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Friday, December 28, 2012

More research on Pandora - 18th century fashion mannequins

I found some fabulous information in a paper called: Pandora in the Box – Travelling around the World in the Name of Fashion by Lydia Maria Taylor.
It looks at the origins of the Pandora mannequin and the way in which they marketed fashion around the world. 
This is the best information I have found to date on Pandoras and includes a great bibliography and list of notes.
I won't repeat the content here, it's not long but well worth the read.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

When is an 18th century wig stand not a wig stand?

I posted recently on my research into 18th century wig stands because I am attempting to make a wig stand more fitting for my 18th century style wigs (link to post) than the usual polystyrene head from the bargain shops.
And I found some very elaborate stands described as 18th century wig stands but for the love of Mike I could not work out how a wig was perched on a stand like this!
And as it turns out they weren't! 
These misleadingly called wig stands were not for standing your wig on. 
They did in fact, hold a small basin and perhaps some wig powder and stood in front of a mirror so you could adjust and primp your 18th century wig while dressing. 
I am indebted to Buffalo Architecture and History for clearing this up for me because I was stumped as to how a wig could be placed on them. A bowl yes, a wig no! Yay for research on the web! And yes I am still working on said wig stand but Christmas kind of pushed everything back a little.  Hope you all had a good one!

Yet another Marie Antoinette shoe goes to auction

Auctions over recent months seem to have flushed out yet more relics of the tragic Queen of France.
Another shoe reportedly owned by Marie Antoinette has been auctioned by Fraysse et Associes (full description in french) on 5 December this year.
The shoe was allegedly broken when the royal family was removed to the National Assembly from the Tuileries when it was besieged by the revolutionary Fédéré militias on 10 August 1792.
Marie Antoinette allegedly gave the broken shoe to Baron Emmanuel Aubier (who had escorted the royal family from the Tuileries) at his request
He also escorted the family the following day (11 August) from the Assembly to Feuillants (this is the day the shoe was given to him - the date is on the base the shoe rests on). 
Vivalereine on Tumblr points out that the shoe appears similar to another Marie Antoinette shoe which was said to have been given to a Captain Dorville by the Queen after he retrieved a pair of shoes from her chamber at the Tuileries.
Perhaps the two gifted shoes were indeed a pair. If anyone has any further information on Captain Dorville I'd love to hear from you.
Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

How a portrait of Marie-Antoinette helped New Orleans

Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun is one of my favourite artists.   

I've recently been reading her memoirs and so was tickled to come across an article online about one of her portraits of Marie-Antoinette on the Antique Trader website.
The portrait which is owned by the New Orleans Museum of Art was loaned out after Katrina for fundraising events to help rebuild the Museum which suffered substantial damage (as indeed did the rest of poor New Orleans).
That era of history is still having impacts on us today in so many and varied ways, even a portrait of the Queen.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Pandora 18th century fashion mannequin or religious figure?

While on the topic of 18th century fashion mannequins I have often wondered about this rather forlorn lady.
I found this photo on flickr ages ago and wondered about her. 
She may have been a religious figure rather than a fashion mannequin but she always intrigued me and I felt a little sad at her get up. 
I wanted to take her home and dress her properly. 
I am a soft touch for waifs - even dolls.
She looks like she may have a wax face (over a wooden base) rather than a straight carved wooden face. I suppose it could even be plaster, it's a bit hard to tell.
And her poor wig is a bit sub-optimal, isn't it! I hope she has found a good home.

Then there is this rather beautiful legless lady. 
Her tumbling locks do not particularly suggest a french fashion doll but she is certainly lovely.
There is something about her that makes me think of Italy and she is listed as being 18th century. 
Those of you who have made stays will likely know which era they look to be.
Perhaps the lack of legs is because she never had any but rather a cage as many religious figures do.

I also stumbled upon another intriguing mannequin at Packwood House near Warwick, this time from the 19th century. Experts believe this one was used by artists as a body double for aristocratic sitters. Using the mannequin for the pose meant less time for the sitter to fidget. The mannequin is remarkably detailed and will only move just as humans do. She is jointed down to her finger tips! So it was certainly designed and crafted solely to mimic human postures.

There is something fascinating about these figures whatever their origins. 

