In the pre-Columbian times the woman’s outer garment was the mantle, or the manta. The mantle (Spanish: Manta, Quechua: Lliclla) of the pre-Columbian Inca ladies was a square textile, which was held together with a pin in the front. This garment was for many centuries the favourite over garment all over Peru. It was in classic times woven in alpaca wool on an upright loom, but was later also sewn together from two rectangular textiles woven on the back strap loom.
In Colonial times the mantle was still used over the new fashion dresses inspired from Europe, but most often made from cloth, woven in Peru. It was combined with another textile folded on the head. The head cloth could either be imported lace from Europe or a home woven textile that was folded and arranged on the head. In the upper classes of the society the head cloth was in Colonial times sometimes arranged on the head in a new way – not folded, but hanging loose from the head – like European veils. The folded head-cloth is still used by the women over most of Latin America. It differs from town to town, showing the geographical belonging of the woman to the viewer being aware of these differences.
The patterns on the manta changed in colonial times from traditional Inca patterns. Many of the pre-Columbian patterns prevailed, but were mixed with Christian iconography. The Inca patterns were mostly geometrical and square in form, but soon after the conquest curved lines were introduced. The patterns on the white background in Ill.3 symbol feathers. Feather textiles – with real feathers – had very high status in pre-Columbian times, but also woven, embroidered, brocaded, printed or painted imitations were highly estimated. With the curved lines produced with eccentric wefts being introduced from Europe they could also be woven in tapestry.
A stunning yellow moiré dress from the early 18th century is conserved in the collection of the National Museum of History in Mexico City. This dress consists of two parts: a bodice that closes at the front, and a skirt that was probably worn with a small panier underneath. Both of them were tailored with a fabric that was intentionally cut and sewn in order to symmetrically place the metal brocade motives throughout the dress. On the inside, the bodice possesses a fine, bright pink lining.
A true moiré effect was achieved in the textile by a weaving process, which causes the characteristic wavy watermark-design with a light and dim contrast. Historically, it was applied to silk fabrics with a plain crosswise rib weave; this causes light to diversely reflect on its surface. Although nowadays a calendering finish can also be used by passing and pressing the fabric between a pair of engraved rollers while using steam and moisture, the true moiré effect is distinguished from the modern one by identifying if the lines are impressed with an irregular repeated pattern.
Some features of the bodice – such as the existence of two carteras de bolsillos simulados or fake pockets near the waist – resemble what Spanish women wore around 1730-1750. In comparison with existing Spanish samples in the Museo del Traje, it is noticeable that the pockets’ shape varies slightly, and that the length of the peplum seems to be shorter. In addition to these subtle differences, the fact that the bodice closes on the front shouldn’t be ignored since it allows specialists to suspect that this dress wasn’t used with a stomacher in the front. Several New-Spanish paintings depict women with closed bodices, contrary to what European ladies found fashionable at the time. Therefore, it is thought that this dress could be an outstanding example of New-Hispanic taste during the first half of the 18th century.
Last but not least, it is necessary to emphasize a particularity of the “yellow” color of the dress. A variety of natural dyes, such as saffron and several types of plants, could provide a yellow tonality. Although the specific dye source has not been analyzed, it is possible to infer that the original color has faded over time. Minor amends made by close stitching were a common-practice in historical garments. In this case, it is possible to notice that the thread used to repair the fabric has a different hue and is significantly brighter. It is generally thought that the placement of repair threads had the intention to match the original; this leads to the belief that this amend has faded at a different rate, although it isn’t recent.
Further study is necessary to understand better the materials and the technology used to produce this object. Although this dress has been exhibited several times, it is only now that professionals have begun the search to comprehend this type of material culture.
Acknowledgements: National Museum of History in Mexico (MNH) and Photographer Omar Dumaine. Special thanks to Martha Sandoval Villegas for discussing the topic with me and allowing me to freely read her unpublished works.
See also: James Middleton (2016), Reading Dress in New Spanish Portraiture, Clothing the Mexican Elite 1695-1805. https://www.academia.edu/26791493/Reading_Dress_in_New_Spanish_Portraiture_Clothing_the_Mexican_Elite_1695-1805
According to the 1803 dictionary of the Real Academia Española, gandaya meant both ‘type of hair bonnet’ and ‘mischievous, idle, free living’. No scholar has ever paid attention to the relationship between these two meanings and the majismo. The gandaya was a headdress usually knitted, colourful and, depending on the wearer’s wealth, made of silk. It was characterized by a lavish hanging tasselled ‘tail’ that swayed loosely following the movements of whoever wore it, captivating everyone’s attention. Not surprisingly, majos borrowed this accessory (originally a Catalan-Valencian adornment, therefore autochthonous) for the essential mise-en-scène of their ‘figure’.
