Dress in the Age of Jane Austen (review)

March 21, 2020 at 7:56 pm (books, entertainment, fashion, history, jane austen) (, , , )

Hilary Davidson‘s exploration of Jane Austen’s silk pelisse fascinated (when first read in 2015) because of the thoroughness of its details. Her book, Dress in the Age of Jane Austen: Regency Fashion, grew out of this initial research.

Upon receipt, even quickly flipping through the book, I could see this wasn’t the typical “soft soap” about Regency dress. It has text (plenty of it), political cartoons and portraits, and, most importantly, photographs of actual garments. I also liked the inherent progression indicated by the outline of chapters – Self, Home, Village, Country, City, etc. A VERY GOOD out-of-the-box reaction.

Davidson_Dress

First Impressions – a (long) preamble…

I quickly emailed a friend, and included a link to the google preview. We both had similar thoughts: ANY illustration on the cover but “Mrs. Q”!

  • “Mrs. Q” has been put forward as the work Austen referred to when commenting: “I was very well pleased (pray tell Fanny) with a small portrait of Mrs. Bingley, excessively like her. I went in hopes of seeing one of her sister, but there was no Mrs. Darcy. …

Never judge a book by its cover, BUT the hackneyed illustration did put me off when Dress in the Age of Jane Austen turned up in a search for upcoming releases, months before receiving the book in the mail. There are so many books about “costume” and “Jane Austen.”

  • for instance: read an old review of Penelope Byrde‘s book (reprint edition)

My friend, looking at the text online, was the first to point out “the font is so pale, more suitable to captions than main text. Or is that my eyes??”

I had to reply, that it wasn’t her eyes playing tricks, or a bad scan into google books. When I first got the book, the evening was dark and the lights were on in the house, but I needed different light to read. Instead, I looked at the pretty pictures. The paper (very nice paper) is slightly shiny, which combined with the font’s SIZE and WEIGHT does not make this volume easy to read. My friend’s later response was, “The author hasn’t been well served by the book designer.”

Another blogger’s review (Austenprose) brought up the same difficulty: “My one disappointment will be minor to some and troublesome to others. The small text is difficult to read, amplified by the choice of swirly font in gray color. I struggled to read smoothly, even with glasses.”

Illustration captions are even smaller and greyer than the main text.

In early December I read some of the book. I wasn’t making much headway with the opening chapter (“Introduction”), but did get more out of the chapter (“Home”) on underwear.

***

A little ‘Sense’ please

Along with the font, my other complaint is the bare-bones information in the endnotes. Citations list author name and publication date, which means to really look up the source, the reader has to flip from the Notes to the Bibliography. Several times I had to flip from “Secondary” to “Primary” (or vice-versa), for the Bibliography is divided into two sections (no footer or header indicates the specific section).

For instance: pp. 102/103 had in the notes “Burney, 1905” [note 20; ‘Village’] and three notes later “Edgeworth, 1971”. The Burney is an early edition of Fanny Burney’s Diary and Letters; therefore, it is found in the Bibliography under ‘Primary’ Sources. The Edgeworth, also a ‘Primary’ source, is Christine Colvin’s edition of Maria Edgeworth, Letters from England, 1813-1844. I looked under secondary sources both times, because of the dates.

An intrusion on the reading experience.

Other than ease of accessibility (a 1905 book being online), I would have thought the authoritative Oxford University Press / McGill-Queens University Press series of Burney journals and letters preferable. I finally hunted down volume V of the 1905 edition (edited by Charlotte Barrett); the quote is on page 200 (not page 199, as cited), and, finally, the pertinent information: in a letter to Mrs Lock, dated 1793. BUT: in looking up this citation I now am bothered because the story is inaccurately retold…

This is Davidson (p. 102):

davidson p102 quote

Davidson’s 1905 source; Burney’s letter to Mrs. Lock (sic: Locke):

davidson p200 barrett quote

Miss Kitty and Mrs. Hamilton clearly are two different people!  They are ID’ed in Oxford’s Additional Journals and Letters (vol. 1), p. 60, as Mrs. Sarah Hamilton and her niece Miss Kitty Cooke, managers of Chessington Hall, Surrey, a boarding house. ‘Miss’ Kitty and ‘Mrs.’ Hamilton (both, unmarried ladies) were, in 1793, approximately 63- and 88-years-old. I had pictured the Captain following young Miss Kitty from room to room, when in actuality he followed the maid “too quick” and caught sight of the not-forewarned Mrs. Hamilton.

