Saturday, 29 February 2020

The Colour Green: A Natural Variety

Green was one of the more expensive and difficult colours to achieve. Being a combination of yellow and blue, it was necessary to use two vats for dyeing clothing. 

In the 1660's green was not a very fashionable colour. The Mercure Gallant describes that there were more green to be found in a flower bouquet than on clothing. It did slightly come back into fashion towards the end of the 17th century. Even the Duchesse de Bourgogne was noted as wearing a gown with green details for the betrothal between Mademoiselle (daughter of Philippe, Duc d'Orléans) and the Duc de Lorraine. That same Mademoiselle was recorded as wearing a gown of green velvet by her mother, Elizabeth-Charlotte of the Palatinate.

Galerie des Modes, 35e Cahier, 5e Figure  Redingote with three collars, crossed in front, called Lévite Redingote. (1781)
Green redingote in the 1770's-80's

Silk was one of the most common fabrics in an 18th century aristocrats wardrobe. So, if they ordered something silky in green the dyer would have to start the following process (it should be said that this varied from dyer to dyer but this particular recipe is from 1735). The process would take at least two days and required the following ingredients: alum, white wine tartar, broom, verdegris, pot-ashes - and these does not even include what was needed for the yellow and blue vats.

Towards the very last decade of the 18th century a new - and deadly - was of producing a brilliant emerald green was discovered. Copper was mixed with arsenic trioxide (white arsenic) created remarkably cheap and durable greens but was eventually prohibited due to its highly toxic nature.

Princess Frederika Sophia Wilhelmina of Orange by Johann Georg Ziesenis, 1768-69 (Thanks to Isiswardrobe) - what an AWESOME brunswick Vintage Outfits, Vintagemode, Haag, Victorianske Kjoler, 18. Århundrede, Søde Billeder, Prinsesse
Princess Frederika Sophia Wilhelmina of Orange

Green was the second signature colour of Madame de Pompadour whose most famous portrait depicts her wearing a deep green (almost teal) gown with pink bows and ribbons. 

There was another way for green to emerge in fashion - through its link with nature. Leaves and  green foliage were used for towering headdresses. The reason for why green suddenly made a come-back in the last part of the Ancien Regime was in large part to the philosophical influences of writers such as Rousseau. He praised green for its association with nature which was eagerly taken up by particularly Marie Antoinette. 

Nevertheless, the shades of green were endless. Apple-green, emerald, sage, grass, moss, pistachio, duck green and pastel greens were only a few available. When Louis XVI sat upon the throne, one of the more popular combinations for satin was green and white stripes. Imported goods from China provided the French court with a new source of "greenery". Rhamnus - thorns of a Chinese plant - were found to give a lasting, green shade.

Billedresultat for green madame de pompadour portrait
Madame de Pompadour in her signature green

One of the more interesting records which as survived the ravages of the French Revolution is the personal record of a Madame de Boyer. She was married to an officer who happened to be an aristocrat to boot. Their family was firmly placed in what could be termed as the middle-nobility; they were not on the lowest rank of the aristocracy nor were they of the first families. Her personal diaries span the years 1779-1789 and illustrates that towards the late 1780's green was a particular favourite of her's. For this post, it is the type of greens that are interesting. "Sea-green" would seem to be a pale green-bluish tone but one can only wonder what "Dragon-green" was - or even the so-called English green. 

Once the revolution broke out it was suggested to make green the colour of the new republic due to the colour's symbolical connection with liberty. However, it was eventually dropped as green also happened to be the colour of the Comte d'Artois' livery. Coincidentally, the controversial Rose Bertin also clad her servants in green livery with golden embroidery.

A deep green was a regular sight in the king and queen's apartments. Green taffeta were used to cover  and even transport the clothing chosen for the day by the monarchs.
Among the last items to be repaired for Marie Antoinette by her seamstress, Madame Eloffe, were two green, silk bodices. 

A small gallery of ladies and gentlemen in green:

Portrait of Juliane Fürstin zu Schaumburg-Lippe c.1781 (Johann Heinrich Tischbein the Elder | The Athenaeum
Juliane of Hessen-Philippsthal

Possibly one of the most iconic images of a woman of the Georgian era wearing a riding habit has to be that of Lady Seymour Worsley. So, with that in mind we thought we would take a look at this fa…
Duchess of Gordon
Billedresultat for green 18th century portrait
James Fortescue
Unknown aristocratic boy, 1780's
Infanta Maria Luisa de Bourbon with a vase of flowers by Giusseppe Bonito (Galeria Caylus) | Grand Ladies | gogm Glamour, Marie Antoinette, Kvinder, Malerier, Familieportrætter, Malerkunst, Historie, Fotografi, Dirndl
Infanta Maria Luisa de Bourbon
Billedresultat for green in portrait 18th century
Charles Felix of Sardinia

Monday, 17 February 2020

The Colour Pink: Romantic or Innocent?

