Wednesday, 30 December 2015

'Oktis' Corset Shields

What a find!! Here we have a wonderful item for collectors of corsets/corset history - the full package for Oktis Corset Shields, waist 24". By looking at the corset illustrations, the date is around the turn of the 20th century. You can view the V&A example here.

The fabulous thing is that the complete packaging has survived; both shields, outer envelope and advertising leaflet. All is in mint condition.

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas! The New Year is almost upon us, one of my favourite times of year!!
Naomi xx

Friday, 20 November 2015

Elizabethan 'Tire Makers' and Shakespeare

Apart from loving the history of fashion, I am also a great history buff generally; all the books I read are either historical fact or historical fiction.

A few months ago I read "The Lodger: Shakepseare on Silver Street" by Charles Nicholl:-

The narrative is concerned with a brief time in Shakespeare's life in the early 1600s, when he was lodging with a family, the 'Mountjoys'. He ends up becoming embroiled in a family dispute with his landlord's family, concerning non-payment of a dowry, which goes to court, and so we have a record of him and his time with the family. But it is with the family, and their occupation as 'tire maker's' or 'attyre-makers' which is really interesting to me as a lover of historical dress. What were these headdresses that the fashionable women of the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries were clamouring for?

Lucy Harrington in masque costume designed by Inigo Jones 1606, sporting fabulous 'head-tire'.

Christopher Mountjoy (the head of the family) was a French immigrant or refugee. He is a
'tiremaker' - a maker of the decorative headwear for ladies known generically as 'head-tires' or 'attires.'

He most likely hailed from the region of Picardie, known for its textile industry, coming over sometime in the late 1570s or very early 1580s. His family were Huguenots, and so his coming to England possibly meant that they were escaping the persecutions (and downright bloody butcherings) of a Catholic France. {As a side note, I come from Huguenot stock}. He worked under a tailor in London at first, as an assistant. He was married at this point, so his apprenticeship, whether he served his time as one in France or England, must have been completed.

In the 1590s Christopher is recorded as having his daughter and wife working in the tire business, and as having 3 apprentices.  

The Mountjoy establishment...served the family both as work-place and dwelling place. The ground floor would have contained a workshop, where the  Mountjoy 'tires' were made, and probably also a shop in the retailing sense, where customers came for viewings and fittings.

Charles Nicholl explains the tire-making trade as
The creation of a head-tire involved various craft skills, among them silk twisting, threadmaking, wire-drawing and embroidery. It also involved wigmaking.

As Nicholl explains, and it is easy to see from the list of crafts above, that tire-making was a specialist profession.
...their specialist skills were increasingly in demand, as head-tiring became more fashionable, elaborate and expensive in the 1590s and 1600s.
Tiremaking is a nebulous sort of craft, because the 'tire' itself comes in many shapes and styles, and with many combinations of materials and effects. It is a creation more than a garment.

And by 1604 his trade reached its pinnacle; in Queen Anne's accounts a record can be seen of the purchase of a Mountjoy tire.

Another wonderful piece of primary evidence of Mountjoy's profession comes in the form of a letter written from a gentleman, Philip Gawdy, writing in a letter of 1593, in which he writes about doing some shopping for his siter in-law, Anne:-
"...her fann with the handle...a vardingale of the best fashion, her gold thread, her heare-call (hair caul), her pumpes, and in short there wanteth no thing she spake for but only a thing I should have had of Mr Munjoye, but he fayled me very wrongfully according to his promyse; but it is coming"
It sounds to me as if his business practices could do with a little work.

Marchesa Brigida Spinola Doria by Rubens - 1606 - with a pretty impressive 'tire'

So what were the materials used in these creations? Human hair was often used, so tire-makers also needed to be wig makers.
In randall Cotgrave's French Dictionary of 1611, the skills are synonymous: he defines perruquiere as a 'woman who makes perriwigs or attires.'
The fashion of the day meant that blonde wigs were more highly regarded than brown or red hair.

Elizabeth I 'Ermine' portrait 1585Attributed to Nicolas Hilliard 

networke - a gauzy threaded material used in head-tires
mercer - cloth/textiles trader
cordwainer - leather worker
curriers - currid or dribbled leather

Names for tire-maker:-

Spellings of 'Attire' (or 'dressing' for the hair') maker (any adornment of the head not actually a hat or hood):-
Attires in the plural was also used in the broader sense of attire- garments, costumes etc which is why the dressing room of an Elizabethan theatre was called the 'tiring-house', and the man in charge of it the 'tire-man'.  

