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"What Antiques! What Folly" - Fashions of the Fury at French Azilum

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A special exhibit of reproduction clothing at French Azilum, opening in May 2015, will feature styles of high fashion and daily wear for men, women and children. From intimate garments to an authentic wedding gown, stop in to see this colorful exhibit set in the period rooms of the LaPorte house.
Polonaise Gown, c. 1780 Polonaise gown, hand-painted and hand-sewn reproduction of an extant ensemble at the Metropolitan Museum of Art . Silk calash, hand-sewn reproduction of an extant item in the collection of Pottsgrove Manor. Left, reproduction gown with calash, right, original gown back view. Exotic goods from the East were always highly desirable in fashionable European society, whether home furnishings of rare woods, ladies’ ivory fans, or textiles for expensive garments.

Photoshop helped make an interesting comparison photo of the repro, left, and the original painted silk ensemble, right, at the Met in NY. Looking closely the real dress has much softer colors -I wonder how the repro will look in 200 years?

Ensemble at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (accession #1976.146). Robe a l'anglaise gown and petticoat. Painted silk, Chinese export fabric.

Dress (Robe à la Polonaise). Date: ca. 1780 Culture: French Medium: silk Credit Line: Purchase, Mr. and Mrs.

Left, 18th c. Court suit; right, Black Velvet reproduction c.1775-1780  Suit with silver lace trim and black brocade waistcoat; from The Cut of Men’s Clothes, by Norah Waugh. The elegant 18th century gentleman was no less concerned with presenting a fine appearance than was his lady. An 18th century manual on etiquette for ladies and gentlemen advised that “One should always ‘put the best foot forward’; please, shine, dazzle, whenever it is possible...”

Left, 18th c. Court suit; right, Black Velvet reproduction c.1775-1780 Suit with silver lace trim and black brocade waistcoat; from The Cut of Men’s Clothes, by Norah Waugh. The elegant 18th century gentleman was no less concerned with presenting a fine appearance than was his lady. An 18th century manual on etiquette for ladies and gentlemen advised that “One should always ‘put the best foot forward’; please, shine, dazzle, whenever it is possible...”

Spring Ensemble, c. 1780, Left English gown adapted from a dress in the collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) (accession #M.66.31a-b) Hooded cape adapted from extant garments in the collections of LACMA (accession # M.2007.211.669) and the Colonial Williamsburg (accession # 1953-968). The painted bag is a reproduction of an extant item in the Boston Museum of Art (accession #43.696b)

Spring Ensemble, c. 1780, Left English gown adapted from a dress in the collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) (accession #M.66.31a-b) Hooded cape adapted from extant garments in the collections of LACMA (accession # M.2007.211.669) and the Colonial Williamsburg (accession # 1953-968). The painted bag is a reproduction of an extant item in the Boston Museum of Art (accession #43.696b)

China exported exquisite silk fabrics that were hand-painted with designs of flowers, birds and insects in realistic and fantastical colors and designs made especially for the Western market. In addition to extant gowns in collections, these vibrant silks can be seen in both European and American portraits of fashionable women.

China exported exquisite silk fabrics that were hand-painted with designs of flowers, birds and insects in realistic and fantastical colors and designs made especially for the Western market. In addition to extant gowns in collections, these vibrant silks can be seen in both European and American portraits of fashionable women.

These were made in dark green, grey, and red, but brown and black were the most popular. And because of their darker ‘sooty’ hues, these fabrics were termed “ramoneur” (the chimney sweep). Printed on both cotton and linen, they were used in women’s clothing of all types, from outerwear to dresses and American shortgowns.

LACMA inspiration, my interpretation on the right; completely hand-sewn, including that 8 inch wide ruched edging. Cape and trim took just under 10 yards of wide fabric to make.

To protect the elaborate hairstyles, a lady could wear the calash bonnet, which had thin cane supports sewn into channels in the silk hood to keep the high round shape safely over her hairdo. Reproduction figure, left, inspiration piece from the Kyoto Costume collection, right. The calash could be brought forward by holding the ribbon, or left to fall back a bit; for storage, they can fold virtually flat.

