Saturday, 8 November 2014

Every Woman in 1912

Last week my partner and I had a long weekend in country Victoria at the annual Wangaratta Jazz and Blues Festival. My partner, Geoff, is a veteran of this event being a die-hard fan of modern jazz, but it was my first time at the event. And what a marathon! Concerts from 10.00 in the morning until midnight - and I don't even like jazz! Having said that, it was a most enjoyable weekend, although I had to take time out on several occasions. On one of those occasions I took myself to the nearby historic town of Beechworth to trawl the antique shops for treasures.

I was delighted to buy a volume of Every Woman's Encyclopedia from 1912 (and for a good price too!) In a hard back loose cover are five volumes (one is missing, sadly) of this fascinating and most amusing publication. Here is a similar volume on sale from Amazon for $300! Admittedly, it has all six volumes in better condition than mine, but I still feel like I have scored a bargain.

Mine is the Eighth Volume.
Inside are five paperback publications like this:

Apparently this publication was very popular with middle class women and was considered to be very modern in its attitudes, encouraging women to be active in many fields, although it does stop short of saying they should be allowed to juggle families and careers.

Here is one of the delightful illustrations:

There are many of these Victorian type romantic illustrations, although there is no fiction published in this journal, so none of the romance stories typically appearing as women's entertainment in women's magazines later in the 20th century. This journal prided itself on being a "practical magazine" and is full of articles for the edification of the educated woman.

I read a scary article about the future of eugenics, which commented on how the government should give medical assistance to the healthiest individuals and should withdraw it from the unfit. Another article lamented the misfortune of a "mesalliance" and how any marriage between people of different classes was bound to end in misery. The same journal also ran a feature on actresses who had managed to snare a peer - no doubt the kind of mesalliance the writer of the first article had in mind. Here are some of those "lucky" gals:

My favourite part of these magazines would have to be the fashion illustrations. Some of these are photos, like this one:

This lady is wearing the latest Paris fashions for the spring of 1912. "A delighful gown  for outdoor wear in mousseline of a soft blush rose colour and satin of a deeper shade. An original and quaint hat in taffetas completes the toilette."
And don't you just love that "original and quaint" hat?

However, what I think I like even more are the line drawings of fashions for women and girls. Like this:

This is a bathing costume. "The modern sea nymph's toilet is a very winsome affair, of which the piquant little cap forms an important detail." I, however, prefer the ballet slippers, and I am imagining them full of sand.

Besides serious social comment and fashion, there are also, of course, the beauty articles. I did read the article on how to keep your teeth beautiful. Maybe they knew something we have forgotten?

This lady was celebrated for her beautiful teeth. I got all the way to the end of the article and the author, sister of the lady in the photo, didn't actually tell. As long as teeth were cleaned (with "anything to hand") all was good, and her life was too short to give up eating sweets. She did cite a celebrated actress with having told her secret - pass a piece of tape between the teeth every night. Who knew they did dental floss back then?

Of course, the main reason I sought out this publication in the first place was for the patterns, and there are many delightful patterns - knitting for babies, crochet lace and embroidery patterns. I was particularly taken with this design utilising beetle backs:

I have come across pictures of  gowns embroidered in this way before. I find it very creepy. Here is an example of an extant piece:

I was recently talking to my son-in-law's grandmother about embroidery, and she told me that she used to embroider using fish scales as sequins, an ingenious idea although possibly smelly. Actually, I looked it up and it was very pretty. I wonder how they dyed them.

Of course, a highlight of any vintage magazine is always the advertisements. These Pears Soap ads have been republished as posters for many years:

And who ever thought that one's corset rusting would be a feminine problem?

I didn't realise that the Edwardians were so conscious of health and fitness. The roots of calisthenics must have been in these exercises for girls:

And every volume has a section on first aid. I hope the models were well rewarded as they appear to be long suffering and are excellent at their job.

I was very surprised to read that caravanning and camping were considered excellent recreations for young women. I do think this must have been considered a very modern idea in its time. Groups of women could travel together, although it is advised that unless at least one young lady is particularly knowledgeable about horses a practical lad of 14 or 15 should be hired as a horseman. Mixed groups of young people could holiday "duly chaperoned by a married couple".

And finally, my favourite recreation appropriate for a young lady, staging a pastoral play at home:

This is barely the tip of the iceberg as regards the fascinating content of these journals. Some other fans have created a wiki which has scanned, transcribed and indexed the entire encyclopedia, published fortnightly from 1910 to 1912.'s_Encyclopedia_Volume_1.djvu

I am a bit sorry I have shared this newly discovered secret. Like the Flora Klickmann books in my earlier post, I will now have to compete with more readers for these gems should they ever surface on ebay. (and I did recently miss out on one of those, and they are going for more money) Must be my own fault - big mouth. I can't keep a secret!

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Viva Mexico!

It's been ages since my last post and having been away on holidays for four weeks is only part of my excuse. But a good part.
Amongst other places, we spent two weeks on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. This has to be the most colourful country on earth.

Colourful ceramics

Colourful houses
Colourful markets
Colourful Occupations

Colourful food

And the most exquisitely colourful embroidery.

 The embroidery we saw was mostly the work of Mayan women. This is either worked by hand, like the blouse above, or by machine. At the artisans market in Valladolid I watched women working superb and elaborate embroidery with vintage treadle sewing machines. I didn't take a photo, but in this still from Three Amigos you can see a Mexican woman in 1916 using a machine very similar to the machines I saw in use. I couldn't believe they were capable of such work. 

