Sunday, November 4, 2018

1918 Suffragette Suit

I can't remember how it happened, but last spring in a discussion on Facebook, a decision was made to host a Suffragette Tea.  I know I was beginning to research the Hello Girls for the Centennial of the WWI armistice and somehow, this being an election year,  it just seemed the thing to do!  1918 was a big year in the Women's Suffrage movement.  In 1918, President Wilson switched his stand on women’s voting rights from objection to support . Wilson partially tied the proposed suffrage amendment to America’s involvement in World War I and the increased role women had played in the war efforts.

When the amendment came up for vote, Wilson addressed the Senate in favor of suffrage. As reported in The New York Times on October 1, 1918, Wilson said, “I regard the extension of suffrage to women as vitally essential to the successful prosecution of the great war of humanity in which we are engaged.” It would still be 2 years before women gained the right to vote in the United States.  


Of course this meant that I needed to make an appropriate outfit.  I love Edwardian clothing.  The late 19 teens saw a lot of changes.  The corsets were different than the pigeon breast styles of the first decade of the 20th century.  Skirts were shorter and more flared,  By the late teens, corset covers gave way to early brassieres.  Hat brims were smaller.  You can see the styles moving toward that of the 1020s.  I decided, as a matronly feminist rabble rouser,  that I'd wear a suit. As always, I looked to period images for inspiration:













First--I'll address the hat.  I found a couple that I liked.  The one directly above has a wide draped fabric trim which I liked and I like the cloche shape with velvet of the one below.  My original plan was to do a black silk covered one but I didn't have time.


I raided my supply of thrift store straw hats and found one I could work with.

First I hit it with a blast of steam to soften the glue, allowing me to pull the flowers off.

I needed to reblock the hat to give it a deeper crown.  Enter my improvised hat block!  I have a collection of containers in the right size that work well.

I wet the crown thoroughly and stretched it over the bowl, wrapping cotton bias tape around the bottom to secure it until it dried.

Once dry, I ripped out the stitching to remove the outer rows of straw braid.  Because the braid is spiral, I made sure it was even with one row more in the front of the hat.

I cut the braid and will deal with that later.

My local Joanns was out of their traditional black velvet so I bought some black stretch velvet and cut a large rectangle.

I pinned hems on both long edges of the velvet and started wrapping it around the crown of the hat.  I also stitched the end of the straw braid in place using a zig zag stitch on my machine.

 The straw cloche pictured above has asymmetrical trim so I chose to do the same.  It also has trim that extends on to the brim.  I just allowed the velvet to fall in unstructured folds.

I overlaped it at the side back and just played with it until I liked the shape.


I used standard black thread and a size 4 millinery needle to tack the velvet on the hat.  That was it!  One of the fastest millinery projects ever!

My original plan was also to make an Armistice blouse using the vintage organdy below but I simply didn't have time.  I'll save that project for another event.  The fabric is probably from the early 20th century and I have about 3 yards in several pieces.


I had made the Wearing History Elsie shirtwaist for my Hello Girl uniform so I decided to use that with my suit for the tea.
Since I had made this for a uniform, it was made from pima cotton sateen according to the pattern with one change. The buttons are vintage early 20th century mother of pearl.  I took the advice on the Wearing History video about this pattern to use a drawstring at the inside waist instead of a waist stay.  This certainly allows for weight fluctuation.

I love the shaped cuff of this blouse!

I also used the Wearing History 19 teens suit pattern.  I had used it as the basis of my Hello Girl uniform (with major style modifications) so I knew it fit and didn't need to make a fitting shell.  I decided on the first version with the shaw collar and the shaped cuffs.
I followed the pattern pretty much with a couple of changes to the construction order.  I made my waist stay out of 4 inch wide drapery tape.  I trimmed the bottom to get the correct width, made the darts then bound the raw edge with bias tape.

The pattern has you turn under the center front edges and stitch them first.  I pinned them in place and pressed under the 1/2 inch at the waist edge and sewed the hem facing on so that I could clean finish the corners at the top and bottom of the center front edges.

Before stitching the center front edges down, I pinned the waist stay in, adjusting the back gathers, and I put the ends of the waist stay under the front edge to secure it.  Once pinned in place, I stitched the front allowance downl

Waist stay pinned in place:

Waist stay sewn in place

The fronts were overlapped and stitched in place leaving about 8 inches at the top for a placket.  I hate sewing hooks and eyes and opted for hook and eye tape with large hooks and eyes at the part of the skirt over the waist stay since that gets more strain.

