All posts filed under: Textiles & Costume

The Black & White 1916 corset

On Monday I’m going to start living as close as I can to a 1916 lifestyle for two weeks. Naturally, this means I need a wardrobe.  A whole wardrobe post is coming, but for now, let’s start with the item everyone is really interested in: corsets. Based on my research, the average middle-class NZ housewife in 1916 had between 1 & 3 corsets at any given time: 1 or 2 for everyday wear, and possibly a fancier, more constricting one for dressing up.  Two corsets is ideal for everyday wear, because it means one can be airing while you wear the other. I’ve decided on two corsets for my experiment.  One, based on a slightly earlier cut, that Leimomi circa 1916 might have had in her wardrobe from before the war, and this one, reflecting the more recent mid-teens cut: Previously all of my 1910s corsets have been based on my personally fitted draft of the 1911 corset in Janet Arnold’s book.   However, very few women in NZ would have had personally fitted corsets.  The …

Terminology: the history of the cardigan

A cardigan is a knitted sweater with a buttoned or zipped front, with a V or round neck, with or without a collar.  The cardigan takes its name from the 7th Earl of Cardigan, James Thomas Brudenell (1797-1868) whose unfortunate claim to fame (other than the garment) is that he led the 1854 Charge of the Light Brigade. The cardigan as we know it today is based on a fur or braid-trimmed waistcoat of knitted worsted wool worn by British Army Officers during the Crimean war (some sources say ‘purported to have been worn by’, or that it was only worn by Cardigan himself)). Whether or not cardigans were actually based on garments worn during the Crimean war, within a few decades of the war the garment had become decisively linked with it, so much that editorials chiding the government for their neglect of veterans (some things never change…) make black-humour jokes about how “they might, at any rate, be provided with Cardigan Jackets.” The original ‘cardigan’ was a sleeveless vest or waistcoat, but by 1864 the modern sleeved …

1900s nightgown thedreamstress.com

Vintage sewing details & a most unfortunate monogram

It’s quite uncommon to find really old textiles and garments in New Zealand op-shops: anything older than the 1950s is quite exciting.  And every once in a while I get very lucky, and find something quite exciting: even if it isn’t. This nightgown really isn’t exciting as a garment per se: it’s plain, and shapeless, and certainly not romantic.  But it’s exciting to find something so old here in NZ (especially since I only paid $4 for it), and even an un-exciting garment is exciting in the details it reveals about period construction techniques; carefully studying and copying the construction details can help to make a reproduction look like the real thing. The gown is a little hard to date: you see pieces like this anywhere from the late 19th century, all the way to the 1940s.  The materials in this one suggest that it’s probably from the 1910s or 20s, and was likely made by or for an older woman. We know a little bit about the woman who used it: she monogrammed her initials …