The Fashions of Fiction at Shippensburg University, Part 2

Today I finish up my review of The Fashion of Fiction, starting with one of my favorites, Cranford, by Elizabeth Gaskell.

If you aren’t familiar with Cranford, a word of warning – there is no real plot. The chapters are like stories all based around the primarily female inhabitants of the village of Cranford. It’s a terribly old-fashioned place, struggling to come to grips with the modern age.

On the left is a circa 1837-1841 cotton print gown with matching capelet. On the right is a circa 1820s wrapper, or a robe we would call it today. The cap (circa 1830s) was an important accessory for the ladies of Cranford. A new gown might be too costly to consider, but a new cap was attainable for even the poorest resident.

Accessories were often made at home, especially if the object could be knit or crocheted.  This selection of nineteenth century accessories could have been made by any accomplished needleworker.

It was said that the last gigot sleeve (fashionable in the early 1930s)  was seen in Cranford. It were this dress, I can see why the wearer was reluctant to give it up. Under the big sleeves are sleeve plumpers, which were usually attached to a woman’s corset, and which were necessary to maintain the puffiness of the gigot. The bonnet is an early nineteenth century calash, which folded like the cover of a calash carriage.

And look at her feet.

Over her silk slippers, our model is wearing pattens, which elevated the wearer’s feet out of the dirt and mud of the streets.

I read Madame Bovary my freshman year in college, and I’ll admit I was much too young (or, perhaps, immature) to understand Emma Bovary. I haven’t been able to convince myself to revisit it, though someday maybe I will.

On the right is a wedding gown of the type Emma would have worn on her wedding day in the early 1840s. The dress actually belonged to Mary Winchester Cunningham, who married in 1843. The veil was worn by bride Sophia Raburg Hall, a few years earlier.

I was happy to see two riding habits on display. This one dates a bit later than the dating of the book, the 1860s. I love how they has all the accouterments – the boots, the hat, and especially, the gauntlets.

Not to give the plot away or anything, but Emma Bovary spent a good deal of her time in her luxurious wrappers, entertaining her lover.

Probably the best represented of the novels presented was Edith Wharton’s Age of Innocence.  The book was written in 1920, but takes place in New York in the 1870s.

The brown dress above represents one of the minor characters, Janey Archer, the spinster sister of the male protagonist, Newland Archer. Age of Innocence has three young women characters, all of whom represent the limitations placed on them by the rules of society. Janey’s unmarried and unhappy state is reflected in her somber color choices, and her increasingly ill-fitting  dresses.

Newland Archer was betrothed to the perfect society bride, May Welland. May often wore white, a symbol of her cool nature. This stunning gown was the circa 1880 wedding dress of  Amy D’Arcy Wilson. Her marriage was a failure, but the dress, a smashing success.

 

The third young woman in the novel, is “the other woman”, May’s cousin Ellen. Even before they marry, Newland falls for the red-wearing and exciting Ellen, who is, inconveniently, already married.

This stunning embroidered dress dates to around 1880, and was worn by Maria Duvall Stockett.

And finally, here are fashions that represent The Great Gatsby, written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and taking place in the summer of 1922. Hollywood has usually set the story a bit later, and so we’ve come to expect knee-length “flapper” dresses, but what the Fashion Archives and Museum gave us is much closer to the true setting. The summer dresses worn by Daisy, Jordan, and toddler Pammy would have been similar to what is shown here, though the one with blue might be a tad old-fashioned.

If you know the story, you know the significance of the man’s bathing suit. If you don’t know this, then do yourself a favor and read the book.

There was a nice assortment of evening gowns, again in the style of the early 1920s. I only wish they had Jordan Baker’s golfing ensemble!

I can’t say enough about how well put together this exhibition is. The staff and students involved are to be congratulated on an outstanding job. See it before it closes in April, 2019.

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The Fashions of Fiction at Shippensburg University

One of the highlights of my recent trip was The Fashions of Fiction from Pamela to Gatsby at the Fashion Archives and Museum at Shippensburg University. I’d never been to Shippensburg, but I know of their collection due to an exhibition I attended at the DAR Museum in Washington, DC, a few years. In that show, some of my favorite garments had been loaned from Shippensburg, and I’ve been wanting to visit ever since.

