- Part 1, Fullness and Flare
- Part 2, Petticoats with Crinoline, Ties, Bones, Wires!
- Part 3, Skirt Interlinings
- Part 4, Skirt Godet Plaits and Interior Ties
- Part 5, Steels, Rattan, Candlewicking, and Dust Ruffles
- A tour of an underskirt with godets held in place, lots of stiffening, and velvet(een) serving as brush braid: A Real 1890s Underskirt With Multiple Stiffening Aids
- A tour of a heavy, lined, faced, and brush-braided 1890s skirt: An Antique 1890s Black Skirt With Brush Braid In My Collection.
- If you're interested in the project's entirety, please see 1890s: Costumes, Research, Documentation.
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 believe the author meant that the steel might have been more pliable than that used for crinolines, bustles, and corset and bodice boning in previous decades, but cannot know for sure.
Nor do I know what it looked like. We know what flat corset boning looks like, and here is a shot of crinoline steel covered with a layer of braided cotton that was used in an antique bustle in my collection. It bends, but would 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.
|Demorest's Magazine, May 1895, p. 420.|
|Demorest's Magazine, May 1895, p. 420.|
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.
"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."
"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|
Using Candlewicking On Outer Skirts As Part of the Trim or Hem Binding
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.
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.
"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."
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 Cording...as Stiffening Trim
Rattan Instead of Steels Around the Skirt
A Balayeuse or Dust Ruffle, Fixed Inside the Outer Skirt
"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.