shirt that says "skirts are not inherently more or less practical than pants; all clothing practicality is situational. and anyway why does nobody harp on and on about how, in the nebulous Olden TimesTM, Scotsmen and ancient Roman men and men from a zillion different cultures outside of Europe Couldn't Do Anything In Their Skirt-Like GarmentsTM? like yeah obviously skirts aren't the best choice for riding bicycles or certain other athletic endeavors/jobs/whatever but not everyone does those things every single day, or did in the past" on the front
and "but not like in a Tr*d Asshole way; the right of women to wear whatever we want is crucial and a lot of that battle, in the west, has been historically over whether we can CHOOSE to wear pants SHOULD WE DESIRE THEM, and that should not be erased either"
Watch "HOW TO GET DRESSED IN A 1610S SUIT: The Modern Maker Workroom BASICS" on YouTube
Just a huge fan of this video. Mathew Gnagy begins in his underwear, which is a long shirt similar in construction to early 19th century men's shirts, but even more gigantic, and a pair of drawers which he compares to Venetians (knee breeches c. 1570-1620). He rolls up the shirt beneath the drawers to pad his hips and the effect is amazing. It really looks so good when he completes the ensemble!
I have been reading Phillis and C. Willett Cunnington's Handbook of English Costume in the 17th Century and The History of Underclothes by the same authors. They mention 17th century breeches stuffed with bombast of "horsehair, flock, wool, rags, flax, bran or cotton" to give the desirable silhouette. (Before bombast referred to an inflated vocabulary it referred to inflated pants.) Quoting Benjamin Jonson: "Stay let me see these drums, these kilderkins, these bombard slops, what is it crams them so? Nothing but hair." (The Case is Altered, 1609).
The video is a great demonstration of "trussing the points" i.e. using ribbons or tape ties to attach the breeches and doublet, which held them together and kept the breeches on. After so much lacing and lacing I couldn't help but wonder how the clothes could come off in a timely manner—but he takes the suit off and strips to his underwear to show how quick it is to undress! (Much to consider).
An illustration from Handbook of English Costume in the 17th Century shows that the basic suit-shape is the same at midcentury, but the breeches are now held up by metal rings under the doublet skirt and the ribbon bows peeking out are decorative.
I absolutely love this painting and the dress and more people should be seeing it.
Portrait of a young woman, known as Jeanne-Elisabeth de Beauharnais
Former title: Portrait of a Lady of the Barral Family 1711
by Nicolas de Largillière
She married on January 9, 1711 (date of the painting) in Orléans with Michel Bégon de la Picardière.
Lucile Evening Dress (Autumn, 1916)
Designed by Lucy Christina Wallace and currently located at The Kyoto Costume Institute
The black frock fitted her like a glove. It was made with the small square yoke and long, close sleeves, softened by a wrist-frill falling nearly to the knuckles. It outlined her figure to the waist and fell full- skirted to the ground, with a suggestion of the medieval robe. Its dull surface effaced itself not outshining the dull gleam of the academic poplin.
Yes, I want this dress, an urge I often feel when reading of fashion in fiction.
This one was described in 1936 by Dorothy L. Sayers in her novel Gaudy Night, a book in which Sayers made clear that she believed a woman of sense knew how to dress appropriately for every occasion. The occasion here was Gaudy Night when the alums of the women’s college set at Oxford University in England came back for a celebration. Her heroine, Harriet Vane, herself a writer of mysteries wears the dress. The dress is not only quietly magnificent, Vane also knows just how to wear it with the academic robe, the “academic poplin” mentioned, which she must wear over the dress, a tradition of the college.
Vane has come back as an alum and ends up trying to solve two mysteries: who is harassing the women of the college with threats and vandalism? and should she marry Lord Peter Wimsey, the impossibly charming, erudite and wealthy investigator who save her from a murder conviction? The answer to the second question seems obvious to me--yes, go marry the man!-- but Sayers takes just as long to explore the question of marriage for a woman with a professional career in 1936 as she does to uncover the mystery.
A 15th century gurlll 🐉🤌
Hi Marzi! I came across a really cool Etsy shop selling chatelaines and chatelaine accessories recently so that made me wonder, if you don't mine my asking, do you wear one or want to acquire one? And more generally, is there a certain decade(s) that they are associated with/a particular person who invented them/was there a previous accessory that they developed out of?
I don't have one yet, no. I'd love one, but to be honest, I'm not sure how practical they are to wear out and about. Putting all my personal affects out in the open where they might easily be damaged, lost (if they fall off), or stolen. I have the feeling that they were more for wearing indoors/around the house in the 19th century specifically, but I'm not sure where I picked that idea up and it might be incorrect.
(I do know that, cool as they are and common as chatelaine accessories are nowadays on auction websites, you don't see a ton of photographs of Victorian women wearing them outdoors. I have seen such images, but they're rare compared to indoor studio portraits of chatelaine'd women. And it would surprise me if women of the day didn't consider the same logic that I've mentioned above re: why they might not be practical for public use.)
