Thursday, July 30, 2015

True Love According to Helen Rowland

Thursday, July 30, 2015
La Câline
Loretta reports:

Helen Rowland (1875-1850)was called “America’s Bernard Shaw.” Unfortunately, not an awful lot is known about her, and I’ve turned up exactly two pictures (one only last night—to feature in a future post).

It’s been a while since I’ve posted any of her wit and wisdom.* This one, on love, is rather sweet, for her.

*Blog posts here, here, and here.
True Love

Page images from Helen Rowland, A Guide to Men: Being Encore Reflections of a Bachelor Girl (1922).

Illustration: "La Câline," from Gazette du bon ton (1922) [edited], courtesy Internet Archive.

Clicking on the image will enlarge it.  Clicking on the caption will take you to the source, where you can learn more and enlarge images as needed.

True Love

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

What the Seamstresses Wore, c.1775

Wednesday, July 29, 2015
Isabella reporting,

I'm visiting Colonial Williamsburg again this week, and of course I visited our friends in the Margaret Hunter millinery shop. In the past, I've shared different posts about what some of these shop's ladies were wearing (here's a mantua-maker's apprentice, a woman blacksmith, and a housewife), all dressed in replicas of 18thc clothing that was made by hand in the shop. Everything is cut, fitted, and stitched entirely by hand, using 18thc methods, and I'll be writing about more of their fashions in the next few posts.

This summer, the shop is blessed with a number of hardworking and gifted young interns to help not only with interpretations for visitors, but also contribute their stitching skills with a needle.

This would have been quite typical of an 18thc mantua-maker's (dressmaker's) shop. The shop's mistress of the trade, likely the owner, would be the one who designed and fitted the dresses, and interacted the most with customers. The more complicated work in creating the dresses would be done by the next level of skilled worker, the journey-women. Below them would be the apprentices, and at the bottom of the shop's hierarchy would be the seamstresses, women whose skills were usually limited to straight seams and "plain" stitching. As can be expected, there were more seamstresses than anything else, and they were the lowest on the pay scale, too. Georgian literature is filled with pitiful seamstresses who cannot make ends meet on their meager earnings, and too often meet with unhappy endings.

I can report,  however, that the intern/seamstresses in the Margaret Hunter shop are all prospering merrily, and all say they'll be very sorry to see their internships end. Here are two of them, dressed appropriately for their station and positions working in a fashionable shop around 1775.

On the left, above, is Maggie Roberts. She is wearing a jacket that laces up the front, and is made from a reproduction Dutch printed cotton. The jacket is worn with a tucker, a cotton kerchief, a ruffled cotton cap with a silk ribbon, a cotton apron over a linen petticoat, and a coral necklace. On the right is Peryn Westerhof Nyman, who is wearing a center-front closing English gown with her skirts looped up over her petticoat, a cotton apron, cap, and kerchief, and silk ribbon bows on her bodice and cap.
As you can see, above right, both young women are also wearing the period-correct underthings to give themselves the fashionable shape of the era. They're both wearing boned stays, plus bum rolls and extra petticoats to give them the stylish full, wide backsides. (Read more about 18thc bum rolls and false rumps here.)

And yes, these saucy seamstresses were turned out literally head to toe in their Georgian finery, lower left, and eager to show off their flirtatious clocked stockings. (There must have been some male apprentices nearby.) The pink-heeled mules were made by journey-woman Sarah Woodyard, while the the black shoes and the reproduction stockings are made by the company American Duchess.

Interested in becoming a mantua-maker's intern next summer? The Margaret Hunter shop begins accepting applications in late winter for the following summer. Follow them on Facebook for more information as it becomes available.

All photographs ©2015 by Susan Holloway Scott.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

An Early 1900s Lingerie Dress for Hot Summer Days

Tuesday, July 28, 2015
Loretta reports:

It’s steamy weather in New England. Nowadays when temperatures soar, we shed layers of clothing. Depending on our age and fashion sense, we wear not only fewer clothes, but skimpier ones: short sleeves or no sleeves, short skirts, short shorts.

This was not the case in times past. An Edwardian lady would faint dead away if someone proposed she go out of her bedroom, let alone go out in public, with her limbs exposed. Same goes for her predecessors.

As Isabella/Susan has shown in dress posts here and here, the solution in the past was lighter weight, airier materials.
For the late Victorian and Edwardian eras and continuing into the 1920s, the solution was the lingerie dress. During a visit to the American Textile History Museum in Lowell Massachusetts for Astrida Schaeffer's talk, Mentioning Unmentionables, I took photos of this fine example of a lingerie dress from the museum's collection.

I’m posting the information card from the museum, but you can find out a great deal more about lingerie dresses from this post at On Pins and Needles, which includes some lovely illustrations.

A few more examples:
1913  here
1915  here

1917  here
The dress, dated 1904-07, is the gift of Michelle Whitlow. It belonged to the estate of her great grandmother, Miriam Olive Hill.

