The Amazing Balayeuse (HSM #8)

I am super pleased with a recently completed addition to my historical closet, my brand new balayeuse! Practical, utilitarian, and still managing to be a little frivolous looking, this thing is amazing!

I’ll tell you all about it, but first… what is a balayeuse? Our go-to source for etymology, the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), has the following information.

balayeuse, n.
Pronunciation:  /balɛˈjəːz/
Frequency (in current use)
Etymology: French, feminine of balayeur sweeper.
Dressmaking.
1882   S. F. A. Caulfeild & B. C. Saward Dict. Needlework 18/2   Balayèuse, or Sweeper.—A French term to signify the frilling of material or lace which lines the extreme edge of a dress skirt to keep the train clean as it sweeps along the floor. The balayèuse is allowed to project beyond the edge of the dress, so as to form a decorative as well as a useful trimming.
1894   Daily News 20 Jan. 5/7   Three flounces of..silk forming a richly-rustling balayeuse beneath the hem.

Please note: The Oxford English Dictionary is only available by subscription, therefore I have not included links to this definition as you will not be able to access it simply by clicking a link. Many libraries have subscriptions to the OED, so I suggest you start there for access.

Are you curious how to pronounce balayeuse? The OED provides us with the correct pronunciation, but the official pronunciation notes don’t mean too much to me. I think of the word as bal-ay-yuhz.

Ok, so now we know what this thing is and how to pronounce it. We even have an idea of the purpose, from the OED definition.

As you saw in the first photo, my balayeuse is it’s own garment. But there is another type of balayeuse mentioned in the first OED quote, from 1882. Also called a ‘dust ruffle’, this type of balayeuse is directly attached to the skirt. I’ve had great luck with this in the past and I really like the look of lace peeking out from under a late 19th century skirt, so I included that type of balayeuse on the pink skirt as well, but that alone was not enough to keep its shape.

I decided to make a second type of balayeuse–one that, in addition to the wonderful job of keeping the underside of the skirt’s train from becoming soiled, also helps the train to keep its shape and not collapse on itself. Caroline (of the blog Dressed In Time) mentions this function in a blog post showing her own balayeuse. Here is the train of my skirt laid out (sneak peak!).

I felt I had to make my skirt before the balayeuse, in order to make the balayeuse the right shape to hide under the skirt when it was finished, and so I’ve tried it on a few times without the balayeuse. The train is great looking when I twist and turn in my corset to get the skirt to lay just right, but it doesn’t stay that way when I move around.

But with the balayeuse it was so different! The skirt just magically lays exactly how it should as soon as I put it on and it stays that way no matter how I move–backing up, turning, it is amazing!

So how does this balayeuse really help keep the shape? Well, the main thing is that the base is a double layer of stiff cotton poplin (from Dharma Trading–I love them for my natural fiber, white, black, and unbleached fabric needs). This photo of the balayeuse with the ruffle side face down (as it would be worn) shows the poplin off nicely.

The poplin base is basically a big rectangle with the bottom edge curved up at the sides. I used the full width of the poplin, which was a little less than 60″ wide. The center is 17″ tall and the sides taper to about 9″. The base is gathered to a band that is 28″ wide and 2″ tall. I didn’t add extra stiffening to the band, as the poplin is pretty hardy all by itself. This blog post at Atelier Nostalgia has an image that was great inspiration for my shape (though my balayeuse is wider than this) and the button attachment method I’ll show you below.

The poplin base has three rows of ruffles attached to it. I decided to use unbleached muslin for the ruffles for a few reasons: #1 gathering three rows of stiff poplin didn’t sound like fun (and the base is plenty stiff enough as it is), #2 I figured that the muslin would be less obviously dirty looking, already being unbleached as opposed to very white, and #3 the muslin will be easy and cheap to replace someday, if needed.

As you can see in the photo above, the band of the balayeuse has buttonholes in it. This allows the balayeuse to be easily removed for cleaning and storage, or use with a different dress (thinking ahead, here!). To accommodate the buttonholes, there are buttons sewn to the lining of the skirt.

The buttons are reinforced with extra squares of muslin whipped to the lining, as you can see in the photo below.

It seemed too much to ask the buttons to hang on to a single layer of muslin while dragging the balayeuse around. Here’s what those whipped on squares look like on the other side.

The end result is this. As you can see, the non-ruffled top of the balayeuse overlaps with the skirt lining and would not be dragging on the ground. The muslin ruffles actually continue the muslin underskirt nicely, I think, though no one is likely to ever see that!

It might not seem super stiff, but this ruffle-y contraption spreads out beautifully when it hits the floor. For comparison, here is a photo of my mockup balayeuse, made from an old sheet (and without ruffles). It’s spread out for the photo, but you can imagine how an old sheet would collapse on itself when picked up.

One last thought… the ruffles! I decided to try out a new tool for these ruffles: a narrow hem foot. This is one of those things I should have tried before but haven’t ever used for a project, but miles of ruffle edges seemed like the perfect opportunity to practice!

I can report that practice definitely helped! For example, I had some trouble going over my french seamed joins in the ruffles. In the photo below, my first try is on the left, my fifth try is in the middle, and my last try is just coming up on the right. The french seam was just too bulky to fit through the hook on the presser foot that turns under the hemmed edge. I discovered that if I eliminated some bulk with a diagonal cut of the seam allowance it worked so much better!

