Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Dress, Shoes, and Stays - Oh My!





Lately I've had to make the leap in time from colonial fashion to early 19th-century fashion in the new novel I'm writing. Believe me, it's a tricky transition! Though Regency era clothing is lovely in some respects, my heart has always been at home with 18th-century fashions. My love affair with colonial dress began early. When I was a girl, my Kentucky granny sewed me a linen costume much like these above, complete with ivory apron, cap, and fichu, only my dress was burgundy. I loved it and wore it in the 1776 bicentennial parade in Lexington, Kentucky.I also had a love affair with paper dolls. Remember those McCall's magazines that had paper dolls? I awaited my mom's issues every month and cut out those costumes with glee:) When I look back now I see that I was being given inspiration even way back when. Over time I began to long for a "real" colonial gown of my own, a reproduction that would help me identify with the colonial heroines in my books. But these kinds of items are very expensive and I couldn't justify the cost. But, thankfully, the Lord often gives us the desires of our hearts in ways we least expect:) Last October I "stumbled" onto e-bay, a place I'd never been, and found a beautiful period gown. The lace on the gown I bought for a song is over 100 years old. It's made of high quality silk taffeta that rustles when you walk and truly feels like a dream. The seamstress is a colonial artist who sews period gowns for the models who are in her paintings. She was letting some of her gowns go for a very reasonable price and I happened upon this one dress right after she posted it for sale.
It didn't take long for me to discover you're only half-dressed for colonial times when you only have the dress. But stays - oh my! Almost as expensive as a gown! This photo shows "jumps" instead of stays. Anyone want to explain the difference? I'm still saving my shillings for stays.

Next item needed was a shift. I ordered this one. The feel of this linen shift is so different than cotton and gives a wonderful glimpse into the undergarments or "small clothes" people wore then. The stays go on over the shift, if you're wondering. I won't even begin to talk about pocket hoops and petticoats;)

This hat is from the Colonial Williamsburg collection and is my favorite. The needlework is exquisite, don't you think?
These complete a woman's wardrobe - clocked stockings and buckles and shoes. No, they're not mine but I can dream, can't I? All that's missing are the garters. My favorite thing about the colonial period? No underpants!

What fashion era do you like best?

56 comments:

  1. Oo, Laura, so jealous of the ebay find! (In a healthy way, of course.) ;-) What a beautiful dress!

    It's always so much fun to learn the intricacies of an era's clothing from top to bottom, inside to outside! =)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wow, what elegent gowns!!

    My favorite fashion era? I think it would be the middle ages. Medieval. I just LOVE their gowns!! *dreamy sigh* What I wouldn't give to wear one of those flowing, off the shoulder, gowns with sleeves that often split and hung several feet!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I love all this, Laura. Looking at those patterns makes me long for an 18C gown too. Aside from the bonnets and hats, I guess we're still putting on near about as many clothing articles these days as women did then. They had pockets, we have underpants. Good trade? Hmmm...

    The difference between jumps and stays? It's the shoulder straps, right? Stays don't have any.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Actually, both jumps and corsets could have shoulder straps, although jumps were far more likely to have them. The biggest difference between the two, was the amount of boning or stiffness. Corsets tended to be heavily boned, while jumps had far fewer bones. Usually about half as many. Jumps were usually considered to be more " casual", not to mention comfortable. Particularly during the summer, especially in the warmer, more south colonies. Remember that there was no such thing as a brass, and so if a lady wanted to have any frontal support, she wore one of these two garments. Incidentally, there have been some journal entries that mention wearing jumps, or neither jumps or corsets during the summer in the south. How widespread this was is unknown, as is whether or not it was considered " acceptable" to be seen in public in this informal state of dress.

      Delete
  4. Roseanna, You're so right - hands on learning is so much fun! I really understand my poor heroines now from the bottom up, so to speak;) And I know that e-bay find was a miracle as, crazy as it sounds, I got the dress without knowing if it would fit and it fits like a glove! BTW, that dreamy gown from Annapolis would fit nicely in your wardrobe, huh?! Thanks so much for stopping here as I love seeing your name pop up!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Katie, I'm with you! There's something about that Medieval look that is so romantic! I always loved the pointy, jeweled hats with the veils attached (I know they have a name but I'm less savvy about this era...). And those dresses just flow and have such elegant lines. Sigh. If you've ever watched the BBC drama of Robin Hood with Richard Armitage as Sir Guy, you'd love Maid Marian's gowns! They're a lot like you're describing. So good to see you here! You make this way more fun!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Lori, I knew you'd know about those shoulder straps:) That's my understanding about jumps vs. stays, too. I recently learned that it was acceptable for some women to just wear their stays or jumps with petticoats and be seen that way. I'd thought it was limited to the lower classes but after seeing the beauty of some stays and jumps I wonder if upperclass women didn't do the same. That era was so earthy and sensual with little of the prudishness that characterized the Victorians. The Regency era, I'm finding, was quite risque! Or could be with those see-through fabrics and clinging dress.

