When I first started this blog, I was an unemployed costumer attempting to create period gowns and costumes with very limited means. Although now employed, I still try to be as thrifty as possible. I am still "The Broke Costumer"!

In addition to posts about the outfits I make on a budget, this blog includes short research articles on fashion, history, accessories, styles, or whatever interests me at the moment.

I hope you enjoy my journey into the land of inexpensive costuming and short articles.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Fortuny Gowns - Delphos and Peplos

 Mariano Fortuny was a Spanish fashion designer and came from a family full of artists. He painted, designed textiles, and created women's clothing among other artist pursuits. However, he is most notable for inventing the Delphos gown, a dress that broke with the fashionable silhouette of the period. Fortuny created his signature Delphos gown in 1907, repeating the design with minor changes until his death in 1949. The Peplos version features a tunic attached at the neckline, falling in points to the hip, giving the appearance of a two-piece garment.

"His wife, Henrietta, was an experienced dressmaker who helped to construct many of his designs. They lived in a palazzo in Venice. Fortuny drew from styles of the past for his fashion design as well, inspired by the light, airy clothing of Greek women that clung to the body and accentuated the natural curves and shape of a woman’s body.  Fortuny rebelled against the style lines that were popular during his time period and created the Delphos gown, a shift dress made of finely pleated silk weighed down by glass beads that held its shape and flowed on the body. He also manufactured his own dyes and pigments for his fabrics using ancient methods. With these dyes he began printing on velvets and silks and dyed them using a press that he invented with wooden blocks that he engraved the pattern onto. His dresses are seen as fine works of art today and many survive, still pleated, in museums and many people’s personal collections."  wikipedia

"This lightweight gown is based on the pleated linen chitons worn by Greek maidens 2500 years ago and seen today on Delphic Greek sculpture. The Fortuny Delphos and Peplos gowns have preserved the poetry of line of the Greek robe. During the Classical period (5th-4th centuries B.C.E.), Athenian women often wore the Peplos in public as a body length garment.

Fortuny used a thin silk satin more finely pleated than anything ever seen in costume. The resulting garment is incredibly soft and liquid, molding to the curves of the body. The richly modulated color of original antique Fortuny gowns, achieved by a series of dye baths, has a mysterious, enchanting depth that cannot be found in modern textiles." 
 Link to full article and more photos here

"It's still partially a mystery how Fortuny achieved these famed pleats — they were gathered by hand and went through a heat-setting process. The secret method involved laying wet silk on porcelain tubes that were heated. Many designers have tried to recreate his pleats, but Fortuny's remain one of a kind. The gown was stored twisted in balls to preserve the pleats, but when the pleats began to wear out the dress could be sent back to Fortuny for repleating.  The Delphos gown was considered anti-fashion when it came out in 1907, but gained popularity throughout the next 30 years. It helped usher in the fashion for soft and draped shapes, tunics, and, most importantly, the rejection of the corset. As women's dress became more liberated and daring, the Delphos gown transitioned from an at-home dress to an evening gown in the 1920s and 1930s."   Source 

Worn uncorseted, and echoing the lines of the ancient chiton, Fortuny’s gowns had a forward-thinking, body-freeing simplicity. But the craft processes used to create them – pleating, cutting, cording, weighting with tiny glass beads – were of course incredibly elaborate.    Lillian Gish in Delphos below.

Right, Mrs. Selma Schubart, by Alfred Stieglitz, 1907. Metropolitan Museum of Art


Above left, Fortuny dress (Delohos, 1907) and cape (Cnosos, 1906) exhibited at the Museo del Traje in 2010 as part of a Fortuny exhibition.   Amigos del Museo del Traje

His style was distinctly classic, a robe which slipped over the head and tied simply with a cord at the waist.  He first showed his work in Venice around 1907, and later in Paris.   His technique never changed.  Fortuny also printed fabrics and stenciled velvet (about right) for his fashions as well as for use in interior design.  His dresses were considered status symbols during the 1920s and 1930s and remain rare, expensive and collectible items today.

