The Ultimate Fashion Accessory

Hats, or more properly millinery, are the most important accessory in one’s wardrobe and are essential for completing just about any look. Here at Lily Absinthe we offer a variety of hat styles, each custom made for the individual client.

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Our hats are finished, both inside and out, in the manner appropriate for the period and we use period construction techniques and our hats are decorated to coordinate with the rest of your outfit rather than simply being a random assortment of feathers, beads, and other geegaws. For further information, please contact us at info@lilyabsinthe.com.

Looking Back- Craigdarroch Castle

It’s been a little more than two years since we visited Victoria, British Columbia and the memories still linger on- it’s definitely one of those places we intend to one day revisit. Craigdarroch Castle was simply amazing and it’s a lot larger on the inside than one would suspect. If you’re up in that part of the world, it’s worth a visit- you’ll be amazed but prepare to do some walking (though it’s not as bad as Neuschwanstein!).


After a brief tea refreshment, we drive back to Victoria to pay a visit to Craigdarroch Castle. Nicknamed today as “Canada’s Castle,” Craigdarroch Castle was built in 1887-90 by the Robert Dunsmuir, a man who made his fortune from coal and railroads. Like many houses built by the nouveau riche of the late 19th Century, to expense was spared and it was built large, originally on a 28-acre estate (although most of the surrounding land was later sold off). For us, it was a fascinating peek into a world mostly only seen in pictures and the sheer massiveness of the house impressed us- one just doesn’t get an idea of the sheer size until they actually experience it in person. 🙂 Here’s few views of the exterior:

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There was renovation going on so I wasn’t able to get the best pictures so here’s one from Wikipedia to help out:

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And now for the interior…

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The central staircase- there are four floors and a lot of steps…

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Part of the entrance hallway.

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Front Parlor

One of the most interesting things we learned was that in restoring the house, great efforts were made to track down the original furnishings and various other artifacts though auction catalogs and the like- after the death of the Joan Dunsmuir in 1908, the house and its contents were dispersed in a number of sales since none of the heirs lacked the means to buy the others out. Also, ironically enough, Robert Dunsmuir died in 1889 before he could occupy his new house. Moving along, here are some more views:

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One of the hallways…

By now, you probably might have noticed that there were a number of garments on display. Unfortunately there were no signs or anything else that gave any information so it’s hard to know if these were original to the house or merely generic placeholders. But here they are:

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This one is definitely late 1890s, especially with the relatively narrow sleeve caps.

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Here’s a good view of the side profile.

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The chatelaine is amazing.

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This one was a bit far away to be able to view properly but it appears to be more of a late 1890s or very early 1900s.

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Fairly generic ball gown/evening dress. The staging wasn’t the most optimal.

And for a something Chinese…we’re not sure how that fit in but OK. 🙂

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We’re not sure where this fit in but it was fascinating to look at.

Here are some more views of various rooms:

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One of the bedrooms.

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The billiard room.

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Early sewing machine.

The ballroom was closed due to issues with the soundness of the floor but there were a number of dance cards:  🙂

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Overall, it was a wonderful experience and we highly recommend it for anyone visiting Victoria.



Hats…

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his is only a sliver of my not-so-secret antique hat collection…specifically 1870-1920, sometimes I wear them, sometimes reproduce them and use them for study. I go through phases, like *all* the flowerpot shapes, then Edwardian off the face styles, it’s all art to me. I prefer straws to fabric over wire, but can’t resist a pretty silk velvet swooping Gibson Girl chapeau. 🙂



Some Commentary on Walking Dresses & Walking Suits From the 1880s

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ne of the more interesting styles to develop during the 1880s was the walking suit/walking dress and they were both practical and stylish, incorporating both a wide variety of cuts, fabrics, and colors and were intended for wear while out in public. Just to preface, from what we’ve seen in the research we’ve done, the terms “walking dress” and “walking suit” seemed to be used somewhat interchangeably and it doesn’t appear that the concept was fully formed until the early 1890s with its characteristic jacket-waist-skirt combination. However, looking at this style in the 1880s, it would appear that first and foremost, the skirt was untrained and the hem tended to be a off the ground. Also, to a great degree, the bodice tended to be styled as a “jacket-bodice” in which the bodice was constructed to mimic a jacket over a visible vest or some sort of decorative treatment- often shirred chiffon. But, as mentioned above, the concept doesn’t seem to have been fully formed and the boundaries could get hazy at times (no doubt influenced by marketing concerns since much of the fashion press of the times was owned by various pattern-making concerns such as Butterick).

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The walking dress in action…

What ultimately became the distinct walking suit of the 1890s seems to have gotten it’s start by 1884 as a walking dress that was meant as a more practical garment. Below is some commentary from the December 1884 issue of Demorest’s Family Magazine:

In opposition to these dazzling house toilettes are the sober, neat street costumes which are almost universally worn. The material is usually some dark shade of cloth. Heavy serge and bure, a thick worsted goods with a coarse, shaggy surface, are especially popular for walking suits. The skirt is almost plain, simply a plaiting around the bottom, but a broad band of fur encircles it about a quarter of a yard from the bottom. A full overskirt drawn up high over the hips, and a little tight fitting fur-trimmed jacket complete a costume rich in its quiet simplicity. To be worn with it is a little bonnet fashioned from the same material, with plume 3 or tips of some contrasting color and velvet strings.

