Latest Posts

Odds and ends of silk ribbon and lace were used to make this dainty little apron. Observer, 11 March 1916

Can you complete the fashion history quiz from 1916?

One of the (many) highlights of my trip to the US was visiting Lauren of Wearing History: we shared patternmaking tips, played ‘date the vintage garment’, geeked out over fashion history, and generally had a fabulous time.  She let me go through her vintage magazines, and we laughed over the advice columns and sighed over the fashion plates.

In her McCall’s Magazine from March 1916 I found something of particular interest: a fashion history terminology quiz!

Lauren kindly offered to let me share it with you, so you can see the fun:

McCalls Magazine, March 1916, courtesy of Wearing History, thedreamstress.com

Lauren & I collaborated to finish the quiz, and then, when we were pretty sure we had it right, flipped to page 115 for the answers….

….only to find a message advising us to write to the editor for them!

Oh wailey wailey!

Still, we think we got them.  Do you think you can?

Leave your answers in the comments (no peeking!).   Don’t be afraid to be honest and fess up if you collaborated or had to use google – it took Lauren & I together to (probably) get it.

We’ll come back in a week and tell you what we think the answers are!

In case you have trouble reading the image, the questions are:

  1. What coat is named for an inventor?
  2. What dress for a character of Dickens?
  3. What overskirt for a Polish dance?
  4. What coat for an English Prince?
  5. What colours for Presidents daughters?
  6. What coat for the Crimean hero?
  7. What wrap for a famous singer?
  8. What blouse for a patriot?
  9. What opera for an apron?
  10. What hat for celebrated races?
  11. What jacket for soldiers famous in Civil War?
  12. What collar for an artist?
  13. What ruffle for a Queen?
  14. What wrap for a famous nurse?
  15. What cap for a character of Burns?
  16. What jacket for an English School?

And as a hint, here is an image with the answer to #2:

Who is she?

UPDATE:  Lauren & I think the answers are…

 

 

  1. What coat is named for an inventor? Macintosh
  2. What dress for a character of Dickens? Dolly Varden
  3. What overskirt for a Polish dance? Polonaise
  4. What coat for an English Prince? Prince Albert (a double-breasted frock coat)
  5. What colours for Presidents daughters? We know of Alice Blue, after Alice Roosevelt, and Helen Pink, after Helen Taft (this one is clearly inspired by the popularity of Alice blue, but just as clearly didn’t take).  Helen pink is probably named after the (slightly unusual for a White House deb) colour she wore for her debutante event at the White House.  We kinda cheated on this one, in that I guessed it would be named after Taft’s daughter, and would be pink, to balance Alice’s blue, and went looking for mentions of it based on that.  So there may be more, but I very much doubt it.
  6. What coat for the Crimean hero? Cardigan (read my terminology post about it here)
  7. What wrap for a famous singer? the Sontag, after Henriette Sontag (earlier versions were known as Bosom friends)
  8. What blouse for a patriot? Garibaldi
  9. What opera for an apron? HMS Pinafore, of course!
  10. What hat for celebrated races? Ascot
  11. What jacket for soldiers famous in Civil War? Zouave
  12. What collar for an artist? Van Dyke
  13. What ruffle for a Queen?  We’re pretty sure this is a Queen Anne ruffle or a Marie-de-Medici collar/ruffle (taking into account that it was reasonably common to call collars ruffles in the 1910s)
  14. What wrap for a famous nurse? A Nightingale wrap
  15. What cap for a character of Burns? Tam O’Shanter
  16. What jacket for an English School? Eton

A (not totally overwhelming) tour of the LA Fabric district

Heading off to LA for Costume College, lots of people told me that one of the things I must do is go to the Garment/Fabric District.

The only people who didn’t tell me this were my sewing students who had been to the Fabric District in the last couple of years.  Every single student who has been in LA and gone has come back and reported that everything was either 1) polyester (blech) or 2) 3x the price it would be in NZ.

Most of it looks like this: tons of stretch lycra, tons of minky – not so much my thing.  Like this:

Touring the LA fabric district, thedreamstress.com

It really didn’t seem worth the fuss.

But pretty much half of the Costume College attendees go to the Fabric District in the days before and after the conference, and everyone there said I definitely should, and with local guides, at least I would see the best stuff!

So, with Lauren of Wearing History, and Beth of V is for Vintage at the helm; Ginger of Scene in the Past, Jenny-Rose of Jenny La Fleur, Taylor of Dames a la Mode and I (I know, look at us!  It’s worse than double-barrel surnames!) all did the Fabric District.

Touring the LA fabric district, thedreamstress.com

I really enjoyed the tour that Lauren & Beth took us on, because they knew the best of each type of shop, but we just went to one of each, so it didn’t get overwhelming.  We got to see a fantastic decor fabrics store, a fantastic trims store, a fantastic millinery store, a fantastic sewing machine & accessories store, a fantastic fabrics store with lots of natural fibres – and we went somewhere yummy for lunch.  Even with just five stores, I was quite shopped-out by the end, and very happy to decline Beth’s offer to go to Michael Levine.

With Beth & Lauren’s blessing, I thought you might enjoy a run-down of the tour they took us on, in case you’re in the Garment District, and want a guide that’s a little less overwhelming than most of the official ones.

We parked across the street from Home Fabrics for $6 or so for the afternoon – Beth’s advice was to pick a parking lot on the level with the street, and visible from the street.

