Tag Archives: George du Maurier artist

Victorian Working Women, by Michael Hiley (Book Recommendation)

"Pit Brow Girls" working at coal mine, Wigan, 1867. From Victorian Working Women.

“Pit Brow Girls” working at coal mine, Wigan, 1867. From Victorian Working Women.

When we think of the Victorian era, we usually think of lace and silks and cashmere shawls, of crinolines and bustles. That’s because rich people can afford to have their portraits painted. They have the leisure time to write memoirs. But rich people were a very small sample of Victorian life.

"Tip girls" (they work unloading mine refuse onto the "tip" or mountain of coal mine waste. Tredegar, Wales, 1865. Photo by W. Clayton from Victorian Working Women.

“Tip girls” (They work unloading mine refuse from rail cars onto the “tip” or mountain of coal mine waste.) Tredegar, Wales, 1865. Photo by W. Clayton from Victorian Working Women.

The clothes worn by ordinary people usually get worn to rags; they rarely wind up in museums. Pictures and displays of  clothing worn by the wealthy minority give us a false impression of the past. And any woman who thinks she would prefer to live in Victorian times should think again.

If you want food for thought, I recommend Victorian Working Women: Portraits from Life, by Michael Hiley.

Front cover, Victorian Working Women, by Michael Hiley.

Front cover, Victorian Working Women, by Michael Hiley.

We seem to be fascinated by the separate world of “downstairs” in PBS television fiction. This book has plenty of information about — and photographs of — housemaids and domestic workers.

Housemaids, early 1860's. They are dressed in their best for the photographer, but look at their hands. From Victorian Working Women.

Housemaids, early 1860’s. They are dressed in their best for the photographer, but look at their hands. From Victorian Working Women.

I repeat, “Look at their hands.”

We don’t hear or see much about other Victorian women who did hard manual labor. The genteel life we picture as “Victorian” only applied to the upper classes; the lives illustrated in this book are shockingly different.

1842. A bare-chested woman dragging a mine cart, with text from the report. Form Victorian Working Women, by Michael Hiley.

1842. A bare-chested woman dragging a mine cart, with text from the report. From Victorian Working Women, by Michael Hiley.

” Girls were to be seen half-naked, with their breasts exposed . . .  dressed like boys in trousers, with belts round their waists, and chains passing between their legs’  as they drew loaded wagons along mine passages. . . . ‘The chain, passing high up between the legs of two of these girls, had worn large holes in their trousers… indecent… revolting…. No brothel can beat it.’ “

In theory, this 1842 employment report put an end to that particular form of child & female labor, but women were still working at coal mines in the 1860’s. Many were proud of their strength and ability. Because photography then required long exposures, these women miners were asked to pose in their work clothes inside photographers’ studios.

South Wales Mine Tip Girls, 1865. From Victorian Working Women

South Wales Mine Tip Girls, 1865. From Victorian Working Women

Other jobs — hard manual labor — done by Victorian women included garbage collection, done by “dustwomen;” the streets were full of horse manure, which had to be collected. Women made bricks; a thirteen year old brickyard girl spent 6-day weeks carrying 25 pounds of clay on her head and another 25 pounds in her arms to supply the female brick molders.

Women hammered hot metal into nails at a blacksmith’s forge. Women collected limpets and other shellfish, sometimes scaling cliffs to reach them.  Milkwomen carried 80 to 100 lbs. of milk through the streets of London.

London Milkwomen in 1964 and 1872. From Victorian Working Women.

London Milkwomen in 1864 and 1872. From Victorian Working Women.

Factories — including glue factories, where animal hooves and offal were the primary ingredient — also employed women.  In the countryside, women were usually responsible for collecting milk (It’s heavy!), churning butter, and working alongside men in the fields.

Traditionally female jobs, like doing laundry and cooking, also required physical strength.

Photo by Rejlander, 1854 to 56. From Victorian Working Women.

