Keeping smart in polar temperatures is a must
colonial artist, Mrs Graham of Kinross, her daughter and a Jamadar (India), 1786
Today I was guest blogger on one of the more eccentric history blogs around: http://www.madamegilflurt.com
I dedicated my attention to large hats and english women in the sartorially wonderful period of the 1780s. One of the rare moments in fashion history when Britain ruled the style waves!
I have been silent for too long, time taken up by teaching, researching and simply living. I am back ‘on popular demand’ with brief but intense little posts. Out on a regular basis from now on.
One image – an object, a painting, a phrase, something which in a nutshell contains the spirit of fashionarchaeology.com, this is the idea.
The beautiful and exotic young ladies in this photograph grabbed my attention. They represent an ideal – western – of elegance made of fine silk and organza, fit for a soiree in Paris during the Belle époque. Yet they are thousands of kilometres away across land and sea. It doesn’t matter where they come from. They are the product of colonial culture or rather a colonized culture. Their own land subjected to modes and taste from another world. The young ladies do their best to fit in, their western style clothes are fine but not quite right, for example they are not wearing the required waist-clinching corset. Their local tailor has not seen the real thing and is little acquainted with contemporary French fashion magazines to really get the look right.
…Or maybe local tailors had evolved a new form of fashion ‘metissage’, the art of mixing styles and cultures. The final effect is alluring, familiar, yet edgy and suspect. Makes me think of recent work by the intensely talented Wales Bonner, where whole collections are reflections on race, gender, culture and the possibilities of ‘metissage’.
Wales Bonner AW 2016-17
The 8th of March has just been and gone. Pre-packed sprigs of yellow mimosa in the supermarket and tacky adverts…. I have never liked this ‘celebration’ of women. It’s sad and, yes, even slightly insulting. But I am bringing the topic up because I have been thinking about – and wearing – white shirts quite a lot recently. The link of course is the Triangle factory fire in New York city back in 1911.
On the 25th of March that year the blouse (or ‘shirtwaist’ as they were then known in the States) factory that we can see in the image above, went up in flames. The doors were closed, the workers locked in. 123 women died and 23 men. A tragedy. Many of these women were immigrant family bread-winners. Their death sparked unionist and female political activism across America and beyond. The 8th of March is dedicated to them but sadly few women today are aware of this.
The shirtwaist was worn by all women at the turn of the century. Rich and poor alike. The two young women below were approximately the same age but even the simple blouses reflect the very different social status and economic possibilities.
John Singer Sargent, Alice Vanderbilt Shepard, 1888, Amon Carter museum, Fort Worth, Texas, USA
Pelizza da Volpedo, Suffering, 1900c, Accademia Carrara, Bergamo, Italy
In fact, the simplicity of the white blouse caused sartorial difficulties in certain respects: it was wonderfully modern and easy, you could match it up with anything. It was democratic, plain cotton for everyone. But in the world of haute couture this was not always a good thing. Distinction was needed. And this, in terms of the white blouse, came via the use of lace. White lace blouses had the same ‘function’ as the cotton ones but they were obviously more dressy and definitely more expensive – and suitably delicate for the ladies of leisure of the Belle Époque.
Vernon lace blouse, 1915-17c, Scandinavia
Some were in between on the social scale there were
Canadian female students, 1909, McCord museum Canada
And sporty types:
American lady in blouse and divided cycling skirt, 1900c
Lady paddling or rowing, 1900c
But who started off such a wide-spread and long-lasting fashion? It all began in the 1850s and not up, or down, but in the middle. The white blouse is one of the most sensible middle class inventions ever!
It was first worn by middle class teenage girls under jackets (often in velvet) and with a silk skirt. This would have been part of a ‘set’ comprising different bodices for different occasions. This was a mix and match concept. A clever way to get good use out of a silk dress, an ‘investment’ buy in those days. In the image below, the girl on the left wears her rust coloured silk taffeta skirt with a black jacket and the white blouse. (The skirt seems too long, but that is just because she is not wearing her wide, fashionable crinoline as she is in the countryside visiting her friend).
W.Gale, the confident, 1857, Tate Britain, London UK
Older generations soon followed: by the 1860s the blouse was worn by most women on a daily basis. In hot climates and on very informal occasions such the one in the image below, the ladies would remove the jacket of their two-piece suit (a concept straight from the male wardrobe – but that’s another story)
Silvestro Lega, the song, 1867, Pitti gallery, Florence, IT
In the two portrait below we can see how the blouse was also worn under the one-piece dress. The reason for this is practicaityl: hygiene (the white cotton blouse would soak up the sweat and could be soaped and boiled up innumerable times. Women had several of them).
Italian lady, 1860c
A.Renoir, woman in the garden, 1868c, Kunstmuseum, Basel, Switzerland
The model in the Renoir painting was Lise Tréhot, a dressmaker. She probably made her own white blouses! And here she is in a photo wearing a white blouse
(For more on the white blouse see my post from October 1914 on World War I fashion)
El Greco, Lady in fur, 1580s, Glasgow museums and galleries, Scotland
El Greco’s enigmatic lady is wrapped up in a black cape, with a thick fur lining and generous collar – probably a traveling cloak.
