Monday, March 30, 2015

Fanchon Research Post

Still working on '65 ensembles.  My bonnet research has gotten ridiculous, so I'm posting the first part of it alone (pattern-drafting adventures to follow).

In period illustrations and descriptions:
Bonnet designs in Peterson's Magazine, February 1865
New Style Bonnets, from Peterson's Magazine, February 1865
Notes: Brim low on the head, cut in one piece with the crown, short curtain/decorative trim, cheek tabs still in evidence.  Contrast with the previous year, which had more substantial bavolets, and higher brims (whether in one crown-brim piece, or with two separate ones).  External trim placement has also shifted.

Bonnet in Peterson's Magazine, February 1864
Bonnets from Peterson's, February 1864
Back to 1865:
April 1865 bonnets in Peterson's
Peterson's, April 1865
The April '65 bonnets still have the same general shape as February (tabs extending past the ear and down the cheek; brim moderate, lower than the previous year, but still has room for some decoration; crown and brim cut in one piece), with even less of an obvious curtain.  The fashion illustration below (from the same issue), however, still shows a slight curtain, as well as trims under the brim, on the outside of it towards the back, and trailing down behind the bonnet

Fanchon bonnet in Peterson's, April 1865
April 1865, Peterson's Magazine
 And then another change comes between April and May:
Crown-less fanchon bonnet, Peterson's, May 1865
From Peterson's, May 1865

Bonnet from Peterson's Magazine, May 1865
Another bonnet from Peterson's, May 1865

Fanchon bonnet, May 1865, Peterson's Magazine.
A third bonnet from Peterson's, May 1865
The May bonnets are "very small and have no crowns"; they fit "rather close to the head", and "admit no cap, only a bit of lace put on with a slight fullness" at the sides of the face (continuing a trend over the previous decade of shifting under-brim decoration from beside the face to above it).  Compared to the April numbers, the crown does seem to be omitted, but small curtains (or edge trim suggestive of curtains) are more in evidence than they were the previous month, perhaps easing the the transition to the new crown-less shape.
Fanchon bonnet, June 1865, Peterson's Magazine.
Bonnet, from Peterson's Magazine, June 1865
Coming into June, the shape follows similar lines: no crown, but the brim still extends a bit to the back, slight hint of a back ruffle which suggests a curtain, brim close to the sides of the face, and still peaking up above the forehead.

Tiny fanchon bonnet with bird decoration, July 1865, Peterson's Magazine.
Peterson's, July 1865
  This bonnet from July looks almost like a visor: just the brim and trimmings.  I like the repeated bird motif on the ties.  The tabs still appear to extend down the face.
Fanchon bonnet, Peterson's Magazine, July 1865
Peterson's, July 1865
Fanchon bonnet in July 1865 issue of Peterson's Magazine
Peterson's, July 1865
As worn, the July bonnets show that tabs still extend down the cheek, with the front brim close to the face at the sides and raised above the face at the top.  The hair is dressed low in the back to fill-in for the absent crown; between June and July, the rear section of the brim appears to have shrunk/raised slightly, giving more space to the hair.

And the bonnet play-by-play from Peterson's Fashion Section:
Bonnet descriptions in Peterson's Magazine, January 1865.
Jan 1865

Bonnet descriptions in Peterson's Magazine, May 1865.
May 1865
Bonnet descriptions in Peterson's Magazine, June 1865.
June, 1865
Bonnet descriptions in Peterson's Magazine, August 1865.
August, 1865
Bonnet descriptions in Peterson's Magazine, September 1865.
From Peterson's Magazine, Sept 1865, page 218
The referenced (reviled) Empire Bonnet:
Empire bonnet, Peterson's Magazine, September 1865.
Peterson's, September 1865
(Edited to add: the author of Arthur's Illustrated Home Magazine actually likes this style of bonnet, finding the fanchons "common" and the waterfall hairstyle they accommodate "never very tidy".)

And now for some originals:
Mid-19th century bonnet from The Met
Bonnet, 1840-1869*, from the Met
Notes: rounded triangle shape; cheek tabs maintained. slightly raised brim; no crown; decorative edging/minimal bavolet.  Fits in with the illustrations and descriptions of fanchons in Peterson's for the summer of  '65.

