Friday, December 9, 2016

Friday Video: Early Erotica? A Victorian Woman Undresses, 1896

Friday, December 9, 2016

Isabella reporting,

This super-short film (a little over a minute) has been popular on social media recently, and for good reason, too. For modern costume historians, it's the perfect way to see all the layers of clothing an Englishwoman wore in 1896 - and how quickly she could remove those layers, too.

But documenting a woman's wardrobe wasn't the original point of this film. Here's the information supplied by the British Film Institute:

"Is this Britain's oldest erotic film? Modern viewers might question how genuinely erotic it is. But it certainly pushed the boundaries of what was permissible in 1896 - and there's little doubt that it was intended to titillate. Erotica being what it is, it's possible that other (and perhaps more explicit) examples exist in private hands, but this is certainly the oldest surviving British film of its kind that we know of.

"Also known as A Woman Undressing, the film is credited to Brighton-based pioneer Esmé Collings _ making it one of very few of his films to survive. Alongside rather more demure films from around the same time, such as Grandma's Reading Glass (1900) and As Seen Through a Telescope (1900), it demonstrates that early filmmakers - even in these comparatively inhibited islands - were quick to realize the new medium's implicit voyeurism."

Victorian Lady in Her Boudoir by Esmé Collings, 1896, BFI.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

A Cabinet (of Curiosities?) for December 1828

Thursday, December 8, 2016

1828 Cabinet
1828 Cabinet description
Loretta reports:

As we’ve seen, a great deal of Regency and Romantic era design does not operate on the principle of Less is More. This cabinet is a fine example of the Decorated-Within-An-Inch-of-Its-Life mode. It’s also the kind of piece I might find myself using in a scene: the little drawers and pigeonholes, the objects sitting on top, and who knows what below, behind the doors …

1828 Cabinet Description

Clicking on the image will enlarge it.  Clicking on the caption will take you to the source, where you can learn more and enlarge images as needed.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Extraordinary Style of the Countess Greffulhe

Tuesday, December 6, 2016
Isabella reporting,

French women have always had a reputation for being fashionable, but Élisabeth de Caraman-Chimay, the Countess Greffulhe (1860-1952) made fashion into an opulent gesture of self-expression. While she was known as a patroness of artists, writers, and musicians and as a hostess whose salons attracted the most brilliant members of European society, it is her sense of style that makes her so memorable today.

There are two reasons for this. First, she was immortalized as the fictionalized Oriane, Duchesse de Guermantes, in the famous novel À la recherche du temps perdu by Marcel Proust. Second, her family preserved much of her famous wardrobe. The highlights of this collection are currently on display in the exhibition Proust's Muse: The Countess Greffulhe at the Museum at FIT in New York City through January 7, 2017. (Many of the pieces appeared first in an earlier exhibition organized by the Palais Galleria, Musée de la Ville de Paris, the permanent repository of the Countess's wardrobe.)

It's an amazing show. The earliest pieces date from 1887, when the Countess was a teen-aged newlywed. Already her taste - and her daring - are on display. There's a sleeveless, black lace bodice that would have been worn over a colored gown, not-so-subtle transparency that must have been shocking at the time.

By the later 1890s, the Countess was not only commissioning clothing from premier couturiers like the House of Worth, but collaborating with them, pushing the designers to create the dramatic clothing she craved. She loved to be the center of attention wherever she went, and journalists devoted countless words to describing what she wore to the opera or theatre. She posed for photographers like Paul Nadar, and polished her "image" before that very-modern sense of the word existed.

One of her most famous dresses by Worth, above left, was known as the "lily dress" for its bold black-and-white embroidered design. The photograph, above right, shows the Countess wearing the dress, with her pose carefully staged with the mirror to display both the dress, and her own beauty.

To me perhaps the most extraordinary thing about the exhibition is that it includes clothes worn by the Countess throughout her long life, from the heavily corseted dresses of the Belle Epoque to the narrower silhouette of the early 1910s, lower left, to straight, beaded shifts of the 1920s, lower right, to the beautifully cut and sinuous dresses and suits of the 1930s. Certain elements of her taste (for example, she frequently wore the color green, flattering to her auburn hair, and she loved exotic Byzantine prints and motifs) remain, weaving in and out of the changing fashions. Yet always her clothes remained constant to who she was, and how she wished to be seen - and remembered.

Unfortunately the Musée de la Ville de Paris prohibited visitor photography. You can see more of the Countess's dresses here, on the the exhibition's blog, and on the museum's Flickr account here.

Many thanks to Nicole Bloomfield, Costume & Textile Conservator, and Ariele Elia, Assistant Curator of Costume & Textile, Museum at FIT, for their help with this post.

Upper left: Evening gown, known as "La Robe aux Lis" (the lily dress) c1896, by House of Worth. Photograph by L. Degraces et Ph.Joffre/Galliera/roger-Viollet.
Upper right: The Countess Greffulhe by Paul Nadar, c1896. 
Lower left: Evening dress, c1913, by Pierre Bulloz. Photograph ©Zach Hilty/
Lower right: Evening dress, c1925, by Jenny. Photograph ©Zach Hilty/
Bottom left: The Countess Greffulhe in a Ballgown by Otto Wegener, c1887.
All images from Palais Galliera, Musee de la mode de la Ville de Paris.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Holiday Gift Ideas for 1913

Monday, December 5, 2016
Gifts for 1913

Loretta reports:

Instead of a fashion plate for the 1910s (yes, we’ve come that far in the year’s survey), I’m presenting a few pages of the Ladies' Home Journal holiday gift ideas from their November 1913 issue.

I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t mind receiving some of these myself!

If you’re desperately missing the monthly fashion plate, here’s one from the December 1913 Delineator, with several more pages of fashion following.

Gifts for 1913
Gifts for 1913

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Breakfast Links: Week of November 28, 2016

Saturday, December 3, 2016
Breakfast Links are served - our weekly round-up of fav links to other web sites, articles, blogs, and images via Twitter.
• The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and the Hessians of the American Revolution.
• Edgar Degas and Miss LaLa at the Cirque Fernando.
• The unsung woman artist behind your tarot cards.
• The dancing plague of 1518.
• Her Majesty has an eye-watering collection of miniature things.
• When Felix the Cat took down an airplane at the 1932 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Image: Shakespeare in brick.
• That time when the mother-of-the-bride stole all the attention in a jeweled Byzantine gown designed by Worth.
• Whatever happened to Pre-Raphaelite model and muse Fanny Cornforth?
• Updated for modern cooks: a 17thc recipe for a marmalet of pippins (for those can't resist apples in season.)
Image: 17thc gold and enamel memento mori ring, to remind the wearer of the brevity of life.
• Explore the life and reign of Elizabeth I in her own words.
• Guy Fawkes' lantern.
• How Charles Dickens kept a beloved pet cat alive (sort of.)
• Nicknames of the French royals in the 18th-19thc.
• Fashion is not a matter of size, except when it is.
Image: Restraint clothing used at Bedlam Hospital in the early 19thc.
• Granddaughtes of the revolution: modern descendents of early suffragists recall the work of their ancestors.
• Now to read online: a 17thc registry of Scottish men and women accused of witchcraft.
• A Stuart prince reappears in Baltimore.
• The wayward youth of John Adams.
• "Her slip is always showing": Picky bosses and their pet peeves about their secretaries, 1945.
• Gambling, cheats, and Voltaire's Madame de Chatelet.
Image: Just for fun: the only celebrity autograph worth having.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring. Private collection
Two Nerdy History Girls. Design by Pocket