Nicholl states that this particular fashion evolved from its beginnings as part of the costume of the 'cours de ballet' of the Valois court. 

So what did these items of adorment for the hair consist of? 
 The full blown tire was an assemblage rising up sime inches above the head, based on a framework of silver of gilt wire, embroidered with silk and lace and gauze and gold thread, decorated with pearls, gems and spangles (sequins), and often topped off with a feather or two.

It was a sumptuous and expensive item. I should think that it must have been extremely costly.

Elizabeth I by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger c.1592

Charles Nicholl has written an entire chapter about these head-tires in his book. I would certainly recommend the book for all lovers of the Elizabethan period. It is a very enjoyable read. Fascinating insights, and I am so grateful to him for looking into this little known costume article.

Queen Anne of Denmark Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger c.1605-10

 Naomi x

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Restoring an 1820s Dress

With this poor light that we are experiencing at the moment day in, day out, due to the rain, I am struggling to get much sewing done, but have begun work on restoring an 1829 provinical printed cotton wedding gown (don’t expect a white gown- Queen Victoria started that fashion on her wedding day in 1840).

So I have made a start; mending a huge tear down one side, and removing about 7 marks left from blue-tac, of all things to get near an antique dress!!

Mending tear down side of dress

The dress has a slit on either side of the skirt, where it fastens around the back and then ties at the front. Both sides had been torn, but one side was almost down to the hem (thank goodness for the wide hems of this time).

Traces of blu-tac can be seen here

On one of the sleeves there were about 7 areas where blu-tac had been somehow left. I suppose I should be grateful that at least it was only on the one arm! To remove the blu-tac I gently used a solution of water and a small amount of restorers detergent. Thankfully with time and care, they all came out.

Blu-tac stains and button missing at wrist

You can see in the photo above that there are poppers where there shouldn’t be, but thankfully there is fabric enough on the large seam allowances inside the gown to make new replacement covered buttons to match the couple that have survived. On the other wrist 2 buttons are missing.

There is a fair bit of work to do on the gown - the sleeves need attention; apart from the buttons, there are seams which need sewing up. And there are later stitches where someone has re-sewn the bodice of the gown the wrong way, obvioulsy they were not familiar with this older style of dress construction.

When I finally see some sun here in the West Country, I will be able to photograph the whole gown, and discuss it at length! :)

Naomi x

Monday, 5 October 2015

New Reproduction Buttons at Historika

Since beginning Historika back in late 2009, I have always hoped to make historical dress products that were historically accurate. A major part of that for me has been the small details, such as handmade buttons. They have always totally fascinated me, and I was determined to make these in the hope that reenactors and lovers of historical dress would appreciate them in the same way I did (do).

I have noticed over the last year or two that more and more people have been using reproduction buttons on their historical clothing, which is great to see.

This week I found the time to put 2 more styles of button on the shop; 'Bird's Eye' Dorset buttons and 'Blandford Cartwheel', also known as 'Old Dorsets'.

Reproduction Bird's Eye Dorset Buttons, c.1620s to mid 1800s with Linen Thread

These buttons were made for men's shirts, nightclothes, underthings, children's clothing and household linens. I have a pillowcase from around the 1840s with original antique Bird's Eye buttons:-

Mid Victorian Linen Pillowcase with Birds's Eye Buttons

To make these buttons you firstly have to wind a piece of damp muslin around a stick to create the shape of the button, and then stitch around the button to keep the shape whilst it dries. Then you can blanket stitch the button with linen thread.

I make these in 2 sizes- 10mm and 15mm. I decided to sew a shank onto the back of the button, and to leave a thread attached to each button, for them to be sewn easily onto clothing or household linen.

The other button that I finally managed to make are similar to the Crosswheel Dorset button which are now very popular with many Regency costume fans, but are much finer. These are known as 'Blandford Cartwheels', and also 'Old Dorsets'.

Reproduction 'Blandford Cartwheel' Dorset Buttons

These are made in lace making cotton thread. I am trying to find a linen thread fine enough to stitch them in at present. These buttons measure 1/2" or 12mm in diameter.

These buttons were used on the following items; from the 1790's to 1830s (Regency/Romantic Eras):-
Christening robes
Nightgowns (at the wrists)
Chemisettes and Cuffs
1830s Lady's Bust Bodice (under garment)
1790s-1830s Men's Shirts
1820s/30s Woman's Wrapper/Peignoir
Baby's and Children's clothing

There is a pair of stays from 1798 in the Colchester and Ipswich Museum UK, with 3 of these Dorset buttons down the front. I have also seen them on a 1730s gentleman's waistcoat., which can be viewed in this previous post.