Below left, the Delphos gown was inspired by a famous ancient Greek sculpture called Charioteer of Delphi, from the sanctuary of Apollo at Delphi c. 470 B.C. Cast bronze.  Archaeological Museum, Delphi.   Below right, a James Abbe Photo of Natacha Rambova in a Fortuny Delphos.

 Three adopted daughters of dancer Isadora Duncan in Fortuny Delphos gowns; L to R: Lisa, Anna, & Margot, circa 1920s.               

On the right is a lovely Delphos gown from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Please see this link to read all about this piece, and about Fortuny, who left only one document related to the development of his jewel-toned gowns—a patent for heated ceramic rollers through which the silk was passed to set the pleats.

Below are two Peplos gowns (with tunics)  from the Met Museum.

Msfabulous.com had this wonderful photo from a Fortuny exhibit in 2012 at Queen Sofia Spanish Institute in New York. 

On these gowns were beautiful, gold stenciled belts.
In Conclusion:
Liveauctioneers.com had this gorgeous green Delphos for sale in 2011.  Their description reads:  FORTUNY DELPHOS GOWN and BELT with ORIGINAL BOX, c. 1920. Sleeveless spruce silk having fixed gently scooped neckline, white and amber Murano glass beads on silk cord decorating the armholes and side seams, gold stenciled silk belt with bow over hook & eye closures, selvedge stamped "Fabrique en Italie . Fortuny Depose". L-58, Belt-30. Drum shaped box with Fortuny Madison Avenue shop label and original card with care instructions.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

1960s Paper Dresses

 During a Pinterest surfing session, I came across this interesting, colorful ad from Hallmark. A PAPER dress?

The copy reads:  “Surprise!  A new paper dress with a party to match!  The invitation matches the party centerpiece. The centerpiece matches the plates, cups and napkins. The table settings match the snack bowls.  The snack bowls match the gift wrap on the party gift. The gift wrap matches the bridge tallies, table covers and matchbooks. And the whole flower fantasy matches your swinging new party dress."

I had to look into this!

These dresses were a simple, knee length shift, (which could be cut shorter as desired) constructed from non-woven cellulose tissue reinforced with rayon or nylon. The "paper" dress usually featured bold printed designs and was meant to be thrown out after a few wearings.             
My guess is they were probably similar to dryer sheets or dried out makeup remover cloths.  I have read them as being compared to dry Handi-Wipes.
Scott Paper Company created these dresses in 1966 when it introduced two new paper dresses as premiums to promote its new line of "Color Explosion" paper products. The company printed its two dresses with gift wrap designs — one a black and white pop art pattern and the other an orange-red, yellow, and black paisley print.   Right are the Paper Caper dresses.

"Scott's dresses, sold as "Paper Caper" products, were not purely paper, but an "un-paper" that the Scott company called Dura Weve. This consisted of 93 percent paper-napkin stock reinforced with rayon webbing, a combination that made the material more durable than standard paper and gave it a more fabric-like drape. The dresses came in the two prints, four sizes, but only one style — an A-line shift cut from two pieces with no sleeves and a patch pocket on the hip. Customers who purchased the dresses paid $1.25 and received coupons for Scott's toilet paper, paper towels, and napkins." Source  Scott did not produce the dresses for long, but other companies stepped up.  A quick look on google search came up with some of these companies, which used the dresses for advertising.

