Hilary Davidson’s Dress in the Age of Austen

October 30, 2019 at 8:50 pm (books, fashion, history, jane austen, jasna, research) (, , , , )

In yesterday’s mail was a very welcome copy of Hilary Davidson’s Dress in the Age of Jane Austen: Regency Fashion. Periodically, I search for new and upcoming releases of books, including about Austen, about England, about history. I remember the cover,

Davidson_Dress

Everyone will recognize “Mrs. Q.”

But had I paid it much attention? I hate to say, ‘No.’ But when it arrived in the mail (unexpectedly!) the surprise was as pleasant as the receipt. A great deal of text; photographs of actual garments, political cartoons, and period portraits. The table of contents spoke to me as one who researches young ladies of the same period, who certainly exhibited this same variety of fashion personae:

  • Self
  • Home
  • Village
  • Country
  • City
  • Nation
  • World

When I turned to the title page and saw Yale University Press my good impression was complete.

Who says that Mail only brings BILLS?!?

A full review in the near future.

In the meantime, Yale has a brief (16 seconds) YouTube film, showing the interior of the book. Elyse Martin has written a lengthy review on Historians.org called “Fashion Forward.” A brief review from Publishers Weekly. See also Hilary Davidson’s website. A nicely-lengthy preview is available on Books.Google.

Davidson has written on Jane Austen’s Pelisse and its construction and replication. It was an important re-read for me when writing about Cassandra and Jane Austen for the recent JASNA AGM in Williamsburg, Virginia. The pelisse illustrates a tall, thin woman – and my Emma, soon after her marriage to James Edward Austen, described Cassandra, whom she had recently met in person. But it wasn’t until distilling the words of Anna Lefroy (Edward’s elder half-sister) that it dawned: Anna recalled a game she played, in which she guessed “which aunt” belonged to “which bonnet.” Between Anna’s game and Emma’s description, the conclusion becomes that the same silhouette must describe Cassandra Austen as well as her sister Jane Austen.

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London Silk: Garthwaite & Rothstein

March 17, 2019 at 11:38 am (books, fashion, history, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , )

I am just starting to read Zara Anishanslin’s Portrait of a Woman in Silk. This is the fascinating “entwined” story of a silk designer, a Spitalfields silk weaver, a Philadelphia woman, and the artist hired to paint her portrait.

Woman in Silk

Anishanslin makes mention of the contributions by Natalie Rothstein to the information we have about the eighteenth-century English designer of this silk’s pattern – Anna Maria Garthwaite. Rothstein is a very familiar name, for she gave us A Lady of Fashion: Barbara Johnson’s Album of Styles and Fashion.

Barbara Johnson

[click the photo below for more on the book A Lady of Fashion; and see also my post “Fashion News, Regency Style“]

It is with sadness that I read of Natalie Rothstein’s death in 2010. Her obituary, in The Guardian, makes for interesting reading – and mentions the title of her main work on Garthwaite: Silk Designs of the Eighteenth Century in the Collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum (1990). Rothstein was quite prolific, publishing much about the collection she knew best (i.e., the V & A). This lengthy obituary features an equally lengthy bibliography.

johnson3

It was finding online information (and images!) of Garthwaite’s designs that made me want to share with you. Especially, this beautifully presented Waistcoat (1747) from the Met Museum; details and overview images. A lengthy blog post on the Courtauld Institute of Art‘s website is well worth a read. All this history of the Spitalfields weaving industry might also inspire you to visit Dennis Severs’ House at 18 Folgate Street. I think I blogged about it long before my own visit, so entranced was I by the “story” of and behind the “museum”. (But I wasn’t prepared for the locked front door that had to be knocked on and answered!)

The thrill is also over the Victoria and Albert sharing images of Garthwaite’s designs. Although I didn’t look at them all, 44 pages came up [some _are_ tagged ‘unknown’ artist; most are Garthwaite’s designs] when I searched for ‘Garthwaite’!

There’s even a Pinterest page dedicated to her designs and Garthwaite has her own Wikipedia page.

