All posts tagged: terminology

Dust coat, England or France, 1905-1908, Tussah silk, satin, floss silk, Victoria & Albert Museum, T.333-1987

Terminology: Tussah Silk

This post didn’t start out as a terminology post! I was going to show you more images from my Spring 1915 Standard Mail order catalogue – and thought I would do some terminology explorations along with it. I started writing about the dresses and the terms mentioned, and the post got longer, and longer, and longer… So I’ve cut it apart, and will just focus on one term: tussah silk. It’s featured in my least favourite dress on the page: the brown floral number with the ruched midriff. Tussah Silk (also  Tussar silk, Tushar silk, Tassar silk, Tusser silk or kosa silk) Tussah silk comes from a variety of silkworms that eat oak leaves, and other leaves high in tannin, rather than mulberry leaves. The tannin in the leaves gives tussah silk its characteristic pale gold colour. The filaments of tussah silk are much thicker and stronger than standard silk, and are oval instead of round. Because the initial threads aren’t as fine, tussah silk cloth has a coarser hand than regular silk, and often …

Terminology: what is a lingerie dress or lingerie frock? (and blouse, and skirt)

Tea Gowns vs. Lingerie Dresses Start searching for the ubiquitous Edwardian white cotton & lace dresses online, and you’ll quickly find a name for them: tea gowns.  There are hundreds on etsy by that name.  Vintage Textile uses the term.  Augusta Auctions sells them in lots of three in every sale that includes 1900s garments. Those are NOT tea gowns (well, more precisely, they were never called tea gowns in any era in which this style of dress was fashionable).  Or tea dresses. Tea gowns is a specific period term that refers to a a totally different kind of garment.  This is a tea gown: As is this: And this. Note how different those examples are from the ones on all the sales sites?  That’s because they are totally different styles of garment. Tea gowns were made of rich, heavy fabrics, often in colours, and usually featured elaborate, trailing sleeves.  You can read more about them here. In contrast, the dresses called tea gowns by modern sellers are made in very lightweight, delicate fabrics, almost …

Terminology: the Olivia cap / Olivia bonnet

The silver screen has been launching fashions for almost as long as it has been around.  50,000 copies of Adrian’s ruffled-sleeved Letty Lynton dress were sold in 1932, and in 1939 Gone with the Wind launched innumerable green-sashed dress replicas.  Annie Hall made oversized androgyny tres chic.  Closer to the present, yellow is predicted to be the frock colour du jour of 2017, thanks to La La Land and Beauty & the Beast. Before the screen launched fashions, the stage did the same job.  While not as many people could see a stage performance as a film, the costumes in notable London & New York productions were described in great detail in newspaper articles around the world, and images of the actors in their roles were widely disseminated as collectable trading cards.  The costume enthusiasts amongst you are probably familiar with Merry Widow hats and Dolly Varden frocks. Less famous today is the Olivia cap, or Olivia bonnet, popularised by Ellen Terry’s turn as Olivia in 1878’s Olivia at the Court Theatre, a play based on The Vicar of Wakefield. Like Dolly Varden, Olivia was …