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The Exhaustingly Imaginary Day Of A Lady, As Told By Her Dresses

Discussion in 'The Ladies Tea' started by JPK Huson 1863, Jul 17, 2017 at 8:39 AM.

  1. JPK Huson 1863

    JPK Huson 1863 Colonel Forum Host

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    base.jpg
    " But Mother, I tell you I cannot. Morning Dresses, Visiting Dresses, Home Dresses, Promenade, Carriage, Dinner, Evening, Ball Dresses, Storm Dresses, Bridal Visits Dresses, Mourning Dresses, Bathing Dresses, Shopping Dresses in which to buy more dresses! Whose idea was this? "

    " Hush dear, Mm Demorest will hear you. She's as gauche as Santa, about listening at doors. Do you want to be wearing a Depressed Dress, next week? "

    dem dinner.JPG
    " Dinner Dress " seems innocuous, perhaps so termed for dressy dinners or those households where you formally stopped the world and dressed up- for your evening meal.


    It isn't clear how much the general public noticed fashion. A little? This is Gettysburg, 1861
    dresses short from gettysburg paper 1863.jpg
    Ha!

    I'd like to point out some women just, plain quit. No snark please. Dr. Cox M.D. was one, a married mother and committed scientist, she simply felt the famous dress reform movement symbolized her place in the professional world.
    dress reform dr cox lg.jpg

    dress storm text.jpg
    Then I bumped into this, not just advise on ' Try not to get wet '- rules on how to LOOK while not getting wet.


    It pays to be realistic. As war tightened a pricey, bloody throttle hold on the South, these lovely images had little to do with life there. As iconic as hoop skirts, taffeta ribbons, bonnets and kid gloves and reticules and cameos may be, middle and upper class women hadn't gotten their hands on a copy of Godey's for months or years. Not that it mattered. Medicine for wounded, Confederate soldiers was smuggled under the sprung springs of crinolines ( which is a true legend ) , not fine fabric or fashion periodicals. Newspapers tell us women were preoccupied elsewhere.

    The thing is, hysterically, beyond a small segment of ultra wealthy on the North, no women could afford to live inside the increasingly demanding strictures of ' fashion '. No, really. We never saw it again, either. No sociologist or anthropologist- seems to me between Godey's and Demorest's, a fever pitch in unrealistic spending, lifestyle and exhausting expectation sank both ships. Godey's readership plummeted post war. Despite brilliant innovations in sewing machines, pattern making, employing women and marketing Demorest's targeted markets who simply did not exist. American women can't help it. We were not European peerage and just kinda wanted pretty clothing without all the rules. Can we blame us?

    carraige.jpg
    You changed from whatever you wore, to your carriage dress- BUT- how confusing! What IF you were going visiting FROM your carriage? * sigh *. No wonder the young girl is depressed.
    dress visiting.JPG
    And the reason for your visit? A bridal call. Uh huh.

    dress bridal call text.jpg

    morning2.jpg
    You were not allowed to sleep in this- but couldn't wear it past noon or...
    dress morng etiqutt.jpg
    ....... or be slatternly, for all you slatternly hussy wannabees.

    THEN you were allowed to be at HOME, in a HOME dress, if not too exhausted
    dress home.JPG
    Knocking over plant stands and small children, too. Honest. Mme Demorest's magazine, " Home Dress ". Isn't it wonderful? I'm smitten by Curtis's commitment to women, the thought of wearing this at home is just too entertaining not to share.

    dress eve.JPG
    Using this because she did create patterns women could use, at home ( in their Home Dresses ) to follow fashion. " Evening Dress " was much more normal, an event dress.

    dress promenade.jpg
    But....

    dress walking.JPG
    And.....although I like it, why promendade OR walking?

    shopping dress.jpg
    And dresses in which to buy more dresses...





    But no one ever went broke appealing to the fairy princess in all of us
    fairy princess.JPG







     
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2017 at 4:57 AM

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  3. JOHN42768

    JOHN42768 Sergeant Major Trivia Game Winner

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    You left out Mini Skirts
     
  4. NH Civil War Gal

    NH Civil War Gal Private

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    I learn so much from your posts and you do it with amazing humor! Growing up a tomboy, I would have been a nightmare for any middle or upper class Southern or Northern home. I *was* a nightmare for my prissy older sister!
     
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  5. Karen Lips

    Karen Lips 2nd Lieutenant

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    I wonder what the "average" southern woman wore on a daily basis.
     
