Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Myth of Chanel and the 1920s: I - A Sea Change

But it was the androgyny promoted by Chanel that dominated women's fashion in Europe in 1919. ... Once the matchless pace setter of individuality in fashion, Poiret snorted that her clothes resembled 'Cages lacking birds. Hives lacking bees.'


The 1910s are not a well-known decade in fashion history.  Despite the success of Downton Abbey, many still contrast the loose dress of the 1920s with fitted gowns and S-bend corsets from the first decade of the twentieth century to determine that a change must have erupted at the very end of the 1910s.

Figs. 186-187, The Delineator, Nov. 1902; NYPL 816623
This is, however, a misunderstanding.  By 1909, the silhouette had become less strongly curved; by 1911, the revival of the Regency style was fully fashionable, and women's dress made use of the high waistline and a narrow skirt in imitation.  A prime mover in this shift was Paul Poiret, an ex-employee of the Houses of Worth and Doucet who had created his own maison in 1903.  While the standard ideal of beauty best served by fashion at the time was voluptuous and curvy, Poiret instead designed for his wife's body type: slight, slender, and gamine.  The story about his shapeless black kimono coat and the Russian princess ("What a horror! When there are low fellows who run after our sledges and annoy us, we have their heads cut off, and we put them in sacks just like that.") is well-known, and shows the beginning of a new kind of orientalism in fashion.  Illustrations for his clothes depict thin women with no discernible waistline, wearing light and unrestrictive gowns.

"LASSITUDE: Dinner gown, by Paul Poiret", Georges Lepape, Gazette du Bon Ton, 1913; NYPL 824778
But - it is always a mistake to try to assign a single person as the instigator of large-scale change in fashion, whether it's Chanel or Poiret.  A number of female-owned fashion houses - among them Callot Soeurs, Lucile, and Paquin - opened in the 1890s and became extraordinarily successful by the early 1900s selling light, frothy gowns and lingerie.  These styles provided an important stepping-stone between the fitted and structured clothes of the late Victorian era and the high-waisted early 1910s: without that intermediate period, nobody would have been able to make a jump to the modernity of the 1920s.


At any rate, the extreme curves of the Edwardian era left along with Edward VII.  The Directoire Revival instead raised up a radically different figure with slim hips and a lissome silhouette.  Poiret's quote is frequently used to show that Chanel had invented her own radically different figure, but in fact there is only a small step between the body shapes favored by the two couturiers.

In addition, Poiret was a showman.  He claimed to have banished the corset himself - no help from Lucile or Callot Soeurs - and delighted in creating drama.  It's possible that part of his motive in making a public derogatory statement was to garner attention - a practice known today as trolling.  While I wouldn't say that this must be the truth, the context of Poiret's personality really ought to be included with any discussion of his statement.

It is also misleading of Nicholson to juxtapose Poiret's quote with Chanel's dress in November of 1919.  In Poiret, King of Fashion (Metropolitan Museum of Art: 2007, p. 24), the writer notes that Poiret's scathing critique of the fashionable silhouette was made in 1922, several years later.  Nicholson implies that he felt threatened by the very emergence of Chanel, by the "obviousness" of the fact that she would eclipse him, but it is by no means certain that that was his motive.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Galerie des Modes, 44e Cahier, 4e Figure

The sensitive Virtuous woman in a robe à l'Anglaise bordered à la Marlborough and in a demi-Balloon hat, only busying herself alone she executes in waiting for a charming duo. (1784)

"Someone wrote to us to ask us if fashion is general, and if it is the same for women of thirty and forty years as for the women of eighteen and twenty, and as in the case where there was a difference for middle age, we do know that one could settle in the Provinces.  We respond that fashion is one and that it is the same for all ages; that the greater part of our ladies, well older than forty, do not have difficulty here in following it and that they never appear condemnable."

Cabinet des Modes, 1 July 1786.


Thursday, June 27, 2013

Galerie des Modes, 44e Cahier, 3e Figure

The false pouter, in a spotted robe à l'Anglaise with a triple collar and a hat à la Caravanne, making signs of returning to the lover that her apparent rigor had forced to leave. (1784)

Gloves. - "Ladies wear, with their full parure, glazed gloves from Grenoble, laced and flounced.

