Ryerson Fashion Research Collection

Opening the closet door to a Canadian fashion archive


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A Close Look at a Lady’s Velveteen Jacket from the 1880s

By Jessica Oakes

I have chosen to study a lady’s late-nineteenth century purple velveteen jacket from the Ryerson Research Collection (FRC2014.07.198). This garment is described in the catalogue as follows: “Purple velveteen military-style womenswear bodice/jacket with standing collar, tails and overskirt sections, double-breasted with brass moulded buttons up front” and was dated to the 1880s. This jacket was likely worn with a matching or coordinating skirt which has been repurposed or lost.

Purple velveteen jacket FRC2014.07.198 Photo by Jessica Oakes

Purple velveteen jacket FRC2014.07.198
Photo by Jessica Oakes

One of the most striking features of this jacket is that it was designed to be worn over a bustle, which emphasized the back side of the woman wearing it. The bustle was fashionable during two periods in the later part of the nineteenth century. It was first popular during  1869-1876 and fell out of fashion for a brief time to return in popularity from about 1883-1890. Without a bustle the jacket has a lot of extra room in the rear and looks rather deflated without a bustle to fill it out. I compared several sizes of bustles from the Ryerson Collection and estimated that a bustle of around five inches would have been worn to fill in the back.

Detail of bustle back of jacket FRC2014.07.198 Photo by Jessica Oakes

Detail of bustle back of jacket FRC2014.07.198
Photo by Jessica Oakes

This fitted jacket has a double row of twelve ¾-inch bronze-gold buttons that suggest military influence. The flat shank buttons have an engraved design of foliage. The front panel of the jacket is attached only by the buttons that are sewn through both the panel and the jacket front. The front panel has a center seam down the front, peaks about ¼-inch above the neckline and tapers down to hip level.

Detail of buttons FRC2014.07.198 Photo by Jessica Oakes

Detail of buttons FRC2014.07.198
Photo by Jessica Oakes

The jacket fabric is either a cotton or silk velveteen, and is assumed to be cotton since that would be a less expensive option. Without a fiber test it is difficult to determine the fibre content with certainty, but cotton is a logical choice since there is other evidence that the maker was thrifty. The external shell is magenta velveteen (roughly hex colour #540052). The jacket lining is a plain weave cotton in camel brown (roughly hex colour #C19A6B). The lining extends from the bodice to the hips up but the sleeves are unlined. The edges have been clipped to reduce fray. The front panel and collar have a different facing that appears to be a faded black lining made of a textile that feels more like silk than cotton. The lining was sewn into the seams like a second shell layer, then strips of black fabric were hand sewn with a whip stitch onto the outer edges of the seam allowance to create a boning case. These casings are found at the center back, side seam and side dart.  The unlined lower hem was finished with a 2 inch turned under hem with little tucks to help such a wide rolling hem curve around the paniers and bustle overskirt.

Jacket Lining FRC2014.07.198 Photo by Jessica Oakes

Jacket Lining FRC2014.07.198 Photo by Jessica Oakes

This garment was made for a woman that was very petite. When dressed on a child’s mannequin, it does up quite snugly around the bust and hips leaving about 2 to 3 inches of gaping at the waist.

The jacket exhibits some damage including areas where the velveteen nap has been worn away such as the underarms, seam/hem edges, cuffs, and sleeve caps/shoulders. The most severe damage is the collar where the top edge has frayed and come apart to reveal the thick woven interfacing sandwiched inside. The boning inserts from inside the jacket lining are empty and one button is missing from the jacket front.

Detail of damage on collar FRC2014.07.198  Photo by Jessica Oakes

Detail of damage on collar FRC2014.07.198
Photo by Jessica Oakes

There are no labels in the jacket, and it is likely that the jacket was homemade, as was common at the time. Nonetheless, the jacket illustrates a complexity of construction. The sleeves are constructed with two main pieces in an arm-scythe shape with a thinner inner sleeve and a larger outer sleeve. There are two triangular gores, one long and one short, on the inside of the sleeve which may indicate that the maker was being economical in her cutting of the fabric.  Another sign of thriftiness is the visible selvedge used in the center front as well as in the top portions of the over-skirt (measuring a 20 inch fabric width). This suggests that the maker took care to cut the fabric as efficiently as possible.

As I looked closer at the construction of the garment, it quickly became apparent that some of the details I thought were simple were much more complicated than expected. The jacket includes double front darts under the breasts, the outer ones being higher than the inner ones. Where I expected to see a side seam there is a dart from the armhole down to about hip height. The actual side seam is farther back where four pleats from the front and two from the back create two shorter side drapes and a large, long back drape. The back also has two princess seams, the outermost is the side seam ending at hip height with the hem and the innermost ends in a dart around hip height as well, both connect to the armhole. The side seam also lines up with the back underarm seam.

