Friday, December 1, 2017

The Bride's Dress in A Duke in Shining Armor

Friday, December 1, 2017
Loretta reports:

Since my first blog post of the month is usually a fashion illustration, I shall begin my tour of A Duke in Shining Armor’s historical background with what the heroine, Olympia, wore to the first wedding.

Seeking suitable bridal attire, I turned the pages of my French Fashion Plates of the Romantic Era. And there it was, exactly what I was looking for: an ensemble complicated enough, with a sufficiently elaborate hair arrangement, to express, in clothing, my heroine’s plight as well as her state of mind. It allowed, too, for what I deemed a satisfactory amount of comic effect. As some of you are aware, if there’s fashion description in my story, it’s there for a reason. If it doesn’t have a role to play—something to tell you, something to express, some action to perform—I skim over or skip it.

So there’s the dress that set me off. And there’s the dress. And there it is again.
Bridal Dress May 1833

As is evident, my search didn’t end with French Fashion Plates of the Romantic Era—because the book describes it as you see above, which is to say, not much. Since the source for these plates is the Petit Courrier des Dames (also published as Modes de Paris) for 1830-34, I commenced a search. That particular illustration did not appear in any of the online editions of the publication I could find, or in any of the several museum collections I searched.

But all was not lost. If you read here about the magazine, you’ll also learn about the kind of rampant stealing that went on. Long aware of the copying, I started investigating online for images from magazines for May-June 1833.

There it was, in a fashion print from the Ladies’ Cabinet, courtesy the Los Angeles Public Library online collection of Casey Fashion Plates. There it was, not called anything. But the date, May 1833, did correspond to the one in French Fashion Plates.

All very entertaining, but I needed a description—and at last I found it…sort of. There was the same dress, but in yellow, called an evening dress, in the Magazine of the Beau Monde. However, I decided it was a mis-coloring as well as a misprint, because here’s the description:

Figure III.—Evening Dress.—A white satin dress, corsage en pointe, trimmed with nœds; short sleeves with blonde sabots; a pelerine of blond extending over the sleeves. The hair in front separated and forming full side curls, elevated in close plaits on the summit of the head figuring a diadem ornamented with a branch of orange blossoms; a deep veil of blond surmounting the coiffure, and descending below the waist.
Bridal Dress mis-colored

The orange blossoms would be a clue.

On my Pinterest Page you can see other illustrations I used while writing A Duke in Shining Armor. If you visit or sign up for my website blog, you’ll get some special material, exclusive material, and expanded/alternate versions of topics I’ve blogged about here.

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.


Grace Burrowes said...

I'm struck by how much the description of the dress and coiffure sound like a description of a coat of arms: Lion, rampant, with three bois-de-something argant, ramshead en pico de gallo reverse, with a border of fleur-de-lis on a field vert...

What a treasure of a dress!

AntrimCycle said...

Thank you for posting this. As I read A Duke in Shining Armor, I tried to envision this especially the headpiece and veil. You also taught me a new word as I'd never heard of pomatum. BTW, the book is fantastic, probably my favorite of yours, and so funny.

Two Nerdy History Girls. Design by Pocket