Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Waistcoats: 19th and 20th Century

Apart from certain stylistic keys, I've always had a harder time dating men's clothing. It's just not as interesting to me, so I haven't taken the time to really study dated extant pieces and images and improve my skills. But lately I've come across more undated waistcoats while cataloguing - it's become something that I need to work on. And how better than by putting together a blog post?

Wedding waistcoat, 1808; MMA 2009.300.7449 [OASC]
At the beginning of the century, fashionable waistcoats were cut straight across at the bottom to match fashionable coats, although the vests often protruded slightly below the waistline of the coat. High collars, also matching the coats, would cover the sides of the shirt collar that extended up to the jawline. Both coats and vests could be single- or double-breasted, generally with self-covered buttons. While coat lapels were generally wide, waistcoat lapels were somewhat narrower.

Toward the end of the first decade of the century, the openings above the buttoned areas in both tended to be shorter and narrower, and around 1812 they began to appear sometimes almost fastened up to the neck. The standing collar was much shorter by this point, no longer covering the shirt. (In formal dress, waistcoats retained the longer, angled hems and types of embroidery that had been worn in the later eighteenth century.)

Around 1814-1815, the fashionable male figure began to have a distinctly nipped-in waist, which could be reflected in the cut of the waistcoat or in padding added to the chest. Emphasizing this, they would generally be buttoned only at the bottom, the shirt's jabot bursting from the opening. The waisted effect increased and continued through the 1820s, though the fashionable waist was located lower toward the end of that decade.

At first the trend of only buttoning waistcoats around waist level had no effect on cut, but at the end of the 1810s the construction changed: buttons and buttonholes were placed only on the lower half or two-thirds of the opening, and the front edges themselves might be cut on a curve so as to keep the lengthened lapels narrow all the way up, with only a slight notch.

"Waistcoat of gros de Naples with pearl buttons, lined with a contrasting color," Petit Courrier des Dames, ca. 1835; NYPL 802030
The bottom edges of the vest remained horizontal for most of this time; around the middle of the 1820s, they were cut with a slight curve to create separate points at the opening below the buttons when worn. As the puff of the chest was emphasized more at the end of the decade and the front edges were curved more, the lowest button was left unbuttoned and the points were then larger. However, these points didn't last very long - by the very early 1830s, it was more common for the fully-closed vest to end in a gradual slope to one point, or simply a straight line, the latter especially if the waistcoat were double-breasted.

Very little change occurred over the rest of the 1830s, but the unnotched shawl collar began to be more prevalent at the end of the 1830s; the angled breast pocket seems to have begun to appear between 1840 and 1845. Lower points without buttons reappeared after 1840 as well, whether single- or double-breasted, and while very narrow lapels remained in use wide ones were seen as well, more and more frequently toward the end of the decade.

Wedding waistcoat, 1846; MMA 1985.363.6 [OASC]
Early in the 1850s, the points dropped out of favor for a flat lower edge: at first with some space below the lowest button to create two wide points, then a completely straight line around 1855. While a deep opening to reveal the shirtfront remained in use, especially in evening dress or at home, for day dress a higher neckline became more common around 1855 as well. By the end of the decade, when buttoned high a waistcoat could have no lapels at all.

The greatest change in the mid-1850s was that a pinched male waist was no longer fashionable. The chest was still to be rounded, still enhanced with padding, but the defined difference between waist and hips was smoothed out. Vests less commonly flared below the waistline.

Waistcoat, ca. 1865; MMA 1979.346.47 [OASC]
In the early 1860s, slight points reappeared at the lower edge of waistcoats, and the shawl collar began to be set aside in favor of either no lapels or notched and pointed ones.

Around this point, it becomes very difficult to find images of men's waistcoats, as it was common to keep the coat fully buttoned, or just fastened at the top, during the day. Magazines aimed at gentlemen and their tailors, however, such as the Gentleman's Magazine of Fashion, made an effort to show or at least describe them, and it's clear that the era of the three-piece suit had begun: many waistcoats were made in the same fabric as a coat and trousers. When not made to match, vests were generally plain, not in the bright patterns and colors of prior decades. Their forms stopped changing, pointed lower edges and no (occasionally notched) lapels remaining most common through the early twentieth century, though double-breasted vests with flat lower edges were also worn. (A second breast pocket seems to have been frequently added after the turn of the century.)

Formalwear fossilized to an even earlier shape, with shawl collars and deep necklines. White and black fabrics were the only ones used - for, respectively, white and black tie.

Howard Fenton Ross's wedding portrait, 1905; CHM 1983.15.8


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Tableaux Vivants at Clermont

Clermont at night
On Sunday, I volunteered at the Candlelight Evening at Clermont - playing Cornelia Livingston in 1843 as she sewed a Christmas present while her sister-in-law read and a servant decorated a small tree. Here are some photos of the other rooms (1776, 1778, 1808, and 1860s), please check them out!


For the event, I rewore my Cranford dress with some alterations. The main thing was that I took the bodice side seams in about 3" in total, I think: it really didn't fit before (where now it has "fit issues"). I still need to mess some more with the armscyes and add bust padding to achieve a decent smoothness, and need to cut about an inch off the bottom, but I'm much happier with it than I was before.


