Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloweens Past

As I was browsing through my computer this morning, I came across some fun costumes from past Halloweens. Thought I'd share some pictures and how to's. Have a Happy Halloween everybody!

Last year around Halloween I got a little obsessed with watching The Tudors. A few weeks before Halloween I decided I wanted a Tudor gown so my Husband and I ordered some costumes online, thinking I had no time to make one. Well his turned out great, but mine didn't fit at all and was just a polyester mess, so two weeks before Halloween I bought fabric and stitched my little heart out! Actually I don't really remember rushing. Just sitting on the couch for days, watching Ghost Adventures and putting this together. Love it! I want to wear it again some day. I wish I had a picture of me in it.

It is worn over a shift, 16th century stays, a farthingale, petticoat and a bum roll. When I wore it, I also had a girdle. I found a gorgeous one at Sapphire and Sage.

Queen Eliazabeth: Schloss Ambras Portrait Girdle
from Sapphire and Sage

I modified a simplicity pattern for it and also got some help from my Tudor Tailor book. It's not the most authentic piece, but I don't worry too much about that for Halloween. The baroque pearls and fur are real - okay well they're cultured pearls, but whatever. The black work cuffs are hand stitched by me, using an authentic tudor design. The rhinestone/satiny braided bits at the neck are actually cut up headbands from Target. Always keep your eyes peeled for items that might work in a costume! You never know where you may find things...

The pattern seems to be based on the below painting of a young Elizabeth.

Now on to the 20th century. Ooo the flapper! This was an outfit that I did not lend one stitch to, however I wanted to share it because it shows you can generally always find things in your closet to make a last minute costume. And one that looks good too!

I tried to make appropriate 1920's layers, so under the dress there is a lacey bra for flattening (gotta get that boyish look!), tap pants (if you've never seen them, they're like silk shorts) and a silk and lace slip. I wore garters to keep my seamed stockings up, but you could also roll them down and rouge your knees!
The dress is by Juicy Couture and the shoes are peep-toe, T-straps from - I think - Nine West. The fur wrap is faux fur from Forever 21. The headband is from Target. The only thing I bought for this was the wig. I got it from a Halloween store. I've had really good luck with Halloween store wigs. You just have to monkey with them a little to make them more presentable. This one was smooshed flat so I fluffed it within an inch of its life and it didn't look half bad after that!

And a side note about 20th century undies. Check out What Katie Did. They have great faux vintage lingerie.

For the makeup, in my opinion, the two most important features for the 1920s are the eyebrows and the lips. My eyebrows are much thinker than this, so I smoothed them down with pomade. You can also use bar soap straight from the bar, wax or the special stuff you get at the costume store just for smoothing down hair. I don't know what it's called. Once I had them sufficiently flattened, I dusted them with powder and used a very opaque concealer to paint out the bottom half of my eyebrow hair, so just the top half showed dark. Then I used a brow pencil to draw out the ends past their natural length. For the lips I again used the concealer. With a lipstick brush I drew on the cupid's bow shape. For the rest of the face, for evening, you can use a dramatic eye and some blush. There's a great book about vintage makeup called Retro Makeup, by Lauren Rennells. She also a great hair book, too.

Clara Bow

Please excuse the weird "look up to the left" thing I was doing. I have no idea where that came from. Maybe it was the martinis...

From The Fedora Lounge

From Victoriana Magazine

The picture below was from a looooonnngggg time ago. Pictures of the rest of the dress have evaporated, but I wanted to show the hair and how to make those side curls out of your own hair (if it's long. If it's shorter it's pretty easy). I used a small barrel curling iron and got really close to the scalp. Careful! I used as much of the hair as I could in the curl without it getting too bulky, then fastened a bobby pin through the backside. The excess hair is left hanging out the back of the curl. Here this hair is pulled back and incorporated into, I think, a bun. You could do all kinds of braiding/curling/whatever back there. 

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Fancy a swim? Going for a dip 18th century style.

Martha Washington's bathing dress

At Mount Vernon, they have a wonderful new museum showcasing all kinds of things from the Washingtons' home. Some things I found particularly cool were George's dressing table, the family silver and china, a wing chair from their bedroom and, especially, Martha's bathing dress. I have never seen an example of an 18th century swim suit before so this was especially interesting to me. 

Though water therapy has been around since ancient times, the 18th century saw a revival in the popularity of going to spas and "taking the waters" for one's health, especially amongst the upper class. Water cures were said to cure a wide range of conditions. People both swam in it and drank it. Today, in some spas, they still have similar treatments. When I was in Greece, Thalassotherapy (from thalassa which means the sea) was offered at most of the hotel spas. I tried it out. Very cool. Mostly it's a series of pools, one very highly salinated so you float, another with salts and essential oils, and the last with a current. And no, I didn't drink any. Ick.