I didn’t bother to go back and fix my first few sad-looking french seam crossings. I figured this was going to drag around on the ground, and who would be looking? Also, it’s more fun to make beautifully colored dresses than muslin ruffles… There was a bit of ‘done is good’ on that front for this project.

Yay for learning things! I also found I needed to move my needle just a tad bit to the right of center to easily (and speedily) stitch the narrow hems.

The mention of the narrow hem foot reminds me that this project qualifies for the HSM challenge #8: Celebration.

Make something for a specific historical celebration, make something generally celebration worthy, make something that celebrates a historical hero, or just make something that celebrates some new skills you’ve learned.

Just the facts:

Fabric/Materials:  1 yard cotton poplin and 1 yard cotton muslin.

Pattern: My own.

Year: c. 1875.

Notions: 5 light yellow plastic buttons and thread.

How historically accurate is it?: I haven’t seen an extant stand-alone balayeuse before, so I can’t be sure, but I would say 90%. Materials and style completely recognizable and plausible for their time.

Hours to complete:  5 ¼ hours.

First worn: In May, for fittings. I need to complete my ensemble (only the hat is left!) so I can wear it with the dress it was made for to get photos.

Total cost: $6.25 for the poplin and $4 for the muslin. The buttons were gifted to me. And the thread was negligible. There was a bit of shipping to get the poplin, so let’s say $15 total.

Further information I found helpful as I made my balayeuse included this blog post at Yesterday’s Thimble. It’s also worth mentioning that if this idea sounds great, but patterning your own balayeuse is too much, Truly Victorian has a pattern for a petticoat with detachable train that you can check out.

Sad & Box Iron Etymology

I shared a new adventure with you in my last post as I learned how to make use of my late 19th century fluting iron.

I’ve received lots of interest in this experiment from family, friends, blog readers, and Instagram followers. Yay! Thanks! It’s been great fun to connect with you. I’ve heard about people’s memories as well as stories of lurking, unused, antique irons that people are feeling motivated to try out. I’ve also received enthusiastic feedback about the etymology of various antique iron terms.

On that note, a friend-who-shall-not-be-named who was most intrigued about iron etymology shared a variety of sources with me with clear images and descriptions of different types of irons as well as pointing me towards the Oxford English Dictionary for the meaning of the term ‘sad iron’ (the OED is source which I greatly enjoy but hadn’t thought to make use of during my experiment as I was more focused on how to use a fluting iron in that moment). I thought that some of the information contained in the OED might interest some of you, as well, so here is a rather long, word-heavy post looking at the meaning and history of words… I hope you enjoy!

To start, let’s look at the word ‘sad’ followed by the term ‘sad iron’.

‘Sad’

‘Sad’ in the OED has an extensive list of definitions, many of which are noted as being obsolete and no longer in use.

sadadj.n., and adv.
Excerpt from the Oxford English Dictionary, with quotations, phrases, and compounds omitted

A. adj.
I. Of persons and immaterial things: satisfied, full; steady, serious.
1. Having had one’s fill; satisfied, sated; weary or tired (of something). Chiefly with of or infinitive. Obsolete.
†2. 
a. Settled, firmly established in purpose or condition; steadfast, firm, constant. Obsolete.
b. Strong, firm, standing fast, esp. in battle; capable of resisting; valiant. Obsolete.
3.
a. Of looks, appearance: dignified, grave, serious. Obsolete.
b. Of a person: orderly and regular in life; of trustworthy character and judgement; grave, serious. Also, in extended use, of a person’s behaviour or age, of a period of time, etc. Often coupled with wise or discreet. In later use archaic or regional (chiefly Scottish and Caribbean).
c. Of thought, consideration, etc.: mature, serious, grave, considered. Obsolete.
d. Profoundly or solidly learned (in something). Obsolete.
4. Unmistakable, certain; true, genuine. Obsolete.

II.Feeling sorrow or regret, and related uses. (Now the principal use.)
5.
a. Of a person, or his or her feelings, disposition, etc.: feeling sorrow; sorrowful, mournful, heavy-hearted.
b. Expressing or showing sorrow; (esp. of a look, tone, gesture, or feature) mournful.
c. Causing or evoking sorrow; calamitous, distressing.
d. Of a period, place, action, etc.: characterized by sorrow, full of sorrow; (in early use esp.) hard, sore, bitter.
6. Used as a general expression of censure, depreciation, or regret. Originally: exceptionally bad, deplorable, shameful. Later (also): unfortunate, regrettable, sorry, miserable.
7. slang (depreciative). Esp. of a person: pathetically inadequate or unfashionable; socially undesirable or inept.

III. In various physical senses, principally developed from branch A. I.
8. Of material objects.
a. Firmly fixed or established, stable. Obsolete.
b. Solid; dense, compact; massive, heavy. Also figurative. Now rare (regional in later use).
c. Solid as opposed to liquid. Also figurativeObsolete.
d. Of soil: stiff, heavy; difficult to work.
e. Of a number of persons or things: forming a compact body. Obsolete.
f. Of pastry, dough, etc.: that has failed to rise, heavy. Now chiefly regional.
9.
a. Of a blow: heavy, delivered with vigour. Obsolete.
b. Of a fire: violent. Obsolete.
c. Of rain: heavy. Obsolete.
10.
a. Of colour: dark, deep. In later use esp.: not cheerful-looking; neutral, dull, sombre.
b. Esp. of clothing or fabric: of such a shade; dark-coloured; sombre. Now rare (archaic and poetic in later use).
11. Of sleep: sound, deep. Obsolete.