I also wore it over two more petticoats, one of which is made of crinoline and wired, and that helped the silhouette enormously. This period requires a mass of petticoats to create a softly belled shape, which I believe I came closer to achieving. Sometimes even bustle pads were used in order to make sure that the fullness stood out more in the back, and so I wore my flat bustle pad ... however, this might have been a bit too much. I ended up with a slightly shelfy backside. No pad next time!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Fashion History Mythbusters: The Cage Crinoline or Hoop Skirt

As Julia Thomas points out in Pictorial Victorians, the satirical cartoons and anecdotes in Punch heavily colored contemporary (and modern) impressions of the fashions of the 1850s and 1860s. As a result, the wide skirts seem like fantastical costumes that played havoc with ordinary life and were impossible to move around in. And so the myths have proliferated.

“Cool Request,” Punch, or the London Charivari, Volume 32, January 31, 1857, p. 50.
- compare to the actual 1857 fashion plate below
The first myth to address is the name of the garment. My impression is that most people use the term "cage crinoline"- "hoop skirt" sounds farby: it gives the impression of a cheap and flimsy petticoat worn by someone who doesn't know any better. eBay and Etsy sellers using elastic and plastic sell hoop skirts, but those who use metal and fitted waistbands (and the more established companies with their own websites) sell cage crinolines. Even when used without a negative implication, "hoop skirt" tends to be reserved for fabric skirts with channels for bones.

This distinction, however, is not historical, though it's handy for a modern context. I can find one reference to the "cage crinoline" in a Peterson's Magazine of 1863, but every American patent for one calls it a "hoop skirt", as did most merchants. "Crinoline", used without an article (eg. "but wife and daughters alike received the sarcasm carelessly, and the wrath meekly, and continued wearing crinoline as before." - from "Who Killed Crinoline?", reprinted many times, found here in Once a Week, 1869), appears frequently, but it refers to the whole genre of skirt supports rather than a specific type. When used in a specific way, such as in an advertisement, it still lacks the "cage"; in this description, "crinoline" is used for what we now call a hoop skirt.
The feminine world had skipped swiftly from the clinging fashion of high directoire waists into the hoops of an exaggerated crinoline (invented by Worth for the Empress Eugénie, in order to conceal her pregnancy).
- Phantom Crown: the Story of Maximilian and Carlota of Mexico. Bertita Harding, 1934, reprinted in 2008. pp 31-32.

The myth that Empress Eugénie had the hoop invented to hide her pregnancy is frequently connected with Worth, most likely because Worth is known to have worked for her and also to have autocratically caused fashionable changes. But Worth was not working for Eugénie at the time of her pregnancy (1855-1856), and did not even have his own firm until 1858. And on the other side, the hoop didn't need to be invented as it was actually just an innovation on petticoats stiffened with cords threaded through sewn channels.

Napoleon and Eugénie with their son, ca. 1859
At first, I thought that the idea that Eugénie had the hoop skirt developed to hide her pregnancy came from Gone with the Wind, either in book or movie form, and its insistence that Victorian women were never seen in public while they were pregnant - which is not true by any means. (Maternity corsets were designed to attempt to keep the fashionable shape while allowing for the growing fetus, to some extent.  Pregnancy wasn't glorified, but it also wasn't cause for a woman to be sentenced to a dark room and a wrapper for nine months. See also: Sylvia Hoffert, Private Matters, pp. 26-30, and Annmarie Adams, Architecture in the Family Way: Doctors, Houses, and Women, 1870-1900, pp. 108-109)

However, the story has existed as long as the hoop skirt itself. "Those newspapers, - but, then, newspapers are never accurate - have insinuated that the Empress Eugenie brought in crinoline for a most womanly reason", reported The Spectator (in 1860) while denying the validity of the rumor. "One is the Empress Eugenie, who at a certain period, for personal reasons, introduced an excess of crinoline which gradually led to cane hoops and steel petticoats", Charles H. Bennett wrote in Shadow and Substance in the same year. The timing certainly is helpful: the hoop was patented in 1856, and Eugénie was pregnant during late 1855 and early 1856.

The fact that even contemporary sources scoff at the rumor is a decent enough reason to set it aside, but let's consider it for a moment. It might be physically possible for a woman to hide a pregnancy at an early stage, or a low-carrying pregnancy, with a hoop and a raised waistline, but the same feat could be accomplished with a voluminous crinoline petticoat. And fashion at the end of the 1850s called for a lower waistline: the waistband of the hoop or crinoline would probably hit right on the tell-tale bulge.

Peterson's Magazine, October 1857
The result was that serious injury or death became a kind of occupational hazard for crinoline wearers.  The most common danger came from fire.
- The Anatomy of Fashion, Susan Vincent, p. 92

To be completely honest, I had assumed for a while that hoop-wearers being in great danger of catching on fire was not true. It's stated without a source very frequently, it tends to go along with the statement that fire and childbirth were the most common deaths for women, and its period sources are also generally vague and non-specific. But there does appear to be an element of truth to it. Frances Appleton Longfellow, wife of the poet, died in 1861 from her dress catching fire. (Frances is also noted in an article in The Living Age (1861), along with Elizabeth Brodhurst, whose death by fire is corroborated in The Annual Register (1861).) However, as Florence Nightingale notes in Notes on Nursing (1860), chemicals could be mixed with starch to render petticoats less flammable. (This is also touched on in an article in the Medical Times and Gazette (1863).)

Information about more named crinoline fire deaths here, use of satirical photo seriously notwithstanding.
I find questionable the claim of crinolines worn by factory workers operating machinery. Since there's been no response to the citation needed template added in June 2007, I've posted a query on the original editor's User talk page. All editors are invited to help clear up this matter. -- Deborahjay (talk) 06:41, 9 September 2009 (UTC)
- Wikipedia, "Crinoline" Talk Page

Like others, I found it unlikely that factory workers would dress in something as obviously impractical as a hoop. Surely that would be immediately apparent to them - and besides, wouldn't such a fashionable accessory be out of their price range?