"One finds them in the first quality at the shop of Mr. Buisson (of Grenoble), merchant of gloves and perfumes in the rue du faubourg Saint-Honoré, near the rue Royale.  All sorts of gloves for men and women are also found there, as well as all sorts of perfumes, essences, soaps, powders, Sultan, rouge, almond paste, and generally everything which is used in the toilette: all of the first quality and at a fair price."

Cabinet des Modes, 15 March 1786


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Galerie des Modes, 44e Cahier, 2e Figure

The tiresome Finette, in a Juste à la Suzanne and coiffed en Figaro, holding with as much skill as negligence a country rose which is intended to please her. (1784)

Here is the costume of Mlle Contat who played the role of Suzanne in the Marriage of Figaro:

"Her dress for the first four acts is a white juste with basquines,* very elegant, the petticoat of the same, with a toque called, ever since, à la Suzanne.  In the party of the fourth act, the count puts on her head a toque with a long veil, with high plumes, and white ribbons.  She wears in the fifth act her mistress's lévite and no ornament on her head."

* Long basques; especially associated with Spain.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Galerie des Modes, 44e Cahier, 1ere Figure

The prudent Amazon in the full Figaro outfit, advancing with a circumspect air to the grove where she must find her lover: but taking care to be perceived. (1784)

"The Marriage of Figaro or the Mad Day, by Beaumarchais, played, with a keen success, for the first time by the actors of the Comédie Française in ordinary to the King on the 27th of April 1784, did not take too long to furnish not only names* but even ideas to the fashions of the day.

"It is not difficult to find points of comparison, for example, between this outfit au Grand Figaro and the costume of the barber as was worn by Dazincourt: 'Dress of the spanish major: ... a silk kerchief wrapped loosely on the throat; gilet and breeches of satin, with buttons and silver-fringed buttonholes; a large silk belt; ... vest of a sharp color, with large lapels in the color of the gilet ...'

"(* See the juste à la Suzanne and the Figaro coiffure, pl. 185, the gown trimmed à la Figaro, pl. 200, the costume of pl. 202, the coiffure à la Cherubin, pl. 211, the Almaviva hat, pl. 215, and finally plates 213, 222, 225.)"

Monday, June 24, 2013

Galerie des Modes, 43e Cahier, 6e Figure

The voluptuous Beauty, taking alternately perfect love* and ices, waiting for pleasures more worthy of her: her coiffure is à la Contat,** and her gown à l'Anglaise. (1784)

Ices. - "This artificial frozen treat is a tonic, a delicious refreshment: a ice-maker is a veritable artist, who only still exists in the great cities.  Outside of Paris, you must travel a hundred leagues to meet with summer- and autumn-fruit ices, butter ices, kirh-waser ices, bologna ices, almond-milk ices: the true progress in this is made in the capital.

"Sieur Duboisson, successor to Procope, is the best who is advised to make ices and sell them all year round.  In the ardent heat of the dog days, at the Palais-Royal, he sells ices for thirteen hundred louis d'or per dozen in cups.

"It was Procope who corrected the great lords and poets, the elegants of the court and the writers of the age of Louis XIV, who loyally became drunk at the cabaret: filling them with coffee, he gave them another meeting place and one saw the disgraceful taste for drunkenness disappear.  The lemonade sellers number eighteen hundred, which proves that the cabarets are deserted."

Sébastien MERCIER, Tableau de Paris

* a type of liqueur
** a reference to Louise-Françoise Contat, the actress who played Suzanne in The Marriage of Figaro, which premiered in 1784 and sparked a frenzy of fashions

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Myth of Chanel and the 1920s: Introduction

 In November 1919 pictures of Gabrielle Chanel's chemise dress had filled the pages of Vogue: 'A gown that swathes the figure in straight soft folds, falling at the sides in little cascades.'  The editorial commended Chanel's reliance on an uncluttered natural beauty, with a dress that showed only a slender pair of shoulder straps holding it up.  The subsequent single-page spread devoted to Madame Lucile's chiffons and to Poiret's plumes seemed to be included simply out of respect for the old masters and appeared fearfully outdated. ... Once the matchless pace setter of individuality in fashion, Poiret snorted that her clothes resembled 'Cages lacking birds. Hives lacking bees.'