    You're right - I do think we wear nearly as much clothing now, at least when we dress up. Thanks for sharing your love of this era! I think we'll all find our colonial gowns and accessories yet:)

    ReplyDelete
  7. Laura, do you have a link for the seller who makes/sells the stays and bonnets and other accessories? I would like to put together a gown ensemble, one of these days. You are right. It's a spendy proposition. No wonder clothes were saved and reworked and passed down. It's not like running out to Kohls for a shirt and jeans.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Lori, I'm glad you asked:) These sites deserve to be seen, especially http://tempsdelegance.blogspot.com - this site is in French (is there a way to convert on Blogger?). Scroll down to the photos of the 18th-c. gowns and you will tarry forever! I've never seen such exquisite shots.

    Other sites I love are:
    http://maggiemayfashions.blogspot.com
    http://duchesstrading.blogspot.com

    This last link is for Meadow Gist, the maker of my gown. If you look in her sidebar, you'll see links to her etsy shop. I went over and didn't see any of her colonial gowns for sale but you could always email her and ask or just check back periodically. The best way to research fashion, I've found, other than ordering those stunning Colonial Williamsburg books we both know about, is to go to these costuming sites which usually have a treasure trove of links. Enjoy!

    ReplyDelete
  9. As a young girl, I dressed like I lived in 1870. Of course, people thought I was crazy. I have always been old-fashioned. My favorite words are old, antique, and vintage. Love the post!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Wow, that hat Laura! It is simply beautiful! No wonder its your favorite! Williamsburg must be proud of it! I'm imagining the gown a lady would have worn with it ;-) And what a blessing to find a beautiful colonial gown at a good price!

    I love that you have roots in Kentucky! (Explains why you chose Kentucke territory for the setting of TCL, which I'm loving by the way :-) I have three grandparents from southern Kentucky, near Corbin where the first Kentucky Fried Chicken opened. I always loved attending the Chicken Festival they hold in London every fall.

    I really enjoyed this fun post. May God bless your efforts with your new novel project! I love Regency novels, and I'm looking forward to reading it!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Kim, You dress exquisitely now so I can imagine even as a little girl you had fashion sense! Like you, I LOVED wearing vintage or historic clothing any chance I got. We played Daniel Boone in my granny's attic so much as kids and had an old trunk full of costumes we'd wear. I was always Rebecca, my girl cousins were Daniel and Jemima, and my brother was the turkey, of all things! We loved to pretend we were hunting.

    I wish we could bring back the elegance of hats and gloves. We've lost so much loveliness. Sigh. Maybe heaven will be one big dress-up fest!

    Thanks so much for being here and blessing us with your comments!!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Oh Gwen, LOVE that Corbin connection!! Would you believe my neighbor is a cousin of the colonel?! I miss KY fried chicken here. It's just not the same as when you have it where it originated. The festival in London sounds great!! Kentucky has so many wonderful venues. I think if I still lived there I'd get very little writing done as I'd just hop from one fest to the next;)

    And yes, this hat is just an amazing piece of work. I'd love to know the history behind it. So much of that is lost, like who the makers and seamstresses were. But their legacy lives on in their beautiful work. The only thing I would skip about the colonial period is the shoes. They look downright painful and there was no such thing as left or right for shoes back then!

    So happy to wake up to your comments! I so appreciate you taking time here as I know you're very busy! Praying you have a blessed day.

    ReplyDelete
  13. What a wonderfully delicious and delightful post! I remember those paper dolls and also looked forward to my Mom's newest magazine. How much fun! I always loved dress up, and still do. :)

    I have a thing for those stomachers, especially the embroidered ones. They are so feminine and lovely. And the shoes, I love that style and have often bought shoes with the same style heal (never realizing).