A post on fur has been a long time coming. I have been so wrapped up (!) in other projects – including research into the wearing of fur – that I have been silent far too long. Today I want to dedicate this post to the warmth of fur.
For the past 50 odd years the wearing of animal fur has ignited much controversy, but despite that, the industry has continued to exist and even flourish in certain decades. Today we could say that there has been a democratization process around the fur discourse. You like it you wear it, if you don’t you don’t. Simple. Being political in fashion is not so cool right now. The social history of fur is rich and fascinating and I hope to explore some of its aspects in this and other posts.
I have little doubt that humans started wearing fur for warmth. (The fact that you had to be really strong and fearless to kill the animals that would yield the fur, and the implications of that within the social group is also interesting but I will discuss that in a later post about the social significance of the wearing of fur).
I have selected a series of images which, I hope, will reflect the need (and dare I say the pleasure) of wearing fur in really cold climates.
The 16th Century is THE century for fur fashion. Quality fur was a status symbol and it was a hugely lucrative business with well-established trade routes – the luxury furs coming west from Russia. But as fur became increasingly popular, local industries emerged, farming all sorts of animals which brought onto the market a great range of different furs in terms of colour, appearance and of course cost. By the later 1500s most people could afford to line a cloak or a coat with fur. So as well as being a status symbol, fur was also a fashion and lastly it was wonderfully warm.
Italian Renaissance artists took great pleasure in representing fur by 1500, just as the portrait genre began to acquire new psychological depth and attention to realism of detail. Enveloping – male or female – sitters in rich furs was a way of showing their wealth but also the technical capacity of the painter. The fur, along with the clothing, accessories and jewels, added importance and significance to the portrait.
The Venetian and the Lombard artists were particularly good at doing fur:
Moretto da Brescia, gentleman, 1522c, National Gallery, London, UK
Lombard artist, gentleman, 1540c, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA
Thick linings for over garments in velvet, silk or wool were worn by both men and women during the century – the collar and lapels turned over to ‘show off’ the inside.
Moretto da Brescia, Lady as saint Agnes,1550s, p.c.
These gowns were not necessarily for wearing outdoors, but also to keep warm inside the scarcely heated palaces of the time. We get to see these fur-lined gowns in some of the more ambiguous portraits of the time. Portraits of young brides on their way to the nuptial bed or courtesans?
Giorgione, young lady, 1506c, Kunsthistoriches museum, Vienna, Austria
Tizziano, young lady wrapped in fur gown, 1535, Kunsthistoriches museum, Vienna, Austria
These loose-fitting over gowns were known as ‘night gowns’ in England. Queen Elisabeth has several of them made throughout her reign. The name comes from its original use as a bed chamber ‘dressing gown’, but by the 1550s it had become acceptable wear around the palace for less formal occasions. Queen Elisabeth I was very receptive to foreign fashions and at this point long loose gowns were being worn all over Europe as well as Muslim countries, in her inventories we find Italian, French, German, Spanish and even Polish gowns.
Anon, Frances Sidney Countess of Sussex, 1565-70c, Sidney Sussex college, Cambridge University, UK
Countess Sussex (Queen Elisabeth’s Lady of the bed-chamber) here wears a more formal version of the fur-lined gown. It is made of silk velvet displaying the family’s heraldic motif. This would have been a garment made for a specific formal occasion in deep winter and is therefore lined in warm fur. The fur is ermine which was of course a symbol of royalty/aristocracy.
Northern artists were a little less enamoured with the tactile aspect of fur compared to the italians, but made a good job of representing it.
In the 1600s the Dutch artist Peter Paul Rubens brought together the Italian cinquecento tradition and his own Dutch roots in this powerful portrait
P.P.Rubens, the fur, 1630s, Kunsthistorisches museum, Vienna, Austria
Here the pale pinky flesh of Rubens’s lover contrast with the dark velvet and fur of the gown. An intense, even erotic combination which leaves no doubts as to the nature of their relationship.
Vogue USA, 1941
The first official summer weekend is round the corner and I want to celebrate it in true fashionarchaeology.com style:
Summer associations: water, beach, sun, sea, swimming
George Barbier, 1925
The elegance of Barbier’s work is always breath-taking, but it’s not just his artistic talent, it’s the overall stylishness of the age he lived and worked in. One of the men in the image above is naked. Male nudity for swimming had, of course, been the tradition in England until women started frequenting beaches and pools in the second half of the nineteenth century. British men put up great resistance to swimwear, demanding instead that beaches be sectioned off, with screens behind which women were segregated. By the first world war they had to give up their demand to the right to nakedness in public – women had actually taken up swimming , not just bathing. One question remains: why is the man naked but wearing a red, probably rubber, swimming cap on his head?
These are the grandparents of a friend on the italian Riviera back in the 1920s-30s. All three figures are inherently stylish – it’s the toned bodies, the elegant poses, the latest hairstyles and of course the newest trend for unisex swimwear.
For the ladies who did not fancy the clinging and revealing knitted swimwear, Parisian fashion houses were offering cotton fabric alternatives too
Art Gout Beauté, swimming fashions, 1927
Bikini, 1945, USA
Jentzen cotton bikini, 1953
and even a playsuit!
