Category Archives: Research

Some specifics on historical fashion

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 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.

Overalls for women

I recently came across this beautiful example of a factory made garment produced specifically for the early 20th century working class. This garment is significant because it gives us a glimpse of what women were wearing as they began to enter the work force and provides a striking juxtaposition to the early 20th century extravagance so often exhibited in museum collections.


From the collection of Manchester Art Gallery in Manchester, England. Here is what they have to say:

This factory overall is made of hardwearing twilled cotton, woven in blue and white stripes. The sleeves are full-length and the skirt long, in order to protect the woman worker’s own clothes, as well as for food hygiene reasons. It was worn in the C W S Jam Works at Middleton Junction, Greater Manchester, around 1900.

By the early 1900s a wider range of factory jobs became available for women whereas hitherto the jobs available has been largely in the textile industries, involving heavy work in poor conditions. Work in the food processing industries would have been eagerly sought by working women who had to support themselves financially, and the Co-operative Wholesale Society had a reputation as being a good employer, offering fair wages and good working conditions. Female workers would have worn these overalls, with caps to cover their hair, and they would have had to be boiled regularly to keep them clean, which explains why they are so sturdily made. However, these precautions would not be seen as adequate in a jam factory today, where workers wear latex gloves, caps, overalls and plastic disposable aprons for today’s more rigorous standards of hygiene.


Our Blue cotton ticking would make a perfect reproduction! Available by the yard!


Research- upcoming 1890s project

I am currently doing research on the dress styles of rural American women in the 1890s. I will be designing clothing based upon garments from photographs. Here are a few favorites:

1890s_prairie  1890s_prairie_detail

Source: Fred Hultstrand History in Pictures Collection, NDIRS-NDSU, Fargo. Modifications © Jone Lewis 2001.

ep.owh.wom.0006.03  ep.owh.wom.0006.01

Source: University of Nebraska- Lincoln


Source: Conneticut Historical Society


Source: Old Photos


Source: Ohio Historical Society