Archives for posts with tag: history of fashion

Triangle factory, photo in workshop of shirtwaisters

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.

J.Singer Sargent, Alice Vanderbilt Shepard,1888,Amon Carter mus texas

John Singer Sargent, Alice Vanderbilt Shepard, 1888, Amon Carter museum, Fort Worth, Texas, USA

Pelizza da Volpedo,Dolore, Acc Car Berg

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.

camicia pizzo di Vernon, Scandinavia, 1915-17c

Vernon lace blouse, 1915-17c, Scandinavia

 

Some were in between on the social scale there were

female students:

Mrs Gray s group,1909,McCord mus

Canadian female students, 1909, McCord museum Canada

Actresses:

opuscolo settimanale,1902,Fondo Gnecchi

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And sporty types:

divided skirt for cycling, USA 1900c

American lady in blouse and divided cycling skirt, 1900c

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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 confidante, 1857, Tate B

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)

S.Lega, Il canto di un stornello,1867, Pitti

 

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).

foto,Amalia Oieri,CRAA

Italian lady, 1860c

P.A.Renoir, donna 1868

 

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

Lise_Tréhot_in_1864, model for A.Renoir, dressmaker

(For more on the white blouse see my post from October 1914 on World War I fashion)

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El Greco. (The lady in a fur wrap), 1580 Glasgow mus e galls.

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 Bonvicino Alessandro, uomo forse Fortunato Martinengo Cesaresco, 1522, nat gal lon

Moretto da Brescia, gentleman, 1522c, National Gallery, London, UK

artista lombardo,gentiluomo,1540c,met NY

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 Bonvicino Alessandro, donna come Sta Agnese, pc Svizzera

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?

1506 Giorgione (Giorgio Barbarelli from Castelfranco 1477-1510) Portrait of a Young Woman, Laura

Giorgione, young lady, 1506c, Kunsthistoriches museum, Vienna, Austria

Tiziano, ragazza con soprabito pelliccia,1535,KM Vienna

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.

Frances Sidney, Countess of Sussex, 1565c, Sidney Sussex college cambridge

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

Rubens, The fur, 1630s, Kunst, Vienna

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.

 

alberto Vargas, Esquire Magazine

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.

enjoy!

Nathaniel Dance, Pybus family,1769c,NGVictoria

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, diameter 35.6 cm, met ny

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.

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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.

Vogue 1948, Elisabeth taylor in a garden

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

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It takes the notorious admen of 1950s America to come up with associations like this one!

 

 

 

 

 

C.Tagliavini, 1503, Cecilia 2014

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”.

C.Tagliavini, 1503, ritratto di signora in verde 2014

Christian Tagliavini, 1503 Signora in verde, 2011

C.Tagliavini, 1503, Donna Clotilde 2014

Christian Tagliavini, 1503 Donna Clotilde, 2011

C.Tagliavini, 1503, Lucrezia 2014

Christian Tagliavini, 1503 Lucrezia, 2011

C.Tagliavini, 1503, Bartolomeo 2014

Christian Tagliavini, 1503 Bartolomeo, 2011

Enough said I think.

his website:     www. christiantagliavini.com