Monday, 27 July 2015

Latvian folk costumes in Prague

We interrupt our completely unscheduled usual talk of sewing and Czech landscape to bring you more Latvian folk costumes!
(It actually ties nicely into the upcoming HSM challenge of "Heirlooms & Heritage", except that the heritage isn't by any means mine...)

You see, there was a festival of amateur folklore ensembles in Prague last week, the Prague Folklore Days, and because my sister speaks Latvian, she was asked months ago to act as a guide and interpreter for Katlakalns, a Latvian ensemble from, you wouldn't guess this, Katlakalns*. :-)

So when they heard I was interested in folk costumes, the ladies gave me a quick fashion show after their performance and I have photos to share.



This first one is probably the most interesting in its "story" - it is the folk costume of Abrene, nowadays in Russia with a different name (which may still have Latvian roots).
Other than that, it's the style found in Latgale, the eastern part of Latvia, and allegedly (according to that Wikipedia article), in being all white it is the oldest type of Latvian folk costumes. I have a thing for Latgalian folk costumes, as my last post on my old Czech blog attests.
This one was apparently a little adjusted for the necessities of performance (there was a zipper at the side), but you can still see the typical features - the off-white colour, the red accents, the upturned bottom corners of the bodice, the red embroidered "crown" (worn by unmarried girls throughout Latvia), and the white shirt kept closed with a (more-or-less) circular brooch at the neckline, which is something all Latvian costumes seem to have in common.



These are from Ķekava, i.e. the region/municipality the ensemble comes from. Notice the richly patterned pleated skirt - they make for a lovely sight in movement. :-)
It's also a little bit more typical than the Latgalian one, as you'll see on the following photos. It seems to lie on the border between Zemgale and Vidzeme, so some of the sources I glanced into put it in the one and others in the other (presumably depending on whether you treat the Daugava as the border or not).



This one's from around Rīga; my sister pointed out the metal buttons to me as a feature marking it as a costume from a richer background.
(It's quite fascinating how subtle the differences can be, especially compared to Czech and Moravian folk costumes, where there could be silk brocades and tons of starched petticoats involved... It's another reason I enjoy the Baltic folk costumes - they never cross the line into impractical show-off material.)



Vidzeme (the northern part of Latvia). The pleated, striped skirts and simple bodices continue.



Krustpils. Apparently the border between Vidzeme and Latgale. A plaid twist on the pleated, striped skirts.



This is their fun-loving soloist, in a costume from Lielvārde. The town is, among other things, renowned for its richly patterned jostas (= the woven belts somewhat typical for Baltic folk costumes). Also, I've visited there, so I'm a little partial. :-)


This costume is from Rucava, a Curonian town relatively near the border with Lithuania. Me and my sister have agreed that it shows in the costume: the green colour is not so typical, the bodice is longer which is more typical for Lithuanian folk costumes than Latvian ones, just like the long ribbons are.
Also, notice the skirt is cartridge-pleated rather than box pleated: that's another distinction I noticed between costumes with patterned skirts and costumes with plain-coloured ones.


To contrast, a costume from Katlakalns itself: richly striped skirt, box-pleated.


Two costumes from Alsunga. Also Kurzeme / Courland. Cartridge-pleated skirts, decorative trim in the front of the bodice running below waist, metal (brass?) crowns.


Nīca. Kurzeme, typical "jewelled" crown and woven bright red skirt with an irregular pattern (cartridge-pleated).


Bārta. Kurzeme - the same crown, black cartridge-pleated skirt with a patterned bottom and a silver-trimmed red bodice.
(Apparently, normally the shirts of the above two, at the very least, would also be embroidered, which again seems to have been dropped for performance interchangeability.)


And one from Kuldīga, also Kurzeme. Similar to the ones from Alsunga; clearly, there are regional similarities and the costumes are not uniform even in one town or village.

I really liked that this ensemble went with that variety, especially because they happened to be the only Latvian ensemble present, and it went really nicely against the tendency of many other ensembles to be completely uniform in their costumes. Which may make sense from a performance point of view, or because obviously they have their costumes made on order, but it makes it rather limiting if you're looking at them as a representation of their country's culture at an international festival!
Not that I can really hold it against the others, because it was a festival of amateur ensembles, many of whom probably don't get to represent their country abroad that often.

* * *

Alas, I cannot show you videos of their performance, because my camera tends to switch itself off very quickly when I take videos. So I didn't try that, and there are no videos of their performance on YouTube (yet?).

I do have photos from their performance, not really representative because dance is difficult to photograph. I also have pictures of other ensembles. That's a topic for another post.



* Google has an annoying tendency to assume that the Latvian -s ending is a typo of -a, and forces all the genitive cases on me.

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Deciphering a 1900s corset

Some great news: Uměleckoprůmyslové muzem in Prague put all the photos of their public domain items on esbirky.cz in public domain. Which means you can download big pictures of things like Art Nouveau prints and jewellery. And clothes. Here.
Some worse news is, the digitalisation is apparently slow, because there's only a fraction of the clothes I know they could put up. None of their lovely Regency or 1840s clothes yet, no better picture of the 18th century silk corset or 1850s bodice. And the search engine on the esbirky interface is dubious, possibly faulty: when I search for "korzet", it gives me no results, even though I know there is at least one corset there.

