A little update including HSM

Colorful Fashion on Vogue from the 1940s and 1950s (18)

Sophia here sorry for the absence! I am proud to announce I start training for a new costume seamstress job tomorrow at a company that makes over 2 million costumes a year. I’m also working on several Halloween costume commissions and a friends wedding dress. That being said I am running a little behind on HSM. So far I have missed War and Peace from April and Brown from September. I plan on completing every challenge this year by the end of the year even if I have to rearrange a little. Also Erin has been working abroad in China and Japan and planing for her upcoming wedding! We still love running this blog and reading the comments also looking at other historical costuming blogs.

HSM Challenge 8: My Western and Indian Heritage

RobeDeStyle06I don’t frequently make things that incorporate my Indian heritage so this project was a treat. My father’s parents were both born in India and he was born in Pakistan. My mother’s family has been in the U.S. since the 1800s. I decided to make a Robe De Style out of one of my grandmother’s Saris, I inherited boxes of them when she passed away. I felt that the gold woven border would make a great 1920’s dress and after looking through many styles I decided to make a robe de style due to it’s feminine cut. Although I probably never had a relative that wore such a style, I’m sure my Ammi Ji (Grandma) would probably have really liked this dress. She was born in 1943 and died in 2008 and I know her older relatives all dressed rather traditionally. My Ammi Ji loved fashion contemporary and traditional. My mother’s side of the family came from Appalachian farmer stock. I’m also wearing my Mother’s mother’s art deco ring. On the table is her gold mesh purse, a pen my grandpa turned, a Paris travel guide from 1921, underneath is my grandpa’s Hoffman radio and I am holding an 1880s Franklin Edition of David Copperfield. Sadly I did not take many in progress photos but the construction of this dress was fairly simple. The bodice is french seamed and the tiers are hand hemmed the rest of the inside seams are pinked.

RobeDeStyle03   RobeDeStyle05



Milan 1929, 1920, Royal Ascot 1925, Unknown


British 1920, Worn by Mrs. John D. Rockefeller in 1920s, Callot Soeurs 1924


Seeta Devi 1925, Maharani Vijayaraje Scindia, Sisters 1930s

What the item is: Sari Robe De Style

The Challenge: Heirlooms and Heritage

Fabric: My grandmother’s vintage silk sari

Pattern: self-drafted

Year: Early to Mid 1920’s

Notions: none

How historically accurate is it? Fairly accurate I would say it passes the recognizable in its own time.

Hours to complete: Around 12

First worn: To take photos

Total cost: $0 thread was stash/ sari was inherited

HSF #7: Accessorize – with shoes!

Hi everyone! Erin here, and I’m back!! Finally! It’s been a crazy few months of work and travelling, but I am finally getting back into a regular sewing schedule with some ambitious projects ahead.
For the July challenge, I had a few projects in order (as usual) but the quickest and most practical was a pair of early 1920s summer shoes. I wanted to make some more accurate shoes for this year’s Jazz Age Lawn Party, because in years past I was always a little disappointed with the bedazzled gold options or T-straps with 4″ heels that I would end up going with last minute. I decided to make some crisp white summer shoes that might work for a wider range of eras. I put together some inspiration on Pinterest, and found my favorite trends: D’Orsay with Louis or Cuban heel, Mary Jane strap, minimal, and preferably French.

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Clockwise from bottom left: Etsy, Etsy, The Closet Historian, La Vie Parisienne July 1923

I found a pair of faux leather Hush Puppies from the 70’s(?) on Ebay that I thought I could fix up to make into an easy pair of summer shoes. The heel is low enough and the style is simple enough to work for 1920-1926. I picked up some Tarago White Color Dye (even though the shoes are not real leather, I thought this paint would give the amount of flexibility necessary for shoes) and went to it. I won’t be getting into the step by step here because The Dreamstress already put together a great tutorial that needs no elaboration.

The paint layer was already peeling off the toe very badly, I peeled even more until the toe looked smooth.
The full dye kit.
After one coat of dye
On the left, two coats. On the right, three coats

In the end it took about 6 or 7  or 9 (I lost track!) coats of dye to make these completely white. I was a bit worried it would end up looking like I took a bottle of White-out to the pair, but they dried a lot better than expected. Though they are still not ideal, I’m sure this dye would look much better on actual leather than my pleather pair. I still have more than half the bottle of dye left, so I will definitely be trying this again on actual leather. Anyway, I will let you judge for yourself- here is the finished project! I’m wearing them here with a 1980s does 1920s drop waist dress.

