A Look At Fans…

Fans were a key fashion accessory during the late 19th Century and ranged from the purely functional to something far more decorative than functional and were art pieces in their own right. Below is an account of our visit to a small exhibit of fans at the FIDM Museum a few years back.


During the late 19th Century and early 20th Centuries,   were considered an essential fashion accessory and especially for any woman who wanted to present herself in the best possible light. Recently, we had an opportunity to take a look at some as part of the A Graceful Gift: Fans from the Mona Lee Nesseth Collection Exhibition at the FIDM Museum in Downtown Los Angeles. Introduced into Europe during the 17th Century from the Far East, the folding fan evolved from a functional item designed to keep the user cool to something that was more decorative than practical.

Folding fans came in a variety of materials ranging from the very simple and utilitarian to the ornate and materials ranged from wood to brass and ivory. The fan itself was usually made from a treated parchment (although other materials such as silk were used) which often featured painted or printed scenes. Below are two fans from 18th Century France and the variation in style is readily apparent, from the practical…

To the ornate…

Now, from the FIDM Museum exhibit:

20160325_110757.jpg

Fan, Spanish, c. 1850 – 1865

20160325_110802.jpg

Close-Up Of Fan.

The frame appears to be made of mother of pearl. All manner of scenes were painted on the fan leaves, many focusing on Oriental themes, a reflection of the then-current fascination for Chinoiserie. Painting scenes on the fan leaves were also popular as an at-home pastime and blank leaves were readily available.

Below is another example:

20160325_110825.jpg

Fan, French

20160325_110821.jpg

Close-Up Detail

Finally, here is a fan that is attributed to having once belonged to Phoebe Apperson Hearst:

FAN_FIDM Museum1

Fan, Félix Alexandre, artist Dumoret, jeweler France, c. 1875–85; Constructed of Mother-of-pearl, point de gaze lace, gilded silver & diamonds; FIDM Museum (2013.975.2AB)

Overall, it was a small but interesting exhibit. Fans are an easily overlooked fashion accessory but were considered an essential element in any respectable woman’s wardrobe. As applied to recreating period fashions today, vintage fans are readily available at a variety of price points but it must be noted that many of these are fragile with age and are not able to withstand any sort of prolonged use. There are also reproductions and restored originals but it’s been our experience that the reproductions are for the most part, substandard and a faint echo of the originals. We hope you all have enjoyed this brief overview of fans and in the future we’ll be posting more in regard fashion accessories. 🙂



Another Tea Gown From the 1890s…

Lately, 1890s have been a major focus for us and especially when it comes to tea gowns. We recently came across this tea gown from circa 1890 (at least according to the auction website) that reflects a Japonisme style1Dating garments is more of an art than a science in many instances and sometimes the best that can be done it to approximate it to a decade.:

Tea Gown, c. 1890; Kerry Taylor Auctions

This is an interesting example because the outer dress on the front is a light pink robe that mimics a kimono, opening up to reveal a light cream colored underdress. Also, we note that the sleeves are properly part of the underdress and that the outer dress is sleeveless. Here’s a view of the rear:

The rear presents a more conventional view and gives a princess line appearance. Given the size of the sleeve caps, this tea gown is either from the early or late 1890s.  Here’s a close-up of the front:

The underdress is detailed with ruching and a net-like trim that draws the eye up towards the face. Below is a close-up of the embroidered design that runs along the front of the outer dress:

Close-up of the embroidered floral design.

The pattern is very subtle here and tends to blend in with the background of the dress fabric. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of information available on this tea dress except to say that it was produced in Japan for the export trade. That’s perfectly possible although it could have just as easily been made in the West. Aesthetically, this is an interesting tea gown because of melding of Japanese and Western elements: from the front, there’s definitely a mock-kimono style while from the rear, it looks like any number of princess line dresses of the time. Stay tuned for more!



Japonisme Redux

Throughout the ages, Western fashion has incorporated foreign influences and the late 19th Century was no exception, most notably with the advent of Japonisme. Originally coined in 1872 by Philippe Burty, a French art critic, “Japonisme”  was used a term used to encompass the idea of the popularity and influence of Japanese art and design on Western European (and later by extension, American) culture.1Philippe Burty, Renaissance Littéraire et Artistique, May 1872-February 1873

James Tissot, Young Ladies Looking at Japanese Objects, 1869

Originating as an artistic movement, interest in Japonisme stemmed from the re-opening of Japan to the world, a process that began in 1854 with the forced re-opening of trade with the West. One of the foundations of Japan’s participation in the world economy was the export of textiles, both in the form of raw fabric and finished goods designed expressly for the Western market. Along with this, there also a flood of Oriental bric-a-brac that was exported in the form of fans, kimonos, lacquers, bronzes, and of course, silks, which began to attract much interest by Westerners, especially in Great Britain and France.

