Jenny La Fleur
help me be a bag lady - Jenny La Fleur — LiveJournal
adventures in costuming
help me be a bag lady

My interweb researching skills have failed me so I'm turning to you LJ Oracle!

The Victorian picnic made it clear that I need to make a coordinating purse/reticule/bag for my 1873 Picnic Gown. I made do with a Regency reticule from my stash but it's falling apart and the black tassels it's decorated with were not working for the Picnic.

So I grabbed my favorite Civil War re-enacting days ridicule to take a pattern for a new bag when I wondered if it was really accurate for my dress (or for the CW for that matter, we were only so worried about historical accuracy in those days). I'm not having much luck researching 1860-1875 bags, except to find crocheted and knitted bags which I can't/don’t want to make and metal frame purses, which might be later 1870s (?) but are definitely out of my budget right now.

So is this old CW bag an okay shape? Is a plain fabric bag okay for this period? Help!


23 comments | comment?
nuranar From: nuranar Date: June 13th, 2011 01:30 pm (UTC) (link)
I have one of those, too! :) My understanding (from the CW years) is that bags like that aren't necessarily inaccurate, but they're uncommon because big skirts made big pockets easy to hide. So unlike Regency, bags aren't really necessary. That might be part of why you're having trouble finding examples.

That said, I have seen some bags in CDVs. One, in Who Wore What, was a small frame handbag. You know about misers' purses, too, which are solely for money. There's also a fashion plate that shows a fabric bag that's basically a fabric rectangle with an envelope flap. It's not too bag; maybe 5" x 7". It appears to hang from the waist instead of being carried in the hand or on the wrist. It cord fastens at the top corners and hangs maybe 12" down from the waist.

As for fabric, it depends on what you means by "plain fabric." I would not match the outfit, certainly! Otherwise, my instinct says to make it in something nice but not too delicate or light-colored. A heavier silk or wool. Personally I'd avoid tapestry-look stuff, since it's hard to find an accurate pattern and it's overused for faux carpetbags and stuff. :p

I honestly don't know about later periods, but I'm pretty sure that pockets hid in bustles as well. Maybe that would be easier? At least in the 1860s bags were small, when they were used, and carried only money and maybe a couple other small, lightweight articles. The gathered bag I have can carry my camera, phone, keys, and small wallet; but it doesn't look right, being heavy and bulgy. So now I carry heavier, bulkier items in my pockets whenever possible.
jennylafleur From: jennylafleur Date: June 13th, 2011 02:15 pm (UTC) (link)
Thanks! Humm... I think pockets would ruin the line of my skirts and be less slimming through the hips so I'd prefer a bag. Umm...

By "plain fabric" I meant unadorned, no beads, no ribbon embroidery, no tassels, no crochet etc - definitely no tapestry fabric here! :>
nuranar From: nuranar Date: June 13th, 2011 02:53 pm (UTC) (link)
Definitely don't do pockets if they affect the skirts! :)

Unadorned should be just fine, in my opinion. Tassels I could believe, also braid patterns, since they were popular on outerwear and therefore somewhat sturdy; but beading and embroidery seems too foofy for the time and use. Definitely not crochet or lace. Go for it!
joysdaughter From: joysdaughter Date: June 13th, 2011 01:47 pm (UTC) (link)

I haven't had time to check it out thoroughly but this might help. I can help, a bit, with the Danish if you struggle. Some of the original skirts I've seen do have pockets, but not all, and I imagine people still carried handbags or pursees if they wanted to.
jennylafleur From: jennylafleur Date: June 13th, 2011 02:22 pm (UTC) (link)
Oh cool site. I'll dig around and let you know if I need help!

I hope so, I'd like to think that ladies in the period felt the same way I do about not wanting to add pockets and have my hips look bigger!
twilatee From: twilatee Date: June 13th, 2011 03:06 pm (UTC) (link)
I have love for pockets... Everything is easier with a pocket.

Also, once upon a time I made, and have a pattern for a square bag.

It's a 13" square, you cut 2 one is the top of the bag and one is the bottom... not front and back, but top and bottom...
The top is cut with an X that is the opening.
The X is cut 3x3
You make a facing for the X out of a square fabric 4x4
Sew the facing to the top right sides together with a 1/8" seam allowance
Turn the facing inside, in the same manner you would a self faced button hole
The top and bottom squares raw edges are pulled to make a self fringe.
Sew the top and bottom together with wrong sides together
All the corners on the top and bottoms are sewn together diagonally so that they make 2-3" triangles.
jennylafleur From: jennylafleur Date: June 14th, 2011 12:21 pm (UTC) (link)
See I have a dislike for pockets, bags make me happy. Hee.

Oh is this the pattern Katherine used for the bag she made me last year? Oh and while we are on the subject could you post directions for your strawberry bag?
twilatee From: twilatee Date: June 14th, 2011 01:36 pm (UTC) (link)
Katherine made one if these as well... In fact a whole group of us did. I don't remember what colors hers are... I'll take a wild guess and say pink and green!!! :D it wasn't last year though, I think it was more like 4 years ago.

