Sunday, March 13, 2011

Dress Sashes from My Collection, Part 2

Plaid Silk Taffeta Ornate Pleated and Fringed Sash...Bow

Here is part 2 in a series about sashes. Read part 1, about a pink double-faced silk satin dress sash.
(Plus, edited with new information, thanks to renna-darling, March 14, 2011.)
Get all the geeky image details by clicking on them. Some of the images are BIG.

This one is fun, and until recently, was just as much a puzzle as the previous example. It was also purchased at Curtis Grace and Associates. It's of papery silk plaid taffeta, 11" inches long by 3 3/4" wide. It has some water stains, especially on the tails. The silk is very strong. There is no sign of shattering at all, and no sign that the silk is "weighted" as so many turn-of-the-20th-century silks were. I have a sad examples of that, a petticoat bottom in pink and white warp-printed Colonial Revival pattern silk, and it makes me cry as with every even faint movement it goes to teeny-tiny shreds. I am glad that one cost only a dollar, or was it 50 cents? :}


This ribbon has been pleated at five intervals, with two tails of 32" each. Only one pleat is in good condition, and it's a single box pleat. The ends are fringed with cotton floss, macrameed for decoration.
If you are in for totally geeky detail, here below are those pleats, the bow position, and the ends, in excruciating detail. Can you guess what's going on?

Otherwise, skip a bunch of pictures and paragraphs to my suppositions about how this length of ribbon was used in a sash.

Here below is the sash ribbon laid out. You can see the positions in the ribbon where it was or is still pleated:
  • Each end is about 32" long.
  • There are five pleats, each about 10-12" apart.

Below, the most well-preserved pleat, from the top. It's a simple box pleat. The seamstress used doubled cotton (matte) black thread and ran two or so stitches, one atop the other, through all three layers to create and hold the pleats.

Below, another pleat, from the top. Notice all the tiny holes around it, from threads, no doubt. No other portions of the ribbon have such pinholes except these pleated sections.  Black thread again used here.

Same pleat below, from the back side. See the black thread? In some cases the pleats appear to have been box pleated, others almost gathered, but who knows, since the threads are all torn and sometimes just tiny bits remain.

Same pleat, same side, below, but stretched out so you can see the pleating arrangement.

This is the first pleat in from one 32" sash tail. It is just chock full of pinholes (in a spread of about 5 inches wide), and bits of black thread. However, there is a tiny remnant of burgundy colored thread (with light sheen) that matches the narrow burgundy stripes towards the center of the ribbon width. Then towards the edges, some remnants of a gray-blue very fine thread (very light sheen). The black thread is less fine and by the way, it still looks pretty black; I can't see that it's gone "rusty black" at all.

Below, one tail end, from the back. The raw edge has been turned under twice to a depth of 1/8" and hemmed in that burgundy thread, by hand.

The same tail end, from the front. Floss has been pulled through to the depth of the hem, then knotted macrame style, to a total length of about 4 1/2 inches. The floss appears to be cotton. Strands pulled apart fuzz lightly, and are not filaments; they are also not very strong.

Below, the hem, from the side so you can see the construction. I had to laugh at the geekiness of this picture.

So, what was this thing?

At first I thought it was a full sash. After all, I have been working on the 1790s almost exclusively for 18 months now and back then sashes were single lengths hand-tied.

I tried to imagine how pleats would look around someone's waist, with the poufiness in between pleats, even tried to think of the sash looped. Not an attractive sight, no matter the era.

Then, before dropping off to sleep one night, happened to think of the sash again, and it hit me, this was not the sash itself, but the tails, and the pleated sections were used in the construction of a double bow that lay on top of the tails. This decoration would then have been attached to a belt. Either someone had deconstructed the bow or it had fallen apart. Either is plausible.

