Saturday, April 25, 2015

Auction Day

Today is the online sale of the latest Whitacker Auction.  Quite a few deaccessions from the Met Museum are featured, some of them familiar to many of us who stalk the Met!

I will be bidding on a few items with the firm notion of not acquiring them, unless the price is significantly reasonable, nay cheap.  There is something amiss with just about every item, from condition to remodeling to just plain tired.




At first glance this painted silk is awesome.  Fantastic colors, the orange flowers are particularly striking.  But.. oh dear.. the Victorians hacked this poor baby.  Price Realized.. Really… 1300


Notice the waistline with the addition of piping at the waist seam.  The robings are gone, kaput!


The back shows the biggest hack, with the drawing in of the waist, but the fabric is still pretty amazing.

Another sacque, with trim that really needs to be seen.  Price Realized…5000..not kidding



  It looks like metallic gauze with bunches of flowers and faux pearls.  There is a gown in the collection of Wintertur with similar fake pearls.  This trim does look aftermarket but could be the real deal.   


A lavishly trimmed petticoat.  Tons of that gauze.  But does it look right?  I am not sure. 


The back looks good.  No signs of hacking that jump out at you.  But the front does look altered.  


At first look, not bad.  The sleeve flounces are properly trimmed in keeping with the rest of the gown.  But the front, ugh.  No robings, no trim in place of robings (sometimes that happens), the stomacher looks like an afterthought.  Not in keeping with the rest of the gown at all.   According to the description, the stomacher has metal stays, not something one sees very often.  The condition of the silk is poor.  Splits in the silk would require major conservation money.  So these two pieces are thumbs down.  Will be interested to see how much they go for. 


Saturday, April 4, 2015

Big Hair Needs A Big Bonnet

Not only does big hair need a big cap and a big butt, it also needs a big bonnet.  Not any bonnet will do  the trick.   So here is my version of a big bonnet.


This bonnet is based on a portrait by Joshua Reynolds, "Miss Palmer" c 1780 and the black bonnet in the collection of Colonial Williamsburg.



Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Profligate Punished Cap

Just in case anyone thinks we sleep at Larkin & Smith, we are launching another cap kit.  This cap is based on a rare view of the back of a cap.  We always see the front of someone, not the back in most period prints and portraits.  Really who wants to take a pic of the back of anyone's head?  Not done then and not done now.


The Profligate Punished, c 1775


When I first saw the cap, I loved it. The woman is wearing a sacque, and we see that back view of the bag/caul and lappets, a side view of the puffs and pleated wings around the face. The fabric is very sheer.

 So on to my interpretation.  You can find it on the Larkin & Smith website HERE. 




When designing the cap, I decided to go with two lappets, not four, because I thought four would overwhelm most, just wearing two lappets is a novelty.




This cap looks lovely on a woman of middle years as well as on a younger woman.  It is utterly charming on both of our models.


This is a cap you can wear to the ball.  Fancy and Saucy at the same time.  Unusual but flattering.  Very 1770s.  This cap was the favorite at the photo shoot by everyone watching.


Sunday, March 29, 2015

Big Hair Needs a Big Cap

By the 1780s, big hair has begun to change, the big part has somewhat flattened out, more to the sides of the head than the jutting skyscrapers of the 1770s.  The "hedgehog" is all the mode.  As an aside,  "skyscraper" is an 18th century term for the uppermost sail, one of those pieces of trivia that you can't shake off. 

So here is a big cap for big hair.  I call this the "Manchester Mob".  More pictures to come and the kit will be available soon.  But I could not resist posting a few pictures now.  Keep in mind, this cap will swallow, nay verily devour a head without the correct volume of hair beneath.

The design is based on two extant caps I have studied, one in the Manchester City Galleries and one in the Museum of London.   Miss D… is wearing a gown from our soon to be released new pattern.


Big Hair really is accented by a big fluffy backside!  Sorta balances things.


This bum roll was designed for our new gown pattern and is included in the pattern.  Instead of making the gown fit the bum roll, the bum roll was made to fit the original gown.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Ebay Finds

Trolling around Ebay this week turned up a couple of  items of interest.  First a 1780s Robe a l' Anglaise. The gown has been mismarked by the dealer as a "Francaise".  


