Since we’re speaking of colonial costume, I’m going to share several gowns I've run across in my research that I especially like for their detail and beauty. Alas, the most beautiful one I've found I made the mistake of embedding in a Word document with the accompanying text, and if the images can be extracted, I don't know how to do it. I found it a few years ago on ebay, where it was up for auction. It’s truly is museum quality, but all I can share here is the description that was given. The caption says: Spitalfields Pannier Gown & Petticoat, c. 1760-75.
“The gown is fashioned from English Spitalfields cream brocade silk damask. The brocade is amazingly vibrant and rich in colour, depicting the awakening of spring, through blossoming flowers, young buds, and swags- completely throughout the gown's fabric, in shades of purples, violets, magenta, rose, cinnamon, cornflower, champagne, navy and deep pinks! The sides of the gown are full to allow for a pannier undergarment, and with an open front to reveal, where would have been, a highly decorated petticoat. The petticoat included, would have been worn as an undergarment to the skirt. It is a beautiful piece to display the gown over, and was found with the gown, as a set.
“The front of the bodice would have been complete with an elaborate stomacher, and lace belle sleeves, according to whether or not the wearer desired. The sleeves have a beautiful belle shape, and with a feminine double flounce. All of the bodice and sleeves are trimmed with cream silk, hand-knotted fringe detailing. Both pieces are fully hand sewn, and are a testament to the immense level of labor put into such remarkable garments like these of the period, which only the higher levels of women in society could even consider affording. The gown is unlined, and the petticoat is lined in cream linen. The quilting to the botton of the petticoat depicts signs of spring, like its gown, with leaves, and young buds. See page 59 of Fashion by Taschen, for a very similar quilted piece of the same era.”
It really is gorgeous, and luckily I was able to find a similar one on the Indianapolis Museum of Art’s website, along with another that’s equally lovely, which I’ll post tomorrow. A front view is not given, unfortunately, only the back and side. Although the pattern of this gown is not as elaborate and vibrant as that of the Spitalfields gown, the colors are similar, and it’ll give you the general idea. It dates to around 1750. Click on the images for a larger view.
Click here to go to a photo album on Picasa that shows a number of lovely gowns dating from 1770 to 1790. The album owner appears to be Jasmine Brackett, and the header states: costume making at college, and web work at Victoria and Albert Museum; Student at Kensington and Chelsea College, London.
In the next couple of posts I’ll share images of the other gown I found on the website of the Indianapolis Museum of Art and also another very lovely gown I found a few years ago. Hmm . . . then maybe I ought to delve into men’s clothing.
Why are some of us so passionate about historical fiction in general, and for me and many others, specifically historical fiction set during the American colonial, Revolution, and Federalist eras? A couple of weeks ago we touched on the current popularity of these periods on the colonial Christian writers e-mail loop I belong to. In the secular market, the 18th and early 19th centuries in both America and England are gaining a substantial audience. Movies and books by, about, and similar to Jane Austin’s seem to crop up on a very regular basis.
One member of our group felt that the current popularity of this period in American history is due to a desire to get back to the foundations on which this country was built: self-reliance, courage, individualism, independence, and especially godly ideals, values, and principles. I agree with her, and I’d add adventure to the list, which, along with all of the above, is a great draw for me. Americans are nothing if not adventurous. All of us are immigrants, including the native peoples who got here first, and immigrants are by nature adventurers looking for opportunity of one kind or another and the freedom to pursue their individual happiness.
We all tend to have an idealistic view of the past. As we look back, the early period of our nation’s history seems to present an ideal landscape, with heroes who were bigger than life and goals more worthy than those common to our own time. Of course, reality is always more complex than that kind of simplistic view, but it is true that technology has radically changed our culture, and not all for the better. We have sacrificed the intimacy of relationships for the illusion of electronic connections that isolate us. And so we look back on earlier times and long for what we have lost. But in many ways that longing is a good thing because it can lead us to reach back and reclaim what is true and good and of eternal value.
I recently came across a couple of blogs that feed right into my interest in colonial-era history and might be of interest to you as well if you haven’t already discovered them. Carla Glade is a fellow member of the e-mail loop I mentioned, and her blog Writing to Distraction offers a series on dressing a colonial lady that’s extremely informative.
The second is the blog of a New England reenactor, Mary Spencer, An Historical Lady. It’s an absolutely wonderful resource for costuming and other 18th century period-correct information. I could spend hours delving around the blog and its links. What I need is another day in my day . . .
If you’ve discovered a blog or website you especially admire that focuses on the American colonial, Revolutionary, or Federal periods, please share in a comment! I’m always looking for new resources.
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