1/31/2009

Fashion of the week - Daydress, 1790


This is a French drawing showing the fashion right after the onset of the French Revolution (began in 1789). The French Revolution was not an episode that can be understood as just one event, it was not just the storming of the Bastille, or the execution of the king and queen.

The fashion that you mostly connect to the French Revolution is the regency fashion with high waists, thin fabrics (though 'Regency fashion' in itself might be a dangerous title to adopt when talking about French fashion - it is an English term, tailored for English circumstances. In France the styles are referred to as directoire and empire). The fashion of 1790 had nothing to do with the fashion that was to come.

To put it a bit bluntly, the fashion was what it had been before the start of things. It was wide skirts and slim waists - requiring a corset. It was an overdress in one material, a robe - here in blue, and in the front it gave way so that you could see the skirts worn under. It would be wrong to say that you showed your petticoats, these skirts were meant to be seen and it was not just any old under-garment you had in your closet you put on.

The first thing that happened after the onset of the Revolution, fashion-wise, was a restriction in the already existing fashion, fabrics chosen were simpler, there was not as much ornaments to the dress - and quite frankly this dress is not a good example, being covered in quite a lot of lace. But bonnet, gloves and fan were still accessories very much needed and worn by any upper-class woman - even in France in 1790.

1/27/2009

Pop-culture woman of the week - Celes Chere

Name: Celes Chere (セリス・シェール Serisu Shēru)
First appearance: Final Fantasy VI (1994)
Creator: Tetsuya Nomura
Weapon/ability: Rune knight
Race:
Human (but with Magitek infusion)
Age:
18 years old

Celes in one of the two main female characters of the video-game Final Fantasy VI (the other being Terra). She is a former general of the imperial army - the same army that the player has to fight in the game. But she is introduced into the game when she has been jailed for treason and is to be executed the next day. Locke, another of the main characters and a thief, rescues her and despite her background she turns out to be a valuable member of the party.

Despite her background, despite having been involved in the killing of innocent people while she was a general, she has a pure soul and really pulls her weight to save the world from destruction. But there are still moments when the rest of the party doubts her sincerity to the cause - it is hard to forget who she was. At the same time she has to battle with herself too, turning away from being a general with a clear purpose (but perhaps not always with a clear conscience), to a human being interacting with others, and with all the feelings that comes with that. Final Fantasy VI is not a game that centres around love, it is much more about friendship, but even so it won't be totally forgotten either.

1/25/2009

Photo of the week - Ragnhild Wennlund, 1907

Date: 1907
Photographer: Esther Eklöf
Sitter: Ragnhild Wennlund
Provenience: Gävle, Sweden

This is a photo in a set of wedding-photographs, dated to the year 1907. It is from the wedding of Ragnhild Wennlund, and after that she would take on the name of Ringholm. On the other photo, which shows her with her husband, she is sitting down so this one shows the dress much better.

Gävle is situated rather far up north in Sweden, but close to the capital of Stockholm, and if you are a member of the upper classes the influences from the latest fashion could be clearly seen on its inhabitants. This is the case here, this bride is dressed quite intricate and not even a good a close up of the dress can reveal all the details - but it is well worth a try anyway.

The upper part of the dress is hanging loose, like a blouse, around the female shape. It has a turtle-neck in a different material, and a T-shaped front with thick embroideries. The material from the turtle-neck comes again in the sleeves of the dress, sleeves that are widening up around the glove-dressed hands, and here are also some lace - real, expensive lace. Lace that also can be seen with the flowers she is holding in her hand. The upper part of the dress is also decorated with some fresh flowers - like fresh jewellery.

The skirt has a rather narrow cut, just to spread when it comes close to the floor and make a real train. The skirt is also decorated with embroidery, the same as can be seen on the upper part of the dress. And even the dress is ornated with flowers, or more exactly a sprig with leaves.

