HSF/M #1: 1895 Hug-able Skating Costume

This is one of my favorite outfits of all time. I just want to hug myself, with all the fur, and I love the trim on the back! The whole thing is so cozy and so hug-able and the skirt has such a nice drape and the accessories work so well… and I actually got to go skating in it! I am just utterly chuffed (to use a British word) with the whole thing!

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I was on the fence about whether this outfit would apply to the Historical Sew Fortnightly/Monthly Challenge #1: Foundations, but then I read Leimomi’s teaser post about her foundation entry in which she reminds us about different interpretations of foundations and the intent of this challenge to create loose guidelines open to interpretation.

I was convinced (or pushed off the fence, if you prefer to think of it in that amusing way). I’m claiming my all new 1895 skating outfit for the first challenge of the new year! It does rather stretch the idea of foundations. Is the skirt a foundation because it is literally worn below the jacket, thus being a foundation as you would think of one in a building? Or is the bodice a foundation, because my direct inspiration is a lonely jacket without a skirt and therefore it is the foundation of the outfit because I wouldn’t have made the skirt without having the jacket? Either way, there is an element of a foundation in there.

Just the facts:

Fabric: 5 yds of ivory wool, about ⅓ to ½ yd of dark brown faux fur, probably about 3 yds of scrap muslin for flat lining the jacket, a bit of scrap canvas to stiffen the collar, and a bit of ivory flannel to line the inside of the collar.

Pattern: Made by me and based on my inspiration jacket as well as patterns published in Authentic Victorian Fashion Patterns (a Dover book).

Year: c. 1895.

Notions: 5 yds of brown braid, thread, a bit of high loft polyester batting to keep the sleeves puffed out, about 1 yd of ivory hug snug to finish the bottom of the jacket, hooks and bars for the skirt, and thread.

How historically accurate is it? Pretty darn good. Definitely recognizable by someone in the 1890s. The construction is accurate, aside from the use of hug snug instead of bias and faux fur instead of real fur. So, 95%.

Hours to complete: Um… As usual, I did not keep track. I definitely spent at least 15 hours the few days before the event sewing on my braid and fur trim… Plus full days of pattern making, fitting, cutting, and sewing. Maybe 30-40 hours? I care so much more about the finished project than the time it takes to get there! And I loved sewing this, so I didn’t mind that it took time!

First worn: To a skating party that was part of the Commonwealth Vintage Dancers‘ 1890s weekend in January.

Total cost: $75 for the wool, probably about $8 for the fur yardage I used for this project, $4 for the braid, and the rest from the stash = $87

My accessories were a matching fur muff that I made a few years ago and wore once for caroling (with my as-yet-undocumented 1860s winter cape) but more often with my 1917 winter ensemble and a revamp of my 1883 wool hat. I didn’t have time to make a new hat because of all the last minute fur and trim sewing, so I pinned a fur scrap around the 1883 hat and added some feathers to stand up a bit more like 1890s hats and called it good. My main inspiration (and the reason I feel it was an acceptable looking style to have the squashy fedora hat look in the 1890s) was this image.

For good measure, here’s my Pinterest board for the entire project. And here are pictures of us skating (with ice skates: all our snow and cold weather does occasionally come in handy here in Boston)!

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Yes, we just crashed a local outdoor ice rink on a Sunday afternoon. One of the attendees even wore vintage skates! Turns out they can be hard to skate in because they’re not very supportive… but they looked fantastic! We got lots of comments from people asking what we were doing, why we were dressed up, and that we looked good. I was asked by multiple groups of young girls why I was dressed up and one group in particular asked what the swirly thing was that I had, which I got to explain was a muff to keep my hands warm!

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Here’s our skating group. People came in a variety of late 19th century and early 20th century winter outfits as well as modern clothes.

