Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Clarissa Dress (Part One)

I like giving my projects names - in this case, it's the "Clarissa dress" because I made it to portray Clarissa Moody Wright (1804-1871) in Canton's Dairy Festival Parade. It was difficult to figure out exactly what date to aim for: Clarissa was ten years younger than her husband, but the man who was going to portray Silas* is ... well, there's a larger age difference; I also look young for my age by modern standards and very young by early nineteenth century standards. So should I dress as Clarissa would have as a long-married woman, or as the age that I look? In the end, I decided that a) it's not much of an educational event, as I won't be doing any actual interpreting, b) nobody in the crowd bar three or four people is going to have any idea that I'm representing a real person, let alone who she is and when she was alive, and c) I really wanted to sew the green checked dress from the mid-1820s from Regency Women's Dress. That seems fair to me.

* We're not quite up to the event yet, but he's found that he can't do it due to a lack of appropriate clothing, so that point is moot now!

The original dress - OSV 26.33.63

Making this dress also gives me the opportunity of explaining a few things. Not everything in Regency Women's Dress was as well-explained or as thoroughly illustrated as I would have liked, and I've been meaning to write up some kind of errata page for this blog - this is a good place to start, since this is the most complicated of all the garments in the book.


Saturday, May 6, 2017

Petticoat (and Stomacher) Situations

The Facebook discussion on my last blog post was really helpful - it made me realize that I should have been much more explicit about what I was discussing regarding timeframe and class level, and I plan to update the other post to reflect that in a bit. But I also thought it would be worthwhile to talk about the situations where my suggestion is not useful, for balance (and because it lets me talk about the early 18th century, i.e. the best part of the 18th century).

To recap and clarify: my point was that portraits and images of fine clothes from the 1750s, 1760s, and early 1770s (in the Anglo-American, British, and French contexts) generally show women with gown, petticoat, and stomacher made of one fabric, and that when they are not all the same, you are more likely to see the stomacher not match the other two than a petticoat that contrasts with a matching gown and stomacher, and that the stomacher and petticoat matching each other and contrasting with the gown is an even rarer look.

Less-Fine Dress

The most obvious group to which the previous post doesn't apply is the one that couldn't afford to buy enough fabric to make an entire ensemble in the same material, or perhaps even to buy anything but disparate secondhand items! Let's hear it for the female bruiser on the ground, the tavern maid, the prostitute's servant (as well as the prostitutes themselves, often), and all the women in "The Recruiting Sargeant". While they don't show the specific matching stomacher/petticoat combinations, they ignore the fashionable fully matching "suit".

John Collet, 1767; Hackney Museum CH 1996.6
The people between rich and poor are harder to define in art during this period. One reason for this is that the concept of the middle class/middling sort is itself at this time pretty much defined as just being between the rich and the poor! This could range from the British landed gentry to prosperous Massachusetts farmers, from an artist catering to the upper classes to a shopkeeper's family. Kirsten Olsen defines the range of incomes of the class in Daily Life in Eighteenth Century England as £300-400 to £40-50, while noting that even businessmen who exceeded that would be considered "middle" by many of their contemporaries due to their connections with trade. According to her figures, the label can theoretically include anything from 16% to 42% of all British families. James and Dorothy Volo describe the American middle classes as consisting of mostly farmers, plus "tradesmen, artisans, and craftsmen", in Family Life in 17th and 18th Century America. ("Quite the opposite to the thinking of some today, farming in colonial America was a generally profitable enterprise insuring a roof over a man's head, sufficient food for his family, and a modicum of personal independence.")

"The Artist's Wife, Margaret Lindsay of Evelick", Allan Ramsay, ca. 1759; National Gallery of Scotland NG 430 - technically, this woman is middle-class
So I don't think there's any "rule of thumb" when it comes to the middle classes except that those who could afford the higher-status fashion of a fully matching outfit likely would, and those who couldn't, likely wouldn't.

