Monday, December 19, 2011

Winifred Scawen Blunt's Gown

When I visited the Albany Institute on Friday to meet the curator, under whom I will be working as an intern, I went up and walked around the galleries - I think my main objective was a second look at the permanent exhibitions Sense of Place: 18th and 19th Century Paintings and Sculpture and Traders and Culture: Colonial Albany and the Formation of American Identity, which offer many paintings of people in clothing, which is my favorite aspect of paintings.  (Mantua fans will be interested in the portrait of Ariaantje Coeymans Verplanck attr. to Nehemiah Partridge.)  While I walked, my eye was caught by a double portrait of Samuel Blunt, Esquire of Horsham, and Winifred Scawen Blunt, by Johann Zoffany.

(I regret immensely that I can't find a picture of this painting anywhere, and I beg that you believe my description.)

What attracted my attention was the clothing of the Blunts: he is dressed in what looks like a military uniform, with a bright red coat and pale breeches, and she is wearing a pink taffeta gown, trimmed with ruffles and lots of silk roses.  I checked the label to see that it was dated to ca. 1769, and at first I agreed - the pink and the roses combine to give a somewhat Rococo sensibility to the outfit.  Then I looked closer.

The first part of the outfit that struck me as odd was the neckline of the gown.  It seemed to have a lot of extra fabric ... more like a collar than the usual anglaise neckline.  This led me to take a closer look at the rest of the gown, and I noticed:

- a ruched gauze cuff over the end of the sleeve
- the curve of the front corner of the skirt's hem
- a large gauze ruffle over that hem
- an unfitted waistline
- the bodice fronts meeting at the neckline and falling away at angles
- a stomacher in the same fabric with straight trim running down the center

All of these add up to a gown much like a plate in the MFA of a sultane, but with a levite collar and sleeves similar to those seen in many polonaises (eg).  The sultane plate is dated to 1782, and the earliest levite plate is from 1779.  As Hallie Larkin and The Hive have documented, the emergence of the "flying back" style of gown front is 1775-1776, which makes it seem likely that this painting is actually a little bit newer than it's been dated.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Boué Soeurs

Quite a change in subject matter, but I've started working on a story set in 1920 and my costume thoughts have been there lately.

The Boué sisters, Madame Sylvie Montegut and Baronne Jeanne d’Etreillis, opened their Parisian fashion house in 1899.  (It's speculated that Sylvie was more involved in design and Jeanne was more of a businesswoman.)  Few extant garments from their early years survive, however, and so the two are associated more strongly with the 1920s.

From the Renseignments Commerciaux, "Formations des Sociétés," of Le Jacquard (1901).

"Toilettes, par Mmes Boué Sœurs", Femina, p. 592 (1905):
Robe de tulle point d'esprit noir incruste de dentelle blanche pailletée. Corsage de point d'esprit recouvert d'une berthe de dentelle. Gros nœud de liberty ciel à la jupe.
Robe empire en velours chiffon vert, grand empiècement à jour en malines, petites couronnes de taffetas vert.
Robe de mousseline de soie rose, garnie de volants de point d'esprit recouvert de dentelle. Corsage mi-partie volants de dentelle et mi-partie, petits volants de point d'esprit; petites couronnes de taffetas rose.
Gown of black point d'esprit tulle, inlaid with sequined white lace.  Bodice of point d'esprit covered with a lace bertha.  Large blue Liberty [ie, from Liberty of London] bow on the skirt.
Empire gown in green velvet chiffon, large up to date yoke of Méchlin lace, little wreaths of green taffeta.
Gown of pink mousseline de soie, trimmed with ruffles of point d'esprit covered with lace.  Bodice partially ruffles of lace and partially little ruffles of point d'esprit; little wreaths of pink taffeta.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Thesis Update - Nearly There!

I probably would have been at this point several days ago, but I went with the Theory "batiste" from my swatches, and it proved to be more like a tightly-woven percale, and I was having the hardest time getting pins and needles into it.  Let this be a lesson: always test a swatch by pleating it heavily and putting a pin into it.  Since it didn't work, I went to Joann's in Queensbury and got some rather cheap Sew Essentials muslin, which actually seems like a reasonably close approximation for period muslin, to me.  Maybe a little less transparent, but it's very light.  Anyway, I then went ahead with the petticoat of my own design.