Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Dress of the Week: Candy Stripe Jacket

The weather is sunny and summery, but it's still very cold. So I thought a lady, such as myself, needs something bright and fun, but still warm enough to avoid early summer head colds.

Jacket, 1790, France, Kyoto Costume Institute
This is a French jacket from 1790s made of red and white striped plain silk with silver-colored buttons and an over-sized fold-back collar with scalloped edges. The metal buttons in two rows down the front make for a great accent. I also like the little fichu provided for warmth and modesty and the black ribbon around the throat.

By the end of 1770s, English country living was in vogue not only in England, but also in France, which led to more simplified and practical fashions. "Redingotes," or riding coat, worn by men, greatly influenced women's style and brought about pretty fitted jackets such as this one.

American Duchess has recreated this lovely jacket and it looks brilliant!

Source: Kyoto Costume Institute

Monday, May 28, 2012

Pineapple Bag: Past and Present

Some say that fashion is cyclical. Those who say that were probably shopping at H&M recently. As I was walking along the aisles of brightly-colored dresses and sunhats, I came across this fun little pineapple bag. "Hmm, this looks familiar," thought I.

And then it hit me! The resemblance is uncanny.

©The Kyoto Costume Institute

This three-dimensional knitted pineapple bag is called a 'reticule' and is one of the treasures of the Kyoto Costume Institute. In the late 18th - early 19th century, when women surrendered their voluminous skirts for the new neoclassical style, they also had to give up their pockets, and so a tiny bag for daily necessities was created. This pineapple reticule is made with yellow and green silk and decorated with silver beads and tassels. You can see a more detailed image here.

There was a certain taste for the exotic in the early 19th century, in part due to the influence of Joséphine Bonaparte, who was from the Island of Martinique, in part due to increasing interest in Egypt, Greece and Rome. And I feel like this zany bag was quite the hit of the season.

Now, if you're handy with knitting needles, you can make your own version of this bag thanks to knitter and blogger Isabel Gancedo who create very detailed instructions for it.

As for me, I will have to be content with the H&M version. Note to self, must learn to knit.    

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Dress of the Week: Day Dress

Would you believe it, it's nearly the end of May and the it's finally warm? It was almost +20C yesterday. (I live in the north) This heatwave is making me think summery thoughts and yearn for something floral and pretty.

Day Gown, France, 1897,  FIDM
Day Gown
Paris, France, c. 1897
P. Barroin, Designer
Printed dotted Swiss, silk chiffon, silk taffeta & cotton braid
Gift of Jane Riggs & Lynelle Doll

This dress is absolutely fabulous and perfect for summer walks. There are layers upon layers of pattern, which I think is really fun. The straw hat with a black veil is so cute. I've been looking for something like that for a while. Though I find the slit down the middle of the bodice a little unnerving. I would love to wear something like this.            

Source: FIDM Museum 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Lucy Worsley Talks Regency Politics

The third and last part of Elegance and Decadence presented by Lucy Worsley is about the highs and the lows of the political and social environment of the Regency. It was a time of great technological breakthroughs (the steam engine) and, at the same time, an age of great social injustice (land enclosure).

As I watched this last part of the series about an era that is so often associated with elegance, cottages and Jane Austen, I thought how little things have change. Here we have a world trying to come to terms with mindboggling technological advancement; the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer; some people inciting violence, others trying to bring about peaceful reform. It's not all that different from our own age, really.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Dress of the Week: Boué Soeurs Dress

This week I had to travel in time to the 20th century to get a dress. It so happens that today is my friend's wedding. And she decided to give it an Art Deco/1920s look. The guests are encouraged to dress appropriately. And while I already have a lovely midnight blue flapper dress, I could not resist looking at some lovely gowns from the past.

After careful deliberation I chose this Boué Soeurs evening dress.

Evening dress, 1920s, Met Museum
Evening dress, 1920s, back, Met Museum
Date: 1920–25
Country: French
Medium: cotton, linen, silk, metallic thread
Dimensions: Length at CB: 44 1/2 in. (113 cm)
Credit Line: Bequest of Sally Fenlon-Young, 1979
Some may say that this dress is too busy, but I love it. The embroidered cotton pinafore is so darling. And the bow with ribbon flowers on the side is the bee's knees. I am rather partial to lace, whitework and ribbons.

While 1920s are usually associated with flapper style -  lots of beads and fringes - this dress has a very Belle Époque vibe. I feel like even back in the 1920s it probably looked almost vintage.

