You’re interested in building a Titanic-era wardrobe. But you have limited funds for costuming, limited space, or both. What to do? First, if you haven’t, read about buiding a very basic 1910s Capsule Wardrobe here. Then come back and we’ll continue building your collection with 1910s wardrobe accessories.
If you’re still in the planning stages, that’s okay. Planning is a lot of the fun. Creating it is the hard part, especially if you sew the set yourself. You might even put the entire ensemble together in your mind and then decide it’s not what you want. That’s okay too. But if you do decide that 1912 is your year, then you’ll need a few pieces to wear. Then you will need some extras.
Adding The Extras
Currently, if you are building an historic capsule wardrobe, you have two skirts, three blouses, and a jacket. That’s enough for a dozen different outfits. But how do you make it a bit more distinctive? The same way the original wearers did. You use accessories of various kinds.
Wear a girdle
One possible accessory lies in the belt or girdle. Made from velvet, fabric or ribbon, and sometimes trimmed with fur, these belts made a statement. A draped belt could be decorated with an eye-catching ribbon rosette. Or perhaps you have a bit of silk and some dark cord. Make the belt from the silk, stiffened and lined to hold its shape, and then use cord or braid to embroider a design like the one in the upper left corner of the illustration at the top of this post.
Your belt can be drapey or tailored. Let it match your outfit and your personal style.
Carry a handbag
These are illustrations from 1912. Make a purse with a little metal closure. Or choose one that folds over like No. 90 above. Perhaps you’d like to carry a miser’s purse like the ones in the bottom row. They are a bit more difficult to keep hold of, but they are classic and were still in use at the beginning of the Twentieth century. Basically they are made of two pieces that look somewhat like an hourglass or a dumbbell. Rounded at both ends and thinner in the middle. The middle part has an opening, which you can barely see in the photo on the right. Two rings hold everything secure at the top of each larger part so that nothing falls out. You move the rings back and forth to access the items.
Add a Wrap
You may be chilly. Or you might want a knitted or crocheted extra layer for effect. To make your own shawls, sweaters, and crocheted jackets, look no further than the 1915 Beehive Woolcraft book, available from the Antique Pattern Library. This particular illustration, and the instructions, are in PDF number 2, although you will want PDF 1 for basic instructions, yarn sizes, and so on. PDF 3 includes socks and gloves for the 1910-1016 period. Frankly, they’re all great. Get them all.
You might need to do some conversions for sizing or different sized yarn, but these patterns are definitely doable. And you’ll look great in them! (The first illustration, top left, is a man’s vest. Everything else is for women’s sizing of the period.)
Dress Up That Blouse
With a little creativity and some time, you can make collars and jabots to dress up the blouses you make. Add a few of these, and it doesn’t matter how plain your waists. With a little ruffle magic you can transform the everyday suit shirt into a great afternoon ruffly visitation creation.
Special Occasion Magic
Everything listed above is for everyday wear. Add a couple special belts, or that amazing belt and sash combination in the belt photo, and you have some interesting alternatives for your six basic pieces. Then if you continue with changable collars or jabots, a couple purses, and a shawl along with a sweater, you have a gorgeous and complete wardrobe for most occasions.
But what if you do all this, you find that you love it, and you have a special occasion? Although these can’t be actually considered 1910s wardrobe accessories, they are wardrobe extenders. But like masquerade clothing, you should only include them if you have the spare cash for the cost and if you think you will get some use out of them.
Splish splashing away
If you live near the seaside, you might find yourself with an invitation to the beach. These dresses usually consisted of a top, short bloomers, and a skirt over the bloomers. Often everything buttoned into a waistband on the blouse. These were most often made of a light wool. Cotton clings when wet, and a twill gets dangerously heavy. If you’d rather start with a real pattern, look at Folkwear’s Bathing Costume. Folkwear drafted the pattern from an 1890 original, but it will give you somewhere to start along with “current” illustrations.
Here we go a-motoring
These are automobile coats. You don’t mean to say that you’ve been in an automobile without one! The dust! The wind! How did you ever manage?
The automobile coat kept the dust and grime from the road off your clothes. It also kept you a bit warmer in a car that may be a bit drafty. While in no way a necessity, if you plan to go motoring to your next picnic, you might want to consider one of these. It will ensure that you arrive at your destination clean, tidy, and serene.
That special evening
Finally, we get to the clothing that most people think of when they envision the Titanic Era. This is a formal evening gown that exudes drapery and class. Compared with everything else in your wardrobe you can see that this stands out like an ostrich. However, if you need something like this, nothing else you have already will do. So purchase the net or the sheer sparkly fabric and have a ball. You will be gorgeous.
The End, or the Beginning
As you can see, six pieces of clothing are only the beginning to wardrobe prep if you want them to be. You can add all kinds of things to add spice, and even include special occasion clothing to round out your mix. Or you can take your six pieces and add some more utilitarian items to your stash to round out your wardrobe.
An entirely different approach
This is called the Five Dollar Wardrobe. In 1912, with five dollars and knowledge of how to use a sewing machine, you could have a servicable set of clothing like this. The assortment includes one suit with a blouse. The jacket was lined with flannel and a fake silk. The blouse had a kimono shoulder and was made from white silk. Moving left to right, the woman holding the teacup wears a house dress. It uses hand-embroidered eyelets down the front as decoration, and scallops made from piping created out of the dress material. The black and white checked dress that comes next actually cost three times what the house dress cost. The dress trim used cross stitch in black to x out some of the white lines and form a border. The last dress pictured, made from white net, functions as a party dress. It cost less than anything in the room other than the house dress.
You can see that this is a viable option for wardrobe planning. However, you get four outfits instead of twelve with an investment of six pieces. Five outfits if you wore the blouse and skirt without the jacket. Adding an extra blouse would give you two more outfits. These dresses, while lovely, do not mix and match on their own. They’re designed to appear together. Often they are created in one piece.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this look into 1912 clothing planning. Next we’ll take a little jump in years and plan a Twenties Capsule Wardrobe.