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Online Research Tool: UCLA’s Digital Fashion and Costume Collections

Image from Godey's Magazine, 1841, found through UCLA's Digital Image Collection. Casey Fashion Plates  rbc2847

Image from Godey’s Magazine, April 1841, found through UCLA’s Digital Image Collection. Casey Fashion Plates rbc2847

UCLA Library Digital Image Collection: Online Collections Related to Fashion and Costume

While following up recommendations for online Museum collections, I accidentally discovered this wonderful site, which I have barely begun to explore.  It acts as a portal to many online collections and research materials. The entire UCLA Library Digital Image Collection must be huge (click here  to see the Fashion home page), since there are dozens of sites (with descriptions and live links) related to just the site for Fashion and Costume (click here).  For a list of accessible fashion magazines and newspapers, click here. Below you’ll find just a small selection of the extraordinary collections you can find through the Digital Image Collection.

Casey’s Fashion Plates

The image at the top of this page is from the collection of Casey’s Fashion Plates at the Los Angeles County Library — over 6200 images of hand-colored fashion plates. (Click here.)

“The Joseph E. Casey Fashion Plate Collection at the Los Angeles Public Library contains over 6,200 handcolored fashion plates from British and American [and other] magazines dating from the 1790s to the 1880s. All of the plates are indexed and digitized for online viewing.” It includes thousands of dated images from early 1800’s sources, including Ackerman’s Repository, Godey’s Magazine, Ladies’ Museum, Ladies’ Magazine, La Belle Assemblee, Petit Courrier des Dames, and many, many more.

This digitized collection is really user-friendly, grouping the plates by date instead of by source. (You could search by magazine name if you wanted to.) You can search by date, too. Type in a year and pages and pages of plates appear. I chose 1815; this is one of many images that I found.  (Let’s pretend it’s Jane Austen and her sister, Cassandra.)

Fashions for March, 1815; image rbc0500 in the Casey Collection.

Fashions for March, 1815; image rbc0500 in the Casey Collection.

Brooklyn Museum’s Henri Bendel Fashion and Costume Sketch Collection

From the Bendel collection: Design by Lanvin, 1917.

A typical digitized sketch from the Bendel collection: Design by Lanvin, 1917.

Another wonderful collection accessible through the UCLA site is the Henri Bendel Fashion and Costume Sketch Collection 1912 to 1950. (924 images are online at present) This archive is in the possession of the Brooklyn Museum, but you don’t have to go to Brooklyn to see hundreds of sketches of dresses (and even bathing suits), including many designer names. (Click Here.)

It’s also well-thought out: when your mouse hovers over the thumbnail image, a description and date appears. Click to get a larger view and more data. There are over 11,000 sketches in the Bendel Collection, but most of the 924 that are online are for the era 1912 to early 1920s. (They are gorgeous, and most are in color! If you are a fan of styles from the Titanic era and the first years of Downton Abbey, prepare to spend hours here.) I saw designs attributed to Doucet, Worth, Callot Soeurs, Lanvin, Premet, and many other “name designers.” Among the few sketches from the 1930’s that have been put online was this evening gown by Schiaparelli:

From the Henri Bendel Collection online; Schiaparelli, 1934.

Image from the Henri Bendel Collection online; Schiaparelli, 1934.

Bonnie Cashin Collection of Fashion, Theater, and Film Costume Design

“The collection contains Bonnie Cashin’s personal archive documenting her design career. The collection includes Cashin’s design illustrations, writings on design, contractual paperwork, photographs of her clothing designs, and press materials including press releases and editorial coverage of her work.”

Lovers of Bonnie Cashin designs will enjoy the photos and design sketches of many of her classic coats, knits, etc.  (Click here.) The images are under copyright, but you can see a sample sketch for a characteristic tweed coat by clicking here. If you searched a little longer, you could probably find a photo documenting the finished coat. This is a huge archive.

You can also see more about Bonnie Cashin at the next online collection I’ve chosen from UCLA’s Digital Image Collection:

The Drexel Digital Museum Project Historic Costume Collection

The collection is searchable, (and images are under copyright) but this link will take you to the Galleries page — which includes slide shows of Bonnie Cashin clothes and Villager Sportswear textiles! Click here.

