The truly brilliant aspect of this mid to late 1850's ambrotype is the tinting. Of course, I bought this one because of the blue flowers and ties. If you really look, someone spent a lot of time on this photo. Not only is it tinted in the cheeks, but also her hands and forehead are carefully tinted bringing the sitter to life.
There are so many things that I find magical about this bonnet.
For one, it is blue. This is the first dark blue tight bonnet I have examined from the mid 1850s to early 1860s. Drawn yes, tight no. In fact, when people ask me to make dark blue bonnets, I usually encourage them to choose another color for the silk and add blue trimmings. Blue silk is just not seen on surviving bonnets. The fashion plates don't describe them either.
For a tight bonnet, it is in excellent condition. The silk is not shattered and it still has its trimmings. The majority of my extant bonnets are either drawn or straw and no longer have trimmings.
The movement of the flowers is truly magical. All the little rose buds and leaves are on thin stems that allow them to move. The ribbons are not woven in one piece. The edging is attached with a tiny seam allowance.
So say hello to my unicorn. I am proud to have you in my collection.
This cdv from New York City shows a woman who embraces all the trends for 1865. Her hair is dressed in rolls on top of her head. The fanchon bonnet sports no curtain and allows for a low chignon in the back. Her skirts are fashionably trimmed, but pinned up to reveal a decorative striped underskirt. You can almost feel the luscious texture of that paletot. Hello fashion icon! Thank you for stepping straight out of Mme. Demorest's Mirror of Fashions.
Bonnets in the mid 1860s were small... very small. So small in fact, that often when I find extant bonnets, they are listed as children's bonnets. The bonnets in from 1865 to 1867 let the hair come out from under the back and do not come much further forward than the top of the head. On extant bonnets, there is a crescent shaped piece that replaces the bavolet that helps keep the bonnet up on the head. So don't be fooled when you see them, they really are for grown ups.
Godey’s Lady’s Book and Magazine
Description of Steel Fashion-Plate for March.
Fig. 1.—Dress of pearl gray silk reps, trimmed with green velvet arranged in the sheaf style. Paletôt of heavy brown silk, trimmed with wide and narrow velvet. Rose Portugal silk bonnet, made in the Empire style. Bands of pink velvet edged with white lace are attached to the bonnet and strap the waterfall. Gloves of buff undressed kid stitched with black.
Fig. 2.—Dress of brown poplinette, trimmed with black velvet and steel beads. The dress is looped up by black velvet rings over a petticoat of the same material as the dress. The corsage is made with a very long basque, and worn with a belt and sash richly trimmed with velvet. The hat is of black straw, trimmed with black feathers, and a long black veil of spotted tulle which is turned round the hat and falls over the back.
Fig. 3.—Dress of pearl-colored gros grains, gored and trimmed with Magenta velvet and buttons. The bonnet is of pearl Terry velvet, trimmed with a long plume, crystal ornaments, and Magenta velvet. A long veil of white tulle is fastened on the right side of the bonnet.
Fig. 4.—Full suit of mauve linsey, trimmed with heavy silk cord and white llama fringe. The bonnet is of white silk laid in folds, and trimmed with mauve velvet. A long veil of white tulle covers the face.
Fig. 5.—Dress of white alpaca, trimmed with bands of blue silk edged with black lace. A wide sash of bias silk falls over the back of the dress. Black silk paletôt, made very short in front, and richly trimmed with bugle lace, cord, and buttons. Black Neapolitan bonnet, trimmed with blue velvet and white field daisies.
Everything about this mid-1850's daguerreotype says 1850s: the lace mitts, the wide hair, the large collar, and the bonnet. Yes, there really is a bonnet in there behind all of those ribbons. In the mid 1850s, bonnets shrunk to a very small size. The only part of the bonnet visible from the front were the trimmings which were in abundance.
Even though I hand sew almost every day, I do not use many different hand-sewing techniques every day. This morning I am sewing a rolled hem to finish a ruffle on a Lunardi hat for 1780s. Rolled hems are particularly helpful in sewing cap ruffles and other millinery projects, so I use this technique several times a year, but for some reason I forget how to get a perfectly formed rolled hem between the projects I use it on. There are several channels on YouTube I like to visit to brush up on hand sewing techniques.
