Thursday, September 11, 2014

A real day dress for about 1835

Thursday, September 11, 2014
Day Dress c1834-36

Loretta reports:

More from my visit to Historic Deerfield and the exhibition Celebrating the Fiber Arts: The Helen Geier Flynt Textile  Gallery.*

Of course I was drawn to this dress, because it dates to the time of my Dressmakers series.  Though made of cotton, where most of the European fashion plates show muslin or silk, it shows that Americans followed the fashions popular in London and Paris.  The pleated bodice, for instance, was very popular, in both day and evening wear.  Dated 1834-1836, this is a good example of what the dresses looked like in real life, although we do have to use our imaginations a little.  We need to imagine sleeve puffs giving volume to the sleeves.  We also might want to replace the shiny green sateen ribbon at the waist with a belt made of fabric similar to that of the dress, although it could be in a contrasting color. Belts, like other accessories, are more liable to disappear than a dress is.  I was excited, for instance, to see that the pelerine had survived—and is much more attractive in person than in most fashion plates.

To aid your imaginings:  Isabella/Susan very kindly provided a link to some real dresses for this time, one with sleeve puffs and two (from the V&A) without.  The upper one shows the type of belt we’re likely to see in the fashion plates.

The fashion plate I’ve posted, whose dress has a similar look to the one from Historic Deerfield, will allow you to compare and contrast fashion illustration with actual clothing.  You will observe, too, that the lady who owned the Historic Deerfield dress did not have a teeny-tiny waist. 
Day Dress August 1835

I ought to note that many museums and even fashion history books refer to the big sleeves of the 1830s as leg-o-mutton.**  I’ve never encountered the term in 1830s magazines.  To my knowledge, they didn’t come into use until puffy sleeves revived in the 1890s.

Fashion plate courtesy Los Angeles Public Library.

*on view until 28 December 2014
**Thanks to Deb Salisbury for alerting me to an error about gigot sleeves in an earlier version of this post.

Clicking on the image will enlarge it.  Clicking on the fashion plate link will allow you to view at the source, where you can learn more and enlarge images as needed.


Deb Salisbury, Magic Seeker and Mantua-Maker said...

I love this dress!

Muslin was an expensive cotton fabric in the 1830s.

Gigot sleeves are mentioned as early as 1828 (maybe earlier, but I just did a quick search in my records).
"... the sleeves en gigot, and terminated at the wrists by a deep, pointed cuff, turned back, and finished by a ruche." La Belle Assemblée, January 1828

The term "leg-o-mutton" was used for a Worth dress in 1888, and as you said, was popular in the 1890s.

LorettaChase said...

Deb, you are absolutely right! My error. Leg o mutton is the "modern" term. I just checked and saw "gigot" in one of my 1830s magazines. This is what I get for not double-checking before posting! I'll fix the post accordingly. Thank you! Muslin was definitely expensive. I wonder if the museum used cotton interchangeably for muslin, because this was a very fine cotton, as I recall. But one can't touch!

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