April 10, 2012

Inspiration for this Summer: Civil War Bathing Dresses

Summer is coming, and if we have another hot July like the one we had last summer. Everyone might be wanting a classy bathing dress to get some temporary relief.

Bathing dresses in the mid-1800s were made of wool, and intended to cover the body in a way that would allow the wearer to move more freely than they were used to. Corsets were still worn with bathing dresses.


The description for the print above from Godey's Lady's Book:

"Figure 1:  Turkish pants of a gray and white striped material, fastened at the ankle with an elastic cord.  Paletôt dress of a dark blue and black flannel, made with a small cape, and trimmed with black mohair braid.  Oil silk hat, bound and trimmed with scarlet binding.

Figure 2:  Suit of pearl-colored flannel, trimmed with dark blue flannel, and braided in a plain Grecian pattern with narrow blue braid.  Cap of oil silk, trimmed with dark blue flannel.

Figure 3:  Suit of black cloth, bound with scarlet flannel.  The collar is of scarlet flannel, also the cap, which is trimmed with black braid and a long black tassel.

Figure 4:  Suit of scarlet flannel, trimmed with wide and narrow black braid.  The dress is decorated with applications of black cloth, cut in the shape of anchors.  The hat is of white straw, trimmed with scarlet braid."

Godey's Lady's Book was one of the most popular magazines of the time. It was said that Southern soldiers, fighting up North would send home copies to their girlfriends who were not getting them through the blockade. It was said that these rare copies were passed around from one girl to another that soon they consisted only of scraps as girls were so curious to see what the latest fashions were.

I find around this time of year, I get the biggest urge to sew and will collect a huge pile of things that I would love to wear. :) I know I have no use for and would not have the money to sew most of it but it is still fun to make a big collection of "things you wish you could wear." I particularly like Figure No. 2 in the above etching.

When I look at my big stack of clippings, I always feel like the girl in the cartoon below who is being "punished" for being a traitor. "Let her see but not touch the latest novelties in Hats, Dry-Goods, ect." One can only imagine what Southern women of the era, wished they could wear!


Is anyone else starting a new collection of (mostly fantasy) "to sew" items? :)

15 comments:

  1. Great and informative post!
    Would you mind if I put this in our Civil War unit newsletter?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Go right ahead. :) I think reenacting women can identify with the Harper's comic.

      Delete
  2. While we may think they are dowdy looking, period artists and cartoonist showed women looking very pretty in these costumes. Two european pictures I have seen show women bathing in just a chemise and wide brimmed hat next to ropes and bathing machine wagons. Another 1860s French cartoon shows two women in what appear to be chemises and drawers but may be skirtless bathing costumes.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I have a pattern I drafted of a bathing outfit. It's wonderful! I made mine out of the wool required, and oh my, it keeps you cool once you get wet. I love it!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I LOVE harper's comics!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Me too. :) They are surprisingly still funny.

      Delete
  5. Does this mean we're going fabric shopping this weekend? :)

    ReplyDelete
  6. My friend and I are also planning on making CW era bathing costumes this summer! They might even match (how adorable would that be?)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That would be really cute! You'll have to post some photos on your blog.

      Delete
  7. Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue 1862 edition: Hot ankles and SMOKIN' petticoat hemlines! Over 100 wading beauties with TWO FULL INCHES of bare ankle flesh! (Not recommended for boys under the age of twenty.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think it's nicer than some stuff I see. :)

      We don't need to see 90% of a person's body when we are at the beach. I mean, people are practically in their underwear and that makes things awkward.

      Delete
  8. Yes, but those, like farmers, who got more sun exposure got More vitamin D, factory work made most folks pale and wan, and milk in those days was for kids. While men might put cream on their oatmeal in the morning, that was for flavor, not be cause it was Vitamin D enriched. Which started about 1934 ... Or there about.

    ReplyDelete

Tell me what you think!