Saturday, December 31, 2011

1771 Dishabille

While looking for references to riding habits, I came across this little gem.  I know what the description sounds like to me, but I'd love to hear your opinions (I feel biased).  It's from the Kentish Gazette 28 September 1771.

Dear Madam,
My sister is so impatient for your account of fashionable articles, that she obliged me by this post to give you what she calls the sequel of my last letter. Thus then, in compliance with her orders, I enter upon my description of the dishabille recommended to us by on T----e, a mantua-maker.
The sleeves are close at the wrists, in the nature of your Brunswicks; but, instead of covering the neck, it is fitted to the make of it, and the turn of the shoulder; the back however has no plaits, but is taken in in the same way as a riding habit, and is likewise sloped on the sides, from which and the back it falls elegantly loose, and the slopes, by gradually increasing to the very bottom of the skirt, which is a tolerable length, supplies the whole fullness necessary to make it hang gracefully; it buttons down before with a kind of false stomacher, for the robe itself comes with a loose fold from the top of the sleeve, that forms the front breadths in like manner as the back; the petticoat is of the same and besides its having a very pretty, it has one very singular effect, that it improves the appearance of a fine woman, and conceals every defect in an ill made one: the mantua-maker assures us that it is a recent importation, and that none but a few families, and those of the first distinction, have yet seen it in England.....

Friday, December 30, 2011

Riding Drefs

While searching through the Lewis Walpole Gallery last summer I came across many images of riding habits, not all of which were the typical design we are accustom to seeing.  I started collecting up these to get a better idea of when or what it was.  Although there seems to be a variance of style (two in particular), I'm just going to define what follows as "unfitted Riding Habits", meaning they lack a waist seam.  It seems to come into style along with the Polonaise gown, and some distinctly resemble it down to the wrinkles.  Some are more military in style, one fashion plate of this style defines it as a Bavarian Frock, while the others have a tapering collar with a tie for closure in front.  There were many other images that looked like they might be unfitted, but I really couldn't tell if it was just the artists quick rendition (especially since the arm usually covers the seam).
I was in the Millinery/Tailor shop soon after and Mark Hutter had made a habit based on the Polonaise style (you can see the final product on Sarah here).  He mentioned that it might even be called Riding Habit a la Polonaise.  It took me up until this month to really delve into documents to find any references to that particular style.  I found three potential references to a Riding Habit a la Polonaise (or commonly Polonese), and a few good ideas of colors and interesting comments I'll post at the bottom.

In the Public Advertiser, April 15 of 1779: PARMENTIER, lately from Paris, Ladies Robe and Mantua-maker, makes all sorts of ladies dresses in the present taste; as Polish, Circassian, Italian, and Levee gowns for the country; Caraco a la Provencale, Riding-Habits a la Polonoise, and all sorts of corsets.

In the Morning Post and Daily Advertiser, January 31 of 1775 there is a Habit-Maker advertising that he makes "Masquerade dresses, and a la Polonaise".  I can't quite guarantee he isn't referring to a gown of that style, but it's something to keep in mind once I know more about who made Polonaise gowns (probably dependent on usage since "Polonaise" seems to come up in reference to Masquerades early on).

In the Gazeteer and New Daily Advertiser, January 1 or 1776 there is a long list of items available and prices beside them.  Under "Habits made of:" is Superfine 4 9 0, Cassimere 4 14 6, Neatly Trimmed a la Polonaise 5 5 0, and Ratteen for winter wear 3 13 6.

1781: The Sudden Explosion

Public Advertiser August 23 1776: Grey with Scarlet lining and Stone with Green lining.
Gazeteer and New Daily Advertiser March 14 1777: A lost Riding Habit of "green striped cloth, lined with pink silk and pink silk waistcoat."
Gazeteer and New Daily Advertiser February 1 1779: A "cloth coloured riding habit lined with pink silk".
Gazeteer and New Daily Advertiser May 31 1779: The Duchess of Cumberland seen wearing a "Pea-green" riding dress.
Lloyd's Evening Post August 14 1780: Riding Habit of "Superfine Claret Broad Cloth".
Gazeteer and New Daily Advertiser October 24 1780: A brown Riding Habit lost.

