Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Ladies in Blue

Mary and Elizabeth Royal
John Singleton Copley, 1758

And here I was, all nervous about blue silk for a dress not being appropriate.

Well, not blue as a general term, more like a deep royal blue, which is what I received in the mail when I thought I purchased a medium, "Wedgwood" blue. 

Ginger, at Scene in the Past was kind enough to remind me of Mrs. Winthrop, by John Singleton Copley, and her blue gown. I browsed his paintings and wow, LOTS of blue.

In many, many of his portraits, ladies sport blue silk gowns. The blues range from medium and mellow to quite intense (i.e. Lucretia Hubbard Townsend or Mrs. Moses Gill).

I was previously under the misconception that darker colored gowns were mostly worn by more mature women. Perhaps this remains the case for shades of brown, but I guess not with blues. The paintings below show a wide age range. Note the top-most painting, which shows a young girl in deep blue.

I guess I'm safe :)

Enjoy the lovely gowns!


Mrs. Daniel Sargent (Mary Turner Sargent)
John Singleton Copley, 1763

Mrs. Nathaniel Allen (Sarah Sargnet)
John Singleton Copley, 1763

Mrs. Alice Hooper
John Singleton Copley, 1763

Mrs. James Warren (Mercy Otis)
John Singleton Copley, 1763

Lydia Lynde
John Singleton Copley, 1762-64

Mrs. Epes Sargent
John SIngleton Copley, 1764

Lucretia Hubbard Towsend
John Singleton Copley, 1765

Mrs. Isaac Smith
John Singleton Copley, 1769

Mrs. Moses Gill (Rebecca Boylston)
John SIngleton Copley, 1773

Mrs. John Winthrop (Hannah Fayerweather)
John Singleton Copley, 1773

Mr.and Mrs.Ralph Izard
John Singleton Copley, 1775

Portrait of Familie Copley
John Singleton Copley, 1776

13 comments:

  1. I could be wrong but I don't know that color is determined by age. That will be a good question to ask in the class. One of the CW mantua makers is young, in her 20's I think, and she has a floral print gown on a background of brown that she often wears. She's always quite stylish!
    Laurie

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    1. Not so much that age determines color, but more what was fashionable or appropriate. Though perhaps that's more of a 19th century idea.

      Researching the1860's lately, I've come across a lot of that "mutton dressed as lamb" business. I've never thought about color in the 18th century like that before. Maybe colors and age wasn't at all a concept before the 19th century. They were so uptight about everything, those Victorians!

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    2. Oh! And about the brown - I just see SOOO many paintings/prints of older ladies in brown and barely any young.

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  2. Ahh, well, the CW milliners and tailors base their work on years of research. As part of their apprenticeship and then journeyman status and eventuall master, they research full time and they have access to far more information than we ever will. Then they bring that alive to us by the items they sew and wear and sometimes publish. So I am good with that, but I do understand your take on it! =) Do ask them while you are there! I'm sure they will have fascinating answers! I've asked them questions about color before and have learned a lot!
    Laurie

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  3. These are great portraits! And I'm with you - I really appreciate gleaning knowledge from those who've already done a lot of research, but I don't want to just depend on that. I want to figure out things for myself. And that's how the community as a whole keeps learning. :)

    My background is 1860s, and you're right, there does seem to be more of an awareness of age-appropriate dressing then. Keep in mind, though, that there was significantly more variation in style available for children and young people then. In the 18th century, by and large children were dressed as miniature adults. That was not the case by the 1860s. So mutton dressed as lamb could be - and was! - really, really obvious. :p

    It's still good to try to pick up cues from portraits. The Brown Gown Phenomenon is a very good example, keeping in mind that most portrait gowns are silk. It's not that brown was necessarily an older women's color ONLY, but that it was definitely a preference for older women, and conversely, not as typical for younger women. There's also the association of gray with Quakers, which does seem to have been fairly well-known.

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    1. Well I suppose it could be like today: there are no hard and fast rules for who can wear what, but sometimes you see a young girl in something that looks way too old for her, or reversely, a grown woman wearing something wayyy to young for her.

      I think most of my issue with the blue fabric I have is that I just don't like it and am hunting for an excuse to buy new! I'm sure if I loved it, I wouldn't care at all :)


      And very true what you say about 18th century children and adults all dressing similar, unlike the 19th century. See, this is what I get for trying to research two projects at once. I'm getting all mixed up!

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    2. Well, not liking it is a VERY good reason to buy new. ;) Seriously, though! If you don't like the fabric, you won't like the finished garment, and you won't want to wear it. Besides, silk taffeta is so expensive now that I'm sure you can resell it for just a little less than you paid for it.

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    3. Ooo are you enabling me to buy more fabric... Yay! Time to shop hehehe :)

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  4. I had a brown memory: my 16yo daughter took a milliner (18th century hat trimming class at the CW Costume Design Center) a few years ago. The lady who taught it makes all the accessories for the interpreters and started the class showing us lots of 18th century primary source images for hat research. She guided my daughter with the selection of silks and trims, suggested a brown silk to cover the hat then trimming it in pink.
    I think I wrote something on the colors Dolley Madison wore as a Quaker on my blog. I'll look for that because now I forget the details! I saw her costume exhibit at Montpelier last summer.
    Laurie

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    1. Brown and pink sounds lovely. Did she end up making the hat?

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  5. Oh, I didn't blog about the Quaker fashion, only about the exhibit itself. I dug into my photos of the gowns and the signs of info. Apparently she was raised in a family of less conservative Quakers and when they moved to Philadelphia, where a more conservative Quaker population dwelled, they fussed at her "high fashion." I don't have any more info that that...but it's certainly enough for me to keep my eyes and ears out as I go touring and researching!
    Laurie

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  6. But Caroline, did you ever see Thomas Gainsborough's portrait "Blue Boy"?

    Although we rarely see it, apparently men can get away with wearing blue, too. Ha!

    Andrew



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    1. Yes I have! I believe I saw it at the Huntington in Pasadena. They have Pinkie, too.

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