Yellow Pages.   Fill out the coupon and send in $1.00.
Johnston’s Pies.  Only $1.25!
Break hair products.   Send in a box top and $1.00  and get a groovy dress!
Campbells Soup Dress.  Send in 2 soup labels and $1.00 Candy bars.   Send in a candy wrapper and $1.25 for a Baby Ruth or Butterfinger dress

Within a year of Scott's promotion, paper fashions were on sale in major department stores. Some, such as Abraham & Strauss and I. Magnin, created entire paper clothing boutiques. At the height of the craze, Mars Hosiery of Asheville, N.C., was reportedly manufacturing 100,000 dresses a week.     link

By 1967, Mars Manufacturing Company of Asheville was the nation's leading producer of paper dresses, selling 80,000 to 100,000 a week. From its basic A-line shift, the company expanded its line to include bell-bottom jump suits, evening gowns, aprons, men's vests, children's dresses and even bathing suits.  

Some of my favorites are portrait dresses.  These include musicians such as the Beatles and Bob Dylan.
Politicians like Bobby Kennedy, Humphrey, McCarthy, Rockefeller, Reagan, and Nixon were also printed on dresses during election time. 

FIDM of course has a great article on paper dresses.  Read here    This photo is from the FIDM site.  An advertisement for Poster dresses, the latest in London wear.

 TWA debuted paper stewardess serving dresses in 1968 to reflect the regional cuisine that was being served onboard. The four styles included “British wench,” “French cocktail,” “Roman toga,” and “Manhattan penthouse pajamas.” These dresses were made of a fabric-like paper that’s a little tougher than the paper you write on. “They were disposable so the flight attendants would only wear them once or twice.”   source

LOVE this one on the left.

Right is Actress/Model Jane Asher, Paul McCartney's former fiance, in her paper dress.

 Well known fashion designers also jumped on paper couture.

Right, Wastebasket dress by Massimo Vignelli (1968)

Left, Paper dress by Sylvia Ayton and Zandra Rhodes (1966)

 Right, Oleg Cassini for Baby Magic lotion.  A maternity dress, and party-after-the-baby dress.  These were pricey.  $4.50 each!  

Following are some photos of how they were packaged.

 By 1969 paper dresses had lost their appeal. Wearers found they could be ill-fitting and uncomfortable, the printed surfaces could rub off, and there were concerns about flammability and excessive post-consumer waste. Plus, they had simply lost their cutting-edge appeal due to overexposure.   Form fitting, body conscience fashions were on the rise, and the paper dress faded away.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

What's Up With Your Hair?

Several years ago at a costume event, I was approached by a woman who asked me “What’s up with your hair?”   At that time, I had a blunt cut bob, not an "historical hairstyle".  I was at a loss for words and just walked away. A woman nearby overheard and asked if I had the Kyoto Museum costuming book.  I said I did, and she told me to look at a particular painting in the book.  When I returned home, I took out the book and found it.   The painting has a woman who pretty much had my hairstyle.  It is called  "Memories (Lawn Tennis)" by Fernand Khnopff.  Note the woman in white to the left. She looks the most comfortable of them all.
Let’s look at some of the reasons cutting the hair might have been necessary:

    1.  Illness.   For long illnesses, hair would become dirty and matted over time, and would be cut.  They also believed if the patient had a high fever, cutting the hair cooled them down.  In 1917, the Royal  Romanov children all had their heads shaved when they caught the measles.

Anastasia on the left, all the Romanov children on the right.


2.  Hair Disorders. Thinning hair, falling hair, bald patches, etc.
3.  Vermin.   Lice, bedbugs and other varmints.
4.  Damaged Hair.   When curling tongs were in vogue, hair became severely damaged from the constant use of hot irons.  Occasionally hair became scorched and often had an unpleasant odor that had to be masked with heavy perfumes.  It was not uncommon to have one’s hair reduced to a wool-like texture. 
5.  Becoming a Nun.  A wonderful nun has a blog called Ask Sister Mary Martha.  A novitiate asked why sisters cut off their hair.  Sister MM replied “cutting off all your hair in the most ghastly, freakish way with dull scissors became a way to show our humility before God, to give up the worldly. I don't mean it was a ghastly, freakish thing to do. I mean it was purposefully done in the most chopped up, lopped off fashion one could muster.”  Sister Mary's Blog
6.  Need for Money.   We are all familiar with the story of Little Women, wherein Jo sells her hair for money to send her mother to her ill father’s side.  Also, in the Gift of the Maji, the wife sells her beautiful hair to buy her husband a Christmas gift.  Victorian era hairpieces were getting larger and more complicated, requiring a need for hair donors.
7.  Punishment.  Various crimes, prostitution, shaming.

