Archive for the Fashion-art Category

Incroyables and Merveilleuses, Fashion’s Royalist Rebels

Posted in 18th century, Bourbon monarchy, Directoire, Fashion-art, Incroyables and Merveleilleuses, Patrick Mc Donald, SteamPunk on August 10, 2010 by babylonbaroque

Always eager to explore the excesses of fashion and monarchy, my thoughts of late have been on that fleeting moment of time when the Merveiilleuse flirted with the Incroyable. As all youth must, the fashion forward of the Directoire were compelled to assert their individuality by embracing allegience to the ancien régime. The Children of the Revolution were Royalists, at least concerning fashion.

After the fall of the dreaded Robespierre, the Reign of Terror a recent memory, the parties began. The most pervesely beautiful party theme being the Bal à la Victime, the horrors of the guillotine being refashioned to suit coiffure and sartorial splendor.

Boys in cropped hair,( replicating shorn locks which would have allowed the blade easier access )and saucy girls in gauzy dresses trussed with ribbons( as those unfortunates that had faced the block) spent their evenings dancing on recently mopped blood.

The Bal was an exclusive affair , attendance was only allowed to those who had lost a relative to the Terror.

A louche form of therapy perhaps.

Combining a fascination with anglaise fashion, aristocratic anachronism, and a romantic notion of Classical garb à la Grecque, the result was fantastic. Exaggerated  lapels, indecently tight trousers, gauzy dresses alluding to Athenian nudity ( the maillot, a flesh coloured body stocking enhanced this illusion), comical eyewear, and the most inventive bonnets, the forms both fascinated and incited ridicule.

The Eternal Generational Divide

“New” fashion vs. “Old”

fashion plate by Chataignier, 1797

Les Incroyables 1795

Green seems to have been a particular popular color.

The Grecian Ideal always a popular theme as the following images illustrate.

I admire how this Directoire Darling combined a Robespierre bob with Grecian draping. Love the illusion to bacchic leopard, smart touch.

Has there been a fashion moment like this since? The Aeshetic affectations of Wilde and Beardsley seem middle class next to this posturing.

Perhaps the horror of Robespierre and his crew had one positive (certainly charming and inventive)result.

Maxilmillen Robespierre

b. 6 May 1758

d. 28 July 1794

(not soon enough)

In the spirit of dandies, I was thinking of our own fashion forward. the Steam Punks are of course a delightful bunch, like the Merveilleus looking to the past to refashion their present presence.

Hot young fellow, any self respecting Incroyable would have envied his goggles.

Adore the macabre beauty of this corset, the Merveilleus blood-ribbon seems frivolous in comparison.

Alexander McQueen was able to tap into excess with tremendous grace and beauty,

The white pantaloons remind me of the maillot, suggestive yet holding back.

Of course no conversation concerning dandies and sartorial excess is complete without the ever marvelous Mr. Patrick McDonald. This gentleman truly carries the torch, carry on Mr. McDonald.

Have a Merveilleus day,

sorry, I couldn’t help myself.

Blue Velvet Bustle for Grace

Posted in 19th cent., Augustine Martin & Company, Fashion-art on May 12, 2010 by babylonbaroque

From what I understand the Costume Institute at the Met has received a huge boon in that the Brooklyn Museum is relinquishing it’s sizable collection of high fashion. Many new pieces will be added to their own impressive holdings.

Fashion, in how it controls the body, creates a desired form, and the power and language of fashion is of great interest to me. The following dress, though delightful to behold would have driven any clear thinking Bloomer -wearing Suffragette mad.

This particular dress, is an example of the bustle at it’s most extreme. First appearing in the 60’s it eventually morphed into the iconic “shelf” silhouette.

Afternoon dress


Augustine Martin



Another piece by the Augustine Martin & company, also formerly at the Brooklyn Museum, is the puffed sleeve jacket. It too would have appeared unrelentingly confining to a Suffragette.


silk, jet, beads


I’m crazy for the extreme  silhouettes  that were achieved, but then again I didn’t have to wear it.

Given how my niece cannot handle being bundled into winter garb, she will  most likely sympathize with the Costume Reformers.

Sabbath chair/Hunzinger, week 12

Posted in 19th cent., chair, Fashion-art, Huntington, Hunzinger, Renaissance Revival on May 8, 2010 by babylonbaroque

I have been mad for Hunzinger since I stumbled upon one of his screwball chairs at my beloved Huntington, close to home in beautiful Pasadena.

I frankly had never seen anything so peculiar, what was he doing with all of that “knobby” work, the chair appeared articulated, I had an intense desire to fold up the Renaissance Revival monstosity, stow it under my arm, and take the thing home.

Instead I present this monstrous beauty from the Brooklyn Museum.


George Jacob Hunzinger


born Germany


Ebonized wood, castors (always a sucker for castors),

original upholstery


approx. dimensions 43x26x28

The shredded yellow fabric is original, had been purple damask. Of course it was purple.

