Tuesday, October 08, 2019

1895 Outfit Tutorial: A Crush Collar, With Neck Bow and Plastron, Part One

Yum, a lovely, fluffy bow on the back of the neck.
I'm still on 1890s collars! It's time to get over it already, don't you think? So this post and the next will lead you through the sources I used to come up with my design, and then offer a tutorial on how the actual collar was made.

Just joining this journey? Here are the two posts about collars that came before this one:
I set my heart on what may be the iconic collar of the era, the one with the bow in the back, so that the wearer's head and neck appear to have been made ready as a gift. That's the kind of collar that will be made here. There's more, though -- isn't there always?

I've also wanted what was known as a plastron -- an additional trim that looks like part of a blouse peeking out of the front of the dress -- to lay down the front of the shirtwaist when I want the outfit to look a bit more formal. A plastron can be built in to the bodice. Gentle reminder: a bodice was usually called a "waist". Yet a plastron can also be a removable accessory, known then as a "garniture", or trim. The plastron in the photo below is very wide and might be integral rather than a garniture. We'll be building one of those, too.



My Collar and Plastron Plan: A Conglomeration of Sources


Illustrierte Frauen-Zeitung came through with a collar plus neck bow with instructions, below. Not a difficult accessory to construct, I would think. By the way, the grosgrain bow goes to the back of the collar, and the "coxcomb" frill in front is a common element, as we shall see.

Be-bowed collar. Illustrierte Frauen-Zeitung. August 1, 1895, p. 175


Now for the instructions. Because the text appeared in two different parts of the magazine's page, I have it broken into two pieces.

Be-bowed collar text, first part. Illustrierte Frauen-Zeitung. August 1, 1895, p. 175


Be-bowed collar text, second part. Illustrierte Frauen-Zeitung. August 1, 1895, p. 175


I am going to bore you again with my translation. Some magazines I can get through without much issue, but Illustrierte Frauen-Zeitung is not one of them. Its text is dense, and even its version of the Fractur typeface is a little harder to read than some. In any case, here is my best go at it:

Stand-collar with Folds. -- One can gladly vary single-colored ensembles by using a stand collar, which is made in the fashion of the well-known folded [crush style] belt, constructed of a bias-cut satin- or striped silk. Without a lining the collar nestles densely around the smooth stand-up collar of the dress, or if lined with a small cut-out piece, is [placed] directly around the neck and closes in the back or middle of the front with hooks and eyes. A bias-cut striped satin 15 centimeters in width and 58 centimeters long is the template in Illustration number 50; both edges of each 5 centimeter width are turned up like a cock's comb and stiffened through fine fish-scale stitches. For a collar trim made of lightweight silk, as illustrated in number 51, the fabric is best taken on the straight [of grain]; invisibly sewn, 1 centimeter wide seams close the borders. The middle of the front is highlighted/marked by a 4 centimeter fabric made in ranked double puffs; the hook closure is covered by the full bow made of grosgrain ribbon.

I went searching for more collars with bows that I could use as sources. 

Neck bow. Illustrierte Frauen-Zeitung, February 1, 1895, p. 28.


This neck bow is compound: the collar and the coxcomb frill in the center are of one fabric, while the bow ends are of lace.

Illustrierte Frauen-Zeitung, August 1, 1894, color plate. Note that the bow is quite stiff, and matches the bow with tails on the belt.



Illustrierte Frauen-Zeitung, March 11, 1894, front cover. That coxcomb effect of the back closure harmonizes with the folds of the crush collar.


The fluffy neck bow I was looking for finally presented itself:


Illustrierte Frauen-Zeitung, September 9, 1894


The bow on this lovely faille dress overlaid with silk gauze is also made of silk gauze. It's extra fluffy. More fluffy than I need, really, because this dress is for a formal occasion, but it's on the right track.

What about the plastron? The Delineator magazine for February, 1895 (pp. 214-215) came to the rescue. Here below is a composite image not only of the plastron itself, but also of the text about it. The plastron garniture is but one of several that the magazine offered patterns for. Like Ladies Home Journal, The Delineator recommended the practice of saving scraps to make trims that would "transform many a worn and passe gown beyond recognition". Whoo, how's that for an enticing promise?



