Doc, go to River Junction Trade Co. on-line. They specialize in civilian clothing from abt. 1850 to 1890. They're reasonably priced & their stuff if good quality. They also carry patterns for shirts, trousers, ladies' wear, you name it, so if you have a lady-friend who can sew, you can save some money there. Also try Crazy Crow. They have early to mid 19th century stuff, tho most of their stuff is for people doing Native American impressions.
Great hints, thank you.
If the shipping cost would not be 30 dollars as they are, I would buy my old style clothes only in the USA. But for getting some impressions of well done old times clothing, it is a inspiration.
While River Junction is better than a good many purveyors of period clothing out there they still present some problems-incorrect terminology,cravats that are incorrectly constructed,and a single breasted Prince Albert frock that is derived from a double breasted one and is hence unauthentic.
It pays the dedicated living historian to do careful research and then form his or her own judgements about the authenticity of the products.That problem is at the very heart of the reproduction clothing business.What we end up with is a great deal of clothing at events that has a cookie cutter look-generic instead of showing the actual variety then available;thus when a re enactor shows up at an event in dead on accurate attire he is very often told by those wearing the clothing made by Bland and Blander or Hollywood R Us that he doesn't have the right "look"!
After I posted that last, I took another look at the Amazon site. The last time I looked at it, a couple of years back, there wasn't an on-line catalog. Now there is. When I put in the full name of the place, I got abt a dozen hits. The right one is 'Amazon Dry Goods.' It has patterns from medieval times to the middle of the 20th century, for both men & women. I didn't see a single pattern over abt $15 US. The measurements will be in yards, feet, & inches, not metric, so whoever does the sewing will need a tape in yards. Simply consider the fabric requirement in sq. yds. as sq. meters.
Amazon also has detachable collars in paper, 'linex,' which is paper overlaid with thin cloth, 'linene,' which seems to be another, perhaps more durable, paper & cloth combo, cotton, which is washable (the others aren't) &--believe it or not--'celluloid.' They're not really celluloid, because that stuff is almost as flammable as gunpowder. They're made out of a more modern plastic, but they're flexible like celluloid was, they look like celluloid, they feel like celluloid, they're washable, & they won't go up in a flash around your neck if you happen to drop a hot cigar ash on 'em.
River Junction carries yard goods--the cloth to make most of this stuff. They also carry buttons that are appropriate to the time. Clothing, in the 19th century, even commericially-available clothing, was at least partly hand-sewn. It was a long time before a sewing machine could sew on buttons, so most buttons were sewn on by hand. If a button had 4 holes--not all of 'em did--the seamstress would usually sew the button in an X pattern, rather than the ll pattern modern 4-hole buttons are sewn with. Incidentally, the X pattern holds the button on much better than modern machine-sewed ll sewing does.
Both of my grandmothers, who were born in the 19th century but lived into the 1950s, made most of their children's clothing--particularly my maternal grandmother, who was a preacher's wife with 4 children. Methodist Episcopal Church South's preacher's salaries were not large in the early part of the 20th century. Tho they had sewing machines that could sew buttonholes, they always sewed the buttons on by hand, always in the X pattern
Both the linene and linex collars were originally wear a few times and throw away .When they get really dirty there is no really good way to clean them so they don't really represent great long term value.Their biggest market is in the theatre and motion picture/t.v. industries where long term durability is not a big consideration.Cotton is better but doesn't hold up nearly as well as the old fashioned examples made from good Irish linen and then there is the matter of properly starching them.Not one person in a hundred can properly hand iron a collar correctly.and the old laundry roller ironing machines made for properly finishing shirt collars have almost entirely disappeared.The modern plastic versions of the old celluloid collar is the best option.I make about 12 styles in soft polystyrene and brand name them "Cellulike".One living historian wore one daily for nearly three years before it gave up the ghost!The nice bit about plastic collars is that they don't wilt and sag like starched collars and they wipe clean with a soapy cloth.
