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1898 Ida B. Wells, Dr. Anderson

Dr. Yvonne Anderson, 1898 Depiction

Ida Bell Wells-Barnett, Slave, Educator, Journalist, Activist, & Hero

“Ida B. Wells” was born into slavery in Holly Springs, Mississippi in 1862, six months before the Emancipation Proclamation.  She was freed, yet lost her parents to yellow fever a few years later.  With the help of her grandmother she kept her family intact by moving the family to Tennessee to seek better employment.  She died a hero in 1931, noted for her battle against racial injustice.  During her life she was a crusading African American journalist who exposed the crime and shame of lynching and fought the battle for women’s suffrage.
Early Years
Ida’s mother was a cook and her father was a carpenter.  Both were slaves.  Her grandfather was the master of the plantation on which her father was a slave, which is where she got her last name Wells.  She was the oldest of seven children.
Because Ida’s father served on the first board of trustees for Rust College, she received her early education there.  She loved to read the Bible and Shakespeare, but her parents died before she could graduate from high school.  At age 16, Wells passed a teacher’s exam and told the superintendant she was 18 so she could teach school, but she was disillusioned by the inequality of male teachers earning three times more than women for the same work.   This and influence from her parents started her journey to take up causes of justics and equality.
Her father had been a “race man”; a leader in civil rights activities and a member of the Loyal League.  Her mother was a devout and strict woman.  Ida had started to attend Shaw University like her father, but was removed from the institution due to her “rebellious activities”.
In 1884, after she moved to Memphis to care for her siblings, Tennessee, three railroad workers removed her from a train for refusing to leave a car reserved for white women.  She sued and won, only to see the verdict overturned by the Tennessee Supreme Court.
This incident inspired Wells to begin writing newspaper columns and she purchased a share of the Memphis Free Speech and Headlight.  Writing under the pseudonym “Lola”, she wrote articles on race and politics in the south, ad continued to teach while writing.  She eventually lost her job due to an article she wrote about Memphis’ separate but not-so-equal schools.  She also made the claim that a member of the all-white board was having an affair with an African-American teacher.
When three of her black friends in 1889 were lynched after opening a grocery store in competition with a white-owned business she started investigating the incident, and challenged the assertion that large numbers of black men were raping white women.

Through a personal investigation of lynching, Wells began to write editorials urging African-Americans to boycott Memphis’ new streetcar line and move westward.  She came to realize lynchings were not being used to weed out criminals, but to enforce white supremacy.  Blacks began to leave Memphis is great numbers, and those who remained behind, boycotted white businesses.  Local papers tried to dissuade blacks from moving west by reporting that the American Indians were hostile and that dangerous diseases awaited them.

To counter the reports, Wells traveled to Oklahoma and returned first hand reports of actual conditions.  She continued to investigate lynchings across the south from Texas to Virginia, asking questions no one wanted to know the answers to.

The city of Memphis, she wrote, does not protect and African American “who dares to protect himself against the white man or become his rival.”  She was published nationally, but when a mob reacted to one of her anti-lynching editorials in Memphis by destroying the printing presses, her life was threatened.  She did a speaking tour of the British Isles and Europe to inspire action to stop the lynchings and was well received.

Upon returning to the US, American papers along with upper class African-Americcans attacked Ms Wells as they feared she would upset their status.  She moved to Chicago in the 1890’s to carry on her causes, and lived there until the end of her life.  She married lawyer Ferdinand Barnett, had four children, and worked as a probation officer.  She supported migrants from the south, and traveled widely to openly oppose racial terror.

Ms. Wells was known for adherence to her principles and values, and was honored for sacrificing herself for those ideals.  She was one of the “National Association for the Advancement of Colored People” (NAACP).  As an outspoken, activist black woman, at a time when being black or being a woman was often held against someone in public life, Wells often faced disapproval from leaders of the black civil rights movement as well as leaders from the women’s rights movement.

Cover of Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases

Word & Deed

Ms. Wells was active in establishing notable women’s organizations, and as a skilled a persuasive rhetorician, she traveled internationally on lecture tours. In an effort to raise awareness and opposition to lunching, Wells spoke to groups in New York City where her audiences included leading African-American women.  The Women’s Loyal Union of New York an Brooklyn was formed to organize a group that could act politically.

