Thursday, November 15, 2012

Historical Longings: Robe a l'Anglaise

Let me just say this first: I am not a Rococo girl.

I'm not. I know I'm into Lolita, but my inspiration comes from Victorian and retro images, primarily. And yes, I know what I said about the cemise a la reine. That doesn't count, either. It's not a rococo line; it's really more of an early example of what would become the clothing shape for the regency period.


For months now, I've been lusting after a garment I saw on Fairy Tale a la Mode. In a post she wrote about coordinating practice, she had this picture:

Honestly, I think that dress is perfect, and I want it. Even the color, somewhere between pear and olive, would match almost everything in my wardrobe. That failing, a beige-y ivory would work, too, or black or chocolate brown. But this green! And the cut! And I'm not a rococo girl, but it's so fabulous!

This, ladies, is the robe a l'anglaise. And I'm hooked.

Hailing from the mid-to-late eighteenth century, this is one of two major gown styles popular during that time.  The robe a l'anglaise had a fitted back:

Robe à l'Anglaise, 1770-75, Silk, metallic. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The look involves a full skirt and a 'robe,' which closes in the front but is open over the skirt. The back of the bodice comes to a point and is sewn into the skirt.

And, of course, there's the robe a l'francaise:

Robe à la française, 1760-70, Silk, cotton. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The skirt is full, and it is constructed in much the same way as the robe a l'anglaise (technically an overdress open in the front from the waist down), but the back was pleated and draped over the skirt. It was also known as a sack back.

Now, personally, I'm much more enamored with the robe a l'anglaise. The fitted back simply looks nicer, in my opinion. Not much else I can say to justify that opinion; just my aesthetic sense.

In terms of adding one to my own wardrobe, honestly, I'm torn. I could make one, and, in so doing, find the perfect olive fabric to match my wardrobe in a nice, sturdy, machine-washable variety. But I could also get one from, say, FanPlusFriend and save myself the cutting, sewing, and other madness that accompanies the making of such a dress.

One day, I shall acquire such a dress, though. And, when I do, it will be fabulous.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Historical Longings: Chemise a la Reine

Now, I'm not usually a Marie Antoinette girl. I find her absolutely fascinating as a historical figure and love the historical debate about her role in the onset of the revolution, but something about the extravagant wigs and excessive nature of her dress makes her less-than-appealing as a fashion icon to me.

But this dress.

The gaulle, or chemise a la reine, was introduced by Marie Antoinette in the early 1780s. In contrast to the highly structured garments worn by the French court and society at large, the gaulle was incredibly light, flowing, and simple. It consists of layers of thin muslin, loosely draped around the body and belted around the waist with a sash. Fashionable ladies of France and England quickly took up the trend.

There was, of course, scandal. The name "Chemise a la Reine" is a reference to the similarity the garment bears to the chemise worn at the time as an undergarment by ladies, a mocking moniker that notes that the queen looked, to many in the public, as if she had been painted in her underwear.

Despite the scandal, though, women wore it. The Duchess of Devonshire, a famous fashionista by any account, reported that she got one from Marie Antoinette. The fashion spread through England and France, and why shouldn't it? Look at these dresses.

They're frothy, fairly comfortable concoctions of draping and ruffles that are perfect for spring and summer.

I really want one. Preferably one that's been shortened to be appropriate for modern wear, but a historically accurate gaulle would do. I don't mean a mini-gaulle, of course; that would be ridiculous. No, I want a gaulle that's knee-length and just as full. I  Doesn't that sound like the world's most comfortable summer dress?

This dress gives you an idea what I'm looking for. It's a Lolita line, but without ruffles and frills and heavy fabric that would make the dress unbearable in summer.

Historical dresses: they're not just for paintings anymore.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

We Interrupt Your Regular Broadcast for a Shameless Contest Post

As I've mentioned before, I love indie Lolita brands, so when I saw that Lady Sloth was running a contest, I simply had to enter. To enter the contest, I had to design my dream coord made with the lovely dresses she makes, and this is what I created.

A Walk Through St. James' Park

The skirt is her St. James's Park skirt, which I think is absolutely lovely. I decided to take a lot of historical influence (by which nobody is surprised) and put together what is very much a rococo outfit. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a rococo-esque bodice in a color I liked in cotton, so I had to use one in satin.

To keep it from getting too fancy (a danger with satin), I tried to keep the accessories fairly simple. The leather boots have a low heel and minimal embellishment. The hat is straw. A simple choker and cameo ring are the only jewelry. The tights are simple. The bodice embellishments are only flowers.

An updo, of course, is the only way to wear the hair with this. There's too much historic influence not to. I'd even be half-tempted to do a hedgehog hairstyle to make it a little extra wild.

And, to anybody reading this, go. Enter the contest, or just gape at the pretties.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Historical Longings: A Series for November

If you're like me, November is a time when the media bombards you with things you don't have and the message that you need to have them by going out shopping on Black Friday. As such, I am writing a series of posts that will comprise my incredibly consumerist wish list.

There is a catch, however.

If you've been paying attention, you'll have noticed my penchant for historical fashion. The media, of course, misunderstands what items, precisely, I am the target audience for and so I am going to write a wish list not for items that are on the market but items that would have to be made in order to find their way into my wardrobe. Because all of them will be historical clothing.

I hope you'll embark on this insane journey with me and make your own wish list.