Searching period sources reveals a Miss Marshall dying in 1860 from her crinoline - from context, most likely the proper horsehair crinoline rather than a cage - being caught in a machine. But for the most part, references (such as this one in the Eclectic Magazine, 1862) are vague and don't specify names, and so are suspect as urban legends or deliberate propaganda.

There are, however, many references to servants dressing in hoops. That Cassell's Household Guide (1869) specifically recommends that employers prohibit their maids from wearing crinoline is a strong indicator that those maids would otherwise wear them. A column called "Centre-Table Gossip" in the Ladies Magazine in 1860 (summarized and excerpted in Domesticity With a Difference) also stresses the unsuitability of hooped skirts for household tasks, along with some suspicion that maids in crinoline are either failing to save their money for necessary expenses or are stealing or prostituting themselves to afford them. In texts from all historical periods, you come across complaints about servants looking too much like their employers (maids wearing silk in the early 18th century, printed cotton some decades on, and white muslin during the Regency were all issues) - clothes are always used to signal something to viewers, and an affluent woman's are meant to show her status. If one of her servants can mimic them well , then what's she left with for her own signals?

By the 1870s, it seems to have been accepted that maidservants would wear hoops, but the concerns over the hoops being impractical still existed.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

A Delphos Dress

"Delphos" dress, Mariano Fortuny, 1910-1930; CHM 1997.68.1 (pattern available at link)
Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo (1871-1949) is best remembered for two things: vibrantly patterned silks and velvets, and the Delphos gown, inspired by ancient Greek chitons (themselves imported from Asia Minor), which were made from a single rectangular panel of linen or silk sewn into a tube, the top edge fastened with brooches down the length of the arms, and belted to fit to the body. The Neoclassical revival had already begun in the decorative arts by 1907, when Fortuny developed the Delphos, and high fashion was beginning to show its influence as well - but this was much more extreme than anything else in existence at the time. Not only was it originally intended to be worn without a corset at home (corsetless teagowns had been worn for some time already), there was absolutely nothing about its design that hid that fact. The straight, clinging line would soon become mainstream fashion, but when the Delphos dress was first designed it was a radical departure.

Mrs. Condé Nast, from Woman as Decoration, Emily Burbank
Like the chiton, the Delphos dress is not intricately constructed: the pattern is more a description of methods. The only shaping is in the upper and lower edges; rather than being pinned, the upper edge is laced closed over the arms with a blue silk cord decorated with patterned glass beads.

The Fortuny heat-set pleating method created unbroken lines of creases down the length of the dress, apparently before the reinforcements under the arms were done. Rows of gathering stitches hold the pleats in place there, where they would be under a lot of stress, and a length of cotton tape is sewn down under the "armscye", giving the dress a little more hidden stability.

As far as I know, there is no chronology of Delphos gowns available. There must be certain techniques or styles or materials that were only used during certain periods of time, but there are so few securely dated gowns or photographs of them that I'm reluctant to draw any conclusions. As a result, my date range is far wider than I would prefer it to be.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

On Ball Dress ...

Journal des Dames et des Modes, 1813

... The fashion is for coiffures à la chinoise so high that, even with the longest hair, it is difficult to create them. M. Palette has created false coques* of hair; and, with this accessory, or a part of it, for the coques come apart, one can create the highest chinoises. Five coques are sold for twenty-five francs. M Palette resides at the passage of the Petits-Pères, number one.

For balls, seamstresses sew satin motifs on tulle gowns, made in the shape of a peak or trefoil, and fold down their edges: they put a garland of flowers at the bottom of the gown, and above the garland a double rouleau of satin.

Gowns are called à la Vierge or à la demi-guimpe if they are as high-cut as those seen in church paintings. These new gowns are made in emerald green and white striped gauze, or lapis lazuli blue and white; the trim of the top and bottom consists of a bouillonné band of gauze made in reverse box pleats.

- From the article accompanying plates 1290 and 1291, Journal des Dames et des Modes, 1813

* Literally "shell"; those flattened loops you see in hairstyles of the 1810s through 1830s.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Clothing Project

No substantive post this week - and there won't be one next week, either. Probably you will get one the week after. (I had a great idea for one that I've lost, but I'm sure it will come back to me ... while I'm at work, when I'm holding a pastry bag of frosting instead of a pen.) This is because the deadline for my manuscript - Regency Women's Dress, you may recall - is coming up very quickly.

The good news: having to send in the text and pictures means that we're getting closer to the point where the book will be actually available, which is of course a good thing.

The unsettling news: are you crazy?! I have to get it all perfectly finished and submitted!

Which means that I'm spending all of my time on writing, rewriting, consulting about the illustrations, and redrafting the patterns in ink, and sadly don't have time to write a great post. (If you should want to see what I've posted about most of the patterns I've taken, check out the "grand project" tag at the right for an exhaustive rundown.)

So I will leave you with a link to The Clothing Project, my friend Mary's Tumblr-blog for displaying pieces she comes across in her cataloguing/inventorying at the NYSHA/Farmers Museum collection. You should take a look, it's great!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Jennie Goodman's Wedding Dress (1878)

I've been sitting on this pattern for a while because this is, frankly, one of my favorites of the dresses I put online at the Chapman.