She published editorials and research including a pamphlet titled “Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All its Phases” where she concluded Southerners cried rape as an excuse to hide their real reasons for lynchings which were to do with black economic progress.  She explored Frederick Douglass’ articles on “Southern barbarism”.
Columbian Exposition & Beyond
In 1893, together with Frederick Douglass and other black leaders, Mrs. Wells-Barnett organized a black boycott of the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago because of its failure to collaborate with the black community on exhibits which would portray African-American lifestyles.
Wells, Douglass, Irvine Penn, and her future husband Barnett wrote and distributed over 20,000 pamphlets at the Exposition titled “Reaons Why the Colored American Is Not in the World’s Columbian Exposition”.  It details the blacks’ journey in America and the case of lynchings.
After the Fair, Ms. Wells decided to stay in Chicago.
Personal & Private Life
Ferdinand Barnette, Husband of Ida in 1900
Ida with her 4 children in 1909
Ms. Wells tracked her life through diaries, although there were few personal things written.  Before she married Ferdinand Barnett in 1895, she said she would only date men with whom she had “little romantic interst” because she did not want romance to be the center of a relationship.  She wanted personal interaction to be more important than physical attraction.
She did marry a widower with two sons, and was one of the first married American women to keep her own last name as well as hyphenating her husband’s.
Her diaries also revealed she bought many things she could not afford.  She admits that although she worked hard a balancing her family and professional lives, she had difficulty do it.  She continued to work after the birth of their first child, traveling and bringing the infant Charles with her.  Fellow suffragette Susan B Anthony said of her at this time that Ida seemed “distracted”.  After the birth of her 2nd child, she stopped public life all together for a time.
By 1898, Wells-Barnett was still a fierce campaigner in the anti-lynching world.  When the NAACP Women’s Clubs did not invite her to participate in the association, she left the group to form the “Alpha Suffrage Club of Chicago” which was the first African-American club dedicated to the national women’s right to vote.
When 5000 women marched on Washington DC in 1913 in support of suffrage, she was there.  The organizers wanted the black women to march at the back, but the Illinois delegation under Wells-Barnett refused, and walked between their white friends instead right up front.
After settling in Chicago, Wells worked to help southerners migrating to northern industrial cities.  There were great social tensions between these immigrants, those coming from Europe, earlier ethnic whites such as Irish Americans, and others competing for jobs and housing space at the time.  She worked on urban reform in Chicago for the last 30 years of her life, was a probation officer, and wrote her autobiography in 1928 which was never finished as she died of kidney failure at the age of 68.  She was buried in Oak Woods Cemetery in Chicago.
Her efforts influenced the civil rights movement of the 1960’s, and there is currently a bid to erect a new monument and name a street after Ida B. Wells in Chicago, Illinois.
Choosing a Time Frame
Although Ms. Wells lived only to 68 years old, she had an intense and filled life.  At each stage in her development, she was a public figure, and her outward appearance would have reflected her internal growth.  As we see it, Ms. Wells public life can be divided into:
1876- 1881-4 Teen years – care for her siblings, education, and early key events such as the train ride & lawsuit for justice
1884-1888 – Early advocacy years – starting around age 24 when she began to publish and participate in journalism
1889-1891 – peak time of individual advocacy; response to key events of grocer friends, moving to Illinois, starting again and with renewed vigor
1892-3 – joining others of like causes; boycott Columbian Exposition, publication, meeting husband
1895-98 – marriage, public vs private life
1899-1928 – settling in, getting suffrage, rights, and organizations permanently established
Interestingly, these relate to fashion eras:
1876-1883 – mid-Victorian the “natural form” lobster tail bustle into the “no bustle” era
1884-1888 – late Victorian large bustle to end of bustle to growing larger sleeves and back to smaller ending with Edwardian Era
1889-1905 – early Edwardian – the “blousewaist” and “traveling suit” for working women and women making political statements
1905-1915 – late Edwardian drop waists into the WWI era division in fashion
Real American Women 1890-92
Selection based on Personality & Preferences
Assumed personality of Character for Depiction
The first thing to note from photographs is: Ms. Wells is always in the latest fashion, or the best one of limited means could be in the latest fashion.
Also from her diaries we note: she would splurge on fashionable items (e.g. HATS) that she probably could not afford.
Assumptions based on photos, diaries, and records of her life indicate:
1) she did want to be fashionable (she keeps up exactly with current corset styles and wears current fashion hats)(her skirt shape and number of gores changes correctly with fashion date – which meant she probably altered her skirts each season of the year – perhaps herself or a family member who backed her up in keeping her current)
(Also, it would seem she had a great support group at home – family? community?  a group of women?  Her hats appear to be hand made, yet not the best in quality or construction.  The reason that is important to us is it means she has someone making things for her, and she would have someone to advise her in fashion and to help her get dressed vs wearing things she has to be able to get into herself – important distinction in how we build her undergarments and closures like whether there are hooks in back or front, etc.)
2) she didn’t have much money (inexpensive fabrics, and she’s using a low cost mother of pearl pin that’s meant for lingerie (adjusting a strap or something) in place of where a woman of that day would wear her mother’s brooch or her very best and most expensive, especially in a formal portrait)(Also, all but the colorized purple-blue outfit (not in this batch of photos) we talked about Sunday look home made),
3) she liked to wear blue, and she loves lace of all types, but the broad and edging laces best.  These were used abundantly from readymade sources and catalogs, and were high fashion during the peak of her career.
4) she has the high and masculine neckline in all her fashion eras, with some tailoring but not really sharp nor masculine.  I see a lot of “suiting” in her ensembles – which in 1892-3 were more for walking, sports, riding, or working women who were secretaries (the 3 piece “suit” wasn’t invented yet – they didn’t have blouses; just ‘revers’ which looked like a blouse stitched into the jacket).
To summarize – it does look like she’s trying to appeal to women for her causes, but fit in with men in a business situation.  She’s got backing somewhere and great support, and someone(s) does a lot of work for her. She’s urban in attitude – big city values on style and fashion.
Wearing the masculine, easy to clean, and less expensive tailored “suit” is indeed quite appropriate for what I understand about her history, and the same thing you or I would probably do if we were running for political office or stumping for a cause today.  In 2018 we would probably put together some sort of jacket, blouse, pant or skirt ensemble in neutral or dark colors and then accent with significant accessories to express personality and the cause.
We note Ida keeps her details (trims, ornament, necklines, etc.) very feminine, but the overall tailored look and dark colors and semblance of “suit” seems an attempt to appear strong and maybe big.  She’s pretty “padded out” with lace and “stuff”, but not her undergarments which seem to have clean straight lines – typical of that era as copious trim was popular because it was cheap and easy to get – but I think it’s a bid to appear powerful.  The 1895 fashion certainly was the peak of trying to look powerful, and these styles are just before that.
These lead us to a date range that might be feasible to present her powerful image and fashionable side, during the peak of her activist career and world notoriety.  Depiction will need to still be narrowed down to the activity and purpose if this is selection.
An 1890 to 1893 ensemble would include:
*  combination (split drawers and camisole in one as the base layer)(you would wear this over naked, and need to learn how to use the restroom with the split – actually easier than modern panties),
*  long cinching late Victorian corset, but with gores and gussets of the newer “pre-Edwardian”  style that emphasizes tiny waist and large rump.  There were many colors, trims, and fabric choices straight from the catalog, so there can be many personal choices in one of those,
*  petticoat to match the skirt style, one preferred with enough “frou-frou” to attain the silhouette on its own,
*  jacket with revers or just the blousewaist without jacket (2 piece ensemble – jacket/revers and skirt or blousewaist and skirt) and the big “elephant ear” sleeves as shown,
*  “modern fichu”, elaborate neck wear in layers of lace that could be used in other depictions,
*  gored skirt appropriate to which date and season of the year is chosen (full in back, somewhat flat in front), summer preferred so we can make a straw hat of the larger, pre-Edwardian style rather than the vertical “bird’s wing” style,
*  stand collar neckline and personalized accessories/jewelry,
*  reproduction shoes (or authentic depending on size) with correct heal and toe box design,
*  large brimmed straw or buckram hat with padding in back and front to attain correct “tilt” without requiring a hair pad,
* although a small wig or hair riser is recommended as Ida B had long natural dark hair swept high atop her head and THEN the big hat.
Examples of the above are on the “fashion history” and “design development” pages which include sketches and key extant samples for the 1890-93 era.
An 1892 ensemble – in the middle of the years in consideration – with the larger Edwardian straw hat, smaller sleeves, masculine waistcoat, and Zoave jacket with frogging – all in the ever Victorian popular plaid. This does not seem to suit the personality of Ms. Wells, but the silhouette and forms can be applied to different materials and accessories to great success