Sewn Company by Sarah Woodyard has great videos on hand stitching and also offers classes. Sarah is not only an accomplished historical seamstress, but a delightful individual. I was honored to work with her at an event last August hosted by the Heritage Sewing and Skill Building Group in Savage, Maryland. The group offers classes and workshops on sewing from the colonial through the federal periods. They are now offering virtual programs as well.
Another place I like to look for hand-stitching technique videos is Burnley and Trowbridge. Most historic seamstresses and tailors know them for their beautiful historic fabrics and tools, but they also have a YouTube channel. Their page is filled with all types of videos to help you with your hand sewing and they have had classes and sew alongs this summer as well.
This ruby ambrotype has been in my collection for at least 10 years, but she doesn't get to come out to play. Broken and poor quality, I wonder about her story. Ruby ambrotypes are developed on purple rather than clear glass and usually of better quality and yet here we are with a barely visible image. I have enhanced her image dozens of times to get a better look, but this is the best I have come up with so far. Is it actually taken outside or in front of a backdrop? How did she survive all these years in pieces and so difficult to see? Is it an image taken of an image, or a novice photographer with little experience? Some how I feel she is special, or special to me any way and I will continue trying to get a better view as technology improves. One day, I will get a better glimpse of this early 1860s beauty.
This mid-1850s ambrotype is filled will details. From her lace mantel to her white work collar, a lot of hard work and skill went into her ensemble. Most of these items were probably purchased rather than homemade. Popular from late 1856 through 1858, this style of bonnet creates a tiny halo around the face with its full cap of netting. One noticeable detail from the photograph is the curtain. Fabric doesn't lay like that by itself without support. Many extant bonnets have a wire at the bottom of the bavolet. The wire allows the bavolet to flare and stand out from the bonnet rather than lay limp. One more simple detail that we should be adding to our reproductions to more closely create the look of the fashion plates and photographs of the mid-19th century.
American fashion plates? Unthinkable.
Many American living historians look to fashion plates to help interpret the clothing of the 19th century, but before the late 1820s and early 1830s only European fashion plates existed. Although Americans did closely follow European styles, there is an entire ocean between the United States and Europe and a unique American identity. The Ladies’ Magazine and Literary Gazette and The Lady’s Book introduced American fashion engravings to their publications in the early 1830s. Many people do not realize that the two were separate publications before Louis Godey purchased The Ladies’ Magazine. The combination of the two magazines would later become Godey’s Lady’s Book, the most widely read ladies’ publication in the 19th century. The early fashion plates in both magazines were not numerous, often poor quality, and lacking descriptions, but they are American.
Our new fashion plate book for 1830-34 is now available for digital download.
Many living historians talk about women dressing their age. Others insist society pressured women to dress to the norm. Others feel women purchased the fashions they could afford. There were probably all three types of women just as there are today. I do not find a lot of older women in outdated styles in photographic evidence. This older lady definitely fell in the last category. She is dressed to the nines including her bonnet. This extremely fashionable style of bonnet peaked in the fashion plates in the first half of 1864. Towering above the forehead and narrow at the cheek, this particular high brim bonnet ushered in the end of the popular spoon shaped style. By the second half of 1864 and the first half of 1865, the fashion plates began to show more conservative styles sitting closer to the head.
Vintage flowers don't go bad, but there is a limited supply. We do what we can to continue to bring you what we can find. Sales have been slow with most events cancelled, but we are still plugging along and building up inventory of these hard to find gems. If you like yellow or orange, you are really in luck. A lot of these flowers come in limited color choices, but I can always find yellow and orange. My favorites are usually from the German Democratic Republic or Czechoslovakia. Both of these countries haven't been around since the early 1990s. The 1990s don't seem like a long time ago to me. I graduated from high school then. Alas, I am vintage and so are these flowers.
A conveniently placed mirror in this fashion plate gives us a front an back view of this popular style of headpiece seen in the late 1830s and early 1840s. Engravers often used this technique to allow viewers to see different angles of a garment. The headpiece in question appears like a bun shaper that has been cut to lay straight, and placed oddly on the top of the head. I have always found this style odd, but they pop up in many fashion plates. The idea of it being velvet increases its appeal and the cap at the back to cover a small chignon makes it a useful addition to a fancy early Victorian impression.