Making the Crush Collar


Here's how I made the actual crush collar. The collar closes in the front with that coxcomb effect.

I started with a medium-weight interfacing lining to match the cut of the collar, but a little wider.

I cut striped white voile, as long as the interfacing lining plus a bit on each end, and double the width of the front so I could introduce folds, plus a bit to cover the back smoothly with a small seam.

Here is the strip of interfacing.


I pinned the interfacing to the voile a bit from the top of the interfacing. This would become the back side of the collar. A few big stitches were placed across the back of the collar to fix the voile securely in place.

The voile pinned down to become the back of the collar.


Then I folded the rest of the voile over the long edge of the strip of interfacing, so I would be ready to start creating the front side of the collar with its folds of voile to make a crushed effect.

The first thing to do on the front of the collar was to pin the upper edge so that the fold over the top of the interfacing would be nice and tight. You can see those pins right up at the edge of the collar in the photo below.

The next thing was to start the first fold. I made this fold go all the way across the front of the collar. To make the fold, I would pinch a bit of voile from the mass hanging down in front, and pin it in place, then move to the right, pinch a bit more, and pin it...repeating until I had the fold set across the front of the collar. Then I took a fresh piece of white thread in my needle, brought the needle up from the back of the collar near the left end, and made a tiny -- just a few voile threads wide -- prick stitch near the lower edge of the first fold to start fixing the fold in place.

Once that first stitch was made, I made more of these prick stitches all the way across the front, at about an inch distance apart, trying to keep them as tiny as possible so they wouldn't be obvious when looking at the collar. On the back side of the collar, the stitches look long and messy, but as I know from antique pieces I own, messiness is common. No one is seeing the stitches.

The first collar fold being created and pinned into place.


After the first fold was in place, I created additional rows of folds, one by one. To get a crushed effect rather than straight lines of neat folds, I would pinch the voile at an angle and pin that down, and/or make a tiny box pleat of a fold and turn up one corner of it to create a little odd spot, and pin that tiny spot in place. After pinning a section, then I'd prick-stitch them in place. The photo below shows rows in process of being made.

As you can see, I was working casually on the sofa, accompanied only by the little housewife that holds enough pins and needles wax and etc. to work. I store the collar, the shirtwaist, spools of thread and scissors and housewife in a little workbag. It makes sewing an impromptu, sew-where-you-are experience no different to what people have been doing since time immemorial. Continuity is grand and comforting.

The first few layers of folds in place.


Here is the front of the collar completed. The crush effect is extensive: how crushed the collar looks varies in magazines and in photos, and I wanted the effect to be really crushed so it wouldn't merely look wrinkled and ill-fitting. The process took longer than I thought, not minutes, but perhaps a little over an hour. Most of the time was spent attempting to make the folds look naturally crushed, not like little soldiers in a row. Isn't it funny how painstaking a careless look can be?

The completed front of the crush collar


The next step was to turn the remaining bit of voile to the back side of the collar, turn down the raw edge, and hem it in place. In so doing I covered up most of the chaotic stitches that had accumulated over the back side.

The back side of the collar, neatened.


The ends of the collar needed finishing with their coxcomb effect.

Now, I had planned to simply use the voile extending beyond the ends of the collar interfacing, manipulating it into little swirls and puffs. That plan failed, for two reasons. First, I hadn't allowed enough fabric. D'oh! Second, when I did attempt to create puffs, they didn't look right, not at all like the illustrations at the top of this post. They just looked like bumps sticking out of the ends of the collar.

What to do? Well, follow the German collar a few posts ago, in which little ruches are made separately out of a bit of fabric and stitched on -- yes, it's snickety work.

Here's a reminder, from that collar, of the effect. Look at the ruching just at each side of the model's neck, before the bow ends.

Illustrierte Frauen-Zeitung, 1894, Heft 14 p. 157, illustration 3.


And from another collar: 

Neck bow. Illustrierte Frauen-Zeitung, February 1, 1895, p. 28.