Sketch of sleeve detail FRC2014.07.198 By Jessica Oakes

Sketch of sleeve detail FRC2014.07.198
By Jessica Oakes

The shoulder seams are set quite farther back than expected, making the back neckline section rather short. The shoulder seams are also 6 inches long which suggest a dropped-shoulder look since most shoulder seams are 4 inches long which makes 6 inches especially long since this was such a petite woman. I suspect this is to allow movement and create a softer shoulder silhouette. The collar of the jacket appears to have a built up neckline before the mandarin collar section. The front of it sits an inch apart instead of overlapping. Inside the collar is a thick-yarned, woven interfacing.

The pleats at the side seam are 2 inches deep, the front ones being 1 ¼ inches apart and the back ones being 2 inches apart, both with the hem being 2 ¼ inches below the lowest pleats which match up front and back. The lining even gets caught up in the front pleats at the side seam. There is also a center back seam that has a complex box pleat, which looks like a complex triple pleat. This box pleat is hand stitched to the lining on the inside and took a while to deconstruct as each pleat is tucked into each other.

Sketch of jacket by Jessica Oakes

Sketch of jacket by Jessica Oakes

When I look at this garment, I think it would likely have been very constricting to wear, especially on top of a shift, a corset, a bustle, and petticoat. Although I cannot imagine wearing a bustle or corset, the shape of the garment would still work well with my figure since I am an hourglass silhouette. I would think the texture of the velveteen would be very nice to feel and would make it a very warm jacket, and thus likely worn in fall or winter in order to not be overwhelmingly hot. I love the colour and silhouette of this jacket. I also think that the design is so exceedingly lovely. The drop shoulder and shaped sleeves would be interesting to wear and possibly very comfortable.

This garment revealed many surprises that have inspired me to learn more.

 

Edited by Ingrid Mida, Collection Co-ordinator


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A Close Look at a 1950s Wool Jacket by Christian Dior for Holt Renfrew

By Millie Yates

Dior Jacket Front 2013.99.007 Photo by Jazmin Welch

Dior Jacket Front 2013.99.007 Photo by Jazmin Welch

The garment I have selected for my project is a wool jacket by Christian Dior for Holt Renfrew from the Ryerson Fashion Research Collection (FRC2013.99.007). The jacket is dated in the collection catalogue as originating from the late 1950s to early 1960s, most likely 1958-1963. Based on the styles of the time, it is highly probable that there was once a matching dress or skirt that accompanied the jacket.

Side view of Dior Jacket FRC2013.99.007  Photo by Jazmin Welch

Side view of Dior Jacket FRC2013.99.007
Photo by Jazmin Welch

At a quick glance, the jacket does not appear to be particularly complicated in construction. However, upon closer inspection, there are many subtle and complex details to be noticed. For example, the front and back of the jacket are cut on the bias, which results in a soft chevron effect. The sleeves are cut as part of the body of the jacket with a seam that follows the shoulder line. There is a diamond-shaped gusset under each underarm. In couture tradition, there are bound buttonholes on the front of the jacket and three metal weights concealed in the lining towards the hem of the jacket to help it hang properly.

Sleeves and pocket detail on Dior jacket FRC2013.99.007

Sleeves and pocket detail on Dior jacket FRC2013.99.007

 

Collar and button detail FRC2013.99.007

Collar and button detail FRC2013.99.007

The jacket is very angular in shape, with sharp straight edges along the hem, collar, pockets and sleeves. The collar of the jacket is flat and wide. There are three large textured round buttons at the front that hold the jacket closed. These buttons are very large at 2 inches (10 cm) across and appear to be made of plastic. Two 5-inch wide tailored pockets sit on either side of the centre front, towards the bottom of the jacket. The pockets are lined but would have limited functionality since they are very shallow in depth. The selvedge is not visible in the garment, because the jacket is fully lined with facings at the neckline and centre front. The gusset under the arm appears in both the shell and the lining of the jacket. There are no reinforcements to the jacket, in terms of boning, padding, or wire reinforcements. This garment was made with a combination of machine and hand stitching. The care taken with construction is apparent, and this affirms the quality and cost associated with a Dior garment.

While the fit of the jacket is quite boxy, the jacket sits snugly across the shoulders and is cropped in length. The sleeves are 3/4 length. A woman wearing this jacket would not be drowning in fabric.

The fabric of the jacket gives it the appearance that it would be very warm.  A wool tweed has been matched with a silk satin lining. The outer shell of tweed has a number of colours in its pattern, with brown and a greyish green being the most prominent as well as some flecks of white. The silk satin lining is reddish brown.

Back of Dior Jacket 2013.99.007

Back of Dior Jacket 2013.99.007 Photo by Jazmin Welch

The garment has a label at the neckline that reads: “Christian Dior Original in Canada Exclusive with Holt Renfrew and Co. Limited.” It was in 1951 that Christian Dior and Holt Renfrew made an agreement for exclusive Canadian reproduction rights. The tag does not indicate the season or exact year that the jacket was made. There are no care labels, nametags or size labels within the garment. There is no information on the owner as the jacket was donated anonymously.