Some of the less intricate designs of flowering tendrils remind me of the Botanicals painted by the women in the Smith family (two generations, including the future Emma Austen, my diarist) [see the page Artwork Done By], which I have long thought would make for beautiful fabrics. As a “companion” piece, if the Botanicals at the Royal Horticultural Society interest you, you might dip into “Further Thoughts on Four Sisters” to acquaint yourself with the four sisters of Earl Stoke Park – Emma’s mother and three aunts, who, with Miss Margaret Meen, their teacher in the technique, is represented in the RHS collection.

***

Additional reading:

A Dress of Spitalfields Silk” – lengthy essay and some splendid photographs of an actual garment

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Costumes de la Suisse

January 31, 2019 at 8:52 am (entertainment, fashion, history, research, travel) (, , , )

I actually have copies of the Costumes de la Suisse – minute “vignettes,” cut out and pasted into a scrapbook. In trying to find a date for them, I found a fabulous website that presents digital copies of many albums and books of visual art. I invite you to explore! These are rare books from the collection of Mr. S.P. Lohia. You can sample pages, or browse through an entire book.

As to the dating for the Costumes de la Suisse, I’ve seen “c1810-1820”, as well as c1830. In short, I’m still not sure.

costumes of unterwalden

The above represents the “costumes” (or Trachten, in German) for Unterwalden, in Switzerland. There are no words of explanation, nor have I any idea whether my scrapbooker traveled in Switzerland, or obtained the images in England.

The images are quite small (Unterwalden is about two inches tall), but because they are hand-colored, the images are still quite vivid and spectacularly colorful.

And there are those beautiful Dirndl and Ledenhosen outfits!

suisse individual

Although Lohia owns a bound book (images of the binding are included), it’s possible these little vignettes began life as individual ‘cards’ in a slipcase, as in this version, currently for sale at a used book site. This image certainly gives a clue as to why these costumes were attractive to some young woman with a pair of scissors and a pot of glue. Her handiwork and dexterity are my reward.

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ESSENTIAL AUSTEN: Jane Austen Fashion

November 24, 2018 at 10:46 am (books, fashion, history, jane austen) (, , , )

In two words, JANE AUSTEN FASHION is . . . a treasure! Concise and informative, its focus on Jane Austen – in comments from her letters as well as her novels – makes this little volume essential to every Austen collector.

fashion

Newly republished by Moonrise Press (Ludlow, England), author Penelope Byrde’s book on fashion is now in its second regeneration. Initially published in the 1980s as A Frivolous Distinction, it found a new lease on life in an expanded edition put out by Excellent Press in 1999. It has now been rescued from its consignment to used bookstores (if you were lucky enough to find a copy) by this paperback edition. May Moonrise Press profit from its belief in the continuing interest in this subject – fashion not only in Austen’s day but, more precisely, in Austen’s own life.

Analyzing this book, you sense just how little the average reader knows about the fashions, fabrics and even etiquette of Austen’s novels. ‘Those of her characters who … talk about it [dress] to an excessive extent are unfortunately those whose vacant minds or poor manners are underlined by this habit — women such as Miss Steele in Sense and Sensibility, Mrs Allen in Northanger Abbey, Lydia Bennet in Pride and Prejudice and Mrs Elton in Emma’ (13; my emphasis). This is not to imply that an interest in clothing was ‘unhealthy’, but to point up that Austen’s characters can be rude through the manner in which they discuss – dissect might be the better word – how their friend or relative looks. Readers delight in Catherine Morland’s musings over what to wear to her first Bath Assembly; yet, as Byrde points out, poor Marianne Dashwood is inquired of so sharply about her costumes and their cost that Miss Steele knew more of Marianne’s wardrobe than Marianne herself! Readers today might therefore see Miss Steele as inquisitive but Austen’s original readers would have known she was stepping over the bounds of propriety. Miss Steele ‘was never easy till she knew the price of every part of Marianne’s dress … and was not without hopes of finding out before they parted, how much her washing cost per week, and how much she had every year to spend upon herself’ (72; quoting S&S p. 249).

