19th Century Costumes of the Public Domain
It’s the Gilded Age here at TofuJoe, and we’ve got the best 19th century costumes for all of your Tea Parties, Calico Balls and Private Theatricals. Check out these public domain masterpieces!
Masquerade and Carnival (1892)
Masquerade and Carnival: their Customs and Costumes is an American costume book from 1892. It was written by Jennie Taylor Wandle and published by the Butterick Publishing Company. The book features a chaotic frenzy of illustrations in various levels of skill, as well as interesting descriptions of popular parties of the time. 19th century parties ranged from Tea Parties, Calico Balls and Japanese Parties to the extremely weird Mrs. Jarley’s Waxwork Collection. This involved a burlesque exhibition of a waxwork collection with living performers for the “figures”.
The Butterick Publishing company began publishing magazines in 1867 in order to market sewing patterns. It became quickly (and extremely) popular with home sewists. In 1903 the company constructed a 16 story building in downtown Manhattan housing the world’s 2nd largest printing press. By 1907 the Butterick Building boasted the largest sign in the world too, with an electric sign with over 1400 lights, and a “B” 68 meters tall. Today, the company still exists and the building does too, but unfortunately the sign is no more. The book is available in its entirety here.
Weldon’s Practical Fancy Dress for Ladies (1888)
And here’s a British publication from the same time period with rather fun title. Weldon’s practical fancy dress for ladies: or suggestions for fancy & calico balls, also fancy bazaars, and private theatricals (1888), a book by Walter Weldon.
Walter Weldon (1832-1885) lived a peculiar life. He worked as a journalist before becoming a chemist. He successfully invented a way to produce chlorine that was used by nearly every manufacturer of chlorine in Europe. At some point he owned the pattern company Weldon & Company and produced hundreds of patterns for Victorian needlework, along with books titled Weldon’s Practical Needlework. He also was a member of the Society for Psychical Research (SPR), a group that studies the paranormal and still exists today.
This book contains 52 images of costumes, and is the 2nd part of a 2 book set. The book mentions that a customer may buy any dress pattern for 1 shilling from the company’s address in London. Interestingly enough, Weldon & Company was only a few doors down from the art dealership where Vincent van Gogh worked between 1873-1874. Vincent became unhappy with the extent the art dealership commodified art and he was dismissed after a year of work. We’ve put together 25 of Weldon’s costumes into a collection.