Prepping Your Historical Wardrobe for Cooler Weather

I have several friends who do not look forward to the change in weather from summer to fall.  They dread it and often refuse to admit that there is even the slightest chance that summer is ending.  I am not one of those people.  Seasonal change has never bothered me, although I definitely wish February and March along as quickly as possible.  Perhaps people have always felt this way, or perhaps it is a luxury of modern life, but regardless of feeling, preparing for winter was a necessary and important part of life pre-furnaces and thermostats.

Living outside of Buffalo, NY, one is very used to experiencing all four seasons, snow, and a lot of wind.  So when I know that I will be attending an event between the months of October to May, I need to be prepared.  Perhaps you think that with so many layers to historical clothing, one will be warm enough.  And while there is some truth to that, the types of layers really make a difference.  Therefore in this post, we are going to look at various ways to stay warm and comfortable during those chillier months.  Disclaimer – not all of those options are 100% historically accurate.  But they work and if carefully concealed, will not be noticeable.

Here I am at an event on a chilly April day.  A thick cotton Sontag, finely woven linen/cotton blend fabric gown, AND a full set of cream long Johns underneath!

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Finding the Right Neckline

I remember my first ever 1860’s gown that I made.  I was about 17, had my parents 1970’s Singer sewing machine on a TV tray in my room, and a .99  costume pattern.  I purchased 8 yards of what I thought was the most Laura Ingalls Wilder looking blue calico (back when you could get a printed cotton from Joann Fabrics for under $4 a yard) and went to town cutting and sewing.  I was very proud of this gown although commercial sewing pattern instructions are ridiculously confusing (even to me now) and were not all that accurate.  But it didn’t matter. I loved it and it loved me and I rocked that v- neck…..cue that sound of a record screeching to a halt.  Yes, a v-neck.  Which I wore with nothing underneath (I know, I know)….but I didn’t know any better.  And guess what, that’s ok!  I later realized that a v-neck wasn’t exactly the norm (at least without a chemisette) and moved onto the next project.

If you are anything like me and want to continually improve your knowledge and skill, you may also have realized the value in having some background on the types of historical gowns you wish to create.   This is helpful not only in creating an accurate look, but also when trying to find the right sewing pattern/company.  One of the best places to start to see if something is accurate, and what decade the pattern is from, is the neckline.  Necklines really help guide a person in creating an historically accurate gown.  This can also be said for sleeves, although for this post we will stick with necklines.  So today, I have created visual boards for the various types of necklines one might use for fashions of the 1800’s-1860’s. Side note –  just like all things, there are always exceptions to the rules.  Other necklines may and probably were worn then shown here.  However, these are the most common necklines one will see from each time period.


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