Friday, August 09, 2019

1895 Outfit: Planning a Puffier Shirtwaist

The first shirtwaist iteration? Well it lacked moxie, I thought. The front was blah, even if the sleeves had potential. So I spent a while looking at original specimens and at fashion pages and advertisements to see how I could add interest to the garment.

Seems as if I can't do anything without involving research...

Finding a Model

Because I'd like the option to dress up the shirtwaist with a "gathered blouse front", in the form of an add-on wide plastron, making a shirt front that's already rounded seemed to be the way to go.

Also, I wanted to wear something rather softer than the trim, masculine, sporting look or the officey look popular then. Here's a perfect example: man's turn-down collar, obvious buttons in front.

Shirt(waist), c 1894. Stanley, United States. Cotton. The Museum at FIT - Online Collections
FIT shirtwaist, circa 1894. From Adasha Moore, Pinterest.
In other words...

Eek, an Office Blouse!

I remember wearing blouses a bit like that tidy example above, with some nausea, from late 1980s-early 1990s daily to the office. Ugh! Those blouses. Either a bit of tight stand collar or a man's turn-down collar. Button-front sometimes, often a frill to each side or pleats, or buttoning in the back, which was a royal pain to get into. Tight sleeves, with earlier a wee puff at the top and later shoulder pads. Often partly dead-dino in fiber, or all cotton and needing careful ironing. Long sleeves, tight cuffs.

You tried to tuck the blouse carefully into your hose*, which would hold the blouse in place better than the waistband of your skirt would. If you reached for something on a shelf, or down into a file drawer, ten to one your blouse would untuck, and you'd have to quick-like-a-bunny tuck it in again before anyone noticed how blowsy you looked. By the end of the day the blouse bottom would be all creased and sometimes dirtied from hands which had been handling paper with carbon that came off, or pencil that rubbed off, or ink get the idea.

*In New York hose were called stockings, and in Atlanta, stockings were called hose. As a child in Germany, I wore "Strumpfhosen": woolen red or navy hose, with braided patterns. They were cute.

Here's a sample style from about 1989. Oh boy. The models are even looking at an office folder just so you know it's office wear, and the lady on the right has her office jacket over her shoulder.

image 0
Londas Elegant Creations - Basic Heirloom Options Blouse - #8902 -
Vintage - circa 1989. On Etsy.
Sometimes we wore a brooch with these blouses for an overt Neo-Victorian image. Often we wore a matching jacket and high-waisted skirt in tropical-weight wool** to make a sharp-lined suit. I worked in New York city and then Atlanta in those days. In NYC both collar and cuffs would be smirched with soot that rained down from buildings' incinerators, clung to our skin, and then was smeared onto whatever we wore as we perspired. Pretty much the same as a century earlier, to which the office fashions harkened, recalling, whether intentionally or not, women's general entrance into the office workforce. Hotlanta was cleaner, but then for most of the year you judged carefully how quickly to move when outdoors, so as to minimize perspiration.

**Suits in various dead dino fabrics didn't breathe and tended to pill. I flat hated wearing those mobile saunas.

Here's a photo from the early 1990s, right before I abandoned blouses for cotton turtlenecks, another style phase. The tight blouse -- gee, I think it's a blouse -- is barely visible under the padded jacket. Do I remember feeling the collar every time I swallowed.

My sister and I, big hair, big earrings,
 hose and all...
Makes me wonder: why in all that's good am I finding these 1890s blouses acceptable, if I dreaded the 1980s and 1990s versions?

It must be the sleeves. It's 2019, after all, and sleeves have been a fashion focus for a year or two, and it's the year the 1830s became really fashionable in costuming, and the folks in New Zealand, Miss Temby and The Dreamstress among them, are making their turn-of-the-century fashions.

Back to Finding a Model

Where were we -- yes, looking for a better mousetrap of a shirtwaist design.

The young lady in the lower left corner of this selection of ready-to-wear shirtwaists struck me as wearing a specially nice one, at once simple and decorative.

Jordan, Marsh and Cmpany shirtwaists. From "Gibson Girl Era Clothing | 1890s-1900s Fashion"

The Met has a handsome example, part of an office suit. The only thing I am not fond of is the loose waist. Gathering all of that loose fabric in neatly, and keeping it tucked would have been a problem then, as it was for me just decades ago.

Blouse from suit, 1892, Metropolitan Museum of Art; C.I.53.72.9a–c.

Some examples use pleating at bottom front to confine the extra fabric. Here's one, from All the Pretty Dresses. This one has a tight lining, as some shirtwaists did, blurring the line between traditional bodice and blouse. Notice how the bottom is finished, in front and in back. Just stitching, no applied band to cover the stitching.

Example of mid-1890s lined bodice, from "So cool! Same fabric, different shaped bodices from the 1890's", in All the Pretty Dresses, 02/28/2012.
Back of same garment.
Those sleeves are epic, aren't they?

Aha: A Model With a Pattern

Also epic, another shirtwaist example, from my new favorite 1890s fashion magazine, the Illustrierte Frauenzeitung, published by Bruckmann in Berlin and Vienna. The neckline is smocked.