If such important, albeit slight, details got away from Davidson, I wonder about other statements, conclusions, and examples. Page 102 was picked at random, today, in an effort to finish this review today (21 March 2020). I wish I hadn’t unearthed this….

  • The same 1793 letter (snippet only) in Joyce Hemlow’s 1972 Clarendon Press edition, which I piece together and note that it is given the date 30 May 1793.

***

In need of some ‘Persuasion’

Davidson gives a LOT of information, but I don’t always find material well-presented. Sometimes a position is taken, but isn’t followed by explanation, enlargement, or argument/counter-argument. She moves on to another quote, another topic. I can’t call it going off on “tangents.” More, “Why include this here?”

For instance, Davidson talks about needing the services of a maid to make one’s dress “tight,” and includes a quote about the “looseness of … morning dress” when, at breakfast.

Davidson, p. 78:

davidson p79

I can see someone being “loose” in the Scarlett O’Hara corset sense, but I’m still unsure about being “tight.” I wanted more than just quote(s). After the novel heroine speaks of PINS — “I was again forced to comply, and stick pins into my cloaths.” — I hoped for answers. WHAT did Regency women DO with all those pins? My diarist Emma Smith (later Emma Austen Leigh) purchased many pincushions… I have images of women being as prickly as porcupines, done up with so many straight pins.

  • Regency Redingote” composed a lengthy discourse on pins – and, although it doesn’t clarify Davidson‘s commentary about being “tight” in one’s clothing, it does say what all those pins were used for during the Regency!

A stockingless, unbuttoned William Wordsworth creates its own, clear picture of a man’s “undress”; Miss Weeton, on the other hand, I determined to look up. I own the two-volume set (Miss Weeton’s Journal of a Governess), as well as the newer single-volume, Miss Weeton: Governess and Traveller, by Alan Roby.

Miss Weeton had spent the NIGHT aboard ship. She had loosened garments because she slept in them. The quote continues, “I wrapped my coat round me, and threw my shawl over it; my hair uncombed, uncurled, my face wan, and eyes sunken. I presented no very beautiful picture.” Looking like something the cat dragged in, poor Miss Weeton needed to pass muster when asking for a room at an inn. Miss Weeton’s distress is missed; the poignancy of the original, lost. This reader became no more enlightened about Davidson’s point. The long communication was best presented by words in her first paragraph.

  • Re-reading these exacts, and comparing them, I’m confused: Did visitors wear “walking or visiting dresses” as mentioned on page 102, or were they in a state of “undress” when “paying morning visits,” as on page 78?

Another instance: In the chapter “Country,” which discusses outerwear and clothing adapted from the “field” or the “hunt,” there is, on the left-hand page, a full-page-wide (color) illustration of Alexander Carse’s “The Arrival of the Country Relations” (c1812). The text on the right-hand page (p. 145), referring to this, claims that the painting “contrasts two family groups, of urban and rural origins, through subtle clothing cues [endnote].” Davidson then quotes from a novel (Caroline Lismore).

I wanted to know more about the “subtle clothing cues”!

I looked up the citation – an author name and date; I looked up the Bibliography: a journal article…. I have no access to it.

Is the caption below the illustration meant to substitute for or enlarge upon the main text? “An elegant urban Edinburgh family welcomes relatives from the country. The differences in their styles of dress are subtle, but distinctly realized, the rural visitors favouring simpler, more covered clothing.

The directive of “look at this painting; see these clues” felt unfulfilled and under-developed.

  • Without seeing the SOURCE article, I can only theorize, from reading travel diaries, that “Covered” helped people stay warm, “Simpler” enabled them to shed road dust more easily; both may have benefited them at dubious coaching yards or in warding off highwaymen.

Davidson, sure and informative when discussing clothing styles, fabrics, construction, has a tendency to jump from quote to statement in a manner that did not always sweep this reader along. Often I found myself back-tracking, re-reading for something I might have missed.

