Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Lévite

I was going to make this about the Lévite, the levantine, and the sultane, but I found a good number of Lévites.  Really, in retrospect, I should have folded the turque in with these, given that I found only one outfit drawn from three angles.  But I suppose since I did have so much to say about it, it's all right!


Autre Lévite, la juppe de couleur différente, les manches de la couleur de la juppe, le Lévite comme la Circassienne n'ayant que des manchons: au lieu d'echarpe un ruban en ceinture. Cette figure est coëffée d'un chapeau noir à la mode.

Another Lévite, with a contrasting petticoat and sleeves that match the petticoat, the Lévite, like the circassienne, having only (short?) sleeves; in place of the scarf, there is a ribbon belt.  This woman is wearing a fashionable black hat.




Nouvelle Levite de Taffetas uni, avec les manches en amadices, la Garniture en Gaze rayée.

New Lévite in solid-colored taffeta, with amadis sleeves, the trimming in striped gauze.

 
Lévite simple vue par derrière, coeffure negligée ou grant bonnet à la paysane avec des barbes.

Simple Lévite seen from the back, negligée coiffure or large cap à la paysane with lappets (lit. "beards").


Habit en Lévite enrichi de glands, d'epauletes et cordonets: la juppe parielle bordée d'une bande de différente couleur, une blonde autour du Lévite et aux deux bords de la garniture du juppon. Le chapeau de gaze blanche, et garni en pouf de gaze noire, ceint de dentelle noire et d'un ruban de couleur.

Lévite dress decorated with tassels, epaulets, and cords; the matching petticoat edged with a band of a contrasting color, a blonde [lace] is around the Lévite and on two edges of the petticoat trim.  The hat is of white gauze, trimmed in a pouf of black gauze, belted with black lace and a colored ribbon.


Robe à la Lévite à corsage en foureau, juppon coupé avec la garniture en platitude couleur de la robe, coëffure demie négligée dite à la Picarde, à barbes de gaze d'Italie découpée en dentelle.

Lévite with a bodice en fourreau; "cut petticoat"* with flat trimming in the same color as the dress; coiffure is the half-undress called "à la Picarde" with barbes in cut lacework Italian gauze.

* haven't worked out what this might mean yet



Cette Femme est vetuë d'un Levite ajusté, Ceint d'une Echarpe blanche, elle a un Tablier de Mousseline à grand volant, dit a la Gouvernante. Chapeau de Paille teinte, garni de Plumes.

This woman is wearing a fitted Lévite, belted with a white scarf.  She has a muslin apron with a large flounce, called à la gouvernante (governess).  Colored straw hat, trimmed with feathers.



Cette Figure est vêtue d'un Lévite taille à l'Anglaise à petits plis au tour de la taille la Coëfure est une Coëfure à l'enfance.

This woman is wearing a Lévite, waistline à l'Anglaise with little pleats around it.  The hairstyle is a coiffure à l'enfance (childhood).


Lévite de taffetas, ajustée et garnie de gaze autour; ceinture à la mode. La figure est coeffée d'un chapeau à la Spa. Le maître en petit habit de couleur à la mode, et coeffé en herisson.

Taffeta Lévite, fitted and trimmed around [the opening] with gauze; fashionably belted.  The woman is wearing a Spa hat.  The [dancing] master is in an informal suit in a fashionable color, and is coiffed en herisson (hedgehog).





Lévite ajuste a queue trainante comme les robes a l'Anglaise. Coefure un grand chapeau rond sur une toque basse du devant une seule boucle à la face et quatre boucles pendantes sur le Chignon.

Fitted Lévite, with a train like gowns a l'Anglaise.  Wearing a large, round hat on a low toque* in front of a single curl at the front and four curls hanging from the chignon.

* Kind of hairstyle or hat without edges or with very small edges - fr.wiktionary


Lévite de satin rose garni de cordonnet et d'olives blancs la Garniture du jupon en draperie avec des Olives l'Echarpe en baudrier la Coëfure est un Pouf en crête ceint d un double ruban etroit et orné de fleurs.

Pink satin Lévite trimmed with cord and white oval buttons.  The petticoat is trimmed in drapery with oval buttons.  The scarf is worn as a baldric.  The hairstyle is a pouf in a peak, tied with a double narrow ribbon decorated with flowers.


Robe à la Lévite, a deux plis par derriere, toute droite, arrêtée à la taille avec une écharpe dont les bouts se terminent par des glands. Coëffure; un chapeau de paille garni de gaze en pouf et orné de fleurs.

Lévite gown with two pleats in the back*, straight, stopping at the waist with a scarf whose ends have tassels.  Headdress: straw hat trimmed with poufs of gauze and decorated with flowers.

*This possibly refers to pleats  like those of a sacque

 
Lévite ornée de brandebourgs et cordonet d'une couleur tranchante sur les paremens et sur le fond; la garniture du juppon en platitude de la couleur des brandebourgs.  Cette figure est coëffée d'un chapeau à la Dewonshire ou à la Spa: cette mode fut apportée de cette ville à la Cour de France, et y avoit été portée par Mme. Dewonshire.

Lévite decorated with brandenburgs and cord in a bright color on the facings and the bottom; the flat petticoat trimming is in the same color of the brandenburgs. She is wearing a Devonshire or Spa hat: this fashion was brought from this city to the court of France, and had been worn there by Mme Devonshire.

 
Lévite pelisse à parement et Colet garni d'hermine le jupon de Satin blanc à poix noir le manchon de même garni de bandes d'hermine et la Ceinture aussi d'hermine, le Pouf surmounté de fleurs de batiste et de plumes. Cette Robe a été portée par une Dame de qualité pendant le Deuïl de M. Thérèse d'Autriche mere de l'Empereur et de la Reine de France.

