Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Dances to rehearse

Christian finally managed to obtain the scan of the music score of Sophie von Erlach (maybe my asking the head of museums assistant helped a bit too), so we urgently need to practice.
The return favour for having access to this source is us giving three Sundays of performances at Château Wildegg, the first one in August. His friend Esther is currently studying the scores, we have to decide what parts of a quadrille might work on the existing music, and certainly we shall have to practise the valse and the allemande. 

A wee glimpse from an impromptu dance at the very location (not to live music, but to the famous "push the button to hear some music" installation every museum appears to have). As you can see, we didn't plan to dance, otherwise I would certainly not have worn such a long trained dress with embroidery.

Experimenting traverses to the music. Picture by E. Caramanna 

fooling around with Allemande figures. Picture by E. Caramanna

In comparison, our first impromptu dance, in Rueil Malmaison. Picture Copyright Joeri de Rocker

Sunday, 26 May 2013

HSF Challenge 7 - Accessorize: Capote or Casque? A helmet style bonnet and a combat sized réticule

Originally I planned this for the HSF Challenge #7: Accessorize - due April 8. 
Accessories add polish to your outfits, helping to create the perfect historical look. This week is all about bringing an outfit together. Trim a bonnet, paint a fan, crochet an evening bag, sew a shawl, or dye and decorate a pair of shoes to create the perfect period accessory for yourself.

But I needed the new things already for February, when I travelled to Keetje Hodshon's ball in Haarlem. The bag and the hat are made from blue cotton velvet, both lined with some silk left-overs (inside of the bag there's some piecing too).

a fan from the late 1790's with ladies copied from fashionplates - it gives you a nice look through the different styles all up and about at the same period.
Picture posted on Facebook by D. Moldoveanu

The Challenge No 7: Accessorize

Fabric: Cotton Velvet, Silk scraps
Pattern: my own for both hat and réticule
Year: 1797 to 1800. It's a wild and early style, perfect with the crazy fashion during the Consulat.
Notions: Black silk thread, ribbon (stash), feathers, silk yarn for tassels and cords.
How historically accurate is it? Fairly accurate, I'd say, given the fact that the velvet is modern and the cardboard of the brim is modern too and does not contain any textile fiber. Handsewn with stitches known and used in the period.
Hours to complete: Can't really say. All handsewn in a lazy weekend...
First worn: Keetje Hodshon's ball, February 23, 2013 (or 1813...)
Total cost: I found the velvet on sale, and the silk scraps came from my scrap. Ca. 7 to 10 Euro.

I wanted something cute, but not sugary as I am not a huge fan of bonnets, I prefer the more daring "Diva-Style" of the Consulat. Dramatic veils, trailing dresses, weird hats. And I wanted it to be versatile more or less practical. 

Inspiration for the casque (helmet)

What made me construct the casque the way I did
And now we come to the various chapeau de velours:
Not just black hat with black feathers, but more daring colour contrast works out as well. I know that it's a very nice contrast, but I usually feel better if I have something contemporary to back up my feelings.

Another one with lopsided feathers and double ribbons

This hat is simply a stunner. And you can see where the ribbons of my hat had their inspiration from

I simply loved the big réticule, and only realised later what a nice hat she's wearing.

And the result. The pictures with all black feathers are from the first wear, in Haarlem, while those with the mixed feathers were taken at Château de Wildegg in Switzerland, during our Sunday stroll in April.
In front of the Teylers Museum. I think it's visible that I didn't sleep much on the train. The gigantesque réticule is the other half of the challenge. In the evening my dance shoes plus an additional silk shawl found room in there too.
Picture by by A. Berkestam Drysén 

The front door, when the wind caught my pelisse and made me feel as I would fly away that very moment.
 Picture by C. Hanley. 

The Teylers Museum hosted a special exhibition of Redoutés Flowers, and we used the opportunity to snap pictures in front of "La Petite Malmaison". The belt usually wouldn't sit so low, but with a thick wool dress and fichu underneath (it was february after all), it simply started to wander down :-(
Picture by L. Lynch. 

