Monday, July 18, 2011

Accessories: 1795 Full Dress Ensemble in Cream Silk, Part 3

Some of the accessories used in the ensemble,
More 1795 Full Dress ensemble details, this time the all-important accessories, from hair to fan.

Squinting at the images? For big views, please click on them.


Let's take it from the top, shall we?

Ugh, I almost deleted that, but, let it go...I am talking about hairstyles, with or without toupees.

By the way, the Gallery of Fashion uses the term toupee all the time, and doesn't necessarily mean a rat-sized piece of obviously fake hair glued to a man's head, but the hairstyling at the top of the head.

In case you've forgotten the look of the entire ensemble already, here it is from the side:

A little play in blue and white and sepia.

The inspiration was this 1795 'do, as you may recall, made with a satin chiffonet (wrap), spangled, and with a diamond brooch and two ostrich plumes.

Gallery of Fashion, 1795, detail.
Well, I had a vintage freshwater pearl and steel brooch instead, and not all the spangles are yet applied to the chiffonet, and the fabric is dupioni not satin, but the ends are pinked, as in the figure, and the affair is tied as in the figure as well as Polly and I were able to get it.

I had one issue with the headdress. Underneath is a bandeau made according to Lynn McMaster's tutorial (see previous post). Well, the feathers refused to hold that well. One really needs to have LONG wires to stick the plumes in.

Yet are wires necessary? Nicole of Diary of a Mantua Maker located a fascinating print in the Yale Lewis Walpole Library Digital Collection, titled "Beauty and Fashion", from 1797. First, the full print, and then let's look at a detail.

The mezzotint shows two women at work in what may be a home, given the mirror and pretty wallpaper and patterned fitted carpet and nice table, but also might be a shop. I am not versed enough in prints to know.

You see that they are wearing their headdresses and hats indoors. One sees this all the time. It may have been practical, given cold weather, and it may have been fashionable, and it may have been an artist's caprice, although even amateurs drew women wearing their headwear, not just caps, indoors.

Here's the detail, above, that has me all excited. The lady on the left is sewing a plume to the chiffonet, which is at least partly constructed of ribbons. See how stiff the chiffonet is? See how it holds its shape in her hands? It's constructed (!), not wrapped on the head. There must be a substructure, a stiff bandeau, to which that plume is being sewn. Otherwise the chiffonet would be floppy.

Some wraps were just that, wrapped...there are prints satirizing the process...but this one is premade, and it means I can construct mine, get it just so, sew the plumes to it tightly, and never worry my head again about trying to wrap the thing again or about falling feathers. O happy day that this nugget of historical experience revealed itself.

A second detail showing the tools of the trade. Scissors, of course, small ones, and lace, which I think is the spotted stuff hanging off the table, and a roll of striped ribbin, and what may be a pattern or cut-out piece of fabric. Pins everywhere. They are mid-length and they have small heads.

This is what I love about this hobby: the chance to discover the material culture and the experiences behind it.


What I still do not have the way I want it is the hair.

The hairstyles of the day were so full that to look like a fashion plate, even with very long thick hair one still would have had to employ hair switches or a wig. Portrait miniatures, full portraits, and prints show a variety of looks, some full, some obviously just natural hair, thick, thin, curly, or straight. See the 1790s Fashion: A Transition from The Enlightenment to Regency posts and browse the images to get a clearer idea.

I was aiming for a Miss Frankland's hair in "The Frankland Sisters" portrait by John Hoppner (1795).

Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
My own hair is quite thick and curly, but not quite shoulder length.

To make the hairstyle, I pulled most of my back hair into a loose ponytail, secured it with an elastic band, then pulled the tail up the back of my head and pushed that giant curved haircomb you see in the topmost image down on it. The front and side hair were left hanging, and the remainder of the back hair ditto. I had no hair to hang down, much less enough to create the looped chignons of the fashion plate as well as the mezzotint about, so opted for this simpler, slightly later style.

When wound with that silk, the hairstyle flattened, and didn't have the length to work. The curls were too snakey thin, too. Solution? I will have to puff the natural curls more, lie the chiffonet on top more lightly, and hide some imitation locks underneath, in an effort to get the 1794-5 look.