A Different Time Frame 1899-1905

If a later depiction is chosen, the number of pieces will not change much, but the styling will.  This era was the height of Edwardian – when fashion split into 5 components (Art Nouveau, Grand Dame , Gibson Girl and Edwardian Classic, Working Girl, and La Belle Epoque).

A quick interpretation from photos and the analysis above, plus her age and stage in life, would have her either in a tailored working ensemble, or that of the Edwardian Classic lace-covered everything.

Depiction at approximately the year 1900 would have Ms. Wells aged about 40 years in the middle of her child bearing and raising years as she married in 1895, late in life for that time.  Since we have no photos or real depictions of her, we know that in 1900 an ensemble would include:

  •  The Edwardian long corset with boning offset; including gussets, gores, and pads for the dropped “S monobosum”
  • combination – ornamented
  • corset cover
  • single petticoat but with frou frou
  • proper gored and draped skirt for specific 6 month period chosen
  • proper fabric
  • 2 section blousewaist and skirt
  • possible jacket, Zouave type with dropped belt
  • blousewaist with drooping in front; ideally fully laced with stock and stand collar, slight fullness at the shoulders, fullness at the wrist, and integrated cuffs button on
  • appropriate shoes and stocks
Estimated 1900 to 1902, this woman has the high fashion Edwardian/Gibson hair style and characteristic blousewaist of the day. We assume she has the “monobosum” cinching corset and appropriately gored skirt

Discussion continued through the next pages and concluded below…

Click here to go to Dr. Anderson’s Historical Context page (next)

Click here to go to Dr. Anderson’s Fashion History page

Click here to go to Dr. Anderson’s Design Development page

Continue below for the Finished Project

1898-99 is the final choice!  The color scheme is based on historic gold, with dark brown accents in trim and accessories.  The silhouette is created by a late Victorian symmetrical waist-cinching corset over which the assymmetrical gored petticoat and skirt with flat front and full back bring the lines into the Edwardian era.  It’s just what a woman would have done – hung onto her old undergarments, used basics for the “suit”, and dressed it all up with the most current accessories and hat.

But Wait!

After careful analysis and reconsideration, Dr. Anderson has decided to complete the ensemble in the Rust/Tangelo scheme.  We found this amazing photo of the Columbian Exposition (below) that affirms the decision to have a rust “suit” with ivory blousewaist and coordinating hat.  We know we are exactly right with this design.


The Rust/Tangelo scheme with selections made.  There will be a few things determined during construction (easier to see laid out on the real fabrics) like buttons, buckles, and laces – but this is the final design being built.  Undergarments are the same as above.

These are the Final Fabric & Notion Selections

In making final decisions, Dr. Anderson also considered an ivory authentic cameo, so we went on search for matching mother of pearl earrings, and presented a closer view of the tortoiseshell so she would have data to make enlightened comparisons:

.. and footwear is down to the final two – reproduction Tango pump, or authentic lacing boots in pristine condition:


Mockup First

In constructing original design, and with the customer across the country, we have been using a dressmaking dummy to build the ensemble.  While this is “pretty good”, a dummy is not “squishy” like a person, and so there are many issues with fitting to the body, especially using corsets and sashes and things that can be loose or tight depending on preference.

The way historical women of the late 1890’s dealt with this was to buy or make outer garments that were a “set” point, and then to adjust the corset and undergarments to that.  The extra pound gained or lost would be padded out or cinched in using the corset.

Since we don’t really cinch to restrict the body these days, we have to be more accurate.  The blousewaist is designed to be tailored, well fitted, and to minimize bulk through the front, arms, and lower belly.  We had to make a test run in a lesser costly fabric to ship it down to Dr. Anderson to try on over her undergarments.

This is the design in a “coarse” look – more like a prairie blousewaist style because it is made out of a heavier, premium printed cotton.  It has mother of pearl authentic buttons – teeny ones at the neck, and the same tucks and pleats and detailing as the final one will have – EXCEPT – the final blousewaist will be made of a heritage batiste (very, very fine and tightly woven cotton like lawn but not see-through/sheer) with authentic cotton tatted lace on cuff and collars, and special mother of pearl buttons.

The tucks will be tighter and lighter in appearance (so it doesn’t look “spikey”), and instead of, or possibly over, the ruffle, it will have an edging lace.   Overall, it will be much more delicate, less bulky, but still tailored.  The inside seams will have better finishes, and it will be a garment for a professional woman of the city of the time.

FINAL Blousewaist

The final design is a bit different than the mockup – predominantly it does not have fitted darts in the bottom front, but depends on getting its shape by tucking it in.  The pleating is made to lie very flat in front across the belly to maintain the overall silhouette, and is full in the back.

The pleats are smaller and more delicate, and the center decorative section is narrower too.  Tucks are smaller and higher on the arms, and there is more fullness at the top of the sleeve in the final design.

The goal is this to be a perfectly fitted and utility type of blousewaist that acts as a neutral background for the elaborate jacket and skirt, and to show off the jewelry.

In reviewing actual photos of Ida B., we note this pleating tucking, ruching, and kilting is very consistent with her every ensemble.  The result we believe overall is a very classy, tailored, and professional “no fuss” ensemble that would have been appropriate for Ida B. to lead a meeting in the US or to travel in Europe.  She would have had much fancier clothes for court.

The beautiful mother of pearl buttons are shown off by hand made buttonholes of 100% silk twist.  The contrasting ecru of the lace, silk thread, interfacing is designed for a VERY subtle color of ecru and ivory for interest which plays into the depth and the shadows of the many tucks, pleats, and ruffles.

Note especially the detail of alencon lace on wrists and neck – subtle and hidden for discovery when someone looks closely.  We take pride in the overall image from a distance appearing natural and normal for its era – while close up intriguing and drawing interest with key details and historic features not found on modern garments such as the double cuff, stand collar, and double collar.




