Saturday, 18 February 2017

Fur Waistcoat

I was recently looking though the online William Notman collection of photos. I came across two photos showing unusual waistcoats. Both photos are from Montreal, Canada in 1868-69.

J. Notman, Montreal, QC, 1868-69

William Webb, Montreal, QC, 1868-69

I recognized the material of the waistcoats as a very distinctive fur called persian lamb

While persian lamb waistcoats were unknown to me, persian lamb was very fashionable in the 19th century. I've seen many examples of persian lamb coats, hats and capes so a fur waistcoat doesn't seem unreasonable, especially in the Canadian winter.

Closeup of fur waistcoat.

I have seen reference to fur and leather waistcoats for extra warmth. I also came across the photo below of a fur waistcoat a year ago on Pinterest. Unfortunately the source website is not in english, so the only info I have in a date of ca 1880s. It looks like the waistcoat might be made from seal or beaver fur.

As I happen to have some persian lamb, I think a winter waistcoat would be a good use. Though maybe for next winter since spring is already on the horizon.

Left: Two gentlemen wearing persian lamb coats and caps, Montreal Canada 1876.

Right: 1880s fur waistcoat found on Pinterest.

Mr. Butler & Mr. Hosmer, composite, Montreal, QC, 1876

Fur waistcoat 1880s

Monday, 9 January 2017

Canadian Costume ~ Part 1: Research

It all started when I stumbled across this picture and rare reference to Canada in Punch Magazine from 1883.

Lord Lansdowne in 1883.

First, I noticed the coat was similar to Canadian blanket coats that you see in reference to fur-trade, and early Canadian winter carnivals. Then I noticed the caption, "Lord Lansdowne: in his Canadian Costume specially adapted to remaining some time out in the cold".

I found it interesting that they referred to this as 'Canadian Costume'. I was curious to know whether they thought this was a Canadian national costume, and if it reflected a Canadian stereotype of the time. I began to think that this may be the outfit for me to celebrate Canada's 150th birthday.

I went looking in my other Punch Magazines for cartoons depicting the same outfit and I found another from 1862.

"Oh, it's all very well to laugh! but it was too bad of Little Binks
to come in his Canadian Dress and Snow-shoes to our Fancy Ball." 1862.

This cartoon referred to this style of outfit as 'Canadian dress'. After seeing both outfits, I was  convinced that I was looking at a Canadian stereotype of the time. With this knowledge in hand, I began scouring the internet for more references to this style of clothing, using search terms such as "Canadian Blanket Coat 1880s" and "Canadian Costume 1880s".

My searches came up with several extraordinary results from the McCord Museum, which happens to have several original Canadian blanket coats of the 1880s.

                    Source                                                                         Source

With more searching on the museum webpage, I discovered a collection of William Notman Photographs. William Notman (1826-1891) was a Montreal photographer famous for his winter scenes. Within his photographs, there are nearly a hundred that depict Canadians in this style of dress engaging in various winter activities, such as tobogganing and snowshoeing.

Snowshoeing and tobogganing. Source

After seeing Notman's stunning photographs, I knew I had to make one of these outfits (being a Canadian, of course), even though I live in Vancouver, the one part of Canada that rarely gets snow.

The other major incentive for making this outfit was that I wanted to create an outfit specifically for the Sesquicentenary (150th) anniversary of Canada's Confederation.  This outfit is perfect as many of Notman's photographs of this style of dress date from 1867, which is the year of Canadian Confederation.

I religiously started collecting photos and prints to my Pinterest as reference materials.

Happily, a book I had received years ago as a gift, entitled "Canada - 1892: Portrait of a Promised Land" contains some of the same images I was now collecting.

During the course of my investigations, I discovered that people of the time most commonly referred to this outfit as a "Snowshoeing Costume". This style of outfit was used by the Montreal Snowshoeing Club as their official club uniform.

The Montreal Snowshoeing Club. Source

I also found a book called "Fashion - a Canadian Perspective" which included a full chapter on these Snowshoeing Costumes. This book gave me a lot of information on the history of the blanket coat and its impact on Canada. The chapter explores this uniquely Canadian outfit and its use within the sport of snowshoeing. There's no way I could summarize the sheer amount of information I found on the subject of the Canadian Costume.

Armed with the reference material, I was ready to begin planning the outfit!

(All McCord images can be found on their website.)

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Happy New Year!