During this time, Japanese designs began to attract the interest of various artists who began to incorporate them into their work. One area of special interest were woodblock prints in the Ukiyo-e Style (“Floating World”) and these designs influenced artists such as Tissot, Monet, Degas, and Whistler, and Toulouse-Lautrec. Below are some examples of these woodblock prints:

Otani Oniji II, dated 1794 Toshusai Sharaku (Japanese, active 1794–95) Polychrome woodcut print on paper; 15 x 9 7/8 in. (38.1 x 22.9 cm) Henry L. Phillips Collection, Bequest of Henry L. Phillips, 1939 (JP2822)

Otani Oniji II, dated 1794; Toshusai Sharaku (Japanese, active 1794–95)
Polychrome woodcut print on paper; 15 x 9 7/8 in. (38.1 x 22.9 cm)
Henry L. Phillips Collection, Bequest of Henry L. Phillips, 1939 (JP2822)

The Great Wave at Kanagawa (from a Series of Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji), Edo period (1615–1868), ca. 1831–33 Katsushika Hokusai (Japanese, 1760–1849); Published by Eijudo Polychrome ink and color on paper; 10 1/8 x 14 15/16 in. (25.7 x 37.9 cm) (Oban size) H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929 (JP1847)

The Great Wave at Kanagawa (from a Series of Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji), Edo period (1615–1868), c. 1831–33; Katsushika Hokusai (Japanese, 1760–1849); H. O. Havemeyer Collection (JP1847)

Along with woodblock prints and other Japanese artwork, interest in the Japanese design aesthetic also included fabrics which incorporated motifs such as plants, flowers, insects, birds, and geometric patterns. Below are a few examples of textile designs from the 1880s:

Birds1

Textile1

Kimono1

Textile2

We can see further examples depicted by various notable Western artists themselves:

Claude Monet, Camille Monet in Japanese Costume, 1876; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

James Tissot, The Japanese Bath (La Japonaise au bain,), 1864

James Tissot, The Japanese Bath (La Japonaise au bain,), 1864.

James McNeill Whistler, La Princesse du pays de la porcelaine

James McNeill Whistler, La Princesse du pays de la porcelaine, 1863 – 1865.

So how does this translate into fashion? Well, garments of the period began to use traditional Japanese fabrics, largely in the form of kimono fabric. In many instances, the garments themselves were made from re-worked kimonos which were largely made from silk. Below are some examples:

1870 Court Dress

Day Dress, c. 1870s; Kyoto Costume Institute (AC8938 93-28-1AB)

1870 Tea Gown

Tea Gown, American, c. 1870; Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology (80.1.4)

Side profile

Side profile

Close-up of the front.

Close-up of the front.

The above pictures are interesting in that they illustrate typical Japanese design motifs that would normally be found in Kimonos. Also, interestingly enough, the two above dresses were made from re-worked Kimono fabric which suggests that new markets were being found for kimonos that normally would be worn by a small class of upper class Japanese, primarily the wives of Samurai. Below is another interesting dress that utilizes a quilted habutai silk fabric:

House Dress,, Japanese c. 1875; Kyoto Costume Institute (AC989 78-30-3AB)

Moving forward into the 1880s, Japanese design influences still remained strong as can be seen in these examples:

Day Dress/Reception Dress, c. 1880s, belonging to Marquise Nabeshima Nagako; Jingu Chokokan Museum

Side Profile

Three-Quarter Rear Profile

 

 

Close-up of the train.

What is interesting about the above dress is that this one appears to have been made for the Japanese market. In this case, the dress reflects Japan’s increasing westernization and is a mix of traditional fabric design with western dress style. Note that the line of the cuirass bodice has fringe running along the bottom, creating a visual effect of elongating the bodice’s lines, covering the hips completely.

Dressing Gown/Wrapper, c. 1885; FIDM (80.40.1)

Three-Quarter Rear View

The use of kimonos as dressing gowns and even tea gowns was popular in the West and it allowed women to be able to wear something that did not not require the use of the corset, or at least having to lace up the corset to the degree normally required when wearing a dress. As the bustle disappeared from use in the 1890s and the lines of women’s dresses became more upright, kimonos began to be incorporated into designs for evening wear and some day wear and this is especially evident during the years from 1900 – 1913. Here’s one example from 1894-1896:

1890s Dress

Day Dress, c. 1894 – 1896; Indianapolis Museum of Art (74.351A-B)

The above example is a day dress typical of the mid 1890s with the characteristic leg-o-mutton sleeves, thin waist, and open bodice designed to appear to be a coat with an exposed shirtwaist (which was often a fake one that was actually part of the bodice itself). What is interesting in terms of Japonisme is the geometric pattern of the fabric which follows a fairly standard Japanese design motif. The provenance of the fabric is unknown but it’s clear that it’s not material from a reworked kimono.