One other French designer, Madeleine Vionnet, managed to survive the transition through the war years and become part of the revolution in fashion. Vionnet cleverly amalgamated a still lingering desire for femininity with the wish to dress without the restricting comfort of corsetry. ... But it was the androgyny promoted by Chanel that dominated women's fashion in Europe in 1919.

...
During the war she discovered the versatility of jersey cloth as used by stable lads for shirts for training sessions, and began to make sweaters and waistless dresses for women from the same supple fabric.  The ornate Edwardian costume that according to a scornful Chanel had 'stifled the body's architecture' started to disappear.  Chanel was after 'moral honesty' in the way women presented themselves.  She had gauged the time for voicing these feelings to perfection.  ...

The flamboyant colors of Paul Poiret's pre-war designs and the theatricality of Bakst's influential costumes for the Ballets Russes suddenly seemed tawdry and overdone. ... A look of luxury was achievable through the severity of simplicity.  Expensive poverty was the aim.  She dared to suggest that clothes themselves had ceased to matter and that it was the individual who counted.

She cut her hair short 'because it annoyed me'.  Everyone cut off their hair in imitation. ... The British aristocracy came to Paris to be close to the source of inspiration. ... As hem lengths rose and flowerpot hats moulded themselves to the side of the head, a voluntary simplification of clothing spread across a wide spectrum of society.


- "Expectation", The Great Silence, Juliet Nicholson (Grove Press: 2009), pp. 173-175 

Much of the research in this book is excellent: Nicholson has access to a number of personal memoirs, which she uses to embroider the straightforward historical narrative.  I highly recommend it to those interested in the very beginning of the Jazz Age, the first two years after the end of the war.  However, when it comes to dress, I find that the author has been completely suckered by the Cult of Chanel.

It's quite understandable.  The general idea of Chanel as the reigning goddess of 1920s fashion, creating the extraordinary new styles based strictly on her own taste, women everywhere immediately rushing to join her as she had tapped into a near-universal desire only spurned by old fogeys trying to hold onto the past, is prevalent in the study of fashion history.  I went along with this myth for a long time, tempered slightly by the understanding that history is always a bit messier than people generally make it.  But as I have been performing my own research into early twentieth century fashion, by the time I read the above excerpt I had learned enough to be somewhere between "disappointed" and "livid".

Was Chanel a popular couturier of the 1920s?  Yes.

Did she influence the constantly-changing tide of fashion?  Perhaps.

Were she and Vionnet the only designers to escape the 1910s?  Demonstrably not.

Did Gabrielle Chanel single-handedly create a new vision for a dawning age of modernity? Please.

Working on More Than Just Flappers has given me quite a lot of feelings on the subject of the often-misrepresented progress of early twentieth century dress, but there is only so much that can be said on the topic in a short time frame.  So please join me in a continuing series of posts in which I will deconstruct the many myths about Chanel that appear in quick succession in the excerpt above.  Your eyes may be fully opened!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Galerie des Modes, 43e Cahier, 5e Figure

The Flower of the Harvesters walking to contemplate the Summer products without considering anything else: she is in a chemise à la Floricourt,* and coiffed with a hat à la Ceres.** (1784)

Trimming made by Mlle Bertin for the Baronne de Benkendorff.

"1783, August 4. - A grand robe en chemise of spotted linen batiste, a trimming along the fronts in stylish linen edged with a row of lace, two rows of pleated ruffles around the collar and two at the bottom of the sleeves, the whole edged with lace, a petticoat of English lilac taffeta, covered with a chemise of linen, with a trimming at the bottom edged on two sides with a row of lace, lilac ribbons along the front pieces of the gown and in all the drawstring channels. 220 livres.

