Sunday, November 20, 2011

Spencers and "Bodies": the German Luxus und der Moden Viewpoint

Plate 10.
Luxus und
der Moden.
April 1796.
1790s "bodies", those sort of spencer-like, jacket-like sleeveless items I've been fussing over lately in order to make one, appear to be pretty thin on the ground in museum collections. Sigh. Perhaps they were easily made over, perhaps they were too high fashion to be really popular. Whatever, I will keep looking, in the interest of being thorough.

Yet, a little fatigued with museums, I've gone back to the fashion plates for a break, but to a different source, the German-language Journal des Luxus und der Moden. I looked up the very first plate at random, number 10 in the April 1796 issue I looked up, and by chance it showed just what I was looking for. Further, the accompanying explanation in the journal's monthly article, "Moden-Neuigkeiten" is helpful in several respects. Ill be looking at more examples, and in several other magazines, too, but let's start with this one.

Here is a young lady in Half Dress. She's ready for a concert, or visiting, or other semi-formal occasion. Her ensemble features a rose-colored body. It always seems funny to write that word, because of course, everyone has a body, or I sure hope so, anyhow, but I am using the name of the garment as it was then referred to. Language: funny stuff.

Here is the body in detail, and even more detail, below.

Now let's read what the magazine says about it. The original German:

 My English translation*:

The first (plate 10), a young lady in elegant Half Dress, in which the pretty Miss von R-- here appeared first, and since at large has found applause and imitation. A rose-colored ribbon, tied on the right side in a bow , runs through the pretty lightly curled hair, that is dressed behind in several long braids. Above, on the hair's parting, bows of the rose ribbon lie between the parted sections of hair, down the braids from front to back. The lady wears a Chemise dress of white satin or taffeta, with short sleeves, and with a lace collar behind. The Chemise has a body [Leib] of rose-colored satin or taffeta, with narrow folds nearby [lapels?], and half oversleeves, which are laid in flat pleats. On the white collar of the Chemise white ribbons are on both sides, which are laid over the shoulders, crossed over the breast, run around the waist, and are tied lightly on the side. At the base the Chemise is fixed twice with rose-colored satin ribbons. 

*Sorry if my translations seem labored, but I try to keep the wording as close as possible to the original, in case there are nuances of meaning that I had not discovered. A loose translation would obliterate these. 

Our young lady's man, from the
same issue.
Like the Met example, this body (or Leib, the term for body in German) has a collar, but this one flows down into a wrap-front design that I find more appetizing and more natural than the Met example. Not sure about closures...I don't think the white wrapped ribbons do anything to actually hold the body closed. Perhaps there are internal ties? Pins?

Note that that a body could also have sleeves; such garments weren't always sleeveless. Hmm.  I am wondering if in England this garment would be termed a spencer instead of a body? Sabine, or other German-speaking readers, your thoughts?

As was so common during that period, this particular fashion -- the wrap-front, the ribbons --  started with someone in high life showing off her new design in public. The magazine makes sure to let us know that she is a person "of quality" by saying that her surname begins with "von". After that, it spreads everywhere as the newest taste. 

In this fashion plate it's clear that the body could be a key part of a suite..a suit or Anzug. The design and coloring of dress, body, and hair are all of a piece. The body/bodice concept is also smart and flexible: it stretches the uses a Chemise dress could be put to. An Undress dress becomes dressy with a more elaborate coiffure. Of course, the hair takes serious time to pull together, but other than that, there's little fuss involved, and little extra expense. Our In Style analog today? Throwing on a handsome jacket, popping on some more formal shoes or boots, and upping the makeup factor takes a day outfit out for cocktails, a nice dinner, or a play.

*     *     *     *     *

Gee, that's something I'd like to do this season, a concert, dinner, a play! The Messiah is to be performed with a chamber orchestra at church, and I bet the Studio Players or the Opera House will have something fun on, and I hope the Singletary Center comes up with a good concert. Then it's just a matter of choosing, and finding the evening, and a sitter, and planning the boys dinner, and and and :}

Meanwhile, we've celebrated my 48th birthday at a winery bistro this past weekend. It was a pretty day, if hard on the hairdo, and we walked outside among the chickens and vines and the workmen taking grape must to the fields to mulch. Little black jacket and heels here, too...and the boys in their favorite sweaters. All of us happy after such a very good lunch. Who can argue with wild mushroom ragout over a single handmade ravioli (almost a Maultaschen), fall greens with cold roast duck and vinaigrette, and a torte with bourbon and black walnuts?


The Dreamstress said...

Oooh, what a cute 'body'! I love that they take such a small amount of fabric. I think I might have the perfect fabric to recreate that one. I'm such a sucker for rose pink. Not sure how the cross-over effect would work on me though.

Thank you for sharing!

Lady D said...

I love that fashion plate...that's the look I want to go for. I need the 'v' of the spenser-y thing to make me a bit less topheavy looking. And it will go over a simple drawstring dress.

Where do you find these illustrations?

The Lady Ship said...

Das Journal des Luxus und der Moden ist wirklich einer der besten online-Schmöker. ^^

Jenni said...

happy belated birthday, Natalie!

ZipZip said...

Dear The Lady Ship,
Eine der besten! Echt!! I love reading it, the arts articles as well as the fashion articles. Plus, the designs are frequently more suitable for a wider variety of classes and types of women than the French or English examples.

Dear Lady D and Dreamstress,
Yes, both the color and cut are ducky, and soon as I saw the combination, the response was, Eureka: I may have found it! Now to find an extant example with a shawl collar since I want to learn ways they would have been made.

Lady D., you ask where I find the illustrations. If you look on the right navigation bar of my blog, under Resources and Blogs, you'll see the link 18th/19th Century Fashion Magazines: Full Text. Follow that to get sites for quite a number full-text magazines.

Dear Jenni,
Thank you. It was a happy day. Then I had a super nap afterwards. Bliss :}

Very best to all of you,


Lady D said...

The lady in the sketch looks like a normal size...I find the english fashion images are usually of impossibly thin, tall women. And I know the styles wouldn't flatter me at all.

ZipZip said...

Dear Lady D.,
Yes, she is pretty normal. You'll find most of the plates in Luxus to show normal women, and women of different ages, and the ensembles are simpler and seem more wearable. Another thing I appreciate about that particular magazine.

Very best,