Friday, December 31, 2010

Singing in the New Year

Before Robert Burns' "Auld Lange Syne" (1788) became popular, another farewell song took place of pride at leave-taking time at social gatherings.  "Goodnight and Joy Be with You All," now more commonly known as "The Parting Glass," was a traditional Irish or Scotch ballad.  Its evolution into its current "modern" incarnation is fascinating and very complicated; if you're interested in the history, check out this great page.  To summarize, with the specific tune and lyrics matched below, its first known appearance was in Henry Playford's 1700 Collection of Original Scotch Tunes; it was frequently republished and revised over the course of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, though a 1770 broadside ballad of the song is believed to be what more or less cemented it into the form most often performed by Irish and Scottish folk singers today.

Here's a link to the best version I could find online, though my absolute favorite is the rendition performed by the Jack Marshland character (played by Joe McFadden) in episode three of the BBC Cranford (2007).  Sadly, I can't find that one on YouTube, but it's track 17 on the Cranford soundtrack and you can hear a teeny preview of it on Amazon.

"Goodnight and Joy Be with You All"
(or, "The Parting Glass")

Oh all the money that e’er I had, I spent it in good company
And all the harm that e’er I’ve done, alas, it was to none but me
And all I’ve done for want of wit to memory now I can’t recall
So fill to me the parting glass, good night and joy be with you all

Oh all the comrades that e’er I’ve had, they are sorry for my going away
And all the sweethearts that e’er I’ve had, they would wish me one more day to stay
But since it falls unto my lot that I should rise and you should not
I’ll gently rise and I’ll softly call good night and joy be with you all

If I had money enough to spend and leisure time to sit awhile
There is a fair maid in this town, that sorely has my heart beguiled
Her rosy cheeks and ruby lips I own, she has my heart enthralled
So fill to me the parting glass, good night and joy be with you all

My dearest dear, the time draws near when here no longer can I stay
There’s not a comrade I leave behind, but is grieving for my going away
But since it has so ordered been what is once past can’t be recalled
Now fill to me the parting glass, good night and joy be with you all

If I had money for to spend, If I had time to waste away
There is a fair maid in this town, I feign would while her heart away
With her rosy cheeks and dimpled chin, my heart she has beguiled away
So fill to me the parting glass, good night and joy be with you all

If I had money for to spend, I would spend it in her company
And all the harm that I have done, I hope it’s pardoned I will be
And all I’ve done for want of it to memory I can’t recall
So fill to me the parting glass, good night and joy be with you all

A man may drink and not be drunk, a man may fight and not be slain
A man may court a pretty girl and perhaps be welcomed back again
But since it has so ordered been by a time to rise and a time to fall
Come fill to me the parting glass, good night and joy be with you all.

The first three stanzas are the oldest and most commonly recited.  I haven't been able to trace the origins of the latter four.  There is also an older seventeenth-century song of the same title with a completely different tune and lyrics, though the sentiment is the same.

Although there are records of "Auld Lange Syne" being sung at New Year's celebrations long before in both Scotland, America, and around the world, Burns' song did not become synonymous with New Year's Eve tradition Stateside until a 1929 performance by Guy Lombardo.  I almost wish he had sung "Parting Glass" instead... :-)

So with that, Happy New Year everyone, and good night and joy be with you all.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Christmas Tradition: Gingerbread Houses

One of our yearly Christmas traditions is that my sister and I make gingerbread houses with family friends.  This year marked our eighteenth (yes, eighteenth!) year, and the four of us are always amazed by how different and unique our end products end up being, despite the many years and many houses between us (if you do the math, we've collectively made a total of 72 houses!).  We've all learned a good deal over the years, including, but hardly limited to, the following:

1) don't over-bake your gingerbread or it'll look like a fire-charred mess that even frosting can't fix
2) don't let the one-year-old baby near the egg-whites when he's deathly allergic to eggs (that one-year-old is now 19, so I promise he survived the ordeal!)
3) cardboard is a miraculous substitute for gingerbread that any four-year-old will fall for (that four-year-old is 22 now, and we still won't let her live that one down!)
4) never forget The Secret Ingredient or you (or rather, your house) will pay
5) completed houses cannot stand with only two walls.  Three, maybe.  But not two.
6) below-freezing temperatures are an excellent frosting-dryer
7) it usually takes three months to scrape the frosting off the floor...if you're lucky...

This year, Ashley made a Colonial Williamsburg-inspired whitewashed house with a little porch, an 18th-century formal garden, and a pasture to house her marzipan lamb, who came all the way from Vienna as a gift from her boss.  Although the rest of us think the house came out lovely, she isn't happy with the final product, so my house will have to stand alone this year on the blog (though I will sneak in a picture of the lamb because he's so cute!).

