Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Men's Silk Brocade Waistcoat from the Mid Nineteenth Century


Just imported from France an early men's waistcoat from the mid 19th century.  Cream colored silk brocade waistcoat with two hip pockets trimmed with piping.  Six thread covered buttons.  Lightly padded on upper chest.  Lower front reinforced with leather back tie and buckle closures with original brass buckle.  Back in off white cotton duck.  

With dress options limited for men, one of the few options a gentleman had to display color was his waistcoat. However, even that was strictly prescribed - The Gentlemen's Book of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness from 1873 indicated that it was suitable to wear a white waistcoat to a ball, or in the city while visiting, but by 1875, Routledge's Manual of Etiquette informed readers that "white waistcoats are no longer in fashion." One further note of wisdom was added, too. "If any friend should say to you 'what a handsome waistcoat you have on!', you may depend that a less handsome waistcoat would be in better taste." Simplicity and restraint were prized above all.

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Monday, August 29, 2011

Rare Unworn Royal Worcester Maternity Corset c. 1892 

This cotton Royal Worcester maternity corset c. 1892 was donated by the president of the Royal Worcester Corset Company to the Brooklyn Museum of Art in 1950.  Deaccessioned from the Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York with original acquisition tag with accession numbers.  

This single layer cotton coutil maternity corset has two bust gores and two hip gores on each side for comfort during an uncomfortable period of life.  It is half boned with whale bone, and wrap-around adjustable straps support the back without compressing the stomach.  The center front panel has narrow horizontal rows of elastic for comfort.  An extremely unusual survival in unworn condition.

In her 2001 book The Corset, Valerie Steele blames the corset for numerous reproductive health issues that plagued women during the 19th century, up to and including miscarriages. She notes how many maternity corsets so closely resembled ordinary fashionable models, and how many women used their corset as an attempt to hide their pregnancy. This model is the exception. With its half-boned construction and wrap around adjustable straps in place of lacing, the Royal Worcester maternity corset supports the bust and the back without compressing the uterus, along the same lines as a modern belly band. 

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Saturday, August 27, 2011

Blue-Grey Emile Pasquier Silk Reception Gown c. 1885, from the Brooklyn Museum of Art

This stunning two-piece ensemble consists of a tailed bodice of triple plume pattern brocade and a trained satin skirt. The bodice is trimmed in large teardrop shaped faux pearls, accented with looped silver tinsel and rows of glittering crystal beads. Bodice is fully boned with whalebone, and even the original dress shields are still present (filled with wool or cotton wadding, for absorbency). There are small pads to fill out the upper chest, and the center front closes with hooks and eyes below the deep V neckline. The waist tape is labeled "Maison Emile Pasquier Paris."

The skirt hem has a deep scallop at center front above pleated mousseline de soie over a cadet blue silk underskirt.  This may have been for fancy dress because of the volume of ornament and overall exotic feel of the dress, but it may also have simply belonged to a very bold, very wealthy woman.

The Museum at FIT displayed a contemporaneous Pasquier gown in their 2007 
Luxury exhibition with the following label text : "Fashions of the fin de siecle used shimmering and elaborate surface decoration to create the image of Woman as an expensive, desirable object. Women in highly ornamented outfits literally embodied their husbands' wealth, becoming paragons of seductive artifice. Jean Baudrillard called this 'a production of value through exteriority.'"

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Thursday, August 25, 2011

White Cotton Coutil Corset c. 1900 Donated by the President of Royal Worcester Corset Company to the Brooklyn Museum of Art

This white cotton coutil corset c. 1900 was donated by the President of Royal Worcester Corset Company to the Brooklyn Museum of Art in 1950. 

Original acquisition tag with accession numbers.  Beautiful insertion lace trim at the top has a thin satin ribbon laced through.  Front busk closure and back lacing.  This corset is entirely machine sewn.  

Around the turn of the century, the shape of the corset began to shift, from the narrow hourglass silhouette of the 1880s to the elongated swan-like body of the Gibson girl. This new corset was touted as healthier with its new flat-front shape designed to “support the abdomen” and its lower cut that would not “suppress the bust.” This corset, when laced tightly, prevented even the small protruding abdomen of the earlier spoon busks, and it pushed the hips back and the bust forward, contorting the back into a graceful s-bend. The corset was a symbol of morality and dignity, a form of feminine armor to guard a woman from the evils of the world, and those who refused to wear them were thought “disreptuable,” and “slovenly.”

Source: The Corset, Valerie Steele 

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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Museum deaccessioned metallic gold fancy dress waistcoat c 1878.  Stamped Maison Moreau D. Baron Successor.


This  is a Brooklyn Museum of Art deaccessioned metallic gold fancy dress waistcoat c 1878.  It is stamped Maison Moreau D. Baron Successor.  This house constructed costumes for masquerades held at the royal court of Napoleon III.  Fancy dress costumes were often an expensive undertaking, and this opulent piece is no exception.  

Woven with gold tone metal threads and accented with a polychrome floral matelasse pattern, brocaded in red and blue flowers.   The waistcoat is constructed in an 18th century style, collarless, and closes with three buttons at center front decorated with rhinestones.   Three matching buttons adorn each pocket flap.  The backing is a yellow glazed linen twill.  This is the 19th century's approach to the 18th century's textiles, with better technology and grander ideas.

chest:  38 inches (96.5 cm)
front length:  31 inches (79 cm)
Back Length:  23 inches  (58.5 cm)

Fancy dress has its origins in the popular masked balls of the 18th century.  Clearly big business, one 1898 book on dance entreats its readers "The best advice we can give is as follows:  If you intend appearing in fancy dress, be guided by some qualified costumier... as we are happily not all endowed with the artistic instinct, the costumier becomes absolutely necessary if we want to make a respectable appearance in a really striking fancy costume."   Madame Delphine Baron, at the helm of Maison Moreau, seems to have been just such a costumier.  The US report on the 1867 Paris Universal Exposition praises her display:  "A few choice specimens of historical and fancy costumes for both sexes were exhibited by Madame Delphine Baron, one of the eminent practitioners in the art of costuming, which is carried to so great perfection in Paris. Its successful practice in the higher grades requires no inconsiderable historical study, and calls in play really artistic qualities."


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Two piece printed cotton day bodice and bustle overskirt 1880's

The bodice is fully boned and has box pleats, narrow cuffed sleeves, stand up collar, mother of pearl buttons and is flatlined in cotton twill.  The buttonholes are bound by hand with a buttonhole stitch.  The skirt is not lined and bustles with internal self fabric and twill tape ties.  

The unusual print resembles volleyballs or golf balls, quite playful, and certainly a conversation piece!

Bust:  30 inches (76 cm)
Waist:  23 inches (58.5 cm)
Skirt Length:  43 inches (109 cm)

The late James Laver, a curator at the Victoria and Albert museum, once noted "It seems to be one of the principles of fashion that once an exaggeration has been decided upon, it becomes ever more exaggerated." So it was with the bustle fashions of the 1880s. After a brief flirtation with a more fitted silhouette, the bustle expanded to its peak around 1885, with fashion plates depicting women resembling nothing so much as centaurs, and satiric cartoons comparing well-dressed ladies to snails, beetles, even tea trays.
Source: Four Hundred Years of Fashion, Natalie Rothstein

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