It's pretty obviously a pigeon-front waist from the early 1900s. The sleeve style is so distinctive to me, with the fullness gathered at the cuff, and I knew I'd seen examples of that somewhere--probably on Isabella's blog. I managed to find this image from 1904 that is just exactly the style of my red plaid waist:
Every time I look at it I wonder who wore it. How old was the original owner when she wore this? Was she a young teen or a lady of a certain age? Was she a young mother? A wife? What was she like? I'd like to think this bold red plaid with the jaunty black buttons reflected the vivacious spirit of its owner.
That's why I love these things. I'll never make a pattern from it, because I think the pigeon-breasted styles were ugly to the extreme--who ever thought it would be a good idea to purposefully try to look sway-backed and pot-bellied??? But I just love to imagine who might have worn it. I don't feel like it's haunted, but I do feel like I get a little bit of a feeling of its previous owner. I also like to think that it was handed down in her family through the decades as a treasured reminder of her. I don't know how it ended up in the rag seller's hands but I'm glad it got into my hands after that. I don't care that it's shattered and torn to shreds in places. I just love the fact that 110 years later, this former beauty is still hanging around.