Friday, October 16, 2020

A Yoked Silk Petticoat With Boning and Stiffened Frills, Part 1

Finally, life has a bit of sewing in it again. The energy simply hasn't been there, a common refrain during annus horribilis 2020. Behind the scenes I've been musing over what I've learned and re-researching as necessary, filling the email inbox with a sequence of emails to self, edited and re-edited to obsession, but touching a piece of fabric? Couldn't muster the muscles. Today's sunshine woke me up. It's so lambent with light and warmth and color, this lizard-chilly body finally felt ready to go, so we're off on a petticoat adventure.

The petticoat is designed several goals in mind: to do the support work for the plain, unlined cotton skirt, as was common; to add as little bulk to the waistline as possible; to be adjustable in size.

The wardrobe this project is a small part of is listed at 1890's: Costumes, Research, Documentation.

Design Ingredients

1. The Cut

The cut is all-important, and boy, advice abounds. There's so much of it that an entire post should be added to the Period Methods to Add Skirt Fullness series, but that will have to wait.

At base, I'd like the cut to produce a look close to that from The Delineator's petticoat, with its wonderful back godet fluting.

The Delineator, Jan 1895 pp. 58-59

Elegant, isn't it? However, a copy of the pattern is elusive. Besides, it's 3 1/4 yard circumference. Now, writers have said that this is enough; Emma Hooper said three yards "wide" was enough (see quote below); she emphatically did not mean 9 feet across, but circumference. 

We know from previous posts that the petticoat could be cut just like the final skirt, so I could use the TV 291 1898 Walking Skirt pattern, which I used for my outer skirt. Its back piece is a straight panel gathered to fit, though, and I want a godet look. However, using oodles of fabric to create a godet cut with the pattern isn't an option, nor have I the design chops that Atelier Nostalgia has with redrawing 1890s skirt patterns. 

The pattern I took from An Antique 1890s Black Skirt With Brush Braid In My Collection could work too. It has an interesting back in two pieces, with straight edge on the outer sides, and a bias seam in the middle. However, I wasn't comfortable experimenting with it because I don't know how the back was originally handled at the top, the finishing band having been taken off at some point before I bought it. 

So, enter once again The Illustrierte Frauen-Zeitung, a favorite magazine. The March 10, 1895 issue offers a pattern for a Roehren-falten-Rock, or pipe-fold skirt. Here it is:

Illustrierte Frauen-Zeitung, March 10, 1895, p. 68
Side note: you can clearly see the skirt binding or
brush braid at the skirt bottom.

Illustrierte Frauen-Zeitung, March 10, 1895

Illustrierte Frauen-Zeitung, March 10, 1895

Illustrierte Frauen-Zeitung, March 10, 1895, p. 64

The skirt base comes to just about four yards (the original pattern is in metric). That's perfect. The top has plenty of room for different waist sizes, including mine, and comes with helpful directions. (The translation will sit in a construction post.) I don't even have to grade it! For those of you who might, do see the Sense and Sensibility site's page called How to Resize a Pattern. She covers resizing a gored skirt, or you could use the slash and spread method. Just know that you will affect the circumference of the lower edge of the skirt.

Some of you might be alarmed by all those bias edge to bias edge seams. Yikes! Ripe for fabric stretching and sagging and all kinds of trouble. The 1890s dressmakers had a cure for that. Miss Davis of Elements of Modern Dressmaking, along with others, suggested that each bias seam be held with a cotton tape, after handling the pieces on a flat surface, trying not to stretch them. The skirt in my collection has just that. It's pretty thin cotton, not today's thick twill tape. A little trepidatious, am still going to use the pattern, and trust to bias tape :}

2. Godets Made from Box Plaits (Pleats)

Look at the Delineator picture again. There are those wonderful godet flutes supporting the back of the skirt, and you can clearly see how each flute is rounded right up to the waistband. It's just ducky. However, for maximum skirt support, the magazine suggests that it be made of haircloth. Well, that's a no-go for me, as it's beyond the budget I've set for this project. Still, I can riff off of the godet idea.

"Each back gore is arranged in a box plait, the plaits being narrow at the top and flaring into godet or organ-pipe folds" (The Delineator, Jan 1895 pp. 58-59). Box pleats, or plaits, as I've been calling them because that's the word usually used then, were a primary, but not exclusive way of creating the actual folds that grew to great the lovely undulations at floor level. To shape the increasing width of the folds and to hold them into place, they were "held well to the back by an elastic strap tacked underneath." (ibid.) Naturally, we'll use both of these methods.

There were different plans for how far up or down the strap would be set, and indeed, how many straps would be used. See Skirt Godet Plaits and Interior Ties for more about shaping the folds. By the way, I've learned so much about them since that post that it needs an overhaul.

By back gores, they mean that the back section would be made of multiple wedge-shaped pieces narrow at the top and widening quite a bit at the bottom, each with two edges on the bias -- a version of today's triangular godet. 

