As many of you know, here at Timely Tresses, we love fashion plates. We love collecting them. We love investigating dates when we come across plates which we are not familiar. Over the next few weeks at least, I am determined to put beautiful things on the internet to brighten days that might not look so sunny. I hope to start a number of different series of images, the first of which is Fashion Plate Friday. This hand-colored steel engraving appeared in Godey's Lady's Book in April of 1845.
A few years ago, I found these two ambrotypes of the same young woman on eBay. The seller had them available in two different auctions. I was very fortunate to win them both. It would be such a shame for the images to be separated. The image on the left is the earlier image probably dating from 1855 or 1856. The bonnet is lower on top. The ties are shorter. Her hair is in an earlier style. The second image, from the later 1850s, shows a larger bonnet with longer ties with more emphasis moving toward the top of the brim as we move towards the 1860s. In the earlier image, the woman has her shawl pulled back showing lots of little details. We can see her collar, some jewelry, and the shape and fabric of her dress. In the second image, she appears to have dark circles under her eyes and is completely covered. Could something have happened? What differences do you see? Join the discussion on Facebook.
Choosing Your Best Buds
Have you heard you can't mix flower types on a bonnet? I have and from reputable sources too. In my collection of extant bonnets, I have a bonnet with only one kind of flowers. However, I also have bonnets with mixed wreaths of flowers. Unfortunately, the vast majority of extant bonnets no longer have flowers because flowers were removed and reused. One great thing about mid 19th century research is in addition to extant garments, we have pictures. We can see real women wearing garments. Furthermore, with modern technology, we can enlarge pictures and focus in on different details. I have a lot of pictures of women in bonnets. In fact, I need all the pictures of women in bonnets. I can't just look at them on the internet. I have to buy them. If I have them in my hot little hands, I can scan or photograph them and zoom in on the parts I want to view. In looking at millinery flowers, I find some women who repeat the same flower. However, the vast majority of the photographs in my collection show mixed wreaths of flowers. So go ahead. Mix them up. They did.
In preparation for a straw bonnet workshop I am teaching at the 1860's Civilian Celebration at Capon Springs in May, I have been making curtain/bavolet and facing kits. As I cut the silk, I thought "wow these look really long." I pulled out Drawn Bonnets: Examination and Construction because I knew I took detailed measurements in writing that book. I found that I had a measurement on how long the curtain would hang on the neck, but not a length measurement from point to point. So I soon found myself in a pile of originals with a measuring tape before taking my children to school. That is why I have all of these bonnets after all. I pulled 18 circa 1855-1865 bonnets that still had curtains (a lot of extant bonnets are missing curtains). The curtains I measured ranged from 16 to 28 inches in length. The average was 20". The most common measurement was 20". I looked at the longest and shortest measurements to see if that changed with bonnet style. In the group there are three very high brimmed bonnets. Two high brim bonnet curtains measured longer than 26" and the other curtain measured 17". I thought the mid 1860s bonnets with shorter points would have the shorter curtains, but that wasn't the case. They were still measuring about 20". I also wondered if there would be a difference between straw and silk. The straw bonnet curtains ranged from 16 to 27". The silk bonnets curtains ranged from 16 to 28". Most of the curtains were flat on the sides of the bonnets with the gathers or pleats concentrated at the center back with many of them being wired at the bottom edge.
I love original garments. I love fashion plates. I love reproducing the garments in them. I love patterns pulled from extant garments. I don't love ending up with the exact same garment as everyone else who made the pattern. My solution to the is problem is having a standard set of patterns that I know fit me and pulling pieces of different patterns to create different looks.
My current project is a Federal Era redingote/pelisse. I cut it out last year for the Treat of Ghent event in Camden, SC. I was then told by a well meaning friend that American women didn't wear them. I reached out to several friends in the museum field and we came to the conclusion that American women did in fact wear coats. There is a late 18 teens pelisse in the Agreeable Tyrant exhibit attributed to a Michigan woman. There is also a pelisse in the collection of the Charleston Museum. These coats were enough for me to determine that it was in fact OK for me to proceed with my pelisse.
Looking through fashion plates and extant coats I decided to use a gold silk faille that I had been holding on to for years. Not my color, but extremely fashionable for Regency or Federal Era clothing. As far as style, I wanted something for late teens. I liked the renaissance style puffed sleeves on the Agreeable Tyrant pelisse. I also have a fashion plate in my collection that shows a coat in the same color, but with a crazy lining. I would have recreated the fashion plate if I could only find a silk print like the plates. I decided to settle for a gold pelisse similar in style to the two coats combined. Oh, but where to find the pattern? I had pattern 216 by Fig Leaf Patterns which almost exactly like the bodice of the Agreeable Tyrant pelisse. I decided that was the perfect place to start. Now on to the skirts! I could draft them myself, but why reinvent the wheel? I pulled out pattern 220 also by Fig Leaf Patterns to make the skirts. I used the pattern last year to make a ball gown and I liked the gored skirt which was roomy, but flat across the front (avoiding the everyone looks like they are expecting in Regency gowns look). I cut the front panels individually rather than on the fold like the pattern suggests to create the two front panels.
Now here is where the coat turns into a fantasy garment. I was watching the Witcher (yes, I am a science-fiction/fantasy goofball) and loved the fur trim on Yennifer's coat. I remembered I had an old 1970's fur coat that was falling apart that she thought I could use for something rather than throw it away. I did go back to the originals and fashion plates rather than go completely off of the deep end. I found several fur trimmed pelisses in my own fashion plate collection and a fur trimmed extant in Napoleon Empire of Fashion by Cristina Barreto. (Here is the back view. I couldn't find the front view in a shareable link. ) I decided to do a fur collar, a small fur cuff, fur down the front, and around the hem. The old coat would amply supply all of this with some remaining left over for future use.