Lace fanchon c. 1865 from The Met
Fanchon, (French) c. 1865, from the Met
(More "fanchons", of the silk lace variety, from the Met).  I believe these to be indoor caps and headdresses, rather than bonnets. To quote from Peterson's again:
Fashion description in Peterson's Magazine, February 1865.
Peterson's Magazine, February 1865
Fanchon bonnet 1865-1868, Museum of Fine Arts Boston
Bonnet, 1865-1868, from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Another of the "bewitching three-cornered" bonnets.  Compared to the blue article above, the "cheek tabs" are shorter (end around eye-level on the mannequin, instead of being on level with the lips); front brim still rises above the head, allowing for some decoration beneath; no crown, bonnet does not extend past the back of the head; no curtain/bavolet.  The shape could be appropriate to the summer of '65, but I think that longer cheek tabs would make it look more like the illustrations; the addition of a minimal curtain at the back would bring it more in line with the April 1865 illustrations.

The two originals above have a lot in common with this "half bonnet" c. 1870 from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston:
Straw "half bonnet" c. 1870 from the Museum of Fine Arts Boston
Half Bonnet, c. 1870, from MFA
Given the dates are ranges on all three...  Anyway, they share a number of similarities with each other and the 1865 illustrations (triangular shape, no crown, lower brim).  The cheek tabs on this straw-and-green bonnet , as on the orange one, are shorter than the blue example and the illustrations, which leads me to suspect that they are later than '65 (the blue may be '65).
Child's bonnet from Historic New England, supposedly c. 1860
Bonnet, c. 1860, from Historic New England
Crown-less, curtain-less bonnet, tagged as "child's".  I'm curious about how long the cheek tabs are (ie, would like to see this on an appropriately-sized model head).

Some British bonnets:
Bonnet, later 1860s, from the Snowshill Wade Costume Collection
Bonnet, c. 1865-70, from the Snowshill Wade Costume Collection
Long cheek tabs, crown and brim cut together, no curtain (but ties are run along the lower edge in a sort of homage to a curtain): spring '65?
Bonnet, 1865-1870, from the Snowshill Wade Costume Collection
Bonnet, c. 1865-1870, from the Snowshill Wade Costume Collection
The cheek tabs and curtain-like trim remind me of the late spring '65 illustrations, as the crown morphs into the brim and then vanishes.  Here's another like it, with two sets of ties surviving:
Another bonnet, 1865-1870, from the Snowshill Wade Costume Collection
Bonnet, c. 1865-70, from the Snowshill Wade Costume Collection

A silk crepe bonnet from the Henry Ford Museum (not sure what's going on with the tabs, but the "visor" shapes reminds me of the summer of '65 pictures):
1865-1873 Bonnet from The Henry Ford Museum
Bonnet, c. 1865-73, from the Henry Ford Museum

Then there are these two examples from the Met, dates c. 1865 and c. 1866, which I'm not sure how to interpret:
"Poke bonnet" from The Met, supposedly c. 1865
"Poke Bonnet", c. 1865, from the Met 
Straw "promenade bonnet" c. 1866 from The Met
"Promenade Bonnet", c. 1866, from the Met
The lack of curtains does suggest an 1865+ date, but the presence of crowns and the low brims make me think "late 1850s to early 1860s" (before the high brim 'spoon' bonnet shape rather than after it); the cheek tabs are still low, as in the first blue fanchon and earlier styles, suggesting a pre-1870s date. These examples are straw; perhaps they originally had silk curtains which were later lost, or removed to update the article?  Perhaps something altogether different is going on?

Friday, March 27, 2015

I am the queen of handsewn eyelets...

...or my grommet-setting die started chewing up fabric, ruining two otherwise finished back pieces for these corded stays.

Hand sewn eyelet and button holes on an 1850s style corded corset.

More pictures to come.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Pattern (Kit) Review: Kayfig Cage

Finally finished my new 108" cage crinoline, from the Originals by Kay kit which I received for Christmas.

108" Cage crinoline made from the Originals by Kay kit.

Back view of cage crinoline from Kayfig kit.

The cage went together rather easily.  The instruction packet lays out the measurements clearly, and walks you through the appropriate marking and assembly steps.The only sewing that is required is making up the waistband and attaching the tapes to it, but you're on your own for that, so sewing experience is assumed. The buckle caused me a some confusion at first, but that was primarily the result of over-thinking it.  

