Sunday, March 1, 2015

Pleat This-Crimp That

Continuing on with pleated caps.  Lots and lots of pleated caps and lots and lots of caps that I think are crimped not pleated.  Opines are always welcome and are especially important when making subjective observations that are not based on extant objects.

Female Lucubration, British Museum, c1772

Art Institute of Chicago

The same print from the Art Institute of Chicago. A better view of the cap, her sleeve ruffles and also of her apron, and handkerchief

Her cap has very shallow knife pleats around her face, puffs along the join of the pleats and a decorative ribbon that does not appear to go around her head.  The ribbon puffs appear to be made from a ribbon at least two inches wide.

Of note are the apron strings going around the back of the gown.  It has been suggested to me that women put their apron strings through the pocket slits in order to not break the line of the gown in the back. The views of the back of women's gowns do not bear this theory out so far, but something to keep in mind while examining artwork.  Clearly here the apron strings are tied around the back and then to the front.

Queen Charlotte, 1771, Royal Collection Trust

This ring has a similar cap to the lucubrator above worn by Queen Charlotte, which brings up the question.  Could this be a "Queen's Cap"?  I don't think there will ever be an answer to that, but if you have the question, you may stumble on the answer somewhere along the way.

Charlotte's cap is more high end, sharper pleats with more decorations at center front.  Smaller ribbon puffs and I think it is wired or heavily starched.  Possibly crimped but it could be pleated.  Difficult to tell, so for this one I am leaning towards pleats but could be shoved over to crimped with a little push.

Attributed to  Copley

This portrait has no date or provenance.  It has been speculated to be by Copley, but who knows.  Now this cap could be crimped.  Very simple in design, but the fabric is lovely, sheer gauze.   This is going to be the next project since I have finished the Elizabeth Carr cap.   I have the gauze, the design, just need the hours.  I have experimented with crimping silk gauze, easy peasy.  A post on that soon.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

The "Winged" Cap

Probably the winning style for the 1770s.  The winged cap has as many variations as there are wings on birds.  Clearly a take on the "dormeuse" style, the English versions vary in size, style and placement on the head in the same year.   This cap also is able to adapt to the status and hairstyle of the wearer.  A very versatile cap, that in my opinion becomes another cap in the 1780s but that is another post.

One of the first new caps that I copied this winter was "The Enterprising Chimney Sweeper" worn by the maidservant in this print c1772.  The text reads "So fine a girl! you must belie her, would never let that sweep come nigh her" 

Note: Some people have found this print offensive.  I see a small chimney sweep covered in soot stealing an embrace with no racial twist.  Others do not see it that way and we all know that what one individual sees another does not.  (Insert gold and white dress.)

Lewis Walpole Library, c1772

A large loose bag/caul and sweeping winged knife pleats surround her face.  And note her cropped hair.  When looking at many of these prints of lower class women, noticeable bangs/short hair is more frequent than one would think.  Not fashionable.  Not stylish.  Not something you think of for women in the 18th century.

But.. WARNING.. speculation ahead.  What did a poor girl have to sell besides the obvious? What did the wigmakers need?  Hair.  Lots and lots of hair.  Where did the hair come from?  Is it beyond the bounds to imagine a servant selling her hair?  Something to put in the back of the noggin as we look at some of these lower class prints.

Why call it a "winged cap" instead of a "dormeuse"?

British Museum, c1774
From "A Description of the latest Fashions of the Year 1774".

 "cap with small wings".

British Museum, 1778

This time from 1778.

"caps, large wings, or queen's caps; no lappets nor streamers"

This is not the first reference I have found for "queen's cap", but which Queen?  Charlotte or Marie?

Since life is never simple, here we have not only a "queen's mob" we also have a "queen's round cap" to muddy the waters.  Did the "queen's" cap of 1778 look anything like the "queen's" cap of 1765?  Or was the name reflecting the current style of cap being worn by the queen?  Having the early reference to the "queen" does make it more likely to be Queen Charlotte rather than Marie.

Friday, February 27, 2015

New Pattern Coming Soon

Our new Larkin& Smith pattern is almost ready to launch.  It has come back from the grader and we are working diligently on the directions.  Extremely important to us is that the directions be clear, organized and sensible to someone looking at the pattern for the first time.  No modern shortcuts means period construction which is actually soooo much easier than crazy sewing machine workarounds.

