Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Another Nerdy Girl Visit to Colonial Williamsburg

Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Susan reports:

It's a grey, grey day here in the capital city of Colonial Williamsburg, VA, but that won't stop us from finding the best of the 18th c. to share with you. We promise new pictures and new/old history, with everything from castor in the garden to ground cochineal in the dye-pot.

And, of course, the ritual visit to see what fabulous fashions the mantua-makers, milliners, and tailors have been creating for our swooning delectation, including buttons engraved with hunting dogs, hats with towering ostrich plumes, and a white fox-fur muff that will absolutely – well, you'll have to see for yourself later this week.

Above: Fall foliage and straw hats outside the Mary Dickinson milliner's shop on Duke of Gloucester Street. 


Lexi Best said...

I envy you. I've never been to Williamsburg.
I'm reading a great book called Sex and Suits. (How could you not with that title?)
She writes that men's and women's fashions split around the turn of 17 to 18th century. Men continued to make the underpinnings but women did not become tailors but mantua makers.
She (author Ann Hollander) makes an interesting observation on the shift of women's clothing emulating men's, though feminized, to following its own path of fashion.
Very good read.

Isabella Bradford/Susan Holloway Scott said...

Lexi, I love Anne Hollander - I don't always agree with her, but she makes you see and think about dress in whole new ways. "Seeing Through Clothes" was one of those personal landmark books for me.

As for tailors vs. mantuamakers - the biggest difference is in construction. Tailors take careful measurements from their customers, and then draft patterns, which are used to cut the cloth. Mantuamakers, however, drape and fit cloth directly on the body. It's a fascinating contrast between the tailor's mathematical precision, and the mantuamaker's intuitive creation. I don't like to make sweeping gender generalizations, but that one's pretty hard to miss. *g*

Lexi Best said...

Yes, loved seeing through clothes too. Loved the point she made about the flesh tones in painting reflecting the prevailing taste for fabrics.
True about the diff btwn tailors and mantua makers. Hollander also points this out and suggests this is one of the limiting factors for changing of men's styles versus women's.
Another point she made was that when a cohort wear a uniform like men do with a suit, the individual identity is emphasized whereas when you have multiple individual looks, the clothing is what you focus on and the people become interchangeable. Hadn't thought about that but I can really see it.
She also points out that as women gained control of their styles the creating of clothing for women became diminished as a trade, and interest in fashion considered too frivolous until male designers moved back into the trade in the latter half of the 19th century.
So it is yet another display of power politics. Fascinating.

Svea Love said...

Oooh, I love Williamsburg! I stopped there and in Jamestown, during a trip to Washington DC, in 8th grade. It was by far the highlight of my trip and I have been dying to go back ever since!

Definitely looking forward to your posts about it :)

Audra said...

Oh, I'm so jealous! I just adore Colonial Williamsburg!

I received your box of books yesterday -- thank you so much for signing each one! I couldn't believe it. Something to look forward to now that my weekend promises to be rainy!

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