Category Archives: Fashion Moments

Fashion Moments – Leg o’ Mutton Sleeves

Fashion Moments by Deborah SweeneyWelcome to my weekly fashion blog post. Each week I will discuss a female garment, fashion trend or influencer from the age of photography (1840s through the 20th century). My goal is to educate family researchers and genealogists about the clothing worn by our ancestors. Dating photographs is an issue we all struggle with as family archivists. Additionally, anyone who writes about their family’s history should be aware of the environment in which their ancestors lived. Period clothing is an important part of that environment from how it affects a person’s movement to their overall lifestyle. This week I introduce you to the Leg o’ Mutton sleeve.

Sleeves from the 1820s-1830s

The Leg o’ Mutton sleeve made its first appearance in the late 1820s; the style continued into the 1830s. The French originally named this style the gigot sleeve due to the sleeve’s unique shape. In French, gigot literally means the hind quarters of an animal. In the English speaking world, the name translated into Leg of Mutton, or Leg o’ Mutton. This sleeve was characterized by voluminous amounts of fabric at the sleeve cap which eventually tapered down narrowly at the wrist. Horsehair and other means of support were required to maintain the “puff.” To balance the ensemble, skirts became wider at the bottom and the waist became deceptively narrower.

American, Cotton dress, c.1832-5 (Courtesy of the Brooklyn Costume Museum at the Metropolitan Museum of Art)

“Oh I am grateful,” protested Anne. “But I’d be ever so much gratefuller if–if you’d made just one of them with puffed sleeves. Puffed sleeves are so fashionable now. It would give me such a thrill, Marilla, just to wear a dress with puffed sleeves.”

Anne of Green Gables, Lucy M. Montgomery

Fashion Reboot – 1890s

As the bustle made its final decline at the end of the 1880s, a void was created. What would the next fashion trend be? As is typical with fashion, old became new again. The 1890s saw a resurgence (or recycling!) of the Leg o’ Mutton sleeve. As the bustle began to decrease, fashion shifted from an exaggerated posterior to an extreme expansion of shoulder girth.

A cursory glance through fashion journals shows the absence of the Leg O’ Mutton sleeve in 1891. By 1893, sleeves had begun to inflate.  The peak of the sleeve appears to have been the years 1895 and 1896, and by 1897, the style was on the wane. (Please note that throughout the same decade, fashion journals consistently showcased sleeves of moderate girth as well. Do not assume that because a woman’s sleeves are narrower in a photograph that it was not during the years 1893-1897 if other clues indicate this time frame). The following plates are courtesy of the Thomas J. Watson Library, Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York).

Further Reading

The Fashion Historian blogged about the original French Gigot sleeve from the 1830s.

A definition and history of Gigot sleeve from the Fashion Encyclopedia.

Collection of Fashion plates from the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Most of the plates are in the public domain.

©2015 Deborah Sweeney
Post originally found: https://genealogylady.net/2015/07/12/fashion-moments-leg-o-mutton-sleeves/

Fashion Moments – Marcel Wave

Fashion Moments by Deborah SweeneyWelcome to my weekly fashion blog post. Each week I will discuss a female garment, fashion trend or influencer from the age of photography (1840s through the 20th century). My goal is to educate family researchers and genealogists about the clothing worn by our ancestors. Dating photographs is an issue we all struggle with as family archivists. Additionally, anyone who writes about their family’s history should be aware of the environment in which their ancestors lived. Period clothing is an important part of that environment from how it affects a person’s movement to their overall lifestyle. This week I introduce you to the 19th century French hair dresser Francois Marcel.

Who was François Marcel?

There are conflicting reports about who Francois Marcel was, mostly due to the fact that he used different names throughout his career. However, it appears that he was François Marcel Grateau (1852-1936).  During the 1870s, he invented a technique for curling hair using hot curling tongs. By 1905, then known as François Marcel Woelfflé. he patented his first design for a curling iron in the United States. Marcel continued to register patents for various curling irons, permanent machines and hair clippers until his death in 1936.

