Tag Archives: Fashion

Pale Ruby and Blossom-Coloured Cheeks: April 1814 Fashion

Spring has finally sprung in my nook of the world, and these gorgeously flushed cheeks and breezy dresses are exactly what the doctor has ordered. From Ackermann’s Repository:

walking dress April 1814

“PROMENADE DRESS A fine cambric round robe, with high bodice and long sleeves, not so full as of late; embroidered stomacher front and high collar, trimmed with muslin or lace; Tuscan border of needle-work the feet.  A Cossack mantle of pale ruby, or blossom-coloured velvet lined with white sarsnet and trimmed entirely round with a broad skin of light sable, ermine, seal, or the American squirrel; a short tippet of the same, the mantle confined at the throat with a rich correspondent silk cord and tassels, very long. A mountain hat of velvet, the colour of the mantle, finished round the verge with a narrow vandyke trimming; a small flower placed in the hair beneath, on the left side.  Half boots colour of the mantle and glove of primrose kid or pale tan.”  

morning dress April 1814

“MORNING DRESS A petticoat and bodice of fine jaconot muslin, finished round the bottom in vandykes and small buttons.  The Rochelle spencer composed of the same material, appliqued with footing lace down the sleeve, and trimmed at each edge with a narrow, but full border of muslin.  Double fan frill of muslin round the neck, very full, continuing round the bottom of the waist, where it is gathered on a beading  of needle-work.  Bourdeaux mob cap, composed of lace, with treble full borders, narrowed under the chin.  A small flower placed backward, on the left side.  Hair much divided in front, and in full waved curls on each side.  Necklace of twisted gold and pearl, with pendant cross in the centre.  Spring Greek kid slippers; and gloves of the same.”

Ackermann’s Repository, April 1814

A Carriage to Match Milady’s Dress: Ethereal blue in 1818-1819

walking dress may 1818

“Bridal morning robe of fine cambric, richly embroidered, and trimmed with puckered muslin round the border and down the front, which folds over á la Sultan.  Elizabeth spenser and bonnet of etherial blue; the spenser elegantly ornamented in a novel style with white satin, &c.  The bonnet of blue satin and fine net, crowned with a superb bouquet of full blown white roses; a Brussels lace cornertte is worn with this elegant bonnet.  Cachemire shawl drape, with a rich variegated border: triple ruff of broad Brussels lace.  Half-boots of etherial blue kid, the upper part of fine cachemire coloured cloth.” From Ackermann’s Repository, May 1818

four wheeled carriage with new patent movable axles circa 1818

“Patent moveable axles for four wheeled carriages.” From Ackermann’s Repository, March 1819

Ladies in Turkish Dress: A Visual Feast

For all of you celebrating Thanksgiving, I wish you a feast of delights, and to those of you who aren’t, I hope your week brings you something to celebrate, in edible fashion or otherwise.

The Grand Turk Giving a Concert to his Mistress, Carle Van Loo (1737)
Lady Mary Wortley Montagu in Turkish Dress, Jean Etienne Liotart (1756)
After her stay in Constantinople with her husband, the British Ambassador, Mary brought Turkish dress, along with “The Secret Language of Flowers”, to Britain.
Lady Sunderlin, Sir Joshua Reynolds (1786)
Notice the Turkish details? They’re creeping in
Marie-Adelaide of France dressed in turkish costume, Etienne Liotard (1753)
Turkish woman with a tambourine, Etienne Liotard (1738-43)

Borovikovsky’s Blue Sashed Ladies

It’s been ages since the first Lady Brawlers of Sarah Siddons v. Anonymous Lady v. Mary Robinson and I think it’s about time we’ve another taste of dueling fashionistas.  This offering, I admit, relies on simplicity and is not so much a copied look as it is composed of basic fashion staples.  The ladies each don a white gown, two of muslin or lawn, and one of satin.  The sashes range from sky blue to royal blue, and the similarities might be blamed on Borovikovky, who we can assume favored the look and maybe even conceived of it before he acquired his sitters.  I do have a surprise for you, however, with the entry of a young sitter by Gainsborough.  This sitter, in addition to the necessary white gown and blue sash, has added a black hat and red shoes to the ensemble.