Quilted Petticoats

Quilted petticoats, for rich and poor, overwhelmingly did not match the gown they were worn with. There was an entire quilted petticoat industry - while ready-made clothing was not as widespread as it would later become, this was an early entry into the field. (See Dress, Culture, and Commerce: The English Clothing Trade Before the Factory, 1660-1800, by Beverly Lemire.) It might theoretically be possible to have a gown made in a similar color as a quilted petticoat one owned or to find a quilted petticoat that matched a gown one already had, but judging by the artwork, this was not considered necessary - at any level of society. The central female figure in "The Recruiting Sargeant", a poor woman, is wearing a red quilted petticoat with a yellow and pink gown; in Clarissa (1748), the villain Lovelace advertises for the escaped Clarissa as dressed in:
... a brown lustring night gown, fresh, and looking like new, as every thing she wears, does whether new or not, from an elegance natural to her. A beaver hat, a black ribband about her neck, and blue knots on her breast. A quilted petticoat of carnation coloured satten; a rose diamond ring, supposed on her finger; and in her whole person and appearance, as I shall express it, a dignity, as well as beauty, that commands the repeated attention of every one who sees her.
"The Bradshaw Family", Johann Zoffany,1769; Tate Collection N06261
Costume

A number of eighteenth century portraits, especially women's portraits, were done in clothing that they would not have worn on the street or in a drawing room. Anne Buck notes in the introduction to Dress in Eighteenth -Century England that "evidence of eighteenth-century dress from its portraits is confused by fashion in painting itself. From the 1730s fashionable people were often painted in a version of seventeenth-century dress, after the much-admired Vandyke. From the 1760s they submitted to the convention of being painted in a compromise between the contemporary style and the dignified ambiguity of classical draperies. Some artists imposed a dress, which though fashionable could be peculiar to the portrait and not the usual wear of the sitter"; later in the book she points out that "sitters who were from the beginning antique could never look merely out-of-date. Even the unsophisticated wife and daughters of the Vicar of Wakefield are made to have ambitions of being portrayed in this way."

I've previously written about "antique costume" here, and have a Pinterest board for hoarding more images.

Anne Parsons, Daughter of Alderman Humphrey Parsons, Brewer and Lord Mayor of London, Thomas Hudson, 1753; University of Cambridge Institute of Continuing Education 6
While it can reflect notions of what is currently attractive, it can also reflect what's seen as interesting, unusual, or historical. The "exotic costume" based on Turkish women's dress very frequently made use of over- and undergowns that can also give the impression of gowns with contrasting petticoats and stomachers.

Pre-1750s

Now we get to the real meat, and also turn back to fashion. Despite liking the first half of the century possibly more than the second, I left it out of my earlier analysis because, in the costuming world, "18th century" in effect means "after 1755": rounded hoops broad stomachers (or post-1775 closed-front bodices), stripes, flounced sleeves, larger and often powdered hair. But there are a lot of different things going on in the earlier part of it. For now, I'll just be concentrating on the situation with stomachers and petticoats.

At the turn the century, there are a number of things happening - mantuas worn open over (what appear to be) stays, mantuas that closed at the center front, full suits with everything of the same fabric. A lot of images from this time are heavily classicized, but of the less classicized portraits and genre scenes, the matching gown and petticoat with contrasting stomacher seems to prevail.

"The Du Cane and Boehm Family Group", Gawen Hamilton, ca. 1734; Tate Collection T07505 (note the contrasting quilted petticoat on Mrs. Boehm in the center)
In the mid-1720s, a round gown - round in at least the skirt - begins to take over fashion, and its reign lasts through the 1730s and into the 1740s. Open skirts do exist at the same time, but they're surprisingly uncommon when considering how much they are part of the stereotype of the entire century! Contrasting petticoats cannot be seen when worn under a round gown; quilted, and therefore not matching, petticoats are most commonly seen under open gowns. Stomachers across the board tend to be either depicted as a shade of white or completely hidden under the neck handkerchief; in many of the cases of apparently hidden stomachers, they may not have even been worn, the handkerchief or tippet being directly on top of the stays.

Detail of "Mrs. Wardle", Thomas Frye, 1742; Yale Center for British Art YSBA/lido-TMS-1243
In the 1740s, though, the round gown subsides to be on par with and then overtaken by the ordinary open mantua, and petticoat choice is important again. At this point, contrast - sometimes through quilted petticoats, sometimes not - is fashionable, although the stomacher still is white or hidden (or non-existent). By the 1750s, the fully-matching suit which usually includes a visible, broad stomacher is in fashion, as discussed in the previous post.