So what is it?

What to call this gown was problematical.  No lie.  It is what we today would call a version of a "zone", it could be called a "French Fly Away" style.  We decided to call it a "Polonaise", since that is what so many versions of this gown are named as in the French Fashion Prints.

Original Gown

The gown is in a private collection, making the ability to examine, measure and replicate this gown much easier.  Actually it would have been very difficult to incorporate all of the very small but important details of construction without the ability to look at it every day and examine every tiny detail up close.

Deceptively simple.  The glory of this gown is how the skirt flares out over the bum roll which is not only required when wearing this gown, but also included in the gown pattern itself.   Tiny pleats, smaller than you have ever made before ( I can almost guarantee), are the focal point.  And we walk  you through it, step by step.

We will be blogging a lot more about this gown, the pattern and the style itself in the weeks to come.  It has been a pleasure to work on and we hope everyone else enjoys making it as much as we have.

l'Art de la Coeffure des Dames Francoises

When poking around my old files looking for cap images, I came across these prints by M. Legros,
from the Bibliotheque national de France, l'Art de la Coeffure des Dames Francoises printed in 1768 by M. Legros contains colored plates of very stylized hair and a few caps.

 Read more about M. Legros here with links to even more.

One cap style in particular is notable from M. Legros, the small shaped cap above actually translates to a cap worn by good ole Colonial Americans.  But in a less colorful version.

Dorothy Quincy, MFA
Dorothy's cap is clearly a spin off of the French version following the shape and placement on the head, but not the colorful add ons.  This cap is all white decoration and white ribbons, the portrait was painted c 1772.

While the cap is similar the hair itself is very simple, no tight curls or rolls, so the cap made it to Boston but the hairstyle did not.

Another simpler version by M. Legros.

And one more.

Mr. Copley painted a version this cap more than once.

Mr. and Mrs. Winslow, MFA, c1773

A very complex cap, one that would have been purchased ready made and imported from England.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

More French Heads

I am going to post the remainder of the prints that are from the same collection since I have not yet seen them on another site or blog.   IF anyone comes across the publication date for these prints, please let me know.

Monday, February 23, 2015

French Cap Prints

Having gone thru a number of cap styles it is time to look at probably the most well known cap style.  With so many variations, it is hard to catalog this as just one style, but the overriding aesthetic remains in place over a number of changes.

In France they called this style the Dormeuse.  And in France they issued fashion plates with labels! Alas, those tidy labels are somewhat lacking in number and quality in English prints.

No doubts here.  That nice little label is right at the bottom of the print.  What I don't have is a date for these prints.  They came from a print seller site, not a museum.  A guesstimation noting the hairstyle and gown would be late 1770s-early 1780s.

Google Translate give us "bonnet to the daybed" as a translation for the caption.

Google is not much help here, "cornette rolls up to the dairy" is the caption translation.  Certainly the cap is a variation on the theme of the first print, the roll must be referring to the hair?

This one translates as "round cap with a green head tied carelessly".  Which is actually understandable.

An epic fail with Google translate: "the damn hat" is what it comes up with.  Anyone more familiar with 18th century French, help out here!

If we go with the gist of the first transition,"dormeuse" would indicate a day cap.

The term "dormeuse" does not appear in the Early American Newspaper database or the English Newspaper database until the 1790s and then it references a type of horse carriage.

The term also does not appear in the Old Bailey online, and if we go with the translation of "dormeuse" as a day cap, why would it?

Saturday, February 21, 2015

After Market Add On?

Currently for sale on the Diane Thalman website.  This late 1770s-80s silk gown has some interesting embroidery.

Of a pretty pale blue silk taffeta, this gown is pretty darn typical.  Some ruching round the neck and some trim about the front of the skirts down to the hem.  The embroidery strikes me as having been done after the gown was made.

It is also very primitive?  If that is the right word for 18th century silk embroidery. And is it 18th century?

The embroidery is extremely symmetrical in the placement of the motifs especially at the shoulders and center back and center front.  This would be so much faster and easier to achieve when the gown is finished, rather than it being made.

So let's speculate.  Was the embroidery contemporary to the gown?   Or was it an "After Market Add On" later in it's life?

The inside lining is pristine.  But it is easy enough to embroider the outer fabric without going through to the lining.

A puzzle, but a pretty on and reminds me very much of the embroidered gown at Colonial Williamsburg, in execution not design.