 A bit faded, the striped silk suggests a later 18th century date as does the style. The sleeves are on the longer side, with interesting triangular shaped pinks.  We so often see the scalloped version.  It is nice to see the other style.


What is unusual about this gown is the extreme chevroning to the center back pieces, which at first suggests a remodel somewhere along the way.  Chevroning does take place with a stripe on any gown back, but this is much more than any I have ever seen.  It is a deliberate design choice.



Looking at the interior view however suggests it was not a remodel.  The lining looks intact and original. The construction is in the later style where the two fabrics are turned into each other then seamed.  You can easily see the ridges of the seam.  It is a shame this gown is so faded.  The inside view shows a much more vibrant silk. 


Something you don't see often for sale. This pieced pocket is listed with American provenance, and is late 18th, early 19th century.   It is always nice to look at these, since the pieces may often be much earlier fabrics than the date of construction.  I think the red fabric looks earlier than any of the others. 






Wednesday, March 11, 2015

18thc Mantua Maker Trade Cards

A recent posting of 18th Century Trade Cards on our Hive Facebook page, made me, yes, it made me spend a number of hours last night paging through a LOT of trade cards.  A few of them of special interest to many of us.

 The British Museum has a tremendous number of Trade Cards, both 18th and 19th century, many from the Ambrose Heal Collection, a famous collection of ephemera.

First, Mantua Makers.

Search terms: Mantua Maker Trade Cards, Dress Maker Trade Cards, Dressmaker Trade Cards, Mantuamaker Trade Cards.

Results:
Dressmaker Trade Card-1 hit, 1890

Dress Maker Trade Card-0 hits

Mantua Maker Trade Card- 0 hits

Mantuamaker Trade Card-0 hits

So obviously not the correct search terms.  The one that worked: Milliner trade cards.  That search term brought up the "mantua maker" trade cards, obviously a function of the search index of the museum.

Most Amusing/Strangest Mantua Maker Trade Card


British Museum, Ref: Heal 86.6

This enterprising woman is informing all she will answer questions re love, law and absent friends and those things that Celestial science can answer.  Not a word about dressmaking, but she does make house calls.  One has to wonder if her expertise lies in gossip or her needle?

Most Interesting Mantua Maker Trade Card


British Museum, Ref: Banks, 86.49
This Mantua and Sacque Maker offers new and genteel fashions, and also great insight as well as documentation for how gowns were made without fittings in person.

"Ladies residing in the country, may be fitted in the exactest manner by sending w.th (with) their Command a Gown or pair of stays w.ch (which) fits them".

It has come to be believed by many that the only way one can make a gown is by "draping" and fitting directly on the body.  But it has long been my belief that there were other methods to create a gown for those not within easy traveling distance of a dressmaker.  This offers one more way for women to acquire well fitting gowns.  It is logical, sensible, and probably quite profitable too.

 Most Attractive Mantua Maker Trade Card


British Museum, Ref: Banks, 86.55

This one has a date and is telling us that sacques were still being worn and fashionable in 1781.


Most Informational Mantua Maker Trade Card


British Museum, Ref: Heal 86.29

  c1780 this trade card lists prices for gowns, sacques, circassians, jackets with prices of the labor for each.  Also great coats for ladies, not a term one sees very often.

More next post on trade cards.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

A Fashionable Apron

Switching off caps for a few posts to go once again to that fashion accessory often ignored, under achieved, or just plain passed over.  The humble apron is not so humble in 18th century fashion prints. A utility garment for the poor transforms into conspicuous consumption for the well to do.

As we are nearing completion of our new gown pattern and getting ready for the final photo shoot, the light dawned on this MarbleHead, that we needed accessories.  And first up is the apron.

We have actually changed the nomenclature of this pattern to be " A Fashionable Gown", we agree with Kendra that the term "Polonaise" is overused and misapplied and decided to stick with a generic term since no one at this point can pin down a darn name for these gowns.