    The transition to the early 19th century must be quite different for you. But when I watched Pride and Prejudice the other day (for the zillionth time) I noticed that Mrs. Bennett dressed in 18th century clothing while her daughters wore the high waisted regency gowns. That had never registered with me before. Interesting...

    Thanks again for such a fun post!

    ReplyDelete
  14. Lori and others, I wanted to mention that there gorgeous 18th century attire, including stays.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Oh, wonderful comments, Carla:) I find all this fashion talk, like book talk, delicious and delightful, for sure!

    You've brought up a good point, one that Lori touched on briefly. Clothing, especially good gowns, were often reworked to fit the changing fashions. Even Martha Washington, who didn't need to pinch her pennies, did this. I've found in my research, like P&P, is that there was quite a bit of overlap in eras. Colonial dress was showing up in the Regency period which makes warms my heart. Seems like some folks just liked those old-styles better!

    I just wrote a scene in a dress shoppe where my heroine and her mother opt for a non-Regency ballgown as there was a shift around the 1820's to return to the lower waists and fuller skirts and fitted bodices of the 18th-c. So my Ellie Ballantyne will be decked out in colonial overtones which makes this author very happy!

    ReplyDelete
  16. Carla, I linked to your blog on my blog today as I borrowed a pic taken during your last research trip. At least I think it was you and that trip! Forgive me if not! I can correct if needed. I was so surprised to see those gowns in white/ivory as research so often points to colored dresses for weddings, especially yellow which some sources say was the preferred color for colonial wedding gowns. It may have varied from region to region. Maybe we'll never know for sure! Anyway, thanks for being such a wonderful resource.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Gwen, Forgot to give you a HUGE thanks for taking time for TCL:) Hoping you enjoy escaping to KY with Cass and Roxanna! I miss them.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Loved this post. The dress and that hat is beautiful! Thanks Laura.

    ReplyDelete
  19. I love the Medieval period and the Colonial period. However, I'm not so sure about no underwear. What did they do about their monthly cycle if they didn't wear underwear? Someone needs to write a book about this kind of trivia.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

      Delete
    2. fascinating and more than I knew. I knew where the term came from. as I knew about the relationship between 'loose woman' and stays!

      This, surgery and dental practices might be the top items on the 'not interested in REALLY living back then...' thanks Mary!

      Delete
  20. Pam and Susan, So glad you're here! More about that missing underwear when I return from violin lesson and grocery-getting;) Be back soon!

    ReplyDelete
  21. What stunning pictures, Laura. One would think with all the effort to add every crucial piece of the outfits as they dressed they would come up with, well, I'll say it . . . pants.
    Thanks for sharing this with us.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Lovely post, Laura. You will look like a queen dressed in all your beautiful colonial garb! Now to just get you to CW - wouldn't that be fun? So glad Carla was able to make it here last summer on her big trip. Thanks for this great post! I, too, waited every month to get my paper dolls from Mom's magazine. When I was in grad school she send me iron on teddy bears one Christmas and I ironed them onto a pillow case. I still have it! Hugs!

    ReplyDelete
  23. Laura left us in the lurch here with the underwear question!

    Did I miss any explanation of the 'jumps'? I've been so busy that I haven't been to my favorite Colonial ReEnactor's page lately (Mary). She must have that answer.

    Laura, you're working your way closer to the 1830s where I've been quite happy.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Laura,

    I LOVE ALL of it, but I'm especially partial to those shoes. The hat is to die for, too. Love the embroidery.

    Have a great day! I'm happy I caught you on the day you were posting this time!!

    ReplyDelete
  25. Okay, finally back. How's that for a cliffhanger! To answer Susan's question, history tends to hide these practical details from us. However, linen rags and a type of garter belt sufficed for women back then. But info is sketchy. The story is a bit different for colonial men like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson who actually had underwear special made from their London tailors before the war. This is the long underwear for winter we have today. Jefferson, especially, had trouble staying warm in the colder seasons so he and George found a practical solution. They were both gentlemen farmers and were out of doors a lot. After the Revolutionary War everything in fashion began shifting but that's a whole other topic!

    ReplyDelete
  26. Janet, You are so right. They seem to have thought of everything BUT pants! Their wardrobes were so very detailed, especially for upperclass women. I find it so interesting that gowns from that period still have sweat stains beneath the arms. It's a vivid reminder that women had no deodorant to wear and danced in all those layers, often in 100 degree Virginia heat. Once again, I'm thankful to live today, though I do wish we could have a little of the elegance in their beautifully made garments back then.

