Yay! Huge props to Sewingbird on LJ for pointing out that the long-awaited final Janet Arnold book (Patterns of Fashion: Cut and Construction of Linen Shirts, Smocks, Neck and Headwear, Etc., C. 1540-1665) is now available for pre-order on Amazon UK (it’s coming out in November). And Laracorsets on LJ found a book (Corsets: Historic Patterns and Techniques) that sounds very promising; also available for preorder on Amazon UK.
If you’re one of the many who has been waiting years to get your hands on the fabulous Costume Close-Up, which has scaled patterns and (most importantly!) the best darn overview of 18th century sewing techniques that I’ve ever seen, you’re in luck! It’s now back in print and available from the publisher for a reasonable price.
In other news, sorry it’s been SO boring around here! I’ve just been so busy with Dickens Fair. I promise an update to the Bet project diary asap, and lots of sewing come January.
Things you may have heard elsewhere, but cross-posted here in order to be complete: the Complete Jane Austen will broadcast on PBS/Masterpiece Theatre beginning January 13, 2008. AustenBlog thinks they’ll probably start with the new ITV productions (Persuasion, Mansfield Park, and Northanger Abbey). See my reviews of all three on my Regency costume movie reviews page. Other productions will include the new Sense & Sensibility, along with the Kate Beckinsale Emma (1997) and 1995 Pride & Prejudice.
The auction catalog for the Tasha Tudor auction is now available from Whitaker Auctions. Cost is $45. I got mine the other day and it’s definitely worth getting. Tons of color photos of gorgeous garments; most are 1830s, but there are items from the 18th century through the 19th century.
And finally, lots of people have been sending around the link for the online costume galleries for the National Museum in Denmark. Tons of gorgeous color photos of various gowns (which will be integrated into the very-soon-coming Real Women’s Clothing Guide update), plus scaled patterns for some! If you’ve ever heard any of us discuss the Moden books, they’ve got scans of all the images and patterns from those books on this site. Very cool!
Finally, ye olde yard sale is still going strong. Lots of items still available – please email me if you’re interested in any. In about a week, I’ll put things on ebay, so now is your chance to get them for cheap.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is currently hosting an exhibition on designer Paul Poiret (he of the fabulous Orientalist designs of the 1910s). Oh to get to NYC! In the meantime, check out the exhibition details, some photos of the exhibition on Flickr, and what appears to be a Poiret-inspired photo shoot in the May 2007 issue of Vogue. I had a chance to flip through the hefty exhibition catalog at the Museum of Costume in Bath and can report that it looks really nicely done, and shall be at the top of my Christmas list this year. If anyone makes it, take lots of pictures!
So I haven’t done one jot of sewing in forever — work has been crazy, and my weekends have been totally booked. Booked with costume-y stuff, but nothing huge to report! Let’s see — I taught a workshop on bodice draping and will be doing another in April, I went to the GBACG Elizabeth and the Pirate feast which was much fun (but I didn’t take many pictures – I wore my same old, same old courtesan dress. I REALLY need a new 16th century dress!) And I went to the GBACG Little Women Costume Salon, where we geeked out and looked at 5 million photos of extant sheer dresses.
I absolutely, positively will work on my Little Women dress this weekend. I have to get cracking, if for no other reason than I’m itching to sew! I got lots of tips from Lynne on making a drawn bonnet at the Little Women Salon, and I really should start on that soon before I forget everything.
Sunday is Costume Academy and I’m teaching one class in the morning (hairstyles of the bustle era). See? Busy with costume-related stuff, but no sewing!
One bit of interest — I noticed the Whitaker Auction people are going to be doing a huge auction of Tasha Tudor’s collection this November. They say a book will be available, so I’m definitely going to have to look for that.
Oh, and I recently got this book: Gazette des Atours de Marie Antoinette. It’s really amazing — it’s one of the swatch books (this one from 1782) that she used to select her gowns. All in French, of course, but a gorgeous reproduction and I really recommend it. What I found most interesting is that the gowns are separated into different categories: grand habits (court dresses), levites, turques, anglaises, gowns for “petit paniers” (as opposed to the big ones worn with the grand habits). Brings home how different styles would be worn for different occasions (and probably 3-4 dresses in one day!). The swatches themselves are not that exciting, in that many of them are solid taffetas (lots of purpley colors) — only a few stripes, a few ikats, a few small scale embroideries. But it’s still really cool to see some scrap of ANYTHING connected to Marie Antoinette’s gowns!