All this is framed by her long veil, going all the way from the head and down to the floor, thick and airy at the same time and with flowers keeping it in place on top the head. This is, by all accounts, an upper-class wedding, but the bride does not wear any jewellery.

The woman, by the way, is my maternal grand-mother's mother - and on this day she was 24 years old.

1/23/2009

Goddess of the week - Nut

Name: Nut
Sphere of influence: Sky
Location: Egypt
Famous portraits: Several

The goddess of the sky is often portrayed as a woman bent over the world - sometimes the earth, personified by the god Geb, and sometimes just as an arc of sky, like in this picture.

Nut was viewed as the mother of five of the main gods of Egyptian mythology: Osiris, Horus, Set, Isis and Nephthys and they were all known as "The children of Nut". She was also the goddess who made the sun disappear every night - she swallowed it, and every morning she gave birth to it - it had then travelled through her body.

Like all older Egyptian gods and goddesses the mythology concerning Nut gets a bit complicated fairly quickly. She is said to be the wife of both Geb and Re, alternatively the daughter of Re, or his mother, or a combination. She was also sometimes portraied as a cow, and when Re, as a representation of the sun travelled to get to the next day he is said to have ridden on her back.

1/12/2009

Portrait of the week - The dream of the nun

This historical painting is called The dream of the nun, painted by Karl Brulloff in 1831.

This highly idealized picture shows a young nun fast asleep and the mother superior checking in on her. She really ought to, because the girl is dream of a romantic love between her and some fair young man. Hardly suitable for a girl with a religious calling.

To distinguish what time it is that the picture is trying to convey is actually quite hard. The girl in the dream is wearing clothes and a hair-do that could suit the time the picture was done - but the man is less so. This is not the place do discuss male clothing, but let us just note that no man (perhaps except on the stage) would wear something like that man has put on.

But historical paintings were rally popular in the 19th century, and many times the artists knew very little about how things looked like in the era they portrayed and had to guess, imagine and use what they saw in their own time to make something that could pass for correct. After all, the buyers and viewers seldom knew more about it.

The painting is currently owned by the Russian museum in St. Petersburg, Russia.

1/10/2009

Hair-do of the week - English women of 1869

This picture is from the English magazine Englishwoman's Domestic Magazine, and shows some models for both hats and hair in the year of 1869. It is from the May issue and thereby it can be determined that it is late spring-summer hats.

The difference between summer and winter is actually more in the colours than the models of the hats - since when have people bothered about practical fashion?

The difference between coiffures in the beginning of the 1860's and the later part of the same decade is actually quite great, though not many years differ. Earlier the hair had been very straight and tied back from the face in a rather severe fashion, any curls were at the back of the head, and in the day-time most of it was hidden by the bonnet. This was not the case any more.

The hair was still kept away from the face, but even there some waves in the hair was allowed, to give a softer look. Then the hair was gathered high up on the back of the head and long locks were hanging down there. It was definitely pinned up, as grown women were supposed to have it, but still more resembling how girls would wear their hair than it had in ages.

The hats and bonnets that came with these hair-dos were made to sit on top of these creations, without hiding them. Small hats and equally small bonnets were placed on the top of the head, sometimes even in front of the pinned up curls. This was more a symbol of head-wear than something that actually protect from the weather, which had been it's initial goal. But the head-wear had to be always present - pretty much without regard to the shape and size of the thing.

1/07/2009

Woman of the week - Dame Ellen Terry

Name: Dame Ellen Alice Terry
Born: February 27 1847, Coventry, England
Died: July 21 1928, Small Hythe, Kent, England
Married to: 1. George Frederic Watts (1864-1877)
2. Charles Kelly (1878-1883)
3. James Carew (1907-1909)
Children: Edith Craig (born 1869)
Edward Gordon Craig (1872-1966)
Occupation: Actress

Terry came from an acting-family, born as the third of eleven children, and it was only natural that she did not go to school but instead went on the stage at the age of just 8. She played several roles, including Puck in A midsummer night's dream. She moved around quite a lot, already at this tender age, and worked in both London, Bristol and Bath. In 1864, right before she turned 17, she married the much older painter George Frederic Watts. Ten months after the marriage she was returned home - she always claimed their relationship was amiable, despite the separation, and his letters to her, later on, seems to prove this. The "interference" (as she puts it in her memoirs, written in 1908) was brought about by her parents and some others. She returned to the stage, after some persuasion, in 1867. She did not stay long, this time.