Now lets look at those who chose to cut their hair.

Bals des Victimes.   This is great subject matter and deserves its own blog post!  Here are the basics. 

The Bals des Victimes, or victims' balls, were balls that were said to have been put on by dancing societies for a short time after the Reign of Terror. To be admitted to these societies and balls, one had to be a near relative of someone (and prove it with paperwork) who had been guillotined during the Terror, which was a  period of violence that occurred after the onset of the French revolutionary war, marked by mass executions of “enemies of the revolution”. Some say the guests bowed to each other with extreme head jerkings, to reenact decapitation by the guillotine.

The symbolic outfit, the costume a la victime  for women, was a white Greco Roman style, with a red ribbon or string around their neck to represent where the guillotine blade sliced through their neck.  Red ribbons sometimes crossed the bodice, and occasionally were tied around bare feet. Women also wore red shawls to identify themselves as victimes

The hair of the victime was shorn short, almost ragged looking, as their family members had done to them, so they could be beheaded in a single clean swipe. This was known as the coiffure a la victime or coiffure a la guillotine. These fashion plates show the style of dress and short hairstyle. Those women who did not choose to cut their hair, wore it tucked high to achieve the same effect.
below left:  Croisures à la victime

Madame Arnault de Gorse by Louis-Leopold Boilly



This fad seemed to be short lived and the more attractive a la Titus hair style came into fashion.                                        
Madame Fouler (Henriette Victoire Elisabeth d’Avrange), comtesse de Relingue, with coiffure à la Titus, by Louis Léopold Boilly, 1810

Free from heavy wigs, men and women both wore a version of the a la Titus, similar to the busts of Ancient Roman Emperor Titus.  Even men who were bald and wore wigs, styled  it a la Titus.  Beginning in 1796, women started wearing their hair a la Titus.  This lasted until approximately 1809 with several variations. 

"The short, sometimes curly hair combed forward “a la Titus” (both men and women) depicted a masculine head.  On women, the ultra short hairstyle complements the feminine robe en chamise.  This gender bending style exteriorizes the wearer’s confidence in her intellectual prowess (the masculine head) and her sexual appeal (feminine body)”   Helena Gosilo and Beth Holgren “Russia-Women-Culture                                                                                      

Adventurous women like Lady Caroline Lamb wore short cropped hairstyles "à la Titus", the Journal de Paris reporting in 1802 that "more than half of elegant women were wearing their hair or wig à la Titus", a layered cut usually with some tresses hanging down.
From Ruby Lane, a miniature painting
Amalie Wolff-Malcolmi by
Johann Friedrich August Tischbein

1840s and 1850s

"Women shared fairly equally with men in running the Oneida Association, a Perfectionist community established near Syracuse, New York in 1848.  Almost from the start, they adopt the Bloomer costume and short hair;  they later take on "manly" work and invade the machine shop."  "Timelines of American Women's History"  by Sue Heinmann.

 Photo courtesy of the Oneida Community Mansion House.

In the 1850's, suffrage gatherings with speakers, who occasionally wore the bloomer costume ...."the loose trousers, even with a skirt worn over them, shocked many in the audience.  (Their) bobbed, short hair was also frowned upon"    "The American Victorian Woman the Myth and the Reality" By Mabel Collins Donnelly. 1986

"Dr. Mary Edward Walker was the only woman in her medical school class in 1855. Her medical practice floundered because few people trusted a woman doctor. Walker volunteered her service to the Union Army, but was not allowed to enlist, so she served as a volunteer. She was not allowed to serve as a doctor, either, so she served as a nurse—at first. Walker ministered to the wounded at the First Battle of Bull Run and worked her way into the position of a field surgeon's assistant. She was awarded an army commission 1863, but was still technically designated as a civilian worker. Walker was taken by the Confederacy as a prisoner of war for several months in 1864 and was accused of being a spy. She continued to serve until the end of the war. In 1865 Walker became the only woman ever to receive the Medal of Honor."   "Women in Medicine"   Mary wore her hair short and continued to wear suits until she died.