Gazeteer and New Daily Advertiser August 15 of 1776: Riding Habits of kerseymere faced with silk, cloth, silk, jean, jenner, and nankeen.
Gazeteer and New Daily Advertiser November 7 1776: Riding Habit of cassimere.
Bath Chronicle November 6 1777:  Riding Habits are continued to be made in the most fashionable taste in plain or superfine cloth trimmed with silk 5 5, silk waist 5 15, with high-polished steel 6 6, elegant patent buttons 6 16. A dress with French Boullion frogs, and silk waistcoat 7 17 6. Ditto with frogs of gold, silver, and different colour folio, and silk waistcoat trimmed in proportion 8 16 6. Fashionably bound with a striped or flower tissue waistcoat 9 9. Scarlet cloth, half a guinea; striped or spotted 35s. addition to the prices above-mentioned.
Gazeteer and New Daily Advertiser January 31 1778: Riding Habits of cloth faced with silk 5 5 0, with gimp or frogs 5 15 6, jean 4 4 0, nankeen 3 13 6.  In "foreign or English fashion".
London Courant and Westminster Chronicle July 4 1780: Riding Habits of superfine Kerseymere fac'd with silk 5 0 0, superfine cloth fac'd with silk 4 14 6, fine jean or jennet 3 11 0, nankeen 3 0 0.
Gazeteer and New Daily Advertiser October 31 1780: A Riding Habit of cotton with metal buttons.
Caledonian Mercury December 9 1782: "Superfine printed Paoli for fashionable riding habits"

General Evening Post June 13 1778: "The only tonish undress at present among the ladies of all ranks is a scarlet riding habit, faced of the colour that distinguishes the regiment of militia in which their husbands, their lovers, or their keepers now serve, at the different encampments."
Morning Post and Daily Advertiser April 22 1780: "Ladies Riding Hats made peculiarly light, and of the best qualities; of a most delicate white, without the least dusty powder in them, a merrit no other sort of white hats can claim; are also dyed of various fine colours, and if required dyed to match habits. The black are remarkably light, and of superior quality to any yet every offered to the public."

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

1912 Ensembles

After two months of constantly watching ebay for vintage saris, I managed to score two perfect ones in the last week.  Now, I can move onto designing an evening gown and an aesthetic outfit (with harem pants of course!).  I'm trying to use the Ballet Russes as a basis for my color schemes, particularly Scheherazade.
Peach is one of those colors that looks really good on me, but doesn't often get used.  I love their combination of it with the green tones.  So, I kept on a look out for anything in that range.  I found these two saris:

They're both silk net (nearly impossible to find in yardage!).  I'm going to use the less embroidered portion of the green for the harem outfit, the heavier part will eventually be a 1920s gown I think.  The peach is going to be an evening gown.  I'm thinking about carefully removing some of the gold work and placing it elsewhere to vary it up.

The hardest part is the design itself.  I still haven't settled, but I think knowing what fabric I'll have will help tremendously.  In terms of using the heavily encrusted goldwork, these styles pop out at me the most (from La Bibliotheque des Arts Décoratifs):

For the harem outfit I'm fond of these:

Paul Poiret design

Above all else, know this: there will be tassles.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Ordering Custom Shoes

When purchasing a pair of period shoes, it's best to be as specific as possible.  The more you know about what you want, the easier the conversation and the better your chances of getting just the right pair.  No one wants to spend over $200 for something that isn't what you want, doesn't look right, or isn't correct (something I know all too well).  The options for pre-made shoes are slim, but fairly good.  None of the ones I've seen would pass as an original, but they aren't meant to.  They're modern interpretations.  How many times have you heard people bemoaning how tiny feet were "back then" or how they could never wear a pair of shoes that uncomfortable?  You can't sell those shoes in-mass to a tennis shoe-wearing public, it just doesn't make sense.  But, if you are the type, like me, who is willing and wanting a much more correct shoe (no matter the comfort), custom ordering makes sense.  But, there are even fewer options for doing that.  And, personally at least, there are none even remotely near-by.  So, here are all of the terms and specifics you'll want to make note of in ordering.  I'm covering the period of 1760-1785, all of the extant images are from the Shoe Icons site again.

Construction Method
There are three methods for making shoes at this point; turned, randed, and welted.
The yellow shoes I made were turned, literally.  Made inside out, then flipped.  The outer sole is stitched directly to the uppers.  This style is around and fashionable for all of our time period.  It is the least durable, since it cannot be re-soled and has to have a thinner sole to be able to be turned.  However, this makes it the daintiest of shoe styles.
See how the sole almost blends around the edges?  These are tapered to be as narrow as possible at the edges, but thick under the foot.

The stitches go through half the thickness of the outsole then come up through the uppers.  The insole is pasted in around the front, but stitched to the heel cover in back.  Those tapered edges are trimmed and pushed up to blend into the upper latter.

Randed shoes are losing popularity by this time period.  That's not to say they don't exist, but the English seem to use them much less commonly after 1760 (this is the only post-1750 example on the Shoe Icons site).  It makes for a much sturdier shoe, and the sole can be replaced.  The rand is stitched to the upper, then the rand is stitched to the outsole, all right side out.
The small white strip between the uppers and sole is the rand.  It isn't always white, but that seems to be most common.