Another example of his wacky designs, this too looks like it should articulate, from the description, it doesn’t appear to. Some of Hunzinger’s designs do fold, perhaps it was an aesthetic he admired and pursued.

I love the machine made quality of the piece, although highly ornamented in the Renaissance Revival style, it still doesn’t hide the mechanical qualitiy of the chair. It calls to mind the current fad for Steam Punk, the hybrid expression of 19th century surface ornament with Industrial Revolution’s engineering. This chair shares that aesthetic, and I love it .

My Beloved dismisses it as a “failed experiment”, as in so often the case when it comes to taste, he is quite wrong.

I can’t resist sharing the first Hunzinger,snapped with my phone, as I mentioned it is held by the Huntington Museum.


walnut, gilding. brass, brocaded fabric


Good Shabbos

Yet another dress for Grace/ “Four Leaf Clover”, Chas. James

Posted in 20th century, Auntie Mame, Charles James, Fashion-art, Woodson&Rummerfield with tags on May 5, 2010 by babylonbaroque

I just finished a collaboration with the LA design duo, Woodson &Rummerfield, the theme being “Auntie Mame”. It is part of the Legends of La Cienaga event to be held this week here in LA. It is a decorative mural inspired by the Mame set, it’s in the window at Baker, please check it and the fabulous room out.

So not only was I looking for a dress to please my niece, I also wanted to satisfy the demands of dear Mame.

I think Mame would love this bit of brilliance by Charles James.

“Four Leaf Clover”Dress



Charles James (American, born Great Britain, 1906-1978)

Metropolitan Museum of Art

Really, it’s just a simple little cotton summer frock, so perfect with daisies and chilled jug white.

A bit of summertime magic.

Thanks Mr. James.

Post Script: Just a sample of the sketchy brushwork depicting Mame’s set.

Another Gown for Grace, Lanvin 1939

Posted in 20th century, Fashion-art, Gracie's gowns, House of Lanvin on April 28, 2010 by babylonbaroque

Worn by the Comtesse Jean de Polignac, this dress had been debuted in New York in 1940 for the charity event “Le Colis de Trianon-Versailles”, it hadn’t been seen again in NY until the Met exhibit “Blithe Spirit:The Windsor Set” 2002-2003. It is a stunner, well worth the long wait.

Evening Dress

House of Lanvin

(French 1867-1946)


Silk,spangles,100% magic.

Well, I hope my niece likes this as much as I do.

Night, night Grace

A Gown for Gracie, Mauvine and the power of Aniline dyes.

Posted in 19th cent., aniline dyes, Fashion-art on April 20, 2010 by babylonbaroque

I will continue spoiling my little niece with pretty dresses.

This week I would like to present a none too subtle stunner, a product of the Industrial Revolution. A color unlike the vegetable based dyes favored by the Reformers, Morris would have cringed in horror, my niece will  squeal  with delight.


United Kingdom 1870-73

Aniline dyed silk, lined with cotton, trimmed with satin and bobbin lace, reinforced with whalebone.

Victoria&Albert Museum

I have long been fascinated and perplexed by the Aniline dyes of the 19th cent., understanding how they stood in sharp contrast to the aesthetics of the Reform movements, I was still drawn to their brazen beauty. Magenta I understood to be a color that was wholly 19th century. As curious as I was I never explored the topic until this evening. In 1856 A British chemist, William Perkins accidently discovered Mauvine, the first of many brilliant aniline colors.

William Henry Perkin


A scrap of  Mauvine dyed silk, with a letter from Perkin’s son.

As I mentioned, other brassy colors would follow, magenta, chrome yellows, pink and blue, but Mauvine was the first.The Queen started a fashion for the color when she wore it to the Royal Exhibition. So if it is good for her Majesty it is most certainly good enough for my niece Grace.


I have much to learn about aniline dyes, the impact they had on the Industrial Revolution, “good” taste, “bad”taste etc.

But until then I plan to purchase the marvelous 1995 film, “Angels and Insects”, directed by Plilip Haas. There are many splendid examples of aniline colored ball gowns, I am eager to relive those moments.

still from “Angels and Insects” 1995

Gracie you up? a gown for Grace

Posted in 19th cent., Fashion-art, Gracie's gowns on April 14, 2010 by babylonbaroque

Putting off my homework assignment for the upteenth time, I stumbled upon this extravaganza. Any 3  and a half year old should love this architectural wonder.

Evening Dress



who knows


Metropolitan Museum of Art

I am so eager to return home and rush over to the Met, Grace in tow. She will flip for the finery, until then pretty pictures must suffice.

Hell,when I was her age, crappy art books , with teeny black and white images of Boucher, Botticelli, and sexy Greek vases, delighted my eye and groomed my taste .

I think this heavily upholstered sofa, I mean dress, will tickle dear Grace, I hope so.

So she has an idea of how something like this was worn, I include an under-structure, different type of construction, but the same perverse contraption of wire, cane, and whalebone.

Good night Grace