This is a special blog post dedicated to antique clothes. And believe me at one time I found myself swimming in antique bloomers, corset covers, chemises, Victorian era nightgowns (nursing gowns), and various mismatched lawn cotton articles. Their conditions varied. Some even wearable with extreme care. Others just for study. Since I’m not much of a seamstress I never copied these antique clothes. Why not? They’re incredibly easy to duplicate with brand new materials that could closely match.
Simply because I didn’t have the work space or a sewing machine. Therefore, rather than hang on to the fragile antique clothing, I made the decision to sell it on eBay some years ago. I had way too many antique clothes. I don’t regret ever selling off the tattered clothing. It freed me up tremendously, but with all things, sometimes you find a true article of clothing that you can’t pass up. A ladies tunic I bought recently is the nicest (and most pristine) article I ever laid eyes on.
I don’t intend to sell this tunic. What I do plan to do is have somebody help me make a duplicate of it though. Judging by the picture the tunic appears to be for a very extremely petite woman. Maybe even a teenage girl in her late teens. Perhaps there was a long bell-shaped skirt that went to this lovely tunic, but I didn’t find anything else. I think it dates between the late 1890’s- 1900’s. So, I bought the tunic.
I got it home and studied it’s design and how it was sewn together. I believe it was constructed from cranberry/ almost dark grape cotton-twill with tan-colored lining. I could search from now on and never find exact buttons to match it. Not that its missing any. But if I’m going to make another like it, finding similar buttons is like finding a needle in a haystack. They’re the special kind of tiny brass buttons that are sometimes seen on the old Victorian button-up boots. I have a pair of new-old-stock black wool spats (for a woman) that has similar buttons.
What is it with this particular antique clothing that I’m so in love with? Maybe its the lost style—perhaps even the cut of the garment is what appeals to me. It screams; “I’m not mass-produced!” I already have one corset cover that was graciously given to me. Although there’s some paint stains on it I still love it. It was the better of the two corset covers I that I kept for myself. Then I have one very long heavy eyelet-laced and pleated petticoat. The waist on it is large and I believe it was likely made to fit over a bird cage—eh, sorry— I mean to wear over a crinoline hoop skirt. A crinoline is a metal ‘cage’ skirt women of the 1850-1860s used to wear under their dresses. Sometimes they were strapped into the cumbersome contraption. And I can’t image wearing a crinoline nowadays in combination with a whale-boned corset as well. It would probably feel like wearing an over-sized metal wire whisk strapped around the waist. And forget trying to sit down wearing a crinoline skirt. I don’t think women could have reclined all that well on the fainting couch much less sit upright without that metal skirt jabbing them. I think I can gather in the petticoat with some Velcro strips or ties so it’ll fit. It won’t be period authentic, but I’m not out to win best altered petticoat awards. I’m more about getting in and out of it with ease.
I believe I might still have one outer black tunic jacket with puffy sleeves, black tassels, circa 1909-10. And for its age it’s falling apart. I believe the black tunic was made of real silk (no synthetic materials there) and the sleeves were lined in quilt batting material for winter. It was another gift that was graciously given to me. I also have a black shoulder half cape in excellent condition stored with my long coats. I haven’t ever tried to wear the shoulder cape because I would need to first see how it was worn and with what attire. I believe the cape dates to the Pioneer days, and if not, then maybe falls somewhere in the first half of the Twentieth century.
I also have four pair of black Victorian era boots (conditions vary for their age) and they’re still wearable with care. I reserve those for special occasions and never use them for everyday boots. I also have two pairs of black lace up “granny” shoes from the 1930s. And those I do wear on occasion. I receive a lot of compliments on them because they are so unique and kept in nice condition. I also have a ton of antique/ vintage dress gloves (colors vary). My oldest pair date around 1910 or a little earlier. They’re white, but have a few rust stains and some fraying of the material due to their age. I often wore them out and about with my everyday hat and coat. I received a ton of compliments and one antique vendors told me “Might as well enjoy those gloves because given another hundred years, they’ll turn to dust.” And they’re probably right so I lovingly don them during the winter. I also have extra pairs of everyday newer gloves that I keep tucked in the vehicle, in my extra coat pockets, etc. Never want to go somewhere in the dead middle of winter without a pair of gloves. When I was in my Twenties I had a bad habit leaving the house without so much a coat on nor did I own any pairs of gloves. And when you get older then you realize you want warmth and comfort. And if you’re me, you’ll long for your favorite pair of fuzzy house slippers, nightgown, and steeped mint melody tea at the end of a long day.
I have yet to turn up anymore Edwardian and/ or Victorian era hats. I had one that I just adored. It was very Titanic in style and swore I’d never part with it. I wanted it so badly and it was the first antique ‘clothing accessory’ I gravitated to when a small antique shop had their grand opening in a town where I used to live many years ago. Two ladies ran the shop and the older lady scowled at me and didn’t want to sell me the Edwardian hat. She made a huge fuss she was going to take it home earlier that same day before they opened shop. The lady standing beside her told her in a firm tone to sell it to me.
In a huff the older lady sold me the hat, but not before smashing it into the shopping bag. It was worse for wear and suffered splits in the velvet material. It still retained bits of its ostrich feathers that were sewn inside the wide brim and would have graced the hat all the way around.
That particular Edwardian hat traveled with me. It moved back home with me and I kept it stored away. I removed it from the storage container one day and saw that it was in worse shape. Well, the move likely damaged it. The shape of the hat was flattened and couldn’t be re-shaped. It was also shedding black dust from its lining. I made the decision to sell it. I’ve only seen one other hat similar to it on eBay selling for a lot and was in much nicer shape. I keep holding out for a better condition Edwardian hat to turn up that I could wear. And if asked, no, I don’t wear the hat pins. I believe those would set off metal detectors one-hundred miles away, get stolen or broke. And since none of my grandmothers are alive anymore, I have nobody to show me how to wear the hat pins. I do know they went through the back of the hat and through the bun of the hair to hold the hat on the head. But some of those wide brim hats were meant to sit on top of head that was piled high with hair extensions to round out that Edwardian style.
My best advice for lovers of antique clothing: make copies of the clothes if you know how to sew. Or wear them “as-is” with care. I have a shirtwaist that’s bright white lawn cotton in good condition for its age, but the material is so see through (most all shirtwaists were back then) that a chemise would be worn underneath it along with a corset cover and corset. And I have a few detachable lace arrow collars made for women that I have incorporated with modern blouses. You just have to add buttons and do some slight alteration of the modern blouse if you can’t find any collar buttons. I have no shortage of those collar buttons lying around. Thanks again for liking, sharing, commenting, re-posting, tweeting, I truly appreciate it. 🙂