Home Fabrics910 Wall Street

Since we’d so handily parked directly across from it, we started our tour at Home Fabrics, which has gorgeous home decor fabrics, including lots of silks (costumers LOVE home decor silks) and fabulous trims (and air conditioning!).

Despite the lure of dozens of silks marked down to below US$15 a yard, the only thing I ended up buying at Home Fabrics was this amazing bobble trim, marked down to $1 a yard, to make a dress that’s been on my wish list for ages.

Touring the LA fabric district, thedreamstress.com11

Scuttlebutt is that Home Fabrics will be carrying a lot less silk in the future (sniff), but their trims and decor fabrics are still well worth a look.  I wished I’d had an extra suitcase to fill with curtain fabrics!

Button & Trim Expo, 828 Maple Avenue

Next we were off to the Button & Trim Expo store, which was ALL THE TRIM.  I was so excited about trim I didn’t even notice any buttons, but I’m sure they were there.  I drooled over all the lace and ribbon, but settled on a fabulous metallic lace (so popular historically, so hard to find today), and a bunch of different elastics to trial different kinds of corset garters with.

Touring the LA fabric district, thedreamstress.com

Ace Sewing Machine Inc, 214 E 8th St

Ace Sewing Machine is where you go to get every possible colour of rayon seam binding, every possible type of ironing board, ham, sleeve-board, etc, and all those specialist tools like buttonhole spacers that are getting so hard to find these days.

I didn’t have room in my luggage for hams and sleeve boards (next time!), and already have a buttonhole spacer, so stocked up on seam binding, chalk refills, an awl (you can never have too many awls as a historical sewer), and my favourite type of seam gage and seam allowance ruler.

Touring the LA fabric district, thedreamstress.com

California Millinery Supply721 S Spring Street

California Millinery was our furthest-away goal, but well worth the walk:

Touring the LA fabric district, thedreamstress.com

It’s been around since the 1920s or so, and has stock dating back that far, with shelves and shelves of hat braid:

Touring the LA fabric district, thedreamstress.com

And hat blanks:

Touring the LA fabric district, thedreamstress.com

And hat trims:

Touring the LA fabric district, thedreamstress.com

Ginger, Lauren & I all splurged on vintage early 20th century Italian straw flowers – not cheap, but absolutely impossible to find these days:

Touring the LA fabric district, thedreamstress.com

If millinery isn’t your thing, you could skip this, and add in another fabric store, like Michael Levin (right on the next street over from Home Fabrics) or

With our tour 3/5 of the way through, it was time for lunch:

Market, 862 S. Los Angeles St

Market’s ‘New American’ cuisine is California hipster food at its most delicious.  I had the chile crusted ahi tuna salad, and was not disappointed:

Eating in the LA Garment district, thedreamstress.com

Refreshed and re-fuelled, we were off to our final two stops:

 

Having done every possible thing but straight-up garment fabric, our last stop remedied that:

Tex Carmel, 432 E 9th Street

This tiny hole in the wall shop was crammed with silks, linens, and wools,  I drooled over a warp-printed Italian silk faille in autumn tones on black (ex designer, US$20 a yard, and the original price would have been well above US$100), but decided that the only thing it would be suitable for would be a full-skirted 1930s evening dress (something vaguely along the lines of this, or this), which would need about 7m, and I couldn’t think of an occasion to wear it.

So I settled on a couple of yards of white linen – something I always use, and that I can’t always get in Wellington when I want it.  So I was honestly able to tell Mr D I only bought 2m of fabric in the fabric district!

Touring the LA fabric district, thedreamstress.com

So that was our tour!

LA Garment District Tour thedreamstress.com

Fun, successful, and not ridiculously overwhelming!  (I still like my local Wellington fabric shops the best though!)

Touring the LA fabric district, thedreamstress.com

Rate the Dress: An Empress in Tiers, 1886

The rate the dress of 7 days ago was a vivid green 1910s number, with black lace over-tunic, paired with a belt that, as it turns out, didn’t necessarily belong to the dress, and inexplicable modern necklace.  Whether you liked it or not hinged on how you felt about the colour (deliciously vivid vs. gaudy), and your attitude towards the white neckline filler (refreshing vs. abrupt).  Despite a few people who really weren’t fond of the colour or silhouette (or very obvious hem), it came in at a quite pleasing 8.2 out of 10.  Very nice!

This week, we’re going from bold green to soft pastels paired with dark neutrals, but keeping with the theme of lace overlays, albeit in a very different mood.

This mid-1880s dress with unusual asymmetrically tiered skirt comes from the wardrobe of the Empress Maria Feodorovna of Russia (aka Dagmar of Denmark, aka Princess Alexandra’s little sister).  You’ve rated Maria Feodorovna here on Rate the Dress before, and this dress seems in keeping with her taste as demonstrated in other paintings and photographs: extremely feminine, and heavy on the lace.

Dress worn by Empress Maria Feodorovna, 1886-87, The State Hermitage Museum

Dress worn by Empress Maria Feodorovna, 1886-87, The State Hermitage Museum

The skirt of this dress is, admittedly, extremely frilly, but the bodice, despite the bows and lace, gives off an impression of simplicity and tailoring.

Does the outfit manage to balance itself, and create an overall harmonious impression, or is this outfit just a terrible mess of discordant ideas?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10