For a personal touch and to clean up the edges, I also painted the sole. I have never seen a historical example of this but I think it will be a nice touch for dancing!


The Challenge: #7 – Accessorize

Fabric: Faux Leather, dye

Year: 1920-1926

Notions: Brushes, scrub pad

How historically accurate is it? 0% for technique, 80-90% for look. They will definitely elevate any 1920’s look I add them to!

Hours to complete: less than 1

First worn: Only for this photo shoot! Hope to wear them in two weeks for Jazz Age Lawn Fest on Governor’s Island!

Total cost: About $25 total for shoes, dye, and scrubbers

HSM Challenge 7: Accessorize a Slightly Political 18th Century Hat


So you may have all ready had a glance of this hat in my out of my comfort zone post. I decided I wanted to represent the French Revolution at our local Bastille Day festival. And yes I know the dress I made has much more to do with the aristocracy, but I could fly my colors on my hat. I made a Tri-Color cockade and curled some turkey feathers to adorn the hat. I love making cockades now and want to put them on everything! Here is an article explaining the symbolism and history of cockades. Scroll for inspiration and more hat details.


Some simple extant examples of wide straw Bergère Hats


18th century hats in art


Hat remaking and decorating




A picture of me vending I styled a lot more funky and less historical day of.

What the item is: Bergère Hat
The Challenge: Accessorize
Fabric: Well it is a hat made out of a re-blocked men’s straw hat.
Pattern: None but I used this tutorial for the cockade.
Year:1720-1789 this style was popular for a long time but for my purposes 1789
Notions: synthetic tri color petersham ribbon, premade bias binding, 3 white turkey feathers
How historically accurate is it? Well my use of rather modern materials is not accurate but I think the look of the straw is very close especially compared to most modern straw hat bodies. But this style is a mishmash of a few different hats and it is only plausible that a hat like this existed especially this late in the 18th century.
Hours to complete: one afternoon
First worn: To accessorize my challenge 6 round gown shhhhh I made this first… but in public at my booth at the local Bastille Day Festival.
Total cost: The hat was $1 at a rummage sale, the other notions were about $8.

HSM: Challenge 6 Out of your Comfort Zone


For this challenge I made a “muslin” round gown, this was my first go at a full pre 1900 ensemble. I made this look for an upcoming Bastille Day festival I am vending at. I will also be addressing the details of my hat in my Challenge 7 post. First Some inspiration and historical photos then I’ll get into the little details. You can view the Pinterest board for many more examples.

Art examples

Examples from Art


Extant Examples

When I first started thinking about this challenge I was going to make a Chemise a la Reine but I personally find them to be frumpy. I am rather short waisted and think the round gown’s more fitted bodice suits me better. Since I will be wearing this outfit and be working I decided to make it walking length. It will also be 90 degrees and humid in Florida at this time of year so a muslin gown is perfect.


Once I found the most perfect fabric ever I was set to go. The fabric came from a long closed tailor shop and I can’t even capture how fine the texture and feel is in photos. I am of course counting on the seller to be truthful, but this fabric truly unlike anything modern I have seen. I also did a burn test to determine fiber and I believe it is a cotton silk blend. The silk net is from a possibly Edwardian hat that was so moth ridden and shabby I removed all the trim. This is what I used for the cuffs. The petticoat is from modern 100% cotton broadcloth and the bumpad is made from a dissected pillow. For construction information I consulted many many round gown examples in the Met and V&A. I saw that many had hook and eye from closures in the front, I am not sure if the way the bodice attaches to the skirt in the back is accurate. Koshka the Cat’s blue linen gown helped a lot in showing how to wear and construct a round gown. I also looked at some of Janet Arnold’s diagrams for information on petticoats and dress construction. Demode Couture was hands down the best recourse I found on skirt supports that were not panniers. I decided to make a quilted bumpad like hers from Encyclopédie Méthodique, 1785. I will be following up this post with the details of getting dressed. Keep scrolling for more photos and the challenge details.

