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.

Using Pinterest for Historical Costume Research

I like to describe Pinterest as “the great cork board in the sky.” I started out using it the way many people do, as a virtual idea board – an easy way to collect images and ideas for fashion I like, sewing tutorials I find interesting, home decorating ideas, and recipes. I installed the Pinmarklet to my bookmarks bar and pinned cute sweaters and tasty treats as I prowled the blogosphere. Before long, I also started pinning images of historical costumes, and I realized that Pinterest offered a brilliant way to collect research images, allowing me to peruse them visually, while organizing them by period and theme – while maintaining a perpetual link back to the original source.  It doesn’t matter how many times something gets re-pinned – it will always link back to its original web source.

This is why I get cranky when people say that Pinterest is just the new Tumblr. At the risk of offending, I must say that I absolutely loathe Tumblr. There’s some good stuff on Tumblr blogs sometimes, but there’s a whole lot of plagiarism, copyright infringement, and images that don’t lead back to the original source. I keep encountering this aggravating phenomenon as I go to re-pin a lovely extant dress… and discover that it comes from a pretty-pretty-stuff Tumblr, with no source information to be found. What museum collection is the dress in? When is it from? Are there alternate views or further information somewhere? I hate not knowing these things. So I often either skip the image, or spend a bit of time tracking down the original source. An image without a proper source link isn’t very useful, or very respectful to the museum that owns both the garment and the copyright on the photograph.

My Pinterest Board for Mid 19th Century Skirt Supports

But with properly sourced images and all the relevant details in the text blurb, Pinterest makes for an outstanding historical costume research tool. You can pin by period, and then break it down into specific garment types or even projects you’re working on. You can look at a collection of themed images together, and you can also click through to the original source to get more information. While the copyright legalities of Pinterest haven’t yet been hashed out, it seems like an excellent example of fair use, one that gives full credit (and free advertising!) to the museums, auction sites, and private collections that own the beautiful clothes we’re interested in researching. I don’t like to save online images on my computer for research use, because no matter how long I make the file name, I’ll always be lacking some information, and it will always be a multi-step process to get from the image on my computer back to the webpage where I found it.

Since Pinterest can be such a fantastic tool for historical costume research, and I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the logistics of how to best use it for that purpose, I thought I’d write up a how-to of sorts. This is what works for me, and perhaps it will work for others as well.

Some of My Historical Costume Boards

The historical costume section of my Pinterest is primarily organized chronologically by period. First, I have some general history-of-costume boards (e.g., historical stitching details, historical textiles), then it’s on to Costume: 16th Century, Costume: 17th Century, Costume: 18th Century, and then 19th Century Quilted Petticoats. Wait, what? I do more with 19th century costume than with earlier periods, so it makes sense for me to subdivide the century into shorter periods. But quilted petticoats cross multiple periods, and I’m interested in them over multiple periods, so I gave them their own, broader board. Next up we get into specific periods – Regency, Early Romantic Era, and then a number of 1830s-specific boards. Again, this reflects the focus of what I study. There are more boards, and more specificity, to subjects I’m doing more research for. In general, when I find that a particular board is broad in subject matter and has more than a hundred pins, I start sub-dividing. I like being able to find what I’m looking for!

This results in a lot of pin-boards. I wish Pinterest allowed for nesting of boards! It would be nice to be able to have, for example, a “Romantic Era” category, that within it had all my various subdivisions by decade and garment type and project. But I keep my many boards fairly well under control by keeping them carefully organized in a way that makes sense to me, and naming the boards so that I can find what I’m looking for as easily as possible while pinning. All of my major historical eras start with a heading of “Costume,” so they’re all together when I go to pin. The specific eras I’m working on, which are subdivided into many boards, start with a heading that’s time-specific: 1830s, 1912 Project, and Mid 19C (for mid 19th century). If your costuming interests are less broad than mine, this part of the organizing process will be simpler for you.

