Gibson Girl Blouse and a short history

The Gibson Girl Blouse - icon of the time

I love history and am always fascinated by the connections of people and their stories in history.  So, I am going to do a small history lesson today about the Gibson Girl Blouse - which actually touches on my husband's family history too!  Our sewing pattern is 205 Gibson Girl Blouse, and is iconic of the look of the time (late 1800s to early 1900s).  

This look was made popular by Charles Dana Gibson, an American graphic artist who created the look of the ideal woman of the time - independent, stylish, beautiful.  She was tall, slender (small waist, but with hips and broad shoulders), and athletic.  Newly emancipated from the Victorian home, she might be entering the workplace, or bicycling through the park.  Her hair was piled on top of the head, and her look was indifferent.  His pen-and-ink illustrations appeared weekly in magazines and advertising.  His wife, Irene Langhorne, and her four sisters inspired the look and were often his models.

The Langhorne sisters were from Reconstruction-era Virginia, and were spirited, charming, beautiful, and were accomplished riders.  The other Langhorne sisters were Lizzie (oldest), Nancy (who married Waldorf Astor and became the first woman MP in England), Phyllis (also married a wealthy Englishman), and Nora.  Nora was the youngest and quite impetuous.  She married an Englishman as well, and her daughter was Joyce Grenfeld (famous British comedian).  Nora ran off with other men a few times, and one man was Lefty Flynn, a famous American actor of the time and formal football player.  She eventually became Lefty's third wife and they lived in Tryon, NC.  While in Tryon, they became friends with my husband's great-grandparents, James and Elizabeth McClure.  James would sometimes try to help Lefty get sober, and they always had amusing times together.  I've heard a few stories of their parties and their friendship.

To learn more about the Langhorne sisters, I recommend the book Five Sisters: the Langhornes of Virginia by James Fox.  It is a fun read (can even be a great beach/summer book).  

And, the model for our Gibson Girl Blouse here is James McClure's great-granddaughter!  Interesting connections