A tiny card for your enjoyment.

Before I start my post on my next card, I have to share about the irony of life.  I live in a fairly big city…not New York big but big enough that you can live here for life and not know all its corners and niches.  My oldest boy has just started his apprenticeship as an electrician this week and do you know what his first job site is?  It is renovating the series of apartment blocks that I grew up in as a child!  I find that amazing!  When they get to the actual block that I lived in I hope he will invite me for a tour!  And now back to my Victorian blog.

My next offering is a carte de visite.  Carte de visits had been popular before cabinet cards were(since the 1860s).  Folks traded them and collected them much like folks in my generation collected hockey cards or school photos and how kids now a days trade those elastic wrist  band thingys.  They began to wane in popularity in the late 70s and early 80s when cabinet cards became popular.  It looks like they disappeared by the 1910s.  Here is my card…disclaimer-it wasn’t me that chopped off the top of the card!  Someone must have done it to get it to fit into something easier.

I just love that cape! I must make one like that!

At first I thought those were pagoda sleeves but after I looked at it closer I realised it was a cape.

Now for the dating…it looks like my card is dated from 1860-1910.  (That is how long carte de visite were around.)  Now you know me…that is  too big a spread for my tastes!  So we look at more details.  It seems the cards were all around the size of 2 3/8″ x 4 1/4.  But, the earlier ones did not completely fill the card.  Mine does so that narrows it down to 1874-1910.  I figured this stuff out from this site.   The next step is to look at the photographers stamp.

Photographers stamp.

I looked up the name and address and got this site.  It lists the name of the studio and the address and then it has the notation c. 1890.  It wasn’t clear to me if that meant it started in 1890 and is still open today or if it only ran in 1890 or if it ceased to be in 1890.  So I tried looking up google maps for that address and it appears to be an empty lot now so it isn’t still functioning.  Then I tried again and got this site.  If this person knows what they are talking about, a person by the name of Esther Birchley (go girl power!) had a studio at that location listed in Kelly’s (what ever that is) in 1888 and it had changed owners by 1891!  It is not clear if she only owned it for 2-3 years or if had been around prior to this Kelly’s listing.  I wonder if Kelly’s was a newspaper or a pre phone business directory.  Anyway, I think we can safely narrow our dating down to 1874-1890.

If we look at the clothes, the skirt seems a bit big for the natural form that would have been around in 1877-82.  So the card could be 1874-77 or 1882-90.  It is missing the big hat and bangs of the 80s.  The site I found (and linked) for dating these cards said they were mad for backdrops and props in the 70s and this has plenty of them.  The site also suggests that these cards were around till 1910 but they peaked in popularity between ’63 and ’77 and lost popularity between  ’77 and ’82 (which is the natural form era)  So would this bustled lady have been handing out cards in the early bustle form era when these cards were all the mode or would she have been handing them out in the late bustle era when they weren’t so popular and would she be wearing the not so popular hair part and small hat.  I’m rooting for her being very trendy myself, but suspect she is not.  The only way to know for sure is A) find out for sure how long that photographer was in business.  If it were only the 2 years I could confirm then my poor lady is a triffle behind the times. B) Have someone who knows this lady and confirm who she is (yeah that is going to happen with my small following!) C) An expert in fashions can figure out the dates from a bodice and skirt you can’t really see and a fairly classic cape. D) God sends me a divine messenger.  I wont wait for this option.

So in conclusion this card is estimated to come from a trendy lady from 1874-77 or a lady who is missing most of the trendy styles from 1882-90.

Must have Tuesday

Last Tuesday I posted a dress I’d like to have/make from the 1740s.  This week we are going to move ahead 10 years for my next must have.I have chosen a 1750s court dress from Britain.  It is found at the Metropolitan Museum.

1750 court dress Metropolitan Museum.

I love the color!  I love the extremes in measurements between the front and the side view.  I would love to have to go through a door sideways in it!


side view


There is only one thing I would change….

Hey...whats up with the back of this thing?

I don’t like how the detail work suddenly stops in the middle of the back.  It looks like they forgot to finish it or ran out of metallic thread.  Speaking of metallic thread….

That seems like so much labor!

See you tomorrow with another of my cabinet cards!

Free wheeling.

Today’s post is not exactly Victorian…it is more of a post about doings in my burg.  Annually, there is a convention called World of Wheels where car enthusiasts gather to show off their “toys”.  I haven’t been in 30 odd years…it isn’t something I’m really into.  I decided to go this year as my brother had entered his car.  It is a 1959 MGA hard top.

My brother's toy.

I haven’t heard yet if he has won anything but I hope he does.

There were a few other cars (and trucks) I wouldn’t cry if I found in my garage.  Of course I liked the older ones.

Info on 1929 Ford

And here is the truck itself.

