One of the things that I really love about fashion history is that clothes are both individual and societal stories. There are general overall societal truths and trends, but there are also examples in every period of people creating things that were totally unique, making do, and making things up. There are a lot of examples of quite unique innovations in early NZ fashion history, as people attempted to follow European fashions with limited resources and without access to a full range of materials and patterns.
This particular story of someone’s clever make do, and the unfortunate reveal of their secret has always amused me.
During the recent windy weather I was meandering along Kaponga Road in the evening when I espied a fair damsel turning the Bank corner. She wore one of those arrangements the ladies call a ‘waterfall’ which the wind blew to one side, and shewed to my horrified gaze, a neatly tied bundle of straw, doing service as an improver.
The story is recounted in Eve Ebbet’s In True Colonial Fashion: A Lively Look at What New Zealander’s Wore. Sadly, Ebbet does not tell us the name of the writer, or the date (only that it was from “the years when the bustle was in fashion”). I’m working my way through her original sources, and hope to discover more precise details.
It’s not precisely a sewing secret, but it’s still great inspiration for the Sewing Secret’s Challenge
The fair damsel’s ‘waterfall’ ensemble may have looked a bit like this, but probably wasn’t nearly as fancy:
In addition to finding the original source for Ebbett’s quote, I’ve also discovered that I need to do a terminology post on waterfall bustles, as a quick scan of sources reveals they referred to slightly different styles across the bustle era, and that the term is a bit muddled and confused – more research is needed!