Tag Archives: edwardian

Circa 1900 Seaside Promenade Dress

My collecting is expanding slowly back in time, and I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a bit out of my comfort zone when it comes to anything that dates before 1915. But in order to have a comprehensive collection showing how sportswear developed, one must make adjustments, as in the case of this dress. It was love at first sight, and so I added a dress for seaside promenades to my group of antique clothing.

I’ve looked at pictures of old dresses and at old fashion plates until my eyes crossed, and I still could not decide on a date. The sleeves are lighted gathered, the back of the skirt is gathered and has a bit of a tiny train effect, and there is a little peplum at the waist. It will not hurt my feelings at all if you want to help me pin down a date on this pretty dress.

Not quite sportswear, this dress nevertheless was meant for a casual walk along the boardwalk. The collar and fabric stripes fairly scream “nautical”.

Note: the hem looks dirty, but it is not. I’m guessing my stellar photography skills added the dirt.

The bodice has no permanent way to close it, so I’m guessing pins were used. Actually, a former owner had applied velcro, which I removed. I looked for signs of hooks and eyes from the past, but did not detect any old stitch marks. They could have been there, however.

The fabric is a fantastic cotton cord, which adds to the sporty look of the set.

The peplum effect is more pronounced in the back.

Maybe you can see here that the sleeves are gathered. They are also shaped with a bend in the elbow.

I think what really made me want this dress was that I was so crazy about a similar one in the collection at the Museum at FIT. I took this photo of their Uniformity exhibition in 2016. Maybe I need to do a reproduction tie and belt.


Filed under Collecting, Proper Clothing, Sportswear, Summer Sports

Edwardian Bathing Beauty Tobacco Silks

I  was all ready to write about 1940s snowflake sweaters (the bitter cold has an effect…) when I spotted these little lovelies at Dandelion Vintage.  These little scraps of silk, which measure around 2″ X 3″,  came as free premiums in tobacco or cigarette packs.   There were lots of different themes, such as flags and flowers and colleges, and the tobacco companies hoped that consumers would collect the entire set of a theme.

People did collect them, and quilters often incorporated them into their work.  For some reason it seems that many of them ended up in crazy quilts –  those quilts that just developed willy-nilly as the fabric scraps became available.

These are so beautiful, and I’ve been very tempted to collect them.  As pretty collectibles, they make a nice display.  What they are not good for, however, is learning about fashion history.  These are probably from the first ten years of the 20th century, when bathing suits were still worn below the knees.  In reality, the necklines were often quite high, and the more modest bather even added inserts to raise a V-neckline!  And in the silks, the ladies are shown with the popular figure silhouette of the day, which would make a corset necessary.  While I’m sure some women, especially in fashionable bathing spots, were still wearing a corset when bathing, most photos from this era showing ordinary women show that the wearing of corsets at the beach was a thing of the past.

I suppose that the illustrations were spiced up a bit as the main users of tobacco at the time were male!

See more photos


Filed under Collecting, Summer Sports

Victorian Exercise Dress and Edwardian Gymsuit

I was recently able to purchase fourteen pieces of vintage sportswear.  The family of a  long-time collector of historical dress was selling her collection due to illness.  They hired a person to inventory the collection, who contacted me.  From the inventory I was able to reserve some pieces I was interested in, which was a good thing because they soon found a buyer for the entire collection, minus the fourteen pieces they promised to sell to me.

Sometimes photos can really be misleading, especially if you think you know what you are seeing.  The person doing the inventory tagged this as a 1900 gymdress, and from the photo she sent to me, I was inclined to agree.  So I was really surprised when it arrived, I put it on the form to photograph it, and realized that the bloomer legs were much longer than the just below the knee length common during Edwardian times.

To test the proportions, I tried the suit on myself (quite scratchy..can’t imaging actually exercising in this!).  It was then that I noticed how dropped the shoulder line is. And the bloomers came almost to my ankles.  I’m short, but the fit and proportions were correct.  After consulting several people who know much more about Victorian clothing than I, the conclusion was reached that this probably dates to around 1865 – 1870.  That makes this a very early exercise dress!

Unfortunately, there would have been a skirt, probably 6 to 8 inches shorter than the bloomers, that the wearer would button over the bloomers.  I’m afraid they were separated long ago.  And the waist was enlarged, with a waistband of different fabric inserted.  The gold braid is original.  Could it be college or class colors, as this was most likely worn by a college girl?   Sometimes I wish these old clothes could talk!

Another of the pieces I bought is this circa 1910 gymsuit.  At first glance it looks a lot like the 1870 one, but many improvements were made in the 40 years between them.  This one is made from cotton, and it is much shorter and less bulky.  The short sleeves and the looser neckline provide so much more comfort to the wearer.  The collector seemed to think this came from U.C Berkeley, but she could not say why she thought that.

The buttons at the neckline come undone, and there are a series of snaps obscured by the belt.  The gymnast would just step in and button up.

This photo was taken in 1912 in Riverside, California.  The woman is probably holding an exercise wand, a weighted stick that the exerciser would wave around to strengthen the arms.


Posted by KeLLy Ann:

The second one is just so, …righteous!
I love it.

Friday, October 29th 2010 @ 8:11 PM

Posted by Jan:

So much fabric! I can’t imagine actually exercising in them but they are fabulous nonetheless 🙂

Saturday, October 30th 2010 @ 5:04 PM

Posted by Em:

Utterly amazing!

Saturday, October 30th 2010 @ 6:59 PM

Posted by Lisa:

The second one looks too fancy to be used for exercise – such cute details! As always, I love the fashion history that you provide. I learn so much from your posts.

Sunday, October 31st 2010 @ 5:54 AM

Posted by Sarsaparilla:

Oh my! What fabulous finds! I would think that this 1865-70 exercise dress must be one of the few surviving examples.
I would have loved to see you modeling it! Too bad so scratchy – it would make a fun Halloween outfit.
– Susan

Sunday, October 31st 2010 @ 6:21 AM

Posted by Amanda:

That woman with the exercise wand is scary – reminds me of a school nurse I once had who scared the bejesus out of me!

Tuesday, November 2nd 2010 @ 3:29 PM

Posted by Lizzie:

I’m glad you all found these to be interesting. It is amazing what used to pass as “Comfortable.”Amanda, maybe she was the gym teacher and the wand was used not on the arms, but one the students!

Thursday, November 4th 2010 @ 6:38 AM

Posted by Ingrid:

Love this post. I used to wear my Mother’s 40s wool hockey tunic as a jumper when I was in high school in the early 70s.

Saturday, November 13th 2010 @ 12:56 PM


Filed under Collecting, Proper Clothing, Sportswear, Vintage Clothing