I’ve grown to love the puffy sleeves of the 1820s and 1830s, and their numerous names. We find gigot and imbecile and Béret sleeves and sleeves à l’Amadis, à la Donna Maria, à la Marino Falliéro, à la Sultane, à la Montespan, à la Caroline.
When you have stopped laughing, you might ask yourself how they managed the poufiness. Did the sleeves actually pouf as much as it seems in the pictures or are the artists taking artistic license? If the sleeves were as gigantic as they appear, how was this accomplished?
I also learned that the sleeves might be lined with stiffened fabric, though I'm not clear on how this worked, exactly.
But now you may be wondering other things, like OMG, how could they stand to have padding (or stiffened fabric) in their sleeves? Indeed, the inconveniences of these sleeves is pointed out several times in the course of Last Night's Scandal, sometimes by my very fashionable heroine. I figure, they just suffered to be beautiful.
But another question is, How did those puff things work--were they sewn in or what?
I opened my trusty volume of Fashion in Detail 1730-1930 by Nancy Bradfield, with its meticulously detailed drawings. And there, on page 156, I found what I was looking for. “The tape ties inside the armhole are for securing the huge sleeve puffs, used 1825-1835.” Several other pages in the book show undergarments, including the sleeve puffs. Among these is a sketch of a figure from the Gallery of English Costume, Manchester, (U.K.) which rang a bell. In Blanche Payne’s History of Costume there’s a photograph of a woman wearing this typical underwear of 1825-1835. Her sleeve puffs are filled with down. I tried without success to find a link to the photo online. If you know what I'm talking about and have a link, please share!
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.