Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Tuesday Video: A Holiday Story of 1912

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Loretta & Isabella report:

Impending deadlines (which you’ve heard about more than once here) oblige us to start our holiday break a little earlier than usual. But we promise to be back in 2017 with more Nerdy History stuff. If you get too lonely for old things, in the meantime, please do search our archives. You might be surprised. We are, sometimes, when we look there—and realize we’ve accumulated seven years of material!

Thank you for encouraging us to carry on for all this time, digging up this and that from the past.

We wish you a happy and hopeful holiday season, rather in the spirit of today’s video. A Christmas Accident (1912),* by director-actor-writer Harold M. Shaw, is a Christmas Carol type of story told without the ghosts. It’s sentimental, but we think the sentiments hold up nicely over time.

Credits: Youtube source: A Christmas Accident-1912-Harold M. Shaw- A charming surprise-An old Christmas story. *Also part of a DVD collection, Christmas Past. Image is a still from the film

Readers who receive our blog via email might see a rectangle, square, or nothing where the video ought to be.  To watch the video, please click on the title to this post.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

A Dinner Dress for the Holidays, c1824-26

Sunday, December 11, 2016
Susan reporting,

I recently visited the Masterworks: Unpacking Fashion exhibition currently on display in the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. They're not kidding about that title, either: every garment truly is a masterwork, and in exquisite condition. It's an amazing exhibition, and if you're fortunate enough to be in New York, it's definitely worth a trip to the Met.

With the Christmas holidays just around the corner, this dress from the exhibition seems particularly appropriate to share. This dress is simply fun, and it made everyone who came around the gallery corner smile.

It's also wonderful to see a dress like this in person. As Loretta has pointed out in other blogs featuring fashion plates from this era (here, here, and here), imagining exactly how the elaborate trimmings must have looked isn't easy. The detailed embellishments of this dress - poufs, red silk stuffed cording, and polychrome wool embroidery - add wonderful color and dimension to an otherwise plain white dress. (Loretta and I also marveled at how the wearer managed to keep a snow-white dinner dress so perfectly clean, without a single spot of gravy or spilled claret-cup - though that may be revealing more about us at Christmas parties than the unknown wearer.)

The museum's information is worth repeating here:

"Fashionable British dress from the early decades of the nineteenth century reveals a fascination with historical styles. Drawing inspiration from literature, theater costumes and history paintings of medieval and Renaissance subjects, dressmakers incorporated stylistic details from twelfth-through seventeenth-century dress into contemporary fashions. The decoratively slashed sleeves of the sixteenth century, through which linen undershirts were loosely drawn, inspired puffed trimmings such as the bouillons of fine white lawn that encircle the hem of this 1820s dress. Historicized elements such as these reflect a nostalgia for Britain's past, evoking romantic notions of the chivalry or patriotism of earlier eras. The wool crewel-embroidered holly boughs at the hem indicate that the dress was worn in winter, when the plant's berries and foliage provided welcome color and featured prominently in Christmas decorations."

When I shared this dress on Instagram, readers wondered how the wearer could have kept warm, wearing a short-sleeved cotton dress in December in houses without central heating. The answer: a luxurious cashmere shawl (see here and here.)

Above: Dinner Dress, maker unknown, British, 1824-26. White cotton lawn embroidered with holly motifs in red and green wool, trimmed with red silk taffeta. Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photographs ©2016 Susan Holloway Scott.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Breakfast Links: Week of December 5, 2016