CHM 1971.38.1 (pattern available at link)
Now, the photo is not great. It's a decent view of the bodice, but you don't get a good sense of the elaborate drapery and the classic early Natural Form train. There are a few other shots on the website, but there's nothing like seeing a dress on a mannequin. Unfortunately, this gown has some structural issues, possibly due to being on a hanger for a long time (though it was in a box when I got there), and can probably never be dressed, which is one reason I wanted to pattern it.

The slender princess line would make this tricky to fit, which is why I haven't tried to make it yet (as well as the utter confusion of the pattern itself, which was phenomenally difficult to take and had me contemplating just putting the dress back several times). It's very close-fitting from the neckline to the thighs, and even in the sleeves. A great challenge!

Unlike the Natural Form gown in Waugh, this dress opens in the front and uses an apron-like panel for the front of the skirt. The back of the bodice extends into a trained overskirt, and the front is covered by a tablier like earlier and later bustle gowns. So while the pattern is many times more confusing than Waugh's, it is somewhat more forgiving.

Parisian fashions, Peterson's, January 1877; CCDL
The white afternoon/dinner dress here is the closest I can find to show how it would look when worn.

The dress was worn by one Jennie Smith (1860-1901) when she married Samuel Boyd Goodman (1852-1920) on October 15, 1878. They had two children, Helen Louise, who died as a child, and Juliet Gould, born in 1888. Juliet grew up to marry first Clifford Allen, in 1928, and later Frederick Braydon Chapman. Chapman had been previously married as well, to Mabel DeLong (who had also been previously married, by the way - to Harry Austin, who died in 1918). The DeLong family had always been the owners of the house on Glen Street which is now the Chapman Historical Museum, but because of this complicated tangle of second marriages, it's named for someone with hardly any tie to them!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Post-Edwardian Mourning, plus Renoirs

I hadn't even heard of Death Becomes Her or You (the former is the exhibition, the latter the event) until I was emailed an invitation to come in period clothing. Since Julie moved far away there haven't really been any events close enough for me to go, and I was so excited! But I have nothing suitable for mourning in the period covered by Death Becomes Her - technically, my white cotton 1780 gown, if worn with a white petticoat, would count as second mourning in its period, though - so I had to take action quickly: I had to make the best use of my time as I'm a slow sewer.

It was hard to decide. My choices were:
  • Regency, as I've taken a lot of patterns for my book and have so many options
  • 1840s, as it's kind of my era of choice when you take convenience out of the conversation
  • 1910s, my old love, plus I have a 1911 corset and do not need any extra underpinnings
In the end, I went with the early 1910s. My sewing speed was really an issue, especially as I'm working a part time job and cataloguing at a local historical society twice a week! I couldn't spend a lot of time scaling up a complicated pattern, or making a bunch of petticoats to fluff out skirts, or hand-sewing everything (because even for an event happening soon I'm not going to compromise on that). And I have always liked the 1911-1914 silhouette.

After some dithering, I went with Butterick B6093, which looks like a reprint of an historical Butterick pattern. The long-sleeved version is hideous, but the other view looks very much like many dresses in my April 1914 issue of McCall's.





My original assumption was that the pattern was an original with updated, modernized instructions, but soon after I ordered the pattern on Etsy I found out that this is not so. They want you to make it all up and put in a zipper in the side! I was almost prepared to scale up and hand-sew an 1840s dress, do you think I would stand for that? No, no. But I have handled so many dresses of this period that it was a cinch to figure out how to make it in a plausible manner while completely ignoring the instructions given.

First I cut out the lining in unbleached muslin, shaping it so the edges met at center front instead of overlapping, and fitted it in front and back with darts. Edwardian, post-Edwardian, and early 1920s dresses were mostly made with overlapping layers attached to a fitted lining. In some ways, this makes construction easier: if you know the lining fits, you can gather and tack down and apply anywhere to get the dress to look any way you want it to.

My fitted lining
I sewed the shoulder seams separately in each layer, but sewed the side seams together through all the layers to anchor the bodice. Resting the bodice on my dress form (which still doesn't match my body, by the way), I gathered up the back by hand to fit, and attached the back of the skirt. After making the whole skirt up, just to be clear.

Due to my only having 2.5 yards of 60" wool because of reasons, I had to make some changes to the pattern: no floaty overskirt panels. Instead, I would use the plain underskirt, and fasten it with a dog-leg closure as the crossover front can't extend all the way to the side seam (as I found to my frustration). The left side of the bodice is free: I gathered it slightly and sewed it to a white twill tape, putting a snap at the end to fasten it.

Left side snapped on.
I gathered the right side a bit more than the left, and sewed it to the front panel of the skirt, ending at about the left skirt dart. This side snaps to the left, and the skirt snaps down the side opening. (I ended up using pins between the bodice snap and the skirt opening; should add a couple more snaps.)


I made up the collar and then sewed it to the wool layer (this is why the shoulder seams have to be done separately in each layer), slipstitching the lining inside. The cuffs were done in reverse, having one side of the cuff sewn to the sleeve, then the other folded down and slipstitched to the inside.

I had some problems with the sleeves - the pattern pieces are cut to make quite a puff at the top, which doesn't show in the pattern drawing. My wool is kind of a winter suit-weight, and I didn't want a big puff anyway, so I tried to cut them down, with some success. The crossover had to be pinned in place with a cameo brooch, as it wanted to puff too much.

Me with Julie and Dan before leaving for the Met.
Hair is tricky for me, as mine is currently just below my shoulders. For this period and the 1920s, I twist side pieces of my hair to fluff out, and usually make a very low bun - due to the length, I had to just roll up the back and try to fasten it, but I ended up redoing it constantly. I bought a trio of black plumes to try to use as ornaments, but in the end I knew I wouldn't be able to manage that. (Look out for black feathers on my Etsy store. Just tell me if you're interested!) So nothing interesting in my hair.