Defined by Dorothy Noyes as ‘working-class dandies’, majos were a social group constituted by emigrants from all over the peninsula settled in an expanding Madrid. Yet, what essentially characterized majos and majas were: their brutal vitality, vanity, haughtiness, rebelliousness and impertinence, their gandaya. This behaviour fulfilled its purpose only as a reaction against everything and everyone (petimetres and petimetras) considered of being foreigner. The second were perceived as vicious for their ostentatious consumption of French fashions.
Madrilenian elites perceived majos’s debauchery and boldness as picturesque and patriotic, and soon adopted majos’ fashion and manners and even mingled with them. The act of replacing their affected, heavy and static headdress à la française by a gandaya should be contemplated as a subversive act: gandayas exposed, partly, their hair and its tassel waved against their own bodies while, probably, becoming entangled with others’ during public events. In addition, gandayas, distorted gender roles and appearances. Gandayas can be considered one of the very few non-gendered early modern fashionable accessories. They were a representative sign of the exceptional freedom and public presence women enjoyed at that time in Madrid, and the gender distorting which some 18th century writers, satirically, witness of.
Gandayas travelled throughout space and time. Space-wise, they can be approached as evidence of the ‘early-modern globalization’. In France, a gandaya was the accessory chosen by Beaumarchais to characterize his subversive Figaro in his Mariage de Figaro. It is also interesting to point towards the similarities between the gandaya represented in Thénard’s portrait as Figaro and another one currently preserved in the Museo del Traje in Madrid. Even though, they might not be the same one, it suggests that Beaumarchais was well familiarized with this headdress, which he might have seen in his visit to Madrid between 1764-1765.
Around the same period, between 1775-1800, we find representations of gandayas in the Viceroyalty of New Spain (today Mexico). Various figures, both men and women, of a series of ‘castas paintings’ have been represented wearing gandayas. It is remarkable to highlight the swift of these gandayas’ symbolical value here. The sitters are not represented with gandayas in association to majismo. In these cases, gandayas seem to appear as a fashionable accessory.
Timewise, gandayas were adapted and adopted by the Haute Couture in the twentieth century. Hubert de Givenchy designed in 1964 a red velvet headdress that possibly inspired in a gandaya. It was this gandaya-like hat that was, amongst others, chosen to feature Audrey Hepburn in a photo-shoot by Cecil Beaton in 1964 UK Vogue. Possibly, Hubert de Givenchy might have learned this head adornment through his master, the Spanish haute couture master, Cristobal Balenciaga.
In brief, gandayas are a great example of how early modern fashions travelled and still inspire: throughout class (from the working classes to the aristocracy), throughout geographies (from Spain to the Colonies) and throughout time (from the eighteenth-century to nowadays).
To the anonymous mannequins standing in fashion plates, the Bonnarts rapidly added portraits of high- ranking people from the Court. Repeating the same formal codes, these “portraits in mode” speculated on the celebrity of people from the Court, by adding to the stereotype image of a young and elegant man the name of a well-known person from the Court entourage. Praising their appearances and their “beauty”, these images were also a way for the merchants, who were selling them, to compliment and flatter the sitter.
These plates began to appear in the 1690s and were highly successful as they were adopted by most of the editors. This was in fact legitimated as the Court was considered to be the place where fashions were invented, but also the natural place where fashion was alive, the City – to quote La Bruyère – as being the “monkey” of the Court.
Beyond the scenery and the dress and accessories intended to fashion the sitter, these images echo contemporary portrait paintings, in particular in their composition. Especially group portraits, and conversation pieces where framed portraits within portrait paintings, standing portraits in military uniforms and portraits in mythological costumes, were the basis for the creation of the “portraits in mode”.
Even though the Mercure galant wrote in 1699 that men are less keen that women on changing clothes every season, the fashion plates demonstrate that the question of appearance was important for both genders, scrutinized in all people at Court, the first being the King. The refinery of the waistcoats, the shape of their sleeves or their pockets, the matching garments are largely described through the pages of the Mercure and the engravings, which insisted on the correct way of wearing lace cravats, muffs, how to place a hat under the arm, the size of the wig, the trim of the ribbons, as well as the jewels, the buckles and other items of adornment.
The luxury and the refinery of male fashion were obviously indicated in black and white engravings by a firm drawing of the cut and the adornments. These were largely reinvented and transformed when the fashion plate was illuminated and gilded, which eliminated and modified the details under the multi-coloured surface and the gold and silver motifs. Even though the colours did not respect the lines of the etching, they called to mind the luxury and the variegation of one man’s toilet, even if hiding the shiny buttons with which the engraver aimed to restore the sparkle.
Fashion Prints in the Age of Louis XIV: Interpreting the Art of Elegance, (Costume Society of America Series) ed. Kathryn Norberg, Sandra L. Rosenbaum, Texas Tech University Press, 2014.