Late 1820s/Early 1830s Wrapper with Blanford Dorset buttons to the wrists

1820s Lace Cuffs with Blandford Dorset Buttons

If you are lucky enough to have the book "Underwear: Fashion in Detail" by Eleri Lynn, then in there you will be able to see images of these buttons on a 1820s/30s man's shirt, and on a bust bodice c.1800-1830. An early 1800s nightgown which I sold recently also had them at the cuffs. My reproduction buttons aren't quite as fine as the originals, but I'm not sure if my eyes could cope with trying to make those back stitches on such fine thread. Incredible work.

These buttons can be viewed alongside my other reproduction buttons in the shop here.

Naomi x

Monday, 28 September 2015

Late Nineteenth / Early Twentienth Century Bust Bodice or Bust Improver

I was lucky enough to find another very rare item a couple of weeks ago, and have just completed the listing for it over on Antique Historika. It is a late 1890s, early 1900s bust bodice or bust improver:-

These structural bust improvers were used to create the 'mono bosom' or 'pouter pigeon' look of the late 19th and early 20th century. They were worn over the corset.

It is worn by passing the cotton tape shoulder straps through loops at the side, and is then ties at the back centre.

It has its original maker's label inside- 'J. Rosenbaum & Sons Corset Makers London'.

It is a small size, about 32" bust. It is made on a white cotton net, with plastic boning. The beautiful lace trim has its original silk ribbon.

On an aside, I have been busy lately reassessing the 'Historika' side of my business over the last 6 months or so. Since moving to the West Country, the time that I have had in the workroom has lessened, and I do feel that now is a good time to stretch my wings, and change things up a bit. More on that soon...

Naomi x

Monday, 17 August 2015

Back to Work...

So I have had a couple weeks holiday, which has left me feeling refreshed and ready for work. This is just as well, as look what will be keeping me very busy for the next few weeks...

Here we have 30 or so items, all the way from Scotland, (which have been in storage for many a year), all waiting to be loved and brought back to life.

There are nightgowns, drawers, petticoats, a pair of working sleeves, camsioles, and a beautiful linen Edwardian skirt. Happy days!

Naomi x

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Late 1880s Bustle Petticoat

As I haven't blogged much about what I have been working on for my customers lately, I thought that I would remedy that by posting this pretty 1880s bustle petticoat project I completed for one of my very valued regular customers.

We used these 2 petticoat drawings, and came up with a mixture of the 2:-

From Period Costume for Stage and Screen, 1800-1909

Illustration from the 1880s

I used one of the patterns from "Period Costume for Stage & Screen: Patterns for Women’s Dress 1800~1909" – Jean Hunnisett, adapting it for a bustle petticoat. My customer requested a placket and original Victorian button at each side of the petticoat, and a drawstring at the back. There are 2 darts to the front, and the petticoat is made up of 5 panels. For the rear ruffles, she debated about having plain fabric or this gorgeous broderie anglaise trim. I'm very glad that she chose the latter, as it looks wonderful. And strangely enough, I saw an extant 1880s petticoat with broderie anglaise trim on ebay just about the same time as I was completing this; the first one I have come across. The lace and ribbon trim around the hem is the customer's own, which adds a lovely touch I think.

Cotton Late 1880s Bustle Petticoat with Broderie Anglaise Ruffles

I very much enjoyed this project, especially as I haven't done much at all from the 1880s. I am beginning to fall in love with the Victorian period.

Naomi x

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Extant Parasol 1890-1900 ~ Accessories for my 1890s Outfit

So I am pretty sure that this is the last of my accessories bought for my 1890s ensemble. I have been looking for a parasol for some time, but the ones I saw were either too badly damaged or too expensive. I stumbled over this one the other day. It looked in very good condition. I really don't have the time to recover one, and wanted to avoid that if possible.

If you do want to have a go at covering a parasol, this post by American Duchess is very useful. In the comments below there was a link to this book 
"Sticks in Petticoats:Parasol Manufacture for the Modern Costumer (Full Color)"

It looks very good, great to find such a book on a much neglected subject.

