Friday, January 31, 2020

La(s) primera(s) cosa(s)

Well folks, I finally decided what my first project for La Vida Josefina is going to be and it is...two projects!

Even when I was little, before I started sewing garments of any kind, I loved the outfits in the American Girl books.  I always remember Kirsten (which is the doll I had) fondly when I'm dressing in my Civil War outfits, and my regency wardrobe reminds me so much of some of Josefina's fashions!  The dress below is a darling example of a dress that a girl or young lady might have worn in the 1820s, with its cheerful fabric and fancy details.  Also, I adore black lace, and her mantilla and comb have long been a favorite fashion of mine!  

Via AG Wiki
This outfit is very European in style, with the high empire waist and dainty slippers.  Underneath, Josefina wears a cotton jumpsuit type undergarment, called combinations, and white stockings.  In the book, Josefina's Surprise, she wears her lovely dress on La Noche Buena, or Christmas Eve, during the Mexican celebration Las Posadas.  I love the idea that young Josefina wanted to wear her special new dress for an important community celebration.  I would have likely wanted to do just the same at her age.  The heirloom doll, NiƱa, that Josefina and each of her sisters inherited in turn, even gets her own adorable matching gown!

Via AG Wiki
On the other end of the fashion spectrum, Josefina's skirt-and-blouse look appears to be closely based on a style of Mexican traditional dress that is referred to as la China Poblana.  The origins of this style are murkier to me, and outside my usual field of European fashion plates and portraiture.  Wikipedia has a good basic article on La China Poblana and the origins of the style, and there are plenty of images from the early 19th century showing women in Mexico wearing the style as well.

One of the things that I've been pondering as I wade deeper into this project is the fact that all my prior knowledge is heavily Eurocentric and I want to make sure I am able to handle any indigenous and traditional dress in a respectful way.  I may be genetically Mexican, but culturally I am very white and the last thing I want to do is to fall into the trap of cultural appropriation.  There is a long history of native or traditional dress being poorly imitated, caricatured, or even fetishized for amusement and entertainment.  My impression is that American Girl portrayed these fashions honestly and sensitively, and my goal is to do the same.

I'm confident that I can do Josefina's Christmas dress justice with what I know now and the reference resources I already have.  I've made several regency dresses with similar shapes, and things like bias cut sleeves and neck ruffles might be something I've not yet done, but I know I can figure them out!  Josefina's Meet outfit has several components that will take some more work and time--for example, that sash is a woven belt that will take some time, and there's a whole lot of history and culture around weaving that I'm excited to explore along the way.  So, since I know the Meet outfit will take some more time, I'm going to start working on that alongside the Christmas dress, and the empire gown will probably go much quicker since I'm already pretty confident in my skills and knowledge in that area.  Either way, I'm starting to shop for materials and I'm sure I'll have some exciting progress to share soon!


  1. Hello, Katie,and welcome back to the Blogosphere!

    Best wishes for your latest sewing endeavors, and with exploring your heritage.

    ~R.R. Goodwill~