A Kingdom of Images: French Prints in the Age of Louis XIV, 1660-1715, ed. Peter Fuhring, Louis Marchesano, Rémi Mathis, Vanessa Selbach, Los Angeles, Getty Research Institute, 2015.
Fashioning the Early Modern. Dress, Textiles, and Innovation in Europe, 1500-1800, ed. Evelyn Welch, Pasold Studies in Textile History Series, 2016.
Forthcoming 2017: Pascale Cugy, La dynastie des Bonnart. Peintres, graveurs et marchands de modes à Paris sous l’Ancien Régime, Rennes, Presses Universitaires de Rennes.
Les quatre frères Bonnart, nés entre 1637 et 1654 à Paris, sont particulièrement célèbres pour leurs images de vêtements, produites en grande quantité à partir des années 1680 et considérées comme les premières estampes à pouvoir vraiment prétendre au titre de « gravures de mode ». Ces centaines de planches de même format, gravées à l’eau-forte et au burin, très stéréotypées dans leur présentation, sont depuis longtemps perçues comme une chronique des apparences du règne de Louis XIV.
La Dame de la Cour, en déshabillé négligé de la collection Smith-Lesouëf, publiée (et probablement gravée) par l’aîné des Bonnart, Nicolas Ier, d’après un dessin de son jeune frère Robert, est très caractéristique de cette production. Debout à l’avant d’un fond blanc, corps tourné vers la gauche et visage vers la droite, le mannequin est présenté comme une dame « de la Cour » (appartenant donc au monde à imiter, où sont censés naître les bons usages), la tête couverte d’une sorte de turban, dans un « déshabillé » laissant découvrir le creux de sa poitrine, dont la lettre précise qu’il est « négligé ». Loin d’être réservé aux « besognes de nuit », le déshabillé est, selon le Dictionnaire universel d’Antoine Furetière publié en 1690, un « habit de couleur que les femmes portent chez elles ». La première édition du Dictionnaire de l’Académie française précise, en 1694, qu’« elles [s’en] servent pour garder la chambre ». Porté en dehors des grandes occasions qui nécessitent un habit particulier, il est associé au style non apprêté, évidemment très étudié, qui était considéré par les contemporains comme un progrès du règne de Louis XIV, contrastant avec les contraintes incommodes du passé. M. de La Févrerie se félicita ainsi dans un article du Mercure galant publié en 1681 d’une Cour où « l’on est négligé sans être mal-propre ».
Finement gravée et riche en détails, cette composition fait moins la promotion d’un habit précis, repérable chez un tailleur identifiable, que d’un style de vie associé au monde de l’élite. Elle insiste ainsi sur la posture, les gestes et la silhouette, mettant en valeur une beauté théâtralisée. Jouant sur la jeunesse et l’érotisme, les planches des Bonnart sont toujours marquées, malgré leur caractère tout à fait irréel, par un sentiment d’intimité avec l’univers du pouvoir et de la beauté, lié aux jeux de regard, mais aussi à la multiplication des accessoires accessibles à la bourgeoisie, comme ici les dentelles, le mouchoir ou le collier muni de sa croix.
Par leur sujet et leur composition, les estampes des frères Bonnart se prêtent particulièrement bien à « l’habillage » par le biais de fragments textiles, une technique d’embellissement des planches gravées encore peu étudiée, employée dès le début du XVIIe siècle, notamment pour orner les images de dévotion. Servant ici à donner une apparence concrète au déshabillé, cette technique conduit l’individu qui l’utilise à mimer avec une grande minutie le travail du tailleur qui façonne l’apparence, à l’aide de chutes textiles directement empruntées à un monde de richesse et de luxe. Combinés à une enluminure délicate évoquant la carnation du mannequin, ces tissus vert, saumon et rouge, agrémentés de fils d’or et d’argent, sont étroitement associés dans un montage respectant la structure générale livrée par la gravure, dont le papier marque les plis et frontières des différents éléments. Ayant très probablement un but ornemental plus que didactique ou explicatif, cet habillage, transformant l’image du mannequin en un véritable tableau tactile, confère un prix particulier à la feuille volante d’origine, vendue pour quelques sols rue Saint-Jacques, à Paris.
References: Cugy Pascale, Letourmy-Bordier Georgina, Selbach Vanessa, « Les “estampes habillées”. Acteurs, pratiques et publics en France aux XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles », Perspective, 1, 2016, p. 163-170. Fuhring Peter, Marchesano Louis, Mathis Rémi et al., A Kingdom of Images : French Prints in the Age of Louis XIV, 1660-1715, cat ex., Los Angeles, The J. Paul Getty Trust ; Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, 2015, p. 254-255. La Févrerie M. de, « En quoy consiste l’air du Monde, & la véritable Politesse, par M. de la Févrerie », Mercure galant, juillet 1681, p. 47-103. Thépaut-Cabasset Corinne, éd., L’Esprit des modes au Grand siècle, Paris, CTHS, 2010.