Saturday, December 10, 2016
Breakfast Links are served - our weekly round-up of fav links to other web sites, articles, blogs, and images via Twitter.
• Restoring an ethereal Tiffany mosaic in a Bronx cemetery.
• For Hamilton fans: Unsullied by falsehood: no John Trumbull.
• A hairy subject: secrecy, shame, and Victorian wigs.
• The scandalous love triangle of Maria Foote, William Berkeley, and Joseph "Pea Green" Hayne.
• How two different museums archive and display American fashion.
Image: Best typo excuse ever, 18thc style.
• Bake this 17thc recipe for "carraway bunns" from the collection of the Folger Library.
• Where did Jane Austen's characterizations of the clergy come from?
Annie Jenness Miller, New Hampshire's 19thc dress reformer.
• Debunking the myth that people married very young in "the olden days."
• Inside the textile conservation studio of National Museums Scotland: looking for the mermaid's tail.
• The headstone and lost history of Louise the Unfortunate.
Image: Tiny (very tiny) 19thc books and playing cards.
• The marriage bond for William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway.
• Extreme shipping: when express delivery to California meant 100 grueling days at sea.
• Why wild turkeys hate the wild.
• 2,000 year old pet cats discovered in a Roman burial ground in Egypt.
• The Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia stands on the oldest parcel of land continuously owned by African Americans in America.
Holocaust jacket found at a tag sale.
Image: Mason's "mark" spotted on modern window replacement at Gloucester Cathedral.
• Having a grand old time in a 1920s real-life Westworld.
• Pierre Andre Latreille: how a beetle saved an imprisoned entomologist from the guillotine.
Jamestown's relics: sacred presence in the English New World.
• How a Victorian parlour stool relates to modern dental stools.
• "We have conquered pain": uses and abuses of ether through history.
Image: In 1881, the American satirical magazine Puck introduced the first emoticons.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring. Private collection

Friday, December 9, 2016

Friday Video: Early Erotica? A Victorian Woman Undresses, 1896

Friday, December 9, 2016

Isabella reporting,

This super-short film (a little over a minute) has been popular on social media recently, and for good reason, too. For modern costume historians, it's the perfect way to see all the layers of clothing an Englishwoman wore in 1896 - and how quickly she could remove those layers, too.

But documenting a woman's wardrobe wasn't the original point of this film. Here's the information supplied by the British Film Institute:

"Is this Britain's oldest erotic film? Modern viewers might question how genuinely erotic it is. But it certainly pushed the boundaries of what was permissible in 1896 - and there's little doubt that it was intended to titillate. Erotica being what it is, it's possible that other (and perhaps more explicit) examples exist in private hands, but this is certainly the oldest surviving British film of its kind that we know of.

"Also known as A Woman Undressing, the film is credited to Brighton-based pioneer Esmé Collings _ making it one of very few of his films to survive. Alongside rather more demure films from around the same time, such as Grandma's Reading Glass (1900) and As Seen Through a Telescope (1900), it demonstrates that early filmmakers - even in these comparatively inhibited islands - were quick to realize the new medium's implicit voyeurism."

Victorian Lady in Her Boudoir by Esmé Collings, 1896, BFI.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

A Cabinet (of Curiosities?) for December 1828

Thursday, December 8, 2016

1828 Cabinet
1828 Cabinet description
Loretta reports:

As we’ve seen, a great deal of Regency and Romantic era design does not operate on the principle of Less is More. This cabinet is a fine example of the Decorated-Within-An-Inch-of-Its-Life mode. It’s also the kind of piece I might find myself using in a scene: the little drawers and pigeonholes, the objects sitting on top, and who knows what below, behind the doors …

1828 Cabinet Description

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.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Extraordinary Style of the Countess Greffulhe

Tuesday, December 6, 2016
Isabella reporting,

French women have always had a reputation for being fashionable, but Élisabeth de Caraman-Chimay, the Countess Greffulhe (1860-1952) made fashion into an opulent gesture of self-expression. While she was known as a patroness of artists, writers, and musicians and as a hostess whose salons attracted the most brilliant members of European society, it is her sense of style that makes her so memorable today.

There are two reasons for this. First, she was immortalized as the fictionalized Oriane, Duchesse de Guermantes, in the famous novel À la recherche du temps perdu by Marcel Proust. Second, her family preserved much of her famous wardrobe. The highlights of this collection are currently on display in the exhibition Proust's Muse: The Countess Greffulhe at the Museum at FIT in New York City through January 7, 2017. (Many of the pieces appeared first in an earlier exhibition organized by the Palais Galleria, Musée de la Ville de Paris, the permanent repository of the Countess's wardrobe.)

It's an amazing show. The earliest pieces date from 1887, when the Countess was a teen-aged newlywed. Already her taste - and her daring - are on display. There's a sleeveless, black lace bodice that would have been worn over a colored gown, not-so-subtle transparency that must have been shocking at the time.

By the later 1890s, the Countess was not only commissioning clothing from premier couturiers like the House of Worth, but collaborating with them, pushing the designers to create the dramatic clothing she craved. She loved to be the center of attention wherever she went, and journalists devoted countless words to describing what she wore to the opera or theatre. She posed for photographers like Paul Nadar, and polished her "image" before that very-modern sense of the word existed.

