Annotated Bibliography Updates

Just a quick update to announce that I’ve gone through my Annotated Bibliography to add 13 more entries (bringing it up to a count of 107!) and to add quick annotations to all of the entries on the main page. Now, on the main page, each entry has the basic citation and also a brief note about whether the book is recommended, recommended for the pictures, recommended only if there’s nothing else available, or not recommended. The negative notes generally contain a bit of extra information about why I don’t think the book is worth looking at.

There are a lot of recommended books on the list – because there are a lot of great books on historical costume out there – but hopefully my Annotated Bibliography can be some help in determining which books fit a given subject and are worth tracking down. Most of the recommended books have more detailed annotations included in linked posts of their own, for more details on content and usage.

For my own purposes, I find the A.B. useful when I’m researching a new period or a specific topic, or when I have a bit of extra cash and want to figure out what book to buy next. Sadly, some of the books I desperately wish to acquire – especially those by Norah Waugh – are consistently very expensive, and out of my price range. Someday! In the meantime, that is what libraries are for.

If you’d like to see the updates and peruse the reviews, visit the Annotated Bibliography page.

Adventures in Blank Canvas Tees

Four Tee Designs, May 2012

The time has come, the walrus said…. to draft a bunch of t-shirts! (Although it’s possible I’m misquoting the aforementioned walrus.) I like to do my pattern drafting and cutting in batches, and then have a few projects ready to test or sew. It’s harder to find the time/energy for drafting and cutting than for sewing, I find. So if I can charge through and get a lot done at once, it increases my productivity. (And seriously, my productivity needs all the help it can get.)

So I’m on a mission to get a bunch of tees wrangled all at once. Since I’ve already had success with the Blank Canvas Tee free pattern by Steph of 3 Hours Past the Edge of Tomorrow, I’m going to start with various iterations of that pattern (before I attempt the Sewaholic Renfrew or a couple of designs I’d like to draft/drape myself). I already have a copy printed out and taped together and successfully used, but Steph has since updated the pattern, changing to a jewel-neck instead of a slight scoop, which is easier for drafting variations. So I’ll print off a new copy and wrangle the pieces again, adding some length at the hem like before, and also the same amount of length in the bust that I did before – an extra  inch and a half to accomodate The Bosom. That extra length allows the shirt hem to hang to an even length, with the shoulder seams actually sitting on top of my shoulders. With RTW tees, I have to yank them forward if I want to hem to sit evenly – bleh.

This time, I’ll also play with changing the back to get a relatively snug fit without having the side seams shift toward the front. On my existing flutter-sleeve BCT, I ended up with a looser fit than I was looking for, but the front didn’t want anything removed, so I makeshifted a fix by taking in the center back and creating a seam there. I’ll need to play around the the adjustments, but I think I’ll take fabric out of the center back – since I don’t want to mess with the sides on the front, I’d rather not fiddle with the sides of the back too much and risk skewing things. The plan is to get the fit right on a plain, basic Blank Canvas Tee, then once that’s set I’ll draft up all the versions I (currently) have plans to make.

I’ve drawn up a small flock of tee designs on a set of croquis (blank, simple figure drawings to trace and design on) I drew based on photographs I had Zachary take of me, in which I wore a snug camisole and leggings (shudder), so I could design on my actual (iiiif slightly smoothed out) shape. It really helps with the design process, and I can’t comprehend why it’s standard practice to design clothes on an extremely elongated, super-skinnified figure – I took fashion drawing some years back, and the teacher loathed me for my impatience with that convention. Wouldn’t it make more sense to design on a body with a shape like an actual human?

Anyway – moving on to some pictures! (I apologize for the dreadful quality of the images – my printer/scanner refuses to scan properly, and I can’t figure out how to make it work, so these drawings have been captured by the macro function of my digital camera, on an overcast day.)

jewel-neck tee of black and white damask print interlock

The first design is for a black-and-white damask print cotton interlock knit. It’s not as stretchy as jersey, but it’s stretchy enough that I think it ought to make a nice tee, as long as I keep an eye on the fit along the way. The print is large and bold, so I’m keeping the design very simple – a Blank Canvas Tee with a jewel neck, possibly dipping to a shallow V in the back (to be interesting and to accommodate the limited stretch of the interlock). I was inspired by a blouse on the cover of a vintage pattern I have, which softens the rather severe neckline with a scarf.

