Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Inside the Australian Dress Register: Marjorie Wane's "Fairy" Costume, c. 1913

Girl's Fancy Dress "Fairy" Costume made by Louisa Wane (nee Killeen), 1913. Powerhouse Museum,  Sydney. A10343.
This garment is a fine example of a homemade child's fancy dress costume from the early twentieth century. The costume was designed and handmade by Louisa Honora Wane (nee Killeen) for her daughter, Marjorie Lydia Wane. It was worn to a St Mary's Sunday School concert in the suburb of East Balmain, Sydney c. 1913 when Marjorie was 7 years old. This dress is an excellent example of pre-war fancy dress. Due to the temporary nature of children's fancy dress very few costumes have survived due to fragility, lack of storage or the underestimation of their historical interest. 

During this period 'fancy dress' was popular for both adults and children in Australia.Fancy dress had a long tradition in seventeenth-century Italian carnivals and eighteenth-century masquerade balls. However, it was in the 1840s when the modern form of fancy dress was revived by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, who were enthusiastic promoters and planners of themed balls at Buckingham Palace. However, it was not until the 1850s that fancy dress became popular for children. During this period the Queen dressed her own children in elaborate costumes for special events and subsequently this activity became popular among the wealthy.

Marjorie (left) and her sister Doreen Wane, ca. 1910
Throughout the nineteenth century it was fashionable for costumes to represent historic royal figures from England's past. However by the beginning of the twentieth century it became more popular to dress children in costumes from their favourite fairytale books.  Many fairy stories and books emerged at the beginning of the 1900s, including those by Australian authors, such as The Fairies of Fern Gully (1903) by Ida Rentoul Outhwaite which showed fairies with native Australian flora and fauna. The elusive magical fairy became a favourite costume for young girls, as it was feminine and relatively easy to construct.

Marjorie and Doreen with mother Louisa Wane (nee Killeen)
The dress is made from a cream muslin fabric. It features a high round neckline, elbow length puffed sleeves, the high waist that was typical of 1910s fashion, a pleated bodice and gathered skirt. Gold sequins cover the dress, and the neck, sleeves, hem and waist of the dress are embellished with gold wire braid. Detail has also been added with gold coloured vertical stitching on bodice and horizontal sitiching on waistband and above the skirt hem. On the centre of the bodice is a gold sequined star. 

A pair of gold mesh and wire framed wings also designed and made by Louisa Wane accompany the dress, as did a gold wire star (here a reproduction). The costume was also originally worn with a star tipped wand.
Although many children's costumes during this period were made from cheap and easily sourced materials such old clothing or crepe paper, this dress appears to be made of fine materials and costly trims that were put together just for this costume. The costly materials used to construct this fairy costume indicate that it must have been very important to little Marjorie Wane and her mother, highlighting the consideration that was given to fancy dress events during this period, and in particular those that were hosted by institutions such as the local church.

For more detailed information about the manufacture of this garment and to explore others like it please visit the Australian Dress Register by clicking on the logo below.

*The Australian Dress Register is a collaborative, online project about dress with Australian provenance pre-1975. This includes men's, women's and children's clothing ranging from the special occasion to the everyday. Museums and private collectors are encouraged to research their garments and share the stories and photographs while the information is still available and within living memory. The project is facilitated by the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, Australia. All contents are copyright of the Powerhouse Museum and Contributors. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Ivory and Rose Lace 1910s Edwardian Gown & High Tea at Vaucluse House

For some reason or another, lately I've been stuck in the 1910s. Personally I blame Downton Abbey, but as we are currently experiencing the centenary of events such as the sinking of the Titanic and the start of WWI, I don't think I'm the only one!

Although I already have one teens outfit, a purple 1912-13 cotton summer dress, when I was invited to an Edwardian High Tea at Vaucluse house in Sydney I jumped at the chance to make another, slightly more elegant gown.

Vaucluse House is a beautiful 19th-century mansion and gardens located in the suburb of Vaucluse in Sydney. The original Vaucluse House was built by Sir Henry Brown Hayes, who had been transported to New South Wales in 1802 for kidnapping the daughter of a wealthy Irish banker. The Governor at the time considered Hayes "a restless, troublesome character" and so he forced to move 3 km away from the city. In 1803 Hayes was granted permission to purchase the land and house. He built a small but charming cottage and several outbuildings in the secluded valley of partly cleared coastal scrub. In 1827 the colonial explorer, barrister and politician William Charles Wentworth bought the house.

Over the next five decades, William and his wife Sarah developed Vaucluse into a large and picturesque estate with grounds that extended to cover most of the present-day suburb of Vaucluse. In 1915 Vaucluse House became Australia’s first official house museum and continues to entice visitors to its lush and still secluded grounds.

But onto the dress! As everyone knows, a good dress has to start with some inspiration. As I was going to a daytime high tea set in the gardens of a beautiful old estate I knew I wanted to keep the colour palette light: nothing too dark or rich in colour. I settled on a cream/ivory scheme after looking at these reference images:




The main inspiration however came from an extant gown belonging to fellow blogger Caroline from Dressed in Time. The gown is made from ivory silk and lace.


As the basis for the under dress I used Reconstructing History Pattern, RH1090, as well as Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion V.2 1860-1940. Both these patterns are drafted from the same extant gown which belonged to Lady Maude Warrender and now resides in the Museum of London. Click here for photos of the original and for more information. The dress is dated around 1909-10 by Janet Arnold.

I then used the inspiration images above to drape the overdress.

