Tuesday, 25 September 2012

What have I been doing for the past few months......?

Just a quick update. I have been making most of the the court dresses and trains for the Jubile Imperial at Chateau Malmaison, plus other items. I will post more information soon........

Detail of pink silk satin redingote c.1806-1808. Worn for the arrival of Josephine at Malmaison

Hand finishing the train of Josephine. Thanks to Lizzie Drake for her help in finishing the trains!

Here is a nice video made by Jurgen Vsych where you can see the dresses in action!

Monday, 30 July 2012

A Stroll around Stourhead House and Gardens

Work is extremely busy at the moment but I was able to escape for the day and enjoyed a walk around Stourhead House and Gardens.

The house has a lovely collection of Grand Tour souvenirs and a diverse art collection. As always, I found plenty of costume inspiration from the paintings.

I particularly enjoyed the '18th Century' walk around the gardens. The walk takes you around the lake and you can visit temples and a grotto on the route. Stourhead gardens offers a unique view of a preserved 18th Century landscape.

Monday, 4 June 2012

1er Jubilé Impérial à Rueil Malmaison

Whilst many in the UK will be celebrating the Queen's Diamond Jubilee at the moment there is another special 'Jubilé Impérial' taking place in September at Chateau Malmaison, the residence of Empress Josephine.

Here are some images of the press launch of the Jubilé Impérial which took place a couple of weeks ago. The main weekend of events will be during the 14th-16th September 2012 at Malmaison and the surroundings of Rueil Malmaison. The program and further details can be found here.



 Our group brought to life the year of 1802 for the press, as a taste of what will be taking place in September during the Jubilé weekend.

Here is a news report about the event from 1.40 onwards.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Not Only a Shawl…..Shawl Dresses and Dresses Made from Shawls 1800-1815

 Part One


In France, after the Revolution there was a democracy of fashion. All levels of society were able to participate. Expensive silks, which would have been the preserve of the aristocracy, gave way to cottons, linen and muslin. The fashionable silhouette needed no corsetry, padding or panniers. The form was simple and inspired by the clothes of antiquity.  By the late 1790s this had evolved into the familiar shape of the ‘Empire Line’. Within the fashionable democracy some women wanted to enhance the style further by adding expensive accessories to their dresses.

Early Costume Parisien fashion plates show embroidered reticules, fichus and plain shawls. But by the early 1800s the first ‘Cashemire’ shawls started to appear in fashion plates.

The Cashmere shawl became an object of desire for those who could afford it and the ultimate accessory. To understand why, you need to appreciate how much one of these shawls would cost. The shawls were only produced in the Kashmir region and the spinning and weaving process was complicated due to the nature of the goat’s hair fibers. It is said that one shawl could take up to three years to weave. Then there was the further expense of transportation by land and sea to Europe. One bill from ‘Lenormand’ for a green cashmere shawl for the Empress in 1809 shows a price of 1920 francs. That is the equivalent to many thousands in today’s money.
Kashmir goat painted 1819.

Not only a shawl

Mans waistcoat 1780-90 V&A Collection
Robe made from cashmere shawl c. 1797

There are two late 18th century examples of clothes made from cashmere shawls in the Victoria and Albert Museum. However, in France the actual shawl dress or 'robe de cashemire' started to appear in Costume Parisien by 1804. 

One of the most famous wearers of this fashion was Josephine, Empress of France.

“Josephine- She had from three to four hundred shawls; she used them for dresses, for bed covers and for cushions for her dog. She always wore one in the morning which she draped over her shoulders more gracefully than anyone else that I have seen. Bonaparte who thought she was too much covered by these shawls, would pull them off and sometimes threw them into the fire. Josephine then called for another” 

Mme de Remusat, Memoires.

 As a costume maker it is interesting to understand how they would cut a shawl to make a dress. The paintings of the period offer many clues to their construction. It is obvious that the two ends of the shawl length make up the skirt part of the dress. A painting of Josephine and of her daughter Hortense shows the bodice is part of the centre of the shawl with the side border clearly visible. They are both caught at the shoulder in a tunic style. This could be a reference to classical fashion but also for practicality to use smaller parts of the centre of the shawl with a seam at the shoulder covered by the decorative pin.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Thank You!

I would like to thank 'A Fashionable Frolick' for awarding me the Liebster Blog Award. I am very grateful for this and thank you also for your kind words about my work.

So it now falls to me to award this to five other blogs. The criteria is that they should have less than 200 followers. So in no particular order..........

1. Morgan Le Fay Antique Textiles.
I love the interesting vintage textile items that are posted on this site. There is always inspiration here.

2. A Tailor Made It
I love to see the professional work on this blog.

3.Kleidung um 1800
Sabine's creations are exceptional and very inspirational.

4.V is for Vintage
Beth always posts an interesting variety of articles and I was a great fan of her brilliant recreation of a dress from Napoleon and the Empire of Fashion.

5.The Dress Diaries
Susan makes some beautiful creations and posts some very interesting articles.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Napoleon and the Empire of Fashion in the USA

I am very pleased to announce that two dresses from the collection are currently on display at Hillwood Estate Museum in Washington DC. They are on loan as part of an exhibition entitled, 'The Style that ruled the Empires: Russia, Napoleon and 1812'. I really like the new look mannequins and the way they are displayed with a mirror so you can see the back of the garments.


Photo courtesy of Cristina Barreto

Photo courtesy of Cristina Barreto

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

My First Dress of 2012 (1812)

Here are some details of my first Regency dress this year. Ironically, considering my previous post, I decided to make it in white!
 I decided to make a crossover style bodice which appears to be quite fashionable during 1811/12. Many period references seem to suggest that the dress is actually made in two separate pieces, rather than a dress with an extra panel piece added to the centre front.


So I made a separate under dress to fill in the centre front section.  I also found two existing under dresses in museum collections to support my research. It was also a useful addition to my Regency wardrobe as the under dress would fit under other gowns.

Simple, sleeveless underdress.

Underdress hem detail. The hem is quite large to give weight to the skirt so it does not waft!

Original underdress from Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

In my hoard of antique trim I had this lovely piece of whitework. The pointed edge reminded me of some details I had seen in ‘Costume Parisien’ of 1811-1812. Luckily it was in two separate pieces so I used the smaller section to add detail to the sleeves.  I decided to pleat the whitework hem piece rather than gather to keep it flat.

So here is the finished dress. I prefer the fit of the dress on me rather than my mannequin as it is too small. Sadly I do not have any full length photos of myself wearing the dress yet. At the centre back I used a drawstring closure at the neckline and waistline. This is a typical fastening for dresses of this period. 

Centre back detail of original dress 1809-1812( Napoleon and the Empire of Fashion Collection)
Centre back of my dress. Closed with a drawstring at the neckline and waistline.
First outing of the Regency Dress
Front view (mannequin too small and wrong shape)

No dress would be complete without accessories. Here are some of the pieces I wore with the dress.

Comb, buckle and Cashmere shawl c.1805-1815

Monday, 30 January 2012

Following In the Footsteps of Josephine. A visit to Malmaison

Firstly I would like to thank all my followers for their positive response to my article about colour and dresses 1796-1815.

A couple of weeks ago I visited Malmaison. Sadly, the section which displays Josephine's clothes was closed at the time but it was still wonderful to do some research for future projects.