B. n.
1. Satiety, weariness. Obsolete.
2. Now chiefly with the. Sad or sorrowful people as a class. Also: something sad or suggesting sadness (rare).

C. adv. In a sad manner (in various senses of the adjective). Chiefly recorded in poetical and literary contexts.
1.
a. Firmly, strongly, fixedly; soundly. Obsolete.
b. Heavily, with force. Obsolete.
c. Steadfastly. Obsolete.
2. Seriously, solemnly; soberly, discreetly, wisely. Obsolete.
3. Thoroughly, truly, certainly. Obsolete.
4. Sadly, sorrowfully, mournfully. Now rare (poetic in later use).

That’s a lot of meanings for the word ‘sad’! Even a quick scroll and skim makes it clear how many of these definitions are obsolete. Fascinating!

‘Sad Iron’

To think about how the definition of ‘sad’ influences the definition of ‘sad iron’, I would like to draw your attention back to III. 8. b. from the OED definition of ‘sad’. (Here it is again so you don’t have to scroll back up.)

sadadj.n.
Excerpt from the Oxford English Dictionary

III. In various physical senses, principally developed from branch A. I.
8. Of material objects.
b. Solid; dense, compact; massive, heavy. Also figurative. Now rare (regional in later use).
[In the OED, this definition is followed by this note:]
In early use frequently ‘solid, as opposed to hollow’; cf. sad iron n.sadware n. at Compounds 2.

Ah ha! This is the most relevant part of the definition of ‘sad’ for this discussion. While III. 8. b. does list heavy as one of the meanings of the word ‘sad’, the following note clarifies that in terms of ‘sad iron’ the meaning is focused on the way the object is made: ‘solid, as opposed to hollow’. What does that mean? Let’s allow the OED explain it to us.

sad ironn.
Excerpt from the Oxford English Dictionary

Now historical.
A solid flat iron for smoothing clothes, in contradistinction to a hollow box iron.

As with every definition, the OED has provided a list of relevant quotes using the word over hundreds of years. I omitted those for the word ‘sad’ as there were just too many and it was less directly relevant, but for ‘sad iron’ I’ve included the quotations provided by the OED below. Again, I find it fascinating to see where the quotes were published, what years they are from, and how the term is used.

1759   Newport (Rhode Island) Mercury 9 Oct. 4/3   Imported from London & Bristol, And to be sold by Samuel Goldthwait..Sad Irons, Box Ditto, Brass and Iron Candlesticks.
1787   Maryland Gaz. 1 June 1/2   Hardware of all kinds… Sad-Irons in casks of 2 cwt.
1833   J. Holland Treat. Manuf. Metal II. 253   Dealers commonly distinguish these useful implements by the terms ‘sad-iron’, ‘box-iron’ and ‘Italian-iron’.
1899   Daily News 30 Oct. 2/7   Sadirons 10s. per ton [dearer].
1936   M. Mitchell Gone with the Wind i. v. 84   Hands like sadirons when it comes to reins.
1964   F. O’Rourke Mule for Marquesa 99   Washday smell,..don’t forget to damp and starch, spit on the sadiron.
1995   Mother Earth News Feb. 75/3 (advt.   Hundreds of old time general store items you thought they’d quit making years ago, including wooden kegs, pickle crocks,..sad irons, [etc.].

 

8.III.b. also mentioned ‘sadware’. Now that we know so many meanings for the word ‘sad’ we could take a guess at the meaning, but I thought I would include the OED definition to clarify.

sadware n.
Excerpt from the Oxford English Dictionary

Now historical.
(Heavy) pewter flatware

‘Box Iron’

So what does the OED have to say about box, or hollow, irons? The OED has ‘box iron’ contained within the definition for ‘box’. (The OED does not have a separate entry for ‘hollow iron’.) Here is the relevant bit.

boxn.2
Excerpt from the Oxford English Dictionary

I. A container or receptacle, and related uses.

C1. General attributive.
c. With the sense ‘of the nature of, or resembling a box’.

box-iron  n. a smoothing iron with a cavity to contain a heater; also attributive.

1723   London Gaz. No. 6195/6   John Brown..Box-Iron-maker.
1746   H. Miles in Philos. Trans. (Royal Soc.) 44 56   Box-Irons for smoothing Linen-Clothes.

Images of Irons

Here are some images of the types of irons mentioned above as well as some other interesting iron variations as well.

This site has a photo and information about an extant sad iron.

This site (also linked in my last post) has a helpful description of box irons and how they were heated in the past as well as how they are used today. There are also a few helpful images, including box irons and sad irons.

This site has drawings of all kinds of irons, including a box iron (and variations such as charcoal and gas), a polishing iron, a millinery iron, an egg iron, an Italian iron (and the bolt used to heat it), and two different types of specialty tongs used for pressing trims.

This site has a photo and information about an extant charcoal (box) iron.

