Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Care of Infants in 1837

Tuesday, February 21, 2017
Alken, The Infant
Loretta reports:

Well into the 20th century, a great many children did not survive infancy. In this context, the idea of "strengthening" and "hardening" a child makes sense, though we may find some of the practices a little alarming.

A child is constitutionally weak and irritable to a high degree: hence we should endeavour to strengthen, and diminish this irritability, in order to procure it the greatest happiness of life,—a firm body, which may resist all the influence of air and weather. Such management is highly advantageous, as it will enable children, when adults, to support every species of fatigue and hardship...

All attempts to render children hardy, must, therefore, be made by gradual steps. Nature admits of no sudden transitions. For instance, infants should by imperceptible degrees be inured to the cool, and then to the cold bath…

The child's skin is to be kept perfectly clean, by washing its limbs morning and evening, and likewise its neck and ears; beginning with warm water, till, by degrees, he will not only bear, but like to be washed with cold.

After he is a month old, if he has no cough, fever, nor eruption, the bath should be colder and colder, (if the season is mild) and gradually it may be used as it comes from the fountain. After carefully drying the whole body, head, and limbs, another dry soft cloth, a little warmed, should be used gently, to take all the damp from the wrinkles, or fat parts that fold together. Then rub the limbs; but when the body is rubbed, take special care not to press upon the stomach or belly. On these parts, the hands should move in a circle, because the bowels lie in that direction. If the skin is chafed, hair-powder is to be used. The utmost tenderness is necessary in drying the head, and no binding should be made close about it. Squeezing the head, or combing it roughly, may cause dreadful diseases, and even the loss of reason. A small soft brush, lightly applied, is safer than a comb. Clean clothes every morning and evening, will tend greatly to a child's health and comfort.—The Female's Friend, and General Domestic Adviser 1837

Image: Thomas Henry Alken, The Infant, from Shakespeare’s Seven Ages of Man (1824), courtesy Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Fund.

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.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

From the Archives: That Big Georgian Bum, c. 1780

Sunday, February 19, 2017
Susan reporting,

On one of my visits to Colonial Williamsburg, I fell in love with this replica pale blue silk gown, left, worn by apprentice [now a journeywoman] mantua-maker Sarah Woodyard during her presentation for the 2014  Millinery Through Time conference (another picture here.) Sarah served as forewoman for the gown, directing fellow apprentice Abby Cox, who did most of the cutting, stitching, and fitting. As always, please click on the images to enlarge them.

Called an "Italian" gown, the style was popular in the late 1770s through the 1780s, and featured a close-fitting bodice, two-piece sleeves, and a skirt with the fullness gathered to the back. Similar gowns are often seen in 1780s portraits by Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun like this oneand in drawings like this by Jean-Honoré Fragonard.

It's a graceful, flattering gown, without the ungainly width of the hoops worn earlier in the century. But even though hoops had fallen from fashion, something was needed to support those silk skirts from behind.

Enter the false rump, or false bum, or derrières, which is just French for much the same. First appearing around 1776, the false rumps were exactly that: two pillow-like cushions that tied around the waist and boosted the posterior to outlandishly large proportions. Some bums were made from cork, while others were stuffed with horsehair or sheep's wool.

The false bum that Sarah is wearing is made from linen, stuffed with sheep's wool. Tied over her stays, shift, and petticoat, they look like saddlebags, but under the gown, they make her waist look smaller by comparison, and display the shining pleated silk to best advantage. She reports that sitting in narrow chairs can be something of a challenge.

But (hah!) there couldn't be a fashion more tailor-made for the scathing pens of Georgian caricaturists, who gleefully drew fashionable women with HUGE bums. The satirical print below is called The Bum Shop, and it shows exactly that: two Frenchmen (of course) are fitting women with the new style, with examples of their wares hanging on the wall. The shopkeeper is (of course) named Monsieur Derrière; the caption reads:

"Derrière begs leave to submit to the attention of that most indulgent part of the Public the Ladies in general, and most especially those to whom Nature in a slovenly moment has been niggardly in her distribution of certain lovely Endowments, his much improved (aridae nates) or Dried Bums so justly admired for their happy resemblance to nature. Derrière flatters himself that he stands unrivalled in this fashionable article of Female Invention, he having spared neither pains nor expence in procuring every possible information on the subject, to render himself competent to the artfully supplying this necessary appendage of female excellence."

