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!
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.
I don’t know what else to say about this incredibly-informative article – other than: READ IT for yourself.
The 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!
A few weeks ago Charlotte Frost and I were discussing make-up –> Regency era, tutorials, reenactors, &c &c. Last week I watched — and greatly enjoyed — this video by Rochelle & Olivia:
So it was with a bit of a “hoot n’holler” that I read last week’s horoscope for my star-sign, Aquarius (at 7 Days, a local (Vermont) weekly):
“Extravagant wigs became fashionable for a while in 18th-century England. They could soar as high as four feet above a woman’s head. Collections of fruit might be arrayed in the mass of hair, along with small replicas of gardens, taxidermically stuffed birds and model ships. I would love to see you wear something like that in the coming week.”
Charlotte had a couple more links; promise to look them up and post them later!
My favorite “Lady who let a ship go to her head”:
the Duchess of Plaza Toro
1983 Stratford (Ontario)
The Gondoliers: Douglas Chamberlain
Breaking news of a terrific website:
If you’re like me, you might look at a portrait and wish you could “date” it; or, you might wish to know what costume looked like, say, in 1817. This database will help! A lot of “famous” faces, and you’ll soon begin to recognize certain “famous” artists, too. But what a wealth of well-arranged, early to navigate information & images!
There’s even a “History Timeline” which lays out a what-happened-when series of happenings, compositions or world events. For instance, if you see 1813’s mention of JANE AUSTEN’S PRIDE AND PREJUDICE and wish to see what portraits looked like from c1813, simply click on the link – et voilà!
Artwork represented comes from many nations and time periods; portraits are nicely ID’ed.
Serendipitous Stitchery recently announced a year-long project:
Four costume historians will update monthly the news of fashions in 1811 from:
- Journal des Luxus und der Moden
- Journal des Dames et des Modes
- La Belle Assemblee
- Ackermanns Repository
JANUARY 1811 is up! Click on the picture for more information on the project, as well as to see and read about London / Paris / Weimar Fashions from January 1811.
Every once in a while I come across a *fun* piece of information. This one is not only fun it’s also a step back in time, a moment from the lives of the Smiths of Erle Stoke Park.
The year, circa 1795/6.
As governments still desire to do, the English Parliament needed money. But how to get it, where to get it? Some bright idea occurred to someone: Let’s tax something! Ah, yes… cast your mind back: The Stamp Act; a tax on Tea; how about paying tax based the number of windows in your house, or the number of dogs in your kennel.
In 1795 that brilliant idea served to tax that commodity so many used on a daily basis: Hair Powder.
Unlike someone counting your windows or your dogs, this was based on obtaining a certificate. A tax of One Guinea gave you leisure to powder for the year (in this instance, through to 1 August 1796). Joshua Smith of Erlestoke Park, Wiltshire was a Member of Parliament; what choice did he have but to pay:
William Hiskins, under-butler to J. Smith, 11 April.
Augusta Smith, daughter of Joshua Smith, 11 April.
Emma Smith, daughter of Joshua Smith, 11 April.
Joshua Smith, housekeeper, 11 April.
Sarah Smith, wife of Joshua Smith, 11 April.
Alexander Struthers, footman to Joshua Smith, 11 April.
My favorite portion of the announcement is a section, which reads: “… NO MORE IS TO BE DEMANDED OF ANY PERSON upon taking out a Certificate for using or wearing of Hair Powder, upon any Pretence whatever, except where there are more than two unmarried Daughters in a Family, in which Case a DOUBLE CERTIFICATE stamped with two Stamps, of One Pound One Shilling each, is required to be taken out.”
- On RootsWeb, powder tax payments for Towcester
- Notice of offices open for the attainment of said certificate
- Payment by the Smith household, see DannyHowell.net
- Relevant page from Roy and Lesley Adkins’ book, Jane Austen’s England
- A 2012 article on Sunderland during the powder tax period
- Rob Eyre of the Warwickshire Record Office: guest blog and BBC Radio’s Making History
If you can locate a copy of Beryl Hurley’s booklet “The Hair Powder Tax, Wiltshire” (1997), you can read about the Smiths of Erlestoke yourself! Needless to say, powdering wigs and hair quickly went out of fashion…
In transcribing diaries of Emma’s great aunt (Mrs Smith of Bersted Lodge), I have been dying to track down some of her fashion images. While I’m not quite convinced I’ve stumbled upon the source (I’ve yet to find her exact image), I’ve found some quite evocative images from the magazine The Ladies’ Museum, specifically in their column (with, typically, two fashion plates) “THE MIRROR OF FASHION“.
First up is a rather late entry, from 1831. Some of these gowns I can see Mary and Emma wearing; though, Mary would perhaps never recapture the fashionable figure she cut before Charles’ death (January 1831). And Emma, though interested in fashion to some degree, as the young bride of a clergyman she doesn’t seem to have overspent on herself.
“The Mirror of Fashion” will gain its own page, so be on the lookout for more in the near future.
For now: here is mirror of fashion_1831.
UPDATE: here’s its permanent page.
Thought I’d share this wonderful website, pointing out the clothing information — but mention that visitors should look more fully at ALL the items on offer at Colonial Williamsburg’s history.org website:
This shows the array of items you can investigate: from portraits through materials. I dressed a young lady of the gentry! from stockings to pocket to cap and dress. It was fun – you can find it by clicking on “Dressing the Part“.
Now, you might be thinking “What does colonial-era clothing have to do with Two Teens in the Time of Austen?” Certainly, neither Mary nor Emma would have worn a gown like that above — but Lady Cunliffe certainly would have been familiar with the dress of this young lady. For those who wonder about Lady Cunliffe, Mary’s maternal grandmother, you can read a prior post by clicking on her portrait:
Lady Cunliffe in her portrait of 1761, painted by Joshua Reynolds.
* * *
two book recommendation:
The Dress of the People, John Styles (Yale U Press)
What Clothes Reveal, Linda Baumgarten (Yale U Press)
read my review of Styles’ book at JASNA
read about Styles’ upcoming Williamsburg 2013 Exhibit & Symposium:
Threads of Feeling Unraveled: The London Foundling Hospital’s Textile Tokens
Kleidung um 1800 has a fascinating post on Sabine’s Whiskey-colored spencer.
For all of you who covet a closet of Regency clothing…
For all of you who sew…
For all of you who dream in technicolor when reading Austen novels…
You need to read about — and see — this beautiful piece of work. Blog readers get a real “feel” for this type of clothing, the spencer, which possibly gets more “press” than any other item of Regency-period clothing.
Just discovered this fascinating blog (in German and English):
Its subject matter deals in all things from the time period of my beloved Smiths & Goslings! Recent entries are the birthday of Goethe; and a couple lovely portraits assessed for their clothing and hair styles. Check it out!