Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Where is the 17th century?

The Dreamstress commented that I ought to make 17th century clothes as I have the face and figure for it and I replied that I would love to do it, as I really like that century, but when would I wear it? In Sweden I could easily go medieval and up to the 16th century without problem- and I want to. And I can, obviously, gorge myself in the 18th century. Regency wouldn't be problematic and Victorians seems to be everywhere. Not so the 17th century. Here and there someone sew a gown, but there doesn't seem to be more than something occasional. Perhaps I'm just looking at the wrong places, but I don't really think so.

I've hear different explanations to why the 17th century isn't that popular. Omne is that it's a more boring period if one compare it with the centuries before and after. I must disagree. Sweden was at it's biggest and most glorious at the time. England had the puritans and then the Restoration. In France the Sun king held court in the latter decades.

Then there is the explanation that the 17th fashion is too opulent, which it often is, of course, but hardly more so than the 16th century. What I haven't heard, but have wondered over nevertheless is that the fashion for beauty was very different from our ideals. The round faces and the often pregnant look for ladies, the double chins and overall sturdy appearances isn't exactly what we strive for today.

Yet another explanation is that it falls in between. The 16th century and the centuries before are so long ago that they sometimes feels imaginary. The further away it is in time, the more we have to guess and make out own interpretation which, even if you want to be as accurate as possible, a way to shape the past to what we wish it to be. The 18th century and onwards are on the other hand so close in time that we can recognise ourselves easily in it. The ideas and inventions that the 18th century stood for is in many ways what we still have- the first steps of the modern world takes place there. The poor 17th century is in between, both too old and too young.

What do you think? Are there other reasons? (I guess there is several mixed into each other) or am I very, very wrong and there are plenty of 17th century re-enactments that I have just failed to notice? Please discuss, class!


American Duchess said...

I think you've said it all. There are not many 17th c. reenactments (in America, and apparently Sweden too), and to get my 17th c. fix I try to eek up to early 1600-1610 at Renaissance Faires and hope nobody knows the difference.

Maybe we as bloggers of costume ought to band together to create "buzz" about the 17th c.! I think its a beautiful century, with some weirdness in places sure, but there are some truly fantastic gowns! I believe in the "if you build it (sew it), they will come," theory of life, as in...if we all sew 17th c.gowns and start wearing them, even on wildly inappropriate occasions, then events will follow, and of course there is always the option of throwing your own events and picnics just so you can wear your pretty 17th c. stuff :-)

The Dreamstress said...

Yay! 17th century for you!

I think historical periods go through fashions of being 'in' or not. 1970s costume books are actually full of designs for Nell Gwyn and Charles - we are just going through a dry spell. 1930s costume books focus heavily on Madame du Barry in the 18th century, with not a word about our current 18th century icons: Marie Antoinette, Madame de Pompadour, and the Duchess of D.

A really popular historical group (SCA, RenFairs etc) can make a particular era popular for a long time.

And of course, books and movies can help a lot. We really just need a 17th century blockbuster! Who should our heroine be?

I looooooove that first dress you posted. May I add it to my sewing wishlist pile?

And we should definitely work on some 17th c buzz!

Isis said...

You are probably right- there isn't enough 17th century buzz. So let's create it! We do get influenced by each other, after all.

Movies has a lot to do with as well, I think. Regency certainly got to be more "in" in the 1990's after all those Austen movies. But it also swings the other way around, of course. The 18th century seems to have got quite a lot of attention in the last ten years or so. I mean, look at Pirates of the Caribbean that is set in the 18th century, even though the Golden Age of piracy was the 17h century and most pirate movies have been set there.

Add away, Dreamstress. :-)

Lauren said...

I think you would look awesome in 17th century atire. I agree, there isn't a ton of buzz and it does seem to be the "forgotten" century. We have the occasional Muskateer here in Portland, but no beautiful 17th century ladies to go with it. Maybe we can create some buzz...

Pauline said...

Very cogent arguments all.

In the U.S., I think we tend to think of the 17th century as a time when we were still "under the thumb" of Britain and that is not the way we want to think of ourselves. Plus there's all that nasty Salem Witch trials business. So off putting. When will it be 1776, Mom?