Vogue USA, 1954
Cotton fabric swimwear continued to be ‘the’ fashion, until lycra and other wonder fibres offered acceptable, stylish alternatives. But that’s another story. Best beach wishes to you all!
Alberto Vargas, 1940s, Esquire magazine, USA
GARDEN DRESSING is a new pet project I am working on with Italian garden historian and architect Filippo Pizzoni. In 2014, after asking me to give a talk on “plants and flowers in Italian fashion of the 20th century” at the yearly conference he organizes for prestigious Orticola in Milan, my love for the subject has literally bloomed.
I am now researching for a publication on the theme of gardens and clothes – in its widest possible interpretation. From what to wear while gardening, to fashions inspired by gardens. Obviously from a historical perspective – in true fashionarchaeology.com style.
So today I have decided to share some images: some beautiful, some curious and some just plain fun. I will return to this topic as research develops.
N.Dance, the Pybus family, 1769, CNG Victoria
By the mid 1700s images of individuals enjoying the open space, and more specifically their custom designed gardens (note the beautifully trimmed grass), become quite common. The English had already established their ‘garden culture’ which swept across Europe and the world by the end of the 18th century. The children here seem to be the ‘sensible’ ones with their broad brimmed straw hats. Suntans were not acceptable in good society and hats were essential to protect fair skin and indeed light-coloured eyes.
Straw hat, mid 1700s, Metropolitan Museum of Art New York USA
Into the 20th century, when representations of women in gardens turn from passive to active. Although sometimes their clothing is totally unsuitable for this outdoor pass-time.
This young lady from a 1923 american gardening catalogue has her straw hat but wears dress, stockings and high heeled shoes in immaculate white. From the start of the century we are fed paradoxical images like these. One way to interpret them is by understanding that the lady is only actively undertaking the final phase of gardening – she is picking the flowers for her arrangements within the home. The ‘dirty’ work is left to the paid (male) gardener through hot summers and chilling winters.
Elisabeth Taylor in the garden, 1948, Vogue USA
Here the beautiful garden becomes synonymous with the beautiful celebrity, actress Liz Taylor posing in a secret garden holding a fresh bloom. An easy association typical of fashion magazine dialectics.
But at the same time another eye catching image of women (and gardens) is appearing in adverts and the media
It takes the notorious admen of 1950s America to come up with associations like this one!
Photo John French, model Susan Abraham in John Cavanagh lace evening dress, 1957
The combination of black and white in fashion has always attracted attention. What I find interesting is the timeless appeal of the two opposites, whichever way you combine black and white in clothing, it is always to a striking effect. Spring is in the air and B & W is the hot trend in fashion right now. So Fashionarchaeology.com wishes to welcome the new season with a post to celebrate the ultimate colour combination.
Durer, self-portrait age 26, 1498, Prado museum Madrid, Spain
Men’s fashions have not been immune to the lure of the black/white combination. We find examples from Renaissance Italy, but it is the German artist Durer who wears it in the most compelling way at the end of the 1400s. Durer was an extraordinary character. His self-portraits (which he executed at regular intervals throughout his life) were always intense and challenging, and I imagine his choice of clothing or ‘look’ for each picture was carefully thought out. This white jacket with black trim and sleeve detail is certainly eye-catching, as is the floppy striped hat and the black and white plaited rope holding his cloak across his bare skinned chest. The outright sensuality of this outfit and the way it is worn remains intriguing 600+ yeas on.
Fra Galgario, Italian gentleman, 1730c, Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan Italy
Less sensual but equally fascinating is the coat worn by this Italian gentleman from the first half of the 1700s. At a time when pastel colours – as dictated by French taste which was closely emulated in Italy – were the dominant trend for upper class gentlemen, this mat black coat with intricate, rich late baroque embroidery in silvery white is worthy of note.
F.Goya, Papito Costa y Bonells, 1813, Metropolitan museum of art, New York USA
Again a coat of black with silver embroidery for this very young Spanish gentleman. Flaunting the latest fashion for children, (the idea of putting children in adult clothing had been swept away by Jean Jacques Rousseau’s forward thinking philosophy some decades earlier) he wears a little jacket, the sombre black colour being set off by the white silk high-waisted trousers and the lace trimmed collar of his shirt.
The ultimate black and white combination for men came with the invention of the evening suit by George Brummel in London at the turn of the 19th century. The first official dandy (as decreed by Lord Byron) wanted English gentlemen to smarten up and wear different clothes at different times of day. He declared that black was the perfect colour for night, as long as always worn with freshly pressed white linen (shirt and cravat). White gloves and a black top hat completed the look.
McNeil Whistler, Theodore Duret , 1883, Metropolitan museum of art, New York USA
Black and white clothing does have a less glamorous side to it too. Until recent times, the close members of the family of a deceased person (man, woman or child), would adopt mourning clothes for a period of time after the death of the loved one. The ancient Greeks did it, as did the Romans, continuing in Europe throughout the past centuries. By the 1800s this tradition was so consolidated that etiquette books were written on the subject giving all the information necessary as to what colour should be worn, for how long etc. Fashion magazines always had pages dedicated to the topic and often included fashion plates representing mourning dress. This implies that it was acceptable to look ‘fashionable’ during the time of bereavement and there was no shame in dedicating time, care and money to looking nice at such a terrible time in one’s life. Today we would call this a form of ‘Fashion therapy’ I suppose.
