posing in the fashionable, willowy stance tease their mother, whose posture reflects the straight-front corset of previous years, which pushed out the chest and derriere at once, creating a "walking into the wind" sort of look.

Oh, and there's much more, if you continue the search: articles about women in Washington winning a fight to get trams they can climb into without tripping; the Pennsylvania Railroad barring them; Queen Mary's war on the fashion appearing at court, hobble skirt races, an actual bill introduced to regulate the width of the skirts, claims that the fashion hurt trade, and report after report of accidents.

And then the fad faded away, like the Dolly Varden dress, and so many fads before it and since then, and the editors went on to fresh and more important news...World War I.

Are You Looking for Hobble Skirt/Titanic Era Patterns?

There are many free sources online for skirt and dress patterns of this era. Here are a few of them:

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Constructing 18th Century Dress: Detailed Blog

Do you want to understand how to construct 18th century clothing from the inside out? Do you want to get close-up shots of cutting, stitching, and trimming details, photographed as the garment is created? Do you want to see an entire museum exhibition in its development phase? Then you might want to visit the "Rockin' the Rococo" blog. It's an oddly bouffant, pouffant name for a seriously researched project, but it fits.

The author is keeping her blog as part of her Master of Arts and thesis work. She is constructing a series of clothes that a middle-class woman might have worn during the period between 1750 and 1770, and will build a museum exhibit around them.

To prepare for her project, she examined garments in the deeps of the Museum of London for several months. She has constructed everything from stays and a breathtaking sack dress to a riding habit. To make the project even more fascinating, she is constructing them by hand, in costume herself, by daylight or candlelight.

Photo: the Rockin' the Rococo blog author at work.

Yet let me let her speak at some length, for she writes better firsthand than I ever could secondhand:

The next part is object-based research, most of which took place over the summer during my time in England. I spent 3-5 days per week
over the months of July and August in the Museum of London’s costume stores examining extant garments one after another. I spent an average of 1 hour with each garment taking notes according to a template I drew up for myself and shooting an average of 10-12 photographs of the construction details of each artifact.

The third component is this project, including the exhibition that will be on display on-campus at the University of Alberta over March and April 2009.

This reproduction project represents experiential research and data collection. In addition to reproducing garments I am also replicating certain aspects of an early modern seamstress’s working experience. The garments are made from historically appropriate materials, and constructed using equally appropriate techniques and processes.

Beyond this, I do the work all by either natural or candlelight in order to get some idea of a pre-electricity experience of time and working conditions.

[Photo: a sample of her crewel embroidery in progress in an embroidery hoop.]

I also (and I know this is going to sound a little hokey) dress up in an outfit that is somewhat appropriate for a fairly successful seamstress of the time. While planning the project, I realized that being “corseted” would be important to the experience, as nearly all women of the period wore stays under their clothing (even the very poor). I also happened to have a costume/reproduction dress on hand that I had made (just for fun!) several years ago. The pattern for this dress was taken from Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion, and so derives from an actual artifact garment. I also wear 2 cotton petticoats, a neckerchief, stockings and a pair of period reminiscent shoes (ok, they’re really pretty and I just like them). I had inteded to make a linen cap to cover my not-so-period hair, but have just never managed the time for it.

For working I sit on an uncushioned wooden kitchen chair. And at the risk of sounding….uncouth(?) I don’t bathe on my sewing days - on purpose.

I work 10-12hrs/per day, 3 or 4 days/week, and am keeping a log/journal of the specs of the project along with thoughts, impressions, and questions that arise from the experience.

Navigating the Blog

The top portion of the left navigation bar, labeled "Pages", contains blog pages devoted to each garment, and to overviews of the project and the author's background.

The "Archives" pages contain more journalesque information.

Do have at least one visit, and marvel.

Photo: detail of sack dress the Rockin' the Rococo blog author constructed.