Waves, Curls, Earrings… And Dancing From The 1910s

It’s been over a month now, but back in July I attended a Ragtime ball that proved to be great fun. I wore my tried-and-true 1912 burgundy and gold evening gown (while it’s nice to have new things, it’s also nice to pull beautiful things out of the closet, too!). Despite wearing a dress I’ve worn before, I tried a new style with my hair, including a repurposed (and therefore new-feeling) accessory.

I was inspired by hairstyles like these from the early 1910s. There are more examples on my Hair: 1900-1920 Pinterest board as well, if you’re interested. What I took away from these images was the use of a headband of some sort, the rather large airy shape, and the defined waves and curls.

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c. 1912 Lily Elsie
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La coiffure française illustrée. (1910)

Of course, I decided to try this out the afternoon of the event so I hadn’t thought ahead in terms of what to use for a headband. After casting around a bit I thought of a bead necklace I’d purchased a few years ago that ties with a ribbon. Why not use that as a headband? In addition to the bead-necklace-as-headband, I wore my Downton Abbey Collection earrings, which are quite lovely and matched my dress very well in color and style.

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It took rather a lot of time to create the front waves with my curling iron. The back loopy curls were time consuming, too, though fun until my arms started to hurt from being held up for extended periods of time.
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I love how defined the curls came out, though, and while I do think there’s a slightly flat spot at the back of my head I generally think the silhouette is what I was aiming for.
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Waves, curls, and earrings!

And here is the dancing in action! People were very well dressed and enthusastic at this event and really seemed to have a good time. For most dances there was hardly anyone sitting out! That’s great, especially when the crowd is a mix of ages.

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HSF #13: Cotton Print Evening Bodice For Georgina

A few months ago, I had a master plan to use the leftover yardage from Georgina, my 1858 cotton print day dress, to make an evening bodice in addition to her current day bodice for versatility and washability. Luckily, I was able to complete the bodice and a new hair crescent before my life exploded in June and I was smothered under an immense amount of work. I am pleased to have work, don’t get me wrong, but I was so exhausted by the end of the month all I could do was sleep and be disoriented! I’ve just come back from a vacation and feel like I can peer out from under my rock and join the world again! So, to celebrate constructing historic clothing for myself rather than other people, here is a post about a really neat addition to my historic wardrobe! And it fits into the current HSF challenge #13: Under $10, a bonus since the HSF challenges haven’t lined up very well with a lot of my projects this year.

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c. 1855 new evening bodice, with previously constructed skirt. Worn with all the usual underpinnings (chemise, my new corset, drawers, stockings, hoops, and petticoat) and accessorized with gloves, fan, earrings, and a new hair crescent. Oh, and I’m wearing burgundy velvet shoes! No picture of that, though.

Fabric: Reproduction mid-19th century cotton print, also used for a day bodice, and plain white cotton.

Pattern: I began with Past Patterns #701 but altered it extensively to fit me, to have pleats and gathers on the exterior, and to have an evening neckline. The sleeve pattern was drafted by me.

Year: c. 1855

Notions: Thread, plastic wire ties for boning, hooks and eyes, and cotton cording.

How historically accurate?: Based off of historic examples, constructed with accurate details… I think the only compromise is the plastic boning, which I used because I didn’t have the right length in metal, and because plastic is easily washable (and I want this to be a garment that can be washed easily–that’s part of the goal in having a cotton evening bodice!).

Hours to complete: I have no idea… 32 hours maybe? I really didn’t keep track at all on this project.

First worn: To a mid-19th century ball in June (one of the few moments of respite in my crazy month).

Total cost: About $3 for approximately 1 yard of historic cotton print and a lot of stash materials, which count as free, since I have no idea what I paid for them at this point! Let’s call the total about $8.

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Inside of the bodice.

As you know, I like things to be tidy. All of the seam allowances are either hidden between the layers of fabric or nicely finished. There are plastic bones in the darts and the side seams. The bodice is machine sewn and hand finished. (One amusing mistake is that I cut the lining with a center front opening for fitting purposes (and left lots of seam allowance, as you can see) but then forgot to leave seam allowance in the back… So the lining doesn’t extend all the way to the folded edge of the print, but it’s all covered up so no one will ever know and it fits just fine… it’s just one of those amusing things!)

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From the back with the right side flipped open.

The bodice closes with hooks and bars. I wanted to use metal bars but make sure they wouldn’t been seen, so I let about ¼” of the print extend past the points of the hooks to create an overlap. I also left extra print extended past the bars, in addition to all the seam allowance, in case I want or need to adjust the size of the bodice in the future. The bars are especially hard to spot on the print, but if you look carefully on the left you can see them. The neck and armsceyes both have very narrow cording.

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Appreciating those who have served our country. The ball was held in a local town hall which had lists for all the 20th century wars. I don’t think they have 19the century war plaques, but we thought it was a nice photo opportunity.

I had very specific inspiration for this dress, since you don’t see too many cotton ball gown bodices. Here the specific examples which I referenced: sheer white bodice, sheer peach bodice, blue and white striped bodice, yellow and white bodice, floral print bodice, and purple print bodice (this last has a matching separate pelerine shown worn over the bodice, but the “off the shoulder neckline” in the description tells us that underneath is an evening bodice).

