Tuesday, March 10, 2015

My 3 Series ~ A Silhouette Retrospective for Readers, Fellow Authors, & Dilettantes


A conversation on Twitter inspired this blog post, Fashionable Reader. I am so very immersed in the Victorian Era it often doesn't occurred to me to explain fashion. So, I thought this would be a good moment, with Prudence forthcoming, to talk about about the different silhouettes in my three book series.

Ivy and her hat, REM's character sketch

"The English attach too much importance to ceremonies merely conventional, and for which there seems no motive but the ever-changing decrees of fashion."
~ The Ladies' Guide to True Politeness and Perfect Manners or, Miss Leslie's Behaviour Book
by Eliza Leslie (American 1864)

  All 3 At A Glance

Sophronia/FS: Early 1850s ~ Alexia/PP: Mid 1870s ~ Prudence/CP: Mid 1890s

1854  The Metropolitan Museum of Art; 1877  The Museum at FIT; Evening Ensemble  Hellstern & Sons, 1895  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Before we start rgr. Soulless: Confession time, one of the reasons I chose the 1870s to start with is how ridiculous the fashions were during that time period, very bustled and frilly. Of course history also had a say in why the 1870s as we;;, I'm a fan of Queen Victoria's Little Wars. Then it seemed quite natural to chose c. 20 years before and c. 20 years after, for the next two series. Of course, this is primarily for various character age reasons, but also because of the change in silhouette. And, fortunately for me, the humor writer, all three time periods are fashionably ridiculous in their unique way: and each very different from one another, as I hope you will see.

 The Finishing School Series

1851 - 1853

1851 Wedding Dress, American Met Museum

For the author:
Main points of entry?
Sloping shoulders, low necklines, nipped in waists, increasingly wide bell skirts, puffy and wide sleeves. Younger ladies in pale colors.

Wedding dress, 1852 Dress for bride (via Angeliki Roumelioti pinterest); Wedding Dress 1852

What makes it silly?
Very wide a full skirts requiring lots of petticoats (as the cage crinoline had not yet been introduced).

1854  Ball Gown The Metropolitan Museum of Art
1855-1865  The Metropolitan Museum of Art
* 1854 saw the arrival of the cage crinoline in England. This is a skirt (or series of tape ribbons) with concentric circles of wire in it to make if poof.

Why for this series?
Good for espionage: the full skirts and wide pagoda sleeves hampered movement, but also are great for hiding things. Pockets could be put in and hidden everywhere. Fashion is rife with useful plot moments and vehicles for humor.

1853 The Empress Eugénie, famous for her elaborate toilettes, wedding dress
1855  The Los Angeles County Museum of Art

The authroial drawback?
Hats were mostly confined to bonnets, not my personal favorite. Although hair was really quite ridiculous.

Bonnet 1854 The Metropolitan Museum of Art

What were the men wearing?
Some carry over from the Regency Era, especially for formal occasions. Trousers relatively tight but knee britches had been abandoned except for boys and the countryside. Jacket styles began to include a wider range of cuts.

Coat ca. 1845-1853 The Victoria & Albert Museum; 1851_Parisian; Wedding Waistcoat 1854  The Philadelphia Museum of Art

What to watch for inspiration?
Cranford, North & South, Under the Greenwood Tree

What happened next?
Things got, if possible, even more ridiculous. Skirts just got wider and wider with the cage crinoline in play.
Wedding Dress  1864  The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Cage Crinoline  1862  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Want to learn more about the ever expanding hoop?

 

The Parasol Protectorate Series

1873 - 1876


For the author:
Main points of entry?
Many layers, lots of trim, many kinds of hats, full bustles, long sleeves, restricted movement, range of necklines and sleeve styles.

 1874 The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Morning Dress  1875  The Metropolitan Museum of Art


What makes it silly?
Big back bustles (although not so big as the 1880s revival bustles), way too much trim and ribbons and bows and whatnot. Extremely bizarre hats. New experimentation in color ranges and pallets. Access to new and amazing fabrics from India and China.