The Court Magazine & Monthly Critic and Lady’s Magazine, a Museum of the Belles Lettres, Music, Fine Arts, Drama, Fashions, &c.
Description of the Fashion Plates in the Present Number.
[Having found that many of our Subscribers have been desirous of having a greater Number and greater Variety of Fashion Plates than we can possibly give in this Work, we beg to inform our Readers generally, that there are eighty-four Plates and upwards of the same description published by us annually in Paris (from which, monthly, we select two of the most novel and seasonable for the use of the Court Magazine), and that the same can be obtained from Mr. Dobbs, our publisher, at No. 11. Carey Street, or by the Order of any Bookseller in England, Scotland, or Ireland, viz., for three months, 12s.; for a year, ?2, in advance, as customary in France.
No. 2. – Dinner and Evening Dresses. – First figure. Dress of organdi (book muslin), embroidered in coloured worsteds; corsage en pointé and a la Sevigné with folded draperies across the bosom; the sleeves excessively short and full, but without trimming (see plate). Hair turned back entirely off the brow in the Chinese fashion, the back dressed low, in a rouleau with one small bow of hair in the centre (see plate); the wreath of roses is put on a la vestale. Long gold earrings; white kid gloves ornamented at the tops with a puffing of gauze. A bow of pink satin ribbon with long ends is placed at the point of the corsage. White silk stockings; black satin shoes.
Second figure. – Dress of striped gauze, with a very deep flounce at bottom. Châle manteau or mantelet, of black satin; this shawl is rounded at back in the style of the mantelet Châles we have so frequently described; the front ends are long and finished by thick tassels. This shawl has likewise the useful accessory of a large hood, which can be drawn over the head at pleasure. It is lined with white silk and wadded. Coiffure a la Berthe. This is the most fashionable style of coiffure at present adopted in Paris. The one on the figure on our plate, is composed of black velvet, and consists merely of a narrow head-piece, deep enough to admit of its turning up in a roll in front (see plate); a deep fall of black lace is put on at the edge (bord) and hangs low at the sides, forming a kind of oreillettes. A bouquet of flowers is placed at each side. Three gold-headed pins are stuck into the roll at the left side (see plate); the front hair is in braids en fer à cheval, the back in a single braid en rouleau. Half long black silk mittens; bracelets, worn high up on the arm. Antique fan; white satin shoes.
As a student of 19th century millinery, I do my best to make historical reproductions. When a customer purchases a Timely Tresses bonnet, they don't have to question the research. They know that it is true to the shapes and techniques of the desired era of interpretation. There are many milliners who don't mind hot gluing the flowers to their bonnets, cutting up straw hats from a thrift store, or trimming imported straw blanks that are just not the right shape, but I am just not one of them. I don't wish to put those milliners down. I am glad they have success in business. It is just not the right path for me. I have had to get over some things. Many period materials, like willow, are just no longer available. I carry the best the supplies commercially available, many of them vintage, to encourage folks to make more authentic bonnets. Constant examination and collection of extant bonnets, antique photographs, and fashion plates improves my product with little details like crossbands to take bonnets one step closer to the real deal. Authenticity brings me joy and that is what I choose for my business.
When I look at wet plate photographs, the first thing I notice is the bonnet. Shocker right? Sometimes, that means I end up with pictures where, let us say, the bonnet outshines the wearer. In this mid to late 1850s 9th plate ruby Ambrotype, the young woman's beauty definitely does justice to her bonnet. Most of my photographs show solid colored backgrounds, but some feature decorative backdrops. I especially love the little sailboat on the lake. Just today, I noticed that there appears to be a little flag on top of the mountain. Decorative backgrounds can help identify the photograph and give further information about the photograph like location and specific dates. Unfortunately, I haven't been so lucky with mine, so I guess I better get back to research!