Apparently the vague concept of "women wearing useful things on decorative chain" dates back to Ancient Rome, but our current image of it tends to start around the 17th or 18th century and go through the early 20th. No clue who invented them, and since they go back so far, we'll probably never know. Sorry I can't shed more light!
Satin silk waistcoat, embroidered with silk and chenille thread. Dated to the 1830s, the waistcoat is lined in glazed twill, and is backed in black silk with a pair of black tape ties for adjustment. (The John Bright Collection)
How did cotton win over linen anyway?
In short, colonialism, slavery and the industrial revolution. In length:
Cotton doesn't grow in Europe so before the Modern Era, cotton was rare and used in small quantities for specific purposes (lining doublets for example). The thing with cotton is, that's it can be printed with dye very easily. The colors are bright and they don't fade easily. With wool and silk fabrics, which were the more traditional fabrics for outer wear in Europe (silk for upper classes of course), patterns usually needed to be embroidered or woven to the cloth to last, which was very expensive. Wool is extremely hard to print to anything detailed that would stay even with modern technology. Silk can be printed easily today with screen printing, but before late 18th century the technique wasn't known in western world (it was invented in China a millenium ago) and the available methods didn't yeld good results.
So when in the late 17th century European trading companies were establishing trading posts in India, a huge producer of cotton fabrics, suddenly cotton was much more available in Europe. Indian calico cotton, which was sturdy and cheap and was painted or printed with colorful and intricate floral patters, chintz, especially caught on and became very fashionable. The popular Orientalism of the time also contributed to it becoming fasionable, chintz was seen as "exotic" and therefore appealing.
Here's a typical calico jacket from late 18th century. The ones in European markets often had white background, but red background was also fairly common.
The problem with this was that this was not great for the business of the European fabric producers, especially silk producers in France and wool producers in England, who before were dominating the European textile market and didn't like that they now had competition. So European countries imposed trade restrictions for Indian cotton, England banning cotton almost fully in 1721. Since the introduction of Indian cottons, there had been attempts to recreate it in Europe with little success. They didn't have nearly advanced enough fabric printing and cotton weaving techniques to match the level of Indian calico. Cotton trade with India didn't end though. The European trading companies would export Indian cottons to West African market to fund the trans-Atlantic slave trade that was growing quickly. European cottons were also imported to Africa. At first they didn't have great demand as they were so lacking compared to Indian cotton, but by the mid 1700s quality of English cotton had improved enough to be competitive.
Inventions in industrial textile machinery, specifically spinning jenny in 1780s and water frame in 1770s, would finally give England the advantages they needed to conquer the cotton market. These inventions allowed producing very cheap but good quality cotton and fabric printing, which would finally produce decent imitations of Indian calico in large quantities. Around the same time in mid 1700s, The East Indian Company had taken over Bengal and soon following most of the Indian sub-continent, effectively putting it under British colonial rule (but with a corporate rule dystopian twist). So when industrialized English cotton took over the market, The East India Company would suppress Indian textile industry to utilize Indian raw cotton production for English textile industry and then import cotton textiles back to India. In 1750s India's exports were mainly fine cotton and silk, but during the next century Indian export would become mostly raw materials. They effectively de-industrialized India to industrialize England further.
India, most notably Bengal area, had been an international textile hub for millennia, producing the finest cottons and silks with extremely advance techniques. Loosing cotton textile industry devastated Indian local economies and eradicated many traditional textile craft skills. Perhaps the most glaring example is that of Dhaka muslin. Named after the city in Bengal it was produced in, it was extremely fine and thin cotton requiring very complicated and time consuming spinning process, painstakingly meticulous hand-weaving process and a very specific breed of cotton. It was basically transparent as seen depicted in this Mughal painting from early 17th century.
It was used by e.g. the ancient Greeks, Mughal emperors and, while the methods and it's production was systematically being destroyed by the British to squash competition, it became super fashionable in Europe. It was extremely expensive, even more so than silk, which is probably why it became so popular among the rich. In 1780s Marie Antoinette famously and scandalously wore chemise a la reine made from multiple layers of Dhaka muslin. In 1790s, when the empire silhouette took over, it became even more popular, continuing to the very early 1800s, till Dhaka muslin production fully collapsed and the knowledge and skill to produce it were lost. But earlier this year, after years lasting research to revive the Dhaka muslin funded by Bangladeshi government, they actually recreated it after finding the right right cotton plant and gathering spinners and weavers skilled in traditional craft to train with it. (It's super cool and I'm making a whole post about it (it has been in the making for months now) so I won't extend this post more.)
Marie Antoinette in the famous painting with wearing Dhaka muslin in 1783, and empress Joséphine Bonaparte in 1801 also wearing Dhaka muslin.