Illustrierte Frauenzeitung 1894, Heft 14, p.159 Bluse
The pattern, shown below, is interesting. You cut the shirtwaist body in one piece, marked "a", by placing the center front on the fold (the vertical dotted lines at the left of the top pattern piece). The pattern gives the fabric width as about 20 inches, so the body piece would be laid down the lengthwise grain, which we would find rather unusual. The armscyes would be cut out. The blouse would close in back.

Note that the front piece at the side is fitted to the waist, hence the acute angle. Both front and back would be gathered/pleated -- that's why they are so wide. The sleeve piece, marked "b" will make a very wide sleeve, but one without much of a pouf at the top.

Illustrierte Frauenzeitung 1894, Heft 14, p.159 Bluse

The text in German:
Eingereihte Bluse. -- Schnitt-Methode: Abbildung 19. Stoff: 4,50 meter, 52 cm breit. -- The jugendlichste, besonders fuer schlanke Gestalten kleidsamste Blusenform bleibt immer die eingereihte, aus nur einem Oberstoff-Theile bestehende Form, wie sie der 12 cm Breite schliest den Halsauschnitt, ein 20 cm breiter Guertelstreifen den Taillenschluss ab. b von Abbildung 19 lehrt das Zuschneiden des reichgerafften halblangen Aermels, der leichtes, enges Futter verlangt. Der obere Rand wird eingereiht, der untere, Stern auf Stern treffend, zusammengenommen und der Zipfel Doppelpunkt aus Doppelpunkt in de Hoehe geschoben. Einzelne Stiche unterstuetzen hin und wieder die graziose Raffung. Fig. 3 des dieser Nummer beiliegenden Moden-Panoramas zeigt die Ruckansicht der Bluse. Schleifenschmuck.
My translation:
Lined blouse. -- Cutting method: Figure 19. Fabric: 4.50 meters, 52 cm wide. -- The most youthful dressy blouse shape, especially for slender builds, remains always the lined blouse, consisting of only one fashion fabric piece, as the 12 cm width completes the neckline, a 20 cm wide belt band completes the waist closure. [Drawing] "b" in Figure 19 shows the cutting of the plentifully gathered elbow-length sleeves, which require a lightweight, tight lining. The upper edge is to be lined up, on the lower [edge], draw up star to star [marking] together, and push up the colon marking to colon marking. A few stitches here and there support the graceful gathering [of the sleeves]. Figure 3 in this issue's enclosed fashion panorama [color plate] shows the blouse's back view. Trimmed with bows.

A run of Illustrierte Frauenzetung issues starting with 1885 is available on the Duesseldorf Digitale Sammlungen (digital collections) site. The magazine is fantastic. Garments and accessories are illustrated in gorgeous detail and frequently the same garment will be illustrated from several angles, and sometimes shown in the issue's color plate. Garments are carefully described and often include fabric needed and fairly specific instructions to make them. Most issues also include a small-scale pattern or two for garments illustrated. The patterns are quite detailed and if you have used patterns from a garment-cutting book, you will be familiar with the format. The magazine was nifty in that it included both fashion issues and Unterhaltungsblaetter -- entertainment issues, the latter with stories and so on.

Now I have models to help, I can tweak that shirtwaist.

Ciao until next time!


MrsC (Maryanne) said...

Gosh that was a trip back in time! I remember in the early 80s jonesing for a shirt blouse that buttoned up the back, with a stand collar and lots of inlaid lace and pin tucks, from India, but they never came quite in my size. Back then we didn't have the range of haberdashery to make such a fabulous thing. My darling mother had a beautiful shell pink alençon lace blouse that she wore for formalwear in the 70s with a straight brown skirt (Edwardian revival lol) but its neckline was wider and softer.
I look forward to watching the progress here! I rather like the one with the square yoke myself, I like the flatter upper silhouette but they are all delicious.

ZipZip said...

Dear Mrs. C.,
No kidding: the haberdashery available was just lame, on the order of orange rick-rack, stiff and prickly poly lace, wide zippers in all colors. Ooh, special stuff.

My mother had a blouse rather like your mother's! I still remember thinking it such an elegant thing.

Maybe you can make one with a yoke? You know, the store Zara was featuring translucent organdy leg-of-mutton blouses in colors like ruby, a week or two ago. Might be a thought for a part of a performance ensemble: castanets and ruffled skirt in black and turquoise, anyone?
Hugs, Natalie

The Quintessential Clothes Pen said...

Oh goodness, I greatly enjoyed your reminisces about the 1980s and 1990s and the office clothing of that time (and the photo!). Also the pattern and translation for the 1894 blouse. Great fun!


MrsC (Maryanne) said...

Oh the moment passed for me! I am more drawn to the 1910s blouses now with the v neck and big collar, and my go-to is surplice style with a peplum. Which I confess I am buying RTW even though I have an amazing stash of fabrics if far superior quality to make things out of for myself.
No I shall live my Edwardian dreaming fantasies out vicariously through dear one! xo

ZipZip said...

Ha! Understand. Surplice styles are yummy and there is so much you can do with them.

Ha too with purchase versus make. I've a new-to-me pink -- oh, is it PINK! Man, is it beruffled! -- 1870s outfit. Just needs some alterations. Big fun with low energy investment. I can mess around making accessories. Dare I paint some hat feathers pink?