Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Dress Sashes from My Collection, Part 1

"My collection". Well, doesn't that sound Grand? Still, I do have a small collection of antique clothing. For ages I've been wanting to share bits of it with you, in the hopes that we all might learn something from it.

Since sashes have seriously been on the mind lately -- how to get the right fabric, width, length for the Jane Austen festival day ensemble -- it seemed good to head to the chest and to pull out the sashes and sash-width ribbons I do have, and to examine them, if only to figure out how much fabric I need and if I could treat edges with gum arabic with safety.

What you will see below are not 18th century ribbons. If I found such a ribbon reliably dated to that period I'd about swoon. Still, they are 19th and early 20th century, and the stories they have to tell might interest you, especially if you like fashion from these eras, as do I.

Here's part 1:

Pink Double-Faced Silk Satin Dress Sash

This sash is made of unctuous double-faced silk satin, bought at the delightful Curtis Grace and Associates. It has heft to it, due to the two faces, it has a rich drape; it does not flutter. I tested that by hanging it and a lighter sash in a breeze for a moment. Despite its heft, it is still quite translucent -- see the chair back through the fabric.

It's 68" long by 4 1/2" wide. The ends are cut on the straight bias.

Here is a detail shot. Click please, for you must see it big to understand what I will say next.

I assume you've clicked and looked. Okay, the sides are finished with thick close button-hole-like stitching, machine made, one side ribbed and the other flat. I doubt if this sash was cut from a length of fabric, the stitching made near the edges and anything left over or trimmed off, or stitched over the edges themselves. You'd see tiny threads, sooner or later, and there are none, and the grain is perfectly straight. I think this ribbed edge was the selvage, and perhaps thick like this due to the double-facing on the satin?

Now for some fun. When I first touched the sash ends, a "hooray!" moment. For sure enough, the ends had been treated with something to prevent fraying. The stiffener can be felt from just in from the frayed edge to about a half inch. You can just barely feel a change in the fabric's feel, and it's a wee stiffer, but there is no color change. I am hoping that this is an example of an end treated with gum arabic, a tree gum long used to prevent fraying and to add gloss, as in the lovely pinked edges on gowns. In an 1888 issue of Good Housekeeping, for instance, it's recommended for adding gloss to shirt fronts.

Now, about its age and use. At 68", it's not terribly long, and who wore it depends on how it was worn. It might fit a teen girl if tied in a bow with short tails, but at that width it would be awfully wide on a tiny girl of six, even given the almost timeless propensity for adults to decorate young girls with wide fat bows. For an adult, it would have needed to be threaded through two belt clasps and so sans bow, and there is no sign that anything like that was pin holes, no fold marks length- or width-ways, or anything. Or perhaps it was worn low on the hips and just folded over. It's hard to say. Sashes of this width could have been worn by adults as late as the twenties, so far as I know; after that such width would have overwhelmed the designs popular for waistlines. For children, up to a bit later, but not so much, I do not think, and this is truly unctuous fabric here, very expensive.

The color varies from a rich-but-soft shell pink to a vibrant pink like a tropical flower, and I think the latter was closer to the original color. Rich colors like that are found in the early 1890s (not after 1897, when we all went pale), and then again I think in teens and twenties and thirties.

Does anyone have any ideas?


Anonymous said...

My inclination is to call that edging machine-made. Those late victorians were coming up with all sorts of machines that imitate handwork incredibly closely! I'm not wure why I think it's late victorian, a combination of the colour and the likelyhood of survival I guess. I'm looking forward to more of these posts!

ZipZipInkspot said...

Dear renna-darling,

Indeed, it's definitely machine edging. It's too perfect and machine like, with perhaps three stitches per 1/8".

I wonder if the machine doing the edging was the loom, so that this is actually double-faced ribbon, or if it was a length of fabric cut and finished by a seamstress using a machine at a factory.

Probably the former?

Any thoughts appreciated.

By the way, I have a post on a plaid sash in the wings, and another on a cream silk sash belt with applied bow.


Lady D said...

I have a question always wondered...what makes a 'sash' a sash and not just a ribbon or belt?

ZipZip said...

Dear Lady D.,
You have a good question, for sure. I do know that a sash is made of fabric, and can be made simply of ribbon or constructed, with hems and so on. Sashes can be wrapped and tied, sometimes in bows, sometimes in other knots, depending on fashion. Sometimes they are constructed to look as if this is the case, but they are actually closed by hooks and eyes or by other means. Usually a sash has tails.

A belt? The definition there varies according to period and fashion, and the term could be thrown around loosely.

Wish I could offer more detail!

Very best,