Photos of the lady with the crown by David Zellaby.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Pandoras and 18th century fashion mannequins

If you're interested in 18th century clothing then in all likelihood you've read about Pandoras. 
Known as early as the late 14th century, these little wooden figures or poupées de la mode were used to advertise the latest fashions. 
A small dressed doll-like figure could more easily be transported to distant cities to promote the latest styles rather than a full-sized outfit.
The original doll-sized figures of  the first half of the 18th century, gradually increased and assumed more life-sized proportions though I can't see large Pandoras being transported across Europe. They were more likely the forerunner of our store mannequins allowing ladies to see the full effect of stylish new modes.
During the War of Spanish Succession when France was at loggerheads with England, a special dispensation was made to allow Pandoras in all their finery to cross the border (despite a trade embargo) such was the demand for the latest fashions from Paris.
This life-sized mannequin from Pelham Galleries circa 1765 is complete with beautiful sacque covered in metallic lace, paste brooch, paste sleeve buckles (HOLY COW - never thought of that innovation), pearl earrings, wig and wooden shoes painted to match the dress. 
At 5'9" she is well and truly life-sized even by modern standards. She is mounted on an iron pole which perhaps allowed her to be swivelled around to show off various features of the toilette.
I am truly fascinated by these figures. This one has intricately carved hands which would have made dressing her more difficult if my experience with dolls hands are anything to go by. The right hand is carved with the thumb and index finger touching. The left in true Gallic fashion seems to be in an attitude of asking 'pourquoi?'.
It's worth reading the full description of this lovely girl at the link above which has good zoomable pictures, and there is a good image of the back of the wig styling.
Oh how I wish I could see how she was constructed. But those sleeve and sleeve buckles alone a delight. I can see them in my future!
Photos from the Pelham Galleries website.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

17th - 18th century clay wig curlers

I love eBay, you never know what will turn up.  
Like these clay wig curlers dated 17th -18th century found in Oxford.
They look lovely but the bids are going up! Get in now if you're interested.

Or perhaps you prefer these miniature bellows for powdering your wig. How divine. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

My DIY 18th century wig stand Part 1

It's all very well having a lovely 18th century wig but how do you keep it in good order and not get it messed up?
Wigs really need to be on a stand to support them so they keep their shape. And under cover so they don't get dusty.
I could of course use the usual polystyrene head (which is what one of my wigs is currently reposing on) or metal/plastic wig stand but really, my 18th century style wig deserves a nice 18th century style wig stand.
I've come across a variety of styles whilst researching. 
There is the porcelain/pottery style which you see in the opening credits of the movie 'Dangerous Liaisons' and which you could probably replicate in paper mache. But that would take me way too long to make and I don't know that I'd be happy about paint and sealing products being in contact with the wig.
Then there is the wooden type that barrister's still use for their wigs but they cost the earth.
I've seen many variations on this type, painted, varnished, some with wooden mushroom style tops and some with a padded fabric head piece you can pin into to keep the wig stable. I have wondered if some weren't in fact hat stands rather than wig stands but who knows.
There is also the carved wooden head type which give the wig a good stable structure. 
Others were made of linen and there were even hollow leather ones (pictured) which had a little door in them so tools or accoutrements could be kept inside. Looks a bit too much like the Man in the Iron Mask for me.
I like the idea of a wooden wig stand with a padded top so I've decided to make my own.
And I particularly like this one with the green velvet top but would like the head part to be bigger - so it provides more substantial support for the whole wig rather than just the top of it. 
So really I want a cross between a carved wooden head style and a padded top.
Wig stands usually have a reasonable size base to keep them stable and vary in height but since I don't want my ringlets getting all tangled I decided I'd like one that's around 12 to 15 inches tall.
I could contact local wood turners but I'm a bit impatient.
So the question was what could I use to make a wig stand? 
I thought about fancy turned wooden stair railings but then it occurred to me that a wooden candle holder might be a good option.  A wooden lamp base might work too but a candle stick was much easier to find.
So herewith is my soon-to-be wig stand. 
It's actually quite a bright aqua blue colour which might need taming down a little.
I'm thinking cream linen or a Toile de Jouy fabric for the padded top. 
I haven't seen any extant wig stands that used Toile de Jouy but thought it would look delightful without being anachronistic (even if it is unlikely).
Oh and by the way, there were more elaborate styles of wig stand like this George III era one with its own little drawers. 
I am still not sure how the wig sat on them but they look like they'd have been more expensive. 
I've yet to see a picture of a wig on one of these stands so if you find one please let me know!
I'll show you my progress next post!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Hair of a great 18th century BIGness