Image result for japonisme definition philippe burty

Finally, we end this series with a wonderful example of Japonisme in the form of a Visite from Paris, circa 1890:

Cape/Visite, c. 1890; Kyoto Costume Institute (AC5367 86-17-7)

The above illustrations and descriptions barely touch the range of Japanese influences that were found in Western fashion during the late 19th Century but even from this limited sample, it can be seen that they served to create some stunning effects that only served to enhance the aesthetics and sheer beauty of the period styles. This is an area that has been largely neglected by those striving to recreate the fashions of the period and it merits further consideration.



The Kyoto Costume Institute

Kyoto Costume Institute

Although we have never visited the Kyoto Costume Institute in Kyoto, Japan, a friend of mine took the opportunity to do so while on a recent visit to  Japan. From the website, it’s hard to tell just what’s there to visit but my friend was in an adventuresome mood and it’s located relatively close to  his relations so he decided to take a chance- at worse, there would be no showroom or museum space and that would be that. However, as things worked out, it was an incredible experience sitting in an anonymous and non-descript setting….

First, if you’re expecting some sort of “curb appeal,” the answer was no…it could have been an office almost anywhere in Japan… 🙂

Upon entering, the receptionist and the security guard were a bit quizzical what a foreigner was doing there but after explaining that he wanted to view the collection, he was directed to the 5th Floor of the building where they have a small showroom:

Kyoto Costume Institute

Kyoto Costume Institute

From what they told my friend, apparently they stage a number of exhibits per year mostly in conjunction with another museum and that they even have a number of international travelling exhibits. The exhibition going on during my friend’s visit was 18th Century themed and he got got a few pictures for us:

Kyoto Costume InstituteKyoto Costume InstituteKyoto Costume InstituteKyoto Costume InstituteKyoto Costume InstituteKyoto Costume InstituteKyoto Costume InstituteKyoto Costume Institute

Although it’s difficult to make out, my friend told me that the condition of all the garments and accessories were either in pristine condition or close to it. My friend also noted that he was given a personal tour by one of the assistant curators and he was impressed with their complete dedication to preserving and displaying the various fashion- “The level of dedication was samurai-like.” From my friend’s description and the pictures he sent me, we are definitely impressed and now we’re making plans to one day pay it visit in person. 🙂

Introducing The Camille

Since its introduction, our Camille dress design has been a major hit with our clients and has become one of the mainstays of our day dress line-up. The Camille is based on the Mid-Bustle Era styles that the Impressionist models would wear, primarily characterized by a fitted, narrow tied-back skirt that is swagged, pleated, and ruffled with fullness from the knees down. This style was also made popular by the famous actresses of the time such as Lilly Langtry and Sarah Bernhardt. What also makes this skirt more distinct is the custom bayleuse which is installed in each of our dresses which serve to create the distinct silhouette that characterized the late 1870s/early 1880s.

Camille Dress Elena

The Camille is a solid design that is suitable for a variety of occasions, both indoor and outdoor, and is available in a nearly endless combination of colors and fabrics. Below is one example that we recently made for a client:

Camille Dress Elena
With this dress, we’ve employed a blue color palette with a solid light blue foundation for the basic skirt and bodice sleeves and  combined it with dark blue cuffs and lapels on bodice. Then, just to make things interesting, we also employed a blue plaid fabric for the bodice body and swaged overskirt with pops of yellow. Finally, to complete the effect, we used a shirred white net to cover the upper underskirt.

Here is a three-quarter view of the rear of the dress. The underskirt is covered with shirred white net from the top to mid way down, and then with three rows of pleating from mid way down to the hem.

Camille Dress Elena
Below is a closer look at the hem- three rows of pleating…
Camille Dress Elena
Here are some more views of the dress details:

Camille Dress ElenaCamille Dress Elena

Now let’s take a look at some bodice details:

Camille Dress Elena

The bodice incorporates features reminiscent of 18th Century styles to include an inset of shirred white net framed by dark blue lapels or revers, creating a faux waistcoat appearance. The sleeves are three-quarter length ending in cuffs that match the lapels trimmed with three buttons. To finish it off, each sleeve has inset lace with silk ribbon trim.

Below is a close-up of the sleeve and cuff (before the lace was added). This is a good illustration of the color palette:

Camille Dress Elena

Overall, the effect is an interesting mix of plaid and solid-colored fabrics with a palette that harmonizes. The shirred front overskirt, knife pleats, and folds create an uneven texture that contrasts with the smoothness of the bodice and sleeves. The design was definitely a hit with our client and we look forward to creating more dresses in this style.