Fashion of the week - Evening-wear of 1877

This is a picture from the French magazine Journal des Demoiselles, from January 1877, showing the back of two ladies in evening-dresses - and a young girl, also with her back turned to the spectator.

The 1880's had its bustle era, as can be seen here, and so did the 1870's, but there were a few years in between when the bustle was gone - or at least almost so. These dresses are from this period and instead the skirts are very slim and narrow (but note that the bustle is not completely gone from the little girl's dress). Whether there was still a bustle or not on the dress in 1877 was different from gown to gown - a matter of taste and how daring the wearer chose to be. And it is also worth remembering that fashion seldom is very clear-cut, with one day the dresses looking one way and the next day completely different. Instead it is a gradual change.

Some things that really did not change was how to choose accessories for the evening-dress - like it had been twenty years earlier and would be twenty years later there were the long gloves and the fans. The hair and the dresses were adorned with artificial flowers and the dresses of a cut that would mimic the current fashion - and take everything one step further, the trains being longer, the neckline being lower (just like evening-wear is today - though trains are not that common).

What is more enigmatic is the black-dressed girl. It almost looks like she is in mourning - why would she otherwise be dressed in black? A girl in black seems like a strange companion for women in party-clothes - but mixing different kinds of dresses on these fashion plates was quite common so perhaps it is not that surprising, even the subjects seem to be an ill match.


Pop-culture woman of the week - Haruhi Fujioka

Name: Haruhi Fujioka (藤岡 ハルヒ Fujioka Haruhi)
First appearance: Ouran High School Host Club (manga in 13 volumes - still ongoing - and anime - 26 episodes)
Creator: Bisco Hatori
Weapon/ability: Stubbornness
16 years old

Haruhi is a student at the very prestigious Ouran High School. She is a commoner, able to go there through a scholarship. By accident she walks in on the Host club - a club kept by six male students at the school to keep the ladies entertained. She breaks an expensive vase, and since there was no way she could repay it she had to work off the debt. Her sex was not viewed as a problem, because they did not know she was a girl. She could not afford to buy the school-uniform so instead she had borrowed clothes from her father - and she had gotten gum in her long hair so she had cut it off. The truth is soon revealed, but she stays on, posing as a boy (something that she had little problem with, being of the opinion that gender makes little difference).

Haruhi is a blunt person, intelligent and a good student, a popular host - and blind to the verge of down-right stupidity when it comes to relationships. There are quite a lot of guys who falls for her, like the successor in a yakuza family Ritsu Kasanoda (who has some serious problems with that when he first thinks that she is a he), the twins Hikaru and Kaoru of the Host club (though it is only Hikaru who actually confesses to her - and he is turned down) and the president of the club, Tamaki Suoh (though he is very slow at realizing that himself - making them a good match in that respect).

Haruhi lost her mother when she was young and lives alone with her cross-dressing father who works in a bar. Their life is very ordinary and the upper-class boys of the Host club is fascinated by that - though it annoys her. She does have one friend form outside of school that shows up in the manga, Mei - the daughter of another cross-dressing man. She has very little problem seeing what Haruhi is feeling - even when she does not know herself.


Photo of the week - Lady from Vienna 1903

Date: 1903
Photographer: Carl Pietzner
Sitter: Unknown
Provenience: Vienna, Austria

(Please click on the picture to get a better view of it - Blogger does not fully appreciate the unusual form of the photo and that is why the resolution is a little bit off.)

There is no hint on the photo who the sitter is, but the photo is dated, by the photo-studio, to 1903. This is the only photo of the lady in question that I own, but according to the notes from the photo-studio, this is one photo in a set of two (and thereby giving more information than can generally be found at the back of an old photo, when someone who knew the sitter, or the object herself, has failed to make notes).

The photo is taken in Vienna, in the atelier owned by the photographer Carl Pietzner (1853-1927, he died from committing suicide, but until then he had had a very successful photographic business and on the photo you can read both K.u.K. and Kais.u.Kön. [Imperial and Royal] which is to say that he was someone the Austrian royalty went to to have their pictures taken).

