Wednesday, July 6, 2016

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Historicism in 1740s Dress

Portrait of a Lady by Thomas Hudson, c. 1740s - Hudson appeared to have done many many portraits of women in Cavalie-inspired dress.
It's been awhile since I've delved into a totally new-to-me period. I have my favorites - 1780s, 1870s, 1930s - and I've occasionally dabbled in others - 1830s, 1660s - but this time, exploring the 1740s, I've falled deep, deep down the rabbit hole.

It's no bad thing. I do love research! I love the questions that come up and hunting down the answers, or at least some speculative conclusions with terms like "appears to," "may have," and "looks like" attached.

Rooting around in the 1740s rabbit hole this weekend, I flipped through (and pinned) every painting depicting women's dress I could find on The Atheneum, according to year and also noting the region. I found most of my "rules" broken, but I also noticed some fascinating regional trends.

One of these trends brought to mind a controversial costume from Outlander Season 2. This one:

From Frock Flicks - click through for more on this episode's costumes.
From Frock Flicks - click through
Worn by Mary Hawkins, this dress has a very 17th century vibe.

It turns out that Cavalier-style throwbacks were a thing in the 1740s, particularly in Scotland as well as England. Here's a whole bunch of portraits showing this:

Gertrude, Daughter of John Leveson Gower, 1st Lord Gower (Stephen Slaughter - ) English, c 1742
Lady Grace Carteret, Countess of Dysart with a Child, and a Black Servant, Cockatoo and Spaniel (John Giles Eccardt - ) c. 1740 - Dysart is in Scotland
Portrait of a Lady By Thomas Hudson - on of many with this style. Hudson was English, and many of his portraits do not tell us who the sitter is.
Portrait of Susan, Mrs. Henry Hoare of Stourhead (1707-1743) – by William Hoare of Bath (c.1707/1708-1792) – c.1742-1743.
"Portrait of an Unidentified Young Lady", attr. Thomas Hudson, ca. 1745; NT 726085
ca. 1740 Lady, possibly of the Cholmeley family by Allan Ramsay
Allan Ramsay (1713-1784) Scottish Portrait Painter, portrait of Mrs Campbell
Anne Erskine (b.1740), Daughter of John Erskine, 14th of Dun and Wife of John Wauchope of Edmonstone, Allan Ramsay, 1747. Collection: National Trust for Scotland
Now some of these do look like masquerade costumes (like the black and pink one I'm obsessing over, or the one with the dagged sleeves), but in looking at the more subtle portraits as well, I see little throwbacks, particularly in the style of the lace and how it is being worn.

I'm intrigued as well about the prevalence of this style of dress in portraits by Allan Ramsay and Thomas Hudson, both prolific portraitist. This leads to the question of "why." WHY so much historicism in this particular period? Often these trends are tied to political events - so what was going on in the 1740s, in the British Isles, particularly Scotland, that inspired this Baroque revival? Or maybe it was just Ramsay's and Hudsons thing, like genre paintings in the 19th c?  Or all these dresses really are just masquerade costumes?

More research!

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26 comments:

  1. Bonnie Prince Charlie (Stuart) uprising, 1745

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    1. Was it only Jacobitism that started the trend, do you think? The movement started in 1688, so the time frame is right, but the majority of the Cavalier flavored portraits are from the first half of the 1740s. Many of them are English as well. If I can get the sitter's name perhaps I can find if they were supporters of the Stuarts. It seems like it would've been dangerous to have your portrait painted showing support for a rebellion, though...maybe there are additional factors at work too?

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    2. Yes. Good overview here: http://www.historyworld.net/wrldhis/PlainTextHistories.asp?ParagraphID=oaq

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    3. If I Recall, Allan Ramsey the Artist was the Son of Allan Ramsey the poet, writer of the historically significant Ballad Opera "The Gentle Shepard" and noted Stuart supporter

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  2. I love, LOVE that bodice and the pearl necklace of the lady who might be of the Cholmeley family. That lace and those sleeves!!! Are you planning this costume anytime soon? Looks like a very exciting project...

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    1. Its gorgeous! I am leaning towards Mrs Hoare in her black and pink.

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    2. Its gorgeous! I am leaning towards Mrs Hoare in her black and pink.

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    3. Oh wow:-) Hers is a definite stunner. All those jewels and bows... yummy.

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  3. If the trend is primarily in Scotland, I'd say it has to do with the Jacobite movement, which looks back to the time when the Stuarts sat on the throne of England and Scotland (17th century). There was a failed uprising against the crown by James himself in 1718 or so, and then the more famous one featured in the Outlander series, but the Cavalier trend could be a kind of nostaglia for the Stuart reign.

    I'm also wondering if the Cavalier fashion is the contemporary term? If so, it could also refer to one of the titles of James Stuart (Le Chevalier).

    Pennies for the pond.

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    1. I'm thinking it must have something to do with this as well. A romanticism for that time, or a show of support. The trend appears to be in England as well, but the majority of the portraits are Scottish (so far).

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    2. I wondered that too, especially as the whole 17th Century was pretty much dedicated to the Stewarts, and possibly shows a slight nostalgia for that time, but I wondered if many of them realized there was a quiet building of support prior to the second Jacobite uprising in 1745? Perhaps it would be worth checking to see if any of those portraits are dated after 1745 or if they are all before that date? If they are all before that it would be harmless nostalgia in fashion, but after that might have been seen as sympathizing with the cause. I'm sure having something as visible as a portrait painted in those clothes would have been far too dangerous!