Fashionista #1 – Docile Young Lady with Pearl Arm Band

Portrait of Elena Aleksandrovna Naryshkina – Vladimir Lukich Borovikovsky (1799)

Fashionista # 2 Precocious Young Lady  with Golden Bracelet

Portrait of Marie Ivanovna Lopukhina – Vladimir Lukich Borovikovsky (1797)

   Fashionista # 3 Young Mother with Brocaded Shawl

Portrait of E.B. Rodzianko – Vladimir Lukich Borovikovsky (1821)

Fashionista #4 Young Master with Saucy Red Shoes

Master John Heathcote – Thomas Gainsborough (1771/1772)

Time to vote ladies and gents.  Who wore it best?

Sarah Siddons v. Anonymous Lady v. Mrs. Robinson

Ever since Fashion Police gained a weekly spot on E!, I’ve been watching the show religiously.  “Bitch stole my look” is among my favorite segments and I thought it might be fun to take an occasional break from longer posts by comparing 18th century look-alikes.  We’ll call them Lady Brawlers and categorize them under Fashion Hurts.

This week I have two (or three depending on your opinion) ladies sparring for top props.  While Sarah Siddons and anonymous lady are copycats from the neck up, anonymous lady and Mrs. Robinson could very well be the same person.

Sarah Siddons by Thomas Gainsborough, 1785

Portrait of unidentified English lady after a painting by Hoppner or Reynolds (late C18) © The Trustees of the British Museum

The Telegraph identifies the print as Mrs. Robinson

Mrs. Robinson as Perdita by John Hoppner, 1782

Clearly, anonymous lady and Mrs. Robinson are sporting similar poses and ensembles, but they can’t steal each others’ look if they are indeed the same person!  Going on a facial comparison alone, I see two different women, but they do resemble one another with the anonymous lady slightly more pinched in her features.

What say you?  Is there some sartorial thievery going on here?  And, of course, the essential question: who wears the look with the most panache?

Ringling Museum: Ladies’ Fans, Part 1

Other than being a delightful ode to all things circus, the Ringling Museum in Sarasota, Florida is a surpising resource for the 18th century.  Not only does it have an original 1788 Vigee-Lebrun of Marie Antoinette, their collection of fans is spectacular.  Take, for instance, this trio from the 1750s.

The left (1) is French and features figures on a landscape.  It’s a pretty example of watercolored leaf paper over ivory sticks.  The predominant design is lace on a black backdrop, black being an unsual color for the time except when used in mourning.  I don’t, however, believe it’s a mourning fan as it was not specified as such at the museum.  If my recollection is correct, full mourning fans would have been made of black crepe during this period with half-mourning allowing white and/or dull colors to grace the garments and accessories.

The middle fan (2) is also French and shows a fête au jardin or garden party.  I have a close-up photo below because it’s very busy.  The sticks in particular are incredible.  Like the previous fan, the medium is watercolor on paper leaf, but it’s made with mother-of-pearl sticks in addition to ivory.

Unlike the first two, the bright red fan on the right is Dutch.  The technique is gouache on paper leaf.  This technique is similar to watercolor except with a higher pigment to water ratio and a chalk-like substance added to the mix.  This creates opacity and a high degree of reflection, making the colors stunning.  The ivory sticks aren’t quite as decorative as fan 2, but the village scene therein is precious.

The additional fans are closed and therefore not very interesting.  So then, the Marie Antoinette Vigee-Lebrun. As a side note, did MA actually read? I’m not so sure!

Fashion at Versailles: Vivienne Westwood’s Courtesans

The delightfully subversive Vivienne Westwood will be among the designers showcasing their work at Marie Antoinette’s old stomping ground, the Grand Trianon, for an exhibition put on by Musee Galliera.  “Le XVIII au goût du jour” or “A Taste of the 18th Century” runs through October 9th if you’re lucky enough to be near Versailles.  Other than Westwood’s courtesans, you’ll see Watteau-style robes à la française by Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel,  embroidered  motifs typical of the 18th century by Christian Dior and Pierre Balmain,  and Olivier Theyskens’s for Rochas invocation of the ghost of Marie Antoinette in a Hollywood film. 