“The Drexel Digital Museum Project: Historic Costume Collection (digimuse) is a searchable image database comprised of selected fashion from the Robert and Penny Fox Historic Costume Collection (FHCC), designs loaned to the project by private collectors for inclusion on the website, fashion exhibitions curated by Drexel faculty and fashion research by faculty and students. To best present and create access to this online resource, the image standards of the Museums and the Online Archive of California initiative and the metadata harvesting protocols of the Open Archive Initiative have been implemented to insure sustainability, extensibility and portability of the digimuse digital archive.” —

A World of Riches, Digitized

I will add some of these links to my sidebar of “Sites with Great Information,” so they will be easy to locate in the future. But first, I’m going take a coffee break and read a copy of the French Vogue, February 1921 (click here) thanks to the UCLA Library’s Digital Image Collection!

 

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Filed under 1860s -1870s fashions, 1870s to 1900s fashions, 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, 1930s-1940s, 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s, 1960s-1970s, A Costumers' Bookshelf, Costumes for the 18th Century, Costumes for the 19th century, Exhibitions & Museums, Resources for Costumers, Vintage Couture Designs, vintage photographs

Letting Your Skirts Down, Putting Your Hair Up

A mother with her children, 1879. Notice the girls' hair and skirts. Cartoon from Punch.

A mother with her children, 1879. Notice the girls’ loose hair and mid-calf skirts. The girls are showing this much leg because they are still young enough to play with rolling hoops. Cartoon from Punch.

Lynn Mally, of American Age Fashion, recently commented on skirt length as a signifier of age for young women, as seen in this 1930s pattern illustration.

Back-to-School Clothes for ages 14 to 20, left, and 8 to 15, center and coat, top right. Delineator, August 1931.

Back-to-School Clothes for ages 14 to 20, left, and 8 to 15, center and top right. The Delineator, August 1931.

There used to be rules for “proper young ladies.” The stages of wearing longer skirts, and putting your hair up, were important milestones for girls — and the men who might be attracted to them.  For many decades before the 1920s,  short skirts had been reserved for girls too young to marry. Then, in the twenties, women shockingly kept wearing short skirts after the age of 16. (For a previous post with illustrations on this topic, click here.)

The persistence of fashion: Older people cling to the fashions of their youth.

The persistence of fashion: Older people often cling to the fashions  — and hem lengths — of their younger days. The youngest woman (left) wears the shortest skirt in 1921.

September, 1925. The oder woman shows persistence of fashion; the younger woman -- being mistaken for a man -- has shockingly 'shingled' hair. From The Way to Wear'em.

September, 1925. The older woman’s long skirt shows the persistence of pre-war fashion; the younger woman — here being mistaken for a man — has shockingly ‘shingled’ hair. From The Way to Wear’em.

Part of the shock of bobbed hair and 1920s fashions was that adult women were showing their legs to men who had grown up in the previous century, when showing the legs was considered indecent. The father of a 1920s’ flapper would certainly have been an adult in the era when married women still wore floor-length fashions, and pinned their long hair up off the neck. It’s not surprising that those men were upset when their wives and daughters bared their legs and cut off their long hair.

A male toddler, a girl 10 to 12, and two adult women, 1870.

A male toddler (r) , a girl 10 to 12 (s), and two adult women, 1870. The twelve-year- old girl still wears her hair down, and shows her legs and ankles.

Generally speaking, throughout the 1800s, when a girl reached marriageable age — known as “being out” in society — her availability was signaled by her putting her hair up (as opposed to letting it hang down her back) and wearing skirts that completely covered her ankles, and, in some periods, her feet.

Mother and children, 1884. The girl "6 to 8" has hair cascading freely down her back.

Mother and children, 1884.  Mama’s hair is worn up. The girl aged 6 to 8 has hair cascading down her back. Her skirt barely covers her knees.

I’m currently re-reading Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park (published in 1814.) There is some discussion of whether the heroine — and other girls — are “in” or “out,” and the confusion that ensues when a girl appears to be older than she is. (In Pride and Prejudice, younger sisters Kitty and Lydia are “out” at a surprisingly early ages. Disaster ensues.)

A girl might come out by gradual stages, beginning by sitting at the dinner table with the adults in her family instead of eating in the nursery with younger siblings. Another step was dining with the adults when guests were present (she was not expected to volunteer conversation,) and later, of being included in dinner invitations to other houses.  She would not attend balls until she was completely “out;” at that point, she was officially on the marriage market.

Children, 1868: (a) at left, is a girl about 6, (g) standing right with folded parasol, is 12; (g) left, with the longest skirt, is 14 or under; (e) sitting, is 8. The older the girl, the longer the skirt.

