|Fichu-collar or collarette with bow|
pinned in place
Removable collars were common throughout the 19th century, or at least from the Romantic era forward. At their base they were a functional item meant to protect a dress neckline from inevitable oils and perspiration. Yet if you had only a few dresses, by changing out your collars you could vary the look of your ensemble, and show off your needlework skills into the bargain. Pretty good deal, I say.
Collars fluffed up and complexified themselves with multiple layers of lace and ribbon by the late 1860s, a part of the general elaboration of women's dress. In some photographs you see women wearing, all at once:
- lace tacked inside the dress collar, rather like a tucker
- fancy large collar at the edge of the neckline
- ribbon bow at the collar bottom
- brooch or other closure aid
- one or more necklaces
- long dangly earrings
- curls dangling down from the hairdo, and probably entangling with the jewelry: ow!
|Hungarian lady, around 1870. Huge collar. From valtertorjay|
|Ida M. Hamlin around 1870. From ilgunmkr/ Fichu style, having|
|How fluffy and large collars could be, in Europe, anyhow. Ladies in Pilzen,|
Czech Republic. From josefnovak33
|Here's a squared collar. Photo taken in Kansas, early 1870s. From ilgunmkr.|
By the way, there were plenty of other collar-y sorts of decor one could adorn one's neckline with. Some women preferred dress trim for the large effect, confining lacey trim to lace tucked inside the neckline, lightly gathered. This could be the case when ruching was used heavily on the bodice, or a collar with revers.
Lappets, if that's the right name for them, were also popular, and you see them on Etsy now and again, and also in the magazines. They're just long lengths of lace, with rounded ends, run round the neck and pinned shut with brooch or brooch and bow.
|In this case, the collar is probably actually a lappet brought round the neck,|
and held, with an added bow, by what appears to be an articulated brooch.
|Small collar and bow. I wonder if that ribbon is made of a piece of|
fabric pinked with a curved pinker? Notice her drop earrings and snood.
From Dan around town.
If you're looking for designs, ladies' magazines of the era are happy hunting grounds, and some contain directions for making them up, that is, sewing them. Here are a few examples:
|Bodices, some with applied collars. De Gracieuse, Feb. 1870|
Now for embarassment: whence the name collarette? I have lost my citation! When I find it, will amend this post. Ah, documentation fails sometimes. That's why I am calling this a fichu-collar throughout this post.
The fichu-collar often formed a vee-neck, as in the examples above. Why do we not see more vee necks among costumers for bustle dresses? They were probably more common than the perennial costumer favorite, the square open neck, attractive though that is. An open, low neckline was, to my understanding, more an evening thing; during the day one would fill that in! Ribbon bows were very commonly worn with these collars. They finish the effect, of course, and are another 18th century reference, but had been also favorite collar decorations for the past decades, so why give them up?
Sometimes these collars were just called fichus, and might have short tails (as in the Harper's page above), but not really be actual long fichus, although those had existed as well, in lace or net, to be swathed around the lucky wearer, particularly at the end of the 1860s. I refer you to Harper' s Bazar for those, and especially to Frances Grimble's Reconstruction Era Fashions, since she includes scaled patterns for them. By the 1870s, there was so much going on around the skirt, what with the bustle and all, that throwing a fichu into the back ornamentation was too much for even that ueber-decorated period.
Anyhow, as you can see if you squint at the pictures or go look at De Gracieuse or Harper's, Godey's or Peterson's, etc. etc. lace or eyelet embroidery, was a primary feature of these collars. Frequently multiple laces were layered together, sometimes integrated with ribbon. Tulle was another favored material for making them. (By the way, if you're interested in finding full-text magazines, check the Full Text Fashion Magazines page on this blog. When I find new issues of interest, I list them there.)
Here are three from Harper's, March 4, 1871. Here they're all called fichus, even the one on the right that actually mimics a squared dress neckline. Nomenclature, it's so specific when it comes to fashion, isn't it? The first uses puffed tulle and lace, the second lace insertion, Swiss muslin and lace, and the last white pleated tulle and lace.
The Inspiration Fichu-Collar from Der Bazar
Let's dig into the version that made it onto my dress. The basic design comes from Der Bazar, the German magazine from which Harper's obtained a good bit of its content, in the January 9, 1871 issue. Yes, much of my research dates from 1871, or from 1868-1869.