sweetheart neckline blank canvas tee in red with black binding

Next up: RED! This BCT will have a sweetheart neckline, and I’ll bind the neck and armhole edges, probably with contrast fabric. The plan is to do black contrast binding, but I’m not 100% sure – I’ll have to play with it to make sure it doesn’t look like a bit too much. I like bold, but I’m not sure I want to be blinding!

flutter-sleeve aqua tee, multiple views

I love Steph’s flutter sleeve, V-neck hack for the Blank Canvas Tee, so that’s the version I made some months back out of coral-orange cotton jersey. Can’t have enough flutter sleeves, and I think they’ll look especially nice in the fine, almost tissue-weight hemp rayon jersey, so I’m going to do an aqua version. Then, for novelty, I’m going to draft in a diamond-shaped cut-out in the back, and have the tee tie above that. When I drew this out, I planned to bind all of the edges in white hemp rayon jersey, but now I’m not sure. It would be a lot of bother, and the hemp rayon doesn’t seem very inclined to ravel – my coral cotton is a looser knit and getting a bit wibbly at the edges. We’ll see.

black tee with scoop-and-V neckline

This neckline is based on one on a 3/4 sleeve tee I’ve had for years (and I actually used to have another in a second color as well), that’s quite bedraggled at this point and can no longer comfortably encompass the proportions of The Bosom, but I still love the neckline and I can easily copy it. The original has gathering around the V, which I may or may not reproduce, depending on the results of fiddling with things. The original has a band that’s trimmed with beads and sequins (it’s not as garish as it sounds), but I think I’ll do my neckline band out of my black-and-white damask print interlock. I like using bits of things for other things, and then it won’t need trimming.

T-shirt from bodice of V8728 and BCT

I am very fond of Vintage Vogue #8728, from 1946, and I was absolutely floored by Casey’s idea of making the pattern up in jersey instead of a woven – I’m planning to make a coral cotton jersey version of V8728, and I figure that while I’m at it, I might as well turn the bodice into a T-shirt pattern by combining it with my custom-fitted BCT pattern. I may use white organic cotton jersey instead of white hemp rayon jersey though, because the hemp rayon is really quite thin, and very thin white garments are a bit inconvenient. We shall see.

sleeveless blouse of aqua hemp rayon jersey

I have two ivory jersey layering tops of just this design, and I’ve nearly worn both of them to death. I’m planning to make a few replacements in various colors, using a combination of the existing shirt(s) and my BCT pattern. Like the originals, the neckline and armholes will be bound, and there will be a bit of gathering around the center front of the neckline – it really helps give enough room for The Bosom without adding bagginess around the upper chest.

wrapped blouse in black jersey

This design is based on something a snipped from a magazine – a recent fashion magazine, actually! I quite like it, but this project is probably a bit down the road. I’ll need to drape (or at least, partially drape) the front, which will require actually getting my dress form padded out to my dimensions (it is currently size teeny-tiny). Eventually, though!

After I’ve wrangled some Blank Canvas Tees, I’ll tackle the Renfrew. It has actual separate sleeves so it won’t be quite as easy to fit or make, but it seems like a reasonable next step. There’s a 3/4 sleeve tee that Ivy wears in episode 12 of Smash that really caught my fancy, and I think I could draft it up using Renfrew as a base pretty easily. Eeeeeeeventually.

First, however! Some Blank Canvas Tees. Okay, actually first – I spend longer wrangling pictures and writing this than I anticipated, so before printing and taping and cutting begins, I need to get something to eat. Mm, popcorn!

Sewing with Jersey and Knits: A Heap of Links

I collect useful links. It’s my thing. And now that I’m embarking on some sewing projects which will work better with some of those piles of information readily at hand and tidily organized, it seems that I might as well do that organizing on here, so anyone else with an obsessive desire to research 97 different ways to do something can also partake of my linkful bounty.

Now, obviously the subject of sewing with jersey and other knit fabrics does not have a great deal to do with historical sewing, but many twentieth century styles involve knit fabrics, plus knits can be used for modern interpretations of even more styles, as well as for current designs. I love many mid-twentieth-century vintage styles as well as true historical costumes (you know, really old stuff), and I’ve found that I can get away with wearing 1950s styles in everyday life, which is not so much the case for, say, 1850s. And sometimes a girl just needs a T-shirt.

So, without further ado, here are my links for working with jersey and other knit fabrics, for making T-shirts, sweaters, dresses, miscellaneous refashions, and more, including doing jersey versions of patterns intended for wovens. As I run across/track down further handy-dandy resources, I’ll go back and add them in here, with eye-catching asterisks (***) to signal the new additions.

