Thursday, February 23, 2017

From the Archives: An 18thc Dress Makeover - With the Scraps to Prove It

Thursday, February 23, 2017
Susan reports:

As anyone who reads this blog knows, by now, I find recycled and remade clothes fascinating. As a "handwork" person myself, I'm in complete sympathy with the desire to make something new and usable from an older garment that's just too beautiful to toss. I've shared several such dresses before - here and here and here - but this one has an unusual twist.

Most of the examples in museums are 19th c dresses refashioned from 18th c silks, and the one shown here, upper left,  falls into that category, too. The silk is a lovely mushroom-colored damask from c 1760-70 (here's a similar damask, used in a gown from 1770), an elegantly subdued color that was once again in fashion in the mid-19th c. Consider these two silk dresses c. 1850, right. With the addition of a small lace collar, ruffled lace sleeve-cuffs, and a full hoop petticoat, the remodeled gown must have been quite stylish.

In most cases, it's far more difficult to guess at the appearance of the original gown. But this recycled dress comes with a bonus: all the pieces and scraps of fabric that were removed were carefully saved in a bag, lower left.

In the middle of the photograph is the original gown's compere stomacher, a kind of false-front with buttons like this (from one of our new Pinterest boards.) Lying on either side are the original elbow-length sleeves - too narrow to have been remodeled - with their gathered, serpentine trim (like this) on the outside of the flaring cuffs (like this.) Without examining the pieces, it's difficult to guess the rest of the 18th c gown, but I'm sure that with the pieces spread out like a jigsaw puzzle, a costume historian could do exactly that.

And, perhaps, some costume historian is doing exactly that. The recycled gown and the "extras" were sold by Kerry Taylor Auctions back in 2012, and I've always wondered what became of it. If one of you were the lucky buyer or knows where the dress landed, I hope you'll let us know!

Above & lower left: Mid-19th c dress, made of 18th c silk damask. Photographs courtesy of Kerry Taylor Auctions.
Right: A pair of silk day gowns, c 1850. Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Care of Infants in 1837

Tuesday, February 21, 2017
Alken, The Infant
Loretta reports:

Well into the 20th century, a great many children did not survive infancy. In this context, the idea of "strengthening" and "hardening" a child makes sense, though we may find some of the practices a little alarming.

A child is constitutionally weak and irritable to a high degree: hence we should endeavour to strengthen, and diminish this irritability, in order to procure it the greatest happiness of life,—a firm body, which may resist all the influence of air and weather. Such management is highly advantageous, as it will enable children, when adults, to support every species of fatigue and hardship...

All attempts to render children hardy, must, therefore, be made by gradual steps. Nature admits of no sudden transitions. For instance, infants should by imperceptible degrees be inured to the cool, and then to the cold bath…

The child's skin is to be kept perfectly clean, by washing its limbs morning and evening, and likewise its neck and ears; beginning with warm water, till, by degrees, he will not only bear, but like to be washed with cold.

After he is a month old, if he has no cough, fever, nor eruption, the bath should be colder and colder, (if the season is mild) and gradually it may be used as it comes from the fountain. After carefully drying the whole body, head, and limbs, another dry soft cloth, a little warmed, should be used gently, to take all the damp from the wrinkles, or fat parts that fold together. Then rub the limbs; but when the body is rubbed, take special care not to press upon the stomach or belly. On these parts, the hands should move in a circle, because the bowels lie in that direction. If the skin is chafed, hair-powder is to be used. The utmost tenderness is necessary in drying the head, and no binding should be made close about it. Squeezing the head, or combing it roughly, may cause dreadful diseases, and even the loss of reason. A small soft brush, lightly applied, is safer than a comb. Clean clothes every morning and evening, will tend greatly to a child's health and comfort.—The Female's Friend, and General Domestic Adviser 1837

Image: Thomas Henry Alken, The Infant, from Shakespeare’s Seven Ages of Man (1824), courtesy Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Fund.

Clicking on the image will enlarge it.  Clicking on the caption will take you to the source, where you can learn more and enlarge images as needed.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

From the Archives: That Big Georgian Bum, c. 1780

Sunday, February 19, 2017
Susan reporting,

On one of my visits to Colonial Williamsburg, I fell in love with this replica pale blue silk gown, left, worn by apprentice [now a journeywoman] mantua-maker Sarah Woodyard during her presentation for the 2014  Millinery Through Time conference (another picture here.) Sarah served as forewoman for the gown, directing fellow apprentice Abby Cox, who did most of the cutting, stitching, and fitting. As always, please click on the images to enlarge them.