JANE AUSTEN FASHION (subtitled Fashion and Needlework in the Works of Jane Austen) also proclaims the elegant characters of the novels, as portrayed through their clothing or pointed descriptions of their likes or dislikes. Along with the elegant Emma we also have young, noble Eleanor Tilney – whose proclivity for ‘white’ marks her natural elegance. Byrde calls Miss Tilney ‘perhaps the best-dressed of Jane Austen’s female characters’ (50).

Perhaps for the first time, today’s readers can imagine a piece of tamboured muslin, as in the gown Catherine Morland wears, when they are told what exactly tambouring meant: ‘The embroidery was worked on a frame with a fine hook which passed through the fabric and made a series of chain stitches. The work could be done quickly and was effective on lightweight fabrics…’ (111). Byrde can then also mention one character who employed the tambour frame, Mrs Grant in Mansfield Park.

Until her retirement in 2002, Penelope Byrde was a curator at the famed Museum of Costume in Bath. And it is with a deft hand that she presents the fashions and fabrics mentioned by Austen in her letters, and unravels the little mysteries of certain comments in the novels. She also gives an informative basic overview of the changing fashions from Austen’s girlhood through her adult years (1770s to 1817, the year of Austen’s death). After Byrde’s digression on the subject of ‘sleeves’, how clear becomes Austen’s own comment on the when-why-how of short-sleeves versus long-sleeves. ‘By 1814 long sleeves were beginning to be worn in the evening [formerly, they had been exclusive to daywear] and Jane Austen seems to have been determined to wear them herself…“I wear my gauze gown today,” she wrote in March 1814, “long sleeves & all…I have no reason to suppose long sleeves are allowable.” But she goes on to say: “Mrs Tilson had long sleeves too, & she assured me that they are worn in the evening by many. I was glad to hear this”’ (24/27). Mrs Tilson, the wife of Henry Austen’s banking partner, would have been a woman who knew the London fashions well. And it is through letters that everyone would have gotten the latest news concerning the latest fashions. This exchange shows just how typical an observer of the world Jane Austen was.

Nothing escapes Byrde’s attention; there are sections on men’s fashions; sections that look at accessories, boots and shoes, hats-caps, muffs and parasols, hair-dressing, and clothes for special occasions (weddings, mourning, livery); a useful section on the ‘making and care of clothes’; and perhaps my favorite, a look at needlework – of course an occupation not only of Austen herself, but of most of her female characters. Byrde delves therefore into so much more than mere ‘fashion’. And all from an Austen point of view. Only Chapman, in his enthusiasm for Austen’s letters (when others thought their content of little interest to anyone), could have mined the letters so well for the cost of goods and the changing tastes in fashion. It is for such evidence that historians delve into diaries and letters, and they will want to delve into this book as well. To have all such aspects in one such complete package is a blessing. There is nothing ‘frivolous’ about the topic or its treatment, and this garners JANE AUSTEN FASHION a place in the Essential Austen collection.

JA Fashion

Note that there are SEVERAL editions of this book; the first image is the paperback I own (2008); the one above shows the cover of the 2014 re-issue. It began life under the title A Frivolous Distinction. It was later expanded and has again been reissued in 2014 – Jane Austen Fashion is available from the publisher, Moonrise Press (UK), if you wish to make sure your copy is the latest fashion.

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Fashion History Timeline (website)

August 1, 2018 at 5:49 pm (entertainment, fashion, history, news) (, , , )

An intriguing *find* today: the Fashion Institute of Technology State University of New York has a comprehensive website, Fashion History Timeline. There is a LOT going on here, from commentary on pieces of clothing (for instance, pantalettes) to sources for researching fashions – including digital sources as well as fashion plate collections. There’s a dictionary, an associated blog, thematic essays, even a twitter feed!

MetMuseum_dress

  • Film Analysis section will have Jane Austen fans waiting for Pride and Prejudice or Persuasion to show up. I read through the section on the film The Other Boleyn Girl (2008, based on Philippa Gregory’s 2001 novel). It offers a brief background to the Tudor era; fashion trends of the Tudor era; then discusses the film’s costumes, costume designer, historical accuracy (always an interesting section to read!), and even whether the given film influenced fashion after its release. A useful “references” section at the end. Well illustrated with costume & film stills.
  • Artwork Analysis of course concentrates on paintings and portraits, which often offer designers ideas for costumes. Currently “thin” on early-19th century – but you will find a nice assortment of early portraits (15th-18th century) and late 19th century portraits.