Skirt Mock up First

The skirt will be made of reproduction linen in a custom dye lot, so because of the distance and to be certain it fits and drapes correctly, we designed and constructed out of plain cotton which drapes similarly.

The objectives were: flat and neat front that shows no lines of the undergarments, pleated and very full back that fits over the petticoat and has similar draping so they move together, lovely back “sweeper” length that will swish back and forth as she walks (not too short and not too long, especially for easy movement at school), front just tipping over the toes or dragging a bit and to cover the petticoat in front; reveal the petticoat in back.

It also needs the gored lines of the era, with fullness starting just under the knees, as implemented by the petticoat fullness at the same spot.  The silhouette should be long and straight in front without restricting movement, with a graceful sweep at the back and sides that will drag somewhat back with the back skirt.

Period correct hook and eye closures are implemented in a unique way to the day.  It requires tension from exactly the correct fit through the upper hip and waist area, so this may need adjustment depending on how the corset is laced, but simple change of hooks and eyes should accommodate that (we hope).

The key is length in front; just brushing the shoes.  We think we’ve got it!

FITTING – November, 2018 in undergarment options with mockup skirt and blousewaist:

FINISHED SKIRT (with Belt/Sash) including Venetian Lace:

The skirt has a silk taffeta integrated “foundation skirt” which cannot be seen except at the closure at the waist:


The last project completed was the final jacket.  We are not showing the 3 mockups that were done to achieve the fit from a distance.  This ended up being the most challenging of all.  The combination of working with linen which would spot when used with water, but wouldn’t press unless used with steam, combined with a stiff silk taffeta lining that raveled, and a heavy cotton velveteen that shredded, and the synthetic Venetian braid was a very difficult use of fabrics.

It was entirely authentic, including the experience.

Each of the blousewaist, skirt, and jacket took about 70 hours in construction.  Most of that was figuring things out.  Patterns from this era do not give instructions nor marks on pattern pieces, IF they give pattern pieces at all.  The few patterns we could base this on (it is entirely original, so it is only based on extant garments, photos, and patterns from the era), were built with revers – meaning the blousewaist was integrated into the jacket, boned at the back, and highly structured.

Our subjective decision to build an 1898 ensemble with the symmetrical corset, yet move into the Edwardian era meant we were in reality and in concept crossing over two eras – and apparently taking the most difficult of the two eras: the complex and yet tight fit of the Edwardian blousewaist (true Edwardian blousewaists “bloused” a whole lot and then just tucked in – ours had to be custom fit with minimal blousing), and the Victorian fitted bodice  with elaborate trim and complex mix of fabrics and notions.

This design in restrospect carries many elements of the 1880’s – something we think Ida B would have done – in the orange and brown scheme, the use of elaborate trim on the jacket plus skirt (Edwardians would have done more lace and less trim for “Dame” of “Gibson”, an less ornament for “Working”).

We think the final product has the PERFECT turn of the century silhouette with the gored skirt, tailored yet somewhat fancy blousewaist that is somewhat tucked, and the jacket that crosses over late Victorian into Edwardian eras – with a personality twist with color, texture, and attitude.

When the hat is added, and especially the high crowned Gibson Girl wig based on African American natural hair – it is an ensemble quite tailored and subdued, but still with a LOT of attitude and confidence.


A Challenge at the Finish!

The Vest Chain

When we got to this point draping on the dressmaking dummy, we realized that unless Dr. Anderson is a lot flatter in the bust than our initial fitting or photos indicated, the bottom of the jacket would flap outwards and turn inside out.  We looked to real women of the past to resolve this (after adjusting the back and side panel designs 4 times to pull the weight back).

Because we don’t really know her shape in her corset, we built in a little trick that royalty did to get that perfect fit on their end of the century short bolero jackets like ours.  Eno, Queen of Spain (and Queen Victoria’s granddaughter), in 1900 hides a little chain, like a watch chain (and maybe she has a watch!) under her inner vest and below the bust to keep that bolero bottom exactly in space.

We designed the same from simple jeweler’s components, and used necklace hooks that went around two mother of pearl shank buttons on either side of the jacket – hidden away.

It ended up being the PERFECT item to complete the ensemble!

Special Details – Silk Taffeta Linings & Foundation (underskirt)



Corset 1

Paisley silk brocade with silk Shantung lining

This is built with an inner core of white couteil fabric with the decorative silk fabric overlaid.  It has an inner lining of couteil also, and is covered by the shantung.  All boning is metal; the back lacing has rigid 1/4″ bones, while the rest is spiral.

The challenge on this project was to get so many bones into such a small body.  It took a lot of strong finger work, reminding us why corsetry used to be a “male only” business until machines could take over the tough stitching.

