Friday, July 5, 2013

Book Review: Fashions of the Gilded Age, Volumes 1 and 2

I bought these books after perusing another book in Frances Grimbles' bibliography, with the understanding that they weren't going to be "easy" to use. I am not an experienced tailor by any means; with only three years of high school fashion studies class under my belt, I am largely self-taught. (I hated sewing until I discovered Gothic Lolita fashion. Why pay $300 for a dress that I could make myself? But that's a story for another day.)

They are less easy than I even guessed at. Some of the patterns are presented with an apportioning scale similar to those in Edwardian Modiste and Voice of Fashion, but otherwise, they are largely scaled drawings that you will have to enlarge and modify. These are going to be a challenge for me, albeit an exciting one.

I would say that these books are valuable to have in your collection regardless of sewing skill, if you have any interest in Victorian fashion and recreating it. There is a section on undergarments, including corsets (what does the "hideous" French corset look like?? I must know!), chemises and drawers. Volume 2 contains an extensive selection of accessories, hair pieces, jewelry, shoes, and outerwear. There is one pattern for a slipper, three for aprons, and various dresses and outfits though not as many as vol. 1. There is a HUGE section at the back on fitting and sewing techniques. It is worth it for this section alone. Volume 1 contains three corsets, several petticoats, and skirts and bodices galore! Volume 2 also contains a large section on sewing techniques and TONS of information on modifying patterns, and both volumes also have lengthy introductions to each section on mores that modern costumers may never have picked up on (for example, a white petticoat while travelling "[displays] vulgarity and want of breeding so completely". [Fashions of the Gilded Age Volume 1, page 347, originally quoted from Ladies and Gentlemen's Etiquette, 1877]).

I've had the books for just over a week and I flip through them nearly every day. I'm quite enjoying the information presented and really looking forward to attempting to make up some patterns.

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