As I received several comments that the pure black hat gives me a unhealthy complexion (despite the hat being dark blue, and not black), I added some white feathers this time for the Spring promenade

With my friend Suzanne. Twice cotton velvet used for hats, but two different results.
Picture by E. Caramanna

Walking down the hill with J. and F.  The dress (Nicknamed Laure) would be the Flora and Fauna entry, with the exception that the embroidery doesn't show on the pictures, and I couldn't enter it. Again the giant réticule what housed many many things that day. (though not the cups and saucers, those travelled in a wee basket)
Picture by E. Caramanna

With my friend Kitty. She's wearing an 1800 interpretation of her national costume.
Picture by E. Caramanna

and a rather saucy look - captured by afore mentioned Kitty (A. Schläfli). 
The hat is much fun to wear, and certainly hasn't seen the last of the styling options. 

Saturday, 25 May 2013

HSF Challenge 10 - Literature. Part 2: The pictures of the dress

Thanks to my wonderful husband I now have a fair set of pictures, and it was very difficult to choose from them. It was a very stormy day, and between freezing wind, rain (buckets of it) and hail we managed to find a short dry spell, went up to the old way cross (where the view is not too much spoiled by modern civilisation).

The dress or rather the colour of it didn't like the pictures too much, and when I tinkered with contrast, the result wasn't very satisfactory, yet we have a back shot and a front shot what show some construction details. The rest of the set are pictures in the spirit of "Sturm & Drang" and "Romanticism".
It was fun to go out of my normal classicists comfort zone, and I think this dress will get some more fresh air very soon :-) (Especially as sweetheart bought me now a black lace veil... this gives ideas indeed)

The back view, with the pleats. While many dresses have gathers, pleats appear to be much more common, especially in the earlier years.

Pulling the small veil up. I didn't take the nice one out, as I didn't trust the weather, and wore this one originally as a fichu, but so much wanted to replicate the look from the Velazquez painting. 

It was way too windy though, and there was no way the veil wanted to stay put. But at least this is one of the pictures where the front closure's coulisses can be seen. 

We then decided to play about with the wind, and use it as a help together with the big silk shawl. 

Trying for a melancholic air. The letter by my friend Théo is rather joyful, on the other hand :-)

The poppies. Despite the cold temperatures (close to freezing point last night), the poppies are out and insist that we're actually in summer. Also you see my shirt peeking up. I should remember pulling it further down next time.

Sitting at the way-cross with my 1790's edition of Kleist.  This is one of the pictures where I think the combination of black/white/red is really working out. 

A bit darker, I think a painter from the time would rather set a valley in the background than our wee hill, but we're living in the vale, not up the hill.

And trying to be in a Carus painting.

HSF Challenge 10 - Literature. Part 1: Inspiration and Thoughts what followed

The Challenge: #10: Literature - due May 20. In this challenge make something inspired by literature: whether you recreate a garment or accessory mentioned in a book, poem or play, or dress your favourite historical literary character as you imagine them.

To be all honest, I am not very good with these challenges. I usually tend to follow my own schedule, and even if I manage to finish a challenge, I either lack pictures, or miss the timeframe to post them or loose the interest posting them. 
The Literature Challenge though was a challenge I was keen to enter, as I love to read. But what to make? What character, what dress? In the end, it's not as simple as that, as there is much more to women's life than just Mr. Darcy.

I've recently read the Memoirs of Hortense de Beauharnais (Daughter of Joséphine Bonaparte, Hortense implies to me the romantic image of the early 19th century, this mixture of good education, taste and melancholia. But if you read about her marriage, you can actually understand her) - and it struck me - she lost her father, when she was but a teenager (guillotined), she lost one of her children at a very young age. And the thought started forming: How many women, in literature but also real women suffered severe losses in the Period between the Directoire and the Restauration?
Nearly every woman would have suffered a loss - a mother, a father, a sister, a brother, a child, a husband. The line between life and death was so small, and so easily crossed. Let's remember Elinor & Marianne:
"Mr Harris was punctual in his second visit; - but he came to be disappointed in his hopes of what the last would produce. His medicines had failed; - the fever was unabated; and Marianne only more quiet - not more herself - remained in an heavy stupor. Elinor, catching all and more than all, his fears in a moment, proposed to call in farther advice. But he judged it unnecessary; he had still something more to try, some fresh application, of whose success he was almost as confident as the last, and his visit concluded with encouraging assurances with reached the ear, but could not enter the heart, of Miss Dashwood. She was calm, except when she thought of her mother, but she was almost hopeless; and in this state she continued till noon, scarcely stirring from her sisters's bed, her thoughts wandering from one image of grief, one suffering friend to another, and her spirits oppressed to the utmost by the conversation of Mrs Jennings, who scrupled no to attribute the severity and danger of this attack, to the many weeks of previous indisposition which Marianne's disappointment had brought on." Jane Austen, Sense & Sensibility
We all know that Marianne recover. But what we most of the time forget: Elinor was in risk of losing a beloved sister, only months of having lost a father. The loss of a close relative is a simple matter of fact in the literature of the time, I concentrate here on Austen, because she's best known to most participants of the HSF - think of Anne Elliott's mother. Of the threat of losing Mr Bennett, of Emma Woodhouse's mother - but also remember that Kleist's Marquise von O lost her husband. 
If we venture a bit further into the 19th century, we have Tolstoy looking back - and again - it's the red line - by the end of the book Natascha Rostova would have lost a brother (Petja), her ex-fiance and love Andrej - both during the war - even her father. Maria Bolkonskaya lost her sister in law (childbirth), her brother (war) and her father. 