What caught my eye, of course, is the “Time Period” section, which gives an overview by decade (for instance, 1790-1799) of women’s, men’s and, (sometimes) children’s fashion, through paintings, fashion plates, existing garments.

Some writings draw heavily upon Wikipedia entries, but others draw from the likes of Victoria and Albert. Further down the page, the “EVENTS” is a neat area, especially when it talks of fabric or fashion trends! (And when it doesn’t, it’s a good place to look up reigning monarchs of countries all in one place; maps are useful, too, as borders change.)

Digitized magazines are listed (under sources) – and include French & German, as well as British and American journals. For those (especially) in Los Angeles and New York City, the listing of Fashion Plate collections (some digitized) will be a handy tool.

Even secondary sources, like useful books and Pinterest boards, are not forgotten.

Today, I happened to be looking up the 1830s and 1840s, to try and better pinpoint a date for a picture I have recently seen. Following-up on an image I can’t get out of my head of a self-portrait by young Princess Victoria (dating to 1835, so not yet Queen), I came across TWO additional websites:

  • Soverign Hill Education blog, from Australia (the link will take you to their 1850s hair-styles page).
  • The Chertsey Museum, for more on hair (the Robert Goslings – my diarist Mary’s brother and sister-in-law – once lived in Chertsey)

The Fashion History Timeline also led me to this website (which is also useful): Vintage Fashion Guild (this particular link again looking at the 1830s/1840s). Though it is a pity the images don’t enlarge so fully that you get a good sense of the dresses (I *LOVE* the “1830 Tambour Embroidered Morning Dress”!!)

For those who are local to me (in Vermont), Deb at Jane Austen in Vermont (our JASNA region) posted on Facebook about an upcoming exhibition at the University of Vermont’s Fleming Museum. Called THE IMPOSSIBLE IDEAL, the exhibition will look at the Victorian era – so get ready for much from Godey’s Lady’s Book, but also for some of UVM’s long-hidden historical fashions.

 

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Regency Fashion, L.A. Style

June 16, 2018 at 11:16 pm (books, fashion, history, news, research) (, , )

TESSA, the Digital Collection of the Los Angeles Public Library, has FASHION PLATES!

Included are many from the likes of Ackerman’s [sic] Repository, British Lady’s Magazine, Columbian Magazine, Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine and oh so many more. These last two have images from the 1840s and 1860s; slightly earlier is Le Follet Courrier des Salons. Even Godey’s is represented. Averaging 50 images per page, there are 125 pages to display! Even Lady’s Magazine (subject of yesterday’s post) has some ‘contenders’ (though hard to winnow out, given that its very name is part of several other magazine names; note they sometimes search successfully using ladies).

TESSA_fashion platehttp://tessa.lapl.org/cdm/search/collection/fashion

Once on the website, clicking gets you a description of the plate, and will take you to the online viewer. You can zoom in & out, using the guides near the top; you can also download high-resolution images (bottom of page).

The above is from 1808 (The Lady’s Magazine) and described as,

Morning & ball dresses. The woman on the left wears a yellow tunic over an empire waist white round gown. She also carries a pink shawl and wears a white headband adorned with pink flowers. The woman on the right wears a purple coat trimmed in yellow over a white empire waist round gown with high collar. She also wears a purple turban with yellow plume and carries a large white fur muff adorned with a purple bow.

There is a particularly “pinkish” quality to the paper of the plates that gives them a certain soft charm, since the ladies are sometimes less “winsome” than those of Ackermann or Heideloff.

A note-to-self project is to collate the plate links at TESSA with the magazines (i.e., Ackermann’s,  La Belle Assemblée, and The Lady’s Magazine) from which they came. These at TESSA are by far suprior in the quality of image (and sometimes the books scans don’t even include the plates).

