Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Late 18th Century French Fashions - Stockings

I adore vintage fashions and am especially intrigued by those items not usually seen in old fashion plates such as undergarments. I was thrilled to come across an interesting fashion plate from the 1770 - 1780's showing quite a bit of the ladies stocking and the ribbon garter she is about to use to anchor her legwear back in place.  

Naturally I wanted to have a bit of fun with the image, so I  created this fun scene 
showing her trying to entice her escort in a peek.

"Trying not to Peek" by EKDuncan using vintage 18th century  fashion plates

A bit about 18th Century Stockings
Since undergarments aka "unmentionables" were not freely discussed or shown in print for polite society there seems to be a bit of speculation about where a lady would "tie" her stockings.
Stocking length of a few inches above the knee seems to be the general concensus on the correct length for a ladies stocking; it is the point of where the garter was placed that seems to be in question. It is widely believed that women used a buckled garter of some type, or a ribbon to tie their stockings off, just below the knee or possibly just above knee.  My guess is a lady would "tie off" at the place that was the most comfortable and that which had the least amount of risk for letting the stocking fall about her feet as she moved about.

Anchoring just below the knee was a benefit since the calf is generally the larger part of the lower leg and by tying off the stocking just below the knee; the fleshy part of the calf would assist in keeping the stocking from dropping below that point.  Anchoring above the knee would require a tighter tying off of the stocking so it would not easily drop or slide below the knee; however if a stocking was not well "fitted" to your leg this method would have had a greater chance of falling out of place.

My vote would be for placing my garter below the knee; since this would allow the best chance 
that my stockings would not drop to the ground as I walked or moved about.

Risque images and paintings of the time generally show a ladies stocking being tied off just above the knee or slightly higher.  It is possible that artists did this for the titillation factor of showing more leg rather than to depict the historically accurate placement of a ladies stocking garter.  Elastic and spandax type materials did not exist at this time. Knit stockings relaxed and stretched as you moved around causing them to shift which is why garters were required. Without the advantage of  elasticized garters like those decoratively worn in weddings today; the 18th century garter was usually a tied piece of ribbon or a buckling strap made from leather or decorated cloth.

Note - It was not till laterer in Victorian times that ladies stockings covered higher into the thigh area due to the garters extending down from the corset itself  rather than encircling a ladies leg.
Attaching stockings to a garter belt would be the most modern version us 21st century ladies would be familiar with; but this was not the case prior to Victorian times - just in case you were wondering.

Here are a few artistic images showing a ladies stockings and garters from the 18th century.

Jean-Honoré Fragonard - The Swing 1767
We get a glimpse of ladies stocking, tied off with a ribbon just above the knee.
This is actually a very provocative painting for the period.
Notice where the gent is sitting and just imagine what kind of view he has.
(remember during this period in time women did not wear undies, 
bloomers, pantaloons... I think you get the picture. - grins)

Francois Boucher-La Toilette - Garter 1742
In the above painting we see a lady tying off her stocking above the knee with a ribbon.  
Notice she does this in a double wrap style around her leg.
Here again this is an artist interpretation of a lady at her toilette.

She is dressing for the day since she still wears a bed jacket and I don't know about you but I don't think I'd put my shoes on before tying up my stockings. I have to assume a bit of the titillation factor was the point of this piece considering the provocative placement of her legs and that she already has her heels on.

Close up of the Stockings and shoes from the above painting "La Toilette" by Francois Boucher
 My previous post "Showing a Bit of Ankle" has several fashion plates where the hemline on the dresses are at or above the ankle.  Due to this fashion trend of shorter skirts; stockings and shoes became a more noticeable fashion accessory. More care was taken with these items since they were easily viewed due to the shorter skirts and considerably more money was spent in acquiring these items.  Generally a lady would have worn white stockings or those in a color that matched her ensemble.  Pastels such as pink and powder blue were very much in favor.

William Hogarth - A Rake's Progress - The Rose Tavern a brothel in Covent Gardens
This is a part of the painting showing one of the "working girls" with her skirts pulled back
showing her garter and stockings.  These show stockings tied off above the knee as well as a bit of exposed thigh to tease the viewer.

(If you are wondering about the "patches" on her face - patches were commonly used during this time period for a bit of fun and to add beauty marks. They were also frequently used to disguise marks on a person caused by "the pox" aka syphilis - which was a very common STD in the 18th - 19th century, especially for prostitutes. It was also one of the top killers of men at the time.)