"Samuel Richardson, the Novelist, Seated, Surrounded by his Second Family", Francis Lyman, 1740-41; TC 12221
Post-Stomacher Period

And now let us skip up to the late 1770s, when stomachers begin to fade out of use. This means that we've completely left the almost-nonexistence of the stomacher/petticoat pairing behind, and are only considering the commonness of the matched or unmatched gown and petticoat.

A great many extant ensembles, fashion plates, and portraits attest to the continuance of the matching ensemble; satirical prints, on the other hand, mainly show well-dressed prostitutes in unmatching gowns and petticoats. In fashion, the contrasting pieces show up first in the robes de fantaisie (turques, levites, polonaises, and so on) - enough out of the ordinary for women of means that the first one appearing in the (French) Galerie des Modes has to explain the vocabulary for the style: a coupé petticoat, "cut".

Over the course of the early 1780s, the coupé style goes from being almost entirely associated with robes de fantaisie (especially the levite) to being commonly shown with ordinary fitted gowns. I suspect that this might be due to the fashion of the period's fascination with idealized "country dress"; there might also be a parallel with men's dress, which was generally a bit less matchy throughout the century, and which was another influence on women's clothing at the time.

Woman in a blue redingote with white/pink petticoat, 1786; Cabinet des Modes, 19e Cahier. 1ere Figure (2)

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Some (Unasked-For) Advice

So, there's a stylistic issue that's started to stand out to me in 18th century costuming. And you can feel free to disregard this post if you want to; I'm not the reenactment police.

The issue is: stomachers and petticoats that match each other while contrasting with the gown.


Outlander here serves as a great example, since so many 18th century films are either set in the 1780s or have anachronistic stomacher-less bodices in earlier decades. But others do it too!

The look of a stomacher that matches the petticoat seems to have been really attractive to people through the nineteenth century, and continues to be so up to today! For starters, this illustration dates to only a couple of generations after stomacher'd gowns were being regularly worn:

Image of marriage from The Stages of Man, ca. 1815; the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Collection
Many museums have dressed mannequins like this through the years, matching up a gown they own with a lone petticoat, then making a stomacher to match the petticoat - which unfortunately is taken by many as evidence of practice.

There are a few period images that show this kind of styling. For instance, Zoffany's 1769 portrait of the Bradshaw family (Tate Collection N06261) shows Elizabeth Wilson Bradshaw in a green gown with a dark pink quilted petticoat and light pink stomacher, sleeve ribbons, and neck frill. Susanna Gale was painted by Reynolds in a costume-looking pink gown with what seems to be a vertically-ruched white petticoat ca. 1763. There are also a few portraits by Francis Cotes, such as this portrait of an unknown lady in 1768:

Tate Collection N04689
This is very similar to the outfit in which Cotes had painted Princess Caroline in 1767, though that has a white petticoat, and in which an unknown artist painted a Mrs. Cadoux ca. 1770. (I think it's a possibility that this was a studio outfit and that the latter portrait is also by Cotes; obviously there would have to have been certain liberties taken, removing trim for the unknown lady and such, but it seems rather a strange coincidence to me that three portraits would happen to make use of such similar gowns in this very striking combination of pieces and colors that doesn't turn up that frequently otherwise. The princesses and Mrs. Cadoux have faces that look like they could have been done by the same person, don't you think?)

But apart from a handful of examples, the majority of French, British, and American artwork pre-late 1770s - from portraits to genre prints - shows women of any means matching their petticoats to their gowns (if not also the stomacher, but if there's contrast, that's where it is most of the time). It's a simple detail, but it makes a great deal of difference when someone looks at your reenactment kit or the costume you've designed. Or at least ... it's started to make a great deal of difference to me!