So now we need a"Fashionable" apron for our "Fashionable Gown".   So off to the print media to see what's what.

Two Ladies in the Dress of 1779
A very "high fashion" fashion plate, with very high hats!  It does have the type of apron one would expect.  A deep full ruffle at  the bottom of the apron is landing on top of the ruffle of the petticoat.  A different look with the contrasting height of the ruffles but kinda ho hum.

 And one heck of a lot of hemming.  If you have never hemmed silk gauze you have missed one of life's challenges.  It is alive, slippery and fights every step of the way.  Let's just say not the most cooperative fabric in the world.

A Lady in the Dress of 1777
This apron is shorter, probably muslin or linen with a scalloped border.  It leaves enough of the petticoat showing to not distract the eye from either.  So thinking shorter is better for what I want to do.

Three Ladies in the Dress of 1777

Now here are two apron styles that I like.  Different, short, but each has some additional trim that may require some serious hours.

The center figure has a shaped apron that looks relatively small in width, with a simple ruffle around the edge.  Doable but again a lot of hemming.  It could be muslin, this apron does not look very sheer.  Muslin is easier than silk gauze but does not have quite the same effect.

The other apron is oval shaped at the bottom.  Two rows of what look like ruching or ribbon puffs.  A heck of a lot of ribbon.  A lot of hand sewing, but I like this one too.

Bought some cheap white net a Jo-Anns with a coupon and once the dress is mounted will start playing around with shapes.  Making a muslin of an apron might sound a little like overkill, but wasting time hemming an apron whose proportions are not right would kill me.

As you can probably tell from reading this I have predetermined to use silk gauze for the apron.  Muslin would work well too and I have some lovely muslin, but I want the silk.  It is so sheer and light and beautiful.


 



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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

More Winged Caps

Winged caps in their many variations continue thru the 1770s.  This print, "The Amorous Thief", shows lace attached to the edge of the wing. 

Lewis Walpole Library, c1777


The closeup detail clearly shows the lace.  


My version of the "Amorous Thief".  The lace is vintage French Cotton and quite good.  Not an exact replica but a good substitute.  And shameless plug, you can buy the Kit Here, till the lace runs out and then it will no longer be available.

Portrait of a Woman, Metropolitan Museum, c1777
This woman's cap I would also put in the category of a winged cap, with a lot of applied trim, including a striped ribbon. This is a miniature by Charles Wilson Peale.

Macaroni Parson, Lewis Walpole Library, 1773
Here the two wings are lace, with ribbon puffs and a bow, but the bag/caul is plain.  You can clearly see if the wings were up that this would be a "fly cap", basically what happened with that cap is that the  fly's plopped down onto the head instead of standing proud of the head.  So actually this progression in style is just a variation of the earlier caps.

"Autumn", British Museum,  c1779


The winged cap for the lower sorts.  Not much different in style from the upper class, but here the wings are plain fabric like the cap and not lace.


"Sailor's Present, British Museum c 1779

I have done a version of this cap as well.











Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Pleat This-Crimp That

Continuing on with pleated caps.  Lots and lots of pleated caps and lots and lots of caps that I think are crimped not pleated.  Opines are always welcome and are especially important when making subjective observations that are not based on extant objects.

Female Lucubration, British Museum, c1772


Art Institute of Chicago

The same print from the Art Institute of Chicago. A better view of the cap, her sleeve ruffles and also of her apron, and handkerchief

Her cap has very shallow knife pleats around her face, puffs along the join of the pleats and a decorative ribbon that does not appear to go around her head.  The ribbon puffs appear to be made from a ribbon at least two inches wide.

Of note are the apron strings going around the back of the gown.  It has been suggested to me that women put their apron strings through the pocket slits in order to not break the line of the gown in the back. The views of the back of women's gowns do not bear this theory out so far, but something to keep in mind while examining artwork.  Clearly here the apron strings are tied around the back and then to the front.



Queen Charlotte, 1771, Royal Collection Trust

This ring has a similar cap to the lucubrator above worn by Queen Charlotte, which brings up the question.  Could this be a "Queen's Cap"?  I don't think there will ever be an answer to that, but if you have the question, you may stumble on the answer somewhere along the way.

Charlotte's cap is more high end, sharper pleats with more decorations at center front.  Smaller ribbon puffs and I think it is wired or heavily starched.  Possibly crimped but it could be pleated.  Difficult to tell, so for this one I am leaning towards pleats but could be shoved over to crimped with a little push.

Attributed to  Copley

This portrait has no date or provenance.  It has been speculated to be by Copley, but who knows.  Now this cap could be crimped.  Very simple in design, but the fabric is lovely, sheer gauze.   This is going to be the next project since I have finished the Elizabeth Carr cap.   I have the gauze, the design, just need the hours.  I have experimented with crimping silk gauze, easy peasy.  A post on that soon.
.



Saturday, February 28, 2015

The "Winged" Cap

Probably the winning style for the 1770s.  The winged cap has as many variations as there are wings on birds.  Clearly a take on the "dormeuse" style, the English versions vary in size, style and placement on the head in the same year.   This cap also is able to adapt to the status and hairstyle of the wearer.  A very versatile cap, that in my opinion becomes another cap in the 1780s but that is another post.

One of the first new caps that I copied this winter was "The Enterprising Chimney Sweeper" worn by the maidservant in this print c1772.  The text reads "So fine a girl! you must belie her, would never let that sweep come nigh her" 

Note: Some people have found this print offensive.  I see a small chimney sweep covered in soot stealing an embrace with no racial twist.  Others do not see it that way and we all know that what one individual sees another does not.  (Insert gold and white dress.)

Lewis Walpole Library, c1772




A large loose bag/caul and sweeping winged knife pleats surround her face.  And note her cropped hair.  When looking at many of these prints of lower class women, noticeable bangs/short hair is more frequent than one would think.  Not fashionable.  Not stylish.  Not something you think of for women in the 18th century.

But.. WARNING.. speculation ahead.  What did a poor girl have to sell besides the obvious? What did the wigmakers need?  Hair.  Lots and lots of hair.  Where did the hair come from?  Is it beyond the bounds to imagine a servant selling her hair?  Something to put in the back of the noggin as we look at some of these lower class prints.


Why call it a "winged cap" instead of a "dormeuse"?

British Museum, c1774
From "A Description of the latest Fashions of the Year 1774".

 "cap with small wings".

British Museum, 1778

This time from 1778.

"caps, large wings, or queen's caps; no lappets nor streamers"

This is not the first reference I have found for "queen's cap", but which Queen?  Charlotte or Marie?



Since life is never simple, here we have not only a "queen's mob" we also have a "queen's round cap" to muddy the waters.  Did the "queen's" cap of 1778 look anything like the "queen's" cap of 1765?  Or was the name reflecting the current style of cap being worn by the queen?  Having the early reference to the "queen" does make it more likely to be Queen Charlotte rather than Marie.




Friday, February 27, 2015

New Pattern Coming Soon

Our new Larkin& Smith pattern is almost ready to launch.  It has come back from the grader and we are working diligently on the directions.  Extremely important to us is that the directions be clear, organized and sensible to someone looking at the pattern for the first time.  No modern shortcuts means period construction which is actually soooo much easier than crazy sewing machine workarounds.

So what is it?

What to call this gown was problematical.  No lie.  It is what we today would call a version of a "zone", it could be called a "French Fly Away" style.  We decided to call it a "Polonaise", since that is what so many versions of this gown are named as in the French Fashion Prints.

Original Gown



The gown is in a private collection, making the ability to examine, measure and replicate this gown much easier.  Actually it would have been very difficult to incorporate all of the very small but important details of construction without the ability to look at it every day and examine every tiny detail up close.



Deceptively simple.  The glory of this gown is how the skirt flares out over the bum roll which is not only required when wearing this gown, but also included in the gown pattern itself.   Tiny pleats, smaller than you have ever made before ( I can almost guarantee), are the focal point.  And we walk  you through it, step by step.



We will be blogging a lot more about this gown, the pattern and the style itself in the weeks to come.  It has been a pleasure to work on and we hope everyone else enjoys making it as much as we have.