Wednesday, June 18, 2008

"Children sparkle in the streets of American towns like field flowers in the springtime" ~~ Baron Felix de Beaujour, 1814

The above quote so true. There is nothing more beautiful to me, than an innocent child! Their minds like sponges waiting to soak up all the information their surroundings can provide them. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love children, and that the main focus of collection and study here at the Museum is children~ what they wore, what they played with, what they studied in school, how their fragile countenances were carefully molded in a time when it was not easy, just being a child. My daughter Emma was happy to model for me today what her little friends of the mid 1830's would have worn.
Emma is 6, and the above photo would be nearly correct had she been living 173 years ago. Girls and boys alike wore their hair swooped back and kept close the the head thru out the first half of the 19th century. In a few years, or even at this age in an especially rich & fashionable household, Emma would have worn a set of false curls set above her ears on the temples. They were made from human hair or sometimes woven horsehair, and attached to small combs so they could be easily taken on and off.

Colors were vibrant~ we don't normally associate vibrant colors with the early 1800's, as many of the vegetable dyes have faded over time. This dress is all original, c1836 when the Gigot sleeves were at their largest. It is made from a cherry red cotton print with vertical stripes of ombre shaded flowers that run from neon skye blue to cream & pale yellow. All seams are piped, including the center front, and decorative piping on the back seams.

I have seen period paintings with skirt fullness of varying degrees that would support the assumption that during the hot summer days, only the chemise & pantaloons were worn underneath, and on cold winter days, more petticoats under for warmth. There are 2 growth tucks sewn in the hem for lengthening as the child grew. As well, the back waistband has a series of vertical tucks that could be let out to widen the waist if needed, without having to unpick the entire dress.

Emma wears a simple lace cap that would have always been worn both inside the house, and outside, under the outer bonnet. The muslin pantaloons can be seen just underneath the hem of the dress, reaching to the ankles.

A common accessory for both mother & child during the last decade of the 18th century, and stretching to the 1860's, was the basket purse. This example is c1830-40, from Pennsylvania. Both sides are hand painted with a Pineapple design. It is complete with 2 swing handles, and hinged lid, also with polychrome paint

The pantaloon's Emma wears are c1830-40, and show the wide straight leg reaching to the ankles. Many of this era are left plain and devoid of any trim or decoration at the hems. There are button holes in the waist that would either fasten to a chemise, or directly onto the soft corded corset the child would be wearing.


Barbara said...

The dress is adorable and sweet....but Emma's sweeter!
LY Mom

Christine LeFever said...

All beautiful, especially little Emma!

Thank you for that wonderful history lesson in clothing, Rachael!

Christine (Zwee!!!!!!!!)

......Thimblefolk.......Barb McNamara said...

Oh, Rachael, she's the perfect little model. The dress is almost as beautiful as she is.


Lone Pierette said...

Rachael , thanks a lot for this lesson. Emma is wonderful , looks just like an Izannah Walker doll , even the posing of her hands. Your blog is so fabulous , I almost check in every day !
Clip on curls !!!!

hugs Lone

Heather said...

Oh my goodness, this post is so beautiful! Emma looks like she just stepped out of time, so lovely and sweet. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge! I love the clothes of days gone by, and its so awesome to hear the history of them. Thank you!

Suzanne said...

What an adorable model! Thank you for the history lesson on the fashions of the day. I wish I had been able to visit the museum (and with you) during my trip....maybe next time!

Lana said...

Such a patient little model! Emma is a sweetie. Thanks for all the info ~ I love reading about the history of everyday things.

FrenchGardenHouse said...

What a beautiful post. Emma looks wonderful in her period dress. Thank you for this absolutely delightful fashion "lesson"!
xo Lidy

Candy said...

Hi Rachael,

I can't believe it's been so long since I've visited your blog. I promise to visit more often! It's great to see this dress looking all the more perfect on Emma! Both are true beauties. Thanks for posting an old friend.