The woman has curly hair pinned up in a rather simple hair-do, but that is the only simple thing about her - that and the line of her clothing, she is wearing a blouse and a skirt, clothing items that were generally simpler than the dresses of the time (though that does not seem to be the case this time, which will soon become evident). She wears quite a lot of jewelry - considering that it is day-wear she has on and this is a time when a lot of jewelry was quite uncommon, even when dressed up to go to the photographer. She has ear-rings, a medallion, a bracelet and an engagement ring - but no wedding-band.

Her skirt is simple, but not overly so. It is has extra seams and ribbons - in colour with the skirt, but still clearly visible. But what is really exquisite is her blouse. It has a high collar and sleeves that can only be described as 'special', hanging loose around the cuff that has the same fabric as the collar - both the stripes and something that looks very much to be hemstiching, a quite common way to adorn clothes at the time. But that is not all that is done to the blouse (which must have been quite expensive - though perhaps that should not be surprised since she after all was the customer at a royal photo-studio). Both the upper part of the sleeves and the front of the blouse is adorned with lace in a floral pattern. Still, this must have been an item of everyday wear, you did not attend parties (generally) in a blouse.

Hair-do of the week - English women of 1828

This picture is taken from the English magazine La Belle Assemble, the June issue in 1828. It shows five possible ways for women to have their hair at the time.

The woman in the middle of the picture represents the evening-wear - but the rest is supposedly inspiration for ordinary days (though perhaps not this exaggerated, most women had to be able to perform everyday, practical tasks, even if they had servants).

At parties you were at liberty to have quite fanciful hair-dos, which did what it could to work against laws of gravity and the natural fall of the hair. The hair was then adorned in every possible way - here with pearls and other jewellery - and often flowers and ribbons.

Almost all coiffures at this time, and four out of five in this picture, had the curls that worked as a frame for the face. The curls were thick over the ears and upwards, but seldom reached below. The hair was really meant to be up.

When you were not attending a party the back of the hair was generally kept away from too extravagant stuff. The reason was simple, you were always supposed to be able to put some head-wear over it. It would cause havoc to anything too stylish, and anyway it would be hidden from general view - which was also a good reason to not spend too much time on it. The most important thing was to keep stylish that part you actually showed off.

The head-wear at the time came in a wide variety, like the bonnets that hit it big time with the regency fashion, and turbans that also became big at that time. But this was also a time when the ordinary hats had their revival and could be seen again. It was all a matter of taste and inclinations of the wearer.


Portrait of the week - The young martyr

This painting is called The Young Martyr, or the Young Christian Martyr, or A Christian Martyr Drowned in the Tiber during the rein of Diocletian, painted by Paul Delaroche in 1855.

Delaroche was a French painter who had a great liking for painting historical motives, for example The execution of lady Jane Grey and The princes in the Tower (he seemed to have a special liking for English motives, despite his nationality). This portrait of young, dead woman is not English, though, but set in Rome, 1700 years ago.

The dark silhouette of a man can be seen against the darkening sky and the sunset, but the main focus is on the dead, young girl. Her hands are bound and her eyes closed - and her features are lit by a halo over the face. She is dressed in light fabrics, totally soaked but still floating.

The persecution of Christians during the rein of Diocletian (reining 284-305) was all to real, and at their height at 303-304 - a time that would bring forth a great set of saints, people executed due to their faith. But even though he was a determind man the persecution was not a great success - Christianity survived after all, without a great slump of numbers of members - and even a great number of non-Christians were against the persecution. The laws prohibiting the Christians to live out their faith would last for another 25 years, but they were not acted on for the most part.

The motif is walking the fine line between being creepy and overly sweet - but perhaps more on the eerie side of things when you take into account that the woman has the same face as Delaroch's wife. She had died in 1845.

The painting can now be found in the Louvre, France.


Fashion of the week - Ladies in walking dresses, 1883

(Yes, my last three posts, this included, has been in the wrong order - I hope you can forgive me. Sometimes I'm not more than human!)

This is a picture from the French fashion magazine La mode illustrée, printed in 1883, which shows two ladies in walking costumes - even though they are, for some odd reason, in an indoor setting.

These dresses are a part of the bustle-era, the time when the shape of the dresses were rather slim and narrow, except for the upper part of the skirt where the bustle made them wider than any other part of the clothing. This was achieved through both the skirt and its folds and excess fabric, but also through the undergarments that had special support to hold this up - literally. Later on the skirt would be somewhat wider, but they are at this stage still narrow, and could be somewhat hard to walk fast in - but since all proper ladies should walk in a proper pace it was not considered a real problem.