I ordered faceted black glass buttons in 2 sizes and stitched the larger ones down the front and the smaller ones on the decorative outer belt.

I made the jacket up exactly as the pattern instructed.  I did use rayon seam binding on my facing and hem edges and I enclosed my armscye seams with bias tape so the interior of my unlined jacket would look tidy.

One last small garment that needed  completing was my early brassiere.  This is based on a period image using antique fabric and buttons from the era and lined with batiste. 

There was an option to add boning to the front seams of this garment but I omitted that and just used flat bias binding.   A separate post about the underpinnings will be posted soon.

The outfit was worn with black silk stockings and Edwardian styled American Duchess shoes I had purchased on clearance about 3 years ago.

First layer of underpinnings:  Chemise and corset.  I removed the garters from the corset because they weren't needed.

Second layer of underpinnings:  Brassiere and petticoat (which I made with batiste and antique lace almost 30 years ago!)


Shirtwaist and skirt.  Note the high waist!  It's a totally different look as the inner waist stay contours to the waist and the skirt hangs from the top of the internal waist stya.

 Finished outfit with my National Women's Party flag.

With the banner made by Betsey Keithly.

 Here are all of our Suffragettes after we had a wonderful 4 course tea!

And here is a period image of real Suffragettes outside of the White House!

 Everyone seemed to have a wonderful time so it appears that period teas may become an annual event!

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Registration--Details of Social Class & Style: A Skill Building Sewing Weekend

Details of Social Class and Style:  A Skill Building Sewing Weekend  
Friday Feb. 22, 2019 - Sunday Feb. 24, 2019

Registration is now closed.  You may email me to be placed on a waiting list.
vembrey@gmail.com


Join us for a winter weekend of learning about and sewing some 18th century fine fashion details in historic Savage Maryland's Carroll-Baldwin Hall. We will be studying the differences in dress and style among the different social classes of women in the American colonies during the years of the Revolutionary War.

Following a survey on the topic with 3 speakers, each specializing in one particular social class,  two consecutive workshops will be offered so participants can learn the basics of gown trimming styles and creating a basic workbag that they can trim on their own using the skills learned during the weekend.  

Plan on dressing out during the weekend and enjoying some 18th century punch and much much more. For those arriving Friday evening, we'll enjoy a tavern night with food, wine and 18th century punch.   You will meet the staff and you may wish to bring any projects you might want advice on or help with. You will be able to just socialize or do some shopping at our swap and shop tables.  If you aren't prepared to dress in 18th century attire, we will welcome you all the same!

A special bonus will be a Timeless Treasures millinery trunk show on Friday evening!  This will be a great place to purchase trims for our Sunday workshop as well as finished millinery items.

Saturday, we'll be learning and sewing all day.

The fee of $165 includes the Friday night get together, full day of workshops / presentations on Saturday as well as continental breakfast, lunch, snacks, beverages and dinner on Saturday. Also included are all of the materials for the gown trimming workshop. You will be given a "what to bring" list upon registration.

We plan on having an extra workshop on trimming flat hats at 10 am on Sunday (for an additional $25 fee) along with brunch. This will be at the Howard County Historical Society Museum in Ellicott City, MD.

Just like last year, we'll have our swap and shop table! This is the perfect time to evaluate your costuming sewing stash!

Regular updates will be shared on our Facebook event page.

Workshop fees:
Saturday only -- $150  
Friday/Saturday workshop -- $165  
Friday/Saturday + Sunday workshop -- $190
We will once again, offer a 2 payment plan to those paying by check with one half of your payment due at registration and the second half of your payment due by January 10, 2019 for those attending the entire weekend.

Registration is limited to 40 participants.

In order to register, please fill out our workshop registration form HERE  and follow the directions below for payment.  You will not be considered registered until your payment (or half payment if applicable) has been received.  We will take names for a waiting list once the workshops fill up.

If you are paying by check, make the check out to Vicki Embrey and mail to:

Vicki Embrey
P.O. Box 415
Savage, MD  20763

If you wish to pay by Paypal, please use the following button:



Registration options

Other information:

Here is a list of the closest hotels--all within 5 minutes of Carroll Baldwin Hall.  If you would like to look for other hotels, search using Savage, Maryland as the location.