With my skating ensemble I wore fleece lined tights (modern, but warm so I didn’t care), knee high bamboo socks (modern again), my 1903 silk petticoat (super useful for the 1890s, also), a modern tank top (instead of combinations, because I needed to go to work later in the afternoon and change out of my outfit in the back seat of my car without being indecent…), my 1895 corset, and a long sleeve modern waffle tee (mostly to shield my skin against the wool seam allowances and also for warmth). And I was perfectly warm wearing this out for skating on a day that was sunny and right around freezing. In fact, with the muff and wool hat I actually was too warm at times.

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Pleased, chuffed, and smiling all afternoon! So fun! Maybe we will get to go skating again this winter!
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Thankful For Suffrage

If you saw my last post, you were left guessing as to what event I was furiously sewing for. I think most you guessed that it had to do with women’s suffrage… Yay you! The entire event wasn’t really about suffrage, but suffrage was a part of it. We went down to Plymouth, MA to be a part of a historic village event that was linked to the main Thanksgiving parade in town.

The historic village contained various groups from the early 17th century, groups from the 18th century, Marines from 1812, a unit from the Civil War, my usual dancing friends and I representing women’s suffrage c. 1914, and paratroopers from the 1940s. The parade was…a parade. There were historic groups in it (including some of the military groups I just mentioned), there were marching bands, there were floats, there were unicycles, and there were horses doing various things.

And I’ve got pictures! To start, here are some images of the parade:

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Happy Thanksgiving! The giant inflatable turkey was pretty amusing, especially when he had to slightly deflate to get his head under the power lines!
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Often these guys are dancing with us, but at this event they were hanging out in the 1630s as the Salem Trayned Band.
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Some of our other friends: 1812 Marines.
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8 beautiful (and large!) Budweiser Clydesdales.
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4 spirited horses pulling…
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A fancy Wells Fargo stage coach!
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A super snazzy green car, with bright green trim!
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Red, white, and blue confetti in the cold, clear air near the end of the parade route.

Next, here are some images of our representation of Suffragists and our setup in the historic village:

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Setting up our tea table. Other setups included tents and smoking fires (it had rained the day before and everything was damp and mushy, so the fires didn’t really work…).
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Yes, we really did drink tea. In china cups. It actually was very nice to have hot beverages throughout the day given how cold it was outside!
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See, we’re drinking our tea!
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We didn’t march in the parade or parade around the historic village, but we did serenade the ducks in the creek behind us (and visitors walking by) with suffrage songs.
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Here we are making “serious suffrage” faces.
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Ok, smile for the camera.

The best part is that in addition to sharing a little bit about history with the public and getting to watch the Thanksgiving parade in all its glory, I was able to use this opportunity to build and wear an outfit showing off my recently completed 1917 Knitted Sweater of Angorina. I had to plan for cold weather, but I didn’t want to cover up my sweater! So I planned a faux fur hat to match an existing muff, a wool skirt, a polyester crepe blouse (in this case, the polyester was a great choice, because the fact that it wouldn’t breathe would help me stay warm and use up a random bit of fabric in my stash that had no other project in its future!), and did a mostly unnoticeable revamp on my 1860s/can-look-like-other-decades fur muff (which was essential, it turned out, for keeping my hands warm!). And to look stylish, I made gaiters to turn my 1920s American Duchess Gibsons into 19-teens looking spat-boots. And all of the fabrics were from my stash! The gaiters might just be my favorite part of the outfit, and both they and my fur hat will qualify for the next two HSF challenges, so you’ll see more detailed information on those soon! All in all, I managed to stay warm, except for my feet! I wore thick tights, but I didn’t think to wear extra socks, and my toes and feet were SO cold! Note to self: wear thick socks next time an all day outside event in the cold is on the horizon…

And here is my brand new 1917 outfit:

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Yay! New hat, revised muff, new blouse, hand knit sweater, new skirt, and new gaiters, worn with my Gibsons, my modern cashmere lined leather gloves, my 1913 petticoat pinned up to shorten its length, and a golden yellow ribbon in support of women’s suffrage. I was able to completely finish my accessories, but the blouse and skirt didn’t get as far as closures. You can’t tell of course, but safety pins are great sometimes. These two garments now live in the “need to be finished” section of my sewing list.
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One of the only back views. The blouse has neat collar details (see those cute points?) and neat cuff details you obviously can’t see. When I eventually finish the blouse and skirt I’ll post more details about their design and construction.