Here’s a sampling, grouped by year (note spellings):

1806 (lots of La Belle Assemblee)
1807 (several from Lady’s Magazine, Ladies’ Museum, others)
1808 (lots of Ladies’ Museum & Lady’s Magazine)
1809 (Ackerman (sic) well represented
1810 (many magazines, including Ladies (sic) Magazine)
1811 (lotta Ackerman)
1812 (includes Ladies (sic) Magazine, Mirror of Fashions)
1813 (lotta La Belle Assemblee)
1814 (ALL La Belle Assemblee)
1815 (several titles)
1816 (ditto)

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Lady’s Magazine

June 15, 2018 at 4:29 pm (books, entertainment, fashion, history) (, , )

The Lady’s Magazine: “Entertaining Companion for the Fair Sex appropriated solely to their amusement”.

If the magazine’s subtitle weren’t so deliciously amusing (200 years later), I’d be rather inclined to feel insulted.

Several blog posts feature the history of the magazine, from the University of Kent. See also this introduction, to the university’s project. The Eighteenth Century Journals website features the index compiled by the University of Kent’s project. At one time, the firm Adam Matthew had microfilm of issues beginning in 1801. Check WorldCat for holdings. My local university evidently carries the reels.

As is only too typical, Google book scans can be good – or crappy. Plates may be present – or missing. To bridge the gap, do check out Catherine Decker’s “Regency Fashion” page. And the National Portrait Gallery (in London) has a nice listing of Lady’s Magazine fashion plates. Here’s another NPG group sorted  by “artist” (features a lot from 1805, 1806, 1807).

I had already found some of the volumes – which helped compile this list (I will be updating that page shortly). A concerted search produced a few more of the “missing”. Though am rather “bummed” about not finding ALL of the first series. If you come across them, do let me know!

LadysMagazine Britannia_1808

The Lady’s Magazine

vol. 1 – 1770
vol. 2 – 1771
vol. 3 – 1772
vol. 4 – 1773
vol. 5 – 1774
vol. 6 – 1775
vol. 7 – 1776
vol. 8 – 1777
vol. 9 – 1778
vol. 10 – 1779
vol. 11 – 1780
vol. 12 – 1781
vol. 13 – 1782
vol. 14 – 1783
vol. 15 – 1784
vol. 16 – 1785
vol. 17 – 1786
vol. 18 – 1787
vol. 19 – 1788
vol. 20 – 1789
vol. 21 – 1790  [alternate copy NYPL]
vol. 22 – 1791
vol. 23 – 1792
vol. 24 – 1793
vol. 25 – 1794
vol. 26 – 1795
vol. 27 – 1796
vol. 28 – 1797
vol. 29 – 1798
vol. 30 – 1799
vol. 31 – 1800
vol. 32 – 1801
vol. 33 – 1802 [some fashion plates]
vol. 34 – 1803 [some fashion plates]
vol. 35 – 1804 [some fashion plates]

vol. 38 – 1807 [alternate site Archive.org] [alternate copy]
vol. 39 – 1808 [some fashion plates]
vol. 40 – 1809
vol. 41 – 1810 [see 12 fashion plates @ TESSA]
vol. 42 – 1811

“new series” (1819-1829):

1821

1829

“improved series” (1830-1832)

1830 [may be a different “new & improved” magazine]

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A Stitch in Time

February 24, 2018 at 2:28 pm (entertainment, fashion, history, portraits and paintings) (, , )

Several months ago I watched the only episode of A Stitch in Time a certain website had available. Last night I watched FOUR more. A fascinating series of half-hour investigation into clothing from the past.

The fashion-forward hostess, Amber Butchart, a fashion historian, has fashioned a series of garment “tales” from historical portraits. With the able assistance of the very knowledgeable Ninya Mikaila, an historical costumier, the garments take shape. So viewers learn not only about the lives of each portrait’s personage, we also learn about things like today’s wool industry; historical dyes; the precious remains of bygone fabrics from London’s Foundling Hospital, and, of course, everything under the sun about sewing historical fashion.

