Feejee Mermaid, 19th century—Though P.T. Barnum made the Feejee Mermaids famous, they were originally created by Japanese East Indies fishermen in around 1810. It was a traditional art form in which they created faux mermaids by stitching the upper bodies of apes to the bodies of fish.  P.T. Barnum began exhibiting it in 1842, after a few other showmens’ exhibits failed. (Sources:  1, 2)


the sight of me combing my long hair
brings you back to your country
where you tell me
girls sit in the open air
combing each other’s hair. 
poem for an Indian Scholar, Crazy Melon and Chinese Apple, The Poems of Frances Chung.

Perhaps it is the nature of miniature painting but for most of the 16th-19th century hairstyles are flat and either depicted loose or plaited*. As always with Indian hair jewels and flowers are present minimally or in abundance.  In miniature paintings additionally hair is often partially covered with an odhni.

The second painting depicts a nayika whose lover/husband is devoted to her (swadhinabhartruka).  Often paintings depict these nayikas having their foot decorated or having their hair dressed. This can also be seen in sculpture (e.g. Shringhar, Kushan period) but in miniature paintings the nayika and her lover are usually Radha and Krishna. 

Pic 1 (Hyderabad, 1840).
Pic 2: Kangra, 18th century.

*Also in company paintings/Kalighat paintings.

Meet Queen Elsa from FROZEN. It’s been a little over a year since my last Disney girl, but finally, here’s a new entry in my long-running Historically Accurate Disney Heroine series!

The original study for this painting is here. Like Hans, I depicted her in late 1830s clothes: I modeled a lot of her style on Maria II of Portugal, one of the cooler queen regnants of the 19th century. (I debated using Victoria, but I nixed that for being too obvious.)

Basically, I chose the late 1830s for the setting since the women’s styles in the movie were solidly 1840s to early 1850s in their silhouette, but Hans’s hair and costumes floated somewhere Napoleonic and early Victorian, and the young princesses wore Empire style children’s frocks. (Also, concept art of the Arendelle royal family place the girls’ childhood in the 1810s-1820s, so an 1838 date seemed reasonable.) This wedding dress and this painting of Clara Novello also inspired the gown design.


In the Royal Gardens

Yes! I can finally show some more photos of our 1840s Frozen coronation gowns. This time photos of me as Elsa and Laccali as Anna! <3 The day was great! We had fantastic weather and it was so much fun! Next batch will involve some pictures with Hans as well.

I can’t wait for MCM London next weekend! We’re taking these costumes there!

Photos - Caté Photosis


Takizawa Bakin 曲亭馬琴 (1767-1848) book covers, writer of Nansou Satomi Hakkenden 南総里見八犬伝 (Satomi and the eight “dogs”), a yomihon, or reading book, one of the popular genres of Edo-period (1600-1867) prose fiction - Editor : Yamazaki Heihachi, Edo - Japan - 1814-1842 - Part 2

Source : www.wdl.org

Here’s Elsa again, from Disney blockbuster Frozen! A number of people requested my take on Elsa’s “Let it Go” ice costume, the one she creates during her big number, and even though it took me a while to do it, here it is.

This one was pretty tricky. So, my original pic locates Elsa in the late 1830s. So, what on earth could she wear that would suit her more liberated fantasy ice queen persona, one that would make sense with her personality, suit the time period, AND work with the general design established in the movie?

I thought and thought about it, and I decided a theatrical Victorian take on historical Nordic costume would work. In the 1830s-1840s, in Scandinavia, romanticism and nationalism converged to create an intense interest in ancient Norse myth and legend (the brothers Grimm emerged earlier from a similar milieu a few decades before); Swedish artist Nils Blommer was one of the more influential artists to emerge from the region. His paintings of Idunn and Freya are especially famous, and I based Elsa’s costume on them. What’s more empowering than a goddess?  Also, it distances her from the Christian culture of the city she grew up in, and allows her to embrace and express her ‘witch-like’ abilities. She’s not wearing a corset, but not all Victorian actresses wore corsets when wearing ancient costumes (like Julia Marlowe from this 1887 performance of Ingomar).  Historical fantasies of ancient times, whether they were Greek, Roman, Celtic or Nordic, were extremely common during the 19th century, and I think in large part because they provided such a welcome contrast to the mannered constraint of the period.

The Nordic knotwork on her cloak is based on the Urnes style of the 11th and 12th centuries. The peculiar transparent overgown of the movie has been replaced by a cloak of silk gauze, and her tunic is sleeveless, since the cold doesn’t bother her anyway. I am pretty sure she is not wearing heels, since that would not really go with the whole Norse goddess look. Sing it, Elsa!