Canada has entered it's 150th Year since confederation in 1867. I've been looking forward to this for some time now and I'm thrilled it's finally here! I'm currently working on some special projects for this year.

One of the projects I already finished with the exception of a few details is my Canadian Costume.

This Punch Magazine portrait is my original inspiration. After finding this outfit I had to make my own, I am Canadian after all.

Here I am wearing my new Canadian Costume on new years day. I finished the outfit the day before especially so I could wear it on the first day of Canada's 150th year,

And in colour though I prefer the black and white.

A woman I met in the park wanted her dog to get a photo with me, and she sent me the photo.
I think it's a great photo.

"To one and all who ever may hear I wish them a Happy New Year!"

I will be posting more about the research and making of my Canadian Costume.

Friday, 28 October 2016

Birthday Gifts

Here are yesterday's birthday gifts!

This is an 1850s turquoise tie-pin from a friend!

This is a 1870s washbasin with Gothic revival detailing. I spent the day with my friend, and we found this at a rummage sale. 

I had ordered laundry starch a couple weeks ago and it arrived on my birthday. I plan to attempt to starch a shirt and a couple of collars. 

Sunday, 16 October 2016

The Gentleman's Art of Dressing with Economy

This week I came across a book on Pinterest, The Gentleman's Art of Dressing with Economy, by a Lounger at the Clubs, 1876.

While I have found books on the patterns, construction techniques and the styles of mens 19th century clothing, it's been much harder to find books about how they wore and cared for their clothing.

Etiquette books of the period don't often mention mens clothing or wardrobe and when they do usually only give a few pages on the subject. The Gentleman's Art of Dressing is an entire book on mens wardrobe. In this book, the author mentions how and where a gentleman should buy his clothes, what clothing he needs and how to care for his clothing. I've gained many useful bits of information on shirts, coats, boots, waistcoats, and trousers from this book.

It's very interesting to see a 19th century gentleman's opinion of the clothing of his time. I'm curious how much of the book is the general opinion of how a gentleman should dress and how much is the author's personal opinion.

In the book, I was happy to run across a reference to Punch magazine. I'm a big fan of Punch. I've always thought that Punch show's a very accurate depiction of clothing and fashion of the time. So when I read the footnote that I've quoted below, I was very pleased to have my opinion of Punch confirmed by a gentleman of the 1870s
* "Mentioning "Punch" reminds me to remark that if you have been absent from the world of fashion for a time, and wish to know the style of dress in vogue, you cannot do better than consult the pages of our ficetious old friend. Therein you will see the exact costume of the day, in all detail, from hat down to the very boots. There is no more truthful indicator of fashion published; and when Mr. Punch's artists depict a gentleman of the period, you will not be wrong in following suit.

Here's a link to the Google book copy The Gentleman's Art of Dressing with Economy, by a Lounger at the Clubs.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

A Couple of Boxes

For my friends birthday I got him a retro LEGO set as he never had one. I always wrap gifts in brown paper and string. For this one I thought an old LEGO label would a good addition. I hand painted this one I'm very pleased with the outcome.

The Salvation Army were recently giving out these repro match boxes in remembrance of the match girls. The match box will be great as a period pocket filler for some of my 1880s-1900s outfits.

Here's a brief history of the match girls from the card that came with the matches.

"In 1888, women working at match factories in the UK were experiencing severe health complications, such as phossy jaw, from the use of white phosphorus on matches. They also experienced 14 hour work days, poor pay and fines.
After learning of the situation, The Salvation Army opened its own match factory, using less toxic red phosphorus and paying better wages. Part of the impetus behind this  match factory  was the desire to improve the conditions of home workers, including children, who  dipped white phosphorus-based matches at home. Several children died from eating these matches. Once other factories stopped using white phosphorus, The Salvation Army closed it's match factory.
in 1908 the British House of Commons passed an Act prohibiting the use of white phosphorus in matches" The Salvation Army

The Great War Uniform: part 3

Here's what I've gathered for my uniform so far. I hope to get started on making the jacket soon.

Sam Browne belt
Sword frog
Pistol holster
Khaki-coloured wool tie
1910s military style walking stick
Original officers shirt
Original WWI puttees
Clothes brushes
Collar bar cufflinks and shirt studs

Close up of the collar bar cufflinks and shirt studs. 

Every thing packed away in to my military hat tin.

Jacket materials

Khaki whipcord
Pocket lining
Collar canvas
Stay tape
Sleeve lining

Cloth for the officers jacket and cap.