I usually end up with some kind of very traditional-looking Victorian-inspired concoction, and this year was no different.  Yes, everything on and in and about the house is completely edible (though you might break your teeth if you tried nibbling now...!).  The only thing you can't eat is The Secret Ingredient, but that's between the four of us house-makers and Martha Stewart!  :-)

The only near-tragedy that occurred this year was some minor trauma (falling off the counter) and violence (being smacked off the roof by my elbow) inflicted on my tower.  But there's (almost) nothing a little frosting can't fix!

Miss T, one of our fellow house-makers, made a yellow house nestled in a forest of trees and animals this year, while her brother, Mr J, made one of the identifying buildings from his college campus.  In years past, we've had everything from a Harry Potter Hogwarts castle (that was Mr J) to the Prentis store at CW (that was Ashley) to a massive Monticello that Ashley and I made between us.  It just isn't Christmas without gingerbread!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Treasures and Curiosities from...

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

This month's "Treasures and Curiosities" come from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.  The collections of the Met's Costume Institute and the Brooklyn Museum were recently combined, making the Met's holdings some of the finest and most comprehensive in the world.  The costume galleries are currently undergoing major renovations, and due to the fragile nature of many of the garments, the permanent collection is not on public view.  The Met, however, has a superb fashion library, the Irene Lewisohn Costume Reference Library, which contains thousands of prints, sketches, photographs, and books, and is open to use by any researcher (by appointment only).  They also frequently offer several guided tours focusing on the history of costume in art; see the events calendar for details on when these are offered.  Once or twice a year, the Costume Institute stages a major exhibition.  For more information on current, future, and past exhibits, check out this introductory page.

Unless otherwise noted, the following images are borrowed from, and linked directly back to, the website of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and originate entirely from their digital collections database. They remain the full and copyrighted property of the Met. All images are used for private educational purposes only, without any monetary gain whatsoever, and no copyright infringement is intended.

And now, without further ado, happy drooling and Happy Holidays!

Our Met Top Ten:
Number One: In honor of the season (and just because everyone loves a classic cardinal cloak!), we've chosen this red wool cloak for our top pick.  The Met listing calls it a "cape" and dates it to the last third of the 18th century (Met accession number: C.I.69.4).

The cloak displayed with a fur muff.

The hood of the cloak appears to be lined in a cream or light colored silk.  Red silk facings extend down the center front opening.  But what is so unique about this particular cloak is the buttoned "waistcoat" feature that closes the front opening to a little below the waistline to prevent wind from sneaking in.  It is difficult to see in the photo (and unfortunately there isn't a better view on the Met's website), but there is a strikingly similar (almost identical) cloak in the Colonial Williamsburg collection that is included in What Clothes Reveal (p. 14) that offers a better view of this front closure element.  Sadly, it has yet to uploaded to their E-Museum.  The Colonial Williamsburg Costume Design Center did a reproduction of the cloak in their collection, and it was recently displayed at their Open House back in October.  My friend Laurie was lucky enough to see it and snapped a few close-up photos, which you can see on her blog.  She also just made a lovely cloak for her daughter based on the CW example, which you can see here.

The classic "fan pleats" at the back of the full hood,
and a detail of the collar piece.

The other stunning feature of this cloak is the elegantly shaped collar piece, which appears to be edged with a plush or velvet fabric.  Remarkably, the CW example is embellished with what appears to be the exact same kind of trim.  If anyone has a better insight as to what exactly the trim is, please do share!  When Laurie and I were discussing this particular cloak a couple of weeks ago, we were bemoaning the fact that the drape of the full hood impedes our sight of precisely how the collar piece is attached.  Is it a separate, optional piece that could be tied on around the cloak's neckline?  Or is it intrinsically part of the cloak's construction, something like the collar and capelet pieces of a gentleman's cloak?  Either way, it's a truly gorgeous piece!

Number Two: A green silk damask round gown, 1775, with an American provenance (Met accession number: 1994.406a–c).  The longer length of the sleeves, which fall past the elbow, and the wide, low neckline, date the gown to the second half of the 1770s.

And just because a gown this fabulous deserves shoes worthy of it, here's a pair of silk shoes ("slippers" in the Met's catalog), dating to approximately 1770-1789 (Met accession number: C.I.39.13.59a, b).  A similar pair made of the gown's fabric is listed with the gown (and in the top photo above, you can see the toe peeping out beneath the skirts), but I included these here instead because I liked the look of the uncovered heel on this pair.  Oh, that they still made shoes like this!

