Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Crunch time and some resources

Hello all,
It's crunch time for this little seamstress. I have to admit, I don't know if this dress is going to get finished in time. I have a sneaky suspicion I'll be doing some sewing in the car. Still need to cut out my sleeves, cuffs, and collar. Also need to hem the skirt. I finally found my corset, which by the way was in the last place I looked go figure, so I was able to finish fitting the bodice last night.

I thought today I would share a couple resources for those of you interested in women's fashions of the 1860s. In particular American women during the Civil War, 1861 to 1865. I have an album on Pinterest with lots of photos and links to original garments.

First up, Who Wore What?: Women's Wear, 1861-1865 by Juanita Leisch. Since its publication in 1995, the book has become very popular with re-enactors and is a great resource who those just started out in the hobby or for those who want to gain a general knowledge of the time period. It also includes descriptions of accessories and construction tips for those interested in making there own clothing. No patterns, just wonderful photos.

 Juanita Leisch's book is the result of her study of 1860s fashions depicted in cartes de visite, or CDVs. Her book is organized into sections by clothing types - coats, day dresses, ball gowns, underpinnings, etc., and emphasizes the difference in fashion between young women, middle-aged women, and older women. The photographs, there are over 300 of them, show what real women actually wore to the photographer - not the fantasy dresses of Godey's Lady's Book. What I like is that the author tries to dispel some of the miss truths about women's clothing and shows what styles were most common for women in different age groups. There are exceptions to every rule, but as a re-eanctor myself, I like to represent someone from the main stream population. :)

Who Wore What? is available on Amazon but I was rather surprised at the price. Over $50 for a used copy and over $100 for a new one! Ouch! I received my copy as a graduation present about 10 years ago, pretty sure it was under $50 then. I'm not sure I would pay that much for it now. Inter-library loan would be a good option for this book. Don't pay too much attention to the not so nice reviews of this book - some people claim the book is too general, others say the author say no idea what she's talking about. I really can't say anything negative about this book, aside from the current sale price of course. Do keep in mind though, that this book is meant as a general overview of women's fashion and is not an in depth study. It's a good starting point but if you really want to get in depth combine it with other resources. Such as ...

The Way They Were Dressed in 1860-1865 by Donna Abraham. Available on Amazon and at Abraham's Lady. Don't let its small size fool you. This is an outstanding collection of CDVs, nearly 600 of them and all American. Like Who Wore What? its broken into sections. Unlike the previous book, it includes fashions of infants, young boys and girls, and men. It's nice to see the guys getting some attention. All too often the men are left out of clothing books and that's a shame. There are also some interesting group photos in this book.

Last but not least ...
The Way They Were Dressed in 1860-1865 Volume 2 by Donna Abraham. This is a new release. If it's as good as volume one then I will be adding a copy to my library. I plan on stopping at Abraham's Lady this weekend to take a look!

That's all for now. I'm leaving for Gettysburg tomorrow so I wont be posting anything for a few days. Hope you all have a wonderful weekend.


  1. Hope you have a wonderful time!!
    Please do take lots of photos (that's if you're allowed to use a camera - sneak one into your reticule!)

  2. I too *love* "Who Wore What" and was a little surprised at the negative reviews. As someone just venturing into the Civil War years as new and uncharted costuming terrority, I found it immensely helpful and I thought the selection of photos and CDVs was fantastic. I bought my copy used on amazon about a year and a half ago, and I paid around $35-40 for it then, I think. Well worth it in my opinion!

    I haven't seen the other two books, though! Will definitely have to check those out!

    Have a most lovely time in Gettysburg! Good luck finishing up all the sewing, and I can't wait to see pictures! Are you going to get a tintype done?

  3. I think "Who Wore What was in the $25 to $35 range when it was first published but I'm not sure.

    Yes, there will be pictures! :)

  4. I (among many others, I'm sure!) have nominated you for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award!


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