Friday, November 19, 2010

Extending your dress budget

Living historians create their dresses as authentic as possible but after a while the dress seems to become rather blah from wear.  I wonder if women from that time had the same issues especially given their limited clothing supply.  What would they do to revive an old style or change the look?  Just like ladies today they added accessories.  One accessory that was popular was the pelerine or a woman's short narrow cape with long pointed ends that met at the front.  It could be worn for extra warmth on a cool evening or embellished to add decoration to a gown.  From my research, most pelerines of high fashion were worn from 1830-1850's.  In the 1860s and 1870s, some women continued to wear capes and pelerines but these seem to be mostly older women who, just like women of today, had developed a style they liked and they were sticking to it.
I did not think that the pelerine went much past the 1860's until I saw this original black velvet pelerine from the 1890s.  The dating comes from the lace with which it is decorated indicating the 1890's.  This was a piece from the Brooklyn Museum of Art. 

So if you need to update your dress, consider adding a cape, fishu or shawl.
Other versions of perelines and fishus for changing the look of a dress. 

1 comment:

  1. I agree with Ann. Pelerines and fichus are a great way to extend a wardrobe for a reasonable price. (For evening wear, berthas are a similar option for changing the look of a dress.) These accessories are easy to wear, easy to make and easy on the budget. So, winners all around.
    You can find extant examples and fashion illustrations for inspiration. I have a few on my blog to start:
    Pelerines can be found in the same fabric as the dress or in a accessory fabric. In the case of 20s, 30s, and 40s dresses as well as some 50s, a pelerine of the same fabric can change the neckline of a bodice. Some same fabric pelerines are trimmed, allowing a bodice to change look. I tend to notice the use of the word pelerine earlier then the word fichu. (I may not be fully correct here, influence by costuming tendencies as I grew up.)
    Fichus come in a variety of shapes. Some rest on the shoulders coming to a gentle curve just below the bust; some come to a V reaching to the waist; some cross and drop below the waist.
    The great thing about making a fichu or pelerine is that many of them seem to be a base fabric trimmed with ruche or ruffles. You can take a pattern such as this one
    (pattern - ) and trim it to suit your taste or needs. A nice fichu can be made from a yard to two yards of a nice sheer cotton or silk. The length depends on the shape and the type of trimming.

    Another excellent garment catagory that is a nice way of extending the wardrobe is outerwear. This can include a wide variety of coats, mantles, mantillas, shawls and cloaks. Coats and cloaks can fall in the more expensive catagory. Since the idea here is to extend the wardrobe on a budget, I'll stick to mantles and shawls. Shawls of course are one of my favorite topics. A budget sensible shawl can be made from 2 yards of 60 inch wide 100% wool in either a solid or period plaid. Plain weaves tend to work the best. (When buying be sure to check if the cutting is square.) This 60x72 cut will give you a square shawl with 6 inches of fringe on either end. You can double this for a long shawl.
    I think many people shy away from other forms of outerwear because they think it will be to warm. This is not the case of the many, many sheer and light weight options available. A sheer white cotton mantle worn during a beautiful summer day can completely change the look of your dress and give you great teaching chances.
    Just a few thoughts while I should be sleeping. Great topic!
    Anna Worden Bauersmith