This is the kind of embroidery that was being done:

The Mayan women proudly wore their hand embroidered dresses for everyday wear. Here is a cheeky glimpse:

This kind of work is done on an open weave canvas. The deep crochet lace border on the woman's half slip completes the look.

However, I wanted to buy some hand embroidered work. And moreover, I wanted to buy something that I would actually wear. And whilst I gazed at the glorious dresses in the markets with the utmost admiration, I knew I would never wear one. 

Finally, I settled on these:

They need a slight adjustment for size, but I will wear them this upcoming summer. 

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Apron Strings

A few weeks ago I had an fabulous find - a 1950s dress shaped plastic apron. I immediately thought of my sister, lover of 1950s style and lover of kitsch. It seemed to have her name emblazoned on it.

It's on a wire hoop around the waist, and has metal boning in the bodice. Originally, it was pleated in 1/4 inch pleats all around the skirt, but after being folded the pleats are blurred. I soaked it in a hot bath to try to get rid of the worst of the creases. It's hard to know what else to do, I couldn't exactly iron it.
My sister, Michelle, was pleased to add it to her '50s wardrobe, and I suspect it will make an appearance at a dinner party soon.

This got me thinking about aprons. I rarely wear aprons. I am rarely wearing anything that ought to be protected when I am cooking, and I am certainly not playing hostess very often. Occasionally, I will wear a waiter's apron when cooking something messy.

 In the '50s, hostess aprons were part of every stylish wife's wardrobe. I have this little item in the store:

I suspect it is an 1980s vintage revival number, but very sweet. I almost sold it to a lady who was waitressing at a friend's wedding, but unfortunately, I couldn't ship it to the US in time for the wedding.

Recently, I have come across this other apron - It is lovely, featuring cutwork embroidery, and in extremely good condition, and I suspect that this, too, is a 1980s vintage revival number. I would hate to splat spaghetti sauce all over it.

My mother tells me that she made countless aprons for her "glory box". I guess they were easily and quickly made, and served a practical purpose. I wish I had seen my mother's glory box. 

This little number, probably from the 1960s, was the kind to feature in a glory box. It's  handmade by the housewife, and features an organdy trim with rickrack. It's clearly intended to be a practical, everyday kind of apron, but the maker still took care to make it carefully and to trim it to make it pretty. I am just as likely to tuck a tea towel into my neck.

In my collection I have many sewing patterns for aprons and here is my favourite, from around 1912:

Once again, how I wish I could send away for the pattern!

Monday, 9 June 2014

Well Hello, Dolly

Many thanks to Sue Freer and her lovely Etsy treasury for the inspiration and the title for this post.

As a child, I always loved my dolls. There was first of all my baby doll, Caroline. She had a cloth body and plastic head, arms and legs. Caroline also had platinum blond hair which turned very fuzzy and was not improved by the haircut I gave her. My nana knitted her a lovely layette, which I still have, although my daughters' "love" sent Caroline to the doll cemetery.

Caroline's ensemble, minus the ribbons
Then there was my beautiful bride doll, Cheryl. My mother made a gorgeous bridal outfit for her from an Enid Gilchrist pattern, which I have since acquired. Cheryl had beautiful blue eyes and fashionably short early '60s hair, and I thought she was almost as beautiful as my mother. The bridal outfit has long since fallen apart and Cheryl herself also fell victim to my daughters' love, although I still have the lovely little knickers that my mother made.
Cheryl's knickers
My third notable doll was Su-ella, named after my favourite cousin. She alone still exists, along with my dolls' pram, though she is sorely in need of a refurbish. (And the pram is sorely in need of a scrub!) Su-ella is a celluloid headed doll with noisy closing eyes. I always referred to her as a "big doll". My nana also made her now very grubby pink layette, which includes knickers, vest and bonnet.
Thankfully, my daughters didn't like her, which is why she survives.

Su-ella - I fear age has left her blind in one eye

My baby and her pram

Here I am with my doll and pram  in about 1967-68
I have written lovingly of my Barbie and her wardrobe in an earlier post.

I learned to knit by making the dolls' clothes in these lovely old books that belonged to my mother and my grandmother:

As I mentioned before, my mother and grandmother made  beautiful dolls' clothes for my sister and me. My grandmother did the knitting and my mother did the sewing. I think my mother made the outfit for my bride doll, Cheryl, from this book. She certainly made this fairy doll for my sister. She would sit up late at night after we were asleep for weeks before our birthdays secretly sewing us a special outfit for a special doll.

 I have collected quite a few vintage dolls' clothes patterns over the last couple of years since the collecting bug bit me. I found these old Patons books from the 1940s to go with my mother's from the 1960s. Many of the outfits are the same, just modelled on "updated" dolls.

I have also come across some old sewing patterns:

I am not much of a sewer and I have sold most of these. However, I couldn't part with this last one. I thought I might make them for my (future) grand daughter in my retirement, (maybe).

One of my favourite books is this Little Girls' Sewing Book by Flora Klickmann, from 1915, also mentioned in an earlier post:

I have since also been lucky enough to find The Little Girls' Knitting and Crochet Book and The Little Girls' Fancy Work.

These books contain supposedly simple projects to be worked by children:
Delightful dolls' clothes:

Dolly's chemise, knickers, flounced petticoat and flannel petticoat

The stitches you must use, and how to do your French seam
A doll's muff in loop stitch

These books also show how to make a complete set of bedding for your doll, including embroidered coverlet, and how to make a chintz covered cradle.

And how I do so wish that I could send away for these patterns:

Well, I guess I could still send away, but how I wish they would arrive in the mail from 1915, as if it were simply a place on the other side of the world!