Please click on images to enlarge.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

From the Archives: Helen Vincent, Viscountess D'Abernon, an Intrepid Woman

Sunday, July 26, 2015
Isabella reporting,

Dipping one more time into our archives....The current exhibition of John Singer Sargent portraits at the Metropolitan Museum of Art reminded me of this post about one of his more fascinating - and beautiful - sitters. 

I've always been intrigued by the elegant fin-de-siecle portraits of John Singer Sargent (1856-1925). While it's easy to dismiss his sitters as empty Edwardian society ladies, not all of them fall into this category. One of the most beautiful was also one of the more interesting: Helen Venetia Duncombe Vincent, Vicountess D'Abernon (1866-1954).

Daughter of the Earl of Feversham, Helen's beauty was extraordinary, and when she married the equally handsome financier and diplomat Sir Edgar Vincent (1857-1941) in 1890, she soon became a celebrated London hostess. To some she was "by reason of her outstanding beauty, intelligence and charm, one of the most resplendent figures" of her age; a far less flattering description by architect Edwin Lutyens called her "a lovely Easter egg with nothing inside, terribly dilettante and altogether superficial."

The truth must have been somewhere in between. As Sir Edgar rose both in the financial world as an international banker and as an ambassador in diplomatic corps, Helen helped further his position by serving as his hostess and as a patroness to English artists and museums. She also welcomed the leading intellectual figures to her salon, including American writers Henry James and Edith Wharton and prominent statesmen George Curzon and Arthur Balfour. She was also drawn to the romantic history of her namesake Venice, and at her urging the Vincents purchased the Palazzo Giustiniani on the Grand Canal. It was here, during an extended visit, that Sargent painted the bravura portrait, above left, in 1904, and made the sketch, right. As isn't always the case, the beauty in the portraits was real, as seen in the stylish photograph of Helen from 1906, lower right.

But when the glory days of Edwardian England collapsed with the onset of the First World War, Helen didn't retreat to the safety of her country estates. Instead she took the unusual step for an aristocratic lady of training as a nurse anaesthetist (anesthesiologist), and served with the Red Cross in Europe, often in risky makeshift circumstances close to the front. She acquired a reputation as the fearless, unflinching lady in the operating room, and treated thousands of patients.

Although she returned to civilian life at Sir Edgar's side after the war, traveling with him through Germany while he was the British Ambassador to the Weimar Republic, it was her own wartime contribution that she believed was her greatest personal accomplishment. In 1946, she published a book of her experiences drawn from her diary, Red Cross and Berlin Embassy, 1915-1926: Extracts from the Diaries of Viscountess D'Abernon. Fascinating reading!

Above left: Lady Helen Vincent, Viscountess D'Abernon, John Singer Sargent, 1904, Birmingham Museum of Art
Right: Lady Helen Vincent, John Singer Sargent, 1905, York City Art Gallery
Lower left: Lady Helen Vincent, photograph by Lionel de Rothschild, c. 1906, copyright Solent News & Photo Agency

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Breakfast Links: Week of July 20, 2015

Saturday, July 25, 2015
Fresh for your browsing pleasure! Our weekly round-up of fav links to other web sites, blogs, images, and articles via Twitter.
• Drunk and riotous: troubled and troublesome inebriate Victorian women.
Quality Street: Hugh Thomson's delightful early 20thc. illustrations with Regency settings.
• When did English cooking begin to be viewed as negative?
• Spectacularly vibrant needlework covers this early 18thc. Book of Common Prayer.
Oscar Wilde, the apostle of the beautiful and the Season.
Image: "Give Mother the Vote!" Suffragist drawing by first American female cartoonist, Rose O'Neill.
• Lovely post on traditional Welsh method of carrying babies.
• Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness: how news of the Declaration of Independence was spread.
• John Singer Sargent's most intimate portraits are the ones you've never seen.
• That pesky weed under foot is purslane, an 18thc. "superfood."
Image: Actress Thalia Barbarova primps in luxurious satin loungewear, 1925.
• A history in pictures of battledore, shuttlecock, and badminton.
• A beautiful true love story: it began with secret pickles in the 1930s, survived a war, and continues over seventy years later.
• Zoomology: looking into the heart of 40th Street & Sixth Avenue, NYC, 1940.
• A brief history of creepy dolls.
• Three traditional occupations of the night: watchmen, goldfinders, and plague-bearers.
Image: The beautiful medieval vaulting at Peterborough Cathedral.
• The true story behind the giant concrete arrows from the 1920s, still scattered across the rural US.
• An unfinished darning sampler, 1892.
• Reburial of woman in native Ireland highlights 183-year-old mass-murder mystery in Pennsylvania.
Kirby's Eccentric Museum, 1820.
• The ruins of a 13thc. castle guard a broken heart on an island in the Firth of Lorn.
• The early history of Punch, and the "first cartoon."
Image: Just for fun: Renaissance Girl Power!
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring. Private collection.
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