Wednesday, June 27, 2012

What to wear to your social downfall

Wednesday, June 27, 2012
La Belle Assemblée May 1835

Loretta reports:

In the first chapter of Scandal Wears Satin, Lady Clara Fairfax gets into trouble. These fashion prints helped inspire the dress I envisioned for the scene.  Though the dress plays an important role, there’s little description of it—only enough to make it clear it’s in the process of being taken off and the bodice is pleated.

As Susan & I have mentioned more than once, the fashion prints can give an inaccurate impression of the dresses.  For one thing, the prints depend on the artist’s talent, and fashion illustration, with a few exceptions, seemed not to attract great talents.  Secondly, they can’t possibly convey the richness of the fabrics used, or the craftsmanship and fine detail.  While the dress from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is dated a few years earlier—and I’d expect bigger sleeves for 1835—it doesn’t take a great stretch of the imagination to get a sense of what the real thing might have been like.

Along with demonstrating the play of light on the two-toned silk and the “longitudinal folds” (as described in La Belle Assemblée for May 1835 and apparently quite a popular design element), the real dress makes us aware that the lady would not have had a strangely diamond-shaped upper body, with no shoulder bones to speak of.  Too, while the skirt does poof out, we’re aware of how light and airy it would have been in motion—something the print can’t convey.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art*

You’ll find quite a number of fashion prints of the time, from both English and French sources (thank you Los Angeles Public Library!) on my Pinterest Boards for Scandal Wears Satin at both our TwoNerdyHistoryGirls*** and my Loretta Chase page.

You’ll find there other illustrations for the book as well, and may expect to see more in coming days.

*Please click on the link for more detailed views of this dress.


Candice Hern said...

Loretta, your books always manage to make me forget how much I hate the clothing of the 1830s! Your loving descriptions make me ALMOST ready to change my mind. :-)

Frances said...

I am so excited that I found you. I am a big fan and have read many of your books. Thank you for taking the time to work on this blog, I am going to spend some time here reading and catching up. You are amazing.

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