Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Fashions for January 1801

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Morning Dress 1801
Loretta reports:
We’ll kick off the 2017 monthly fashion plates by returning to the beginning of the 19th century—and incidentally get a lesson in differences in digitization technology. The first plates and the description are from a Google scan of the New York Public Library’s copy of The Lady’s Monthly Museum for January 1801. They look like the work of an inept artist, don’t they?

Afternoon Dress 1801
Now let's look at the last image, which came from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s online collection. This is the same “Afternoon Dress” fashion plate as above, but what a difference! (Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find a high quality counterpart to the Morning Dress plate.)

Afternoon Dress
Many libraries have fine images like this of fashion plates. The trouble is, in most cases—as I’ve complained repeatedly—all we have is the plate. The rest of the magazine, including the description, is who knows where.

Let's hope that the magazines Google digitized in the early days haven't been destroyed, and will one day be re-scanned using improved technology.

Images, from The Lady’s Monthly Museum Vol 6 Jan-June 1801 courtesy Hathi Trust. Second Afternoon Dress image courtesy Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

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.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Tuesday Video: A Holiday Story of 1912

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Loretta & Isabella report:

Impending deadlines (which you’ve heard about more than once here) oblige us to start our holiday break a little earlier than usual. But we promise to be back in 2017 with more Nerdy History stuff. If you get too lonely for old things, in the meantime, please do search our archives. You might be surprised. We are, sometimes, when we look there—and realize we’ve accumulated seven years of material!

Thank you for encouraging us to carry on for all this time, digging up this and that from the past.

We wish you a happy and hopeful holiday season, rather in the spirit of today’s video. A Christmas Accident (1912),* by director-actor-writer Harold M. Shaw, is a Christmas Carol type of story told without the ghosts. It’s sentimental, but we think the sentiments hold up nicely over time.

Credits: Youtube source: A Christmas Accident-1912-Harold M. Shaw- A charming surprise-An old Christmas story. *Also part of a DVD collection, Christmas Past. Image is a still from the film

Readers who receive our blog via email might see a rectangle, square, or nothing where the video ought to be.  To watch the video, please click on the title to this post.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

A Dinner Dress for the Holidays, c1824-26

Sunday, December 11, 2016
Isabella reporting,

I recently visited the Masterworks: Unpacking Fashion exhibition currently on display in the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. They're not kidding about that title, either: every garment truly is a masterwork, and in exquisite condition. It's an amazing exhibition, and if you're fortunate enough to be in New York, it's definitely worth a trip to the Met.

With the Christmas holidays just around the corner, this dress from the exhibition seems particularly appropriate to share. This dress is simply fun, and it made everyone who came around the gallery corner smile.

It's also wonderful to see a dress like this in person. As Loretta has pointed out in other blogs featuring fashion plates from this era (here, here, and here), imagining exactly how the elaborate trimmings must have looked isn't easy. The detailed embellishments of this dress - poufs, red silk stuffed cording, and polychrome wool embroidery - add wonderful color and dimension to an otherwise plain white dress. (Loretta and I also marveled at how the wearer managed to keep a snow-white dinner dress so perfectly clean, without a single spot of gravy or spilled claret-cup - though that may be revealing more about us at Christmas parties than the unknown wearer.)

The museum's information is worth repeating here:

"Fashionable British dress from the early decades of the nineteenth century reveals a fascination with historical styles. Drawing inspiration from literature, theater costumes and history paintings of medieval and Renaissance subjects, dressmakers incorporated stylistic details from twelfth-through seventeenth-century dress into contemporary fashions. The decoratively slashed sleeves of the sixteenth century, through which linen undershirts were loosely drawn, inspired puffed trimmings such as the bouillons of fine white lawn that encircle the hem of this 1820s dress. Historicized elements such as these reflect a nostalgia for Britain's past, evoking romantic notions of the chivalry or patriotism of earlier eras. The wool crewel-embroidered holly boughs at the hem indicate that the dress was worn in winter, when the plant's berries and foliage provided welcome color and featured prominently in Christmas decorations."

When I shared this dress on Instagram, readers wondered how the wearer could have kept warm, wearing a short-sleeved cotton dress in December in houses without central heating. The answer: a luxurious cashmere shawl (see here and here.)

Above: Dinner Dress, maker unknown, British, 1824-26. White cotton lawn embroidered with holly motifs in red and green wool, trimmed with red silk taffeta. Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photographs ©2016 Susan Holloway Scott.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Breakfast Links: Week of December 5, 2016

Saturday, December 10, 2016
Breakfast Links are served - our weekly round-up of fav links to other web sites, articles, blogs, and images via Twitter.
• Restoring an ethereal Tiffany mosaic in a Bronx cemetery.
• For Hamilton fans: Unsullied by falsehood: no John Trumbull.
• A hairy subject: secrecy, shame, and Victorian wigs.
• The scandalous love triangle of Maria Foote, William Berkeley, and Joseph "Pea Green" Hayne.
• How two different museums archive and display American fashion.
Image: Best typo excuse ever, 18thc style.
• Bake this 17thc recipe for "carraway bunns" from the collection of the Folger Library.
• Where did Jane Austen's characterizations of the clergy come from?
Annie Jenness Miller, New Hampshire's 19thc dress reformer.
• Debunking the myth that people married very young in "the olden days."
• Inside the textile conservation studio of National Museums Scotland: looking for the mermaid's tail.
• The headstone and lost history of Louise the Unfortunate.
Image: Tiny (very tiny) 19thc books and playing cards.
• The marriage bond for William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway.
• Extreme shipping: when express delivery to California meant 100 grueling days at sea.
• Why wild turkeys hate the wild.
• 2,000 year old pet cats discovered in a Roman burial ground in Egypt.
• The Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia stands on the oldest parcel of land continuously owned by African Americans in America.
Holocaust jacket found at a tag sale.
Image: Mason's "mark" spotted on modern window replacement at Gloucester Cathedral.
• Having a grand old time in a 1920s real-life Westworld.
• Pierre Andre Latreille: how a beetle saved an imprisoned entomologist from the guillotine.
Jamestown's relics: sacred presence in the English New World.
• How a Victorian parlour stool relates to modern dental stools.
• "We have conquered pain": uses and abuses of ether through history.
Image: In 1881, the American satirical magazine Puck introduced the first emoticons.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring. Private collection

Friday, December 9, 2016

Friday Video: Early Erotica? A Victorian Woman Undresses, 1896

Friday, December 9, 2016

Isabella reporting,

This super-short film (a little over a minute) has been popular on social media recently, and for good reason, too. For modern costume historians, it's the perfect way to see all the layers of clothing an Englishwoman wore in 1896 - and how quickly she could remove those layers, too.

But documenting a woman's wardrobe wasn't the original point of this film. Here's the information supplied by the British Film Institute:

"Is this Britain's oldest erotic film? Modern viewers might question how genuinely erotic it is. But it certainly pushed the boundaries of what was permissible in 1896 - and there's little doubt that it was intended to titillate. Erotica being what it is, it's possible that other (and perhaps more explicit) examples exist in private hands, but this is certainly the oldest surviving British film of its kind that we know of.

"Also known as A Woman Undressing, the film is credited to Brighton-based pioneer Esmé Collings _ making it one of very few of his films to survive. Alongside rather more demure films from around the same time, such as Grandma's Reading Glass (1900) and As Seen Through a Telescope (1900), it demonstrates that early filmmakers - even in these comparatively inhibited islands - were quick to realize the new medium's implicit voyeurism."

Victorian Lady in Her Boudoir by Esmé Collings, 1896, BFI.
Two Nerdy History Girls. Design by Pocket