Sunday, 30 June 2013

match and mix

matching fact to fiction
On The Dress of Women
MODESTUS - Bath, Feb 18, Upper Crescent.

Ackermann's Repository 1825
When ever I think that I am taking this all too seriously  I just read some of the text of the period - this is from La Belle Assemblee 1806.
 Presentation of the self was incredibly precise and important. Was this more so for women? Conformity or at least acceptance by 'society' seemed to be so crucial - especially when husband or status hunting.

The next idea is to start with the period idea of an item of clothing showing how it would be as a part of an outfit, hopefully with a detailed description, and then matching with a similar existing piece. Just to make this harder I want to be able to trace the real garment to make sure that it is period rather than a modern reinterpretation. But it is so hard to tell some of the new from old - images get circulated so quickly and often lose their original credit and source.

museum of costume

This should not have been too difficult an ask but even not-anywhere-near-perfect matches seem very elusive. This shall have to be an ongoing thing - fashion plates and garments will be added as and when I find them, (or when others point them out!) The first two are fairly standard issue - high waist, same shape skirt, high, full sleeves ornately decorated. Neck lines are square and wide and the front of the bodice has angled lines down to the waist drawing attention inwards. The quite a heavy band of ornamentation at the bottom of the skirt  stops it looking top heavy and creates balance. The fashion plate has a rather coy, simpering miss, who seems somewhat taller and narrower than the real garment, but the exaggerations are not excessive ( remembering the dress making patterns of my youth - this is a very understated illustration!). The pose of the mannequin is also restrained - self effacing, modest, with the hands behind. Proper Regency young lady!

Queen Louise of Prussia - (I think that this may be a reconstruction  for exhibition - lost the link so can't be sure! There is another portrait of her on my pinterest boards in the same coat but it behaved so badly when putting the blog together I removed it in a tantrum) Very masculine and military in style - The Napoleonic campaigns and conflicts of the time involved most of Europe and this was reflected in the fashions throughout the era. Riding clothes and outdoor wear seemed be heavily influenced, of course the spencer was a development of the tailless short jackets made popular by Earl Spencer - becoming the mess jacket, and the redingcote or redingote from hunting coats of the English aristocracy in the previous century. The two below are both based on Hussar uniforms - a la Hussarde- or a la Hussar! These were bad weather winter coats so fastened to the neck covering the dress, worn for walking, carriage travel or riding. There is a full description of each at the link. On both the front panel narrowing and swelling to mirror the garments' silhouette emphasises the waist very neatly, the fitted standing collar is also uncluttered and clean, giving poise to the head carriage. In the fashion plate the lower collar and dominant ruff do tend to separate the head from the body! The overall impression is quite business like and formal - but the ornament is there - the same coloured working blends in elegantly.

1817, from Wiener Modenzeitung                                             


Thursday, 30 May 2013

regency style and fashion

Like most people I've spoken to, I guess that my view of Regency life and looks were formed by costume dramas on TV or film. Slim, elegant, pretty, demure young ladies, lots of white dresses, and of course bonnets.  For the men - manly chins, mostly clean shaven, tall, lots of shoulder and slim waists. Older people often provided the comedy element or were very domineering.  Romantic fiction has lot to answer for...
Add into that the consumption of vast numbers of Georgette Heyer's novels and yes, romantic fiction has an awful lot to answer for.
(enjoyed the GHs so don't hold a grudge)

But what this has done is to leave a very narrow expectation and certain stereotypes that I am now having to question - body shapes, attitudes, etc.

This blog is going to be my way of keeping track  of the research I am doing, sharing the finds and the questions raised. It is not an "expert" document but more of a slightly demented ramble through sources and experiences as and when I find things.

Beginnings -

Visit to local museums -
 Fairfax House, York,  a Georgian town house, restored and set up for wandering and chatting in. The wealth of decorative detail, the vibrancy of the textiles used in the home as opposed to the plainer silks shown in the portraits!  The bed coverings!!  They had a dressing gown out, beautiful embroidered chinese designs on silk - loved the buttons, minute stitching, even in the bits that wouldn't show. Even though I enjoyed this - the guides are great, eager to help, really chatty and just as keen to discover answers as I was to ask, it was a little earlier than I was focussing on.

Castle Museum York, one of the city museums - down the road, across the carpark and mind the ducks. This was more productive but less enjoyable - there were regency ladies' costumes on display but the museum was so dark that I couldn't see detail clearly. I did manage a sketch of a walking outfit - velvet spencer over a muslin dress - see below.  The brevity of the bodice was a bit eye watering so was the amount of  detail on the sleeve tops. The uneven collar points were intriguing but I wasn't able to see all the way round it to see how this would balance out.  Unfortunately access to the costume collection is suspended at present so ....    
.my blog spot for what happened next!

2nd steps - on line community.
Well, it rained and snowed and rained. The wind blew. It was cold. Therefore I remained safe and warm at home, snuggled upto a warm radiator. (Enthusiastic but not daft).
I decided to take a look online.
Googled historic sewing, regency dress, on web and image searches. I honestly had no idea that there was so much interest out there - lots of interest groups, professional makers, enactors, LOTS of people! lots of expertise and knowledge.

The reason for the the research is an emerging interest in making historically accurate-ish costume or adapting for historically inspired clothing. So I went first to the sewing sites looking for like minds whose brains and expertise I could plunder. and looked the most promising - lots of conversation and advice offered. They were really supportive and very free with advice of how to get started. They gave me a reading list and encouragement.

Janet Arnold books later ( bang went the b'day pressie money) Reading through these was intimidating,
For those not in the know she viewed period garments, drew them in detail, measured and drafted out all of the pieces to scale. Her notes and explanations are detailed about the construction and fabric and the intros are very informative.
Lots of references to look up, words to understand and terms to decipher. I was surprised at how well Georgette Heyer had primed me - lots of things I understood in a general way and just needed prompting to remember.