Closer to home - at Wildegg the writer of the château's records, Sophie von Erlach, a very sophisticated and learned lady, lost a friend Marie Louise Saint-Simon Montléart in 1804 who was buried in the woods behind the château. And until this day, each evening music is played each evening (nowadays of course from a tape) out there in the forest, where amidst trees and sprouting life a young woman was laid to rest, and sweetly remembered by her writing friend for many decades to come. 
As we can see, in this period of classicists ideals, we have romanticism preparing. We're only a couple of years away from painters as Caspar David Friedrichs wonderful paintings full of longing and melancholia, or this wonderful work by Carl Gustav Carus: 

I simply asked myself - how can I render homage to all the women who's stories, fictional and real inspire us, and how to be close to the thousands of women who's stories remained untold? The black dress would be the link, and while it's not all "mourning" I could still use it in a more fashionable context. (Another advantage in my eyes: Ink-stains will never show...)

The custom of mourning wasn't yet so strictly observed yet as it's in Victorian England, but most women would have had to wear black for a couple of months, and if misfortune prevailed, more often than they would have liked to. When I started with the colour boards on Pinterest, I sorted black into its own category. (By now the colour boards are a team-effort, several friends are contributing and the database is growing steadily). And while some paintings are clearly depicting a state of mourning, others were very fashionable, daring even. 

Comtesse Vilain XIIII (1780-1853), wife of Philippe Vilain XIIII, who was ennobled by Napoleon in 1811. She was lady-in-waiting to the Empress Marie-Louise. After the fall of Napoleon she had to escape to Brussels, where David, also in exile, fulfilled the portrait. In the portrait the Comtesse is with her five-year-old daughter, Louise. Her husband was still alive, when this painting was commissioned.

Portrait of Ann Penington, by Gilbert Stuart, 1805. The silhouette in her hands is some how saying: It's not just me, there would have been another girl in this picture, if only... 

But I also encountered some remarkable ladies, what gave me the impression "Live goes on, mourning doesn't last forever" - and had my interest in stark colour contrast spiked (I love strong contrasts. White with red. White with dark blue. White with black. Why not black with Red and white?)

Zacarías González Velázquez (Spanish, 1763-1834) Portrait of a Lady with a Fan (Retrato de dama con abanico), c.1805-10 Oil on canvas

Fabric:  fine black linen
Pattern:  my own
Year:  1796-98
Notions: black yarn, some ribbon for the coulisses.
How historically accurate is it?:  I think quite accurate, At least accurate enough that it would not fall out of everyday life if transported back in time. The dress is hand-sewn, with appropriate stitches for the time, the fabric cut into period width panels before starting to cut them, the thread-count quite the norm for period weaves.
Hours to complete:  not that many, actually. I can't really say, as I worked on and off for about 6 days, it was just some sort of "lazy" project when I didn't want to think.
First worn:  May 25, 2013 at the Gheidkreuz near Olten for the pictures. 
Total cost:  As I only had to buy the linen, I dare say about EUR 40.-? 
Props for the photoshoot:  Ewald Christian von Kleist "Sämtliche Werke" - edition of 1790 (no, not the same Kleist as the one with the Marquise von O), some handwritten letters from my correspondents. The earrings are not real coral, but from the 1950's (the weight is close to real coral, and they are facetted, but I don't like buying new coral as they are endangered, and period one cost an arm and a leg. The necklace is period coral see-pearls though, the re-threading took about 3hrs per strand. The embroidered veil is from the first half of the 20th century, the silk shawl a simple bit of plumetis-silk.