Mrs. Bowles and her Child, Thomas Hudson, ca. 1755; Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum 1956.96

Mrs. Matthew Michell and her children, Matthew and Anne, Thomas Hudson, 1757-58; LAMS L.F9.1938.0.0
(an example of the contrasting stomacher effect)

Mrs. Mary Martyn, Allan Ramsay, 1761; Birmingham Museums Trust 1957P27
Sacque, petticoat, and stomacher, ca. 1760; LACMA M.56.6a-b

Madame Sophie, Lié Louis Périn-Salbreux, ca. 1773; Rheims Museum of Fine Arts

Hannah Choate Lathrop, attr. John Durand, ca. 1775; Historic New England 1991.166.2

Sunday, April 9, 2017

The Invention of the Fashion Label

Almost a year ago, I wrote a post about re-evaluating the many claims made about Charles Frederick Worth's innovations in the couture industry. It included a paragraph on how there aren't any labels in dresses that predate Worth's career (or, technically, the existence of Worth & Bobergh, 1858-1871) and on the existence of labels in other items of clothing from the late 18th century, but ultimately didn't come to a conclusion on the matter. A recent discussion on a fashion history board brought the issue to mind again.

Lacking documentary evidence for sewing brand labels inside gowns - even Ingrid Mida says in The Dress Detective that Worth is only "said to have been the first", and The Opulent Era: Fashions of Worth, Doucet, and Pingat, which might be one of the best sources on late 19th century haute couture, says that "whether this house was the first dressmaking establishment to identify its creations is not known ..." - I thought to go looking into extant garments with labels. We have a fairly solid baseline to look earlier from, given that the labeled Pingat evening gown in the Albany Institute of History and Art was purchased on an 1867 trip to Paris.

The earliest I thought that I'd found was this wedding dress from the Chicago History Museum, dated to 1861. However, reading the description made it clear that there's no label inside - the gown is only attributed to Worth & Bobergh (perhaps because of family lore or historic correspondence). There is also a dress that appeared in the Worth and Mainbocher exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York which looks to date to the very early years of Worth & Bobergh (39.26a-b; it's placed at about 1896 in the timeline for some reason), but it likewise is not labeled, per correspondence with the museum. So, one moves on.

The earliest Worth & Bobergh piece with a label, according to museum dating, seems to be this gown with evening and day bodice from the Metropolitan Museum of Art:

Day and evening dress, Worth et Bobergh; MMA 2009.300.1372a–d
It is there dated to 1862-1865. However, with apologies to the team that catalogued the Brooklyn Museum collection, this just doesn't feel right to me. Sleeves this narrow came into fashion in late 1864; the skirt also seems to fit over the more elliptical hoop of the middle of the decade. I cannot find any fashion plates to compare the skirt trim to, but the overall size and direction of the ruffles is somewhat reminiscent of a style of overskirt fashionable in 1865. The evening bodice is also cut straight across at the waistline (and adorned with long, narrow tabs) rather than being pointed, which inclines the date to 1865.

Day and evening dress, Marguerite; MMA C.I.69.33.9a–e
This robe à transformation from a dressmaker known as Marguerite bears the hallmarks of the same time period, and I would be reluctant to say that either was definitely made before the other.

Evening dress, Pingat et cie; MMA C.I.69.33.12a–c
This evening dress by Pingat & Co. is also likely from 1864-1865. These seem to be the last years in which an evening waist with a pointed lower edge was worn (for a while), and we also start to see long vertical skirt trims in 1864 turning up more frequently in early-to-mid 1865.

One last example dated early:

Evening dress, Pingat et cie; MMA C.I.69.33.1a-b
This Pingat gown is a little tricky to date. The label reads "Pingat & Cie", which puts it after 1863 or 1864 and, since labels from the late 1860s and beyond usually just have "Pingat", probably before 1867 or so. With the elliptical skirt and peplum/overskirt emphasizing the back, it appears to be from the very late 1860s or early 1870s, and the pointed waistline is an infrequent but actual design element in the early 1870s. However, the pointed waistline is also a design element very common to the early 1860s, as described above. The museum dates it to ca. 1860, but the skirt simply seems too long in the back to be worn over a round hoop; The Opulent Era dates it to 1864, but also dresses the skirt over more fluff, and it really looks ca. 1872 there. So I'm not sure what to make of this one, but I think it does not represent the earliest known labeled gown.

