I’m still plugging away on the Marmotte Masquerade Stays, but have been held up by boring paperwork and car fixing and whatnot. So I’ll keep you entertained with other things. Between my stays and the Fairies & Dinosaurs at Versailles party I’ve been fixated on mad 18th century hair. These fashion plates particularly delight me:
ZOMG! Look at that hair! Look at the fruit! The entire bowl of lemons (or apricots?)! The full pineapple perched in front! That one random pear at front! And her fabulously NOSE-y nose. Best of all, do you know what the pointy fruit going up the back of her hair is? I do! I’m relatively certain that it is a cacao fruit.
Cacao fruit, Molokai, Hawaii
Yep. That’s right. Chocolate hair. I’m not sure what the large round fruit that alternates with it is though. Out-of-scale quince? Perhaps they were going really exotic and they were meant to be breadfruit.
Breadfruit (ulu), Molokai, Hawaii
It’s like pastoral France meets my parent’s farm! I love it! And what about this one:
She’s a little more typically pretty, which makes her less interesting to me, and the veges are a little more prosaic than the exotic fruit. I’m slightly confused by the three enormous carrots and then the three hydra-carrots. What’s that about? Lettuce though, I understand.
Growing lettuce, Molokai, Hawaii
My parents grow lettuce. It is the most delicious lettuce you have ever tasted. You don’t even need to dress the salads its that good.
Planting radishes alongside a bed of lettuce,
Last time I was home I helped to plant a bunch of lettuce, with assistance from Josie the cat, because my parents have garden cats like I have a sewing cat.
Josie helps with the planting
18th century hair and farms in Hawaii usually don’t go together so well though!
Every once in a while, when I’m hanging out with friends and we do the thing where you get on youtube and show each other cool videos, we end up watching hula videos, and my friends are always amazed, and I realise that while practically everyone has heard of hula, few people actually know what it really looks like. The best representation you get of it outside of Hawaii may be the dancing scenes in Lilo and Stitch, which is kinds weird and sad when you think about it.
Practicing hula with my sister
Like Lilo, I was in a hula hālau (a hula troop/school) as a child. It’s just what little girls in Hawaii did, like little girls everywhere else take ballet. I was never particularly good, but I enjoyed the grace of it, and the history and story behind each dance. My baby sister was an amazing dancer, but being a haole (white) hula dancer in Hawaii is problematic. As a dark haired Filipina or Japanese girl, you can dance professionally, and be in the best hālau (troops), but if you are pale skinned and have white-blond hair, you’ll be tucked in the back row, and you’ll never compete in the biggest hula festival in Hawaii: the Merrie Monarch Festival. Because of this (and simply not being very good) I gave it up as a teenager, and have rarely danced in the last decade. I did a hula for Mr D at our wedding (a Hawaii tradition) and danced for Nana’s 90th birthday, at her request, but mostly I just listen to Hawaiian music and feel homesick.
Dancing a hula for Mr D at my wedding
There are actually two main distinct styles of hula: hula kahiko, the ancient hula, based on the pre-contact style of dancing, and hula ‘auana, the modern hula, which incorporates modern instruments, and Western influences.
Hula kahiko is more rhythmic, and is danced in modern interpretations of ancient Hawaiian dress: usually with the dancers in full skirts gathered to the waist with rows and rows of elastic. Hula kahiko are dedicated to a god or goddess, or to a member of the ali’i (royalty). The costumes and flowers worn with the dance are all symbolic. In this example, the colours of the dancers tops and the spots on their pa’u (skirts), as well as the feathers in the ‘uli’uli rattles they dance with, all allude to the peacock, beloved of Princess Ka’i'ulani, who the dance is dedicated to. Their yellow lei are also associated with the tragic princess, and their white petticoats and bloomers reflect the late Victorian dress she would have worn.
Hula ‘Auana are on many themes: they tell the story of a place, or of the writer’s love for a person. There are even hula ‘auana in praise of all the authors favourite foods – or in mocking despair over the difficulties of their weekly exercise class. Hula ‘auana can be soft and slow, or fast and ‘rascally’.
Though it isn’t as common in modern times, men also dance hula, both kahiko and ‘auana. These days, men’s kahiko is slightly more prevalent, perhaps because it is visually more obviously manly, and perhaps (to put it rather crassly) because fit men in loincloths are generally popular
I wish I had a finished garment to show you today – my hoopskirt, or the hinted at 1900s dress, but sewing is not going to plan, and I want to post about at least SOMETHING, and I thought, hey, a real antique textile is as good as anything I make, if not better!
I’ve shown you most of the textiles from the Honolulu Museum of Art, but here is one of the most exciting pieces I looked at: a pair of 18th century shoes in green and gold on ivory brocade:
Based on the large scale brocade, which is clearly early 18th century in date, the wider heel shape and slightly tilted toe, the shoes are probably early-mid-18th century.
The outer of the shoes are silk brocade, and they are lined in linen. The green binding is herringbone twill, either in cotton or linen. The shoes are (obviously) entirely hand sewn. The heel is wood, covered in more of the brocade, and the sole is rather heavy leather.
The pointed toe appears to be supported by more leather, carved into the little tilted point.
The heavy leather sole has an interesting star shape stamped into it near the toe, and again near the heel. I presume it had something to do with the construction, but couldn’t figure out exactly what. Anyone else seen a similar thing?
The silk brocade of the shoes is pieced on the tongue, where it will be hidden by the flaps. It may be to save fabric, but I think it is more intentional: to help with the shaping transition from the front of the shoe to the tongue, and possible to ensure a pretty placement of fabric pattern on the tongue, where it would be seen.
There was other piecing that is clearly to save fabric, or to repair the shoe after a bit of wear, though the lack of in-period wearing makes that seem unlikely.
The interiors have quite a bit of piecing, but it is all essential construction. There is extra white kid leather in the heels, where the shoes will get more wear.
The shoes don’t appear to have had much wear, but they are still in quite aged, fragile condition. The silk brocade is particularly brittle and friable, and has disintegrated entirely in places, which is sad from a condition viewpoint, but extremely helpful from a research viewpoint, because it allows us to see into the construction. It may have been done to save
The shoe was so fascinating that I took TONS of photos of all the details, which I hope you will also find interesting. I won’t bore you with a commentary on all the images, but do ask if you have any questions.
If you want to see more textiles from the HMA, I’ve posted about an early 19th century dress, an amazing embroidered cisele velvet 18th century man’s suit, a late 19th century Turkish tea robe that had been altered for wear by a Western woman, and a teaser-taster of all the textiles.
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