My hair never stays up.
Overall, I think this is a very good, accurate pattern, provided that you ignore the instructions. It really is basic enough to be altered into some of the variations I gave above. I would love to use it again to make the green-striped dress with the buttons down the crossover and on the skirt.

And as a present for reading this far, here is the CBS This Morning segment that we appeared in:



(I don't want to present it totally without comment, so let me just quickly add: Chanel didn't invent the little black dress.)

Renoirs

(I've called these Tissots in a couple of places, which, to be fair, they're both artist names with the same letter at the beginning and end. And both use an assortment of vowels and consonants!)

I don't have the number of reenacting shoes I would like. Generally I make do with my Fugawee Annas (for the 18th century and some of the 19th), modern brown flats (for all evening and Regency occasions), and Gibsons (20th century). But I am gearing up for an Early Bustle wedding, and it seems appropriate to have proper shoes for a wedding, so I got involved with the Renoir preorder. But I needed them to be black, and of course they inherently require alteration with the buttons, so I let them sit around until very recently, when I realized that they would work for this outfit and I should finish them.

Post-dye, pre-polish

Finished!

The dye was more watery than I was expected, and at first I was dribbling it around. It's on the sole! Another thing to beware is that if you dye the area with the original holes for the buttons lying flat, the dye will seep into the lining. Don't let it happen, it will annoy you. Also, polishing requires a lot more buffing than you might expect - I'm still getting some on my fingers. But I feel that the dyed and polished black makes for a deeper, fuller color than a factory dye.

I wore these to my volunteer position on the Wednesday before Halloween in order to break them in, and they were very comfortable. Bear in mind, I have flat feet and normally wear insoles and no heels - here, short heels and no insoles. So I decided to wear them down to New York in order to save on packing.

The story of my travels within New York is long and stupid; let it suffice to say that I did a lot of extra, unnecessary walking. I'm pretty sure that if I hadn't done all that extra walking at a city speed, I wouldn't have rubbed a tiny spot on my ankle raw - it didn't happen until about 8pm. These are so comfortable! I'm sure that at any event where you aren't constantly forgetting things and having to rush back to get them, these would not cause any problems. The Renoir boots get my wholehearted approval! I can't wait to wear them to another event.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

On Mourning

(I decided to write this post because I'm planning to branch out into historical social topics more frequently - but it lines up very well with an event this week! I will be attending Death Becomes You at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Halloween, in a post-Edwardian black wool dress with white collar and cuffs. Hope to see you there!

Next week, I'll be posting some information about the dress, plus gloating about how happy I am with my dyed Renoir boots.)

The subject of mourning is a very popular one when it comes to the mythology of the Victorian period. Traditional rules of mourning, however, go back further than Prince Albert's death, Victoria's reign, or even the nineteenth century.

The concept of mourning in specific clothing is very, very old, but to focus specifically on Western European codes involving specific styles of dress, stages of intensity, and periods of time, a mourning code including concepts of first and second mourning extends at least as far back as the 17th century. Samuel Pepys noted in his diary that Anne Hyde, the Duchess of York, was in second mourning for her mother in "black, edged with ermine" four months after the death, and third and half-mourning followed second (though third seems to have dropped out of usage by the mid-18th century). While these were generally successive dress codes meant to transition a person out of deepest mourning, half-mourning was also a primary stage of mourning worn for more distant relations. Providing mourning for servants was a status marker due to the financial outlay required, and Continental sumptuary laws of the time often forbade it.

The Mourning Virgin, copy after Dieric Bouts, ca. 1525; MMA 71.156 (OASC)
In Mary Wortley Montagu's account of the Austrian court in 1716, she described the constant mourning worn by Princess Christine Louise of Oettingen-Oettingen, the mother of Empress Elisabeth Christine, and noted that "nothing can be more dismal than the mourning here, even for a brother," indicating the existence of different standards for different relationships between the mourner and deceased. In the same year, Louis XV (or his regent) cut the required lengths of mourning times in half, so that full mourning only lasted six months, "and the rest in proportion".

France had a similar system of mourning levels, at least by the 1720s, in great mourning (grand deuil) and lesser mourning (petit deuil): great mourning consisted of a totally unornamented outfit of black wool, worn with a long cloak and a band of crêpe around the hat, widows adding a black crêpe veil, while lesser mourning was made from serge or crêpon (a heavier silk or wool crêpe) and made use of blue and white ribbons as well as black. Widows, their clothing financed by the estate's heirs, were expected to take a year of mourning in which they did not remarry, out of respect for their husbands, but at this time the prohibition against quick remarriage was much more important than actually wearing mourning clothes during the full year. Outside of court mourning for a member of royalty, great mourning dress was only expected to be worn for a deceased parent, grandparent, parent-in-law, sibling, or spouse; mourning for one's descendants was supposed to only include the long wool cloak, while a short cloak or petit deuil were worn for uncles, aunts, cousins, nieces, and nephews.