That it is walking costumes shown here is clearly shown by the cut of the upper half of the clothing, they are wearing jackets and head-wear that definitely signifies outdoor-wear. They are also wearing gloves, as any lady venturing outdoors should (well, there and when going out to parties too - as can be seen in one of the earliest chapters of Little Women when two young ladies are going to a party, but only have one proper pair of gloves between them - that scene was set earlier than this, but the habit had not died out).

Goddess of the week - Sekhmet

Name: Sekhmet
Sphere of influence: War and the sun, among others
Location: Egypt
Famous portraits: Too many to count

Sekhmet was a prominent deity in ancient Egypt, originating in Upper Egypt, a female with a lion's head or sometimes even portrayed as a whole lion. She was a fearsome goddess, it was even said that her breath had created the desert.

She was a warrior goddess and very closely linked to the Egyptian Pharaohs, not just in some dynasties but all over the line. She protected the Pharaoh in battle - which of course made her very important. Her name even means (one who is) powerful. She was also an early sun-goddess in her own right. She would later on be identified as a daughter of the sun-god Re, and sometimes be referred to as The eye of Re.

Sekhmet was dressed in red, the colour of blood, and on her head she wore the sun-disc. This association with blood also made her an important goddess for women, and their menstrual cycle. She was also connected with sickness - and their curing. This connection was so great that her name would be used to signify physicians in the Middle Kingdom. Her priests were also considered to be able to give medical care.

Her cult was very important, both in war and peace. At the end of a war a festival was held, to bring the angry goddess to peace and make sure that the killing was over. In peacetime it was just as important to keep her calm and quiet (till she was needed again). This was done through festivals with a lot of participants -both priests and ordinary people. In her temples the cult was also very important, and the priests were supposed to worship a different Sekhmet statue each day of the year (one reason to there being so many preserved statues of her).

Since she was an important goddess during such a long time in Egypt it was inevitable that she would be connected in different ways with different gods and goddesses during the process. The mythology changed after all. Apart from being made daughter of Re, she was also at one point identified with both Hathor and later on Mut. She was also said to have been the mother of Nefertum - and when it became popular to make even couples of all the gods she was said to be the consort of Nefertum's father, Ptah.

Her worship continued into the time of the Greek rulers of Egypt.


Woman of the week - Elizabeth Gaskell

Name: Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell, born Stevenson
Born: 29 September 1810, London, England
Died: 12 November 1865, Holybourne, England
Married to: William Gaskell
Children: Five daughters and one son
Occupation: Writer

Gaskell was a Victorian author of novels dealing mostly with social issues in the industrial northern England - but she is also very well known for her biography on Charlotte Brontë, who was a close, personal friend.

Gaskell was born the youngest child of the civil servant, and former minister, William Stevenson, and his wife Elizabeth, née Holland. She had seven siblings - but only her older brother John and she would survive into adulthood. Her brother went missing in 1828 when travelling to India. Her mother died just three months after the birth of Gaskell and she was sent off to her maternal aunt Hannah Lumb in Knutsford, Cheshire. Gaskell was brought up as an unitarian and would remain one for the rest of her life.

Aged eleven she was sent to boarding-school, in Stratford-upon-Avon, and remained there until 1827. When she finished her education she returned home to her father, who by now was remarried and had two children by his new wife. But his health was failing and he died in 1829. Gaskell continued to live among relatives until she met the unitarian minister William Gaskell (born in 1805), whom she married on the 30 August 1832 in Knutsford. They moved to Manchester where William was made minister of the Cross Street Chapel.

The new surroundings would mean much to Gaskell, working as a minister's wife and taking care of the needing since the poverty was great in the city and social work was an important part of the couple's work-load. Gaskell also gave birth to six children: a still-born daughter (1833), Marianne (1834-1920), Margaret Emily (1837-1913), Florence Elizabeth (1842-1881), William (1844-1845) and Julia Bradford (1846-?). It was after the death of her son she began to write novels - though she had before that written poems (sometimes together with her husband) and short stories. Her first full-length novel was Mary Barton - A tale of Manchester life (1848), which painted a rather grim picture of the living conditions in an industrial town - something she knew quite a lot about first hand. The book was published anonymously, but her identity was soon discovered. Charles Dickens greatly approved of her writing and she became a contributor to his magazine Household words.

