The Gallant Peasant Woman

Hello again! As I am entering into my final project as a student I thought it would be a good idea to record my thoughts on this project and share my work with you.

Our final costume is meant to be a representation of who we are as makers and as creators.  I have had a life-long love affair with ballet and with the 18th century so I saw no better way to express myself than to combine the two. My hopes are to re-create a historical ballet costume that could be found in a modern production. I have chosen an 18th century design by Jean-Baptiste Martin entitled Paysanne Galante (1722) used in the Ballet de la Provencale and other dances.


My own illustration can never do proper justice to Martin's but I'm very fond of water colours and flowers.

My own illustration can never do proper justice to Martin’s but I’m very fond of water colours and flowers.

I am very hopeful that after I graduate I will find work and be able to remain in the United Kingdom. My tutor has spoken to me at length about pursuing a career in making and as a research assistant. According to her  I am very ‘thorough with my investigations’ and like my other projects this costume was no different. I wanted to back my theories on how this garment would have fastened and how the sleeves  would attach with historical evidence. I stumbled across The Lure of Perfection: Fashion and Ballet, 1780-1830 by Judith Chazin-Bennahum completely by mistake and found most of my sources. I will be using direct quotes from her book in my posts at later dates (particularly in reference to my sleeve theory).

The first post on this costume will be what I feel is the heart of the ensemble, the bodice. I approached this costume with a few different thoughts. After interning in The Margaret Hunter Millinery Shop in Colonial Williamsburg last summer I already had the knowledge on how to dress properly as I spent 40 hours a week in full 18th century costume.  My first assumption was if this was the 18th century then the bodice would fasten at centre front.  But if you think about the logistics of a dancer and the requirements of the body then a centre front fastening with pins isn’t very idealistic. Even though the dancers of 18th century France are quite opposite from the dancers we see at the Royal Opera House they would still require a way in and out of costumes in a quick manner which is my focus in this post.

If you study the portraits of La Camargo, Barbara Campanini, and an unidentified portrait of one of the Auretti sisters it is very obvious that their bodices are not fastened in the front.

La Camargo Dancing, by Nicolas Lancret, c.1730

The Dancer Barbara Campanini 1745 - Antoine Pesne

The Dancer Barbara Campanini 1745 – Antoine Pesne

1740s French Ballet Print | Depicts Anne (or possibly Janneton) Auretti | NY digital gallery

1740s French Ballet Print | Depicts Anne (or possibly Janneton) Auretti | NY digital gallery

I won’t go into much detail on this garment in this post because I would like to save it for my post on sleeves. One of my main sources is this extant garment held in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art:

Late 17th century-Early 18th century Bodice 1975.34.2a–c

Late 17th century-Early 18th century Bodice 1975.34.2a–c

Note how the decorative detail on the surface covers the join lines of the panels.

Even though this bodice is a bit late for the time my costume danced in I still believe it is a good reference and would like to share:

Queen Sofia Magdalena 1765

Queen Sofia Magdalena 1765

I set about gathering a collection of back lacing bodices (I am considering uploading a folder to my pinterest if that might interest anyone?) and searching for photos of the inside. While they are all obviously different I have found that they all share at least one thing, they were fully boned which led to my decision to make the bodice and the stays into one object.

Last year I was lucky enough to learn staymaking from Luca Costigliolo known for his work on The Borgias and with The Bowes Museum.  During the week long session he taught how to draft the famous Kyoto stays from 1775. I took this basic shape and altered it to suit my own purposes. I’m very pleased with how the bodice turned out in the fittings.

Kyoto Costume Institute c. 1775: AC337 77-12-51, AC7682 93-1-4, AC6289 89-4-6

Kyoto Costume Institute c. 1775: AC337 77-12-51, AC7682 93-1-4, AC6289 89-4-6

A year later armed with my notes and my patterns I set about recreating these stays. Instead of leaving the traditional 2.5″-3″ gap in the lacing I let the centre back meet. Thus my stays and my bodice have become one object.

My first step was to transfer the bone channels and then thread mark my seam allowances:

photo 1

photo 3

photo 4

I am currently working on cutting the stomacher out in ivory and stab stitching it in place:

photo 5

Once that is finished I will be back with another update on putting the pieces together and cleaning up the inside so I can start the surface decorations.

