Picturing Thanksgiving: A Stylized Past

Picturing Thanksgiving: A Stylized Past

American Thanksgiving will take place this week and this month’s post will celebrate imagery associated with the holiday. As you may have read in the previous FFF post on Thanksgiving, this holiday was instituted in the United States in part thanks to Sarah Josepha Hale – an extraordinary woman of here time (another great article on Hale from Time can be read here).

This post will explore romanticized images of Thanksgiving depicting women whose images seem to come from another era. These artistic renderings meld visions of previous decades or centuries with the date in which they were published in order to create a unique form. From these images we can see how the lines of fashion can be blurred between past and present, and at the same time, may even be part of a burgeoning new style.

Is there a more appropriate place to start than The Ladies’ Home Journal?

Continue reading “Picturing Thanksgiving: A Stylized Past”

Costume and Fancy Dress in the 1880s

Costume and Fancy Dress in the 1880s

Halloween and costume were on my mind for research this month as I stumbled upon this book, Fancy Dresses Described; or, What to Wear at Fancy Ballsfrom 1880, by Adern Holt. “Fancy dress” was another name for costume or masquerade dress, and same for “fancy balls” as another phrase for costume balls. Fancy balls were an important part of society life in the 1880s as it was an opportunity for the well-to-do to enjoy their wealth in a playful manner and allowed some bending of the inherent fashion guidelines (while never straying too far into impropriety). Granted, these are certainly not specific to Halloween, and were more likely than not worn at other times of the year for the pure pleasure of costume dress at a social event unrelated to a specific holiday. All the same, I thought it would be fun to highlight some costumes from 1880 in contrast to the modern costumes in mind for those celebrating Halloween tonight!

Fashion history lovers will also appreciate the irony of the opening text where the author laments incorrect displays of historical dress. Too often popular media, films, etc. will produce a version of historical dress that viewers expect versus the historical reality — a modernized version that is more appealing. This author from 1880 aims to dispel any misguided ideas about “favourite” historical costumes, as well as costumes that are most suitable for “fair women,” “elderly ladies,” and “sisters,” among other categories (he is nothing if not specific). Undoubtedly though, these costumes were still designed through the lens of someone living in in the late 19th century and the influence of the 1880s can still be seen in those designs.

Anyone dressing up up as a witch or a ghost tonight? You might consider these options:

Witch.png
Plate XVI, Figs. 53 and 54

Continue reading “Costume and Fancy Dress in the 1880s”

Balloonmania Belles: Daredevil Divas Who First Took to the Sky, Book Review

This month I read Balloonmania Belles by Sharon Wright and am happy to say this was a great read! Much of the book falls within the FFF timeline of 1880-1930, although the book begins in 1783 when the Montgolfier brothers unleashed the first balloon carrying living beings (animals) into the air successfully in France.

Balloonmania Belles.png

The book follows the lives of Balloonmania’s earliest and most notable flying females. Each chapter is devoted to one or two main belles and their stories are interspersed within a broader historical context. I appreciated that this book was able to provide a lot of information on these ladies that is otherwise very difficult to procure, as there is no comprehensive guide that concentrates on female aeronautical pioneers. I wish the book included even more images of the women it describes, but in doing my own search, I know these are difficult to find if they exist at all.

Princess di Teano.png
“Vittoria Colonna, Princess di Teano, centre, in the upper crust queue for an ascent with the Aero Club in 1906.” p. 775

Continue reading “Balloonmania Belles: Daredevil Divas Who First Took to the Sky, Book Review”

Women’s Tennis at the Turn of the Century

Women’s Tennis at the Turn of the Century

This month is the US Open, and in celebration of the powerful females on the court today, I’d like to take a look back at the women who were playing at the turn of the century. We may look to Serena Williams now for fashionable inspiration as well as her incredible abilities on the court, but 100 years ago female players would typically wear a practical version of their usual day wear clothing.

The women below in this photo stylishly pose in their tennis gear, except that there is no discernible difference between how they dress themselves for the court and how they would dress themselves for day’s activities. The large leg-of-mutton sleeves are typical of the 1890’s silhouettes. The straw boater hats perched on top of their hair (which has been swept up into a top knot) was also a popular choice at this time and into the 1900s for any activity in the sun. Their long dark skirts that contrast the large, light-colored shirtwaists was a preferred look in the 1890s for any woman. The woman on the left wears a necktie and the woman on the right appears to have a bow tie with a starched shirt front. This would have been a slightly more masculine accessory choice, but one that was also very typical for that period. These women emulate what would have been called the New Woman at that time, meaning the kind of woman who was breaking away from a more traditional, home-bound role and was more independent and active – both in a physical and political sense. Still, this represented a large group of women at the time and this look would have been relatively common sight. In short, these women were able to wear their normal day wear clothing to also engage in physical activities like tennis. They are both stylish and mobile enough to play in their wide skirts.

Two_women_dressed_for_a_game_of_tennis,_1890-1900_(6894955048)
Two Women Dressed for a Game of Tennis, January 1, 1895, Queensland, Australia, State Library of Queensland  [No restrictions]
Continue reading “Women’s Tennis at the Turn of the Century”

The Nurse: Uniform Attire, Practice & Florence Nightingale

The Nurse: Uniform Attire, Practice & Florence Nightingale

When did nurses start wearing a uniform? What inspired their look? Have you ever wondered how the uniform for nurses developed? Okay, not many people have — but hopefully this post will pique your curiosity now!

Before nurses starting wearing scrubs in the 1980s, the uniform that began in the mid-1860s was relatively unchanged until about the 1940s.

Florence_Nightingale.png

Duyckinick, Evert A. Portrait Gallery of Eminent Men and Women in Europe and America. New York: Johnson, Wilson & Company, 1873. [Public Domain]

Modern nursing is largely attributed to Florence Nightingale (1820-1910). She is credited for creating “modern” techniques and developing a certain look for the job. Her name sounds like something from a historic romance novel and her biography is equally worthy of a 19th century TV drama (there actually is a movie based on her life made in 1985). She was born into wealth and could have easily accepted a life of leisure, but decided to pursue an unlikely career as a nurse.

Continue reading “The Nurse: Uniform Attire, Practice & Florence Nightingale”