Getting Dressed in the Tenements in 1881: my working class ancestor's Victorian morning routine

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by SnappyDragon

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02.26.2024



Even working-class Victorians loved dressing up in their best, and my ancestor Carolina was no different! I’m getting dressed in my immigrant ancestor’s best dress for Shabbos in 1881, in the Lower East Side’s Tenement Museum. Get ready with me while I recreate the morning routine of an ordinary Victorian woman in the Natural Form era of fashion history!

What steps would Carolina have taken as she was getting dressed in the most luxurious piece of clothing she would have owned, this 19th century shabbos dress? Every layer, from the simple cotton muslin chemise and drawers, to a plain undecorated Victorian corset, to the printed cotton Natural Form dress she would have saved carefully to afford fabric for. The cost of historical sewing would have made this outfit a luxury for an immigrant girl to afford. This is how fashion history tells us about other parts of history, and vice versa!

While many media representations of getting dressed in this era of fashion history feature servants lacing and buttoning, a Victorian era working class woman wouldn’t have or need servants to help her get dressed. She could lace her own corset and button her own boots, because even a working-class person’s best dress was still practical.

The Clothes on Their Backs: Join fashion historian Vi of the Youtube channel SnappyDragon as she delves into her family’s Jewish immigrant history through dress reconstruction across generations. Vi brings viewers along on her personal journey as she researches, designs, and sews what could have been her great-geat-grandmother’s best dress for Shabbat as a 19-year-old new immigrant to New York in 1881. Beginning in her sewing room in California, Vi learns stitch-by-stitch what a new dress would mean to a new immigrant girl. Then, in partnership with the Tenement Museum and the Lower East Side Jewish Conservancy, Vi retraces her ancestor’s footsteps through New York City during one of the most interesting times for the garment industry and the American Jewish community alike.

Many thanks to The Tenement Museum for allowing us to film in their exhibits! Check them out at https://www.tenement.org/

Join my Patreon for behind-the-scenes updates, pattern diagrams, research lists, monthly video chats, and more! https://www.patreon.com/snappydragonstudios
Or, you can buy me some Ko-Fi : https://ko-fi.com/snappydragon
Follow me on IG for more stitchy business : @missSnappyDragon
For business inquiries, send an e-mail to : SnappyDragon at TBHonestSocial dot Com
I do not take personal costume/sewing or research commissions.

Want to send me letters? Send mail to PO Box 11573, Oakland CA, 94611! Letters and cards only please 💚

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