Creating costumes for historical films is not an easy task, and one that I have not taken lightly. Still, I cannot help but wonder if the women of the 1800’s truly enjoyed wearing seven yards of fabric as they scrubbed down the stables or worked in the garden. But, just like today, their station in life would have made a large difference in their apparel of the day. The Godey’s Lady’s Book would have been their style guide.
One character I am presently designing for would have been a young woman who worked very hard. Her family owned an inn in a very primitive community. She would have spent her days cleaning, cooking and cleaning some more. We also know that she spent her spare time quilting.
It was a dirty, filthy time. No air conditioning, no indoor plumbing, no modern conveniences that we enjoy today. My character would not have worn seven yards of material each day. She most likely would have had one day dress that was utilized for everyday wear and possibly one evening dress for special occasions. My inspiration for her gown comes from a day dress on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. She was, after all, the daughter of the owner of the inn. She would have had some privilege, even if it was slight. This dress has a very young and feminine appeal without being too fancy, nor too primitive.
As I sit here comfortably in my air-conditioned home, I cannot imagine living in such a day. We truly do live in one of the most comfortable ages in time and I, for one, am happy for it. Prim and proper with parasols and bonnets? No, thanks. But I do like to dress up in a nice dress and fibi & clo sandals, or just hang out in boots and jeans.
Pictures: 1863 Godey Lady’s Book, Gown from Victoria and Albert Museum, fibi & clo sandals.