Showing posts from March, 2016

Book Review: Our Crowd, by Stephen Birmingham

A little while ago, I came across NetGalley - a site where ARCs and recently published books are made available (generally upon request). There's a good sampling of history books: not fashion history, which I didn't expect to find, but I find social history in general almost as interesting. Clothes are one facet of understanding a time and place, but there are so many other factors. And I find the clothing more meaningful when I have more context to place them in. The first book I went for was Our Crowd: The Great Jewish Families of New York , by Stephen Birmingham, originally published 1967 and republished by Open Road in 2015. One reason I picked it is that I'm always fascinated by my own heritage (typical American); another is that there's something about New York. It's not just the city itself, but where it stands in popular culture - especially early twentieth century pop culture, which I consume frequently and which contains a lot of references that I just

Regency Corsets (or Stays if you will)

My very first post to this blog was a kind of a summary of corset construction and style in the period 1790-1810. It's awkwardly written, because I was excerpting from a paper and summarizing and wasn't used to blogging like this! It seems like a good time to revisit the topic, now that I've spent even more time analyzing the period. The stays of the early 1790s were essentially those of the 1780s, cut with a higher waist - conical, and heavily or half boned. Very quickly, though, the silhouette changed. Artistic portraits had shown women dressed in flowing draperies, belted high, without stays, and at the same time that those high-waisted flowing draperies entered mainstream fashion, so did softly rounded breasts. While some women achieved this look by not wearing any stays at all, for most, the idea that a boned and laced undergarment was essential to respectability held strong. Non-satirical sources refer to corsets' and stays' existence through this time - for

HSM 2016 Challenge #3: Protection

For the "Protection" challenge, I made a chemise to wear for the Civil War Weekend. Chemises, of course, protect your skin from the corset, and your corset (and other clothes) from your skin, and so are a perfect thing to make as an example of a protective garment. This is the pattern I used , which I took while working at the Chapman Historical Museum. It would be a very good one for a first attempt at scaling up a pattern - I strongly recommend it if you have any interest in practicing that skill. That said, the actual making is tricky. There's a lot of gathering, and since the original had the bands attached by machine I didn't do stroked gathers, which are in a way simpler and hang better. I really should have used a smaller cording (the original has five rows) and should have started it much closer to the fold, so as to have more room for the seam allowances. I had to trim them quite close. Setting in the neckline gussets was also a tricky annoyance. Th

Magasin des Modes, 2e Cahier, Plate I

November 30, 1786 Again a redingote in a new form. It is buttoned with two rows of buttons to the waist, and with only one from the waist to the bottom. This redingote is of lemon  yellow wool, with apple  green stripes. The collar and cuffs, slit à la Marinière , are of dark green satin. The buttons are of mother-of-pearl, with a little gold dot in the middle. These buttons, on the bust, pass through little flaps  of green satin, fixed on the left side, and from the bust to the bottom, through simple green silk ribbon buttonholes. The Woman who wears this redingote has her neck covered with a full gauze kerchief with two rows of ruffles, the two ends of which are tied in front as a cravat, near the bodice of the redingote, and descend like a jabot over it. On her head is a chapeau-bonnette , lined with green satin in the brim, covered with a pink satin on the same brim, and whose crown is of white gauze, very puffed, and belted with a very wide green ribbon with white selvages

Magasin des Modes, 1er Cahier, Planche III

November 20, 1786 ENGLISH FASHIONS. Will we censure the English Fashions, in order to raise ours over theirs? Will we establish a comparison between them, in order to always give the preference to ours? Will we reproach English attitudes, in order to give ourselves a dogmatic air? Will we approve or fault everything which has a foreign air? One or the other of these two options would properly announce our French character. Will we describe the English Fashions simply, in order to make them known, leaving each person the liberty of approving them? Accustomed to boldly faulting what appears bad or defective to us, and to frankly approving what appears good and worthy of praise, we will give ourselves on the English Fashions the same rights that we have over French Fashions: sometimes as censures, sometimes as  praisers , sometimes as simple describers, sometimes as appreciators; we will be free to choose. We will permit ourselves the comparison on occasion, and we will allot the j

Magasin des Modes, 1er Cahier, Planche II

November 20, 1786 We announced in the previous Book, on the occasion of caps à la Turque , that we would publish the type and the origin of caps à la Randan , sometimes called à la Bayard . These caps were born from the exquisite taste of the celebrated Actress (1) who played the role of Madame de Randan  in The Loves of Bayard , a new Comedy by M. MONVEL. The sweet and tender air that they extended over her face, which she had been careful to render still calmer by the total lack of powder in her hair, and by a tint of melancholy, giving her this interesting air that allowed Madame de Randan to make the conquest of the sensitive King François I , of the brave Knight Bayard , of the generous de la Palice , of the presumptuous and galant Bonnivet , and even of the impudent and ferocious Sotomayor . The greater part of our Ladies who have adopted these coiffures were persuaded that they would make conquests as brilliant, or at least that they would have the seductive air of Mademoi