Rate the Dress: A Lady of Fashion, 1914

Last week I showed you an 1890s Worth dress, to mixed reviews.  Some of you saw Worth, and looked no further, some thought it was quite an off day.  But you’ll have to wait for an add up, as I need to finish a dress, a swimsuit, and a jacket in the next three days!

It’s all go with Katherine Mansfield fashions this week, and I was almost too busy to do a Rate the Dress.

So here is a quick Mansfield inspired one: something 1910s and avant garde, and (as she always overran her clothing allowance), probably quite pricey:

Costume de serge fine garni de petits boutons de corail, plate 157 from Journal des Dames et des Modes, 1914

Costume de serge fine garni de petits boutons de corail, plate 157 from Journal des Dames et des Modes, 1914

What do you think of the hobble-skirt and the layered jacket?  The touch of cobalt in the hat?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10

Clothing the World of Katherine Mansfield

Modernist writer Katherine Mansfield is arguably the most famous Wellingtonian, and, after Sir Edmund Hillary, possibly the most famous New Zealander, of all time.  (Yes, at the moment there are probably more people who know of, say, Peter Jackson, but in a century?).

She was definitely my first introduction to New Zealand.  In high school I read ‘At the Bay’ and ‘The Garden Party’, both set in Wellington, as well as her London based ‘Bliss.’  I enjoyed Mansfield’s short stories: the sense of place and time, the ability to convey personality in just a few words.

It wasn’t until I discovered Mansfield’s poetry that I fell in love with her work though.  The humour of A New Hymn, the magic of Butterfly Laughter, the picture she paints in In The Rangitaki Valley!  Gorgeous!

In addition to being an amazing writer, Mansfield is also fascinating as a person: her life spanned one of the most interesting shifts in societal mores and expectation that history has ever seen.  Fashions, are, in fact, the perfect way to illustrate the shift in Mansfield’s life.  She was raised at a time when women wore layers of fabric and frills: chemises, corsets, petticoats, high necklines and long trains.  She came of age just as the modern woman in practical white blouses and simple skirts began to emerge. As a mature adult she wore the newest, most avant garde fashions, from bright stockings to simple, waistless shift dresses.

So, because I love Mansfield’s writing, and because she, and her clothing, are so interesting, I’m thrilled to be doing a talk in conjunction with the Katherine Mansfield Birthplace Museum:


Through the talk I’ll be exploring the way dress shaped society during the author’s life with (of course!) models in reproductions of period garments, from the Victorian constraints of the 1880s to the emancipated silhouettes of the 20s.

And if you can’t be there, of course there will be lots of pictures!

Sewing room guardian spirits

Last week when I took you on a tour of my sewing spaces, I left out one very important thing, simply because my post got too long.

Well, three things actually.  These:

Tahi, Rua, & Toru, the sewing sprites thedreamstress.com

These are Tahi, Rua, & Toru (NZ & Hawaiian readers will think me terribly unimaginative in my naming), my sewing sprites.

They sit and watch over my sewing room, and every time I look at them, I feel happy.

Tahi, Rua, & Toru, the sewing sprites (and Felicity the cat) thedreamstress.com

I don’t know where they are from, or how old they are.  They turned up at my local op shop, and I LOVED THEM the moment I laid eyes on them.  They look like they were designed by Miyazake.

But I have an extremely firm rule.  No cat-themed ANYTHING but actual cat.

When you are as well known as I am for your cat, you can’t risk having anything cat-themed, or your whole life will soon be cat-themed.  No cat fabric.  No cat crockery.  No cat cards or cat stationary.  The only cat in my house is my cat.  Otherwise I will never be given another gift in my life that doesn’t have a cat on it.

So I didn’t buy them.

But they were there the next time I went in.

And the next.

And after three times, I gave in.  For 50 cents, I had my sprites.

And they sit just perfectly on the windowsill in my sewing room, and every sewing room should have a cat (even when the real one is being an absolute brat and has been kicked out for bad behavior).

So these are my ONLY exception to the cat-thing-that-are-not-actually-cats ban.

Tahi, Rua, & Toru, the sewing sprites thedreamstress.com

Felicity, the actually-a-cat, is totally OK with them.  She likes to sleep under their watchful gaze, or sit with them and watch over the sewing.

Tahi, Rua, & Toru, the sewing sprites (and Felicity the cat) thedreamstress.com

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Meet the Dreamstress

Leimomi Oakes is the Dreamstress, a textile historian, seamstress, designer, speaker and museum professional. Leimomi is available for educational and entertaining presentations, textile and fashion advice, special commissions and events. Click to learn more

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