Photo by Rejlander, 1854 to 56. From Victorian Working Women. This picture was posed in a photographer’s studio.

The older woman on the left is agitating the dirty clothes in a barrel of soapy water using a wooden “dolly;” it makes me appreciate my electric washing machine. Wet laundry was heavy, so “washerwomen” had muscular arms.

Housemaids were responsible for building fires in bedrooms and other rooms before the family rose in the morning; that meant carrying heavy scuttles full of coal upstairs every day.

Footman carrying tray and housemaid carrying coal scuttle. Cartoon by George du Maurier, 1863. From Victorian Working Women.

Footman carrying a tray and housemaid carrying a coal scuttle. Cartoon by George du Maurier, 1863. From Victorian Working Women.

Without hot running water, gallons and gallons of water for baths was heated in the kitchen (usually below ground level) and carried upstairs by maids. I suppose the cold water had to be carried back down, to0, until “water closets” with flush toilets and sinks became common. (Many working-class British homes had outdoor toilets until after World War II.)

Victorian Women in Trousers

Two Victorian women, undated sketch by Arthur Munby from Victorian Working Women. The muscular woman with her face and arms blackened by coal dust is “about to oil the wheels of an upended wagon.”

Two Victorian women, undated sketch by Arthur Munby from Victorian Working Women. The muscular woman with her face and arms blackened by coal dust is “about to oil the wheels of an upended wagon.” [I think Munby wanted to contrast the size of their boots. The woman on the left is probably a respectable young lady.]

Those of us who are interested in the history of trousers for women should find plenty to think about in Victorian Working Women.

women nimers in trousers at Wigan, 1860s. From Victorian Working Women.

Women mine workers in trousers at Wigan, 1860s. From Victorian Working Women.

In addition to the young women dragging mine carts in the 1840s, women miners at Wigan wore trousers in the 1860’s, although this was not the case at all mines, as shown in the studio portraits above.

A woman, otherwise respectably dressed, who exposed her legs was an obvious prostitute in Victorian London:  these signal their profession by exposing just part of the calf:

A glimpse of stocking signals that these women are prostitutes. From London Labor and the London Poor, Vol. IV, p 260. "The Haymarket -- Midnight."

A glimpse of stocking signals that these women are prostitutes. From London Labor and the London Poor, Vol. IV, p 260. “The Haymarket — Midnight.”

Fisherwomen also had to expose their legs, often by pulling up their skirts into their belts and tying them around their knees. Not being women of the middle classes, their modesty was not a consideration.

Yorkshire girls collecting limpets and other fishbait; 1860. From Victorian Working Women.

Yorkshire girls collecting limpets and other fishbait; 1860. From Victorian Working Women. Their skirts and petticoats appear to be tucked up into their belts in back.

Hiley does discuss the indignation caused by “Bloomer girls;” but a fisher girl or a mudlark might have to expose her legs up to the thigh; class is a big element in “shock value” and notions of indecency.

"Mudlark girl. Coalheaver gives her remains of his dinner. From life. 1855." Sketch by Arthur Munby from Victorian Working Women.

“Mudlark girl. Coalheaver gives her remains of his dinner. From life. 1855.” Sketch by Arthur Munby from Victorian Working Women.

“Mudlarks,”  male or female, looking for anything that could be salvaged and sold, waded through the refuse in the Thames, a tidal river. (All the raw sewage of London flowed into the Thames.)

We owe many of these fascinating photos, sketches, and detailed descriptions of Victorian working women to Arthur Munby, who interviewed many, and collected their photographs as well as their stories.

Arthur Munby standing beside Ellen Grounds, a "pit wench" at Wigan. 1866. Right, a photo of Ellen Grounds in her "Sunday best."

Arthur Munby standing beside Ellen Grounds, a “pit wench” at Wigan. 1866. Right, a photo of Ellen Grounds in her “Sunday best.”

