Monday, July 5, 2010

Real 1830s clothes

Monday, July 5, 2010
Loretta reports:

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.


nightsmusic said...

The thing I so often don't like about the illustrations is the fact that the female form ends up looking more like a barbell than the hourglass figure they're supposed to be representing. They become more of a caricature than a beautiful interpretation of the styles.

Rather like buying a pattern still today, though Vogue doesn't overemphasize everything quite that much. But the finished garment never looks like the illustration.

The illustrations here aren't nearly as comical as the ones from the previous blog and the photos are to die for, the dresses are gorgeous. But that's when they look their best obviously.

So, I guess what I'm trying to say is I love the real thing, but really dislike the comics. :o)

Word verification: desses
I think blogger needs to learn how to spell ;o)

Miss Tami Lee said...

The Romantic era has always been an iffy period to me fashion wise. I think it's the huge sleeves (Don't even get me started on the 1890s..) or the shorter gown length. It just isn't as appealing at the column styles in the decades before or the crinoline lines to come.

I will have to check out that movie though. I can't think of any movies set in that time period besides Les Miserables (insert obligatory Liam Neeson swoon).

Undine said...

I actually find that era quite charming--in regards to the clothing, at least.

It's the Elizabethan fashions that I've never been able to comprehend. The ruffs alone would be the death of me.

JaneGS said...

Well, clothing like that certainly were effective in keeping ladies on their pedestals. You couldn't do much but flirt, dance, and swoon in those dresses.

Loretta Chase said...

Theo, I wrote this one for you! And I should have thanked Susan for sending me so many great 1830s links.___ Tami Lee, you might want to check out The Horseman on the Roof. It's set in the middle of the first big cholera epidemic in France, so not for the squeamish--but there's plenty of French 1830s fashion as well as what I think is an extremely romantic story.__Undine, I, too, fail to see the charm of the ruff. It just looks nutty and incredibly uncomfortable to me.

nightsmusic said...

Loretta, I figured you did ;o)

The dresses in the photos really are gorgeous. It's just too bad the illustrations don't reflect that. I took a better look at the illustrations you posted today (sometimes, they open and sometimes,they don't) and really, those are more like works of art.

Hmmm...America, comic book art/Europe, classic art. Go figure ;o)

Finegan Antiques said...

After you have handled the real clothing from that period and can feel the fabric and trace the flow of the design with your hand the style of that period becomes enticing and warmly seductive.
Luv the link. They are gorgeous!


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