Monday, November 28, 2011
Yes, what’s old is new again, but isn’t that always the case? Here's 30s Hollywood vamp, Jean Harlow, in a gown of gold lamé that clings to every curve. The style could be hot off this season's runways, but the photo was taken in the 1930s when metallic lamé emerged as a designer favorite among evening wear fabrics.
Metallic fabric has a long and illustrious history, one that goes back a few thousand years. The Biblical book of Exodus records, “And they did beat the gold into thin plates, and cut [it into] wires, to work [it] in the blue, and in the purple, and in the scarlet, and in the fine linen, [with] cunning work.” The reference is to cloth of gold, the predecessor to synthetic metallic fabrics. Woven from silk yarn wrapped with a band or strip of genuine gold, this was the real thing. It is said Genghis Kahn (1162-1227) had in his possession "a piece of cloth beautiful beyond description, which he claimed was of pure gold, containing 130 shades of color." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Songket). Such sumptuousness also brings to mind the Field of Cloth of Gold. It is the year 1520 - June 1520 to be precise - when Henry VIII of England and Francis I of France meet in a valley midway between Guisnes and Arde in France. This excerpt from Hall’s Chronicle describes the historic meeting. “Thursday 8 June being Corpus Christi day, Henry and the French king Francis I, met in a valley called the Golden Dale which lay midway between Guisnes and Arde where the French king had been staying. In this valley Henry pitched his marquee made of cloth of gold near where a banquet had been prepared. His Grace was accompanied by 500 horsemen and 3,000 foot soldiers, and the French King had a similar number of each.”
GOT A MINUTE FOR A FASHION SHOW?
HERE'S MY PICK OF THE COLLECTIONS...
Gianfranco Ferré - Fall Winter 2011/2012
Jean-Paul Gaultier - Paris Fall Winter 2011
Giorgio Armani - Fall Winter 2011/2012
Tuesday, November 8, 2011
"The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth" by Jennie A. Brownscombe
It's interesting to learn how people dressed long ago, but that
subject sometimes can’t be separated from history in general. And so before talking about what the Pilgrims wore for the three-day feast that eventually became known as Thanksgiving, let me set the stage by sharing an account of the event by Edward Winslow.
“Our harvest being gotten in, our governour sent foure men on fowling, that so we might after a speciall manner rejoyce together, after we had gathered the fruits of our labours ; they foure in one day killed as much fowle, as with a little helpe beside, served the Company almost a weeke, at which time amongst other Recreations, we exercised our Armes, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and amongst the rest their greatest king Massasoyt, with some ninetie men, whom for three dayes we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five Deere, which they brought to the Plantation and bestowed on our Governour, and upon the Captaine and others."
The famous painting by Jennie A. Brownscombe, shown above, depicts the first Thanksgiving, but it was painted in 1914 and is therefore an artist’s rendering that can’t be taken literally. So, how do we know what the Pilgrims were decked out in when they celebrated their first successful harvest? Few items the Pilgrims wore still exist, but they would have dressed in the same fashion as people in England at that time. Obviously there were different cloaks for different folks, but we have very few visual records to guide us. Virtually all paintings of that era are of the aristocracy to which the Pilgrims did not belong.
We are, however, able to paint a fairly accurate picture of the Plymouth feast where attire is concerned. Pilgrim wills and inventories describing articles of clothing are a start. In addition, The Mayflower passenger list shows several of the Pilgrims came to America with servants. This points to some of them having been of the Middle Class - skilled tradesmen and merchants. Fortunately for the fashion researcher, there is enough from that period in museum collections to give an idea of how the English Middle Class dressed.
An article by Duane A. Cline at http://rootsweb.ancestry.com/~mosmd/index.htm also gives us insight into the social status of the Pilgrims. “The Pilgrims were certainly knowledgeable of fabrics and clothing construction. In looking at the occupations of the Pilgrims we find that Isaac Allerton and James Chilton were tailors, William Bradford was a fustian-maker, Edward Tilley was a cloth-maker, John Tilley was a silk worker, Francis Cooke and William White were wool combers or carders, and Digory Priest had been a hatter in London. In addition to those clothing-related trades we know that William Mullins was a boot and shoe merchant, and Thomas Rogers was a camlet merchant.”
What did Chief Massasoit of the Wampanoag and his entourage of ninety men wear for the occasion, I wonder? Having not read the full texts of the Pilgrims' journals for their first year at Plymouth, I can only surmise. One account describes Massasoit when the Pilgrims first saw him in March, 1621. “The great chief first appeared at the head of 60 warriors, face painted red and wearing a thick necklace of white beads, the sign of his authority.” This account makes no mention of clothes, but it’s safe to assume the Wampanoag were wearing suits of deerskin for their visit to the Pilgrims in March and again for the feast that would become one of America's most loved traditions.
Chief Massasoit of the Wampanoag and his entourage are greeted by a Pilgrim.
Image of "The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth" by Jennie A. Brownscombe
courtesy of Pilgrim Hall Museum, Plymouth.
If you are interested in 17th century clothing, you might be interested in the museum's current temporary exhibition “What’s Under things? Hidden Colonial Clothing featuring a number of rare survivors of 17th century undergarments. For information, visit http://www.pilgrimhall.org/f_thanks.htm