1883 on Sale – Genny


Eugenia “Genny”, Livery Owner

Bone & pearl carved buttons, velvet cotton, tanned leather, & heavy cotton print or denim for bodice, skirt, & trousers

As Sketched, Left to Right: pearl buttons, crocheted lace, silk ribbons & lace (red for pantaloons), dotted swiss cotton, muslin, lawn for undergarments

Light cottons useable with lined bodice, but a bit light for the skirt; recommend heavier cotton, denim for the suit, & lighter cottons for the blouse. Period correct brooch & feather decorations
We have in stock nice selection of era reproduction bone, pearl, & wood buttons
Fabric selections can vary with complimentary or contrasting fabrics. Riding habits of the late 1870’s were light in color (tan, gray, light green, etc.); by the early 1880’s they were somewhat darker (mid-range browns, blues, greens) as suggested here

 

Additional suiting fabrics are appropriate with small stripe or print
RECOMMENDED FOR THIS CHARACTER

Character development is not specific to a real person, but based on women of the time and place. Eugenia is based on similar women of the era, but no one in particular.  Taking a nickname when she arrives in the West, Genny represents the 2nd or 3rd generation of a family that is well established & somewhat wealthy back in the eastern and “civilized” US.  She is the woman who wants to find her way on her own using her wits instead of her heritage in a new world where it’s acceptable for women to remain single & run businesses.

Genny has extremely high education, skills in the arts & music, & a lifetime of experience in breeding, raising, & racing horses for profit, and wants to test her mettle on her own in the new world of the West.  Her learning curve includes fitting in with a broad mix of people from differing cultures in the West, which includes those less fortunate than her, as well as running a business in a world fraught with dangers and challenges.

As fashion goes, this character would bring with her at the start the most stylish & expensive everything she thinks she needs, and over time would be modified to be more functional & practical as she figures out what she actually needs.  Her most simple & durable garments would outlast her dress up clothes, although she would splurge and always keep something stylish every year – like her hat.

TO BE INCLUDED IN ENSEMBLE:

MAIN GARMENTS

  • Bodice/JacketRiding habit fitted lined & faced with inverted V front and postillon back; buttons in front & back of wood, bone, or engraved pearl (3/4″-1″ buttons on postillon)
  • Optional collar & cuffs lined in contrasting tanned leather
  • (No blouse needed with corset cover).  If it is desired to remove bodice/jacket, add below:
  • Full longsleeved blouse with gathered pleat center to wear in place of bodice/jacket or under it, per period, white handerchief linen or similar lightweight white cotton including dotted swiss or stripe
  • Side-saddle (English) style draped skirt, unsplit but short (ankle) for riding with long side to drape over horse.  Includes drapery tie to pull up long side when walking to put fullness into the “bustle look” for fashion when not riding.  Brown cotton broadcloth with no ornamentation (no pleats, frills, or braid as would have been typical).
  • Trousers REQUIRED to be historically correct even with pantalettes draped skirt: of same broadcloth
  • Trousers must be worn under the skirt, but can also be worn without the skirt.  These have a full front (“double breasted” type) flap button up which is different than men wore at the time, in order to accommodate larger pantaloons underneath. (trousers must pull down like a man’s to take care of bodily functions, while split pantaloons accommodate that – requires some effort and practice)

ACCESSORIES (By customer, can quote hats separately)

  • Hair no-fuss worn low & wrapped as bun; worn  under hat.  For dress up she might raise the bun & pin it more tightly
  • Hat western style – would have several – a brand new white stetson with beaded band & chin strap for work; big enough to shade her face fully, a smaller bowler type for dressage and similar competition (specific to competition type) with ‘rakish’ feather, and a current styled bonnet with decorative silk strings and double strings (2nd set for function) including feathers, ribbons, & silk flowers.  Possibly two stylish bonnets; one for winter and one for summer (straw).  These she would have shipped to her from the east seasonally
  • Small silk neck scarf; long enough to tuck down her bodice and MAYBE cover her face – but she’d never let herself get caught in a dust storm; has others to do that for her
  • Practical bodice brooch watch for daily wear and a decorative pendant watch for dressing up
  • Earrings; small & plain for daily; hanging ornamented gold to match pendant (an heirloom set from family)
  • Practical above-ankle boots, well maintained for daily wear. White or light grey kidskin boots for dress up

