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Early C19th Stiff Collars

Posted: Tue May 22, 2007 12:46 pm
by Mr Dreadful
One of my LRP characters is a rather dandified gentleman adventurer, but as I like my costume to both look and feel 'right' I've gone for proper early C19th-style shirts rather than the 'grandad' shirts so ubiquitous in LRP...

The problem is that the collar is too floppy and as a result looks messy (I can just about make it look okay by adjusting the neck stock, but every time I move my head it needs adjusting again). Are there any recommended methods of stiffening the collar that will last at least three days without having to be re-done... even better if there's any way of making the stiffening permanent (and able to cope with being washed). I'm not too worried about authenticity (for obvious reasons), but it's difficult to look dashing when one's collar keeps getting all crumpled.

Posted: Tue May 22, 2007 1:02 pm
by Phil the Grips
Starch- available in big tubs from Lakeland Plastics and proper old ironmongers, maybe the kitchen dept of John Lewis or similar. Apply and then iron to shape.

If you can't get any then boil up a load of rice and apply the water to the collar before ironing it to the shape you want.

It won't last three days (this is why a Gentlemand has a Valet to look after these things, and why would a Gent wear a shirt for three days running?! He should be changing at least three times a day!;)) but'll do.

The next option is collar stiffeners, little tabs of metal or ivory that insert into pockets on the collar- but I think they were much later.

Posted: Tue May 22, 2007 1:12 pm
by Mr Dreadful
Hmm... starch may be worth a go.

Anyway, the reason it needs to last three days is not because I'd only be wearing one shirt (good God man, I'm not some bloody peasant, etc.) but because the shirts will need to be packed away in my kit bag for the journey up and will then need to cope with being kept in a tent by a very disorganised person who may not put them back in the bag if they fall out and may subsequently tread on them in the dark after accidentally sampling lots of alcohol.
Do you reckon starch will be able to cope with at least being packed away for the journey up? I suppose I could hang them up when I get there.

I'll also investigate the collar stiffeners.

Posted: Tue May 22, 2007 1:15 pm
by Phil the Grips
If you pack correctly they ought to survive- it's the heat and sweat that makes them collapse mainly.

Check Stanley Ager's "A Butler's Guide"- a most invaluable text on matters such as clothes care,laundry and packing to maximum effect from a fellow who was in Service his entire life.

Posted: Tue May 22, 2007 2:17 pm
by Alice the Huswyf
You want a collar box: you may see one in a charity shop - often leather, a shallow, round box about 8 - 9 inches across with a snap fastener or buckle closing the flat lid. (Often sold as jewelry boxes by the ignorant) Failing which a tin of the right size. The collars should be pressed flat then shaped to curve so thaty they are ready to go around the neck. They can also be polished (pressing enough starch hot enough and rubbing with the iron). Robin Spray starch is convenient and less messy than soak in starch.. The collars are stored standing on the shirt edge in the tin.

I had to learn how as dry cleaners cost for this service!

If you can't get secondhand ones in the right size and feel like treating yourself, Eade and Ravenscroft carry them in varying styles (plus shirt and collar studs etc).

Posted: Tue May 22, 2007 4:19 pm
by Mr Dreadful
Shame that my collars are all fixed as eBay seems to have quite a few collar boxes at prices that won't cause my wife to kill me...

Posted: Tue May 22, 2007 4:27 pm
by Neibelungen
As people have said, starch is the correct way.

But as you pointed out your not looking for authenticity, so I'd use some iron on interfacing/stiffening from a haberdashery shop inside the collar. The double sided one should work between the inside and outside fabric of the collar.

Historically, from mid regency they started using attatched collars and earlier the fabric of the collar and cuffs was finer than the main body. A good quality shirting fabric would work better than a more open weave plain white cotton.

You'll also find, much like modern collars with a iron in interlining, a row of stay stitching about 1/8 in from the edge will help it keep it's shape better.

Other point to remember is the later regency put a stiffener in the cravate, often a seperate insert, and that the collars are cut more on the bias and often have a back seam for better shaping round the back of the neck and allow the front tips to rise up. This is especially so as the cravate will cause the rear of the collar to ruck when it's too high

Posted: Tue May 22, 2007 4:34 pm
by seamsmistress
Do you [or your wife] have any sewing skills? If so, you could open up the collar at the neckseam and insert a piece of collar canvas cut to just a fraction larger than the finished collar. The front & top edges would need to be stitched to the existing seams within the collar. The bottom edge, tacked to the neck seam, then close up again.

This washes well and will give you the 'standup' that you're looking for.

A good point to note about starch is that the ironed surface will be smooth and won't get quite so dirty quite so fast! Also, when starch was used as a matter of course for laundry in the 19thC, the garment was usually dipped every 2nd or 3rd wash, as the starch seems to impregnate the cloth quite well and therefore isn't needed every time.

I keep collar canvas in stock - if you need some, pm me.

Posted: Tue May 22, 2007 4:42 pm
by Mr Dreadful
I have sufficient sewing skills for small stuff, so may give the collar canvas a try.

PM on its way.

Posted: Wed May 23, 2007 10:08 pm
by frances
If you decide to go forthe starch, get the powder type. Then use up to 3 times the amount it says on the box. If you use 4 times your collars will be like cardboard, so 3 times is likely to be correct. If you decide to try the inserts pm me as historic haberdashery has a few of the plastic-types. You just open up a seam or maybe add a line of tape under the collar into which the plastic goes after washing & ironing.