The boning and gussets (interchangeable term with “gore”, depending on the era and geographic location) were carefully draped to the body and designed to give VERY strong support and lift of the breasts.  This should be a very comfortable and durable corset.  It has a waist tape so that extremely tight cinching through the middle is possible if Dr. Anderson so desires.  It is designed, however, to give a comfort fit and just smoothe the body and lift the breasts.

It is actually an 1880’s long corset cut shorter to accommodate the shorter body for modern comfort.  Ida B. would have worn the long corset or the newer Edwardian monobosum.  This is like Ida wearing her “comfy old corset” before jumping to the new styles.  The silk is a little high end for a middle class woman, but by 1898 Ida was fairly well off with her attorney husband and world fame, so we figured she would have splurged on silk.. but then worn it a whole lot to get her money’s worth.

We are not particularly concerned with separating the breasts, as the fashion of the day was actually the low, monobosum (perfect for a mature woman).  We figure Ida would have liked her high and perky breasts, but would not care so much if they were lifted and separated.  The corset will do as much lift (and hold!) as the customer wishes, but will only somewhat separate.  This is intentional.

The other challenge was to find a busk that fit the short body and was strong enough.  Dr. Anderson’s length dictated an “in between” size, so as they did in history, we improvised by adding closure hooks at the bottom front.  This allows her more comfort sitting if need be also.  The hooks are necessary because we are aiming for a flat front and full back for 1898.  Her corset covers and other undergarments will build on this “fluff in back; flat in front” concept.

While the fabrics are very light, the boning is heavy, so it ends up feeling like a soft and cushy back brace. Temperature-wise, the natural fabrics and silk will be very nice in the warm southern climate
Hooks were added to make sure the lower front stays flat for the silhouette of the day. It allows adjustability in the cinching across the rear end
Triple looped 100% silk bows will actually be tucked inside when it is worn
The corset will stretch another 2″ so this 6″ even lacing is just about perfect for a new corset
This is on the body with a comfy lacing. It can go much tighter at the waist if desired
Cotton edging trim is just for fun and makes it look like a French boudoir corset; difficult in one so very functional and durable
We added some fun detail such as reversed lining at the edges and an antique brass metal busk in front with matching antique grommets for lacing in back

Corset 2

Floral Silk Brocade with Ivory Sateen Cotton Lining

We made this because our head corsetierre said “it’s easier to fit from a distance if you don’t have gores/gussets”, so this is a straight boned corset.  It is still very heavily boned, and again as with the first one, the challenge was getting almost full bones (like 18th century reeded stays) into such tiny fabric.  It should give spectacular support and comfort.

Also built in is the waist tape for tight cinching and an adjustable silk ribbon tied top.  The main disadvantage to this over the other one is that the breasts won’t be “lifted and separated” quite as well, but rather quashed and held tight.  It will become a subjective decision based on fit.

Look at the lovely figure control and directed lines in a very comfortable and heavily metal boned corset. You can see tthe waist tape doing its job down the middle

The silk brocade of this may also pull a bit on the busk edge.  It is not corset fabric; a learning curve for us.  The busk is the right size on this one though, as it is an earlier, shorter corset more akin to the late 1870’s.  It is a beautiful silk with muslin (era appropriate) lining and very little ornament because the fabric and lines are so lovely.

Our favorite is the lovely curve on the waist and hip that will drive men crazy.

The busk is just the right size on this shorter corset that skims over the hip bones. That’s antique gold on the busk and lacing grommets
Either corset can be worn over undervest and split drawers (as shown here) or over the combination (shown with Corset 1 Paisley above), or they can all be worn together piled on top of each other – except the corsets. She only wears one corset at a time.
Gorgeous silk on silk on silk.. strong and beautiful ribbons and ornament are 100% silk each
There’s that lovely waist beloved from the 1840’s until about 1900 when the Edwardian “S Monobosum” came into vogue
Proper lacing for this includes rabbit ears and then everything gets tucked under the laces and will help fill out the back of the gored skirt and petticoat



As the bottom most layer of the ensemble, the Combination must be very washable, durable, and comfortable.  This one is made of extra fine and high quality ivory lawn fabric from a vintage source.  It has mother of pearl Mississippi River buttons which can be ironed.  Since this is the layer that will soak up sweat, it will need to be washed and ironed, including the ribbons.

Everything is either 100% cotton including the lace or 100% silk so it is very strong and lightweight and breathable to wear.  Women of the 1890’s bought their combinations without darts from a catalog.  They then got together with other women to fit the darts.  The closer the fitting the better; especially with the goal of the smoothe front line of the silhouette. 

Because this is the only thing (unless drawers are added for warmth or modesty over them) under the corset, it must have minimal bumps or lumps that could mar the skin.  For this reason it has all French seams and handmade button holes to be as smoothe and simple as possible.