The Italian iron, also called a goffering iron, is mentioned in the OED quote from 1833 in the entry for ‘sad iron’. One of these was featured in the video from the Oshawa Community Museum that I included in my last post, and here is another extant one, with a photo and information.

Other specialty irons existed, too. Check out this billiard table iron.

Please note: The Oxford English Dictionary is only available by subscription, therefore I have not included links to the definitions in this post, as you will not be able to access them simply by clicking a link. Many libraries have subscriptions to the OED, so if you would like to conduct your own adventures in etymology I suggest you start there for access.

Project Journal: 1863 Apricot Evening Gown Part VII: Finishing Details

Next post will be photos of my finished apricot dress… YAY! But first, I have the final finishing details to discuss. Most of the finishing left was on the bodice, so let’s start with that.

Bertha

Side note: have we ever talked about what a bertha is? A bertha is a collar of lace or other thin fabric, particularly popular during the 19th century. Check out this link to learn a little more about the history of the word.

In my last post, I included a photo showing the assembled front of the bertha for this dress before I attached it to the bodice. My goal was to make the bertha completely separate so that it would be easy to change if I decided to do that at a later time.

The foundation is a single layer of ivory tulle cut to the shape of the front (and one for the back) of the fully assembled bodice. A gathered piece of my lace trim was machine stitched to the bottom edge of the tulle, about ½” up from the cut edge.

On top of that foundation is a second layer of tulle that is gathered at both the top and bottom edges. The top edge is folded under by about ½” and the gathering stitch run through both layers so that the top edge is a fold rather than the cut edge of the tulle.

It took quite a few pins to secure the gathered tulle to the tulle underneath. It was finicky–tulle on tulle… not fun!

And I might have made a mistake while ironing my first foundation piece of tulle. Any guesses about what that was?

Oops! I like to iron with a hot iron but the nylon tulle was having none of that! I had to cut a new piece… and turn down my iron for a bit! The bottom gathered tulle in the above photo shows another failed experiment. That tulle is a full double width folded at the top and gathered top and bottom. I decided it was too bulky and not as elegant and decided to go with my previously explained method of only turning the top to create a fold.

After machine sewing my successful gathered tulle to the base layer of tulle it was time to add velvet trim. The velvet was cut on the bias, both edges pressed under, and then it was slip stitched over the stitch lines in the tulle. I also created velvet bows, as I hinted about last time. This is one of the bows I created before I realized I needed more than I had cut out… oops again!

After recutting my bows, this is the velvet I had left. I didn’t include anything for scale, but the longest piece in this photo is about 6″!

Remaking the bows (or rather, cutting new ones and disassembling ones I had already made) brings us back to where we were in the last post. The old velvet bows had top bow parts and dangling bow parts cut on the straight of grain, but due to my limited fabric I cut out the new bows with bias dangling parts. In the end I’m glad I did, because I think they hang more elegantly than the straight cut version.

Brooches

You might have noticed that the center velvet bow on the bertha has a gold filigree oval on it. In my inspiration it looks like these are buckles or brooches of some kind. I started by trying to use my stash, finding two matching football shaped buckles that I hoped could work. But the more I looked at them the more I didn’t like them.

So I spent a long time looking for something else low-cost that would work. Ideally, I wanted two sizes of the same style, but that quickly proved to be hard unless I wanted smallish very sparkly rhinestone buckles. But of course the scale of this dress is not small. Eventually I found the right search terms to find open centered brooches intended for creating your own cameos. I purchased these and painted them gold using acrylic paint. Despite being the same size for the bodice and skirt, I think they worked well!

Sleeves

I suppose I should also mention the sleeves. They made it onto the bodice but I haven’t talked about them at all. They are cut on the straight of grain and are basically a round-top trapezoid shape, with an outer layer of silk that is larger than an inner layer of my flat lining cotton. The silk was gathered around the bottom and around the armhole to fit. Due to the longer measurement of the silk it rolls up inside the sleeves by about 1″, which keeps the cotton from showing while being worn. Here you can see the poofy sleeves as well as the bertha before it had velvet added.

Oh, but those sleeves weren’t done yet! My inspiration had sleeves that appeared to be droopy continuations of the bertha. This is a detail that is different from all of my previous dresses from this period, so I felt it would be a neat detail to include. It took quite a bit of pondering to decide how to achieve the look and it was something I didn’t feel I could tackle until well into the process when I could see what the bertha and sleeves were doing without the extra layer.

My solution was to create sleeve caps of single layers of tulle with more of my lace and silk pleated trim on top. The tulle rather disappears when worn, giving the effect of floating trim. It’s pretty neat, actually.

Sewing the lace on was easy and relatively fast, as I did it by machine. But the silk… well, I thought I had enough left over from my crazy skirt trimming for the sleeves but those pleats eat silk so quickly! I only had about 75% of what I needed.

It was less than a week before the ball. I had returned the scalloped scissors to my friend so I couldn’t cut more silk. I tried spacing out what I had as much as possible without looking different from the skirt. And I was still short! UGH! Last minute challenges aren’t very fun. I pleated and re-pleated. Got a few more inches covered. Then I decided to harvest some pleated trim from my skirt, from underneath the big velvet bow where it wouldn’t be seen. Not terribly fun, to seam rip something you’ve just made. And the pieces I got were about 5″ in length. But I got them. And I put them on those sleeves. And even though they’re pieced you can’t tell at all and those sleeves got done!

