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Author Topic: Styles of Men's shirts  (Read 29472 times)
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debi casey
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« on: December 27, 2006, 09:34:01 PM »

In my studying men's clothing (all book learned), I see that the transition from the squares and rectangles shirt to a tailored one with yokes and actually following the men's body forms, was very gradually happening from 1845 to 1870.  I do know that there were some patterns for a tailored shirt by 1859.  My question, though, is this- just how common was it during the civil war for men to still be wearing the squares and rectangles style of shirt?  Would the common folk still be cutting their shirts that way and only the wealthier men and politicians wearing the newer styles?

 Is the past patterns a good one to use?
http://www.pastpatterns.com/007.html

I was thinking that Laughing Moon's shirt patterns might be placed just after the war.
http://www.lafnmoon.com/victorian_shirt.html

Thanks so very much for adding this men's section.  Grin  I will be full of questions and hope that I am not a big pest.
Debi
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Elizabeth
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« Reply #1 on: December 28, 2006, 06:58:14 AM »

I don't have a large enough sample to give any sort of numbers, but here's my current working hypothesis... a working class man who has all his shirts made at home is more likely to wear a "cut on the square" shirt than is a fashionable fellow who patronizes a "top shelf" tailor for all his haberdashery needs.

You've likely already read it, but Thoughts on Men's Shirts (from RL Shep) is a handy one to review, though many of the shirt styles are post-70.
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Elizabeth
Carolann Schmitt
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« Reply #2 on: December 28, 2006, 08:49:12 AM »

Hi, Debi -

Shirt styles are in a transitional stage during the mid-century, and the transition is a gradual one. The following is a basic list of the changes in style in approximate chronological order:

From a shirt cut with the body (front and back) in one piece to a shirt with sloped shoulder seams.
From a shirt with a slashed and gusseted neck opening to a shirt with a shaped neck opening.
From a shirt with a half-lining to a shirt with partial linings to a shirt with a yoke.
From a shirt with straight armscyes and gussets to a shirt with shaped armscyes and no gussets.
From a shirt with full sleeves gathered into the armscye to a narrower sleeve with no gathers at the armscye.
From a shirt with a straight shirt tail to a shirt with a shaped shirt tail.
From a shirt with straight side seams with gussets at the slit to a shirt with no gussets and eventually shaped side seams.
From a shirt with the sleeve opening in the seam to a shirt with a sleeve placket cut into the sleeve.
Changes in collar and cuff styles are a separate topic, as are dress shirts that open in the back and other variations.

It is my opinion that a true squares-and-rectangles shirt with the body of the shirt cut in one piece would have been out of common use by the Civil War era. You would still find some square cut shirts with shoulder seams and partial linings; most likely these will be practical garments made from sturdier fabrics worn for labor, and not necessarily limited to an economic class.  But even a working class man's best shirt would probably have at least a shaped armscye, if not some of the other characteristics of a tailored shirt.  The tailored or "French cut" shirts were one of the first ready-to-wear garments available for men at a very reasonable price, so its appearance in a middle or lower-middle class gentleman's wardrobe would be farily common. Oliver Winchester made a fortune from his shirt factories before he turned to manufacturing firearms, and store ledgers support their common availability.

As Saundra Altman mentions in the description, the Past Patterns #007 Shirt is the most common style for the first half of the 19th century. It would be decidedly out of fashion by the 1860s. And as you mentioned, most of the features found on the Laughing Moon shirt are typical of styles worn post-war and in the fourth quarter of the 19th century. However, you could "retro-fit" the Laughing Moon pattern by cutting the body of the shirt with straight side seams and a square shirt tail and moving the sleeve opening to the seam rather than a placket cut into the sleeve. You could even convert the yoke to a shoulder seam. These alterations would make it more typical of the styles worn during the 1860s. Folkwear also has a Victorian shirt pattern that can be retro-fitted to 1860s styles.

I highly recommend Thoughts on Men's Shirts In America 1750-1900 by William A. Brown III. (Gettysburg, PA: Thomas Publications, 1999). The author examines a number of original garments and has line drawings with measurements of each shirt. You can easily draft your own pattern from the drawings. As Elizabeth mentioned, much of the information in Shirts and Men's Haberdashery: 1840s -- 1920s by R.L. Shep and Gail Cariou are post-war and later, but its a good overview. Although a modern book, Shirtmaking: Developing Skills for Fine Sewing by David Page Coffin (Taunton, MA: Taunton Press, 1999) is full of the fine details of shirt construction, many of which have not changed since the mid-19th century. The shirt pattern by Martha McCain for Simplicity (now out of print) is a good choice for an early 1850s shirt. I've seen her proposal for a classic 1860s dress shirt and cravats and it's wonderful - the best of I've ever seen, but Simplicity is not convinced there is a market for it.  Angry

One of the outstanding features of original shirts is the quality of their construction. Even common shirts are finely-sewn, and the construction on dress shirts is amazing. Most of the shirts sold today by merchants at events and on-line would have been picked apart and re-sewn by period seamstresses rather than have someone in their family wear such shoddy work.