The design itself is a “classic”; the same thing worn from the early 1880’s well until 1910 when the corsets dropped and the brassiere was invented.  It’s a challenge for modern women to learn to use split drawers to go to the restroom, but if there is a wide enough split, and with practice, women find it is much, much easier than modern panties and pants with all their zippers and such.

Combinations and drawers do not photograph well even on the person because they are sheer and require legs
Not very flattering on the dummy, they are meant to be really comfy and full through the back and rear end, yet smoothe and fitted in front. This shape keeps piling on with each layer to get the overall effect when the skirt is put on
You can see the split (tucked under the dressmaking dummy) which goes from the waist to the ankle in both front and back for using the restroom
Design of the back is much the same as bodices of the era, and are the most challenge to the seamstress to fit without having a body near
Lace and ribbon at the necks and sleeves of undergarments allow the woman to make adjustments to suit the outer garments for lower or higher necklines, wider or narrower sleeves, etc. This one in particular with its multilyaers of lace can be folded over or left straight up depending on preference
The bottom of the legs have double rows of lace and no ties. Late 1890’s combinations were straight legged and very full through the leg, and short being at “high calf” or just below the knee (as opposed to the ankle ruffled and tied version of the 1860’s)

The preferred position for the laces on the combination are optional.  Folding the lace down allows for it not to peak through a narrower outer garment.  It’s nice to have the choices:


Old women of the late 1890’s wanted a little more warmth and modesty than a lightweight combination made of sheer lawn could afford.  They reached back to their closets and pulled out simple, plain, durable cotton split drawers.  Worn alone or over the combination, the splits matched up so one could use the “necessary”, by then meaning indoor plumbing.

These drawers are optional for Dr. Anderson, who may choose to wear them INSTEAD of the combination or OVER it.  They have matching lace to the combination and undervest, and need to be “cinched up” because they will be long for the era when drawers were worn just below the knee cap.  The ribbons tie them up to that location.

The split drawers of the late 1890’s are not pretty – definitely for comfort and movement and not good looks, although you can see the silhouette starting to shape up even with adjustments made to the leg ties and waist band

The fullness below the knee will help fill out the single petticoat so additional petticoats are not needed.  The fashionable silhouette of smooth front and full back is also emphasized.  They have string casing ties so they can vary in fit depending on the corset lacing.

These don’t look good in photos because they aren’t made to be seen – at all, ever.  Respectable women never showed their drawers; not even the pretty lace and ribbons on the bottom.  They are like today’s panties; the washable and durable inner layer.

Flat and slightly dropped “soft V” waistband allows the next layers to overlap without bulges
2 layers of lace allow for adjustment of leg length
Very basic and not really exciting, these are actually extremely custom fit to the customer, and specifically designed that in spite of any adjustments in size, method of tieing, etc. it will achieve the start of the overall shape



If a woman is going to revert back to her old unders, she cannot just go around wearing drawers.  She needs something under her corset to protect her from chafing, and to absorb sweat and dirt.

The under vest is an old and new idea for the woman of the late 1890’s.  Old because it is the old “camisole” for the same purpose; new because it was leading to the development of an “underbust supporter” or a bra to lend extra privacy, modesty, and support in addition to a low or lightly boned corset.

Physicians of the day recommended women wear “wool next to the skin” at all times – and they LOVED the under vest because it could be made of 100% wool.  As the bottom most layer, it compliments split drawers and is highly washable.

Dr. Anderson’s is custom fit and cut on the bias to be form fitting and tight to the figure.  It is of 100% (very soft!) cotton ivory sateen.  Because actual need will vary with the outer garment, the lace is an absorptive cotton which can be flipped up or down as if to extend the surface.

The cute little bow in front is designed to be removed if a sheer or low cut gown is worn – so that it is a neutral color and a flat surface.  This is definitely meant to be worn and NEVER seen.

Back ribbons and mother of pearl buttons pull it tight. Stretch lines are intentional as this is bias cut to be very form fitting yet comfy
Built in features include the bias cut with custom darts, and 100% cotton lace on top that can flip up or down

Corset Cover

This is made of 100% silk taffeta same as the petticoat, but it is very tailored, plain, and simple on purpose.  It protects underarms and breasts from being rubbed, should there be a gap between the combination or undervest and corset (which can happen depending on lacing and as a woman’s shape changes despite the corset being well fitted now).

As a final sweat barrier, the undercorset has to have at least “under sleeves” and good structure and support.  Dr. Anderson’s is fitted to the corsets, as it’s second purpose is to protect outer garments from the hardware of the corsets.

