Katherine (“Kit”), Livery Manager
RECOMMENDED FOR THIS CHARACTER
Character development is not specific to a real person, but based on women of the time and place. She is based on similar women of the era, but no one in particular. She represents either the native born westerner, or the pioneer who is independent, single, determined, and very, very skilled at survival in the unique environment.
TO BE INCLUDED IN ENSEMBLE:
HEAD, FOOT, ACCESSORIES (By customer, can quote hats separately)
- Hair no-fuss tied back with leather strip in pony tail; worn high and wrapped as bun for dress up under hat but only a few pins and it would always be falling down; no other hair ornamentation
- Hat western style – would have 2 – one for dress up which would be a small top hat with some flowers and netting that could be worn riding or to church; 1 western style small felt like the Canadian Mounties wore with plain leather band – medium brown or dark gray as this she would keep to current fashion because it was important to her trade & status, while she’d let her skirts or bodice go out of style first. Must have chin ties!
- (2) colors of 100% silk in scarf for dress up
- cotton cowboy scarf for everyday to cover face
- Watch brooch pin on bodice (since she runs a business)
- (NO petticoat)
- Undercorset vest to avoid chafing & absorb sweat
- Short chemise (corset cover) with flat lace on neck & arms of light muslin; plain white or to match polka dot pantaloons
- Muslin Pantaloons of polka dot with split crotch & flat lace just around bottom which bound at ankle, otherwise very plain – might go just below knee to wear with the shorter split skirt
- Underbust riding, reform, or sanitary corset of period (wool most authentic; cotton acceptable)
- Full blouse with gathered pleat center to wear in place of bodice/jacket or under it, per period, handkerchief linen or similar lightweight white cotton
- Full sleeved riding jacket with peplum back & optional leather trim & vintage wooden buttons on collar & cuffs
- Bolero type vest of fabric to match the skirt
- Split skirt “culotte” to midcalf of same brown cotton denim or broadcloth. There is no draping & a low mid-calf length is consistent with performers of the time, although typically only socially acceptable to performers (or western riders who don’t care about propriety back east). This would be worn with pantalettes under & no other bottom garments (they had no underpants then); although the pantalettes would be shortened for the split skirt’s shorter length
- Optional plain cotton OR silk brocade lining inside vest & pockets of skirt
- Optional concho & embroidery or leather trim, edging, and decoration on vest & skirt (or jacket)
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
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.
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.
APPLICATION OF HISTORICAL DATA TO THE DESIGN
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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