One of her most famous dresses by Worth, above left, was known as the "lily dress" for its bold black-and-white embroidered design. The photograph, above right, shows the Countess wearing the dress, with her pose carefully staged with the mirror to display both the dress, and her own beauty.

To me perhaps the most extraordinary thing about the exhibition is that it includes clothes worn by the Countess throughout her long life, from the heavily corseted dresses of the Belle Epoque to the narrower silhouette of the early 1910s, lower left, to straight, beaded shifts of the 1920s, lower right, to the beautifully cut and sinuous dresses and suits of the 1930s. Certain elements of her taste (for example, she frequently wore the color green, flattering to her auburn hair, and she loved exotic Byzantine prints and motifs) remain, weaving in and out of the changing fashions. Yet always her clothes remained constant to who she was, and how she wished to be seen - and remembered.

Unfortunately the Musée de la Ville de Paris prohibited visitor photography. You can see more of the Countess's dresses here, on the the exhibition's blog, and on the museum's Flickr account here.

Many thanks to Nicole Bloomfield, Costume & Textile Conservator, and Ariele Elia, Assistant Curator of Costume & Textile, Museum at FIT, for their help with this post.

Upper left: Evening gown, known as "La Robe aux Lis" (the lily dress) c1896, by House of Worth. Photograph by L. Degraces et Ph.Joffre/Galliera/roger-Viollet.
Upper right: The Countess Greffulhe by Paul Nadar, c1896. 
Lower left: Evening dress, c1913, by Pierre Bulloz. Photograph ©Zach Hilty/BFA.com
Lower right: Evening dress, c1925, by Jenny. Photograph ©Zach Hilty/BFA.com.
Bottom left: The Countess Greffulhe in a Ballgown by Otto Wegener, c1887.
All images from Palais Galliera, Musee de la mode de la Ville de Paris.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Holiday Gift Ideas for 1913

Monday, December 5, 2016
Gifts for 1913

Loretta reports:

Instead of a fashion plate for the 1910s (yes, we’ve come that far in the year’s survey), I’m presenting a few pages of the Ladies' Home Journal holiday gift ideas from their November 1913 issue.

I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t mind receiving some of these myself!

If you’re desperately missing the monthly fashion plate, here’s one from the December 1913 Delineator, with several more pages of fashion following.

Gifts for 1913
Gifts for 1913

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Breakfast Links: Week of November 28, 2016

Saturday, December 3, 2016
Breakfast Links are served - our weekly round-up of fav links to other web sites, articles, blogs, and images via Twitter.
• The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and the Hessians of the American Revolution.
• Edgar Degas and Miss LaLa at the Cirque Fernando.
• The unsung woman artist behind your tarot cards.
• The dancing plague of 1518.
• Her Majesty has an eye-watering collection of miniature things.
• When Felix the Cat took down an airplane at the 1932 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Image: Shakespeare in brick.
• That time when the mother-of-the-bride stole all the attention in a jeweled Byzantine gown designed by Worth.
• Whatever happened to Pre-Raphaelite model and muse Fanny Cornforth?
• Updated for modern cooks: a 17thc recipe for a marmalet of pippins (for those can't resist apples in season.)
Image: 17thc gold and enamel memento mori ring, to remind the wearer of the brevity of life.
• Explore the life and reign of Elizabeth I in her own words.
• Guy Fawkes' lantern.
• How Charles Dickens kept a beloved pet cat alive (sort of.)
• Nicknames of the French royals in the 18th-19thc.
• Fashion is not a matter of size, except when it is.
Image: Restraint clothing used at Bedlam Hospital in the early 19thc.
• Granddaughtes of the revolution: modern descendents of early suffragists recall the work of their ancestors.
• Now to read online: a 17thc registry of Scottish men and women accused of witchcraft.
• A Stuart prince reappears in Baltimore.
• The wayward youth of John Adams.
• "Her slip is always showing": Picky bosses and their pet peeves about their secretaries, 1945.
• Gambling, cheats, and Voltaire's Madame de Chatelet.
Image: Just for fun: the only celebrity autograph worth having.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring. Private collection

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Into the Writing Vortex with Jo March & Louisa May Alcott, 1869

Thursday, December 1, 2016
Isabella reporting,

As Loretta and I have mentioned here before, we are each furiously racing towards our separate book deadlines. We commiserate with one another long distance (she's in Massachusetts, and I'm in Pennsylvania), but for the most part we're so deep in the writing morass that we're not very sociable.

