Notes For Audience Volunteers


Notes For Men
Notes For Women

Thank you for volunteering to be a member of the audience for the trial portion of Idaho Public Television's docudrama, Assassination: Idaho's Trial of the Century.  The audience in the court room plays a very important part in this reenactment.  In 1907 the court room itself was large and many people crowded in each day to see the action.  And they responded enthusiastically to the drama of the trial.

The court room for the reenactment is on the second floor of the Borah Building at 8th and Bannock with entrance on the 8th Street side.

We plan to shoot the largest audience scenes on the same day we are scheduled to shoot the entrance of Clarence Darrow, May 17th.  We invite you to join us on this day, but also we can certainly use you on the 15th, 16th and 18th< of May when the audience was smaller.  We will be shooting from 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. all four days.  As we get closer to that time, I will be able to give you a better idea of the time of day we will definitely need the audience if I have your e-mail address. I can assure you, it won't be dull.  Cameras, lights, some of the best actors in the Treasure Valley — and you!

We are costuming — in fairly authentic period costumes — a number of people we have asked to sit in the front row of the court room.  Many will be playing family members of the defendant and others involved in the trial.  While the cameras are on the audience, you will either be sitting behind this row, or possibly standing against the wall.  We want to stay true to the period of 100 years ago and therefore ask you to use some of the tips below to create your costume from the things you already own.  While the camera may not see you below the waist, it might, so I'm recommending tips from head to toe.

In addition to the tips for dressing yourself, I have condensed my research notes from various sources on the clothing worn 1907 for you.  I've concentrated on the styles I have seen in the pictures of this trial.  Please glance at the Notes before the Tips. Hopefully it will give you a feel for the period and help you put together your costume.

Thank you again for volunteering your time and thank you for coming dressed as you might have in 1907.  Please, let me know you are planning to attend so I can keep you updated on any last minute changes.

Notes On The Dress For Men In 1907

Before the 1900s most of the clothes for a family were made by mom.  But "by 1900 tailored and tailor made suits were firmly established" according to the American Vintage Blues website.

Fashion for Men: An Illustrated History says that in the Naughty Nineties (1898) there was a determined attempt to replace frock coats (long to knee with round edge on front bottom of coat) with "sack coats" (shorter jackets to mid-thigh with square edge on front bottom of coat). The idea was that frock coats could be made acceptable in town by dressing them up — a three piece suit with a watch fob. Laver, in The Concise History of Costume and Fashion, says the "sack" coat soon replaced the frock coat for most informal and semi-formal occasions.  The coat was a straight line coat with three buttons and was loose and boxy. The Blue Book of Men's Clothing 1907 called the sack coat the great American business coat — roomy and comfortable. Pants were short, often cuffed and creased.  Vests buttoned high on the chest and often had rounded shawl collars. The suits were almost always dark — black, grey or brown — made of heavy worsted wool.  A Falk's Mercantile ad in the May 2, 1906 edition of the Idaho Statesman featured men's suits for $6.15 to $11.85.

On the same day the Golden Rule Store advertised men's cotton shirts for 39 cents! They were often collarless, intended for use with detachable collars and cuffs so one wouldn't have to wash the shirt too often!  According to Costume Manifesto, these detachable items were invented in 1827 by a housewife and made of cardboard. Making and selling them soon became a large cottage industry in the United States. The cardboard collars went out of style around in 1862 when George K. Snow invented machinery to laminate cardboard and cloth.  Amazon Dry Goods website gives us this history, and they still sell the authentic collars. The 1908 Sears and Roebuck Catalog advertised these fine collars for seven cents each.

The same issue of the catalog featured pure silk, two inch wide "Four in Hand" ties for 19 cents and Band Bows with hook and elastic fastener for 14 cents. Both were popular.  Hair was generally short, tight to the head, often with a long part on the side. And beards and facial hair were in vogue! Hats varied. Many still wore the bowler, aptly named for its shape.  Straw boaters with colorful ribbons were coming into style.  And there were certainly Stetsons hanging on the rack in the court room.

Tips For Men On Putting Together A Costume From Your Closet

From photos we know that most people wore their "good" clothes to court — maybe the same they would wear to church.  Whether you were a lawyer, a farmer, a business man, a real estate agent, etc. you wore your best to court. Most men wore black, brown or dark grey. I suggest that you:

David H. Grover, in Debaters and Dynamiters (p. 106), quotes Kendrick Johnson saying, "hundreds of miners from northern Idaho poured into Boise.  Those unable to obtain accommodations camped on the outskirts of town and even on the courthouse lawn. . . . these men were indignant at the arrest of three top officials of the WFM — champion of the miners." (Western Federation of Miners).  Historical pictures show miners wearing work pants with suspenders over dark, long sleeved shirts.  Some wore vests or jackets.  Clean wasn't a priority.  If you would like to dress in this manner, you'd be welcome to!