Knit Inspirations

  • Sewing With Jersey and Knits,” a Pinterest Board of mine with pictures and tutorial links (though all the tutorials are here as well).
  • Sewing with KNITS,” an inspiring Pinterest Board by Rae Hoekstra of Made by Rae with pictures and tutorial links.
  • Sewing Knits,” an inspiring Pinterest Board by Kristin Wenke with pictures and tutorial links.
  • Hack Ideas,” an inspiring Pinterest Board by Steph C of 3 Hours Past, along with other contributors, with pictures of designs both knit and woven, collected as inspiration for Steph’s monthly hacks for her Blank Canvas T free pattern (see below for more information and links to individual designs).

a blank canvas T design variation I drew up

Properties of Knit Fabrics and General Overviews

Cutting Knit Fabric (careful, it’s slippery!)

Helpful Tools and Notions for Working With Knits

ball point pins, pattern weights, rotary cutter, mat

Stitching and Hemming Knits (especially without a serger)

Bindings and Neckline Finishes

Draping and Patternmaking for Knits

  • Guest Post: Draping a Knit Cowl Dress with Alyson Clair” (part 1) at Gertie’s New Blog for Better Sewing, a tutorial for draping in a knit. Followed by Part 2, which makes mention of a third installment to come, but sadly, there does not seem to be a part three anywhere.
  • There are drafting instructions for pattern “hacks” and various patterning-with-knit-fabrics tips in the posts about the Blank Canvas Tee by Steph C at 3 Hours Past (the various designs are listed there and a few inches down from here).

Making T-Shirts and the Like

Blank Canvas T from 3 Hours Past: free patterns
(a.k.a. possibly the best thing ever! Steph is amazing)

Refashioning, Embellishing, or Decorating T-Shirts

Jersey Dresses, Both Modern and Retro

  • Lily of the Valley Dress” by Casey at Casey’s Elegant Musings, Vintage Vogue #8728 from the late 1940s done up in jersey instead of a woven.

Making Sweaters from Knit Fabrics, Plus Sweater Refashions
(as opposed to knitting sweaters, which is, you know, different!)

  • Finished Object: 9 Lines Sweater, Tee and Hack” by Steph C at 3 Hours Past. Includes a sweater made from the May hack for her free Blank Canvas T pattern as well as a lighter knit Tee.
  • I Sewed a Sweater!” by Gretchen Hirsch at Gertie’s New Blog for Better Sewing; not a tutorial but has useful tips and pictures.
  • How To Refashion a Cardigan” by Casey at Casey’s Elegant Musings, a tutorial for turning a shapeless store-bought or thrifted cardigan into a custom-fitted, vintage-style cardigan.
  • My Upcycled, Hot Glue, Anthropolgie-esque, Rose Garden Cardy” by Patty at The Snug Bug, a detailed tutorial for turning a large, plain, pullover sweater into a cute, fitted cardigan, plus embellishments if so desired. No actual hot glue involved!
  • Flop Fix #3: Fine-tuned Thrift Find” by Patty at The Snug Bug, a detailed post depicting a creative refashion for a big, shapeless cable-knit sweater.
  • Learn how to sew a ribbon placket on a vintage-style cardigan with “Guest Post: Tasha” at Casey’s Elegant Musings, by Tasha of By Gum, By Golly.
  • Dash Away the Winter Blues with Embroidery!” by Casey at Casey’s Elegant Musings, a tutorial for adding a vintage-style embroidered embellishment to a cardigan, complete with an adorable Scottie dog and several links to sources for free vintage embroidery patterns.
  • Cupid’s Arrow Sweater Embellishment” by Casey at Casey’s Elegant Musings, a tutorial for a charming Valentine’s Day inspired applique-and-beading design to add to any plain cardigan.
  • Vintage Flair: How to Make a (Faux) Fur Collar” (for a cardigan) by Casey at Casey’s Elegant Musings.

Pale pink sweater with dorset replacement button

Making Knit (and/or stretch) Fabric Undergarments

  • Free Hipster Pattern” at MakeBra, a downloadable underwear pattern in small, medium, and large, plus tutorial. The panties are modern, low-rise and low-cut on the leg (a.k.a. “hipster” – eep!).
  • Make Your Own Upcycled Undies” by Lauren Dahl at Ruthie Pearl. Use scavenged knit-fabric garments or scraps to make panties of various styles. Make your own pattern based on an existing pair of panties, then use fold-over elastic to easily and attractively finish.
  • Detour Into Panty Land” by Gretchen Hirsch at Gertie’s New Blog for Better Sewing, a  post about using an Ohhh Lulu pattern to make high-waisted 1950s-style panties using various materials. Followed be even more in The Panty Express. Plus, if anyone thinks you’re crazy for liking retro high-waisted knickers, check out Gertie’s “In Defense of Granny Panties.”