RoundGown9 RoundGown8 RoundGown6 RoundGown3 RoundGown1

The Details

What the item is (and why it was out of your comfort zone): A “Muslin” Round Gown, Belt, Petticoat, Bumpad
The Challenge: Out of your Comfort Zone
Fabric: The Gown; 8 yards antique cotton silk blend sheer fabric that came out of a closed down tailors shop, 1 yard cotton poly in navy blue for the belt, a length of pin tucked silk net that came off of an unsalvageable edwardian hat. The Petticoat; 100% cotton broad cloth. The Bumpad; an old pillow for the stuffing and covering.
Pattern: Self-drafted
Notions: Hook and eyes and zip ties for boning at center front and back.
How historically accurate is it? The look is pretty spot on and my visible seams are had stitched. However because this was such a daunting task I sewed the long seams by machine and the underpinnings by machine. I am also wearing my transitional stays circa 1795-1800 underneath instead of earlier stays and a modern slip instead of a chemise GASP. I would say about 75%
Hours to complete: Hmm I lost track sorry.
First worn: To take photos, but I am going to be waring it for a Bastille Day street festival that I am going to be vending at.
Total cost: $37

HSM: Challenge 5 Practicality Dorothea Lange and the Dust Bowl


I always love working biography into my historical sewing. Exploring the lives of the people of the era you are emulating is fascinating to me. Dorothea Lange was a photojournalist that documented the people of the Great Depression and Dust Bowl. She was contracted by the Farm Security Administration, she freely distributed her photos to national newspapers. I decided to use her practical manner of dressing as my inspiration, I was drawn to her wide legged pants, short shirts and cropped hair. Temperatures during the Dust Bowl reached extremes so I thought cotton would have been practical.


A selection of Dorothea’s photos although I would suggest looking at more of her work including the photography of Japanese Internment Camps during WWII.

Some samples of wide legged pants looks I also took inspiration from.

I collect vintage notions and thought this would be the perfect challenge to use them.     image1        image2


The Details:

What is it: I based this outfit on the life of Dorothea Lange and her work as a photographer during the dustbowl. She wore practical clothes for her line of work so I chose wide legged pants and a half placket peter pan blouse both in cotton. I admit Dorothea was a little more serious than rick rack but it suited the era and I wanted to use some depression era notions I had. The inseam and side seams on the pants are flat felled and they open with a sailor front. The blouse has a half placket with a single button at the neck and slightly puffed sleeves.

The Challenge: Practicality

Fabric: 1 yard white basic cotton for blouse, 2 yards yarn dyed striped cotton for the pants.

Pattern: Self Drafted

Year: 1935-1939 going off of Dorothea’s period working with the Farm Security Administration.

Notions: Pre-War Buttons and Rick-Rack going off packaging design

How historically accurate is it? Extremely including the notions although this isn’t as hard for the 30s

Hours to complete: 4 for the pants 6 for the blouse

First worn: Today for the shoot but I think I’ll be wearing these pants often this summer.

Total cost:$20

Things are going Swimmingly

Hello All,

Sorry for our absence, I have been busy working on a swim capsule collection and Erin has been busy on a work trip to China. I wanted to give you an update on the retro style swim line I have been making, this is only a fraction of the looks I need to photograph the rest still. My amazing photographer is from Howdy Girl Studios. I’ll be posting my Historical Sew Fortnightly Post in the next few days.








HSF/M Challenge #3 Stashbusting Late 30s Rayon Dress

This challenge is pretty straight forward. I love late 30s early 40s fashion and feel like it fit in perfectly with stashbusting seeing make do and mend and the great depression.  I bought the blue rayon at a rummage sale in St. Louis I think it is 40s or earlier due to the type of dog and the style.

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The Details:

What the item is: rayon novelty print dress.

The Challenge: #3 stashbusting

Fabric: dog and dish print rayon and black cotton velveteen

Stashed for?: 5 years or more

Pattern: self drafted

Year: 1937-1942

Notions: one tiny vintage button and a pearl plastic buckle

How historically accurate is it? I would say 80% If the sleeves and hem were longer I would say 100%

Hours to complete: about 10

First worn: today for pictures but I love it and I am sure I will wear it again and again

Total cost: When I bought the materials I’m sure it was under $20

Not your Grandma’s GOOP, a 1924 Detox Diary

the road to beauty

Hi everyone, Erin here.
It’s been a long winter here in New York. Finishing off a delivered pizza and yet another frustrating episode of Girls the other night, I decided to curl up with The Road to Beauty*, a 1924 beauty manual I picked up last summer. Thinking I would come across entertaining tips involving arsenic complexion improvers and X-ray facials, I instead found a detox diet plan remarkably similar to the GOOP-approved diets women still use today!

