Saturday 29 March 2014

18th century wired caps

Detail from a portrait of an unknown lady by Ulrika Fredrica Pasch, 1770
All my sewing projects have been on hold for the past couple of weeks as I have had another bout of bronchitis coupled with a tummy bug. I really, really don't recommend that! I'm basically well now, but still weak and tired and it says something that I haven't even done the tiniest amount of sewing whatsoever. And as I still don't feel up to do anything big, I have decided to make an 18th century cap. Small, needed and quite fast. Perfect.

Actually, I need more than one, a small one that goes for the earlier 18th century and a big one for the later decades. However, I will make a small one now. I have had my eyes on a style that seems to have been popular 1740-1770, or so, where the ruffle is standing out like a halo around the face and is often called wired caps. After looking at ever cap of that kind I realized that even if they have the halo effect, there are several styles to this kind of cap. It is never easy, is it? I strongly suspect that caps were never ever a set style, but rather something you made up as you went, borrowing style elements from where it pleased you. Of course, geography and current fashion trend are influences that lay heavy on you.

A basic cap has a rather simple construction, there is the crown and the band at the very minimum and very often a ruffle. Some also have lace lappets that hang down the back. Extant examples show that the whole cap could be made of linen or lace, or a combination of materials. As crown, band and ruffle could have a variety of shapes, which must have been a very easy way to obtain different looks. For some useful information and free patterns, see links at the end of the post.

I'm uncertain if all caps that stand out from the face are wired. Some may very well be just heavily starched. The first picture at the post and the ones just below here, are clearly wired. At first I thought that the lace was pleated, but thought that may be the case on some, I also think that it is mounted on a wire framework. It looks like pleating at the first glance, but the lace pattern would be broken if there were pleats.

This cap looks like it is pleated, on the other hand. You can also see what looks like wire running through the middle and top.

Detail from a painting of an unknown woman by Benjamin Branting Nilsson
Detail from a portrait of Countess Maria Eustachia Porporato by Maria Giovanna Clementi La Clementina
Detail from a portrait of Annushka, a serf from Siberia by Ivan Argunov, 1767
In the company of a lot of fake pearls.

Many caps have this little dip in front, which is probably a lot easier to maintain if the edge is wired than just starched and shaped.

Detail from a portrait of a noblewoman by Donat Nonotte, 1760
Detail from a portrait of Madame François Buron by Jacques Louis David, 1769
This one doesn't look so stiff, so perhaps it is just heavily starched, but I also thik that it may be a wire encased inside the white ribbon.

Detail from a portrait of Dorothea Sopia Thiele by Anton Raphael Mengs, 1744
Detail from a portrait by Pietro Rotari

A few black lace caps. I assume that this is a widows mark as the women wearing black caps seems to be middle aged.

Detail from a portrait of Empress Maria Theresia of Austria by Jean-Étienne Liotard
Detail from a portrait of Madame Sophie by Franz Bernhard Frey, 1766
Detail of a portrait of an unknown lady by Louis Tocque

Caps that I think are just starched and not wired. Perhaps.
Detail from a portrait of Portrait of Madame Restout by Maurice Quentin de La Tour, 1738
Detail from a portrait of the child Nicole Ricard by Maurice Quentin de La Tour
Detail of a portrait of Kristina Sofia Sack by Gustaf Lundberg

Caps that are tied under the chin.
Detail from a portrait of Theresa Concordia Mengs by Anton Raphael Mengs, 1745
Detail from a portrait of Rosamund Sargent by Allan Ramsey, 1749
Detail from a portrait of Madame Lenoir by Joseph Siffred Duplessis, 1764
Detail from a portrait of Mademoiselle Salle by Maurice Quentin de La Tour

Detail from a portrait of Countess de Rieux by Maurice Quentin de La Tour, 1742
Generally these caps seems to be made of lace and not plain linen. The front are sometimes cut into two separate halves, sometimes in one piece. The nes tied under the chin looks softer and may not be wired at all and they are more often pleated. I haven't decided if I'm going for a cap with a lace front or one on plain linen, but I will make it pleated and just reinforce it. Duran Textiles has several free cap patterns, so I will use one of them as a template.

Several links to extant caps collected by The 18th Century Notebook can be found here.