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  6. JPK Huson 1863

    JPK Huson 1863 Colonel Forum Host

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    Goodness. Wish I could pretend to know. It sounds like the war left little choice no matter what walk of life? 18th Virginia's current thread, a ' bio ', has a Southern woman wearing threadbare, outdated clothes from pre-war, and being terribly self conscious when Sherman's wife arrives in fresh, fashionable new clothing. It hurt- you could see that. It wasn't who it was ( although it can't have helped ), it was not being able to just, plain take care of yourself.

    There was a lot of talk on homespun- reading papers, finding that wasn't quite true, either? There had been a ' Oh yea, well if you take our shopping, we'll wear homespun, to be patriotic! " movement, seems to have been man made. :giggle: I read it was itchy stuff! In Southern heat?

    There seems to have been a genius for ' making do ' but with what? It's a very good question, ' What did they wear ' the common denominator being awful shortages.
     
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  7. JPK Huson 1863

    JPK Huson 1863 Colonel Forum Host

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    Ha! Same prissy sister, too funny! Maybe there's a book somewhere they're all gifted with, outside of our knowledge? We're a chapter ' That ridiculous sister and how best to irritate her '. I was the one who had to leave my clothes on the back porch- no one wanted to deal with having the stables brought into the house, true story. Meanwhile, some boy was playing a guitar and singing love songs to her, in the front yard, also true story...... . I'd rather smell awful. So yes, I'd have been sent to a ' select female seminary ' in a big hurry, in the hopes some of this could be taught!
     
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  8. Gladys Hodge Sherrer

    Gladys Hodge Sherrer Sergeant

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    How much time was spent by ladies in changing attire those days? My favorite is the morning dress, but I fear I would look "slatternly", by continuing to wear it into the afternoon. :smile:
     
  9. Karen Lips

    Karen Lips 2nd Lieutenant

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    I think you are probably right about the homespun stuff. I remember my one of my great aunts telling about her grandmother ( my great-great grandmother) spinning cloth on her looms during the war.
     
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  10. MaryDee

    MaryDee Sergeant Major Trivia Game Winner

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    At least most women not in the "upper crust" financially didn't have to worry about all these clothes for different occasions! For many women, their wardrobe consisted of two or three dresses--the oldest one for housework and farm chores. and the newest one for church and visiting. Eventually the oldest dress wore out, the newer dress became the older, and a new one was made. In the meantime, the dresses would be refurbished to keep in fashion. Often a used dress in good conditiion would be purchased from a peddler or a used clothing dealer and remade into a "new" dress. Also, there was frequent need for a wrapper, the 19th century equivalent of a maternity dress, or an existing dress altered to provide an expandable waistline.

    Source: my notes from the "Conference of Historic Fashion, Textiles & Living History," Oregon City, OR, April 10-12, 2015. Most of the many original dresses we got to examine (the highlight of the conference!) showed signs of having been remodeled. In fact, on one the coat sleeves had been re-inserted backwards, proving that not all 19th century ladies were good at sewing!
     
  11. JPK Huson 1863

    JPK Huson 1863 Colonel Forum Host

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    No way! ( meaning I just received new information, as usual, from you. You remind me a lot of JamesB, on matters of dress ). Peddlers sold used dresses? Ha! No idea why these pieces of era trivia are so interesting, they just are., thank you!

    You know, had to go track down what you said, on re-making garments, adding sleeves or ' turning ' dresses out of sheer curiosity. Mom's aunt died leaving one of those attics fascinatingly full of bits 'n' pieces less nosy families ( or gr nieces ) would have pitched. Could not figure out why so many fully finished but butchered dresses were packed away. Bodices, sleeves and entire hems, mostly. And lace- yards and yards. OH and buttons obviously snipped from women's garments. Found, pre-internet so it took some finding, what you said, on re-using parts of dresses. In the South during the war, it must have been an art form, by 1865!

    That would have been me- and perhaps you should see if my gene pool was anywhere close by, the coat sleeve backwards?
     
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  12. MaryDee

    MaryDee Sergeant Major Trivia Game Winner

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    It certainly could have been me inserting the backwards sleeves, too. I swear I spend twice as much time taking out stitches and resewing as I do sewing the original seams! .

    One of the experts on used/reused clothing at the conference was Elizabeth Stewart Clark. I don't know if she has published anything on this topic; I believe she saves it for her lectures. Her talk on "Second-Hand Plumage" was fascinating! One interesting aspect of the used clothing trade involved stolen clothing (often stolen off clotheslines). Many of the used clothing dealers in New York's Five Points district were "fences." Frederica "Marm" Mandelbaum was the best known of these. She and her husband were considered pillars of the community. The New York police knew about her nefarious activities but were never able to arrest her.
     

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