Little Boys in Frilly Dresses – Part Two

Carrying on from where i left off, like forever-a-go; at the beginning of the 19th century little boys dresses were still focused on the  practicality of the late 18th century.

They still resemble the style of adult fashion, as little William Scott-elliott’s tunic shows, yet the shorts begin to separate him from his female siblings and give him access to the free and easy spirit every child should have.

Yet it didn’t take long before the child was old enough to dress as an adult, a practice going back as long as they can document fashion.

As the century went along, the fashion for young boys and girls began to merge again with it becoming very difficult to be able to tell fashions apart. This dress above was worn by Prince Edward, Queen Victoria first son and the future king as a baby in the early 1840’s. You can tell this because Edward is painted in a portrait wearing it, an outfit that would have suited a boy or a girl.

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Jane Austen Festival

The Jane Austen Festival was really amazing, due to family circumstances i wasn’t able to finish my costumes but me and my partner had a lovely time. Besides visiting all the sites we ran around all over Bath just to follow the festival which has resulted in a video i have had to edit due to my constant swearing… which i’ve put down to my excitement.

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I wrote this Blog post a week ago thinking it wouldn’t take very long for me to upload the video i made of the promenade, turns out it took forever, but it’s finished now and here it is.

The Life of a Seamstress

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I recently discovered that my Great, Great Grandmother was a seamstress in the 1860’s in the little village that i live in now and i’ve always wanted to know how hard they used to work and feel it for myself. I found this quote on the old internet from the ‘Children’s employment commision’, which wasn’t very encouraging..

EVIDENCE TAKEN BY Children’s Employment Commission
February 1841
Miss — has been for several years in the dress-making business…The common hours of business are from 8 a.m. til 11 P.M in the winters; in the summer from 6 or half-past 6 A.M. til 12 at night. During the fashionable season, that is from April til the latter end of July, it frequently happens that the ordinary hours are greatly exceeded; if there is a drawing-room or grand fete, or mourning to be made, it often happens that the work goes on for 20 hours out of the 24, occasionally all night….The general result of the long hours and sedentary occupation is to impair seriously and very frequently to destroy the health of the young women. The digestion especially suffers, and also the lungs: pain to the side is very common, and the hands and feet die away from want of circulation and exercise, “never seeing the outside of the door from Sunday to Sunday.” [One cause] is the short time which is allowed by ladies to have their dresses made. Miss is sure that there are some thousands of young women employed in the business in London and in the country. If one vacancy were to occur now there would be 20 applicants for it. The wages generally are very low…Thinks that no men could endure the work enforced from the dress-makers.

Sounds pretty awful really, can’t have been long before they were crippled by back pain, my Great, Great Grandmother only did it  for about three or four years before she got married, i can imagine that it must have been a relief for her to get married.

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I also read somewhere else, lost it now, that they only took three breaks throughout the day and lunch was about 20 minutes, though i imagine it would have varied depending on who they worked for.

I also wrote down a quote from the BBC period drama The Paradise, the older dressmaker who is being put out of business by the blossoming department store remembers “times in the old days when we had to produce a dress overnight… a real dressmaker is an artist, he needs to know flawless stitching, to cut finely and have a delicate eye, but more than anything else we need to know people, a women will love a dress because it was made to fit her character, not just her body” “a secret beauty”. I thought this was really lovely and encourages me to keep going and learn as much as i can.

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So, i’m going to try and complete a day as a seamstress, all 20 hours of it and see how much i can achieve.

17th Century Women’s Smock

I was looking at my collection of photos on my computer and on pinterest to determine the different shapes of smocks in this century (and all the others), you wouldn’t think there was many, i was surprised to find at least four.

At the beginning of the century the fashion was still for the large french farthingale’s and big collars usually associated with Queen Elizabeth, the neckline at the front was low and quiet high at the back, to support the large collar.

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The smock isn’t visible in any of these, indicating that it follows along the edge and fits very closely against the corset. I also noticed from the same few decades that young girls dress had a straighter bodice line, perhaps that was more modest for children and they eventually graduated to the more risky bust lines later on?

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During the same early decades of the century into the 1640’s and 1650’s there were some women who were far more concerned with being conservative, covering up almost every inch of flesh, you can almost see these these women rallying behind Cromwell in a few years to come.

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They would have been wearing something very similar to the smock below.

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As the swinging 60’s rolled in and everyone began to enjoy themselves and drink themselves into oblivion, bodice lines began to move down rapidly, slipping down over the shoulder and just holding the bust in.

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The smocks were also sometimes visible just over the edge of the dress as well as bulging out the carefully cut holes in the sleeves. The smock lightly resembled the chemises worn in the 1840’s by Victorian women, except their large, puffy sleeves that were heavily gathered and were always just visible below the sleeve. The corsets of  the era demonstrated the loose structure over the body yet were heavily boned so ironically didn’t leave much room for movement.

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Smocks during the end of the decade began to return to previous shape at the beginning of the century, yet they keep the large puffy sleeves underneath and returned to the hard, boned bodices of the beginning of the century.

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Mutton Dressed as Lamb – Sleeves of the 1830’s and 1890’s – Part One

The big mutton sleeves first began to take shape in the late 1820’s with a thin gauze fabric overlaping the shorter sleeve, meeting at the wrist, creating a large mutton shape.

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Then at the beginning of the 1830’s the undersleeve began to expand rapidly, enlarging the overall size. Dresses meanwhile still had the short puffy sleeves of 1820’s, just much larger at the start of the decade.

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The large sleeves took over the 1830’s, becoming the infamous mutton sleeves that were also so recognisable of the 1890’s.

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A top layer of fabric othen overlapped the large sleeves, extending the length of the already deep shoulders.

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As the decade came to a close the sleeves began to take on a different, more structured shape and were scaled down in size and focused more on a strict structure that represented strongly womens place in society at the time.

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Bath Trip – Herschel Museum

Thought i would upload a pictorial of my recent trip to Bath, in Somerset after being reminded of the yearly Jane Austen Festival which happens in September. I so wish i could go but my holiday is in October this year, perhaps next year. I really loved my little break in Bath and the first place i visited was the Herschel Museum, a short walk round a corner from the circus. I wanted to cram as much as i could into my holiday as i could and i like science, especially astronomy which is what William Herschel was famous for, he is “best remembered for the discovery of Uranus, William Herschel was also responsible for increasing the dimensions of the Milky Way, discovering the satellites of Saturn and other planets, the rotation of Saturn’s rings as well as the motion of binary stars”.

He use to make and polish his own telescope in his work-shop, on the floor is the marks from the molten tin that was drop and cracked the floor.

They even had on display a visitor entry when he was becoming famous for his work, here the Princess Royal, Charlotte the eldest daughter of George III and her younger sister Augusta are noted visitors, I got a little excited when I saw this, was a good job i was on my own.

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Of course i was really excited when i saw they had an original dress worn by William’s sister Caroline, who also acted as a secretary to him and was a very intelligent lady in her own right. I’m only 5 foot so i was shocked to see how small the dress was, apparently they were wafer thin back then because this dress was from the end of the 18th century when she was an older lady.