Re-Pinned Painting With a Dead Source Trail

Beware when re-pinning pretties – the images can be from anywhere, and for the sake of responsible pinning and useful research, it’s important to try to pin images from something resembling the original source. I love the dresses in Monet’s “Women in the Garden,” so when the above image turned up in my feed, I promptly re-pinned it to my “Costume: Transitional Bustle” board. But when I clicked through, wondering what museum actually owns this beautiful painting, I found that it had been pinned from a vintage clothing shop blog that used museum images, didn’t link back to the image sources, didn’t even mention what museums the images came from, and did this with posed photographs of extant costumes as well as with images of two-dimensional works of art.

That’s not just rude, it’s illegal. The above painting is in the public domain, so that means that  “slavish recreation” is likewise in the public domain. But no matter how old a costume is, it’s three-dimensional, so when a photograph is taken of it, the photographer – or, more likely, the museum who hired the photographer – owns the copyright on that photograph. Given that this particular blog was a commercial site for a shop, this makes the copyright infringement even more egregious. I don’t want to have anything to do with a site that’s infringing on copyright and not even attempting to give the source credit. So I copied the url for the picture, popped it into Google image search, and went looking for another place to get a copy of “Women in the Garden.?

Monet's "Women in the Garden" on WikiPaintings

I found it on WikiPaintings, which also informed me that the painting is in the public domain, because the artist died over 70 years ago. Museums tend to disagree with this interpretation of copyright law, but the courts consistently uphold it. (For more information, see my page on Copyright Issues.) Ideally, this page would also mention which museum currently holds the painting, but given the public domain status, I can let it slide. So I set about pinning this copy of the painting.

I entered the vital statistics, including style and genre information, into the text box, and selected the category “Mid 19th Century Genre Paintings and Portraits” to pin it to.

Then I added the detail that it was public domain – which I think is handy to know when I’m glancing through my pins – and added where I’d pulled the image from. If I were pinning from a museum, I’d also include the accession number, which is especially important to have since museums are continually changing their websites, and at some point the link to the original source could go dead. If that happens, I want it to be as easy as possible to find the painting, or dress, or pair of shoes that I’m looking for.

Now that I have all my details entered and my pin pinned, I can click “see my pin” and this is what I get. I also want to save this pin to my public domain costume images board, and to my transitional bustle era costume board, so I re-pin it to both, using the same text blurb.

But what about pinning directly from a museum? What about all of the bits and pieces to copy-paste? Does it really matter if it’s properly formatted and everything is right there? I certainly think so! I want all of the relevant details right there where I can see them, and I want to know what else there is on the museum website. So I have a particular system for pinning from museum websites, and it’s not nearly as time-consuming as you might think. I’ll show you my process with an example from a couple days ago.

My Reproduction Red Wool Cloak

Last year, I made a reproduction red wool cloak based very closely on the original depicted in Costume Close-Up. While I was working on it, and while I was writing up the documentation afterward, I bookmarked quite a few links to extant cloaks, articles about cloaks, and general information. A year later, only about half of those links still work. Sites have shut down or reorganized, museums have changed their online catalogs, and so forth.

But the other day when I went to make a Pinterest documentation board for my red wool cloak, I tracked things down again, and found more sources by way of a great article on the 18th Century Notebook – which I couldn’t pin directly, because it didn’t have any pictures, but which I gave credit to in my pins, because curating the internet is hard work, and the site deserves recognition.

 First things first, I created a new Pinterest board, specifically for this project/garment. Then I opened in tabs all of my cloak-related bookmarks, and my documentation post, which I knew had links to relevant things.

I started with the cloak in the Colonial Williambsurg collection that appears in Costume Close-Up, because it’s the one that mine is directly based on. I can’t show you the whole website, or a picture of this original cloak, because the image is copyrighted by Colonial Williamsburg, and I’d rather not infringe on that (which is why I’ve blurred out the thumbnail of the cloak in the pinning pictures below). When pinning an object from a museum collection, the first thing I do is highlight and copy the accession number, as you can see in the screen capture above-left.

