When I was younger, I desperately wanted to learn how to play the guitar. I felt that all the “cool” kids learned how to play and well…I’m sure you, at one point in your life, viewed that reason enough to try anything. So I begged my parents and they bought me a $50 used guitar. I practiced for about three weeks, and then put it away in the closet. Why? Well first, it’s not an easy instrument to learn. Second, I am a lefty and had trouble trying to refigure out the chords from right handed people. And third, I didn’t really want to learn how to play. I mean, not for the sake of the instrument and the music it could bring. I wanted to learn to be cool. Perhaps if I had viewed the process and the end results differently, I could be strumming along today. Now as I am older, I value uniqueness much more than the idea of being “cool.” Standing out as someone different in a sea of look a likes inspires me to pursue my own dreams. Enter “girl playing a violin.” When the majority of the photographs from the 1850’s and 60’s show women in their finery, looking elegant and deliciously middle class, this young woman chose to be photographed with her violin. And I like that about her. Was she good? Maybe…but see it doesn’t matter, she did what made her happy and that was enough. I hope all of you embrace that thing in your life that makes you unique and different!
In a few weeks time, I am planning on starting the challenging process of doubling my inventory by the end of the year. This summer has been wonderfully busy, yet has left my clothing stock thin and sparse. One of my favorite parts of the whole dressmaking process is planning and drafting up various looks and styles of gowns I want to make. The majority of gowns will still be from the 1860’s, yet I plan on adding some 1850’s gowns, and perhaps dipping back into some Regency. I am going to be on the hunt for fabrics, trims, and accessories for these gowns, and would love some help in making the “difficult” choice of narrowing down various styles.
So….what are your thoughts? Any particular era you would like to see? Any colors that would be wonderful to use? What about looks of sleeves or trim?
I would love to hear from you all as I begin planning and dreaming! :-0
Piping is a fantastic way to add a little extra flair to your historical gowns, as well as added durability. It is very easy to make your own. All you will need is bias tape, cording, pins, and a zipper foot for your machine.
Step 1: Assemble all the needed materials.
Step 2: Pin the cording into the bias tape by folding the tape in half and pinning right next to the cording.
In this final installment of women’s jewelry from the 1850’s and 60’s, I wanted to focus on chatelaines. Chatelaines are beautiful pieces of silver or gold that are pinned to the bodice or at the waist and have long chains with which to keep necessities. What I love about chatelaines is that one can tell a women’s personality and interests by what she chooses to clip onto those chains. From sewing tools, to watches, mirrors, combs, and change purses, each chatelaine is as unique as the woman wearing it. While not easy to find, one can still purchase these elegant pieces online.
Here are a few examples:
I found this fascinating article from an 1855 Godey’s Lady’s Book written by a “fairy wife” to her husband. The tone, the mood, and the etherealness of the poem reminded me of the darkness that often was apart of Victorian society. Not often would we modern women open up Better Homes and Gardens to read a death poem, yet in 1850’s death was a large part of life. I love poetry and the flowery-ness of the lyrics are moving and makes me wish for the art of writing to reappear into our modern society. I hope you all enjoy the lovely darkness of “Notes from Dreamland.”
Painting: James McNeill Whistler: “Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl” (1862)
Collars are a very attractive and inexpensive way to change the look of a gown. In fact, when purchasing a dress, check to see if you can also have a removable collar made at the same time. A removable collar means just that…it comes off for easy cleaning and is attached to the neckline of the bodice by buttons, snaps, or lightly basted. Not all bodices are designed to have a collar (v-necked), but if the neckline is high, any type of collar can be attached. One can have a collar made out of handkerchief linen, muslin, cotton, or lace.
There are three most common types of collars used in the 1850’s and 60’s: the Peter Pan collar, the jabot, and the less common straight collar. Here are some examples:
The Peter Pan Collar
I am continuing the series of different types of jewelry worn during the 1850’s and 60’s. I have already created a post on earrings , and now am moving on to necklaces.
As a result of my research, I have decided to combine necklaces and brooches into a collection of “items of jewelry worn around or at the base of the neck.” And for this particular post, I tried to restrict my examples to daywear, as there are (just like today) different types of jewelry worn for different occasions.
For the most part, if necklaces were worn during the day, they tended to be long gold chain, perhaps several strands that draped down the front of the bodice. Many women also appeared to have worn brooches as well. Here are some examples:
So what started out as one hairstyle attempt ended up with the one pictured here. What’s great about this look is that by altering the front of your hair, you can accommodate two different decades….but more about that later!
For this look you will need: a comb, bobby pins, and a clear elastic
Part your hair in the middle and arrange in a style that flatters your face. I always look better with slightly rolled sides.