Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Sewing Historical

Welcome to this fine Woven Wednesday. I’d like to introduce you to Adela, a young lady who had the unique opportunity of attending Harvard College during the early 1880s, along with three friends who shared a bond closer than sisters. Adela and two of her friends become disillusioned with the elite society of Cambridge for different reasons and travel west to become mail-order brides.

I know all this because I’m the author of their story. And I told her to look apprehensive.

Hundreds of mail-order bride stories have been written, and I’ve read most of them. But my writing experience has been different in that I may one of the few authors who get the chance to make the heroine’s dress. Most probably wouldn't want to.

When I prepared to share my vision for the covers with the designer, I started following the historical sewing blogs. Pictures just weren’t enough. I wanted to make one of those outfits—or three.

The trouble was I hadn’t sewed in years. When I was young, I made all my clothes, and my daughter didn’t get a store-bought dress until she was about ten. But life took up my time, and even when my granddaughter came along, I just didn’t have the passion.

Fortunately, my passion for writing spilled over into sewing, and before you knew it, I was gathering patterns and fabrics and notions. As you can tell, I chose pink for Adela, my brunette with dark brown eyes that have a way of making her intended lose his train of thought. 

The heroine of the second novella,  a curly-haired, blue-eyed blonde, will wear blue satin. The third novella will feature a green-eyed red-head, who’ll wear green print with emerald satin.

I let my heroines choose their dresses. Since Adela was going to be a farmer’s wife, she wanted her outfit to be understated. She chose the pink summer print cotton, the closest thing in her wardrobe to calico, and with little trim. It was normal for Victorian dresses to be greatly embellished. Fortunately for me, my heroines didn’t like too much embellishment. Fancy or not, these dresses take from ten to twelve yards of fabric, most of it in the overskirt.

I’m going to be sending the first pictures to the cover designer in a couple of weeks. I don’t know that any of these creations will be acceptable, but even if they don’t make the covers, I am going to be creating memes with them.


These photos were done for the blog, using a phone camera. We didn’t have time to get Adela’s hair up, as she would have insisted on before going out in public. And I didn’t have the all-important bustle finished when my model came over. That’s why it’s missing in the picture at right. Without the bustle, the back sags, and a Victorian woman would never let her posterior sag. 

Here’s what the bustle looks like. Just a fabric sack that can be shaped with a wire frame—or in my case, stuffed with fiberfill. My husband offered to model it, but I decided to spare you. Also pictured with the bustle is another piece of clothing essential to the Victorian lady, the corset. Would you believe the corset is sized according to the measurement you want to cinch it to, not the waist size? 

One thing hasn’t changed over the centuries; women’s clothing has always been designed more for appearance than men’s clothing. Shirts, pants and suits for men of the nineteenth century look much like today.

Do you think women care about their appearance more than men? Why or why not?

Comment to win Anita Higman's A Question of Destiny

   

11 comments:

  1. I'm so thankful we don't wear bustles anymore! But, yes, women do tend to care more about appearance than men. I think it's part of how God wired us. It says in the Bible that we ought not to focus on our outward appearance, telling me that women have always been this way. I don't know why we are like this,only that we should guard against being obsessed with it. But that's not to say we can't enjoy our adornments in proper perspective!

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    1. Hi Kate,
      Thanks for your perspective. If only we'd follow the Bible, we'd be able to see the inner man and woman.

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  2. I enjoyed your post. My daughter wanted an old fashioned dress years ago. We tried to make a hoop skirt for it. What a difficult task that was! You did a great job with your creations. I hope your books are even more successful!

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    1. Hi Sandy,
      I think bustles are easier to make than hoops, but I've never tried to make a hoop skirt. I just wonder how they got through doorways.

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  3. I am so thankful I wasn't born back in the day when women had to wear corsets, bustles, etc. I would need to get up an hour more than I do now just to get ready.
    Janet E.
    von1janet(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. Hi Janet,
      You're right. We'd never manage to get ready in our fast-paced world. It's worth remembering rural women didn't have fancy clothes except for maybe Sunday.

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  4. Oh, my goodness gracious, Elaine! I LOVE this dress! You've done a fantastic job. I can't wait to see the other dresses, now. These are going to make BEAUTIFUL covers.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Natalie. It takes about a week to make one of these dresses, not counting the day for cutting it out. I'm working on the green one now which is all in one instead of skirt and jacket.

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  5. I am excited to have found your website! Love this time period of dressing! The dress is beautiful! Looking forward to future post! ~ Blessings ~

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    1. Hi Lisa,
      Thank you, and we're so glad you found us. Please come back anytime.

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  6. I think a picture of your husband modelling the bustle would be priceless. A wonderful post thank you.

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