3. Yoke and Drawstring

A yoke for a top finish makes sense, too. The wide yoke holds in the abdomen a bit, and the shape is smooth, where a belt can make the fabric below it puff out in the front and sides, something nobody wants. Here's the February 1895 Delineator:

The yoke doesn't have to go all the way around the waist, though, a bonus if you want some good godet flute action as well as size adjustability. Listen to Emma Hooper in Home Dressmaking Made Easy (p. 27):

Make it on a yoke; have it three yards wide, well faced, and then bind with the bias velveteen featherbone binding, which will keep the petticoat comfortably extended; add three bias gathered ruffles, overlapping each other, each five inches wide and the top one with an erect heading; finish the top with a yoke four inches deep; no opening, but a drawstring in the back from the side seams where the yoke ends, the back being faced.

There's a lot packed in there, but for now we're focusing on the yoke:

  • it's 4 inches deep
  • there's no placket opening
  • the fabric in the top back has a facing
  • two tapes, each attached to the side seam, are run through the top of the facing to make a drawstring

Hooray! No placket (the Delineator petticoat calls for one) and no closure. If I need one I can make an opening with folded edges. I've done plackets for Edwardian skirts, and they're nice, but fiddly and I don't see the need in a petticoat.

How to merge the godet plaits with the faced-back on a drawstring? Make three godet plaits in the center, backed with their elastic, then have a small portion of faced fabric in between the godet plaits and the side seam, with two sets of drawstrings. This gives the adjustability that we need. Perhaps a little complicated, but I want this petticoat to last a while.

4. Boning

Boning the petticoat to hold it out was suggested by so many sources in both the Petticoats with Crinoline, Ties, Bones, Wires! post and in Petticoats Redux that I had to do it. There are lots of ways handle the boning, from encasing it into the hem binding (yes, binding petticoat hems was a thing too), to inserting one to five rows near the hem at inch or less intervals. Obviously, the more you use, the stiffer the hold. And the more like a hoopskirt it gets, I deem, but I have not found a wired example still extant, so I can't say.

Because godet skirts could include a bit of boning or wiring, rather than five rows, that's the way we are going.

Researching replacement boning consumed well over a month, and there were multiple points at which the Grail seemed found --Eureka! -- but then I'd find a deal-breaking flaw. The special products invented to do the job have gone the way of the dinosaur. However, I have two options waiting in the wings. One can cost you nothing, the other is taken from another of my hobbies and is an example of the benefit of having multiple interests. I will start with the no-cost option and if it works, we're done. Otherwise, I will invest the cash for option two. 

Lest the wires be too in evidence, frills, ruffles and flounces go over them, so we come to the last ingredient.

5. Specially treated frills

Mrs. Mallon's silk-plus-haircloth godet box-plaited petticoat (see Petticoats with Crinoline, Ties, Bones, Wires!) has been a favorite for its tiered haircloth box-pleated frills.

Petticoat with haircloth box pleating .Ladies Home Journal, July 1895, p.25

Let her describe the petticoat once again:

The newest skirt, however, is the one shown at Illustration No. 2. It is made of white moreen, and is to be worn under cotton, silk, or any light-weight material that will not stand a stiff lining. It is cut by the godet pattern and has as decoration three box-plaitings of the white haircloth, the top one having as a finish a thick silk cord. 


I could use true haircloth from B. Black and Sons or Bias Bespoke, but again, there's the expense. Instead, I've chosen Takach Press stiff tarlatan, a tried and true stiffener much used in the decade for such jobs as giving shape to sleeves.

Next Steps

Next up is drawing out that pattern onto large sheets of old drawing paper.

The petticoat body will be made from a set of silk curtains I made for the living room years ago. Just a bit of the silk started shattering due to getting direct sunlight so they were replaced, but I kept the fabric.

Off we go...

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

1895 Outfit: Period Methods To Add Skirt Fullness: Part 2B: Petticoats Redux

Goodness gracious, the set of posts about 1890s skirt fullness, of which this is another installment, has gone on for nearly a year. It's getting ridiculous. I mean, really, do we need two posts, 2A and now 2B, about petticoats?

Apparently yes. Since publishing 1895 Outfit: Period Methods To Add Skirt Fullness, Part 2, Petticoats with Crinoline, Ties, Bones, Wires!, I have been bothered by questions about petticoat hem circumference and how it could make my skirt look fluffy or flat, and until recently, I hadn't found this:

Petticoat pattern with front and back views...and circumference! 
The Delineator, March 1895, p. 337

Still outstanding too were questions about appropriate petticoat fabrics that I can actually obtain today. Also, I wanted to know more about constructing those so-tempting petticoats loaded with one or more hoops of boning or wire at the bottom. Fashion writers were careful not to utter the word "hoopskirt" or "crinoline", and I daresay they were smart not to do so. Less than a decade previously you might carry a half-grown kitten on your bustled derriere and not know it. I don't think women were really ready for a full-on return of wires in their underthings.