Engraving of women taking mud baths.
Image from the Science Photo Library.

Taking the waters at the pump room, Bath, 1784.

And a funny story from History Undressed:

There was a famous scandal of Sir Richard Worsley, the Governor of the Isle fo Wight…Apparently while his wife bathed nude in a bathhouse, he lifted his friend, Captain Maurice Bisset upon his shoulders to see his wife naked. How does the saying go? “What’s yours is mine…” Sir Richard Worsley and his wife Lady Worsley ended up getting a divorce later on, and it was found that he had in essence prostituted his wife to many men, however she didn’t seem to mind too much… At the time her husband helped his friend peek at her, she laughed it off. Her lovers have been numbered around 27…

But back to the dress.

When Mrs. Washington would go to Berkeley Springs, Virginia, for her daughter, Patsy's, epilepsy, she would wear this gown to keep her decent. The top picture may show the back view of the gown, because in the exhibit, the neckline was relatively high and rounded. The slit shown may have been at the back for ease of dressing, as I can't imagine Martha wearing a slit that low in the front... But perhaps I am mistaken. If anyone knows for sure, please correct me. I would have loved to take pictures to show, but photography wasn't allowed. Bummer. The above picture is courtesy of

The dress is made of course linen with a blue and white gingham pattern. Its a medium to dark blue, like an indigo. Down the wearer's right side of the dress, along the seam, are three or four patchwork pieces of some varying, but similar, pieces of the blue gingham. At the bottom are lead weights about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. These would keep the dress from rising in the water. From the right side, you can see two of these weights, along the side seam, held in place inside a rectangular patch, with a seam separating the two pieces. Below is a sketch of what I can remember from the exhibit. PS, oops, the picture shows the wearer's left side with the patchwork. I don't know what was on the left side, since the dress was at an angle in it's case.

As for the other pieces I mentioned, a few notes:

George Washington's dressing table followed him from his presidency to Mount Vernon. The top opens to revel a mirror. I love antique mirrors because you look in, see your face, and I think of all the people throughout history who have seen their face looking back at them. Oh to see the hall of mirrors! Imagine what they have seen!

George's dressing table.
Image from George Washington Wired.

I thought the wing chair was interesting because I had no idea wing chairs were originally for the ill or weak. Now people have them throughout the house, however in the 18th century, they were mostly only found in private rooms, like bed chambers. The wing sides being for the purpose of keeping away any drafts. The chair at Mount Vernon has casters, or wheels, and I think they said it was the only example of the chair like this with chippendale motif and casters on the back legs, as well as the front. 

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Wiggery and poufs!

So I'm back in town and I had a fantastic trip! We went great places and I learned a ton of new things as I wandered through museums etc, and I can't wait to share! ... But, I have so many pictures I can't even face uploading them yet... So in the mean time, I thought I'd share some great wigs, since I've been working on my wig for Halloween today. Eeek! I am up to my chin in ostrich feathers!

Some tidbits about 18th century wigs...

- In America, a ladies wig could easily cost as much as 5 or 6 acres of land. This type of pricing is why only about 5% of the population wore wigs.

- How to powder: Using your fingers, apply your pomade to the hair, then using a small bellows filled with powder, puff the powder onto the wig. Apparently you would have needed to do this more than once in the course of an evening. Messy...

- The pomade was made of lard mixed with essential oils. I touched some in the wig-making shop in Williamsburg. Very interesting. If you have never touched lard it feels like shinier, oilier, whipped butter. Below is a picture of a wig bellows. The photo shows no size reference, but unlike a fire bellows, it fits in one hand.

- Since people were often shaved bald under their wigs, not everybody incorporated their natural hair into their hairstyles. One notable person who didn't wear a wig at all was George Washington. His man servant, William Lee, kept after his hair. The painting below shows George with William Lee in the background.

Painting by John Trumbull, 1780

- Over to France. The famous pouf  could reach up to three feet high. 

- Marie Antoinette often had her hair inspired by an event (pouf a la circonstance). For example, the Belle Poule. A hairdo with a naval ship of the same name adorning her hair, marking the entrance of France into the American Revolution.  There was also the pouf a l'inoculation, which commemorated Louis XVI getting his small pox vaccine. Note about that: smallpox vaccines were fairly common in Austria, but not widely recognized in France. Louis XV died of smallpox. And a side note about that too: apparently Louis XV was the first Bourbon whose heart was not cut out and put in a special box. Instead, alcohol was put over his body and he was covered in quicklime. Had to add that - it was just too strange!