We're not alone in this, of course. Yes, writers write, but there is also much wailing and gnashing of teeth. That's why I love this particular passage from Little Women, the classic novel by Louisa May Alcott. First published in two volumes in 1868 and 1869, Little Women features the March sisters, four young women who remain among the most memorable female characters in American literature. Jo aspires to be a writer, and because Alcott based Jo loosely upon herself, Jo's writing process has the ring of truth to it. So does the illustration, left, from the first edition. Substitute old sweats for Jo's "scribbling suit" and a laptop for her pen, and you have a pretty good idea of how things are going for Loretta and me this month.

"Every few weeks [Jo] would shut herself up in her room, put on her scribbling suit, and 'fall into a vortex', as she expressed it, writing away at her novel with all her heart and soul, for til that was finished she could fine no peace. Her 'scribbling suit' consisted of a black woolen pinafore on which she could wipe her pen at will, and a cap of the same material, adorned with a cheerful red bow, into which she bundled her hair when the decks were cleared for action. This cap was a beacon to the inquiring eyes of her family, who during these periods kept their distance, merely popping in their heads semi-occasionally to ask, with interest, Does genius burn, Jo? They did not always venture even to ask this question, but took an observation of the cap, and judged accordingly. If this expressive article of dress was drawn low upon her forehead, it was a sign that hard work was going on, in exciting moments it was pushed rakishly askew, and when despair seized the author it was plucked wholly off, and cast upon the floor. At such times the intruder silently withdrew, and not until the red bow was seen gaily erect upon the gifted brow, did anyone dare address Jo.

"She did not think herself a genius by any means, but when the writing fit came on, she gave herself up to it with entire abandon, and led a blissful life, unconscious of want, care, or bad weather, while she sat safe and happy in an imaginary world, full of friends almost as real and dear to her as any in the flesh. Sleep forsook her eyes, meals stood untasted, day and night were all too short to enjoy the happiness which blessed her only at such times, and made these hours worth living, even if they bore no other fruit. The divine afflatus usually lasted a week or two, and then she emerged from her 'vortex', hungry, sleepy, cross, or despondent."

Now back into the vortex....

Above: "Jo in a Vortex" from the 1869 first printing of Little Women, Part Second. Louisa May Alcott Collection, Hale Library Special Collections, Kansas State University.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Isabel Florence Hapgood

Tuesday, November 29, 2016
Loretta reports:

Not long ago, I posted about the Oread Institute, an early college for women, and promised to write about one of its students.

Isabel Florence Hapgood is one who’s often mentioned in pieces about the Oread Institute. She wasn’t its only famous student, but she’s the one I learned was buried in Worcester. With guidance from William Wallace, Executive Director of the Worcester Historical Museum, my trusty photographer spouse found the grave at the Rural Cemetery, and this photo is the result. It’s a modest marker for a remarkable woman, famous in her day. Because she never married, her body was returned to Worcester, to be buried in the Hapgood family plot in the Rural Cemetery (she's on the left) next to her twin brother, who didn't marry, either.

Isabel Florence Hapgood (1851–1928) attended the Oread Institute from 1863–65, then went on to Miss Porter’s school in Farmington, Connecticut.
She turned out to have a knack for languages—“After graduating, she used her exceptional gift for languages to master in the next ten years most Romance and Germanic languages, and, most importantly, Russian, Polish, and Church Slavonic. She obviously was taken with Russian and…engaged a Russian lady to achieve natural fluency in spoken Russian.”—A Linguistic Bridge to Orthodoxy: Isabel F. Hapgood, by Marina Ledkovsky
In 1885 her first translations from Russian to English appeared. In the years following she translated major works by Tolstoy, Gogol, Dostoevsky, Turgenev, Gorky, Chekhov, and Sonia Kovalesky, among others. She also wrote for the New York Evening Post and the Nation. Her life turns out to be quite exciting: Among other things, she was friends with Leo Tolstoy, invited to visit the Empress Alexandra, and had a narrow escape from Russia when the Revolution began.

I would recommend you read at least pp 5-6 of this presentation, to get a sense of her accomplishments and how highly regarded she was.

The History of the Oread Collegiate Institute is a highly detailed account. Among other things it lists faculty and students throughout the school’s history. Ms. Hapgood’s entry is here. She’s in Wikipedia, of course, and the Encyclopedia Britannica. There's a short bio here at Lost Womyn’s Space, and you can see her autograph here.