What? There's a kitty getting a ride? Where?
And no, this is clearly not an 1890s outfit,
but a first, unfinished experiment in the 1870s.
Darling kitten courtesy
Leijurv - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, 

Wait, really? A kitty riding on top of your bustle? I imagined that image, but decided to look it up, because that's what we do these days when we're homebound, and it happened, sort about Feline Dress Improvers: The Victorian Fashion in Bustle Baskets for Cats on Mimi Matthews' site. It's too funny!

Back to mid-1890s petticoats. Back I went into available literature and pictures of extant petticoats. Therefore, in this post we look at two period petticoat patterns for hem circumference and design information, then mine 1895 newspaper articles for more ideas on how to make petticoats stand out. In between we talk fabrics. Then let's be done; I just want to make the petticoats already!

Two 1895 Petticoat Patterns Address the Problem of Flaring the Skirt Bottom

Petticoat circumference issues have been driving me nuts. We know that heavy linings and interlinings, wires, bones up the seams, and cording held out heavy skirts, making them quite heavy. Just look at this dress from Live Auctioneers.

Front of 1890s brocade skirt and-petticoat, from Liveauctioneers

Side view. Such back amplitude!

The petticoat, from what appears to be a side-back angle. 
Notice that it's cut more narrowly.

Such a heavy skirt did not need petticoats that were roughly the skirt circumference to hold them out. So we don't read oodles and oodles about exactly what petticoat hem circumferences should be. I did find a mention in the Evening Star (July 13, 1895, p. 15), saying "The petticoat should be only moderately full, two yards and a half is ample width for a medium-size woman, and three yards and a half of embroidery, a big allowance for a ruffle, no matter how wide."

Other writers appear to say something quite different. Here is the Ladies Home Journal writer Isobel Mallon's advice:

Except for a greater fullness the petticoats are cut almost exactly like the dress skirt. Lawn or cambric is used for them, although when thin white dresses are worn petticoats of dotted muslin are chosen, and being light tend to make the whole costume very cool and pleasant. The skirt of lawn with three ruffles, having upon them a group of tucks on each side of the lace insertion, and then below that a lace edge, is one that can endure much soap and water, and, not being over-trimmed, is good form. The fancy for setting lace in the skirt itself no longer obtains, and if anything, the trimming, which is all put on by hand, is simpler than ever before. A ribbon belt is usually drawn through a casing at the top, so that one may have one's skirt belt as loose or as tight as may be agreeable, and then, too, the doing away with the old close belt, to which the skirt was gathered, makes it much easier to iron the petticoat itself. ("Dainty Styles in Lingerie", by Isobel Mallon, Ladies Home Journal, August, 1894, p. 23.)

I simply don't understand the "except for a greater fullness" part. Should I pull out my skirt pattern
(TV 291), and cut it a bit fuller to make a petticoat, or are parts of the bottom cut fuller? What are my design options? 

Well, I finally have located two petticoat patterns with circumference information, and two different ways of handling a fullness, especially on the all-important backside.

Here's the first pattern, dating to January, 1895. Do you see the pencil marking 3 1/4 yards? Whomever owned this Delineator issue was concerned about petticoat circumference too, for that's the actual circumference of the petticoat. It's actually not a super-flaring petticoat.

The Delineator, Jan 1895 pp. 58-59

First part of the description
The Delineator, Jan 1895, text pp. 58-59

Second part of the description
The Delineator, Jan 1895, text pp. 58-59

This godet plait design isn't going to work for Isobel Mallon's recommended summer petticoats of lawn or muslin or dotted muslin. None of those thin, soft fabrics will hold an organ pleat. The pattern description recommends moreen (more on which later) or silk. The moreen has good body and the silk some body.

The design would work well if, as the pattern description suggests, the seamstress made it of haircloth. Then it could stand in for a petticoat, and an outer petticoat could be put over it, as haircloth isn't exactly prepossessing. Then it could stand in for the support that the outer skirt lacks. We read about haircloth a good bit in previous posts. Now that we can see a pattern of a petticoat that uses it, it makes a great deal of sense. However, you can also intuitively that such a petticoat would be warm to wear in the summertime, especially in humidity.

What of petticoat pattern option two? This one is a little more flared at bottom, at 3 1/2 yards in circumference. While it is designed to be made of taffeta, and would be very pretty indeed with its pinked ruffles, this one can be made in muslin or lawn, just as Isobel Mallon recommends for summer wear, if a little starch was applied to the ruffles. Remember from the last petticoat post that lots of starch was frowned upon.) In very thin fabrics the bunching of the gathers would not create a large foot flare, even if multiple were worn, but as the pattern description claims, in a taffeta it would offer some fullness and flare. Silk is hot to wear in the summer, though; be advised!

The Delineator, Mar 1895, p.337

The Delineator, Mar 1895, p.336

If I were to use this pattern in lawn for enough petticoat-ery to add real flare, I'd need two or three! Speaking of flare...