Accessories and Other Things You Can Make with Knit Fabrics

  • The Maxi” by Leanne Barlow at Elle Apparel, a tutorial for making a casual, semi-full maxi skirt with a yoga waistband.
  • Smoooooooth Waistbands” by LiEr at IkatBag, a tutorial for a smooth application of a waistband onto knitwear pants.

Knit Fabric Clothes for Babies and Children (just scratching the surface!)

Double-Knits and Interlocks (which are heavier & behave more like wovens)

cotton interlock in black and white damask print

And While We’re At It – Working with Woven Stretch Fabrics

pink and white striped stretch cotton sateen

Online Suppliers of Knits and Stretch Fabrics
(these are places I’ve personally bought from or that have been recommended by sources I consider to be reliable)

  • is, honestly, where I do most of my fabric-purchasing these days. They don’t carry everything, but I tend to check and keep checking for various things I’m interested in (I looked for cotton crinoline for years before they started carrying it and, eventually, I bought a bunch on sale), and I watch for sales. Whenever I’m going to buy anything from them (orders $35 and over get free shipping!), I check the deep discounted clearance sections to see if anything I need is discounted. I’ve found 50% off hemp rayon knits both of the last times I looked! Their organic cotton knits and hemp rayon knits are both very nice, in my experience. (And they’re not paying me to say any of this, alas.)
  • Rae Talks About Shopping for Knit Fabrics Online” by Rae Hoekstra at Made By Rae, less about specific store and more about what to look for and how to evaluate knit fabrics, though it includes some brand suggestions.
  • Near Sea Naturals, a company recommended at Made by Rae. Eco-friendly, high quality materials – sounds great!
  • Spandex World, a company recommended by Gretchen Hirsch at Gertie’s New Blog for Better Sewing; where she sourced various stretch fabrics for her panty-making habit.
  • Sew Sassy Fabrics, also recommended at Gertie’s New Blog for Better Sewing, specifically for their selection of elastics.

Also, for more on fibers and fabrics, see my Glossary of Fibers, Fabrics, and Materials, which has on-site information as well as more links (linkssss!!).

Updated August 7, 2012: now with pictures!

Updated August 10, 2012: added a missing link to an entry.

1912 Research and an Update

So! I never get around to doing as much with this blog as I intend, but I did just add a bunch of new stuff, because I registered for independent study hours over the summer, doing research on 1912 clothing. It had two components, a big paper and a shorter how-to article for people trying to put together passable 1912-ish clothes for living history (specifically related to a spring course and conference). But I found so many fabulous resources online for the how-to side, and general visual resources, that I ended up doing the how-to component online here, with a little index and a set of posts full of links and summary information. There’s so much incredible information out there on the internet, but it can be shockingly difficult to track down the right stuff – thus why curating the internet, so to speak, is something of a hobby of mine.

The plan is to keep adding links to the 1912 research section, as I find them, and now I’m also thinking of doing something similar for other periods. I have a truly massive collection of bookmarks, and I always wish it was easier to find good sewing and costuming resources, so I think I’ll see what I can do to improve matters. I suspect that keeping my various sewing and costuming resources organized in this form will even make them easier for me to use.

…maybe at some point I’ll even put up pictures of the projects I’ve finished?

Hopefully I’ll be able to do more sewing and more blogging about it! And then I won’t forget how I did things after they’re done. Maybe.

But at least there are 1912 resources, tidily organized!

Sewing in 1912

Guides for 1912 Reproduction Sewing

Dressmaking & Ladies’ Tailoring Manuals from c 1912

Tailoring Manuals from c 1912 (contents entirely or primarily for men)

 Miscellaneous Manuals on Sewing, Mending, and Laundering

Back to the site index for Researching 1912 Clothes and Making or Faking Them.

Clothing in New Mexico and the Southwest circa 1912

Was Clothing Different in New Mexico? A Brief Analysis

Certainly, clothing was different in New Mexico; clothing everywhere was subject to regional variation, especially in places with substantial cultural intersections. But in the course of my research, I found that clothing in New Mexico around 1912 was not as markedly different from clothing elsewhere in the United States than I had expected. In the local photographs and newspaper advertisements I surveyed, New Mexican men are often seen wearing three-piece suits, though working men sometimes lack a jacket, and can sometimes be seen without waistcoats as well (though this was considered somewhat indecent). Likewise, New Mexican women are typically seen in dresses and separates like those worn elsewhere in the United States. Both sexes seem to have kept up with east coast fashions to whatever degree they could afford it, with simpler and less modish clothing for people with low incomes.