Cemetery photograph by Walter M. Henritze III. I have been unable to find the original source for the image below, which appears in numerous places.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Tragedy of the Ex Dress & the Settee, c1760-80

Sunday, November 27, 2016
Isabella reporting,

Fashion never stands still. But as we've discussed here before, women in the past didn't always buy a new dress to reflect a new style, but instead refurbished, retrimmed, or remade existing clothes that they already owned to fit the latest trends. (See examples here, here, here, and here.)

However, that's not what happened to the once-lovely 18thc dress shown here in pieces.

Last week I visited Winterthur Museum for a fine Nerdy History Girls afternoon with Linda Eaton, John & Marjorie P. McGraw Director of Collections and Senior Curator of Textiles. Linda showed me some of the treasures of Winterthur's costume and textiles collection - my idea of a perfect afternoon. In one of the storage rooms, Linda pulled a long archival box from a shelf and asked me if I'd like to see some "ex dresses." This was a new term to me, and at once I envisioned dresses worn by someone's former girlfriend. But in curatorial language, the "ex" refers more to the former state of the textile; in other words, it once was a dress, and now it's a fragment.

When new in 1760-1780, the ex dress shown here was a fashionable robe a la francaise (like this one), with a floating, pleated back and full petticoat, or skirt. The costly silk was likely woven in either Lyon, France, or Spitalfields, London, England, and then made up into a dress for a wealthy woman. The now-unknown mantua-maker who cut and stitched this dress was a skilled seamstress: the meandering floral pattern is carefully matched on the front of the bodice, with the two fronts mirroring one another.

The dress survived intact until the mid-20thc, when it fell prey not to another dressmaker, but to an upholsterer. In a practice common at the time, the dress was cut apart to provide a period-correct fabric for the 18thc settee also in Winterthur's collection, lower right. In theory this was a good choice: the settee was made in New England in 1760-1775, around the same time as the dress, and the style of the robe a la francaise offered plenty of yardage. In the hierarchy of colonial antiques, furniture outranked clothing until the late 20thc (when the study and collecting of historic dress began to be taken more seriously), and so the dress was sacrificed to outfit the settee.

At least the pieces of the dress that couldn't be used were saved - the bodice plus the shaped
sleeve ruffles, upper right, - but while the fragments are useful for study, they're also heartbreaking. To me the final indignity is the the remnants of the linen lining from the back, above left, showing the inner lacing that would have adjusted the now-vanished pleats.

Many thanks again to Linda Eaton for her assistance with this post.

Left: Ex Dress, maker unknown, silk woven in France or England, dress made in North America, 1760-1780, Winterthur Museum.
Lower right: Settee, maker unknown, Massachusetts, 1760-1775, Winterthur Museum.
Photographs used with permission of Winterthur Museum.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Thanksgiving Break

Thursday, November 17, 2016

As has become our custom, we'll be taking off a week or so from blogging, tweeting, pinning, and all-around social-networking to spend time with family, friends, and a good book or two. Both of us have early-January deadlines (the same day - what are the odds?), so there will probably also be a bit of holiday-writing in the mix.

We each have much to be thankful for - including you, the very best readers, followers, and fellow-nerdy-history-folks in the world.

Have a fantastic holiday,

Loretta & Isabella

Thanksgiving postcard by John Winsch, 1910, New York Public Library.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

A College for Women is Founded in 1848

Tuesday, November 15, 2016
Oread Institute 1853
Loretta reports:

Once upon a time, in my college days back in the last century, I lived on Castle Street in Worcester. Behind our little street rose a hill*), which we learned was Castle Hill. Queries about the name evoked responses like, "I heard there was a castle on the hill. Or a school or something.” That was about as much as I ever learned, until recently, when a vintage postcard arrived at our house. It showed a castle, and its title, “Oread Institute,” connected in my mind with my old neighborhood, because I recalled a street by that name not far away.

As my husband I have been learning, Worcester was a happening place in the 1800s and first half of the 1900s.This was why I wasn’t completely surprised when I read here why Worcester was chosen as the site for one of the United States' first higher education institutions for women. It was built by Eli Thayer, and modeled on his alma mater, Brown University. Founded in 1848, it opened 14 May 1849.
History of Oread Institute
Oread Institute in 1870s

As this piece in Gleason’s Pictorial of 19 March 1853 points out, “Here woman enjoys exclusively those privileges which some have regarded as the rightful prerogative of the other sex, having the advantages of a collegiate course of study, if she chooses. And in the attainment of that to which she has long aspired, she is happy.”