Pelisse Lévite with collar and facing trimmed with ermine.  The petticoat is of white satin with black spots, the cuffs of the same, trimmed with bands of ermine; the belt as well.  The pouf topped with batiste flowers and feathers.  This dress was worn by a Lady of Quality during the mourning for Marie-Thérèse of Austria, mother of the Emperor [of Austria] and the Queen of France.


Jeune Dame se faisant porter son enfant dans une Barcelonette, pour l'alaicter à la promenade; Elle est vêtue d'un Lévite dont le Colet est peint tout autour et garnie de Gaze ainsi que les parements des Manches.

Young lady holding her child in a cradle, to breastfeed while walking.  She is dressed in a Lévite whose collar is painted/printed all around and trimmed with gauze, as is the facing on the sleeves.



Robe a l'Anglaise manches en amadis la taille serrée dune ceinture de Levite la juppe montée sur un boufant.

Robe à l'Anglaise, amadis sleeves, the waist held tight with a Lévite sash, the skirt mounted on a [puff?] (possibly referring to a pad)




Jeune Dame répétant une danse elle est vétue d'un Lévite du matin Carmelite, la Garniture pareille, le Colet frisé de mousseline à grand ourlet, jupon de soie rose pâle garni de même, Ceinture blanche dont les franges sont de couleur.

Young lady repeating a dance.  She is dressed in a Carmelite-color morning Lévite, the trimming of the same, the collar frilled with muslin in a large [hem?], petticoat of pale pink silk trimmed the same, white belt with colored fringe.

Other sources:
Two Centuries of Costume in America, Alice Morse Earle, 1903:  "Another form of polonaise was called the Levite.  Lady Cathcart, an American by birth, writing to her aunt in 1781, gave thus the London fashions -

'They wear for morning a white poloneze or a dress they call a Levete, which is a kind of gown and Peticote, with long sleeves made with scarcely any pique in the back, and worn with a sash tyed on the left side.  They make these in winter of white dimity, and in summer of Muslin with Chints borders.'

This explains the advertisements, in the Boston Evening Post of 1783, of 'callicoes for Levites.'

The Levite was originally a long, straight frock coat somewhat like that worn by a priest.  Horace Walpole satirized it as a resembling 'a man's nightgown tied round with a belt.'  The robe Levite imitated it with a train added.  A 'monkey-tailed Levite' had a curiously twisted train, and was a French fashion."

That glossary says: "sleeveless or shortsleeved gown straight in style and sashed at waist."

Conclusions: Well, there is certainly a lot of information on the Lévite out there!

Taking the plate in the turque post into account, I think one of the important Lévite elements is the collar and revers.  The other is the sash.  Both of these appear on non-Lévites with notes ascribing them to the style.  There are also a lot of tassels to be seen, which fit with Ribeiro's note on the circassienne about those being considered "oriental" and exotic - while I wouldn't say Lévites had to be decorated that way, it probably was seen as appropriate.  A couple of the plates, and one of the turque plates, also have a thinner scarf tied around the neck, another "oriental" element.

It's possible that long sleeves were necessary to the Lévite, but the abundance of them could just be due to the fact that long sleeves were in fashion at that point.  What I find interesting is that the glossary I keep checking is far off on the sleeves - for the most part, these have normal long sleeves with some trim.  Only one shows mancherons (which, just in case anyone was wondering, is what my amazing mannequin dressing professor said we should call what are often referred to as "jockey sleeves" - little sleevelets), and I think that the caption is saying that those are circassienne-style sleeves.  (I believe I will do a separate post entirely on the amadis sleeves.)

Now I come to the cut of the gown.  I can see why Earle might have referred to it as a variation on the polonaise, as there are the three back seams on some of the gown in the plates.  I think the Lévite in the strictest sense was loose-fitting and waistless and held in with the scarf, but it was perfectly acceptable (and perhaps more fashionable?) to do the waistline a l'Anglaise.  Personally, I wouldn't compare it to the polonaise at all, since the word makes one think about skirt-draping, which does not seem to have been done to the Lévite at all.

The bodices are mostly worn closed in the plates above, but some look like they open a little above the waist to show some kind of a stomacher.

Generally speaking, it seems to have been fashionable to use a contrasting petticoat (when the opposite generally seems true of polonaises - another reason not to connect them) and to use trim on the gown to match the petticoat, especially at the wrists and on the collar.  It also seems to have been fashionable to have some kind of thin trim running down the opening of the gown.

It's interesting to me that several of the plates show women out walking in the countryside with sticks - I had figured that part of the deal with the polonaise was that it was short because it was a walking dress, and vice versa, but the Lévite is always long and often trailing.


All plates from the MFA, bless them.

4 comments:

  1. I like this post! It really helped me with my plans of sewing a Levite (like the blue and yellow one, dated 1779)! I wonder if the women wore a waistcoat if they did not wear the Levite over a chemise dress or closed in the front, like most pictures show exept for "mine"... Now, "my" dress seems to be hold together with a small ribbon. Do you think it is possible to wear it over a waistcoat?

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    1. I don't think I've ever actually seen an extant gown with a waistcoat (other than, you know, riding habits) - probably the most accurate choices for a Levite would be to have it close fully, close a bit in the middle over a regular triangular stomacher, or close at the top over a stomacher like this. A couple of them look like they close with ties over regular stomachers, so I'd probably try that!

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    2. So I'm going to try it with a stomacher. Thank you very much :)

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  2. Hello. I was very surprised when I read your comment - surprised in a positive way, of course! Very nice that you remembered my question and told me about your research results. Thank you and have a nice week!

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