Aside: New Information About Skirt Fullness and Flare In Unlined Skirts

How much skirt flare do I want? I've recently discovered that some people felt that a flaring silhouette in a plain cotton "wash" dress, like the one I have made, wasn't good form, and that some illustrated summer dresses are narrow indeed, while there's a lovely extant with what looks like plenty of flare. I've edited the Period Methods to Add Skirt Fullness, Part 1: Fullness and Flare post with the new information.

Newspaper Evidence: More Ideas for Designing a Petticoat That Stands Out

Last go-round I dug around in women's magazines, but left the newspapers alone. I shouldn't have. The then-called women's pages (!) tended to cover all things fashion, as well as housekeeping and society doings. There is actually a good deal of petticoat talk, stashed among the doings of society women and beauty secrets and calisthenics, and advertisements for Dr. Price's Cream Baking Powder.

Let's see, we have illustrated I like that. We'll skip the "Dress for Elderly
Ladies", for they'd assign me to that category without comment. There's "A Pen Picture of Rome" from a correspondent, a whipcord suit, and, bingo! a bit about a short lawn petticoat. Where this is, there's more.
Kansas City Daily Journal. June 09, 1895, Page 10

I've gathered for you a nice collection of newspaper clippings from January through October, 1895, the rough period at which attention to skirt flare was at its height...or width. There are tons of them, and it's common to see the same article and photos syndicated in multiple newspapers, while content from other magazines and newspapers is quoted or referenced in the texts.

Springy Alpaca Petticoats Are Compelled to Stand Out...and So Are Their Corded Ruffles

The Salt Lake Herald reported that for warmer weather, alpaca "skirting" fabric had a stiffness that made it stand out to hold "expansive dress skirts".

The Salt Lake Herald, May 24,1895, p. 5

Alpaca fabric that I know has lots of amazing drape but no stiffness, so this must have had some sort of treatment added to it. Perhaps it was a bit felted. Alpaca is hard to felt because the hairs lack the rough edges that wool has, but it can be done. Today, I don't believe we have this sort of fabric. On to the next article.

Hidden in the text is another excellent fluff-making trick: "The ruffles, which for a portion of the decoration of every petticoat, are usually more or less corded". Corded ruffles! Why yes, those will stick out nicely. File that one in your memory.

Petticoats Made Stiff With Embroidery

The Evening Star reported in June that petticoats can be stiffened with large amounts of embroidery.

Evening Star, July 13, 1895, p. 15

A few embroidered petticoats are in museum collections, so we have independent confirmation of their existence. It could be possible to use machine embroidery to embellish a truly gorgeous petticoat, but this would be a massive project. Sewstine has videos about the process, and it's time-consuming. You might also think about using one of the new embroidered home décor fabrics; not all of them are heavy; but it might be tricky to get the right sort of design.

The article talks at length of how ornate petticoats tend to be, with lace, ruffles, flounces, embroidery, and ribbons, especially in comparison to dress skirts themselves, which in this year frequently were entirely plain.

Pragmatic: Removable Flounces Make One Petticoat Good For Two Purposes

One could make a single petticoat do double duty. Use it plain for a daytime or work dress outfit, and button a pretty muslin and lace flounce to add fullness and luxe to afternoon or evening dress, which generally have more amplitude. This makes really good sense for costumers, as so many of us do not have the wherewithal in time or finances to accumulate too many petticoats.

The Norfolk Virginian, May 26, 1895, p. 13

Petticoats Themselves Stiffened Partway Up

Here's another useful tidbit. Why not stiffen the underneath of your silk or alpaca petticoat? Well, why not? "(L)iberally trimmed", as The Stark County Democrat has it, no one is going to notice. The flounce will hide the business part. Hair cloth would be a period lining, with strong interfacing a modern interpretation, and of course wires or cords would be natural features. 

The Stark County Democrat, July 18, 1895, Part Two, p. 9

The Ballet Skirt

Quinn, if you happen to read this post, the next clipping is for you. It tells women about the fashion for especially "fussy" frilly petticoats that they can create to make a divided skirt for dancing.

Evening Dispatch, June 3,1895

Newspaper Articles That Confirm What We Learned Last Fall

Then there were articles that quoted magazine articles we already learned about in the petticoat post last fall, or that talked about methods for distending skirts that magazines also covered.

Brocaded Silk Petticoats With Generous Flounce, Featherbone Hidden Beneath -- and Perfumed

The Louisiana Democrat article about ornate petticoats was lots of fun. It reminds me of Quinn's gorgeous 1890s petticoat with loads of lace.

Louisiana Democrat, with content pulled from
The Chicago Tribune

These petticoats are cut with the godet plaits, here called organ pleats, so common in dress skirts. Then there is the boning: "frequently a featherbone inserted around the hem". The word "feather" indicating that this is the lightest of boning. It would have to be really light indeed to allow it to bend into organ pleats. Here then is another mention of the helping hoop, if you can call it that, that Isobel Mallon et al spoke of! More confirmation that this is a thing, a fashion movement, if not ubiquitous.

