Fire in Cairo — Part One – the thinking

Cairo1886.jpg So instead of going to Belvidere Victorian Days singly as we do every year, we decided to get together with some like-minded friends and go as a group. One of the gentlemen has decreed it to be 1888 in Cairo and I resoved to dress accordingly.

This of course begs the question: what did European ladies wear in Cairo in the late bustle period? Surely it wasn’t the elaborate costumes they were wearing at home! One is put in mind of some vaguely khaki coloured. Possibly a pith helmet.

Being the research hound that I am, I quickly searched online for a source that would give me the information I wanted. I came across a book by Barbara Hodgson called No Place for a Lady: Tales of Adventurous Women Travelers. As a book about women travelers, it is sorely deficient, giving only the briefest glimpses of the diaries and personal accounts of women who defied the convention to stay safe at home in the 18th and 19th centuries. But as a gathering of sketches and photographs of women in far off climes, it served quite well.

At right is detail from a picture in the book. It is labeled, “Unwrapping Ancient Mummies in the Boulak Museum of Cairo” Illustrated London News, 31 July 1886.

The lady in the picture appears to be wearing a light-coloured fitted jacket over a plain pleated skirt with a moderate hip swag. The backside tips out, giving the appearance of a small bustle, but certainly nothing cumbersome was worn. Considering the over-decorated contemporary styles, this outfit is almost spartan.

For the jacket, I think that Truly Victorian’s Curiass bodice pattern for bustle (TV460) will be perfect. I will be using the top view, of course.

For the skirts, I’ll use TV201 – 1870s Underskirt pattern possibly making it a little slimmer (more like TV221 – Tie-back underskirt pattern to fit better with the desired shape. Also I think I will make a bustle pad rather than wearing a full wired bustle under this.

The only adornment will be provided by TV368 – 1887 waterfall overskirt pattern , modified a bit to make it smaller like in the inspiration picture.

I have a lovely white linen with a woven stripe that I think would do beautifully with this design. Stay tuned to see how it goes!

Tomorrow:  Some experimentation!