Photo bomb

I will be photo bombing you today…not in the modern sense of the word (sneaking into other people’s photograph) but more in the manner of flooding you with several photos.  While at my volunteer job this week I saw several photos that are owned by the museum (see my last post) and I took pictures of several of them.  Since I don’t own these, I wont be sharing them one by one like I do with my own collection.  I will attempt to date them where possible.

The photo on the left is from the 80's and is of a girl around 14-16 years.  The one on the right is the same girl in her 30's in the late 1890's to early 1900's

The photo on the left is from the 80’s and is of a girl around 14-16 years. The one on the right is the same girl in her 30’s in the late 1890’s to early 1900’s

A little laddie and his dog.    So cute in his little kilt!

A little laddie and his dog. So cute in his little kilt!

1870's I'd guess.

1870’s I’d guess. Love her hair!


1860’s dress with fabulous ruffles.  I like ruffles…except they are a ton of work!

This was dated 1890

This was dated 1890-bit of a May/December relationship here.

1860's I think

1860’s I think-look at those sleeves!

This was my favorite!  Look at the embrodery on those pagoda sleeves!

This was my favorite! Look at the embroidery on those pagoda sleeves!

I think 1860's

I think 1860’s.  I’m not to sure about that boob accent!  Makes me think of the multi boobed hooker in Total Recall for some reason.

I took this photo because I didn't like the the dress.  My photo didn't turn out well because the sheer shirtwaist waist is more apparent in the original.  I really didn't like seeing the dark underneth.  It was like she through a shirtwaist over a bodice ball gown.

I took this photo because I didn’t like the dress. My photo didn’t turn out well because the sheer shirtwaist waist is more apparent in the original. I really didn’t like seeing the dark underneath. It was like she threw a shirtwaist over a bodice ball gown.

1860's I believe.

1860’s I believe.

A commemerative copy of the engagement photo of the Prince and Princess of Wales Edward and Alexandria.  The trim on her skirt is to die for!

A commemorative copy of the engagement photo of the Prince and Princess of Wales Edward and Alexandria. The trim on her skirt is to die for!  The original is not so blurry.

I would guess this is a 1860's-70's dress.  The photo really picked up the glossy shine of the silk.

I would guess this is a 1860’s-70’s dress. The photo really picked up the glossy shine of the silk.

Hope you enjoyed.

Oh boy! Here we go!

While on vacation last fall in the States, I found a place that sells real silk fabric at prices I can only dream of here in Canada.  I found some at a price that I’m hard pressed to find in a decent cotton.  If I do find it here at that price, it is so hideous that you’d have to pay me to cart it out of the store.

The thing is, the cost of silk is ordinarily so prohibitive for me that I’ve never knowingly used it.  (I did hope that a bolt of fabric I once found at a thrift store was real silk but I’ve never found out for sure).  That prohibition has caused me to fear the day I’d cut into it and sew it.  What if I botch it up and I’m left with a huge pile of expensive useless?  What if I pull it off and manage to sew something that fits and stays on my body and I wear it and dump cranberry juice on it or tear it on the car door before I even get to my event?  What if I try to wash it and it shrinks into some sort of horrid worm shaped doll dress?  Oh the humanity!  These fears have hung over me, even though I didn’t actually pay the high price.  KNOWING that I would have paid a high price for it HERE has frozen me solid!

I’ve stalled and procrastinated on that project long enough.  Today I took the plunge.

Hard to tell in this dark "selfie" but I'm cringing as I make the first cut!

Hard to tell in this dark “selfie” but I’m cringing as I make the first cut!

The skirt is cut out now and there is plenty left over for a bodice and perhaps I can use the scraps on a hat.  SAM_1685Tomorrow we bite the sewing bullet and put this puppy together.

Now I have to decide what to call this dress.  1860 …..hmmm….Silky Skies Dress?  Sure why not.

Ditto that!

I was going to do a cabinet card post today (my go to post when I don’t have anything new to share), but the lovely Dreamstress got my mind churning on another topic.  Costumes and Accuracy.

I wont quote back what she wrote because you can and should read the actual post.  In fact, you probably did read her post before wandering over here to read mine!  Rightly so!  I did want to share some of the  thoughts that have been running through my mind all evening since her post.