Commercial cap patterns:

Wired cap pattern

Cap patterns from Nehelenia Patterns

I haven't found anyone who has made a wired cap, but here are a few other cap tutorials of interest:

A Frolic Through Time has made an adorable dormeuse cap, part 1 and part 2 and part 3.

A Fashionable Frolic's round eared cap.

Couture Maya has made several caps.

Art, Beauty and A Well-ordered Chaos has a step by step tutorial for making a cap.

Saturday 15 March 2014

The Swedish national gown in the 18th century

Sophia Magdalena, Queen consort of Sweden by Nicholas Lafrensen
This is the year of the Swedish national gown for me, so I thought it wouldn't be amiss with a more throughout post about it than I have done before. I am leaving the men's suit out of it, but I can tell you that though the ladies weren't that keen on their gown, the suit was rather a success. The idea of a national suit was something that cropped up all around Europe in the 18th century, but it was only in Sweden that it was actualized. Gustaf III felt strongly about the subject and there are very strong indications that he designed them himself. If he didn't, he sure did have a lot of influence over the process, because the suit was certainly made to fit his preferences for clothes that weren’t too tight and with the handy cape that hid some slight deformities in his body. His interest in history and historical fashion is also evident.
The women's gown consisted of three parts, a sleeveless bodice, a petticoat worn over pocket hoops and a robe. They were all trimmed with a pleated trim in the same fabric and there were also a belt and bows in a contrasting fabric. The fabric could be of various colours, but even if the fabric had a pattern, the colour should be solid, i.e. woven into the fabric like the extant gown. The robe was originally cut like a polonaise, but both pictures and the remaining extant gown are cut like an anglaise. The poufy sleeves and a standing collar were the largest deviation from the fashion of the day, but even from the start, ladies could opt for a small white collar instead. There were also numerous rules for how a gown should look, depending on the wearer’s status and when it was to be worn.
The court gown
The big difference between the court gowns and the common gown was the sleeves. A lady who had been presented to the king wore white gauze sleeves with a lattice work of the robes fabric over. The trail was also longer and looped up a bit differently than the common version. For everyday court business the gown was black, apart from the sleeves and the bows and belt were in a colour that indicated which court the wearer belonged to. Red for the King, although it seems that pink could be worn as well, if one looks at portraits, blue for the Queen and yellow for the Dowager queen.
Another lady attached to the King's court.
Gundborg Charlotta Ehrencreutz by Johan von Rosenheim, 1779-1790, Nordiska museet
For grand balls the gown were originally meant to be bright red with white belt and bows, to honour the Queen's Danish heritage, but it must have been clear very early on that bright red wouldn't be the best shade to put a whole court in and there are no evidence that the red version were ever made. Instead the gala version became white with pale blue bows and belt, nicely complimenting the men's suit which was pale blue with white details.
Lady in the national gown, c. 1780, Nordiska museet
There are no paintings of the gala version as it is described; this portrait of Queen Sophia Magdalena seems to be the closest. The lattice sleeves are decorated with gold and so it the robe, which seems to be in a patterned fabric and is not trimmed with pleated fabric. The bodice is blue, and not white.
Sophia Magdalena, Queen consort of Sweden by Pehr Krafft, 1782, Nordiska museet
There was also a third version meant for the countryside, known as the Eksolsund's gown. It was in a pale yellow with blue details and for young ladies it deviated from the standard cut as it was supposed to be made like a riding habit. Older ladies wore the ordinary bodice/petticoat/robe combo. There are stories on the problems the court had when they were residing at Drottningholm castle as the castle itself demanded the back version, but if they were to go to the Chinese pavilion in the park, the Ekoldsund's version were to be worn. The king advertised the clothes of the day by putting a card on the door to his room, but he often changed his mind several times, so the court had to keep a vigilant eye on the door so to not show up in the wrong clothes.
I have never seen a portrait of a lady wearing the Ekolsund’s gown, but here is Gustaf III’s son, Gustaf IV Adolf with his wife Fredrika in the early 19th century in the male version, just to give you a sense of the colours.