Munby stood next to Ellen in this photograph to show how tall she was.

A Strange Romance

The story of Arthur Munby, barrister, Cambridge M.A., civil servant, diarist, poet, friend of many other writers and of the Pre-Raphaelite artists, popular in high society, and obsessed with Victorian working women, is almost incredible. Utterly middle-class, but not wealthy enough to cut loose from the conventions of society, Munby fell in love with a “maid of all work” — about the lowest form of domestic servant — named Hannah Cullwick. They were both in their twenties. After a chaste courtship of almost twenty years, they married in 1873, but — as much by her wish as by his — she continued to pretend to be his servant.

Hanna Cullwick, maid of all work; right, Hannah "in her dirt." from Victorian Working Women.

Hannah Cullwick, maid of all work; at right, Hannah “in her dirt.” from Victorian Working Women. She was strong enough to lift her husband off the ground and carry him around. He liked it.

“Ours is a story that, a hundred years hence, no one would believe!” — Hannah Cullwick after her (secret) marriage to Arthur Munby.

“Not so: perchance they shall both know and believe it; and if they honour her as she deserves, it is enough for me.” — Arthur Munby in his diary, May 7, 1874.

Michael Hiley has drawn heavily on the Munby and Cullwick archives (she, too was a diarist.) Consequently, Victorian Working Women recounts much of this story of the bizarre relationship between two people whose lives were governed by the rules of a society which treated working women as a different species from “ladies,” although both Munby and Hannah Cullwick felt they were made for each other. Munby was entranced by her muscular arms, her strength, her intelligence, her dignity, her “dirt,” and her voluntary servitude. (She insisted on calling him “Massa.”) After their marriage he sometimes persuaded her to eat dinner with him, instead of in the scullery, but she ate off a plate on her knees, and would not sit at the table like him. She hated being “shown” to — i.e., meeting on an equal footing — the few of Munby’s friends who were in on the secret.  The Munbys could only admit to being man and wife when they traveled — where no one knew them. When they returned to London, she walked behind him and carried the luggage.

This peculiar (that’s an understatement) love story makes Victorian Working Women an especially engrossing read.

I confess:  I have not finished re-reading Victorian Working Women, because I stayed up until 2:30 a.m. reading Munby: Man of Two Worlds, by Derek Hudson, as soon as I brought it home from the library.

They didn’t teach history like this when I was in school!

Victorian Working Women is for sale in used hardback or paperback for very low prices. Costumers interested in “distressing” will love the illustrations.  Other books about the Munbys include Love and Dirt: The Marriage of Arthur Munby and Hannah Cullwick, by Diane Atkinson (read a review by clicking here) (It’s a very informative review….) and Munby: Man of Two Worlds,  by Derek Hudson. Wikipedia lists several other publications. A PhD dissertation by Cathy Carter can be read at Google Books (click here); the introduction discusses the difficulty of accessing the vast Munby/Cullwick collection (now on microfilm), and I’m hoping to read the rest of the dissertation (but I hate reading on the computer screen….) For those of us who need to costume servants correctly, Carter’s list of sources may be very helpful.

Another engrossing — and very detailed — account of Victorian working people is Henry Mayhew’s London Labour and the London Poor, in four volumes, published between 1851 and 1861. Mayhew’s interviews with “crossing sweepers,” milliners, fly-paper makers, rat-catchers, prostitutes, criminals, street sellers, bone-grubbers, cigar-end finders, and every other obscure way of scraping a living is encyclopedic and overwhelming — it’s like reading Dickens, but with more statistics. Illustrated with black and white drawings — and republished in paperback by Dover Books. Want to write a novel about Victorian London? There’s plenty of inspiration here! Read a retrospective review in the Guardian by clicking here.

