Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Petticoat and Panniers again...

I bought the book 'What Clothes Reveal' and on page 57, lo and behold, we have a pannier dress dating from the c.1745 from the James Frere collection at Colonial Williamsburg with a quilted petticoat over a pair of panniers. Again, according to the book the two aren't from a matching outfit though both belong to the James Frere's collection but here's another example of a) How it looks, as the petticoat is a normal quilted petticoat shape and yet it manages over the vast panniers and b) How another Historian has felt able to pair them together. 
That's two places now at either ends of the globe.

Friday, 2 November 2012

The Loose Cuff Detail:

I have just come back from an impromptu visit to London where I managed to grab about an hour in the National Portrait Gallery. I had to pretty much run round it and what I did manage to see I managed to make some extremely quick notes on. 

Now, at the moment, my research is limited to the mid eighteenth century and there were a couple of portraits from that period that got me seriously thinking about sleeves...

The Tyers Family by Francis Hayman 1740

George Whitefield by John Wollaston 1738

Now the Hayman Painting (top) is too small for you to see the detail - at the end of this blog I'll try and do an extra large size so you can see the cuff details - but for now;  the Mother of the group (in yellow) and the pink daughter to the right definitely seem to be wearing loose sleeves that are gathered up into a cuff but not, infact, a separate cuff that's been sewn on as a separate detail. The George Whitefield painting (which I love! I'm a christian so it's like 'wahoo-move that Spirit!) has a lady in the centre front who seems to de displaying the same loose but gathered up cuff.
This got me thinking.
Did the Cuff detail, that is well known and well worn in this period, begin life as a fold over pleat from the looser dresses and looser sleeves of the 20's and 30's?
In both paintings they are evidently pinched into a detail at the front to encourage the cuff shape but it does seem to be part of the sleeve and not a sewn on addition.

Now we know that the trend for looser dresses drifted in from the late 1600's. You can see this from the many examples of portraiture from that time. Have a look at some of the paintings I've posted up below. (see De Troy's La Declaration, the Watteau painting, the 'Charlotte Elisabeth in Beieren' painting and the two Pesne paintings below. They should give you a pretty good idea of the kind of image we're talking about here
Iris Brooke describes the 1720's and upto the 1740's as:
'The Sacks were not at their best for they still hung loosely from the shoulders and were not yet moulded onto a fitted lining at the back.'
You can definitely see this in the Watteau portrait.

If we move on a few years, to1747-48, you can see in Gainsborough's 'Mr and Mrs Carter' (see right), as upright and splendid as she is, her sleeves are still looser than those in later dresses. You might not be able to really see it from this size picture and I can't make it zoom in as it doesn't have the pixel depth but they are much broader round the top arm than you'd expect
The sack-back is also much looser and comes further across the shoulders than the classic mid to late1700's sack-back look.
But mainly in this image, you also have the obvious detail of the cuff, slinging itself away from the sleeve in a sharp angle. This suggests that this cuff here is in fact a false one, or one sewn on as a distinct 'separate cuff'. Compare this to the two paintings above and you can see the difference. To me Mrs Carter is a sort of growth blend example of the looser dresses of the early 1700's meeting with the more fitted neater dresses of the late 1700's. 

Here's another 1730's image of baggy dresses. The 'La Declaration' by De Troy in 1731.

(Charlotte Elisabeth in Beieren - I currently don't know which artist painted it - c.1713)

(Watteau - cousins - 1717-1718)

(Pesne - 1716)    
(Pesne - Queen of Prussia - 1737)

In the image above, dating from 1737, her heavy velvet dress displays the creases from the looser sleeves, but this is of a later period and again, if you compare it to the other paintings above you can see how her dress is already more streamline than those previous. Her dress, I'll admit partly because of the heaviness of the fabric, is frumpy at the front where-as later on in the century you begin to see these pleats move more to the side. It's also worth noting that less and less would such dresses be made out of such a heavy fabric. 
There's another image from the 1730's that echoes her style.

See how full it is at the front and how much it echoes more of the Farthingale style dresses of the Elizabethan Court. Compare this to a mid-century dress and the contrast is stark. 

Both these dresses are from the 1760's, and although the first image is titchy it does show the neatness and fitted look that we associate with the 1700's. Also note the sleeves, see how tight they are compared to the baggier version from earlier on in the century

I guess all of this is just interesting details that makes you excited when you stumble across them. I had my own pre-conceived ideas about what the dresses from this period were like and the more I research into them the more they surprise me: like little treasures.


Can I also, just comment on the blue girl in the centre of the painting. She's wearing an apron and it's obviously just been pinned on. In the book the 'Tudor Tailor' the couple who write it point this out also and it's an interesting and complicating fact to those trying to make replica's. I just simply don't want to pin my customers in!