Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Historical Sew Fortnightly - Challenge #11 Politics of Fashion

Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only; fashion is something in the air. It's the wind that blows in the new fashion; you feel it coming, you smell it. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.
COCO CHANEL, attributed, Chanel: A Woman of Her Own

What It Is:  Afternoon Tea Dress and Hat
The Challenge:  Politics of Fashion
Fabric:  Satin charmeuse, silk burn-out sheer
Pattern:  Folkwear 265  Afternoon Tea Dress and Lynn McMasters Edwardian Titanic Hat Pattern
Year:  1912-1913
Notions:  Millinery supplies, feathers, net, silk roses
How historically accurate is it?  While inspired by fashions of the period, it is an extreme example to make the point of the challenge.
Hours to complete?  Gown - 11 hours.  Hat - 10 hours.
First worn:  Made for a Dress-Up Tea Party on June 14th, but I was in bed with the flu. (sob)
Total Cost:  Gown - $70.  Hat - $60 not including silk flowers and bird wings.
It has been 100 years since the beginning of the first World War.  Although I was born in the baby boom following the second World War, I have been fortunate to have seen extraordinary changes in the lives, the freedom of choice, and the possibilities for women.  But change for women was becoming part of the political atmosphere in the years even before the first World War.  Following are selected historical events specifically regarding women pulled from historyorb.com for the years 1912 and 1913:
February 25th Marie-Adélaïde, the eldest of six daughters of Guillaume IV, becomes the first reigning Grand Duchess of Luxembourg.
March 1st - Isabella Goodwin, 1st US woman detective, appointed, NYC
March 12th -  Girl Guides (Girl Scouts) forms in Savannah, by Juliette Gordon Low
March 16th - Mrs William Howard Taft plants 1st cherry tree in Wash DC
March 17th -  Camp Fire Girls organization announced by Mrs Luther Halsey Gulick
April 16th - Harriet Quimby becomes 1st woman pilot to cross English Channel
May 29th - 15 young women fired by Curtis Publishing for dancing "Turkey Trot" during their lunch break
January 2nd - National Woman's Party forms
January 13th - Delta Sigma Theta, the world's largest Black Women's Sorority is founded at Howard University, Washington DC
March 3rd - Ida B Wells-Barnett demonstrates for female suffrage in Washington DC
April 3rd - British suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst sentenced to 3 years in jail
May 26th - Emily Duncan becomes Great Britain's first woman magistrate.
June 4th - Suffragette Emily Davison steps in front of King George V's horse Anmer at the Epsom Derby
September 16th - 1000s of women demonstrate for Dutch female suffrage
November 13th -1st modern elastic brassiere patented by Mary Phelps Jacob
For this challenge I wanted to create an over-the-top Edwardian gown and hat.  I wanted color!  I wanted texture!  I wanted interest!  I wanted something that would say "Look Out World!  The Ladies Are Coming!"
For the gown I used Folkwear Pattern 265 - Afternoon Tea Dress.  From the pattern jacket:  "The gracious life of the proper Edwardian lady demanded different fashions for different times of the day.  Tea gowns were worn during the late afternoon, marking the time between daywear and eveningwear.  They were immensely popular because women could put the tight corsets aside for several hours and enjoy the comfort of these loose-fitting, casual styles of soft layered fabrics, yet still be tastefully presentable for visitors."  Changing clothes and changing times.
For a hat I chose Lynn McMasters' Universal Oval Brimmed, Straight Sided Crown 'Edwardian Titanic' Hat Pattern.
My inspiration is from V & A Collections 1910-1915.
The Folkwear pattern has a nice adaptability to modern wear.  The underdress makes up beautifully and can be cut on the bias or straight grain.

The tunic has several options with different necklines, hemlines, front drape, and bow placement.  I used the pullover option with belt and bow.  My sheer fabric would be fine for a modern use over the underdress, but for the Edwardian version I chose a lavender satin underlay.

Lining the sleeve ruffles:

The belt and bow are made with the same fabric as the underdress and I edged the tunic with a lavender satin bias strip.

As I start to create the Edwardian hat I find in my millinery stash a matched pair of bird wings that I won at auction about 4 years ago.  1912 and 1913 were the last years we would have seen such extravagant plumage on hats.  The Lacey Act of 1900 and subsequent rulings drastically changed the use of feathers and full birds on hats as the use was endangering some species.  Another Politics of Fashion Challenge bit of information and these 3 links will give some very good reading if you are interested in learning more:
The hat pattern has so many great options and sizes that I traced my choice on pattern saver and then cut my buckram and fabric.  Although my finished hat has a 21" diameter, it was not the largest size choice.  The head opening can also be off center in true Titanic style but I chose a center opening to balance the placement of the wings.  Here are all supplies ready and fabric cut.
Wired edges of crown tip, sideband, and brim:

The picture below is a different method than I usually use for sewing the sideband to the crown tip fabric and it worked nicely.  I always follow the pattern makers' instructions so that I can learn their techniques.  My two favorite millinery books are "The Art of Millinery" by Mme. Anna Ben Yusef 1909 available in reprint usually on ebay, and "From The Neck Up" by Denise Dreher available on Amazon.

This is 4 yards of lavender satin hand gathered and hand sewn to the upper and lower brim edge.

This is 3 yards of ecru hat net looped, knotted, and tacked to the crown.  The ends are cut in a dovetail.

 Ostrich feathers curled with a scissor edge.

 The finished dress and hat named "Look Out World, The Ladies Are Coming!"

And for a last little perfect touch:  a pair of perfectly over-the-top stockings and shoes for an over-the-top afternoon tea dress and hat.
Whew!  All this writing makes me want a cup of tea!  Thank you for staying until the end!
With love




  1. Replies
    1. Thank you so very much, Diane! It always means so much to me coming from you whose work I so admire!

  2. Wow, this is stunning! And that oriental sheer fabric is to die for! This challenge could have also been fulfilled by your use of that fabric, as chinoiserie and japonisme were very popular during this period!

    1. Thank you for your sweet words, Gabriela! And thank you too for the good information! I wondered about that for a moment when I was working with the sheer and I didn't take the time to research. I will do that now that I'm finished sewing!

  3. Simply stunning! And pretty inspirational. That hat is incredible.

    1. Thank you, Aria! It did go over-the-top, didn't it? But it's all fun!

  4. What an awesome piece of fabric for your overdress! Your entire outfit looks wonderful.

    1. Thank you, Val! The fabric was just enough to make the overdress and a lucky find. Wish I had more!

  5. Oooooooh!!! Wow!!! I LOVE the sheer peacock fabric! You have done a fabulous job on this ensemble! I cannot wait to see you in it!! Laaaaaa! The hat is so wonderful!

    1. Thank you, Gina! I wasn't going to take this to Costume College but now I'm thinking maybe...maybe..