All posts filed under: Learn

A quick guide to corset & stay styles from 1750 to 1850

In last week’s (well, almost week before lasts at this point!) Five for Friday post, when I discussed transitional stays, and succumbing to the temptation to make ‘reenactor style’ Regency stays (which, you will be pleased to hear, I have not!), I didn’t make it clear what either was.  So naturally, people asked! I was going to just write about transitional stays and reenactor stays, but how can you write about a transition if you don’t show what something is transitioning from, and towards?  And how can I show something is a reenactorism if I don’t show what the reality was?  I realised that both needed more background, and deserved complete posts. So, here is the slightly longer, more complicated, post with a history of supportive undergarments (i.e. stays and corsets – read this post for the difference between the two) from 1750 to 1850.  This is intended as a very general introduction to the way the types of supportive undergarments period, rather than an in-depth exploration.  One could easily write a full blog post about the …

Terminology: the Olivia cap / Olivia bonnet

The silver screen has been launching fashions for almost as long as it has been around.  50,000 copies of Adrian’s ruffled-sleeved Letty Lynton dress were sold in 1932, and in 1939 Gone with the Wind launched innumerable green-sashed dress replicas.  Annie Hall made oversized androgyny tres chic.  Closer to the present, yellow is predicted to be the frock colour du jour of 2017, thanks to La La Land and Beauty & the Beast. Before the screen launched fashions, the stage did the same job.  While not as many people could see a stage performance as a film, the costumes in notable London & New York productions were described in great detail in newspaper articles around the world, and images of the actors in their roles were widely disseminated as collectable trading cards.  The costume enthusiasts amongst you are probably familiar with Merry Widow hats and Dolly Varden frocks. Less famous today is the Olivia cap, or Olivia bonnet, popularised by Ellen Terry’s turn as Olivia in 1878’s Olivia at the Court Theatre, a play based on The Vicar of Wakefield. Like Dolly Varden, Olivia was …

Terminology: Sequins vs. Spangles (& their history in fashion)

When I first became really interested in fashion history in my early teens, and poured over historical costuming books and museum catalogues and saw mentions of sequins and spangles I assumed they were the same thing, and that ‘spangle’ was just a posh term for a sequin.  As I studied textiles in university, and began working for museums, I realised that museums generally use very precise, specific terms (hmmmm…I wonder where my love of terminology comes from!), and that a spangle and a sequin might be different things. As I’ve researched sequins and spangles I’ve realised that the use in terminology is sometimes very specific and precise, and that sometimes the terms are used interchangeably (see: how to make a fashion historian grumpy). Many costume books use the terms to mean exactly the same thing, as do some museums.  Some sources that make a distinction describe a spangle as a sequin with the hole at the top edge, rather than in the centre.  Other sources describe a sequin as any decorative disk, while spangles must be metal – so …