Number Three: A British embroidered linen gown and matching petticoat, dating to about 1780 (Met accession number: 1998.314a, b).  The Met Museum's listing classifies this as a "robe a la polonaise," though without seeing the back, it can't be confirmed whether this gown is truly cut as a polonaise gown, or if it simply has earned this title because the skirts can be draped up "a la polonaise."

The detail work on this gown is absolutely stunning, especially considering it is linen and not a "finer" fabric like silk or even cotton.  Be sure to visit the detail page to make use of the super-zoom feature to see this up close.  The embroidery even uses gold outlining threads.  I really wish they provided greater detail about items like these because inquiring minds want to know more!

A detail of the embroidered skirt and petticoat, both edged
in fringe.  And you have to love that shoe, too...

Number Four: A riding habit jacket ("coat"), 1760 (Met accession number: 1976.147.1).  The listing describes the material as "silk and goat hair."  The longer skirts of this jacket are characteristic of this period; in the 1770s, they were shorted considerably to more closely mirror the military style then in vogue.

A detail of the jacket's pockets.  If you look closely at the
back of the jacket's bodice, you can see it was assembled
using lapped seams.

Number Five: A purple silk calash lined in cream silk (Met accession number: C.I.45.68.44).  You can see the caning poking through the channels in the thin outer silk.

A back view of the calash.  You can't help but love the flirty little bow!

The ladies at Colonial Williamsburg's Margaret Hunter shop recently made a couple of these fun calash bonnets: a black one for the Spruce Sportsman project, and a green one.  If you're interested in reading more about them, also see this recent post about the fashion for the calash from the Two Nerdy History Girls.

Number Six: A silk quarter-back gown with skirts worn a la polonaise, and matching petticoat, 1780-1785 (Met accession number: 1970.87a, b).  This is my favorite of the group.  The Met lists this item as a "robe a la polonaise," but it is very clear from the back detail shot that the gown's bodice is cut separate from the skirts.

Check out the details page for this item to see a couple of close-ups of the fabric.  This is made from a painted silk; you can see where the paint has faded in several places.  In 1995, the Met partnered with New York University for a two-day symposium called "The Conservation of 18th-Century Painted Silk Dress," which featured discussions of this gown and other painted textiles from US-based and international collections.  It also included a "Report on 18th-Century Painted Dresses from the Collection of the Kyoto Costume Institute," by Jun I. Kanai, which included comments on gowns number seven and eight in our last Treasures and Curiosities post.  If you're interested, the papers from the symposium have been collected and are available in volume-form under the symposium's title.

Number Seven: Cotton or linen printed round gown, American, 1774 (Met accession number: 26.38a–d).  By the last quarter of the century, darker backgrounds on printed fabrics were becoming increasingly popular.

One of the interesting things about this gown is the incredibly thin fabric out of which it is made.  You can see through the skirts at the bottom.  As the century progressed, lighter textiles gradually replaced the heavier brocades and damasks that had been popular since the 17th century.

A detail of the back en fourreau pleats.

A gown remarkably similar in style and fabric was recently offered by vintagetextiles, and Chole's Slightly Obsessed 18th century blog featured a few lovely photographs of it.

Number Eight: French silk saque back gown, 1775 (Met accession number: 2005.61a, b).  This fantastic confection is a feast of fly fringe, braid, and lace, all coordinated perfectly with the colors of the pink flowered silk, which appears to be painted.

The trim that frames the open center fronts of the skirts is padded with wool to form the puffs.

Detail of the compere (false stomacher) front of the gown,
gloriously draped in fringe galore.  *sigh*

For more on this gown, visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art's BlogMode: Addressing Fashion post on this gown, "Let Them Eat Cake."

Number Nine: Green striped painted silk robe a la francaise, French, 1750-1775 (Met accession number: C.I.54.70a, b).  A view of the front, which can be found (sadly only in black and white!) in The Conservation of 18th-Century Painted Silk Dress (p. 72), shows a simple stomacher front with two wide rows of ruching extending down the front opening of the skirts.

Detail view of the sleeve ruffle, showing the pinked edges.

Number Ten: A yellow silk pet-en-l'air and matching petticoat, French, 1778 (Met accession number: C.I.37.57a, b).  For some reason, the Met lists this as a "gown," though it is clearly two separate pieces.  The lovely ruched trim is well worth a visit to the zoom page on the Met's website.

The pet-en-l'air, pictured with gown #6.

The above pictures shows the back of the pet-en-l'air (right).  The relatively short skirts date it to the latter quarter of the century, as do the ruched gauze sleeves that cap the elbows.

Printed Resources Featuring Items from the 18th century part of the Met's Costume Institute collection:
- The most spectacular view of the finest pieces from the Met's 18th century collection can be indulged in through the catalogue produced to accompany the 2004 exhibit Dangerous Liaisons: Fashion and Furniture in the 18th Century.  Sadly (expectedly!), it's out of print now, but used copies often turn up on Amazon, and it's worth the extra money because the photographs are stunning and so well-staged.

