Friday, May 16, 2014

The Victorian Period, Part II

Evening wear 1876
Created by Judy Frank

Although what we refer to as the Edwardian era encompasses the years of 1901 through 1919, this period in fashion can be said to have really started around 1880. After the death in 1861 of Albert, Prince Consort of England, Queen Victoria plunged into deep mourning and for the most part withdrew from public life. Her daughters and their husbands would become the trendsetters in English fashion, particularly Edward, the Prince of Wales, and his lovely wife Alexandra, who were the heirs apparent to the throne. The fashions seen after the mid 1860's are significantly different from those of the early Victorian years.

The most influential designer of the time was Englishman Charles Frederick Worth, dressmaker to the Empress Eugenie and the court of France's second empire. He was the founder of the haute couture industry with the creation of the "House of Worth." For fifty years it stood as the dominant fashion force in Europe and America, especially among ladies of royalty and the upper echelons of society. In his role as fashion innovator, he led late Victorian fashions into new shapes and ingenious means of construction, such as the princess line - a fitted seamless waistline - and variations on the bustle.  

Evening wear early 1870's
Created by Willem van der Leer

By the 1860's, skirts were slimmed down below the waist by means of gores rather than gathers, and the princess cut was lending a funnel rather than a dome shape to skirts. Also during the 1860's the bonnet began its decline, and smaller - even brimess - hats came into vogue. By the late 60's, the shorter walking dress was favored for women's outdoor excursions

By the 1870's the crinoline was losing ground, and the interest in women's silhouettes was shifting to the back via the bustle. Initially, the shape was still full - with only the overskirt being pulled to the rear to form the bustle; but by the end of the decade the skirt was becoming more vertical, with an elaborate bustle generally ending in a train. Both the popular cuirass bodice - a very tight, boned out garment extending from chest to hip intended to mold the body - along with the princess sheath, imparted a slimming appearance to women.    

Walking Suit 1882
Created by Judy Frank

Throughout the 1880's the bustle remained constant, although the skirt became less voluminous. Finally, by the 1890's, the bustle had virtually disappeared in favor of the princess line with gored skirts, a silhouette that would remain popular until the end of the century.

                                                            Russian Ensemble 1892
                                                                     Judy Frank

                                                        Bicycling Costume 1894                                                                                      

Boots and shoes were almost always worn with heels and pointed or squared toes.  Accessories added to the elaborateness of the outfit. Capes, shawls, cloaks, mantles, scarves and little aprons were worn. Also, gloves and parasols were popular. Purses were sometimes attached to the waist belt. Large brooches were worn at the throat and large or small earrings were also worn. Tortoiseshell combs were fashionably worn in the hair.  Boas were also worn and made of fur or feathers.
The "Gibson Girl" made her appearance in the 1890's
Costume designed by Mattel

The hair was periodically worn in a style to reflect the dress, which also made the hairstyle very complicated. It was worn thick, long and luxuriant and in many different arrangements. The front hair was worn frizzed or curled to form a fringe now and then. At times false hair was worn with real hair. Hats were also an important part of the outfit. They were decorated with feathers, flowers, ribbons, lace, embroidery and buckles. Hats were tied under the chin with ribbons or worn with hat pins to keep them in place. They were worn on the top or back of the head or tipped forward. Brims were generally small and sometimes curling or up turned in front. The hat itself was usually small, although around 1886 large, tall hats were fashionable.

By 1900, fashions had made a dramatic metamorphosis since 1837, the year Queen Victoria ascended the throne of England.  A new century was born and fashions would never be the same again. The role of women - the way they thought amd the way they dressed - was changing, and future fashion styles would reflect this. This will become more obvious in the years leading to the First World War.
Morning Ensemble 1900
Created by Ana Delia Mercado

I hope you have enjoyed this second and final chapter to the Victorian Era, and perhaps have gained a better appreciation of the fashions of this period.  All dolls shown are from my collection.


Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Victorian Period, Part I

Stylish fashion plate circa 1850's
Created by Ana Delia Mercado
The Victorian era corresponds with the reign of Queen Victoria in England from 1837 to 1901.  Her reign of 64 years was remarkably long, involving different major fashion trends.  With this in mind, I have split this historical narrative into two parts:  Part I corresponds to fashions of the early Victorian period, from 1837 to 1860.  Part II will focus on the later Victorian years from the 1860’s to 1901.   

The period is beloved for its attention to high morals, modesty, and proper decorum, as inspired by the Queen and her husband, Prince Albert.  It was an optimistic time in which scientific and industrial invention thrived.  During the Victorian era, the precise cut, material and color of a garment revealed the social class of the wearer.  With the growing prosperity of the day, fashions for women of the higher classes became increasingly complex.  The era also saw the progression from crinoline skirts to hoop skirts and finally to bustle skirts.
Early 1840's
Created by Almudena Gonzalez

In the late 1830’s, Victoria dressed according to the trends of the day, wearing the full hooped skirts of what is now referred to as the Romantic Period (1825-1835).  In 1840 when she married Prince Albert, of Germany, his style immediately began to influence her, and ultimately all of England.  Soon her clothing became more restrained, her skirt lengths dropping to the floor, sleeves diminishing in size, hats and hairstyles becoming more sedate. 

                                                                              1840's daywear
                                                               Created by Ana Delia Mercado
Crinoline underskirts became the rage in the 1840’s.  Lined with stiff, horsehair cloth, these petticoats were touted as being light and cool, and just the garment to make a dress sit beautifully.  With fashions now designed to promote the look of respectability, the shawl and poke bonnet became de rigueur.  When a woman wore this deep- brimmed head covering, her face could be seen when someone only looked directly at her. 
An example of a mourning ensemble circa late 1840's
Created by Willem van der Leer
Only at evening events was it socially acceptable for a lady to bare her neck, shoulders, and upper bosom. The only time that a lady was permitted to expose her arms was on formal occasions, and then she usually wore long, fitted gloves or a wrap.  Ladies were expected to wear gloves, indoors or out, at all times, except when dining. 
Evening wear fashion plate 1847
Created by Judy Frank

 For men, the Victorian period was marked by fashions that were formal, elegant and somewhat somber during their work and leisure hours.  Clean, basic lines, dark colors and an attention to detail were integral elements.  With the exceptions of workmen performing hard labor, men were expected to wear a coat, hat and vest at all times in public.  Anything less would have been considered inappropriate and run counter to societal values.  One of the most basic elements of the Victorian man's wardrobe was the waistcoat or vest. This piece was considered to be the axis of the ensemble. Vests could be brightly colored or dark and would often be used as an accessory to change the tone of a suit. The same suit could be worn a number of times with different vests, thereby changing the overall appearance.  Hats were of equal importance to the Victorian man's ensemble, and there were many popular variations.
Top hats were reserved for more formal occasions, although they were occasionally worn during the day by men of means. Bowler hats or derbies grew increasingly common as the years passed and were considered appropriate day wear. The outerwear of choice for Victorian men was the frock coat – a long coat with a full skirt and a hem that hit above the knees. This garment was worn day or night and was a staple of any Victorian man's wardrobe.  Accessories for men included ties (cravats), pocket watches, gloves, and walking sticks.
Victorian Gentleman wearing a morning frock coat circa early 1840's
Created by Willem van der Leer
Daywear ensemble, late 1850's /early 1860's
The model is wearing a stylish straw hat instead of a bonnet
Created by Marcene Burtt
The top two ensembles are perfect examples of the fashions synonymous with the Crinoline - or hooped period - of the Victorian Age
I hope you have enjoyed this thumbnail sketch of the early years of the Victorian period in fashion.  I hope to soon present Part II, which will highlight the later years when the crinoline is replaced by the bustle.

Your comments and feedback are appreciated!    

