Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Analysis of a school girl

I started writing a post about future projects I'd like to tackle but stopped because I've barely even worked on the current project.  But, this morning I had an epiphany!  I can merge two projects into one.

And now, since I've told you that much about it, I might as well tell you the rest.

Meet Agatha Heterodyne.  She's the star of Girl Genius, a webcomic by Kaja and Phil Foglio (who, by the way, I met at the Steampunk Symposium and are awesome and really fun to talk to).

For a Steampunk/Gaslight character, she's more on the Edwardian side of the spectrum, style-wise at least (I mean in the silhouette).  I had originally planned to do a steampunk Star Trek captain cosplay in an Edwardian suit and thought that it would be very easy to whip up an additional skirt and vest.   But those plans have changed, and I will be doing a steampunk Star Trek captain cosplay in a giant bustle gown instead (but more about that when I have a chance).  This separation also allows me to get two different shoes, button-boots and extremely historically accurate Edwardian/Roaring Twenties shoes: the lovely American Duchess's Tavistocks and her new Gibsons!

Now, I'd like you to meet some of the earliest students from my school.  For a 123 year old school in Los Angeles, established the same year as the Eiffel Tower was finished for the World's Fair, we're a pretty old institution (you know, between the founding of the state, 1850, and the kinda early days of the Golden Age of Hollywood, 1920s-1930s).  Apparently, we're the oldest independent girls' school in Southern California.

Many thanks to the wonderful archivist at my school.  I went to him for help collecting pictures of the early students and he scanned these for me.  I wanted to recreate a dress that a girl would actually have worn to school, to my school, in 1890-1910 (and that right there is the extent of my school spirit).

Students in 1889 -- probably the very first class
1892 -- It's easy to see on a few of these girls that they were wearing corsets, which is expected.  Some of them also appear to have pretty small waists, but that could just be the angle.
An art history class on the lawn  -- my guess is that this is in the 1890s, judging by the sleeves.  Any other guesses?
The basketball team in 1902.  Note their hairstyles!
Our illustrious founder, Mrs. C, probably in the first decade or so of the 1900s 

While we have a uniform today, Mrs. C did not require uniforms during her term as head of school, from the school's founding until she died in 1924.  She did have a strict (by today's standards) dress code (I have a "don'ts list" she wrote--I can tell you that I do almost all of her "don'ts" everyday) .  In a letter she wrote to parents around 1920 (again, many thanks to our school archivist for helping me out), she goes into great detail about the importance of having free dress -- so that girls may learn what is suitable for everyday clothing and for festivities -- but since I'm trying to stay on topic about what a student my age would have worn, I give you this snippet from her letter:
Velvet and chiffon, high heels, earrings, paint and powder like wax figures are absurd for school.  Plain wool or gingham dresses of "middy suits" are only suitable.  Girls must not wear earrings to school; paint and powder can be washed off here. . . .  Sleeves too short and necks too low; heels too high and stockings too fine; powder and paint and lipsticks and expensive jewelry; hair as much like heads in a show window as inexperienced fingers can make it; velvet, satin and chiffon -- it is true that there is very little of this fantastic vulgarity among us, but the little is too much. . ."  -- Mrs. C, around 1920
Whew.  If you're still reading this, you are asking yourself what any of this "boring" history has to do with the Agatha Heterodyne from Girl Genius cosplay.  The answer: absolutely everything and yet nothing at all!

Agatha's world is fictional but, at least at the beginning of the comic, she is a university student.  So if I'm essentially going to be making an Edwardian outfit appropriate for a student, I might as well make it appropriate for a student attending my school around the Edwardian period.

You can hardly see, but some of those girls on the porch are sporting massive sleeves. 
This was probably the entire school.  Note that the younger girls (center front) have skirts considerable shorter than the older students, and some of the teachers?  I think that the woman sitting down at the right is Mrs. C, but the picture isn't clear enough to tell.

I probably won't start this project until summer break.  I'd like to finish it by SDCC in July, but there are other projects that need to be finished sooner, so they get priority!  I'm just so excited about the idea that I had to write about it now.

Mrs. C established what was then a finishing school but she was against women's suffrage, which is why I leave you with this completely unrelated, but exceptionally awesome music video parody.  Okay, it's totally related.  Strangely enough, it's actually the video that made me curious about the early students in the first place.

1 comment:

  1. Some of those rules make sense, but,"stockings too fine"? Did she want her students to have itchy feet?

    I remember seeing lots of cool photographs in my high school too but for some reason there wasn't anything from before 1900, which is odd because the school was founded in the late 18th century( it's changed buildings several times).

    It's great that you got them scanned, I would have loved to have scans of the ones from my school but was always too shy to ask.