- Although not strictly limited to 18th century items, the Met recently released 100 Dresses, a collection of - you guessed it - 100 of their favorite dresses from the 17th to the 21st century.  I was surprised to find that about half the book is 20th-21st century, but what there is of the earlier periods is quite lovely, and you can't beat the price for a great costume resource!

- High Style: Masterworks from the Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection is similar to the above 100 Dresses, with a collection of pieces spanning the 18th through the 20th centuries.

- Other items of different periods from the Costume Institute have been featured in a number of Met books and exhibit catalogues.  If you're interested, check out their most current publications catalogue.  Please note that is does not include out of print books (which, unfortunately, many of the costume titles are).

One final note: If you know of an online collection that you feel deserves some proper attention here, or if you've visited a collection and have photos you'd like to share, please do feel most welcome to suggest it to us for a future "Treasures and Curiosities from..." post!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Threaded Bliss

A Black Wool Mantle or Short Cloak,

The mantle (also called a mantelet or "plisse") was a short cloak that often had a shaped hemline.  Extant examples and period prints and paintings suggest they were typically made of silk and/or lace, though it is likely wool and velvet could also have been used.  They almost always had a hood.  Mantles were somtimes trimmed with self-fabric, lace, fur, or another plush material, and served as a fashionable and functional accessory throughout most of the 18th century.

A delicate lace mantle worn decoratively over a pink silk gown. 
Allan Ramsay's portrait of his second wife, Margaret Ramsay, 1755.

A fur-trimmed mantle.

The pattern: Costume Close-up, by Linda Baumgarten, pp. 50-53.  The original is in the collection of Colonial Williamsburg's DeWitt Wallace Museum (acc. no. 1993-337).  For a couple of original 1760s patterns and translated instructions from Garsault's L'art du tailleur, see this page from La Couturiere Parisienne.

The mantle laid flat, showing the shaped hemline and the half-circle
fullness characteristic of 18th century cloaks.

Construction Details: The mantle is entirely hand-sewn using some of the techniques described in Costume Close-up, though I had to alter the construction process slightly because my neckband only used two (rather than four) layers.  The only alteration I made was to lengthen the body of the mantle 2 1/2" to make it ever-so-slightly warmer (if I had been making it out of lace, in other words, I would not have touched the length at all).  Because my fabric wasn't wide enough, I had to piece the mantle's cape down the center back.  The cape was then pleated to fit the neckband and attached using close backstitches.  The wool hood and its lining were assembled separately; they were placed wrong sides together, and their edges turned under and secured using point a rabattre sous la main. 

An interior view of the mantle.  In keeping with extant wool cloaks, only
 the hood is lined and the hem remains unfinished.

I then sewed the fan pleats at the back of the hood and stitched the hood to the neckband. 

An interior view of the hood pleats.  The silk lining and wool were
both turned under and finished before the pleating was done,
which creates the black center to the circle of the "fan."

Finally, all edges of the neckband lining pieces were folded under and it was sewn in using point a rabattre sous la main.

The silk lining of the hood and neckband.

The edges of the cloak's body are left unfinished, as is common for the longer broadcloth cloaks that survive from this period because the broadcloth is thick and firmly-woven enough to hold a clean(ish) edge.

The Fabric: To make this an accessory that is both fashionable and utilitarian, I opted to substitute black broachcloth for the silk and lace of the original (if only I could find lace worthy of a true reproduction!).  Although all of the short cloaks and mantles known to survive are made of silk and/or lace or a cotton print (later in the century), wool was certainly used as well.  Linda Baumgarten notes in Costume Close-up that Williamsburg milliners advertised short cloaks made of patterned material, black or white Persian, lace, and wool cloth in scarlet, purple, and black (see Costume Close-up, p. 51).

A view from the back.  The mantle falls just below waist level.

The neckline, showing the wool tape ties and the elegant drape of the hood.

The cloak ties with black wool tapes.  In keeping with extant full-length cloaks, the mantle's hood and neckband piece are lined in a thin creamy-white silk, while the mantle's cape remains unlined.  The inspiration for Ashley's color choices is below.

An elegant black mantle (presumably silk taffeta), trimmed with
what appears to be black lace.  The hood is lined in white. 
The Pretty Mantua Maker, 1777.  (from the Lewis Walpole Library,
Yale University; call no. 772.  Check out the LWL listing page
for a fantastic zooming feature that shows off all the details!

A side view, showiung the shaped hemline draped up
slightly over the sleeve, as it would be when worn.