Thursday, May 14, 2015

Garibaldi Blouse: What it is and what it isn't.

I thought I wrote this up last year when I was investigating "Swiss Waists" and what they were really called, but I didn't.  Whoops!   I guess it's never too late!

When I first started looking in the 1860's, I kept coming across the term Garibaldi as a blouse women in the 1860's wore.   While I've discovered this is true, there appears to be some confusion on the very specific type of garment the Garibaldi is.

A Garibaldi is not this:

Nor is it this:

In an investigation I did, I found these styles are either called waists or spencers. What I Found already has a very good article on waists circa 1864 so I won't repeat the information here. Instead, spencers seem to appear only in Godey's:

Which might mean it was the "American" term versus the "British" term (think what "pants" means in American versus British today). I'm honestly not sure. However, based on the various fashion mags of the day, the fitted blouse was called either a waist or a spencer.

So what did a Garibaldi look like? Like this:

The above are all called "Garibaldi" and yes, they are all quite baggy. They were named after a famous Italian General who, among his many military victories and being a fore-father of modern Italy, was known for the baggy red shirts his volunteers would wear in lieu of a uniform. The term shows up in several magazines of the era as a baggy blouse although it can be referred to as a waist or a shirt.

The Garibaldi is meant to look very masculine.   Although it's great if you plan on working in the camp kitchen all day at a Civil War re-enactment, it's not exactly the most flattering garment.

The Garibaldi came in a wide variety of colors.  Although red and white were the most popular, blues, greens, and pinks are also mentioned in Peterson's and Godey's.   They could be silk, cotton, wool, or really any lightweight material of the day.

So, if you are like me and want a fitted blouse, it's a waist or spencer.  If you want a good work shirt, then it's a Garibaldi. 


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