Why, here featherbone is mentioned again, in the Evening Star article quoted above, "To make these skirts yet stiffer, white featherbone is stitched, three or four rows, into the hem under the narrow ruffle. It launders well." By the narrow ruffle is meant "a great many [petticoats] are made with a very full narrow ruffle of embroidery at the foot...." (Evening Star July 13, 1895, p. 15)

It makes me want to try, along with a pliant wire, highly flexible, soft Rigilene from somewhere such as Joann's. Would that be bendy enough but still have enough oomph to hold the skirt above it? Really, this is very much worth exploring.

I would think that the boning the write discusses would be hidden by a flounce or ruffling, especially because all of the examples mention them, but it bothers me that the article doesn't say it explicitly.

Oh, and about that "Spanish flounce" in the article: Home Dressmaking Made Easy (1896, p.59), defines the Spanish flounce as "A flounce extending fully half the depth of the skirt, gathered usually to form an erect ruffle." 

Another note: if you use ribbons in your petticoat, threading them through lace or eyelet is not your only option. Make rosettes of it, and to cap things off, set tiny perfumed sachets in them. This last is outre, you think?

Remember this Met petticoat? 
Look carefully, it has the rosettes the article talks about.
Metropolitan Museum of Art,

The Moreen Petticoat With Hair-Cloth Frillings, Again

The Salt Lake Journal draws on Isobel Mallon's Ladies Home Journal advice that we read of in the last post about petticoats. However, this article highlights several bits of important information:

Moreen is used for one of my favorite summer petticoat designs, the LHJ model, the one with the triple haircloth box-pleated frills, in the picture below. Moreen at the turn of the 20th century turns out to be a midweight or heavy wool or wool-cotton fabric, usually ribbed, that's treated with heat and moisture to give it a watered silk effect. (This makes sense to me: when pressed under heat, wool will take on a sheen, and the tendency to felt will be controlled by the cotton content.)

Moreen is pretty, something that neither the Salt Lake Journal nor the LHJ picture show, so the petticoat wouldn't look plain at all, the wool and cotton don't have to be terribly hot, and it's a lot less hot and scratchy than a petticoat entirely made of haircloth.

Petticoat with haircloth box pleatings. 
Ladies Home Journal, July 1895, p.25

Alas, when real moreen is available at all, it seems to be a heavy type, sold expensively for upholstery, and finding enough of it vintage would be a real coup. Still, it's clear that the petticoat with the box-pleated haircloth is made of a thickish material, that already has some body. A cotton faille, which is ribbed, might work, a woven pique, or even a cotton ticking. Too thin a fabric and those pretty hair-cloth box pleats would have a hard time doing much.

I wouldn't recommend using synthetic moire fabric to imitate the moreen. It's going to be hot as blazes, unless your summers are usually cool.

The article also rather makes me feel better about my limited petticoat budget. Elaborate petticoats were always expensive, and we knew that. Still, it's nice to be told again that our plain costumer's petticoats are perfectly fine, and that confections still come at a price.

Finally, if you were interested in a short petticoat instead of a long one under your skirt, go ahead, costumer, here's how right in the article, below.

The Salt Lake Herald, June 9, 1895, p. 5
If you look carefully, you can see that the newspaper has adapted
the LHJ drawing f

The Salt Lake Herald, June 9, 1895, p. 5
The above image goes with the article above.

Have you had enough of petticoats for one sitting? I confess that I am worn out by all the options and constant mulling, figuring, and refiguring out how I want to adapt them for one or two of my own 1890s petticoats. That's what is supposed to be the topic of the next post, I took everything I learned and put together my own interpretations. 

You never know, though. This blog is full of side trips. I have a half written post showing two 1880s wire bustles from my collection in fine detail and with measurements.

In Other News

This year is an Annus Horribilis for our world. For a minute or two I thought I could broach a discussion of local events and how they are related to what is happening across the planet. I can't. Not now. All I can do is wish you all health and safety and secure work, and hope.

Monday, August 31, 2020

A Real, Extant, mid-1890s Crush Collar

Etsy, oh Etsy, what a treasure box you are. A Pandora's box, too, on occasion, but definitely a treasure box. Sometimes I do extant costume research by searching through the listings, and sometimes extant pieces turn up unexpectedly. A crush collar did turn up recently, and boy, was I pleased to see it. 

Here it is.

Crush collar, extant
Extant crush collar, from SirenCall on Etsy.

Last fall -- last fall! Has it been that long? -- I made a crush collar with one of those super-popular neck bows, following the instructions from a number of women's magazines. It turned out decently, given the plain cotton voile from which it was made.

My own crush collar, made last fall

However, I found the front closure a little heavy-looking. Examining the photo I made while wearing it, part of the issue is that it needs more hooks and eyes, it might be a trifle wide, and it was cut from a straight piece of fabric, not from a curved piece, which would hug the neck better.

I'd like to make another collar at some point, this time with rosettes, rather like the extant collar, and cut like it, too. In the meantime, let's learn what we can about the nature and construction of the extant collar.