There’s a common belief that women in the West “must” have worn corsets less than women in cities back east, because it was too hot, and corsets were not practical. But in my experience, for women of a, shall we say, buxom variety, it can actually be more comfortable to wear a corset, with evenly distributed bottom-up support, rather than a modern bra, with support coming in from straps which hang from the shoulders and a narrow band around the chest. Historically, corsetry is not synonymous with tight-lacing, and it need not be painful, dangerous, or even particularly uncomfortable. I have personally worn a corset while in the heat working outside, and it made very little difference, as long as it was made of natural fibers (which breathe), fit well, and was laced properly, not too tight or too loose. So, Western women could have worn corsets. Did they?

My survey of early twentieth century photographs of people in New Mexico and the Southwest indicates that corsets were worn with roughly the same incidence in this region as elsewhere in the United States. Which is to say, they were worn by most women, most of the time, with the exception of some elderly women, some very poor women, and women otherwise socio-culturally outside of any concerns about Euro-American fashion. In the latter category, photographs of Native Americans taken in the early twentieth century often show people in what appears to be the traditional dress of their people, or, in some cases, a romanticized version of traditional dress; unsurprisingly, in these images, none appear to be wearing corsets. But among Euro-American and Hispanic women, the corset appears to have been as common in New Mexico as anywhere else.

This is not to say that clothing in New Mexico was the same as anywhere else – regional variations played a role, more so than they do today, even. Regional variations are particularly marked among the lower rungs of society; unfortunately, these are also consistently the least documented parts of society. It is difficult to find pictures of working class people, subsistence farmers, and the like, especially pictures in their everyday working clothes rather than their Sunday best. Because of the comparative scarcity of such images, it’s difficult to make a broad analysis – the sample size is too small. Hopefully, I will be able to increase my pool of study material and do further research on this subject.

As a general framework, though, my research so far indicates that it is reasonable to assume that clothing in New Mexico circa 1912 was, for many people, much like  clothing in the rest of the United States, particularly among the upper and middle classes of both Anglo-American and Hispanic descent.

Image Resources for Clothing in the Southwest

NM Newspaper Articles About and Advertisements for Clothing

Hispanic/Latino Clothing in the Southwest circa 1912

  • 1912 Project: New Mexico, a Pinterest Board of mine, with a collection of images and links, including many of people who appear to be of Hispanic descent and of people known to be of Hispanic descent (such as photographs of the Amador family of Las Cruces).

Native American Clothing in the Southwest circa 1912

Clothing in the Southwest in Other/Various Time Periods

Note: if it has an asterisk*, there is a tutorial, how-to, or pattern on the other side of the link.

Back to the site index for Researching 1912 Clothes and Making or Faking Them.

Men’s Clothing circa 1912


While ladies’ fashion was changing rapidly during the decade of the 1910s, menswear changed very little. One small change did prove to be significant in the long term though: increasingly, gentlemen were dinner or tuxedo jackets instead of tailcoats for less formal evening occasions. The number of occasions for which a tuxedo was sufficiently formal increased during the 1910s and in the following decades until, today, black tie and tails, much less white tie and tails, is required an an extremely limited number of occasions, for an extremely narrow band of the population (high society, fine dining waiters, and cabaret performers, mostly), and the tuxedo is generally thought of as the height of formality.

Three-piece suits and variations thereof were the norm for men around 1912. Waistcoats typically lacked collars, and were cut quite high, leaving very little of the shirt bosom exposed on either side of the necktie. Shirt collars were very high and stiff, often made to be detachable so that they could be readily cleaned or replaced, since they soiled much more quickly then the rest of the shirt. Morning dress with a cutaway coat and striped trousers could be worn for formal daytime occasions, but by this time, the practice of wearing formal morning dress was already more common in Britain than in the United States.

While menswear for centuries has tended to change slowly, it is more variable than it might first appear. Even within the circa 1912 period, there was a great deal of variation – many elements of the suit, shirt, collar, tie, hat, coat, and accessories could be personalized to suit the owner’s tastes, within in a certain range of parameters. Jacket lapels could vary in width and proportion, jacket length varied, shirt collar height and proportion varied, and hats were available in an almost inconceivable array of shapes and sizes. Stripes and other patterns were worn sometimes, especially for daywear and casual sportswear. Sportswear could be extremely colorful, in fact, and dressing gowns (robes) were positively flamboyant.