Forthcoming 2017: Cugy Pascale, La dynastie Bonnart. Peintres, graveurs et marchands de modes à Paris sous l’Ancien Régime, Rennes, Presses universitaires de Rennes.
Discovered in a box in the Church of Santa Clara de Asís, California, a group of about one hundred pieces including liturgical vestments and related items from the Mission era, today represents the most important part of the historical collection in the de Saisset Museum next to the Mission Church on the campus of Santa Clara University. As in similar collections in the other Missions (twenty one in total) in California, the liturgical vestments encompass different styles, mainly 18th-19th century French, Italian, Spanish, and also Chinese.
These collections are composed of various textile compounds, sometimes mixed together, and many of the vestments betray non-European origin. The Informes (Annual Reports) from 1777-1840 of the church mention the provenance of most of the artifacts imported or made in situ since the establishment of the first Mission. Santa Clara de Asís was moved and rebuilt many times over the centuries from the original location on the bank of the Guadalupe River in 1777, when the Spaniards established the first outpost in the valley.
Among the most interesting pieces in the collection, the vestments with Chinese embroidery stand out. The satin stitches that exquisitely compose flowers and butterflies on plain monochrome silk satin (often red) are easily recognizable. Indeed, these vestments recall Chinese noble and imperial robes of the Qing period (1644-1912).
Each vestment matches with other identical liturgical items that together create sets for the sacred mass. Although in the informes we can find a few notes regarding Chinese dish’s wares and fabrics in the Mission, there is no information related to these specific vestments. One of the earlier documents, dated to the end of the 18th century, however, informs us about the lining of the vestments made with “Canton pink cloth.”
This cloth can be only identified with a type of translucent pink tabby that was used to line the majority of the vestments, including those made with French and Spanish compounds (lampas and brocade).
Many Chinese vestments were made in the Philippines and imported into the Americas via the Manila Galleons; nevertheless, those in Santa Clara, do not appear as refined as the finished products made for export. The visible evidence of ink on the surface (which was used to draw the pattern on the textile) and the presence of the golden trim, most likely a Spanish filé, suggest a local production. It is possible that once they arrived in Baja, the unfinished Chinese product was completed with European material and decorations.
The presence of Chinese and other peoples of Asian origin in Mexico and Alta California in the last three centuries, created a complete new style in art that today would require a much deeper study and expertise. The research on these “Chinese” liturgical vestments in Santa Clara and other Missions in California is still at a very early stage. A better historical and artistic contextualization may be released in the next year.
With a population of between 6 and 8 million in 1700, larger than the Netherlands, Denmark, or England, the Spanish colonies in the Americas constituted a vast, wealthy market for a wide variety of European textiles. Despite local colonial production of woollen and cotton fabrics, Spanish American consumers were heavily reliant on European manufacturers, especially for higher quality textiles. Few of these textiles were manufactured in Spain. By the end of the 17th century, over 90% of the manufactured goods exported in the annual fleets which sailed from Cadiz originated outside Spain. The textiles smuggled into Spanish America from the neighbouring American colonies of other European powers, such as British Jamaica or Dutch Curaçao, were even more likely to have a non-Spanish origin.
It was French-made silks and linens that dominated European textile exports to Spanish America in the 18th century. Yet English worsteds also enjoyed considerable success, much to the irritation of the French. French exporters faced particular difficulties during the frequent wars of the 18th century, when British naval supremacy caused interruptions to the system of regular Spanish fleets. Towards the end of these wars, with the prospect of normal trade resuming, French officials and manufacturers redoubled their efforts to compete with English exports of woollen textiles.
One such episode, near the end of the Seven Years War in 1762, has left a fascinating collection of letters and fabric samples at the Archives Nationales in Paris (AN, F12, 551-3). The French were considering how to compete with British light worsteds – serges, shalloons, long ells and bays – in Spanish America. A French official noted ‘it seems we are beginning to think seriously about re-establishing our trade with Spain’. French producers were informed that in Spain ‘the English do considerable business in a fabric called shalloon, which is exactly the same as the one you make under the name serge. It is generally used for lining men’s suits. I think it would be possible … to enter into competition with the English in this field.’ The French consul at Cadiz sent swatches of English bays, of the kinds sold in Spanish America, to be copied.
Together, these letters and accompanying swatches enable us to see and feel the actual textiles, to discover how they were named in three languages (French, English and Spanish), to determine how they were used in clothing, and to learn how their quality was evaluated – it was the lightness of the warps in the English bays that gave them their superior softness. This combination of words and things is a Holy Grail for early modern textile scholarship. It is much sought after, but rarely found, so these documents constitute a remarkable survival.