Marcel Wave

Although the technique was originally perfected for longer hair which was styled up and back, as women began to “bob” their hair in the 1920s, the Marcel wave became even more popular. Many film stars, like Claudette Colbert, sported Marcel waves during the 1920s. My grandmother Gladys employed the style on her hair during the late 1920s and early 1930s. This picture was taken in 1929. The main characteristic of the Marcel wave is the alternating “S” shape in the rows of waves.

Foster, Gladys - Terre Haute, Indiana,1929

Gladys Foster, Terre Haute, Indiana, 1929

The style was not restricted to the young and famous, or to specific geographic regions. Women of all ages and social standing “marcelled” their hair.  Coincidentally also in 1929, this photograph was taken in the San Francisco Bay area. While my other grandmother, Louise, was only 14 at the time, her mother stylishly wears the Marcel wave in her hair.

Leonard, C. Estelle (Whitten)  with Louise - 1929-07

Louise and Estelle Leonard, San Francisco Bay area, 1929

Further Reading

Article on the website 1920-30.com discusses Marcel and the Marcel Wave in more depth.

Book titled Technique and Art of Marcel Waving – Creating 1920s Hair Waving Styles in Six Easy Steps by William Zentler was originally published in 1923, and currently available as a reprint.

Check out Ancestry.com‘s selection of high school and college yearbooks in their database, “U.S. School Yearbooks, 1880-2012.” These provide a great resource for dating hairstyles on a yearly basis.

©2015 written by Deborah Sweeney
Post originally found: https://genealogylady.net/2015/06/28/fashion-moments-marcel-wave/

Fashion Moments – Madeleine Vionnet

Fashion Moments by Deborah SweeneyWelcome to my weekly fashion blog post. Each week I will discuss female garment, fashion trend or a fashion influence from the age of photograph (1840s through the 20th century). My goal is to educate family researchers and genealogists about the clothing worn by our ancestors. Dating photographs is an issue we all struggle with as family archivists. Additionally, anyone who writes about their family’s history should be aware of the environment in which their ancestors lived. Period clothing was an important part of that environment from how it affected their moments to their daily chores. This week I want to introduce you to Madeleine Vionnet, a French fashion designer from  the beginning of the 20th century.

Madeleine Vionnet

“A woman’s muscles are the best corset one could imagine.” – Madeleine Vionnet

Since there are plenty of books and sources about Madeleine Vionnet’s life, I will not spend much time reciting a biography of her. What I will discuss is her contribution to women’s fashion. If you have any familiarity with sewing, the terms on grain and bias will be meaningful to you. Simply put, the grain of a fabric is parallel to the woven threads (warp and weft). Bias is 45 degrees of the grain.scan0001

If you pull a piece of fabric along the grain lines, you will notice that the fabric is not very stretchy. But if you pull a piece of fabric along its bias, the fabric has a lot of stretch to it.  And as Vionnet discovered, the bias is highly drapeable. She became famous for her “bias cut” dresses which relied on using the bias of the fabric, instead of the straight grain. Throughout her career, Vionnet draped fabric on a small scale dressmaker’s model to create her masterpieces.

Madeleine_Vionnet_in_her_studio_about_1920

Madeleine Vionnet in her studio about 1920 (Image via Wikipedia)

“She was an artist of fashion as Picasso was to painting.” – Edna Woolman Chase and Ilka Chase from Always in Vogue (1954)

Vionnet’s Fashions

While many of our ancestors could not have afforded to buy an original dress from Madeleine Vionnet’s fashion house, they did purchase or sew clothing influenced by her aesthetic (which was most prominent during the 1920s and 1930s).

Dresses from the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York) from their online database at www.metmueum.org/collection/

Examples From My Collection

My grandmother was a young woman during the 1920s so many of the photographs I have of her show Vionnet’s influence on her fashions, especially in the bias cut of her wedding dress in 1929.

©2015 written by Deborah Sweeney
Post originally found: https://genealogylady.net/2015/06/20/fashion-moment-madeleine-vionnet/

Fashion Moments – The Bustle

Fashion Moments by Deborah SweeneyWelcome to my weekly fashion blog post. Each week I will discuss a piece of female clothing or fashion trend from the age of photography (1840s through the the 20th century). My goal is to educate family researchers and genealogists about the clothing worn by our ancestors. Dating photographs is an issue we all struggle with as family archivists. Additionally, anyone who writes about their family history should be aware of the environment in which their ancestors lived, and that includes the clothing they wore.