I got my chance when the Costume Society of America Southeast and Mid-Atlantic regions planned a symposium at Shippensburg. I’ll be posting more about the symposium, but today is all about FA&M.  As you can see above, the curator, Karin Bohleke, chose seven works of fiction, and then illustrated the characters through the use of the types of clothing they would have worn. This is not a new concept, as it especially pertains to Jane Austin, but the choice and range of the novels was interesting in that it also presented a sort of fashion timeline, with a few gaps.

It was also interesting because not all the characters were rich, and not all were white. I liked that there was a mix of female and male authors. There was not only women’s clothing, but also that of men  and children. It really helped that I had read five of the seven works, and I’ll go ahead and suggest that any of you who might be visiting Shippensburg before this exhibition closes in April, should have read all seven novels.

I had not read Pamela, but there was a short synopsis of each novel, and notes concerning how garments were important to the story.  Pamela had been a lady’s maid, but she inherited finer things when her mistress died. The blue silk gown dates to circa 1750, but was later refashioned. The petticoat was made by Mary Marsh Leggett, and dates a bit later.

Detail of gown and petticoat

Accessories play a big role in Pamela, with pockets standing as a symbol for  concealment. This lovely pocket is wool on linen, circa 1750. The shoes were worn by Hannah Breck for her 1737 wedding in Massachusetts.

This is a housewife from the early nineteenth century. Every lady’s maid would have carried one in her pocket.

Men’s clothes were also important to the story. Pamela finally shows her love for her mistress’s son by sewing a waistcoat for him, this after he tried to impress her with a fancy gold lace waistcoat. This silk with gold embroidery coat was stunning.

Ourika was a young Senegalese woman who had been taken to France and who was educated by a rich family. All’s well until she realizes that as a black woman she has few prospects in the marriage market, regardless of her accomplishments.

The brown gown dates a bit later than the white, circa 1795. It shows the coming fashion associated with the last years of the eighteenth century, and the first ones of the nineteenth.

You can barely see the shoes associated with both dresses, but they too are antique. I hate exhibitions where the accessories are so in one’s face that they overshadow the clothes, but this was an instance where I wished for a little more shoe.

Ourika’s gown is made from silk woven in the famous Spitalfields of London, circa 1770. Can cloth this fine even be woven these days?

I’m guessing there are few among us who have not read Jane Eyre. My big confession is that I really did not care much for the book; even after three readings I’ve not been able to warm to Jane and her Mr. Rochester. But no matter, as the clothes make up for the story.

Left to right:

The white wonderfully embroidered dress (circa 1815) represents the haughty Blanche.  I really wish you could see the purple checked shoes she is wearing.

Mrs. Dent is wearing a black cotton and net gown, in keeping with her more conservative character. Circa 1818. Her embroidered shawl is circa 1805.

Mr. Rochester makes his appearance in his paisley banyan, or dressing gown.

And then there is Jane:

My best dress (the silver-gray one) was soon put on: my sole ornament, the pearl brooch soon assumed. I perceived my sandal was loose; I stopped to tie it, kneeling down for that purpose. I heard the dining-room door unclose; rising hastily I stood face to face with him: it was Mr. Rochester.

Having these snippets of text from the works represented added so much meaning to this exhibition. Note how Jane’s shoe ties are loose.

One of my favorite dresses in the exhibition was this one – a circa 1800 embroidered silk evening gown. How about that purple!  The turban and sleeves are reproduction, but add much to the way the dress is presented.

I’ll finish this tour in my next post, but I have a few words to say about cooperation. Even though the Fashion Archive and Museum has a very large collection, sometimes one needs a bit of help to fill in the gaps. I mentioned earlier that I first saw some of the Shippensburg collection at the DAR Museum. They in turn, have some objects represented in this show, as does the Chester County Historical Society, collector Mary Doering, and the Maryland Historical Society. I think it is great the smaller collections can work together like this so visitors can have such a delightful experience.

Next time, more stories.

 

 

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Vintage Miscellany – October 21, 2018

We just got back from a road trip to southern Pennsylvania, by way of the Shenandoah Valley. The good thing about that route north is that one is never more than a few highway exits from a historic site or natural sight. One of our stops was at the Natural Bridge, which is actually both historic and natural. I’d been wanting to see the Natural Bridge ever since my cousin Nancy (above) visited it on a trip with our Aunt Adore and Uncle Corky in 1962.