Dossiers Bertin, Doucet Library

* The Memoirs of Floricourt, by Jean Gaspard Dubois-Fontanelle, was originally published in the early 1780s.  The story focused on "the wild and ungovernable impulses of youth", frequently those in monasteries.
** The Roman goddess of the harvest.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Galerie des Modes, 43e Cahier, 4e Figure

 The nervous Beauty, looking at the hour of the rendez-vous that her lover has asked in the letter she holds: her coiffure is à la Marlborough and she is dressed in a morning gown. (1784)

The Marlborough fashions. - The song Marlborough, probably dating to the battle of Malplaquet, became truly popular in France after 1781, the date on which Madame Poitrine [Chest], nurse to the Dauphin, taught it to Marie Antoinette, who made it fashionable.  Everything was soon "à la Marlborough" and Bachaumont made it the subject of the following: "1783, August 14, Madame the duchess of Malborough, grand-daughter of the governor-general of that name, who took him as her husband, learned in the jokes that were made here since last year, when the memory of a man so fatal to France was recalled, wanted to have a collection of all the songs and plays, of all the jokes, of all the jeers and puns that have resulted.

"She has at the same time charged Mlle Bertin to send her a list of all the fashions imagined in the Marlborough style, whether in use by women or by men.

"One knows the news from the travelers that come back from London, and speak of this Englishwoman as very amiable, as very capable of hearing these pleasantries, being perfectly comfortable with the French language which she speaks as well as her own.  They add that she is moreover a women of much spirit."

BACHAUMONT, Secret Memoirs

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Galerie des Modes, 43e Cahier, 3e Figure

The amiable Constance holding the leash of a Lion-Dog and dreaming on that which her heart loves.  Her gown is à la Turque and her hat is à la Montgolfier, positioned on a baigneuse and belted with a ribbon fastened with an English buckle and with a panache. (1784)

Trimming of a Robe turque made by Mlle Bertin, marchande des modes to the Queen, for Mme de Bercheny.

"1785, March 24. - The trim of a Gourgouran robe turque, the fronts trimmed with a pleated strip of gauze with a scalloped bastard blonde lace, a garland of blue and white daisies on the head of the flounce, the white taffeta petticoat covered with a beautiful rich gauze in large pleats, edged at the bottom with a blonde fond d'Angleterre lace, the parements of the gown pleated with a little bordered net, the edges of the gown in bastard blonde lace. 360 livres.

Dossier Bertin, Doucet Library.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Galerie des Modes, 43e Cahier, 2e Figure

The young insouciant, playing with her fan and favoring the scent of the rose placed on her chest, she wears a large Hat à la Charlotte over a demi-négligé cap, and is dressed in a very light gown. (1784)

Hat à la Charlotte. - Trimmings made by Mlle Bertin, marchande de modes to the Queen, for the Baronne de Benkendorff.

"1785, July 14. - A hat en charlotte of white straw edged with net, a pink and white striped ribbon bouillonné around the crown, a striped gauze kerchief forming a coiffure. 48 livres.

Trims made for Mme de Bercheny.

"1784, March 31. - A charlotte hat in yellow straw, edged on one side à la Baigneuse, a good, flowered lace, a little pleated net and a bouillonné ribbon over the crown, pink and white satined, a bow of the same ribbon behind and a kerchief forming a coiffure. 54 livres.

Dossiers Bertin, Doucet Library

Monday, June 17, 2013

Galerie des Modes, 43e Cahier, 1ere Figure

The innocent Curious woman, pricking herself on the thorns of a rose whose brilliance and scent please her, and desiring to be able to compare the pains and sweetness of tenderness: she is in a robe à l'Anglaise edged with a streaked ribbon and coiffed with a Globe hat over a demi-cap. (1784)

Shoes. - "Our ladies now no longer care to compete in size with men, as we believe that they tended to before.  They leave them today this advantage, that one could say is very indifferent up to a certain point.  They have quitted the shoes with raised heels, which lowers them by nearly two inches.  Who didn't think that they acquired it as a strength which they otherwise lacked?  We do not want to make epigrams here, we only want to say that that are no longer exposed by spinning as they were, wearing heels which are weak if narrowed at the bottom, that they appear balanced.  The heels of their shoes are hardly more raised, nor narrowed, than those of men, proportionately ..."