- Marie also wore the pouf a la jardiniere, which included artichokes, carrots, radishes and even the head of a cabbage. This pouf may have been a pouf au sentiment. A hairstyle to express a feeling. One lady at court is quoted saying, "I shall never again wear anything but vegetables! It looks so simple, and is so much more natural than even flowers." Oh, fashion!

- Those long fancy head scratchers that ladies used were called grattoirs. They could be made of ivory, silver, gold and sometimes diamonds.

Grattoirs from a Christie's Auction. April 2006.

- To go to sleep, ladies would have their hair wrapped up in a triple bandage, grease, pins and all.

A lady getting her pouf dressed for bed..

- There was an invention called the coiffure a la grand-mere, by le Sieur Beaulard, which was a mechanism that allowed the hairdo to be lowered in stature, and then raised again, at the wearers pleasure. It was named the grand-mere, or grand mother, after the older ladies who disapproved of the new, very high hairstyles.

- To protect their amazing hair from the elements, ladies would wear a calash, a type of bonnet, structured with boning, that accordioned open. A calash covers and protects the hair without touching it and mussing it. See the lady in the black calash below.

 And I leave you with some more fab hair to drool over... Enjoy!

Pictures of my wig to come!

And this info comes with special thanks to Caroline Weber, whose book, Queen of Fashion, is a wealth of information! Thanks also to whoever was in the wig-making shop at Williamsburg, because I must have bugged them to death with questions!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

I'm going to have a busy, busy week of traveling and eating and shopping and fabulousness! But I'll be back soon with all kinds of new fun - shopping finds, history, tidbits, pictures, who knows! Maybe even some awesome antiques and costuming supplies for the boutique. I'll keep my eyes peeled... Can't wait to share :) In the mean time, follow along on twitter for anything fab I might see along the way! @dressedntime - Cheers! Have a lovely week all!

Friday, October 14, 2011

A pocketbook, leather shoes and a little more on buckles.

So a little about each piece:

The pocketbook is finally finished. It is bound with navy wool tape from William Booth Draper. As I understand it, this method of binding the edges of an item with tape is called "ferreting." Please do correct me if I'm wrong. I learned this from "The Glossary of 18th Century Costume Terminology." They don't specifically list pocketbooks as something this term applies to, but I'm inferring...

The inside of the pocketbook is constructed very simply, with no little gussets at the edge of the pockets inside. This is a personal preference. I have never actually seen this method of construction on an extant wallet, just to note. Also, a lot of original wallets have a piece of the wool tape, connected to each corner, creating a bit of a triangle, which I think is supposed to keep the flap edges down. I didn't do this simply because I never really liked how it looked.

The papers are reproduction 18th century
American money from Williamsburg.

Below are some originals. You can see the triangular tape I mentioned and some other methods of constructing the inside pockets.

Man's wallet. Live Auctioneers.

Man's wallet. Live Auctioneers.

MFA, American, New England 1750 - 1800
The shoes are leather Devonshires from American Duchess. The design in based on this pair of original shoes. I do not know where they are housed. If anyone does, please do share.

The original shoes are made of cloth. I can't tell what type of fabric, however. The design seems to be painted on and the edges are bound. Perhaps they are bound in silk because it looks shiny and smooth. 

For mine, I chose to use leather shoes to try something different. I went totally non-traditional and decorated them with permanent markers. It worked fantastic! I find, you can get a much smoother and more precise fine line with markers than with a paint brush. It was cheating a little, but who's counting... I would have loved to be able to bind the edges, but I couldn't figure out a good way to do this, since the shoes are already constructed, and I wasn't going to go opening up seams!

I did not seal the design in any way. No more scotchguard for me! I don't think it works on leather though... I think there is sealant you can use for when you stain leather, but I don't have any. Also, I was a little timid to mess with them further after the scotch guard fiasco on the last pair. These shoes can probably go outside and be just fine. I will have to see and report back. 

The buckles are from Fugawee. A note about attaching buckles to the latchets: a lot of reproduction buckles do not have very sharp prongs. To help this, mark the spots and use an awl to make the holes. Please don't ever use a leather punch. It will leave too large holes in leather and you will never be able to adjust the size again without the previous holes showing, and if the shoes are fabric, there is a good chance the cloth will start to fray.

In my last post, about the black silk shoes, there was a lot of attention paid to the antique buckles I shared. I wanted to show them in closer detail, since there was quite a bit of interest regarding how they poke through the latchets. I mentioned they have very sharp prongs, making them incredibly easy to attach without ruining your shoes. Please excuse that they are a bit tarnished. See below:

I think the lower prong may be broken off a little.