All posts filed under: Learn

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 …

Fashion Notes from Paris, the Girls Own Annual, 1928,

Fashion Notes from Paris, 1928

I collect Girls Own Annuals, and recently added a delicious 1928 edition to my collection. It came complete with monthly fashion notes – wherein the latest from Paris is described and adapted for daily wear, and little tips on re-making and using bits and bobs are given. This one in particular caught my eye, first, for the fascinating description of hairpieces, and second, for a great example of 1920s historicism: ‘A Poke Bonnet lined with a lace cap, a la the 18th century’.  The Historicism challenge for the Historical Sew Monthly is gone, but I still love historicism! The ideas for using ribbon remnants and bits of fur are a great illustration of how those without Parisian budgets could stay in the mode. I can’t decide if I want the bonnet, the evening frock with fabulous hip drapery, or the amazing pieced blouse most!  Which is your favourite?