Fashionable colours rotate on a constant basis; some are firm fixtures while others are passing trends that disappear as soon as the craze for them has passed. In this wheel of colours, pink is one of the newest colours to enter the permanent shades. Prior to the 17th century, pink was not found amongst the wardrobes of either aristocracy or commoners. In art, it was usually for skin tones or perhaps flowers but rarely (although not never) clothing. It was not until the 18th century that the word "pink" was even coined in the English language.

Recently, the colour pink has been associated with femininity but historically this was not the case. The 17th and 18th century did not assign specific colours to genders, so pink and blue were not considered to be "reserved" for girls and boys respectively. On the contrary, both men and women had their portraits painted while wearing completely pink ensembles. To a gentleman at Versailles, there was nothing unmanly about a pink, silk suit.

Billedresultat for marie antoinette pink dress portrait
Marie Antoinette, as a young girl in Vienna

While the age of Versailles did not think of pink as a "girl colour", it was still subjected to other social rules. Pink was a young person's colour. For instance, when Marie Antoinette reached her 30th birthday she ceased wearing the delicate pinks of her youth. As the ill-fated queen stated, it was not suitable for a woman to continue to wear such a shade. This perfectly illustrates how her contemporary world viewed the colour pink.

It was not until the latter half of the 18th century that pink truly became a fashion statement. From this period on, pastel tones became more in vogue compared to the stronger colours that had previously dominated. Consequently, pink took over where a deeper red had previously been preferred.

Madame de Pompadour introduced her two signature shades during her reign as Louis XV's mistress: a delicate green and a rosy pink. While she was in power, these shades were the height of fashion - or at least, for those who did not mind following a bourgeoisie's lead. The "Pompadour pink" was made by adding drops of blue, black and yellow to the pink dye.

Billedresultat for madame de pompadour
Madame de Pompadour

La Pompadour fully embraced her signature colours. Amongst her modes of transportations, she had a carriage which was painted in the very shade of pink that became so associated with her. Indoors, Sèvres (who had come up with the blend) supplied her with vases, incense burners and artificial flowers in the same tone.

Madder - or rather its roots - had traditionally been used to achieve a deep, red colour. However, it could also be used for pink. China and Japan were masters when it came to dyeing (especially silks) so it is hardly surprising that a lot of dyed fabrics were imported. However, the Europeans were not completely behind. Since Roman times, madder had been cultivated in Italy. By 1747, the more modern methods of deriving red from madder were brought to France.

A recipe of the mid-18th century describes how silk could be dyed pink. The recipe calls for safflower, pearl-ash and lime juice amongst other ingredients. For wool, alum and cream of tartar was called for. The same recipe notes that if the pink is not strong enough, the fabric should be heated while soaking in a madder liquid.

As with every other colour that happens to come into fashion, the shade spreads beyond clothing. Furniture, china even jewels could be had in pink shades. Pink diamonds were listed amongst the possession of the French Crown Jewels.

Billedresultat for the swing
Fragonard's "The Swing"

The symbolic meaning of pink was very divided, too. Since it was made so popular by the king's mistress, it would inevitably be connected with flirtation and romance - regardless of  whether she shared his bed or not. One of the most famous paintings of the 18th century is "the Swing" by Jean-Honoré Fragonard which captures the romantic side to the colour.

However, not long after Madame de Pompadour's death, pink was suddenly associated with youth and innocence. Thus, it quickly went from being the colour of aristocratic flirtations to a delicate shade donned by the youth of the court.

For a comprehensive post of surviving pink garments, click here.

Here are some of the ladies and gentlemen who dived into this new, fascinating colour:

It's been a long while since I posted anything but there's something that I've been working on for a month or so. The beginning of this p...
Comtesse d'Artois, sister-in-law of Louis XVI
École française du XVIIIe siècle "Portrait de la duchesse Marie-Louise-Charlotte Duchesne de Rouville, 1763
Duchesse de Rouville
Billedresultat for 18th century portrait pink male
Monsieur de Vergennes

The Artist Marie Suzanne Giroust Painting by Alexander Roslin. 1718–1793 Swedish, Scandinavian
Marie Suzanne Giroust, painter