Mandy and I got together today to work on bonnets. While she was here, I decided to pull out a couple of original bonnets that she hadn't seen yet. During our examination, we discussed our decision to move from single layer to double layer buckram forms. We pulled out the handy dandy microscope and compared single layer (left), double layer (center), and extant (right) buckram. The differences in the weave and density are rather obvious in the photographs. The double layer is significantly better creating a studier form. (Don't worry mid-19th century folks! Our brims for 1855-1865 are made of stiff cotton netting. Just the crowns are buckram.)
When looking at 1850's and 1860's reproduction bonnets, there is one little detail that living historians often miss: The Cap. The cap is a frill of netting or lace around the face seen in 1850's and 1860's bonnets which was a replacement of separate caps. Unfortunately, trimmings including caps have been removed from many extant bonnets making the cap seem like a little skippable detail. However, looking at antique photographs will show caps as almost universal on bonnets making them and important detail present on quality reproduction bonnets.
In this digital age many people ask me, why I collect originals rather than just viewing online. Looking at online museums, eBay, Etsy, and countless others, there seem to be endless images of antique photographs and original garments to examine. In the case of original photographs, one of the reasons is resolution. Ambrotypes, daguerreotypes, and tintypes contain a level of detail that is absolutely mind blowing. For example, this 1850's ambrotype is approximately two by three inches in size. A scan of the image allows me to look at the individual flowers in the bonnet and details in the cap that wouldn't be recognizable at the original size. Looking at the ties, one can see that they aren't hemmed, cut rather messily, have a picot edge, and are even a bit wrinkled.
When I started participating in living history, I always thought I will never do the 1820s. The twenties are too crazy. Then I took a closer look. Now, the 1820s is probably my favorite decade. Elaborate trimmings, wide bonnets at flirty angles, and oh the hair!!! If you are looking forward to 1820s 200th anniversary events, we are here to help. Last year, we released our Sophia pattern offering multiple brim options to span the 1820s. Additionally, our new and improved 1820's fashion plate book has 79 fashion plates spanning the decade to help you perfect your historic impression!
Many of you have been to my workshops on preparing feathers. I also offer prepared feathers at events, but never on the website. Well they are here. Each feather is individually curled, sewn into a bunch, and then curled again. These feather bunches add a level of sophistication and luxuriousness not often seen in historic reproductions.
In preparation for the Treaty of Ghent event in Camden, South Carolina, I decided to make a batch of Federal Era Toques. These little puffy confections can dress up a winter coat and are even appropriate to wear in the ballroom. The best part of these darlings is they are an affordable way to dress up your impression or show off some delicious millinery trimmings.
In the last couple of years, I have really slowed down as far as collecting for several reasons. First, I have a lot of bonnets and have gotten rather picky. I really don't need several of the exact same thing. Second, the bonnets I find are just too expensive and I am not finding the deals I once did. That changed recently. I found two incorrectly marked relatively inexpensive bonnets.
The first bonnet was labelled as a sunbonnet and was pointed out to me by my friend Anna Worden Bauersmith. Anna and I will point bonnets out to each other that we feel that one of us "needs." The pictures were not great, but the shape was right for mid 1840s bonnet. The seller described the bonnet as in poor condition, but for $20 plus shipping I was willing to risk it just to study the shape.
I received the bonnet and opened it to find it in excellent condition for a bonnet that is almost 180 years old. It is dented, but the silk faille fabric is in very nice condition. The brim, made of both buckram and pasteboard, makes it a transitional piece from the early to mid 19th century.
The second bonnet was also pointed out to me by Anna. It was labeled 1880s.
A lot of bonnets are labeled 1860s when they are 1880s, but not the other way around. This bonnet has all the characteristics of a mid 1860s Empire bonnet. It has points which are not present on 1880s bonnets. It has a little flared piece under the bavolet characteristic of mid 1860's bonnets. Another super cool thing about this bonnet is the trim. First of all, I am thrilled that it still has trimming, but even more what the trimmings tell me about this bonnet. Almost all black bonnets are labeled mourning bonnets, they are not. This one is. The presence of crape and flat rather than shiny ribbons indicate that this bonnet is indeed a mid 1860s mourning bonnet.
10 1/2 inches of snow and getting ready for the Treaty of Ghent event presented perfect excuses to make this hood for myself. Based on an original in the Timely Tresses collection, you may find the Instructions for making this hood in the new projects issue of the Homefront Herald. With silk to stop the wind, brim stuffed with down, quilted silk curtain with wool batting. and adjustable channels, this is the perfect period correct ski jacket for your head.
After a very busy summer, I am back to work on new stock. This week I have added two straws ready for trimming, a completed 1860's silk bonnet, and a number of nets.
Several people have contacted me about the mysterious disappearance of our made to order straw forms. Don't worry they will be back. I am just trying to catch up on special event orders taken in the last four months. If you have an urgent millinery need, you may always email me at Dannielle@timelytresses.com and I will see if I can accommodate you.
We are so excited about the new website and being back at our old domain address. We are continuing to add new items and update inventory daily. 2018 is going to be a great year!
I am still adding the inventory to the new website. If you are looking for something that was on the old site, please let me know. Keeping fingers crossed that the domain transfer will complete soon. Happy New Year!
I hope the holiday season is finding you well. For the past couple of years, our website has been inhabited by gremlins that like to break our buttons and change formatting. Hopefully the new format will change some of that. It also allows me to put items for sale that have been sitting in my studio, but not on the website. I just found 90 yards of 3" ombre taffeta ribbon that I know you would love to have. Please be patient with me while I work to get everything back online. If you have an urgent millinery need for something that was on the old website, please email me and I am always happy to help!