Terry had some years prior met the architect and designer Edward William Godwin, and would live with him in the country in Hertfordshire. They had eloped and at first the family would think that she had actually died, but she could put an end to all rumours by being very much alive. They had two, illegitimate, children - Edith and Edward Gordon and they were given the last name Craig. During the six years the relationship lasted she did not act at all - and would not return to the stage until their relationship ended, through economic difficulties and Godwin getting a new mistress.

With the return to the stage Terry would soon also begin a long partnership with the actor Henry Irving in his theatre-company at the Lyceum Theatre, London, in 1878. Her first role was Ophelia, and she would soon be known as the leading Shakespeare actress of the period - a position she would keep for a long time. One of her roles was as Lady Macbeth, portrayed by Sargent, a picture that can be seen here. She also played a lot of other major parts and was a very well-known actress. 1878 was also the year she married Charles Kelly, mostly to have a father to her children. He died five years later.

Terry continued to have a great success as an actress, both during her second marriage and after it. In the 1880's she also toured the United States with great success. In 1889 she got a house at Barkston Gardens (number 22 - now Burns Hotel) in London where she lived with her children and pets. It was a good choice since it kept her close to friends and colleagues, many lived in that area. She would keep the house till 1902. Two years before that, in 1900, she had gotten herself a house in Smallhyte, Kent, which would be her final home.

In 1906 Terry celebrated her 50 years on stage with a five hour show which featured all the main acting stars of the time. The queuing started some 24 hours before the actual performance. But of course this was not end of her acting. That continued just as it had before. In 1907 she married the American actor James Carew - some thirty years her junior. The marriage lasted just two years, but they kept being on good terms after thier divorce. She acted all the way through the First World War , in many benefit shows too. In 1917 she made her debut on the silver screen - in the end she would partake in seven films, between 1917 and 1922.

Terry retired from acting in the theatres in 1920. She was made a Dame Grand Cross of the British Empire in 1925. Her last years were marred by a failing eye-sight and dementia. She died from heart-failure in 1928 and was buried at St Paul's at Convent Garden, London.

On a side note, it is worth noting that Terry's son,
Edward Gordon Craig, was the father of the daughter of Isadora Duncan.

1/01/2009

Fashion of the week - Evening wear of 1830


This evening costume dates to the year 1830 – and was first shown in the French fashion magazine Costumes Parisienne. It is actually just one dress, and supposedly it is the same girl too, shown in different angles. It is the same hair-do and the same jewellery on both figures.

Typical of this time are the very broad sleeves and the very slim waist – there were a lot of women who would never have managed to squeeze themselves into something like this. But since it was a drawn picture, it was quite easy to show off an ideal of a woman-figure. And the fact that it was a drawing did not stop women from trying to look as close to pictures like this as absolutely possible. This is, after all, the time of the corset – in a way that it had not been just ten years earlier.

The picture shows off the dress quite clearly, after all you can see both back and front of the dress – it happens on fashion-plates from time to time, but it is not that common. The dress in itself is quite typical of the day both in model and colouring. Bright and light colours on eveningwear (for women, of course) were a common theme throughout most of the 19th century. A few other common themes for parties and what to wear to them are also the long gloves, the deep neckline that showed quite a lot of skin, the fan and the ballet-like slippers. What is less common for the 19th century in general is the hair-do. It is high and complicated and must have been quite headache-inducing (if it was ever worn like this in real life, it is quite possible that the reality made women wear something inspired by this picture – but at least somewhat more practical).