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Collection’s Highlight: Wedding Reception Dress 

Detailed pictures of this gown’s embroidery are some of the most popular photos on the Clothing Project tumblr account. It is easy to see why, the embroidery still pops with life and color almost 200 years later. However, I have been hesitant to photograph and feature the entire piece. The gown is too delicate for a dress form, and the color of the silk mull has not faired as well as the embroidery. But I had a request to see the dress so here it is! 

Dress, ca. 1821-1822, silk. The Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, New York, Museum Purchase, N0221.1962.

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Inspiration: Pink Menswear

In the 18th Century pink was not a colour only for girls, it was quite fashion forward for men: suits, waistcoats, accessories, embroideries or buttons could go to the extreme of elegance of the whole range of pink, from pastel to bright and dark.

So boys, why not to try a little macaroni style and dress to impress?

Photos from top:

  1. Detail of pink suit and photo of pink suit, lilac robe à la anglaise and grey suit, all from Chenilles et Papillons.
  2. Pink satin suit (habit á la française), ca. 1775, National Gallery of Victoria.
  3. Pink coat, Kioto Costume Institute.
  4. Pink embroidered waistcoat, ca. 1760, Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco.
  5. Portrait of Oliver Journu, 1756, Jean-Baptiste Perronneau, pastel on paper, Metropolitan Museum of Art.
  6. Pink suit, Colonial Williamsburg.
  7. Pink rococo wedding portrait session, photo by Kenneth Benjamin Reed.
  8. Dark pink suit, Museo del Traje.
  9. Late 18th century fashion plate.
  10. Bright pink waistcoat, ca. 1750, LACMA.

A Crime of Fashion ~ Nov 15, 1938 

On Nov. 9, 1938, Helen Hulick, 28, wore slacks during a court appearance to testify against two men. Her case was rescheduled and Hullick was asked by Judge Arthur S. Guerin to next time wear a dress.

Hulick was quoted in the Nov. 10, 1938, Los Angeles Times saying, “You tell the judge I will stand on my rights. If he orders me to change into a dress I won’t do it. I like slacks. They’re comfortable.”

After Hulick’s next court appearance, the Nov. 15, 1938, Los Angeles Times reported:

In a scathing denunciation of slacks – which he prosaically termed pants–as courtroom attire for women, Municipal Judge Arthur S. Guerin yesterday again forbade Helen Hulick, 28, kindergarten teacher, to testify as a witness while dressed in a green and orange leisure attire.

Miss Hulick, who Thursday was ordered to return to court in a dress, was called to testify by Dep. Dist. Atty. Russell Broker against two [men] accused of burglarizing her home.

After she was sworn in as a witness, Judge Guerin stopped the proceedings and declared:

“The last time you were in this court dressed as you are now and reclining on your neck on the back of your chair, you drew more attention from spectators, prisoners and court attaches than the legal business at hand. You were requested to return in garb acceptable to courtroom procedure.

“Today you come back dressed in pants and openly defying the court and its duties to conduct judicial proceedings in an orderly manner. It’s time a decision was reached on this matter and on the power the court has to maintain what it considers orderly conduct.

“The court hereby orders and directs you to return tomorrow in accepted dress. If you insist on wearing slacks again you will be prevented from testifying because that would hinder the administration of justice. But be prepared to be punished according to law for contempt of court.”

Slack-shrouded Miss Hulick was accompanied by Attorney William Katz, who carried four heavy volumes of citations to appear in whatever dress she chose.

“Listen,” said the young woman, “I’ve worn slacks since I was 15. I don’t own a dress except a formal. If he wants me to appear in a formal gown that’s okay with me.

“I’ll come back in slacks and if he puts me in jail I hope it will help to free women forever of anti-slackism.”

The next day Hulick showed up in slacks. Judge Guerin held her in contempt. Given a five-day sentence, Hulick was sent to jail.

via latimes.com

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Welcome to this week’s FRIDAY FASHION FACT! Today’s topic is another one that I have been asked about several times. To put it simply: Hoop skirts- aka cage crinolines- how did women function in them?

To create volume in their skirts pre-cage crinolines, women would add layers of petticoats under their dresses, particularly stiff petticoats made of horse hair called crinolines. Bands of cord were sewn around to add further shape. By the late 1840s, achieving a fashionably large skirt required so many layers of petticoats that it became difficult for women to function, due both to the weight and to the bulk around their legs. In 1850, the cage crinoline was invented. There were several styles invented around the same time, made out of different materials such as steel and cane. This made skirts significantly wider, as well as much lighter, and took the bulk off of women’s legs, allowing for easier movement. The best analogy is compare functioning in a hoop skirt to functioning in stilettos. As a child, you might wear little half inch high mary janes. As you grow older, you gradually wear higher and thinner heels, as you become accustomed to the balancing that’s required. By the time you’re an adult, you can (relatively) comfortably wear a pair of heels for the full work day without falling over. Women simply were use to moving around with the cage surrounding them. Hoop skirts, like heels, came in different sizes. Most women today would not wear their highest stiletto every day- they are reserved for special occasions. Mid-19th Century women would only wear their fullest hoops to formal events. This is partially because large hoops were less practical, but also because larger hoops required more skirt fabric to accommodate them. Fabric was very expensive at the time, and the expense would not be wasted on an average day dress. There were times, though, when hoop skirts were not practical. To run the shoe analogy into the ground, sometimes a woman just needs to take off the heels. As shown in the above picture, for example, women might take off their hoops in order to fit into a small, often public carriage. Note- this would be done before leaving the house, not in the middle of the road, and typically only done for long journeys. Lower class, working women would not wear hoops at all, and would carry on the old fashioned tradition of just wearing layers of petticoats so that their skirts were not as full, as you can see on the ladies maids in the background of the top photo series.

Finally, people always ask how women would sit in hoop skirts. You might think, wouldn’t the whole thing just flip up? And the answer is yes! Wardrobe malfunctions were fairly frequent, causing the cage crinoline to be constantly ridiculed and mocked as the subject of cartoons in newspapers and magazines. Cage crinolines were built to be collapsible, though, with a space in the front to allow bending at the waist. As you can see in the above images, if a woman sat carefully, the hoops would fold up neatly.

Want to learn more about cage crinolines? Check out these books:

Corsets and Crinolines, by Norah Waugh

The History of Underclothes, by C. Willett and Phillis Cunnington

Have a question about fashion history that you want answered in the next FRIDAY FASHION FACT? Just click the ASK button at the top of the page!