Next, if the format of the page will cooperate, I highlight the item name or title, the date, and the place of origin. (Sometimes, I highlight other details along with these.) Highlight the text, but don’t copy it – when you click the “pin it” button, the Pinmarklet will automatically insert the highlighted text.

When the pinning box first opens, the copied text is weirdly formatted, and sometimes suffers from OBNOXIOUS ALL CAPS and  too   many  spaces. This drives me crazy, so I spend a few extra seconds fixing it.

Pins don’t have new-lines or paragraphs, so those will just turn into spaces. Double spaces. Yuck. I delete the new-lines and I format the text like this:                 “(Object), dated xxxx, (location of origin). (Museum) # xxxxxxxx.” Make sure to put a space between the # and the accession number, or Pinterest will treat it like a hash tag. If I’m including dimensions or other basic stats, I sometimes include those between the location the the museum information. If I’m quoting description from the museum, I put it in quotation marks (because that, my friends, is how we avoid plagiarism!), and if I’m adding comments of my own, I put them last.

For this pin, I swapped out the commas for semi-colons, to avoid confusion with the object’s name, which includes a comma. And I seem to have put a comma after the museum name. I do that sometimes. I never claimed to be perfectly consistent, now did I? Anyway – this copying and then highlighting approach means that I don’t have to type up much of the text in my blurb. I just reformat and add the museum name, plus whatever comments I might have, such as what page of a given book the object is featured on. For this pin, the text ended up reading:

Woman’s Cloak, red hooded; 1750-1810; England. Colonial Williamsburg, # 1953-968. Featured and patterned in ‘Costume Close-Up’ on pages 54-56 and color plate 2. This is the cloak that my reproduction is directly based on.

But what about pinning from a blog? And what about reproductions? Whenever I pin a reproduction, I write “Reproduction” (or “repro”) at the very beginning of the pin, to make it very clear that this isn’t an original. I also make sure to include the name of the blog it came from – because the person who made that garment deserves full credit.

Here we have a screencap from this very blog, taken as I pinned my reproduction cloak, the way I pin any repro from a blog. I highlighted the name of the garment/post, and then clicked “pin it.” When I reformat that text in the Pinmarklet, I add “reproduction” to the beginning, and include any other relevant details. Then I credit the blog, like so: “via Bygone Glamour.”

The pin text for the cloak image now reads “Reproduction mid 18th to early 19th century red wool cloak, handsewn based on an original at Colonial Williamsburg. via Bygone Glamour.” Except that’s kind of awkward, because it’s my own blog – so after I took this demo screencap, I changed the text to read “via my blog, Bygone Glamour” at the end. When I pinned the second image, the side view, I simply copied and re-used the same text.

After prowling through cloak links and doing some pinning, this is what my new board looked like:

(There are copyright images included in the above, but they are teeny tiny, and essentially incidental, so they ought to fall under the heading of fair use.)

Pinterest is a wonderful tool for historical costume research, but to make full use of it, we have to be careful to include all the important details, especially the name of the museum or auction house or blog and the accession number or lot number if there is one. That number is a lifeline – it’s how you track down your favorite dress at the MFA or the Met or any other museum site after they change their website design and all of their collections links go dead. Thanks to the Google Images search function that allows you to search for an image based on the copied url of an image, it’s easier to track down lost museum objects, but let’s make it easier for ourselves and just include those accession numbers.

Now, what do you think? Is Pinterest useful for researching historical costume, or do you think it’s more like Tumblr – just another copyright infringement? How do you feel about re-pinning images that aren’t pinned from the original source? How has Pinterest helped your research?

p.s. if anyone is desirous of a Pinterest invite, let me know. I’m happy to share the pinning love!

Div III: Completed!