The defining design details were obviously the low neck and short sleeves, but there were other common details as well, such as double puffs or pleats to trim the sleeves, tubular sleeves without very much fullness at the top or bottom, 1.5″-2″ waistbands sitting on the outside of the skirt waistband, and gathered or pleated fullness on the fronts and backs (no darts on any of these cotton bodices). Some of the bodices have a yoke around the top so that only the bottom portion of the bodice is gathered, but this look says “young girl” not “grown woman” to me, so I opted for a bodice without a yoke.

In terms of construction, to have enough fabric in the print for the pleats and gathers on the print fabric, I first constructed and fit the lining. Then I separated one side of the lining to use as a pattern and added width to have space for the pleats I had planned. Once I had cut the print, I reassembled the lining and mounted the pleated print on top. From there on I treated the two layers as one.

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Bodice closeup and a nice view of my successful 1850s round hair style!

As I’ve looked at 1850s images and fashion plates in comparison to early 1860s, especially, what I’ve noticed is that the 1850s really attempted to make a woman’s head look round or wide, whereas by the early 1860s the styles begin to grown upward and become vertically elongated. Here are some great examples of the round 1850s hair look: from 1851-53, c. 1855,  from 1857, another 1857, yet another 1857, one more from 1857, and one from 1859. Here’s a super wide 1850s style and here is an example of the different shape of the early 1860s. The very round shape is what I was attempting to complement my 1850s bodice.

How? Well, I put gel right at the roots of my hair while it was still wet and then encouraged it to stand up from my head rather than being pulled back. I let it dry like that and it stayed all day. Later in the day, I styled it for my 1940s Anne Adams dress photos by brushing it out (and brushing my hair when it’s dry makes it big!!!). There was lots of added hair spray for that style, so when I went to restyle it there was plenty of fullness and air in my hair.  I puffed the fronts and pinned them up and behind my ears then did a big roll with the rest.

The finishing touch was a new hair crescent that I made specifically to complement the colors in the cotton print. The crescent is made up of fully wired millinery flowers in ivory, some of which I dyed to be pinkish. Each extension is a singular stem and I just twisted them together until I liked the result. Lastly, I sewed a hair comb in the center to help attach it to my head and stabilize the wires. Each side also has a bobby pin to secure it to my head so the extended bits don’t flap around while I’m dancing.

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Back view, and new hair crescent.

I’m super pleased with the end result: the bodice, the hair style, and the hair crescent! Oh, and the pictures (thanks!). And I had a marvelous time at the ball–it was one of the class of events which makes me feel radiant and at which I really enjoy myself (compared to those when I’m grumpy and grouchy at the world). And all the smiling and dancing gave me a lovely natural rosy glow in the pictures. The aloof face is my attempt at a 19th century portrait face (it took a long time to capture a picture then, which is my rationale for why everyone has a generally serious face!). You had to pick something you could keep still for a long time, and a big smile is hard to maintain without movement or looking staged.

A Floral Headband For Annabelle (Returning Heroes Ball 2014)

Not too long ago, I was again able to be part of the annual Returning Heroes Ball hosted by The Commonwealth Vintage Dancers. I decided to wear Annabelle again this year, even though I’d worn her last year, because I’d just worn Evie and Belle at the 1860s Dance Weekend in November.

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Annabelle at Returning Heroes Ball 2014.

Each time I’ve worn Annabelle, I’ve been slightly disappointed with the various incarnations of flower hair wreaths I’ve attempted to match her: the first wreath and the giant mass of flowers. So this year I decided to try again to see if I could get something I like. There are quite a number of evening dresses decorated with flowers right about 1860 and many of them are depicted in fashion plates and portraits with matching flowers in the hair. Here are some examples: 1859 fashion plate, another 1859 fashion plate, a third 1859 fashion plate, 1861 fashion plate, 1861 portrait, 1862 fashion plate, and 1863 fashion plate. For this new incarnation, I decided to try a different style from what I have for my other two evening dresses (Belle has a crescent and Evie has a hair wreath).  The style I settled on I’m calling a headband. It creates a halo around the face and extends down towards the ears, but does not connect across the back of the head. Instead, the hair must be interestingly arranged to fill in the back of the head. Here’s an example of the headband style using flowers that match the dress from 1862. And here is the fashion plate that Annabelle is based on which shows a headband style hair wreath worn with the dress.

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Here is Annabelle’s new floral headband. 
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Back view of my hair style. I needed something dramatic to fill in the base of my head. I wanted to do a sideways oval surrounded by rolls, but that didn’t work out and this is what I ended up with. I was dubious at first, but I think it worked. (It’s hard to see, but there’s one big central roll/puff and one smaller one above and below that.)

In addition to my new headband, I was also able to wear my new ca. 1860 corset and my still rather new purple paste jewels (a matching collet necklace and drop earrings) from Dames a la Mode. They worked wonderfully with my outfit (of course, I did pick the purple knowing it would match multiple outfits…!) and I enjoyed wearing them again.

The ball was lovely, as usual, and filled with well dressed people and more uniformed gentlemen than we have seen in recent years. The dancing was well executed and the intermission boasted a lavish spread of refreshments that both looked and tasted scrumptious.

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Bowers, during the Grand March.
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Bowing at the end of a polka.
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One small portion of the refreshments table.
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Looking lovely and dashing.

You can see more pictures of the event at Raven’s Plaid Petticoats blog post about Returning Heroes.