Again, thank you for volunteering to be a part of the audience.  Don't even consider thinking about the camera. You will definitely be a face in a crowd. The fun part of this will be the great piece of Idaho history you will see reenacted by some unbelievable actors!

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to call or e-mail me.  I would appreciate knowing you are coming and the days you plan to come.  And, if I hear from you, I will be able to keep you up to date on the latest developments prior to May 15th.  Thank you.  I hope this will be a great experience for you!

Women's Fashions In Early 1900: Selected Notes For "Trial"

The popular silhouette of the time was termed the "Grecian bend" and was "made up of the pigeon-breasted bosom, tiny corseted waist, and full, swayback hips" according to the Vintage Vixen website which gives a history of the period.  We won't ask you to go anywhere near there!

Vintagevixen.com, gentlemansemporium.com, and sensibility.com outline many points of the history of women's fashions of the early 1900s. I've condensed some of them here.  The common designs for daytime clothing for women were either a one- or two-piece shirtwaist dress, or a high-necked cotton blouse with boned collar and long sleeves worn with a heavy dark skirt.  However, a 1907 advertisement for Arrow showed young women wearing a stiff, high collared men's shirt with a narrow tie. Hemlines were to the floor or just above for both day and night wear. Bustles were becoming a thing of the past. Tailor-made, waist length jackets and matching skirts were popular for working women. Women often added a shawl over their shoulders rather than a jacket.

Fabrics were natural fibers — linen, cotton, wool and silk.  Colors were neutral with shades of white, brown, and black most common.  Small figured or floral prints and even polka dots were popular. Fancy trim on women's clothing meant status, so excessive trim on shoulders, waist and lower half of the skirt was important.  Popular trims were buttons, lace, or taffeta and velvet ribbon.  Wide sashes often embellished the waist and tied in the back adding to the "swayback" look.  Tucks were also considered fancy trim and were especially common in wide bands on the lower half of the skirt.  The invention of the serger helped make the profusion of tucks possible.  The Mode advertised in the Idaho Statesman on March 15, 1907 "in anticipation of Easter: Walking Skirts at Wholesale Prices - $4.98 - with over 350 different skirts to select from."

Popular shoes were called oxfords and they laced or buttoned to the low ankle.  The toes were pointed and the heels were probably 1 to 1 ½ inches. The Idaho Statesman on July 7, 1906 advertised White Duck Embroidered oxfords but most were tan or black leather for daytime.  Kid gloves were in vogue as well as pure linen handkerchiefs and small, fine leather handbags.

Masses of wavy hair were fashionable but old pictures confirm that not everyone had such hair. If hair was long, it was swept up to the top of the head over horsehair "rats" and tied in a knot. In fact, pictures confirm that many women wore their hair behind their ears. Hats were almost mandatory for church or court.  They were most often huge and broad brimmed in 1907.  Most were dark in color and were filled with flowers and ribbons or feathers. Some even had birds!

This story would not be complete without mentioning the corset! An ad in the Idaho Statesman on May 1, 1906 described Kabo Corsets as a "straight front, dip hip, gored, eleven inch high, five-hook garment." The March 15, 1907 issue contained an ad from The Mode for Redfern and Henderson corsets for $1.19 to $2.19.

Tips For Women On Putting Together A Costume From Your Closet

The Boise women who attended "The Trial of the Century" were citizens of the thriving city.  They might have been wives of bankers, lawyers, or real estate tycoons.  They would have worn their Sunday best daytime wear.  They wouldn't have worn off the shoulder gowns.  So think modest and conservative, and you will fit right into the audience of this famous trial.

Again, thank you for volunteering to be a part of the audience.  Don't even consider thinking about the camera.  You will definitely be a face in a crowd.  The fun part of this will be the great piece of Idaho history you will see reenacted by some unbelievable actors!

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to call me or e-mail me.  I would appreciate knowing you are coming and the days you plan to come.  And, if I hear from you, I will be able to keep you up to date on the latest developments prior to May 15th. Thank you. I hope this will be a great experience for you!

Joan Hill Yost