 

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Filed under 1830s -1860s fashions, 1860s -1870s fashions, A Costumers' Bookshelf, Costumes for the 19th century, Early Victorian fashions, Late Victorian fashions, Resources for Costumers, Uniforms and Work Clothes, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing, vintage photographs, Women in Trousers

My Costumer’s Library: Include Cartoon Collections

Using Period Cartoons for Costume Research

Recommending period cartoons for costume research may seem a little strange, but think about it: A cartoon is only funny if the reader understands the situation and the characters at a glance. Often, the costumes for a TV show, movie, or play have to telegraph their characters in a similar way. This is especially true of minor characters, who appear for only a few minutes.

"A herd of wild Bohemians being rounded up for the opening of a new cafe in Soho, with the idea of creating the right atmosphere." October 1930. From The Way to Wear'em

“A herd of wild Bohemians being rounded up for the opening of a new cafe in Soho, with the idea of creating the right atmosphere.” October 1930. From The Way to Wear’em. Note the facial hair and the hat shapes of these artistic types. You can also see variations in how the waiters in a cafe, not a fine restaurant, were dressed. A Bohemian cafe setting appeared in at least two TV shows I have seen.

NOTE:  All the cartoons shown in this post are for purpose of recommending books; please do not copy or reuse these images.

The cartoonist uses just a few black lines to give us the age, relationships, economic or occupational status, and personalities of the characters. Nevertheless, the reader knows at a glance who is middle-class and who is a hobo, who is pretentious, who is suburban, who is middle-aged, who is a student, who is a senior citizen, who is a bartender and who is a housewife. Of course, the cartoonist plays with stereotypes. But, if you need to know what a deliveryman or a butcher wore in the 1890s, or the clothing differences between a young person and an older person in a previous era, cartoons are a great place to supplement your research.

"Short-sighted old lady at a boardinghouse," September, 1925. From The Way to Wear'em. The long woman at left is conventionally dressed, the young man wears a blazer with white tennis flannels and white or tan shoes. The woman at the right is being mistaken for a young man because of her sports blazer and chic shingled hair.

“Short-sighted old lady at a boardinghouse,” September, 1925. From The Way to Wear’em. The young woman at left is conventionally dressed; the young man wears a blazer with white tennis flannels and white or tan shoes and socks. The old lady wears an unfashionably long skirt and a shawl. The woman at the right is being mistaken for a man because of her sports blazer and chic, shingled hair.

When you read a great many vintage cartoons, you get a much better idea of what was normal for the period and what was shocking. Another cartoon from the 1920s shows a husband horrified by the exceptionally short (late 1928) hem and plunging back of his wife’s evening dress. Evening gowns of the early 1930s were frequently backless, so she is in the forefront of 1929 fashion (although chic evening hems were dropping and uneven by 1929). She is unmistakably feminine, but she, too, has very short shingled hair.

January, 1929, From The Way to Wear'em.

January, 1929, From The Way to Wear’em.

Husband: “I should have thought you’d be ashamed to show your face in such a gown!”

Wife:  “Don’t worry, darling. My face won’t be the chief attraction.”

I can’t help noticing that the husband is wearing a white formal vest with his tuxedo — quite acceptable in the twenties and thirties. There’s a female character in Noel Coward’s Hay Fever (1925) — a vamp and potential home wrecker — who “uses sex as a shrimping net.” Costume design inspiration? See above.

You won’t find many pictures of housemaids, cooks, footmen and errand boys in fashion magazines. You will find them in cartoons:

This servant is being fired for not wearing a crinoline --"I understood they was a goin' out, m'---" July 1866. The Way to Wear'em.

This housemaid — in light-colored calico, since it is daytime — is being fired for not wearing a crinoline. ” I understood they was a goin’ out, m’—” July 1866. The Way to Wear’em.

Just two years earlier, another maid was certainly in danger of being fired for wearing a crinoline at work:

Housemaid, March 1864. from The Way to Wear'em.

Housemaid, March 1864. from The Way to Wear’em.

There are quite a few cartoons about servants’ clothing; servants aping their “betters” were often the subject of humor.