Source: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Friday, May 11, 2012

Dress of the Week: Robe à l'anglaise

This weekend I will be going away to the country. No, not to my estate, but to an overnight theater boot camp. We will rehearse, eat, drink, and go for many delightful walks around the lake. I will need something lovely, but practical; elegant, but sturdy.

Ah, but of course! I shall wear this    

Robe à l'anglaise,1790-1795, Kyoto Costume Institute
Dress (robe à l'anglaise), England, 1790-1795
Brown plain-weave cotton with floral block print; boned at center back; petticoat of cotton whitework with all-over foliate pattern; fichu of cotton whitework. - Kyoto Costume Institute
It is simply perfect for chilly weather and long walks. The gloves will keep my hands warm and the bonnet will protect me against the wind and the sun. The green ribbon trimming gives it a touch of spring elegance. But it is the block floral print on brown English cotton that really inspires me. It's dark enough to withstand the mud and dirt of the country, yet the jovial print will make me look quite picturesque against the backdrop of the woods and streams.   

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Lucy Worsley Talks Regency Brand

Elegance and Decadence series continues with Dr Lucy Worsley's take on Developing the Regency Brand. Regency was a time of great change, both politically and aesthetically. And I just love her way of narrating. She seems so psyched about all of this.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Costuming for the Stage: Chemical Imbalance: A Jekyll and Hyde Play

It's no secret that I'm crazy about theater. I love almost all aspects of it - directing, acting, managing, writing, and especially costuming. Right now my theater group is putting on a production of Lauren Wilson's Chemical Imbalance: A Jekyll and Hyde Play and I had volunteered to create the costumes.

Chemical Imbalance by TA. Image Tiia Tuominen @ Helsinki University Museum
The thing with amateur theater is that there's always a shortage of time and money. Most people have full-time jobs or studies and just don't have the time to make costumes from scratch. And fabric and other material can be pretty costly. So we have to make do with what we have - borrow stuff from friendly theater groups and buy old clothes, altering them to look period.

The play is set in pseudo-Victorian England so I could take quite a bit of liberty with costumes. So I decided we won't be using any corsets (it's a slapstick comedy, and corsets are just too restrictive) and we'll set it at the turn of the century, early-Edwardian era.
Edwardian couple
I went through our storage and found a few fabulous dresses. They just needed a bit of jazzing up to give them the feel if not the look of the era and a bit of visual comedy value. So, this is the story of a dress. A dress for a rich lady with horrible taste - Lady Throckmortonshire.

Lady Throckmortonshire
This is the dress I started with. The sleeves were puffy and the cut was all right. The wine red color worked perfectly for the character. It just needed more trimmings.  

My first attempt was unsuccessful. The gold and brown trim that I'd chosen made the dress look medieval. I tried following the sharp pointy waistline, but it was just not right for the Edwardian style.

I realized that what a Belle Époque gown really needs is lace. Lots and lots of lace. I wish I had more time to trim the hem as well, but I was a bit short on lace.

Lady Throckmortonshire is painfully overdressed. So I added some bows. With pearls and a cameo this was going to look great.

Lady Throckmortonshire and Caliope. Image (c) Stuart D. McQuade

The final result.

If you want to read my musings on costumes for this play, you can find the full post HERE.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Lucy Worsley Talks Regency Era

BBC never stops wowing us with wonderfully informative and beautifully done productions. Elegance and Decadence: The Age of the Regency is a three part series presented by Dr Lucy Worsley. The first episode is dedicated to the man himself - Prince Regent, warts and all.

Dr Worsley is also the author of If Walls Could Talk: An Intimate History of the Home, a book I'm dying to get my hands on.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Dress of the Week: Walking Dress

I seem to be running out of types of dresses.

The weather  is still anything but mild. It may be May, but it's positively Aprilish around here. The sun is shining, enticing a lady to go out, but how is she to do this with this horrid sharp wind blowing from the sea. Only one solution - I must don a pretty spring-y walking dress. Like this one.

Ackermann’s Repository, Walking Dress, April 1817
I love the lilac spencer. The color is so beautiful, and the high ruffled color is just what one needs to keep oneself from catching a chill. The matching bonnet has a really pretty trim and the flowers make it feel like a perfect accessory for the spring. But those little white satin slippers are too delicate for our dusty roads and I would be too scared to mar the lacy hem of this dress.  
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