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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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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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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American Duchess: Dressmaking!

September 26, 2017 at 7:39 pm (books, fashion, history, research) (, , , , )

Many of you will already be familiar with “American Duchess” for their “historical footwear” (I’m in love with their new “Regency” shoe, called Dashwood), or for the American Duchess blog on “Historical Costuming“. Those of you who do your own hand-sewn costumes, or those who WANT to begin such a project, will be happy with a new book by Lauren Stowell (“American Duchess”) and Abby Cox.

18th-Century-Dressmaking

Click the book’s cover to see the “preview” at Amazon.

Lauren and Abby have a well-thought-out series of “Georgian Gowns”. The Amazon preview gives the pages that cover “Historic stitches and how to sew them.” The photos that accompany this section show the detail clearly.

From the table of contents, other sections cover gowns:

  • The English Gown, 1740s
  • The Sacque Gown, 1760s-1770s
  • The Italian Gown, 1780s-1790s
  • The Round Gown, 1790s

Looking at the sub-categories, topics covered include items like “1740s Cap”; “1760s Undies – Side Hoops”; “1760s Ribbon Choker Necklace”; “1780s Poufs and Bows”; “Learning to Love Linen”; “1790s The ‘Frog’ Reticule”.

_I_ am more impressed with books that narrow the focus of research. Heaven forbid a brief book on an all-encompassing idea of “European Men and Women’s Fashions, 17th to 21st Centuries”.

So this book gets a BIG thumbs up for a nice number of pages (240 pages) and a tight focus that makes it a true “Guide to Eighteenth Century Dressmaking: How to Hand Sew Georgian Gowns and Wear Them With Style“.

Dare we hope that there will be further entries, making a series of Dressmaking Guides?!? Fingers crossed!!

Book release date is 21 November 2017! The video has “news” about MANY of their upcoming plans – watch it to find out more…. They also promise more videos as the weeks pass, counting down to November.

(note that Lauren & Abby show the cover, above; rather than the picture on Amazon’s website. Barnes & Noble have the correct cover. Be advised: the book images are “reversed” in the video.)

the ladies favoriteThe Ladies and their “favorite gown to work on”

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An Agreeable Tyrant

October 31, 2016 at 3:41 pm (books, fashion) (, )

To follow up on the DAR post, for those who may be interested in the EXHIBITION catalogue of their costume installation:

tyrant-catalogue-cover

“An Agreeable Tyrant”: Fashion after the Revolution – What’s a patriotic American to wear? is described as: “Paperback, 196 color pages, lavishly illustrated with portraits and fashion plates of the period as well as the garments on display. In addition to the extensive catalog entries, there are five essays by leading experts in the field, a selected bibliography for further reference, and over twenty scaled patterns of men’s and women’s garments seen in  the exhibit.”

$35 (plus shipping, which I didn’t look up) from the DAR Store’s website.

To SEE the exhibit, you only need to get to Washington DC before it closes in 2017.

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Ann Lewis fecit

July 3, 2016 at 12:13 am (entertainment, fashion, history, portraits and paintings) (, , , , )

Ann Lewis fecit

Hopefully you can read the artist’s signature: Ann Lewis facit, in this 1802 drawing. Alas! although the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (or LACMA) owns these DELIGHTFUL fashion plate paintings by Ann Frankland Lewis, they are, sadly, NOT ON DISPLAY!

So the next best thing is a cyber visit to Dames a la Mode – where the many works of Miss Lewis can be enjoyed over two pages.

Ann Lewis fecit2

Surely based on existing fashion plates, Ann Lewis’ drawings are colorful and wonderful, and have (obviously) given costumers some great ideas.

LACMA has only one image, and woefully LITTLE information on the artist, or their holdings. If anyone reading this knows more – please say! Two Nerdy History Girls has a lovely little write-up.

As a group they evidently date from 1774 to 1807. The BLUE dress (above) dates from 1803. And this ‘head’ from 1806.

Ann Lewis fecit3

Now, if only the museum would put these items on display – or in a special exhibit!