Cartoons about fashion fads can be quite informative (and brighten up a costume history lecture.)

This shows both the crinoline turned inside out and the petticoat worn under it. Notice also the child with basket at left. December 1856. From The Way to Wear'em.

This shows both the structure of a crinoline turned inside out and the petticoat worn under it. Notice also the lower class child with basket at left. December 1856. From The Way to Wear’em. (click to enlarge)

In addition to cartoons that react to new fashions, cartoons show characters from all walks of life. Grocers, butchers, salesmen, policemen, clergymen, housewives and beggars, country folks and city slickers, are all to be found — clearly recognizable — and frequently labeled — in cartoons. You won’t find these characters in the usual fashion history book, but if you are a costume designer, you need to know them:

From Great Drawings and Illustrations from Punch. Hobo and rural housewife, July 1894. Notice the realistic wear and tear on his clothes, and the woman's sunbonnet.

From Great Drawings and Illustrations from Punch. Tramp and rural housewife, July 1894. Notice the realistic wear and tear on his clothes and (toeless) shoes, and the woman’s sunbonnet and ankle-length work skirt.

Working class characters, July 1875. From Great Drawings and Illustrations from Punch.

Working class characters, July 1875. From Great Drawings and Illustrations from Punch. There is an amazing amount of information in this drawing by George du Maurier, which he described as “seen and heard by the artist.” Look at the man’s battered hat and patched knees, the mud or patches on his downtrodden wife’s hem, & the starving, coatless children — who are nevertheless wearing hats– versus the immaculate (and corseted) housewives on the right.

Sources for Period Cartoons

Two invaluable cartoon collections for British costume are Great Drawings and Illustrations from Punch, 1841 – 1901, a Dover paperback (available used for under $5), and The Way to Wear’em: 150 Years of Punch on Fashion, by Christina Walkley. Available used or new.

The Way to Wear’em:  150 Years of Punch on Fashion

Title page from The Way to Wear'em, by Christina Walker.

Title page from The Way to Wear’em, by Christina Walkley.

The book gets its title from this 1899 cartoon:wtwem sept 1899 wareham joke 500

Fair Cyclist:  “Is this the way to Wareham?”
Native:  “Yes, Miss, yew seem to me to ha’ got ’em on all right!”

As interesting as the lady’s cycling costume is, a costumer will examine the Dorset countryman’s hat and clothing, as well:

Dorset man, rural England, 1899. Many workiing men tied their (often corduroy) trousers just below the knee.

Dorset man, rural England, 1899. Many working men tied their (often corduroy) trousers just below the knee. From The Way to Wear’em.

What makes this book so useful is that Christina Walkley is a costume historian. She uses the cartoons to explain fashion history, with frequent quotations from period sources, so it contains as much text as illustration: it’s a scholarly work that’s fun to read, with references. Her other works include Ghost in the Looking Glass: The Victorian Seamstress; Dressed to Impress, 1840-1914; and Crinolines and Crimping Irons: Victorian Clothes: How They Were Cleaned and Cared For.

Great Drawings and Illustrations from Punch, 1841-1901

An urban working man from Great Drawings and Illustrations from Punch, 1841-1901. Corduroy trousers, tied below the knees, and a suit jacket worn inside out to keep t 'good' side clean.

An urban working man from Great Drawings and Illustrations from Punch, 1841-1901. In 1888 he wears corduroy trousers, tied below the knees, and a suit jacket worn inside out to keep the ‘good’ side clean. This costermonger’s cap has ear flaps.

