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Doorframe Audit (part 15)

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on the second day of christmas; 1830’s and 1660’s

two secret loves - well, not exactly. you’ve almost certainly heard me get indignant about how nobody gives a damn about the 17th century at least once, and the other is not so much secret as i keep it quiet because it seems everyone hates this era in fashion.

there’s a lot i could have picked as far as much underused and horribly maligned periods of fashion history that i inexplicably want to drape myself all over. the pouter pigeon blouses of mid-edwardian england. the florentine renaissance (venice is not the centre of the world, goddamnit). the round robe. the robe volante. the motherfucking mantua. pre-tudor. post-tudor. anything that doesn’t come from england, france, italy or america in a definite, non-transitional period of fashion, lets be honest.

but i picked one style that everyone i’ve met (barring… one?) seems to hate and mock - hell, i did too when i first encountered it, what can i say it’s grown on me - but i think is going to suddenly become much more popular, and one which sadly it seems nobody pays the slightest attention to.

i give you the 1830s and the 1660s, ladies and gents.

this is also a chance for me to wax poetical on two things (well, really one thing and a sub-thing which is such a large and prominent expression of the first thing that it deserves addressing separately) that really bug me about historical costuming - people who half-ass or undermine the aesthetic, and people who don’t trim

but first - the 1830s, also known as late romantic. if you don’t know your costuming history, the romantic period is this awkward bit of fashion in between the regency period (bbc jane austen adaptations) and the crinoline era (gone with the wind). waists dropped, fabrics became more substantial, skirts got big, but sleeves got bigger. the late 1820’s are the big everyone seems particularly un-fond of, largely due to the fact that waists are still high and the sleeves are bloody enormous. and i mean enormous.

in fact, they got so enormous that for a brief period women wore sleeve supports. the ones above are padded - as an example, one of the materials that might be used was horse hair. this is the consistency your sofa stuffing is aiming for, only heavier. i’ve also seen boned shoulder cages. madness. delicious madness.

but in the 1830’s, the enormous sleeves… well, they stay enormous, but they drop off the shoulder and become softer. the line of the shoulder slopes, aided by large collars, frills and fichu that fan over the sleeves. the waist drops again to only slightly higher than natural. the skirts get bigger, although since the cage crinoline hasn’t yet been invented, this is achieved by reinforcing the skirts themselves, sometimes with wadding around the hems, and somewhere between three and seven layers of petticoats, often quilted and reinforced with horse hair braid (called crin. these are in fact the first crinoline).

lets see. sloping shoulders, high waist, large skirts, big sleeves, lots and lots of petticoats. this is all the things i love.

the other thing to take into consideration is that this is when jane eyre (became a film earlier this year), great expectations (new bbc adaptation came out this christmas) and wuthering heights (i expect a new adaptation next christmas at the latest, once they’ve run out of twilight movies, because they’ll be able to sell it on the back of being bella’s favourite book, whatever, lets just enjoy the smouldering angst on moorlands) are set, and most adaptations seem to go for the off-the-shoulder late romantic style because it’s more appealing to the modern eye than the earlier ones.

and i’ve got six metres of grey silk just waiting for me to have time in my schedule to start.

alright, lets move on to the 1660s. although i’m not wrong in saying that nobody loves the 17th century, that’s a hundred years worth of clothes and some of them do indeed get costumed. just… not that many.

if you want to get into detail, have a shufty at 1600 to 1650 and 1650 to 1700 in fashion, courtesy of wikipedia, who actually don’t do half bad on this count. but lets have a looky at the dress that inspired this particular doodle.

this is maria theresa of austria, wife of louis xiv, circa 1665. yeah, yeah, i nicked the kid’s hat, it was much cooler.

i do suggest clicking through to see a full size version, because the detail on that dress is obscene

now, this is a good time to talk about my personal gripe with historical or vintage costuming, because the big thing with these two eras is that they have very distinct aesthetics. in the case of the 1830’s, it’s the silhouette, which is designed to accentuate the neck - a part of the body we don’t pay much attention to these days. you reduce the sleeves, drop the waist to natural or below, reshape the neckline, put a cage instead of the petticoats under the skirts - because that’s a modern aesthetic that flatters modern sensibilities - and what, exactly, was the point?

if you’re going to do a historical costume, go for it. do it the way it would have been done. forget modern aesthetics. unlike modern clothes, anything pre-1955 is so aggressive in shaping and concealing the body, rather than being shaped by it and revealing it, that you are not going to look bad. you can’t impose modern aesthetics on historical costume, and the biggest no-no, as far as i’m concerned, is minimalism.

historical costuming is not minimalist. historical costuming isn’t even subtle. and this leads me on to my other pet peeve - people who don’t use trims.

… did you look at that dress?

trim does not have to be expensive. you do not need to spend hours hand embroidering or learn lace making (p.s. stop tea dying lace, it goes that colour from age, if your dress is supposed to be new then your lace should be white) or - well, no, okay, beading always takes a long time but seed beads are a modern invention, go big. you can be surprising creative with modern trims. there are ways and means. ways and means.

a dress left untrimmed is a dress half finished. get the bling on that baby.

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