Personally, as an historian writing/blogging about buccaneers,pirates and privateers, I find the era and it's clothing fascinating. All those petticoat breeches and high red heels, the curls on every head and the flat stomachers that turn a woman's proportions into something impossible. It seems delightful and horrifying at the same time. How do you get anything done in those outfits?

Thanks for the illustrations on this post, too. Gorgeous!

Isis said...

Lauren: Musketers without pretty ladies to ah and oh over them, what a shame!

Pauline: Yes, I can see that it wouldn't be the most inspiring century for you.

Pirate queen was actually my first choice for an adult occupation when I was five. :-D Highly inspired by Captain Blood... I was very pleased last year when I found a bona fide pirate queen an an ancestress. Well, privateer queen, but still!

Anonymous said...

Yes, bring back the 17th Century! Great idea to create a blog-buzz for the era. I love the period, especially after spending quite a bit of last year reading some of the Angelique books - such adventure and drama (though some of the translations aren't as good as the others) and all in gorgeous outfits!

I think some of the main problems for the century are: lack of a recent major 17th century film (there was the Libertine, but that wasn't massive, as far as I recall, while there are loads of Mediaeval, Renaissance/Tudor, 18th and 19th century tv shows/films/books); not so many extant examples in museums/fashion books as for 18th and 19th centuries; not so many (any?) commercial patterns for the kind of gorgeous gown you've posted pictures of. Those 17th C ladies and their portrait-painters certainly knew how to give good satin!

I have a challenge for you 17th-century-lovers - I bought this damask fabric because I adore it and because it struck me as very 17th Century, but now I have it, I'm at a bit of a loss about what to do with it - any ideas would be most gratefully received!
(It's 2.6m x 1.25m)

Right, I'd better get thinking about 17th century blog-buzzing...

Isis said...

Gentlewomanthief: Oh, I read the Angelique-books in my teens! Loved them then

I think there has soemthing to do with it- the lack of big movies. I haven't seen The Libertine yet, though I have it, but there are quite a lot of good ones out there. Your comment has prompted me to make a post with some tips. :-)

I think Reconstructing History has soem patterns, but apart from that, precious little. As you say, there's less extant examples out there, at least when it comes to female clothes. The museum Livrustkammaren in Sweden have a rather big collection of men's clothes, though.

What a lovely fabric! Though I must confess- my first thought was 18th century jacket, not 17th century...

Anonymous said...

Ooh - 18th c? Well, I wouldn't complain about that... what style do you envisage? I think I've got fabric fright and can't think of a thing to do with it! Will have to check out Reconstructing History - thanks for the tip!

Isis said...

I think it would look very pretty for a mid-18th century jacket, with not too much decorations. :-) The fabric is very pretty in itself.

Anonymous said...

Ooh - now you've got me thinking ... I've looked up a couple of mid century jackets and they're rather lovely - I can see what you mean now about the fabric suiting one of those (up until now I've tended to mostly look at later jackets). Will blog about them some time this week - would love to hear your thoughts about the pics I post. I think you have a good eye for what fabrics should be made into (and, of course, excellent taste)! Thanks again for your help, you've given me some great ideas ... :)

Isis said...

You flatter me. :-) But I'd be happy to look at your pics.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, again :) And it might be flattery, but it's true! Pics of mid-18th C jackets should be up shortly.

Idle-comment said...

Firstly: I haven't read all the comments here but... We must remember that women's breasts had an entirely different function two or three hundred years ago.
In the main they were necessary accouterments for child rearing and if the bearer of the child felt it demeaning in some way to have to feed a baby at her breast or that she wasn't able to give enough milk to the baby, then(if rich enough) she might employ a wet nurse.
Unlike today where women can whip up the latest formula baby food from a tin, people back then understood what was incumbent on a mother of a new born child. Indeed breasts were probably seen on most days of ones life being used as nature intended. Therefore bare breasts would have not given offence too many if any people at all. The dresses may have been far more practical than we are assuming on here.

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