Hotel List

Workshop Schedule

Venue locations

Friday/Saturday:  Carroll Baldwin Hall  9035 Baltimore Street   Savage, MD  20763

Sunday:  Howard County Historical Society Museum:  8328 Court Ave.  Ellicott City, MD 21043




Wednesday, October 17, 2018

WWI Centenniel--Hello Girl uniform upgrade

I made my Hello Girl uniform this past spring, however it was lacking a proper shirtwaist and the patches/medals.   I started with the shirtwaist.  In looking a numerous photos, it appears that there were several styles of shirtwaists worn which leads me to believe that it was not a standard part of the uniform issued to the women.  I noted different collar and cuff styles so I decided to make the Wearing History Elsie blouse pattern which is a fairly basic shirtwaist with a shaped cuff.  I made the blouse as the pattern indicated using a cotton sateen and turn of the (20th) century mother of pearl buttons from my stash.  It went together quite quickly.  One small change I made after watching the Wearing History video about this pattern was to use a casing rather than a waist stay.  I simply sewed single fold bias tape to the stay line and used 1/4 inch cotton tape in the casing.  I was pleased with the way this turned out and I feel I can use it with other skirts from this era.

I also decided not to line the jacket as my research shows them to be unlined.  I just added seam binding to all raw edges and called it a day.


Next--I needed to add the various patches and pins to the uniform.  I was copying the uniform of Grace Banker below.  


I searched Ebay and found a number of chevrons for the lower sleeve but wasn't sure which style.  I did some research and found that gold chevrons indicated service overseas.  I also noted that there were different styles of the chevrons--the were constructed different ways.  This link explained that how the chevrons were made simply depended on the tailor shop that was making them.  Each base had it's own and the stripes were issued to the commanding officer in rolls.  Individual stripes were cuff off and given to those who earned them.  I was able to find old new WWI stock with bullion embroidery so I bought those.

Next was the various patches.  It's s hard to know the colors with black and white photography.  The patch at the top of the shoulder is a WWI 3rd Army Patch which I found out by looking at collector sites.  It seemed easy enough to reproduce that one.  The second patch is a Signal Corps rank patch.  That one wasn't so easy because I could not find one for a Hello Girl uniform anywhere.  I only found them for men's uniforms which had a khaki ground.  They had the same design so I figured I'd have to make one.  Not knowing what color to use for the embroidery, I went with khaki.  I found a lot of info at this link which also includes info on the arm brassards that are seen in some pics.  My goal is to eventually make one of those as well.

I bought some printable dissolving paper and printed out pics of the patches I wanted to reproduce.  I found the dimensions of the 3rd Army patch on a sale listing so that one was easy.  I had to create the other one based on the size it looks in the pic.  Here's what I had to work with:  photos, tracing paper, dissolving paper.

I used some of my worsted and backed it with fusible hair canvas then I pinned the dissolving paper to the front.

I used zig zag embroidery to create the design.

I pulled away the excess paper and there was a lot of paper left under the embroidery which caused it to have "fuzzies."  I ended up soaking it in the sink to dissolve the paper.

The rank patch was actually easier as far as getting rid of the fuzzies was concerned as the embroidery wasn't as dense.  I hemmed the edges of that patch

Here they are on the sleeve.

I also was able to find an Army Distinguished Service Medal.  They've looked the same since 1918.  The difference between the more modern ones and the WWI medals is the pen mechanism so I decided not to worry about that. 

I also found 2 original collar tacks on Ebay.  They were missing the back piece but modern ones from the craft store fit them perfectly.

Here is part of my Hello Girl Display with the switchboard which was one of the props used in the Hello Girl documentary film.  This was at our Maryland State DAR WWI Centenniel for Founders Day.

The switchboard itself was new--made from photos--but the earpiece and microphone were originals.


Here is my display which has photos and copies of original documents as well as part of the history.

Our wonderful Maryland State Historian had buttons made for each of the stations and she had brochures that we designed printed as well.  Attendees were given bags to put their goodies in.

Our historian also wrote a skit in which each of us gave a presentation.  Here we are at the end after taking our bows.

And--we had a photo area with a WWI reenactor.

I'm really pleased with the way this uniform turned out.  It was completed with the gas mask bag (I still need a gas mask) and the helmet which each Hello Girl was issued. 

Here are some pics from the WWI Centennial on Veterans Day at the Smithsonian Museum of American History:




Side by side with the original!