Carefully wrapped in acid free tissue and a hard case, our 1890s Felix ballgown is being taken to match up bead sizes and silk matched. Very special cargo, with an upcoming blog post tonight.
And we’re back! After braving the horrible traffic coming back from Arizona, we’re happy to have arrived back in LA and ready to move on with some new projects. Overall, Tombstone was a good experience although we were rapidly reminded why we gave up selling at outdoor events ( tents and high winds are no fun). For this event, we brought out our pavilion tent and we were able to set up quite nicely, along with some friends of ours who were also selling various items. Here are a few views of our set-up:
We brought out a selection from our Day Lily line along with corsets, hats, and umbrellas/parasols.
And, of course, we couldn’t leave Angus out of the action and he enjoyed all the new smells and meeting lots of people.
In spite of the challenges from the elements, we had a good time and we met a lot of nice people. Even better was finally being able to meet people in person who have been following us on social media. 🙂 We hope to do this again in the future but in the meantime, if you see a Day Lily dress or something else that you’re interested in, do not hesitate to contact us. See you down the trail! 🙂
John Singer Sargent was noted for his portraiture and we’ve always found it to be a source of inspiration for our designs. Recently, we had the opportunity to visit the Tate Britain (aka Tate Gallery) in London where we viewed the Portrait of Mrs. Robert Harrison:
Because of the height that the picture was displayed, we almost missed it…Here’s a better view of the work, courtesy of the Tate:
When we entered the gallery where this picture is displayed, we found that it was very difficult to view because it was hung high up on the wall. The only way to get a full view without neck strain would have been to stand on the other side of the gallery, something that’s impossible with the constant crowds. Not the most optimal viewing experience, to be sure.
Turning to the portrait itself, the one thing that caught our eye was red portions of the dress, or rather, what appears to be a red surcoat or coat worn over a fairly conventional white day dress. It’s definitely a style we haven’t encountered before, especially for the 1880s. For a little insight, below are some comments from the Tate Britain website:
The Portrait of Mrs Robert Harrison was begun in 1886, shortly after Sargent had returned from a summer in France. Ormond has suggested that this painting is a bridge between the two dominant styles of late nineteenth-century French painting, Realism and Impressionism. The details of the head and hands are precise, yet the colouring of the portrait shows a move away from the old masterly emphasis of Sargent’s style, inspired by his friendship with Monet and the work of the Impressionist artists he had seen in France.
As for the dress, the Tate notes the following:
Following the exhibition of this portrait at the Royal Academy in 1886, The Athenaeum reported that ‘An exercise in white, red and grey; is, so far as this goes, excellent, although it is decidedly unpleasant as a household companion, and, for the owner’s sake, we hope unjust to the lady’. Her unusual dress was also commented upon. The columnist for the Evesham Journal and Four Shires Advertiser exclaimed that she had never seen Mrs Harrison ‘wearing such red wing-like appendages to her costume, which look as though about to expand and convey her to the regions of Mephistopheles’
Not particularly positive. Of course, Sargent could have simply added them in, artistic license and all, but then again, perhaps it was some simple affectation by Mrs. Robinson herself. Either way, the pops of red definitely catch the eye and makes this portrait more interesting striking, elevating it out of the conventional. Sometimes one finds the most interesting details in painting when it’s least expected. 🙂
When building a period wardrobe, outerwear such as mantles are often overlooked even though they were a key element in just about any lady’s wardrobe. Broadly speaking, mantles are a lineal descendant of cloaks and shawls and as such, are basically a more refined version of these loose garments, designed to follow the lines of the underlying dress. One of the most distinctive characteristics of 1880s mantles was that the front was cut significantly longer than in the read in order to accommodate the bustle/train of the dress. To begin, here’s an example from circa 1875 made from a Kashmir/Paisley shawl:
Kashmir/Paisley shawls were extremely popular as outerwear during the 1850s and 1860s but were not always the easiest to wear due to their large size and especially with a trained dress. Many of these older shawls were converted to more manageable mantles during the 1870s. The above example is relatively loose which goes together with some of the exaggerated bustles/trains characteristic of early 1870s styles. Here’s an example from circa 1884 that continues this trend:
But the choice of fabric was not limited to Kashmir/Paisley; other fabrics were utilized with velvet being a major favorite:
The above example is a more loosely fitted example with wide sleeves and a lot of ease in the front. In the example below, we see a more tailored version with a peplum running along the bottom. In this profile, one can see that the back is cut to accommodate the prominent bustle characteristic of the later 1880s. Also, one can see a more structured, rigid sleeve setting the lower arm at a 90 degree angle; this was often referred to as a “sling sleeve.”
The mantle front often had a long length as with this example:
To get a better idea of scale, here’s a picture of the mantle being worn over a dress:
And for something a little different, here’s an illustration from the January 1880 issue of Peterson’s Magazine:
Here we see a mantle with the cylindrical silhouette characteristic of the Mid-Bustle Era. Unfortunately, we were unable to find any actual extant examples so illustrations will have to do. Here’s a couple more variations on the basic design:
The above is just a mere fraction of the possibilities with mantles- with just one or two basic shapes, one can create a wide variety of mantles utilizing all manner of fabrics and trim and that’s exactly what we’re going to be doing in the future. 🙂