Monday, July 5, 2010
Monday, July 5, 2010
Regarding my previous blog on 1831 fashion, a reader commented,
“Anyway, to the pictures. I'm sure at the time, they were considered very chic, very fashionable, but by today's tastes of course, they're...I hope they looked better in person. They don't look very flattering to me. I would love to see the real thing though. “
Many of us have the same reaction. In fashion, the 1830s belong to the Romantic Era—a term that causes a lot of head-scratching. We stare at those gigantic sleeves and the weird overall shape of the clothes, and wonder what is so romantic about it. It’s been an interesting challenge for me because, what with one thing and another, my stories have landed smack dab in the 1830s.
Part of the problem, I discovered, is the illustrations. Some are simply better than others. The one I put up last time, which came from an American magazine, looked like a poor copy of a print from another magazine (they all stole freely from one another, apparently). However, illustrations in some of the French magazines are beautifully done, and the styles are more interesting/flamboyant than English styles.
Another difficulty is that an illustration can’t convey texture. What looks flat in a hand-colored illustration shimmers and moves in candlelight or gaslight—as Susan and I saw in Colonial Williamsburg. Paintings are better at conveying texture.
A dress on a mannequin doesn’t move, but it does show how much fashion illustrations are influenced by the era's ideas of a glamorous female form. (Compare & contrast with what's hot these days).
Here’s an 1830s satin wedding dress.
Here’s a Dresden embroidered mull pelerine, 1830s-50s. (I found lots of examples of these lacy cape-like adornments in the French illustrations.)
Here’s a large collection of 1830s fashions.
For the Hollywood interpretation of the 1830s, there's the beautiful red satin gown Liv Tyler wore in Onegin.
Maybe it's because I've studied them so closely and grown used to them, or maybe it's because my heroine(s) wear them—but I have come to delight in these styles. But of course I know that not everyone will love them. Chacun à son goût.