By the 1790s, the fashion for big bums faded away, as all extreme fashions do. Yet while such styles may disappear, they're usually dormant, not extinct; seventy-five years later, the latest must-have is another form of false rump called the bustle.

Photographs copyright Susan Holloway Scott.
Below: The Bum Shop, published by S.W.Fores, London, 1785. The British Museum.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Breakfast Links: Week of February 13, 2017

Saturday, February 18, 2017
Breakfast Links are served - our weekly round-up of fav links to other web sites, articles, blogs, and images via Twitter.
• What bloomers reveal about the 19thc women who wore them.
• The lavish work of one of the last gilders of the royal court at Versailles.
• Abraham Lincoln's tough love letter to his step-brother about laziness and his work-ethic.
• Mini-video: Victorian and Edwardian sewing samples.
• Fashioning the 17thc in Boston: clothing belonging to Hannah and John Leverett.
• Image: Found: a long-lost photograph of Harriet Tubman.
• How a reproduction scenic wallpaper featuring the "Ruins of Rome" finally completes one of the grandest private spaces from colonial America.
• Valentine's Day and the romance of cobwebs.
• "Now or never": African-American troops in the Civil War.
• Is this the most jaw-dropping room in London?
• Image: An ocean liner departing from New York for Europe, as seen from the Empire State Building, 1921.
• The tailor made: the power suit of the Edwardian era.
• History's love letters provide heartfelt glimpse of the beloved.
• The sad tale of the 18thc miser Mary Luhorne.
• Seldom mentioned: a Regency abortion, 1816.
• The legendary 19thc counter-revolutionary, royalist, and insurrectionist Jean "Chouan" Couttereau.
• Image: Crossing the frozen Hudson River at Albany, NY by sleigh, 1853.
• Crafting protest, fashioning politics: DIY lessons from the American Revolution.
• Mr. Darcy's tempting, pleasing, and dangerous mouth and lips.
• Everything you know about corsets is false.
• "America is lost!" wrote King George III - of did he?
• Image: Just for fun: When you lie on your resume, but still get the job.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring. Private collection

Friday, February 17, 2017

Fashions for February 1813

Friday, February 17, 2017

Opera Dress February 1813
Morning Dress February 1813

Dress Description
Dress description cont'd 
Loretta reports:

A little late with the month’s fashion plate…

We’ve moved into the 1810s, a decade that develops an interesting fashion twist after the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. Up until then, the dresses carry on the vertical style, with a variety of interpretations of “classical” dress, as do these two items. But after Waterloo, things start getting more elaborate and less body-clinging, as we gradually move toward the wild and crazy part of the early 19th century, where most of my stories are set.

That’s for next time, though. What we’re looking at today is classic Regency style, the look we associate with Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer.

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.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Pearls, Lace, & Purple Silk: A Magnificent c1770 Dress

Thursday, February 16, 2017
Susan reporting,

Some surviving 18thc dresses have become internet celebrities (I'm thinking of all the beautifully photographed dresses from the websites of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Kyoto Costume Institute, and the Los Angeles County Museum.) Thanks to social media and blogs like this one, these dresses are instantly recognizable - old friends of silk damask and lace - by costume historians, re-enactors, historical seamstresses, and anyone who just likes a beautiful, beautifully made garment from the past.

This dress, upper left, deserves to be as well known as her more publicized sisters. I've heard about this dress in costume circles for years ("The PEARLS", whispered in hushed awe), and I finally had the opportunity to see it in person at Winterthur Museum this past fall, thanks to Linda Eaton, John & Marjorie P. McGraw Director of Collections and Senior Curator of Textiles.  As always, click on the images to enlarge.

The rumors were right. It's stunning. The dress is a saque, or sack gown, made between 1765-1775, most likely in France. There are so many layers of texture and embellishment in this single dress. To begin with, the fabric (see detail, right) is a purple plain weave silk with a brocaded lace and flora design in white, yellow, orange, green, red, and pink textured yarn.  It almost appears to be elaborate embroidery, but all those flowers are in fact woven into the fabric.