First of all…I agree with what she said totally.  And I’ve gleaned a new concept or two that will impact my choices (I hope) for future projects.  One was weave.  I really have no idea how many ways there are to create a fabric.  I understand knits.  I understand that denim is made differently from a brocade but beyond that….  I don’t know.  Perhaps, one day, I will take the time to learn different weaves for fabrics and more importantly, learn what was common during Victorian times and how to recognize if the fabrics I’m looking at are correct (or at least close enough).

Further to the topic of fabric, I was thinking about getting good fakes as far as color and pattern go.  I rely a lot on what I see in museums for what was available at the time.  Color and patterns terrify me.  I keep drifting towards plain browns for fear of picking a color that was simply not possible at the time.  I force myself buy color and pattern so I wont end up with 50 plain brown dresses and I tell myself it is a 50/50 crap shoot.  I may discover something is horribly wrong and then never be happy with the dress again (a good reason to not blow $400 on fabric for one gown) or I may stumble across an example that is a near perfect match and think I am the most gifted costumer.

You’ve already “heard” my rant on costumers who look down their nose at folks who choose to use synthetic fibers for costumes.  As I commented on Dreamstress’ post, I have laid a silk next to a fake and could not tell the difference…until I looked at the price.  If you have to set it on fire before you can tell if it is real or synthetic it is a good fake.  For me this is a hobby and not a career.  I’m not spending tons of money for a hobby when 95% of the people in the world could not tell the difference and 4% would have to set me on fire to know for sure. The 1% that could tell at a glance are not worth the money.

One day I will hand sew a whole costume, more as an exercise to prove to myself that I can be that disciplined and to learn what it feels like to do that task.  But for my purposes, at this time, I don’t feel I need to hand sew when no one will be looking close enough to see machine stitches.

My goal is not to create a counterfeit Victorian gown that will totally fool 95% of the world into believing it is a well-preserved dress from that era and force the other 5% to rely on chemical testing, x-rays and microscopic analysis to discover the fake!  Nor is my goal to get a museum to display my dress as a reproduction.  My goal is to feel pretty.  I kind of think of myself as more of a theatrical costumer than a museum curator or reenacted. My goal is to pretend for a few hours that I am a rich Victorian lady.  In reality I’m an actress, or more accurately, an 8-year-old in a middle-aged woman’s body and I am playing dress up with my other 8-year-old friends.  I want to have my “audience” suspend reality and allow themselves to imagine for just a moment I have stepped forward in time. They will not know enough/care enough/ get close enough to see the inaccuracies.

Besides, if I have car keys in my bag, deodorant on my body, fillings in my teeth and plastic boning in my dress I cannot be 100% accurate and I am not willing to leave the keys in the car, smell au natural, knock out my fillings and kill a whale for the sake of being authentic.  So why kill myself and wipe out my bank account trying to achieve the impossible.  I want to know what makes my dress different from a real Victorian dress so I can be more knowledgable about the time I am interested in.  I think it is a good thing to know that they didn’t have polyester blends and that they didn’t have sewing machines in 1840.  These are facts and facts are good.  Knowledge is good.  And one way to gain knowledge is to make a mistake.  Maybe I will discover that my Copper Penny dress is too vibrant a color for that era.  “Ooops.  I made a mistake.  I learned from that mistake.  Thank God I didn’t spend $40 a meter on real silk”.

And just like the Dreamstress says, you can hand sew a dress.  You can use only real silk.  You can use the perfect pattern and under garments.  And it can look more inaccurate than a machine sewn poly blend because the dyes available at that time did not make that color.

To put it short and sweet, my costume philosophy is “have fun learning and playing dress up.”

CCM: 1890 Day/Evening Gown

I have another dress for you from the vaults of the Canadian Costume Museum.SAM_0281Isn’t this a yummy color.  It even with stood photographing in a dungeon with dying camera batteries!SAM_0282I loved the sleeve details.  It would be fairly easy to do.  A ruffle at the hole edge.  A double ruffle with encased edges further up.  A fancy bow in the middle-ta da!SAM_0283All the decoration of this dress is the sleeves and the color.  Powerful but simple.SAM_0280The evening bodice is decorated in white lace at the throat and gold twisted velvet on the sleeves.  The velvet threw me off a bit.  I wondered if there was a sash of gold that has gone missing so that the sleeves would be tied in better.  But, there is a big bow on the back made with the blue so there couldn’t have been a sash.

