Real Victorian Fashion for Women

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The Victorian Period was from the 1837s to 1901 during the reign of Queen Victoria. In the United States this covers major events like the Antebellum period, the Civil War, Reconstruction and the Industrial Age and the expansion West or the Frontier or Territorial periods. It is a large chunk of time so covers some diverse fashions.

This post is going to look at some real historical pieces from recent sales from Augusta Auction in New York City. These are amazing pieces that are museum quality costumes . If you haven’t read it already check out my earlier post of Fashion by Decade 1790s to 1890s.

Rules of Victorian Fashion

1. Dresses were ankle length or longer

2. Daytime dresses had high collars, evening dress had lower collars or short sleeves

3. Undergarments: several layers of chemise, petticoats, bloomers & corset

4. Gloves worn everyday

5. Waist was at the natural waist line and tightly fitted

6. Generally only undergarments had buttons, ties or laces visible

For example, the navy day dress above has a tight fitted bodice that has hidden closures or is pinned closed. The top has a high collar and long sleeves. In this dress the sleeves are narrow and slightly puffed at the shoulder. The skirt is long and in this case narrow but has a bustle. The skirt, bustle and sleeve shape indicate the late-Victorian period. This dress is from 1888. It probably would have been worn with removable lace cuffs.

Skirt shape and sleeve style may vary. Vibrant colors, textures, patterns or prints were common. Embellishments like lace, trim, fringe, tassels or bows on bodices or jackets were common. Collars and cuffs were often removable or easy washing.

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This pre-Civil War day dress in blue and black plaid silk has a rather different shape. Worn with a hoop skirt and several petticoats to make a round bell shape. This makes the waist appear smaller. It also shows a time of prosperity as it takes lots of fabric. it also has the high neck and long sleeves. Imagine Scarlet O’Hara in this dress as it is from the 1850s.

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In this case the sleeves are wide bell-sleeves with tassel trim. Like most dresses it is actually two pieces as the bodice is separate from the skirt and is pinned closed. It would likely have been worn with a removable lace collar and removable inner sleeves to keep the arms from showing during the day. It would have cost about 2 months of a man’s wages for a dress like this. Most womem had only 3 or 4 dresses. This would have been a “best dress” for going to town or visiting people for tea time.

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For evening dresses, the neckline was lowered and sleeves were shorter. Often one skirt had two matching bodices, one for daytime and one for evening. Long evening gloves would be worn with an evening gown or party dress. The above is a silk brocade dress from the 1850s.

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Most of what survives are upper-class garments in wools, silks, velvet and satins and the occasional printed cotton or plaid. Most poor people’s clothing was cotton, linen or wool. Working class people wore garments until they wore out and then would either cut them down to make children’s clothes or rags. The wealthy sometimes sold their dresses or re-cut them but some survived in a closet, attic or trunk after they had “gone out of fashion”. The above work dress is a printed cotton or calico from France. Dated some time between 1835 and 1860 as work fashions rarely changed. It has a narrow skirt and plain sleeves. Would have been worn with an apron and an undershirt, chemise or wrap to cover neckline. Perhaps belonging to a servant, shop girl, farmer or a newly middle-class lady who did her own cleaning, cooking or gardening.

How to Dress Steampunk – The Basics

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So since Halloween is only a month away, I thought I’d do a few posts on costumes. One popular option theses days is Steampunk. An off shoot of gothic fashion, Steampunk is kind of a dark version of Victorian styles. Many people dress steampunk year round to varying degrees whether going out for a night on the town, clubbing or a special event like a party or sci-fi convention. For more on what Steampunk is check out my previous post “What is Steampunk”.

What does a typical Steampunk outfit look like for women? Well, there are various persona within steampunk like high class late Victorian lady, a Civil War era Southern Bell, a wild west saloon girl, an aviator like Amelia Earhart, a nurse, a Victorian shop girl, an safari adventurer or an airship pirate. If you want to go the most traditional and generic route it is a good place to start to build a wardrobe. You may like already have these items in your closet or can find them easily online at ebay or etsy or your local thrift store. Even big box Halloween stores like these and you can build an outfit from normal stores like Target or JCPenney’s.

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Basic Steampunk for Women:

Skirt: ankle length Prairie skirt with some fullness and ruffles

Shirt: a peasant blouse, Victorian style button up, or chemise nightgown with lace details

Corset/Vest: Lace up corset, bodice or tight vest

Jacket: Cropped bolero style or fitted suit jacket

Hat: Tiny top hat, normal top hat, bowler, straw boater or newsboy cap.

