And Now For A Little Finnish Wedding Style

Today we wander back to a more historical wedding dress theme, travelling (virtually) to Finland to take a look at this interesting wedding dress that was made in 1882 for a one Constance Sofia von Scharnhorst (nee Von Ammondt ):

Wedding Dress c. 1882; Finnish Board of National Antiquities (KM 41072)

This dress follows a fairly conventional early to mid 1880s silhouette; the “natural form” style was passé and was once again shifting towards a trained/bustle style. Although there’s not a lot of detail about specific materials, it can be safely assumed that we’re looking at a silver gray/gray silk taffeta and/or silk satin. The skirt and bodice front have detailed ruching along with silk satin cross-hatching running in a strip, spiraling up the skirt front. Below the satin strips is a duller-toned fabric, probably silk taffeta. The same cross-hatching is also present in the  three-quarter sleeves and is reminiscent of Renaissance styles. Completing the skirt decoration is a strip of lace mounted below the cross-hatching.  The overall effect is interesting in that while the basic gray color appears the same, the dull and shiny lusters of the various fabrics creates the illusion of there being different colors. Of course, we may be wrong since we only have two photos to go on but it’s still interesting. Finally, it must be noted that the hem consists of three rows of knife pleating. And here’s a more detailed view of the skirt:

As can be seen from the above detail picture, there’s a lot of decorative style effects going on here, perhaps too much, but it’s a wedding dress… 🙂 What’s also interesting is that the train is relatively plain compared to the main skirt. The overall effect is amazing and it just staggers the imagination thinking about all the hours that went into creating the various effects for the skirt alone. This is definitely a magnificent dress and we look forward to one day replicating this style, or a close approximation, for one of our clients. 🙂



The Lucy Wedding Dress & Victorian Fashion

Today’s post probably more properly belongs in the Halloween post category but well…it’s been a crazy year so we’re a bit belated…but more seriously, bridal fashions have always been an integral part of Western culture and especially more so in recent years as a whole multi-million dollar industry has been built around the act of getting married. When bridal fashion is combined with the horror movie genre, it becomes a commentary about society. In this post we do some deep-diving into Victorian Era social mores and while we may be admittedly reaching a bit with our conclusions, we hope it provides some interesting food for thought so we invite you to come along with us for the ride… 🙂


Bridal dresses have always been a basic part of our business and whether contemporary or old, bridal styles have always been fascinating to us. Today we take a look at bridal dresses from a slightly different perspective with the Lucy wedding dress from Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 film Dracula and it’s quite a fright (and that’s before Lucy makes her dramatic transformation into a vampire). The film is supposedly set in 1897 and thus it would be reasonable to assume that the costuming would reflect this but in reality it’s more like the mid to late 1880s for at least for some of the dresses and for the Lucy wedding dress, it’s a bit more uncertain…

Our first take on this dress was that it underscores Lucy’s transformation from a seemingly innocent girl into a vampire, the epitome of pure evil and corruption. This is not an original interpretation on our part, it’s been put forward that Lucy’s fate is that of the Victorian female who dared to flout the dominant social conventions that dictated that females were to be subservient, compliant, and certainly NOT sexual in any way that was not connected with procreating children.

dracula2

Lucy Before…

What is interesting in the above picture is how Lucy’s head appears to be disembodied, the rest of Lucy’s body hidden. It’s an interesting use of foreshadowing, given Lucy’s ultimate fate.

dracula

Lucy After…

However, Lucy “breaks” the rules and is “punished” by becoming a cursed, hyper-sexed creature motivated by a thirst for blood. The erotic overtones are hard to miss. At the same time, Lucy’s transformation into a vampire also mocks Victorian convention and especially when we see Lucy returning to her crypt holding an infant in her arms, no doubt her next meal. This is mockery at its most grotesque.

