Turn of the 20th Century Garments

So I’m gonna start with pics. I will post better ones later. I have to figure out the best way to photograph without the dogs getting involved. These were taken at the Goodwill (!!!) where I found them (for $20!!!)

Ok. So I am posting these for the purposes of resources and discussion for anyone else interested in historical fashion. I found them at Goodwill earlier this week, in the Halloween stuff they had just put out, and I paid $20 for all of it. Ridiculous. RIDICULOUS! Any way, I will be taking better photos, on a mannequin, and good closeups of each garment inside and out, and please feel free to ask any questions about or request closeups of construction methods, notions, etc.

Here is what I know so far:

The first three pics are a satin-faced blue printed silk two-piece day dress. The lace yoke overlays cream silk satin, and everything is trimmed up in black silk velvet ribbon. The blouse is fully lined and boned, with a fold over front that attaches to the side and shoulder seams, to hide the closures and allow for the full pigeon-breasted gathered front. The skirt is pieced gores (fabric width not long enough so the gores are pieced about halfway down, I assume so the pattern directionality was pleasing) with light bustling at the back and a double ruffle of the same length at the hem. (Sometimes this is done to keep the face up ruffle clean and full, like a mini-petticoat just for your skirt ruffle.)

I absolutely adore the print, and have already redrawn, uploaded and ordered some samples from Spoonflower, but depending on how they turn out I will probably order some silk yardage from another place and make some big floaty scarves. It also sent me down a research rabbit hole regarding printed silks from about 1900 to 1908. There are some amazing extant examples. They look like 40s, 60s, and 80s fabrics. It is really shocking!

The second item is a scarlet silk velvet jacket with another foldover front, only this time it is smooth down the front with an asymmetrical closure on the left breast, a light point at the waist, and dagged sleeve cuffs lined in silk satin. This jacket is flatlined, where the blouse above is lined in a way that hides most of the seams inside. (Much more modern method.) It was obviously intended to wear with a collar, as the top edge is only bound in bias tape.

And third we have a black wool walking skirt made of matelasse and flatlined in red cotton. It is a very simple gored walking skirt but is VERY striking.

All of these garments date from the transition period at the very tail end of the Victorian era and very beginning of the Edwardian. Maybe between 1895 and 1910, but probably all right around 1905ish.


We sure have come a long way from this very constructed garments! Very interesting to see the closures, the lining, all the ways to shape the garments to make the body appear to be the customary shape of the time!

Wonderful find…

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These are actually teeny tiny, maybe 20" waists, but probably smaller. Some of my favorite dress historians recently did a CoCoVid video about the myth of the 18" waist, but in this case, that is probably about right. (It is mostly because tiny-waisted garments are more likely to survive as they would have been worn less and by fewer people.) Anyway. Tangent. But yes. And for anyone doing historical costuming or clothing construction, knowing the methods is very important to get the silhouette right. The tops are both sophisticated and complicated in construction, while the skirts are almost as simple as the bodices are complicated. Skirt shapes would have been dictated by undergarments, so the skirts themselves are often VERY easy.


These are amazing finds! And in the Halloween section?! I’d love to see the proper pictures.

I don’t think the 18" or 20" waist was a fiction, although probably not common/average even back then. The smallest retail size these days has a 24" waist. And this is more than a century ago when people were a lot less tall and women wore corsets. A 20" waist was probably still small back then but not impossibly small. And a lot of the dresses that have been preserved are special occasion and wedding dresses that young women would have worn. What people wear out was thrown away. Although it looks like the red jacket shows wear in the armpits?

Oh Yeah. The small waists existed; the myth is that they were average or even common sizes, mostly due to survival bias. Victorian clothing patterns and RTW actually covered a much broader range and larger sizes than modern do.

The red velvet has pile wear in the pits and where the closures are sewn in. It was also let out a little at one point, so there is some scarring in the pile where they USED to be as well. All in all, though, they are in good condition. The blue silk is too fragile to wear but is fully intact. And the wool skirt; were it my size, I could wear tonight, it is in that good a condition


I’m stunned. The silk doesn’t even look like it’s shattering! These pieces were really well taken care of, clearly. How amazing that you found them at Goodwill, of all places. Happy for you and incredibly jealous all at the same time! (I LOOOOVE vintage finds, especially this era… but I’d have nowhere to put them and I absolutely couldn’t wear them. So the jealousy part is sheer stupidity- but hey… :woman_shrugging:)


The silk is in AMAZING condition. It is thin in spots, and there are a couple of tiny holes near the hem, but otherwise it is great. In fact, the thinning appears to be mostly at the upper front, and honestly, if follows the pattern of a woman smoothing down her skirts. Which is delightful.