Working class and rural farming men would still have been likely to own three-piece suits, to wear for “best,” though some men at this point did elect not to wear waistcoats all the time, and when working hard, any man might remove his jacket. In polite company, a man did not sit down to dinner in his shirtsleeves, and lacking both waistcoat and jacket in front of a woman was suspect behavior.

General Resources for Men’s Clothing c 1912

How to Fake 1912 Men’s Clothing on the Cheap

If you need a 1912 man’s costume in a hurry, without much sewing, and inexpensively, your best bet is going to be a thirft store suit. There were various cuts of suit popular at this time period, so your odds of finding something workable in the right size are high. First, look at pictures of c. 1912 suits to train your eye for what to look for. Next, make sure you know your chest and waist measurements so you can easily check if a suit on the rack might fit you (you can check length by hanging it against you). Remember to look for natural fibers! Synthetic fibers like polyester are not only inaccurate, but extremely uncomfortable to wear (especially 100% polyester); they’re very hot and don’t breathe, plus they stain easily.

When you’re looking for a suit, look for a jacket with square, properly fitting shoulders, and a fitted or slightly loose-fitting but tailored shape and fit. It can single-breasted or double-breasted, though single-breasted was more common. Lapels generally tended to be around medium size, though some men wore their lapels wide, so that’s an acceptable option too. Lapels were cut quite far up at the time, tending to end high on the chest rather than at waist level. Jacket length could vary, but remember that this shouldn’t be a long zoot suit style (though there are some baggy, striped suits of the time that stylistically lean in that direction!). Trousers can be medium to loose fitting, but should taper to a narrower ankle, even if only slightly. Overall, the suit should be slightly baggy, but not too much – it’s a balancing act.

If you can’t find a three-piece suit with a waistcoat, it’s acceptable to have a mismatched waistcoat/vest, made from a different but harmonizing material. The waistcoat should fit snugly – much more so than the rest of the suit. The waistcoats typically lack lapels, and are cut with a high, tight V opening. The bottom edge comes to two closely placed points at the front. Vest materials can be livelier than other suit materials typically are – stripes were popular.

Shirts were typically very high-collared, so look for the highest collars you can find, or, if you are feeling adventurous, you could even try removing a shirt collar and adding a homemade (even a paper!) collar, which is accurate. The cut of the collar could almost totally hide the knot of the necktie, depending on its shape. Neckties were highly variable in color and pattern, but they were usually cut nearly straight and tied with small knots.

Don’t forget a hat! In 1912, a decent man simply didn’t leave the house without a hat. Look through pictures to see appropriate styles, and look for something similar. If you are looking to be costumed as someone actively laboring, who would not be wearing a three-piece suit, look for pants cut along the lines mentioned above, and wear them with collar-less shirt and suspenders, preferably the kind of button onto the pants rather than clip on. And don’t forget that hat!

History of Menswear & Tailoring

  • History: Setting the Precedent, a series of articles on the history of menswear, particularly formal menswear, at The Black Tie Guide: A Gentleman’s Guide to Evening Wear (Second Edition).

Suits (daywear)

Formalwear (morning dress, tuxedo/dinner jackets, tails)

Hats & Outerwear


Working Clothes (farming, heavy labor, servants)

  • 1912 Project: Hard at Work, a Pinterest Board of mine, with a collection of images and links, specifically of people in working clothes of some variety.

Tailoring Manuals & Guides (see also Sewing in 1912)

Note: if it has an asterisk*, there is a tutorial, how-to, or pattern on the other side of the link.

Back to the site index for Researching 1912 Clothes and Making or Faking Them.

Women’s Clothing circa 1912


Changing Trends in Ladies’ Fashion

The years 1911 and 1912 represent a transitional in-between period in women’s fashion, similar to the late 1830s and the late 1860s (the years on either end of the full-skirted, drop-shouldered, natural-waisted period). The aesthetic of the 1890s and 1900s was one of voluptuous grace, with delicate materials and delicate colors, while the aesthetic during World War I was more modern and more practical, with a shorter, fuller skirt; an unfitted and slightly elevated waistline; and a great popularity for suits and separates. Examining the two aesthetics side by side, the difference is extreme, though they are separated by only four or five years. In between the two lies a transitional period sharing commonalities with styles on either side, but also with unique elements of its own, in particular the slim silhouette known as the “hobble skirt,” which could at its extremes be narrow enough to limit the length of a woman’s steps, essentially “hobbling” her. This trend lasted only between 1911 and 1914; in 1910 skirts were still falling in a softly flaring bell shape, while by 1915 they had shortened and widened, offering wartime women a practical, modernized style.