When ever a new costume drama comes out, my friends and family call or text to see what I thought of the costuming. For the most part, I either have too much to say and the questioner glazes over or I just say it is a theatrical interpretation and move on to something else. A issue for me with costuming in film is that I inevitably have a customer who wants to look just like that character. Part of our mission at Timely Tresses is historical accuracy. How can I in good conscience dress a customer in a bonnet that is 20 years out of date to the impression or that is just a fanciful creation of a costume designer? Even when movies get the dresses right, the bonnets are usually terrible. I have started many times to review the millinery in a movie or series and ended up with a passage far too long to post. I have decided addressing one bonnet at a time is a far more manageable task.
When I think of bonnets in the movies that really impress me, this bonnet from the 2011 adaptation of Jane Eyre always comes to mind. The shape is appropriate to the late 1830s and early 1840s. The brim flares neatly around the wearer's face. The curtain is an appropriate length. The crown goes strait back rather than earlier raised crowns. The tip (the tiny circle at the back of the crown) is sort of weird. Unlike the rounded blocked tip of most 19th century bonnets, It is super flat and the one thing that is strange about this bonnet. The rest of the bonnet is so phenomenal that I choose to ignore the tip.
Finally, the straw . . . . . the straw is just amazing. I can't say enough about the straw. I don't know who they found to do this straw work, but it rings true to the 19th century. Popular throughout the 19th century, fancy straws were a lighter than air option for summer. Usually the decorative work was produced in strips and then sewn together either to other strips or to straw braid. I purchased straw thread and a straw splitter years ago in the hopes of making a fancy straw. I realized after starting, the bonnet would end up being a ultra time intensive labor of love that I would be afraid to wear for fear of damaging it. For the Jane Eyre bonnet, my fear is that they took the straw off of an original bonnet. My hope is they paid someone an exorbitant amount of money to make this masterpiece. One day, I hope to finish my fancy straw bonnet. Until then, I will enjoy looking at this one.
Today when we want to see an image again we simply screenshot it on our phone or computer. It was not quite so easy in the 19th century. This ferrotype (tintype) is reproduction of an earlier image probably dating to the early 1850s judging by her clothing. The edge of the original image is visible and indicated by the black line around the outside. When I purchased this image off of eBay, I was hoping it was a daguerreotype mislabeled as a tintype, but I wasn't quite so lucky. Nonetheless, she is pretty interesting. Wet plate photography captured a phenomenal level of detail. Even though this is a copy, you can see the canes in her bonnet, the wrinkles in her hands, the print of her dress, and so much more.
This woman apparently was so frustrated with her bonnet falling off of the back of her head that she pulled her crossband down over her forehead. Crossbands often appear in extant bonnets and were used to secure the bonnet to prevent slipping off the back of the head. They aren't usually visible in photographs or mentioned in the magazines. Without combining different sources for research, I might of thought that this older woman was just wearing a really groovy headband. Unfortunately, this image doesn't have any back marks, so finding further information about her is difficult. She is a treasured member of my collection and always makes me giggle.
Currently, my goal is to make all of my dress lengths into various ensembles before purchasing any more fabric. With this particular fabric, I decided to recreate this mid-late 1860’s gown shown in the book Sous L’Empire des Crinolines. I don’t have enough of the fabric to make the under and overskirt out of the same fabric, but I found the exact same colors with a wider stripe for the detachable overskirt. Without the overskirt, the gown will be usable for balls and slightly earlier events. As I always do, I started with the skirts. I cut my panels, stitched them, added the facing, and hem. However, when I tried to balance the skirt, it was too short. I am not sure how this happened, I have not grown taller in at least 20 years. So, how to fix it… With the lovely horizontal trim on the skirts, I have an option. I will slice the skirts under the trim to lengthen the dress about two inches. Not looking forward to this, but I am not ready to throw in the towel on this dress yet! Everyone makes mistakes. Tricks and fixes are visible on a lot of extant gowns, so it isn’t just me.
This French plate from 1812 is one of our very favorites. Furthermore, one of our favorite creations was inspired by this plate. We started with a base from our Ophelia pattern with a few brim adjustments. We used sinamay fabric to achieve the flipped up brim with great success. The ivory silk was gathered flat and then placed on the bonnet and trimmed and bound with red silk taffeta bands. Twelve feathers were hand curled and sewn using period techniques to achieve the full look of the plumes.