The Bustle

During the 1870s and 1880s (and even into the 1890s), women continued to wear long skirts which typically included a bustle. There are three distinct phases in appearance and style of the nineteenth century bustle. Being able to identify the bustle phase of a woman’s skirt is a plus for dating photographs.

Phase One (1867-1872)

The 1850s and 1860s were known as the era of hoop skirts. As the Civil War ended, fashion transitioned away from this style of skirt. The steel cages which had previously supported the various layers of petticoats and skirts were phased out. By the end of the 1860s, instead of wearing a structure that encircled the body (diagram on left), the crinoline or bustle evolved into an rear only structure (diagram on right).

 

This beautiful silk gown from the collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is a typical example of the transition style. (Link to the circa 1870 dress in LACMA’s collection). The decoration of the skirt is linear around the bottom half of the hem and the skirt’s volume is full and rounded.

Woman's_Promenade_Dress_LACMA_M.2007.211.773a-d_(5_of_5)

Woman’s Promenade Dress, c. 1870 (LACMA collection)

Phase Two (1869-1876)

The second phase of the bustle overlapped with the transitional phase for a few years. This phase of the bustle was characterized by a draped over skirt which gathered to the back. The overall fullness of the skirt began to diminish. The skirt were generally flatter in front with emphasis shifting to the back bustle. As sewing machines in the home began to be more common, decoration and flounces became increasingly excessive.

Interlude (1876-1881)

By the middle of the 1870s, the bustle dropped out of fashion. Bodices became long and narrow, extending over the hips; they were seamed in the princess style and were also known as the cuirasse bodice. Like their namesake the cuirass (a piece of close-fitting defensive armour), these bodices were made to fit as closely as possible. All over decoration and flounces on the back of the skirt were typical during these years.

Phase Three (1881-1889)

The bustle of the 1880s became the fashion nightmare of its day. During the eighties, fashion swung between a desire for simplicity and a tendency towards excess. The bustle of this era looked like a shelf (according to fashion illustrations) built upon the female posterior.

1885 dress

Dress, c.1885, from the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

By the 1890s, the bustle was on its way out. Some posterior padding continued until 1905, but in general, the bustle was finished. The average female did not engage in excessive bustling. However, the bustle was common enough to be ridiculed and satirized in the newspapers of the day. Most women did have access to fashion magazines such as The Ladies Standard Magazine and a growing number of households acquired sewing machines in the late nineteenth century. Women re-created what they saw in the magazines according to their abilities (and their wallets). Mail order catalogs like Bloomindales sold ready-made clothing. Butterick and McCall sold paper patterns. It would be foolish to assume that our ancestors were out-of-touch with the latest fashions. Whether or not they could afford to replicate them was a different matter entirely.

Some Additional Resources:

English Women’s Clothing in the Nineteenth Century by C. Willett Cunnington is a great comprehensive guide of the evolution of fashion during the nineteenth century.

Victorian Fashions & Costumes from Harper’s Bazaar, 1867-1898 edited by Stella Blum

American Victorian Costume in Early Photographs by Priscilla Harris Dalrymple

©2015 written by Deborah Sweeney
Post originally found: https://genealogylady.net/2015/06/12/fashion-moments-the-bustle/

Fashion Moments….

Fashion Moments by Deborah SweeneyI fully intended to post today about a fashion trend. I even have a partially written post. However, I have been in Burbank for the past few days attending the Southern California Genealogy Society’s Jamboree. I have been attending lectures all day, learning gobs of great new genealogy tips and techniques. I am also finally getting to meet some wonderful genealogists, some of which I have only known online for the last few years.

So, dear readers, please accept my apology for not posting my weekly fashion post this Saturday. My plan is to finish writing the post once I get home in a day or two. In addition, I will be writing my monthly update within the next week or two. I will share some of the great ideas I have learned here at Jamboree. So stay tuned!