Amusingly enough I have found three portraits that show the sitter in costumes that have many similarities with Paysanne.

Mademoiselle Guimard As Terpsichore-Jacques Louis David

Mademoiselle Guimard As Terpsichore-Jacques Louis David

Ekaterina Ivanovna Nelidova (1773) by Dmitry Levitzky

Ekaterina Ivanovna Nelidova (1773) by Dmitry Levitzky

And the one I adore the most:

Attributed to Charles- Amedee- Phillipe Van Loo  (Rivoli 1719-1795 Paris)

Attributed to Charles-Amedee-Phillipe Van Loo (Rivoli 1719-1795 Paris)


la vie en rose . . . life through rose-coloured glasses

By my count I owe you three Regency gowns so this post makes one down, two to go!

Continue reading

“Sunset and evening star, and one clear call for me! And may there be no moaning of the bar, when I put out to sea.”

April 10, 1912: Titanic departing Southampton

As this weekend draws near I would like to discuss my feelings towards the Titanic Memorial Cruise as opinions are greatly divided on the topic.

This weekend is not meant to be sad, this is a celebration that the Titanic launched. This weekend we remember that for a brief time she was the Queen of the Ocean. Although the MS Balmoral will be leaving one day early from Southampton (believe it or not the Balmoral can’t match the speed of the Titanic!) this weekend we are re-enacting the joy, hopes, and dreams that travelled along with the ship. Even though the Titanic did not make it to her final destination, this weekend is about the joy and beauty of seeing her off. A celebration of what she was before the disaster if you will.

April 10, 1912: Titanic departing Southampton.

I’m honored to have been invited to take part in marking this momentous occasion. There have been so many arguments made against this Cruise and so I can only hope that your worries will be assuaged after reading what my position on the purpose of the Titanic Memorial Cruise is.

Last week I had a very long conversation with a lady from the White Star Line and we discussed the effects the sinking of the Titanic had on the community of Southampton.

During our conversation the topic of the mixed feelings from the residents of Southampton was raised. Some believe the Memorial Cruise is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the life of those who built and sailed with the Titanic. Others think that the cruise is glorifying the death of those who perished.

I disagree. This Cruise is a final requiescat in pace to those who were unable to say goodbye to the family they would never know. Relatives of survivors who grew up listening to the heartbreaking stories their families faced onboard will finally have the chance to say farewell. In their hearts they will carry the memory of the survivors; their loved ones, who were never given the chance to say goodbye to the ones they lost during that perilous night one hundred years ago.

The time for sadness will be when the Balmoral reaches the wreckage and the bells toll around 2:20 am to mark the 100th year to the moment the Titanic slipped into the pages of history. The tears will freely flow into the ocean below in a cathartic release of that terrible, heart wrenching pain we’ve all felt for the past century. It is my firm belief that by finally being able to mark this moment over the final resting place of the RMS Titanic the ghosts of the past will be laid to rest.

I only wish I could see the Balmoral sail into New York. That city has been waiting 100 years for this moment and what a bittersweet arrival it will be.

This year the Balmoral will carry with her the memory of over 1,500 souls that were never able to sail into New York, many bound for a new life full of dreams and opportunities. This year they will finally reach their destination, and what a glorious sight that will be.

I know that when the MS Balmoral sets sail on Sunday I will be crying. To be able to witness this great event is bittersweet because this will never happen again. Even if our future generations pause to mark another century, there will be nothing left. Not only will this Cruise be the first and last of it’s kind, but this will also be the end for the Titanic and after 100 years she deserves her rest don’t you think?

The Ocean always keeps what she claims. It has been this way since the beginning of time and it will remain so until the sun fades. Even if mankind were to selfishly try to fight for claim over the Titanic, the ocean will never let her go. In a few years she will devour the Titanic completely. Nothing will be left but faint pieces of a magnificent past. Memories tenderly cherished and passed down.

This last final farewell is the epilogue for the story of the RMS Titanic. She was created, she sailed, she sank, she is remembered, and finally, she will leave us.