This photo shows the first sleeve in progress, before I realized I didn’t have enough silk trim…

I sewed the sleeve caps on with small top stitches to the outside of the bodice at the armsceye seam. Again, this makes them easy to remove if I want. Also, I’d already set the sleeves… so I couldn’t easily put them into that seam (oops?). In the end, it doesn’t matter that they’re on the outside, because the bertha lace completely hides the armsceye along the top of the sleeve.

Bodice Finishing Details

In addition to sewing on the sleeve caps, I also attached both the front and back bertha layers to the bodice.

I finished my eyelets and ran the lacing ribbon through the top half. I find that 3 yards of ribbon allows me to leave the ribbon laced through the top eyelets and still get in and out, which makes getting dressed faster as the person helping me then only has to lace the bottom half of the bodice and tighten the ribbon at the top.

I also made and whipped in a placket. That’s the rectangular piece that’s rather wrinkly in the center of the photo below. While this bodice fits perfectly now, you never know what the future will bring and this will allow for a slight gap (if needed) that will still look like dress fabric and not like underwear.

I added hooks and thread bars to the bertha at the right shoulder, as well as two along the right back neckline to hold it in place along that edge. There is also a hook on the lace to secure it to the lace on the front of the bertha. Once hooked it looks seamless!

The final step was to sew hooks on the front and sides inside the bodice to allow it hook to the skirt. You can see the hook on the boning at the center front in the photo below.

Skirt Finishing Details

The skirt was basically done once I added my giant velvet bow except for a few things.

I added two hooks and bars to the waistband to close the skirt. The narrow hemmed opening is hidden under a pleat and will allow for future changes in waist size if needed.

I added loops to hook the bodice to. You can see one of those on the left. Turns out I didn’t line the side ones up very well (I think this was the very last task late one night on the last night I was stitching), so we added a safety pin at the ball and hooked the bodice to that. The safety pin is visible just to the right of the loop. At some point I need to move the loop to the location of the safety pin. Boo! There’s always something to fix or repair or change once you wear a garment!

And finally, when I added the waistband I also added hanging loops for the skirt. There’s one poking up on the right. These allow me to easily hang the skirt to keep it from getting wrinkled in storage.

And finally… after many, many hours of sewing, this dress is done. I like big projects but I confess to getting a bit sick of this one after sewing on it every day for about a month at the end of the process. Next post will be photos of the finished dress. (And I can report that I was happy with it in the end! Yay!)

Shortcut Dickey Report

When ordering things from the internet sometimes you just don’t know if what you pull out of the shipping envelope will be what you hope for… but I’m pleased to report that my dickey and bowtie shortcut was successful!

The dickey has a neck size that fits me perfectly (I measure 14 ¾” around the neck), is a nice plain cotton material (not polyester-y at all), has a nice collar shape, and has reasonable stitching (some of the reviews said it was horribly stitched, but the one that I received was just fine). The bow tie’s fabric has a nice texture and body, is also not polyester-y (even though it probably is made of polyester), and has solid bow tie hardware.

(For the record, polyester-y means shiny, thin, slippery, or generally wrinkle-your-nose and hard-to-deal with-y. I’m not saying all polyester is bad. Just the bad stuff!)

Bow tie!

Merriam-Webster’s defines dickey (also spelled dickie and dicky) thus:

1: any of various articles of clothing: such as
a: a man’s separate or detachable shirtfront
b: a small fabric insert worn to fill in the neckline

In this case, the dickey I am referring to falls under definition B.

The one thing about the dickey that was ridiculous are the supposedly under the arm elastics that come attached. There is no way they would have sat under my arms and been comfortable! They were only about half the distance from the shoulder they would need to be to even go under my arms! Luckily, a seam ripper easily took them off. Since I’m using this dickey for historical purposes I decided on a more complicated system of vertical tapes and a waist tie to keep my dickey in place under my clothes. Here it is!

The tapes keep the dickey pulled down in the front and back so that I can get dressed without the shirt parts flapping around and looking disheveled.

The only other change I made was to change the angle of the shoulders so they would slope a bit more towards the arm sides. That’s a detail that would be best to customize on each body wearing this garment, so I can’t fault the makers too much–they made a general pattern and it just happens to not have my shoulder angle. No problem!

Yay! Now all of the accessories for my 1890s cycling ensemble are assembled and ready to go. Soon there will be photos of the finished ensemble!

Vernet Project: A Witzchoura Tangent

I started this post soon after joining the Vernet Project, so I think it must have been in my drafts for close to two years at this point. I didn’t want to leave it in the drafts folder forever, though, so I thought I’d include it as I’m wrapping up my Vernet posts.

Throughout my research, I’ve looked through many hundreds of pins on my Pinterest boards from the 1810s, 1820s, and 1830s and have found only a handful of plates that show outerwear specifically labeled as witzchouras (these can be seen in this past post showing examples). There are a much larger number of other, similar, types of outerwear.

(If you’ve missed out, this post explores the origins and qualities of a witzchoura, while this past post explores witzchouras in even more depth, with multiple excepts from the first part of the 19th century mentioning them.)