Anyway, what's the verdict? To me, lacking the smoking gun of a noticeably early labeled gown or a document of the period mentioning the labels, it seems very uncertain that Worth was necessarily the first to use a dress label - or at least, if he was, it was not the case that he was the only one doing it for very long. Perhaps it's time to insert some doubt into the usually definite statement that the House of Worth invented the fashion label.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Magasin des Modes, 2e Cahier, Plate III

November 30, 1786
ENGLISH FASHIONS.

May young people not follow the fashion of the cramped and stiff attitude of the young Englishman shown in this Plate; may they feel that this young man lacks the liberty, the ease which makes grace, that the French possess more than any other Nation, and which must be recherchée at least by all the Votaries of Fashion. We only give English Fashions in order that those who will desire it will adopt the costume, which does not allow being piquant, but never in order for them to adopt the discomfort, the contortion, which would give, it is true, a foreign air, but not an agreeable and seductive one.

We will never argue here whether English dress is preferable to French dress, which differed so much hardly twelve years ago; whether it makes the body better, pronounce accents better, and give it more grace: we have not yet produced enough Prints of this to establish this comparison, and we lack the space in this Book to give this discussion a fair expanse. It will find its place in the course of our work.

The young Man shown in this Plate wears a coat of dead leaf colored wool, with green stripes. This coat has a very short waist, and very long basques. It is trimmed with nine square white medium buttons, on the front, four on the pockets, under the flaps, cut in points, and two on the sleeves à la Marinière. It is lined in green wool. His collar, mounted very high, is of natural green silk velvet.

Under this coat, he wears a white gilet with wide vertical and horizontal stripes in dark unbleached-linen color, forming large squares. From the bottom of the chest to the top, this gilet has revers, lined with the same fabric. This gilet isn't cut at the bottom of the revers; it only gets larger from this point to the top.

His breeches are of dark unbleached-linen colored satin. They have a very big fall-front, and come up very high, over the hips. They are slit on the sides to the middle of the thighs, and button with seven white buttons. His garters are attached with long and wide oval buckles.

His stockings are silk, with white and unbleached-linen stripes.

His shoes are open over the instep, and bear silver buckles in perfect ovals.

His shirt is trimmed with a very wide jabot, and with long, scalloped ruffles.

His hat à la Jockei is very high in the crown, in a half square, and has a very wide brim, trimmed with a black silk ribbon. The crown is wrapped with a wide ribbon, which passes in front through a very long silver buckle, flat and rectangular.

He holds in his hand a large bamboo cane, surmounted by an ivory knob, turned in a mushroom shape.

The hats à l'Androsmane are still fashionable in Paris, and M. DONNET, Merchant Hatmaker, rue St. Honoré, near the rue de l'Echelle, still continues to sell a great quantity.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Review: Stays and Corsets, by Mandy Barrington

I feel terrible that it took me so long to write a review of this book, seeing as I was sent a copy by Focal Press - but I promise it was only because I intended to use it to make a set of stays and/or corset first! And then, unfortunately, I did next to no sewing since receiving it, and so I'm reviewing from a more theoretical basis.


Stays and Corsets: Historical Patterns Translated for the Modern Body is by Mandy Barrington, a senior lecturer in costume at Arts University Bournemouth. (She hasn't posted to Tumblr in a while, but you can see some great images of her work there!)

The book consists of thorough instructions on drafting corset patterns based on patterns of extant pieces and modern bodice slopers, similar to the system used in Creating Historical Clothes. (And, incidentally, it teaches you how to draft your own slopers from scratch.)

The patterns it contains are as follows:

- 1735-1750 sleeved stays (with stomacher; sleeves not included)

- 1776 half-boned stays (ie, the Didierot stays)

- 1785-1788 half-boned stays (I would probably date these later, ca. 1795 - they're pretty short and light)

- 1793 short stays (from Waugh's Corsets & Crinolines)

- 1820 white cotton corset

- 1860 solid-busk, corded corset (the red and black striped one from Jill Salen's Corsets)

- 1875 corded and quilted corset (black and yellow, also in Corsets)

- 1890 underbust riding corset

- 1890 corset

These cover the basic costuming epochs: Revolutionary War, Regency, American Civil War, and bustle periods (right? These seem like the most common genres to me), with a few extras to fill in the holes. So that is very satisfactory! Just in terms of being a kind of corsetry bible, I would like to see strapless 18th century stays, an 1840 corset, an Edwardian corset, early 1910s corset, and a solid 1920s brassiere - but it says on Ms. Barrington's bio page that she's working on a second book, which I suspect will contain most if not all of these.