Turning to the dress itself, the dominating feature that one cannot fail to see is the large lace collar that’s vaguely reminiscent of a large Elizabethan ruff. Emphasizing the head, the first thing that came to mind when we first saw it was the head of John the Baptist on a platter. On one level it made for some interesting horror movie theatrics but on another level, it was a bit disturbing.

 

Turning to the dress itself, below is probably some of the historical inspiration for the Lucy wedding dress:

Bildnis_Margarete_Brömsen_Michael_Conrad_Hirt_(1613)

Michael Conrad Hirt, Margarete Brömsem, 1613

The above portrait captures many of the elements in the Lucy wedding dress although the collar/ruff on the Lucy wedding dress is circular. This is not a particularly flattering look but then again the 17th Century is not one of our most favorite periods for style so take this with a grain of salt. 🙂

And of course, things would not be complete without some more views of the dress:

Lucy, white funeral/wedding dress worn by Frost in Bram Stoker's Dracula. side front view.:

Once again, before…

Dracula Wedding/Burial dress:

And after…

Dracula:

Full Frontal View

eiko_ishioka_dracula_1

Concept Artwork by Eiko Ishioka

While the Lucy Wedding dress is fairly ahistorical from a style perspective, it nevertheless achieves the primary goal of adding impact to the characters and moving the story forward- the goal of costuming in any production- and it does so in a spectacular way. No matter how we feel about the scenes with Lucy becoming a vampire, it cannot be denied that it has a powerful impact on the viewer. Ultimately, it’s only a movie but it still touches on some dark themes still linger on to this day.



The Bridesmaid Dress

Bridesmaid dresses have been a staple of weddings for over 100 years and even today are a fixture for most weddings. For the typical wedding involving two or more bridesmaids, it is standard for the bridesmaids to be wearing dresses of a uniform style and color, thereby providing a canvas for the the bride to show brightly (after all, it is HER day… 🙂 ). However, the bridesmaid dress is often of a style that pleases nobody and in recent years there’s been a lot of resistance to the idea to the point where they’re being dispensed with for some.

Throughout the 19th and early 20th Centuries, wedding customs evolved and by the early 1900s, the typical wedding that we know today had taken form to include the distinct bridesmaid dress. Here are some examples:

Wedding Party c. 1900

Judging from the dress and hat styles, this was probably taken sometime around 1910 or so and what’s striking about it is that the bridesmaid dresses s are fairly uniform. While they appear to be of one style and made from the same material, there are variations in the trim on each woman’s skirt.

And here’s a few more from roughly the same time:

Victorian wedding group by lovedaylemon, via Flickr

In this picture, the bride is almost indistinguishable from the bridesmaids except for the hat.

It’s an interesting to see that uniform bridesmaid dresses were a thing a hundred years ago. In future posts, we’ll look a little further back so stay tuned! 🙂



Wedding Dresses- It Wasn’t Always A White Wedding

In contrast to today, the term “wedding gown” was far more flexible in the late 19th Century than it is today. When we think of a wedding gown, we invariably think of some sort of dress that’s in some shade of white or ivory that’s only worn once on the wedding day and then stored away forever, unless a descendant chooses to wear the dress for their wedding. However, in recent scholarship, it’s been noted that the concept of the “white wedding” with its one-use wedding gown is a fairly recent development, as much a product of merchandising as social convention. During the late 19th Century, a wedding dress was typically a woman’s “best dress,” often enhanced by netting, lace, and flowers (especially orange blossoms). The dress was definitely meant to be worn long after the wedding and in fact, the idea of having a dress for that’s only worn once and then stored away forever was considered the height of wastefulness. With that said, here’s just one example of what a wedding dress could be, at least if we accept the Walsall Museums’ description:

Day Dress c. 1885

Day Dress, c. 1885; Walsall Museums (WASMG : 1976.0832)

Day Dress c. 1885

Side Profile

Unfortunately the photography is not the best…style-wise this is mid-1880s with a defined train/bustle and is constructed from a silver-gray silk satin for the overskirt and bodice combined with a silk brocade floral pattern for the underskirt, under bodice and sleeve cuffs. The bodice is constructed to create the effect of a jacket over a vest (although these were usually made as a single unit) and the red flowers on the silk brocade provide pops of red that add richness and variety to what would otherwise be a somewhat dull monochromatic silver-gray dress.