Shoes: Granny Boots, cowboy boots or brown tall boots or ballet flats

Accessories & Jewelry: Copper, brass, gold, gears, cogs,  rayguns, cameos, chocker or watches

Fabrics can make a big difference. High quality fabrics like satin, velvet, leather, linen, silk or wool work well and will last. Colors tend to be earth tones like brown, tan, khaki, olive green, rust, or orange as well as jewel tones like dark purple, navy, blues, emeralds, ruby red, burgundy as well as black, gray and white. Patterns work too like muted plaids, wide stripes, and pinstripes. Try looking in the curtain areas of stores for some cool affordable options.

Get crafty: try making your own steampunk accessories or get sewing. Buttons, straps, and belts can add a steampunk flair to an outfit. Try adding flounces or bustles to your skirt.

Check out my Pinterest collection of steampunk items from stores like Target, Walmart and JCP.

Gone with the Wind – 75th Anniversary

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This year marks the 75th Anniversary of the iconic film Gone with the Wind. Dealing with the classic love story of Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler set during the Civil War era and based on the 1936 book by Margaret Mitchell. I’ve read the book which even surpasses the film. I was lucky enough to see it on the big screen a few years ago.

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This past Saturday I got to see the restored Blue-Ray edition at a movie theatre as well. Wow, amazing quality! Crisp, clear picture and beautiful color. The detail is incredible. You can see the lace details on the front of Scarlett’s white ruffle dress. The green velvet curtain dress looks super velvety. Vivian Leigh’s eyes are gorgeous. You can see the skin texture and details in the hairdo like never before. The darker scenes of sunsets, silhouettes and Melanie giving birth are much easier to see. It also had restored audio tracks.

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Technicolor film was an interesting stage in movie making. Most people are familiar with either black and white film or color film. Technicolor is actually three strips of black and white film shot simultaneously, each one picks up only one color (ie blue, green or magenta). This process was used on other popular films that have been also been recently restored such as the Wizard of Oz. Since these indivdiual strips still exist, the restorers were able to re-align the image for crystal clear picture and detail. As well as digital grading to remove scratches, dust and create a uniform color during a scene.

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If you missed it you can see it Weds Oct 1st in select movie theatres or buy the DVD now. My only complaint was the intermission was too short and they didn’t announce how long it was going to be. This is a 4 hr movie, the Intermission was 6 mins! How can an entire theatre get out, go to the restroom and be back in their seats?

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My gosh, the costumes in the film are breath-taking. Corsets, bonnets and bustles, oh my! Scarlett’s eye-catching dresses at Twelve Oaks, Tara and in Atlanta. Huge hoop skirts from before the war all the in to the 1870s with the narrow skirts with bustles. The more subdued dresses of Melanie are a little more realistic to the period though.

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Still want more Gone with the Wind goodness. Check out the University of Texas at Austin which is showing a special exhibition of “The Making of Gone with the Wind” at the Henry Ransom Center. It features three Scarlett O’Hara dresses and other costumes, amoung them the green velvet curtain dress and the red feather sequin dress. Also tons of never before seen photographs, storyboards, drawings, screen tests, make-up test shots and more. They are also selling a companion book.scarlett-drawing-curtain-dress  scarlett-drawing-green-white-dress

“The Making of ‘Gone With The Wind'” can be seen starting Sept. 9, 2014 thru the beginning of January at the Ransom Center Galleries. Mon – Fri : 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday extended hours until 7 p.m. Weekends the galleries are open from noon to 5 p.m.

Public tours are offered every day at noon, as well as Thursdays at 6 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m. “Gone With The Wind” screentests will be shown in the Ransom Center’s first-floor theater at 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. on weekends.

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The Henry Ransom Center houses a huge collection of Gone with the Wind memorabilia and archives in their David O. Selznick Collection. Now thru Jan 2015 is your chance to get a glimpse of some of these treasure’s.

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How to Colorize Vintage Photos

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I recently tried adding color to a vintage black and white photo for the first time. It came out pretty well. It was neat to see the picture sort of “come to life”. I used Photoshop but most image programs have the capability.