References: Nuala Zahedieh, ‘Commerce and Conflict: Jamaica and the War of the Spanish Succession’, in A.B. Leonard and David Pretel (eds), The Caribbean and the Atlantic World Economy (Basingstoke, 2015), 68-86; Toshikazu Kasai, ‘English Smuggling Activities in the Official and Private Documents”, HERSETEC, 3 (2009), 169-189; Richard Salvucci, Textiles and Capitalism in Mexico: An Economic History of the Obrajes, 1539-1840 (Princeton NJ, 1987).
See: John Styles, “Fashion, Textiles and the Origins of Industrial Revolution”, The East Asian Journal of British History, Vol. 5 March 2016, pp. 161-189.
“Besides, the consumption of all sorts of silk fabrics should be seen in Mexico as the main point of its commerce; clergy men, gentlemen, merchants, bourgeois, artisans, craftsmen and even Africans and mulatto, they all dress in silk for most part of the year. Therefore Spain, together with France, should focus firmly on this trade in order to rectify the deterioration in the situation due to the introduction of silk from China to Mexico.” (Translated from Jean de Monségur, 1709, chap. XXXVII)
Court dresses from the Eighteenth-century were made with extremely luxurious materials, and possessed three essential parts: a train, a rigid bodice, and a skirt (commonly called petticoat) that had to be used with a panier underneath. This type of dresses is usually defined by its function because court dress was worn in the presence of the royal couple. In the case of the New Spain, it is likely that it was used in front of the viceroys. However, more research is needed because formal dress could also be seen in important city celebrations, weddings, taking of vows, etc.
The elaborate masterpiece made of green silk velvet, which belongs to the collection of the National Museum of History in Mexico, is probably one of the few surviving examples that show taste in the New Spain. Elements such as the large stomacher placed on the front of the bodice, the profusion in the use of sequins, metallic foils and glass-pastes, as well as the provenance of the dress, have led specialists to believe that the mantua was specifically made for a New-Hispanic lady, although the materials could have come from Europe or China.
Symbolism played an important role during the Age of Enlightenment. The different parts of the gown support this idea through the depiction of floral motifs, which are symmetrically arranged. One interesting aspect, which is placed along the train as a form of narrative speech, is the consecutive representation of the growth of a wild rose, created through embroidery.
Scientific analysis of the materials showed that this dress contains silk, gold, silver, potassium-based glass and indigo. However, one must remember that objects that survive until today are not identical to their moment of creation. Time, context and use have taken their toll and caused some physical and chemical transformations. The analysis also proved that this dress presents multiple alterations, therefore it is important to recognize and differentiate the original features against the modifications and the effects of degradation.
See also unpublished thesis by the author: Laura G. García-Vedrenne (2016): “El reconocimiento tecnológico y material como fundamento para la conservación de un vestido de alta corte del siglo XVIII, perteneciente al acervo del MNH”.
Acknowledgements: National Museum of History in Mexico (MNH) and Photographer Omar Dumaine, as well as Martha Inés Sandoval Villegas and Diego Iván Quintero Balbás.
Stockings for children are rarely found in museum collections, but they do exist. The Museum of Copenhagen has several different samples, and they tell a bit about the way children were seen and cared for in the 17th century. Many adult stockings and four child stockings, dating to around 1670s, were found during the archaeological excavations at Copenhagen’s Rådhusplads (the Town Hall Square). All the stockings are made of wool (though a few adult silk stockings were also identified) and knitted in stockinette stitches with rows of garter stitches at the top of the shaft. Nothing is known yet about the stockings’ colors yet, but dye analyses will soon be carried out.
The size of the child stockings reveals that they belonged to children aged 1-2 years. A so-called clock – a purl stitch pattern, usually in a flower- or tower-like construction – is seen at the ankle on most of the adult stockings, but also on three child ones. The stocking style for children thus seems to have followed those of the adults in many aspects. However, one of the clocks is clearly adapted to the age of its young owner, as this stocking has an almost anthropomorphic clock, resembling like a short man (fig. 1). This anthropomorphic style is not seen on any of the adult stockings. Another adaptation for children’s stockings is found on a stocking which has a silk ribbon garter sewn on to it, just below the knee (fig. 2).
Since garters could fall down from time to time, attaching it to the stocking permanently, insured that the child would always be properly dressed. A third stocking from an unknown location in Copenhagen has a heel of garter stitches, which is not common on adult stockings either (fig. 3). The garter stitches may have ensured enough flexibility for the child to use it for a longer time, as the foot grew bigger. So, in the 17th century, stockings for children would have resembled those of adults in many ways, but individual adjustments were made according to the child’s age and needs.
“Stockings embroidered with gold and silver, and garters: very few assortments of this type of stockings would be sold, but as was noted in the article on silk stockings, they should be wider from the calf down to the heal, like those from Genoa. Having said that, those produced in Lyon are more beautiful and more highly regarded. The colors must be beautiful and as described in the article on silk stockings.