Eighteenth and Nineteenth century fashion plates for mourning dress show total black for the first period of mourning, followed by black and white combination for the second period of mourning. Often it is difficult to tell whether a b/w outfit is mourning or simply fashion.
French fashion plate, 1780s, Paris, France
Il Corriere delle Dame, 1808, Italy
Les Journal des Dames et des Modes, 1830, Paris, France
Journal des Demoiselles, august 1867, Paris, France
And then there is black and white for the sheer pleasure of it. The strength exuded by the next few images speak for itself:
Correggio, Lady, 1517-19c, Hermitage museum, St Petersburg, Russia
French school, lady, 1560c, Bonhams UK
British school, Alathea Talbot countess of Arundel and Surrey,1619c, Ingestre Hall, UK
A.Renoir, box at the theatre, 1874, Courtauld Institute of Art, London, UK
Corset, 1905, museum of decorative arts, Prague, Czech Republic
C.F.Worth, ball dress, 1890s Paris, Metropolitan museum of art, New York USA
Jean Lanvin, 1929
Ladies Home Journal, 1958, USA
Vogue UK, Foale and Tuffin suit, 1964 (suit in Victoria and Albert museum, London UK)
Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel, 1991-2, Paris
La Gazette du Bon Ton, cover by George Lepape, cape by J. Lanvin, 1923
Blue goes well with more blue….different shades together are intense, sensual and powerful.
Horst P. Horst, Babe Paley, 1946
Horst P. Horst is here using tones of blue to give depth and a sense of intrigue to his portrait of one of the most powerful women in New York just after the second World War, Babe Paley, Vogue USA’s feared fashion editor.
But blue works well with a number of colours (see my previous post on blue and red), in some cases muted shades such as green, give a light spring/summer feel to an outfit
Derwent Lees, Girl in black hat, 1912, National Gallery of Victoria , Australia
Electric blue and grey are dynamic and work well for this child’s dress from 1918, but this colour combination would not be out-of-place on today’s catwalk
Bernard Meninsky, Child in blue, 1918, pc
Blue and any acid colour has a stunningly fresh effect, catching our attention every time
Blue and orange:
Beckmann, self-portrait in blue jacket, 1950, St Louis Art museum, USA
Or blue and yellow:
Ethel Spowers, skaters, 1931 (Bonham’s, London, UK)
Mme Grès, maxi dress + coat, 1968, Paris, Metropolitan Museum of Art , NY, USA
the back of the dress
Yellow also works splendidly with a greener shade of blue:
Feather tunic, Peru, 7th – 10th century, Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY, USA
Man’s short sleeved cotton Bazin top with yellow embroidery, west Africa, 21st century
Jeffrey Campbell shoes, USA, 21st Century
Back to the topic of colour combinations, this time its red and blue, an all-time fashion favorite. Why? The hot red is perfectly balanced out by the cold blue. Its bold, clean and sharp to look at. This combination really needs bright, natural sun light to set it off, therefore usually seen in spring and summer outfits.
And it seems they understood this very well in the Renaissance:
Palma il Vecchio, La bella, 1518-20c,Thyssen-Bornemisza Coll, Madrid, Spain
A slight variant of red and deep purple from later in the 1500s:
Trachten buch, Habitus praecipuorum, Neapolitan lady, 1577
Despite the invention of artificial dyes in 1853 (when just about any daring colour combination became possible) red and blue remained a constant of the 1800s and the 1900s:
Englishwoman’s domestic magazine, fashion plate, September 1869
L’Officiel, photo: P. Poittier, outfit: C.Dior, 1963
Men’s fashion is not immune to this colour combination either, although as we can see in the examples below, there is also an element of sports uniform (especially in the stripe motif)
Cordings, Uk, striped sock, 2014
Nike, Air Jordan retro
And finally a non-western take on this colour combination: shades of red/fuchsia and blues as used by Tibetan monks still today
Just shows that clothing and colour can be a spiritual experience, some combinations can have a deep emotional impact on wearer and onlooker.
Felice Casorati, the red jacket, 1939, MART Rovereto, Italy
In this, and the following posts, I shall let my selection of images speak for itself. Colour can be quite fascinating, especially when worn in contrasting combinations.
I will begin with a personal favourite of mine: red and burgundy. The brightness of the red is reflected yet absorbed by the muted tone of the burgundy. Exciting.
Back in the Renaissance it was actually men who favoured this colour combination
Domenico Ghirlandaio, man, 15th century, Metropolitan museum New York USA
Dosso Dossi, Alfonso I d’Este Duke of Ferrara
By the 1800s, initially due to Romanticism and Renaissance revival, it was very popular with women too
J.E. Millais, actress Kate Dolan impersonating Portia, 1886, Metropolitan museum, New York
John Singer Sargent, Ena and Betty Wertheimer, 1901, Tate Britain, UK
In the above portrait, the contrasting combination of colours is not in the actual dress – which is a rich light burgundy – but it’s created by the eye-catching red flowers worn in the sensual dark hair of the sitter.