Under the heading GETTING AND ALTERING CLOTHES (p. 116), the first paragraph brings up the following points:

  • clothes had a high valuation
  • clothes were “a considerable, infrequent investment” for the “middling and upper ranks”
  • clothes were planned and discussed (i.e., mentioned in letters)
  • garments were generally “bespoke”, but some were off-the-rack
  • towns and villages had tailors
  • for men who had “no woman to sew their linens,” ready-made or professionally-made articles “filled the gap”
  • a tailor from Preston, bankrupted in 1821, had an inventory of “645 garments and accessories, 219 were men’s shirts”
  • Women rarely undertook sewing “men’s outer clothing” because the skills required were not obtained by “sewing linens”
  • Mary Wordsworth, working on her husband’s “‘woolen waistcoat'” may have been “knitting or working on a flannel-type garment”
  • The Wordsworth women “spent a day” picking apart “his old coats for the tailor” (to serve as patterns for new garments).

There are so many topics within this single paragraph, many of which would have served the author well, if sorted out for more in-depth explanation – be it the cost of clothes (either through tailor/client records; or through criminal prosecution valuations); the use of tailors, seamstresses and others versus homemade; bespoke clothing versus the reuse of clothing (re-constructed by owner, as well as second-hand purchases) versus the good fit of a client’s well-worn piece (ie, used as patterns). Much outlined here does appear at greater length in various chapters. So why jumble, sentence upon sentence, everything in one paragraph? A red pencil, judicious rearrangement, and (self-)editing would have resolved many such annoyances.

A lack of argumentative development is especially true when a blanket historical statement is presented. If underlying, supportive facts are missing, such statements appear as generalizations, less ‘authoritative’ in tone, than the same statements supported and expanded upon.

Convoluted word order (clauses within clauses) would have benefited from being more carefully crafted: (p. 33) “Not only the bodies of Grant Tourists, but also print media – increasingly popular – disseminated ideas about classical form across Britain.” I know what the author wants to say, and means, but Davidson’s phrasing, in addition to the grey, swirly font, increased this reader’s frustration.

Long “lists,” like this on page 145, made my eyes skip lines:

“Farmers, ploughmen, carters, milkmaids, blacksmiths, beggars, ragmen, tinkers, pedlars, fishermen, thatchers, drovers, field hands, harvesters, millers, stone-cutters and -crushers, miners, coopers, masons, carpenters, chair-menders, joiners, fencers, cottagers, washerwomen and all the multitude of tradespeople…”

I usually give “less personal opinion” in a book review; there will be readers who find the authorial voice satisfactory, but I struggled, wishing for writing as engaging as the topic. Biographers sometimes pour between the covers every morsel of research unearthed, and I do wonder if the fractured flow I quibble over is a result of such “cramming.” Does it really matter what a street vendor cries out to attract customers?

If some of the verbiage had been cut, the font size could have been increased, and content and design would have united in a superior book. As it stands, it’s a bit of a Missed Opportunity. Wanting to be “all” to all comers and about all classes, from tinker to servant, from farm to manor, from city-dweller to court-regular, males and females, young and old, I do think Dress in the Age of Jane Austen an ambitious attempt. Who am I to criticize? It has so much going for it, that the pluses should outweigh the minuses.

If historical costume at all interests you, you might wish to put this book on your radar. Yale presents a 16-second “introduction”, but the best is the Google preview. Dress in the Age of Jane Austen: Regency Fashion is a sumptuous book, on a fascinating topic, filled with valuable information. It covers a broad geography and moves from intimate undergarments to all-weather outerwear. The Annie Burr Lewis Fund probably helped fund publication fees associated with the multitudinous illustrations, as well as the full-color printing. A suggested retail of US$40, Amazon currently sells it for $27 and change, which is a hardcover bargain.

A good book to ‘dip into’, I tried reading it cover-to-cover, which only increased the stress of articulating my negative thoughts about it. Very useful appendices (Austen family tree and list of characters for each novel plus two fragments, for those without other resources or prior knowledge); a stylistic Timeline of women’s gowns; a glossary. The index is almost too detailed – many entries have only one page number; for instance, I don’t foresee a need to look up hairstyle, blond. Austen’s characters should have been indexed on the page that outlines them.

Blonde, by the way, leads the reader to “Mrs. Q,” which cycles us back to the beginning of this far too long review.

three-and-a-half slightly leaking inkwells

 

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Australian Dress Register

March 4, 2020 at 12:46 pm (fashion) (, , , )

What IS the Australian Dress Register?

“The Australian Dress Register is a collaborative, online project about dress with Australian provenance. It includes men’s, women’s and children’s clothing ranging from the special occasion to the everyday. Museums and private collectors are encouraged to research their garments and share the stories and photographs while the information is still available and within living memory. The Register encourages people to consider their collections very broadly and share what they know about members of their community, what they wore and life in the past. This provides access to a world-wide audience while keeping their garments in their relevant location.”

