By Gail Wurtele
Women of the late 19th Century would have been alarmed by the clothing, or lack of, today. Women of today would be alarmed if they had to wear the layers of clothing from the past on a daily basis.
Recently Wildwood received a basque in a donation of several pieces of clothing from Helen Moore. It would be considered a jacket to be worn over a seven panel skirt which may or may not have had fancy trim. Skirts could be ordered from a catalog or in some cases purchased from a dry goods store. But the garment worn to finish the look had to be handmade to get the proper fit. The sleeves were puffy near the shoulder and tight fitting near the wrist, often trimmed in lace or beading. Usually the collar stood up at the neck, it too being decorated and often held closed with a fancy pin. The body of the jacket was decorated with beading or lace, maybe even layers of each. It may have been lovely to gaze upon but not comfortable to wear.
This recent donation is in very poor condition with no known history. This is one item that might be handled by the docents at Wildwood and shown to the public. It is the inside that piques the interest. The lining is of two different fabric patterns, not unusual. Eleven stays can be counted! No slumping allowed. The tops of a couple of the stays, which may be metal, can be pulled out of the casing to be viewed. The cut of the garment is very high at the waist by today’s standards. Fourteen hooks and eyes would have been fastened up the center. An over piece is held together on the left side by nine more sets of fasteners. The cut, the stays at the seams of the darts, pointed front, the V shaped pattern of the applied beading and the tucks all lead to a very slimming garment. Becoming yes but comfort is in doubt.