P.S. If you are on Twitter, you can follow along with some of my Jamboree adventures @GenealogyLadyCA

Fashion Moments – The Shirtwaist

Fashion Moments by Deborah Sweeney

This is the first in a new weekly series on specific fashion trends. Each week I will present a different garment or piece of female fashion that was prevalent during the 19th and 20th centuries. My goal is to educate family researchers and genealogists about the clothing worn by our ancestors. Dating photographs is an issue we all encounter and struggle with as family archivists. Additionally, anyone who writes about their family history should be aware of the environment in which our ancestors lived, and that includes what clothes they wore.

The Shirtwaist

The shirtwaist was a mainstay of the female wardrobe from the end of the 19th century and into the 20th century. What exactly is a shirtwaist? To understand the evolution of the term, it is necessary to understand the definition of waist to a 19th century person. In modern times, the word waist refers to the part of the human body between the ribs and hips. In the past, waist was another term for the bodice of a woman’s dress.

Waist (wāst) n. The upper part of a garment, extending from the shoulders to the waistline, esp. the bodice of a woman’s dress.

As women became more independent and began working outside the home, their style of dress was modeled after male attire. A well dressed man of business typically wore a white shirt with a turned down collar and cuffs under his coat and/or vest. The term shirtwaist was a combination of the two terms: shirt + waist. Therefore, shirtwaist is a term only used to describe the female version of a male dress shirt.

 Shirtwaist (shȗrt’ wāst) n. A woman’s tailored shirt with details copied from men’s shirts.

A typical shirtwaist was unstructured (no boning or inner lining) and was made from a material such as cotton or linen. Occasionally they were made of silk. Another benefit of the shirtwaist was the ease of laundering. Boned and lined bodices were generally not washed often. Over time, shirtwaists evolved from the simple tailored version of a man’s shirt to beautiful feminine garments embellished with lace and trimmings.

Shirtwaist, c1895, American silk and cotton

Shirtwaist, American, c1895 (silk & cotton). Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Collection

Although introduced as early as the 1860s, shirtwaists became more popular as the 19th century progressed. With illustrators like Charles Dana Gibson regularly drawing sporty and active women, women’s dress was finally changing. However, it would take another twenty or so years before the more natural styles of the 1920s became fashionable. By the mid 1890s, women were no longer being hampered by bustles and hoops as well as obsessive corseting. The movement to promote Aesthetic Dress (which began in England in the 1850s and was led by artists such as Edward Burne-Jones, Frederic Leighton and Lawrence Alma-Tadema) also influenced the trend towards healthier and non-restrictive clothing for women. The Aesthetic dress movement rejected the wearing of tight-laced corsets altogether.

Charles_Dana_Gibson_(1902)_Studies_in_expression._When_women_are_jurors

A study for “When Women Are Jurors,” by Charles Dana Gibson, 1902 (Image in the Public Domain via Wikipedia Commons)

The term shirtwaist, or waist for short, endured from the early 1890s though the 1920s. The term finally passed out of common usage with shirt and blouse being more commonly used today.

Perhaps one of the most well known events regarding the shirtwaist was the 1911 Triangle Factory fire in New York City. Shirtwaists were very popular and cheap to manufacture. Mail order catalogues as well as clothing stores all sold shirtwaists. See the links below to learn more about the Triangle Factory fire, and PBS’s documentary about this tragedy which killed hundreds of immigrant factory workers. The overwhelming majority of the victims were women.

Evolution of the Shirtwaist

The style of the shirtwaist changed over the years. When dating photographs, it is important to note the changes to cuffs, collars and necklines as well as the rise and fall of the waistline.

Shirt waist patterns from the Modern Priscilla Magazine, 1906. (Image from the Library of Congress)

For Further Reading:

More about the fashion trends that influenced the Aesthetic Dress Movement:

http://www.maggiemayfashions.com/secondbustle.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artistic_Dress_movement
http://www.artfund.org/what-to-see/exhibitions/2015/02/17/liberating-fashion-aesthetic-dress-in-victorian-portraits-exhibition

On the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire and Shirtwaists:
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/introduction/triangle-intro/
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/general-article/triangle-shirtwaist/
https://prezi.com/4kvervvcyl3v/defining-the-shirtwaist-1890-1918/

©2015 written by Deborah Sweeney
Post originally found: https://genealogylady.net/2015/05/30/fashion-moments-the-shirtwaist/