I'm lucky enough to have two 18th century style wigs, both of which I bought some time ago.
I wasn't going to post about them until I had my whole outfit together - stays, chemise, dress etc etc but hell that could take forever!
So I'll tell you about my wigs! 
The first was a Mrs Lovatt wig (not at all like Helena Bonham Carter's) I bought online from a costume shop and I have to say for an inexpensive costume wig it was pretty good. That's it below. It cost about $30 and is the one I'm wearing in my profile picture.
It really is very like the promotional picture after you do a little styling. It didn't need much.
It came with good side curls (done up with bobby pins) and ringlets. I think it makes a delightful 'wicked lady' type hairstyle.
I could probably tease it out a bit to make it bigger but then why not have another wig?! 
And what's bigger than a truly big hedgehog style? 
Like the wigs Marisa Berenson wore in 'Barry Lyndon' and Jane Seymour in 'The Scarlett Pimpernel' which I have posted about before.
It's the hedgehog style that really shrieks 18th century to me. Jane Seymour damn you, I want a BIG wig. 
So I went searching and bought one from 'An historical lady' and it's a winner.
It is a remarkably light wig and pretty comfortable to wear and I normally hate the way wigs feel. 
This wig is in fact very, very, very tall and would have been beloved of Monsieur Leonard - the perruquier to Marie-Antoinette. But it smooshes* down (technical term for making smaller) really, really well. I like my hedgehog style to be good and wide.
It was quite a bit more expensive than the Mrs Lovatt wig but it really is great BIG hair, not at all heavy and I'm very happy with it. 
And it's much more impressive in real life than it is in the photo (which I took with my phone cos I couldn't find the camera). 
I hope you like my wigs!  Can you guess what my next post will be about????  
Yep - wig stands! 
*(Foofing, on the other hand, is a technical term for making BIGGER!)

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Christmas cheer

I think I have waxed lyrical before about Queen of Cakes - a cake shop I frequent. If you live in Brisbane it's worth a trip to buy yourself an indulgent morning tea treat!
This week I discovered they had a new festive treat - the Christmas Pop!  They looked like mini toffee apples but with icing!

I'd never heard of cake pops before and so was quite enthralled.
I particularly like the way these are decorated. They are full of a lovely chocolatey truffle mixture and coated in icing and cute little marzipan snowflakes.
They were delicious! 
Being so taken with them I then realised I had seen cake pop makers in the Christmas catalogues that appear in the letter box each day by the bucketful.
So yes you guessed it, I have given in. 
I bought a cake pop maker which makes a dozen little cake balls ready for decorating. I'll let you know how it goes.
I have plans for red velvet Christmas pops covering in lovely snowy icing!  Mmm yum!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Taking stock and being grateful

During this season of great folly I find it easy to get caught up with rushing about and getting stressed about things that don't really matter. Christmas is often a time of sadness and despair for many people.
So today I'm taking some time out to be grateful for every precious person and experience in my life. And I have a lot to be grateful for.
I have my worries too but don't we all. 
I'm grateful for my family and friends, having a roof over my head and food on the table. I wish it were so for everyone on this planet, but it's not. 
Life isn't always about the BIG obvious things either.
I love watching Sid the Scrub Turkey building his nest next door (that's the big pile of leaves and dirt in this picture). 
I'm not sure if his mate has laid eggs yet or not. She'll only do that when it's the right temperature.
I hope the new neighbours don't boot them out. Sid's endlessly fascinating to watch and isn't at all worried about me.  
Here's a picture of him resting during the afternoon heat and keeping a watchful eye on his nest.
This is the most amazing planet I can possibly imagine. Even with it's disasters and the horrible things we do to it, this planet is a jewel in space.
I love the birds and particularly the cockatoos that squawk outside my window. 
I love the spiders webs that Eensy Weensy builds in the garden and the geckos that poo on my window sills!
The ever present cicadas and crickets that keep me company all day and all night, the neighbour's 'hello' and the summer breeze.