Here's a view of Worcester from the Oread Institute in 1858, and here is a detailed study of the college. It
closed in 1881. From 1898 to 1904, it was the Worcester Domestic Science Cooking School.** In 1934 it was demolished.

We’ve located the grave of one of its graduates, about whom I’ll post at a future date.

Image at top: Oread Institute 1853, courtesy Yale University Art Gallery. The photograph below it is described thus:  "The Oread Institute, in Worcester, Massachusetts, was an important and popular women's school from 1848 until it closed its doors in 1881. This ca. 1870's photograph is significant not only because it captures the school in its final years, but because it was taken by a woman, Ms. Augustine H. Folsom." Image and quote courtesy American Antiquarian Society, Worcester MA.   

*This is the case with most streets in Worcester: level ground is in short supply.
**It's believed that shredded wheat was invented there.

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, November 13, 2016

From the Archives: How (Not) to Dress a 17th c.Puritan Maiden

Sunday, November 13, 2016
Isabella reporting,

Historical clothing is one of our favorite topics on this blog, and readers of both our posts and books will know how hard we try to get things *right* when in comes to what people were wearing in the past. Yet I'm also willing to concede that there can be considerable wiggle-room when it comes to theatrical costumes (no one really expects Cinderella to wear a perfect replica 18th c. gown, do they?) and other artistic expressions of past fashion.

But what happens when that artist's vision becomes such a potent image that it wipes the real thing clear away?

That was my thought yesterday while reading one of my favorite blogs, historian Donna Seger's Streets of SalemA recent post featured the 19th c. Anglo-American painter George Henry Boughton (1833-1905), and how his paintings of 17th c. New England Puritans have influenced how we today imagine those early settlers. (Read her post here.) She's right: Boughton's paintings have illustrated countless school history books, and his version of Puritan dress is still widely accepted as the real thing. In fact, when I did a search for the painting, left, the Google best guess that comes up is "Puritan fashion", followed by links to a teaching site that labels this as an example of "colonial clothing."

Except that it isn't. Like most history-painters, Boughton's intentions were the best, but what this young woman is wearing bears no more real resemblance to 17th c. clothing than the sturdy stone walls and substantial brick buildings in the background do to mid-17th c. architecture in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Boughton painted his Puritan maiden in 1875, and to me her expression and posture seem more akin to a fashionable lady of that era; compare her with the lady in James Tissot's Portrait, also painted in 1875.

But it's the costume that Boughton contrived for his model that fascinates me the most. I'm guessing that, like many artists, he had a collection of antique and fancy-dress clothing in his studio, and he assembled an outfit from bits and pieces that looked right to him. To be fair to Boughton, he was trying to create an artistic mood, a somber, thoughtful reverie set in the past, rather than a 17th c. fashion plate. In 1875, people regarded historical clothing as old clothes to be worn to masquerades (no one loved fancy-dress more than the Victorians), and the academic study of dress and fashion was in its infancy.

Still, I'd like to offer a challenge to you. Among our readers, there are many art historians, re-enactors, costume historians, historic seamstresses and tailors, and others of you who know your historical fashion. How many different elements and eras can you see represented in this young woman's costume?

Above: A Puritan Maiden, by George Henry Boughton, 1875, Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Breakfast Links: Week of November 7, 2016