The rapid progression of fashions between 1909 and 1915 was essentially the midpoint of fashion’s transformation from what is considered “nineteenth century” to what is considered “twentieth century.” The loosened waist of the 1910s became the straight, dropped waist of the 1920s, and the skirts that shortened just two or three inches around 1915 became the short skirts of the 1920s, complete with a shocking display of ankle and calf, occasionally even a glimpse of knee. World War I influenced this massive transition, in terms of women’s habits of living and need for practicality in dress, as well as in terms of necessitating changes in attire due to wartime austerity measure which required, among other things, the steel that would have gone into the manufacture of corsets.

The Look of 1911-1912

The silhouette was slim, with a long, narrow skirt; a sleek or slightly raised waistline; and preferably an enormous hat. Dresses were still popular, but suits and other separates were very common by this point. Many garments advertised in Sears Catalogs and the like were skirts and blouses or shirtwaists; separates could be very fine and high quality, or they could serve the same purpose and be simpler and quite inexpensive. Society ladies wore shirtwaists and skirts; so did shopgirls and farmers’ daughters going to town.

General Resources for Women’s Clothing c 1912

How to Fake 1912 Women’s Clothing on the Cheap

If you need a 1912 woman’s costume in a hurry, without much sewing, and inexpensively, your best bet is going to be a blouse or shirtwaist and a skirt. Look for an ankle-length or full-length, straight, narrow skirt – this silhouette was also popular in the 1970s, which can help with thrift store costuming (but look out for hot, plasticky polyester). 1970s and 1980s blouses can provide the top half of the ensemble, but you want to look for thin, potentially even sheer, cotton or linen (and rayon or blends could do in a pinch). Look for a blouse without puffy sleeves – this is a period where slightly sloping shoulders are ideal, and puffy shoulders were not the look of 1912. Look at period blouses first, to get an idea of the look. Remember that if buttons look too plasticky, you can easily remove and replace them, even with limited sewing skills.

Don’t forget to top off your ensemble with some kind of headwear – respectable women simply didn’t leave the house without hats in 1912. Large hats were popular at the time – the tutorials below can help you turn a $5 party store hat into a passable 1910s shape waiting for some decorations – even a scarf or piece of sheer fabric or wide ribbon wrapped around and pinned or stitch in place with a fluffy shape can help to give the look of the period.  Gloves ought to be worn outdoors, so if you can find a pair that look roughly right, excellent. For shoes, simple black or brown or tan “granny boots” will do, or low-heeled Oxfords – these are conveniently quite trendy in 2012, and are often perfect for 1912.

These basic elements can go a long way for creating the look of 1912, and if you work to create 1912-style hair as well, you can really look the part. Keep in mind that, in 1912, you almost certainly would have been wearing a corset – even most suffragettes wore corsets. The shape of the corset would change your silhouette, how your clothes fit, and how you stand and move. The ideal figure of the period had slim, sleek hips and a low, gently rounded mono-bosom, assisted if need be by ruffles and padding. The high, out-thrust shape of a modern bra looks incongruous with these styles – you might consider a sports bra or a bra-top camisole to get a more period look.

Trends & Changing Fashions

Day Dresses

Separates (skirts, blouses, shirtwaists, jackets)

  • 1912 Project: Separates, a Pinterest Board of mine, with a collection of images and links.
  • Arizona Statehood Centennial Outfit (dress diary), by Jordan Newhouse, at her blog Heavenly Princess. Details about creating a reproduction 1912 ensemble, including shirtwaist, skirt, princess slip, and more, comparing research to reproduction pieces.
  • 1912-14 Custom Drafted Skirt in 3, 5 and 7 Gores, from a primary source, at Tudor Links.
  • *A Nineteen Teens Pleated Skirt, by Katherine C-G at Koshka-the-Cat. A straightforward tutorial for creating a skirt of the fuller style that became popular following the trend for slim “hobble” skirts, circa 1911-1913. This style is slightly later than most skirt shapes of 1912, but ladies’ suit styles were sometimes shaped like this. The construction information here is very straightforward and, since the skirt is simply cut in rectangles, it can be made without a pattern, by a relatively inexperienced sewist.
  • Two Edwardian Blouses with Cutting Layouts, c. 1910, from a primary source, at Tudor Links.
  • A Nineteen Teens Middy Blouse, by Katherine C-G at Koshka-the-Cat. Like the skirt at the same site, this design is a couple years too late for 1912, but it is nevertheless a good resource, with many detailed construction photographs informative about creating blouses and shirtwaists for the period.