Children, 1868: (a), at left, is a girl about 6, (g), standing right with folded parasol, is 12; (b), left, with the longest skirt, is 14 or under; (e), sitting, is 8. The older the girl, the longer the skirt. There’s an appreciable skirt length difference between ages 12 and 14.

The closer she was to being out, the longer her skirts became. When a girl’s skirts reached her instep, and her hair was put up instead of hanging loose, a young man might reasonably deduce that she was “out” or soon would be. These rules were generally followed through the Victorian era, but were sometimes subject to changes in fashion:  in the late 1860s and early 1870s a grown woman might put up her hair but allow some hair to hang down her back; her skirt might also be short enough to show her shoes.)

1869 caricature of a lady wearing the popular "Dolly Varden" style. From The Way to Wear'em.

1869 caricature of a lady wearing the popular “Dolly Varden” style. From The Way to Wear’em.

Other exceptions were sometimes made for sports clothing and for “the lower orders.” (Housemaids had to carry trays of food, pitchers of hot water, and heavy coal scuttles up and down stairs; they did not have hands free to daintily lift the front of a floor-length skirt out of their way.)

The servant is being reprimanded for wearing a hoop. Her skirt is shorter than that of her mistress, who is a lady of leisure. Dated 1863, from The Way to Wear'em.

The servant is being reprimanded for wearing a hoop. Her skirt is shorter than that of her mistress, who is a lady of leisure. Dated 1863, from The Way to Wear’em.

Shorter skirts were permissable for some sports: Left, mountaineering, 1891, and right, cycling, 1901. Both women have their hair up, so they are adults.

Shorter skirts were permissable for some sports: Left, mountaineering, 1891, and right, cycling, 1901. Both women have their hair up, signaling that they are adults.

The concept of “the persistence of fashion” explains why older people often cling to the clothing of their youth. We also have to make allowances for social class, economics, urban versus rural areas, and the likelihood that young people will adopt the newest fashions. The mother (at left) in this photo looks very well-groomed (the grandmother, right, does not!) And the youngest woman, center, has contradictory hair and skirt length:

Three women, probably around 1910. The woman in the middle has her hair up, but her skirt is much shorter than her mother's (left.) She might be dressed for a walk, she may be a teenager, not an adult, or she may be anticipating the shorter skirts of 1915.

Three small town women, pre-WW I. The young woman in the middle has her hair up, like an adult, but her skirt is much shorter than her mother’s (left.) She might be dressed for a walk; she may be a teenager, not an adult; or she may be a young adult anticipating the shorter skirts of 1915.

This cartoon from 1898 shows a teenaged boy (who does not speak French) unsure of how to address a pretty young woman on the beach at Ostend:

1898 cartoon from Punch. The young lady is clearly a Mademoiselle, because of her loose hair and ankle-length skirt.

1898 cartoon from Punch.

Master Tom (knowledge of French — nil):  “I say, do I call you Madam, or Madymoiselle?”

Mademoiselle:  “When one does not know, one says Madame, n’est ce pas, Monsieur?”

The joke depends on the reader’s understanding the dress code. In 1898, readers would know from the girl’s loose hair and ankle-length skirt that she is definitely unmarried:  a Mademoiselle.

 

 

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Recycling, Paisley, and Shawls

A pink paisley printed dress, from Elegance, Fall 1965-66.

A pink paisley printed dress, from Elegance, Fall 1965-66.

I was a sixties girl. Paisley patterns were worn by hippies and Vogue readers alike.

Indian textiles on the Beatles. Ringo, at right, is wearing a paisley print shirt. Public domain photo from www.brandeis.edu

Indian textiles on the Beatles. Ringo, at right, is wearing a paisley print shirt. Public domain photo from http://www.brandeis.edu

In the 1960s, Western manufacturers adapted the pattern into double-knits, like this jacket. . .

A paisley knit suit jacket, Elegance magazine, Fall 1965-66.

A paisley knit suit jacket, Elegance magazine, Fall 1965-66.

. . . and created subtler prints based on Indian designs, like this light pink wool.

pink paisley close upI owned several paisley dresses, with patterns ranging from ‘dark and subtle’ to ‘psychedelic and enormous.’