And then there are so many wonderful people out there, including you reading my blog. 
I love that I can read about what you are doing, how you developed your passion for the 18th century or interior decorating or gardening or cooking. People sharing ideas, fun and troubles.
Thankyou for being a part of my life.  I am so very grateful for you.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Thrift shop silver finds

My family think I'm strange. Well fair enough, I guess I am - for any number of reasons. 
Take my predilection for silver.  Most people hate cleaning and polishing silver. I find it soothing. Although sometimes I don't polish things up because the tarnish looks so grapey and lovely.
Another reason I like silver is because it makes an occasion of any meal you trot it out for. (And it doesn't break if you drop it although it might get dented.) Silver has bling factor. It's elegant and reminds me to take my time and not to rush. 
I like high tea with proper china and silver. 
I have been slowly finding all the bits and pieces I consider necessary to a proper high tea. 
And I did very well from my latest foray to the thrift shop. 
I've been looking for silver cake plates on a pedestal and I found two matching ones. YAY!
I also found a lovely fruit basket on little feet, a gorgeous teapot (also on little feet) with bakelite handle and knob AND a thing I have no name for.

The nameless thing (at left) has lots of swirly bits and a little hook or loop at the top perhaps for a spoon or possibly tongs. 
I also suspect it originally had a crystal or glass dish of some kind, perhaps for jam, relish or sugar. 
Whatever it was, I intend to find a small crystal or glass dish and maybe use it for sugar cubes with tongs or even cream for scones!  
If you happen to know what my nameless thing is please let me know. Otherwise it will be  destined to go through time as 'the nameless thing'!
As you can see I haven't cleaned it up yet.  
In fact, I might not. I kind of like that patina of age on it. 
And isn't my teapot divine!  It polished up well and pours beautifully - nothing worse than a teapot or jug that doesn't pour well!
I do quite well finding silver items - silver plate not solid, I guess because most people don't like cleaning it.  Which is good for me!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Bergere hats

I love hats, and the bergere or sherpherdess style from the 18th century is one of my favourites.
Analysing the hats in portraits and from extant examples in museums provides a lot of insight into how the bergere was constructed and worn, according to period, the hair styles, the trims, the size of the brim, and the height of the crown
Even watching movies provides some insight so long as you don't assume they are correct. Some movies do quite well in their research and some are just big hodgepodges of whatever costuming items they could find.
Museum websites are rewarding particularly in terms of the structural makeup of the hat. 
The shallow crown varies in height from almost non-existent to more substantial and perhaps this was in response to the changing hairstyles throughout the century.
The example here from the Met has a very shallow crown that almost looks like an additional piece added to the top of a completely flat disk, although the underside shows it to be conventional enough in construction. The crown has probably  become squashed down over time.

Popular throughout the 18th century the bergere's chief features were that it could be worn and trimmed in a multitude of ways.
Hairstyles of the period ranged from quite modest and close to the head becoming bigger and more impressive as the century wore on. 
Compare the relative simplicity of the bergere styling in the movie Dangerous Liaisons with the later modes from the movie The Duchess where they are worn atop huge wigs.

A classic bergere worn by Glenn Close in Dangerous Liaisons.

This time with a little lace around the edge - very delicate and feminine on Michelle Pfeiffer!

And then there is this hat. My favourite.
I wish I could find a better image to see the details! It's so amazing, you could even wear it today. Of course Glenn Close and the character she plays have hattitude - the ability to wear hats well.
It's elegance personified!

Then of course there is Miss Knightly in The Duchess. More attitude and more altitude on bigger hair! These bergeres have a higher crown though it is still not high by modern standards and the trims have become assymetrical rather than the puffed ribbon all around and feature ostrich plumes.

Other museum examples include bergeres covered completely with colourful dyed guinea fowl feathers (V&A), intricate woven straw in geometric patterns (Met), and applied raffia embroidery (V&A) just to name a few. 

So while the basic straw bergere was very popular, women of the 18th century liked variety just as much as their modern sisters. 
Milliners complied and I suspect produced far greater variety than we often assume.
Women themselves used their imaginations as they always have to embellish hats to their own tastes. 
The few surviving samples merely give us a tiny window on how varied those tastes could be.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

You can never have too many shoes...

The prolific Lauren at American Duchess has obviously been burning the midnight oil again.
Hard on the heels (smirk) of creating the nifty 23Skidoo a 1920s T-strap Spectator shoe you can now pre-order Tavistock - Victorian button boots. These look perfect for bustling about in a Victorian mourning outfit.
The 23Skidoo makes me think of 'Some like it hot' the movie with Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis and Marilyn Monroe!