Formalwear (dinner dresses, evening gowns)

Shoes & Hosiery

  • 1912: Accessories and Jewelry, a Pinterest Board of mine, with a collection of images and links, which includes shoes and hosiery as well.
  • Edwardian Shoe Candy, an article by Lauren Reeser at American Duchess, with information and images about 1900s and 1910s shoes.

Hats & Other Millinery


Accessories & Jewelry

  • 1912: Accessories and Jewelry, a Pinterest Board of mine, with a collection of images and links, which includes shoes and hosiery as well.
  • Help Bling Me, by Kendra Van Cleave at Demode. An article about selecting jewelry to wear with a reproduction 1912 evening gown.

Corsets & Brassieres

  • 1912 Project: High Bust Corsets, a Pinterest Board of mine, with a collection of images and links of/about corsetry, focusing on corsets cut higher than the nearly underbust shape that was the most common style. This less common style provided more support for the bust than an underbust corset and brassiere or camisole.
  • *1911 – All the Steps in One Place by Jo at Bridges on the Body, a table of contents for her detailed series on constructing a reproduction c1911 corset, including extensive fitting information.
  • *1910s Corset Pattern and Instructions by Jennifer Thompson at Festive Attyre, republished for all to see after having been originally published in two parts by the author at Your Wardrobe Unlock’d, a fee-based subscription site.


Hair & Cosmetics

  • 1912 Project: Hair and Millinery, a Pinterest Board of mine, with a collection of images and links.
  • Gibson Tuck by Samantha at Locks of Elegance, a photo tutorial for a simple hairstyle popular just before and during the period in question.

Working Clothes (farming, heavy labor, servants)

  • 1912 Project: Hard at Work, a Pinterest Board of mine, with a collection of images and links, specifically of people in working clothes of some variety.

High Fashion / Haute Couture

  • Les Createurs de la Mode (1910) by L. Roger-Miles, a digitized primary source book in French about the process of buying ladies’ fashions from Parisian couturiers, including many images, available free for download at the Internet Archive.
  • Les Robes de Paul Poiret (1908) by Paul Iribe and Paul Poiret, a digitized primary source book in French filled with couture gown designs by Paul Poiret, the height of fashion.

The Realities of Buying, Making, & Wearing Clothes

Dressmaking Manuals & Guides (see also Sewing in 1912)

Note: if it has an asterisk*, there is a tutorial, how-to, or pattern on the other side of the link.

Back to the site index for Researching 1912 Clothes and Making or Faking Them.

Overview of Clothing circa 1912

1912 Bookshelf & Influences by Marion McNealy, an article at Your Wardrobe Unlock’d, the Costumer’s Companion, a fee-based subscription site.

Catalog no. 124 (1912) by Sears, Roebuck, and Company. A complete digitized copy of the 1912 Sears Catalog, over a thousand pages long and full of wonderful information. Much of the merchandise was affordable for farmers, working families, and others without much disposable income.

For a Sideways Bit of Perspective and Possibly Insight…

Here are several digitized primary source books about the history of costume – written around 1912. Early works on the history of costume are full of misinformation (often including potentially offensive errors and generalizations), but they can provide insight into the prevailing ideas of the day about clothing, fashion, ideals of beauty, and “common sense.”

Back to the site index for Researching 1912 Clothes and Making or Faking Them.

General History of the United States and So Forth circa 1912

Clothes only make so much sense out of context – so this is the land of historical context. Or, for an immersive experience, watching the first series (season) of Downton Abbey provides a crash course in all things 1912 (albeit of a British persuasion). Here are some interesting links for a bit of background information on the period, particularly in regards to New Mexico:

Timelines of New Mexico and world history, before and after NM statehood in 1912, at the website of the Historical Society of New Mexico.

Illustrated history of New Mexico (1912) by Benjamin Maurice Read, a digitized primary source book, available free for download at the Internet Archive.

Representative New Mexicans : the national newspaper reference book of the new state containing photographs and biographies of over four hundred men residents of New Mexico (1912), a digitized primary source book, available free for download at the Internet Archive.

Back to the site index for Researching 1912 Clothes and Making or Faking Them.