“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).
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.
There’s a big difference in how we use history. But we’re equally nuts about it. To us, the everyday details of life in the past are things to talk about, ponder, make fun of -- much in the way normal people talk about their favorite reality show.
We talk about who’s wearing what and who’s sleeping with whom. We try to sort out rumor or myth from fact. We thought there must be at least three other people out there who think history’s fascinating and fun, too. This blog is for them.