Tuesday, August 25, 2015

I recognize this...

1861-3 Bodice
The Museum of London's on-line collection includes several pieces described in Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion books.  It's really neat to see what they look like in color, compared to the line-drawings.

Warning: There's also several thousand more items in the collections.  Peruse at your own risk.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Another Day, Another Project

Several larger undertakings remain in progress, but I did finish a girl's skirt for the volunteer wardrobe.  It's a light/medium-weight cotton, and not unlike a Madras plaid.  Many of our volunteers wear short gowns and petticoats or skirts when portraying metis women.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Hair-Dressing: c.1863-7 Waterfall

"Woman Combing Her Hair"
by Rosetti, 1864
As we move into the middle of the '60s, hairstyles seem to proliferate and grow increasingly ornate.  Larger and more elaborate styles require supplemental hair (curls, plaits, chignons, waterfalls, rats, etc.) even for those with an existing abundance.  Bonnet shapes change to accommodate these larger styles, with shorter back curtains and eventually no crowns.

"There was found a mass of hair covered by a net, and known among the ladies, and the 'initiated' as a 'water-fall'. A mischievous young man having secured the prize, was trying to match the stray ornament to the hair of the various young ladies in the room. Strange to say the owner could not be found, though the affair caused no little merriment."
-"The Inconvenience of Modern Fashion", Arthur's Home Magazine, 1865

"The Hair for morning costume should be very plain. The elaborate way of arranging it, now so fashionable, is only suited to a very dressy toilet. A large knot of hair, a bow or waterfall, is still the mode of dressing it at the back with frizettes, loops, and bunches of curls in front."
-Peterson's, November 1864

For this post, I'll be taking a closer look at waterfalls, and attempting to make one.

L to R: Hair cushion, waterfall, bow
from "The Self-Instructor in Hairwork", 1867

The earliest reference I've found to the waterfall hairstyle is in Godey's, 1863: a short description* in the May novelties, and an image in July's.
"Coiffure arrange in looped bands
in front and a waterfall in back"
Most sources use "waterfall" to mean the straight fall of hair caught up and contained at either end (see above).  Some styles will incorporate two or three such puffs. A similar arrangement of falling braids might also be called a waterfall.  A particular reading of The Ladies' Cabinet (1867) suggests that a "waterfall" might also mean a "flow of curls", though grammar is sufficiently ambiguous to suggest that either a waterfall or flow of curls is a popular treatment for the back hair, or that a waterfall can mean "a flow of curls".  Not, of course, that one has to choose between them:
Waterfall Chignon, Frank Leslie's, 1865

The amount of hair in most of these styles is distinctly increasing.  Although some descriptions still speak of 'forming the back hair into a waterfall', by 1866 Godey's openly mentions purchasing such hair arrangements: "The coil which we spoke of last month will eventually dethrone the waterfall. Very pretty ones can be bought ready made to pin on the head." 

Let's get to work.  I'm going to try this using my own hair, resorted to strategically placed padding if needed.  The goal is a basic waterfall, like so:
"Waterfall Coiffure", Godey's 1863
Though, considering the volumes invovled, the back may end up looking more like this:
"The Empire Coiffure", Godey's 1866

1. Start with the usual T-part from the basics post.  This won't be universal for all waterfalls, but it'll do for this one.

2. Tie off the back hair in three places, forming a low ponytail with two bunches below the scalp, and a tail hanging free. In the original reference I once saw (and now have been unable to locate, and really hope I wasn't just imagining), this was done with string that could be tied together at a later stage.  Needing a hand free for the camera, I opted to use hair-colored rubber bands.

3. Because I have a ton of excess hair at the bottom of the pony tail, I wound it up on itself to use as a "cushion", in lieu of adding more hair.  In my case, it worked best to braid the hair below the third band, then coil it up on itself.

4. Folded the hair up at the second band, so that bunch 1 is closest to the neck, bunch 2 is on the outside, and the braided/coiled tail is between them.

5. Pin the tail section to the back of the head, then fan bunch 2 out over the whole shebang.

6. Arrange the side hair in your favorite style, then tuck the loose ends beneath the waterfall. I opted for simple rolls.

In case my pictures are hard to follow, I repeated the process with side hair, so that it's more in focus. [I've seen no references to waterfalls worn on the side, so please don't copy this as a style.]
Hair sectioned and (optional) tail braided
"Tail" hair coiled together.
Second bunch folded up over the first,
with the coiled tail in between.
Coil pinned in place and outer hair smoothed over.
And that's a basic waterfall.  The method is not explicitly period--I've found no (more) references for making a single waterfall using one's one hair, as opposed to weaving and sewing loose hair into shape--but it's plausible, makes the style, and uses period materials, save for the hair-ties.  I'll use ribbon or string when wearing it for real.

To end on a light note, given the way Punch is trusted on crinoline size, I'm just waiting for someone to take this cartoon seriously:
"What to do with a Waterfall", Frank Leslie's, 1865
*Apparently, in 1863, 'frizettes' (hair pads) are being called "rats" if used for side hair, "mice" if very small, "cats" if placed on top of the head, and "cataracts" if used at the back of the head for a "waterfall".

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Yellow Lawn Dress, mid-1850s

Debuted my new summer sheer at Brigade this last weekend. The material is a Hufflepuff/canary yellow lawn, with a subtle woven windowpane pattern and a soft hand.

Pleated bodice (custom-draped) with half-lining, open sleeves, gauged skirt, blinding color.  Watch pocket on the wearer's left.

And for the inevitable, "Did Victorians wear bright colors?", may I present Mrs. Charles Morey:

Mrs. Charles Morey (1855) by George Healy

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Cross-post: Victorian Clothing Research and Help for New Reenactors

1861 Engraving from Der Bazaar

All self-promotion is purely coincidental. :)

The following are informational posts I've written for my Civil War group's public blog (link conveniently located on the side-bar to your left).

[I've already mention a lot of these resources in this blog, but if helps, here are my round-ups of primary sources available on-line: writings, paintings, and museum collections, as well as some good secondary sources.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Attitude of an Era

"There was a great deal of fun about it all, and a great many ludicrous situations, which served to enhance the pleasure of the evening."
--From a description of a 'calico ball' in Atchinson, Kansas, as reported by the Atchinson Daily Champion, February 15, 1887.  Reproduced in America's Printed Fabrics.

Thus, parlor games.  Certain figures in the cotillion or "German". And all the humor in Dickens.

Hat tip to Stormi