Delightful serendipity! Yesterday I found a post about a strange Victorian hat-fitting device – The Conformateur. I had never heard of such a thing before, but the Victorians did come up with some fascinatingly innovative (though not always practical / functional) devices. Essentially, you place a piece of paper in the top of the device and place it on your head. “Fingers” in the device press to the shape or your head and make pin marks in the paper, late allowing the milliner to replicate the shape for a custom-fit hat.

Lots of pics on the originating site, including detailed shots of the workings and original diagrams. Here is another post about another conformateur owner who used 3D printed parts used to repair their device.

(Both posts were originally found on BoingBoing)

Thoughts on construction of the hat frame for the 1912 Project’s March Challenge Pattern, the Mad March Hat:
  • The provided diagram is misleading. It makes it appear that everything is round. This cannot be accurate as your head is oval. So you have an oval in a round shape. This also means that when the pattern measurements say that the width or the part that sits on your head is 2 5/8″, that will be at different angles at front, back and sides. This differs from most hats you might make today in that the headsize opening is usually the inside of the brim that you see, leading out to the edge of  the brim. This had has a headsize opening burried up and inside the sides of the hat. The inside frame could almost be free floating, but this would affect the tilt of the hat, which would probably look better at a static point.
  • I made a very rough frame (sorry, no pics, that would have required a third hand and Zaphod Beeblebrox I am not) to get an idea of the scale of the hat and how it would look with my face shape. (more…)
(When searching for a nice period Toque photo to show everyone, I happened to find this Titanic Hat via Wikipedia! “Mrs. J.J. “Molly” Brown presenting trophy cup award to Capt. Arthur Henry Rostron, for his service in the rescue of the Titanic. That’s the Unsinkable Molly Brown.)
When I think of hats of the Titanic era, I think of the giant brimmed picture hats, but of course, that was not the only hat worn. The 1912 Project has given us a March Challenge Pattern of a Spring Hat for Mature Women, which I’ve decided to dub The Mad March Hat.
In Alison Gernsheim’s book, “Victorian and Edwardian Fashion: A Photographic Survey” (Dover Books), we find an image of an older woman (more…)
(Early Century Combination from the FIDM Museum Blog – not the 1912 Slip!)
So the 1912 Project began and I was so excited. I couldn’t wait for my first pattern. But there was much admin and organizational work to do and I had to be patient. Eventually (about 2 weeks ago) I finally got a pattern. Not the Group 24 pattern, but the Feb Challenge Pattern, a slip (#0336). I have to admit I was disappointed. I’d seen the available patterns and had my heart set on a beautiful coat. The slip seemed dull and like nothing I’d ever wear.
One of the first things I do when I see a pattern for a particular period is do a little research. So I asked myself a couple questions:
  1. Since women in 1912 were still corseted, what would the slip dimensions be?
  2. If I were to make the slip, did I have the proper foundation garments?
  3. When did women start wearing slips in the first place? What happened to corset covers and petticoats? (more…)

While the 1912 Project as begun, I am still awaiting for my first pattern. The website is awash with pattern notes and first mock-up images as  the blouses, skirts and a slip are worked up and discussed. So far this a fun project to watch and I can’t wait to get my mitts on a pattern. I’m still hoping for a coat.

In the meantime, I was browsing the internet for something entirely different and a tangent off that topic led me to a pattern company called Sense and Sensibility Patterns. S&S Patterns has been around since 1996 and as I finally saw an image of one of their pattern envelopes I recognized them from an old Amazon Drygoods catalog (though I may be wrong), which has long been a source of costume inspiration, clothing and period lifestyle books and costume lust. I’m ecstatic to discover that rumors of Amazon Drygoods’ demise were false. Sense & Sensibility Patterns are all designed by the owner from her study of period garments, images and patterns. She has patterns ranging from the Georgian to the swing period, including a section on the Titanic era. She also has a section of tips and tricks, discussions on working with her patterns, alterations and customer’s images and sells digital versions of out of print clothing magazine articles and (out of copyright?) ebook versions of old clothing catalogs and sewing books.

Threads Magazine recently had a great article about The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s online collections database. The database is extensive, with over 43,000 costume pieces. Better yet, you can narrow your search down by time period, material, manufacturer and location. Each item listing includes photos, materials and maker info as well as time period, when known. The image quality is exceptional, allowing you to zoom in quite close on the details.

Here’s a piece I’m already interested in: a 1912 Egyptian Revival evening gown of silk, metal and rhinestone.

from The Metropolitan Museum of Art's online collection

I’m really fascinated by the lace detail on the right side (which I believe is only attached where the bodice and skirt join) and the way fullness is created on the back sides for the train. The front and back of the bodice are asymmetrical and the back gives the look of a second layer folded down over an under layer. The materials look rich in a way that we usually only see on the red carpet these days. I’m not sure, but I think the train may be slightly asymmetrical as well.

More after the jump. (more…)

The 1912 Project is about to start with 400 Test Sewers! We’ve been broken up into groups and patterns should be coming our way any day now. The official blog for the project can be found here. We will be starting with patterns from the April 1912 issue, as this is the closest to the sinking of the Titanic, then going back and working our way through the entire year.

What I really want to show you are some of the illustrations from La Mode Illustree 1912, issue #3:

The three items show are:

  1. Ladies Taffeta Dress (#0158) – blue taffeta trimmed in satin bias binding of the same color with plastron and under cuffs of pleated white tulle.
  2. Ladies Coat (#0168) –  gray velvet with white stripes with black velvet cuffs and lapels.
  3. Ladies Jacket (#0169) – a ladies wool coat with silk lining and velvet cuffs. I want this! I love the large lapels and the way the lining shows. This looks like it would lend itself well to having a hood, though I doubt the original did.

I can’t wait to see what pattern comes to the rogues first! And oh just look at those glorious hats!