This one:


c. 1905, Prague, height 37 cm, inventory number 104484.

Where the 1840s bodice's plain fabric allowed for deciphering, here it's the stripes. And the quality of the image. As I loked at it and tried to figure out the probable shape of the pattern pieces (it's a bit of an automatic mental process by now), I thought "I've seen a corset patent like this."

And indeed, I had. The helpful Haabet site lists them by various criteria such as number of seams at the waist, so it didn't take long to find the one I had in mind.


Mr Albert P. McGraw argues in his accompanying text that this principle of costructing the corset allows for a much faster and economical construction. And that while he provides this particular drawing, the patent applies to the principle rather than the particular shape. I wonder who stole the idea, the Czech manufacturer of the corset above, or Mr McGraw? Or is it just a coincidence?
ETA: Option four? I looked through my book on Czech fashion 1870-1914, published in conjunction with the UPM, just to see what else they have in their collections. And there it was - not this corset, but ads for the "Korset Radical", made by the corset factory Federer & Piesen in Prague, and advertised as using a patented pattern. Patented where, by whom, was there an affiliation? Mysteries!
It explains their dating of the corset, though - the first of those ads, showing a similar one, is from 1905.

Anyway, to complete the deciphering, here's another colour-coded picture, as far as I'm able to tell:


seams between pattern pieces
bones
busk 

I didn't bother with grainlines, for obvious reasons.

It looks like it's more or less the pattern pieces from the patent, with additional strips to cover the busk and for the lacing (as described in the patent's text); with a different boning layout of doubled bones: running over the bust, beside the bust and curving slightly closer to the front in the bottom, at the sides, and probably still more in the back. And additional, unboned pattern pieces in the front and at the hips, probably for garters and maybe also to smooth the hips somewhat, like in later, 1910s corsets. It actually looks like an interesting transitional piece to my eyes inexpert in this period - it retains the hourglass shape, but it's an underbust corset and has that hip action going on. But notice there's more room in the hips than the mannequin has... it's definitely aiming for a very curvy figure rather than the later slim styles. The curving of the boning layout suggests an S-bend.

The lace is, as far as I'm able to tell, simply folded over/gathered around the corners in the front to form that particular shape.

* * *

I hope these types of analyses could be helpful for someone. I really liked when American Duchess did the Costume Analytics, and it turns out I may have a better eye for this kind of thing than some other people, so it gets its own tag, "Deciphering historical clothes." I can't promise it will be a regular feature and I definitely won't promise I'll do what you ask me to do. But I think I would like to know if it really helps, or what may still be confusing, or what else you might need to know if you do have trouble deciphering clothes. :-)

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

HSM #7: Accessorise - A fichu en marmotte

Once upon a time, The Dreamstress posted a terminology post that postulated the existence and reasons behind a simple style of headscarf called fichu en marmotte in French.
Now, I was obviously thrilled by that. Not only does it relate to my nickname, it's even a style of headscarf I'd already adopted before that post.

Once upon a time, a little later, I found this fashion plate, and that solidified my love for fichus en marmotte, and also supplied me with a slightly different style of tying one (a bigger one). Which I've defaulted to so often, I became painfully aware of how one-note I was becoming.

So it's been in the plans for a while, making new fichu-en-marmotte-able scarves, and the first scarf itself had been in the works for quite a while, too, but I only finally managed to finish it now. Just in time for the Accessorise challenge!
(It was originally meant to go into the Terminology challenge last year. Well, as long as it got finished!)


What the item is: A fichu en marmotte
The Challenge: #7 Accessorise
Fabric: white & green printed cotton - originally a thrifted pillowcase
Pattern: none - it's a cca 80 x 80 cm almost-square
Year: 1790s, inspired by a 1797 fashion plate
Notions: white cotton thread, ooooollld "wine red" & "light brown" dyes (turns out in the parlance of the day, "light brown" was more like something I would call simply "brown", so it turned out browner than I planned - that's what the picture with the Latvian flag is there to demonstrate)
How historically accurate is it? I don't know, maybe 75%? It's just a hand-hemmed piece of fabric. The original green of the print was way too saturated, which is why I overdyed it. The dye itself is definitely not accurate, but overdyeing something would be, and the colour could be achieved with period dyes. :-)
Hours to complete: I worked on it on and off for months between other projects, but the hemming could not have really taken more than cca 4 hours altogether. The dyeing was cca 2 hours, plus about 9 hours in a vinegar solution to set the dye better.
First worn: Today
Total cost: I forgot - it's been a while since I bought that pillowcase. Thread was vintage and a gift. Dye was almost vintage, too. Refer to fabric size and local dye prices for an approximate idea...


In case you were wondering why I overdyed it - here's what the original pillowcase looked like:


Kind of; I've only got this high-contrast photo that may distort the colour. It's not a bad colour, but next to my face, it was too harsh.

* * *

Oh, and in case you were wondering who it is I'm holding? One of our cats has kittens. Three. All black.