Billedresultat for 18th century portrait pink clothes
Unknown young lady

Billedresultat for 18th century portrait pink clothes
Jean-Marie Vien, painter

Artwork by Jakob Björk, Young lady in a pink dress with lace, Made of Relined canvas
Unknown lady

Thursday, 13 February 2020

Baby Bumps In Corsets: Maternity Wear in the 17th and 18th Century

The 18th century is almost synonymous with the dramatic fashions of the time; the elaborate gowns with tiny waists and huge panniers are well recognized silhouettes from the time. Yet, the tightly laced bodices were hardly compatible with the growing midriff of a pregnant woman. Nevertheless, in an age with no birth control and where aristocratic marriages were contracted with the intention of producing an heir, women often went through many pregnancies. So, maternity wear was as necessary then as it is now - but how did it look?

In private, ladies (and gentlemen for that matter) were free to wear looser fitting clothing. However, in the stiff court ceremonies there were no room for such luxuries. Instead, women continued to wear their normal clothing and simply loosened their corset and, as their bellies grew, could exchange it for a different type of corset. It is little wonder that fainting fits were considered a normal sign that a woman was pregnant.

The corsets worn by a woman with child could be loosened both at the front and at the sides. The design was rather ingenious. In the beginning of the pregnancy, the corset could still be laced rather tightly but as the woman's stomach grew, laces at the side were gradually loosened depending on how far along she was. In this manner, it differed from the otherwise completely stiff whalebone corsets. But it should still be pointed out that she would be expected to wear a corset.

Corset (reproduction) of an 18th century pregnancy

Marie Adélaide of Savoy shocked the court at Versailles when she became pregnant and took off her corset. During this period - Louis XIV's era - it was well-known that the king loathed sloppiness in dress in his female companions. While the Duc de Bourgogne, her husband, supported her, she was eventually admonished to put the corset back on.

During the baroque age, the Adrienne gown was the standard pregnancy gown. In this period, there was less focus on a tight and slim silhouette which would become fashionable in the middle of the 18th century. Instead, the Adrienne gown was very loose-fitting and had no actual waistline. Layers upon layers fell from the bust and thus covered the expanding waistline. The Adrienne came into style in 1703 and was named after an actress who played the leading lady in the play by the same name. However, as the Duchesse de Bourgogne found out, Louis XIV was not best pleased to see the women of his court in too loose clothing.

An Adrienne gown seen from the side

Interestingly enough, the robe à la Française was originally meant to be a pregnancy gown and as such was very informal. But as the 18th century progressed it was tightened to conform to the tastes of the era and became the standard formal wear - overshadowed only by the grand habits.

It was only in the latter part of the pregnancy that court ladies were socially permitted to throw off the stiff court gowns. Considering that miscarriages were a common phenomenon, it is likely that this was allowed in order to protect the child. Another reason was that it simply was not possible for a woman in her ninth month of pregnancy to squeeze herself into her customary gown.

It should be said, that once these late months of pregnancy were reached, it was not looked down upon in the slightest to wear more loose-fitting clothes. Even the queen (or perhaps especially the queen, considering the importance of the child she was carrying) was allowed to relax her style. Marie Antoinette received the ambassador of Venice in such informal wear, for instance. Yet, she made sure to make her apologies and explain her state - which must have been fairly obvious but manners matter!

Billedresultat for 18th century levite gown
A woman wearing a lévite gown while playing with her monkey - as you do,
of course

When Marie Antoinette at long last conceived a child, she took hitherto unseen liberties when it came to her pregnancy clothing. A particular favourite in this aspect was the "lévite" gown which suited perfectly to both the queen's condition and her estate at Petit Trianon. The gown made no use of tightly laced whalebone corset but highlighted the waist with a scarf loosely bound in a knot. The sleeves, too, were looser which must have been a great comfort compared to the tight sleeves of a grand habit. According to Caroline Weber in her wonderful book "Queen of Fashion", she mention that by 1782, the lévites accounted for 1/3 of the queen's wardrobe. This in itself shows a change in society's attitude towards this new silhouette - at least at Petit Trianon.

Before Marie Antoinette donned her looser gowns, her predecessor, Marie Leszczynska, had fewer options. The Polish-born consort of Louis XV, endured a decade of almost constant pregnancies, so naturally, pregnancy clothing was a stable in her wardrobe. 

The term "maternity wear" did not actually exist in the 18th century. Today, we connect the term with not only clothing worn during pregnancy but sometimes also after. However, a lady at Versailles was expected to be back in her whalebone corset once she had staid out her period of bed-rest.

Natalia Alexeivna, Tsarevna of Russia, pregnant in 1775