Despite last minute sewing for all of us, we all looked good and had fun wearing clothes from the 1910s while sharing a bit of important history with the public:

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Brown wool suit with fur trim.
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A wool plaid hobble skirt and jacket and a lovely black wool coat with fur collar.

The 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote in the US, was ratified in 1920, after over 70 years of struggle. I think it’s fitting that Thanksgiving and women’s suffrage were related events for us ladies this year. In addition to many other things, we’re thankful for those who fought to get women the right to vote!

Product links in this post contain an affiliate code, which provides a small benefit to my shoe fund. This does not affect my impressions and reviews of this product.

HSF #21: Trim For Evie In Time For A Ball

I’m taking a quick break from the 1950s adventure posts to insert my HSF #21 post into the mix. More 1950s coming soon!

It’s been on my sewing list for a few months to add a bit more trim to the sleeves of Evie, my most recent Civil War era dress, but I’ve been working on knitting my sweater and completing other projects, like my 1822 Walking Dress, so I hadn’t really been inspired to complete the trim. However, the Commonwealth Vintage Dancers were asked to run a ball as part of recent Civil War reenactments in Worcester, MA, and that gave me the perfect incentive to finish up trimming Evie! She also happens to be green, so this is my entry for the HSF Challenge #21: Green.

Oh yes, I forgot I had some other minor changes to make to Evie since I last wore her in March as well. Boring things, like changing out the boning at center back, and enlarging the armsceye a bit under the arm, and adding hooks and bars to connect the bodice to the skirt. I got all those things done, too, though they don’t get their own photographs. I really like the added trim. It gives the bodice a little bit more interest and helps balance out the immense skirt.

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Here is Evie, with her new sleeve trim.
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Another view. The sleeve trim is a smaller scale version of the trim on the skirt.
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A cropped version of the picture above. I can’t decide which way I like it better, so I’m including both.
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And here is what the bodice of Evie looked like before I added the sleeve trim.

Most of the trim on this dress is based on two images I discussed in this previous post: a fashion plate from 1864 and a costume made by Tirelli Costumi. The sleeve trim is based off of yet a third inspiration source: the painting, below, of Princess Helena in the Royal Collection. It’s perfect that it’s from 1864, just like my inspiration fashion plate. It’s even better that it echoes the bertha trim I already had and the zig zag on my skirt.

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This is a copy by William Corden (1819-1900) of the portrait of Princess Helena by Albert Graefle (RCIN 403988). The original was painted for Princess Helena as a birthday present for Queen Victoria on 24 May 1864. Princess Helena (1846-1923), nicknamed Lenchen, was the fifth child and third daughter of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. She was lively, outspoken and something of a tomboy. In 1866, two years after this portrait was painted, she married Prince Christian of Schleswig Holstein and in 1916 they celebrated their Golden Wedding anniversary; she was the only child of Queen Victoria to do so. Queen Victoria recorded in her Journal that ‘Lenchen’s picture by Graefle, is extremely good & pretty’.

Now, the facts:

Fabric: small bits of leftover gold silk shantung and green silk taffeta from the construction of the dress.

Pattern: none.

Year: 1864.

Notions: only thread.

How historically accurate?: Well, shantung is not accurate, but silk is (and this doesn’t look very shantung-y). I give this trim a 98% on accuracy.

Hours to complete: 4? All hand sewn.

First worn: With the new trim, on October 11, to a Civil War ball.

Total cost: $0, because it’s leftovers!

Now for the bonus part of this post where I include pictures from the Civil War ball.