One suit is of dark-brown cloth, the skirt consisting of bayadère stripes {fabric]1A fabric with bayadère stripes is a fabric with horizontal stripes in strongly contrasted colors. of a lighter hue mingled with a grayish blue traversing the ground. No trimming except the foot plaiting of plain brown. Drapery and corsage are also of plain brown. The latter opens at the side beneath the full plaits of the waist proper so as to leave the striped vest unbroken in front. Cuffs and close collar are of the striped goods, and a band of the same about two inches wide reaches down the shoulder seam from the collar to the insertion of the sleeve.

The above passage defines the walking outfit as streetwear that is plain with an emphasis on darker colors and plain woolen fabrics. Skirts are meant to be simple and untrained with a minimum of gathering. At the same time, it’s noted that that the underlying vest is somewhat more colorful and loud and that the bodice is to be arranged to show it off to the best advantage. Finally, it must be noted that the skirt could be in a contrasting material, striped in the above example. The above points are further discussed in this passage below from the same issue:

The newest winter walking suits consist of skirt, jacket basque, and vest, real or simulated, and street-coat or cloak. The walking-jacket is not at all so indispensable a part of them as formerly. The jacket-basque, with vest, is cut in such a way that it completes a dress fit for the street; and when the temperature demands additional clothing, a longer, more protective. and adjustable garment is found necessary to meet varied requirements.

This is really an improvement, but a greater one is the getting rid of looped and bunched-up drapery from heavy cloth materials. “Tailors” proper—what are known as “ladies’” tailors—would have served a really good purpose, if they had strictly adhered to the original idea, maintained a certain standard, and not endeavored to copy the follies of tulle in solid cloth.

Redfern, the great Isle of Wight tailor, has done this less than others. He gets up astonishing contrasts in colors; his “yachting ” suits, his “men of war” costumes for girls, and his cloth “gowns,” are original and striking, but they are useful and suitable; his coats are full of inside pockets, and his traveling costumes seem made for the “road” and to have a satchel, or lorgette slung across them.

The above comments on Redfern are also interesting in that we see tailors trying to incorporate elements in their work that are more in the area of dressmaking, much to Demorest’s disapproval. Below is an illustration from the April 1885 of Demorest’s that illustrates some of the ideas expressed in the above passages in regard to the utility of the walking suit/walking dress. In the right figure, the skirt is simple with a minimum of gathering and the pattern provides a nice contrast to the solid colored skirt front and bodice sides and back. The jacket/bodice is also faced in the same material as the underskirt and helps create the appearance of a long waistcoat reminiscent of early 18th Century styles.

And just to show some of the variations in jacket/bodice styles, here’s another illustration, this time from the May 1885 issue of Demorest’s:

And lest we think it was just Demorest’s that was presenting this style to the public, below is an illustration below from the October 1886 issue of Peterson’s Magazine:

Below are some extant walking dresses from the 1880s, starting with this one from circa 1885:

Walking Dress, c. 1885; Metropolitan Museum of Art (1978.295.8a, b)

And below is another example from circa 1884-1885; and yes, it’s labeled as being a day dress and that’s true but it also encompasses elements of the walking dress style.

Day Dress, c. 1884-1885; Museum of London (32.26/2a)

Finally, we have this circa 1885 walking dress from Worth:

Worth, Walking Dress, c. 1885; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.771a, b)



A Pingat Day Dress- Circa 1880s

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ingat is not a name people today associate with dress styles. Sure his atelier made them but in today’s fashion literature, he’s more associated with outerwear than anything else. Recently, we came across some interesting pictures of a circa 1880s Pingat day dress that was sold on an auction site:

We were unable to obtain more high-resolution pictures but they’re still detailed enough to get a good idea of the style. First though, we wanted to try and date this a bit more specifically than simply being “1880s”- auction websites are notorious for poor dating. Based on the dress silhouette, our best estimate would be the 1881-1884 time frame. The rear skirt has some fullness in the back and the bodice back is also shaped to further accentuate the skirt’s fullness. However, at the same time, the skirt’s fullness doesn’t read “large” like what one sees with late 1880s skirts; of course, a lot of this comes down to staging and it would be interesting to have seen what sort of bustle the skirt could accommodate. At the same time, the skirt just doesn’t read the natural form/mid-bustle era style characteristic of the 1877-1881 time frame. Also, it must be noted that the bodice doesn’t completely cover the hips, which also tends to support the mid-1880s time frame. In the end, we’re going to qualify this all with the usual “our best guess” disclaimer. 🙂

As for the dress itself, it appears to have been constructed from a blue-striped white/ivory silk satin with no extra trim- it could have had some lace but if so, it’s long gone. The above picture of the label gives a nice close-up view of the fashion fabric. Below are close-up pictures of the bodice front and back:

The collar just seems to naked without some lace… 🙂

This dress is hemmed with two rows of knife pleating of fabric that’s similar to the fashion fabric only that the stripes appear to be more closely spaced together. It’s also an interesting effect having the knife pleating stripes running perpendicular to the fashion fabric stripes. Finally, separating the two rows of knife pleating is ruching. Viewing the dress at a distance, one cannot help but a bit disoriented by all the striping running in different directions. 🙂

This is a very nicely designed day dress and it could have even worked for a reception dress. However, the most interesting part about this dress is that it was actually a combination day/evening dress as can be seen from this evening bodice:

Unfortunately, there are no other views of the night bodice so we don’t know much but judging from the voluminous lace running down the back, it’s clear that the night bodice was intended to provide a contrast to the more tidy day bodice. Maybe one day some more pictures of the night bodice will surface. Overall, this is an interesting dress and it uses stripes to maximize its impact while at the same time, the optical effect of the stripes is a bit jarring. We hope you’ve enjoyed a view of this very unique dress.