Unfortunately, I got side tracked by another dress and didn’t get a photo of the back of the ball bodice before it was taken off of the dummy.

CCM’s 1872 wedding dress.

It was trimmed in this dainty lace (which I assume is discolored).

I wonder if it was hand-made?


Look at how tiny this womans waist was!


I wish the lighting was better because this is an awesome view!

I just love the sleeve detail.

I’m thinking this was worn with an undersleeve.

I like a train on a wedding dress.They even have the suit the groom wore.

May I present to you Angelina Huges-Arnett and Mr Arnett.

It is hard to see in the picture because the mannequins were not a good representation of the original owners but Mr. Arnett was a huge hulk of a man and Mrs Arnett was this teeny tiny thing!  The male mannequin was too small vertically AND horizontally and the female mannequin was a tad more robust than Mrs Arnett was!






In my Victorian dreams…

In my Victorian dreams I am rich.  I’ve never had more than a passing interest in the fashions of the working class.  I know that they could not afford the materials the wealthy had.  They wore dresses for years with little more than an alteration here or there to try to keep up with the fashions.  When the dress wore out beyond wearability, it was cut down for someone who required less material, like a child or made into quilts and rag rugs.

No, in my dreams I am rich.  In my dreams I have silk dresses.  I change outfits 4 or 5 times a day.  I can afford at least one Worth gown.  And all those nasty chores like cleaning…I have a girl for that.

(Above photo picked up from the internet.  I added the link to credit the possible owner of this photo.  It was found in an ad for fireplaces.)  In reality…I don’t have a girl.  I am the girl.  Sigh.  I hate housework!

Have I mentioned that I hate housework?

Historical Accuracy meets my costuming philosophy

When I first considered getting back into this hobby I promptly dismissed the idea.  My thinking was if I couldn’t do it in a historically accurate manner I wasn’t going to do it.  I got hung up on the idea that I couldn’t afford 12 meters of pure silk taffeta so there was no point.  I just was not too interested in what the poor ladies were wearing.  I was looking at Worth dresses and the like and drooling over them.  I didn’t want to be making cotton shifts that the maid would wear. 

1877 dress worth dinner dress The Met

Then I started to think in details. 

I would have to use modern materials if the original material is illegal to own.  An example of that is ivory.

1868 ivory parasol The Met

If I was replicating something with fur on it, I would likely use fake fur as I’m not in favor of an animal dying for my hobby, it is too expensive to buy and I’m not skilled enough to not ruin the fur and make that animal’s death an even bigger waste. 

1916 cape The Met

 And real jet and diamonds is simply not an option.  What if one fell off!

I had no moral or ethical issues over using modern substitutes for these items.  Once I agreed with myself that these substitutes would be OK I asked myself why a synthetic fiber would be considered wrong.  True, polyester would not be an accurate fiber but if I can’t afford the real stuff polyester would be an affordable option.  Also, synthetic fibers wash better.  I would be wearing these outfits as a costume, not as a museum piece and not as a contest entry (at least not at this point).  As costumes, they would get dirty and  I’d have to be able to wash them without worrying that I ruined 3 days worth of pay in the wash tub!  This started me into thinking of perspective.  I wanted to look like a lady from the 1800’s but I don’t have her money or her maids.  IT IS A COSTUME!  If I’m a fake lady I can have fake fabric. 

Don’t get me wrong!  If by some miracle I find 12 meters of silk at $2 a meter I’m snapping that up and making me a dress.  But, I’m not going to sit around waiting for that to happen!

So what will be accurate?  I want to match styles to the era.  If I’m wearing an 1880s dress I will wear lace up boots (granted they are pleather and not real leather) and not strappy stilettos.  The correct sleeve style will go with the correct skirt style.  If I make a dress that would be dated pre sewing machine then I’d like to think I’d hand sew that puppy.  (No plans for pre machine dresses.  I’m chronically lazy.)  I’d also try to use colors that were available.  No hot pink 1840s numbers unless I can find proof that there was such a creature.

How do the rest of you balance authenticity, expense, skills and availability of materials?