Day Dress c. 1885

Close-up of front bodice.

And here’s a nice close-up of the silk brocade fabric:

Day Dress c. 1885

Close-up of fashion fabric.

Here’s a couple of more pictures (although the color is a bit off):

Day Dress c. 1885

Three-Quarter rear view.

Day Dress c. 1885

The red flowers on the silk brocade panels definitely draws the eye up and fixes the viewer’s eyes (As should be the case with all bridal dresses!). Of course, as with much of fashion history, there’s rarely any absolutes and this was the case with using “regular” colors versus the more bridal colors of white and ivory during the 1880s. However, in the end, it’s important to realize that the dividing lines between “bridal” and non-bridal were not as rigid was we tend to view them today (although that’s changing). This was just a brief glimpse into the world of bridal dresses during the 1880s and that there are alternatives to the “traditional” when it comes to bridal dresses. 🙂



Trending For October 1886

W

hile studying old fashion plates may not seem as exciting as looking at pictures of extant original dresses, they still yield a wealth of information, especially if one carefully reads the descriptions that accompanied them. It’s easy to be put off by the fading and often poor state of preservation that many of these plates are in but if we can see past that, we believe that the reward is worth it.


O

ctober 1886 was an interesting time for fashion. The bustle was definitely back in force, refining the earlier bustle styles of the early 1870s and creating a more tidy and sharply defined silhouette than what was found in 1870s styles. In this post, we step back to October 1886 with this plate from the October issue of Peterson’s Magazine. Of special interest is the wedding dress in Figure I on the far left.

Petersons_Oct 1886

Peterson’s Magazine, October 1886

Below is a description of the above plate:

Fig. I.- WEDDING DRESS, OF BROCADED SILK AND WHITE ILLUSION. The skirt is made of three deep plaited [pleated] ruffles of illusion over white silk, the two upper ruffles falling in deep curves in front. The bodice, short tunic in front, and train are of the brocaded silk. The tunic is caught up with clusters of orange-blossoms. The bodice has a plaited vest of the illusion, with lace revers at the sides. The sleeves are open, on the outside of the arm, over an illusion sleeve, which is full at the elbow, and trimmed with sprays of orange-blossoms. Orange-blossoms at the throat and in the hair, from which a long veil of illusion falls.

Fig. II.- WALKING-DRESS, OF VERY DARK GRAY CASHMERE. It is made in plaits all around the skirt, with side-panels of plaid velvet. The close-fitting bodice is made with two revers of the velvet, both placed on the right side, and coming to a sharp point in front of the waist. Collar and cuffs also of the velvet. Gray felt hat, with ribbon and wings of the colors in the plaid velvet.

Fig. III.- EVENING-DRESS, OF LIGHT CANARY-COLORED SURAH. The skirt is trimmed with many narrow flounces, with a pointed apron-front of white lace, nearly to the bottom of the ruffled skirt. The train is plain, and trimmed with white lace. The bodice is cut with a sharp point, both front and back, and is ornamented with folds of the surah and white lace on the left side. Puffs of canary-colored ostrich-tips and ribbon trimming. Yellow bird in the hair.

Fig. lV- EVENING DRESS, OF POPPY-RED SILK. The skirt has a narrow knife-plaiting at the bottom. The back fails in large plaits, with a short full tunic over them. The front is trimmed with drooping rows or black lace, natural habitat of the cyclamen is in the woods, and this with long loops of poppy-colored ribbon. Panniers of black lace at the sides. The high bodice has a jabot of black lace down the front. Bow of red ribbon on the left side of the neck. Red poppies in the hair.

