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Posts Tagged ‘fashion history’

How about a little fashion distraction?

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the fashion history class I’m taking was on hold for two weeks while the instructor figured out how to move it online. Well, we’re back at it now and I’ve been reading about the hoop skirt called farthingale.

In mid-16th century Europe, skirts for women became more rigid. Up until then, layers of petticoats were worn to create shape, but to achieve the desired stiffness and the cone shape, more support was needed.

Enter the farthingale. Made of whale bone, cane, or steel, farthingales graduated in size from waist to hem and were sewn into a petticoat.

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In addition to the rigid cone shape skirt, ruffs around the neck were popular as well as a jeweled belt called a demicient, that hung from the V-shape waist all the way to the hem of the skirt. Image, c. 1584.

This look was a favorite of the Spanish, who didn’t give it up for years while England later adapted the hoop into different shapes such as the bum roll, which gave more bulk just under the waist (see image below).

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A fancy lady at a ball sporting the a bum roll in addition to the farthingale underneath her skirt. c. 1582. Image from Survey of Historic Costume (Fairchild Books)

 

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Image from Fashion: The Definitive History (DK Publishing)

 

This week we have our second exam. I have to say I enjoy studying for these exams (we have three) because the subject is so fascinating and of course, I appreciate the distraction.

Remember, Keep Calm and Keep Your Distance.

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51tGfYjaB2L._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_She looked overdressed and dangerously hot, but sunstroke or suffocation had not yet finished her off … I still thought she would be better off without so many tunics. Perhaps in a fine mansion with marble veneers, fountains, garden courtyards deep in shade, a leisured young lady might keep cool, even swaddled in embroidered finery with jet and amber bangles from her elbow to her wrist. If she ran out in a hurry she would instantly regret it. The heat haze would melt her. Those light robes would stick to all the lines of her slim figure. 

Marcus Didius Falco, fictional character of the mystery novel, The Silver Pigs by Lindsey Davis.

I’m a fan of mystery novels, but good ones are hard to come by. A few years ago I listened to a BBC Radio 4 dramatization (starring Anton Lesser) of one of the Marcus Didius Falco series, which take place in Ancient Rome. When I recently had the opportunity to read The Silver Pigs, the first in the series published in 1989, I was hooked. Well-written for starters, and full of historical detail. Ms. Davis certainly did her research. She says that she had trouble getting published at first. Editors didn’t think a mystery set in Ancient Rome would be of interest. Ha! Now her books are often used in high schools as supplemental reading.

There are around 21 books in the series. Plenty to read while we all stay home to avoid COVID-19.

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In this French Court painting (c 1582), the ladies are wearing farthingale under their gowns to get that desired wheel shape. The men are sporting jackets with wide ruffs at the collar, breeches, and hose. 

… I would only add further that he ought to consider what appearance he wishes to have and what manner of man he wishes to be taken for, and dress accordingly; and see to it that his attire aid him to be so regarded even by those who do not hear him speak or see him do anything whatever. 

Baldassare Castiglione (1478-1529), Italian courtier and Renaissance author.

This quote is from the book “The Courtier” by Baldassare Castiglione published in 1528.

In Fashion History class the first exam (of three) is behind us (yes, I did well!) and we are now studying The Italian Renaissance and The Northern Renaissance.

I found this quote in our text book, Survey of Historic Costume, by Phyllis Tortora and Keith Eubank. Throughout the book are quotes about fashion by individuals from different periods.

As for the quote – I say excellent advice for then and now.

 

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Image One: German Duke of Saxony sports an entire suit of Panes, which in this case there are no tufts of fabric pulled through – just the slashes. c. 1514.

Image Two: Queen Elizabeth I. c.1575. 

Image Three: A close-up of the Queen’s Panes with the added jeweled Sleeve Clasps. 

In the mid to late sixteenth century, there was a trend for Panes or Slashes – actual slashes in the fabric of an outer garment with tufts of the under-garment (chemise) pulled through. In some cases small jeweled pins called Sleeve Clasps were used to fasten the panes.

What a look! I almost like the entire suit best because the slashes don’t get lost among all the other busy embellishments the Queen’s got going on with her ensemble. (But, she IS the Queen so there’s no such thing as too much.)

If I were a fashion designer I would be inspired by panes. I envision a quilted coat – slim, not bulky – with slashes and the batting in maybe a bright color poking through. Stitching around each slash. I’m not sure that could even work, as I’m not a quilter, but anything goes in one’s imagination.

