Sunday, July 27, 2008

Universal Fashion Company 800 - Working Blouse


This may be the oldest pattern I own. Given the typeface on the envelope, I would date this to the late 1880's or the early 1890's. I haven't been able to find out much about the company, though I discovered it's pretty easy to pick up their trade cards on eBay.

The term "Blouse" when applied to men's garments confuses people, but I believe that it's used to describe any shirt not meant to be worn with a stiff collar. When men stopped wearing stiff collars the term seems to have gone away in men's clothing except for middy blouses; a good example of the kind of linguistic ossification that can occur in closed societies.

The working blouse is a practical garment. It may have functioned as an overshirt, protecting the shirt underneath. The banded waist makes it safe to wear around machinery. Several years ago JoAnn Peterson at Laughing Moon brought to my attention an eBay auction for a 19th century fireman's shirt that could have been made from this pattern, the cut was so similar. And indeed, the working blouse would look splendid in bright red wool!

3 comments:

MP said...

Yes, I know your original posting was in 2008, but the military still uses the term blouse for male shirts. Love reading your blog. Just ran across it today.

andrea.at.the.blue.door said...

I never get tired of learning this kind of obscure thing about clothing. I knew middy blouses were military, but I had no idea they still used the term generally.

I've just acquired a card of U.S. Army buttons that appears to date from WWII - just because it was such a cool thing.

Jeff Diver said...

Thanks for sharing your expertise with us! I have linked to your blog for its presentation on the Universal Fashion Company, which is featured on page 40 of the Earl J. Arnold Advertising Card Collection - 1885. The Arnold Collection serves as a bridge between generations that don't even bother to iron their mass-produced clothes to an era when people took pride in clothing they made for themselves. (That's quite a bridge!) Hopefully, some young people will become inspired to explore the world of textile design and fabrication by following the link to your site.