Le Cabinet des Modes, June 15, 1786

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Latest Patterning Visit

This was perhaps my penultimate patterning trip for the first book I intend to put out.  (The last one I have planned will be on the 28th, but I suppose it's possible that I could come across another venue and make another afterward.)  Yesterday I drove down to Historic Cherry Hill to take the pattern of a pretty pink silk spencer, ca. 1795, and to re-examine the petticoat of a gown I'd patterned before, as I didn't have the shaping of the top quite right.  This pattern may be one of my favorites - I like seeing the differences between similarly-cut gowns and sacques, but it's really nice to take the pattern of something very unlike what's come before, not to mention unlike what's in previously-published books.

It has an adorable peplum.

Afterward, I went to the Schenectady County Historical Society museum in the lovely stockade district to see Underlying Structures: What Shaped the Victorian Woman?  The exhibition shows a wonderful array of later Victorian dresses and accessories.


I highly recommend you take a trip over to the museum, if you live nearby.  Costume exhibitions are not common outside of the big cities, and it's good to support local historical societies!

Edit: 400th post!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Galerie des Modes, 42e Cahier, 6e Figure

Gown en Fourreau with simple train, the sleeves pulled up, the Gown without trim, Fichu-Mantelet.  This Woman is coiffed with a Marlborough Hat trimmed with a Gauze frill and some Flowers. (1784)

Cadogan. - The cadogan (see also plate 180) was a man's wig with a single queue tied with a narrow ribbon and forming a bulge at its end.  Women borrowed the cadogan from men and wore it whether simple or, as here, double.

On this fashion Bachaumont recounted an amusing anecdote: "Lately the King, on coming back from the hunt, put on a chignon in the manner of women, and went thus to the Queen's apartments.  Her Majesty was taken very much in laughter and she asked him what was the meaning of this masquerade, if he had come back from a carnival.  -Do you find it ugly? said her august spouse.  It is a fashion that I want to bring out, I have never before instituted any.  -Oh! Sire, watch yourself here, it is frightful, replied Her Majesty.  -Nevertheless, Madame, replied the Monarch, the men must have some manner of dressing their hair to distinguish their sex: you have taken from us the plume, the hat, the cadenette,* the queue: today, it is the cadogan that remains to us, and that I find very ugly on women ..." The Queen heard what he wanted to say and having nothing nearer to her heart than the pleasure of the King, gave an order that everyone take them off on the spot and return to the chignon.

"Thus it appears that this fashion adopted with a fury in Paris, and very ridiculous indeed, will fall by means of the pleasantry of the King."

BACHAUMONT, Secret Memoirs, March 18, 1783

* a wig with two braids or queues in back

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Galerie des Modes, 42e Cahier, 5e Figure

Robe à l'Anglaise, the bodice laced in the back, the skirt is tucked up,* the sleeves of a color different from that of the Gown, the whole edged with a very narrow ribbon of any desired color. (1784)

"A woman said: I would go to Rome to seek fashion, if it were required.  What is this fantastic goddess who commands so imperiously?  It is at her very express desire that everything is done, that plumes fall and rise, that hats take all sorts of forms, that the robes à l'anglaise, the chemise gown, the robe à la turque, the pierrot, the caraco have appeared alternately on the scene: that the kerchief that is very full on the neck, called the deceitful kerchief, gave the idea of a protruding throat.  Rebels submitted, or rather there were none in fashion's empire, for the toque and the chignon comb, together with the horsehair cul, could not be escaped in fashion; she gracefully established what was, three months ago, ridiculous."

Sébastien MERCIER, Tableau de Paris.