On a brighter note - Notice the decoration on her stockings these are referred to as "clocks" and were an expensive addition to have on your stockings.  These probably cost her dearly and so she continues to wear them even-though they have holes and tears in them. 

Mid 18th century Stockings with "clocks", Shoes and French Buckles - Bata Shoe Museum Toronto
Here is an example of actual stockings with fancy clocks as well as shoes and buckles from close to the time of Marie Antoinette.  Notice the slightly "fitted" look of them in the calf area.  This should have helped to keep the upper portion of these stockings from slipping below the the calf.

I'm trying to spot evidence of where they would have tied off but I'm seeing the possibility
in the areas both above the knee and below; however there seems to be a significant amount of creasing on the stocking tucked under the top one.  Those bunched up creases just above the calf area could be from garter placement below the knee; but your guess is as good as mine if that is the case.


Now for the images I used to create my ArtScene  "Trying Not to Peek"

"Trying not to Peek" by EKDuncan using vintage 18th century  fashion plates

I used two french fashion plates from the late 18th Century to create my scene.

Late 18th Century French Fashion Plate
(I flipped and slightly altered this image to use in my scene)
Striped stockings were a high fashion accessory for men at this time this fashion plate displays a gentleman all decked out in the latest without crossing the boundaries into being a "Peacock".

Back in the times of Marie Antoinette a man of extreme fashion would have been called a "Macaroni" the equivalent in the Regency would have been a "Dandy".  For the most part in either time period a man who was refereed to as a "Peacock of Fashion" was also having his masculinity placed into question, so there was a fine line between being a man of fashion and being a peacock.

French Fashion Plate showing a lady about to tie her stockings in place with a ribbon
This is the original late 18th century fashion plate I started with to create the lady in my "Take a Peek" scene.  I removed her background and then created a variety of color options to play with.

Here are several png colorized versions I created using the above image.

(Notice the stocking color changes to match each outfit)

png version of the original fashion plate

EKD Periwinkle Version

EKD Rose Version

EKD Green Version - used in the scene

EKD - Purple Version

EKD - Blue Version with Green Feathers

EKD - Grey Version with Purple Feathers

I hope you have enjoyed my take on stockings during this time period
as well as this great image that shows quite a bit of leg for a fashion plate of its day.

I'll be back a little later on with more great French Fashion plates
from the time of Marie Antoinette.

Till then...

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Showing a bit of Ankle - 1780's French Fashions

While searching through my vintage French fashion plates I came across a nice selection that displayed shorter skirts and the showing of a ladies ankle.  I discovered that for a period of time starting in 1778 and extending into the 1780's "showing a bit of ankle" was quite fashionable, especially in dresses of the "Polonaise" style.  The Polonaise style involved the swagging or ruching back of the over-skirt using a variety of methods such as hidden tapes or loops to achieve the desired effect.  This trend toward "shorter under-skirts" could also be found in other styles through the 1780's.

c 1778 French Polonaise Style with shorter skirts and showing the ankle

Pre-Revolutionary France was quite daring with their fashion trends.  
This post is all about the raising of the hem while my previous post Naughty French Fashions concentrated on the lowering of the bodice and extreme décolletage.  
Yes, you will see a combination of both extremes by looking at that prior post since several of the low bodice creations also sport the shorter hemline.

Here is an assortment of ankle exposing fashions 
from 1778-1787

in the Polonaise Style

Shorter skirt with a more "flounce" inspired look

This one has more of a "robe a l'anglaise" style with the shorter underskirt

Polonaise Style with a very low bodice

Polonaise Style

Shorter skirt with a bit of the "robe a la francaise" feel due to the draped back

Polonaise Style

Polonaise Style

Polonaise Style

Polonaise Style

Polonaise Style

possibly French Casaquin in style

Polonaise Style

Polonaise Style?

possibly French Casaquin in style

Polonaise Style with a "robe a l'anglaise" feel

I love altering fashion plate colors digitally just because it's fun but at the same time if calls to mind that back when these fashions were created a lady did not usually have a dress made to look exactly as shown in a fashion plate.  Instead she might alter any number of things to make a gown suit her or the occasion it would be worn.  Colors and fabric choices were just one of many alterations that would be decided in making an ensemble to please that patron.  

It's fun to see how a dress changes as you alter just the colors alone and since I'm not fond of the original color pallet used I thought this would be a fun one to play around with.  