    So good to see you here, Janet! I always smile when your name appears:)

    ReplyDelete
  27. Carrie, I'm glad I'm not the only one who remembers those paper dolls;) But those iron-on bears sound like the next best thing! Thanks for pointing out a detail I omitted. The gown I purchase is to wear to book venues, etc. I haven't done that yet though I was tempted to wear it to ACFW conference this past September. Several authors are having gowns special made to do a sort of group event in future. I haven't worn my dress yet but do have something scheduled for next summer during the lavender festival taking place at the replica of Mount Vernon near here. My little fiddler will be beside me playing 18th-century music only I'll have to rustle up some breeches and a ruffled shirt for him:)

    ReplyDelete
  28. Oh Margaret, I'm sooo happy you're here! And thanks a million for providing the link! You're always so thoughtful that way and your love of historical fiction shines through:)

    ReplyDelete
  29. Deb, There you are! Just when I miss you you crop up:) Yes, Mary is one of the best resources out there for colonial dress info - the sold items above came from her. Jumps vs stays are essentially this - stays have no shoulder straps and jumps do. I'm sure there are other differences but I'm not as knowledgeable as Mary or other reenactors. I answered the undie question as best I could above. Best not repeat it or I might blush;)

    ReplyDelete
  30. Julia, I'm so happy you caught me, too! I've missed you! Thrilled you think the hat AND shoes are lovely. If they're this nice in person I wonder what they'd be like in person. I just love those clocked stockings. The color is exceptional!

    All this fashion talk is as fun as book talk. Speaking of which, I hope your writing is going very well - and the littles and C. are having a good fall:)

    ReplyDelete
  31. I loved this posting. The dress and other garments are just beautiful! Thanks for sharing, Laura!

    ReplyDelete
  32. Laura I think you explained that certain, particular, never-mentioned mystery very well indeed! wink wink.

    there is a phrase that includes the word 'rag' after all.

    Oh, had to say I agree with Julia. What a hat. Oh my!

    I know this is off by a century or so, but costumes are one of the big draws for Downton Abbey on PBS (repeat of first season starts in Dec, new series coming in Jan)
    Those Edwardian, WWI ladies knew how to dress, too!

    loved all the fashion talk and now I know what jumps are. It looks like knights armor :)

    ReplyDelete
  33. Love all these pictures and info! So exciting, Laura, that you've got an outfit together to wear :) Can't wait to see a photo of you in it one day!

    It's so interesting to see what they wore all those years ago. I'm jealous that you have events/festivals over there that people actually wear period clothing. We're so "new" down here lol. Does make me wonder though, how much different the Aussies were dressing during the same time (though, we weren't technically Aussies then!)

    ReplyDelete
  34. These are all beautiful! I think we need to see a photo of you in the dress, Laura :) please? pretty please???
    There's nothing like being able to really be in what you're character was in to get you inspired. I know it probably brings your work to a whole new level to have that knowledge. The color and craftsmanship of all these items are amazing. Pretty glad we dont have to wear stays these days though :)

    ReplyDelete
  35. Stacey, So happy you came over and took a look! Beautiful is the right word for all of these amazing garments. Makes me wish I was a seamstress or reenactor and not just a writer! Hope you're having a blessed week there!

    ReplyDelete
  36. Debra, I'm a Downton Abbey fan and haven't even watched yet! Yes, those Edwardians certainly knew how to dress! We just watched The King's Speech this past weekend and oh my! Those dresses and hats of hers! I'm thrilled to be writing in the same era as you - I'd forgotten that! Now I know who the go-to girl is if I have any questions:)

    ReplyDelete
  37. Helen, That's such an interesting insight. What were Aussies wearing in the 18th-c? I'd like to find out! I know what you mean about being "new." America is so young compared to other nations and our history so fresh in many respects. I promise a pic of that gown as soon as I have a venue where I'm in it!

    Hope you are having a great day over there with your girls!!

    ReplyDelete
  38. Whew, me too, Heather! Stays would be hard to handle though as I get older I'd like a little help holding in some sagging body parts;) You make mention of the craftsmanship and colors which really are incredible and these gowns have held up over time. Oh, to be a mantua-maker/seamstress! Can you imagine the long hours and eye strain? I used to think I wanted to live back then but the more I learn the more I see I was born in the right century.