The under-dress is made from ivory satin and a dusty rose coloured lace. The over-dress is made out of a sheer cream chiffon fabric.


I had only a couple of issues with the pattern by Reconstructing history: firstly it seems to be missing a piece at the back, or rather I had to add an extra one. I don't know why this happened but I cut the same size in all the pieces and yet the top of the dress and the skirts didn't match up, so I had to add an extra panel to the back of the bodice. The top part of the dress is also a bit gape-y. I'm flat chested but when I used my well endowed friend as a mannequin it still didn't quite fit right. So I'm not quite sure what's going on there.

I also reinforced the parts of the sleeves that attached to the front of the bodice (and back) with strips of satin, as the lace is quite stretchy and I was afraid that the weight of the dress might make it pull easily.

The dress is essentially three layers: a bottom dress of ivory satin, lace over dress and sleeves, and another overdress made of white chiffon. A sash made from the ivory satin goes over the top of these around a high waistline. The dress fastens with hooks and eyes up the back.

For the event I wore the gown over my 1910-1914 longline corset. As it's still summer in Australia I opted not to wear my Edwardian combination underwear as the dress was hot enough already! My hairstyle was based on various images from the time, as well as television such as Downton Abbey. I've posted a tutorial for it here. Gloves, peals and a parasol completed the outfit. Thanks go to Andrew Heslop for taking these photos.


My friend Michaela who is not a sewer at all, managed (with the help of her lovely mother) to turn a dress she dug out of her wardrobe into a plausible Edwardian costume. This photo was taken in the beautiful sitting room of Vaucluse House.

Taken out in the back gardens, overlooking the stables and vegetable patch

And let's not forget the High Tea:

Michaela, Myself and Andrew in Vaucluse Gardens

Andrew also informed me about this cool little smartphone app called '8mm' that takes vintage looking film. I thought I'd film a little video in Vaucluse gardens just to show what the dress looks like in motion, as sometimes I feel that the true effect is lost in still images. Check it out below: 

The HSF '14 Challenge: #3 - Pink
Fabric:  3 metres of ivory satin, 1.5 metres of dusty-pink lace, 2 metres cream chiffon
Pattern: Underdress is a mix of  Reconstructing History Pattern, RH1090, as well as Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion V.2 1860-1940. Overdress was self draped.
Year: 1909-1912
Notions: Thread, hooks & eyes
How historically accurate is it? 90% The pattern for the under-dress is an exact replica taken from an extant garment, and the over dress is based on an antique garment owned by blogger Dressed in Time. Sewing techniques and colours are correct for the period.The only thing that makes this not 100% accurate are the fabrics - synthetic satin, stretch lace, synthetic chiffon and poly-cotton thread. However they are modern fabrics created to look like the authentic ones of the time which is why I'm only taking 10% off!
Hours to complete: 15-20
First worn: To an Edwardian High Tea at Vaucluse house in Sydney.
Total cost: I think the fabrics cost me about AU$50 all together + 5 for the hooks and eyes.
Approx. $55 AUD

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Early 1910's Hairstyle - Inspiration and How To

I thought I'd do a quick post on the hairstyle that I wore with my early teens tea gown to High Tea at Vaucluse house (the post for this dress is coming soon!)

I looked to many photos for inspiration but ultimately settled on a hairstyle I'd seen on the character of Lady Cora in Downton Abbey. Hairstyles in the early teens tended to be very soft and tossled. Unlike some of the earlier Edwardian hairstyles  the emphasis was not on volume, rather hair tended to fall nicely around the face, framing it.

Here some historical inspiration images:



Unfortunately none of these images really give a good idea about what the back of the hair looked like, that's when I went to Downton for inspiration. You've got to give it to the designers and makeup people on the show - they're attention to detail and historical accuracy it very good! So I trust them as a reasonably reliable source.

Eventually I settled on a hairstyle that Cora wears in Season One, Episode One.

Excuse the grainy screenshot!

What You'll Need:

  • Pin curl clips or a curling iron
  • Bobby pins
  • Hair rat
  • Hair band, ribbon or beads
  • Hairspray

To do this hairstyle I pin-curled my hair the night before but you can curl your hair however you feel fit. In the morning I took it out and gave it a quick brush through and created a side part.

At the back I sectioned off the lower portion of my hair close to the base of the neck. I then wrapped this hair upwards around a hair rat of the same colour.

Then I sectioned off the two front sections of my hair that drape around the face. I pinned these out of the way for the moment. (I didn't really take any more photos and for this I'm sorry!).

I then took the string of white beads and wrapped this around my head twice securing it with bobby pins just above the hair rat (NOT at the base of my neck). 

The inspiration for the beading in the hair actually came from something Rose wears in Titanic. I didn't want a headband (although they seem to have been quite popular at the time) because I felt it may overwhelm the costume! However you could substitute the beading for a headband quite easily in this hairstyle.

With the leftover hair at the back of my head I look small sections of hair, rolled them and then pinned them into place. Make sure you hide the edge of the hair rat when doing this. With the remainder of the beading I tried to pin it in a swirl shape into the hair.

Then with the front two sections I teased them to created a bit of body to frame my face and then pinned them into the curls at the back of my head. Hairspray to hold. 

I'm not sure if the above instructions make sense without photos, but hopefully from ones of the finished product below you will understand what I mean!



And with the costume:

There were a few fly-aways but overall I'm happy with how it turned out considering I didn't have a lady's maid to help me do it!