Photo of one of the corsets made for the book, from Mandy Barrington's Tumblr
I take issue with some of the more interpretive text regarding historical corsetry, and it's important to take Cathy Hay's findings about the importance of hip and upper back ease in corsetmaking into consideration when you scale up these patterns: the book tells you to expect reduction across the board, but you'll be more comfortable and achieve more waist reduction if you plan to get bigger in the other places.

However, the system of drafting itself is very well explained and appears potentially adaptable to other patterns, such as those in Corsets and Corsets & Crinolines that don't appear here. This manual is probably best suited for people used to modern pattern drafting who need help shifting to historical silhouettes, and I'd also recommend it for people who don't know any way to make use of patterns from extant garments. If you fall into either of these categories, put this on your wish list!

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Stay-Dating

My latest project is a proposal for a book written specifically to help out costume designers and writers of historical fiction - a fashion history manual for 1700-1940 that focuses on visuals and on how the clothing works. The first chapter, on the early 18th century (1700-1739), is my sample, and it's making me realize how brushily we tend to deal with the period before the changes of the 1770s, and especially before the 1750s. I'm pinning down a lot of stylistic changes to at least halves of decades, but I'm finding stays surprisingly difficult.

Like a lot of other aspects of fashion I've had to work out, the issue's complicated by museum dates that seem overly broad or just plain wrong. And for stays, there are considerably fewer artistic representations than there are for gowns, caps, etc.!

I think I've been able to identify the differences between early-century and 1775-1795 stays - which was tricky, because a lot of earlier stays were dated later. Which is understandable, because they share some characteristics!

Stays, ca. 1730-140?; LACMA M.57.24.1

Stays, 1780-1795; Museum of London 49.91/1
These stays are characteristic of opposite ends of the century, but as you can see, they both have straps, come to a narrow point in front, curve out for a rounded chest, and use decorative front faux-lacing. The key differences:

- The point on the earlier stays stands out, with tabs placed on the sides, while the later stays have a plain, smooth point.

- The later stays' decorative lacing is narrow and placed only on the upper half of the center front; the earlier stays are trimmed like a stomacher.

- The earlier stays' boning is densely packed together, while the later stays make use of splayed boning channels in front.

- The tabs of the earlier stays are essentially cut into the body and bound, where the later stays' tabs have more shaping.

In very early cases, the neckline of the stays can be quite high and the straps angled out to the sides - in the 1680s-1700s, the neckline of the gown was wide and not very deep.

Of course, there are some stays that challenge categorization - for instance, these stays in the Boston MFA have the very long and narrow profile, parallel bones, and point-tabs of the earlier period, but the upper-center-front lacing of the 1780s. And what's happening with the thread eyes and eyelets near the bottom of the front? Mysterious.

Detail from Plate 3 of A Rake's Progress, William Hogarth, 1732-1735; Sir John Soames Museum
The next question is - what about the middle of the century? Strapless stays are overwhelmingly dated to this period (causing me to question the popular belief that they were mainly worn by working women for better arm movement), but there doesn't seem to be a system of dating based on stylistic elements. Broadly speaking, there are two types, although there is occasionally some crossover:

Linen stays, 1730-1750; National Museum of Scotland A.1905.983
One type of stays has the front pieces boned at an angle, running down to a point at the bottom.

Stays, 1725-1750; Philadelphia Museum of Art 1903-136
The other has vertical (or very nearly vertical) channels in front, and has a broad curve at the bottom. (This particular example does seem to lean earlier as it has a decorative front which might have been expected to be seen, but this one has family provenance via an early 19th century note to 1779.)

I suppose it's not too loosey-goosey to date both types to 1740-1770, considering how broadly the early and late ones are dated, but it feels wrong. There are enough that conform to one type or the other that sequencing makes more sense to me than simply the wearer's/maker's preference.

 Does anyone else have more information on the subject? Or on interpreting the high number of "working" strapless stays vs. other "ordinary clothing?



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