Charles James, evening dress in silk and velvet, 1949, Kent State university collection, USA
Sorelle Fontana atelier Rome, Wool and velvet day suit, 1960 (1960 Italian fashion magazine photo)
Nike sports shoe, 2014
Benozzo Gozzoli, Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian, 1465c, San Giminiano, Italy
It’s not an easy topic to cover, underpants…
As the word implies they are ‘under’ pants or trousers or breeches, according to which era you are looking at. Investigating the history of Renaissance men’s underpants is complex. Primary sources are scarce: practically no surviving underpants, some documentary sources and limited visual material.
In Christian medieval Europe, representing naked – or nearly naked – men was frowned upon. Things got better with the Renaissance and the revival of classical ideals of beauty. Portraying nakedness in the name of art was not only acceptable, but became fashionable among Italian Renaissance artists especially. As most art commissions were still religious, artists had to find the appropriate themes where they could include naked bodies (which by the end of the 1400s they were studying assiduously and reaching exhilarating results. See Michelangelo Buonarroti). ‘Christ on the cross’ was popular , but in terms of dress, not useful to us as the figure of Christ followed an iconographic convention which showed him naked with a cloth draped across his loins. Fortunately, Renaissance artists liked to place religious themes and stories within a contemporary context. Thus we have representations of saints being flogged, stoned, burned and, as in the case of Saint Sebastian, shot with arrows at close range. Usually these saints are represented as normal citizens, stripped down to their underwear. For a dress historian this is as close to a real pair of Renaissance men’s underpants as one gets.
A survey of images of semi naked saints produced between the 1400s and the 1500s brought some interesting results: two types of underpants seem to have been in use and were being represented at this time. We could say, in general terms, that the style worn was related to fashion and hence to social class. According to the perceived social class of the saint (these saints were ‘transposed’ into the contemporary with great artistic licence), they were shown wearing either baggy pants or close-fitting briefs.
Baggy pants were worn by the lower classes or by men who did not wear tight-fitting, fashionable clothes :
Giovanni di Paolo, group baptism, 1445c, Esztergom cathedral, Hungary
In the above scene the three men being baptized have stripped down (others are in the process of doing so), they wear the long-legged, gathered, linen under trousers which had been in use since barbarian times.
A mid-way version existed, as represented bellow:
Anon Bavarian artist, Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian, second half of 15th century
Saint Sebastian was usually represented as an upper class man. In this image we see that he has retained some of the dignity of his status through his fur-lined hat, still on his head. His underpants are a kind of modern-day ‘boxer short’ gathered at the waist line and reaching down to the top of his thighs. The textile used is a fine soft linen, we can imagine these shorts would not have been too bothersome under his long gown, visible on the ground under his left foot.
By the last quarter of the 1400s European men’s fashion aimed at a very close-fitting silhouette. Doublet (jacket/coat) and hose (thigh high socks) were skin-tight. The ideal of a perfectly harmonious, healthy and agile body was back from ancient times. Clothes reflected this ideal. As the doublet shortened, the genital area and the buttocks were in danger of becoming visible at every move, especially as tailors had not solved the mystery of how to make tight-fitting breeches(trousers). The two socks, or legs, were still separate until the last decades of the 1400s, when they were eventually sewn together center back. The young man on the far left of the image below shows this ‘body conscious’ fashion at its best:
Giovanni Antonio Amadeo, marble relief , 1480-82c, Cremona cathedral, Italy
Tailors invented a way of covering the offensive area (the preacher San Bernardino da Siena often raged against this indecent fashion from his pulpit). Tabard or poncho-like covers with a hole for the head and fabric long enough to cover up front and back. As worn by the young man in profile in the image below:
Giovanni Antonio Amadeo, marble relief (detail) , 1480-82c, Cremona cathedral, Italy
The same series of reliefs made for Cremona cathedral in northern Italy gives us perfect evidence of what was worn beneath this style of clothing
Giovanni Antonio Amadeo, marble relief (detail) , 1480-82c, Cremona cathedral, Italy
Of the three saints being flogged in the above image, two wear real underpants in the ‘brief’ style. These would have been made out of linen and cut on the bias to assure a minimum of stretch, yet reduce the bulkiness of the fabric. Perfect under the tight-fitting hose.
Northern European artists also represented saints in underpants during this period:
Mater of Jacques of Luxemburg, ill. manuscript (detail), Saint Sebastian, ,1466-70, J.P. Getty museum USA
In the above image the artist is careful to represent the construction of the underpants: there is a central section gathered at the waist to create a sort of ‘pouch’, while the rest is smooth and probably cut on the bias.
Master of the acts of mercy, Austrian, martyrdom of Saint Lawrence, 1465c, Metropolitan Museum of Art New York USA
The artist of the above image represents tiny briefs in a dark colour, unusual but not unique:
Anon, hand coloured wood block print, 1460-70c, Munich, Germany
The only surviving pair of briefs I have found from this period is Austrian and it is believed to have belonged to a woman as it was found alongside a bra-like garment. After seeing so many ‘briefs’ worn by men during this period maybe we should not take it for granted that these were a specifically female garment. Maybe there is an interesting story behind these pants too.