Along with the stockings, one should have an assortment of embroidered garters like those from Genoa. There should be one pair of garters for every four pairs of stockings. No garters are produced in Spain, and none have come yet from China.” (Translated from Jean de Monségur, 1709, Chap. XXXVIII)
Some examples of garters from early modern time are specially displayed at the Victoria and Albert museum, London, for the exhibition Undressed: 350 Years of Underwear in Fashion (Victoria & Albert Museum Gallery 40 Fashion 16/04/2016-05/02/2017)
The dolls known as Lord and Lady Clapham from the 1690s, preserved at the Victoria and Albert museum, London, have got stockings and garters; these elements are very interesting and precious since very few items from such an early period survive, and demonstrate of how their were worn.
“Silks Black sewn silk stockings, long enough to be rolled. Those from Seville are more highly regarded than those from France; Short stockings of the same quality, not intended to be rolled, but rather for use with the golille outfit, which have since fallen out of fashion. Other silk stockings of all colours and all lengths, for both men and women: Stockings from Naples and Milan called punto, both for men (when not rolled), as well as for women and children. This type of stocking is made in Toledo in Seville and across Spain, but those from Milan are considered the best. These stockings are also produced in France, and they are without question the most beautiful and the best of them all, but since they are also the most expensive- and have the disadvantage of being too narrow from the calf down to the heel- they do not sell as quickly as the others. In the detailed listing of the assortment of the cargo earlier mentioned, we will see which colours are the most coveted, with red and blue generally being the most popular. Many of this type of stocking also comes from China, and although they are not as good quality or as beautiful as those from Spain, France, or Italy, sales of these have detrimental effects on the consumption of the European ones, since they are offered at a better price.” (Translated from Jean de Monségur, 1709, Chap. XXXVIII)
The V&A’s new fashion exhibition, Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear, presents over 200 garments dating from the mid-18th century to the present day.
The exhibition opens with a display of male and female underwear from the second half of the eighteenth century. Looking for something colourful to contrast with an array of white linen, we decided to include an eye-catching pair of hand embroidered, frame knitted, green and pink silk stockings. The stockings (V&A: T.156&A-1971), which were donated to the V&A in 1971 by Miss B. Hinton, have always been described in the Museum’s records as Spanish and dated to the mid-eighteenth century.
Sandy Black analysed the technique used to make stockings in her recent publication, Knitting: Fashion, Industry, Craft (V&A Publishing, 2012, p.25). The stockings are seamed at toe, under the sole of the foot and up the back of the leg. The green and pink sections are knitted together using the intarsia technique. The leg and foot of the stockings are green and the gore clock, which extends to the calf, is pink. The clock was subsequently embroidered in polychrome silks with a design of two-handled urns containing stylised pine trees alternating with pairs of facing peacocks, which reduce in size as the stocking tapers. The clock is finished with a scroll and leaf motif, two more peacocks and a crown. An embroidered border pattern covers the join between the green and pink silk. The embroidery is worked by the counted thread technique. The stockings are just over knee length and have two pink stripes at the upper, turned edge. The letters ‘E A COST A’ are knitted into one stocking under the stripes. The letters are presumed to signify the manufacturer.
Black goes on to point out that the stockings were subsequently copied using a different technique. The example in the V&A’s collection (V&A: 666-1898), which is thought to be of English make and has been dated to the early 19th century, was frame knitted with a blue leg and ivory clock. The two sections were joined by seaming after the (less shapely) embroidered border had been worked on the leg and the main pattern on the clock. This method of construction did not require any specialist machinery or a particularly skilled operative and was a practical solution to replicating the design in a cheaper way. The embroidery uses similar motifs to the ‘Spanish’ stockings but in general the motifs are less skilfully rendered.
Further research on Pinterest revealed several more examples of both the ‘Spanish’ and ‘English’ types in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (four pairs), Museum of Fine Art, Boston (two pairs) and the Kyoto Costume Collection (one pair). Furthermore the Reggio Emilia Museum in Italy has a pair of the ‘English’ type which survived with a late 18th century man’s coat and waistcoat. These stockings are variously described as Spanish, Italian, French and English and the majority are dated to the early 19th century.
Why were the stockings copied? If the copies are English, it was probably because of the ban on the importation of foreign, ready-made silk garments and accessories introduced in 1765. This regulation was designed to protect Britain’s domestic industries and may well have encouraged an enterprising manufacturer to offer copies of a stocking design with proven sales.
Alternatively could the stockings have been produced in Nimes, and then copied in either Spain or England? An extract from the 1809 publication, A General Collection of the Best and Most Interesting Voyages …, includes the following observation:
“For a long time our manufactories of Languedoc – of Nismes (sic) particularly – had been accustomed to furnish the ladies of Peru with stockings. For this they had looms constructed on purpose, in which they worked their stockings with broad clocks, embroidered in different colours; but the Spaniards imagined themselves competent to the supply of the Peruvian ladies according to their taste. They set up similar looms for manufacture of stockings, and flattered themselves at first with rivalling, afterwards entirely supplanting our manufacturers.”