* I have agonized a little bit over this section of the caption.  With the lack of punctuation, it could be saying that the bodice is laced closed in the back and the skirt of the gown (technically, normally written as le bas de la robe with le jupon being the petticoat, but here the petticoat is clearly not rétroussé at all) is tucked up, but it could also read "the bodice is laced, in the back the skirt is tucked up".  Due to the word order and the plain front of the bodice, I've gone with the first as my official translation, which fits with the back closing fourreaux that seem to have appeared in high fashion in 1784. There are high-fashion variants, though, and should not be taken as proof that back-lacing gowns were commonly worn by all levels of society.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Galerie des Modes, 42e Cahier, 3e Figure

Full Robe Française revived by the Court for the journey to Fontainebleau in 1783. (1784)

This plate was taken from the MFA Boston, 44.1581.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Galerie des Modes, 42e Cahier, 4e Figure

Robe à l'Anglaise, Fichu-en-Mantelet, Gauze Hat. (1784)

"The merit of this outfit is to narrow the body as much as possible.  It is necessary that the gown takes in and emphasizes the waist.  It is best to wear tightened stays underneath.  The bodice of the stays and the gown must be fastened very loosely to give the most grace to the body.

"The gown is of a lightweight pink satin, and the petticoat of a lightweight white satin.  One can only disagree that this manner of cutting the gown and the petticoat* is not a refinement of elegance: the two colors lend a mutual brilliance which delights the view: but it is necessary that both are fresh ..."

Le Cabinet des Modes, March 1, 1786

* see coupé in the Glossary

Monday, June 10, 2013

New Collection Online!

At the moment my mild-mannered alter ego is a receptionist in a doctor's office, and we are required to show YNN Capital Region all day long.  Yes.  Much of the time it is ignorable, frequently it is appalling, and occasionally it tosses up something of interest.

Today, that little gem was a spot on the Albany Institute of History and Art!  It was lovely to see the inside of the vault and the collections again, and it was especially nice to see Tammis Groft, the chief curator.  But part of the point of the spot was that they've created an online collections database, which is the sort of thing we all love to see.  Now I can link you directly to Ariantje Coeymans, one of my favorite portraits out there.

"Ariantje Coeymans", Nehemiah Partridge, ca. 1720; AIHA 1938.5




You can also see whole categories of objects, such as (of course) Textiles, Costume, and Accessories.  The whole collection isn't represented, not by a long shot - but what's there is gorgeously photographed.  Shoes and jewelry seem to make up the bulk of that category; the gowns listed were photographed a while ago for the physical catalogue.  But we can hope that more will show up as time goes on, because, let me tell you, there are some amazing pieces there.

"Nathan Hawley and Family Nov. 3d, 1801", William Wilkie, 1801; AIHA 1951.58




Galerie des Modes, 42e Cahier, 2e Figure

Gown en Fourreau, turned-up sleeves, the edge of the Gown turned back in front, with cords and a button, from which hangs a tassel. (1784)

Hats trimmed with flowers. - Trimmings made by Mlle Bertin for the Princess of Baratinsky.

"1782, 8 August. - A high-crowned hat of yellow straw lined with taffeta, a garland of cornflowers and poppies around the crown, a while feather and a bow behind. - 54 livres.

"A second hat of yellow straw lined with blue taffeta and edged with a beautiful blonde fond d'Alençon lace, with packets of pink carnations and mignonette, a white feather and a blue ribbon. - 84 livres.

"A hat dressed and edged with a garland of scabiosa, with bouillons of white ribbons, two curled plumes and a panache of cut plumes. - 72 livres."

Dossiers Bertin, Doucet Library.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Galerie des Modes, 42e Cahier, 1ere Figure

Robe truly à l'Anglaise, without trimming, sleeves en Pagodes with Amadis sleeves, the front of the Gown simply turned back, forming a robing. (1784)

"It is to avoid being confused with courtesans of all types and overall with their company that women have created the new terms for society such as grand genre, meilleur ton, and the très excellente compagnie.  These words, pronounced very seriously by the comme il faut people, by the roués, by the agreeable people, were invented to establish a total separation, an immeasurable space between the societies where the greatest crime that can be committed in the world would be to dare to say that they could take to everyone, to be equal in agreement, an appalling proposition that one could not imaginably offer to an adorable woman.  It would be best to deny everything that was more evident to the world: the charm of irony, the beauty of caricatures and the sublimeness of banter.  What, suspect that the house next door could argue that where you are?  What blasphemy! ..."