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The entrance to the building had these fabulous doors.
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Each section looked like this.
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Dancing a waltz.
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Swinging skirts are fun!
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People looked very nice.
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And it was nice to see unfamiliar faces and meet new people.
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There was a constant swishing sound of skirts brushing against one another.
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The Commonwealth Vintage Dancers interspersed short performances throughout the evening.
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This is the Triplet Galop Quadrille.
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The ball room had large, dark, seriously-faced portraits around the perimeter. I’m not sure they approved of all the dancing!
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There were also Civil War era flags that the reenactors had brought to help decorate the room. And here’s a full length shot of Evie with her new sleeve trim.

I had a lovely time. This ball was nicely different than our usual evening balls with all the new faces. My senses were most struck by the abundance of rather more sturdy and thick wools worn by the military gentlemen than I am used to feeling at most balls, when there are more gentlemen in smoother wool tailcoats. The occasional feel of the thicker wool on my left arm was a tangible, and rather transporting, connection to the past. It seems quite likely that at a ball held during the Civil War a lady would have felt more thick wool on uniformed gentlemen than she might have felt at a ball pre or post war when there would have been more civilian tailcoats at a ball.

Have I inspired you to want to learn 1860s dancing and attend a ball? I’ll end with this small encouragement for your attendance at the Commonwealth Vintage Dancers’ next Civil War events. The Commonwealth Vintage Dancers have a Civil War Dance Weekend coming up in November, 2013. It’s super reasonably priced and includes lots of dance classes, two balls, and a German. There’s no experience necessary. If you’re at all interested and in the New England area you should check it out, because we’re doing lots of awesome Civil War dancing in 2014 as well (they are listed at the bottom of the Civil War Dance Weekend link, above), and why not get started learning or brushing up sooner rather than later? I’d love to see you there!

HSF #20: Finally Finished 1822 Walking Dress

…It’s only been a year! Or pretty close to a year. I posted an overview of my early 1820s project last November. The project included a petticoat, 1824 ball gown, 1822 walking dress, muff, tippet, bonnet, and chemisette. Some of these things are still in the UFO pile or on the to do list, but I’m super pleased that this post is about the completion of the 1822 walking dress!

The image below is my inspiration for the now complete walking dress. I wore it last December to go caroling outside before Fezziwig’s Ball, but at that point my time had run out and though the construction was complete there was no trim. Below the image of my inspiration is an image of the walking dress as it looked last December with no trim. And below that is an image of the now completed walking dress with trim! It certainly fits me better than the hanger, but you’ll have to wait a few months to see it on me.

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Promenade Dress. Ackerman’s Repository. December 1822.
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December 2012. Unfinished early 1820s ensemble.
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Yay! All the trim is on!

Before I share some close ups of the trim and construction, let me share the facts:

Fabric: 4-5 yds of dark pink wool, 4-5 yds of ivory super soft and thick cotton twill, 1/2 yd-ish of lavender polyester velvet, 1/2 yd-ish of lavender silk shantung,  and a bit of canvas for the collar.

Pattern: Adapted from my 1822 green ball gown pattern, I think. It’s pretty much exactly the same except that it has a higher back, collar, and sleeves. The ball gown pattern is based off of a pattern in Janet Arnold.

Year: 1822.

Notions: Pink and lavender thread, polyester batting in the hem, and hooks for the waist.

How historically accurate?: Very, having used modern materials and a few very nice looking modern fabrics . The pattern is from Janet Arnold, so you know it is good on accuracy and the trim scale and pattern is taken from a fashion plate from 1822. As a historic costume I give it 98%.

Hours to complete: Oh goodness… I’m sure the main construction took at least 40 hours and the trim took probably 50ish hours to cut, press, and hand sew. I didn’t keep track at all on this project.

First worn: To Fezziwig’s Ball in December 2012, though with trim it will debut at Fezziwig’s Ball in December 2013!

Total cost: $40 perhaps?

Ok, now for the trim and construction shots.