Anatomy of a Collar

The collar, says its Etsy listing, is 14 inches long. Its width varies from 2 inches high at the ends to 2 1/4 inches at the center. We don't know how the width is measured: is it based on the width of the backing, or the slightly variable width of the fashion fabric, which has been puffed into a crushed look on the front? I don't know if the 1/4" change is really visible at all.

I made a pattern based on the measurements from a scrap of paper, but without adding a curve to the cut, and tried it on. The extant collar would be about half an inch too small. However, it has a pleasing width. I compared it to a collar from July 15, 1894 issue of Illustrierte Frauen-Zeitung (p.159), which I featured in About Interchangeable Trims, and Especially Collars. The extant collar is a little narrower than that one.

Here is the paper version of the extant collar.

A paper version of the extant collar. Oh, knit those brows...

In the mid-1890s, a collar like this one often featured the rosettes to either side of the neck, although there is a small chance that the rosettes were worn front and back. Here are several examples of collars with trims to the side: they were quite the thing in the middle of the decade.

Demorest's Mirror of Fashions, May 1895

Demorest's Mirror of Fashions, July 1895, p. 543

The young lady in pink to the far left wears a collar with rosettes to the left. Also note the lady at center, with bi-colored very fluffy rosettes all around her neck.

I wanted to see if I could determine if this collar would be worn with the rosettes to the side. I set up a Google slide, and inserted the Etsy photo of the collar from the back. Knowing the collar was two inches across, I drew a line from top to bottom of the collar. Then I copied the line, which became a sort of 2" long ruler, rotated it until it was parallel to the ends of the collar, and set a copy next to the little pile of wide stitching at the end of the collar, and then again twice from the collar's right end to the little pile of wide stitches marking the other rosette.

Finally, I transferred the markings to my paper collar, and tried it on. Well, given that the collar is a bit small, it's still a bit hard to tell, but the rosette positioning does seem to work better when they are set to either side of the neck. The collar would be much easier to attach and detach that way, anyhow.

Let's look at  several more pictures.

Here is a rosette. It's rather smashed down, and I believe it would have been fluffier,
if not as rounded as in some of the illustrations.

Here is the left end of the collar. The end of the hook has been nicely hidden beneath
the edge of the lining, which is made of what looks like a silk rep, cut on the bias. Bias cutting
will result in a more clinging fit. That little pile of wide stitches? That's where one of the rosettes is tacked on.

The entire back of the collar. As with the hooks, the ends of the eyes are hidden
behind the lining. You can see the wide stitches to the right of center, marking the position of
the second rosette. Notice that the fashion fabric is overhand-stitched to the lining in rather large,
spaced stitches.

A detail of the front fashion fabric. It appears to be silk in a loose weave and perhaps with not too tightly twisted individual threads, hence the high shine. It is cut on the bias, and appears to have a bit 
of a crepe-like texture, that has flattened over time in some areas.

The end rosette. Again, I think it was a little fuller when first made. Look at how wide and
slightly random the folds in the fabric are that create the "crush" look, and how we 
cannot see where the tacking stitches are.

I find this last image very, very interesting, when taken in combination with the view of the lining. The lining doesn't show any tacking stitches from the folds of the fashion fabric. I suspect, then, that the construction is as follows. The fashion fabric piece, a very wide rectangle cut on the bias, was laid on a table, front side down. The worker pinched lush folds, some of them on an angle, and made tacking stitches where the folds joined up. She may have had the pattern template or the lining nearby so she could get the dimensions correct -- remember that the pattern itself is curved, not a straight band. She may have doubled the fabric into a tube, or just turned the edges of the sides and ends inward. Once the folds were in place, she overhanded the piece to the lining, which had already been finished and the hooks and eyes attached to it. She may have very lightly pressed the front so that the folds weren't overly puffy, but not flattened. She then attached the rosettes she had made. Voila - collar.

Today I leave you with a little silliness to brighten up a pandemic-beleaguered world. Our table in the den has a tail...

Nutmeg kitty thought she was well hidden.

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

1895 Outfit: Period Methods To Add Skirt Fullness, Part 5, Steels, Rattan, Candlewicking, and Dust Ruffles

Edited September 29, 2020

At this point in the article series, it's very apparent that designers and dressmakers, and ordinary women came up with all kinds of ways to achieve the sartorial -- skirtorial? -- ideal of plenty of base amplitude and an undulating, lush skirt back, while retaining a smooth waist and front. 

Here is what we have covered so far. 
If you thought that surely we'd have covered all the bases, guess again: there is yet more. Some of the these last methods to widen the bottom of the skirt were, I am thinking, for the most determined of fashion followers. Most of the methods involved additions to the exterior skirt, not a petticoat.

Using "Steels" Around the Bottom of Outer Skirts

The first mention I have read of the use of steel in outer skirts appears in Demorest's Family Magazine for December 1894, (p. 121).
"Some skirts have a narrow and very flexible steel sewed all around the bottom; but better than this to secure slight stiffness is a thick cord of candle-wicking covered with velvet or satin to harmonize with the gown. This is seen on many gowns, and is a popular finish this winter."