Being gone for a while is absolutely the best thing one can do to revive interest in the world. So much to see! I put the news on hold (a big relief) and just soaked in the experiences. But the news was here waiting for me, and I do have a bit to share.

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The Art of Reweaving

This swatch is on the reverse side of a very lovely vintage skirt. You are looking at one of the best examples of reweaving I’ve ever seen.

Here is the front of the same section of the skirt. Don’t bother looking for the mends as they are completely invisible. Reweaving is one of those skills that sounds simple to acquire, but is, in fact, quite difficult to do properly. I know because I’ve tried, with varying success. I would never attempt to reweave such a complicated and finely woven plaid.

In this enlargement you can better see how the reweaver used a needle to replicate the pattern. And in the center is the hole. Reweaving is still practiced today, but be prepared to pay for the service. This is highly skilled  work.

And here’s the suit, part of the collection at Style and Salvage, a local vintage business. I love visiting and watching them work because there is always something new to see and to learn.

I can see why the original owner had this suit repaired. It is a great set, and she bought it at Miller’s, THE department store in Knoxville, Tennessee. And this was during the time that people did not see their clothing as being disposable. Repairs were considered part of the upkeep of nice things.

The curve of the collar is repeated in the pockets.

I’m not familiar with the maker, Elynor, but a trip to the trademark site told me the company first used the name in 1927. It was one of the many quality suit makers in the New York Garment District.

Stroock was, as the label clearly proclaims, a fine woolen cloth manufacturer. The history of the company dates back to 1866 as a maker of blankets of fine fibers including cashmere and vicuna.

Thanks to Mel and Jeff at Style and Salvage for allowing me to share this great suit.

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Boulton & Paul, LTD., 1898 Catalogue

This is not normally the type of thing I pick up to buy, but it’s a Goodwill bins find (aka cheap) so I got it if for no other reason than to get a good look at how the late Victorians made sports a big part of who they were. I’m talking about well-to-do Victorians, of course.

I’d never heard of  Boulton & Paul, LTD. but it was a very old company by the time this catalogue was published, with its roots going back to 1797. And years after 1898 the company got into airplane manufacturing. They were, essentially, a metal works firm, and they made everything from pails to prefab houses in their huge factory in Norwich.

I was most interested in the sporting structures, but they were probably best known as a maker of iron and glass conservatories. My local Victorian mansion, the Biltmore Estate, has two such conservatories, one being built into the center of the house itself.

By 1898 beach bathing huts were losing favor, but you could still buy one from Boulton & Paul. I especially love the little bathing chalet, which I guess was an outdoor changing room for pool-side.

The bicycle craze was still in full force, so a few biking structures had to be included.

Of course, any decent British firm would have cricket and golf pavilions. The roof verandah on the top model is a nice touch.

These pavilions don’t look very portable, but I’ll take the maker’s words for it. A short history of the company that is included in this facsimile catalogue explains that British citizens working in other parts of the Empire often ordered these while in the field for a comforting touch of home.

These tennis players would have been unfashionably dressed in 1898, but as we often see in catalogues, illustrations of stock items are not always updated with each new edition.

For those tired of retrieving tennis balls from the shrubbery, Boulton & Paul offered fencing  for the court.

And for spectators, garden tents were available. Notice the croquet player in the bottom right photo.

The type of leisure that these items represent seem a bit foreign to us today. Most people  can only visit grand old homes with their pavilions and conservatories and imagine what it must be like to be in that elusive one percent, rather like ninety-nine percent of the people in 1898 did.

 

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Fashions & Home, Outdoor Number, May, 1927

This publication straddles the line between catalog and magazine. The William F. Gable Co, was a department store in Altoona, Pennsylvania. Founded in 1884, it closed in 1990, another victim of the shopping mall.

My decision to buy this publication was based solely on the cover. How could I miss with four sports represented on the cover? Inside is a mix of articles about Paris fashions and advice on what to buy for summer sports, complete with prices. There is also an article on how to decorate a porch with wicker furniture sets beginning at $46.50.

