Thursday, April 28, 2016

Wedding Fashions in the Time of Jane Austen

Wedding Fashions in the time of Jane Austen

I've just been to a lovely spring wedding, and it got me thinking about the wedding fashions of the Georgian and Regency period.


From the 1790s a wedding dress in white became the fashionable garment to wear, taking over from the white and silver dresses that had been worn by wealthy young women. Waistlines rose, sleeves became shorter and lace accessories not so regularly worn, although the bridal veil started to make its appearance at this time. Simple styles worn with less jewellery and diamonds were the order of the day, and lace veils were worn draped over the head for evening wear as well as wedding attire.
1804

The sheerest muslin from India was the most fashionable fabric, but silk, gauzes, fine cottens and linens also formed the basis of a wedding outfit. Machine made net, often embroidered was an alternative.
The actress Elizabeth Farren who married Lord Derby at his house in Grosvenor Square in May, 1797 had thirty muslin dresses for her trousseau. Jane Austen’s cousin, Eliza de Feuillide wrote of the ‘great number of simpletons from the ‘fashionable world’ who had ‘been to see her Wedding Garments which are superlatively magnificent - She has thirty Muslin dresses each more beautiful than the other, and all trimmed with the most expensive Laces. Her Wedding Night Cap is the same as the Princess Royal’s and cost Eighty Guineas - I have no patience with such extravagances, and especially in such a Woman.
1813
A nineteenth century fashion plate published in France in 1813 shows the model in a short-sleeved evening dress of embroidered machine net worn over a white silk under dress. The bride wears elbow-length gloves, a floral head-dress and lace veil. The earliest British plate was published in Ackermann in 1816, and features a dress by Mrs Gill of Cork Street made of striped French gauze over a white satin slip with short puffed sleeves. The hem has a deep flounce of Brussels lace with artificial roses trimming the skirt and bodice. She wears a diadem on her head with roses, though in this case there is no evidence of a veil.
The wedding of Catherine Tylney Long and William Wesley-Pole in March 1812 was reported in the fashion magazine, La Belle Assemblée - the bride’s ‘robe of real Brussels point lace’ was worked in a simple sprig pattern and worn over a white satin petticoat costing 735 pounds, a vast amount of money in those days. The bride also wore a white pelisse trimmed with swansdown and a Brussels lace bonnet decorated with ostrich feathers and a deep lace veil. The groom wore a plain blue coat, white waistcoat, buff breeches and white stockings in contrast.

From 1813 to 1825 wedding dresses looked more like evening dresses with low necks and short sleeves, though for church weddings sleeves were usually longer and a pelisse worn for modesty. The high waistline dropped so that by 1820 the waist resumed its normal position.

1830
By the 1830s trimmings became increasingly elaborate and though headdresses became increasingly elaborate, bonnets were often worn as a popular alternative.

I love this glimpse of Emma's wedding from Emma by Jane Austen - I think we get an insight into what Jane must have thought of some of the wedding fashions: The wedding was very much like other weddings, where the parties have no taste for finery or parade; and Mrs. Elton, from the particulars detailed by her husband, thought it all extremely shabby, and very inferior to her own. 'Very little white satin, very few lace veils; a most pitiful business! Selina would stare when she heard of it.' But, in spite of these deficiencies, the wishes, the hopes, the confidence, the predictions of the small band of true friends who witnessed the ceremony, were fully answered in the perfect happiness of the union.

Finally, here are the lovely costumes that Kate Winslet and Alan Rickman wear in Sense and Sensibility - it's interesting to see the film versions of Jane Austen's weddings, but that's another blogpost!




Wednesday, April 20, 2016

A Lovely Exhibition at the Fan Museum in Greenwich!





Afternoon tea at the Fan Museum
I love a beautiful fan, and they have been the must-have accessory for  young women in the UK since the 1500s. Though not widely used now I think most people with an interest in history of fashion wish they'd make a come-back! 
The Fan Museum at Greenwich is dedicated to the history of fans and craft of fan making, and holds over 5,000 fans and fan leaves with examples from all over the world from the 11th century to the present day. This year the museum is celebrating its twenty fifth anniversary and the museum’s curators have handpicked an array of fans that showcase the extraordinary diversity of the museum’s holdings.

Exhibition highlights include seventeenth century fans painted with mythological subjects, elaborately carved & gilt rococo confections, and twentieth century fans by artists George Barbier and Salvador Dali.
They also do the most wonderful afternoon tea in a beautiful room painted with trompe l'oeil scenes so I would highly recommend making a day of it! 









