We have to admit to a fascination with historical muffs, whether small or large, for ladies or even for gentlemen. Earlier this week, Loretta's post included a muff from 1814 that was large enough to house at least a small dog. Any fashionable 18th c. lady – like this coy young Frenchwoman, left, being pushed in her personal sled – would agree with us regarding the wonderfulness of muffs, and even insist on this stylish accessory, particularly now in the coldest months of the year.
Over the last months, the mantua-makers of the Margaret Hunter Millinery Shop in Colonial Williamsburg have been recreating all manner of muffs in preparation for an upcoming symposium and exhibition, Fashion Accessories from Head to Toe, 1650-1850. On our recent visit, they generously showed us several of their favorites. All are based on 18th c. prints or paintings, or are reproductions of museum pieces, and, like everything in the shop, all were made entirely by hand, using traditional methods.
This muff, left, would have been most fashionable in the 1760s. The body is white silk, stuffed with down for warmth and shaping. The gathered strips of blue velvet, trimmed with silver lace, spiral around the muff, beginning at one opening and ending at the other.
An extravagant display of white fox, imported from the North American colonies, would have made this a warm, if costly, muff in the 1770s, right. The majority of the fur and leather that was being used in the fashion/clothing trades in 18th c. London came from North America, and it's easy to imagine the wails of distress from stylish English beauties as the colonial rebellion made their favorite furs more scarce – and even more expensive.
More appropriate for a chilly spring day rather than deep winter, this white muff, left, is from shirred, sheer, stripped silk, stitched to a silk base. Copied from a portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds, the style dates from 1777.
While this muff, right, may look like the perfect accessory for Christmas, it actually represents the narrower muffs of around 1800, and reflects the more slender silhouette then in fashion in general. It's made from red velvet, banded with white fox, which likely would also have trimmed a matching cloak or redingote.
See here for more about other pieces being recreated for the same symposium. And, if you're on Facebook, please "like" the Margaret Hunter Shop to see more pictures of their projects.
Top: detail from Winter, by Francois Boucher, 1755