Category Archives: Fashion History

All things you ever wanted to know about the history of fashion!

Salvation Army Bonnet


A rare piece of history! An original Salvation Army bonnet (images from Ebay). c. 1880s.

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The Salvation Army began in London in 1865 as a mission organization. According to the History Channel,

“The Christian Mission, in which women were given ranks equal with men, launched ‘campaigns’ into London’s most forsaken neighborhoods. Soup kitchens were the first in a long line of various projects designed to provide physical and spiritual assistance to the destitute. In the early years, many in Britain were critical of the Christian Mission and its tactics, and the members were often subjected to fines and imprisonment as breakers of the peace.”

The first Salvation Army mission opened in the United States in 1880. The Salvation Army is still in existence today and has operations in over 75 countries.



Early 19th century apron

I came across this original early 19th century women’s work apron while doing a little research for a project. The cut follows the idea of the long narrow silhouette of the 1800s and the fabric detailing gives much information about the nature of work garments. I hope you find it interesting as well!




New policies for 2016


Wow! We’ve had an amazing year! I feel like I say that at the end of every year, but 2015 really turned out to be one of our busiest of all time! I estimate over the course of the past 12 months, we stitched over 1200 yards of fabrics and completed over 300 garments! We lead 2 hands on workshops and gave 8 historical clothing presentations! What a year!

Looking ahead, we will be instituting a few new policies. As our markets and clientelle change, so must we. Effective January 1, 2016, we will be changing a few of our requirements. So here goes:

1. All film commissions will require payment in full at the time of order. Orders not paid in full within 10 days of order date will be subject to cancellation.

2. Effective January 1, 2016 a design fee will be added to production estimates for custom designed projects to cover the cost of pattern drafting, sizing, mock ups, and research (if applicable). Our design fee begins at $75.00 per design and is subject to change based upon individual projects (i.e. the more complicated the design, the higher the design cost).

3. Beginning in January, established clientelle will have priority completion dates. One of our biggest compliments is a returning customer and we would like to say thank you by offering priority scheduling.

4. Our reproduction fabric will now be dedicated exclusively to creating our custom historical garments. Any available yardage will be offered for immediate purchase on our IN STOCK page. -REVISED 2018- ALL FABRIC SALES ARE ACTIVE!

5. Our production calendar runs from January 2- May 31 and September 2- December 20. This allows us to spend our summer months conducting workshops, giving lectures, and attending conferences. All orders placed at the end of our production calendar will receive first priority at the beginning of the consecutive production season. We ship IN STOCK garments year round.

And just a gentle reminder:

All Maggie May Clothing images are protected under creative copyright and may not be shared or published in any way without written consent. This applies to our main website, our Etsy shop, and all affiliated social media sites.

Thanks and we look forward to another fabulous year of historical fashion!

1860s Glengarry cap

While browsing Ebay, I can across this gorgeous ORIGINAL 1860s era glengarry cap. Made of straw, this style cap was the highest of fashion and most likely came from Europe. Take a look at the intricate detailing of the beadwork trim and fantastic straw floral embellishments! A beautiful example of a period glengarry!

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This item was found on Ebay July 27, 2015 with an asking price of $165.00

1860s Bodices, Blouses, and Waists

I am currently working on a project for a museum that involves making 1860s era garibaldi blouses and I came across a discussion that caught my attention. The question was “Are blouses authentic and if so, Who should wear them?” As I read, I noticed the responses varied greatly. So I decided to do some digging of my own. After a brief look at extant images, fashion magazines, and other reputable sources, here is what I found:

There are 3 main terms used to describe the upper portion of an 1860s era woman’s dress. These terms are bodice, blouse, and waist.

During the mid 19th century, the term bodice referred to a close- fitting, structured (often boned) upper portion of a woman’s dress. This term is sometimes confused with a body (a 17th century term). Depending upon the cut of the bodice, it was either worn during the day or as evening wear.

1860sbodice  1860sbodice2

A blouse is a term that originated in the early 19th century. It was typically made of cotton or linen. It refers to a loose fitting garment. The Victorian era blouse was made of a different color fabric than the skirt and was worn with a belt. The garibaldi blouse emerged on the fashion scene between 1862-1863. It was constructed both loose at the waist or sewn into a waistband. Blouses were worn during the morning hours and by the mid 1860s for day wear.

blouse10  blouse8

A waist is a type of corselet. A common type of corselet worn during the 1860s was the Swiss Belt (or swiss waist). This garment was usually diamond shaped, made of velvet or silk, and laced in the front. The swiss waist often had shoulder straps (The Dictionary of Fashion History).

waist1    waist3

I looked at several period fashion plates and photographs and determined that women’s daily attire consisted of either the bodice/skirt combination or the blouse/skirt combination. A variety of accessories such as waists, belts, vests, jackets, shawls, collars and sleeves were added to create variety, individuality, and to denote wealth.

