Saturday, September 8, 2007

Sorry about the mess...

I switched to a truncated feed because my posts over here are really long. I wanted to spare the f-lists of those of you subscribed to the lj feed. Well, either the feed or lj decided to freak out and repost a bunch of really old posts-- I'm sorry about that. This is partially a test-post to make sure it doesn't happen again. If it does, or if partial feeds are annoying people, let me know and I'll switch back to full feeds.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Independent Study Progress Post 1: The Polonaise (1770s)

My first costume for this project is a Robe a Polonaise-- a style of dress popular during the 1770s-- the 'Georgian period,' or the time of the American Revolution. Examples can be found here, here, and here.

What was going on in the Quaker World during the 1770s: Many American Quakers, especially the followers of John Woolman, were engaged in the struggle against slavery. As such, many Friends avoided slave-dependent goods such as cotton and indigo (the most common blue dye at the time). Quakers of this period built their clothes to last, believing it ostentatious to throw away perfectly good clothing when the fashions changed. They'd make high-quality garments and wear them until they wore out-- hence the myth that they were intentionally behind the fashions.

Right now, I've got my pieces up on my dress form for fit adjustments:

The Character It's Made For: My vision of the woman who would wear this dress is that she was upper middle-class, and so had access to the latest in fashion and the best in fabric. She had this dress made sometime around 1775, and chose a polonaise specifically because it would help her achieve the popular silhouette of the era without resorting to a hoop skirt or 'pocket panniers,' which she viewed as ostentatious. The rich brocade of her skirt (not pictured) speaks to her wealth, but it's the same color as her overdress-- an elegant brown that doesn't call undue attention to itself.

A Few Notes:

The Fabric: Since fit adjustments are done inside-out, you actually don't see much of the right side of the fabric. It's a slightly lighter shade of brown and not at all shiny. The fabric itself is an old ultrasuede/microfiber that's been kicking around in my closet for years. It looks and drapes like a silk or silk-blend-- exactly the kind of fabric a wealthy Quaker of the day would make her wardrobe out of.

The Shape: With all the pleats, darts, and tailoring on this dress, hanging it inside-out doesn't give a very good indication of how it will look. All of the shaping done to make the dress poof out in the back is currently making it poof in. Also, the neckline hasn't been cut yet. The white line in the pictures gives a good idea of where it will fall.

About Those Darts: I'm actually making my polonaise from an 1870s pattern-- it's a hundred years out of the time it's meant to portray. The darts and princess seams are anachronistic to the Revolutionary War period. From the example pictures linked above, you can see the conical silhouette fashionable during the 1770s period. Since my rib cage hasn't been deformed by years of corsetry and I don't have stays that will help me fake it, a 1770s polonaise would look pretty weird on me--it would bunch and wrinkle. Rather than make a completely inaccurate garment, I chose to make one that's accurate to the Victorian era--my period of specialty-- so that I can re-use it after this project is finished. In the meantime, it will be dressed up with eighteenth century touches that will help hide this underlying discrepancy.

I'll be posting more pictures as the dress progresses. I may re-use it even within the presentation, bringing it out for both the 1770s and, re-dressed, for the 1870s. I haven't worked out what other pieces I'll be making for the presentation, but I want to do at least one man's outfit as well-- possibly two, depending on time and resources. I'll be staying away from the Quaker 'quietist' period, because this project is about the ways they used their clothes in their struggles to change the world-- not how they used them to set themselves apart.

Annalee's Independent Study, explained

I'm doing an independent study this semester on the history of Quaker dress-- specifically, Quakers and Social Change: A History in Costume. Quakers of the past, much like Quakers today, shopped with their consciences, and avoided contributing to industries that committed human rights abuses, or otherwise supported practices inconsistent with Quaker principles. I'll be documenting this tendency through extant documents and photographs, and also creating examples of Quaker clothing from various periods in history. In so doing, I hope to dispel some of the 'plain dress myths' popular among modern Quakers (we all looked like puritans, we didn't wear buckles or buttons, we only wore grey or black, we intentionally stayed a decade behind the fashions of the day, etc) and to demonstrate how much modern-day Quakers have in common with the Quakers of the past.

I've started working on the costume examples already. Tomorrow I'll have progress pictures of my first one: a brown polonaise for the American Revolutionary War period. For now, I just wanted to explain what's going on so that I can refer back to this post later when posting progress pictures and other research. Don't expect much by way of citation in the costume progress posts-- I'm simply not that organized. When I'm done with the written portion of the project, I'll post chunks of it, along with the bibliography. But do watch this space for costume nerding over the coming weeks, because there will be a lot of it.