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

Monday, July 31, 2017

Victorian Parasols

A parasol is a light, usually small, umbrella that is used as protection from the scorching heat of the sun. The name, parasol comes from its Old Italian French name, parasole, which is derived from the Italian word parare, which means prepare or ward off, and the Latin word, sol, which means sun or sunlight.  Since then, "parasol" has come to denote specifically a shade that protects against the sun, while "umbrella" indicates an item that provides protection from the rain.

By the Victorian era parasols were often larger as they were by then more utilitarian and designed to protect the face from sunburn since a suntan was a common vulgar look for a real gentle lady.

In the 1600s, especially in France and England, parasols were made of the finest French laces and silk and have hand-carved handles that are made of wood or ivory.  Between 1700 and 1800, long-handled lace parasols, probably in gold and silver which were the popular lace colors at such time – became the object of beauty among their kind.  Between 1800 and 1900, small parasols, alongside fringed umbrellas, long-handled or walking-stick lace and silk parasols, and gold-tipped lace umbrellas rose to fame with smaller hats to match.

The history of parasols can be traced back to the 16th century following the arrival of the Chinese silk parasols in Europe in the early 16th century via the Silk Road, probably by means of trading, and the rapid development of lace thereon in the mid-16th century as an openwork fabric sewn from a single thread and needle (needle lace) or with multiple threads (bobbin lace).

Lace parasols have had a long and rich history in Europe, especially during the 1600s and early 1900s. Apparently, it is from these eras, which saw the height of the opulence and elegance in Europe's society, parasols are associated with items of luxury, feminine class, and elegance.

Regardless of their expensive price, women owned lace parasols in different colors to match every outfit – a long dress gown or dress with fitted top and full, heavy skirt, which was the central clothing for women at the time. When riding in a carriage, ladies would make sure that their driver pulls down the carriage's convertible top so her lace parasol is seen.

Parasols from the 1840’s and early 1850’s are somewhat larger, and longer than those of the late ‘50’s and 1860’s. The ribs would be made of cane or baleen, which make them fragile, but our ancestors didn’t throw out their old things; they put them away, and many old parasols have repairs, proving that women took care of their expensive belongings.

The later 1840’s and early ‘50’s, most parasols had folding handles, long slender sticks, silk covers and long silk fringes.  Colors ranged from browns, through greens, and blues, but nearly all dark shades.  Fringes matched or coordinated. Brocades were common, and plain silks with woven satin stripes at the edge we used. There usually was a small ivory cap on the end of the handle, and the finial at the top was often ornately carved, and could be up to 4” of more long.  Typical lengths – including the finial – could be 29 - 34” or even a bit more.

Midway through the ‘50’s, the parasol began to decrease in size.  As the lady’s bonnets became smaller, and closer to her head, the parasol followed suit. Sticks were shorter, and little hooks at the end became common.  Also, brighter colors appeared, and plaids, ikat ribbon types and brocades were popular.  Short fringes were still common, but ruffles, and pinked edges were coming into vogue. In this period you begin to see the tiny finger-sized hook on the end of the handle, and often an ivory ring through the finial. Also available at this time, we begin to see parasols covered in white and other light and bright colors, with hand and machine made black lace overlays.  However they are covered, the overall length is not more than about 26”, with ribs of 8” 11”.

Here parasols start to divide into two groups.  The single most common 1860’s American parasol is a quite simple marquis (tilting) style with a folding handle.  The cover is black, and it is lined most often in black; but sometimes in white, cream or pale pink.  Earliest examples have very plain handles painted black with a ball, onion, lozenge, or plain hook at the end.  As the era progressed, the handles became more ornate, often with intricate carving; but still covered in black.  Many have ruffles around the edge, and some have two or three ruffles, and some have pinked edges.  
I have never seen one of this style with fringe.  These seem to have been sold at department stores in major cities so there are many still around.  Frames were sturdy, and ribs were made of steel painted

The other main type of parasols available during this time, is similar in frame, but has brighter silk covers made of taffeta in checks, plaids, and beautifully printed “ribbon” designs. Handles often have that little hook on the end as well.  Many of these seem to have come from France and England where there was no war going on, and no shortages of fabrics

Another type of began to come into vogue just post war as bonnets became tiny and perched atop the 
head.  It has a straight handle, and is very tiny with brightly colored silk covers, and pale silk with lace overlays.  The frames are made of steel, often with brass sticks and chip carved wood handles and finials; or lovely carved ivory or bone handles and finials.  This style can be documented to 1867.

By the mid 1870s, Handles became as long as walking sticks. (See 1875 fashion plate, below) handles continued to stay long into the 1880s and beyond. (See 1882 fashion plate, right).

 Towards the end of the 19th century, shafts grew longer and decoration simpler. The maximum shaft length of up to 45 inches was reached around 1910-1915, when they went up to chest level of an average-height lady of the time. Diameters also grew in proportion. Until well into the 20th century, bent handles as we know them from umbrellas were not used for parasols: Straight handles were predominant and more or less made up the distinction between parasol and umbrella, along with the cover, which tended to be black and undecorated for umbrellas, and the length/diameter ratio, which was about 1/1 for parasols and closer to 1/2 for umbrellas. 

Carved Ivory, bone, wood
Bejeweled, ornate
Silver, Gold, Mother of pearl 

Type of parasols
Carriage Parasol (folding)
Walking Parasol
Marquis (Tilt & Folding) 

Submitted by Velvet Rose