There is so much to see in this 1860's ambrotype from the Timely Tresses collection: two well dressed women, a spiffy man, and even a dog. The bonnets in this image are stylistically very different. The woman on the right shows a high brim with narrow sides in the height of popularity in 1863. In contrast, the woman on the left has a rounder earlier bonnet appropriate to the very early 60s or even late 50s. Could this be a younger sister? The fashionable high brimmed bonnet sports two different colored ties, a trend seen in fashion plates, but not often visible on extant bonnets or in photographs.
Due to Covid-19, we have been practically shut down since March. Normally, we get weekly shipments of flowers and ribbons and have a constant flow of changing stock. For the past few months, that has really slowed and I have even had a difficult time sewing millinery feeling that no one would ever wear it. Thank you to those of you who have reached out and supported our business. Fortunately, things have picked up a bit and regular shipments of flowers and other goodies are starting to arrive. Check out our new selections of flowers here.
This fashion plate from the late 1830's has many interesting aspects. The men's jackets show both a frock coat appropriate for day wear and a cut away appropriate for more formal occasions. The women's dresses show aspects of the 1830s and the coming 40s. The skirts are wide and short appropriate to the 30s, but the waists are a bit longer and the sleeves are tight indicating the coming trends of the 1840s. The bonnets are still specifically 1830s with very large flared brims.
The Ladies’ Monthly Museum
The Mirror of Fashion
A round dress, composed of mull muslin. The body is high; the back full; and the front adorned with work, let in on each side of the bust. The skirt is gored, and finished at the bottom with several small tucks, which are terminated by a flounce of rich scalloped work, set on full. The spenser worn with this dress is composed of ethereal blue gros de Naples; it is tight to the shape; and the waist is of a moderate length; a small pelerine collar falls over; and is very full trimmed with plaitings of net. The long sleeve is of an easy fullness, and is tastefully finished with an epaulette, composed of two rows of shells, of the same material; they are formed by satin rouleaux. Full lace ruff. Head-dress, the Clarence bonnet; we refer to our print for the shape; it is composed of white gros de Naples; the edge of the brim is finished by full fall of lace, surmounted by a plaiting of net; a full plume of ostrich feathers falls over the right side. Blue kid shoes; white gloves; and small French ridicule.
A white lace round dress over a white satin slip. The body is cut very low all round the bust, which is ornamented, in the pelerine style, with falls of lace; the sleeves are composed of net and satin, formed into puffs by small bows of white satin; the lower part is finished by a quilling of net. The skirt is trimmed with three flounces of white satin lace; the two lower ones are surmounted by a very novel and elegant trimming, composed of white satin. The hair is disposed in light curls on each side of the face; the hind hair is dressed in full bows, which are intermixed with roses and convolvuluses. Necklace and ear-rings, pearl. White kid gloves; and white figured-silk shoes.
This plate and many others are featured in our fashion plate books.
Recently, I have been redoing our fashion plate books for the 1830s. One exciting development in the 1830s is the appearance of American fashion magazines with hand colored plates. Although frequently copied from European magazines, they give us a look at the fashion American editors were sharing with their readers. In the beginning of the 1830s, there are usually only two plates per six month volume and they often do not offer descriptions, This plate is from The Ladies Magazine in May 1833 edited by Sarah Josepha Hale. The Ladies Magazine and The Lady's Book were still two separate entities in 1833, but eventually joined forces to become Godey's Lady's Book.
Good morning everyone! I love cased images. They offer so much detail that every time you look at them you see something new.
The above image is a 1/6 plate ambrotype probably dating between 1856 and 1858. How do I know? The bonnets. Bonnets between 1856 and 1858 were extremely small, sat very low and back on the head. From the front, they look like little halos. In this image, the ties are wide and long. Even when tied, the ends reach to the elbows of the wearers. Some bonnets in the 1850s show shorter ties, but as we move towards the 1860s ties are long.
The most important detail to note about the bonnet trimming is the very full cap of netting. If there is any detail reproductions miss, the amount of netting on late 1850s and early 1860s bonnets. If you are trimming a bonnet and wonder if you need more netting, the answer is yes.
I am off for now, but stay tuned for your next installment of Wet Plate Wednesday!