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Monday, May 23, 2016

Historical Costumes

OK, my inner history geek is coming out.  I have frequently seen dresses from all the following eras labelled "Victorian" as if any historical dress is just Victorian.  Not so!!  I suppose I should let it go, but it can be fun to learn about the different ways we dressed over the centuries.  
So here we go history fans!

The Renaissance 1300 - 1600
The Renaissance was a turning point marking the beginning of our modern history.  It began in Italty with amazing changes in art and literature.

example of art from the Middle Ages 

and below from the Renaissance

The Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci

Elizabethan 1568 - 1603
Near the end of the Renaissance came the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.
Heavy Brocades, velvet, ruffs and strings of pearls and jewels,were all popularized by Queen Elizabeth I.
This was also called the Golden Age of England. 
Queen Elizabeth I

Meanwhile in Early America...things were a bit more austere.  The Pilgrims made up of mostly Quakers wore simple black dresses with white collars, cuffs and aprons.  

Baroque and Rococo 1625 - 1789
This era covers a pretty broad span of time.  Queen Anne, Georgian and Colonial eras are all part of the Baroque and Rococo fashion era.  Farthingales, panniers and hoops of all shapes and sizes upheld heavy fabrics with elaborate details of lacings, lace, jewels and embroideries.  Everything fanciful is found interwoven into the fabrics and styles of this period.

English GEORGIAN / American COLONIAL
                            King George III and General George Washington                           

This era saw two revolutions, the American and the French.  Called the Georgian era in England because it was during the reign of King George III of England.  The same King George that the American Colonists fought under General Washington in the American Revolution.  Of course we would call American fashions of the same era American Colonial.
Marie Antoinette
Small World Couture
This is a lovely example of a French style of this era.  The French court was extravagant and expensive.  Notice the sleeve ruffled at the elbow, the wide skirts and the square neckline.
All common features of dress from this era.

 A beautiful American Colonial dress.
Bows and laces like these across the stomacher were common in Colonial dress.

A lovely Colonial Teadress
A scarf like this was called a tucker, because it was frequently 'tucked' into the bodice.

A simple work dress with square neckline and small ruffle at the elbow.
Notice the tucker scarf around the neckline.

My Elizabeth modeling a Colonial dress I made from the Felicity pattern. 
Original American Girl Dress Patterns to download.

Colonial dresses were made of three parts, the main gown went on like a jacket and 
was open all down the front, a petticoat was worn under the gown.
The stomacher was the triangular inset of the bodice.
Gown and 2 stomachers

The stomacher and petticoat could be changed to make a dress look different for different occasions.

Here are Grace and Jess wearing Felicity's Ball Gown with 2 different stomachers.

These Colonial/Georgian dresses were held out to the sides with
'panniers' which came in innumerable sizes and widths.
Dollies Dressmaker
  This is the most recognizable pannier style above.  The word 'pannier'  actually means 'basket' and were frequently used as a pocket to carry small items.
On the bottom left you can see another type pocket.

This is Felicity's front dress pocket.
This is another pocket that ladies sometimes wore
under their dresses to carry small items.
 Some modified panniers I have made for my dolls. 

Felicity Merriman & Elizabeth Cole were from the Colonial era in America.

Elizabeth's summer dress.

Here is our Elizabeth wearing her dress with panniers.

 REGENCY Era 1811 - 1820
This era is called Regency because after King George lost his reason he was kept under watch in the palace and his son became 'Prince Regent', ruling in his place. 
The Prince Regent

 Also called the Empire era, the high-waisted fashions were set by Josephine, 
the wife of Napoleon Bonaparte,
which is why it is called an 'Empire' waistline.
Josephine and Napoleon

A beautiful example of a Regency dress.  Young ladies almost always wore white with blue ribbons. Ladies would drape a long shawl over their elbows and this would be their only source of warmth even in the coldest and draftiest ballrooms.  A girl wearing lavender or purple would be assumed to be in half-mourning.  This means that a year had passed since the death of a close relative.

Caroline is from the Regency Era which began just before the War of 1812.

Emma wearing one of our Regency dresses and a bonnet.

And another Regency dress we made.

Regency dresses were high-waisted with little or no crinolines.  It was a huge leap in fashion from their mother's time of boned corsets and heavy hoops and panniers. Some very daring ladies would even 'damp' their gowns to make them even more clingy!

Josefina is wearing a Regency style.
Josefina's party dress has a Spencer jacket.

A Regency dress I made for our Josefina.

Another very nice dress with Spencer and matching bonnet.

Antebellum/ Civil War 1812 - 1865
This is a time frame that overlaps the Victorian Era.

This period in time saw hoops become a full circle.  Where the Colonial hoops were flat in front and back, these hoops were full circles and frequently as large as five or six feet in diameter at the bottom. Both these dresses are examples of ball dresses from this time period.  The large hoops and elaborate details were more common in the Southern States but definitely worn by the upper classes of the North as well for balls and parties.