Sébastien MERCIER, Tableau de Paris.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Galerie des Modes, 41e Cahier (bis), 6e Figure

Robe à l'Anglaise trimmed with knife pleats edged with a Muslin frill, with cords and buttons matching the Gown, Hat trimmed with a gauze toque negligently fitted with a ribbon. (1784)

Watches. - "The fashion was, some time ago, to have two, but I can only assume it remains.  Most of the watches are little, fewer are good, but the singular thing is that every "agreeable person" wants to have one of that sort."

CARACCIOLI, Critical dictionary, 1768

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Galerie des Modes, 41e Cahier bis, 5e Figure

Grand Robe Française which was that required for the journey to Fontainebleau in 1783. (1784)

Long trains. - "There is nothing lighter, more elegant, newer than what women wear now; and yet you found long trains at court in Louis XIV's time.  These trains remind me of Indian sheep which are driven in enormous trains by a chariot which follows behind them.  Our duchesses walk on the floor with these long gowns, while all the rest of the outfit is absolutely changed.  Why do we retain this train, two ells long, sweeping the dust behind them, if there had been dust on the daily-crowded floor of the court?"

Sébastien MERCIER, Tableau de Paris, 1788

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Galerie des Modes, 41e Cahier bis, 4e Figure

Chemise à la Reine seen from the back.  This Woman has a fichu-mantelet over her shoulders, she is coiffed in a flat hat surmounted by a plume, the hair en négligé and with two cadogans, the belt is of black velvet. (1784)

Lévites.  "One can predict the downfall of an empire, but who can divine which cap, which ornament women will wear next year?  Who can predict the metamorphoses of fashion?  Ah! who said it, that these majestic gowns, whose folds touched the cobbles of Jerusalem, and which belong specially to the tribe consecrated to the custody of the Arch, entered women's dress, and that the elegant ladies and the petites maîtresses of Paris wore in imitation of the antique and respectable design?"

Sébastien MERCIER, Tableau de Paris, 1783

Monday, June 3, 2013

Galerie des Modes, 41e Cahier (bis), 3e Figure

Chemise à la Reine open at the bottom like a Lévite, Elegant evening coiffure covered with a large, pulled-down straw Hat. (1784)

"The taste for the parure in which the queen was dressed during the first years of her reign had been replaced by a love of simplicity worn even to an impolitic degree, the splendor and magnificence of the throne being almost to a certain degree separated in France from the interests of the Nation.

"Except on the days of the very great assemblies in court, such as January first, February second (devoted to the procession of the order of the Saint-Esprit), and the feasts of Easter, of Pentecost, and Christmas, the queen no longer wore gowns of percale or white Florentine taffeta.  Her coiffure was confined to a hat: the simplest were preferred and diamonds were only taken out of their caskets for the parures which belonged to the days that I indicated."

Mme CAMPAN, Memoirs

Saturday, June 1, 2013

A Little Advice?

Today I got the Joann's package I've been waiting for - fabric for a 1920s dress.  On the plus side: nothing ended up being a huge mistake, too heavy or too light, a bad color or weird texture.  Here's the indigo blue twill cotton with a nice little geometric print that I intended for the dress:


And here's the soft rayon with an identical print (which I didn't actually realize was exactly the same - also, I thought it was paler) that was intended for an envelope chemise:


The problem: I like them both for dress fabric.  Obviously I'd have to check to make sure there's enough fabric in the rayon, but with the heat right now I'm leaning toward lightness.  At the same time, the weight of the twill means it will work better without a lining and, perhaps, hang better on my body.

Or.  If you remember my previous post on the subject - what if I were to use the twill for most of the dress, with the rayon (lined or backed, maybe just doubled) as the center front panel, the sash, sleeve borders, and perhaps as overlays to the gathered side gores, making it a bit reminiscent of this 1921 lovely:

NYPL 817486; search "women 1921" and you'll find a series of these
Edited to add: Here's a very rough mockup of what the dress could look like with a light blue center panel (ie, I flung it over my dress form).