 1872-1874 Wedding Dress The Victoria & Albert Museum; Bustle 1873, Austrian, Made of cotton and horsehair
Summer Corset  1872  The Metropolitan Museum of Art
 
Why for this series?
The hats! The fabrics. The yardage. The restrictions. All represent a level of confinement and superficiality that Alexia, whether she realizes it or not, chafes against.

1872-1875  The Metropolitan Museum of Art
1870-1875 Wedding Bonnet   The Victoria & Albert Museum

The authorial drawback?
Too much fabric, way too hard to move. Challenging for cover art.

 1872 Ball Gown  Charles Fredrick Worth; Bustle 1872-1874 both The Metropolitan Museum of Art

What were the men wearing?
Relatively somber colors in suits, flashy waistcoats and vests, some experimentation with fabrics.

 1873_May_Gof; 1873-1875  The Victoria & Albert Museum; 1875-1880  The Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Gustave Caillebotte- Portrait of Paul Hugot, 1878

What to watch for inspiration?
The Buccaneers, some of The Forsythe Saga, some of The Pallisters


What Happened Next?
Skirts started to come in closer and closer to the body, the lobster tale became fashionable, fabrics became (if you can imagine) even more elaborate.

 1870s  Kerry Taylor Auctions; "Lobster Tail" Bustle  1870s  The Metropolitan Museum of Art
1879-1880; 1879  both The Metropolitan Museum of Art
 1878-1879; 1879 Wedding Dress both  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

The Custard Protocol Series

1895 - ????


For the author:
Main points of entry?
Experimenting in asymmetry, puffy sleeves, wide range of outfit choices, more freedom of movement, complementary fabrics, the biggest most outrageous hats ever (Queen Ivy's influence). Fashion houses appear, scions of fashion became brand ambassadors for a house to which they were loyal. (Prudence lives in Worth.) Iconic dresses given names as if they were art pieces. New Woman movement influences sportswear and major dress reform due, in part, to the ubiquitous bicycle.

 1890s Wedding Dress  1890s  The Indianapolis Museum of Art; Wedding Dress  Jean-Philippe Worth, 1895  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

What makes it silly?
Those truly bizarre sleeves, those enormous over-decorated hats equal a very top heavy look.

 1895  Kerry Taylor Auctions; 1890 Sleeve Supports  1890s  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

1895  The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Summer Corset  1895  The Victoria & Albert Museum

Why for this series?
The hats! The sleeves, the ridiculousness continues.

 1898  The Metropolitan Museum of Art; 1894  The Goldstein Museum of Design

The authorial drawback?
I really think this period is ugly, it's hard to write characters swooning over dresses I think are hideous.

What were the men wearing?

 1895 Evening Vest  1885-1895; Ascot  1890s both The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Suit ca. 1894 via The Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art
1890s man via shewhoworshipscarlin tumblr
Isn't he the cutest? Biffy, perhaps?

What to watch for inspiration?
Lark Rise to Candleford

What happened next?
If you can imagine, dresses became even more elaborate eventually bleeding into the massive hats and complex outfits of the turn of the century (imagine Titanic).

Ball Gown  Jacques Doucet, 1898-1902  The Metropolitan Museum of Art


"If you chance to find an authoress occupied with her needle, express no astonishment, and refrain from exclaiming, "What! can you sew?" or, "I never supposed a literary lady could even hem a handkerchief!"
 ~ The Ladies' Guide to True Politeness and Perfect Manners or, Miss Leslie's Behaviour Book
by Eliza Leslie (1864)

Retro Rack is also on facebook where I post additional images and fashion thoughts.

1 comment:

  1. Thoroughly enjoyed this till the Titanic comment. It wasn't launched till 1912 and fashions had taken another dramatic turn with a much slimmer and more elegant silhouette.

    ReplyDelete

If you are using LJ to comment, it may not work.