Kyoto calash,right To protect the elaborate hairstyles, a lady could wear the calash bonnet, which had thin cane supports sewn into channels in the silk hood to keep the high round shape safely over her hairdo.

The lightweight semicircular cloak has a wide hood, bordered with an 8-inch band of finely gathered pleats, has ribbon neck ties, and is lined with a floral cotton print.

Worn as a spring wrap, the “ramoneur” cape is a large semicircular cloak with a wide hood. The entire garment is bordered with an band of finely gathered pleats, has ribbon neck ties, and is lined with a floral cotton print.

This robe à l’anglaise gown and matching petticoat are in a light colored “Indienne” design of trailing vines and  flowers. The gown was fitted to the figure by means of sewn-down, curved back pleats or separate shaped pieces. By the 1770s, gowns used a center-front closing, often with trimming around the neckline, sleeve cuffs and bodice center front.

This robe à l’anglaise gown and matching petticoat are in a light colored “Indienne” design of trailing vines and flowers. The gown was fitted to the figure by means of sewn-down, curved back pleats or separate shaped pieces. By the 1770s, gowns used a center-front closing, often with trimming around the neckline, sleeve cuffs and bodice center front.

The painted bag is a reproduction of an extant item in the Boston Museum of Art (accession #43.696b). The deconstructed drawstring bag is hand-painted Chinese silk.

reproduction bag below. made of white silk, hand painted design in watercolors; silk drawstring, linen lining.

Wearing a formal, or “Court” ensemble such as this, a gentleman would surely fit these qualifications. The coat is slender, almost form-fitting, displaying the elegant carriage of the body, with sloped-back fronts. The choice of color and fabric reflects personal taste and of social status - black velvet serves as the perfect backdrop for a classically simple silver ornamentation in the foliate leaf form of wide metallic lace.

Equal time for the gentlemen! Here's a peek at a formal 'court outfit' of black velvet, silver metallic lace, and embroidered buttons!

The gentleman’s waistcoat adds a touch of color to the suit. The jewel-like Italian floral polychrome silk brocade would have glistened against a black satin background at a candle-lit evening soireé. Accessories would include a wig, lace jabot and a white linen shirt.

The gentleman’s waistcoat adds a touch of color to the suit. The jewel-like Italian floral polychrome silk brocade would have glistened against a black satin background at a candle-lit evening soireé. Accessories would include a wig, lace jabot and a white linen shirt.

A popular jewelry piece was a framed portrait worn as a necklace/brooch, pinned onto a white muslin kerchief. Originals were done in watercolor on ivory ovals, often covered with rock crystal cabochons, which would magnify the image slightly.

A popular jewelry piece was a framed portrait worn as a necklace/brooch, pinned onto a white muslin kerchief. Originals were done in watercolor on ivory ovals, often covered with rock crystal cabochons, which would magnify the image slightly.

Back view of the figure. Like many original calashes, this purple silk version has a pretty bow ornamenting the back panel. Entirely hand-sewn, it features wicker canes to create the unique bow shape which characterizes the style, and has a gathered shoulder-cape and silk ribbons. . The fine cotton kerchief is over 75 inches long; it goes over the shoulders, crosses in front and is tied at the back waistline, where a rose-red ribbon also serves as an accent to the poufed polonaise…

Back view of the figure. Like many original calashes, this purple silk version has a pretty bow ornamenting the back panel. Entirely hand-sewn, it features wicker canes to create the unique bow shape which characterizes the style, and has a gathered shoulder-cape and silk ribbons. . The fine cotton kerchief is over 75 inches long; it goes over the shoulders, crosses in front and is tied at the back waistline, where a rose-red ribbon also serves as an accent to the poufed polonaise…

This workbag was inspired by an original in the Colonial Williamsburg collection (Acc. No. 1960-730). The reproduction was made to approximately the same size, and with similar materials. A woman's workbag or sewing purse of silk, elaborately embroidered with silk, gold metallic threads and sequins, and edged with silver lace.

The finished product - left, reproduction, showing the use of the tassels; and the original at Colonial Williamsburg,