Examples of garments similar to witzchouras

Common garments in this category are labeled using words such as pelisse and pardessus. Then there are also carriage dresses (example), promenade dresses (example), and redingotes (example) trimmed in fur, but it seems clear in the fashion plate descriptions that these garments were not considered witzchouras.

ac27bb830f63f1673e45316d0e18f87d
Fashion plate showing a Pardessus from 1811.

Here is another similar garment, a Russian mantle, described in The Ladies Pocket Magazine in 1838 under the chapter English Fashions and Novelties: Remarks On The Prevailing London Fashions.

content

Descriptions of garments similar to witzchouras

In 1849, La Belle Assembleé addresses this for us (while also mentioning yet another type of outer wear, a burnous. The Dreamstress defines and explores this garment specifically as it relates to historical fashion, which is excellent and full of images!). The author of this reflection of fashion specifically mentions the weight of a witzchoura and how that compares to the weight of a pardessus, as well as the types of outings that these garments would have been worn for. Interesting that they would be worn for carriage dress, when, alternatively, one could also wear a ‘carriage dress’.

content

This next excerpt, from La Belle Assembleé in 1825, tells us one distinctive quality of a pelisse which is that the arms were not encased in the garment and could be freely moved about.

content-1

a94e6fc37e3582c81ab22797c3c06b78
Example of a Pelisse from 1815, showing the armholes that would allow movement.
004c2dc3370c00425fcfd044369a9d53
A slightly later example of a Pelisse in a similar style. This is from 1821.

Examples of out of the ordinary witzchouras

Then there are garments labeled as witzchouras, but which are odd in a variety of ways. For example, take a look at the interesting witzchoura mentioned in The Lady’s Monthly Museum in 1817, seen below.

content

I’m not really sure what qualities allow a witzchorua to keep one’s dress from being rumpled, but what strikes me as odd is that the witzchoura mention is lined with silk and that is has a chapeau bras attached! Also in 1817, La Belle Assembleé mentions this exact garment twice! The first is a description of the garment. The second is about the inventor, Mrs. Bell, who, if you care to read more, has a long list of other interesting things that she supplies.

content

content-1

In this next case, the witzchoura is described as being lined with sarsnet (a fine plain or sometimes twill weave usually silk fabric) and only trimmed with fur rather than being lined entirely with fur. Haven’t we seen conclusively that a witzchoura should be lined and trimmed in fur? This witzchoura is also interesting because of its colors. It is quite likely a garment made for the general mourning of the death of Queen Charlotte, who passed away in November 1818.

“For out-door costume nothing can be reckoned more completely elegant than the Witchoura pelisse of black velvet lined with white sarsnet, and trimmed with real ermine.”

La Belle Assembleé  in January 1818

Finally, there is this fashion plate at the LACMA which is labeled as being a witzchoura but with nothing witzchoura-like about it! A mistake perhaps? This looks like a summer garment, not a heavy winter garment.

What a rabbit hole of obscure information the witzchoura is. I’m rather glad to say that I’ve now exhausted my currnet list of historical references to the witzchoura!

Project Journal: Versailles Sacque: Hair Decided

I’m quite busy sewing up a storm to get my sacque finished in the last few days I have before heading out on my trip. Therefore this is just a quick post to document my progress.

In the last few weeks I had two hair trial days. The first was a bit frustrating, because I did my hair twice and wasn’t satisfied either time. I was experimenting: figuring out what worked and what didn’t, what was becoming and what wasn’t, fashioning and refashioning the support for the style, and making permanent and detachable buckles (see below for a description of a buckle, from Cunnington’s The Dictionary of Fashion History).

Screen Shot 2016-05-20 at 7.52.27 PM

The second day was much more successful. The buckles were already made, I knew what shape I wanted to achieve, and I had a clearer idea of how to get there. Eventually I plan to share more details about creating the style, but for now, here are pictures of the style on trial day #2 with another sneak peak at my sacque in the process of having its trim added.

IMG_0951 - Version 2

IMG_0954

I also played with powdering my hair on day #2. I was unsure about it before I tried it, but the powder helps the real greys (ahem) blend in and helps the false hair of the buckles with their sheen blend better, too. For the actual event I’ll have to do a better job making it even so I don’t look like I have a streak!

The sacque is so close to done that I’m crossing it off, too. It needs one more sleeve flounce layer and an under sleeve flounce layer added, but that’s it! And trim. Pinning the trim is taking a lot longer than I imagined it would because I am a perfectionist about the placement. I don’t expect that sewing it will be as slow, but I’m not there yet. Ahh! Off to sew!

  • Panniers
  • Petticoat
  • Robe a la francaise (with a subset of trimming)
  • Hair
  • Shoes

1899 Gibson Girl Coiffure

I was very pleased with my hair for the 1890s ball! One of the reasons I liked the idea of an 1899 dress is because it is close enough to the turn of the century that a Gibson Girl hair style made sense. My hair loves cooperating in poofy styles, so this was perfect!

IMG_2184

I created the super poof using a pad made from one leg of a pair of tights. It’s stuffed with cheap “wizard beard” hair that would otherwise have gone in the trash. Being stuffed with synthetic hair, the pad is pretty warm. And I did struggle a bit to get bobby pins through the tights–I need to add loops to the ends for next time I think. Aside from those things, though, the pad was perfect!