"Manner of wearing informal mourning", Galerie des Modes1781
In the middle of the century, a complete guide to the stages of mourning was published (and later reprinted in a shortened form in the Galerie des Modes), said to have been the same since Louis XV changed the periods of mourning. The grand deuil consisted of three stages (wool mourning, silk mourning, and petit deuil), required black drapery to be put up in the house, and prohibited the wearing of diamonds and swords, while a less formal type of mourning had only two stages, black mourning and white mourning. Grand deuil was extended from the earlier relations to include aunts, uncles, and cousins; black and white mourning was worn for second cousins. French tradition also required that inheriting siblings of the deceased wear mourning three times as long, which did not happen in England, but the other mourning periods were likely the same in both countries. Wives did wear mourning twice as long as their husbands, for just over a year, to correspond with the required period of single widowhood - but only the first four and a half months were in the fullest mourning. Kings were treated as fathers of the country in their general mourning; court mourning followed the same rules as ordinary mourning, but carried out in court dress. This tract was published in the 1780s in translation in England, with a note at the end that the reader could see similarities between French and English mourning.

I: Mr B. Finds Pamela Writing, Joseph Highmore, 1743-4; Tate Collection N03573
general deep mourning in England lasted three months for the death of Frederick, Prince of Wales in the 1750s, as did second mourning after that. Court mourning on the same occasion consisted of black bombazine gowns for women (dark Norwich crêpe while in undress), with black crêpe hoods, "plain muslin or long lawn", chamois shoes and gloves, and crêpe fans; gentlemen wore black wool coats (dark grey in undress) "without buttons on the sleeves or pockets", cravats of muslin or "long lawn", weepers, crêpe hatbands, chamois shoes and gloves, and black swords and buckles. The second mourning was, for women, black silk gowns (white or grey in undress, of lustring, taffeta, or damask), plain or fringed linens, white gloves, necklaces, and earrings (without diamonds), and black and white shoes, fans, and tippets; for men, fully-trimmed black coats (grey frock coats in undress), plain or fringed linens, black swords and buckles - the same as was ordered in 1737/38, on the death of Caroline of Ansbach. A more middle-class mourning would likely have been fairly similar to the court undress. "Weepers", flat white cuffs, were worn by men just for full mourning, as were crêpe hatbandsbombazine was clearly very commonly worn during mourning, as was wool crêpe. In hotter colonies, men's mourning coats were only ornamented with black cuffs and buttonholes. Women frequently wore all white with plain linens and ruffles for second mourning, and sometimes all black with striped or otherwise ornamented linens; men's second mourning often was grey trimmed with black. Mourning rings were falling out of use, distributed mainly to tertiary figures: will executors, religious men, and servants. As in France, providing mourning dress or the money to buy it to one's heirs or dependents was a significant issue.

Mourning picture, 1800-1810; MMA 1983.20 (OASC)
Going into the nineteenth century, mourning habits did not much change. The dress required for court mourning for the Duke of Kent in 1820 was identical in color and material to that for Frederick and Caroline previously, although it seems that court mourning periods were shortening. In France, it became standard to give mourning clothes to servants, but the descriptions given of mourning stages in 1826 was the same as those of the previous century. English women in full mourning could still attend evening social events (in France, a period of solitude was required), although they were still confined to bombazine and crêpe (though white crêpe could be used for trimming); second mourning evening dress was much more elaborate, with more trim and more expensive and lustrous fabric. The general mourning on the death of George IV, based on descriptions for day and evening mourning dress in The Ladies' Museum, show the way the materials of full mourning could be used to create fashionable dress while still being perceived as respectful and appropriate. (This also seems to be the first time that lavender was considered part of the mourning scheme.)
From the Ladies' Museum, General Mourning, 1830
One half-mourning for men in the same year was described as a black cashmere coat (rather than black wool), a black-spotted and -bound white waistcoat, and white "trowsers".

The American rules, as given in The Knickerbocker in 1840, were a little different than the English and French:
This was followed by the remark that it was unjust to require such mourning for relations but deny bereaved friends the ability to dress in mourning as well. These mourning periods are increased for parents, siblings, and aunts and uncles, but decreased for the rest, and it sounds as though first, second, and half-mourning were worn as the sole stage of mourning rather than successive stages.

Second mourning dress, ca. 1848; MMA 1994.575.0003 (OASC)
Black gowns could be worn even outside of mourning; one English 1849 etiquette manual suggested that mourning worn to balls be indicated with scarlet trimming, so that women in black outside of mourning could trim with any colors. However, American authors maintained that one in mourning should not attend balls at all.

Etiquette books had been written since the eighteenth century, but production increased during the nineteenth. While fashion magazines give us very detailed information about what garments were acceptable, they are less informative on the subject of other mourning customs. Visiting cards of someone in mourning were to have a thick black border while those for half-mourning would have a narrower one; black sealing wax was to be used during both. Making visits of condolence was a new custom in England (at least) in the 1850s, requiring a mourning card of one's own to be sent up, and women to dress in black silk or another plain color.

In the 1860s, the description of mourning customs, including dress, increased and became more detailed. This is generally attributed to a Victorian "cult of mourning" proceeding from the death of Prince Albert in 1861, but many of the customs may have already been in use: the stages of mourning dress, so often represented as a facet of uniquely Victorian repression, were clearly of an earlier date. It seems likely that the other customs may have been in use, and were only coming into print in the mid-Victorian era. In actuality, there was a Victorian cult of etiquette books, especially in America.

Mourning dress, ca. 1867; MMA 1982.256 (OASC)
And English mourning customs of the time were fairly simple. Widows wore "widow's cap and crape" for a little more than a year, and could then transition into either half-mourning or no mourning; a widower's crêpe hatband would almost cover the crown of his hat and gradually be reduced. As in France, mourning for parents would have crêpe trim for six months and no crêpe for six months, while hatbands would come within two inches of the top of the crown. Brothers and sisters would get six months, and aunts, uncles, and cousins three, with proportional hatband levels. Complementary mourning worn to visit someone in mourning would be black without any crêpe. These standards were to last until the end of the century.