The illustrations are really great, with a big emphasis, as promised, on sports. This woman in her pretty robe de style, is unpacking the summer things she had packed away the previous fall. Is that a bathing cap with a Scottie dog?

This could be a photograph right out of Vogue which regularly featured the real life costumes of the rich and titled.

A “two-piece Knitted Frock, a Swiss or French import…” would have indeed been the choice for the golf course.

Here we see the knitted golf  ensemble, along with the linen tennis dress.

This illustration accompanied an article on picnicking, complete with suggestions, menu, and recipes.

I suspect this haircut would have been a bit outre for Altoona, PA. The dress was designed by Madeleine des Hayes. I have never encountered the name before, so please let me know if you know more about the elusive Mademoiselle des Hayes.

The dress is about as short as hemlines actually reached in the mid to late 1920s.

In contrast is this dress.

Bouffant dance frock for the graduate with tight bodice  and long full skirt of orchid and pink taffeta, uneven hem.

Yes, as early as 1927 it was evident that hemlines were going to drop. The high-low trend of just a few years ago was truly inspired by the designers who used this trick to ease the fashionable into longer skirt lengths in 1927.

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Filed under 1920s fashion, Collecting, Fashion Magazines, Proper Clothing, Sportswear

Harford Frocks Sales Cards, 1940s

I think most of us would be familiar with at least one company that marketed direct to consumers in their homes. Examples are Avon cosmetics, Longaberger baskets, and Fuller brushes.  In most cases the salespersons were (are, as some of these are still in business) not employees of the company, but were private contractors who took orders for a commission. There were also several companies that sold clothing. One was Doncaster, who first used members of the Junior League as their “fashion consultants”. Doncaster recently closed after eighty-seven years.

Another fashion company that used direst sales was Harford Frocks of Cincinnati. Consultants were usually women, especially homemakers who wanted to make a little extra money. Each consultant had a sales kit that included cards showing all the available styles. The best part was the attached fabric swatch on each card, allowing the customer to actually feel the fabric.

I haven’t spent a lot of time researching the company so I can’t give a complete history of the company. The president was Clarence Israel, who arrived in Cincinnati in the early 1930s. His papers are held by the American Jewish Archives, but there is probably not much about his time at Harford. His more important work was as a social activist, and he worked to benefit the Jewish community of Cincinnati.

There are several interesting tidbits I want to share, however. I couldn’t find any firm dates for when Harford was in business, but the best source for trying to figure it out was Pinterest. Lots of cards are on view there, with the earliest ones dating to the mid 1920s, and the latest to the mid 1960s.

The company advertised in cheap magazines and comics, and according to the ads, the consultant got a free dress for every three she sold. I also found ads in the want ads section of Popular Mechanics.

The company was located in what is today the American Sign Museum. In 1937 the Ohio flooded, and the building was damaged. They sued their insurance company because it would not pay for damages. The insurance company won the case.

I have thirty-seven cards, but they are double-sided. They are not dated, but the designs look to be 1946 ish to me.  There are all kinds of garments, including  socks for men and “Curve Curbers” (aka girdles). There are suits for women and a few designs for little girls. But by far the best represented garment is the frock.

Each design has a fabric swatch or two, and included are the sizes available. They had three size ranges, what we would today call juniors, misses and half sizes. Some of the designs went up to a 44 inch bust.

The designs marketed to the teen market often had novelty features, like the pockets above.

This two piece dress looks like it has Schiaparelli-inspired buttons, but look closer and you’ll see that the buttons are round, and the top of the notes are embroidered onto the jacket.

Noticeably absent are pants. These shorts were the only pants in the entire set, though I have no way of knowing if some cards, which may include pants suits, are missing.

There were several sundresses with jackets. The horse fabric is a printed pique.

This is a versatile set, but it would be even more so if a pair of shorts were included.

One of the best things about post-World War Two fashion was the return of lots of color. Note that even the shoes are a bright, cherry color.

Like so much of the clothing advertising in the first six decades of the twentieth century, the fabric was up front and featured. Bates was a well-known brand of textiles, and Harford was quick to point out the connection.

Pleated to capacity!

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Filed under Advertisements, Collecting, manufacturing, Proper Clothing