IMG_2245

I also created a new hair ornament to finish off the coiffure. I had originally thought of bleaching the ostrich feathers to create an aigrette*, like this, but decided that I liked the ostrich feathers as is and didn’t feel like dealing with bleach. There are two feathers: a grey and a white. I found that the white helped create definition for the grey on my dark hair. The sparkly bit is a cheap eBay brooch. I sewed the feathers to it and then used the pin part to bobby pin it in place on my head.

IMG_0524 (1)

Success! Look at that haughty Gibson girl look (like this)!

IMG_2197

*An aigrette is a spray of feathers from an egret. Confusing!

Vernet Project: Toque de Velours

Today, I’m going to share more information about the unusual hat in my Vernet fashion plate.

IMG_1903

The caption reads “Toque de Velours.” I already had a rough translation in my head, basically “Hat of Velvet,” but thought I should double check the definitions before deciding on materials.

Toque:

1:  a woman’s small hat without a brim made in any of various soft close-fitting shapes

2:  tuque (a warm knitted usually pointed stocking cap)

3: a tall brimless hat worn by a chef —called also toque blanche

Velours:

1:  any of various fabrics with a pile or napped surface resembling velvet used in heavy weights for upholstery and curtains and in lighter weights for clothing; also  :  the article of clothing itself

2:  a fur felt (as of rabbit or nutria) finished with a long velvety nap and used especially for hats

Well, the hat does rather resemble a chef hat, doesn’t it? My rough translation was confirmed! Luckily, I had black silk velvet in my stash, which perfectly suited the project.

The hat base is buckram in the simple shape of an oval to fit my head with a flat tip on top. I don’t have pictures, but imagine the shape of a straight sided Lincoln-like top hat without the brim and you’ll have the right idea. The buckram is mulled with cotton flannel and wired around the head opening, tip, and partway up the side. The buckram support is about 8″ tall.

In addition, there is padding to support the poof on top. I chose to use polyester batting–it’s not at all accurate, but I had it on hand and it isn’t seen. There are concentric ovals on top that diminish in size with each layer as well as a few layers around the top of the buckram on the side to provide support for the tucks/pleats.

rolledpleats
The “stacked” pleat is on the right.

The poof is a large circle that is flat lined with a piece of muslin to help provide the support for the pleats. The pleats are about 1″ wide knife pleats that are then folded back on themselves to create a double pleat (this website calls this type of pleat a stacked pleat and is the source for the image). To determine the type of pleat, I played around with my fabric until I found a method that created an effect like the fashion plate, which is like fans or slices (you can see it in this post). Then I eyeballed how many to do, pinning and re-pinning until the pleats were evenly spaced and the poof fit into the side of my hat (no math here, I avoid it as much as possible most of the time).

The definition on the sides (at the head opening and about 1.5″ up from the head opening) was created by inserting “cording” under the velvet. My “cording” is actually modern acrylic yarn in sunshine yellow (like the batting, I made this choice because I had the materials on hand, it worked, and it will not be seen–but it is not accurate). I believe there are two or three lengths of yarn in each single section of “cording” to get the right thickness to show under the velvet.

IMG_1887
We took this photo specifically to capture the detail of the hat construction (usually the black all washes together, eliminating evidence of all the detail).

The rest is just sewing! The hat is entirely hand sewn, with the layers of velvet either tacked to the mulling or stitched through to the interior of the buckram base. Once I had finished the exterior sewing, I whipped up a lining of black silk  to tidy up the inside.

The last step was to trim the hat with the immense ostrich feathers depicted in the fashion plate. I ordered my feathers from Lamplight Feather, which I highly recommend (quick shipping, good quality, and great selection). The hat has 6 total feathers, each 17″-21″in length. Each plume is two feathers sewn together along the central stem before being shaped and sewn to the hat. The trickiest part was shaping the feathers to achieve the shape in the plate. Each plume is shaped so that it does an 180 degree turn (the plumes are attached to the hat standing up, but then are turned downward) in addition to the side sweep shape. As you can see, the wind occasionally blew lots of feather fluff into my face during the photo shoot, but it was totally worth it, to wear such lovely feathers.

IMG_1957
Feathers!

I constructed the hat such that it would sit almost horizontal across my head. It’s pretty light in terms of weight and is not uncomfortable to wear, being sized perfectly to fit my head. It also comes down far enough to be quite stable: even with the breeze and moving my head around there was no fear of it falling off.

As fun and silly as it is, I don’t really see a use for it in regular Regency wear. I will likely remove the feathers to use for another project someday (also partly because it would be hard to store the hat nicely with the feathers still attached). I’ve toyed with the idea of removing the poof (and maybe making a tam or turban or something out of it, or just sticking it back in my stash with the rest of the velvet) and using the buckram base with the velvet sides to make a shako style Regency hat. I have no immediate plans to put these ideas into action, except for removing the feathers, which I really should do soon, so I can put the hat away!

Vernet Project: Witzchoura Images

As a quick recap, I started my witzchoura research journey here, being confused about how the word was spelled. After sharing that with you, I moved on to look at basic witzchoura definitions and then further witzchoura references, but I haven’t really shared images of witzchouras with you yet, so that’s what this post is going to focus on.