Since work and life have been so busy that pretty much NO sewing has been happening, I thought I’d keep things interesting around here with a book review! I recently finished Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution, which in addition to having a fabulous title, was a fascinating read.
After seeing the movie last year, I went back to read Antonia Fraser’s biography (which I’d read about 1/3 of years ago but never finished). Queen of Fashion really compliments a conventional bio of MA; it actually includes a lot of biographical information, but there’s (obviously) lots that it can’t go into. So I recommend reading it after having read one of the major MA biographies.
But I was struck how much clearer my understanding of MA, and particularly why she became such a focus for the revolution, was after reading Queen of Fashion. In fact, I would now argue that it is impossible to really understand MA without understanding her clothing, and the public perception of her fashionable image.
In particular, it is author Weber’s argument that it was precisely because MA abandoned court dress in favor of fashionable attire that she became a focal point for public criticism. By leading the mode, and by leaving Versailles to mix with Parisian society, MA shattered earlier understandings of royalty as godlike. Previously, French queens had dutifully followed court protocol, which kept them wearing very formal attire and kept them physically removed from the majority of the populace. MA, on the other hand, became all too real, both in the fact that you could see her at the Opera or shopping in Paris, but also because she wore what was being worn by other fashionable women of her era. Real equals human, and human equals faults, so while early on she was very popular, when public sentiment began to sour with the current regime, she was a fair target — one who was wearing not only what other aristocratic women wore, but also (to some degree) what actresses and prostitutes wore.
This all helped me understand the Diamond Necklace Affair in a way that I hadn’t previously. After seeing the film The Affair of the Necklace, I went back to Fraser’s bio to try to understand why this incident had such a negative impact on MA’s public image — but just really didn’t get it. Queen of Fashion spends a lot more time (I think a whole chapter?) on this incident. Weber argues that by acquitting Cardinal Rohan, the parlement basically said that it was reasonable for him to assume that MA would spend huge sums of money on a ridiculous necklace, and also reasonable to assume that she would participate in secret assignations — all of which publicly confirmed the popular perceptions of MA.
There’s also lots of interesting costume history interspersed throughout, such as the whole “MA refused to wear a corset” actually was about her not wanting to wear the grand corps, an apparently even MORE rigid and uncomfortable set of stays that only royalty were allowed to wear — not that she didn’t want to wear a corset at all. And there’s lots of discussion of the “pouf” hairstyle and the gaulle, which is the early term for the chemise a la Reine.
I was excited to find, while scanning footnotes (I’m a history geek, I read the footnotes) that while Rose Bertin’s records were destroyed, the records of another dressmaker (Madame Eloffe) that MA used during the revolution have been published (I’m waiting to get these via interlibrary loan). And that the Musee Carnavalet in Paris has a few items from the queen’s wardrobe, including a shoe and a fan that is on permanent display (going to have to hunt these down on my next trip to Paris! I may have even wandered right by them on my last trip).
The only disappointment I had was that there was not more details on the specifics of MA’s wardrobe (oh, for a Marie Antoinette’s Wardrobe Unlocked!), but that wasn’t really the aim of the book and there are few records preserved.
The book is really well written and very readable; if you’re into the topic at all, I highly recommend it.
Next up, I really want to read Sexing La Mode: Gender, Fashion, and Commercial Culture in Old Regime France!
There are a couple of interesting things in this month’s issue of Threads: the Indianapolis Museum of Art has an exhibit on wedding costume from the 19th & 20th centuries (see the exhibit website for details and some nice images), an article on choosing an iron that includes a nice timeline of the history of irons, a great suggestion about storing fabric (using plastic crates from office supply stores, which avoids the problem of trapping gases [plastic tubs] or transferring acids [cardboard boxes]), and a feature on the back cover on a new line of repro fabrics based on textiles owned by Harriet Beecher Stowe (including a beautiful 1880s painted gown that’s nicely pictured).