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Top of the sleeve. First I had to sew the bias into a tube so the raw edges would be finished and the bias could “float” without having to be sewn down all along the edges. Then I tacked the bias tubes in a zig zag then crossed and tied other zig zags to get the finished pattern.
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The front. The pattern looks very much like an oak leaf to me. The bias is stitched in a tube with the raw edges showing on the back, then the edges are stitched down all around to create the pattern.
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The sleeve. The bias is stitched on the same way as it is on the front. The motifs are sewn on the front of the arm rather than the outside.

I actually had forgotten that I’d taken these construction shots. In fact, I had totally forgotten the method I had used to construct my sleeves until I saw the picture again! These pictures where the wool looks more pink than maroon show the color best. It’s really much more vibrant, and much less brownish, than some of the pictures make it look.

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The canvas pad stitched into the collar before sewing the pieces together.
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The top of the sleeve before the gathered sleeve top was sewn on. I didn’t want to waste wool where it wouldn’t be seen, so it stops part way up the lining, then the gathered cap is sewn on and hides the raw edge of the wool.
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The lining is stab stitched to the wool at the cuff.

And just in case you want to read more about my entire project from the early 1820s, here’s a link to that category of entries on my blog. As I continue to finish up other bits and pieces I’ll keep adding them to that category, and it’s neat because the category filters only those posts so there’s a nice continuity.

Project Journal: 1822-1824 Ensemble Part I: Overview

Well, as you recently read, I have a 9 month sewing plan to get me through May of 2013. It’s not set in stone (which means that mostly I keep adding to it, not taking things away…), but it gives me a great overview of what I need to accomplish and by what month. Deadlines really help in getting things completed!

The first major portion of the sewing plan is an ensemble of clothing from about the year 1823. I’ve been doing lots of looking at fashion plates and extant clothing from the early 1820s, in books and online. Here’s a link to my pinterest board: 1820-1824. I had so many pins in the 1820-1829 board that I had to separate the decade, so I also have a separate pin board of 1825-1829.

The 9 month plan includes the following pieces: petticoat, ball gown, walking dress, muff, bonnet, and chemisette. I’ve added one more thing since the plan was created: a tippet to match the muff! Before I explain why I want these items (ie, where I plan to wear them!), let’s look at my inspiration for the items themselves!

Petticoat. Manchester City Galleries. (I’m making a petticoat out of white cotton. It is entirely hand sewn.)
Actually a Dinner Dress (but I’ll use it as a ball gown). Ackerman’s Repository. May 1824. (I guess I lied about the year… I’ve been looking at the images so much I haven’t even glanced at the date in ages! Anyway… I’m making this in apple green silk with hand sewn silk organza appliqués.)
Promenade Dress. Ackerman’s Repository. December 1822. (I am making this out of deep, rich pinkish burgundy wool with hand sewn lavender silk trim.) This is also my inspiration for the tippet. (I’m making the tippet out of white faux fur.)
Walking Dress. Ackerman’s Repository. March 1823. (I think this is where I got the year 1823 from… This is another influence on my walking dress design, especially at the collar.) This is also my inspiration for my muff. (The muff will be the same fur as the tippet, lined with pale blue silk shantung.)
Bonnet. C. 1820. The Met. (I plan to make this in lavender to match the walking dress.)
Chemisette. c. 1810-1825. Snowshill Collection. (Yes, this is one of the ones in Janet Arnold. I plan to make this out of lightweight cotton and use my fluting iron! However, I have to say that if one thing in my December-to-do doesn’t make the cut, this would be it. I really want to take my time on this and play with my fluting iron, and I’m not sure I’ll have the time on this one…)

What is all of this for, you ask? I plan to wear the whole ensemble in December when I attend Fezziwig’s Ball, a 19th century ball hosted by the Commonwealth Vintage Dancers in Salem, MA. Since it’s a ball, I’m sure you understand why the petticoat and ball gown are required! But why the outerwear? Before the ball begins, ball-goers have the opportunity to go caroling around the streets! It’s really fun, and usually pretty cold. I need to stay warm, hence the wool walking dress, tippet, and muff. The chemisette is to fill in the collar of the walking dress, and the bonnet is really icing on the cake to help pull the whole ensemble together! As an added bonus, later this winter my friends and I hope to go ice skating in 19th century dress, so this will also be my ice skating outfit!