Anthoney, thank you for all the wonderful info you just posted. My grandmother b 1878 and her mother b 1856 were incredible seamstresses and well up to the 40's and 50's.They lived in a log cabin built in 1846 by gr grandfather. I still have some of their dresses, shirts, and pants , even quilts they made. One thing I did not see you mention was the use of flour sacks for clothing. They made many of the kids clothes and their own undergarments from them . And even shirts. Not all the flour sacks were white.In fact most were printed or pastel collored because they wanted women to buy their flour . They were solid colored in pastels as well as floral or other. Of course they bought material through catalogs or in the town store too. I spent many hours watching them make these clothes and they did not use patterns. I don't know how to explain it very good, but they layed the fabric on the persons body and pinned it in shape. Then would cut it and sew it. For men's shirts they did the same and the sleeves were one long rectangle. the shoulders were dropped and then the sleeve attached with many pleats or gathers at the seam part. The collar you speak of they called a china collar . If it was a shirt for church they would use a white collar . Some buttoned to the inside of shirt so they could remove it for washing . I do know that none of the wedding dresses made before 1880's were white. They usually were very fine cloth bought and had lovely flowers or other decorations. Some were plain solid colors in darker shades. That is because it was used later over and over for church and dances or gatherings. I have my great grandmothers wedding dress ( 1870) which was a very dark green with tiny white and yellow flowers sprinkled all over it. Of course these were simple farm and ranch folks and don't know what more affluent people back then wore. In winter the men's coats were handmade from wool. Pants too. They also made woolen socks and gloves. They spun the wool and dyed it with roots and berries .The black sheep of course were left natural.
You made some interesting points.Flour sacking seemed to last much longer in the south than in other parts of the country and I recall its use into the 1970's.Carol and I have collected examples of it and have kitchen curtains made out of a 1930's art deco pattern.
When I was discussing shirt collars I was specifically referring to the stiff detachable collars(and cuffs) that were worn on men's shirts.While I know quite a bit about women's clothing of this period I focus primarily on menswear because comparatively few devote their attentions to it whereas quite a few women enthusiastically devote their efforts to making garments for the distaff side and much of what is made for men emanates from commercial makers and isn't particularly accurate.I tailor clothing for men that in terms of cut and internal construction is made the way it was then.Most of my efforts are custom fit but I do make some garments for off the rack buyers as well.
As for wedding dresses White does go back a long way(at least to the 18th century) but was far from universal and many women would use a colored or patterned dress and retain it as their best social or party dress.Study of old photographs(ESPECIALLY OF EUROPEAN IMMIGRANTS)shows that this wearing of colored and/or patterned wedding dresses persisted well into the 20th century.
The business of dropped shouldered gaments was retained by country sewers far longer than in cities as it was a simpler construction technique where the entire shirt,blouse or chemise was made of rectangular components requiring no patterns.When newer,more shaped shirts began to be introduced in the mid 19th century they took about 10-15 years before they became really commonplace .Everyone lied a shirt with less bulk than the old style.Shirts were one of the very first items to be made commercially for off the shelf buyers.
My mother had a mangle--that's the name for the roller iron--& she believed in starch! She even starched the collars & cuffs of work shirts! My dad & I would work side-by-side in the pasture or at the barns all day long. He'd sweat thru both sides of his collar & his cuffs & tho I did the same amount of work he did, in the same heat, my shirt would still have starch in it. For a time she even starched my jeans! I finally got her to stop that.
What's the site you sell your plastic collars on? I've got a couple of victorian-era shirts I'd like to wear, but paper collars--or linex or linene--won't do it. I don't really like the collar-styles Amzon has.
I wasn't referring to the old fashioned home mangle but to the big ,often complicated collar rollers in town laundries.Very often these had opposed nesting conic rollers and a heat source provided by kerosene to keep the rollers hot.Almost every laundry(AS COMMON THEN AS DRY CLEARS NOW) had one of those contraptions when detachable collars were in vogue.One can hand iron them with the correct type of iron but it takes skill not to iron puckers into the fabric when the starch sets!
I know a reenactor who has been making his collars and cuffs out of Clorox Bleach bottles for several years now and only the people he has told know the difference. Already curved.
Many years ago(1972)when I was 17 I wrote one of my very first articles about making them from bleach bottles.The plastic is the right thickness and color and they hold up well.It is also great to re purpose throwaway items.The problem lies in properly shaping the contours so that they rest correctly on the neck and in cutting the holes for the metal collar studs correctly.Most folks end up making some mighty peculiar looking collars!Another problem is that many bleach bottles have a peculiar texture on the inside and don't lend themselves to making fold over or wing style collars because of this weird texture.