Label inside Dior Jacket 2013.99.007  Photo by Jazmin Welch

Label inside Dior Jacket 2013.99.007
Photo by Jazmin Welch

Although the garment is over fifty years old, it is in remarkable shape.  There is some wear at the cuffs and collar with some light discolouration. There are some small stains on the insides of the jacket on the silk lining. The silk has lightly split in a couple of areas on the inside of the jacket, especially near the hem and at the armholes. There have been no alterations.

When I first encountered this jacket in the FRC, I felt a number of sensory reactions. Visually, it is consistent within the period, particularly with its large buttons and cropped length. To the touch, this jacket feels a little nubby and a little scratchy. The fabric feels like it is of a fairly heavy weight. The inside of the jacket is silken and cool to the touch. One could imagine that the wearer of this jacket might made a soft, low, scratchy sound as she moved. It does not have a particularly strong smell, but there is a subtle worn wool smell to the jacket on its underarms and collar.

Sketch of button and fabric by Millie Yates 2015

Sketch of button and fabric by Millie Yates 2015

This particular garment attracted me for a number of reasons. First of all, it is a truly beautiful piece. It is warm, yet sits lightly on the body, and though boxy it would not overwhelm the frame. The design of the jacket is both clever and subtle: a perfect marriage between couture quality and everyday versatility. I believe that this jacket would fit me well, though it could be a little short in the sleeves. If this jacket was mine, I would wear it through every fall season. It is a classic jacket: something proper to wear in a professional setting or for formal occasions. Though a serious piece of clothing, in its cropped length, big buttons and 3/4 length sleeves the jacket is far from austere and boring.

Sketch of jacket collar by Millie Yates 2015

Sketch of jacket collar by Millie Yates 2015

There are several other Dior pieces in the Ryerson Fashion Research Collection, and there are many Dior garments from the 1950s in the collections of museums around the world. Christian Dior is one of the most celebrated designers of the twentieth century and so much has been written about his work. It is truly remarkable just how much Dior changed the fashion industry during the time of the New Look in the 1950s, and though this jacket was created towards the end of that decade, there are hints of the ultra-feminine style in the bias cut of the jacket and its narrow, sloping shoulders.

Sketch of jacket front by Millie Yates 2015

Sketch of jacket front by Millie Yates 2015

Sketch of jacket back by Millie Yates 2015

Sketch of jacket back by Millie Yates 2015

 

Edited by Ingrid Mida, Collection Co-ordinator


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Introducing the Special Topics Course Participants for Reproduction of Historic Dress

by Ingrid Mida, Fashion Research Collection Co-ordinator

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I would like to introduce the new special topics course in the School of Fashion called: Reproducing Historic Dress. Designed by me and taught in conjunction with Dr. Lu Ann Lafrenz, this course is intended to provide hands-­‐on   experience  in  reproducing garments  from  historic  dress  artifacts  belonging  to  the  Ryerson   Fashion  Research  Collection.  Students  will  learn techniques  for  researching  historic  dress   and  replicating  historic  garments  from  the  original  artifact.  The  course  will be   supplemented  with  visits  to  other  dress  collections  and  related  topics  from  museology,  such   as  conservation techniques  and  mounting  of  dress.  Students  will  chose  a  historic  garment   from  the  collection  and  replicate  it exactly,  thereby  gaining  knowledge  of  historic   construction  techniques  and  materials. Three students were invited to participate in the inaugural course and are introduced below. Over the coming months, they will be uploading their progress reports as a way of sharing the creative process of their projects. Please join me in welcoming Millie, Jessica and Alys to the blog!

 

 

 

 

Millie Yates

Millie Yates

Millie Yates is a third-year Fashion Design student. She interns for Philip Sparks Tailored Goods and writes for Ryerson fashion blog StyleCircle.org. After completing her degree, she hopes to work in contemporary womenswear. Millie’s interests include pattern-drafting, screen-printing and fashion illustration. She is replicating a wool boucle jacket by Christian Dior for Holt Renfrew from the 1950s (FRC 2013.99.007).

Jessica Oakes

Jessica Oakes

Jessica Oakes is a third-year Fashion Design student and a professed costume fanatic. She has interned with a theatre for children and also in a bridal alterations store. Some day she hopes to either design and make costumes or re-create historical garments like Viking clothing and kimonos. For this course, she is replicating a woman’s purple velvet womenswear military-style jacket with overskirt and tails from the 1880s (FRC 2014.07.198).

Alys_photo

Alys Mak-Pilsworth

Alys Mak-Pilsworth is a fourth-year Fashion Design Student. She has interned for  the Fashion History Museum, and last year worked under my direction in the Ryerson Fashion Research Collection. She has participated in the organizing and running of the student run fashion show Twice. Besides fashion, her interests include film, literature, history, and cooking. As part of the special topics course she is replicating a patterned muslin day dress with long sleeves from the 1860s (FRC 2014.07.409).