So here are the photos of my lovely parasol. It is black with gold stripes, closes around the top of the parsol with a pearl button and metal ring, there is a metal ferrule cap, and a beautiful wooden handle. It is not perfect; there was one split in the canopy almost from one end to the other. I decided to sit down today and handsew this together again. I won't really be opening it up, as it is a prop, but the threads were visible from the outside, so I decided to rectify this. There are 3 or 4 other small splits throughout. The tassels are in superb condition, lovely to see.

There are a couple of books in my bookcase with references to parasols and umbrellas. Leafing through "Umbrellas and Parasols" by Jeremy Farrell, I found this (unfortunately black and white) photo with a parasol in the middle almost exactly like mine:-

The only difference is that mine has a curved handle. The book reads:-
 "These are examples of the plainer styles of parasol which were available in a twenty year period... By the end of the 1880s black and white moire became fashionable for the plainer parasol foreshadowing simper styles in the 1890s.
 Centre- black cotton twill cover printed with silver lines; tapering chip-carved ebonized wood handle, 1890-1900."

The date is a perfect match for my early 1890s outfit, wonderful! I am delighted with it, and am amazed at its condition.

naomi x

Monday, 15 June 2015

Extant Corded Bonnet and Cap - Mid Nineteenth Century

Here are images of two of my latest acquisitions. How I love caps! So beautiful and all so very different.

Mid 19th Century Cream Cotton Cap

This 1840s-60s cap is made from a beautiful chequered light cotton in cream. It is very pretty, with narrow ruffles framing the face, with the edges minutely, exquisitely sewn into a scalloped shape. There are 2 areas where there is a piece of very narrow cording. The lovely featherstitch embroidery was originally first seen on farmers' smocks of the 18th century.

One of the best places to search through for many examples of caps and bonnets is The National Trust Collection. It is always good to use both cap and bonnet as search terms. Caps are notoriously challenging to date accurately. There are so many differing styles, some more fashionable at the time of use than others, and the styles favoured by older women were often different to the younger ones. But looking through the collection, a fair few similar in style to mine here were dated 1840s-60s. The fabric points certainly to the 1850s to my mind. It is super to see so many 'plain caps' in the collection as well. Another form of art to study which is ideal for cap shapes are silhouette paintings.

Another cap came with the one above. I was quite excited by this one as well as I am always interested to see rural clothing and accessories:-

Mid Nineteenth Century Corded Rural Cap or Bonnet

We are used to seeing so many of those later Victorian corded bonnets, or sun bonnets, with the long skirt at the back to cover the neck. I did look for evidence of stitching along the hem in case it had had a skirt at some point, but failed to see any. Perhaps one was removed at some point, and then a strip of fabric was sewn to the edge to cover any stitches completely.

I have just bought an 1830s cap off ebay, so now wait with bated breath to have it in my hands!

naomi x

Sunday, 31 May 2015

1730s Gentleman's Waistcoat Panel with Dorset Buttons!!

My fascination with Dorset buttons means that I am always looking for Dorsets on different types of clothing. A couple of weeks ago I squealed with delight to find this item on ebay:-

c.1730s Linen Gentleman's Waistcoat

It is a gentleman's eighteenth century linen waistcoat, (or at least a panel of the waistcoat), with 11 Dorset thread buttons, Blandford Cartwheel style.

Now so far I have seen these buttons on the following nineteenth century items :-

Christening robes
Nightgowns (at the wrists)
Chemisettes and Cuffs
1830s Lady's Bust Bodice (under garment)
1830s Man's shirt
1820s/30s Woman's Wrapper/Peignoir

Blandford Cartwheel Dorset Buttons on 1730s Waistcoat

So this was very exciting for me. Looking at the style of waistcoat, with its incredible drawn threadwork, the buttons fit so well that I am sure they are original. The lady that was selling it dated it to around the 1730s. It comes from the collection of the late Harry Matthews, who was one of the founders of The Costume Society. Most of the collection went to the V&A, although some was sold privately.

Panel of 1730s Gentleman's Linen Waistcoat

The  work is simply exquisite.

Embroidery and thread work on 18th century waistcoat

I have noted how many Dorset (or Dorset in style) buttons are to be found on pillow cases. Lately I've also seen an early 20th century piece of baby's underclothing and 1920s envelope chemise with what look very much like these Blandford style buttons, but they have a fabric backing, so a little different to the originals:-

1920s Envelope Chemise with Dorset style buttons

I must say a big thank you to Jenny Sargeant from derbeatle on ebay, who has very kindly allowed me to use her images. She always has the most fascinating items for sale, specialising in lace and whitework.

Naomi x