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Jeanne Samary and her dress

Interestingly, while numerous paintings of the late 1870s and early 1880s show women in low cut, almost sleeveless natural form evening gowns, like the one worn by Jeanne Samary, and fashion plates also show this style of gown, very few examples these gowns have survived.

Were they cut apart and modified for later styles?  Did they become so soiled at balls that they were not worth saving?  Did women tend to have only one evening gown, and a selection of reception dresses (the ones with low square necks, and 3/4 length sleeves) ?  Is it because wedding dresses were reception dresses, not ballgowns, and wedding dresses represent a disproportionate amount of the extent historical garments?

Whatever the reason, I can only find one extent ballgown for every 10 reception dresses, so here are the ones I can find.


Evening dress, 1879, Indiana State Museum

I’m infatuated with the orange/goldenrod colour of this dress, and the bodice is very similar to Jeanne’s dress in some ways.  And the skirt, well, how can you not love metal embroideries of daisies!?!

Looking at the additional views of the dress (click on it to link through), I can’t help wonder if whoever dressed the mannequin haven’t given it a bit too much of a bustle, but otherwise is is fabulous.


Evening dress, 1880

I’ve already mentioned this dress in the early planning stages of the Juno gown.  I love the way it combines the more artistic and unconventional aesthetic style with the traditional Victorian evening silhouette, and the draping is vaguely reminiscent of Jeanne’s gown.  I still plan to make this someday.


Ball gown, 1876, Metropolitan Museum of Art

This dress is fascinating because it shows such a tradition of styles, leading up to the type of dress that Jeanne wore.  The last vestiges of the bertha are still seen, but the horizontal lines of the skirt have begun to show.  On a side note, why, oh why, has the Met decided to show it on a crinoline!  It’s clear it’s meant to be slim around the legs, with the folds of the train hiding where the pleat lines end!

With only three sleeveless evening dresses of 1878ish identified, I got bored and branched out:


Evening shoes, French, ca 1880, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Not a frock, I know, but aren’t these adorable, and don’t they look like they would go perfectly with Jeanne’s dress as shown in the painting?

And finally, this is not an evening dress, nor would it go with Jeanne’s dress, but it had a few elements that reminded me of it:


Wedding dress, Moyen, ca 1880, Metropolitan Museum of Art

The ruching of the skirt may be how Jeanne’s dress was constructed (though I’m happy with my interpretation as a perfectly plausible recreation), and the train seems very similar.  For another wedding dress of the same period with a different ‘possibly Jeanne-ish’ skirt, check out this one.

Royal inter-marriage proposals

Last week I promised you all the gossip on Mariana Victoria and her engagement.

In 1721 Mariana Victoria was bethrothed, at age 3, to her first cousin, Louis XV of France.

Louis, like most 11 year old boys, was not interested in toddlers, and avoided his fiancee as much as possible.

Portrait of Louis XV of France with Mariana Victoria of France by Francoise de Troy, 1722

As Louis got older and got interested in girls, things got worse.  I can’t imagine what  could be creepier as a 15 year old trying to flirt with the ladies of the court than having your 7 year old future-wife hanging about the place.

The situation was resolved in 1725 when Louis had a health scare and the powers-that-be in France, desperate to avoid him dying without a heir, shipped Mariana back to Spain and married the 15 year old Louis off to the princess most likely to have kids right away, and  least likely to really anger and insult the Spanish: the 21 year old Maria Leszczyńska.

He was momentarily enchanted with his older bride, before becoming enchanted with a dozen other women, including Madame de Pompadour and Madame du Barry.  Perhaps the enchantment with the notoriously plain Maria L was just relief at getting rid of Mariana!

That’s not all though:

Mariana’s engagement to Louis wasn’t the only one on the books.  His cousin, Louise Élisabeth d’Orléans, then age 11, was sent off to Spain to marry Mariana’s brother, Louis I of Spain, then 15.  In addition Louise E’s sister, Philippine Élisabeth d’Orléans, was engaged to Louis I’s half brother, Carlos.

Louise Elisabeth d'Orleans by Jean Ranc, 1724

Poor Louise E had a miserable marriage, hated Spain, and hated her mother in law.  To make matters worse, when her sister Philippine arrived, rather than having someone to commiserate too, Philippine became instantly adored and the toast of the Spanish court, and a bitter rivalry broke out between the sisters.

Philippine Élisabeth d'Orléans or her sister Louise Anne de Bourbon by Jean-Marc Nattier, 1731

Happily, and sadly, Louise E’s husband died before the bits that the Spanish considered important had happened and she was sent back to France, but just plain sadly for Philippine, her engagement was also broken off as a result of her sister’s marriage ending, and she died, disappointed, of smallpox a few years later.

That’s not all though

The French and the Spanish immediately got extremely angry and insulted with each other.  The Spanish were mad at the French because Mariana Victoria had been sent home.  The French were mad at the Spanish because Louise and Philippine were sent home.

They French and Spanish spent a generation being extremely grumpy with each other, until finally, in 1739 they settled the feud in the usual way: with betrothals!

Mariana Victoria’s little sister, Maria Teresa Rafaela (then , was engaged to Louis XV’s son, the Dauphin Louis.   In addition, Louis XV’s eldest daughter Louise Elisabeth (then 12) was engaged to her father’s first cousin, and the sibling of Mariana and Maria, the Infante Phillip of Spain.  Are you keeping track of all the weirdness there?

Some lessons had been learnt from the earlier, failed marriages, at least among the Spanish, who refused to send Maria Teresa to France until she was 18.  When she did arrive her new husband instantly adored her, but alas, she died in childbirth only a little over a year later.

Portrait of Maria Teresa Rafaela of Spain (1726-1746) by Louis Michel Van loo, ca 1740

Louise Elisabeth was no more fortunate: she lived to a ripe old age, but she was married at 13, and had her first child at 14.  And she hated her husband.  But she did get to go home to France for frequent visits.

Élisabeth with her husband and their children Ferdinand and Maria Luisa; by Giuseppe Baldrighi, ca 1755