Oh, about that comb. The base is a gift from Polly. I took an old pearl necklace I had that had broken, trimmed it to fit, and wrapped it to the comb with thin jewelry wire. Voila. It'll do, and can be taken apart and the base reused.
A final note about that mezzotint print above. Do you see the shorter hair the women are sporting? Plus that both women have hair that lies in soft waves rather than all-out curls?  By 1797 big hair was bye-bye, that's one message, and second, that not everyone strove to sport little curly tops. I see this in other Lewis Walpole prints, bye the bye. If you use the link above and browse the library's holdings, you can see for yourself.

The Belt

Yes, the belt. The one item for which I do not have a proper reference. It just felt right. Belts were used, no doubt about that, and the design on the belt fits right in, but its size and shape? I am not certain. Further research needed.

The fabric part's construction is simple, and I made no attempt, other than sticking to handsewing to make it perfectly period. A length of silk is just folded over a core of stiff cotton duck, and overcast down. Then one end is threaded through the buckle, then end turned over, and stitched closed, just as in any belt. The other end is whipped closed.

The belt buckle, front. If you click the image, you will see the cut steel details. The color varies, showing a bit of damage. I am thinking it very late Victorian or Edwardian based on its large size and the curve it makes, perfect for going around a waist. I have another, definitely Victorian/Edwardian one in faux jet of a similar design, bought at the same time and from the same source...both were in a grab bag, I think, for pennies. Those years, the 1890s through the 1910s, were a Golden Age for belts with sashes.

The belt buckle from its back. Note the rivets. This is a true cut steel piece, interestingly with a gold color on the main frame, which is not terribly usual.

On the back, three roundels composed of vintage glass circles shaped and colored to imitate cut steel (from Bumbershoot Supplies, again), sewn down, and then surrounded by purl frieze, and a star of frieze sewn inside.

The Fan

All I did here was to paint, in gold acrylics, an Adamesque design with swags and bellflowers and plain bands, both ubiquitous motifs from the 1760s onward, on a pretty sea-blue fan. Here the blue is stronger; the lower photo has truer color.

The stick ends are gold-painted, too, and a row of small dots spots the sticks just below the paper.

No particular model was followed, here. Rather, over the past year I reviewed lots of images of fan leaves from the Victoria and Albert, the British Museum, and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and absorbed the things I liked. Then, having  having drawn Adamesque designs for cards and whatnot for fun over the years, just came up with a design out of the head and painted it, on the spot and with a small brush, loosely and without particular worry.

I am very happy with the results. It is airy, subdued, and warm, the gold and blue reminding me of sky and sunlight.

Its only issue: meant to sparkle in dim lighting, it -- doesn't. The gold paint is best for daytime. No wonder some fans were glued with spangles! Next time, I spot some spangles on.

A detail, below.

That ends the series. I hope you've enjoyed it. You'll see this ensemble again, tweaked. More about the occasion soon. It's a very exciting opportunity that our little sewing group is honored to be a part of.


Anonymous said...

Natalie that image is fascinating! So many things to see there! I am getting very interested in the sewing culture of the time so I'm very glad you introduced me to that image. Again the level of detail that you present is very admirable. As much as I want you to keep sewing and blogging, I hope that you will enjoy your break (3.5 weeks until my holidays - yes I'm counting!)

The Dreamstress said...

Oh, I'm so envious of all your gorgeous bits and bobs - the buckles and pins and sparkly fans!

Thank you for posting all of your accessories, and how you worked through them.

ZipZip said...

Dear Leimomi,
Thank you so much! Gathering and researching these items has been a blast.

I love reading Zho Zho's Textile Adventures, by the way, that's linked to on your site...she is amazing to learn from.

Very best,

Lady D said...

I found this post fascinating. I'm trying to make a bandau/turban concoction but struggling to get it to stay in place. I thought about using a 'headband' (alice band type) and building the headress around it.

ZipZip said...

Dear Lady D.,
I think lots of people have found slippage a problem. First, we don't tie turbans that often. Second, we often have slick hair...all those silicone-rich hair products!

Have you checked Festive Attyre's turban tutorial? It's really good. See

Very best,


Lady D said...

I'm ok with tying 1940's housewife type turbans (I wear them at home when I have my curlers in) its just the regency turban that eludes me. lol!

I'm experimenting with setting patterns of my sponge rollers and pin curls (lasts longer than if I use tongs) give a 1790's look.