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  4. Perhaps linked to the 18th century rage for historical masquerade balls - one of the most popular costumes for women was the 1640s lady.

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    1. How much did masquerade costume cross over into regular fashion, though? Initially I thought masquerade dress, and some of the portraits do look very "fancy dress," but others I don't think are costumey portraits, but regular clothing.

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  5. Maybe some historical play or opera started a fad? I'm thinking of the Adrienne or Andrienne, which started out as a stage costume a couple of decades earlier.

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    1. That could be. We know that happened in France a lot too!

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  6. Lauren I love the historical crossovers! Remember out of Africa and the surge in long linen skirts? Funny enough, we are using early 17th century styles in our summer Shakespeare and I was just looking at those dagged sleeves and falling lace collars and thinking I would forward this link to my fellow designer!!

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  7. I find it is always wise to be very careful with portraits in general. There are various periods in history where conventions for portait painting meant that what we see in terms of clothes bears very little resemblance to what people were actually wearing. Sometimes this is very easy to spot when elaborately draped confections appear to stay up as if by magic! But I am always suspicious as well when there are such obvious hints of historicism. Painters, and often not even them but their apprentices, so often added in the clothing after the sitter's face and hands had been completed using studio props and their imagination that it can be risky to assume that the clothes were actually worn in everyday life. There is undoubtedly a reason why these people chose to be portrayed in these garments but not so much evidence that these styles were ever fashionable other than in portraiture. Especially given the tendency for sitters to choose fanciful, ageless or historical dress to prevent their portraits from dating too quickly - having yourself painted in the latest fashion was not necessarily desirable as your picture would very soon be portraying you as out of date. If you have paintings by the same artist look out for garments that look the same too - a definite sign of studio props. The lace collar in the two Thomas Hudson portraits, for example, looks remarkably similar...
    Hope this helps :) I did a fair bit of portrait analysis when studying for my Masters in Dress and Textile Histories and find the more you look the more you end up in a quagmire! Having said that, it is fascinating and there is so much inspiration to be had in the process.

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  8. "If you have paintings by the same artist look out for garments that look the same too - a definite sign of studio props" -- Yep, this turns up over & over again in the 18th-c. & there are several scholarly articles written on the topic (La Belle prob. cited some of them in her Masters ;-). Fashionable women asked painters to put them into "classic" garb, which meant "something more from the previous century than the current one."

    Claire's Vandyke dress in Outlander season 2 is a great example of this. There are dozens upon dozens of versions of that dress painted on various English women from the 1730s-1790s. And these were all referencing certain 17th-c. paintings. Sarah explained it more here:
    http://www.frockflicks.com/outlander-vandyke-dress/

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    1. Hi Trystan,
      Thanks for your comments. I'm wondering if you might be able to pass on the references for the articles you mentioned? This is a topic I am very interested in (as you could probably tell!) but I didn't actually write about it. The analysis was mostly done in discussion with our tutor ( a fashion historian and curator) but I would love to read the pieces you referred to for more textual evidence. Apologies too for getting a little over excited with my rather wordy comment! Seems this is a project that really captured my imagination :) I hope some of the information I shared was useful to Lauren and everyone else.

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  9. Wow. I sit at your feet and pay homage to your superior knowledge! Your comfort in navigating the murky waters of historical dress is so impressive. Plus, you are drawn to only the most complicated of the gowns, that worn by Mrs. Hoare. I like the softness of the young girl's blue dress. Is the type of sleeve with inverted pleats and contrasting fabrics what you refer to as a dagget? I sometimes wonder if the choices made in dressing were made based on the availability of some exquisite piece of lace? These pictures make me want to hunt Lacis for matches to them, or at least similar laces.

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  10. Wow. I sit at your feet and pay homage to your superior knowledge! Your comfort in navigating the murky waters of historical dress is so impressive. Plus, you are drawn to only the most complicated of the gowns, that worn by Mrs. Hoare. I like the softness of the young girl's blue dress. Is the type of sleeve with inverted pleats and contrasting fabrics what you refer to as a dagget? I sometimes wonder if the choices made in dressing were made based on the availability of some exquisite piece of lace? These pictures make me want to hunt Lacis for matches to them, or at least similar laces.

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  11. I've long been fascinated by these weird trends, for historicism and also for fantasy, that crop up in portraiture. A "when I have more time" project is to try to delve more fully into whether they were actually worn elsewhere, or if they were "portrait costumes" (the way we put newborns into elaborate tutus for newborn photos even though we don't usually dress babies that way). Were they masquerade clothes, did some of it sneak into everyday wear, or were these trends picture-perfect only? Like there's the weird "let's paint 18th century people" trend in the late 19th century...but then again, there are also hints of the 18th century in regular clothing then, too! All the questions. None of the time.

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  12. I loved Mary's dress from that episode, because of how 1740s it looked because of this specific Cavalier influence. More 1740s than nearly every other dress on the show. I want more of that.
    Cavalier influence aside, the fuller sleeves are so accurate for earlier 18th c. The show puts a lot of tight sleeves on the dresses, which is a later style.
    Give me more Mary Hawkins style!

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