During the civil war, many women cut their hair and disguised themselves as soldiers in order to fight for their country.   There are over 400 documented cases of women fighting in the civil war.  Read more here

Frances Clayton was one such woman.

Sarah Emma Edmonds (Private Franklin Thompson)  fought for the Union.
Sara Rosetta Wakeman fought as Private Lyons Wakeman (right)

 Jennie Hodgers enlisted in the 95th Illinois Infantry under the name Albert Cashier. She was accepted as “one of the boys” and considered to be a good soldier. After the war she continued to live as a man.  "In November of 1910, Hodgers was hit by a car and broke her leg, and her secret was discovered. The local hospital agreed not to divulge her true gender, and she was sent to the Soldiers and Sailors Home in Quincy, Illinois to recover. Hodgers remained a resident of the Home until March of 1913, when due to the onset of dementia, she was sent to a state hospital for the insane. Attendants there discovered her sex and forced her to wear a dress. The press got a hold of the story and soon everyone knew that Private Albert Cashier had been a woman in disguise." Civilwar.org

Non-conformist, provocative and quick-witted, Henrietta Dugdale  (1827-1918)  was a pioneering advocate for the rights of Australian women.  She was an ardent activist, and still managed to have three husbands and several children.  She was a radical, free-thinking feminist. In 1884 she took office as inaugural President of the Victorian Women's Suffrage Society, convinced that the vote would help women achieve equal social, legal and political privileges with men. When she advocated reform of women's dress some accused her of sacrificing her modesty.  She devised her own version of rational dress, a homemade divided skirt with a tunic top which she wore without a corset. She cut her hair short.

 Augusta Zadow
Left,  Portrait of Augusta Zadow, the first woman Inspector of Factories. Taken from the Weekly Herald newspaper 17 July 1896 page 1.

Zadow spoke in favor of women's suffrage and was a supporter of the Women's Suffrage League

 These teen girls look like they may have been ill and had their hair cut off.

 A beauty with short, curly hair.



"As the century progressed, the New Women (1890s) who were deemed mannish in their quest for power and knowledge became increasingly associated with men’s hairstyles.  The new intellectual woman was visualized as plunging into science after having cut her hair short to be in proper context for Professor Huxley’s lectures. ....There is the manly young woman she certainly prefers short hair, otherwise she will not be so easily mistaken for one of the other sex, the height of her ambition.   Short hair is a great comfort, besides, how shall she persuade mankind to believe in her masculine power of intellect if her mighty brow be softened by feminine curls?"     "Representations of Hair in Victorian Literature and Culture" by Galia Ofek


In 1908, the modernist couturier Paul Poiret broke dramatically with convention when he chopped the models’ hair for the presentation of his collection in Paris. In France the short hair style was called mode à la garçonne, that is, the hairstyle of a man.

The very popular dancer, Irene Castle,  became a major fashion trendsetter, initiating the vogue for shorter, fuller skirts and loose, elasticized corsets. She is also credited with introducing American women in 1913 or 1914 to the bob, the short, boyish hairstyle.

By 1917, many in the “smart set” were cutting their hair short and, in a few years, the bob was attaining epidemic proportions. This style was supposed to represent the ‘New American Woman’: a busy, active and independent woman, liberated from old social customs.  By the 1920s, bobbing one's hair became more commonplace, and even glamorous.

Left, Clara Bow

Right, Louise Brooks