Linen underpants, found at Lengberg castle, Austria. 15th Century.
I am re-posting this piece on men in underpants from last year. Time to get back onto this interesting topic once again. Soon I will post a follow-up on this: Renaissance underpants!
Aspertini Amico, Madonna and saints, 1508-9, museo nazionale Villa Guinigi, Lucca, Italy
Did men wear underpants in the past? well some did and some didn’t. The ancient Greeks abhorred this item of clothing defining it as “barbaric” and unhygienic. The Romans adopted them in extremis to keep warm in the northern outposts of the Empire. They took the idea from the barbarians who wore tunics and trousers as their costume. But under the toga a roman citizen would have only worn his tunic which served as outer garment/undergarment, often even slept in at the end of the day. A fresh tunic would have been put on after the daily ablutions.
With the middle ages the barbaric custom prevails and soon all men wear underpants under their tunics (as well as an under shirt/tunic). Very simple in shape, made of linen and held up at the waist with a draw string. Baggy and comfortable. the peasant in the mosaic is working in the field in the summer heat and has stripped down to his underpants
Everything changed once men started wearing clothing that was closely constructed to the body. By mid 1300s we get into the western pattern cutting era and a new age of male body consciousness. Baggy underpants are out, skin-tight briefs are in.
Ok I am bored of underpants now. We’ll leave the topic aside after today and move on to other stuff (but we will come back to it I promise)
Journal des Dames et des Modes, Paris, 1913
This post wants to investigate the ‘rise’ (literally) in fashion of the collar for women during the period 1913-18. As we saw in the last post, by 1914 the negative effects of the war had driven French fashion designers to invent a new style and to promote it assiduously in the hope of reviving interest, sales and more importantly, an industry which gave work to 1000s of people.
La Baionnette, 1916
The new war silhouette, with its full but short skirt was young and dynamic, cheeky yet elegant . Corsets had practically been forgotten, replaced by more comfortable brassieres. The waistline positioned slightly above natural level. The collar of coats, jackets and blouses became a new focal point: rising up high to frame the neck, elongating the line from head to bust. The new haircuts – kiss curls framing the face while the long tresses were pulled up high behind the head to look like they had been cut (that was only happening in the most bohemian of circles around 1915).
Les Modes, Paris, 1915
These high rise collars were particularly suitable for winter fashions. They stood high thanks to a stiff lining or, as we can see above, thickened by the addition of fur. They framed the face perfectly and kept the neck warm.
They remained popular for several years.
Alvaro Guerara, Mrs Fairbairn (Nancy Cunnard), 1919, N.G.A. Melbourne, Australia
There was something masculine in this way of pulling the collar up around the ears, maybe yet another influence from uniforms to be seen everywhere in Europe during those years. The heavy, thick wool greatcoats buttoned right up and worn with the collar turned up for extra protection from wind and rain.
Australian soldier, WW I
WAAC – female army auxiliary corps, WW I, in wool greatcoat with fur collar
More masculine/feminine fashion contaminations in the images below:
Les Modes, Paris, 1915
La Baionnette, 1918
The shirt or blouse for women of this period deserves a closer look too. It had remained popular from the previous decade but was totally revised in shape. New influences were at work on the imagination of the designers. The blouse, which had of course existed for decades (since the 1850s to be precise) now also became an interesting mix of feminine and masculine.
Les Modes, Paris, 1914
The collar was wide and kept well open, supported beneath by the stiff collar of jacket or coat. When worn with a light fabric dress only it was probably starched stiff and well ironed into shape.
E.L.Kirchner, Erna and Gelda, Germany, 1913
The earlier blouse was distinguished by its femininity denoted by plenty of lace and ruffles. The neck was closed in as it was not proper to show skin during the day.
Journal des Demoiselles, Paris, 1900c
At the same time though, it must be noted that a new kind of female was emerging, the educated middle class young woman who worked. She was more likely to wear a ‘masculine’ style shirt + tie. She was after all claiming her new space in a male centered society.
Female student,s 1909, Canada
Les Modes, Paris, 1914
The new blouse was not mimicking men’s fashion. It was taking its linearity and transposing it into the feminine sphere. A perfect blend to represent the new generation of women to emerge from a devastating war, when for the first time they will be expected to ‘wear the trousers’ in a Europe that will have lost most of its young men.
Vernon lace blouse, 1915-17c, Scandinavia
La Baionnette magazine, France, 1916
In this post Fashionarchaeology wants to pay its own (thematic) tribute to the memory of World War I.
“A century on, the events of 1914-18 are still difficult to comprehend. The first truly global conflict, the war’s toll in human terms resulted in over 9 million soldiers and 6 million civilians killed and 21 million wounded”
These are the opening lines of the catalogue to a very interesting exhibition currently on in London, “The Great War as recorded through the fine and popular arts”
In her opening text, historian and art specialist Sacha Llewellyn immediately brings home the ultimate reality, the sheer number of lives involved. Reading this was, well, shocking. A term which came to mind was ‘discomfort’ and this set me off thinking about the dichotomy comfort/discomfort that was actually very much alive in the fashion discourse during those years.