While the trans-Atlantic slave trade was partly funded by the cotton trade and industrial English cotton, the slave trade would also be used to bolster the emerging English cotton industry by forcing African slaves to work in the cotton plantations of Southern US. This produced even more (and cheaper (again slave labor)) raw material, which allowed the quick upward scaling of the cotton factories in Britain. Cotton was what really kicked off the industrial revolution, and it started in England, because they colonized their biggest competitor India and therefore were able to take hold of the whole cotton market and fund rapid industrialization.
Eventually the availability of cotton, increase in ready-made clothing and the luxurious reputation of cotton lead to cotton underwear replacing linen underwear (and eventually sheets) (the far superior option for the reasons I talked about here) in early Victorian Era. Before Victorian era underwear was very practical, just simple rectangles and triangles sewn together. It was just meant to protect the outer clothing and the skin, and it wasn't seen anyway, so why put the relatively scarce resources into making it pretty? Well, by the mid 1800s England was basically fully industrialized and resource were not scarce anymore. Middle class was increasing during the Victorian Era and, after the hard won battles of the workers movement, the conditions of workers was improving a bit. That combined with decrease in prices of clothing, most people were able to partake in fashion. This of course led to the upper classes finding new ways to separate themselves from lower classes. One of these things was getting fancy underwear. Fine cotton kept the fancy reputation it had gained first as an exotic new commodity in late 17th century and then in Regency Era as the extremely expensive fabric of queens and empresses. Cotton also is softer than linen, and therefore was seen as more luxurious against skin. So cotton shifts became the fancier shifts. At the same time cotton drawers were becoming common additional underwear for women.
It wouldn't stay as an upper class thing, because as said cotton was cheap and available. Ready-made clothing also helped spread the fancier cotton underwear, as then you could buy fairly cheaply pretty underwear and you didn't even have to put extra effort into it's decoration. At the same time cotton industry was massive and powerful and very much eager to promote cotton underwear as it would make a very steady and long lasting demand for cotton.
In conclusion, cotton has a dark and bloody history and it didn't become the standard underwear fabric for very good reasons.
Here's couple of excellent sources regarding the history of cotton industry:
The European Response to Indian Cottons, Prasannan Parthasarathi
INDIAN COTTON MILLS AND THE BRITISH ECONOMIC POLICY, 1854-1894, Rajib Lochan Sahoo
I had the WORST thought: Moist von Lipwig's gold suit, but make it ALL 1830s fashion except for the hat. Imagine the poor guy in this tragedy ridden getup in all its golden glory!
What if the floral waistcoat had golden cabbages or stamps instead of flowers?
N.B. If you are a fan (and possibly costumer) of 1830s fashion/historical interpreter for this era/something else of that nature, please trust that I mean no offense. I understand that everyone has different tastes and opinions, and I appreciate your interest (and work) in dress history/historical costuming/teaching history/other. I respect that, I truly do.
This being said, 1830s fashion is not to my personal taste; while I can and do make fun of historical fashions I like, I find it easier to make fun of 1830s fashions. Everything was so exaggerated, as is my level of distaste.
However, if you would like to discuss the merits of 1830s fashion (if there were any, I jest) or share your 1830s costume/antiquities/other, I will be impressed that you found this at all and then decided to respond or impressed by your dedication and work in recreating or that you have an original piece, and will still wish you well despite our different preferences.
I’ve been rambling a bit about feminism lately, not sorry, and specifically about feminism and the practicality of corsetry. Well, here’s a video dissecting some other “stupid” fashions that women used to wear, that might not have been as ridiculous as “performed femininity” alone.
- Ridiculous puffy sleeves made it difficult for men to touch women’s arms without permission.
- Gigantic hoop skirks made a personal bubble where men simply could not approach women without permission, and made it possible for women to flash the forbidden LEG at men they did want in their bubbles, so to speak, without too much censure.
- Oversized bonnets made it very, very difficult for men to “steal a kiss,” which men thought was saucy flirting rather than, you know, sexual assault.
- Bustles made it almost impossible to grab a woman’s butt without permission.
- Those insane hats made it so that “respectable” ladies simply could not go out in public without a pointy metal object large and strong enough to be used as a weapon for self-defence.
Just remember that if most of the articles complaining about “frivolous” women’s fashion are written by men, there’s probably a real reason why men, specifically, were annoyed by them. Peformed femininity is a thing, yeah, but women in history dealt with the same shit we do now and they had to come up with their own solutions to it.
I was talking to my mom about how exciting it is that the field of fashion history is now a recognized academic field, but I mentioned how, like most academic fields in the beginning stages, it's very eurocentric. At most you'll get dress historians who focus on Chinese and Korean fashion but I'm really interested in indigenous or African or South American fashion but that's very understudied because it's hard to parse those areas from the colonial influence they were conquered by
But then I realized that I could be that person who expands the field to those new areas and I just got SO excited