A nice example of a day dress.  These two dresses with their more somber hues and less elaborate details would have been worn during the day.

Marie Grace

Cecile Rey
Marie Grace and Cecil Rey are wearing shorter dresses for girls.

Day Dress

Girls day dress

Day Dresses

The Victorian era is the years during the reign of Queen Victoria of England.  This era overlaps our Civil War Era which can be seen in Victoria's dress below.  While many Victorian dresses had some similar or shared characteristics to many of the dresses that came in the preceding eras there is a definite difference. Hoops while still round were smaller and worn under layers of crinoline 

Young Queen Victoria
Early in her reign.
In this portrait the fashions still reflect those we see in our own Civil War Era. The drop shoulder and softer rounded skirts.

In the progression below you can see how dresses became more slender in the skirt and a round hoop was replaced eventually by the bustle.

I love these fashion plates from the 1800s

Doll bustle by

Ladies Walking Dress

I was reminded by my blogger friend Flo Say Hello to my Little Friends 
that right in here was the beginning of....

The Edwardian Era 1901 - 1910

Often slurred together into the 'Victorain Era' this was actually the time period beginning at the death of Queen Victoria in 1901 and extends through the First World War.  Bustles were no longer worn in favor of more comfortable crinolines alone.  
I recall my grandmother telling me how HER grandmother told her, 
"A lady never leaves the house with less than five slips. Anything less would be improper."

At this time girls dresses began having a dropped waist like Samantha's below.

Samantha and Nellie are from the Edwardian era.

Many of you will know this is the era represented in the first part 
of the PBS show "Downton Abbey".

My Molly wearing a girls Dress made from the Samantha pattern.

I hope you joyed this stroll through fashion  history as much as I enjoyed putting it together.

NOTE:  I have tried to find the links to the makers of all the beautiful dresses in this article but was not always successful.  If anyone knows who made a dress without a link PLEASE let me know!  And I want to thank all the doll dress makers that are shown here and hope my readers take a look at their beautiful dress designs.


Flo said...

Very interesting post with lots of information! I will say though that AG made a bit of a boo-boo in defining Samantha as Victorian. The time period she covers is actually Edwardian/Progressive era.

Linda Reynolds said...

This was very informational. Thank you, I really enjoyed reading this!

Brenda and Sophie said...

Thank you Linda! I sometimes worry that my little walks through history will be boring, so I am encouraged. Thank you.

Brenda and Sophie said...

Flo! You are absolutely correct. I stopped a bit short of Edwardian, but you are correct. I will make a note.

Flo said...

I find it fascinating after the Edwardian era/WW1, how rapidly fashion changed. And drastically too. I loved how they addressed this fact in Downton Abbey. Ranging from Sybil's harem pants to Lady Mary's hairstyle changes, it was a fun look back. Each subsequent decade had it's own look. Then the 1990's came and "casual Friday's" and it was all downhill from there LOL! (pass me my flannel shirt)

Brenda and Sophie said...

Yes, me too! That was really shown in the Downton Abbey series. Fashion is so fascinating to me for this reason. You can see how fashion reflects how changes in history can abruptly change fashion norms. 1990s HA, you're hilarious! (I agree though)

Jan Conwell said...

FABULOUS post! I have always been fascinated by the history of fashions (used to sew and sell medieval costuming) and this was a wonderful trip through all of that. Thanks!

Jan Conwell said...

What a wonderful post!

Brenda and Sophie said...

Thank you Jan! I think it is interesting to see how fashion has changed over time. I hope the people who label any historic dress 'Victorian' will rad it, but probably not. haha

Elle said...

Wonderful subject! I've always loved the history of fashion, and history in general too! It irks me when people get the historical time period wrong! LOL Such elaborate doll dresses too!

Brenda and Sophie said...

Thank you I'm glad you enjoyed it. Yes there are so many talented seamstresses making doll dresses. I am constantly impressed by the georgeous designs I see!

Elizabeth Mansell said...

Hey its Elizabeth from Pemberley Threads on Etsy. Thanks for including my work here on your fabulous post! It's nice to see there are collectors out there who appreciate historical accuracy and not just your run of the mill "Victorian" dresses. Victorian and historical do not go hand in hand in every case, as you have explained here. Love your blog!

Brenda and Sophie said...

Thank you SO much Elizabeth! I have greatly admired your beautiful dresses and the historical accuracy you put into them. I am so pleased you read my post and approved. :)
It drives me crazy when every and all historical costumes are labeled 'Victorian' ARGGH! I hope this post brings you lots of new customers and I am glad you approve. Thanks again.

Sophie said...

I love reading on the History of costumes, and your post is very interesting, with great ideas showing how they were adapted to doll clothes! I'm saving this on my Pinterest for future reference!

Brenda and Sophie said...

I'm glad you enjoyed this post. I had fun finding all these great doll dresses to represent the different eras in history. I hope it brings some business for the ladies whose dresses were included!