Here are the variations I came up with.
(I can't decide between the first and the last one as to my favorite color combo)

Next time I've got an interesting "leggy" fashion plate to share 
and a bit about stockings during this period of time.

Thanks for joining me on my continuing journey into fashion plates 
from the time of Marie Antoinette.

till next time...

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Naughty Side of 18th Century French Fashions

I continue my series of antique French Fashion plates from the time of Maire Antoinette with a few examples of some of the more extreme fashions of the day. Most of us modern ladies think of historical clothing prior to the 1920's as being very conservative and buttoned up; however this is not always the case.  Low cut bodices were very much in fashion for much of the 16th - 19th Centuries.  Strange how it was permissible to expose so much of ones bosom in public yet exposing ones shoulders would have been too risque'.

Many fashionable women in the late 18th century even went so far as to expose one or both nipples on occasion; or their bodice was cut so low that with the slightest movement a nipple might make a surprise appearance.
Now mind you the woman would act just slightly shocked at the occurrence but it was well known that by wearing gowns of that "cut" it was bound to happen.  I can just image the men of the day placing bets as to when Madam X's nipple(s) would appear during a ball or supper.  
It must have been hilarious to watch.

French Fashion plate from c1780 showing an exposed nipple
 Above is a French fashion plate from the 1780's showing just how low fashionable 
bodices had come.  There is no question that the ladies nipple is indeed exposed.
This is not a solo fashion plate.  I have several that show exposed nipples from this same time period and others where a majority of the breast is exposed even if the nipple is not obvious to see.  

This extreme fashion was not only in France but to some extent in England and other progressive European countries.  Not all women went as far as to expose their nipple(s), others chose only to allow the areolae to be visible and those more modest, would allow the bodice to come just to but not quite expose the that much of their charms.  

Any way you look at it, showing cleavage or one's décolletage was an acceptable fashion statement of the day.  The question was not would you show cleavage but "how low will you go"?


I thought it would be interesting to post about some of the more daring fashions from this time of Marie Antoinette (the late 1770's through the late 1780's) that show how low the bodices could be.  Some do not blatantly expose the nipple(s) as seen in the above engraving; however in many of them on closer inspection you realize just how exposed they really are.

Extreme "Naughty" French Fashions
Exposed nipples are shown in these fashion plates

Both nipples are exposed in this fashion plate (they are very pale but they are there)
A slight lean over to the side and her left nipple is exposed

Age did not seem to matter either - both nipples are exposed but she does wear a scarf.

Both nipples are in plane sight in this fashion plate

These could be "exposed" 
if not they are very close to giving a peep show

Looks like her left nipple is exposed to me

Same here - her left nipple appears to be peeking just above the lace

This time I believe there is a hint of nipple above the lace on her right breast

 "Exposure" is just a question of time
With a deep breath or a slight turn - everyone would be in for quite a surprise.

Almost exposed but not quite.

Just below the lace - so don't breath too deep if you don't want all revealed

She looks as if she is tugging up her bodice but it's too low to hide for long

Widows Weeds with a bit of flash, because there isn't much keeping her in that bodice

Just dare me!

Just a bit of lace keeping her charms under wraps

I say she is a good candidate for a possible show and tell session later in in that gown

Hidden behind a scrap of lace - but not for long by the looks of it

Looks like she is loosing/winning the battle with her right breast

I still love historical fashions yet I can't say that I would have been very comfortable exposing myself in any of these gowns.  I probably would have dared to go fairly low but I would not wished to risk putting myself "all out there" if you know what I mean.

Still I wanted to have a bit of fun with one of these fashion plates and chose to make the last on into a png and then proceeded to play with colors.  Here are an assortment for you pleasure.

The original turned into a png file
Toned down version of the original
Blue and Teal version
Teal and Blue version
Olive and Blue version
Blue version
Teal version
Olive version

Brown and Olive version

Brown version
Olive and Brown version

Purple two-tone version

Purple version

I hope these "flashy" fashion plates from the late 18th century
have given you a few grins and giggles; as they have me.

Till the next set of fashion plates from the late 1700's...

For more information on Décolletage see HERE

Portrait of Princess Lamballe with exposed nipples 
can be seen HERE with an interesting discussion about it HERE

And if you find this subject "titillating" you might also enjoy viewing a few other blog post like those found at  Isis' Wardrobe - HERE or "The Naked Child in Art" from found HERE