Tag Archives: 1890

Antique Fabric Swatches Need a Date

One of the reasons I keep returning to my local Goodwill Outlet bins is because I never know what will be found there.  It truly is a giant treasure hunt, with some people hunting for gold in the book bins and others hunting for silver in the toy bins.  Like me, there are those who are looking for textile treasures, so I have to really keep my eyes open and ready to spot something interesting.  On a recent trip I found a plastic baggie full of what looked to be at first glance, swatches of reproductions of antique fabrics.  I threw the bag in my buggy anyway to give it a closer look.

A closer examination showed that every swatch was different and they were all the same size.  A previous owner had written “$5” on the baggie, and so these were left over from a sale of some sort.

While examining the pieces I noticed that on the backs were remnants of glue and even little scraps of paper.  These swatches had been torn out of a sample book, was my guess.

And one was still clinging to this piece of very old paper. At this point I was convinced that these swatches were actually antique fabrics.  My guess is that they were attached to a sample book or cards, and that someone removed them to use as quilt or crafting pieces.  That’s the sort of act that just breaks my heart, as it removes the object from some very vital information.  Who made these fabrics?  When were they marketed?  Are they American in origin?

It’s likely I’ll never know the answers to all my questions, but I’m sure there are some of you who can help me narrow down a date for them.  Using the information and photos in Eileen Jahnke Trestain’s book, Dating Fabrics: A Color Guide 1800 -1960 I’ve placed them in her category of 1880 through 1910.  I’d like something a bit more precise.

I was amazed at the sharpness of the colors…

And the modern look to some of the designs.

There was even an early novelty print, in the form of card suits.

There were several prints that were made in different colorways.

About half of the swatches have a black background, but there are also some pretty, light prints in pink and white.

And then, as now, black and white prints were a favored combination.

So please, if you can shed some light on the age of these lovely little pieces, post and enlighten this mid-century girl.  I’d also like suggestions on what to do with them.  Should I put them back in a book where they belong?  Pactchwork is out of the question!


Filed under Curiosities, Novelty Prints, Textiles

Annie Jenness-Miller and Dress Magazine

I’ll be the first to admit that anything older than 1915 is pretty much a mystery to me.  Even so, I’m fully aware of the debt that modern dressing owes to the efforts of those far-sighted individuals of the 19th century that worked to “reform” women’s dress.  I was happy last week when Susan Grote introduced me to the work of Annie Jenness-Miller.  To quote Susan:

“Annie Jenness Miller (b. 1859) was a leader in the American Dress Reform Movement and the Aesthetic Dress Movement in the late 1800s. An author and platform speaker, she advocated exercise for women, less restrictive clothing, and education and careers for women, among other radical ideas, while trying to incorporate aesthetically pleasing designs in her reform dress clothing. In addition to her books & lectures, she published Dress Magazine, which was briefly called The Jenness-Miller Magazine Dress, and then simply The Jenness-Miller Magazine.  Jenness-Miller also began selling patterns for her aesthetic / reform dresses and underwear for women and girls.”

All the illustrations here are from 1888 and 1890 copies of the magazine.  Susan has a bound volume of the issues for sale now on ebay.   She has shared a few items of interest that I’m sure you will enjoy.  All the illustrations click to enlarge.

How many women in 1890 do you suppose were employed as geologists, or even had rock collecting as a hobby?    In Annie Jenness-Miller’s world, healthier clothing led to one’s horizons being expanded.

“The business worker finds in her bicycle ride, to and from her place of occupation, opportunity for exercise which calls into play every muscle, and which refreshes every nerve and fibre of her being. Her bicycle gown, if it is a Jenness-Miller one, allows freedom to every movement, and she rides as easily and with as much absence of consciousness regarding her style of dress as any man upon his iron steed.” – April, 1890.

 Jenness-Miller was also concerned about healthy clothing for children.  In an article called “What the Little Folks Should Wear” she wrote, “A child should be dressed from the moment of its birth with reference to its physical needs….[in] garments … which restrict as little as possible the growing body…. Yet a little maiden of eight years was recently heard complaining that she could not get down on the floor to play, her corset was so tight.”

Annie Jenness-Miller advocated the wearing of a union suit for underwear.  She explained that the union suit would keep a woman warm and permit her to wear fewer garments overall.

Jenness-Miller was a dress reformer, but she did not completely reject fashion.  In this dress from 1890 you can see how the effect of a bustle is created through folded and draped fabric.  And while she advocated the demise of the corset, she did devise an under-bodice that was lightly boned to maintain a more fashionable shape.

The Isa dress from 1890 was appropriate for tennis with the looser bodice and shaped sleeves.

To see more of the illustrations, check out the ebay listing. And many thanks to Susan for sharing this great magazine.


Filed under Proper Clothing