Called an "Italian" gown, the style was popular in the late 1770s through the 1780s, and featured a close-fitting bodice, two-piece sleeves, and a skirt with the fullness gathered to the back. Similar gowns are often seen in 1780s portraits by Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun like this oneand in drawings like this by Jean-Honoré Fragonard.

It's a graceful, flattering gown, without the ungainly width of the hoops worn earlier in the century. But even though hoops had fallen from fashion, something was needed to support those silk skirts from behind.

Enter the false rump, or false bum, or derrières, which is just French for much the same. First appearing around 1776, the false rumps were exactly that: two pillow-like cushions that tied around the waist and boosted the posterior to outlandishly large proportions. Some bums were made from cork, while others were stuffed with horsehair or sheep's wool.

The false bum that Sarah is wearing is made from linen, stuffed with sheep's wool. Tied over her stays, shift, and petticoat, they look like saddlebags, but under the gown, they make her waist look smaller by comparison, and display the shining pleated silk to best advantage. She reports that sitting in narrow chairs can be something of a challenge.

But (hah!) there couldn't be a fashion more tailor-made for the scathing pens of Georgian caricaturists, who gleefully drew fashionable women with HUGE bums. The satirical print below is called The Bum Shop, and it shows exactly that: two Frenchmen (of course) are fitting women with the new style, with examples of their wares hanging on the wall. The shopkeeper is (of course) named Monsieur Derrière; the caption reads:

"Derrière begs leave to submit to the attention of that most indulgent part of the Public the Ladies in general, and most especially those to whom Nature in a slovenly moment has been niggardly in her distribution of certain lovely Endowments, his much improved (aridae nates) or Dried Bums so justly admired for their happy resemblance to nature. Derrière flatters himself that he stands unrivalled in this fashionable article of Female Invention, he having spared neither pains nor expence in procuring every possible information on the subject, to render himself competent to the artfully supplying this necessary appendage of female excellence."

By the 1790s, the fashion for big bums faded away, as all extreme fashions do. Yet while such styles may disappear, they're usually dormant, not extinct; seventy-five years later, the latest must-have is another form of false rump called the bustle.

Photographs copyright Susan Holloway Scott.
Below: The Bum Shop, published by S.W.Fores, London, 1785. The British Museum.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Breakfast Links: Week of February 13, 2017

Saturday, February 18, 2017
Breakfast Links are served - our weekly round-up of fav links to other web sites, articles, blogs, and images via Twitter.
• What bloomers reveal about the 19thc women who wore them.
• The lavish work of one of the last gilders of the royal court at Versailles.
• Abraham Lincoln's tough love letter to his step-brother about laziness and his work-ethic.
• Mini-video: Victorian and Edwardian sewing samples.
• Fashioning the 17thc in Boston: clothing belonging to Hannah and John Leverett.
• Image: Found: a long-lost photograph of Harriet Tubman.
• How a reproduction scenic wallpaper featuring the "Ruins of Rome" finally completes one of the grandest private spaces from colonial America.
• Valentine's Day and the romance of cobwebs.
• "Now or never": African-American troops in the Civil War.
• Is this the most jaw-dropping room in London?
• Image: An ocean liner departing from New York for Europe, as seen from the Empire State Building, 1921.
• The tailor made: the power suit of the Edwardian era.
• History's love letters provide heartfelt glimpse of the beloved.
• The sad tale of the 18thc miser Mary Luhorne.
• Seldom mentioned: a Regency abortion, 1816.
• The legendary 19thc counter-revolutionary, royalist, and insurrectionist Jean "Chouan" Couttereau.
• Image: Crossing the frozen Hudson River at Albany, NY by sleigh, 1853.
• Crafting protest, fashioning politics: DIY lessons from the American Revolution.
• Mr. Darcy's tempting, pleasing, and dangerous mouth and lips.
• Everything you know about corsets is false.
• "America is lost!" wrote King George III - of did he?
• Image: Just for fun: When you lie on your resume, but still get the job.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring. Private collection

Friday, February 17, 2017

Fashions for February 1813

Friday, February 17, 2017

Opera Dress February 1813
Morning Dress February 1813

Dress Description
Dress description cont'd 
Loretta reports:

A little late with the month’s fashion plate…

We’ve moved into the 1810s, a decade that develops an interesting fashion twist after the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. Up until then, the dresses carry on the vertical style, with a variety of interpretations of “classical” dress, as do these two items. But after Waterloo, things start getting more elaborate and less body-clinging, as we gradually move toward the wild and crazy part of the early 19th century, where most of my stories are set.

That’s for next time, though. What we’re looking at today is classic Regency style, the look we associate with Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer.

Clicking on the image will enlarge it.  Clicking on the caption will take you to the source, where you can learn more and enlarge images as needed.
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