Bolero and Zouave jackets of the mid-19th century

Throughout the 19th century, civilian clothing for men and women imitated all sorts of military uniforms in cuts, trim styles, and names. Let’s look at some women’s styles from the the mid-19th century inspired by military wear.

First: the Bolero style jacket

From Peterson's Magazine August 1865

Popular during the mid-19th century, the Bolero is simply a short jacket, usually worn open in front, often fastened at the neck. In the mid-19th century Bolero jackets were worn in all sorts of colors and with all sorts of trim; however, they were often seen in military uniform colors and with trimming styles reminiscent of military trimming, especially braiding.

1863 Bolero from the Metropolitan Museum of Art
c. 1860 Dress with Bolero Jacket and braid trimming

Second: the Zouave style jacket


From December 1859 Godey’s Lady’s Book

The Oxford English Dictionary defines a Zouave jacket as follows: “A woman’s short embroidered jacket or bodice, with or without sleeves, resembling the jacket of the Zouave uniform.” The following quotes are included in the OED definition:

1859    Ladies’ Treas. Sept. 285/1   One of the most decided novelties of the present season is the Zouave jacket.
1859    Ladies’ Cabinet Dec. 335/1   Nothing can be prettier for the interior than the little oriental jackets which we call to-day Zouaves.

During the 19th century, this style gained the most popularity during the 1850s, when French Zouaves were fighting in the Crimean War, and during the American Civil War in the 1860s. You can see a few images of Zouave uniforms by looking at this post from a few weeks ago.

The description of the above image from Godey’s is as follows: “Morning-dress for young ladies, of plain merino or cashmere; the skirt trimmed by an inserting of velvet, several shades darker than the dress, with a row of buttons passing through it, and bordered by a rich braid pattern, known as the Greek. The Zouave jacket, which we have before spoken of, forms the waist. It is modelled from the Greek jacket, and has a close vest, with two points; the jacket, itself, rounding over the hips, and fitting easily to the figure. A Gabrielle ruff, and neck-tie finish it.”

Further information about this style was included in the Chitchat section of the same issue of Godey’s: “The Zuoave jackets may be made in black cloth or velvet, for home wear, with skirts whose waists have “outlived their usefulness.” They are especially suitable with dark silks, and a waist of this kind with a black silk skirt will do any amount of street service. Black silks are trimmed with a combination of black and crimson, black and purple, etc. when intended for dress occasions.”

c. 1862 Dress with Bolero from the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Given the description (above)  from Godey’s about the Zouave jacket fashion plate, I think this c. 1862 dress from the Metropolitan Museum of Art falls into the category of a Zouave jacket rather than a Bolero. Clearly, this yellow dress has a jacket with a double pointed vest silhouette, rather than the Bolero style of the jacket with a blouse underneath. Regardless, this dress is quite fabulous! The pattern matches the trimmings exceptionally well in terms of style, and the whole ensemble is quite wonderful (including the crisscross braiding and tassels!).

The quotes are from the digital Godey’s excerpts at the University of Vermont, which can be viewed here.

Project Journal: Victorian Women’s Tailoring Part X: 1913 Gallery

Here we finally are, at 1913! Let’s look at some truly lovely pictures!

1913: Wool Suit. Wool Hat with matching Taffeta trim.
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1913 Jacket and Hat
1913 Skirt, Blouse and Hat
1913 Blouse and Hat
1913 Undergarments: Corset Cover and Petticoat
1913 Undergarments: Chemise and Corset
1913 Corset