Amusing motto at the Greenwich Fan Museum
If you can't go to see the exhibition itself, you can search the collection - a wonderful resource for Regency writing or just for drooling over. 

Here's a very potted history of fan making.
Elizabeth 1 holding a feather fan
Queen Mary received seven fans as a New Year’s gift in 1556, and a number of portraits in the 1570s show her sister Queen Elizabeth 1 holding a rigid fan of feathers set in a bejewelled handle - it’s claimed that the fashion for fans and other accessories in Great Britain was born at this time following the tastes of Italy and France. Folding fans followed soon after - the records show that repairs were made on fans ‘with branches of Iverye’ or ‘blackwood’.
The fan industries of Western Europe evolved through the 16th and 17th centuries, before they established their own guild. The charter of the London Guild of Fan Makers was awarded by Queen Anne in 1709 and protective legislation was introduced to curb the import of fans. By 1723 it was claimed that English ivory carving was as good as the Chinese, and that English fans were as good, if not better than the French.
Chinese Brise Ivory fan-1790s
By the end of the 17th century it had become usual for the fan leaf (and often the back too) to be decorated with figures in settings. Most subjects were associated with romantic love, but Biblical and mythological subjects were considered suitable too. As well as painted leaves, print was also used, sometimes hand-coloured after printing. Fans were used widely outdoors and indoors, and the demand was great by the 18th century. Printed fans could be used for political ends, social scandal and other news such as the royal family’s visit to the Royal Academy in 1788. Other printed leaves might show the rules to a card game or show popular destinations on the Grand Tour. By the 1790s printed fan leaves were being issued by silk mercers as well as print publishers.
The role played by jewellers was important - Queen Caroline and Queen Charlotte both owned fans with guards encrusted with jewels.
In this period the royal ladies also enjoyed decorating fans. In 1786 the Princess Royal completed four fans and two muffs for the King’s birthday celebrations and four years later described ‘finishing a 
Princess Frederica
beautiful fan for the Queen, with feathers, flowers, insects and shells …’ The painted leaves would have been made into fans by professional fanmakers, and many were proud of their royal associations.
In 1791 Prince Frederick, Duke of York married Princess Frederica in Berlin, followed by an English ceremony in the Saloon at Buckingham House - now Buckingham Palace. The description of her fan states that the ‘whole is of pierced ivory held together with coquelicot ribbons … the outside sticks, in exception to the ivory are of gold, in the form of a chain closely set with diamonds … The inner sticks of ivory, when open, exhibit an oval medallion of His Royal Highness the Duke of York in relief, a correct likeness and masterly execution … It’s a beautiful fan, part of the royal collection.
In 1797 printed fans were published with the rules of ‘Fanology’, the secret language employed to allow ladies to ‘converse at a distance on any Subject without speaking.’ In the 19th century this was developed into lists of ‘signals’, which could be made by holding a fan in different ways. A fan held in the left hand in front of the face meant ‘I’d like to get to know you’, a fan drawn across the cheek declared, ‘I love you’, a half-opened fan pressed to the lips meant ‘You may kiss me’, whilst one drawn through the hand meant ‘I hate you’.
An example of a cockade fan
Ivory fans from China were prized for their skilled carving, and the best were paper thin. Cockade fans, which open to a 360 degree circle were first recorded in medieval times and were still popular in the 19th century. This type of fan was ordered from England and were often worked on from designs sent over to the customer’s preference.
With the hardships during the Napoleonic Wars, fan production dwindled in the early 19th century. As communication improved quantities of high quality fans were imported from Paris once more, despite the efforts of the guild.

In Northanger Abbey Jane Austen uses the fan as a way for Catherine Morland to avoid having to dance with John Thorpe - in the hopes she will soon see Mr Tilney!

The others walked away, John Thorpe was still in view, and she gave herself up for lost. That she might not appear, however, to observe or expect him, she kept her eyes intently fixed on her fan; and a self–condemnation for her folly, in supposing that among such a crowd they should even meet with the Tilneys in any reasonable time, had just passed through her mind, when she suddenly found herself addressed and again solicited to dance, by Mr. Tilney himself. With what sparkling eyes and ready motion she granted his request, and with how pleasing a flutter of heart she went with him to the set, may be easily imagined. To escape, and, as she believed, so narrowly escape John Thorpe, and to be asked, so immediately on his joining her, asked by Mr. Tilney, as if he had sought her on purpose! — it did not appear to her that life could supply any greater felicity.