The stitches attaching the rand to the outsole are tucked in deeply enough that you don't see them without prying the uppers back.

Welted shoes are considered the sturdy shoes.  This is often how men's shoes are made (both period and modern).  Much like randed shoes, but the small leather strip is left flat, rather than folded, and the stitches aren't tucked in to be hidden.
This pair of men's boots shows a very clear separation between the welt and the outsole.

The stitches between the welt and outsole aren't hidden, making it very easy to resole this style.  And very thick on the edges.

The uppers are made of the vamp and quarters.  Ladies shoes of this time use straps and buckles (ties are low-class until we reach the style shift of the late 1780s).  The placement and style of the seam between vamp and quarters defines the time.
The straps cross at about the instep point, already much lower than pre-1760s styles.
By the 1780s, the straps are even lower; the quarters are long and the vamp shorter.

The "dog-leg" seam is also phasing out of style.

The two options of the time are square or pointed.  Square is going out, while pointed is coming in.
The ends of the straps tend to mirror the tongue, being rounded when square tongued or pointed for both.

The toe shape rounds out in the 1760s (after the tiny, upturned points of earlier), but the pointed style is coming back in by 1780, just a little more rounded than before.

Heels are slimming, eventually lowering in the 1780s.  This is a case were there is more than just one style, and the thicker heel is still popular well into the 1780s.  Every heel is unique in shape, really.  Note these are all wood heels, not stacked leather.

I already covered fabric options pretty well in a previous post, so I won't go in depth here (and that whole thing is still apparently a touchy subject).  However, one very fun option during this time is a contrasting heel and straps (or just heel).  Most often this is because the main fabric isn't going to stretch around the heel curves gracefully, so white leather is often used instead (you can see the wrinkles on the shoe heel above).  Colored leathers and fabrics are found as well.  This is done for fashion reasons as well, and the binding often co-ordinates with the heel contrast.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Fashion History Dolls 4

The last group!

1888: House of Balmain. "The inspiration for this dress was a design created by Worth for the Empress Elizabeth of Austria. Empress Elisabeth of Austria (1837-1898) was the wife of Emperor Franz Joseph (1830-1916). She was known for her keen fashion sense as well as strict health and beauty regimen."

1890: Georgette Renal. "This dress was inspired by a design by Redfern. British-born designer John Redfern opened his salon in the English seaport town of Cowes. As the house's popularity grew in Britain, it was expanded to the United States, and later Paris in 1891 under the design direction of John Poynter. After years of success Redfern was "By Royal Appointment to Her Majesty the Queen and H.R.H. The Princess of Wales" in 1888. After Redfern's death the house continued under the direction of Poynter, becoming a member of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture."

1892: Germain Lecomte. "The inspiration for this dress came from a painting by Leon Bonnat (1833-1922)."

1896: Bruyere. "Though the exact garment is not known, the inspiration for this dress came from a design by Jacques Doucet (1853-1929)."

So, which one is your favorite?  I'm rather in love with 1902, but I do also like 1867, 1788, and 1762.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Fashion History Dolls 3

1855: Véra Boréa. "The unique style of this dress, representing the year 1855, was taken from one launched by Empress Eugénie during her trips to the Pyrenees Mountains. The skirt is lopped up by tabs from the underskirt. The shoes are particular highlights of this ensemble, featuring incredible care and 
minute detail."

1866: Marcelle Chaumont. "The inspiration for this doll came from a painting by Winterhalter. Franz Xaver Winterhalter (1805-1873) was a German painter best-known for his royal portraiture. His most well-known works include portraits of Empress Eugénie and Empress Elisabeth of Austria."

1870: House of Balenciaga. "Balenciaga's doll was inspired by a dress made for Princess Metternich. Princess Metternich was a great patron of the arts, and responsible for introducing Charles Fredrick Worth to the Empress Eugénie, his greatest client."

1878: House of Lanvin. "The house of Lanvin was inspired by the paintings of Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema when designing her contribution to the Gratitude Train. Alma-Tadema (1836-1912), was a Dutch-born painter who later settled in England was one of the most renowned artists of late 19th-century. He painted classical subjects, most often scenes of the luxurious Roman Empire. Known for his meticulous research, Alma-Tadema's paintings were used in the 20th century as source material for several Hollywood movies including, "Ben Hur", "Cleopatra", "The Ten Commandments", and "Gladiator". Though Lanvin's doll represented the year 1878, the classical draping and brilliant colors of Alma-Tadema's work are evident in the design."