Now, as to era.  I'll work backwards.
  • 1970s and after: Seventies and eighties I know well and own a few high-end/couture garments...but all except the costliest feature some synthetic materials, and I cannot think of a home seamstress or local dressmaker doing this piece: that macrame floss would be hokey on all but the late sixties/early 70s, so maybe for a maxi dress outfit. Still, something's off. I go through my list of family and friends here and up North and elsewhere who dressed in these eras, just doesn't fit. Narrow double-faced satin sash? Sure. Fat silk taffeta double bow with macrame, attached to a matching belt? Mmmmm, not likely.
  • It may be late 1930s to the late 1950s.
    • It's an adult sash ornament and those tails are very long, and the silk taffeta is fine, so it would have been for a very special-occasion tea-length or gala dress. 
    • The fashionable silhouette was cone or bell shaped, referencing the 19th century, with small waist, and sashes and bows were popular accessories. 
    • Plaid was popular in the forties and fifties and sixties, and so was taffeta. I wore my grandmother's spaghetti strap plaid green and black taffeta dress to formals in college, and it was a dreamboat of a dress.
    • A real possible, then, produced by a home seamstress or local dressmaker with access to quality materials. The Met has some nice examples of big sashes, and this one has a knotted fringe too.
  • Teens and twenties and early thirties. I don't think so. Fabric and style both feel wrong.
  • Edwardian. No. Plaid was not a favorite and macrame styling was not in, that I can think of.
  • 1880s-1890s. Colors seem off. Plaids were used in the '80s, but this burgundy/green combination? Again, doesn't feel quite right. A possible, but not overly likely.
  • Late 1860s-1870s, even to Natural Form era. Of all the options, this is the one I like most, of course, though it turns out not likely to be an option.
    • Taffeta was popular, and silk was the only kind available.
    • Plaid was popular.
    • These colors and the color combination was very in. If kept out of light, could not the colors have remained true?
    • Macrame sash ends were popular.
    • Bows attached to matching belts were very popular, and with long tails being an especial favorite towards the end of the 1860s.
    • The fact that the silk is strong but the thread and floss are weak speaks to the passage of time.
    • To test the stylistic issues and construction, step on over to the Cornell University HEARTH site, and look up Harper's Bazar. Search for "sash" and for 1868-69 you will get a host of results, including diagrams on how to finish belts with bows and tails very like this. Or if you have Frances Grimble's Reconstruction Fashion, consult it, because her HB images are bigger and clearer; Cornell's image scanning leaves something to be desired.
    • Here's an example from the Met, item number C.I.40.3.1.
March 14, 2011: The Mystery May Be Solved

The sash ornament must be from the 1890s or after, for I just learned from renna-darling that mercerized thread came in at the end of the century; it made threads lustrous, as the perle floss of the fringe is. Renna-darling, a student in a textile conservation program in Edinburgh, pointed this out. This is where a knowledge of the technical is so very valuable.

So I am placing it around the late forties or early fifties, but not much later. The perle floss is weak, and so are the other threads, which is what happens to thread, but the sash itself is still strong. The style of fabric and fringe was popular then but not later, and all materials are synthetics. The later the years get, the more likely a handmade article is likely to incorporate synthetics.

Puzzles like this are such fun. Thank you, renna-darling! Do visit her at Sewing and Sundry, her livejournal blog. She has been writing about her conservation program, and it is fascinating.
Coming up later -- when I am unsure :} -- two more pieces: a complete sash with constructed bow attached to nicely constructed belt, and a length of wide single-faced satin ribbon.


renna-darling said...

I think the cotton threads on the sash ends are mercerized(pearle) cotton due to the sheen on the threads. I don't know if you agree with this however you are the one who can see the sash in person! Lustre is so difficult to convey through photography. If that is the case then this sash probably dates to the 1890's or afterwards since this is when mercerization become a commercially viable treatment. I hope this helps!

ZipZipInkspot said...

Dear renna-darling,

Thank you so much for your help! Very good point. I didn't know when mercerization came in, and yes, that fringe does like like perle thread; it is lustrous, and it is cotton.

That also explains why the black thread is still strong black, not rusty.

So, it's 1890s or after. Neat!

I won't put it after mid-century, though, for the perle floss is weakened and the 100% cotton threads used to sew it are weakened too, but the sash is strong and of silk.

I love a puzzle like this :}

Ah, to have your skills. You are one lucky woman to be in the program that you are. Cannot wait to read more!!!

Very best indeed,


renna-darling said...

Hi Natalie,

Yeah I'm super excited to be learning the things I am! I've discovered that textiles appear in a ridiculous number of incarnations. I expect to be constantly learning during my career! We're doing Cut and Construction and Pattern Making in the next two classes of my Understanding Textiles class. I'm soooo looking forward to it!