The common gown
With sold sleeves and a shorter train, it was very easy to spot the common gown. In theory it could be made in any colour, as the male suit seems to have, but there are only records of black, blue and grey ones. The one remaining gown is just in the common version and was made as a wedding gown for Sofia Lovisa Brüch in 1780. The bows and belt are reconstructions.
Nordiska museet

Front view of the common gown by Jacob Gillberg, 1778

Back view of the national gown by Jacob Gillgren, 1778, Nordiska museet
 Lady in the common gown with striped bows.

Unknown lady by an unknown painter, c. 1780, Nordiska museet
 A common gown in self-striped grey fabric and pale pink stroped bows.

Unknown lady by an unknown painter, c. 1780, Nordiska museet
A china figurins of a lady in the common gown, Marieberg, 1779-1782
There were also gowns that, even if they weren't strictly cut after the national gown, still took their inspiration from it, like this charming one it patterned white/yellow silk/cotton.

Gown, petticoat and stomacher, 1780-1790, Nordiska museet

Or this black one. The bodice in those gowns are discarded and the pouffy sleeves changed for more fashionale slim ones.

Gown and petticoat in black taffeta, late 18th century, Göteborgs stadsmuseum

Perh Hilleström paintied several paintings with peole dressed in the national suit and gowns. On the first you can see a seated lady belonging to the King's court and a lady in a grey common version. The lady arriving is also wearing a black national gown, though you can't tell if it is the court or common version.

Card Party in the Home of Elis Schröderheim by Pehr Hilleström, c. 1779, Nationalmuseum

Monday 10 March 2014

Come to Stockholm for a whole weekend of lectures of period sewing

April 4-6 there will be a whole weekend devoted to period sewing, hair and makeup in Stockholm. You will have to understand Swedish to appreciate it, though. The focus will be on the Viking age and the 18th century. I don’t know why one has opted to choose two periods so far apart, but I think it could give some fun perspective if you are mainly into one of them.
There will be visits to museums, Historiska for talk about Viking clothes and Nordiska for the 18th century. At the visit to Nordiska, extant garments will be shown and allowed to take pattern from. How neat is that? There will also be lectures on styling wigs, embroidery, and makeup. I’m going to hold the lecture on 18th century beauty and cosmetics. There will be sewing courses for 18th century men’s and women’s clothes and a few other things. There will also be a small party in costume on Friday.

Thursday 6 March 2014

Linen stays, c. 1780

When binding them I did wonder why I thought it was a good idea to make man, narrow tabs...
I made these stays for The Historical Sew Fortnightly 2014, challenge #4, Underneath it All. It is also a project to cross off my UFO list, I cut these out in September 2012, but didn't start with the rest until January this year.

I'm not altogether pleased with them. It's years since I tried making stays that are just back-laces, so I had to make a new pattern. As I have a large bust, a narrow back and an extremely narrow rib-cage, stays patterns are a bit hard to make. And though I made this pattern even more narrow in the back and wider on the top front, you can see that it needs more room there, while still being laced shut in the back. I blame the linen for that, though, and also for the straps being too long- I had shortened those, because linen do stretch a lot. I thought I had accounted for that, but evidently not enough. I also feel that the front bottom looks a bit clumsy. I should have divided the front and made it with 9 pattern pieces instead of 7 and re-shaped the front to a more elegant point.

But the linen canvas and the plastic whalebone provides good enough support and I think they are rather pretty. I was inspired by these stays:

For the broader strip of leather under the arm, Stays 1780-89.

For the horizontal mock-lacing in the front, stays 1780-95.

The Challenge: #4, Underneath it All
Fabric: Brown linen for the top layer and linen canvas for the bottom layer.
Pattern: Self drafted, but heavily influenced by stays in Jill Salen's Corsets.
Year: C. 1780
Notions: Yellow buttonhole thread for the boning channels and lacing holes, plastic whalebone, chamois leather for the binding and some yellow ribbons for the lacing.
How historically accurate is it? Well the pattern is quite correct and the linen and chamois leather. However, the boning channel are made by machine as my hands can't handle sewing them. The binding are made by hand, though.
Hours to complete: No idea.
First worn: For these photos.
Total cost: Don't know. The linen canvas, the chamois leather and the plastic whalebones were from my stash and I have forgotten how much the brown linen cost.
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