Well! It’s been quite a long time since I last posted here. In case anyone is wondering, I did wrap things up sufficiently to complete my Division III thesis project and graduate with a bachelor’s degree in “public history and the applied history of clothing and needle arts” from Hampshire College. I graduated on May 21st, about four years behind the standard schedule but without many regrets about my slightly roundabout and backwards approach to higher education.

I didn’t accomplish as much as I would have liked to, with my Div III (in part because I started out with with genuinely enormous ideas), but I did a lot, and learned a lot, and my faculty committee all seemed to be fairly satisfied with my work. And also slightly mystified, since historical reproduction clothing isn’t exactly a specialty for any of them. My biggest regret is that I wasn’t able to take and post pictures, because I didn’t have a camera and ran out of time to make other arrangements. There just wasn’t enough time to do everything I wanted to do!

While working on my Div III, I was also applying to graduate schools, and I’ve now finished my first semester at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, NM, where I’m pursuing a master’s degree in “history with a concentration in public history.” I love it here, and I’m extremely happy with the program. The logistics worked out astonishingly well – NMSU’s public history program actually includes a “Time Traveling” course every spring, which trains historians in first person living history techniques which invite museum visitors or students to play along with the historical interpreters. I’ve never heard of any other school in the country offering such a thing, and it’s fairly perfect for me. Plus they didn’t want me to take the GREs! All this, plus it being in New Mexico meant that my boyfriend – a devoted New Mexico native – and I were able to stay together after graduation. In July, we moved to a peculiar little house in Las Cruces, and on Christmas, he proposed. I think it makes a nice little happy ending for 2011!

Now that we’re settled in here, I’m hoping to start blogging regularly, and going back in to fill in the blanks for the Div III sewing projects. I have a camera now, so I can even start including pictures! I have a little sewing room here, which is finally entirely useable, and I expect to be able to get more sewing done in the future, which I’ll be sharing on this site. Some projects will be carefully researched historical garments (1830s, 1860s, and 1912 are in the works), some will be just-for-fun (like a superhero cape for my cousin’s three-year-old daughter), and some will be vintage-style clothes for everyday use (because I can live with being thought eccentric). I’ll also post about general research for historical and vintage clothes, textiles, and probably also hair and beauty. There may even be some knitting and sewn housewares projects.

I also have two other blogs now, to post about different things I’m working on. There’s The Dog and Chicken Kitchen, my fledgeling food blog, where I’ll document my love of real food (done gluten-free), and post recipes for from-scratch, not-too-crazily-elaborate, tasty food. And then there’s An Old-Fashioned Wedding at Home, which I’ve just started but am posting posting at regularly, to describe our unconventional but not exactly modern approach to getting hitched, with some philosophizing, some tips and tutorials, and all kinds of details on my wedding dress, which I designed and which I’ll be making myself. Fortunately, I have a year and a half to work on it!

I find it slightly absurd that I’m looking at actively working on three different blogs, but they’re all connected through this WordPress account, and the content is bound to be quite different for all three. So, three blogs it is, and we’ll see how that goes. I’d rather not try to crow everything into one place and swamp (hypothetical) readers of one subject with information on completely differently subjects. But I’ll probably do a fair bit of linking back and forth. I suspect that the patterning and construction of my 1950s style silk wedding dress will be rather relevant over here as well, so I may do a bit of cross-posting for the major updates. But ultimately, I want to be able to talk about other wedding things as well, and chit-chat about the fascinating world of the wedding blogosphere, so a lot of that content will need to be off in its own corner of the internet, because I want to keep this blog focused on sewing and other needle arts, whether historical, vintage, or just old-fashioned in approach.

So there, finally, is a little update to my abandoned blog! I’ll be going back in to the placeholder posts and trying to add more information, and pictures of projects or supplies where I can. If there’s anything you’re specifically interested in getting more information on, please feel free to email me – ava dot trimble at g mail dot com – and I’ll make a priority of it. Now, I should probably go sew something…

Div III Progress: 10 Days To Go!