Keep asking questions - the hobby needs more well-dressed men!

Regards,
Carolann
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Carolann Schmitt - Only a historian understands how much you need to know in order to recognize how much you don't know. - Elizabeth Ann Coleman
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Elizabeth
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« Reply #3 on: December 28, 2006, 09:46:33 AM »

Carolann, thanks for straightening out my title confusion! Smiley

I wonder if we could all convince Martha to publish independently, rather than through Simplicity?  We wouldn't be able to get the independent patterns at Joann's for a dollar, but she strikes me as a very good researcher (and one who can do those initial drafts with nice period shapes, too!), and without Simplicity's limitations, could put a heck of a lot of research info into the pattern packets, eliminate Simplicity's "boogering up" of her period techniques, etc.
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Elizabeth
Carolann Schmitt
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« Reply #4 on: December 28, 2006, 09:59:47 AM »

Martha has been immersed in the 18th century for most of the past year. But I think she's about ready to re-surface and then I'll bug her about it. I've raised the idea in the past but got the impression that was not an avenue she wished to pursue, but maybe her thoughts have changed. It never hurts to ask!

No problem on the title confusion - it's not like they're so distinctly different! LOL
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Carolann Schmitt - Only a historian understands how much you need to know in order to recognize how much you don't know. - Elizabeth Ann Coleman
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debi casey
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« Reply #5 on: December 29, 2006, 10:34:28 PM »

This is great; I was going in the right direction. Now, I am going to stop making those terrible squares and rectangle shirts and put some shaping into my men's shirts.  I like the idea of modifying Laughing Moon's shirts; it sounds easy enough to do and would be faster than trying to draft from measurement.  I do have the book by R.L. Shep and Cariou, "Shirts: 1840's to 1920's", that is why I why I had questions about how quickly styles were accepted.  I will be on the lookout for those 2 other books for more background.  Carolann, thanks for the direction of the change, that helps me to know which parts to add (or subtract) from a pattern style. And just for the record, I am trying my best to get better dressed men....I have 2 of my own, plus a friend who wants me to sew for him as he is retiring from his military impression and joining us civilians. Sooo, I gotta get it right!  With you two ladies and this forum to help me, I know that I will be successful.
Thanks again
Debi
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Amanda L
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« Reply #6 on: January 02, 2007, 08:43:00 PM »

oh oh oh!
how wonderfull to have this new section up.
I have to get hubby all gussied up for next year!
ok so more books to add to my wish list!
Thank you thank you thank you!

I too have wonderd why Marth McCain publishes through simplicity.
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debi casey
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« Reply #7 on: January 03, 2007, 12:06:36 AM »

Quote
I have to get hubby all gussied up for next year!

Amanda, are you aware that there is a Winters Quarters Conference in Benica on Feb 10th & 11th?  Check out the presenters at the conference.  You may want to go.  http://ncwa.org/events/winter_quarters2007.htm

I happened to be in the President's home when he started dropping names.  He also told me some names that he wants to get to come out west for other big events.

Debi
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Amanda L
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« Reply #8 on: January 03, 2007, 10:28:52 AM »

oh thanks for the heads up! unfortunatly I may not make it as I am a public transit girl! will definatly look into it though.
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debi casey
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« Reply #9 on: January 03, 2007, 12:54:05 PM »

Quote
Keep asking questions - the hobby needs more well-dressed men!

I was studying the Salisbury's System (of cutting) and realized that I do have one more question about the shirts.  When did the position of the button on the cuff move from near the seam allowance where the sleeve and cuff meet, to the center of the cuff as they are now?

Debi
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Carolann Schmitt
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« Reply #10 on: January 04, 2007, 12:52:15 PM »

When did the position of the button on the cuff move from near the seam allowance where the sleeve and cuff meet, to the center of the cuff as they are now?

I'll have to check my files, Debi, but I think it becomes fairly common in the 1870s if not later. Let me see what I can find for you.

Carolann
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Carolann Schmitt - Only a historian understands how much you need to know in order to recognize how much you don't know. - Elizabeth Ann Coleman
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Brenda McKean
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« Reply #11 on: January 07, 2007, 09:50:28 AM »

I have seen the button very near the cuff/sleeve area in men's shirts at museums featuring Civil War era attire. I believe it was the museum of the CSA in Richmond.
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Carolann Schmitt
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« Reply #12 on: January 07, 2007, 10:45:02 AM »

Debi -

I've checked a number of drafting manuals and advertisements, and it appears the transition occurs very late 1870s-early 1880s.