Dare I entice you more?

Look familiar?  I do believe Mme Pompadour would approve.

Long influenced by 17th and 18th centuries, Westwood is known to reinterpret designs of the period.  She uses her trademark tailoring, inspired by authentic cutting principles, to produce a collision of the historical and modern.  The Boucher corset, featuring a print of the 1743-5 painting, Daphnis and Chloë, is apparently eminently comfortable due to the use of flexible fabric.  My dear Marie Antoinette: who knew?

Westwood is also well known for the Watteau gown from her 1996 Spring & Summer Colllection.

Westwood on her collection Portrait & the Wallace Collection paintings:

18th Century Costume Archives: 1794 Muslin and Lawn

Doris Langley Moore, one of the first prominent fashion historians, collected gowns and trumpery from the 1920s through the 1940s.  She amassed such an extensive collection that after several successful exhibitions, she donated her treasures in 1963 to what would become the Fashion Museum in Bath.

These lovely ladies in 1794 style dress are from Moore’s The Gallery of Fashion 1790-1822.  If you don’t fancy squinting, the original description reads: (Left) Round gown of clear lawn with cherry-colored sash.  (Right)  Muslin spotted with silver and headress à la Turque.  Madame de  Staël, the famous salonnière, was a known fan of this headress style.  Interestingly, her father was Jacques Necker, Louis XVI’s finance minister, appointed in 1777.  She was also a staunch opponent of Napoleon’s bid for European domination.

18th Century Costume Archives: Sophie Myles as Madame de Pompadour

From “The Girl in the Fireplace” on Doctor Who.

Interestingly, this sack-back gown was worn by Helen Mirren in The Madness of King George, Jodhi May in the Aristocrats, and by extras in Brotherhood of the Wolf and The Affair of the Necklace.  It has long engageantes (false ruffled sleeves) and in this incarnation, three brooches down the stomacher’s center. 

I’ve decided it might be fun to post a regular series of women’s period piece costumes and gowns, maybe throw a few men’s articles in, too, if the suit proves interesting.  I’m thinking Wednesdays and Saturdays, a short snippet of pertinent costume information with a picture.   Tell me if you have any suggestions!

The Gainsborough Hat

As you may have noticed, 18th century fashions exist in direct opposition to the sleek chic of Coco Chanel who said, “When accessorizing, always take off the last thing you put on.”  Far be it from Georgian fashionistas to heed this advice, I will revise on their behalf, “When accessorizing, always pile on twice what you intended to put on.” 

Fortunately for us aesthetically inclined history geeks, this means hats–hats with plumes, hats with high floating ships á la Belle Poule, hats with hamsters (okay, maybe they were foxtails).

Millinery in this century was a glorious affair and being a hat girl myself, I find myself  lamenting they went out of style because really, who doesn’t look more glamorous with a bit of shadowed brow?

The Gainsborough

This namesake hat’s fame relies on two well-known 18th century figures, the first being the English painter Thomas Gainsborough, the royal family’s favorite portrait artist.  In 1783 he painted Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, wearing a hat designed by the lady herself and much like Georgiana’s other trends, this one exploded.  Stylized the “Picture Hat” after the portrait’s wildly admired exhibition at the Royal Academy, ladies flocked to milliners, requesting a large hat with a curved brim, colored black and complemented with a wide ribbon and a profusion of plumes.  Many of Gainsborough’s subsequent works feature this hat, as the ton adored being painted wearing it.  Later, in the Victorian period up until the dawn of World War I, its popularity gained favor among the sartorial crowd, though the hat  often took on a slightly smaller and less festooned appearance.  Around the 1900’s, the Gainsborough was referrred to as the Merry Widow, a name taken from an operetta by Franz Lehar where Hanna, the heroine, sported an imitation of Georgiana’s original “Picture Hat.”

Lily Elsie, actress in The Merry Widow, London 1907