Restrictions on the import of stockings into Spain were introduced in 1779, and, with greater impact, in 1787 but in reality the regulation was frequently evaded by French merchants working with Spanish silk ‘manufacturers’ in Cadiz. Seals declaring the stockings to be of Spanish manufacture were illegally attached enabling them to be re-exported to the Spanish colonies.
It is also possible that both stockings were made in Nîmes for different markets. Stockings made in Nîmes were exported to Italy via the port of Marseille which might explain the survival of the pair in Reggio Emilia.
This lengthy blog poses more questions than answers! We would be interested to hear from any textile and fashion historians who might be able to shed light on the stockings, their country of origin and date.
My thanks to Sandy Black for her research and to Cristina Barreto who drew my attention to the stockings in Reggio Emilia.
For the hosiery industry in Nîmes, see: M. Sonnenscher, ‘The Hosiery Industry of Nîmes and the Lower Languedoc in the Eighteenth Century’, Textile History, vol. 10, 1979, pp. 142-60.
Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear, Victoria and Albert Museum, until 12 March 2017
The exhibition explores the close relationship between underwear and fashion, and its critical role in shaping the body to the fashionable ideal, and the importance of design and technology to its increasing functionality, fit and comfort.
“Fans Assortment with beautiful and pleasant portraits and figures, with ivory sticks, all painted in bright colors, and some others dull.” (Translated from Jean de Monségur, 1709, Chap. XL)
« Les éventails à la mode sont de taffetas de différentes couleurs, et argentés. Ils sont fort légers, semés de fleurs naturelles, et montés de bois de calembourg. On les appelle les éventails à la Dauphine ». En mai 1681, le Mercure galant (p. 381) nous offre un descriptif d’éventail « à la mode » qu’il serait bien hasardeux aujourd’hui de tenter d’illustrer. Nombre d’entre eux en effet, datant de la seconde moitié du XVIIe siècle, ne sont plus connus que par les écrits. Quelques relevés dans ce même journal permettent de souligner l’usage des éventails « à la siamoise », des éventails à « lorgnettes », mais aussi des nœuds de rubans ou des chaines d’or qui viennent agrémenter les brins.
De rares exemples aujourd’hui témoignent du raffinement de ces accessoires de mode.
La simplicité des brins en os finement découpés, suivant un mouvement serpentiforme, répond à l’exubérance du décor de la feuille. Composé de palmettes de soie, cet éventail appartenant à la collection de Mrs Hélène Alexander (The Fan Museum, Londres, inv. 1620) offre un décor exotique. Au centre, une déesse sur un char, tiré par deux amours, est entourée d’oiseaux exotiques et d’insectes géants. La luminosité du fond or met en valeur le coloris des vêtements. Composés de plumes majestueuses, les coiffures des différents personnages contribuent à évoquer les terres lointaines. À contrario, les deux faces argentées laissent place à une succession de branches fleuries ou chargées de fruits, en alternance avec d’imposants insectes.
Les fonds or, et argent, très en vogue dans les dernières années du XVIIe siècle, le sont encore au début du XVIIIe siècle selon Savary des Bruslons dans son Dictionnaire du Commerce. Il indique d’ailleurs que ce sont les batteurs d’or qui sont en charge de cette préparation avant que les peintres en éventails n’interviennent.
Cet éventail est d’autant plus exceptionnel qu’il offre quatre images, soit quatre faces, au lieu des deux habituellement observées sur les éventails. Le montage particulier des palmettes permet cette prouesse. L’éventail s’ouvre ainsi de la gauche vers la droite, mais aussi de la droite vers la gauche.
L’éventail « parfait », ou achevé, est ensuite proposé à la vente. Paris est la plus grande place de ce commerce. Les éventaillistes, parfumeurs, gantiers, mais aussi marchands-merciers partagent la diffusion de cet accessoire dont le succès ne cesse de croître. Qu’elles soient de royaume de France, d’Espagne, de Hollande, d’Angleterre ou encore des Pays du Nord ou d’Amérique, les femmes de la haute société apprécient les éventails des artisans parisiens.
Au cours des XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles, les tissus de soie en Europe échappent aux influences orientales de leur origine première et des styles nouveaux apparaissent.
