Thursday, June 24, 2010

Antique Dresses

A recent exhibit at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York, showcased antique dresses.


The dresses were given by alumnae to the drama department, where they featured in many theatrical productions. But once the school discovered their value, they were given proper care by the Historic Costume Preservation Workshop.

One student described the experience of steaming out the underarm wrinkles. The heat and moisture revived the aroma of 120-year-old body odor, which made the past come roaring into the present.
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"A Glimpse into Vassar's Secret Closet"

13 comments:

Steve said...

Obviously, a great resource and I appreciate that vivid student account of long-ago sweat.

One question about the notes. "Infant girls began wearing trainer corsets." That's a disturbing fact right there, but then we read, "Some women had ribs removed." I hope the removed ribs were from the corsets, yes?

Rich Adams said...

Wow, terrific sketches, James! Very inspirational. I had a couple of questions on your materials. Were these done in watercolor or perhaps watercolor pencil? Also, I noticed that the pen looks to be a sepia or other color. Did you use this to lend a more antique look to the piece?

I get daily inspiration from this site!

Marianne said...

Lovely gowns, they remind me of the paper dolls I used to dress up as a child.

goat89 said...

Love concept designs of clothing. Something so raw can be that beautiful at times.

Jason Pruett said...

the past "roaring into the present" - must have been some stench. Very interesting.

James Gurney said...

Thanks for the compliments, everyone.

Rich: The sketches are done in pan watercolors and water-soluble colored pencils. The little pan set was clipped to the left side of my Moleskine watercolor book. The pen was a Waterman, with its cartridge refilled with Higgins sepia ink--sepia because I love a brown line and it's sort of retro.

Steve: The idea that girls had ribs surgically removed to fit corseted wasp waists was new to me, but Jeanette had read about it. Wiki has articles about the History of Corsets and Rib Removal. Youch!

Steve said...

Well, from which internet fountain of knowledge shall we drink? Snopes says the stories of Victorian rib removals are untrue. Among other reasons, they give the one that leapt first to my mind: surgical skills at that time simply wouldn't allow for that kind of elective surgery. Anyway, once you wade through some irrelevancies about Cher, here's what snopes had to say:

http://www.snopes.com/horrors/vanities/ribs.asp

And, no one will believe this, but my word verification to publish this was "waist"!!!

Marco Folchi said...

Great idea, never seen before!

James Gurney said...

Steve, thanks, that's interesting, and it's good to be skeptical. From all accounts, the "little-girl-corset-trainers" were for real.

Mary Bullock said...

I am so glad that someone is preserving these antique garments. There was a large exhibit of gowns from the civil war throught the early 1900's in Memphis several years ago. I went several times to sketch - it was great for reference purposes.

Bookish said...

When you do a drawing with watercolor pencils, in what order do you do it? Do you first draw everything out with ink, fill in with watercolor pencil, then wet the color with a brush? Or do you color a bit in one place, wet it, and then move onto another bit?

I love this sketch and the interesting notes :) It would be a fabulous exhibit to visit.

James Gurney said...

Bookish: In this case, pencil layin, washes of watercolor, and after that dried, colored pencil, dissolved a bit with the water brush, and final touches in fountain pen.

Michael said...

That must have been quite a surprise with steam cleaning the garments! It's astounding how women were taught this definition of beauty (Corsets, small shoes that broke the foot, etc). We've come a long way in a relatively short amount of time!