I much prefer using rivets to attempting to sew through the buckram, as I had previously done; that being said, I didn't like the way these rivets went in.  They had a tendency to deform when hammered; I tried varying my setting method to ameliorate this, but without luck.  I don't have enough experience to say whether these rivets in particular are the problem, whether my technique was incorrect, or whether rivets always bend that way.  They seem secure so far.

What You Get: Instruction packet (3 pages front & back, with placement diagrams)
1.5 rolls of hoop steel (about 45 yds)
16 end caps
c. 10 yards cotton tape
77 2-piece rivets

Items needed: waistband; pliers (to attach end caps), hammer (to set rivets), bolt cutters (to cut hoop steel), punch and/or awl (to make rivet-holes in the hoop steel and tapes, respectively) 

Pattern Score: 4 stars

Difficulty: Advanced Beginner--little sewing is required, but that is unguided; for the rest, spacial reasoning and ability to follow instructions are more relevant than sewing experience

Accuracy: Citations not included, but the materials are period.  Most of the images* I've seen for uncovered cages used smaller gauge wire in large quantity, like the needle & thread kit, but I'm satisfied with the shape.  

General Impression: The main things I like about this kit is that the math and proportions are all pre-done, and the hoop steel and tapes are of good quality.  I didn't like the grommets, personally. Still, it went together fairly easily, and makes a nice shape.  The instructions were very compact, and could use a little more detail at times.  This kit is the cheapest option I've found for making a good quality '60's cage, and my only lingering concern is those annoying rivets.

*Edited to add: three of the period illustrations in Nora Wraugh's Corsets and Crinolines show cages c. 1856-58 with the wider steels like this.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

1865 Dresses, research post

Getting ready for the 150th anniversary of President Lincoln's Springfield funeral; this means a whole ensemble for Mom, and hopefully some new '65 pieces for me.  The dress lengths I have in mind are light cottons: a plaid shirting for Mom and a floral-printed sheer for me.  Both are predominately black and white, and when properly accessorized should make nice, respectfully sober day-dresses which are not distinctly "mourning".

Dress research:

1865: The overall look is slimmer, and more tailored than in previous years.  Skirt fullness is moving towards the rear, leaving a flatter front.  Coat sleeves are ubiquitous, especially narrow versions, replacing the wide open sleeves of the late 50s and early 60s.  Flat trims are popular, and flounces (when seen) are more moderate than previously.  Hoops are still worn, though the shape is past round and getting pretty elliptical; skirts distinctly full towards the back with occasional trains.  With this flat/smooth look, gored skirts are becoming more popular, and pleating is superseding gauging.  White accessory collars have gotten narrower, and may be a narrow band peaking up from beneath a self-fabric collar. The high "spoon bonnet" of 63-4 is out; it is replaced by the "empire bonnet" and its competitor, the ultimately victorious fanchon.

Walking Dress, January 1865, Peterson's Magazine

Walking Dress, January 1865, Peterson's Magazine
Apri 1865 Dresses from Peterson's Magazine
April 1865, Peterson's
Dress from Peterson's Magazine, July 1865
July 1865, Peterson's
The fashion plates and descriptions primarily deal with silks; even Janet Arnold's excellent Patterns of Fashion doesn't feature a cotton dress c. 1865.  While the lines and shapes may be the same, some high-fashion details never get translated into prints, and others are very rare, so it's good to check some original dresses in the target textile. Fortunately, the lovely SA ladies found some original sheers for study:

1865 striped apron-front dress
via beesfirstappearance

c. 1865 sheer silk dress from Kent State Museum
Silk Gauze dress c. 1865 from Kent State Museum
1865-1866 sheer cotton dress from Kent State University Museum
Cotton gauze c. 1865-66 from Kent State U. Museum
Mid-1860s sheer dress from Kerry Taylor Auctions
 Two sheer dresses, 50s-60s (L) and mid-60s (R),  image originally from Kerry Taylor Auctions
And I finally had some luck digging around the Met:
Sheer silk dress c. 1865 from The Met.
Dress, ca. 1865 (silk) from the Met
c.1865 cotton dress from The Met.
Cotton Dress c. 1865, from The Met
Another c. 1865 cotton dress from The Met
Dress, cotton, c. 1865, from the Met
I'd love to see a color picture of this one, ideally over skirt supports to show off that train...

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

HFF #21: Rare/Scarce Ingredients

The Challenge: Make a dish which requires an ingredient not readily available at the grocery store.

