Wednesday, June 5, 2019

The Art Of High Style

Photographer:  Edward Strauss (American 1867-1931)
"Seamstresses at work in Mary Molloy's dressmaking shop in the Forepaugh Building.
Businesswomen like Molloy and Rose Boyd employed skilled seamstresses who had completed apprenticeships.  Seamstress wages ranged from 85 cents per day to $2.50 per day, depending on skill level.
Seamstresses worked 10 hour days for six days a week; overtime was common during peak social seasons"
Collection of the Minnesota Historical Society
I recently saw the exhibit, "The Art of High Style" at the Minneapolis Institute of Art.  (HERE)
This photo is worth enlarging, look at the details.  Because the work is couture, most of the sewing was by hand.  There is one sewing machine on the table.

Roth & Goldschmidt Corset Company
American, 1880-1929
In 1880 the Connecticut firm began importing
French corsets; by 1901 the manufactured 650
corsets a day.

Corset, c. 1885
Linen twill, baleen, steel

"The exaggerated hourglass torso fashionable in the 1880s could only be achieved with tight corseting.  This corset flares at the hip and bust thanks to a system of darts (folded and stitched sections of fabric) that contour the garment.  Stiff whalebone supports run throughout the body, while steel reinforcements along the center front and center back permit tight lacing"

Collection of the Minnesota Historical Society

Frame Detail

Skirt Train, extender c. 1870
c. 1870
Steel, cotton twill
Collection of the Minnesota Historical Society

"The train extender and bustle combination is a complicated arrangement of steel hoops, cloth tapes, drawstrings and ruffles.

It would have been worn under a skirt to create a bustled silhouette, where volume was concentrated high in the back of the skirt, as well as to support and extend a skirt train."

Photographer:  William H. Jacoby
American, 1841-1905
Collection of the Minnesota Historical Society

Sumner W. Farnham Residence, Minneapolis, c.1880
"Some of Minnesota's top couturiers ran their businesses within stately homes formerly inhabited by the entrepreneurial settlers.  In 1901 designer Lina Christianson (1862-1904) moved into what was once the Minneapolis home of lumber miller and banker Sumner W. Farnham (1820-1900).  There, within an upscale residential district, Christianson offered her clients a fashion-salon experience like those in France, where luxurious commercial spaces took their design cues from lavishly furnished contemporary homes.  From 1901- 1903 she ran one of Minneapolis's largest and most prosperous fashion houses with a staff of 46 employees."

"Local couture ascended during a pivotal moment for Minnesota which became a state in 1858 amid coercive and fiercely contested treaty negotiations with the Dakota and Ojibwe nations.  Abundant natural resources extracted through milling and mining along the innovations in rail transportation enriched early settlers and industrial tycoons.  Wealthy white settlers sought elegant dress to reflect their new status.  The Minnesota couturiers featured in this exhibition, with connections to Paris and other fashion centers, furnished this clientele with styles that kept in step with tastemakers around the globe."
"Minnesota's elite fashion industry flourished during the era of the "New Woman", a feminist ideal promoting white middle and upper-class woman's social and professional engagement.  The couturiers showcased here drove the economy, travelled annually to Europe and generated hundreds of local jobs- yet. they could not vote until 1920.
By 1900, Minnesota led the nation in women working outside the home; couturiers and their seamstresses were part of this movement."

Alfred Stevens
Belgian, 1823-1906
Portrait of Mademoiselle Dubois, 1884
Minneapolis Institute of Art 2007.45

The exhibit includes paintings of fashionably dressed women. 

One sketch book recorded swatches and drawings of Charlotte Hill, daughter of James J. Hill.
It documents 51 couture garments made for her, from 1893-1896
She attended boarding school in New York and Paris.  Her dressmakers are listed in Paris, New York and Saint Paul.

Then came ready to wear clothing...

Quilting Thoughts:
With the abundance and opulence of textiles available in the twin cities in this era, it is no wonder the Minnesota Quilt Project found crazy quilts one of the most popular quilts in their documentation.  Perhaps they were just newer? decorative? So many highly skilled embroiderers and seamstresses?

I hope you enjoy this small snippet of the exhibit.
If you are in the area, be sure and make time to see it.

What's your favorite detail in the sewing room photo?

Happy Stitching,

Minnesota Crazy Quilt HERE
Travel Dress Detail HERE