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Women's Clothing Discussion => Dresses => Topic started by: KatelynH on March 11, 2017, 09:00:52 PM

Title: Inquiries on Basques
Post by: KatelynH on March 11, 2017, 09:00:52 PM
Quick question...

I'm attending an 1850's event this coming weekend and I had wondering that I couldn't find the answer to with my digital collection of originals.

I was going to wear my velvet basque and a skirt, but it's supposed to be on the warm side.  I could wear my sheer, but that got me thinking.  Were there sheer basques?  I found one extant muslin basque and one extant net basque but I can't figure out how these were worn.  There is a discussion in the forum about them being used as outerwear, but I can't find anything else on them.  I found two photographs of them being used, both as outerwear. ( (

In fashion plates, I can find gray basques, green basques, black basques, brown basques, but no white ones.

Were these ever worn as 'bodices'?  Like over a corset cover or half-high lining?  Or were they exclusively outwear?

Title: Re: Inquiries on Basques
Post by: EKorsmo on March 12, 2017, 11:45:59 AM
My first thought would be that a sheer basque and skirt ensemble would have awkward shadows where the bodice overlaps the upper skirt (unless perhaps the whole skirt were flounced to make a regular pattern of it).  

Searching through the fashion descriptions, I'm finding several mid-50s references to contrasting white 'basques' for light summer wear; these appear to be for wearing with a skirt, not as outerwear over another bodice (silk basques over lightweight skirts also seem to pop up).  There aren't many illustrations of the former, however, so I'm uncertain about how "basque" is meant in context: it could just be a separate bodice, not necessarily extending below the waist.  There's also some suggestions that sheer cotton dresses (organdy in particular) are not made up with basques, but barege (which, if I recall correctly is a semi-sheer wool or wool/silk material) is frequently named for basques.  Perhaps someone else can make sense of it:

From  Graham's American Monthly Magazine of Literature, Art, and Fashion (,+barege&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjS9ZjZvNHSAhUMwGMKHYP1DroQ6AEIJDAC#v=onepage&q=basque%2C%20barege&f=false), 1855:

"[Detailed description of flounced silk skirt] The basque was trimmed in the same manner but for the warm days we should advise a white basque with pink or light green ribbons."

"Another dress of very novel and pretty effect of fawn colored barege with three flounces embroidered in a deep scallop with silk of the same color. Between each of the barege flounces is a flounce of plaid silk also scalloped in silk. When a white basque is not worn with this dress the basque made for it is of the plaid silk the same as that which compose the flounces."

"Light materials are of course prevalent this month, and flounces have established their reign. Moire antique, however, has not been laid aside but then it is only worn as a skirt; thanks to the universal fashion of white muslin basques or waists, rich silks can be worn this year Many prefer this to muslins and bareges which are so soon tumbled and which require so much care in the accessories and the underskirts There are however some beautiful light materials this summer: barege, of course, mousseline de soie, crepe de Paris, grenadine and chali (challis?), which is only a revival, but one much to be admired for it is a beautiful tissue and most becoming from its graceful folds. Besides there are jaconets, and organdies, and lawns of very beautiful pattern... A very good innovation for hot weather is to line the barege basques with soft fine mull muslin; it is better than Florence silk for this purpose at this season... Dresses are almost all made with basques--still for very young ladies we think the plain or full corsage is more suitable..."

The London and Paris Ladies' Magazine of Fashion (,+barege&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjS9ZjZvNHSAhUMwGMKHYP1DroQ6AEIKTAD#v=onepage&q=basque%2C%20barege&f=false), 1855:
"... the bodies of barege and organdy dresses are made full without basques; the flounces of organdys are edged by a small guipure or lace edging the top flounce, left open in front as a tunic which gives the effect of a basque... When the barege dresses are without basques the bodies are full, with ceinture of wide ribbon and floating ends, but the basques are more generally preferred. There is a new material of still slighter texture than barege, but less flimsy; they as well as bareges are worn over silk skirts flounced which is preferred to lining the flounce."

The New Monthly Belle Assemblee (,+basque&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwid4M-WztHSAhUHz2MKHWkgBLsQ6AEIITAB#v=onepage&q=organdy%2C%20basque&f=false"), 1853:

"Gowns in barege, organdy, tarlatane, and grenadine are made with flounces...  As for the corsages of the gowns, those in thin materials are either a la vierge or full bodies gathered at the waist and shoulders or a sort of vest with basquines; but this last is very difficult to make and rarely fits well. The basques are much easier to succeed in and produce the same effect. Most of the corsages with basques, particularly those in silk, are made quite high."

Title: Re: Inquiries on Basques
Post by: KatelynH on March 13, 2017, 09:49:37 AM
Thank you for those references!  I only searched sheer basque, not white basque ::).  I wish I could see what one of these white basques looked like, because, as you said, they may not extend below the waist.

I found one reference for a cambric basque in Godey's 1853 that goes with an embroidered skirt.  It appears to be used as a wrapper or morning dress, based on the description. (

I found two sheer basques, but I don't know exactly how they were worn.

This one was labeled (on pinterest, I can't find the original source so I really don't know anything for sure about it :() as 'Sheer cotton net embroidered waist with basque. c.1855-57'

This is the basque that sort of started up the whole question:
This one was from Ebay so I only know what the seller was saying about it.  It's supposed to be from 1858 and is made of muslin.

Title: Re: Inquiries on Basques
Post by: Elizabeth on March 15, 2017, 06:55:16 PM
A sheer white basque would be great for a 50s event in warm weather! You'd wear it with a silk skirt or a similarly-sheer skirt, either one.

Title: Re: Inquiries on Basques
Post by: Jessamyn on March 24, 2017, 06:10:54 PM
Ooh, I just remembered Garland's "Waiting for the Mail Packet":


Title: Re: Inquiries on Basques
Post by: EKorsmo on March 25, 2017, 12:03:35 PM
Thanks for sharing the pictures Jessamyn & Katelyn. It makes a lot more sense seeing originals and how one is worn.  Also, I now need to make sheer white basque. :)

Title: Re: Inquiries on Basques
Post by: Ms. Jean on March 26, 2017, 07:36:36 AM
How does the sheer basque of the '50's fit into the Mutton Dressed as Lamb story?

Is this a fashion look, or a High Fashion look?

My county was formed in '57; and I'll be 57 in September.

Thanks, Jean

Title: Re: Inquiries on Basques
Post by: Anna Worden Bauersmith on March 29, 2017, 06:31:15 AM
This is an all too intriguing and tempting idea. I picture this as being a comfortable combination for wearing in the shop.  I fear I may be a few years too late in the wearing though. Research inquiry required.
Thank you.

Title: Re: Inquiries on Basques
Post by: Carolann Schmitt on April 06, 2017, 07:51:54 AM
A fashionable woman of any age could have worn a sheer basque. "Fashionable" does not mean high fashion; it does mean following the prevailing style.

Title: Re: Inquiries on Basques
Post by: Anna Worden Bauersmith on May 26, 2017, 05:45:45 AM
What do you think of a sheer basque for in the millinery shop?

I would really like to pull off making one for the July GCVM CW event. It would be sorta a personal treat.

I have plenty of sheer striped silk. It is a soft drape.  Would a sheer cotton or an organza be better?

Title: Re: Inquiries on Basques
Post by: Jessamyn on May 31, 2017, 07:17:48 PM
I don't know about a shop. It seems a bit at-home/sportswear for a shop clerk, but I don't know enough about them.

I would say at least soft-ish silk or cotton, not organza. You don't want it to be too stiff and crunchy where you draw it in at the waist.