The Receipt: Chocolate and vanilla cream bonbons from The Confectioner's Manual (page 95).


Ingredients: 2 oz. of the finest picked gum arabic in a gill of hot water about 2 lbs. of the finest icing, 4 oz of french chocolate, 2 whites of eggs, and a few drop of essence of vanilla.

The soaked gum must be strained through a piece muslin into a basin, the essence of vanilla added to it, filled in with as much icing sugar as it will absorb: the whole into a rather stiff yet soft and elastic body. 

Dissolve the chocolate with about a table-spoonful water in the oven ;work this thoroughly smooth with a spoon and incorporate it with two whites of eggs of royal icing. Fill a biscuit forcer, having a quarter-inch tin tube adapted to it, with the white vanilla cream preparation, and push it out upon a large sheet of paper well dredged over with fine sugar; and as the contents of the forcer are pushed out with the left hand, with a small knife held in the right hand cut off the white cream as it is pressed out, in pieces the size of small filbert-kernels: as each sheet of these chops is completed place it on a baking-plate for ten minutes in the screen, merely to dry their surfaces. Next dip each of these white balls in the chocolate-icing, holding one at a time upon the tip of a fork so as to be able to place it out of hand on a close-made wire tray; and, when each is filled, sit them to dry for about ten minutes in the screen: they may afterwards be put away between sheets of paper in a box.

Gum Arabic: Also called "acacia gum", this in a plant-derived binder and emulsifying agent.  It shows up frequently in Victorian receipts and recipes (everything from chocolates to envelops). Apparently, modern uses are equally diverse (cocktails, artists' pigments).  After visiting two chain grocery stores, the co-op with the good bulk section, four specialty groceries, and an apothecary, I finally located some at an herbalist supply store.  The art store also carries it, but only as a pre-mixed liquid.
French chocolate: According to the explanatory notes earlier in the book, this is a chocolate made with equal weights of cocoa and sugar.
Icing sugar: powdered sugar, I believe
Royal icing: Based on page 96, this is egg whites, powdered sugar, and flavoring, all worked to a "stiff, but somewhat liquid" consistency.  Naturally, proportions are not included.
Gill: a unit of liquid volume equal to 1/2 cup (4 fl oz)

Region/Date: American, 1865

How Did You Make It? Chocolate: Prepare "royal icing" by mixing 6 TBSP pasteurized egg white (equivalent to 2 egg whites) with approximately 4 cups of powdered sugar and 1 tsp vanilla extract.  Melt 4 oz of dark chocolate (45% cacao) with 1 TBSP water on the stovetop; stir icing into melted chocolate.

Center: Dissolve 2 oz. gum arabic in 1/2 cup hot water.  Strain through a piece of muslin.  Add 4 TBSP vanilla extract and approximately 8 cups of powdered sugar to make a thick paste.  Drop with a pastry bag (improvised on this occasion from a folded piece of parchment paper with one corner cut off) onto a baking sheet, and dry in the oven for 10 minutes (lowest "warm" setting).  Roll in chocolate icing and set on a piece of parchment paper on a wire rack to dry--when set directly on the wire, they tend to droop and make a mess.

Time: 2+ hours, for half of the batch

Cost: Just over $5.

How Successful Was It? Nothing caught on fire this time!  Tastes alright, though the centers are more generically sweet than vanilla-flavored (which is why I kept adding more vanilla).  Looks could use definite improvement: the chocolate kept hardening so it didn't coat evenly, and the soft centers are liable to get deformed while dipping.

With how labor-intensive the process is, I probably won't make these again.  They don't look nice enough to serve to company, and take too much work for home use.  A second person (ideally, some sort of confectioner) would definitely make the process less onerous. 

How Accurate Was It? I used vanilla extract in place of vanilla essence, and the pasteurized egg whites,  Otherwise, very good. 
Gum Arabic
The highly-sought gum arabic
Gum Arabic dissolved in water.
In solution
Vanilla Cream for centers of 1865 bon-bons.
Vanilla cream for the centers
Candy centers.
Dried centers
"Royal Icing", 1865 recipe for vanilla chocolate bonbons.
"Royal Icing"
Chocolate icing, 1865 recipe for vanilla chocolate bonbons.
Chocolate Icing
Vanilla and chocolate bonbons, made from a Victorian (1865) recipe.