Posted by Gayle on September 29, 1999 at 20:43:02:
In Reply to: alexandria cameron's dress posted by kim on September 29, 1999 at 18:57:01:
: can anyone tell me how to research the type of dress worn by Alexandria Cameron? Hers was distinctive from the higher-class type worn by Cora and Alice, and looks to be a design that was still in use in the early 19th century. The pale colors and drape of fabric reminded me of homespun, but I haven't been able to turn up much on the LOTM website. Who designed Alexandria's dress and how?
The best place to research 18th and 19th Century clothing is your local library. I got a book out a few months ago which really had some interesting material on styles, cloth, accessories, etc. Unfortunately, I can't remember the exact title, but will do some searching for you and see if I can't turn it up.
One of the things that interested me most about 18th Century clothing was that certain materials and styles were actually restricted to specific classes. Granted, those on the frontier, such as Alexandra Cameron had little money with which to purchase finer materials, and certainly those materials would have been impractical for her daily life, but women of the lower classes were not allowed even to purchase materials used in making clothing for the aristocracy.
I came across a great example of the social restrictions on women's clothing in Cooper's book "The Pathfinder", in which the daughter of a sergeant is given a silk calash won in a rifle-shooting contest by a young man who is in love with her. The officers' wives are appalled that a girl of such low social class should come into possession of such treasure, and the following exchange was a real education for me (which of course is why Cooper wrote it into the story - as a record of cultural practices in 1759):
"The ladies, however, were not so much engrossed with rifle-shooting as to neglect the calash. It passed from hand to hand; the silk was felt, the fashion criticized, and the work examined, and divers opinions were privately ventured concerning the fitness of so handsome a thing passing into the possession of a non-commissioned officer's child.
"'Perhaps you will be disposed to sell that calash, Mabel,when it has been a short time in your possession"? inquired the captain's lady. "wear it, I should think, you never can. "
"'I may not wear it, madam," returned our heroine modestly; "but I should not like to part with it either. "
"I daresay Sergeant Dunham keeps you above the necessity of selling your clothers, child; but, at the same time, it is money thrown away to keep an article of dress you can never wear."
"But the young man himself will think all the better of you for your prudence after the triumph of the day is forgotten. It is a pretty and a becoming calash, and ought not to be thrown away."
"I've no intention to throw it away, ma'am; and, if you please, would rather keep it."
"As you will, child; girls of your age often overlook their real advantages. Remember, however, if you do determine to dispose of the thing, that it is bespoke, and that I will not take it if you ever even put it on your own head."
"Yes, ma'am," said Mabel, in the meekest voice imaginable, though her eyes looked like diamonds, and her cheeks reddened to the tints of two roses, as she placed the forbidden garment over her well-turned shoulders, where she kept it a minute, as if to try its fitness, and then quietly removed it again."
Thought provoking, isn't it?
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