Traditionally Hand-Coloring has been around almost as long as photography itself. Starting in the 1850s, daguerreotype could be hand painted with dyes or water colors to give a colorized effect. Now it can all be done digitally.

Step 1: Scan the black and white photo on the highest resolution possible. Scanners, copy machines and Kodak Picture Makers at local Walgreens can do this. Or take a photo with your camera.

Step 2: Find a color photo of a similar type to your B&W one. (ie is your photo of the ocean, the mountains, sunset, people with blonde hair, etc). This will be your color palette.

Step 3: If it is a portrait then start with the skin tone. Use the color picker tool (looks like an eyedropper) to pick flesh tones from your color photo.

Step 4: Select the Color Replacement Tool. This places color in a transparent wash similar to water color or airbrushing but doesn’t obscure the details of the photo. In photoshop, it is in the Paintbrush, then you select from a dropdown at the top for “Color”.

Step 5: Lower the opacity (aka the strength) of how much color is deposited. I start with about 30%. You can go over the same area several times to build up the color.

Step 6: Be sure to change your color palette as you go along. The forehead may have a different tone than the chin. For a rosier cheek common in Hand-Colored vintage photos pick up color from the lips.

Step 7: Change the size of your brush and zoom in for fine detail areas like eyes, hairline and jewelry.

Step 8: Save often so you won’t lose your work. I like to save a new version after finishing the skin tones in case I want to change the colors of the clothes or background later.

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How to Get the Best Deal at Chipotle

One of my favorite lunch places is Chipotle. Although they are a chain restaurant, they try to do things a little differently. Sustainably and naturally raised meat without hormones added. Locally sourced ingredients when possible. There food is delicious and fast. I don’t know what magic they are using but their meat is so flavorful, juicy and tender. The seating area is sleek and modern in a casual dining atmosphere.

Ordering is pretty simple. Most items are around $7

Step 1: Pick your type of entree, Burrito (warning they are huge), Tacos (soft or crunchy), Bowl or Salad.

Step 2: Pick your main ingredient (Carnitas (pork), Barbacoa (shredded beef), Chicken or Steak, or Guacamole

Step 3: Pick your Rice (White w/ cilantro & Lime, Brown w/ cilantro & Lime or ask for plain white rice)

Step 4: Pick your beans, salsa, sour cream, cheese and lettuce

If you are on a budget or on a diet, your best option is actually under the little known Kids section of the menu. The “Build Your Own Taco Kit” is a great deal. You get 2 tacos, choice of main ingredient and two additional ingredients. Also comes with a bag of chips and a kids drink or milk or juice. Generally, if you ask nicely they will give you a side of salsa for free as well. All comes on a cute little tray for you to assemble your own taco. Designed for children and picky eaters. I find it perfectly filling for an adult. It comes in at just under $5.14655303206_b0e05ff14f_o (1)

Ruff Life – Vintage OKC

This summer I had a chance to visit a few neat vintage shops in Oklahoma City. The Ruff Life in located in the Plaza District on NW 16th and Indiana. Hours: T thru Sat 11am-7pm, Sun 1pm-5pm, Closed Mondays

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It is one of the newer additions to the Plaza District. The Ruff Life opened up in 2013. They sell quality lingerie and corsets which are a little more unique and with a wider range in sizes than you might find in the local mall. They also sell an ever changing selection of vintage clothing. I was really impressed with the quality of 1950s and 60s, dresses, swing coats, shirts and purses that they have. Most pretty reasonable priced around $20 and up.14671585707_705cbe0fc7_o

RetroOKC – Plaza District

Old-Plaza

A few weeks ago I was visiting my parents in OKC and had the chance to explore the Plaza District. This is a shopping district on NW 16th and Indiana, that is revitalizing an old area that has been around since the 1920s. They remodeled the old movie theatre and now it is surrounded by cute vintage and antique shops, art galleries and a few restaurants.

One of the shops is called Retrokc. It is a nice store packed with mid-century furniture, art work, atomic dishes and knick knacks. The owner is very nice and new items tend to rotate in pretty quickly.

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Address:

1708 NW 16th Street, Oklahoma City, OK 73106

Hours vary a bit and they are closed Sunday & Monday.

Tues-Thurs – 1pm-6pm

Fri & Sat – 2pm-8pm

 

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They also have an Etsy store if you can’t make it there in person. Prices are fairly reasonable and they do also buy vintage items. They focus on 1950s, 1960s, mod and tikki.

 

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