Bicyclists and Cersei and Oz, oh my!

Happy Saturday. A morning of bright, clear light here. Drinking coffee as the rest of the house wakes up.

As sewing goes, I’m happily sewing up little samples of lingerie for different sizes to test, learning about the legalities of garment tags, etc. I’m also mulling a jacket project, in part because Game of Thrones will be back on soon and I’ve wanted to make something power-dressing Cersei inspired since the last finale. And also because suffragette bicyclists in spats and bloomers and epic riding habit style suit jackets has hooked my interest.


Remember Miss Gulch from Wizard of Oz? Sure, she was a horrible wretch in the movie, but if Frank L. Baum was writing a story set in 1900, could she also have been a caricature of the New Women of the day? Game of Thrones and bicyclists may not seem to have much in common but in my mind they relate because a) I love cinematic representations of women that involve them not always being perfect and good and angelic but instead as creatures capable of the full range of complicated humanity and as straining in various ways against their prescribed societal roles and b) fitted bodices with high collars as activewear for the WIN. Structure wise Cersei’s ruling with an iron fist wardrobe is not so different from the traditional riding habit/”sportswear” of the 1800s. I’ve always found her wardrobe fascinating; even in her more feminine garb of earlier seasons there was often an element of armor; arguably for Cersei her femininity IS a kind of tactical wear. Cersei as a character is fantastic. We feel for her earlier struggles and can understand why her life made her what she now is, although we can’t condone it. We almost root for her strength and defiance when she is imprisoned and powerless and still threatening Septa Unella. But then she gets power, and she’s terrifying. She’s a complicated representation of human ambition who happens to be female. In 50 years I wonder what humanities scholars will have to say about that in relation to the Clinton campaign. Not that I’m equating Cersei and Clinton, but she’s the closest thing we’ve had to a female president, and the reactions to Clinton are so intense it’s kind of fascinating.  I think especially in her earlier days in the White House the world preferred her playing dutiful wifey and baking cookies and not hyphenating her name, and some of the casting of her as shrew figure by the right (then and now) seems loaded with gender symbolism. She’s got a different field of symbolism to navigate than a man, and, well, the rest is history.

But bicycles…the women circa 1900 seem to have been subjected to a lot of mockery and derision for their chosen mode of transportation. Some things I read talked about people looking at it as scandalous because of the physical exertion, the physicality and the fact that (oh lordy) women were sitting on a seat in such a way, that it meant more outings with the opposite sex. And given the eternal strain of youthful generations against the prohibitions of the old, it must have had some subtly sexy, defiant undercurrents that resonated with some subset of the population because there are some great advertisements of women riding bicycles floating around the interwebz. (There are also a large number of topless Grecian goddess type bicycle women?) Here are some from the era that interest me at the moment:


And there are a few surviving garments in exhibitions that have me drooling:


So I’ll have to play around and see what kind of GoT watching garb I can come up with. 🙂


(Photos are all from Pinterest searches of things like “Victorian bloomer bicycle” etc. Most are uncited. Some of the great extant garments are originally from The Met exhibitions, and some of the advertising is originally from the French Gallica website.)

Sewing Project: Refashioning Old Clothes + Dickeys in 30s Style

So many projects, so little time. Among a bajillion other things, I’m currently working on a wardrobe refashion project. I’ve been really, really into wartime sewing pamphlets and cotton bag sewing materials that give tips on how to reuse fabric and refashion clothes that you already have into something new. During WW2 especially war rationing resulted in some ingenuity in reusing old materials.  It has me digging through my old bags of clothes I’ve been meaning to discard with a new pair of eyes! So many things that I don’t like because they don’t quite fit can be deassembled and used in ways I had never though of before. Some of my many sewing failure projects can be reused too.

There are lots of ways to do this–patterns with yokes, with top pieces and bottom pieces that join, special sleeves, kimono type sleeves, etc.makedomend image by BeautyArmy

And my current personal favorite–the bodice with a deep neckline + a dickey beneath. What is a dickey, you ask? It’s a common vintage clothing article worn beneath shirts and suitjackets to add variety, or to dress lightly underneath an outer layer. It’s a kind of partial blouse without sides or sleeves that sometimes has ties at the sides to hold it in position. Here are some pattern examples:


Advance 3247

dickeys2I love it for the potential variety this could add to a wardrobe. One shirt + an infinitely variable number of necklines. It also gives me a low risk way to indulge in and wear some of the nicer fabrics from my stash. Here’s what I’m planning on playing with over the next few days:

DSC_5291Two kinds of gorgeous red chiffon, some dot lace and some stretch satin. Normally I would be too afraid of wasting them, but since a dickey requires so little fabric and is cursed with far fewer fitting issues than a full blouse, results are likely to be pretty good.

I have two pieces of clothing to rework–both are velvet, semi fitted, and not at all my current style. One is an old button up basic blouse with no darts or embellishments. The other is a burgundy pair of pants which are a bit too clingy for me, and which I wore so much in my teen years when grunge was the thing and we all walked on our pants legs that the bottom 4″ of the pants leg is not pretty. The shirt will be remade as a deep v-neck (cutting out a new neckline, binding the raw edge with wide bias strips of a similar color broadcloth) long sleeved blouse, but the pants I will be completely disassembling and trying to remake as a more bustier-like fitted blouse or Edwardian style corset cover shaped blouse. The end goal is to be able to wear them with dickeys sort of  like this contemporary interpretion of 30s fashion: