Friday, December 1, 2017

Victorian Calling Cards

Victorian calling cards were prevalent in the 19th Century.    Priscilla Rose, also known as Sleigh Gal, found the following very interesting article in her magazine, The Carriage Journal.  This article was written by Gregory Cuffey.
 The tradition of using calling cards began in England, and they were considered an important part of introductions, invitations and visits.

During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Americans followed the English tradition of calling cards.


These cards were used when calling on friends, relatives and business acquaintances.   This was
considered proper etiquette for men and women in the middle and upper classes, in order to help them screen those who were socially undesirable.

Most gentlemen and women kept a handy supply of calling cards with them to distribute during visits.  These cards were often very simple in design, giving the caller's name and often including the name or logo of his or her favorite interest or organization.

There were many rules and traditions that went along with the use of these cards.  At the simplest:  When calling upon a friend you would give your card to the servant who answered the door.  The servant would be holding a silver tray, and the card would be placed upon it.

If the person one was calling on was at home, the servant would take the card to her, and she would come meet you.  If the person being called upon was not at home, the servant would leave the card for when he or she returned.

Generally, at a caller's first visit to a home, he or she would simple leave a card and then depart.  If the new acquaintance wished to participate in a formal visit, she would send a card in return.  If no card was sent, or if the card was sent in an envelope, this was a sign that the new acquaintance did not prefer a personal visit.

This Brougham Sleigh held the above calling card holder.   It is part of the Skyline Farm Carriage and Sleigh Museum, located in North Yarmouth, Maine.  You can read about the museum at their website  

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Victorian Fashion in Paintings

We can learn quite a lot about Victorian fashion by observing paintings from the era. Many artists lovingly recreated the folds and textures of the fabrics their subjects wore.

"A Song Sweetly Sung" by Dutch painter Jan Frederik Pieter Portielje

The painting shows us a mother and daughter listening to their pet bird singing.   The mother is wearing a beautiful sheer overdress, detailed with insertion lace, and sheer ruffles edged in lace.  A lavender under dress gives it a soft glow of color.   Pretty silk bows decorate the sides of her trained skirt.  

"Toilette", oil on canvas, painted by Jules James Rougeron in 1877. 

The end of the first bustle era, This beautiful pink ensemble consists of a bodice with a peplum, edged with rose trim. The same trim is added to the cuffs and around the neck. The double layered over skirt with rose trim ties with a large bow, the ends of which are fringed. The trained, ruffled skirt has white bows and a balayeuse (dust ruffle) peeps out from underneath.

 "Traveler (Bridesmaid)" by James Tissot, c1884.

Natural form era walking length outfit.  Bustles were out of fashion, and skirts were worn with a petticoat or two.  A small pad was sometimes used to lift the trains and ruffles in back.This pretty dress has the long cuirass bodice over a tight, multi-tiered skirt.

"Portrait of an Elegant Lady" by Francois Brunery, oil on canvas, 1889.

This beautiful late bustle era gown shows us the large, jutting bustle of the mid 80s.  The front of her gown is beaded, and rose garlands cascade down the sides.  She carries a feather fan.

"Portrait of a Lady with Pink Rose" Clemens Brewer 1883.

This is a pretty natural form era outfit, just before the second bustle era began.  White cuirass bodice with blue pleated trim, and an overskirt with side pleats and blue bows.


"Women on a Balcony" by Frederic Soulacroix, mid-1880’s

Pretty white "tea cart" bustle skirt with a draped, split front over skirt. The white bodice has pleats around the bottom to allow it to fit over the bustle. The grey bodice may have a faux white vest, as this style was popular during this time period.

James Tissot, "Les Demoiselles De Province"   

Beautiful natural form era ball gowns, c 1878-1882  The Cuirass bodices are long, and very close to the body on the pink and white gowns.  The pink bodice looks laced down the back, while the white one buttons down the front.  All three dresses are covered in frothy sheer ruffles from the knees down, while tightly ruched around the hips. Floral sprays adorn the skirts.

 Ángel María Cortellini Hernández  oil on canvas 1855 "Portrait of a Lady"    

A lovely dress of dark pink satin.  Each flounce of the skirt is hand painted in gold.  There were multiple petticoats holding the skirt out.  The bodice has gold bows down the front, and the same bows run down the front of the skirt.  Pretty pointed lace edges the three flounces and down the front of the bodice.

 "Portrait of a Lady in Satin Dress" by Bolesław Łaszczyński, 1882.  

An ivory and pale pink brocade bodice decorated with pink satin bows and trim, with a pink satin, a split over skirt in the same brocade, over a pleated skirt.  She has a shawl, gloves and fan as her accessories.

Portrait of Mrs Lockett Agnew, Sir Samuel Luke Fildes, 1887-88

Her outfit is in a lovely ivory striped fabric, with gold under bodice and matching gold buttons and bows.  This attire is called  "Directoire Revival", which revives the riding habit look of the 1790s, complete with tall hat adorned with ostrich feathers.

Submitted by Shenandoah Rose

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Victorian Hairstyles

Today, our hairstyles come and go, following trends established by the media.  The same held true for Victorian era women.  The methods may have changed, for example, today's tv stars vs. yesterday's stage stars, Glamour magazine vs. Godey's Lady's Book. Hair styled like the Oscar winning actress vs. the traveling Parisian opera singer.

Here is an overview of the most popular hairstyles in the Victorian Era, 1830s to the end of the century.

In the early 30s, a ridiculous hairstyle known as the Biedermeier was in vogue.  Poofed, braided and towering, with ribbons and flowers to make it even taller.  When Queen Victoria took the throne in 1837, women followed the queen's more dignified style. A center part, smooth sides drawn back and finished with a braided bun in the back.

The 40s started off much in the same way as the Queen Victoria portrait above, but the sides became looped or smoothed to the jawline, sometimes referred to as dog ears.  By the late 40s, side curls replaced the somewhat severe plaits.

 The 50s began adding volume to their styles.  Still parted down the middle, the fullness was out to the sides. The back was in a bun or braided.  By the end of the 50s, the fullness moved to the back of the head is a softer chignon. 

The 60s finally brought a soft, feminine and complementary look to styles.   Curls, ringlets and flowers were popular for evening, and daytime style were pretty braids and chignons in the back, with ribbons and lace.  The front was slightly waved.

The 70s brought an explosion of false hair pieces!  Nothing was to big for some of these ladies.  Hair moved up to the top of the head, with braids and sausage curls cascading down the back.

By the late 70s, those crazy styles calmed down, and as skirts narrowed, so did the hair.  They lost the huge, thick hair hairpieces, and opted for a low chignon in the back or just one or two tasteful long curls, some height on top and the beginning of a curly bang was born.

Hair in the 80s took a very severe turn.  Gone were the huge styles of the 70s, and hair was put up again in the back.  The big change was the new fringe or bangs.  This consisted of a tightly curled or frizzed swatch from ear to ear.  Hair on the sides was pulled back tightly.  It was refined for the evening, with extra braiding, ribbons and flowers, with some smaller curls down the neck.

 The 90s was an era of changes, in lifestyles, clothing, advancement in technology and business.  The 90s woman was heading towards more independence, and it showed in her attitude and appearance.
The Gibson girl was born, confident and often employed.  With her sensible outfit of blouse and skirt, her hair was put up in a looser topknot.  Very soft and full, unlike the severe 80s.  By the turn of the century, the Victorian era was over, and the topknot turned into a full pompadour style, favored by the famous Gibson girls of the time.

Submitted by Shenandoah Rose