Over the past couple days, I’ve added a few more basic entries to the annotated bibliography, and I’ve created an extensive glossary of terms for fibers, fabrics, and materials. It’s really more than a glossary, with detailed descriptions for each entry, plus quotes from print resources, links to online articles, and cross-referencing links to other entries. The idea is that these entries collect references and resources in an ongoing way, to offer disambiguation and historical information as well as practical tips. The entries are closely matched to the fiber, fabric, and material tags which are listed in a menu on the right side of the site. In that menu is also a link to the Glossary Table of Contents, which contains links to all current entries in the glossary, tidily organized. There is also a base, introductory entry which covers broad topics and offers a mini annotated bibliography of print resources: Glossary: Fibers, Fabrics, and Materials.

I had not originally intended to spend this much time creating a glossary of terms, but as I started looking things up, I found that often sources conflicted with one another, and many terms have had different meanings over time. In order to create a genuinely useful resource, I needed to go deeper and make my entries more extensively – so I did. As I was creating this glossary, I remembered that this is actually quite close to the core idea of an early incarnation of my concept for my Div III.

Back while I was interning at Old Sturbridge Village last summer, I remarked that it was unfortunate that no one had written an annotated version of The Workwoman’s Guide – the way people do with classic literature. The person I was talking to, a Hampshire grad, replied that that sounded like a great Div III. I laughed and said that I couldn’t possibly do ALL that…but the idea stuck. And thus the total rebirth of my Div III concept began. For a while, I conceived of my Div III as being a multimedia set of online projects and articles, offering pieces of “translated” 19th century (and perhaps other period) sources, from the WWG and other sources. For instance, I wanted to create a set of short videos to be posted online that demonstrated different types of period stitches, which are often difficult to learn without being shown in person. Eventually I became more focused on the idea of written documentation, and creating an exhibit, but now I am morphing these ideas together.

This site will be in some ways an exhibit, in some ways written documentation, and in some ways a free resource for the public, offering practical information on how to go about reproducing vintage and historical clothing. One important component for me is that I’m not just offering my own knowledge; I’m also offering collected and organized links, quotes, and references to helpful printed information. Because there is a great deal of excellent information available, even just online, but it isn’t always easy to find, and it can be difficult, especially for beginners, to assess the accuracy and reliability (and even the practical usefulness!) of a given source. By collecting and organizing a variety of resources, I am able to offer my perspective on them, and also able to supplement what I know, what I have written, and what I have done.

Perhaps most importantly, I am setting up this site so that I can keep adding to it, and keep adding to it easily. Because I don’t want to graduate and drop what I’ve been working on; I have every intention of continuing with this research, these projects, and this site. And that is what I keep reminding myself of, every time I feel disappointed that I haven’t been able to do the entire heap of Div III project I’ve dreamed up. Especially considering that my committee has been trying to convince me to do less all along. It’s encouraging that with this site, I can plan on continuing this into the future, and the projects that have been left in the dust during the downscaling process seem a little less abandoned, because a future for them exists, here on the internet–possibly even educating someone about something!

The plan now is to keep building this site, as functionally as possible; to write up a paper overviewing my Div III to turn in by Monday; and to get a reasonable quantity of sewing work finished or at least to an interesting stage – all in 10 days. It’s not exactly a short order, but I think I’ve almost convinced myself that I can do enough that it will be a lovely, useful, full Div III; even though it won’t be as grand as I have dreamed.