Her second novel Ruth (1853), which fought for the rights of unmarried mothers, caused a lot of controversy and she was criticized for her views on the topic. Her later fiction did not take on such hot topics, but could still portray the harsh reality for the poor - though they also showed a more genteel side of her which the public appreciated more. Among these works can be mentioned Cranford (1853) and North and South (1855).

Gaskell met the fellow writer Charlotte Brontë in 1850 and they became very good friends. After Brontë's death in 1855 her father and husband asked Gaskell to write a biography. She did a very thorough job of this, researching quite a lot - but also mixing fact with fiction. When The life of Charlotte Brontë hit the market in 1857 it was a great success (and meant a lot to make Brontë more famous), but Gaskell was soon criticized for it by people who did not like the way they were handled in the book. Brontë's father was not pleased either. The second edition was withdrawn, and it is the third edition that is now the standard text of that book.

Gaskell died in 1865 from heart-failure. She is buried in the graveyard at Knutsford. Her husband survived her until 1884 - and was then buried next to her.


Pop-culture woman of the week - Gwendolyn

Name: Gwendolyn
First appearance: Odin Sphere (オーディンスフィア Ōdin Sufia), released in 2007.
Creator: George Kamitami
Weapon/ability: Spear and psyphers

Gwendolyn is one of the five main characters in the video-game 'Odin Sphere'. She is the younger daughter to the demon lord Odin and the one who has to lead the Valkyries in battle after the death of her older sister, Griselda. She is willing to do just anything to gain love and recognition from her father - but he spends most of the time ignoring her, or just using her.

When she tries to do the right thing and prevent the execution of her half-sister Velvet, he ends up putting a spell on her and marry her off to a stranger and enemy to the Valkyries, an ally of the fairies - Oswald, the Shadow Knight.

But even after she is married and has left her home her loyalties are tried on several occasions when her father still expects her to act as his daughter - even when it would mean betraying her husband - and at the same time battle the feelings she starts to develop for Oswald, which in the end results in her taking her spear to save his life when he gives up his will to live and is dragged down to the Netherworld.

Gwendolyn and the characters around her are obviously inspired by Norse mythology - but very, very loosely.


Photo of week - Danish woman, 1898

Date: December, 1898
Photographer: Joh. Crone
Sitter: Unknown
Provenience: Copenhagen

This is a photo of a young woman - or even possibly a girl. You only see her from the front but it looks like she does not have her hair up, but just braided and hanging down on her back.

Her dress is of a modest cut - high collar and rather small sleeves with little frills, in a way that can only be described as fashionable (as can be seen in this fashion picture of children's clothing from 1899 - especially on the girls to the upper left). The collar seems to be of some sort of printed fabric, which at a first (though admittedly quick) glance looks like lace, but obviously is not. Since lace was quite expensive and it is a whole collar it would probably have been quite out of the question - even if the girl came from a rich home. If she isn't that old it is also possible that it would not have been seen as quite proper for her to wear something like that.

She does not wear any jewellery.

I do not know who the girl is, but the photo is dated on the back to December 1898 - which would seem very likely. The date seems to be written in ink and in a hand typical for the time around 1900.


Hair-do of the week - Hats, 1811

To the Regency woman what she was wearing on her head was just as - if not more - important as how she had her hair. All proper ladies covered their head when venturing outdoors and any proper married lady always wore something on her head when indoors too.

This is a page from the French fashion magazine Costume Parisienne, from 1811. This was when the Regency fashion era was at it's height, before later fashion trends would start to influence the look. Regency fashion can be said to have lasted from 1793 to circa 1820 and all that time the fashion was accompanied by this form of head-wear.

Hats as we would see them were never worn, hats with brims on all sides of the hat-crown. Instead the thing that everybody wore was the bonnet. The more formal ones, the ones in colour in the picture here, often had the same crown as an "ordinary" hat would have had - made of straw and adorned with ribbons and feathers and plumes. But the brim was made to frame the face and a ribbon was tied under the chin. They were made to protect the wearer from winds, rain and sun.