Colonial Williamsburg

Friday, February 20, 2015

Label Me, Please

The bedazzled cap is just one of many of a similar style that was extremely popular in the 1760s and that bleeds into the 1770s.  But what is the label/name of this cap.  I don't know.  If anyone has a period reference, please pass it along.  The caps are everywhere in portraiture, but since it is early there are few fashion references in the Lady's Magazine (not yet published) or the Pocket Almanacs that I have found.  By the way the Pocket Almanacs are the best sources of fashion descriptions, much more so than the Lady's Magazine, and harder to find. 

Heart shaped, very Tudor like in appearance and very flattering to the wearer.  I have come across some really nice images of these caps.

Thomas Frye, British Museum
Beyond bedazzled, this cap has pearls, pins and every other ornament in the jewelry box.  1762 is the date attributed to these prints. No artist given, the printer is Thomas Frye in London.

Thomas Frye, British Museum

Also printed by Thomas Frye, this cap not only has the heart shape but also rows of knife pleated lace (I think) with a snakelike ruched ribbon at center front.  She also has an excellent ribbon collar (what we would call a choker), which would be easy to copy.  It is a large rushed ribbon tied in back, with a row of small ribbon puffs and another bow at center front.  Press the easy button for that!

Both of these caps have the heart out of lace.  One more printed by Mr. Frye, just cause.

So what did this style look like in the early 1770s?

Mrs. Goldthwait, 1771

Mrs. Goldthwait in 1771 is still wearing this cap.  It is also made of lace, at least the part we can see. An additional piece of lace is wrapped under her chin.  I don't think it is integral to the cap,it seems to be behind the bottom of the cap, but I could be wrong.  I originally called my version of this cap "Mrs. Goldthwait" but have since changed the name.

And one more, Mrs. Deveraux, 1771.  A variation and evolution of style, but with the same underlying theme.

Mrs. Humphrey Devereaux, 1771

This time, I do think the under the chin effect is integral to the cap.  Difficult to tell without a good zoom but this heart does not appear to be laced.  And as soon as I wrote this I googled her and came across a zoomable image.

You can clearly see it is not laced and I would also suggest she is wearing a wig.  That hairline is just kinda odd.  I believe these type of pleats are starched and crimped to stay in place.  Still with that little something at center front and no visible wire and yet I think it is a "wired" cap.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015


This amazingly lovely lady was recently sold on Ebay.  A fate that befalls many an 18th century female.  But look! Someone bedazzled her cap.  An aberration?  A sparkle  or accent  by the artist to reflect the color of her lips?  hmmmm.. 

Seeing this red jewel on her cap, really made me start to be aware and be on the lookout for other images with that feature.  And yes, Virginia, I did find another jewel, without even looking very hard.

Another bedazzler at work.  Right smack dab in the middle of the cap.  A focal point for sure, but as I have been working on a version of this cap I  have realized the jewel might very well be performing a function.   The little extension from the front of the cap has no place to go except bouncing up and looking silly.  But you want it to be down, so a small jewel at the end of the extension would add weight and help keep it where it should be.  I am on version 2 of this cap and hope to have it done by tomorrow.  I even have a jewel.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Take it on the Chin Cap

The lower sorts, especially older women and young servant girls frequently wear this cap. It ties under the chin, and over the ears.  So is this a version of the round earr'ed cap?

This print offers a pretty upfront look at two distinct cap styles.  The winged version on the left and the round earr'ed cap on the right.  This under the chin version appears over and over again on the working classes.  
My Wife and Your Wife, c1779

Cobbler's Hall, 1778
Another similar cap, she is not elderly, but she is depicted as indigent in this print. 

There is no date assigned to this print by the British Museum, but the aesthetic is similar to those caps above.  The frill at center front would date it relatively early, but that is a supposition.

Watercress Girl, c1780

 Reprinted many times, according to some sources, the two companion pieces, "The Watercress Girl" and "The Flower Girl" could have been painted by Zoffany upon his return from Italy in 1779.  Notice her cap and the chin ties left dangling.   One good thing about a chin cover up for older women is hiding the turkey neck.  Young girls don't have that worry! 

The Flower Girl, Printed 1784

She is also wearing a cap with her chin ties hanging down.  Both girls are shown as indigent.  

More coming on this style of cap!