By "very flexible" I the author meant that the steel would have been more pliable than that used for crinolines, bustles, and corset and bodice boning in previous decades. Why do I know? Because I found some.

The reel says the Featherbone Skirtbone is made from quills. What do they mean? Porcupine quills? Don't know. I will have to look it up somehow.

Warren's Featherbone, from Annie's Antiques on

View of the Warren's Featherbone Skirtbone itself. It's wrapped in thread.

Just because it's wound on a reel doesn't mean it's terribly flexible, but I imagine it is, because of its name.

Skirt boning came also as wire, and it was called such. It was not likely crinoline steel covered with a layer of braided cotton that was used in an antique bustle in my collection. It bends, but would definitely not undulate at the bottom of a skirt.

Three rows of bustle steel wire, which is flat, covered in braided cotton, 
from a bustle in my antique clothing collection.

You might want to know that this thread-covered steel, which is about 3/16" in width, is still available in a similar form to that used in the 19th century. It's used for making tutus, and is very expensive for amounts needed for a bustle or crinoline. Check Farthingale's for what they call "crin steel". 

In May, Mrs. Hooper, in The Ladies Home Journal, remarked again upon using steel bands to hold out the outer skirts (p. 24):

Well, what about that? A "tiny band of flexible steel covered with webbing". Might this be a flexible wire covered with a flat tape? Cotton and linen tapes -- the wider ones -- are sometimes known as webbing, in my anecdotal experience.

Fellow costumers, this sort of thing is eminently doable, with some experimentation. A jewelry wire with memory, either one or several rows, might be wound in and out of a tape and applied to the skirt as Mrs. Hooper directs. Or perhaps the soft type of rigilene would work.

Now, to our Demorest's Magazine writer, the "humps and bumps" despiser of interlinings is not much pleased with wires, either:

Demorest's Magazine, May 1895, p. 420.
She goes on:

Demorest's Magazine, May 1895, p. 420.
So, sensible sisters, if you do not want interlinings and want stiff amplitude, it's heavy brocades and tweeds and cotton ducks for you!

Steels Up the Skirt Sides

In the March 1895 issue of The Ladies Home Journal, "The Gowns of Spring" article on p. 10. has quite a bit to say about steels used in the outer skirts, but the steels are going perpendicular.
"The godet skirt will remain in vogue, and the fashionable modistes are inserting steels that reach up almost to the knee, setting them in the seams lengthwise to cause it to flare."

Oh, my goodness. Bodice-style bones in the skirts. That is what Mrs. Mallon is saying, isn't it? "[L]engthwise in a seam" means following the seam..."up almost to the knee". The seams are vertical, and Mrs. Mallon knows the difference between a skirt hem and the seams between skirt panels. Am I reading this incorrectly? 

Isobel Mallon describes an indoor dress that employs the steels:

"An extremely pretty dress, intended for wear in the house, and which has a bodice differing from its skirt, is shown in Illustration No. 2. The skirt is light-weight summer silk, the background being pale green, while sprays of wild roses and their deep green foliage are scattered upon it here and there. The skirt is lined and steeled so that it has the usual fashionable flare, and its only trimming is that which is arranged at each of the two side seams. This consists of to straps of three-inch green velvet ribbon which start at the edge of each side of the seam, are brought up almost to the knees, where the two ends meet in a long looped bow."

The Ladies Home Journal, March 1895, p. 19

Interesting...the velvet would cover the seams where the steels might most be noticed.

If you're brave, why not try it? I might just. I have a box of narrow antique steel bones, very light and probably for boning bodices. What if I set a few into the seams of my 1890s skirt and see what happens? It's not like it's difficult to do. 

Using Candlewicking On Outer Skirts As Part of the Trim or Hem Binding

Now this I find very interesting. It reminds me of cording petticoats in the 1830s and 1840s. We know that helps them to stand out.

Demorest's wrote about using candlewicking to stiffen skirts repeatedly. This was probably because the writer  -- whose name I cannot locate in the issues -- preferred more moderate styles that would assuredly not stand out around the bottom in the way a wired skirt would. 

Demorest's December 1894, p. 121, recommended a thick cord of candlewicking covered in velvet or satin to go with the skirt, just a few paragraphs after deriding the humps and bumps of interlining.

In this usage, the covered candlewicking cord becomes part of the gown's trim on the skirt exterior, while also helping to hold out the skirt. Remember that she specifies thick cord.

Skirt trim for which one might employ candlewicking covered with velvet.
Mildred has found her companion, Grace, missing in the serialized novel "Our Working Sisters". Demorest's, May 1895, p. 397.
March 1895 Demorest's, p. 299: tells how to lay the candlewicking when it's used as part of the binding at the bottom of the skirt:
"Bright, changeable taffetas are the first choice for linings; thus a mixed cheviot of black, white, and green is lined with green-and-rose taffeta...the fashion is not so extravagant as formerly. The binding should be of velveteen, and it is better to buy the piece goods and cut it at least two inches wide on the bias. It may form a cord on the bottom, filled with candlewicking, -- a much more pliable and graceful "stiffener" than rattans or wires, -- and should always be left to show like a piping below the gown fabric; otherwise it affords no protection."

