Friday, April 09, 2010

1790s Fashion: Sources for Extant Garments You May Not Have Thought Of

As I have learned in the last months, fashion during the 1790s was much more varied than it had been earlier in the century and in a way, more varied than what we would see later in the Regency. Earlier fashion staples co-existed with newer garment types, and hybridized rather like bunnies...frequently and in profusion.

Most costumers by this time are familiar with Demode's Real Women's Clothing, 1600-1919, which links visitors directly to extant garments in museum collections in America and Europe.

Photo: Screen shot of a late eighteenth century portrait ring from The Three Graces.

Alert costumers will also browse Ebay and well-known textiles dealers' sites. A couple of favorites for this era include:
I see references to most of these pop up repeatedly on costuming sites, with the exception of Antique and Vintage Dress Gallery, The Three Graces, and Cora Ginsberg. Those are under-utilized and really, you should have a look. Cora Ginsberg's catalogs are just as important as her listings, and frequently contain useful background information.

There are other types of sources, however, that I rarely see references to, or that are new.

Major Auction House Catalogs and Results Pages

Charles A. Whitaker Auction Company
They have handled some famous collections in the past, such as the Tasha Tudor collection. I find their site hard to use.

Christie's: Fine Art Auctions
A literal treasure trove. Their paper catalogs have graced coffee tables and reference shelves for decades. Now their online auction results pages can serve the same function. Choose the Auction Results link towards the top of the homepage. Then browse month by month to look for auctions having to do with textiles and costume. It's slow work but will reveal marvels for this decade. As with many museum entries, sometimes I have quibbles with the dating of items, but less here than on some museum sites.

The Dorotheum
In Vienna. I have not seen costumes among their offerings, but their jewelry is phenomenal, and of course the paintings and drawings. I visited the auction house back in 2001 and it was an overwhelming, Aladdin's Cave experience. Wien, I miss you.

Kerry Taylor Auctions
This company handles most of Sotheby's offerings. It is not particularly easy to browse, and sometimes you have to go to a related site to see listings, but it's still worth the effort.

It's less easy to find items, but if you use the search box in the upper right-hand corner of the homepage, and enter "costume" or "dress" or "fashion", you can come up with items. Once you find an item to suit, click the sale number link at the top left of the item description screen to see the other lots sold in the same sale. Since sales often consist of similar items, this is a decent way to find sales consisting of multiple items of interest.

William Doyle Galleries
I haven't looked here much yet, but plan to do so in future.

Europeana: A New Way to Browse European Museum Holdings

Bjarne Drews pointed out this resource in the last month or so and I have used it several times. It's a portal to the holdings of several European museums. I find it best to find an item and then click the link to the actual museum's page, and then I browse their other holdings. Since I can read French and German decently, browsing isn't too bad, but you might find using Google's translator function helpful.

Photo: typical example of costume found using the Europeana portal.

To get started, type in "costume" in the search field...and you will get drawings and paintings and fashion plates and some costumes in the results screen...

In Closing

Have fun dropping down the rabbit hole, and see you in a few years...


Anonymous said...

Thanks for pointing out a few I wasn't familiar with!

ZipZipInkspot said...

You are most welcome. Am really looking forward to keeping up with some of these sites. Good garments are pretty sure to turn up.

Happy Saturday,

Natalie in Kentucky

Rosie said...

Thank you for a wonderful list of links.
Do you think someone could help me? I am looking for information on the use of silk ribbon embroidery in the regency period on dress, spencers and accessories.
Any links or documentation appreciated.

Please post a comment on www.rosiesstuffnsew.blogspot.


ZipZipInkspot said...

Dear Rosie,

Glad you enjoyed the list!

Sadly, I haven't researched silk ribbon embroidery. A quick Google search turned up an article from the Jane Austen Centre in the U.K., but the information is minimal and somewhat confusing. Please see

The early regency embroidery types I am familiar with wre whitework, flat embroidery in colors, and tambour work. I've not seen examples of silk ribbon embroidery for that or the later Regency, but that's not to say it didn't exist. I've just not seen paid attention to looking for it.

You might try sifting through embroidery examples at museums, or look through Cora Ginsbreg's catalogs, from the link in the post above.

Best of luck with your search,

Natalie in Kentucky

Rosie said...

Zip Zip, Thank you for your replies. When doing some more research I'll keep your info at the top of my list.

ZipZipInkspot said...

Dear Rosie,

You're welcome, and if you find more information, sure hope you post about it.

Natalie in Kentucky