Its third purpose is to block the view of the undergarments from sheer bodices.  For this reason, it is of a solid and plain ivory color to match the blousewaist, which will go under any additional gold or yellow blousewaists to come.

The neckline is adjustable using a silk ribbon which is tucked inside after it is adjusted.  This is a nice adjustment to make the neckline high or low, and the shoulder strap wide or narrow to accommodate different bodices.  It is not for evening use, where the shoulder strap would be tied on and thus able to drop.  We are making a Promenade Suit for walking and working, not evening wear.

The sleeves would normally also have a ribbon that ties at the shoulder, but because this is custom fit for this bodice, it is not necessary, and the lumps it would create at the shoulder are not wanted.  If we have to, we will add lace for this adjustability, but the objective is for this to be very plain, sleek, and smoothe.

The front is cut lower so the smoothe front line of 1898 will not interrupt the lines or the silhouette of the gored skirt, yet it will fully cover either of the two corsets.  It is short in back, because this goes up or down depending on the neck adjustment.  The little bit of fullness in the back is welcome to make the back pleat area of the skirt more dominant, and its being short has it miss the many ties and cinches of the lower undergarments – just covers that “mess”.


Fully line of ivory silk taffeta, this is one very special, intricate, and detailed garment – just as it would be in the late 1890’s-1900.  Dr. Anderson’s took over 60 hours to make – mostly due to the extensive amount of hand sewing, gathering, and custom design.

The purpose of the petticoat is: 1) designed so there only need be one petticoat; 2) create the long, smooth front silhouette without lumps or bumps so the outer skirt will look the same; 3) make the deep and pleated full back that the skirt will have; hold the skirt out en lieu of yesterday’s bustle pads; 4) give fullness at and below the knees to keep the flare of the skirt out (the skirt has no flounces or ruffles), and 5) make the “frou frou” noise rubbed against the skirt’s inner lining.

There are 3 layers to the flounce, which is the masterpiece of this ensemble.  At the bottom is a straight silk flounce.  Over that is an embroideried openwork cotton lace.  This will drag on the floor, and “sweep the floor” in the back.  In the front, it should just brush the tops of the shoes and allow for easy walking as long as the foot “flips” up and forward to do so.

The outer layer is intentionally designed to “stick out”, so the skirt will be held full just below the knees.  It is a design seen in extant garments, and has a bit of the 1900 “Art Nouveau” element in the trim.

As typical of the era, all seams are finished (french or otherwise), so that the inside is as good as the outside, and all the trim is specifically designed and placed to cover seams.  This petticoat is much like today’s bridal gown skirt.

The buttons are handmade for durability, with handmade loops and mother of pearl buttons to hold the pleat closed.  This requires an exact fit over the rear and front of the petticoat, so it is smoothe and creates the shape of teh skirt to come.  Tension on the buttons keep them buttoned.

Photos are misleading. This is a very light, airy, and delicate garment with multiple layers for movement, sound, and visual interest


Vest Chain

(see description and development above)

Authentic Resin Cameo Pin with matching earrings

Custom Belt/Sash

Of dark brown velveteen with silk taffeta lining and a vintage gold buckle, this is designed with the Edwardian sash shape, but is narrower at center front to allow the eye to see a long line with a graceful back.

This is completely custom designed to an EXACT fit for body shape and size in corset.

Belt Loops on Skirt

Hat & Wig

We took historical images of Ida B. and built a wig in the Gibson Style, but with the upsweep Ida wore all her life.  The purpose was 1) to look like Ida; 2) have enough hair to hold the hat.

The special parts of this design are the curls in the bun, the single curl down her neck (as if one kept falling out), and the gray added at the temples.  The upsweep of the bangs can be sprayed down, or worn loose. Early in her life, it appears Ida had gray at the temples – and quite high above the ears.

The overall shape of the hair is typical of the era too.  Our mannequin’s head is smaller than a real head, so the photos do not really give justice to the overall design and scale.

Hats of 1898 were thick brimmed and strong.  Many women wore extensive ornaments, but with this tailored and sleek business ensemble, we have scaled it down in size, visual weight, and ornament.  It is a small hat for the time, but what Ida would have worn to travel.  She might also have had a straw boater.

This is a dark brown wool felt hat with a rolled brim and cotton overlaid velveteen which is the same fabric used in the lapels of the jacket.  The gimp braid is the same as used on jacket and skirt.

The unique and custom design of medallion made of the main suiting linen fabric is special for her character and her causes – a “generic” symbol of strength and outspokenness.  Overall, the hat is in scale with or without the wig – actually a bit smaller than hats of the time, it will be appropriate with Dr. Anderson’s own hair as well.

Again, our mannequin’s head is much smaller than a human head, so the scale is off in the photos.

As Designed; As Built

Click here to go to Dr. Anderson’s Historical Context page (next)

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