    So glad to see you here, as always! I know you're getting in the Christmas mood as I come by your beautiful blog!

    ReplyDelete
  39. That's exactly want I thought... a picture of Laura in dress! :)
    I love this article!

    ReplyDelete
  40. YAY! Marian is here:) So happy you enjoyed this. I think our love of beauty is God-given and never goes away. I'll always be a fan of beautiful clothes no matter the era! And I promise you a pic of myself in that dress in future. Here's hoping I still fit in it when the event comes! By the way, Kim Vogel Sawyer did have some lovely pictures of herself in 19th-century costume on her website. And I know Dee Gist has done the same. It's becoming fashionable to dress like heroines, I guess:) Thanks so much for taking the time to stop here, Marian. And happy reading;)!

    ReplyDelete
  41. I plan to create a dress to match my heroine's, and hope to wear it to the next ACFW. (I keep saying this hoping it will come true one year!)

    I think I've finally found a source for the stays pattern I need. That will be a lot of work to create!

    Laura, the hats on Downton Abbey are TDF. Like a royal wedding, I suppose!
    We have a link on the inkwell blog somewhere to Deeanne Gist's Victorian Underwear presentation at RWA this year.

    ReplyDelete
  42. I visited the sites/blog you mentioned in a comment, Laura. Oh, how I wish I could make dresses like that! The dresses are so much more beautiful than what we're wearing now.
    I also looked at some Medieval dresses and I think I can imagine myself in a Maid Marian's dress... lol

    ReplyDelete
  43. I loved playing with paper dolls as a young girl. I wish we could have had these costumes, I think mine were all Barbie. :)

    What a beautiful dress! And that hat is exquisite. I love to cross stitch and so I can appreciate the work that went into the needle work. Lovely! Can't wait to see a picture of you in the whole outfit!

    ReplyDelete
  44. Deb, I admire you so much and covet your seamstress ability! If you wear your dress then and I come, I'll try to wear mine and maybe we can sit together:) Oh, and thanks for the tip about Dee's presentation at RWA - I'm sure it was wonderful in every way!!

    Happy Downton Abbey viewing!

    ReplyDelete
  45. Marian, Me, too! I'd give anything to be able to sew such beautiful things! But then I'd not get any writing done. Maybe wouldn't even want too! Thanks so much for looking at those sites. The French one is really breathtaking. Wish I understood all that French! Bless you!

    ReplyDelete
  46. Cathy,
    We're kindred spirits - Barbies back then and now cross stitch:) Come to think of it, most of my Barbie clothes were made by my granny and they were all historical! I still have them. I'm afraid I've had to give up my cross stitching since the writing took over. I really miss it though and dream of the day I have time for it again.

    Thanks so much for your kind comments. They mean so much!

    ReplyDelete
  47. Laura, I'd rather have you writing than sewing.
    I know... it's selfish :)

    I'm enjoying TCL now! I think I múst read all day tomorrow!!

    ReplyDelete
  48. Marian, How I pray you like the book! Don't let my rascally Colonel McLinn scare you;) Love the thought of you reading all day tomorrow. That's bliss!

    ReplyDelete
  49. Thanks so much to everyone for your gracious comments! It's so fun to share a love of history here.

    ReplyDelete
  50. This is a lovely post. LOVE those jumps! For the record, I have to recommend my mantua makers - www.hiddendirk.com. Not only are they crazy affordable...one of the owners is a historian so they are very much into historical accuracy - but I think you'll be blown away by their prices. (they sell jumps, by the way!!)

    ReplyDelete
  51. Oh Megan, Bless you so much! I hope you see my late comment here!! I am off to look at your site. I really appreciate it - so happy we've met here!
    Laura

    ReplyDelete
  52. Those are some lovely pieces! My understanding of jumps vs. stays comes from my Mantua Maker Georgian Stays pattern, where she describes stays as having any sort of boning (typically fully-boned or half-boned), while jumps have no bones (like a tightly fitted bodice). Basically, stays are what you would wear out in public or when company's over, while jumps are what you'd wear about the house when you're not expecting formal company or to go anywhere. As for the straps issue, jumps would have to have straps for support, while stays may or may not have them, depending on the style and the lady's preference.

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for commenting, please check back for our replies!