In sewing news, I made a lovely faux bustle, the 1870s inspired faux bustle of pansy synthetic netting, for Sarah’s 1870s inspired butterfly masquerade costume. It took about an hour, and came out quite nicely. It’s not at all historically accurate, but since neither it nor the ensemble are intended to be historical reproductions, that isn’t a hindrance. It makes for a charming and very inexpensive fluffy shape to fill out the skirt of a pretty Halloween masquerade costume with nice historical lines.Now I’m going to work on some sewing (truly, a wild Saturday night!) and work on mentally evaluating what else I’m going to do in the time I have left. And work on my paper. Busy? Me? Of course not…


Glossary: Velvet and Other Pile Fabrics

Velvet is a type of pile fabric, which can be made of various fibers. Traditionally, velvet is made of silk, or sometimes wool. Historically, the term “plush” seems to have applied to a variety of fibers and fiber combinations, but consistently seems to have had a deeper pile than velvet. Today, velvet is most commonly available made from synthetic fibers, or sometimes from rayon. Burn-out velvets are made of a combination of silk and rayon, and undergo a chemical process to remove some of the material to create a pattern. Cotton velvet is usually made with a short pile, and known as velveteen. Pile fabrics come in many varieties, but for historical, pre-twentieth century applications, generally only natural fiber pile fabrics, and occasionally rayon, are appropriate. Because silk and even cotton velvet ribbons are very difficult to find today but were much used historically, it is sometimes necessary to substitute high quality man-made velvet ribbons; in this case, man-made cellulosic fibers such as rayon and acetate, are preferable to noncellulosic synthetics such as polyester and acrylic.

Definitions of velvet, plush, velveteen, and other pile fabrics from a variety of print resources, each of which contains further information:

On page 46, under the heading “Velvet,” it is stated that “Velvet is a dense, pile-woven fabric commonly produced in cotton or silk. Florence Montgomery notes that it was also produced in wool in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries (Textiles in America, 370). Depending upon one’s budget, either cotton or silk velvet could be used in the early nineteenth century for breeches or pantaloons, vests, cloaks or greatcoats, and dresses. Velvet was also much used as trimming and embellishment; for example, many men’s coats and cloaks from the period have velvet collars. The sample shown here is cotton velvet.”

All on page 180: “Velvet” is defined as “silk fabric cut with a dense pile on right side, may have a cotton back.” Then “cut velvet” is defined as “velvet with the pile loops cut so the pile is of single threads.” Later, “uncut velvet” is defined as “pile velvet; loops of the pile are not cut.” Then “velveteen” is defined as “cotton fabric made in imitation of velvet.” Then “wool velour” is defined as “heavy wool fabric with a pile like velvet.”

On page 179, “plush” is defined as “fine quality cotton fabric with a pile or nap of silk, softer and longer than velvet.”

On page 370, “velvet” is defined as “A pile fabric made of silk, wool, or cotton fibers. It is an extra-warp woven-pile structure whereas velveteen is an extra-weft structure.” Also on page 370, “velveteen” is defined as “Cotton velvet. According to Emery it has an extra-weft woven-pile structure.” On page 325, “plush (Fr. peluche)” is defined as “Wool velvet. A kind of stuff with a velvet nap or shag on one side.”

On page 287, “Manchester velvets” are defined as “Cotton velvets including thickset, velveret, and corduroy.” On page 363, “thickset” is defined as “A kind of cotton fustian or velvet made either plain or flowered.” On page 370, “velveret” is defined as “A cotton pile fabric, often ribbed like corduroy, and largely made in the Machester area from about 1750” and the entry goes on to discuss how they were often stamped and patterned.

On page 205, “corduroy” is defined as “‘A kind of coarse, durable cotton fabric, having a piled surface, like that of velvet, raised in cords, ridges, or ribs’ (Merriam-Webster). It was made with an extra weft in the pile. The character of corduroy has not changed greatly since the late eighteenth century.”

Online Resources:

For more information about an individual fiber, fabric, or other material, select it on the right side menu for “Fibers, Fabrics, and Materials.” This will bring up all entries which have that tag, including (in most cases) a Glossary post like this one, which will offer a definition of that fiber, fabric, or material, and sometimes also offer useful links to outside sources on working with it. For more general information, visit the core entry for the Glossary: Fibers, Fabrics, and Materials. For a directory of all textile glossary posts, go to the Glossary Table of Contents.

Updated January 10, 2012