1929 Ford

Or how about this one…

1930 Ford Model A

It was so shiny it looked like wet nail polish.

And here is my favorite since I was a teenager…the corvette!

Isn't she pretty...a bit modern compared to my usual tastes but I like it!

See you all tomorrow.

Bodice a la 1850s.

I’ve finally cut out my bodice for my 1850s dress.  I’m so thankful for my dress form and for taking the time to pin the lining together before I started chopping up the fashion fabric!  If I hadn’t I wouldn’t have figured out the front pieces were about 4″ to big at the waist!  I tried pinning up the darts a bit more…I mean a lot more but it was just going to bunch up in a really weird way.  So I ended up cutting off the extra at the side seams.

Hope chopping that off will do the trick

I think the problem is with the “girls”.  I need more room for them so I cut out the larger size but my waist doesn’t need quite that much….  Here’s hoping that when I start to sew it together is wont be a weird shape!

I just can’t believe it’s that old….

I’m going to show you one of my cabinet cards.  I don’t remember how much I paid for it but it isn’t much.  It isn’t one of my favorites because it is more faded than others I own.  I also don’t love that I can’t see the general shape of the dress.

But, now that I have done a bit more research on it, I’m feeling a mix of increased interest in it and an inability to believe my research is not a bit misguided!

The first thing I looked at was the card itself.  The biggest thing dating it was the fact that the photographers label was in the back and fairly small.  According to sites I’ve looked at, the trend for the photographer name and address being printed small and neatly just below the image or small on back ran from 1866-79.  That is when I thought “It can’t be that old!”

Then I looked at the stamp itself….

I looked up the photographers name and came up with a big hit!  It seems the family is still running the business to this day!  And T Annan took a famous photo of the explorer Livingston (as in “Dr Livingston I presume.)

Annan moved his business to the address listed on the card in 1857.  This is prior to the 1866-79 dating (which is the oldest dating) for cabinet cards.  How can this be?

Then I googled the bit that says “Autotypes Works Lenzie” and hit this google book.  The short version of this is, that in 1864 a fellow started selling a new way to make photographs-a way that didn’t fade like the earlier ones did.  Annan was one of the first photographers to buy and use this technique.  This means that Annan was a photographer in the 1850s but he was using an earlier technique.   So I’m back to saying “1866-79…It can’t really be that old!”

So I go and look at her hair.  Could be an 1860’s hairstyle with the part down the middle.  The sides tight against the head and the ears are showing.  The bun seems to be at the nape of the neck.  But, she is a middle-aged woman so she may be just choosing to wear an older style.

When I look at the dress I see tons of beading, ruching and hundreds of pleats.  The fabric is looking more like silk than cotton!  There also seems to be a brooch, choker and bracelet.  This lady looks rich to me!  But, besides making me drool like a dog, these details don’t do much as far as dating the photo.  We can’t see the shape of the dress but there are layers…may be an overskirt.  The thing that makes me think this is a 70’s dress is the shoulders.  I believe the 60s had the shoulder seem hanging past the natural “corner” of the shoulder.  I’ll look to any insight from you ladies with more “learnin than I got”.  In my inexpert opinion I’m thinking this could be a card from the 1870s (“But, it can’t really be that old can it?”)


A little Victorian every day.

The main reason I tackled the hack of Steph’s t-shirt pattern is I want to be able to hack Victorian fashions and make them into something modern.  I want to be able to wear Victorian fashions every day, but lets face it, I can’t wear this to work on a daily basis.

There is something not quite practical-or sane-about wearing this every day....

Oh sure, I can wear it for special occasions…. Anyway, I need to work on my hacks a bit more.  But, just like the ladies of old who, for various reasons, could not keep up with the latest trends in clothing fashion were able to at least dress their hair in style.

When I was younger I had hair down to my waist and kept it like that for years.  Then I got a bit older and started cutting it for a stab at being stylish.  Then as I got middle-aged I started cutting it really short because they say long hair drags down an aging face making it look older than it is.  Short hair it is.  But along comes this new/old hobby and short hair doesn’t work.  I don’t want to spend tons on wigs when I have thick hair and a big head as it is!  So I started growing my hair out again.  But, I don’t want to have an old dragged out face.  The compromise is an updo.

While working getting an 1895 hair style I discovered the Gibson girl hair has this miracle effect of drawing your eyes up to the top of the head and away from the sagging jowls!  So daily I’ve been trying for a modern version of a Gibson Girl.

Look at my big hair, not my jowls!

And today I discovered my hair has grown long enough that it actually looks like a Gibson Girl without benefit of padding and extensions!

Looks like the real deal doesn't it!


A possible regular feature.