If I understand correctly, when the binding is applied, the cord is at the inside-bottom of the binding, and looks like a piping brushing the floor.

What can we use for candlewicking today? If it's the same thing, the cotton candle wick material used in traditional candlewicking embroidery, is still available but it looks quite thin, like a string. Mmm, probably not what we want. Actual candle wick bought by the roll comes in several thicknesses. It might be worth exploring. What about cotton piping cord? That could also work. It comes in different sizes and will produce an undulating line. Even the Sugar 'n Cream yarn might do, although one would want several rows.

Boy, I really like this idea. Applying the cord either as part of hem binding or as trim might be a doable skirt amplification method that would result in pleasant curves and organ pleats and folds.

Silk Stiffening Trim

Heavy silk cording was an alternative to candlewicking, and it was placed on the outside bottom of the skirt, just above the hem edge. It was recommended as a way to help hold the godet plaits. This would have formed a rather dressy trim, too. Without actually knowing by testing it, I would suspect that the cording would want to run in large waves, not into flat pleats, and would thus help hold the deeply undulating effect created by the godet plaits. Mrs. Hooper, in her advice column, wrote in March, 1895 (Ladies Home Journal, p. 35):

Because she wrote "It is thought to keep the godet plaits in shape", I suspect that she hadn't tested the method, either. 

Think about how wide a 1 1/4" diameter cord is: wow -- that's big.

Rattan Instead of Steels Around the Skirt

I have only found rattan used to hold out skirts in one place, in the quote about candlewicking above. To repeat part of it (March 1895 Demorest's, p. 299): "It may form a cord on the bottom, filled with candlewicking, -- a much more pliable and graceful "stiffener" than rattans or wires". Was the Demorest's writer joking, or was rattan, that is, cane, an option? Gracious! Very thin-split cane is plenty flexible, but also readily breakable. As costumers, we would find this an inexpensive option, but it would have to be replaced early and often. 

A Balayeuse or Dust Ruffle, Fixed Inside the Outer Skirt

Here is an interior skirt ruffle, illustrated in the Frauenzeitung, 1 Feb 1895, p 35. The illustration shows the outer skirt inside out, with the ruffle attached around the skirt base. 

The ruffle had several purposes. It helped to hold the skirt a bit away from the feet. It
was also used to help keep the inner edge of the skirt clean. The Art of Dressmaking (1895), described its use and making in detail on p. 32:

"The balayeuse or dust ruffle is not considered absolutely necessary to the finish of a skirt, although it gives a pretty effect. It is made of taffeta or skirting silk, and is cut bias from five to eight inches wide. Both edges are then pinked, or they may be hemmed and a lace edge added. The latter is preferable as the pinking frays easily. Gather the ruffle, leave a little heading, and sew to the inside of the skirt even with the lower edge. Be careful when sewing not to catch through to the outside [of the skirt]."

Here is what The Young Ladies' Journal wrote in 1895 (I have lost the date):

"A silk frill or double ruche, of the same colour as the material, is a great improvement. This should be about 4½ to 5 inches wide and is sewn to the lining so that the edge lies just above the edge of the skirt."

I like the idea of a skirt ruffle, as adding a bit of swish to the skirt, and as a a barrier to getting the skirt involved with the shoes and the legs.

That's All For Skirt Stiffeners

Here we come to the end of our very long discussion of mid-1890s skirt stiffeners. I've found the process illuminating. I've not addressed it here, that I remember, anyhow, but musing about the language used in the magazines and books was as interesting as the directions and descriptions given. "Regulation" skirt silhouette, "sensible", "humps and bumps". Even the shift, in some magazines, from sharply rendered engravings to more watercolor-like, painterly illustrations. The manners, mores, and interests of the time jump out and live for me.

What's Next?

Well, the pandemic continues to spread, and here in the United States is reaching its tentacles ever deeper into our society. I am so covered up in to-dos and keeping the twins engaged over the summer that sewing would simply not happen unless I took time away from the more important things. Plus, by the time I've any leisure for myself alone, rather than family-oriented leisure, I'm too pooped to do anything but read. 

This summer, late 1860s and early 1870s Peterson's magazines have caught my fancy. Reading the sometimes sappy, often formulaic, sometimes original and really interesting stories, and the advice within them, and examining the plates and illustrations, has taken my mind far, far away. When I return, refreshed, there's a lot to muse about. I recognize how different the lives and mores and beliefs of the writers and target readers could be from ours -- and I could detail the race, class, and gender influences at length. What's stronger, though, is the pervasive sense in the magazine that time is short, life is always attended with times of weariness and sadness, even despair, and health and security are never assured and always at risk of fleeing. The responses, besides wearing layers of clothing and spending a good share of time nursing loved ones, are thrift, attending to responsibilities, reams of patience, and clinging to faith. All of this is pertinent at any time, but poignant right now.