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How to put together a 1900 Edwardian Gibson Girl Costume Ensemble by Claudette Donat on 02-02-2009



Putting together a 1900 Edwardian Gibson Girl Costume Ensemble

How should a person go about putting together items to create the ideal effect of the c.1900 Gibson Girl?

First, you need to be clear and find out which particular fashion era you are going for. If you are looking for a bustle dress type of Victorian dress, then you will know that the silhouette you are seeking is actually pre-1890's. Here, the bodice front of the gown was loose, so the date of this costume is later, dated past the 1890's.

1900 Gibson GirlEconomic conditions of the world and morality have always helped influence the change of fashion. When times were good, hemlines went up, and clothing layers became less confined. During turbulent periods of political upheaval, garments became restrictive and hemlines flowed downward. Around the turn of the century, women's Edwardian fashions had developed a pigeon breasted, "S" bend body silhouette shape, created by the new "S" bend Edwardian corsets. These new Edwardian corsets were actually stiff and straight fronted, instead of round shaped corset waists like corset predecessors, but, when pulled tightly, the new corsets created a shift of the weight of the hips toward the back. Some had an early form of a boned bodice like this comfortable, Salin Morning Corset with only cinched at the waist sides and flattened the front by shaping with stiff stays when the corset was tightly cinched. It is interesting to ponder the introduction of the corset, which was very binding and restrictive, but also had a lot of sensuality, as the corset was after all, bondage! So one wonders (and it is interesting to consider) what would happen when a woman's corset is removed and released? Is the woman sexually unleashed as well?1900 Edwardian Corset

During the time period of this silk satin stripe Edwardian costume, there was an infamous, "Crime of the Century." The murder of the society architect, Stanford White, in 1906. He was shot by the millionaire, Harry K. Shaw, in a jealous rage over the affections of Evelyn Nesbitt, 16. Evelyn was a Gibson girl model, and the wife of the emotionally ill Harry Shaw. Evelyn became enamored of the older White as Shaw was a domineering and an abusive husband. White was in love with Evelyn, but the relationship was complicated, as Stanford was married, and could not divorce his wife.

Stanford White courted Evelyn with very expensive gifts. He even had built for her a red velvet swing which hung from the ceiling so he could have photos made of Evelyn in her Gibson girl attire. Evelyn's husband, Shaw, confronted White in a society restaurant and shot him in front of horrified diners.

The black and white stripe Edwardian dress Costume might be a fashion selection chosen for a luncheon by the fashionable Ms. Evelyn Nesbit, who was known to as a stunningly elegant beauty who captured all eyes when she strolled into a room. Evelyn was the epitone of the Gibson girl illustrations. For more on the scandal see a movie made in 1955 called, "The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing," starring Ray Milland and Joan Collins. One can locate this film as there are good costumes of the time in the film. It gives the complete background of this crime story which overtook newspapers headlines in 1906.

A typical Edwardian bodice can be identified by a blousen, loose bustline sometimes to the waist. The bodice waist was often firmly boned, tightly corseted underneath, then fixedly belted (usually with a "corselet" belt, containing 1-4 or even more bones.) Then, the skirt was fitted with a flowing, "A" line of fluid fabric, usually with bias cut flounces for ultimate movement. There was usually found a horsehair or velvet hem on the hemedging plus vestiges of the previous era's dust ruffle of Valenciennes lace. Skirts in the earlier eras seldom had any bias cut parts, other then small flounces or ruffle edgings. Early 20th century hair was most often worn in a fluffy pompadour, loosely pinned up. Many ladies had to wear "rats" and backcombing to create the popular illusion of extra width at the temples and crown. Charles Dana Gibson's satirical Life Magazine line drawings were the prime example of the "new look" which were affectionately dubbed by the press, the "Gibson Girls." Harrison Fischer was also a famous artist reining in this era, depicting more of a delicate, romanticized view of lovely turn of the century fashionable ladies in charming settings and ladylike poses.

1900 Gibson GirlThis c. 1900 Edwardian costume has a lovely silk satin, black/ivory stripe "A" line skirt with bias flounce, Eisenhower style jacket/bodice with bishop sleeves, and black under bodice with an ornate, feathered Edwardian style hat and purse. The black belt displays a large, square silver buckle with a rear view "V" shape, and huge, billowing bows trailing behind. The Edwardian costume was originally left unfinished, having only the skirt complete. The bodice, however, was fully cut, but unsewn. This Edwardian costume was originally began by a theatre costumer who had originally dressed porcelain dolls but, whom passed away at the halfway mark. When she died 10 years ago, her son eventually sold a trunk with some of her dress collection and items she worked on at the time from her sewing room. The bodice and a blouse were completed and made (before me) by a lady who purchased the trunk (with this costume inside) at an auction with some other dresses. 1900 Gibson GirlI bought two of the costumes as they were tre marvelous! Just to look at the construction in that dress one learns a lot about costuming!

My original intent was to keep and redo the dress... but one has to have stature to wear this style effectively, and I am 5'2..." To complete the ensemble, I added a huge, Edwardian style hat, loaded with roses and plush feathers, in addition added a black reticule to complete the Gibson Girl effect. To have the body shape look right, an "S" bend Edwardian corset should be added, volumous, flowing lacy petticoats (at least two...) and a camisole should be worn besides a small bustle pad.

The bustle pad at this point in time only a ghost of its former buoyant self- bustles used to fill out the full derriere of a gown. At the beginning of the new century, a bustle pad was only supposed to prevent back hollows above the derriere. Pointed Victorian boots, or ivory pointed shoes with black added spats (a la "Mary Poppins") would be era appropriate to complete the vision of the ideal Gibson Girl.


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