Wednesday, 17 November 2010

19th Century Costume: A Glossary


I have always been one to enjoy a fancifully written menu, with a goodly amount of French thrown in to give it that certain je ne sais quoi. You know the kind of thing I mean. Take Le Gavroche's menu as an example: Fricassée de St.Pierre Facon Bouillabaisse (fish soup). Sublime!

So it is my belief I would have made an avid reader of
La Belle Assemblee or Ackermann's, because there is nothing that your regency lady enjoyed more than a superbly romanticised description. Unfortunately for us, it makes some of the descriptions on costume plates well nigh indecipherable.

It was with great joy therefore that I turned to the back pages of Ackermann's Costime Plates: Women's Fashions in England, 1818-1828 edited and with an introduction by Stella Blum, to find a three page long glossary of fashion terminology from the period. Wonderful!

Below is a selection of some of the most commonly used (by my reckoning, nothing scientific there), followed by some of the most delightfully fanciful:

Most Common Terms

Á la militaire.
In the military style.

Á l'antique. In the manner of the Greeks of antiquity.

Bandeau (pl. bandeaux). A narrow band worn either on the head or on the costume for decorative purposes.

Blond lace. A lace made of fine mesh with patterns worked in silk producing shiny satin-like pattern. Blond lace could be natural coloured, black or, occasionally in other colours, such as green

Bombasine. A textile having a twilled appreance with a silk warp and a worsted weft. It was usually black and because it was lustreless, was often used for mourning.

Cambric. Very fine thin linen.

Coquelicot. Poppy red (see pictured turban).

Corsage. Bodice or upper part of a lady's dress.

En gigot. Sleeves shaped like a leg of mutton.

French crepe. A thin, wrinkled silk, cotton or wool.

Fichu. Kerchief or small scarf, generally of thin, filmy material, that was worn around the neckline.

Gros de Naples. An Italian silk with a corded surface.

Jaconet. A thin cotton fabric somewhat like muslin.

Kerseymere. A fine woolen fabric with a twill weave having a special texture with a one third of work threads above and the rest below.

Leghorn. A plaited Italian wheat straw used in hats.

Rouleau (pl. rouleaux). A strip of fabric loosely stuffed into a tube-like shape and used to trim dresses, generally at the hem.

Round gown. A closed one-piece dress.

Sarsnet. A thin silk with a taffeta weave and a slight sheen.

Vandyke. A pointed tooth-like border of lace or other material similar to those in the works of Van Dyck.

Delightfully Obscure and Fanciful Terms

Ailes de Papillon. Cloth ornaments arranged to suggest the wings of a butterfly.

Bouilloneée. Puffed or bubbling out.

Couleur d'oreille d'ours. Colour of Polyanthus, the oxlip or some varieties of Narcissus.

Folia peltata. Leaves with stems attached to the underneath part instead of to the edges.

Noued. Bow or knot.

Soie de Londres. Satin or satin-like silk.

Toque de Ninon. A toque, possibly in the style of Ninon de Lenclose, a fashionable french lady (1620 - 1705).

Zephyrne. Light-weight fabric of silk or wool.

For many more terms along with gorgeous fashion plates with full descriptions (both colour and monochrome) I highly recommend Stella Blum's book.

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