Out of the thousands of pins on my historic clothing Pinterest boards, the images below are the only ones I could find that specifically mention that they show a witzchoura. (Never fear, I’ll be looking at not-quite-witzchouras in a future post.)  If you know of any other images that specifically name the garment shown as being a witzchoura please let me know!

I find it interesting that two are yellow and two are blue. Also interesting that all the furs that are depicted are textured or downright weird (like the first one with the flower-fur… what is that?). However, in terms of materials there is variation: one of merino (wool), one of reps (could be wool, silk, or cotton, according to the OED), and two of velvet (fabric content unknown, though wool, silk, or cotton would seem to be likely).

b2e293cd8d6787e52979911acc6c3539
Costume Parisien, 1812
pictura2009%5Cs_a_55466_000
Costume Parisien, 1813
49a82ad6569f70e121aebe638e857efd
Costume Parisien, 1818
1ec484b324c9135cf9d6934f28eb8dfd
Costume Parisien, 1820

Vernet Project: Further Witzchoura References

Last post relating to witzchouras, we looked at basic definitions of the word, determining that the garment and its name developed from Polish and French influences, that the garment was popular c. 1808 to 1835, and that the chief qualifications are that it is an outer coat or mantle lined and trimmed in fur. But let’s not stop there: here are more references to the witzchouras from the early 19th century.

In 1817, La Belle Assembleé has multiple mentions of witzchouras. The following excerpt tells us a good amount about this style:

8ae3d6c93e063c498406346d8b7c7662

Side note: A Louis d’Or is a French gold coin first struck in 1640. These were promoted by the French kings to fill the need for a large denomination coin, since the franc and livre silver coins were greatly decreasing in value. In 1726, France developed monetary stability and the Louis d’Or was established as being worth 24 livres, a value that remained static through the French Revolution. At the time of this quote in 1817, a Louis d’Or referred to a 20 franc gold piece, also called a Napoleon, so named because Napoleon coopted the idea of the French kings before him. (Sources: Merriam Webster, the OED for louis d’orNapoleon, and livre, and the Encyclopedia Britannica.)

France_1709-A_One_Louis_d'Or
Louis d’Or from 1709

Throughout the 18th century, a franc was similar in value to a livre, and about 20 of either of these coins equalled one Louis d’Or. La Belle Assembleé tells us that a witzchoura in 1817 was worth 30-90 Louis d’Ors. What I’m driving at here is the relative value of one of these garments.

The OED gives us an idea of the value of a livre over time: in 1746 one captain was paid 120 livres a month (6 Louis d’Ors). Extrapolate that for a year, and that captain was making 72 Louis d’Ors, just enough for a witzchoura or two and nothing else! Another example from 1797 sounds outraged that an English sea officer was charged 300 livres for eight days of lodging (15 Louis d’Ors). That’s almost 60 Louis d’Ors per month, which would easily be a witzchoura, though I doubt that sea officer would need a witzchoura instead of lodgings! The takeaway message is that, as La Belle Assembleé says, witzchouras were costly and worn only by the wealthy.

It is worth noting that there are fur lined pelisses mentioned which do not qualify as witzchouras in the eyes of La Belle Assembleé. I’ll be examining these almost-witzchouras in a later post.

Moving along some years, The Ladies’ Pocket Magazine describes fashionable witzchouras in 1833 (the OED had quoted part of this in their definition of witzchoura that we looked at in my last post):

ead143cce8137354ba0807c21dd308b2

As we established before, by the 1830s the shape of the witzchoura had changed to accommodate the changing fashions of dresses under them: becoming more cape-like, with collars and loose sleeves rather than being fitted like a pelisse as they were in the earlier years of their popularity. Again, we are reminded that witzchouras are made from expensive fur, and the more expensive the fur the more likely to see it displayed as much as possible.

Moving forward once again, C. Willet Cunnington mentions witzchouras in his book English Women’s Clothing in the 19th Century referencing a year as late as 1849: “The Witzchoura Mantle, for the carriage, lined and trimmed with fur.”

This quote from La Belle Assembleé in 1849 could be the source for Cunnington’s mention of the style, as the phrasing is quite close to Cunnington’s description:

1e04c8043ce18b6ef88613d6b34c37cb

Here there is a mention of another garment similar to a witzchoura: in this case a burnous. According to the OED again, a burnous is a woman’s cloak or mantle from the 19th century resembling an Arabian upper garment of the same name. It is interesting to note that by the 1830s and 1840s a witzchoura is described as heavy, cumbrous, and very ample instead of the more fashionable and positive descriptions from the decades prior.

One final mention of the witzchoura is from The Outdoor Girl Of A Century Ago, published in 1922:

books

This is the second mention in this post of a similar (or possibly the same) garment of Russian origin. In addition to the specific evidence of the Polish origins of the witzchoura in name and relating to Napoleon himself, I’ve also come across multiple mentions of the witzchoura style being brought back to France from Russia by Napoleon’s forces. Both of these influences fit in with the dating we’ve established and lead me to wonder if these are two separate and unique garments. Perhaps, though I suspect that if they were indeed separate styles in name they would have been variations on a similar theme, just like the fur-lined pelisse mentioned earlier in this post.