That really IS delightful!

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What a great find!

I’m so glad I didn’t find them. I would have bought them, then stored them in an unsuitable way for years, eventually cutting them up (augh!!! the guilt!) or giving them back to goodwill.

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Ok here are some more pics. First, the red jacket.

Front and back outside:

Front and back inside, also showing a little how the outside asymmetrical closure looks, then how the lining hooks down the center of that piece:

At some point MUCH later, the side seam was split, a gore of poly velvet lined in a cotton/poly blend was inserted, and the bone from the side seam was moved into the center gore, and the edge was refinished with a rayon hem tape. You can see how different the synthetic materials look compared to the old cotton and silk.

It was also let out at the shoulders and the closure hooks were moved.

And I love that you can tell the original silk velvet didn’t quite stretch for all the panels. A little corner right under the arm at the side seam was pieced on.

The sleeves are an interesting construction; two pieces, the second being almost like a very long gusset. Not atypical of the period, though.

I can’t really decide on a time frame for this one. It might be older than I thought. It was probably refitted in the 40s or 50s. I’m just not sure.


The walking skirt is super simple.

6 gores, two wider ones center front and back and four matching ones at the sides.

Like most skirts of its type it closes with a placket hidden under one of the front seam panels. On this example that entire seam has been opened. I wonder if they were working on taking it out.

It is flatlined in red cotton, and all the seams are whip stitched.

The hem is finished with corduroy bias tape.

This is about as simple as it gets. Skirts are very much still constructed this way, although usually in a skirt like this the closure would either be an invisible zip on a side seam, or the back panel would be split in two and the zip placed there.


I love skirts in this style! And, it’s impressive how nicely finished it is on the inside.

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These are really amazing! Thanks so much for sharing them with us! I can’t believe you’re finding them at Goodwill. Mine never has anything very interesting.

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I really love the timeless look of the red jacket. I feel like you could wear that today over a black mini dress or some high waisted pants and it wouldn’t look out of place.


And last but not least, the blue silk. This one was tricky. I really didn’t want to fully turn it inside out and put it on the mannequin because the silk is so delicate. But here are the pics:

Basic front and back.

Displayed on a form you can see the ruffle on the skirt is narrow at the center front and widens as it goes around.

The bodice lining hooks down the center front, then the bodice front hooks along the side seam, the shoulder seam, the back of the neck, and one bit of ruffle wraps around and hooks at the back. It is ingenious.

The sleeve is very interesting. It is constructed in two pieces, plus a dart and some gathering to give some distinct curved ease to the elbow portion of the sleeve. It is lined in a lighter weight cotton than the rest of the bodice. It also has what appears to be a bit of reinforcing decorating lace just at the underarm, as well as a slit at the narrow cuff that then snaps closed.

The skirt is very simple. Not much to say about it other than it is a 6 gore skirt, with darts at the hips, that graduated double ruffle I mentioned earlier, and it appears to have been taken in at some point.

And last but not least, I finally got my spoonflower samples of the reproduction I did of the silk pattern. When I do reproductions, I redraw all elements, and I stick to old materials so I am not stepping on any copyright issues. My goal isn’t to commodify someone else’s art, it is to preserve these old patterns. I ordered samples on a poly satin and a poly chiffon, because Spoonflower doesn’t carry a silk anymore. But I did then adjust the background blue a little and order myself a piece of lightweight silk satin from Contrado, which I have not used before. I want a scarf for myself.


This is SO. COOL.


So amazing! The blue silk is gorgeous!

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Woah! What finds! I live in a ‘historical’ area, and these would have been priced HIGH (but accurate for the amount of effort). It is not unusual to see someone in full costume pumping gas. It was surreal at first.

I’m also close to a theme park, so back in the day, liederhosen and the like was also common.


This print is truly lovely.

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