Let’s go on a picnic!

I was asked what a middle class English family would have worn to a picnic in 1871.

What fun!  I love picnics, and 1871 is such a fun period for them – such ridiculously over the top day dresses for ladies.

This week I’m going to be exploring the question through period prints, paintings, and real clothes.

First, let’s start with some prints and paintings, so that we can get an idea of what a full scene would look like:

These three prints show relaxed picnic scenes in 1871.  The first two are set in England, and the last one, based on the musicians, is probably set in America, and appears to show a less respectable scene.

The thing about prints is that they are often like today’s fashion spreads: glamourised, romanticised, and with ensembles based on the very latest fashions.

The thing about real life is that it isn’t like fashion spreads.  Most people wear clothes they have owned for a few years or more.  Not everyone is pretty, or charming.  So a picnic in 1871 would feature clothes from throughout the 1860s.

Paintings of the 1870s, thanks to the unromantic bent of the Impressionists, are actually a much better source, even if they are a few years later.

Camille Monet (1847–1879) on a Garden Bench, 1873

Camille Monet was known to be a bit of a clotheshorse, but Monet’s paintings of her show her in the same dresses over 7 years apart (at times), so we can assume that at least some of her clothing was a bit older than the paintings she is shown in.  Camille’s beige and black dress seems to have been a popular colour combination for outdoor wear: it’s certainly practical.

The man leaning against the back of the bench (a neighbor), substantiates the images in the prints: men wore top hats even for picnics and informal outdoor occasions.

The Monet Family in Their Garden at Argenteuil, Édouard Manet (French, 1832–1883), 1874

Clearly, shirtsleeves and rough pants were also an option, at least in your own garden, or for a very informal picnic.

Going back to romanticised, glamourous images, the king of Victorian glamour painting, Tissot, has an image of a picnic:

James Tissot, Holyday (The picnic), 1874

Prettified it may be, and a few years late, but it does give us a fantastic glimpse into picnic accessories (and don’t you love the gentlemen’s striped hats!)

Tissot also shows us what young girls would have worn for outdoor wear in England in 1871(ish)

James Tissot, On the Thames, a Heron, 1871-1872

Awww…so sweet!

More on Wed after Rate the Dress

Such beautiful, beautiful dresses…

I’m doing some wedding commissions, so I’m in full bridal wear mode.  There are some beautiful dresses out there right now (all ridiculously expensive of course!)

Marchesa, Spring/Summer 2010.

It’s so deliciously goddess-y!  And I love the contrast belt.  It would be wonderfully flattering on my body shape.

Marchesa, Spring/Summer 2010

I’m trying to imagine who could get away with this, and am totally failing, but I still love the drama of it.  And the fabric!

'Edyth' Pallas Bride and Fashion, Couture Collection 2010

I’ve never had the back to pull this off, but I love EVERYTHING else about this dress.  And the models hair.  My hair would do that after a couple of hours and a couple hundred dollars at the hairdressers.

'Celestina' Pallas Bride and Fashion Couture Collection 2010

Frothy fairy frocks.  Happiness.

Happy anniversary to me! (us)!

5 years ago today-ish, Mr Dreamy and I got married.

The last 5 years have been a little like the wedding day: not everything has gone according to plan, but there have still been amazing moments, lots of love, lots of laughter, a little angst, and more than one thing we would have done differently in retrospect, but don’t regret in the least.

Just as it should be.

To celebrate I’m being extremely self indulgent and posting a ridiculously long slideshow of ridiculously cute pictures of us.

Meet the Dreamstress

Leimomi Oakes is the Dreamstress, a textile historian, seamstress, designer, speaker and museum professional. Leimomi is available for educational and entertaining presentations, textile and fashion advice, special commissions and events. Click to learn more

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