UNDERGARMENTS

  • (NO petticoat)
  • Undercorset vest to avoid chafing & absorb sweat
  • Short chemise (corset cover) with flat lace on neck & arms of light muslin; plain white  pantaloons, also with flat lace and waistbands to keep smooth front and back
  • Pantalettes with split crotch & flat lace just around bottom which bound at ankle, otherwise very plain just below knee (shorter than typical so they won’t peek out when riding or climbing to the saddle)
  • Riding, reform, or sanitary corset of period (wool most authentic; cotton acceptable); longer profile closer to current style than Kit’s (which is an underbust).  Optional ventilated or gusseted summer corset (upgrade)

NOTE: the difference in a riding habit from daily women’s wear at the time was that the riding habit had to have the chemise & pantaloon or pantalette undergarment with no petticoat, & the day dress often used a combination chemise & pantaloon in one undergarment with several petticoats depending on status & style

IN GENERAL FOR 1883

 

Old Trail Town in Cody, Wyoming has restored buildings from the entire region representing the real west from about 1850-1900

Women of the American Old West had to be resourceful to cope with the elements that surrounded them: the harsh conditions, lawlessness, & living in an age where there were few amenities. Some women took to the gun as readily as any man, while others made lives for themselves apart from dignified society. But for women who made the trek west with their families, their lot was in raising children, running a household (that included food processing, candle & soap making, spinning, weaving, knitting, etc.), establishing schools & churches, & occasionally, warding off Indian attacks. Some were deeply involved in human & voting rights (the suffragette movement).

Design & depiction of fashion of Western America fashion must put all those odds & ends together, along with what is known about influences, environment, availability, attitudes, culture, values, & assumptions about the person or people being studied & depicted. There are whole professions, notably Anthropology, which study these factors. Yet other professionals such as Museum Curators spend whole lifetimes gathering & studying the clues of fashion.

For our purposes for depiction, we must trust the research of those professionals, & draw the best conclusions we can based on which facts are known, but add Grandma’s stories to breathe life into our depictions. Our projects will assume fashion for depiction is based on one of the factors below.

The school in Sundance, WY now houses the Crook County Museum & Art Gallery

A) Fashion and/or the concept of fashion of the day was physically carried from the east coast (originating from the same influences as Easterners), & then modified or adapted to suit the culture, time, place, or activity;

This starts with the assumption whatever the current trend of the east is being carried west, & will focus on those factors which would cause them to be modified; e.g. materials, patterns, or communication unavailable;

It means fashion will almost always be 1 or 2 years out of style compared to the east;

Designs based on this assumption will end up being modifications of whatever was in style in the east a couple of years prior to the depiction.

B) Clothing was origined out of local materials; e.g. furs, leathers, & therefore based on the same influences as men’s fashion such as evolution of the cowboy ensemble, almost strictly for function;

These projects will be researched & developed per project by specific region, working with our subcontractors who specialize in indigenous materials;

The American Cowgirl in particular demands research into male clothing & its adaptation for women.

C) Fashion design & clothing was a combination of above; e.g. western innovations like denim jeans which arise out of functional need; yet using modern technology of fabric, dye, & production that comes from the east which combines local availability of fur, skin, or locally made fabrics or materials (such as spun or woven yarn) with those of mass production or import;

This will be the result of very specific character of research, since it combines extensive historical data as to fashion of the day PLUS the specific geographic region including all aspects of the time & place;

It cannot be generalized.

D) Design & construction of garments comes of native, ancient civilization inspiration, influence, or actual use;

Silhouettes intentionally chooses not to develop “D”, as the world of ancient & Indian cultures is vast & complex, & can take a lifetime, although influences of such will be considered with characters where that is pertinent;

We will refer customers to appropriate professionals who can help them with this.

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APPLICATION OF HISTORICAL DATA TO THE DESIGN

 

Kittie Wilkins “Horse queen of Idaho”, expert in breeding and sales of horses, still rode side saddle as our character would have in 1890

TIME AND PLACE

“Mid 1880’s” in the American West (Wyoming). Western rural/ranching distant from society. Materials, notions, fabrics would be out of date due to limited shipments and access to goods, information, or updates. As many things would be made or bartered nearby as possible; e.g. leathers, furs, simple cottons. Women would know of fashion by word of mouth or through periodicals which would be local and/or sporadic

Depiction of the Sundance Kid era with Etta Place (and Anne Bassett and similar of the “outlaw era”) would be 1899. While 1899 was definitely a non-bustle era too, the fashion was very different, especially corsetry (1899 uses the long, controlling corset that pushes the woman’s bust forward into a monobosom, while 1883 is a waist cincher to the hips but not over them). The alternate “High Fashion” proposed accommodates that: it is an 1883 fashion, but made through design, fit, and components to appear to be the later 1899 garment, the main difference being the skirt which would be an inverted “tulip” in 1899, whereas it is a straight line with a drape in 1883.