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Roaring Twenties

1925 daywear ensemble accessorized by the popular cloche hat
                                                            Created by Ana Delia Mercado                                                    

The 1920's in America were times of great change.  Coming out of the horror of the First World War, society exploded in many different directions.  The 1920's saw women voting, prohibition, the Jazz Age, and an incredible burst of affluence for the middle class.  The unbelievable rapid social changes that struck the country are illustrated by the fashions of the decade.   
The 1920's is the decade in which fashion entered the modern era.  It was the decade in which women first abadoned the more restricting fashions of past years and began to wear more comfortable clothes, such as short skirts and trousers.  Men also abandoned highly formal daily attire and even began to wear athletic clothing for the first time.  The suits men wear today are still based for the most part on those worn in the late 1920's. 

The 1920's are characterized by two distinct periods of fashion.  In the early part of the decade, change was slow, as many were reluctant to adopt new styles.  However, from 1925, the public pssionately embraced the styles associated with the Roaring Twenties.  The salient features of womens's clothing in the 1920's are short skirts and dropped waistlines.  The silhouettes of the earlier part of the decade are long and cylindrical, with the skirt falling 10" to 7" below the knee.  Despite the relatively simple silhouette, the wide variety of detail was astonishing. 

Example of early 1920's daywear. The doll is Holiday Voyager, released in 1997 by Mattel
The long straight style had a great many variations.  One extremely popular fashion was the Basque dress, or Robe de Style.  This dress style is best known from the beautiful creations of Jeanne Lanvin.  It is a sort of compromise between the straight Twenties silhouette and the old fashioned bell skirt.  It featured a tubular bodice that draped down to a dropped waist, then a full skirt ending at mid-calf or ankle.  These were very popular for afternoon and evening wear.

In 1998, Mattel released Dance Til Dawn, from the Great Fashions of the 20th Century series.  The evening dress is in the Basque style.
It was in evening wear that the innovations of Twenties style first appeared.  By 1926, women who grew up in a world that barely acknowledged knees were very nearly wearing their dresses above them.  This is when the modern fashion concept of the flapper first appeared. 

Another very obvious fashion feature of this time period was bobbed hair.  It was first introduced in America during and just after World War I, and popularized by society dancer Irene Castle.  However, for many of us, the late 1920's actress Louise Brooks is felt to epitomize the look of the flapper. 

A redefintion of Mattel's 1993 1920's Flapper, from the Great Eras Collection. The original doll was a blonde, but I switched it for another, to resemble Louise Brooks.

A society wedding dress designed by Charles Worth, circa 1924
Created by Irene Cosson
The look that is regarded as the flapper look only lasted about 3 years, from 1925 to 1928.  As the decade reached its end, fashion started to revert to a longer silhouette, and waist lines started to make a tentative reappearance.  High fashion had drifted onward, but the look of the Flapper lives on in popular consciousness.                                                                                                                             

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Baroque Period

Princess of Holland
Dolls of the World Collection
The period that we know as the Baroque Period thrived throughout Europe from 1600 to 1750,  The dress of this period contrasted sharply with that of the 16th century.  During the early years of the 17th century (1600-1620), many of the garments retained the appearance of the previous century.  After 1620, Spanish fashions disappeared from the European scene.  Under the new influence of Holland, a more comfortable relaxed style of clothing was adopted.  Woolen cloth was the fabric worn by the mass of the population.  Silk remained the fabric of the wealthy, and the most fashionable material of the time was lace.  The falling bands (collars), sleeve cuffs, ruffles, lace overlay and decoration for gowns all displayed to perfection the Baroque floral designs with free-flowing Arabesques and bold outlines so characteristic of Italian lace.
Cavalier dress circa 1625
Doll by Willem van der Leer
Trimmings were simple and confined to buttons, buttonholes, and lace. Women's bodice necklines were cut wide and square, and waistlines heightened. By 1630, sleeves became full and draped softly below the elbow, revealing the wearer's lower arm fo the first time in centuries.  