The book is written as a pseudo- novel/instruction manual centered around three 40-something women on vacation together: Rose, described as short, plump, and motherly; Nona, tall and angular with strict habits; and Gloria, the Gwyneth Paltrow of the  group, who looks young and radiant and decides to whip the other two women into shape. The narrative follows them over the course of three weeks as Gloria instructs them in their paths to recovering their “twenty-years ago” selves using exercise, beauty treatments and detox diets – including, as I was so surprised to see, a juice fast!

Of course, the history of diet and exercise in America goes back further than we usually think. As early as 1850, girls were warned that they wouldn’t be ‘fit’ mothers if they did not exercise, though the idea of a “modern woman” who chose to do sports for recreation didn’t really take hold until the advent of the “Gibson Girl” in the early twentieth century.**

As someone who has tried modern detox diets in the past, I thought it might be fun to follow along with the book for a week and beautify as great-grandma would have done, for “research” (I’ll admit-  found this diet plan especially charming because you can eat bread and drink coffee, two things that every modern diet tries to eliminate). Though this book contains two separate diet plans, one for losing and one for gaining weight (I’ll summarize that one for you – eat cream with every meal), I will be adhering to the following basic rules for reduction:

ABSOLUTELY NO: “sweets, pastries, butter, fried foods, rich salad dressings, rich meat and fish sauces, starches (potatoes, rice, macaroni, spaghetti, and noodles), bread except a little whole-wheat or bran bread toasted.”
“Excess of meat- once or twice a week is enough”

ABSOLUTELY DO: “practically all vegetables, carrots, beets, string beans, asparagus, spinach, celery, tomatoes, onions, cauliflower, sprouts, turnips, all vegetable tops, dandelion greens, mustard greens, beet tops, and any others you can get. Dried beans, lima beans, and peas are rather high calorically speaking, but you may eat them occasionally as a meat substitute”
“Fish, except salmon, is good… but it should be boiled, baked, or broiled”
“A slice of pineapple every time [you eat] meat… helps digest it”
“plenty of fruit… cooked and raw”
“8-10 glasses of water daily”

And, finally, the actual diet plan:

Day One

-Upon rising, a glass of hot water with the juice of half a lemon. Ten minutes of exercises.
-Breakfast: Coffee, one slice of toast.
-Lunch: Tomato soup, celery, baked apple and a slice of zwieback.
-Dinner: Two poached eggs on toast with one slice of crisp bacon, orange salad with a little french dressing.

Day Two

-Glass of orange juice on arising, ten minutes exercise.
-Breakfast: Coffee, bran muffin.
-Lunch: Spinach salad, garnished with hard boiled egg and pimento, a slice of crisp toast.
-Dinner: Broiled fish, tomato aspic on lettuce, garnished with chopped egg and nut meats, or cottage cheese. Fruit.

Day Three (Liquid Day)

-Hot water with lemon on arising.
-Breakfast: Coffee and a slice of zwieback
-A glass of milk at eleven, sipped slowly; for lunch a cup of strong, clear soup; another glass of milk or cup of thin cocoa in the afternoon.
-Dinner:  Cup of soup and a glass of milk or fruit juice before retiring.

Day Four

-Glass of orange juice on arising, 10 minutes exercise
-Breakfast: Prunes, with a small portion of dry cereal and milk, coffee
-Lunch: Waldorf salad- apples, celery, and nut meats on lettuce with French dressing, a bran cracker or two.
-Dinner: A lean lamb chop, string beans, lettuce heart with a little French dressing, lemon jelly.

Day Five

-Hot water with lemon on arising, 10 minutes exercise
-Breakfast: Baked apple, coffee
-Lunch: Vegetable soup, a cracker.
-Dinner: Roast chicken, combination salad, slice of pineapple

Day Six

-Hot water with lemon on arising, 10 minutes exercise
-Breakfast: One scrambled egg on a slice of toast
-Lunch: Lettuce salad with mock Russian dressing (chili sauce with a little mayonnaise), a cracker
Dinner: Vegetable dinner, a corn muffin.

Day Seven

-Orange juice on arising, 10 minutes exercise
-Breakfast: Stewed figs, coffee, a slice of toast
-Lunch: Vegetable salad, a slice of zwieback
-Dinner: A small piece of steak, stewed tomatoes, asparagus tips with pimento and French dressing. Prune whip (a small portion)


* Burbridge, Mabelle Antonette. The Road to Beauty. New York: Greenberg, Pub., 1924

**Gordon, Sarah A. “Make It Yourself”: Home Sewing, Gender, and Culture, 1890-1930. New York: Columbia UP, 2009.