To get the frilly effect I decided to do the following. First, a small square of voile a bit larger than the collar is wide was cut. Then I turned in a wee allowance on one side, and gathered it with small stitches, immediately pulling up the stitches until the side was about the width of the collar, and fixing the gathers into place with a backstitch and half knot. The same procedure was made for each of the three other sides, till I had a pretty little puffy square.

Creating the coxcomb ends: puffing a fabric square.


I sewed the little puffy square to the very end of the collar with as invisible stitches as I could.

Then, the interesting part: I sewed large gathers in a zig-zag pattern across the face of the puff, the same way you would do if you were creating a kind of flat ruche. Here is the needle partway through the first "zig", if you will, in the photo below, followed by a photo showing all the stitches in place.

Creating a ruching pattern across the puffy square.


The puffy square with all its hard-to-see ruching stitches.


Now came the rather fiddly, tricky part. Anchoring the needle in a handy spot on the collar, with my fingers I found the end of the first row of gathers, and gently pulled it up. Holding it in place, I pulled up the second row, and so on, until the entire face of the puffy square was drawn up. As you can see in the photo below, it created the coxcomb effect I was looking for.

Okay, actually what happened was that at first I just pulled on the gathering thread and it all ruched up unevenly. So I flattened everything out and tried again. You can learn from my mistakes!

Then, I took up the needle and fiddled with the ruching to make it more random, pulling and prick-stitching down puffs here and swirls there, so much like whipped cream on a cake that I rather got nibblish looking at it.


One coxcomb end of the collar. It looks rather out of scale here,
leaned up against the base of a lamp.


Phew! Are you still with me? This sure is an endless post and tutorial, but...let's see it out.

The last step was to make the pretty little bow that goes on the back of the collar.

I actually made two bows. The first bow was a failure. Here's what not to do, unless you want a really heavy-looking bow. I do not recommend making a tube of voile, pinching the center and wrapping a faux knot around it. The result is a bow, but it looks like a stiff bowtie.

Here is what worked: making a real bow out of a single layer of voile. I cut a long piece of voile, long enough for a bow and longish tails. You might want to experiment with a piece of string to get the length needed. I made the voile as wide as if the bow were made of ribbon, and roll-hemmed all four edges as finely as I could.

Then I tied a real bow, but left enough of the ends that I could turn each one into a subsidiary loop and tack it behind the real loop, so that I had a four-loop bow. I tacked the bow securely to the front of the collar. Then I manipulated the back loops to stick out just below the front ones, and tacked the back loops to the collar with a single tiny stitch on each side, out of sight. Here we are at last, a fluffy bow, soft as a kitten, on the collar.

The fluffy bow on the crush collar!


The crush collar bow, up close. Bows are loveable, and associated
with good, happy moments.


The last step will be adding hooks and eyes to the ends of the collar so that I can close it in the front of my neck.

To see where to set the hooks and eyes, I threw on the shirtwaist, now quite wrinkled from being stuffed in my workbag,and closed up the collar section only -- how lazy! -- and set the collar around the shirtwaist collar, and marked where the hooks and eyes should go with pins. While its width is acceptable for the period, it looks a little wide to me. That was an easy fix. Since the collar is actually very thin and flexible, I turned up about half an inch of the bottom to the back, and hemmed it down. Done. If I want to make it wider later, it's nothing to snip the stitches and pull them out.


The crush collar, pinned on.



Don't you just love the pencil holding my hair bun in place? It worked to keep my hair off of the bow. Overall, the effect is what I am looking for, although the photo has me thoughtful. It's very clear that I am heading past 55 towards 60 years old. The skin on face has begun to spot and grow loose. Gracious. I have been costuming since 2005...that's beginning to be a significant period of time. Still, living with a kidney transplant, the passage of time is all a blessing, and achieving age something of which to be proud and grateful.

Next time, in part 2, we will make the plastron and belt, then I will starch and press the shirtwaist, the skirt, and the multiple petticoats that will sit underneath, and the completed outfit should be ready to try on.

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