Favorite decades: 1910's, 1800's, 1870's
Favorite artists: Anthony van Dyck, Giovanni Boldini, Henry Fuseli, Thomas Lawrence
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Mourning earrings, 1899-1902 US (Old Salem, NC), the North Carolina Museum of History
EARRINGS, TEARDROPS OF WOVEN BROWN HAIR ATTACHED TO DECORATIVE VERMEIL TRIANGLE, ATTACHED IN TURN TO VERMEIL MEDALLION MOUNTED ON CIRCLE OF WOVEN HAIR; FRENCH HOOKS FOR PIERCED EARS.
HAIR JEWELRY AND ART WERE POPULAR FROM THE LATE 18TH UNTIL THE EARLY 20TH CENTURIES FOR COMMEMORATIVE, MEMORIAL (MOURNING), SENTIMENTAL, AND DECORATIVE PURPOSES. DURING THE MID-19TH CENTURY MANY WOMEN TOOK UP THE HOBBY OF MAKING HAIR JEWELRY AT HOME. EARRINGS OF THIS STYLE (TABLE-WORKED DANGLES) WERE PARTICULARLY POPULAR 1850-1870. THIS PIECE WAS MADE A LITTLE LATER THAN TYPICAL FOR THIS FORM.
Mourning parasol, 1895-1900 US, the Metropolitan Museum of Art
A beautiful as well as large parasol, it is decidedly for mourning. This fact is evidenced by the hidden mourning crepe found in the middle layer between the taffeta and the densely ruched mousseline de soie. The handle is also extremely refined.
Mourning necklace, 1875-1900, McCord Museum
Perhaps surprisingly, mourning became an occasion for increased consumption. It might seem much more natural to expect that the grief associated with the death of a loved one would result in indifference to any form of consumption. But such was not the case in Victorian Canada. Paradoxically this deeply private time gave rise to eminently public rituals. Death imposed a number of rules, the most important of which specified the details of permitted activities and dress. To abide by the constraints of deep mourning, mourning and half-mourning, for example, a widow had to have dresses, shawls, bonnets, gloves, handkerchiefs and underwear in strictly codified colours. For many months, only black jet jewellery was allowed. To those who followed the codes, mourning was a time of heavy spending.
This heavy necklace with a gothic cross and medallions decorated with small flowers, probably pansies, is designed for mourning. It is made of a synthetic material imitating jet, a black stone.
Jet is a precious stone found in abundance near Whitby, England. In the Victorian era, the town had many manufacturers of jet jewellery.
According to the rules of mourning, no jewellery was to be worn in deep mourning, the length of which depended on the degree of relationship to the deceased. Next came mourning, during which only jet was permitted, followed by half-mourning, when either jet or gold could be worn.
The owner of this necklace, who is unknown, was expressing her taste for the gothic, a style much in vogue in the 19th century. She also showed her very Victorian knowledge of the symbolic language of flowers, in which pansies represent thoughts.
Photo of Bessie Emma Miller (1870-1931), sister-in-law of one of my great-uncles, ca 1895 US (North Carolina - Lincoln or Cabarrus County)
Robe by Liberty of London, ca 1897 London, the Victoria & Albert Museum
This garment with its full sleeves and long, flowing silhouette owes much of its inspiration to Pre-Raphaelite dress. The gown consists of a flared front panel attached to an open, flowing robe which falls from pleats at the back. The front panel has a patch pocket on the right side which is hidden by the deep plush edging.
Materials & Making
The puffed sleeves, wide cuffs and velvet edgings are inspired by plain, loose 16th century gowns. The sunflower and pomegranate motif on the fabric was a recurring design on objects associated with the Aesthetic Movement. The subtle gold and brown tones were popular ‘artistic’ colours used in both dress and furnishing fabrics during the 1890s.
Pre-Raphaelite painters had clothed their models in plain, loose dresses based on the forms of ‘early Medieval art’. The opening of Liberty’s dress department in 1884 helped popularise the taste for aesthetic dress. The Liberty designs which ranged from aesthetic gowns and children’s artistic dresses to more conventional ‘tea-gowns’ had a wide international appeal among the social elite.
Ownership & Use
This type of dress was seen as the healthy and aesthetic alternative to the corseted and constrictive fashions in conventional dress. Before long it was not only those with artistic leanings who chose to wear garments which fit more loosely. By the early 20th century many fashionable dresses had a softer shoulder line and a more natural silhouette.
Women’s dressing gown by Iida Takashimaya, ca 1900 Japan (Kyoto, for the Western market), the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Pink silk taffeta dressing gown in kimono style with embroidered naturalistic chrysanthemums and butterflies in polychrome silks. Silk plain weave lining, padded hem and pleat in back of robe. Full sleeves gathered at shoulders and trimmed with braided silk cord and tassles. Matching sash of pink silk taffeta with double-sided embroidery of chrysanthemums in green brown and pink polychrome silk with knotted silk fringe. Gown labeled: S. Iida “Takashimaya” Silks and Embroideries. Kyoto.
Louise, Duchess of Devonshire’s ‘Queen of Zenobia’ Ball Gown for the Devonshire House Ball by House of Worth, 1897 Paris (worn in England), Chatsworth
Ball gown with an under-robe of cloth of silver, wrought all over with silver thread and brilliants, and with an over-dress of green and gold shot-silk gauze, embroidered to the waist with green and gold metalwork, decorated with jewels. A long train of turquoise velvet, embroidered in gold to an oriental design, was attached to the shoulders. A bodice of gold cloth and lace was fitted over a whalebone corset into which her waist was tightly laced. The headdress that went with it has not survived, but it can be seen in Lafayette’s photograph.
The dress was made for Louise, Duchess of Devonshire by the House of Worth to wear at the celebrated Diamond Jubilee Ball at Devonshire House. It was a fancy dress ball and Louise attended as Queen Zenobia, the warrior Queen of Palmyra. The Duchess may have got the idea for the theme of the dress from Inigo Jones’s costume designs for Court Masques that are in the drawing collections at Chatsworth.
Unfortunately, the images are really small.
“Bunch of sweet peas” fancy dress, 1896 England, Fancy Dresses Described by Ardern Holt
(See Illustration No. 42.) The skirt of the rasse terre length, is made of white satin, and so is the full bodice, both entirely covered with sweet-pea stalks, tied in a bunch at the side, to form the girdle. The flowers border the top of the bodice and constitute the sleeves, and a pretty satin hat is fashioned after the form of the flower. Long gloves are ruffled on the arm, sweet peas figure on the fan, and black shoes and white silk stockings complete the costume.
New Woman fancy dress, 1896 England, Fancy Dresses Described by Ardern Holt
(See Illustration, Fig. 29.) She wears a cloth tailor-made gown, and her bicycle is pourtrayed in front of it, together with the Sporting Times and her golf club; she carries her betting book and her latch-key at her side, her gun is slung across her shoulder, and her pretty Tam o’ Shanter is surmounted by a bicycle lamp. She has gaiters to her patent leather shoes, and is armed at all points for conquest.
This girl CAN. NOT. BE. STOPPED!!