Hat with mourning band, Knox, 1890; MMA 2009.300.4423 (OASC)
French mourning was rather complicated, in contrast (although many of the specific traditions, such as the placement of the crêpe bands, may have been shared across the Channel and assumed to be understood by readers of the previous sources). Like Englishmen, male mourning was entirely black, with a wide crêpe band on the hat. Widows wore the deepest mourning: a paramatta skirt with a single bias band of crêpe, a bodice trimmed in crêpe with sleeves cuffed with crêpe, a cloak of "widow's silk" trimmed with bias bands of crêpe, and a veil of a light wool or silk fabric. After nine months, the widow could change the wide crêpe band on her skirt to two narrower ones; after a year, wear silk trimmed with crêpe, jet, and beaded fringe; after three more months, she could stop wearing crêpe; after three more, she could leave off the veil and being to wear grey and violet. (The text goes on to imply that this is actually English mourning practice, and that French widows could wear grey and violet after a year and six weeks.) Mourning for a parent was only slightly less serious, with crêpe worn over wool for three months and over silk for three more; white could be worn as a flat collar or plain sleeves, and after those six months as fancier collars and sleeves. In two more months, she could wear grey gloves and gold jewelry, and then half-mourning for two more months. Siblings received a slightly lighter mourning, with three strips of crêpe on the skirt, which lasted for a year. For a grandparent, she would wear a little crêpe for three months, no crêpe for three more, and then half-mourning for three more. Uncles and aunts received two months of black and a month of half-mourning; second cousins, three weeks in black and three weeks in half-mourning. In town, one's equipage would be in black drapery, and everywhere one's servants would be dressed in black as well. Purses and cases of all types would be black during full mourning and grey or violet in half-mourning. By the end of the century, the stages of mourning had diminished to two, grand deuil and demi-deuil, each generally being used for half of the mourning periods, and changed the time periods more drastically to come into line with English practice, although there continued to be a separate standard for mourners who had inherited from the deceased.

Hat for second mourning, West's, ca. 1888; MMA 2009.300.1524 (OASC)
In the United States, there were no requirements for the length of the mourning periods. Those of England and France were given in American etiquette books as potential guides, but did not have to be followed for respectability. The clothes for the different stages were similar to those of England: for deep mourning, traditional wool/wool blend fabrics (which multiplied to increase choice for mourners and profits for drapers) with crêpe, eventually lightened to lusterless silk; second mourning, black silk, purple, lavender, dark grey, and white, lightening to lavender with white accessories as half-mourning. American etiquette books continued to maintain that there were no required time periods until the end of the century and also continued to provide suggestions (some rather extreme, such as eternal or two years' mourning for a widow - however, the books frequently remarked that mourning periods were shorter than they had ever been).

"Walking Suit in Queen's Mourning", Dry Goods Reporter1902
After the turn of the century, the rules began to change. The widow's crêpe veil could be replaced by one of nun's-veiling, worn off the face; periods could be simplified, with mourning for immediate relations for a year, and for in-laws, three to six months. All white could be worn in full mourning. Black armbands worn over tan coats were evidently becoming common. After the end of the first World War, mourning continued to simplify. Three months was sufficient for uncles, aunts, and cousins, while grandparents and in-laws no longer required mourning. Even widows wore less mourning, being able to shorten their periods down to three months of deep mourning and six of half-mourning, and when the books came down to it, all mourning periods were at the discretion of the wearer.

Etiquette books were still prescribing the same long periods of mourning and social seclusion in the 1920s, for both women and men. While they had always made references to those who left off mourning too early, the later books' lengthy emphasis on "sloppy" or inappropriate dress while in mourning seem to be based in a widespread social change, an increasing impatience with long or very plain mourning. The concept of levels of mourning continued through the 1940setiquette books agreeing that months of black, transitioning into black and white, and then lighter colors were appropriate (while being sympathetic to those not cooperating with the scheme). It was not until the 1950s that the rules were completely abandoned.


The point of wearing mourning, as summed up in the mid-eighteenth century etiquette book The Young Gentleman and Lady Instructed, was to prevent one from having to wear distressingly cheerful clothes while grieving, and to represent that grief to the rest of the world. Today, mourning rules are often seen as social laws that forced people - especially women, given that widows dressed in it the longest - to repress themselves and miss out on life. As with corsets, I lay this idea at the door of Gone With the Wind. The scenes in which Scarlett, who never loved her husband, feels trapped by the mourning she's forced to wear and resents having to refrain from gaiety are well-known.

The need for etiquette books always represents that people are not behaving in a standardized fashion as the books suggest. If they were routinely wearing mourning as long as the etiquette books ordered and in those fabrics, there would have been no need for such detailed descriptions. The social stigma of a nineteenth century widow wearing deep mourning for only nine months rather than a year, for example, might not have been generally seen as disrespectful. In fact, it was often held that following the rules of mourning behavior was meant to follow one's desire to mourn, that continuing a show of mourning after one wanted to rejoin normal life was undesirable or hypocritical, and that outsiders should not judge mourners for not behaving fully in line with the rules.