Une rencontre émouvante vient d’avoir lieu avec la découverte en archéologie maritime de pièces de vêtements du XVIIe siècle restées enfouies sous les sables pendant quatre cents ans au nord des côtes de la Hollande. On a donc pu voir récemment au Kaap Skil Museum à Texel cette robe de damas de soie de grande qualité. Examinée par des experts du Rijksmuseum et par le Professeur Emmy de Groot of the University of Amsterdam elle vient même d’être qualifiée; “the Night Watch of the costume world.” Son léger décor floral est encore influencé par la mémoire textile orientale revue par l’habileté italienne. Damas, samit et lampas vont alors s’enrichir des produits des manufactures françaises de Tours et de Lyon. À côté des décors “ branchus” – un siècle après la robe” sauvée des eaux”, Nattier peint encore Henriette de France dans ce même type d’étoffe – le décor floral devient plus naturaliste sous Louis XIV et sous Louis XV. Brochés et brocarts de coloris soutenus parent hommes et femmes : La Tour représente ainsi le très fleuri député de Southampton, Henry Dawkins en 1750, tandis que les fleurs s’épanouissent tout à leur avantage sur les robes volantes comme dans La déclaration d’amour de Jean- François Troy, en 1731.
“Lace is largely consumed. All different sorts of Lace -of all sizes and qualities- from Normandy, du Puy and Lorraine have a great debit.”(Translated from Jean de Monségur, 1709, Chap. XXXVI)
When looking at early modern colonial portraits, the viewer’s attention is invariably drawn to the subjects’ clothing. Closely fitted to the body, covered with intricate patterning, and heavily accessorized, one can’t help but ponder how difficult it must have been to wear such clothes. A portrait like Miguel Cabrera’s Doña María de la Luz Padilla y Gómez (c. 1760; Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York) shows her in a sumptuous white silk brocade dress, carefully painted to make visible the dress’s patterning and texture. Its large-scale floral design resembles Indian cottons, a popular source of inspiration for eighteenth-century textiles. Another component of her dress may escape initial notice: the lace cuffs that adorn her sleeves. These were likely Flemish, imported to Latin America and incorporated into her garment there.
Lace historian Santina Levey has written that lace’s curious place in European history: at once extremely common and extremely expensive, it was a commonplace luxury. Perhaps that formulation could be extended outside of Europe as well. Colonial Latin America participated in an international textile trade that included lace, which was considered an essential component of European costume in the Ancien Régime. Lace was made into cuffs, collars, shawls, head coverings, and lappets. Usually produced by female artisans, often girls, such items were accessories to garments made of other materials, principally silk. Due to its light weight, lace was easily transported, although it was heavily taxed when it crossed international borders, which contributed to its high cost.
For a woman like Doña Maria, the cost was worthwhile to convey her international flair and knowledge of European fashion. A bigger question, however, is why lace remained so important to elite dress in this period? Its meticulous mode of production, requiring skilled manipulation of flax threads into intricate patterns, is perhaps a metaphor for the workings of the early modern global world.
See also Michael Yonan (2016): “Materializing Empire in an Eighteenth-Century Lace Gown”, TEXTILE, Cloth and Culture, online publication, May 2016. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14759756.2016.1144637
“There is nor Church nor private in the Western Indies, who does not consume this kind of gold silk brocade; it has then to be considered for significant and its consumption shall rather increase than diminish, especially on occasions where vice-royalties looking for pomp and glory will walk through Mexico without wearing the golilla.” (Translated from Jean de Monségur, 1709, Chap. XXXVIII)
In early modern Europe, a man’s complete suit consisted of a coat (long vest or justaucorps), a vest (or waistcoat) and breeches. The so-called “three-piece suit” (or habit à la française) was used for formal dress from the end of the 17th century and continued throughout the 18th century. The general shape of the formal suit underwent noticeable changes by the end of the 18th century. Beginning before the 1770’s, the main modifications occurred on pockets, sleeves, on the side and back pleats of the coat, and also including the addition of a narrow collar to the coat so that, by the end of the 1780’s the masculine silhouette looking more slender. With respect to variety and every-changing fashion, France and England enjoyed the best reputation in men’s tailoring. In his book on tailoring written for the Encyclopedia and published by the Académie des Sciences in 1769, Garsault describes the “French suit” as the European formal dress for men and he uses it to demonstrate the complexity of the art of tailoring. Accordingly to Garsault the three-piece suit is the single most complicated piece of work for a tailor as it calls on every one of the principles of his art.
The parts of a man’s waistcoat (ROM 909.21.2.A, B, C), originated from France and dated 1713-15, are made of a salmon pink silk brocaded lampas of gold and silver threads, with accents of pink, blue and yellow. The multicoloured silk is designed to fit the waistcoat’s pattern, and woven to shape. It was ready for the tailor to cut and fit to the customer and sew together. The waistcoat, lined in silk, consists of two long fronts with a flaring skirt and side pockets flaps with three round buttons under each pockets flap. The brocaded design is typical of so-called “Bizarre Silks”; and consists of exotic flowers and fantastic foliage of leaves and fruits in a vertically undulating plant scroll.
In 18th-century New Spain, the male started to abandon the “Golille”; in the New World as well as in Europe, the three-piece costume was then used as the formal and fashionable male outfit.
Acknowledgements: Anu Liivandi and Alexandra Palmer, Royal Ontario Museum (Canada)