Fig. V.- WALKING DRESS, OF DARK-BLUE WOOLEN MATERIAL. The skirt falls in straight plaits at the back, with a short tunic over it. The front of the skirt at the bottom is trimmed with a broad band of striped blue-and-red bouclé material, and it is plaited at the waist. The bodice is made with a sharp point, with a reddish-blue velvet waistband, revers, and collar of the same material. The vest is of the striped bouclé. Dark-blue felt hat, trimmed with a red bird and wings.

Starting with the wedding dress in Figure I, it is styled with the skirt arranged in the front with three rows of vertical ruffles with the top two rows swaged to the rear. The base fashion fabric is a white silk covered by a layer of white illusion. Illusion is a  lightweight netting fabric with diamond-shaped holes and constructed from silk (today, it is more likely to be made of nylon and it primarily used for bridal veils). It is a form of tulle fabric, characterized by its soft hand and excellent drapability.

Illusion- Note the Diamond-Shaped Holes

White Silk Brocade – There was an endless variation in brocade patterns.

The bodice and overskirt/train is a silk brocade with the sleeves constructed from same illusion as the skirt. Covering the upper sleeves is lace that has been formed as revers. Also, interestingly enough, the front of the bodice is pleated in a fan pattern, giving the appearance of a vest. Finally, the dress is trimmed in orange blossoms in the front and in the headpiece. Overall, it’s a fairly “traditional” look that embodies the white wedding trend that was beginning to take hold during the late 19th Century.

Figure II is a fairly conventional day dress combined with plaid velvet to create a “highland” effect of sorts. The skirt and bodice are of a gray cashmere (although it appears to be more of a blue) combined with plaid velvet side-plates on the skirt. The plaid velvet is also used for the cuffs as well as on the front of the bodice (although the illustration distorts this somewhat, making it look more like a sash). Below are some modern-day examples of cashmere that easily could be used to make this dress:

Dark Blue-Gray Cashmere-Wool Blend

Dark Blue Cashmere

Figure III is an evening dress made of canary (sort of a light yellow) surah combined with white lace. The front of the skirt is trimmed in rows of narrow flounces and is covered in the front with a lace apron. Style-wise, this is a conventional med-1880s look with an emphasis on pleating running all the way up the front of the skirt. For color, the plate is a bit faded so here’s a bit more on the color canary which is essentially a yellow. It can vary in intensity from bright, as on the left, to a more subdued as on the right:

As indicated in a previous post, surah is a twilled silk fabric and would have looked something like this (unfortunately, it’s not an easy fabric to find, especially in any shade of yellow):

Surah

For Figure IV, we see another variation on the pleating/flounce theme only this time it is limited to the front apron which is done in black lace. To complement the black lace apron is a jabot of matching back lace running down the front of the bodice. The bodice and skirt are constructed from a poppy-red silk and the skirt hem has a row of knife pleating. Overall, this a relatively simple style for an evening dress and if we did not have the description from Peterson’s to go on, it would be easy to mistake for a day dress. Here is a sample of the color:

Poppy Red

Poppy Red

Unfortunately, the color depicted in the late is more of a wine color but as we know, colors can change dramatically in 100 plus year-old documents and especially those involving color printing processes so take this all with a grain of salt. 🙂

Finally, Figure V depicts is a fairly conventional day dress with the basic skirt and bodice constructed of a dark blue wool. However, the front of the skirt and skirt hem are trimmed in a blue-red bouclé, a fabric woven from loosely spun yarns giving a looped pile effect. In more recent times, bouclé has become the signature fabric found in many Chanel designs.  Although not stated, it is assumed that this was composed of wool fibers. Below is an example (unfortunately, we were unable to find a red-blue color):

All of the above dresses are fairly conventional in terms of style but they do exhibit some interesting uses of fabrics and trims and especially with the velvet trim in Figure III and the bouclé in Figure V. While perhaps not spectacular when compared to the creations being produced by Worth, Doucet, and Pingat (to name a few), it does demonstrate that the limits of particular styles were constantly being pushed in both big and small ways.