Mourning etiquette was also not just created to restrain the behavior of the bereaved into accepted forms of grief. Etiquette books instructed their friends in polite manners toward the bereaved as well, in order to be sensitive  and sympatheticComplimentary mourning, worn for relationships that did not require a specific mourning period or depth of mourning, allowed people to express their sympathy for those who had lost a parent, child,or sibling. Some recommended that, in order to signal the end of their mourning, the bereaved should send their cards (presumably without black borders) to their friends; others suggested that "no invitations of a gay social character" be sent to the bereaved until after three months of mourning, allowing them to decide when they were ready to accept.

It's very easy to look at historical mourning traditions as a distant and strange expectation, but the population of the past did not have the same expectations and standards that we do today. The idea of dressing fully in black for some months was normal, something that everyone would have experienced from a young age. It is difficult to imagine from our perspective, but it is also difficult to imagine living at a time when mortality rates were so much higher.

Er. Happy Halloween?
"Mourning Dress", Ackermann's, December 1811

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Georges Doeuillet (1865-1930?)

Georges Doeuillet may be the least-known couturier I've written about so far - or perhaps second, after Jenny, since his real name is generally available. The only time his name comes up is in conjunction with Doucet, when the two houses merged at the end of the 1920s. But in fact (let this not be a total shock), he was a more interesting and important figure than his present obscurity would make him appear.

Born in 1865, Doeuillet was part of the same generation as Louise Chéruit, Charles Poynter Redfern, and Jacques Doucet. (That is, the second generation - the first generation being born in the early part of the century, like Charles Frederick Worth, John Redfern, and Edouard Doucet.) However, his start came a little later in life. Some sources state that he first worked as a business manager for Callot Soeurs, which opened in 1895. It seems likely that he began working there from the beginning, so one has to wonder - what did he do until then? At thirty, he would not have been starting his career with them. And for them to choose him and keep him on, he must have had experience and talent. Perhaps he had been managing another fashion house before them.

"Dress by DOEILLET, 18 Place Vendôme, worn by Mlle Adèle Richer", Le Cri de Paris, November 1899
The reason I think it likely that he was with Callot Soeurs from their beginning is that he left fairly soon: by 1899, there are matter-of-fact references to his own fashion house at 18 Place Vendôme (an address he shared with Victor Klotz, perfumier under the name Edouard Pinaud, as well as a solicitor), later expanding into 16 as well. According to a contemporary source, it was common for couturiers of the 1900s to be first and foremost businessmen, buying designs rather than inventing them. As a couturier of this era, Doeuillet would mainly need "a triumphant combination of business ability and beaux yeux", which writers assured us he had.
In Vanity Fair, 1906 - he doesn't look that handsome to me
Doeuillet was reputed to make extravagant gowns for the ultra-rich, though evidently they were less expensive than those by Callot Soeurs, and he seems to have been very successful through the 1900s, 1910s, and 1920s, judging by the numerous highly flattering mentions he received in fashion publications. He licensed several New York department stores to use his designs, displaying his international appeal while also increasing it.
Dry Goods Economist, 1909 Fall Fashion Number
Theatre Magazine, 1911
During the 1910s and 1920s, Doeuillet was quite successful. He appeared in the Gazette du Bon Ton, and can be found getting long descriptions in trade journals alongside Jenny and listed as a "celebrated couturier". I don't always give credence to the flattery in fashion magazines, but the wearability and "quiet, distinguished note[s]" given in the Garment Manufacturer's index does line up with the examples shown in magazines and museums. The house's style tended towards simple and unadorned elegance.
Vogue, April 1922
As I described last week, Georges Doeuillet (by then a member of the Paris Fashion Board) merged his business with that of the ailing Jacques Doucet around the time of the stock market crash and just before his own death. Under the direction of Georges Auber, Doucet-Doeuillet closed not long after.

There are very few things associated with Doeuillet because of his present obscurity, but one concept I've seen floating around is that he brought out the first robe de style, that it was later called a cocktail dress, and therefore he invented the cocktail dress. Frankly, I cannot tell where this comes from. Searching Google Books is not a precise survey of fashion texts of the time, but when doing it I can only find one reference to Doeuillet in conjunction with the robe de style, and it describes Doucet as the gown's "exponent" and lists several designers making them in 1922.

Part of the trouble is that the term robe de style is not specific. In French, the term was used from the beginning of the century as part of a phrase, comparable to the 18th century robe à la - robe de style Louis XVI, robe de style Empire, etc. I can also find references to robes de style without the reference to an historical time period from an early point: here in 1906 in French, here in 1903 in English. Unfortunately none are pictured, but from the description, it sounds as though the robe de style was mainly in the fabric and trimming, less in the cut: Louis XV bows, an open skirt with a lace tablier, a fichu, and such things.

From Gazette du Bon Ton, 1915; MFA 2004.25.12
From the very beginning of the 1910s, the historical era was more frequently dropped, but it seems to have kept the connotation of the robe de style Louis XVI or thereabouts. One of 1914 (called in the English translation a gown in "the picturesque style") is described as having a puffy drapery around the hips, as well as short sleeves with lace ruffles. Overall, it was a highly fashionable collection of unfashionable elements - thus the full and long skirt in the 1920s. The style can't be said to have been invented by anyone because it was always present in the early 20th century, a reaction to the increasing speed of modern life and the increasing sleekness and starkness of modern dress.

The term "cocktail dress" does not seem to be extant during this time; "cocktail party" is only attested from 1928, and it makes sense for the dress name to arise after that. As "cocktail dress" first appears in print in the early 1930s (as far as I can tell), it could have been used as a label by Doeuillet-Doucet, but there's no evidence that it was; likewise, there's no evidence that the robe de style was considered a cocktail dress. I have to conclude that this is a myth based on garbled half-truths and leave it there.