Six episodes have aired on BBC4 in January and February 2018, focusing on:

  • Charles II
  • the Arnolfini wedding portrait by Jan van Eyck
  • Broughton Castle’s anonymous leather-clad 18th Century “Hedge Cutter”
  • Dido Belle, brought up in the household of Lord Mansfield (Jane Austen fans note!)
  • The Black Prince
  • Marie Antoinette, specifically Vigée Le Brun‘s Marie Antoinette en chemise

Find Butchart’s website here.

Butchart and Robe a la Chemise

And more about the series (and viewer reactions) in this blog post (click the photo).

For those in or visiting England, there is a Stitch in Time Exhibition at HAM HOUSE of the six costumes from the series! Runs until 6 April 2018, open from 12 to 4 PM.

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Victoria’s Costume Ball, 1842

January 22, 2018 at 8:03 pm (entertainment, fashion, people) (, , , )

May 12, 1842 – and we are in the room with Prince Albert and Queen Victoria at the Plantagenet-inspired Bal Costumé:

Victoria_Ball 1842_2

I had spent the weekend working, reading through letters from 1840 through 1843. This was the opportunity to refining the dating of a few letters, as well as fixing some portions of transcriptions.

One hitherto “undated” letter mentioned what I had read in two other letters: the Queen’s Ball. This helped to definitively date the third.

Playing in the background was the ITV (“Masterpiece”) presentation, Victoria – starring Jenna Coleman. When the TV show began to discuss a costume ball, my one thought was: Is that Maria’s “Queen’s Ball”?

I went back to 1842’s group of letters …

Emma Austen’s youngest sister Maria Smith was writing to middle sister Fanny from London:

“on Thursday Ev:g is the Queen’s ball, so we must return to see Eliza dressed in her old fashioned satin brocade dress – a present from Parsloes, & Mrs Leigh Perrot’s hoop … she has been a little perplexed what to wear on her head – weather a little black velvet hat – or what.”

When I first read this, the *thrill* was to think that Mrs. Leigh Perrot’s court “hoop” had long outlived her (James Edward Austen Leigh’s great aunt had died in 1836). And also a query as to WHY Eliza Le Marchant (Emma’s younger sister) had the use of it.

That the Fanshawes were staying with the Le Marchants explains the comment that Eliza’s dress was “a present from Parsloes,” which was the name of the Fanshawe estate in Dagenham. Mrs. Fanshawe had been born Catherine (or Katherine) Le Marchant.

When Maria next wrote to Emma (as far as extant letters go), she gave a description of Lord Alford (who had married Lady Marianne Compton and was therefore a close relation) costumed as “Caesar Borgia – duke of Valentia … from Raphael’s picture, with one striped black & white leg, & one slashed sleeve”.

Eliza wrote a lengthy letter describing the evening – but that letter is still “missing“.

Victoria_Ball 1842

Eliza and Denis Le Marchant planned to bring young Maria to the upcoming Drawing Room. Maria, who had met Queen Victoria before her marriage, wanted to attend a Drawing Room where Prince Albert was at her side. “In all probability this will be the last time in my life that I do anything so gay,” admitted Maria.

In my very first blog post (June 1, 2008) I described Emma and her sister-in-law Mary as “two ordinary girls”. Thank goodness that ordinary lives back in the 19th century included so many diaries and letters. And Fancy-Dress Balls!

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Fashion: the R. Crompton Rhodes collection

October 18, 2017 at 10:10 am (fashion, history) (, )

1803 fashion plate

A “digital” collection based on the fashion plates once collected by Raymond Crompton Rhodes, and now at the Library of Birmingham.

The lady pictured above is from 1803 – she is believed to have been published in the Lady’s Monthly Museum for September 1803. So there are a nice variety of periodicals, including such popular titles as La Belle Assemblée, The Lady’s Magazine, Bell’s Court Magazine.

Included in the collection:

  • Macaroni prints, 1773-1777
  • Female Fashion, 1803-1901
  • Male Fashion, 1840-1870
  • Children’s Fashions, 1829-1893
  • Leisure wear, 1807-1891
  • a short biography of Crompton Rhodes

 

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