Tag Archives: women’s fashion

Fashion Moments – Pigeon Breast

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 “pigeon breast” bodice.

Bodice and Shirtwaist Styles

At the end of the 1890s (about 1897-9), the shape of the female bodice began to change. Tops became fuller in front, predominantly at the waistline. Gathering or pleating typically controlled the excess of fabric, and kept this fullness to the front.  The shape is often compared to a pigeon’s breast which is typically thrust forward (hence the name). Another term which is used synonymously with “pigeon breast” is the monobosom. The overall silhouette of the period resembles the letter “S” as the breast is pushed forward and the posterior is forced back. Newer corset styles enforced this shape. Fashion magazines of the time generally exaggerated this “S” curve. Belts or sashes were a common accessory.  By 1905, the style was beginning to fade, and was gone by 1910.

[The “pigeon breast” should not be confused with the gathered bodices of the end the 1900s and the 1910s. As the decade advanced, waistlines rose higher than the natural waist while the “pigeon breast” remained at the natural waist and ofttimes dipped lower in front.]

Further Reading

The Victoria and Albert Museum’s website contains several pages covering the History of Fashion. A brief summary is given for both male and female clothing, arranged by decade.

The Vintage Fashion Guild publishes a fashion timeline on their website, beginning in 1800 and ending at 1990. Fashions are broken down by decade.

Fashion and textile historian, Leimomi Oakes, from Wellington, New Zealand, writes about and critics vintage clothing found in museums around the world. Her website has an online Historical Fashion and Textile Encyclopedia. Currently, the page is a work in progress, and mainly focuses on different types of fabric/textiles.

The Vintage Victorian website has an article by Catherine Bishop, focusing on ladies’ evening dress from 1899-1905.

Images

Pink afternoon dress by Jacques Doucet, French, c1903. Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Accession no. 2009.300.1153a, b

Blue afternoon dress by M. Davey & Company, American, c1898-1900. Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Accession no. 2009.300.907a, b

Fashion plates from the Thomas J. Watson Library, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Costume Institute Fashion Plates: Women 1900-1914, Plates no. 68, 75, 77

©2015 Deborah Sweeney
Post originally found: https://genealogylady.net/2015/08/16/fashion-moments-pigeon-breast/

Fashion Moments – Bishop Sleeve

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 bishop sleeve.

 Bishop Sleeve

Simply defined, the bishop sleeve is a wide sleeve that narrows at the wrist, typically into a cuff. This particular fashion comes and goes with regularity, so it can not be used solely to date a garment. Other fashion clues must be utilized. Examples of the bishop sleeve can be found throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, including the blossoming sleeves of the 1960s hippie peasant dress and the glamorous gowns of the 1930s Hollywood starlet.

During the Civil War years, the bishop sleeve enjoyed popularity along with the pagoda sleeve (the subject for another blog post). However, the bishop sleeve was the more practical of the two. It was much easier to “roll up” a bishop sleeve when there was work to be done. It was possibly more popular with the middle and working classes, but since few of these garments exist today, there is sketchy evidence to support this assertion.

Pleating or smocking was often used to control the fullness at the top of the sleeve and the cuffs, but simple gathering can be found as well. The shoulder seam of a 1860s bodice did not land on the shoulder, but rather on the upper arm (often horizontal to the armpit). The fullness of a bishop sleeve makes its appearance at the upper arm (and not the shoulder!).

Civil War Era woman - LOC #4

Woman with smocking at shoulder cap, 1860-1869

Existing Garments

Further Reading

Miss Ashley’s Attic, a company which markets to re-enactors, wrote this piece on Civil War fashion.

A wonderful book by Priscilla Harris Dalyrmple American Victorian Costume in Early Photographs was published in 1991. Still in print, It is available for purchase through Amazon. For extended free sampling, the book can also be found on Google Books. The  book is arranged by decade from the 1840s through the 1890s.

Images

The photographs of the three unidentified women can be found in the Library of Congress’ Prints and Photographs Online Catalog: LOT 6286, p. 12 (LC-DIG-ppmsca-32291); LOT 286, p. 10 (LC-DIG-ppmsca-32287); LOT 6286, p. 3 (LC-DIG-ppmsca-32244). The women in the first two photographs are believed to have been nurses during the Civil War.

The photograph of the woman with smocked sleeves can be found in the Library of Congress’ Prints and Photographs Online Catalog: LOT 6286, p. 49 (LC-DIG-ppmsca-32397).

The two existing garments can be found on the Metropolitan Museum Art’s Costume Collection online:  1981.49.4a, b and C.I.60.11.1.

©2015 Deborah Sweeney
Post originally found: https://genealogylady.net/2015/07/26/fashion-moments-bishop-sleeve/

Fashion Moments – Hobble Skirt

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 hobble skirt.

Hobble Skirt (1910s)

Between 1910 and the commencement of World War I, women’s skirts were decidedly narrow. Skirts of the previous decade had been full, utilizing generous amounts of fabric. A fitted waist and hip which flared dramatically at the hem marked the first decade of the 20th century. While the silhouette of a 1900 skirt was spectacularly triangular, ten years later, they were positively rectangular. Neoclassicism, romanticism and the mystique of the Orient were some of the artistic aesthetics at play in the fashion world of 1910. In many ways, skirts of the early 1910s resembled Greek or Roman columns.

During this time, the increasingly active lifestyle of women influenced fashion. Skirt hems inched slightly upward. Corsets became less structured. Suffragettes were waging war in London and the United States. Women wanted freedom of movement (as well as the freedom to vote), so why would they confine themselves in a Hobble skirt?

Admittedly, the Hobble skirt was a very short lived trend, and not everyone partook in such foolishness. In essence, the wearer wore a skirt which was so narrow at the hem that the ability to walk was impeded, forcing the wearer to “hobble.” Various methods were employed to prevent the wearer from tearing their skirt (should they take too long of a stride). During the early teens, corsets covered and extended below the hips. Specially corsets which extended to the knees encouraged “hobbling.” [The catalog page below shows typical corsets from 1913, not the specialty ones.]

Fasion - Sears catalog, 1913 corsets

1913 Sears Catalog corsets (Image courtesy of Ancestry.com)

However, the most fascinating device (which was made specifically for Hobble skirts) was the Hobble Garter. Worn below the knees, the garter regulated the walker’s stride to ensure a hobble.

Los Angeles Herald 1910-11-24 Hobble Skirt

Los Angeles Herald, 24 November 1910, p. 12, col. 5-6

Further Reading

An overview from Wikipedia on the Hobble skirt including some later 20th century trends, which were also referred to as Hobble skirts.

Two articles can be found on the Edwardian Promenade blog: Hobble Skirts and Hobble Garters.

Two of the more influential fashion designers during this period were Paul Poiret and Jeanne Paquin.

Images

The three fashion plates are from the Costume Institute Fashion Plates digital collection from the Thomas J. Watson Library, Metropolitan Museum of Art. They are in the public domain.

The catalog page comes from the 1913 Spring Sears catalog, available from Ancestry.com.

The newspaper article is one of many which can be found about the Hobble Garter in 1910. The Library of Congress’ Chronicling America database contains this issue of the Los Angeles Herald.

©2015 Deborah Sweeney
Post originally found: https://genealogylady.net/2015/07/19/fashion-moments-hobble-skirt/

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 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/