Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Going Brown!

My impression for the Hive challenge will focus less on fashion and more on projecting an age appropriate appearance for a well to do woman of 18th century New England.  The overall impression is based on the many portraits of older women painted by Mr. Copley, and they are almost all wearing brown silk gowns.  My goal when making my choices for this challenge was to paint a picture of a mature woman who looked back on a life well spent, was elegant in simplicity, and showed pride of position in her community.

Mrs. Humphrey Devereaux
This portrait of Mrs. Devereaux is c1771, and has the style of cuff that I will be wearing (pleated at the elbow), it is an open, stomacher front gown.  Her gown is brown silk satin, mine is brown silk damask.  My gown and petticoat are completely hand sewn using silk thread and linen thread with the construction based on a similar damask gown in a private collection. Not meant to be worn over hoops, the gown has a matching petticoat and stomacher.

 The white accessories are based on another portrait by Mr. Copley, Mrs. James Russel, c 1770. My white handkerchief will be plain white linen, bordered with vintage cotton lace, hand hemmed and pinned closed by a blue silk ribbon bow. White linen mitts and a fine muslin apron will complete the gown accessories.  My cap will tie under the chin and also have a blue silk bow.  Lappet caps are not that stylish in the 1770s, older women wore them, they soften the face and as one ages, one can appreciate that it is more flattering to an older woman's appearance.  We need all the help we can get!

Mrs. James Russell
In many portraits of older women, supplemental handkerchiefs in black are placed over the white handerchief, my version of the black handkerchief is silk organza.

An outdoor event requires a hat for sun protection, and a black silk hat will provide shade as well as some stylish flair to this conservative impression. Black silk hats were frequently advertised in colonial newspapers for sale.

Boston Newsletter, April 20, 1769
Hats were available for purchase ready made as in this advertisement for "black Satin Hats".  My silk hat has a straw foundation and silk ribbon ties and trim.

My shift, which will not be seen, is vintage linen, hand sewn with cuffs, the dimensions are based on the Copp Family shift in the collection of the Smithsonian.  My stays (also not seen) are patterned from the pink (were lavender when new!) stays in the collection of Colonial Williamsburg.

 My stays are blue linen, bound with white leather and trimmed with white tape and lined with blue check linen fabric.

Stockings are plain white and my shoes are simple black leather shoes with white metal buckles purchased from Burnley and Trowbridge.

Female Bruiser, c 1770

This blog post took me less than two hours to complete from start to finish, most of that time was spent googling and getting distracted with what I found!  Documenting what you wear is fun, almost like a treasure hunt, finding all the neat things we see and putting them together with all the neat things we do. 


  1. Would love to be able to see that lace more clearly. Can you say which museum the painting is in?

  2. A good zoomable image is at wiki paintings