A “Heads-Up” for Novice Fashion Sleuths like Me

Deborah Hay (Celimene) sinks to the floor in exasperation in Chicago Shakespeare Theater's The School for Lies. photo by Liz Lauren, Chicago Examiner

Deborah Hay (Celimene) in Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s The School for Lies. Liz Lauren, Chicago Examiner

While Toile #2 is in a holding pattern pending Sunday’s sewing circle and expert fitting session, I thought I share something I’ve stumbled upon over on Pinterest more than once…and I’m sure I’m not the only one.

I use Pinterest A LOT. It is my visual library and I peruse it regularly. While the visuals are usually great, the information is not always so and it can be truly exasperating.

This particular pin, for example, is presented as having come from The Gallery of Fashion. Here is the fashion plate:

35560-le-journal-des-dames-et-des-modes-1811-costume-parisien-n-1157-hprints-com

1811 “Même Coeffure qu’an N°1156. Robe de Gaze.” (Same hairstyle as #1156. Gauze dress.”

And here is the description, as provided by the pinner:

“Costume Parisien ca 1803. Note the deep bodice back. Regency bodice backs are often no wider (from top to bottom) than about 3 inches. Also, contrary to many modern costumers’ beliefs, the Regency dress rarely closed at the back center seam. Side closures were more common. Note the braid made our of the hair taken from underneath the upswept hairpiece used to make the bun.”

The a copy of the fashion plate is sold by hprints.com, with whom I am not familiar. They title the print as: Le Journal des Dames et des Modes 1811 Costume Parisien Number 1157. However, they source the print as: Le Journal des Dames et des Modes (1797).

 So we’ve got conflicting data and information that contravenes our (meaning “my”) knowledge base:
  • Origin: is it from The Gallery of Fashion or from Le Journal des Dames et des Modes?
  • Dates: the pinner says 1803, the fashion plate says 1811 and a seller of the print says 1797.
  • The pinner’s statement “Regency bodice backs are often no wider (from top to bottom) than about 3 inches.”
  • And the pinner’s claim “…contrary to many modern costumers’ beliefs, the Regency dress rarely closed at the back center seam. Side closures were more common.”

As far as I’m concerned, if the fashion plate says 1811, it’s 1811. But one has to keep an eye out for such things.

Which is the true source? More homework required.

Regency bodice backs varied greatly through the period as fashion changed, so I feel the use of the word “often” is both meaningless and misleading (in my humble opinion).

And as for Regency dresses closing on the side rather than the back, this is the first time I’ve heard of it. It contradicts everything I’ve learned about Regency fashion. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s incorrect, but I’d do some research before formally passing it on.

Even with the fashion plate images themselves there’s weirdness. I’ve encountered this more than once:

Which one is “correct”? I haven’t the foggiest…I’d need to go to the original source (if I could determine what it was) and hope to get lucky.

I’ve gotten things wrong more than once and am trying to be more diligent. but the truth is that I’m bound to miss contradictions like these again in the future.

So tread carefully, my friends. We are humans, not machines, and I am glad of it.

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One thought on “A “Heads-Up” for Novice Fashion Sleuths like Me

  1. That’s the first I’ve heard that Regency dresses usually closed on the side. I’ve seen lots of front openings. Hmm… Maybe side-front openings?

    I love that last pair of engravings. I ran across something like that in a Victorian fashion book once, but it was fairly obvious that a child had colored mine in. Your pair could go either way. Best of luck finding the description.

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