All posts filed under: 19th Century

Rate the Dress: Rich wrappings, ca. 1840

Last week I showed you a rather ridiculous (in a practical sense) 18th century riding outfit in white and pale blue-green.  You thought the hat was a bit skunk-y, and the lapels a bit rumpled, and the horse just plain un-horse-y, but that overall it was quite something (in a good way) and came in at 8.8 out of 10. This week I present a ca. 1840s dress in rich plum purple silk satin. The dress keeps the embellishment to a minimum, relying on self-fabric piping trim on the sleeves, and an pleated wrap front opening for visual interest. There are some interesting elements to the dress – parts of it are quite fashion forward for 1840, and other elements look backwards to the 1830s.  The garment may have belonged to an older woman, who was more comfortable in simple, conservative styles.    

Rate the Dress: 1870s elaborations on a theme

Last weeks I showed you a Hattie Carnegie dress in pale pink & green, as worn by the 60ish Electra Havemeyer Webb, sparking an interesting discussion about colour, age, and when is pink too pink.  The outfit copped some criticism for the colour scheme (Rate the Dress history on this blog suggests that pink + green isn’t always a classic scheme), for being too shiny (that’s satin for you: even in silk it has a lustre!), and for not looking comfortable, but it came in at a comfortable 7.7 out of 10. This week I’ve picked another two-tone outfit, but one that takes the idea in a very different direction.  In contrast to the simplicity of last week’s dress, this champagne and black dinner dress by Mon. Vignon is the epitome of Victorian detailing, with every square inch of fabric patterned, beaded, ruched, pleated, trimmed, fringed, and otherwise ornamented: The front of the dress features a ruched panel down the skirt and bodice, framing the bodice buttons, and surmounted by a black bow at the …

A Time-Travelling Ballerina

When I was a child I was given Tom Tierney’s ‘Ballet Stars of the Romantic Era‘ paper doll book.  Though I enjoyed the occasional girls ballet book, I wasn’t ballet obsessed.  This was mostly because ballet was simply such an abstract concept for me – in Hawaii little girls learn hula, not ballet.  I read about ballet, but the scenes they were described were as remote and exotic as Heidi’s Alps. Although I couldn’t grasp the idea of a modern person being a ballerina, I loved the paper dolls.    The beautiful costumes (of course) and the stories of the ballerina’s lives (affairs with mad kings and all) appealed to me. Later on, when I finally saw  ballets at the San Francisco Ballet and the Royal New Zealand Ballet, I was hugely disappointed by the costumes.  They were beautiful and striking, but in my mind I’d always imagined the soft, floating swish of romantic-era skirts of silk tulle.  The stiff nylon platters of the modern ballerina just didn’t live up to my expectations.  If I …