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Above images are from Survey of Historic Costume, 5th edition, by Phyllis G. Tortora (Fairchild Books)

Did you know that women in Ancient Rome were not allowed to wear Togas? 

 

The Roman Toga (fabric draped and wrapped around the body) was a complex garment, a symbol of Roman citizenship made and worn a certain way to reflect different roles in Roman society.

Although initially for both men and women, by the 2nd century B.C. togas were restricted to male Roman citizens. An average male Roman citizen wore a linen tunic under a plain white Toga Virilis made of wool. Someone special like a high-ranking official wore the Toga Praetexta – a toga with a band of purple several inches wide along the edge of the fabric.

What you wore communicated who you were.

It was the same for women.

Free, married women sported a long, sleeveless dress with shoulder straps called a Stola. They wore the stola over a tunic. Topping off the outfit she might have worn a Palla, which was a draped shawl that wrapped around the body and was sometimes pulled over the head.

I’m learning all this and so much more in Fashion History, a class I’m taking this semester at City College of San Francisco taught by local costume designer Judith Jackson. This is a fast and furious course in western costume history from ancient times to present day. I have previously taken three classes in the Fashion Department at CCSF, including Fashion Icons of the 20th Century, Hot Topics in Fashion, and my favorite – Textiles Analysis also taught by Ms. Jackson who is an excellent instructor.

My fashion plate is very full with this class and every moment taking notes, reading, studying, writing is pure pleasure. Stay tuned in the coming months as I share other fashion history facts.

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Image: Legion of Honor.

On now at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco is James Tissot: Fashion & Faith, an exhibition of the French artist’s works from the mid-1800s.

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Detail of The Artists’ Wives, 1885.

James Tissot (1836-1902) is known for his depiction of modern society in France and England. He captured moments of time of everyday society life with such vivid detail that it’s as if the viewer might be able to walk right into the scene.

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Too Early, 1873. Image: Legion of Honor.

Featured in this exhibition are approximately 60 works including portraits and illustrations. From a fashion perspective Tissot is a visual treat of color, pattern, and style. The ladies and the gentlemen in his pieces are fully fashioned with each ruffle and drape, every layer and wrinkle documented so precisely one just wants to stand and stare.

 

Friends with the artist Edgar Degas, Tissot declined an invitation to exhibit with the Impressionists and instead moved to London where he began a relationship with his muse and model Kathleen Newton. Tissot returned to Paris 10 years later after Newton’s death of consumption.

At this point he was captivated by the popular spiritualism movement and his work took a turn toward his Catholic faith, as he focused on stories in the Old Testament. His approach to the stories were unique at the time –  for example in What Our Lord Saw from the Cross (1894) shows the crucifixion from the perspective of Jesus on the cross.

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James Tissot self portrait, 1865. Image: Legion of Honor.

 

A unique talent in his era but little known today, Tissot is a worthwhile discovery particularly for those of us who enjoy fashion history.

James Tissot: Fashion & Faith is on at the Legion of Honor through February 9, 2020.

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Designer Lida Aflatoony from University of Missouri, Columbia.

Part of the CSA Symposium was the Design Showcase where on display were unique fashions. These designs posed a problem, answered a question, or highlighted an historical period. One that I was drawn to was titled Tech and Craft Synergy.

Submitted by Lida Aflatoony and Jean L. Parsons from University of Missouri, Columbia the displayed jacket was made of white organza adorned with swatches of fabric decorated with floral motifs. Using traditional handicrafts such as embroidery, beading, and knitting the intent was to address the conflict between traditional hand craft and technology.  What was unexpected (to me) was that half of each design was done by hand and the other half by technologies like laser cutting and 3D printing.

 

 

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On each of these swatches, the left side was hand crafted and the right side was done by technology.

In their abstract Aflatoony and Parsons say: The design was created as an art piece that illustrates and recognizes the confluence of traditional handcrafts and current technology, with a transitional stage in the center. This concept aims to visually emphasize the transition from the handmade and craftsmanship to digital production. In addition, the aim was to suggest that craftsmanship as a precious heritage can fit hand in hand with emerging technologies. 

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Although there is nothing like something handmade, I like the idea of a crossover. And I wonder if as fewer and fewer people are learning traditional crafts, can technology play a role in preserving these crafts.

 

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