Dover’s Great Drawings and Illustrations from Punch, edited by Stanley Applebaum and Richard Kelly, is large format; you can see the details very well. It treats the cartoons as art works and explains a great deal about the artists, but you may need to do your own research to understand the cartoons completely. For example:

Working class Londoners, Punch, 1899. Hedwin: "Hangelineer! ... What  'ud yer sy  if I told yer as I'd took the shillin'?" Hangelina: "Sy? Why -- 'Halves.' "

Working class Londoners, Punch, 1899.  Hedwin: “Hangelineer! … What ‘ud yer sy if I told yer as I’d took the shillin’?” Hangelina: “Sy? Why — ‘Halves.’ “

The misplaced “H”s in the caption tell us that this working class couple are Cockney Londoners. You may not be familiar with the phrase “to take the shilling” (to enlist). I remember — from books and movies — that coins were sometimes cut in half and worn as tokens by separated friends and lovers, but haven’t found a reference to that custom online.  The man’s clothing includes a cap with tiny brim, collarless shirt and neckerchief, a vest, a suit jacket (probably secondhand), and patched trousers.

Using Cartoons in Addition to Photographs

Obviously cartoons have to be used to supplement — not replace — other primary sources, such as photographs. However, you may find that learning to recognize character types and occupations from cartoons will help you to interpret period photographs. It’s also easier to see the construction details, like seams, in line drawings.

Great Drawings . . . from Punch shows working people in occupational dress, from 1880s policemen (useful for Sherlock Holmes films) to sales clerks and butchers of the Victorian era.

A butcher, 1883, a grocer, 1873, shoe salesmen, 1880. From Great Drawings ... from Punch.

A butcher, 1883, a greengrocer’s shop, 1873, shoe salesmen, 1880. From Great Drawings … from Punch.

Twentieth Century Cartoons

The many Collections of cartoons from the New Yorker show examples of the clothing styles of the 1920s, 50s, 60s, etc. Although they are not as elaborately drawn as Victorian era cartoons, social position is often crucial to New Yorker jokes, so they are helpful in getting a feeling for the decade you are researching. I saw a marvellous production of Merry Wives of Windsor at the RSC in the 1980s; it was set in the 1950s and evoked a world I knew well from the copies of Punch I used to read in my college library in the 1960s. Click here for Falstaff as an ex-RAF type. (The production designer was William Dudley.)

My favorite modern cartoonist, when it comes to clothing, is Dan Piraro, who writes Bizarro. I used to have a batch of his clothing-related cartoons pinned above the ironing table in the costume shop. I love his books.

The cover of Too Bizarro, by Dan Piraro, 1988.

The cover of Too Bizarro, by Dan Piraro, 1988. Please do not copy this image.

When is comes to capturing 20th century characters and occupational dress, Bizarro may be the future researcher’s equivalent of Punch. I pulled just one collection, called Sumo Bizarro (1990), off my shelf and found — in addition to the pirates, cowboys, clowns and other obvious ‘costume’ characters — a TV cameraman, fortune tellers, guys on the make, repairmen, mechanics, short order cooks, used car salesmen, deliverymen, waiters, doctors, executives, the wealthy (with their drivers) and the homeless, people attending a high school reunion, road workers, fast food workers (in a whole line of different uniforms), chefs, tourists, farmers, furniture movers, muggers, pretentious guests at an art gallery, duck hunters, campers, and hardhats. All these characters were described “in shorthand,” so to speak — just the essentials. Someday, Bizarro may be very useful to a costume designer.

Same character, different eras: The sleazy guy in the Bizarro cartoon (1980s) was known as a masher in an earlier day. (Punch, 1856)

Same character, different eras: The sleazy guy, with mustache and lots of hair, in a Bizarro cartoon (1980s) and his counterpart, ogling young ladies, in Punch, 1856. Please do not copy this image.

Fifty years from now, people may be using cartoons to understand clothing and personality types in the twentieth century. (Click here for a group of philosophers from the  New Yorker (2007) — a modern version of those Bohemians from Punch in 1930.)

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Filed under 1860s -1870s fashions, 1870s to 1900s fashions, 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, A Costumers' Bookshelf, Menswear, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Uniforms and Work Clothes, Women in Trousers