The other form of bonnet shown here, in white, with less of a sharp shape, are the bonnets supposed to be worn indoors by married women. They were generally of a rather soft material, often adorned with lace and/or ribbons (if only the economy would allow it - if not, a light bonnet would still be worn, but with no trimmings).

To be wearing something on the head was a sure sign of a woman being proper - and the hair was kept to suit the head-wear. This bonnet-fashion would last for the better part of the 19th century, but they would eventually get competition from ordinary hats.


Portrait of the week - The Cupid Seller

This is the painting The Cupid Seller, made by Joseph-Marie Vien, in 1763. This is a very typical product of the neoclassicism of the 18th century - a movement that will culminate after the French Revolution with every woman wearing dresses reminiscent of the classical sculptures.

In the 1760's the fashion was not yet influenced by neither Ancient Greece nor Imperial Rome, but it was a popular theme in art, sculpture and furniture. This painting is a part of that movement.

The painting shows an interior with a lady sitting down, probably the matrona, and a young woman standing behind her (daughter, servant, friend? it is not clear). Kneeling in front of her is a woman showing some live cupids that she is trying to sell to the seated woman. Cupids were popular in 18th century, adorning both paintings and furniture, though it seldom looked as macabre as it does here.

The matron is clearly meant to be of the upper classes. She is pale and dressed in fine fabrics with bracelets. She looks somewhat indolent, but also interested in the wares presented to her. Her interest is shared by her companion - also dressed nicely with a bracelet. The woman in front of them, the one with the basket, is obviously of more humble origin. Her dress is simpler, her skin is darker - she is obviously a working woman. Her head is wrapped in a shawl and she looks very much like a 18th century peasant woman, if you look beyond the the dress.

Looking at historical paintings gives away a lot about the time it was painted in, and with just changing the clothes the women are wearing you could have a very lifelike portrait of three women from the 1760's.


Goddess of the week - Eris

Name: Eris (Greek: Ἔρις)
Sphere of influence: Strife
Location: Greece
Famous portraits: She appears on some vase-paintings but not sculptures

This goddess is the personification of strife in classical Greek mythology, and as such her background is a bit shady. Different classical sources give different explanations to her, her background and her personality.

The oldest text to say much about Eris is the Work and Days, by Hesiod. According to him Eris was the daughter of a son of Cronus and her mother was Nyx. Her role was to cause strife among people - which, Hesiod stresses, was not necessarily a bad thing. It made man work harder to be better than his neighbours and generally prevented people from slacking off. Hesiod is less kind on Eris in his other work, Theogony. There he makes a long list of all those terrible children Eris gave life to, including Hysminai (combat), Neikea (quarrel) and Dysomnia (Lawlessness). Who the father was supposed to be is not known.

Homer on the other hand mentions her in the Iliad (book IV) but there calls her the sister of Ares (which would make her the daughter of Zeus and Hera). Some has taken this as a sign that there are two different goddesses, both named Eris and with the same function - to cause discord among men. A more likely explanation is that her lineage was not exactly written in stone - a common thing among lesser gods and goddesses - and might have changed over the years and with different traditions.

Eris is perhaps most famous for causing the Trojan War. She had not been invited to the wedding of Thetis and Peleus and as a revenge she came anyway and threw a golden apple into the crowd. On it she had written 'To the most beautiful' and of course the goddesses started to quarrel who was to recieve it. They decided on letting Paris choose among them, trying to bribe him with different gifts. Aphrodite, offering the fairest woman in the world (Helena), won - but since Helena was already married a war broke out (or so the story goes anyway).

This painting is from some Athenian painted pottery, dated to 575-525 B.C. - and even has the goddess' name written out.


Woman of the week - Sophie von Knorring

Name: Sophie Margareta von Knorring, born Zelow
Born: 29 September 1797, in Gräfsnäs, Sweden
Died: 13 February 1848, in Skålltorp, Sweden
Married to: Carl Sebastian von Knorring
Children: None
Occupation: Writer

von Knorring was born into the Swedish nobility, her father, Krister Göran Zelow, was a marshal at the Swedish court and her mother, Helena Sofia Gripenstedt, was also of noble blood. She spent her first thirteen years growing up in the country and then her mother took her daughters to Stockholm to give them a better education - and to marry them off.