Saturday, November 12, 2016
Breakfast Links are served - our weekly round-up of fav links to other web sites, articles, blogs, and images via Twitter.
Prize money: frigates, treasure, and Jane Austen.
• The heroines of 19thc cookboooks.
Kissed against her will: a Victorian case of assault and abuse of power.
• Mesmerizing video via drone of the mist rolling off the cliffs on the Dorset coast.
Image: Women fishing next to a Studebaker "Big Six" touring car, 1919.
• American child brides and the dangers of underage sex.
• The unique beauty of Dante Gabriel Rosetti.
Extreme bagpiping situations, from Antarctica to the Beaches of D-Day.
• A metal detectorist finds a 15thc gold ring.
• Sophia Smith's 1818 sampler, made in Connecticut.
• How Emma Hamilton brought ancient Greek fashion to 18thc Europe.
Image: Gold brooch, c1860-80, depicting a wyvern, a winged two-legged dragon with a barbed tail.
• When Charles Dickens and Edgar Allen Poe met, and Dickens' pet raven inspired Poe's poem.
• Evanion, the Royal Conjurer, plays with fire.
• In 1798, nascent party politics turned George Washington's birthday into a political headache for John Adams.
• The Jersey City devil.
Image: In praise of doodling! This doodle of a fool was drawn by artist Hans Holbein in the margin of a book in 1515.
• "On being over-fond of animals", 1765.
• Casket couture? Fashions for the grave, 1915.
• More than just a soundtrack: drums, bugles, and bagpipes in the Seven Years War.
• Was the color green fashionable in the 18thc?
Image: Just for fun: more proofreader marks.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring. Private collection.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Friday Video: Recreating an 18thc Agateware Teapot

Friday, November 11, 2016

Isabella reporting,

Recreating an object from the past using the original methods is one of the best ways to understand both the object itself as well as the complexity of the process. It also provides a fresh appreciation for the skill of the original tradespeople, as well as the amount of time (and imagination) that went into making things by hand in the pre-mechanized era.

This novelty agateware teapot from the Victoria & Albert Museum was made in Staffordshire c1750-1765. It was intended to resemble natural agate stone with a swirling effect achieved through layering multicolored clay. The scallop shell shape was created by pressing a thrown base into a mold cast from actual shells, with additional pieces like the spout, handle, and lid made and added separately.

That's the short version of how the teapot was made. This video features Michelle Erickson, who was Ceramic Resident: World Class Maker at the V&A in 2012,  recreating a replica of the original teapot,  and showing exactly how labor-intensive that 18thc process was.

Above: Teapot, maker unknown, c1750-1765, Victoria & Albert Museum.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Election Day

Tuesday, November 8, 2016
Isabella reporting,

No matter who wins the United States election today, there will be so much history being made that a history-related blog post today seems sort of unnecessary. It's history that all we Americans have a chance to help create, too. This early 20thc woman has the right idea, and Loretta and I completely agree with her (though we hope all you men go to the polls as well.) Use your vote!

"Women! Use Your Vote", early 20thc, Getty Images.

Monday, November 7, 2016

From the Archives: Creating Fashionable Coiffures in 1828

Monday, November 7, 2016

1828 hair styles & headwear
Loretta reports:

In my book Lord of Scoundrels, set in 1828, the hero finds the heroine's clothing and hair amusing. I know that when our readers see the fashion plates for the 1820s and 1830s, many feel the same way. But I love Romantic Era fashion, especially the extravagant sleeves and nutty hairstyles. There's an exuberance I find irresistible. The hair, especially, climbing ever upwards, charms me. But one does wonder how this sort of architectural arrangement was managed in the days before hair spray and gels.

Isabella/Susan to the rescue! She sent me a link to a site where historical hairstyles are recreated.  This inspired me to investigate how it was done and what hair products they used.  So I turned to my trusty The Lady’s Stratagem.
One style we see again and again involves two or more big loops sprouting from the top of the head.  In fashion plates, these present an interesting hairstyling puzzle, which the recreations (Photo 2, top row.  Photos 1 & 2, second row) help solve.  According to The Lady’s Stratagem, the hair can be tied first or:

“Just as commonly, the hair is not tied:  you gather it and hold it very firmly In your left hand, twist it with this same hand, and immediately place the comb on it to hold it.  Then you make nœuds d’Apollon or Apollo knots; so are called the large loops of hair on the summit of the head.  This style has been in fashion for a long time; every one says that it will last.”
And it did, well into the 1830s, until about 1836-7, when fashion went droopy.
Since the instructions quoted in The Lady’s Stratagem are lengthy, I can only refer you to that book for the details on creating this style—or, if your French is better than mine, you can follow the directions in Arte de se coiffer soi-même, enseigné aux dames (1828) (here or here).

From what I can determine, one of the hair oils we’ve seen advertised or similar product or a pomade was used to keep hair smoothly in place.

Images: upper left, courtesy Los Angeles Public Library; lower right from Arte de se coiffer soi-même, enseigné aux dames, courtesy Bibliothèque nationale de france.

Clicking on the image will enlarge it. Clicking on the caption will take you to the source, where you enlarge further and find out more.

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