I have several beautiful books on fans - 
The Fan Museum by Helene Alexander
Unfolding Pictures - Fans in the Royal Collection by Jane Roberts, Prudence Sutcliffe and Susan Mayor
Advertising Fans by Helene Alexander
Presenting a Cooling Image by Helene Alexander and Russell Harris 

Jane Odiwe
Mother of Pearl fan - 1830s

Saturday, April 2, 2016

A Review from Laura Boyle for the Jane Austen Centre Online Magazine

I'm absolutely thrilled with this wonderful review from Laura Boyle for Jane Austen Lives again - thank you, Laura!

Imagine a world where Jane Austen and her favorite characters exist in a Downton Abbey atmosphere—Impossible, you say, and yet, apart from the passage of years, they are all gentlemen and gentlemen’s daughters, as Elizabeth Bennet so succinctly puts it. In Jane Odiwe’s latest novel, Jane Austen Lives Again, our favorite author does not die at 42 in Winchester, but is kept, somehow in stasis, until Dr. Lyford can not only cure her last lingering illness, but revive her again in the prime of her life. The scientific details are not spelled out, and honestly, it doesn’t matter, as Ms. Odiwe’s book will captivate you from the first. Finally we are able to see Jane “live again” sans vampires and magic, and enjoy her introduction to modern life in the 1920’s.
Ms. Odiwe is unabashedly nostalgic about paying tribute to her favorite novels and stories of the period, from Cold Comfort Farm and I Capture the Castle, to Downton Abbey, all the while painting a lovely, if complicated plot involving recognizable characters from Austen’s own novels. A “novel” concept, indeed!
The story begins with Jane awaking in a new century, shortly after the close of the Great War, her recovery is glossed over, but her shock at having become a “famous” novelist is of course delightful. Unfortunately, the copyrights have expired and who would believe the truth, anyway. She is forced to take a position as companion to five young ladies living at Manberley Castle (shades of Rebecca, anyone?) a rather decrepit country estate in Devon. Her surprise at finding grown women rather than the children she was expecting is soon overcome by her realization that the entire family could use some help in realizing their full potential. In true Flora Poste style, she sets out, with just the right nudge here and opportune word there, to bring the family into some semblance of decorum.
Populating the castle, are Lord and Lady Milton, Lord Milton’s oldest children, Alice (a winning combination of Elinor Dashwood and Anne Elliot), Will (could there be any doubt?) and Mae (the personification of Marianne Dashwood with just a hint of Lousia Musgrove) along with three more daughters from his second marriage, Beth (Elizabeth Bennet), Emily (Emma Woodhouse) and Cora (Jane Bennet). The rest of the neighborhood is peopled with various other characters recognizable from Jane Austen’s novels while the downstairs staff has a distinct propensity towards Downton.
Throughout the novel, Jane takes her young charges in hand managing their personal trials and love lives with an author’s deftness, all the while failing to take into consideration the love story happening in her own life. Her own difficulties in finding her place in this brave new world, in making room for her writing and in giving her heart a second chance can only be all-absorbing to the reader with the same literary taste as Ms. Odiwe.
Throughout the novel you will find delightful surprises and references to Austen’s works as well as the others listed. Julius’ home, Salcombe Magna is just such a one and gives a glimpse of who he is and what is in store for Mae (but is he truly as wicked as Willoughby, or only a selfish Frank Churchill?) So many characters are given facets of others that it will keep you guessing to the very end—and who could ever complain about a novel with two Mr. Darcys!
Fleshing out the novel are delightful descriptions of castle life, walks about the countryside, trips to the seaside and even a climactic scene in a London nightclub, so reminiscent of Lady Rose MacClare’s Jazz club adventures in Downton Abbey. In fact, the pervasive popularity of that show is a wonderful thing for the reader trying to picture just how life might have played out, upstairs and down, and how the vividly detailed gowns and ensembles would have looked. Jane is, as she ever was, pleased to be looking fashionable once again. A treat to the imaginative reader, the novel also provides ample scenes from Austen’s previous life, introducing her family to us as well as providing a plausible backstory for her turquoise “engagement” ring. Later rings feature towards the end of the book, including a suspiciously familiar sapphire and diamond (could any proposal be more perfect?)

All in all, Jane Austen Lives Again will be a treasured addition to any sequels library. The winning combination of old and new will have you guessing to the very end just what is in store for our heroines (of which there are many). The final scene, in the hall, decorating the Christmas tree strikes just the right note of closure, though one could wish the book to go on forever—would a sequel even be possible? I, for one, certainly think so, and would be glad to spend more hours in such amiable company. Kudos again to Ms. Odiwe for continually testing her creative limits, bringing Jane Austen to life (again) in such a fresh and imaginative way.