FASHION ERA SELECTION – NO BUSTLE:

We have intentionally selected 1882-3, because the “fishtail” bustle era had just ended, and it was a short period of simple draping over the rear end with no bustle before the large “horse hind” bustle would take over late 1884.

This European princess was a competitive dressage rider who chose a tailored sporty short-skirted style even for daily wear. Few women of the era of this status could get away with the short skirt other than during their sport, although in the West, due to practicality, most women wore shorter skirts with smaller drapes than were considered fashionable

MULTIPLE FUNCTION ADVANTAGE:

The other advantage of the era is that a very inexpensive, plain cotton 1 or 2 piece dress was worn for daily use AND for dress up. Draping methods in 1883 were numerous and anything from a simple roughed over apron to elaborate folds & bows in the back were acceptable. This means one dress could have several different drapes to serve different needs & still be completely historically correct.

Bodices could be 2 piece with inserts or chemisettes instead of full blouses, which allows flexibility in the costuming, & ability to clean just worn inserts the same as they would have at the time, while leaving the main garment unwashed.

Using interchangeable aprons, skirt overdrapes, collars, cuffs, & petticoats allow the interpreter to use the same basic gown for 2-3 different interpretations, and to keep the cost down for the initial purchase, while adding pieces as desired as time goes on and more interpretation ideas are thought up. Hot summers, wind, and cold snowy winters would need two garments per woman plus 1 dress up.

Basic garments need to be very simple and uncharacteristically plain for the era. Typical at the time were extremes in use of trims, ruffles, fringe, etc. These people would have been much more efficient in use of their clothing than those to the east.

Economy would mean wearing the same bodice and changing the skirt by function (e.g. split skirt for riding, but long dress with overskirt for dress up). Accessories and especially sentimental jewelry hats and bonnets would be key to changing for activity and keeping up with style. Small accessories would have been imported, but hats and bonnets most likely locally made.

Footwear, though not in general fashion, would be tie up the front ankle high boots with a flat to 1″ heel, cotton stockings over the knee or held with garters to keep the corset down and the stockings up.

As the “suit” became acceptable, the tailored jacket of the riding habit became normal for day wear too. The next decades would see the opening of the bodice to reveal a full blouse underneath instead of just an ascot with a corset cover & false cuffs such as these most likely were. It was common to wear the bodice & skirt daily, and dress them up with collar and cuff to stretch functionality

RECOMMENDED USE OF HISTORICAL & NATURAL MATERIALS

Using plain (unembroidered or detailed) fabrics of the era and simple patterns also allows us to make the garment fast to meet tight deadlines. Use of cottons also allows under or over dress for the weather. Please note it is our goal in this business to give the wearer the most authentic experience as possible. This means everything from undergarments up need to be of the same material, design, cut, and method of wearing that would have been in 1883.

Sleeves went higher approaching 1885 and then dropped after 1886. This family shows how different members could be years apart in wearing what was considered fashionable; even more prevalent in comparing western women’s apparel to that of the eastern United States. The west was typically 1 to 2 years behind fashion; more as you traveled further west

For that reason, we recommend taking the time and cost to do the authentic corset, although we are quoting a theatrical corset to save time and money. While our corsets are designed for the modern body, and do not attempt to shape the body as they would have at the time, the authentic corsets are made of natural fabrics which breath and react to conditions and weather.

SOME SYNTHETICS

Theatrical means “non-authentic” materials & construction. If theatrical is selected, it will be made of polyester/cotton with metal powder coated and/or plastic boning. Because these will not give authentic feeling, we recommend selecting all historic garments.

Some pre-made ruffles and ribbons may be of synthetic materials due to the prohibitive cost of silk and embroidery and the time required for hand detailing, although the latter is available on request. 100% cotton or silk thread will be used for all hand stitching. This era was machine sewn including mass produced trims and details. Machine sewing and embroidery will use polyester thread for durability.

REAL GARMENTS FROM THE ERA
1880 side saddle riding habit with 1873 crop

 

1883 side saddle riding ensemble leather trim

 

1883 Split skirt walking or riding ensemble

 

1883 side saddle riding habit with postillon back

 

1898 Split riding skirt
Reform or Sanitary corset of late 1870’s-early 1880s. The Reform movement wanted to stop all women from wearing corsets for their health
Ventilated sports corset of 1883
Summer Corset of the late 1870’s

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