The dress has several different kinds of trims. Around the neckline and edging the skirt is gathered lace, and loops of green silk cording. There's a different kind of gauze-like lace gathered into poufs on the skirts, (see detail, left) and the poufs are in turn decorated with silk tape or ribbon that has been hand-painted with red and purple c-scrolls, vines, and medallions. The tape is exquisite, the work of a highly skilled specialist, and I can't imagine how long it must have taken to paint such delicate detail.

If that isn't enough, there are strands of pearl-like glass beads threaded through the other trimmings. There was some question whether the pearls were a 19thc addition, when the dress could have been used as a fancy-dress or theatrical costume, but it was finally determined from the stitching and the beads themselves that they are in fact an 18thc embellishment, though likely added about ten years after the dress was originally made. Strands of faux pearls on dresses are shown in many 18thc portraits, but I'd never seen a dress with any still in place. When the next generation plundered an older dress, I'm sure glass pearls were among the first things cut off for reuse.

I also liked how the sleeve flounces were lined with a contrasting plain-weave blue silk. The flounces had an extra little secret, too, bottom right. Sewn inside each flounce was a flat, oval-shaped, lead weight, covered in fabric, that made the flounce hang correctly from the wearer's arms. Like all the most sumptuous 18thc clothing, it's the little luxurious details - everything stitched or otherwise created by hand - that are so special.

I saw the dress in a storage box, not on a mannequin; the photo, upper left, is by Winterthur, and the detail pictures are mine.

Saque dress, c1765-75, Winterthur Museum.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Be My Valentine

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Loretta reports:

Many centuries ago, when I was in elementary school, we exchanged Valentine’s Day cards in the classroom. We made them, too, but most of the exchanges involved cards that came in  packages of 25 or 100. We traded candy hearts, too.

The sending of cards, notes, and other tokens of friendship or affection goes back centuries. For today, I offer a few historical links.

The New and Complete Valentine Writer for the Year 1805 provides a variety of Valentine’s poetry, rather different sentiments from what we exchanged in school. (The image above left is typical of ours.)

And here and here you’ll find some history about commercial Valentine’s Day cards, much more elegant than those we traded. You can see larger samples of the Whitney cards here.

Images: To My Valentine, 1890, courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 

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.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

We're Back - and New Books Are Coming

Sunday, February 12, 2017
Susan reporting,

Finally, Loretta and I are back! After furious writing, holidays, groundhogs, and a couple of snowstorms, we can now report there WILL be new books from both of us this fall (as well as new blog posts in the meantime.)

First off: I've returned to writing historical fiction. I've also returned to being Susan Holloway Scott, while Isabella Bradford, my historical romance name, has gone on hiatus; it's all part of having multiple pseudonyms, and being a Gemini, too.

Secondly: My new novel is I, ELIZA HAMILTON, coming in September from Kensington Books. (It's available for pre-order now in both paperback and ebook, through those links over to the right.)

Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton (1757-1854) was the wife of Alexander Hamilton (c1755-1804), a Revolutionary War hero, statesman, politician, and abolitionist, the first Secretary of the Treasury, a signer and promoter of the Constitution, the founder of the American financial system, and, perhaps most famously for posterity, the only Founding Father killed in a duel.

You might also have heard that he inspired a certain Broadway musical that carries his name.

Like so many women of the past, Eliza's story has been overshadowed by her brilliant husband. She didn't help her place in posterity by destroying most of her own letters and virtually eliminating her voice. As a result, she's too often been dismissed by (male) historians, who variously describe her as shy and reclusive, a homebody, a saint.

But the real Eliza's still there: in the letters of others who knew her, in diaries, in portraits, in memoirs, and most of all, in the achingly beautiful love letters her husband wrote to her over the years of their courtship and marriage. She was a mother, daughter, sister, and wife. She was intelligent and resourceful and strong, a woman who lived in the thick of some of the most turbulent and exciting times in American history. Her marriage was filled with love, passion, regard, and devotion, but also marred by public scandal and unimaginable tragedies that broke her heart, but not her spirit. I'm honored to tell her story.

Over the next months, I'll be sharing more here on the blog about Eliza and her life and times, as well as discoveries from my research junkets. You can also read a bit more about the book here in a recent post on Bustle.com.
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