Like many designs, this one comes with instructions on how to make it. My amateurish translation:
"Bodice Trims of Satin Ribbons cut in the form of a heart shaped or with corners, fitting differing clothing"
A four to six centimeter wide black velvet* ribbon, trimmed with a little wider black lace or "Seidenfranze", arranged in many folds as bodice trim, designed, so that it imitates a heart-shaped or cornered shape, and also like bretelles. The figures numbers 26 through 29 show of these trims in four different arrangements,so that they can be worn with several dresses, insomuch that one does not sew it to the bodice, but instead fastens it with small pins.
[Figure number 26 is not translated]
Figure number 27. Black satin ribbon with lace is arranged in a heart-shaped cut. The velvet ribbon is 100 centimeters long, 4 centimeters wide, bordered with black "Lueftrinefutter" and on one of the long sides with 5 centimeters wider, bounded by pleated rows of black lace. In order to achieve the rounding around the neckline, the ribbon is laid into two pleats. The ends of the ribbons are put in a pleat, then sewn together; the joint covered by a velvet bow."
*Sammet is an old term for velvet, not for satin, as I had translated originally. Thank you most kindly, Sabine of Kleidung um 1800, for the correction. Sabine further reports that because the old velvet was smooth and shiny, it could look like satin when drawn.
Whoo. That translation took a while, since it's hard to see the text very clearly, and the language is a wee antiquated. I had to resort to Beolingus, a favorite online dictionary, a good bit. "Seidenfranze" remains impenetrable: it's something silk. "Lueftrinefutter" really got me: it's some sort of airy lining fabric, perhaps? Yeowp.
What did I do? My dress is some sort of broadcloth trimmed with plain weave black cotton, you know, the inexpensive, nay, cheap, type sold around Halloween for $2 a yard.
Given the matte effect of the cotton, and a non-existent budget, I used more of that black cotton instead of black satin ribbon.
I took a two-three inch-ish wide strip of the cotton, cut on the straight, long enough to fit around my neckline plus some extra for ooomph. Remember that the collar is wide, so if it's longer than your neck opening that doesn't matter too much, because the lace hides the dress fabric.
I folded it longways, then turned in each long edge again to hide the raw edges, and starched it stiff as stiff.
|Fold in the long raw edges, and press.|
|Fold the strip in half longways and press again.|
I put the bodice on my mannequin, placed the black cotton strip around the existing collar line, and pinned it there. The doubled edge was to the inside, the clean fold next to the lace, where it might be seen.
Then I tacked the the lace to the cotton strip base, using a combination stitch, with very tiny stitches on the outside, so small they can't easily be seen. As I went, I shaped both the cotton strip and the lace to follow the neckline. At each end the cotton strip is turned under and sewn in place.
|The lace sewn to the cotton strip base.|
|You can see the long side of the stitches holding the slace down.|
The back. The lace is simply tacked on. Mmm, I'd hate the feeling of bits of lace hugging my neck, chafe, chafe, chafe. Bet this is a wide cuff. Well, who knows? The closures are missing. Do you notice how the lace is narrowed in the middle not by trimming it, but just by bringing it further towards the top of the lining? Clever, and it saves the lace in case it's needed again.
The final step? I'd forgotten about pinning the collar to the bodice, but since the existing neckline trim is a band of plain cotton placed just outside the neckline, it was natural to just tack it into place, again, right on the mannequin to assure the best fit.
Now I had a collar, but it didn't join it at the bottom. Instead of sewing the bottom ends permanently at this juncture, and thus be forced to cut my precious lace, I chose to overlap the two pieces, and pin them together with a velvet (alas, not cotton or silk velvet) bow: one pin holds both bow on and collar closed. Lace may have been less expensive in the nineteenth century than in previous centuries, but I treat mine as if it were gold. After all, who knows what life it may lead in the future?
Oh, N.B. The lace inside the collar is just tacked in place, raw. I need to affix the lace to a little band so that I can sew the band instead of the lace. I was careful, but still, that's better practice. I might also make it a little shorter, although you do see some very fluffy inside-the-neckline treatments in some antique photos.
There you are. Here is the fichu-collar, before the bow is pinned to it to close it.
Here it is with the bow added. You can't tell the ends are folded over one another, can you?
Here is the view from the back.
Now you know what these whatsits are, where to find examples and directions, and how you can make them. There are directions galore in the magazines, and my little experiment to work from, too.
So what are you waiting for? Go forth and collar yourself some neckline adornment!