I need a regular post that is a low brainer once a week.  I work and evening shift once a week and come home too drained to write anything inspired.  I was thinking that on that day I’d like to show photos from museums (mostly the Met at first because that is the one I’m studying).  I haven’t decided what to call it yet.  May be it will be something like Must Have Tuesdays.  I’ll show a dress I like and could possibly see myself making one day.  And may be I’ll comment on what I would do differently. 

So this is my first Must Have Tuesday.

I generally prefer Victorian styles but I have it in my mind that I will one day have something from the 1700s.  Usually, when I think it I am thinking something with panniers as wide as my garage door but I do like this little number from the Met.

1740 dress robe a la francaise

I like that it is hand painted and simple in that the same fabric is used throughout.  I’m not likely to find hand painted silk I can afford but I would like to use a bright floral pattern like this dress has.  I like the lace bits that seem to be crocheted or knitted…I could do that!  I also really like the watteaux on the back-that is something I must do on something!  Some Victorian dresses had this feature.  I think the only thing I would change is I would hike that neck line up a bit.  I would be too afraid of a wardrobe malfunction even with lacy cloth stuffed down the front!

1740 dress rob a la francaise watteaux

 Bed time for me folks…see you tomorrow!



I love to read other sewing blogs.  I mainly like blogs that sew Victorian clothes but I have found one blog that takes vintage style patterns and makes them for everyday wear.  3 Hours Past the Edge of the World.  I like her style fashion wise and writing wise. 

I have often thought I should try to find ways to hack my Victorian patterns so I can wear Victorian with a twist every day but I’m not feeling confident in my ability to hack.  So I thought I would start with something modern and hack it.  On her blog, Steph offers a free t-shirt pattern that she has made.  I down loaded it eons ago (Steph has since up-graded it and corrected a few typos and made it all pretty.)  But, I used her old version and printed it up on my printer.

Then I went shopping for a stretchy fabric that I like.  There seems to be an abundance of really ugly t-shirt material on sale these days and I despaired of finding something I liked until I found this….

Ohhh shiny bits!

It isn’t t-shirt material but it is stretchy. 

The hack was the next step.  The first thing I did was change the neck line.  I have a double chin so I dislike things that come up close to it and accent it.

Ignore the words "back" and "front" on the pattern pieces. It is one of those typos that are now fixed up on Steph's blog.

Then I decided that it needs to be way longer.  I have a big tummy and a hem line running across it does nothing for me…even with a corset.  I simply cut the pattern pieces in the middle and added another sheet of printer paper to it.

That'd more like it.

I also have matronly arms and prefer a bit more coverage than Steph’s pattern has so I added pieces to the arms.


Me:"Should I go longer?" Self:"I don't know if I have enough material."


 Now, my material has a vertical stripe that was going to make me look slimmer in the trunk but cutting the sleeves out with the trunk was going to have the stripes run horizontally on my arms.  Not pretty.  So I printed up Steph’s drafting instructions for her Bow Tie Tee. 

You can buy the bow tie tee pattern from Steph or you can follow the instructions and hack her free basic tee pattern.

I didn’t need the fancy bow tie as my material was wild enough but the yoke provided me a way to change the directions of the stripes on the sleeves.  I hacked the top off of the two pattern pieces.

Then I had to take the plunge and cut the material.  (What! No muslin…!  I live on the edge folks!)  Do you know what they don’t tell you in sewing class in school?  The unwritten laws.  And unwritten law #1 is THE MORE YOU LIKE A MATERIAL THE BIGGER THE PAIN IN THE BUTT IT IS TO WORK WITH.  This particular fabric did not cut well.  The edges look like I had sawed them out with a plastic butter knife.  Oh well, at least it didn’t fray like my other favorite fabric.  The patterned fabric on my 1895 dinner gown had a 2 minute shelf life.  That means I had two minutes to get that stuff sewn together before the edges dissolved into something that look liked a cat’s hair ball!

Sewing the top together went surprisingly well.  But the hemming!  I hate hemming!  I hand hemmed the sleeves and bottom down and hand sewed the back of the neck down.  I thought it was going to be too small and was bracing myself for another hack to add a few inches to the side seams but it didn’t need it.


I hate photos of myself but I think I like the shirt.

And here is the side view.

Okay, so now I know that I have enough material to have made the sleeves longer. I really should have. Not pretty but not nasty.

And the back view.

I'm pleased with the back view too.

A close up of the neck line. 

Ahem, I guess I should iron that neck edge!

I’ve been wearing the shirt all afternoon and it feels Ok.  Would I make it again?  Probably not.  Not because I don’t like it but because there just isn’t a lot of stretchy fabric that love.  I don’t really like t-shirts anyway.  If I were to wear more t-shirts I can get them for cheap at a second-hand store.  But, the reason for doing this was to develop some hacking skills/confidence so I can think of one day adapting Victorian patterns.  And this did the trick!