1860 Penn Woman with Fur collar and muff  petersons1862

(Right: Peterson’s, c. 1862)

Followers of fashion came in all ages, shapes, and sizes. “Women of fashion” (i.e. historical  fashionistas) followed closely the styles and trends put forth by ladies magazines such as Godey’s and Peterson’s. During this period, France was setting the fashion trends for the rest of the world; however, the majority of American women could not afford foreign gowns, so magazines like Godey’s adapted European fashion plates, simplifying the designs, and ultimately creating a distinctly American style (Fashion and Costume from Godey’s Lady’s Book).


(Godey’s, August 1862)

Victorian era fashion was related to socioeconomic status. While the overall silhouette of the modern gown may have been emulated amongst the less wealthy, the choice of fabrics and trims may not have been as luxurious. Sleeves were cut smaller; skirts widths narrower. 

In the American South and rural areas, fashion was largely determined by geographical region. Prior to the Civil War, Southern cities like Richmond and New Orleans saw many fashion minded women. Only in the most remote areas (such as mountainous pockets and coves) did modern fashion take its time assimilating into the culture.

varinadavis  godeys1860seaside

(Left: Mrs. Varina Davis, c.1860. Right: Godey’s, September 1860)

So back to the original question- Are 1860s era blouses authentic? Of course they are! Who wore them? From 1850 until the early years of the Civil War, blouses were worn as morning wear by young and old alike. By the mid 1860s, women began wearing blouses during the day in place of a bodice.




Were they white? An 1862 edition of Godey’s magazine describes a variety of tucked blouses (referred to as spencers) as being white. Garibaldi blouses, on the other hand, were originally scarlet merino wool trimmed with black braid (The Dictionary of Fashion History.)

blouse7  blouse6NOTES: Careful selection of images used are those of AMERICAN women from the years 1860-1865. Images were pulled from private collections with designated provenances and museum collections. Most private images are of Northern origin. However, the 2nd image illustrating the waist is of a woman from Texas. Also featured is Southern fashionista Mrs. Varina Davis. Fashion plates are from Godey’s and Peterson’s Ladies magazines c. 1860-1865. All text copyright Susan Jarrett.


Blum, Stella. Fashions and Costumes from Godey’s Lady’s Book. 1985.

Cumming, Valerie, et al. The Dictionary of Fashion History. 2010.

Historical Maternity gowns

I recently received an inquiry in response to a post I did a while back about historical maternity wear. In reference to this gown: c. 1850s (source Augusta Auctions)


Question: Is this a dress that a woman would have worn during the day, at home? If not, is there a better example of that? How would the woman who wore the dress have described it–what language would she use? For example, what would she have called the material from which it is made? What would be the word for such a dress–is it a day dress?

Answer: The term “maternity” in reference to clothing did not come into popular language until the 1950s-1960s. However, evidence of publicly marketed “maternity clothing” can be traced back as early as the ready made mail order industry of the 1900s. During the mid half of the 19th century, there were no specially made garments for pregnancy. Pregnancy was simply adapted to. As a result, clothing of this period worn during pregnancy retains its same name- i.e. day dress, morning gown (or wrapper), evening gown, etc. The gown shown above is a silk day dress which was meant to be worn at home, in public, or when receiving visitors.

During the first two trimesters of pregnancy women continued to wear their pre-pregnancy clothing- including corsets. By the third trimester women began to adapt their clothing by adding additional panels (as seen in the gown above), taking out darts, and temporarily enlarging dresses anyway possible with the intent that the gown would be taken back in after childbirth. Corsets were loosened as well.


c. 1855 wrapper (source Kerry Taylor Auctions)

Today, people often associate the term wrapper with maternity wear for this period. However, according to The Dictionary of Fashion History by Valerie Cumming, et al, a wrapper is a loose, robe which might be worn in bed. During the 1850s, the wrapper was also worn during the morning hours before a lady fully dressed in her corset, petticoats, etc. It is quite possible the term gained its association with mid 19th century maternity wear because by the last trimester of pregnancy, middle and upper class Victorian women stayed at home (i.e “went into confinement”) and most likely wore their wrappers for the better part of the day. However, a wrapper was not a garment meant to be worn outside the home, in public, or when receiving visitors.