Cavalier fashion for men paralleled the trends in women's clothing. Men wore doublets (short jackets) made of stiff fabric or pointed in front, and jerkins (utility jackets made of leather). Waistlines were often adorned with ribbon bows which held the doublet and breeches together. Sleeves were trimmed with horizontal rows of braid or vertically slashed and finished with buttons. The stiff hose of the past was replaced with full, long breeches trimmed with braid and slashed on the side, as well as softer, wrinkled hose below. Later in the period, men wore baggy breeches known as "Rhinegraves," which were gathered below the knees with lace frills.                                          
Henri II of Lorraine, circa 1631
Doll by Christine Donnard, based on the portrait by F. Elle
 Women's gowns were more colorful and looser than in the past. The dresses could be laced up the front. The manteau gown was particularly stylish. This gown had a bodice with a decorated panel that ran from the neckline of the dress to the waist. The dress would also include the robe, or overskirt, and petticoat, or jupe. The sleeves would end below the elbow.

Circa 1690
Doll by Christine Donnard
Doll is wearing a fontage, a headdress worn between 1690-1710
Only in Spain were the new forms not taken up.  Court dress became still more extreme, and this had a widespread influence upon Spanish fashions.   Women adopted even larger farthingales, and the rigid corsetry dictated the entire silhouette.   Men also retained their skirted doublets and bombasted trunk hose, and they preferred the ruff to the lace collar.

Dona Isabel de Velasco, circa 1656
Doll by Almudena Gonzalez, based on the painting by
Diego Velazquez, titled Las Meninas

Friday, June 29, 2012

Haute Couture of the 1950's

High sophistication from the pages of Vogue during the Dior Era
Doll created by Willem van der Leer
The 1950’s witnessed a new femininity in women’s fashions that actually began in 1947 under the  influence of  Christian Dior.  His New Look was reflected with softer shoulders, nipped-in waists, and fuller skirts.  Dior yearned for women's clothes to reflect the charm and elegance that he remembered in his mother's Edwardian gowns.  After the rationing of fabric during the Second World War, Dior's lavish use of material was a bold and shocking stroke, as his style used yards and yards of fabric. 

Made by Ana Delia Mercado
Evening versions of the New Look were very glamorous and consisted of strapless boned tops with full skirts. 

As influential and famous as Dior was, the 1950's saw many other talented designers that left their mark on the decade - Balenciaga, Coco Chanel, Yves St Laurent - just to name a few.  The decade was known for the full skirts, but we also saw slim sheath like fashions which were the epitome of glamour and sophistication.  Movie, television and recording stars in the Fifties also had a great influence on fashion.
Created by Ana Delia Mercado
During the 1950's, accessories were an integral part of a woman's wardrobe.  Matching shoes and  handbags were standard, often complemented by a hat and gloves.  Hairstyles tended to be structured, with every hair in place kept in control with hairspray.  From looking at magazines and ads from the era, most women sported short or medium length hair.  Make-up worn by fashion models gave them a vamp look, complete with arched eyebrows, heavy eyeliner and red lips.

Shirtwaist dresses were popular daywear styles during the 1950's.  The influence of the shirtwaist dress was strong, and lasted through the early 1960's
Made by Ana Delia Mercado
Women revolutionized fashion by wearing pants outside of the home, thus creating a fashion trend that has lasted through the decades.  Circle skirts and poodle skirts were popular among teenage girls. 

Capri style pants and matching tops were very popular
Made by Ana Delia Mercado

Friday, June 15, 2012

A German Bride, 500 BC

Spear Maiden German Bride, circa 500 BC
In the land between the Danube and the North Sea, the Germans, Jutes, Saxons, Franks, Goths, and other groups of people were all competing for space to live.  The Germans were a migratory people with vast herds, rapidly exhausting the land.  When they loved to a new area, it had to be conquered by the sword.  They cherished freedom and believed that a glorious death was preferable to captivity, for such a death insured a perpetual happy future life.  They also believed that all husbands and wives leading virtuous lives on earth would never part again in Valhalla.