Simplicity pattern 6729 for a Jiffy dress, illustrated in Paisley on the left. 1966

Simplicity pattern 6729 for a Jiffy dress, illustrated in Paisley on the left. 1966

But I never made the connection between the pattern I called “paisley” and the Scottish cloth-manufacturing town of Paisley until this month. This was a good month for learning about paisley. I had been reading a book about Jane Austen, which included an illustration of a “paisley” shawl; then I read a magazine from 1917 which showed examples of clothing made out of old paisley shawls.

A coat, hat, & bag, and a dress made from old paisley shawls. Ladies' Home Journal, Oct. 1917.

A coat, hat, & bag, made from one Victorian  shawl, and a dress made from another old paisley shawl. Ladies’ Home Journal, Oct. 1917.

To me, it seemed like sacrilege to chop a huge, [already] 60-year old wool or cashmere shawl . . .

A cashmere shaw, mid-1800s, from Wikipedia.

A cashmere shaw, mid-1800s, from Wikipedia.

. . . into ugly 1917 clothing, but, of course, such fabric recycling is an old tradition. The Metropolitan Museum has examples of Victorian Paisley shawls converted into mid-Victorian bathrobes, and dolman jackets, 1920s coats, and rather chic 1920s suits.

Finding the History of Paisley Patterns and Paisley Shawls

I found two excellent articles online about the history of the paisley pattern (called “boteh” in India) as it was adopted and adapted for mass manufacture during the 1800s. Threads of History gives a marvellous illustrated history of the development of both the shawl and the Paisley/boteh pattern (click here.) In Victoriana, Meg Andrews also discusses the fashion history of paisley, with many different illustrations, and explains why this luxury item eventually went out of style and into attics. (click here.)

The Real Jane Austen and Her Shawl

Rectangular Indian shawls were fashionable in the late 1700s and early 1800s. Image from Wikipedia.

Rectangular Indian shawls were fashionable in the late 1700s and early 1800s. Image from Wikipedia.

I recently enjoyed reading The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things, by Paula Byrne. This is not a conventional birth-to-death biography, but an exploration of Jane Austen’s world via several objects connected with her daily life: her portable writing desk, a silhouette of her family, a topaz necklace purchased for her by one of her sailor brothers, etc.  Chapter Two uses an East Indian Shawl as a springboard into her family connections with India, trade, and a family scandal (Like her character, Emma, Austen knew a young woman born out of wedlock. In Austen’s case, it was a near relation whom she knew quite well.) You can read detailed and very informative reviews of The Real Jane Austen in The Telegraph (click here), or by [Dickens expert and actor] Simon Callow (click here.)

Paisley Shawls Recycled, 1917

Having just read Paula Byrne’s Austen book, I had paisley shawls on my mind when I found these ‘recycled’ paisley shawls in the Ladies’ Home Journal, 1917:

A coat, hat, & bag, and a dress made from old paisley shawls. Ladies' Home Journal, Oct. 1917.

It took one shawl to make this coat, hat, & bag;  a dress made from another Victorian Paisley shawl.  Ladies’ Home Journal, Oct. 1917.

When the United States entered World War I, in 1917, women expected fabric shortages. Women’s magazines like Delineator and Ladies’ Home Journal, both in the business of selling sewing patterns, began to write about ways that new clothing could be made from materials on hand. Women had always utilized dresses from the attic, and their own family’s used clothing, for children’s clothes, quilts, etc. (A bodice from the 1850s or 1860s is still relatively easy to find; finding an 1860s bodice with its matching skirt is much harder, since the skirts contained several yards of easily re-useable fabric.) Wool and silk Paisley shawls were among the garments frequently remade into robes, dresses, handbags and 1920s suits and coats.  (You can see the Metropolitan Museum’s collection of paisley shawls, and clothing made from shawls, by clicking here.)

More Creative Recycling, 1917

The Vintage Traveler has written about remade shawls and vintage clothing. Collectors of vintage clothing will probably cringe at this chiffon gown (pictured at right) converted into a couple of blouses:

A "terribly old-fashioned"  chiffon evening dress converted into a blouse. Ladies Home Journal, 1917

A “terribly old-fashioned” chiffon  dress converted into a blouse. Ladies Home Journal, 1917

But I give full marks for creativity to this handbag — made from a scrap of black velvet and a pair of old, long, white leather gloves with black stitching!

Handbag made from old gloves, Ladies' Home Journal, Oct. 1917.

Handbag made from old gloves, Ladies’ Home Journal, Oct. 1917.

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Filed under 1860s -1870s fashions, 1870s to 1900s fashions, 1920s, 1960s-1970s, Vintage Accessories