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The Pad Fad

February 10, 2016 at 6:18 pm (entertainment, fashion, history, london's landscape) (, , )

Kleidung um 1800 has a FASCINATING discussion, centering on a Fashion Fad circa 1793.

mode_1785-1793

Sabine has found evidence of a CRAZE (which she believes helped “raise” the waistlines of ladies’ dresses thereafter), whereby young girls and women used padding to look pregnant. My favorite thing about the cartoon (above): the “‘Virgin’ Shape” in the middle. Having lived thru the crazes of Pet Rocks and Mood Rings, anything is a possible fad. But I do find myself shaking my head and chuckling over the Pad Fad. Click on picture to find out MORE!

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Recreating Austen’s Silk Pelisse

June 13, 2015 at 7:40 pm (fashion, history, jane austen, news, research) (, , , )

It’s been a LONG time since I’ve read as fascinating an article as Hilary Davidson’s “Reconstructing Jane Austen’s Silk Pelisse, 1812-1814” (available thru her Academia.edu account)

Originally published in Costume (vol. 49, no. 2, 2015), her uploaded articles includes all the illustrations under discussion in the article, and is a thorough piece of investigative writing. Taking into consideration not only the Jane Austen provenance (a indelicately-worded letter helped cast the shadow…), but also insights into construction and sewing, cost and “fashion”, the article should interest readers who want more information on

  • Jane Austen
  • Regency fashion
  • English fashion & textiles
  • costume construction
  • conservation & recreation strategies for museum pieces

And a TON of other topics.  In short, HIGHLY recommended!

fashion 1819

Seen only in photographs, I’ve never been super impressed with the Austen garment. After reading about it in a fair amount of depth – it perhaps does suffer “age and infirmity”. It just looks so crumpled.

Their reproduction, reinstating some closures the original must have had (but doesn’t any more), has a much greater stiffness – and is well served by a tall, exceptionally-thin young woman.

The Austen Pelisse is considered in conjunction with several theoretical and actual garments – including Barbara Johnson’s excellent “book” of fabrics and fashions (reproduced in commercial book form as A Lady of Fashion) and a lovely garment from the V&A.

_I_ was quite surprised to see that the original garment has been sewn using “nine stitches to the inch” – which seemed a surprisingly low number (when hand-quilting and piecing is considered…; a reason I used to stay away from hand-sewing or quilting!).

And how interesting to read about the shift in costs: in Austen’s day the labor was nothing… nowadays a greater consideration. But, read the chart (p. 217) and you will see along with me how pitiful the wages of someone making less than 8 shillings! (For, unless you owned the business, the money did not go solely to the sewer — rather like a car mechanic today [ie, expensive labor rates!].) £300 was the labor cost for their replica. A far cry from the 2008 “equivalent” of 8 shillings: £20.

austen pelisse

I don’t know what else to say about this incredibly-informative article – other than: READ IT for yourself.

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Prinny’s Taylor now on Kindle

March 20, 2015 at 10:17 am (books, british royalty, fashion, history) (, , , , )

prinnys_taylorThe ever-vigilant Charlotte Frost (Sir William Knighton: The Strange Career of a Regency Physician) — who is working on an exciting new project herself! — passed on word of a book we both have been anticipating with great pleasure:

Prinny’s Taylor: The Life and Times of Louis Bazalgette (1750-1830)

Louis’ descendant Charles Bazalgette has worked for YEARS to piece together the life of the man who tailored some of the wardrobe worn by the Prince Regent – Charles even gives insight into the story behind the nickname Prinny (which I never knew, since, like Charles, it isn’t a term I often seek to employ).

There are even several chapters about 18th-century tailoring, which should be of especial interest to those who sew and create. The fascinating story, however, is the rise of Louis Bazalgette. I mean, how DID he become a preferred tailor to the Prince of Wales?? If he existed nowadays, he’d be displaying a Royal Warrant of Appointment at his premises!

To quote the book synopsis: Prinny’s Taylor “presents a new angle on Georgian and Regency life, as seen through the eyes of a little French tailor who by his own efforts became a very wealthy propertied merchant”.

A little-known aside: my Emma mentions Mr Bazalgette in a letter, as a neighbor to a friend she visited!

 

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