As a result of all their migratory lifestyle, the women had great physical strength and beauty.  Their ideal of feminine virtue was the Goddess Frigga, patroness of the home and marriage.  She was supposed to be blonde and have blue eyes, the Teutonic ideal of beauty.

A bride was purchased from her father by a gift of cattle, horses, and weapons.  A man must consult his parents, her family, the tribal council and chiefs regarding the marriage. 

Maidens wore tunics of green linen embroidered with red wool, and under this a woolen tabard open at the sides.  The cape was secured on the shoulders by large gold brooches.  Long flowing hair indicates the bride was freeborn as well as a virgin.  The circlet on her head symbolizes her rank, the daughter of a chieftain.  Chains attached to the belt support the weight of the pouch, containing uncut jewels, sewing instruments, and a key.  The groom's gift to the bride was a two-handed, double-edged broadsword, shield, and spear. 

The inspiration for this doll is from a book called Foreign Brides from Antiquity, by Frank and Elizabeth Haines.  I was intrigued by the image of the German Bride, and wanted to add a doll from this period to my collection.  I commissioned Maya, of Maya's Muse, to make this for me, using a Mackie face Barbie doll with flat feet.  Making this doll was a long process and a story in itself, but as you can see, she did an incredible job.  Although I took my own photos, I decided to use the ones by Maya, since they look so artistic.  I highly recommend checking out Maya's site at for more of her beautiful doll creations.  She is an artist in every sense of the word.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Revisiting the Regency Era

Daywear, circa 1815
Created by Judy Frank
Due to civil unrest, a revolution broke out in France in 1789 leading to the end of the French monarchy.  From 1794 to 1799, a new government – known as the Directoiregoverned the country (quite ineffectively, as it turned out).  By 1799, the opportunity was right for a young military leader by the name of Napoleon Bonaparte to stage a coup.  In 1804, Napoleon crowned himself Emperor of France and began reestablishing order. Although his reign was marked by series of wars abroad, Napoleon was successful in bringing stability to the country as well as reestablishing a prosperous French economy, specifically the French textile industry.  The reign of Napoleon Bonaparte is now referred to as the Empire period in France.

This period is also referred to as the Georgian periodnamed after England's King George III.  Unlike France, England enjoyed a stable political climate during this period. King George was a virtuous man who enjoyed the simple life, but by 1810, a genetic disorder had fully incapacitated him, and his son, the Prince Regent, stepped into power to rule in his father's place.  Thus, the period from 1810 to 1820 is known as England's Regency period. 

Created by Ana Delia Mercado

Close up, without the Spencer jacket
During the revolutionary period in France, women's fashions began to change drastically. Extravagant corsets, panniers, and gowns made of silk brocade were cast aside as thin, almost transparent Grecian-like cotton gowns were adopted.  It was this idea of Neoclassical simplicity that changed the way female form was treated.  Garments began to drape and flow.  Corsets were discarded altogether.  For the first time since antiquity, the body was free to remain in its natural shape.  By1802, all of fashionable Europe was wearing what we now refer to as the Empire style gown.  
Sheer cotton fabrics such as muslin, gauze, and percale were the most popular English gown materials.  Raw cotton was imported from the Americas and India and manufactured in English textile mills.  Since the gowns of this period were so thin, the cold of winter required the adoption of large shawls imported from Kashmir, India (a British colony during this period).  Another defense against the cold of winter was the jacket.  English tailors fashioned the Spencer jacket, a short close fitting jacket cut from the same style as the dress bodice.  Later in the period, the Redingote - a full length coat – was worn.  
Created by Judy Frank, circa 1820

Bonnets, hats, and turbans were necessary to complete a lady's ensemble. While in public, women always had at least one of these. At home, ladies wore close fitting cotton caps to cover their unstyled hair.  Other important fashion accessories include the reticule, a small purse-like bag that closed at the top with either a drawstring or metal frame. Gloves were also prominent during this period and varied in length from wrist (for day wear) to above the elbow (for evening wear).

Presentation court dress, designed by Jimmy Ramos
Circa 1805-1815