Last week you either appreciated the mix of simplicity and complexity in the floral bedecked late 1820’s frock, and rated it highly, or really hated either the fabric or period and rated it poorly, or experienced a mix of the two elements with a resulting middle-of-the-road vote. The first tipped the scales just enough to bring in a rating of 7.2 out of 10 – a bit above average.
It may be coming into summer here in New Zealand, but I’m reminded that many of you are moving into winter, and (based on my latest poll) looking forward to celebrating Christmas.
So, just to mess with your heads, I’m presenting this nice warm, snuggly, Christmas-coloured 17th century rate the dress, which actually isn’t Christmas-y at all, because it’s a portrait of a lady posing as an Allegory of Astrology. What makes her an Allegory, I’ve never figure out.* And also, on second thought, that neckline isn’t really very warm and snuggly after all.
An Allegory of Astrology c.1650, Attributed to Charles Beaubrun
So, with a bit of confusion carefully established, what do you make of the ensemble? Do you like the front-fastening jacket-y bodice with its plunging neckline and fur trimmed tabs? Is the red, white and gold colour scheme effective, or just a cliche? And what about her distinctive lace hood?
Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10
*Resists making jokes about being green and scaly on the banks of the Nile.
I know there is some debate about whether you still need to pre-wash cotton fabrics before you sew them up these days, but I still like to. For one thing, I have no idea what the conditions on the factory floor were like, or what the fabrics were exposed to in shipping! And it can’t hurt to make doubly certain that no unwanted shrinkage will occur.
In my machine are a beautiful monochromatic ’50s floral from Nana’s stash that reminds me of charcoal sketching, and a sweet pink and green and yellow ’30sish number and a sassy yellow and grey and white 30ish number, both from reproductionfabrics.com.
I say ’30sish, because (to the best of my knowledge) most prints from reproductionfabrics.com aren’t perfect reproductions, but modern prints that match the aesthetic of the era. Still lovely, but not exact matches.
Darling little pink flowers with yellow and green leaves - so me!
Cunning bows and flowers in white and grey on daring yellow
I found these images of a fascinating pair of stays ex. Brooklyn Museum that were sold through Augusta Auctions.
The catalogue describes them as:
Bavarian Silk Stays, 1840-1860.
Pink satin, white leather waist tabs, attached metallic lace stomacher, multiple layers stiffened w/ baleen stays, homespun linen lining, B 30″, CFL 13″, (satin & metallic lace worn, linen lining replaced, leather dirty) fair. Brooklyn Museum
Bavarian stays, 1840’s-50’s Germany ex. Brooklyn Museum via Augusta Auctions
Bavarian stays, 1840’s-50’s, back lacing, Germany, ex. Brooklyn Museum via Augusta Auctions
Now, I know that the regional peasant attire in many places stayed decades behind the current trends, but these look very 18th century to me. There is some obvious mistakes in the dressing: they are clearly meant to be spiral laced, and have been cross-laced instead, which just isn’t working, indicating that at least some of the people involved with documenting the stays didn’t know what they were doing. Does that include the person who dated them and wrote the description?
So what do you think, oh gurus of 18th century and European peasant wear? Are these a localised throwback to earlier styles and construction techniques, or mislabeled?