1914 Paris: Fashion had been living a true revolution for a few years, since the debut of designer Paul Poiret who, in 1907, decreed a change in silhouette and abolished the S-shaped corset of the previous era. He took The word ‘comfort’ and made it fashionable, whereas up until then it had been synonymous with lower class practicality.
Les Modes, Paris, May 1914
As we can see in the fashion magazine photo above, both day wear and evening wear were softly draped and not too binding of torso and hips. Heels were moderately high, hats reasonably sized. Both outfits seem quite comfortable.
But then war broke out and began to affect everybody’s lives in one way or another. Women found themselves in a new predicament: working class women were called to work in those jobs that had been left vacant by men. Manly jobs that required them to wear trousers for the first time ever (see the blue overalls bellow : a little belt added for fashion’s sake). These women were to feel the effects of this new lifestyle deeply well beyond the war.
Paul Iribe, woman factory worker, 1917
At the other end of the social spectrum, upper class women were not expected to work (although some did, as nurses), they were used to defining their role in society through their use of the latest fashion from famous designers but now they began to feel some ‘discomfort’ regarding fashion. Was it right to spend time and money on clothes when one’s husband or son was at war? The moral dilemma was strongly felt. The effect of this and of war in general on the fashion world – in France first of all and subsequently everywhere else – was disastrous. Sales dropped and the industry nearly collapsed.
The problem was faced head on. A committee was set up (led by Paul Poiret) by the French government and an ingenious solution found: totally new fashions were launched for winter 2015. The new war ‘style’ was characterized by a natural waistline, a short skirt and very high heels. The new proportions required women to buy a whole new wardrobe.
Umberto Brunelleschi, La Bersagliere, 1917
Magazine illustrations tended to exaggerate these new elements, especially the length of the skirt which in reality does not seem to have been worn as short as the above images.
Leather and bead embroidery boots, 1917, Texas museum, USA
Afternoon dress by Estelle T.Hart, 1915, Cincinnati Museum of Art, USA
The media was extremely supportive as we can read in the article published in Les Modes on November 1915
Les Modes, Paris, Nov 1915
The new fashions should be bought and consumed as a war effort by women. Especially those women who were not expected to do manual labour. Wearing these fashions was also about patriotism and ‘keeping up appearances’ despite the difficult times.
These new fashions received great media coverage and even satirical magazines like La Baionnette (published between 1914 and 1918) represented them exquisitely.
La Baionnette, 1916
The magazine even dedicated a whole issue (August 1915) to the topic of fashion – in satirical terms of course. “Elegancese Berlinoises” was the title, each image representing German women in old-fashioned, shapeless clothes. Their figures far from the fashion ideals of Parisian couture.
La Baionnette, Aug 1915, translation: “German fashion from now on will not follow French taste”
A last word should go to hats of this period. This was one of the most creative and darkly inspired moments of the history of millinery
both from Les Modes,Paris , 1917
Feather toque,1915, Metropolitan Museum of Art, N. Y
Fur and embroidery toque, 1916c, Metropolitan Museum of Art, N.Y.
In conclusion we can say that World War I fashion was a comfort in the discomfort of the times. A true effort was made by Paris fashion houses, followed by the rest, to keep alive an industry and ultimately (however frivolous it may sound) to keep up morale through exterior female beauty.
Apart from the high heels, it actually looks very comfortable indeed.
Christian Tagliavini, 1503 Cecilia, 2011
People sometimes ask me why I do what I do. Recently I found myself in a complex discussion where I was defending my line of work, ultimately justifying the hours spent by dress historians looking at a neckline, or the lining of a gown or the height of an eighteenth century heel. I was being challenged on the utility of it all – do we really need to know these minute details of everyday life of the past?
isn’t fashion projected into the future by its very essence? if so why do we need to teach young fashion or costume designers about their heritage?
Maybe the answers to the above are all here, in these mesmerizing and simply beautiful works of contemporary art.
For this post I have chosen to share the work of a very interesting – to me – young photographer. Especially a recent series entitled “1503”.
Christian Tagliavini, 1503 Signora in verde, 2011
Christian Tagliavini, 1503 Donna Clotilde, 2011
Christian Tagliavini, 1503 Lucrezia, 2011
Christian Tagliavini, 1503 Bartolomeo, 2011
Enough said I think.
his website: www. christiantagliavini.com
Sir John Everett Millais, Ophelia, 1851-2, Tate Britain, London UK
An exhibition of Pre-Raphaelite paintings just opened in Turin (Italy) http://www.mostrapreraffaelliti.it/ , which promises to investigate the movement’s “utopia of beauty”. Fashionarchaeology.com is very excited as this has been a favorite topic since 1984, when the Tate Gallery in London staged a major exhibition on the Pre-Raphaelite movement. Seeing it was a powerful and deeply impacting experience. The dress, beauty and politics of the women involved in the PR movement became the topic of my degree dissertation. However, I then moved on to other dress and textile obsessions. Until today.
In this and the following posts, I wish to muse over a few ‘issues’ that have come buzzing back to me after all these years.
As a dress historian I am naturally often concerned with the concept of beauty. Why and when is a person considered beautiful or not so? All eras have their canons of beauty. In terms of PR beauty standards, what is interesting is that they were not actually the same as those of contemporary Victorian society. In other words what the PR Brotherhood deemed ‘beautiful’ was not aligned with the ‘ideal’ beauty represented in fashion magazines of the time.