As far as the strawberry goes... I'll do a hunt for the pattern. It seems like I saw it the other day. Otherwise, it's simple enough to make... But to be honest it's not historical in anyway. I just thought of a bag and made it. If you want a pattern and tutorial I'll post it on my blog.
twilatee From: twilatee Date: June 14th, 2011 04:44 pm (UTC) (link)
ok... I did a blog post about the strawberry...
jennylafleur From: jennylafleur Date: June 14th, 2011 04:56 pm (UTC) (link)
Thanks so much! Blogger won't let me reply (it hates me you know) but really who cares if it's historically correct when it's that cute?! :>
twilatee From: twilatee Date: June 14th, 2011 05:30 pm (UTC) (link)
Well, have at it! It makes up really fast... excluding the beads... but even that, not too bad!
trystbat From: trystbat Date: June 13th, 2011 04:48 pm (UTC) (link)
The English version of the Tassenmuseum is but the site can be very slow.

Tied-on pockets & inside pockets (unless extremely small) weren't worn much past hoop era bec., as you noted, they ruin the line of the skirts.

For bustle, 1870s-80s, you have lots of purse options! Small round fabric bags (aka reticules) are still used, & small structured leather bags are becoming very popular too. You can prob. find something at a thrift store/eBay/mall accessory store that would work for the later. Think 'miniature suitcase' in particular for daytime.

Metal frame purses are documentable to the 14th century & were used thruout the 19th century, plus they're fairly easy to make. Materials can be cheap -- you can find simple frames on eBay or, better still, rip apart ugly thrift store purses! My pattern & instructions are here, you just need to modify the pattern to fit the frame you find.

I have lots of purse images on my computer at home - I can go thru them tonight & send you some 1870s ones if you like.

Edited at 2011-06-13 04:51 pm (UTC)
jennylafleur From: jennylafleur Date: June 14th, 2011 12:30 pm (UTC) (link)
You are made of awesome! Oh thanks so much, especially for the metal frame info and instructions - I've always wondered how people made those purses! I don't really have time before CosCol to play with it (so I think I'll just whip out a reticule style for now) but I'm thinking the fall will have to bring some metal frame purse experimenting. Thanks again!
chloeandrudy From: chloeandrudy Date: June 13th, 2011 06:23 pm (UTC) (link)
I've put a pocket in my skirt towards the back so it doesn't affect the side seams, and fits into the bustled area.
jennylafleur From: jennylafleur Date: June 14th, 2011 12:33 pm (UTC) (link)
I'm glad that works for you! If I did that on this dress I'd have to put the pocket too far back to be useful. Luckily for me it looks like reticule style bags are period!

miss_philomena From: miss_philomena Date: June 13th, 2011 08:36 pm (UTC) (link)
I've found some amazing and cheap purse frames on Etsy, including the double frame I used for my green purse at Costume Con, and I want to say the frame was only $6 at the most.

( Or, if you'd like a metal frame purse but don't feel like making it yourself I'd be more than happy to make one for you~. I loooooove doing purses. :3 )
jennylafleur From: jennylafleur Date: June 14th, 2011 12:35 pm (UTC) (link)
Thanks for the tip! I don't really have time before CosCol to play with it (so I think I'll just whip out a reticule style for now) but I'm thinking the Fall will bring some metal frame purse experimenting. If it proves beyond my ability or patience I may be sending you a commission later this year! :>
miss_philomena From: miss_philomena Date: June 14th, 2011 10:51 pm (UTC) (link)
No problem~~ Just let me know whenever :3
strawberrykaren From: strawberrykaren Date: June 13th, 2011 11:29 pm (UTC) (link)


You might like to see the reticules in The American Girl's Book (1857), even though it's a bit early. (Have you checked the websites for the MFA and the Met? They both have impressive purse collections, but I can't remember many specifically from this part of the 19th century. Here's <a href=">Met C.I.42.29.2</a>, for example.)
strawberrykaren From: strawberrykaren Date: June 13th, 2011 11:30 pm (UTC) (link)

Re: Patterns

jennylafleur From: jennylafleur Date: June 14th, 2011 12:35 pm (UTC) (link)

Re: Patterns

I did look at the Met but not the MFA - thanks!
girliegirl32786 From: girliegirl32786 Date: June 14th, 2011 09:40 pm (UTC) (link)
That bag really is awesome! How many times have I borrowed it now? ;P
jennylafleur From: jennylafleur Date: June 14th, 2011 10:13 pm (UTC) (link)
Ha it's so true! Pretty much if I'm not using it you are! :P It's a great little bag, not too big and not too small and you can easily get stuff in and out of it. When I actually stopped and looked at it, it has a really interesting construction. Crazy it's over 20 years old now and we are still using it so much!
23 comments | comment?