Sunday, September 21, 2014

DRESS-OF-THE-DAY 18: Victorian Travelling Suit (via Judy Garland in Harvey Girls)

In celebration of NATIONAL SEWING MONTH (here in the United States), I've decided to do an intensive blog series (well, intensive for me who obviously does not always make the time to blog), featuring a dress (or two, or a style) each day, not previously presented on this blog. Some will be my own creations, whether I used patterns or designed them myself. Others will be pieces I admire. Either will include an analysis and maybe some sources, history and tips. (At least, that's the goal.) I also have some guest bloggers scheduled (exciting!)

And now on to the Dress of the Day!
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VICTORIAN TRAVELING SUIT 
(1940s Style)
Judy Garland in Traveling Suit

Original Costume at Auction
Despite encountering some rather harsh reviews of the film whilst researching this dress, The Harvey Girls is one of my favourite pointless and fun musicals. And (as probably is the case with many of my favourite movies) it might be due to the costuming.

In particular, I absolutely adore the Traveling Suit Judy Garland's character, Miss Susan Bradley, wears as she makes her way out west, and for the most well known number/song of the musical, On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe. It's done in late Victorian style, 1890s-ish, with a full gored skirt rather than the elaborate bustle style of the 1880s. It has a lovely asymmetrical bodice, small ruffle trim, and lovely scrollwork applique (at least, it looks to be applique).

The exact color is hard to pin down. It looks a little more lively than a straight grey, maybe with hints of periwinkle. In my copy of the film, it looks sort of like a lilac-grey.

The fit, of course is absolutely amazing on Judy Garland's figure (although, the story behind her being so very thin is quite tragic and she would've looked and sang just as well without all of the horrible pressure of the studios giving her eating disorders). Any tailored garment with such a level of detail looks amazing!


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Actors on Break
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Historical Accuracy


Don't get me wrong, I absolutely adore the costuming in this movie, in particular this Traveling suit. But there's something just not quite period correct about it.

It's got the puff sleeves.

It's got the high collar and fitted bodice tapering to a point at the center front.

It's got the long skirt with train in the back.

It's got lovely trims and ruffle details.

Actual Victorian Suit
It's just....

The sleeves aren't leg-of-mutton, so much as 1940s puffy.

The collar isn't quite so high or constrictive.

The bodice fits nicely, but seems to have that inverted triangle 1940s silhouette.

The skirt is more just gathered in the back rather than the fullness lying over a bustle pad.

The details (applique) are more reminiscent of 1940s design work, specifically soutache detailing on blazers and the like.

A Stylish 1940s Suit
And then there's the silhouette... 

The Victorian corseted figure is very structured. The 1940s girdled figure is more ... fluid? It's hard to explain. 

Example: Victorian corsets flattened and pushed the breasts up. Forties fashion allowed for a slightly softer/more natural female shape.

The 1940s also had that inverted triangle shape, with wider, padded shoulders and slimmer hips, whereas the Victorian figure's goal was to be as curvy as possible, larger bosom, tiniest waist possible, wide hips and full bottom.


The differences are minor, but one can see the influence in the period costuming in films made in the 1940s, such as The Harvey Girls. It's easy to see these ladies are not doing their dance numbers and belting out showtunes as the top of their lungs in constrictive Victorian-style corsetry. And who can blame them for that? (Not to mention achieving the prized Victorian figure took years, starting at a very young age, of acclimating their bodies to an unnatural shape with corsetry. You can't just throw an a woman into a corset and expect her to look fully period correct. The culture that produced the ideal of womanhood no longer exists. The same can be said for modern women having 'thicker' waists than those in the 1950s. We haven't been wearing girdles since the age of 14, training our bodies to be hourglass shaped).
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And now that you've successfully navigated this blog entry, here's a reminder about the Steampunk Apron/Bustle Mini-Sweepstakes (details here).

1 comment:

  1. I love the education you provide. Fascinating stuff.

    An interesting aspect of any culture is how it views the past. That view is always deeply influenced by then-prevailing cultural norms. We see this all the time in movies about past events.

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