I looked at ONE garment, in-depth, to be better able to tell you about the site:

A Silver & Blue shot silk dress, English (Devonshire); c1810-1813

dress_silver-blue c1810

It’s believed to have been brought from England to Australia by Ann Deane, “who arrived in Sydney in 1838 with her son Robert, daughters Ann and Mary, and nephew Edgar.”

A description of the piece gives the following useful information:

A one-piece dress in silver and blue shot silk, with a pattern of dark blue flowers. The dress has a high waist, with a square back neckline and a dropdown bib-front. The bodice interior is lined with cream cotton panels. The full-length sleeves has a gathered sleeve head and extended cuffs over hands, with silk floss-corded trim at the band. The five-panelled skirt is gathered at the centre back and designed to be worn over a small back bustle pad. A cotton tape drawstring is attached to the interior of the bodice, and there are blue silk ribbon ties at back (not the original ties).

The site answered a question I had: Why would she bring this to Australia, and not “recut” it to a more modern style? (ie, How ‘original’ is its state?) “Made of valuable silk, the dress ‘along with other items of apparel’ was bequeathed to Ann’s eldest daughter and it became a treasured family heirloom.”

Sections of the webpage are dedicated to:

  • zoomable photographs – front, back, side views; as well as several showing the interior construction [note: the number of photographs differs from piece to piece; this garment was well-represented]
  • a “significance” statement
  • history & provenance (including any exhibition history)
  • trimmings & decorations
  • fiber/weave; manufacture details (hand vs machine sewn, for instance); etc.
  • measurements (GIRTH: chest, waist, hem; VERTICAL: neck to hem, sleeve length; HORIZONTAL: neck opening, across back, underarm) [in millimeters, site converts to inches at the click of a link]
  • garment condition
  • articles & further information
dress_silver-blue c1810 closeup
(note: I could not get the ‘full screen’ to toggle; ‘home’ reverts back to entire photo)

Ann Deane is known to have been christened in Devon in November 1772. Ann (née Pidsley) married Thomas Deane in Devon in 1807. So she was a young married woman (and four of her six children were born by 1813) during the period, 1810-1813, when this dress would have been worn.

Ann Deane must have been TINY! A chest measurement less than 24 ½-inches; the back neck to hem length is just 54 ¾-inches (she probably stood under 5’5″); the sleeves, at 27 ½-inches, are already seen to go beyond the wrist.

Ann’s husband had died about a decade before her emigration.

There are MANY ways to search the Australian Dress Register site, by garment-type; by time period; by gender. There are uniforms and wedding dresses; clothing originated in many countries (Australia predominant). More being added, of course, as the site grows.

After viewing a uniform dress coat and hat once belonging to a Royal Navy Officer, 1832-1853, and because they ask people to “share”, I wondered: Do other countries offer such a REGISTRY?

What a Fabulous (online) idea! Let’s hope other countries jump on the bandwagon.

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Amelia Rauser’s The Age of Undress

March 3, 2020 at 9:12 am (books, entertainment, fashion, jane austen, Uncategorized) (, , , )

In yesterday’s mail, a new book that will hit stores on St. Patrick’s Day, 17 March 2020: The Age of Undress: Art, Fashion, and the Classical Ideal in the 1790s, by Amelia Rauser (Yale University Press).

Age of Undress216 pages; 180 color illustrations

We’ve all seen the sheer muslin gowns – marveled over the audacity of such ‘nakedness’ – and laughed at the “cartoons” Gillray, Cruickshank, or Dent produced that ridiculed the latest fashion extreme. Rauser brings together portraits and sculpture, cartoons and fashion plates to pose questions and reveal answers about the relationship between Neoclassicism, Hellenistic ideals of the sculpted female form, and fashion trends that quickly surged (and subsided) in such fashion-forward places as Naples, Paris, and London, in the 1790s.

Very welcome is the concentration on a small timeline, an in-depth exploration of clothing seen (and probably worn) by the mothers and maternal aunts of my diarists, Mary Gosling and Emma Smith (also known by their married names: Lady Smith and Emma Austen Leigh), my Two Teens in the Time of Austen. This “parent generation,” the four Erle Stoke Sisters and their friends, were single women and young marrieds in the very time period Rauser discusses.

A full review in the near future.

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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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