I have a number of advertisements from 1878 that show the button-and-buttonhole on the cuff close the the upper edge where the cuff joins the sleeve. My next group of ads are from 1882, and the button-and-buttonhole are in the center of the cuff. The cutting diagrams show the same thing.  I need to check some more sources to see if the transition is limited to this relatively short period or if it is spread out over a longer span.

Regards,
Carolann
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Carolann Schmitt - Only a historian understands how much you need to know in order to recognize how much you don't know. - Elizabeth Ann Coleman
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debi casey
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« Reply #13 on: January 07, 2007, 08:22:50 PM »

Thanks for looking for me.  I have a pretty good picture of the evolution of the shirts now.  I hate putting those button holes so close to the seam allowances, but I will keep doing it.

Since money is so short here and I do have a couple of pieces of fabric bought for shirts, I am going to make a few of them first  and then progress onto pants.

Debi
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billclark
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« Reply #14 on: April 23, 2007, 01:28:15 PM »

Ok so I need some new shirts, this was decided when I discovered that NONE of the six+ shirts that I own fit.  I own the past patterns shirt pattern and I am rather fond of the fuller sleeve, is that what makes it out of fashion for the 1860's?  I also have a very fine linen cotton blend that I am going to make into a nice pleated front shirt, I planned on using the past patterns pattern how can I change this pattern to make it more fashionable for my time period with out haveing to purchase a new pattern?


Bill
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JasonWickersty
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« Reply #15 on: May 03, 2007, 08:30:50 AM »

Here's a small survey of various shirts from several Library of Congress images.  You can see that there's a range of puff to the sleeves, and various styles of placket.  It's nearly impossible to come up with some sort of standard, so I usually play by finding a documented style that I like and make that.  That's what makes the LOC images great.  They're sort of my clothing catalogue!

http://www.jrwickerstysigns.com/sleeves1.jpg
http://www.jrwickerstysigns.com/sleeves2.jpg
http://www.jrwickerstysigns.com/sleeves3.jpg
http://www.jrwickerstysigns.com/sleeves4.jpg
http://www.jrwickerstysigns.com/sleeves5.jpg
http://www.jrwickerstysigns.com/sleeves6.jpg


You have to be careful when you start talking about wealther types and politicians.  If they're older men, they may still be sticking to some older styles.  There are several cases in the LOC images where there are older men photographed, and they're wearing the standing collars, in more of an 1840s fashion.
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NoahBriggs
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« Reply #16 on: May 03, 2007, 11:14:52 AM »

These photos are not only cool, they seem to do a good job of debunking the reenactorism that "men wore vests all the time, especially in public; as shirts were seen as underwear."
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Jim_Ruley
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« Reply #17 on: May 03, 2007, 03:13:29 PM »

Neat images!  The pleated bosoms on a couple of the colored shirts are interesting; I may have to take that under advisement  Smiley...

Am I correct that with the exception of the first one, all of these show Army officers in camp?

Is the location and context of the first image known?

Thanks,

Jim Ruley
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JasonWickersty
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« Reply #18 on: May 03, 2007, 07:56:14 PM »

You're right, Jim!  All except the first one are officers.  I was going to post some more from an image of a group of soldiers launching Prof. Lowe, but I thought it might have been shirt overload.

The first image is LC-DIG-cwpb-04274, "Washington, District of Columbia. Group of Quartermaster Corps employees."  I was a seminar speaker last year at the Images of War seminar held by the Center for Civil War Photography, and this image plays into a larger series in Washington D.C. that I put together.  It turns out that it's in front of the Plumber's shop on 7th St., N.W.  I did a little Frassanito-esque "Then and Now" when I was in Washington for the conference.  If I can find the memory card, I'll post the picture!

And yeah!  That whole "No shirt, No vest, No service" mentality is a bunch of hooey!  There's an image in Dressed for the Photographer that's the perfect counter to that.  There is a group of people outside a building, and a man and woman are sitting at a table in the foreground, playing chess.  The woman is wearing a short-sleeved dress, the man is in his shirtsleeves, with his sleeves rolled up, and he's got a topper on, pushed to the back of his head.  And no one is freaking out in the picture.

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kellydorman
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« Reply #19 on: May 11, 2007, 06:02:01 AM »

Neat images!  The pleated bosoms on a couple of the colored shirts are interesting; I may have to take that under advisement  Smiley...


There is a patterned linen shirt currently on eBay, item #140116610664, that has a pleated bosom, as well as an interestingly shaped reinforcement at the base of the bosom. The same seller has a white linen shirt listed also.

As the linen for Robin's new shirts arrived this week, I think I may try to reproduce a couple details from this shirt. And I may keep my eyes open for some plaid linen as well.

Regards,
Kelly
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