She married Carl Sebastian von Knorring, a major and later colonel, who was a distant relation to her, in 1820. I can find no indication that the couple had any children. In 1827 she got a severe case of pneumonia that would make her sickly for the rest of her life - and also ended her life when she was far from old.

Her writing began in 1829 when she started a novel to comfort a sister who had been widowed. That book would be published in 1834 as The Cousins (Cousinerna - or Kusinerna as it would be in modern Swedish). The book was published anonymously. She would write another dozen or so novels and essays in her life, the two most famous being The Illusions (Illusionerna - 1836) and The peasant and his landlord (Torparen och hans omgivning, 1843). The last book to be published was A court clerk (En kunglig sekter) which was published posthumously in 1861. It was only the story The fairytale of the princess Rosalinda, that actually had her name on it.

von Knorring was a conservative, she was not a speaker for women's emancipation, but very much an upper-class lady with the common values of such a person. Still, her novels became quite famous for her ability to portray young women in a very believable manner - and her novels also included dialogue in dialect, something that was quite new at the time.


Fashio of the week - Mourning in 1841

This picture shows the contrived scenes that can be seen in 19th century fashion plates - here a woman in evening-wear, ready for a party, is talking to a lady in mourning clothing (hardly a lady likely to go anywhere near a party). But after all, these pictures were made to show the different aspects of fashion and not real life-situations, so we should not worry too much about it.

The picture is from the French fashion magazine 'Petit Courrier des Dames', dated to 1841, and shows the typical look of the 1840's.

The lady in blue is dressed for an evening out, with a very low neckline, lined with lace and three-quarter sleeves, also with lace. The blue colour of the dress is rather light and the fabric striped. Her hair is carefully curled, in a way that was extremely popular at this time, and adorned with a white ribbon. Her accessories includes, of course, both gloves and a fan, but also a brooch.

The lady sitting down is dressed in mourning clothes - though not full mourning, the first stage after the death of someone close, then she would not have worn the flowers on the veil, nor had the broad, black band on the dress, nor was she supposed to show any skin at all and this lady exposes her wrists. But half mourning, the stage after full mourning in clothing, was still a serious affair. It was always good to wear a little, black veil, a little mantilla also in black lace - and matching black gloves (which here actually look like they also have some lace attached to them). Full mourning was the time to show sorrow - half mourning was a good opportunity to show off the latest fashion, in sombre black.


Pop-culture woman of the week - Aerith Gainsborough

Name: Aerith Gainsborough (エアリス・ゲインズブール Earisu Geinzubūru)
First appearance: Final Fantasy VII
Tetsuya Nomura
Staff and magic


Aerith is the flower-girl that the hero of the game Final Fantasy VII, Cloud Strife, meets when he falls through the roof of the church where she tends to her flowers. She is a friendly, and somewhat flirtatious, young woman who joins the group on their quest to save the world from the madness of Sephiroth. Things will not turn out well for her in doing so.

She is the last of the ancient race of the Cetras, her mother being a Cetra herself and her father, professor Gast, being a human. Her father is killed and mother and daughter is captured by the evil professor Hojo - but they manage to escape. The mother died and Aerith was raised by Elmyra Gainsborough in the city of Midgar. The Turks, the Investigation Sector of the Shin-Ra company, keep an eye on her - but she is actually on quite friendly terms with their boss Tseng and they mostly leave her alone.

Some more back-story to her character is given in the game Crisis Core, set five years prior to the original game, where Aerith gets to know the main character of that game, Zack Fair - who shares some traits with Cloud, which she will note when she later meets Cloud. It is Zack that buys her her trade-mark pink ribbons and also talks her into selling flowers.

For obvious reasons Aerith doesn't partake much in the film Advent Children - which instead deals a lot with the guilt Cloud feels as a result of her death. But there is still an opportunity to show up long enough to ease his suffering, telling him that she does not blame him for her death.

Her name was at first translated into English as Aeris, in the first game, Final Fantasy VII. But the truth is that Aerith is much closer to the original idea of her name (though it was hard to put into Japanese writing - hence the misunderstanding) and the following appearances of her (Final Fantasy VII - Crisis Core and Advent Children) she is more correctly named as Aerith. Her last name should, according to the katakana, be pronounced more as the French singer than the English painter, despite the spelling.