Fashion magazine, 1840s
The work of these (initially, in 1848) young artists, reveals a deep understanding of Italian Renaissance aesthetics, a great concern with women, and a desire to look for beauty in the unusual. They were shying away from the banal, the mass-produced, that anonymous beauty found in fashion magazines, which we can easily relate to today.
If we can ascertain a difference between the real and the represented we may be able to understand what PR beauty was all about. Photography comes to our aid as we now try to understand what these women, the models, looked like in real life.
Julia Margaret Cameron, photo of actress Marie Spartali, 1867
If we compare the above photo of actress Marie Spartali with a portrait made shortly after by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, we begin to see how he (as unchallenged leader of the group) had devised a ‘style’, a way of beautifying his female subjects to fit in with his specific ideals of beauty. By the end of the 1850s he had devised a set of facial connotations that came to represent PR beauty. He curled the upper lip of his female sitters and elongated their neck, while tilting the head slightly to one side.
D.G.Rossetti, Marie Spartali, 1869c
It becomes even more evident in the numerous works executed by him featuring the model Jane Morris. In fact, although Jane could be the instigator of this ‘type’… as we can see she really did have a long neck and full, curly lips.
D.G. Rossetti, photo of Jane Morris, 1865, Victoria and Albert museum London UK
D.G. Rossetti, sketch of Jane Morris, p.c.
If we explore their professional and personal relationship, we discover that D.G. Rossetti had actually been deeply struck by Jane on first seeing her (he was walking in Oxford with artist William Morris). For Rossetti it was love at first sight, she embodied all the aesthetic ideals he’d absorbed from Italian Renaissance artists. But Jane ended up marrying William Morris in 1859. Rossetti became a close friend and she modeled for him very often, revealing what seems to become an aesthetic obsession, if not a full-fledged love affair.
By the 1860s all of Rossetti’s sitters seem to receive the ‘PR beauty treatment’.
Photo of Fanny Cornforth, model and long term lover of D.G. Rossetti from 1858 onwards
D.G. Rossetti, Monna Vanna, 1866 (model F.Cornforth), Tate Britain, London UK
In the end it may just be that the famous Rossetti lips were those of Jane Morris. The one who ‘got away’. His true love.
Women washing their hair appears to be a constant subject matter in the history of art, chosen by artists worldwide over the centuries.
So why did (and do) artists return to this subject matter again and again? I may not have the answer here and now, but I have noticed that some artists prefer to show the face, others to hide it. This is a relevant aspect as it ultimately gives us a clue to the cultural context that the work is coming from.
Male artist/female model is the predominant scenario we are faced with. When the artist decides to hide the woman’s face, he is acting as passive onlooker . In this case, we as viewers, are invited to share a voyeuristic, peep from-the-keyhole moment with the artist. This leaves me (as a woman) uneasy with the work of art, however beautifully produced. The word ‘objectification’ comes to mind…
In many works however we do find a different perspective. Male artist/female model, but the model’s face is visible, occasionally even turned to look at the viewer. In this case we – male or female onlooker – are invited to watch the private ritual taking place. The turn of the head can make the difference between consuming the image and willingly sharing the moment. A moment which can be of sheer beauty (the fluid curves of the body and the pure sensuality of the tactile experience, the fingers running through the strands of wet hair) mixed with the intimacy of the act, all make for a beautiful aesthetic experience.
Alessandro Allori, frescoed ceiling,1589, Logetta of Pitti Place, Florence IT
The above image is probably the first truly celebratory representation in western art of women washing their hair. Before the Italian Renaissance, female hair had been literally hidden from sight. It was taboo to show it, let alone represent the washing of it. Allori seems to have been very taken with women in this private and informal state, he is inspired by it for a religious painting of the following year where the Madonna is shown with her hair down and a linen towel still draped across her shoulders as though caught in the act.
A. Allori, the Madonna crowned by Baby Jesus, 1590, Palazzo Pitti gallery, Florence IT
Documentary evidence tells us that during the 1500s high-ranking Italian ladies used to reserve a day of the week for hair washing. A strictly female, informal, moment where women socialized and relaxed, as well as washed their hair. The hair would be dried in front of the fire while chatting the time away. The image below represents just such a moment
Guercino, two women drying their hair in front of a fire, 1636c, Courtauld Institute, London UK
The fact that Guercino is there, observing, brings us back to the question of why artists wanted to represent this subject matter. The need to know the secret, to know what really happens during this all female ritual? Or does it become an excuse to draw the female body in such an interesting position?
Japanese artists have often returned to this theme in art:
Suzuki Harunobu, two women washing their hair, 1767-8, Mus of Fine Arts Boston, USA
And early 20th century Japanese artist Hashiguchi Goyo:
washing the hair…
combing the wet hair through…
Russian émigré artist Aleksander Yakovlev:
Aleksander Yakovlev, model washing her hair, 1929, Brooklyn museum, New York USA
And London artist Walter R. Sickert who paints a french model in Paris, but decides not to show us the head at all…
anon photo, gentleman and lady (wearing Bloomer costume), 1851-4c, USA
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